The Great British Baking Show – I had to try a recipe

Who has not spent an afternoon snuggled on the couch with their daughter watching The Great British Baking Show?  If you haven’t, you need to.  Especially the earlier seasons.  I’m still a little unaccepting of the recent changes to the show, but that’s just me and eventually I will move on.  However, Mary Berry is still my favorite host and will be forever and ever.

Of course after spending an afternoon watching, any self respecting foodie has to try a recipe or two.  This one is a perfect winter time cake.  We made ours and had it with tea in honor of, well, Britain, but it would be just as good served after dinner as a special dessert.

The recipe for Mary Berry’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake is on the BBC website.

Mary Berry's Frosted Walnut Layer Cake
Mary Berry’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake

 

Tuscan Kale, Cannellini Bean, and Kalamata Olive over Polenta

Kale, a humble vegetable, was all but unnoticed ten years ago except for by the most savvy of gourmands or those diehard back-to-the-landers. Those in the know were aware of what many have just recently discovered – that kale is not only super easy to grow, but it‘s also as delicious and versatile a vegetable as anyone might find.

Purple or green in color, Russian or Italian in variety, kale has become the academy award winner of vegetables – a virtual unknown thrown into the limelight by both it’s talent and the audience’s’ appetite for greens.

Because kale has so much “tooth,” meaning it has a hearty and chewy mouth feel, it can take center stage in place of meat. Only the staunchest of meat-eaters will be the wiser. As a green it is also what could be called an entry-level green – not so bitter or peppery for first-timers or kids with more sensitive palates.

We used to be more accepting of all things bitter, but as salt and sugar have become more prevalent in the American diet, our tolerance for the bitter flavors has waned.

Enter kale. Roast it with a little oil, puree it in pesto, whizz it in a smoothie and in general boost your iron; vitamins A, C and D; anti-oxidants and fiber. Go green!

kale, garbanzo bean, and polenta recipe

Tuscan Kale, Cannellini Bean, and Kalamata Olive over Polenta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced red onion; about 1 large onion
2 cups carrots peeled and cut into 2-inch by 1/2-inch sticks; about 2 carrots
1 cup pitted Kalamata or other black olive
1 tablespoon minced garlic; about 1 large clove
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans, juice included
8 ounces kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped; about 8 cups
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese; about 1/2 cup lightly packed, for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrots and olives and sauté until the onions begin to brown on the edges, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until heated through but the kale is still bright and chewy. Serve over polenta with grated Parmesan cheese. Use your favorite polenta recipe or find mine here.

Serves 4 to 6

Easy and Healthy Appetizers for Super Bowl Sunday

Sunday will surely see me on the couch with a wide perimeter given by my family (football viewing is an active sport for some).  Before the big day, though, I’ll do some prep work so that we can all snack and graze while I watch.  May the best team win!

Appetizer Menu for Super Bowl Sunday
Rosemary Cheese with Apricot Preserves
Baked Brie variations
Homemade Crackers
Tomato, Dill, and Fontina Tartlet
Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina
Steamed Artichokes with Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
Endive with Green Pea Hummus

healthy appetizers by Elizabeth Poisson

Steamed Artichokes with Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
When you trim artichokes immediately rubbing them with lemon juice can help keep them from turning brown.For those new to artichoke eating, break the leaves off of the artichoke and use your teeth to gently scrape the meat on the inside of the leaf. Discard the leaf. Once the leaves are gone, use a spoon to remove the choke (the fuzzy part) and enjoy the artichoke bottom.

2 artichokes, leaves and stems trimmed
1/2 lemon (plus extra for rubbing)
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Cover 2 artichokes with water in a small saucepan or stockpot large enough to accommodate. Add the lemon and salt. Bring the water to a boil with the cover on and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain upside down. Serve warm or chilled with the Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip.

Serves 4

Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
The curry flavor will increase the longer you let it sit.

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (or less)
several pinches of kosher salt

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Makes 1 cup

Artichokes with Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip by Elizabeth Poisson

Annie
Let’s have some fun rooting for our teams!  Go Pats!

Endive with Green Pea Hummus

Here’s a healthy appetizer for Super Bowl Sunday or a snack for any day that doesn’t have football in it.  Recently posted on Diane Atwood’s blog, Catching Health, this simple recipe for green pea hummus is packed with healthy vitamins.  Serve with endive, as in the recipe, or with all sorts of cut veggies to add color to your appetizer spread.

endive with green pea hummus by Elizabeth Poisson

Annie
Just remember, it’s only a game…

Thai Peanut Shrimp and Kale over Basmati Rice

Thump, thump, thump, clang, clatter annnnd done.  That’s the sound of me racing to the kitchen to make dinner at halftime last night.  Yes, the Patriots played and I was glued to my seat the entire game save a hurried trip to the kitchen.  Even though I grocery shopped last week, this weekend’s snow storm left us a little light on ingredients.  Rather than brave the roads and the storm (or leave the game for any reason), I rummaged in the pantry and dug into the freezer to find a group of ingredients that could make a quick dinner.

Halftimes and football games not withstanding, rummaging and digging for ingredients which then become a delicious meal is, without question, one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen.  It’s actually also a little calming.  Rather than having so many options with a wealth of ingredients, the restriction of “what’s on hand” actually makes the creation process easier, with only a few choices rather than unlimited options.

It’s also, for many, a different way to think about cooking.  Rather than planning a menu and shopping to that plan, which I also highly recommend, the rummage and dig method, or “freezer diving” as I like to call it, is a perfect way to reduce waste, use up what’s on hand, and spend a little less at the grocery store.

Hope you like this quick, healthy meal!

thai peanut shrimp and kale over basmati rice

Thai Peanut Shrimp and Baby Kale over Basmati Rice
Rice
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Shrimp and Kale
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup sliced onion; about 1 small onion
1/2 tablespoon minced lemon grass
1/2 Thai chili, seeds removed and julienned
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger: about 1/2 ginger root
1 tablespoon minced garlic; about 3 cloves
4 cups light packed baby kale
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp (16 to 20 count)
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, for garnish
1 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Rice
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Meanwhile, rinse the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Add to the boiling water, cover and remove from heat after 15 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.  Meanwhile, prepare the shrimp and kale.

Shrimp and Kale
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil and then the onion and sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon grass, chili, ginger and garlic and sauté for another 1 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the kale and the rest of the ingredients except the shrimp. When everything is well incorporated and at a simmer, add the shrimp and cook for 2 to 4 minutes watching closely until the shrimp just turns pink all the way through. Serve over basmati rice with garnishes.

Serves 4 to 6

Seven Ways to Add More Greens to Your Diet

Now that we’ve all reveled and partied; socialized and entertained; and eaten and drunk possibly past the point of judicious reason on one or more occasions during the past holidays, it’s time for a more moderated approach. One with less. Of everything involving fat, carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol and excess. The quickest and simplest way to find dietary equilibrium is by inserting more greens into our bowls and onto our plates.

healthy dinner ideas

Green vegetables of all kinds, as many of us know, are filled with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber. What they aren’t filled with is the fore-mentioned excesses, unless we are talking portion size, and in that case, more is a good thing. I’m planning on getting my greens in any way I can over the next couple of months. Here are a few suggestions from my kitchen:

1. Add a salad to an already planned dinner. Easy, easy. This is something many of us already do; just make sure you have enough greens in the house and use a vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing for a little while. When you dress your salad with lemon juice (and extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) you have the added bonus of helping your body to absorb all of the nutrients in the greens.

healthy dinners

2. Salad as the main meal. Add protein of any kind and texture of any kind to create a meal rather than a side. Beans, avocado, nuts, dried fruit, cooked chicken or fish – really the sky is the limit.

3. Add another green vegetable to an already planned dinner. Steamed or sautéed is best for nutrient retention. With either, remove from heat when tender but still bright green.

4. Smoothies made with kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens. Or add a handful of greens to your already favorite breakfast smoothie. If you choose fruit or veggies that are light or green in color, your smoothie will also be bright green. If you love strawberries or other red or purple fruit in your smoothie, you’ll have to deal with dull green and brown. Get over it, they still taste great!

5. Add pureed greens to already prepared soups. For every soup that serves 4 people, heat 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and puree with one cup lightly packed greens. Add to prepared soup right before serving and serve immediately. If not, the brilliant green becomes a dull avocado color.

6. Soups with greens as the main event.  Again, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens are the best go to’s.

Spinach Soup (with variations)
This soup is a gorgeous, brilliant green, and should be served immediately. If you would like to make it ahead, prepare everything just before adding the spinach. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and puree with spinach in the blender as per the directions.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
11/2 cups diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery; about 2 stalks
1 cup peeled and diced parsnips; about 2 parsnips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 ounces spinach leaves, de-stemmed and well-washed; about 3 cups lightly packed
Garnish with minced chives or a swirl of creme frâiche

In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and sauté until they become soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the stock and again bring to a boil.

Place the uncooked spinach leaves in the blender and pour the hot stock over the leaves. Puree in a blender and serve immediately.

Serves 4 (Makes 6 cups)

Soup Variations
Chicken and Cilantro Spinach Soup – add 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves with the spinach and 1 1/2 cups diced poached chicken.  Puree the greens with the stock or leave it rustic.
Cannellini Bean and Pesto Spinach Soup – add 4 tablespoons pesto with the spinach, puree, and then add 1 (15-ounce) can of cannellini beans.
Kale and Mushroom Soup – substitute kale for spinach, puree, and then add 1 cup sautéed mushrooms (3 cups raw and sliced).healthy soup

7. Substitute the pasta, potatoes, or rice for a bed of greens. For example, with beans and brown rice for dinner, just add a bed of sautéed kale, or even better, forgo the rice and just have the beans and kale with all the fixin’s. Instead of mashed potatoes, add roasted kale or collard greens to your plate. Toss spinach leaves with a hot vegetable pasta sauce and have a warm wilted salad for dinner without the pasta.

Annie
Vitamins rule

 

 

Garlic Knots – Little Bites of Heaven

As the summer season progresses, I sometimes run out of creative ideas and begin asking the crew what they want me to make. Pretty much anything is on the table as long as I can make it on the woodstove and without electricity (meaning something with a lot of whisking is off the table). Not too many years ago, we had a crew member of Italian decent who was from New York, and he asked me to make garlic knots. I’d never heard of them, being from the Midwest and having lived in Maine the better part of my life.

He was flabbergasted. So I looked them up and fashioned my own recipe. And aren’t they just little bits of heaven?  There’s always more to learn.

Dressed and ready to pop into your mouth
Tied in a knot and proofing on a baking sheet


Garlic Knots
Dough
3/4 tablespoon dry active yeast
1 teaspoon table salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Garnish
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic; about 2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 ounce grated Romano cheese; 1/4 cup lightly packed

Dough
Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup water. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved water if needed. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a pan filled with stones in the bottom of the oven or alternately, prepare a squirt bottle of water. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll the dough into 4 long logs and cut each log into 5 equal lengths, making a total of 20 small logs. Roll each piece again briefly and then tie into a loose knot. Arrange evenly on a baking sheet, cover, and allow to rise again until doubled. Place the pan in the oven, add water to the stones in the pan (or squirt the oven with water), and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 20 minutes or until an internal-read thermometer registers 190°F.

Garnish
Meanwhile, combine the butter, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Transfer the hot knots to a large bowl, toss with the butter mixture, and sprinkle with Romano. Serve warm.
Makes 20 garlic knots

Ready to eat!