Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Soup's On!


Last week I was ready to fire up the barbecue, raise the shade umbrella, clean the layer of green scum from the outdoor furniture, and let the outdoor dining season begin. The month of March has fooled me before, and this Portland spring was no exception. Rain, along with cold temperatures, returned as quickly as they had briefly departed. 

Because the soup days of winter are not yet over, I want to share one of my favorite soups with you, my dear readers. This is the kind of soup that can easily be thrown together without much effort. You may already have many of its necessary ingredients on hand.


Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

(6-ounce) box long-grain and wild rice mix (such as Uncle Ben's) 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion 
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot 
garlic cloves, chopped 
(8-ounce) package mushrooms, halved 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups water
2 tablespoons dry sherry
(15.75-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
(12-ounce) can fat-free evaporated milk
3 cups shredded roasted skinless chicken


• Prepare rice according to package directions; set aside. Roast 2-3 large chicken breasts; shred and chill.

• In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and next 4 ingredients (onion through mushrooms), and sauté for 6 minutes, or until the onion is tender. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Stir the flour, tarragon, and thyme into the onion mixture, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add 2 cups of water, sherry, broth, and evaporated milk; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until slightly thick. Stir in cooked rice and chicken; cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Great with a loaf of warm, buttered artisan bread for dipping.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why would I want to eat kale?


Before 2012, I may have seen this leafy vegetable, probably even taken a bite of it. I don’t recall. It must not have left an impression.

I read recently where kale was being roasted and eaten as a snack. Kale chips. The crunch of potato chips without the fat and grease? Okay. The minute I tried this crispy, crunchy form of kale, I was hooked!

There are several varieties of kale, each full of nutritional value and gobs of fiber. The only one my local grocery stores stock is curly kale. Curly kale has ruffly leaves and a slightly pungent, peppery flavor.

According to AliveRaw.com, researchers have discovered that kale is rich in calcium, lutein, iron, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, and K. One serving of kale provides 192 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, which acts as a preventative against lung diseases. Kale’s abundance of phytochemicals is what bumps it up to a superfood. Phytochemicals are substances associated with the prevention of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Phytochemicals are believed to help prevent cell damage, prevent cancer cell replication, and decrease cholesterol levels.

To think I was just trying to get more vegetables into my daughter’s tummy. By the way, she can eat an entire bunch of roasted kale in one sitting.



If there’s any left, I add it to soups...


Or throw some raw kale into our morning smoothies...


Roasted Kale

2 bunches kale
2 Tablespoons good olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Rinse the kale and pat it dry thoroughly. Remove and discard the thick ribs and roughly chop or break up the leaves a bit. Pat leaves dry again. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil, garlic, sea salt and pepper. Spread out onto a large rimmed baking sheet. The kale leaves do not need to be in a single layer, they shrink in volume as they bake. Bake for 15-20 minutes, giving them a stir every five minutes or so, until its tender, crisp on the edges and slightly browned.

Pour votre santé!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St Patrick's Day Dinner

My daughter is a vegetarian, my husband is eating low carb and high fiber, and I’m trying to keep everyone fed, which creates challenges both at the grocery store and in the kitchen. Regardless, I’ll be slow roasting a chunk of corned beef tomorrow. It’s a tradition I look forward to.

If you missed last year’s post on corned beef, you can find it here. In that post, I educate you on what type of meat to purchase that will provide the most flavorful, nutritious option. I was clueless as to why the cuts of beef differed so dramatically, so I needed to do some research. What I found rocked my world! Check out last year’s post before you’re disappointed by mediocre, unnaturally colored, stringy corned beef.

However you choose to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day (or not), I highly recommend this soda bread from one of Portland’s local bakeries, Grand Central Bakery, I’ve included that recipe here too. With a hint of sweetness, an amazingly moist crumb, and subtle flavors of orange and caraway, this bread is the perfect accompaniment to just about anything.



For instance, it’s really good with this...



Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fresh Fruit Tarts with Pastry Cream

I guess you could call these tartlets, if you must.

Note to self: when baking pie, tarts or tartlets, make sure your house will be filled with friends and/or family who will actually help eat your creations.

Weekday dinners at our house generally consist of light fare lately... salads, soups, brown rice with sauteed veggies, fish. Pasta, bread, and desserts have loosely become weekend foods. I do mean ‘loosely,’ since sometime around Wednesday I start to crave a good juicy burger. Midweek also happens to be when cooking nightly dinners has worn thin and I want someone else to cook and do the dishes.

It’s hard to believe two weeks already passed since I created these. Fortunately, they freeze really well, so we were able to enjoy them for a few weekends. I want to share these little tarts so you too can experience their amazingness. Holy cow they’re incredible!

Unlike a pie shell, a tart’s shell texture is more like a shortbread cookie. It has to be sturdy enough to cradle its contents without crumbling.

I want to apologize right now for all the eggs you will need to make these. Oh, and you’ll also be needing cream and butter. Splurge on the best ingredients you can. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.


You can make the shells days in advance of the custard filling. I like desserts that allow me to do things in steps so they seem much less time consuming. The custard can also sit covered in the fridge for a day or so. Just add the freshly washed fruit and whatever other toppings float your boat just before serving.


I used three kinds of berries... blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.




Fresh Fruit Tarts with Pastry Cream
Makes ten 3 1/2 inch or two 7-inch tarts

(a slightly modified recipe from Miette pastry shop in San Francisco)

Pastry Shells:
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 large egg yolks
6-8 Tablespoons heavy cream
1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds using your paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter and beat until the mixture is as fine as cornmeal (about 5 minutes).

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the cream. Add this to the flour mixture in the mixer bowl and mix it all until just combined. Add more cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together into large chunks. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

3. Divide the dough to make the portions you need and pat gently into disks. Roll out each dough disk on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick and 1 inch larger in diameter than the pans you’re using. Drape the rolled-out dough into the tart pans, gently pushing it into the bottom edges and against the pan sides to make a strong, straight shell. Trim the edges flush with the top rim of the pans. Prick all over the bottom with a fork and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the shells for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in the pan, remove and cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
7 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Use a sharp knife to slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk. Throw in the pod. Heat until almost boiling (bubbles will begin to form at the edges). Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 1 hour.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Set the bowl on a kitchen towel or nonskid surface and whisk the egg mixture while pouring about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the mixture to temper. Gradually pour in the rest of the milk, whisking constantly. Pour the contents of the bowl into the pan and turn the heat to medium-low.

3. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a slow boil, about 2 minutes. Immediately strain the cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container. Discard the vanilla bean. Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature, for about 10 minutes, then whisk in the butter until it’s completely incorporated.

4. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Final assembly: Divide the chilled custard among the shells evenly. Top with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or your favorite fruit. Make sure to wash the fruit just before placing it onto the cream filling so that it stays firm and fresh.