Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

LemonGinger

Cooking fascinates me; to my mind it is one of the truly magical practices available to us mortals. A pinch a this and a dollop of that combine to make something that can nourish the body and delight the soul….. amazing!

One of my great joys is reading cookbooks, and I’ve recently rediscovered an old favourite, May All Be Fed: Diet for a New World, filled with familiar recipes for quirky vegan comfort foods… I’m such a California girl at heart! My update of Ginger Tea has been keeping the sniffles and snuffles at bay throughout this long, cold winter, and we’re going to keep drinking it through the next few weeks as we finally transition into our long-awaited springtime.

Ginger Tea

  • 6 cups/1.5 liter water
  • Big chunk fresh ginger, peeled & sliced
  • Juice of large freshly squeezed lemon
  • Honey to serve, preferably local, or stevia
  1. Bring the water and ginger to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain out the ginger pieces with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add honey or stevia to taste and serve hot or cold.

This concoction will boost your immune system as it warms the body and comforts the soul; what a wonderful way to see out winter’s last icy blast!

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I’m in Sock Mode. Definitely and delightedly. I’m loving the 2010 Mystery Socks so much that I’ve started knitting the 2009 socks as well, to fill in the time I’d otherwise just spend waiting impatiently for the next Friday Clue. Not wanting to give too much away, let me just say that the ‘little boxes’ and ‘tiny trowel’ stitches are knitting up quite splendidly. Photos will be forthcoming.

I had a bit of a setback the first week, when I launched myself into the Knit-Along with  purple wool from my stash. Unfortunately, my knitting needles didn’t approve of my choice, and kept whispering to me about a different wool, a more autumnal wool, a wool that would appeal to a particular friend. My needles do that sometimes…. they whisper their opinions as I clickety-clack my way along. I can’t tell you how many things I start knitting, thinking that I’m making something for me, only to “hear” the name of someone else.  Sometimes I’m a bit disappointed, but I so love the feeling that a certain item “wants” to be for someone else…. and as knitting is such a spiritual practice for me, I love knitting prayers and blessings into my work, especially when they are prayers and blessings for someone dear.

With autumn in full swing, I can’t just sit home and knit… blue skies and crunchy leaves lure me out into the crisp air. A quick trip through the woods with my sweetie yesterday turned into a long ramble amongst ancient trees and along old hedge rows in search of strange mushrooms (to photograph) and signs of woodland critters scrambling to prepare for winter’s chill.

And then as the afternoon light was waning, we came home to our the delights of  our Crocktober endeavors…. we had left a beautiful melange of red cabbage and apple simmering in the crockpot. It was Delia Smith’s recipe, carried out with Stephanie O’Dea’s crockpot gusto. The house smelled divine as we kicked off our muddy boots and cracked open a bottle of wine…

October!

 

 

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I don’t know about where you are, but around here it definitely feels like autumn is ready to give way to winter…. brrrr! Thankfully, while the rain is falling in torrents and the wind is whipping through the trees, something else is brewing, something seasonal and cozy. Two of my favorite bloggers have announced October celebrations, here and here.

As a crockpot devotee, I’ll follow Stephanie O’Dea anywhere…. she’s revolutionized my life and made it possible for me to cook healthy versions of  American comfort foods with pantry staples, in the confines of my tiny English kitchen. Check her out…. and buy her book!

Most of my blog-reading, though, is about knitting. For some reason, knitters make great bloggers, and I love peeping into their lives and private (fiber) stashes.  But I’ve never indulged in a Mystery Knit Along (KAL) — until now! Ever since the announcement of Socktoberfest 2010, I’ve been marking the days until the arrival of the first clue. It’s here…. and I’m ready and waiting with needles and wool at hand. Every Friday for the next 5 weeks, Through The Loops blogger Kirsten Kapur will release clues to her 2010 Mystery Sock, and KnittingBlogLand is abuzz with excitement. Let the knitting commence!

Oh the comforts of a nice woolly knit on a blustery day! Especially when good smells issue forth from the crockpot to signal that dinner will magically appear even if I spend the whole afternoon knitting….

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With the New Year comes the need to tidy away the decorations and clear the piles of accumulated paper off my desk in anticipation of returning to the post-holiday real world… I’m sure everyone reading this knows the feeling all too well! For the first time in a long time, I feel ready to reach out, to become productive once more.

I’ve been using crockpots extensively lately, and the obvious metaphor seems particularly appropriate. Just as our dinners have been simmering in the background, so has my energy and creativity. With our unusually cold December weather, our roads have been too icy to bother venturing out, so we lit the woodstove, gathered up some good books and settled in to enjoy the cozy warmth… and it has been bliss!

I figure we have enough food to last us another couple of days,  but then we really are going to have to head to a grocery store — and with another snowstorm predicted for Thursday, stocking up sounds like a pretty good idea! Meanwhile, I want to share my crockpot inspiration with you, both in link and book form, as well as my pirated and tweaked version of a traditional New Year recipe.

One of the reasons why I’ve never let myself fall in love with, or even use, my crockpot is that it seemed so unhealthy. Most recipes instruct opening cans and mixing processed foods. Yecch! I knew there had to be a better way to do it, but the general lack of imaginative guidance turned me away. If you’ve harbored the same dim view of these dated old kitchen appliance, I have good news! In 2008, Stephanie O’Dea set herself the challenge of cooking in her crockpot every day for a year…. and over the course of the year, she blogged faithfully and fell well-and-truly in love with both her crockpot and her own creativity. She has generously posted every recipe on her blog but the whole recipe collection is now available in real cookbook form in Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, published by Hyperion Books.

As Stephanie is busy having a new baby this month, I’m hoping she won’t mind that I’ve pirated one of her recipes to share here.  I give her full credit for inspiring the delicious smells now emanating from my kitchen! Black-Eyed Peas are a new year tradition in southern states, where it is considered imperative to eat them on New Year’s Day to bring luck for the coming year. I missed the January 1 goal by a few days, but the idea of a good bean-y soup sounded so good and wintry that I decided to use what I could find in my shrinking larder to make my own version to serve to a friend who is coming to lunch tomorrow. May the Gods of Luck overlook our bit of delinquency… Enjoy!

New Year’s Soup

  • 1  can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed or 1/2 cup dried peas, soaked overnight and drained (I only had canned beans on hand this morning)
  • a carrot or two, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced or chopped
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 large or several small cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/2 – 1 cup sausage meat, cooked and drained or several sausages cooked and sliced
  • 2-1/2 cups (625 ml) chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp each dried marjoram, oregano, chili flakes
  • pinch of dried sage

Measurements refer to standardized (American) cups and teaspoons. Mix all ingredients together  in a small crockpot and cook on high for 8-10 hours. If you only have a large crockpot, scale the recipe up. And feel free to use what you find in your kitchen; this is a perfect place to be creative!

Using an immersion blender, blend  briefly so that the soup becomes slightly creamy from the beans, but not smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, put a cup of soup in your regular blender or food processor, blend, then return to the pot. Stir well before serving.

In coming posts, I will be writing about the inspiration I’ve found some of the books I’ve been enjoying during the quiet inward months since I last blogged. Sometimes I just need to let myself simmer along undisturbed for a while, and this seems to be especially so as autumn winds down towards the dark depths of the winter solstice. I honour the descent that comes so naturally at this time of year, and love the fertile nature of this deep season.

I loved 2009 — for me it was a year of great adventure and personal accomplishment, but I’m looking forward to the coming year and all that it holds…May 2010 be a year of happiness and creativity for us all!

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The Comforts of Home

We had a great holiday, visiting with friends, eating good food, seeing new places, but it’s good to be home! It’s the little things… waking to the familiarity of home, paying the milkman, cooking dinner together. This evening we concocted a fish pie that was just plain right. Comfort food, though neither of us can lay claim to a fishwife history.

Fish Pie

To make:

Cut up whatever fish sounds appealing; we used lobster, plaice fillets, and large shrimp from our freezer — enough to line the bottom of a baking dish. We added a few cooked peas for colour and texture. Feel free to add a few sauteed onions and whatever cooked vegetables you might have on hand. We added a bit of cheddar cheese for extra flavour and extravagance.
Make a white sauce with approximately 3 T butter, 3 T flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp dry mustard. Melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour and seasoning. Slowly add 1 pint milk and stir until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Pour over fish and vegetable mixture, and stir gently.

Make a generous bowl of mashed potatoes, either by boiling a few flour-y potatoes and mashing with milk, salt, and butter, or by whipping up your favourite instant mash. Spread on top of fish and sauce, then top with a bit of grated cheddar cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden.

Serve with green vegetables and a nice bottle of white wine.

Fish Pie comes from humble origins. We enjoy it today as a luxury, especially
when we use lobster and disregard the calories, but originally it was a way for coastal households to stretch whatever bits of fish came their way.

fish-pie-1.jpg

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Things Elemental

I woke up this morning searching for a word… my mind has predictably been a bit preoccupied with the things I’ve been writing about and it just seemed that there should be word to sum up the feelings I have about Lent. It’s come to me…. Lent is elemental, a return to things earthy and fertile, gestational. I wanted to make a pot of soup this morning and as I gathered my ingredients, it occurred to me that my soul is yearning for simple ingredients, found items, earthy foods. These vegetables were not purchased specially for today’s soup pot, but were merely lurking in the pantry, some of them a gift from a friend who had found them in amongst the markdowns at the local co-op.

Soup To Be

As I peeled and chopped, I continued to cogitate on the meaning of the word elemental and its relevance and resonance in my spiritual life. I decided that it fits with this pre-spring season, fits with the earthy smell of the spring bulbs which are already pushing their way into bloom, somewhat early this year. It fits with the empty larder, and the last of the winter root vegetables. It even fits with my husband who populates his spiritual calendar differently than I do mine. At this time of year, he makes regular pilgrimages to the mud flats in search of prehistoric fossils and the remains of civilizations past… when he comes in from the rain and the mud, he smells of something earthy and elemental, and he is satisfied with his walk in the mud, his commune with a natural world I can barely comprehend.

Elemental Soup

My soup greets him with warmth and substance, the result of my time in my kitchen; the earthiness of my ingredients balance nicely with the loftiness of my early morning meditation. I serve it with the ciabatta bread I baked yesterday, its simple flavouring of olive oil and yeasty goodness making it just right for dunking.

Simple pastimes, simple pleasures… and for those of you who fear I’ve abandoned my knitting practice, note my bright-and-cheery handknit tea towel in the picture above. As I said, simple pastimes, simple pleasures…

Elemental Soup

Heat a small glug of olive oil in a large saucepan. Peel and dice a couple onions and a few cloves of garlic and set them to simmer in the oil while you peel and chop a few carrots, a parsnip or two, a turnip, some potatoes, a handful of mushrooms, and whatever else you find lurking in your vegetable bin. Add the vegetables to the pot, along with a tin of chopped tomatoes and a handful of dried herbs (I used basil and a bouquet garni). Cover with water and add a tin of beans (I used cannellinis ) and a handful of pearl barley. Add a stock cube, if desired. Simmer until the barley is cooked and the soup is thick and flavourful.

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Pancake Day!

I’ve been thinking about the spiritual calendar that seems to govern our inner lives as much as the calendar on the wall governs our daily activities. I’ve been aware of it for some time now, but it really came into perspective this year when Lynn Jericho’s 12 Holy Nights guided me so brilliantly through the post-Christmas holiday season.

Because I wasn’t raised in a religious home, I’ve had to discover religious holidays one by one, on my own… which isn’t a bad way to build one’s spiritual life. I’ve had a lifelong fascination with Catholocism, but can’t fully embrace it. Nor do I have any desire to cling to the fervor of Mormonism, the only other religion I know much about. Instead, I find that certain practices and threads of conviction weave through what has become a very eclectic spiritual life. Like many, I’ve had to consider carefully the traditions and symbolism of religious observations, and make my own connections with them based on their metaphorical significance.

Today is Shrove Tuesday — in some places that means Carnival or Mardi Gras, but here in England it means Pancake Day. How fantastic is that? Pancake Day! Apparently it began as a practical tactic for using up the eggs and butter before beginning the Lenten fast. Like Carnival, it is a final day of fun and feasting; schoolchildren run pancake races and mums fry up thin cakes and serve them for tea with butter and lemon.

With typical artistic and cultural license, we will be having a lovely puffy baked pancake that we cook with apples, brown sugar, and lemon juice. To go with it, we’re going to heat up the last of the bacon-wrapped sausages that we saved (in the freezer) from Christmas. The pancake is a variation of what our family used to call Hootenanny Pancakes, but still ties in nicely enough with the English tradition. Gluttons can serve it with pure maple syrup, but trust me, that really isn’t necessary!

Kimberly’s Shrove Tuesday Hootenanny Pancake

Hootenanny Pancake

Heat oven to 350; put 2T butter in an 8″ glass baking dish and place in oven for 10 minutes

Peel and slice 1 apple. Toss with juice of 1 lemon and 2 T brown sugar. Set aside.

Mix in blender: 1/2 cup milk, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup flour, and a pinch of salt. Pour into hot melted butter. Arrange apples on top and pour lemon/brown sugar mixture over the top. Pop into oven and bake for 25 minutes or until puffy and golden. Serve immediately — on its own or with powdered sugar or maple syrup.

Serves 2 generously

I share this practice with you, not so much as spiritual edification but as a soul-satisfying prelude to the seriousness of Lent, which begins tomorrow — balance in all things! For me, though, it goes deeper than balance. While I generally spin in my own little universe of meaning, I thrive on connecting with a broad spiritual community in which traditions, rituals, and practices weave colour and texture into life’s tapestry. As I make our pancake, I’ll be thinking of the threads that connect me to all the others around the world who are preparing for the next phase of their spiritual calendars.

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