Elaine in the Kitchen has Lots of News!

Sometimes you have to celebrate your own accomplishments, so I’m proud to announce that my book,Pantry Magic – Making and Using Fruit and Vegetable Powders is now available in paperback on Amazon and I hope to have the Kindle edition up soon. (See the Amazon Icon on the sidebar).I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope that all of you will check it out and, of course, buy a copy. (How’s that for blatant self promotion)!  Seriously, I’d love to get your feedback.

But there’s more. Last summer I opened an online store at Etsy.com, and I’m happy to say that I’m getting lots of interest in my Fruit and Vegetable Powders. https://www.etsy.com/shop/ElaineintheKitchen?ref=hdr_shop_menu

Sales have been particularly good since the Holidays and I’m looking forward to adding some new items: Meyer Lemon Zest, Roasted Red Bell Pepper, and Sweet Orange Zest.

I’m sure some of you have noticed that I’ve been doing some rehab work on Elaine in the Kitchen’s Facebook page as well as the website.  I’ve also got some great recipe ideas for future posts and I should have a new one starting next week.  Thanks to all of you who have been checking in on Elaine in the Kitchen in the meantime.

Whew!  I think I’ll have some tea and lemon cookies.

Nordic Nut Bread

Thanksgiving is over and I survived the mashed potatoes, the dressing and the gravy along with all the pies and sweet potato side dishes.  However, for those of us who appreciate the savory side of life here is an idea for  an addition to your next appetizer selection, traditional holiday smorgasbord, or just as a healthy late night snack while you binge on Vikings and wait for the next season to start.  This Nordic style nut bread would have been a familiar menu item on Ragnar Lothbrok’s table.

This is not bread in any ordinary sense, and it certainly isn’t the familiar sweet fruit and nut bread that we’re used to seeing on holiday tables, but it is an excellent delivery vehicle for a whole array of tasty toppings like paté, lingonberry jelly, a smear of brie cheese, onion jam or even peanut or almond butter.  Plain cream cheese is great too.  You could, of course, throw in some dried apricots, or raisins if you crave something sweeter, but my personal favorites are red onion jam and mushroom paté.  I’ll include quick versions of those condiments in this post.  This recipe is just unbelievably easy and very, very healthy.

NORDIC NUT BREAD

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Ingredients

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  • 3.5 oz  pumpkin seeds
  • 3.5 oz sunflower seeds
  • 3.5 oz almonds
  • 3.5 oz walnuts or pecans
  • 3.5 oz flax seeds
  • 3.5 oz sesame seeds
  • 3.5 oz poppy or chia  seeds or substitute 1/2 cup of chopped dried fruit (optional)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 3.4 oz  oil (I use grapeseed or avocado)
  • 3.5 oz water (optional)

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Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until it forms a thick mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

Press into generously oiled loaf pans (will make 3 small or 1 large).  Bake in a preheated 320 degree oven for 1 hour.   The look of the loaves will not change very much in appearance, just slightly brown around the edges.  Let the loaves cool completely before slicing.  The bread keeps for a week in the refrigerator, and freezes very well.

This is a perfect delivery system for all kinds of yummy toppings.  Here are some of my favorites.

DSCF2975You can use any combination of nuts or seeds that you prefer.  However, for every 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of additional seeds or nuts remember to add 1-2 extra eggs and water and oil as needed.

A good suggestion is to make a large batch of nuts/seeds, divide them into bags with enough to make the above recipe.  Store them in the freezer and take out a bag when you want to make the bread.

 

 

 

 

 

Red Onion Jam

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Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

6 cups thinly sliced red onions (about 3 1/4 pounds)

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

2 cups apples, peeled and chopped

1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup Ruby Port

1/4 cup red wine

1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup dried cherries

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over a medium heat. Add the onions and dried red pepper. Cover, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender.  Add brown sugar, vinegar, port, red wine and ginger. Cook uncovered over medium low heat until onions are very tender and mixture has a thick, jam like consistency.  Add the dried cherries and cook until mixture is very thick and dark, stirring frequently, about 20-25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool completely. Put in jars and refrigerate.  This stores very well and can be made well ahead.  I put this on all kinds of things and almost always have a jar on hand.

Mushroom Paté

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Ingredients

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1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

1/2 cup unsalted butter

¼ pound shitake mushrooms, chopped

¼ cup crimini mushrooms, chopped

¼ pound white button mushrooms, chopped

1/4 lb dried woodear mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped

1 tablespoon roasted garlic puree

¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Toast the walnuts either in the oven for 10 minutes at 350° or in a dry frying pan on the stove top until fragrant and slightly browned.

In a large skillet or sauté pan cook the shallots in butter until translucent.  Add the chopped mushrooms, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often until most of the liquid is evaporated.

Process the walnuts and olive oil in a blender or food processor until mixtures form a thick paste.  Spoon in the cooked mushroom mixture and process until the desired texture.  I like mine smooth and creamy.

Press the mixture into oiled ramekins or bowls.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.     ♥

It’s All About That Base – Sofrito

 

Every cuisine starts with a base of seasonings, and in Latin cooking, from Puerto Rico to Mexico to Spain, it all starts with sofrito.  Forget mire poix or New Orleans trinity (it’s just a stripped down version of sofrito anyway).   Sofrito 001AI’ve found more and more ways to use this great flavor base and I try to always have a big batch in my freezer.  Being able to throw a disk of frozen sofrito into the pan is a great way to bypass all the chopping for a sauce, a fast supper or an eat-it-when-you-get-home crockpot meal.  I’ve used it as a base in dishes like chicken and yellow rice, and in homemade enchilada sauce, chili and black bean soup.  I’ve even put it in pasta sauce and split pea soup; anywhere you want to make an ordinary dish something special.  The great thing about sofrito is that it is so easy to make.

Every one’s mom or grandma has her own authentic sofrito recipe, but this is my version.  You’ll need a blender or food processor and a frying pan (cast iron is the best), and some basic ingredients.

Basic Sofrito

Ingredients

2 red bell peppers (you can also use the sweet red and yellow minis that come in a bag)

1 green bell pepper

2 poblano peppers

1 big sweet onion

8 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 bunches of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 bunch of culantro*

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon jalapeno powder (also called Texas gunpowder – I make my own)

Directions

Rough chop the vegetables and place in the blender or food processor.

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Process the mixture until it’s somewhat smooth but still has some chunkiness.  Sofrito 007AHeat your skillet and add 2 tablespoons of oil.  Pour the mixture into the skillet, add the cumin and jalapeno powder.  Notice I did not add any salt or pepper.  I add those seasonings when I use them to prepare a dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just let the mixture simmer until most of the moisture has cooked down (about 10 minutes).

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Let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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What I like to do is pour 1/2 cup portions into my big muffin tin and freeze them.  Once frozen I put the disks in a zip lock and they’re ready to use when I need them.

Explore some new flavors.  Enjoy.

Chai Concentrate: Instant Comfort in a Cup

After a hard day sometimes you just need some good old fashioned comfort, and you need it NOW.  Problem is, comfort usually takes time and on days like that I’m not into delayed gratification.  So what I need is a little kitchen magic and some make-ahead planning.

My crock pot is the closest thing I have to a magic cauldron.  I can make the most wonderful concoctions in it with almost no effort and I use it often, especially for that heavenly elixir, chai tea.  Frankly, I’m too cheap to buy the stuff in a box or bottle, and I tried the homemade instant mix but I don’t like the idea of coffee creamer (I mean what IS that stuff anyway?).   For me, it’s not just about how a dish looks, it’s also about how it’s made and what kind of ingredients go into making it yummy.  Now, I love chai, hot, cold, with or without milk.  It’s delicious, comforting and a special way to unwind after a busy day.  The trouble is I want my comfort now and not half an hour from now after I’ve assembled all the ingredients, found that I’m completely out of cinnamon sticks, gone to the store, come back, steeped the tea and spices and poured out that first cup.  No, I want it fast, easy and ready to use.  With a little research and a few of my own contributions, here is my version of Chai Tea Concentrate.   There are no actual rules here, so use the spices you like.  So drag out that slow cooker and let’s make some comfort in a cup.

Chai Tea Concentrate

Makes slightly less than 2 quarts

 Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water
  • 8 individual tea bags (black or green)
  • 1 cup sugar or 3/4 cup honey or brown rice syrup (I use half regular sugar and half light brown sugar) – you can always add more to taste
  • 6 slices (rounds) fresh ginger
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 8 cardamom seeds (they’re tiny but strong)
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 1 nutmeg, or 1 1/2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg
  • Peel from one fresh orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel powder (you could substitute additional fresh orange peel or orange zest)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lemon peel powder (you could substitute 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

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Directions:

Pour the water into the crock pot, add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the tea bags, and all of the remaining ingredients except the vanilla.

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Set the crock pot to hi and let it simmer for 2-4 hours.  It will have reduced slightly and is very strong, so if you’re sensitive to caffeine you should use decaffeinated or your favorite herb tea.  MON 006

Turn off the heat and let cool slightly, then add the vanilla.

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When the concentrate is completely cooled, strain and store in the refrigerator in a glass container.

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Magic in a cup.  Enjoy!    Wed Chai 003