Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies

plate of mor monsen’s kaker (my mother’s cake)

 

I took the winter off from college in 1973, to work at Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Montana.  There in my small studio apartment’s kitchen, I first made these incredible bars, which are known for gracing Norwegian Christmases.

Scandinavian baking is in a class all its own.  These people are known to be masters of pastry as well as open-face sandwiches-often incorporating cardamom, rye, and saffron in their creations.   Presently, their culinary genius has reached new heights: numerous times in this past decade, Noma of Copenhagen has been the title winner of The World’s Best Restaurant; it promotes the popular New Nordic cuisine, which is a style of food that has gone beyond the boundaries of Scandinavia.

New Nordic is best known by the terms local and healthy.  In Norway, with a growing season that might last from June until August, it creatively uses the ocean, wild game, root vegetables, and cold-climate berries, such as the native cloudberry, which is highly valued in this country, as it can only be foraged, not cultivated commercially.

My simple, rich recipe exemplifies the culinary excellence of Norway; these lavish bars only call for currants and almonds, amidst the flour, eggs, sugar, and typical pound of butter.

Currants have an interesting history.  Today, these small dried seedless grapes, known as Zante currants, essentially come from the grape cultivar Black Corinth (Vitis vinifera), which is from the genus Ribes.  Related varieties, such as the White and Red Corinth (and other cultivars from the Black Corinth), are used rarely.

There are a total of about 150 categories in Ribes, including the above, as well as golden currants, gooseberries, and ornamental currants.  These various kinds are native to the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America, and within each individual species there are many cultivars-horticulturally derived plants, as distinguished from natural varieties-which have been developed over time.

Currants, which are most commonly dried, are generally referred to as Champagne grapes, when sold fresh, by U.S. specialty grocers.

The study of the origin of the word currant helps identify the history of our tiny fruit.  Written records of it initially date back to Pliny the Elder in 75 A.D.  A millennium later, we see the Middle English term raysons of couraunte, also known as raisins of Corinth (a region in ancient Greece which produced and exported these Ribes).

The word couraunte stands for (raisins of) Corinth, taken from the name Courauntz, which is of the Norman French dialect-a variety of speech used in Normandy and England in the Middle Ages-for this Greek region; this in turn comes from the medieval Old French Corinthe; thus, the dialectal name reysons de corauntz was first used for these grapes, when they were brought to the English market in the 14th century, from which the word currants eventually evolved.

In the 1600’s trade patterns shifted from Corinth to the Ionian Islands, particularly Zakynthos (Zante); thus, this small grape became known as Zante currant.

In 1854, the Zante currant the Black Corinth cultivar came via a trade ship to the United States, which eventually resulted in its commercial production in California; the related varieties the White and Red Corinth were established there in 1861.  (Presently, this state is one of the four major world producers of currants, with Greece covering about 80% of this total generation.)

Actually, trade ships were bringing varieties of Ribes to our soil as early as the 16th and 17th century; natural Corinth raisins, however, were indigenous here as well; the Native Americans had been harvesting them from the wild, long before any Europeans arrived, using them for medicines and dyes.

These Zante currants,  which were initially reported at the time of Christ, are presently hard to find.  In earlier days, I could find boxes of dried currants in many local supermarkets, but recently I can only find them in bulk at such upscale grocers as the national chain New Seasons, which also carries the seasonal, fresh Champagne grapes.

Try adding this dried delight to your next Waldorf salad, a batch of scones (see Scottish Oat Scones, 2016/06/20), or these superb Norwegian Christmas cookies.  Expect wonders!

References:

https://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/fact-sheets/pdf/currants.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zante_currant

https://1historyofgreekfood.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/raisins-currants-sultanas/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/best-scandinavian-cookbooks_us_5756c7e2e4b07823f951302c

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/cookbook-reviews/cookbook-review-scandinavian-baking-by-trine-hahnemann/

cutting bars in triangles

Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies  Yields: 4 dozen bars.  Total prep time: 60 min/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 30 min.   Note: these freeze extra well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.

1 lb plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

2 c sugar  (Organic is best; available at Costco and Trader Joe’s.)

4 lg eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal; may also grind 1-1/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make 2 c fresh-ground flour.)

distributing currants on dough

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

3/4 c almonds, chopped small (May purchase almond slivers for easy chopping.)

1 c dried currants

A large 11” x 16” cake pan*, or a 12” x 16” jelly roll pan  (May use a 9” x 11” pan, in addition to a 9” x 9” square pan.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease pan-see optional sizes listed above-with 2 tbsp butter; set aside.
  3. Cream pound of butter with sugar, until light and fluffy, using an electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition; mix in vanilla.
  4. distributing almonds on top of currants

    Blend flour and salt easily, by shaking vigorously in a sealed gallon-size storage bag; then, add this to butter mixture, beating only until all is incorporated, to keep cookies from toughening; set aside.

  5. Chop almonds fine with a sharp knife, or use a food processor, by repeatedly pressing down on the pulse button, cutting any big chunks in half with a sharp knife.  Set aside.
  6. Spread batter evenly on greased pan; sprinkle surface FIRST with currants; see photo in list of ingredients; then, distribute almond pieces over the top of these; see photo above.  Press nuts and currants down into batter slightly with fingers, so they are embedded; see photo below.  (This keeps them from falling off the baked bars in crumbles.)
  7. Bake for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown, time varies with pan-size.
  8. While bars are still hot-using an 11” x 16” pan-cut 4 rows across the width and 6 rows across the length; then, cut these squares in half; see photo of cutting technique at top of recipe.  (Amount of rows may vary with differing pan

    pressing almonds and currants into dough, to embed them before baking

    sizes.)

  9. These freeze really well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.  They are a treat!

Turkey with Shallots, Cauliflower, and Bell Pepper

turkey with shallots, cauliflower, and bell pepper

It’s that time of year again for turkey.  I have created a recipe using either leftover roasted fowl or its ground version, which comes in one pound packages, at any food market; the latter makes this dish accessible year-round.

Turkey is in the genus Meleagris, which is native to the Americas; the Mexicans domesticated it by 800 BC.  It was either introduced to Southwest U.S., or tamed here independently, by 200 BC; these indigenous people used its feathers for ceremonies, as well as in making robes and blankets; they didn’t, however, consume it as a meat until around 1100 AD.

This bird arrived in Europe in 1523-24, when the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes brought certain foods back from Mexico; in Spain, it was known as gallopavo (peacock).  There is some confusion concerning the exact derivation of its subsequent name turkey; most likely this was taken from our American bird’s mistaken resemblance to the African guinea fowl, which the Europeans knew as turkey fowl, as these were imported from Turkey.

Many believe that English navigator William Strickland introduced this food to England; indeed a tribute was made to him in 1550, in that he was granted a family coat of arms, including a “turkey-crop in his pride proper”; this coat of arms, with its turkey crest, is still in use today.

Until recent times, this bird was considered an extravagance in Europe, where native grouse and pheasant were cheaper alternatives.  In the 19th century, the English working class aspired to partake of goose for their holiday celebrations; Christmas “goose clubs” were established in England in the 1800’s, so these impoverished people could insure the necessary savings for their festive meal.

One of the first mentions in literature, of turkey becoming this celebratory roast, is Charles Dickens’ vivid portrayal in A Chistmas Carol: a resultant, decadent Christmas dinner occurred, when the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge replaced Bob Crachit’s meager goose with a massive turkey.  Nevertheless, only since World War II, as growing conditions for turkey became less expensive, has this developed into the holiday fowl of choice in England.

In U.S. history, Benjamin Franklin was disappointed when turkey was not selected for our national bird; he argued that it is a true original native, whereas the eagle can be found in all countries.

With our present heightened fascination in high cuisine, “heritage” birds are gaining in popularity.  These are traditional breeds, much like Strickland and Dickens encountered, which can trace their ancestry to the earliest domesticated animals.  They have a ratio of dark to white meat of about 50/50.

Broad Breasted Whites have been sold predominantly in grocery stores for decades; these were bred to have a ratio of 65% white meat to 35% dark, while weighing up to 50 pounds; the maximum weight of a wild turkey is 25 pounds, which is also the upper weight of the traditional heritage birds.  These latter come with such colorful names as Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, and Midget White; even with their gamy taste, people are willing to pay $9, or more, per pound to partake of this delicacy, while Broad Breasted Whites are often given away free, as promotional deals, at local supermarkets nowadays.

You may call me penurious, but I made this dish with all-natural Foster Farms ground turkey, which is close to $3 a pound; my recipe, however, is great for Thanksgiving leftovers, whether they be of a Broad Breasted White or a heritage breed.

References:

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 86, 87, 180.
  2. http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/turkey-talk-the-story-behind-your-thanksgiving-bird
  3. http://www.historyextra.com/article/premium/turkeys
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_(bird)

flavorful onions caramelized with vinegar

Turkey with Shallots, Cauliflower and Green Pepper  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 50-60 min.

5 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best for health; olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med yellow onion, cut in even 1/8” slices

4 oz shallots, chopped in 1” pieces

1 tbsp butter

1 lb natural ground turkey  (May use leftover roasted turkey, broken in bite-size pieces.)

Salt to taste  (Real Salt is critical for good health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

Fresh ground pepper to taste

2 lb cauliflower  (Yellow or orange cauliflower is sometimes available, in the organic section, at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores.)

1 lg bell pepper  (In particular, it is important that peppers be organic, as they readily absorb pesticides.)

3-4 tbsp flavored vinegar  (I used elderberry vinegar, which I purchased in Montana.)

  1. For caramelizing, peel and cut onion in even 1/8” slices.  Heat 1 tsp oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; when a small piece sizzles in oil, reduce heat to medium/low; add rest of onions and slowly cook, stirring every 2 minutes, until color begins to form.  (It is important to not crowd pan, or add too much oil, as

    cutting shallots in 1″ pieces

    this will slow down the cooking process.)  When a light golden color is beginning to form, start stirring every minute, until dark brown.  Deglaze pan of onions-scrape fond, browned, cooked-on-juices, off bottom of pan with a spatula-by adding 1-2 tbsp of the vinegar (see above photo of caramelized onions with vinegar).  Go to the next steps, while onions are cooking.

  2. Spray cauliflower and pepper with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.
  3. Peel shallots, cut large ones in 1” pieces, and set aside (see photo above).
  4. In another frying pan, melt butter; add shallots; and cook over medium heat, until they are translucent.  Add raw turkey, salt and pepper generously, cook until pink is gone-see photo below.  (If your turkey was previously frozen, there will be lots of juices, but if cooking fresh-ground, you may need to deglaze hot pan with 1-2 tbsp of vinegar; if using roasted turkey pieces, just stir these into shallots-do not cook.)  Set turkey/shallots aside in a large bowl.
  5. cooked turkey and shallots

    Cut peppers into 1” x 3” strips, set aside.

  6. For ease in dividing the cauliflower into bite-size florettes, first break chunks of cauliflower off the head; next, cut off all excess stalk from these bigger sections; then, make small knife-cuts in the stems of these pieces, gently pulling apart small florettes with fingers; set aside separately in a bowl.
  7. Heat 1 tsp of oil over medium heat in the above, empty meat pan; when a  piece sizzles in hot oil, add the remaining peppers; cook until somewhat soft, but still crisp.  Deglaze hot pan, with a tbsp of vinegar-may have to deglaze with water instead, for only a total of 3-4 tbsp of vinegar should be used for all deglazing, in entire recipe; vinegar adds delightful flavor, but too much is overpowering.  Put peppers in with bowl of meat.
  8. When onions are done, mix together thoroughly with meat/shallots/peppers.  Heat last tbsp of oil in this pan, over medium heat; after a small piece sizzles in hot oil, add rest of cauliflower; salt and pepper florettes, distributing oil evenly among them.  Add 1/4 c water, cover pan, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
  9. finished product

    Blend turkey and vegetables into soft cauliflower, adjust seasonings, and heat thoroughly (see photo).  Serve with anticipation!

Power-Packed Cream of Broccoli Soup

cream of broccoli soup

A beloved one from my church was just pronounced cancer-free; it has been my heart to minister to her during this trial; in doing so, I have made this broccoli soup several times, hoping to please her palate.

It is our joy to touch each others lives, with the bounty with which we are supplied.  For some this means material blessings, for others it is the labor of their hands.  My number one gift, which is always at my disposal, is feeding my friends with food; I also love to exercise my limbs, which are actually the Lord’s hands and feet, with cleaning.  These two offerings thrill me.  I have used both in helping this friend.

Sometime ago, Toni’s husband mentioned her preference for cream of broccoli soup.  Though the vicious enemy cancer tried to steal this chemo patient’s taste buds, I and many others at our church have encouraged resurrected life in her tongue, with the recalling of her soft memories for fond foods.

Soups have gone down the easiest for her, but they often don’t have enough required protein.  The inspiration for this particular broccoli soup resulted from Toni’s needs for this compound, as this recipe is fortified with added protein, utilizing bone broth and eggs; I also find it beneficial for my diet, with my preference for meatless dishes.

Personally, my approach to food is summed up with the word balance, for this best fits my individual health requirements.  Today there are many diets available to meet people’s varying needs.  With our diverse health challenges, we must seek that which is suitable to our unique bodies.

As an example of the often stark opposition in these approaches, two such recommendations for nutrition stand out.  Recently I ran across a low-carb diet that promotes using real food; among its standard suggestions are high quantities of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, as well as high-fat dairy, calling for whole milk yogurt and heavy whipping cream.  I too utilize these high caloric dairy foods, accepting the proposal of some experts that low-fat foods and artificial sweeteners can actually cause weight gain, rather than loss; also such whole foods satisfy the body, with a need to eat less of them.

Directly opposed to this proclaimed low-carb diet is one limiting protein, due to the special requirements of those dealing with kidney disease and kidney stones; it holds that too much of high protein foods may interfere with the body’s ability to eliminate, through one’s urine, the resultant large quantities of the waste products urea and uric acid.  These two by-products are produced by the breakdown of proteins and nucleic acids respectively; when their levels are too high, urea and uric acid cause significant stress on one’s kidneys; thus, those facing kidney problems must eat meal plans exactly opposite to those of the low-carb dieters.

May I encourage us to patiently listen to our bodies, by seeking trusted expert medical help, in discerning our individual physical make-ups; in this way, we each may discover our ideal plan for nourishment.

With my proclivity toward vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts , like my recovering sister, who can only tolerate soups right now, I must watch my protein intake carefully, neither getting too little, nor too much of it.  Indeed, this broccoli soup fits the prescription for both of our needs.

Our church body and the McFaddens have stood unified as one in her fight against cancer; as a miraculous result, Toni has overcome it; this is what belonging to the Christ’s glorious Church is all about.  May we all humble ourselves, by accepting each others proffered blessings; thus, we receive our Father’s abundant grace.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/low-carb-diet-meal-plan-and-menu

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/02/15/foods-for-kidney-health.aspx

ingredients for soup

Power-Packed Cream of Broccoli Soup  Yields: 2 1/2 quarts.  Total prep time: 1 hr/  active prep time: 20 min/  cooking time: 40 min.  Note: it is best to thaw the frozen broccoli for at least 4 hr at room temperature, for quicker cooking.

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oils are best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, cut in small 1/4 inch dice

24 ounces frozen broccoli florettes  (Best thawed ahead of time for faster preparation; SAVE JUICES.)

5 tbsp parsley, minced  (Organic parsley is only slightly more expensive; so much healthier.)

2 cups chicken broth  (Bone broth is best; see recipe under Tortellini Soup-2016/10/10.)

1 quart whole milk

sweating onions and celery

5 large chicken eggs, beaten  (May substitute 3 duck eggs, which are bigger; for facts about eggs, go to Rosemary Eggs-2012/08/21.)

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

1 tbsp Chicken Flavored Better than Bouillon, or to taste

1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is so important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1 tsp white pepper, or to taste

  1. Spray celery and parsley with a safe, effective, inexpensive produce spray: combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle.  Let sit for 3 minutes, rinse well.
  2. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat; sweat chopped onions and celery, or cook until translucent, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (see above photo).
  3. cooking roux

    Mince parsley, set aside

  4. Add broth and milk to onions/celery; stir in thawed broccoli, its juices, and parsley.  Cover pot and bring to a soft boil, over medium heat, watching closely; then, uncover, reduce heat, and simmer softly for 20-25 minutes; check to be sure soup is simmering gently.
  5. Meantime make roux by melting butter in a small sauté pan; blend in flour; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly (see photo above).  Set aside.
  6. After soup has cooked for nearly 25 minutes, beat eggs in a large bowl; mix 1 cup of hot broth into bowl of eggs; stir in a second cup of broth; blend this egg mixture into soup, using a wooden spatula or spoon.
  7. Season with Better than Bouillon, salt, and pepper; continue to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. finished product

    Finally thicken soup, by beating in the prepared roux with a wooden spoon; cook until desired consistency.  Adjust seasonings.

  9. Serve immediately, or let sit for a day to meld flavors; if reheating soup, be careful not to boil vigorously, as this will cause it to separate.  This dynamite soup is packed with protein!

Wholesome Rosemary Bread

rosemary loaves

Of all the abundant gifts of produce that come my way, the most popular herb is rosemary; thus, I created my simple Rosemary Eggs on 2017/08/21.  Now, as bread-baking weather is upon us, I offer a wholesome loaf featuring this sweet, piney flavor.

In Culinary Artistry, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page describe how certain food combinations best heighten pleasure in our palates.  In their pages, they list meat as the number one compliment to rosemary.  When I think of these two substances together, I immediately go to lamb, with childhood memories from my mother’s kitchen.  According to Dornenburg and Page, this herb also magnifies the savor found in suckling pigs, pork, game, steaks, veal, chicken, salmon, and oily fish (e.g., mackerel, sardines); I also find it strengthens egg dishes.

When considering uniting rosemary with a vegetable, potatoes are paramount, though our authors also couple it with onions, peas, mushrooms, spinach, and beans, among which dried and fava beans are best; those of us that prefer a vegetarian diet can benefit from this knowledge, using it liberally in our bean dishes.

I was a vegetarian for most of my twenties; moving to Tokyo changed this proclivity, for I didn’t want to offend my Japanese hosts by refusing proffered meat dishes; in part, this herbivorous preference in my youth still rests with me today, for my daily caloric intake includes mostly meatless dishes, though I am not afraid in the least to partake of animal flesh.

Rosemary, our evergreen shrub, a native to the Mediterranean, is a member of the mint family; it is a woody perennial herb that grows quickly and without much effort in temperate climates, such as that of the Pacific N.W.  Its Latin name means “dew of the sea”.

The Greeks and Romans cultivated it for both culinary and medicinal purposes; today it is still utilized in these two ways: among a number of medicinal intents, its antioxidant effects are known to reduce inflammation (rosemary was used as a remedy for gout in the 1500’s), and presently some also apply it as a homemade insect repellent (for this recipe, see homeguides.sfgate.com/homemade-rosemary-mosquito-repellent-recipe-73124.html).

The ancients made use of this herb in weddings, funerals, and ceremonies of all sorts.  In days past, brides often entwined it into head-wreaths, as it symbolized for them: fidelity, love, abiding friendship, and remembrance of the life each woman had led prior to her marriage.  Some sources claim that men of antiquity believed it improved memory, though this can only be partially substantiated.

With its sweet, lemony, slightly piney taste, rosemary is traditionally found in Mediterranean cooking-especially with the meats mentioned above-where its potent flavor is liberally applied.  Culinary Artistry states that grains also provide a powerful union with this herb; my present recipe employs this dynamic duo.

I made this rosemary bread for my church friend Charity, who was first in line this summer, supplying me with this garden treat; her strong response was that I should sell these loaves at farmer’s market.  Nevertheless, with my passion for writing, I don’t have time to regularly bake for the public, but oh how I love to cook for my friends!

References:

Andrew Dorenenburg & Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 205.

https://www.thespruce.com/history-of-rosemary-1807655

health.bastyr.edu/news/health-tips/2011/09/rosemary-herb-history

www.ourherbgarden.com/herb-history/rosemary.html

https://www.botonical.com/botanical/mgmh/r/rosema17.html

homeguides.sfgate.com/homemade-rosemary-mosquito-repellent-recipe-73124.html

easy chopping of  rosemary in food processor

Rosemary Bread  Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  inactive prep time: 2 hours/  baking time: 30 min.  Note: this method produces quick, easy, mess-free bread, the greatest!

4 c flour  (Blend 3 c whole wheat flour with 1 c unbleached white flour, or better yet, for premium bread, grind 2 2/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries to make a total 4 c of flour, see photo below.)

2/3 oz, 4 stems, or 3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 1/2-1 3/4 c tepid water  (110-115 degrees in temperature.)

1 individual packet, or 3 tsp yeast  (Red Star Active Dry Yeast comes in a 2 lb package, available inexpensively at Costco; this freezes well in a sealed container for long-term use; if using yeast from freezer, may thaw ahead of time for quicker proofing.)

6 1/4 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition section at local supermarket.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best; Pam is available in most grocery stores; our local Winco brand, however, is far less expensive.)

  1. grinding flour with attachment to kitchen aid mixer

    If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see photo).

  2. Place 1/4 c water, lukewarm to the touch (110-115 degrees), in a small bowl; stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let sit in a warm place, until double in size, about 10 minutes-this timing depends on temperature of room.  (Note: frozen yeast will take longer to rise.)
  3. Remove rosemary from stems, chop, and set aside.  This may be done in food processor; see photo at top of recipe.
  4. Place ground flour, rosemary, 2 tbsp sugar, and salt in processor.  Blend well with machine; stop and stir once, using hard plastic spatula that comes with processor.
  5. When yeast is doubled, add it and 1 1/2 c tepid water to flour mixture (if grinding fresh flour, use 1 1/4 c of water only).  Turn machine on and knead for 35 seconds; turn off and let dough rest for 4 minutes (see photo

    dough-made with fresh-ground flour-after initial kneading

    of dough, as it appears after this first kneading-dough made with store-bought flour isn’t as wet, however, as that of fresh-ground, because it has a finer grind, which absorbs more water).  The resting period cools dough, which is essential as processing increases heat; too much heat will kill the yeast.

  6. After pausing for 4 minutes, turn on the processor; knead dough for 35 more seconds; let rest for 4 minutes.
  7. Take out and knead by hand for 5-7 minutes, or until satiny smooth, minus the rosemary lumps (see photo below for dough before and after kneading by hand).  As wet dough readily sticks to hands, rinse them as needed, to facilitate easy kneading.  (Note: dough may be somewhat wet and sticky at first, but much moisture is absorbed with kneading by hand; this is especially true with fresh-ground flour.  IF your dough needs adjusting for some reason, do the following: if it remains quite wet and sticky, after kneading by hand for several minutes, slowly add more flour to your board as you knead; if it is too stiff to knead by hand easily, place back in processor; knead in an 1-2 tbsp of water, depending on how stiff it is; watch and rest dough, as not to overheat it; repeat if needed.  Ideally you want soft, pliable dough, which is smooth to the touch, when finished.)
  8. Place prepared dough in a well-oiled 13 gallon plastic bag; let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until double.  (To facilitate proofing in a cold kitchen, may warm oven for 20-30 seconds only; be careful to only warm slightly, just taking edge off cold, as too much heat will kill the yeast.)
  9. Spray a bread pan with oil, preferably coconut spray oil; punch down doubled dough, forming it into a loaf; place in pan; use a piece of plastic wrap, which has also been sprayed, to loosely cover dough-this keeps it moist.
  10. Let rise until double for 50-60 minutes, depending on room temperature.  About 30 minutes into rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees, to insure oven is ready when it is time to bake.  (IMPORTANT: if proofing loaf in oven, be sure to remove it, before turning oven on.)
  11. When double, bake for around 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.  (Ovens vary slightly in temperature; my oven takes 27 minutes to bake a perfect loaf.)  Enjoy this excellent staff of life!

Avocado, Bean, and Corn Salad

avocado, bean, and corn salad

My church celebrated its 22nd anniversary this past summer with our annual picnic, which we always associate with incredible food; there are two men in our congregation that smoke tri-tip for this gala (they stay up all night smoking our Thanksgiving turkeys as well, which is by far the best turkey I have ever experienced).  This year our outdoor celebration also boasted of fried chicken, not to be outdone by everyone’s glorious side-dish contributions.

Church gatherings are famous for their magnificent spreads; our congregation is no exception, for we have a host of great cooks, even though our body is small; indeed, we eat well!

I always make the following bean salad for our anniversary; it is not only quick, but keeps well in the sun.  May you find this a great dish for potlucks also.

Normally I don’t use many canned goods in my food preparations; they, however, facilitate the ease of this excellent recipe.  The history of canning is of great interest to me.  It began with a Nicolas Appert, a creative Frenchman with ordained skills, promised attributes we all get to exercise.

Our genius started out as a brewer; then, became a steward for the aristocracy; finally, he ended up as a confectioner during the Napoleonic era.  When France and Britain were at war in 1795, Napoleon, seeking a way to best preserve food for his army, offered 12,000 francs to the winner of a contest for such a discovery.  As a confectioner, Appert’s mind had already been developing such a solution, for he had been pursuing the foremost means in lengthening the shelf-life of fruits, by improving on the traditional candying and drying processes.  This formal opportunity brought his ideas to fullness; thus, he won the prize with his method in which he preserved fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, partridges, chestnuts, grape must, even the vegetable truffles: our originator partially cooked the foods, before placing them in wide-mouth bottles; then, by corking and boiling the bottles in a water bath, he expelled the damaging air; this technique of food preservation has remained in tact throughout the centuries. 1

Nevertheless, this hero unfortunately died a pauper, for by accepting the prize he lost the chance to patent his design.  (As an aside, I speak with the authority given me in Jesus Christ’s name: “Enemy of our souls, you can steal none of our rewards!”) 2

In 1810, Appert published a book detailing his canning procedure, which the award had prohibited him from patenting; just months later, a patent using his method for preserving foods surfaced in England.  There, however, his corked glass container became a more durable, tin-coated iron canister, which came with instructions for opening with a chisel and hammer. 3

By 1849, this technology for food preservation improved with machine-made, can tops and bottoms.  Prior to this, two skilled workers produced 120 cans a day; now two people could daily make 1500 cans, and these machine-operators were unskilled at that. 4

These tin cans inspired what was the slow advent of can openers, an invention that remained quite unsatisfactory from its first appearance in 1855, until our modern device appeared in the 1980’s; this latter, a side-opening implement, uses two wheels in tandem, one rotating, the other serrated, removing the lid, while leaving no sharp edges.  These days we take this relatively new, inexpensive tool for granted; as a result of the sped of modern technology, often even this is not required, for now many cans come with pop-tops. 5

Today can-making is a major economic force; in the United States alone, more than 130 billion cans are generated yearly, making this an eight billion dollar industry. 6  The majority-about four times more-of these canned goods are fizzy drinks, such as sodas and beer, rather than food. 7

Hardcore cooks can soak and boil dried beans for my salad; nevertheless most of us choose to thank Nicolas Appert, for his obedience to press in with his quick mind; as a result, we have canned beans and corn for this blessed recipe.

  1. Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), pp. 219-221.
  2. Ibid., p. 220.
  3. Ibid., p. 221.
  4. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 242
  5. Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), pp. 221, 221.
  6. www.cancentral.com/can-stats/history-of-the-can
  7. Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012) , p. 223.

assembling salad using garlic peeler

Avocado, Bean, and Corn Salad  Yields: about 1 1/2 quarts.  Total prep time: 25 min.  Note: this salad is spicy; for a milder version,  use less garlic and Jalapeno peppers; spiciness always lessens in intensity after a day of refrigeration; it is best to make this ahead for flavors to meld.

2-15 ounce cans of beans, drained  (Simple Truth Organic Tri-Bean Blend is ideal; available inexpensively at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores.)

1-15 ounce can of sweet corn  (Trader Joe’s brand is excellent.)

1/2 cup chopped red or sweet onion  (For easy chopping, see step 2.)

5 large cloves of fresh garlic, or to taste, minced coarsely  (This amount provides a fair amount of bite; adjust for desired garlic flavor.)

chopping onion the easy way

2 Jalapeno peppers, or to taste, minced

1/2 cup salsa  (Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica is ideal.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for health; available in health section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

2 small avocados, chopped

  1. Drain beans and corn in a colander, while proceeding to next step.
  2. For easy chopping, with root in tact, score a large onion with slices across top, cutting 2/3’s of the way down into it; turn onion and cut slices in opposite direction; shave pieces off end (see above photo); place in a large bowl.
  3. coarse grind of garlic

    For exceptional efficiency, peel garlic with a green, rubber garlic peeler from Bed, Bath, and Beyond (see this in photo at beginning of recipe).  May chop cloves coarsely with a sharp knife, or for quick preparation, place in a food processor, pressing pulse button repeatedly; stop and scrape down sides once; do not over chop, as a coarse grind adds bite to salad (see photo); place in bowl with onions.

  4. Cut Jalapeno peppers in half length-wise, scoop out seeds with a spoon, mince fine, and add to bowl (see photo below).  When finished, be sure to wash hands thoroughly before touching eyes.
  5. Stir salsa, salt, and pepper into onions/Jalapeno peppers.
  6. Gently blend beans and corn into this mixture; do not over mix, as this will make the beans mushy.  If making ahead, refrigerate at this point.
  7. mincing Jalapeno peppers

    Before serving, chop avocados, and carefully fold into bean mixture.  Serve with pleasure.

Quick and Delicious Leek Soup

bowl of leek soup

The history of leeks is colorful. They have been cultivated both in Europe and Central Asia for thousands of years; they are considered to be native to the latter and the Mediterranean, though historical texts from other areas mention them as well. There are Biblical accounts of their presence in Egypt, in northeastern Africa, during early world history: when times got tough in the wilderness, the children of Israel longed for this delicacy, to the point that they were willing to return to their captivity under Pharaoh; archaeological digs support the presence of leeks in the Egyptian diet for the past 4 millennia.

Shortly after Christ’s presence on earth, during the first century A.D., the Roman Emperor Nero consumed them daily, for he adhered to their healing power in strengthening one’s singing voice.  Greek philosopher Aristotle concurred with this commonly accepted belief in ancient times, for he attributed the clear voice of the partridge to its diet consisting of this vegetable.

As the Roman Empire spread, its soldiers allegedly brought this choice food to the tables of the United Kingdom, where its popularity grew greatly.  As far back as the 6th century A.D., according to legend, Welsh soldiers were wearing a leek in their helmets for identification purposes, a tradition that was carried on in subsequent centuries.  Shakespeare, whom I studied in London in 1974, refers to this Welsh passion in Henry V.  Such enthusiasm continues in Wales in present times, for this member of the onion family is now its national emblem, along with the daffodil.

My first encounter with this Allium occurred in the 1980’s in Billings, Montana, when an Irish friend taught me how to make leek soup, as part of a complete Irish meal.  I had need to know how to cook this national cuisine authentically, for I had contributed a catered St. Patrick’s Day dinner to a fundraiser’s auction, which the local radio station had promoted well; thus, I had ten eager winners expecting the best.  My friend, whose roots were in Ireland, put his heart into equipping me for this fun event; he even made a huge Irish flag, which I still possess.

Leek soup is prevalent in many different nationalities; I serve a Potage Bonne Femme, a potato and leek soup, in a 19th century French banquet from my repertoire.  My present version, however, is superior.  For more recipes and information on leeks go to  Zucchini Chicken with Leeks and Shallots (2017/08/28) and Kale, Leeks, and Chicken (2017/09/04).

Enjoy this fast soup recipe both now and for years to come; it is that good.

References:

https://draxe.com/leeks/

http://foodfacts.mercola.com/leeks.html

http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/Historyof Wales/TheLeek-National-emblem-of-the-Welsh

www.wales-calling.com/culture/leeks-and-daffodil.htm

trimming leeks

Leek Soup  Yields: 2 quarts.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

3 leeks, white and light green part, 2/3 pound trimmed

1 medium/large yellow onion, chopped small

2 celery ribs, in small dice  (If desired, may omit the celery and double the potatoes, or vice versa double the celery, omitting the potatoes, to be diabetic friendly.)

7 tbsp butter, preferably unsalted  (If using only celery, 9 tbsp butter will be needed.)

2 small Yukon potatoes, 2/3 pound, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch cubes

4 cups chicken broth  (Bone broth is best for food value; see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp white pepper, or to taste

1/4 tsp nutmeg, or to taste  (Fresh ground is best.)

1/2 bunch-1/2 cup chopped-Italian flat parsley  (Organic is only slightly more expensive and much healthier.)

2 tbsp flour

1 cup whipping cream

1 tsp Better than Bouillon soup base, or to taste  (Chicken flavor is best, but vegetable flavor will also do.)

  1. Spray all vegetables, including parsley, with a vegetable spray (a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide is effective and inexpensive); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.
  2. rinsing chopped leeks

    Remove dark green top off leeks, leaving the white and light green part.  With the root in tact, cut leek in half lengthwise (see above photo); fan out under running water to remove dirt.  Holding the two halves together, cut each leek in 1/4-inch-thick slices; place pieces in a large container; rinse well with water, stirring with hand (see photo); drain in a colander.

  3. Chop onion, set aside.
  4. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large stock pot over medium heat; chop the celery in small 1/4 inch dice; watch butter so as not to burn.  (Use 6 tablespoons of butter, if doubling the celery, by omitting the potatoes.)
  5. Add leeks, onion, and celery to melted butter, distributing it well throughout vegetables; cook covered for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently, so they don’t brown (this will sweat the onions and leeks, or turn them translucent).
  6. Peel and cut potatoes in small 1/2 inch pieces, placing them in a bowl of water to keep them from turning color.
  7. When leeks and onions are translucent, add drained potatoes, broth, 1/2 cup water, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to pot.
  8. making roux

    Cover and bring to a boil over medium/high heat; lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft; stir occasionally

  9. Wash parsley, remove stems, chop, and set aside
  10. Make a roux by melting 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; blend in 2 tablespoon of flour with a wire whisk; cook until golden brown, mixing continuously (see photo).
  11. When potatoes are soft, whisk 1 cup of soup broth into pan of roux; add a second cup of broth, blending thoroughly; this mixture will be quite thick.
  12. Add parsley, cream, and roux to soup in stock pot.  Mix in a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon, to heighten taste; adjust seasonings; simmer for another 5 minutes (see photo of finished product).
  13. finished product

    Serve hot and enjoy!  (Flavors meld best after sitting for a day.)

Kale, Leeks, and Chicken

kale, leeks, and chicken

A friend from my church has a very large garden; sharing its bounty is her joy.  Last summer’s series on simplified kale receipts was inspired by her gracious contributions (see 2016/09/07 & 2016/09/19).

My mind creates recipes according to what is in my larder, which usually boasts of provision supplied by church members.  Lately Goldie has been bringing her organic kale again, as well as leeks and celery; this mouth-watering chicken dish resulted.

For a wedding present last year, I gave a marriage supper, complete with a cooking class, to newlyweds in our congregation (see Thai Coconut Lime Flounder, 2016/12/05); my desire was to release the gift of excellent nutrition in them.  Several weeks ago, we celebrated their holy matrimony again, with a new set of instructions and dinner following, rejoicing over God’s goodness in our lives.

Dina exhibited such courage in overcoming her unfamiliarity with food preparation, the first time I coached her; hope, however, grew this recent session, for she has grown exponentially in her eager steadfastness in the kitchen.

This new teaching included my chicken dish using the kale, shallots, and leeks from our church; these steps are straightforward, though they are time-consuming, with the preparation of leeks and kale.  But oh the benefits of health and taste!

Leeks are one of the world’s oldest vegetables, which are more delicate in flavor than either onions or shallots; they are considered highly nutritious, with cancer fighting attributes, as well as antiseptic, laxative, and diuretic properties, among many other health-promoting values.  This vegetable is particularly strong in vitamins K and A (when eaten raw, one 3.5-ounce serving contains 52 % daily requirement of vitamin K and more than 29% that of vitamin A).  Though research on this particular Allium is hitherto limited, it can well be assumed that its health benefits are comparable to those proven in its closely related onion and garlic cousins.  Its notable amount of flavonol kaempferol, in its substantial polyphenol content, thereby combats many health problems related to oxidative stress and chronic low-level inflammation; among these are rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, and type 2 diabetes; thus, this recipe is beneficial to Dina, whose husband is presently overcoming diabetes.  For an additional recipe and more on its history, go to Zucchini Chicken with Leeks and Shallots (2017/09/28).

Enjoy making today’s clear, detailed chicken recipe for leeks, shallots, and kale; my next entry will expound on the colorful history of leeks, with a delectable soup (2017/09/18).  Note: I will be taking this coming week off due to our Women’s Advance-we always advance, we never retreat, at Abundant Life Family Church (alfc.net)!

References:

www.foodfacts.mercola.com/leeks.html

www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=26

www.historic-uk.com/HistoryofWales/TheLeek-National-emblem-of-the-Welsh/

finished product

Kale, Leeks, and Chicken  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr (lengthy, but well worth it with these simple, detailed directions).

1 1/2 pound chicken tenderloins, about 8-10 large pieces  (Natural is best; available reasonably in Trader Joe’s freezer.)

2 large carrots, optional

3 large stalks of celery

1-1 1/2 pounds of kale

chopping leeks

4 leeks, white and light green part, 3/4 pound trimmed  (The best leeks are fresh-not more than a week old-and 1 1/2 inches in diameter.)

5 large cloves of garlic, minced  (3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s is much easier.)

4 tbsp butter

8 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

1-2 tbsp fresh thyme, removed from stems, and coarsely chopped

Salt  (Real Salt is important for your health; available in the natural foods section at your local supermarket.)

Fresh ground pepper

  1. Place chicken in a large bowl of warm water to thaw, set aside.
  2. Spray all vegetables with an inexpensive effective spray, by combining 97% white distilled vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide; let sit 3 minutes; while waiting, if using fresh, mince garlic; rinse sprayed vegetables in a sink full of water several times.
  3. Cut celery diagonally in 1 inch pieces; scrape optional carrots with a sharp knife (this preserves vitamins just under the skin); slice thinly at a diagonal; set aside together in a bowl.
  4. Prepare leeks by first discarding outer leaves; cut off the dark green at the top and root hairs on bottom, leaving the white and light green part.  Cut each leek in half lengthwise; rinse well; then, cut each half in 2 inch pieces, by placing leek cut-side up on board; finally, slice these 2 inch lengths, cut-side up on board,

    cutting ribs out of kale

    into thin strips (see photo above); place pieces in a large container.  For final cleaning, rinse strips well with water, stirring with hand; then, drain in a colander.  This is known as the chiffonade-cut.

  5. Melt butter over medium heat in a sauté pan; as soon as a small piece sizzles in pan, add half the leeks, coating strips well with the hot butter. Reduce heat to low; cook down in pan, to make room for the rest of leeks, distributing oils well with each addition.  When all leeks are in pan, add garlic and slowly cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. straight-edge blade of food processor for chopping

    Cut ribs out of kale with a sharp knife (see above photo). May chop by hand, or quickly chop greens mechanically, by using the straight-edge blade of a food processor (see photo); turn processor on and place kale pieces in feeder tube (see photo below); set aside.

  7. Place thawed chicken on paper towel, salt and pepper GENEROUSLY.  Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat; when a small piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add the rest of the tenderloins; cook until light pink inside (do not overcook, as these will cook more later); cut tenderloins in bite-size pieces, removing them to a large bowl.  CAREFULLY SAVE JUICES IN PAN.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to these juices; mix in half the kale, distributing oils evenly.  Over medium heat, cook this vegetable down until there is room to add more; mix in oils with each addition, until all is in the pan; cook covered, until limp, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  As needed, deglaze pan (scrape fond, cooked-on juices, off bottom with a spatula, after adding 2 or more tablespoons of water).  Remove to bowl of meat when done.
  9. placing kale in feeder tube of processor

    Meanwhile gently peel thyme off stems, chop coarsely with a sharp knife, set aside.

  10. Put last 2 teaspoons of oil in hot pan after kale is removed; add carrots and celery; mix well; cook until tender, stirring every couple of minutes.  Meantime go to next step.
  11. Blend 1-2 tablespoons chopped thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper into leeks; stir in chicken/kale; continue cooking over low heat, until all is hot.  Add this mixture to pan of celery, when tender; adjust seasonings; one final time, scrape bottom to deglaze pan, using the juices from the added leek mixture.  Serve with confidence!