Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mushroom and Barley Soup

When I saw Pam's blog, Pam's Midwest Kitchen Korner,  I knew immediately we would love this soup.  And we did!!  She found it in the Chicago Tribune, and I remember my grandmother's sister always found the best recipes in the Tribune.  This rated right up there at the top.

She made a few changes to the original, and I followed Pam's suggestions to the T.  I know this soup will be made often.  The only change I made was using the dried mushrooms I had on hand.  Last fall I bought an 8 oz. container of gourmet mushroom blend at Costco.  I have used it often and love the combination of mushrooms....morels, porcini, Brazilian caps, ivory portabella, shiitake and oyster mushrooms.  They worked beautifully in this soup and this is a much less expensive way to buy dried mushrooms.

Mushroom and Barley Soup
  from Pam's Midwest Kitchen Korner

1 package (1 ounce) dried porcini mushrooms  (I used about 1 cup of my mixed blend)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound button mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
8 cups beef stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 cup pearl barley
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sale and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish


Place dried mushrooms in a bowl.  Cover with 2 cups of boiling water.  Soak, submerged with a small plate for 20 minutes.  Squeeze liquid from the mushrooms and reserve the water.  Slice the mushrooms.

Slice the fresh mushrooms.  Warm oil in a large soup pot and set over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and garlic and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes.  Remove shallots mixture to a small bowl and set aside.

Add fresh mushrooms to the pot and cook until their liquid releases, about 5-8 minutes.  Stir in shallot and garlic mixture, beef stock, thyme, reserved mushroom liquid and reconstituted mushrooms.  Add Montreal Steak Seasoning and heat to a boil.

Stir in barley, reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook, partially covered until barley is tender, about 40 minutes.  Stir in balsamic vinegar.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 5 minutes.  Top with parsley and serve.

6 servings

Be sure to have some great crusty bread to go along with this great soup.  Thanks, Pam.

P.S.  I just want to add a comment about the great job that blogger is doing keeping Spam off my blog.  Today, it caught some foreign language trying to add a comment to my blog anonymously, 6 times.  I do not have the extra security code on my comments as I feel it is a waste of time for those commenting and not necessary.  Blogger does a great job all by itself.  Thanks.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Braised Chicken with Lemon and Capers

We were looking for a different way to eat chicken.  Rather than cookbooks, I do spend more time searching the blogs for recipes.  I always feel that if a blogger writes about a recipe they tried and leaves true comments about the dish, it is the best source available.

Best of all, I had all the ingredients in the kitchen!!  You can do your own thing with this recipe.  Use whatever chicken parts you prefer or have on hand.  Our verdict was "DELICIOUS!"  This recipe serves 2, but would be easy to increase the sauce for more servings.

Braised Chicken with Lemon and Capers
  Recipe from

2 bone-in chicken thighs with skin
2 chicken breasts with skin
all purpose flour for dusting
salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 large peeled garlic cloves
3/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 1-inch strips lemon zest
4 thyme springs
2 teaspoons capers, drained
2 bay leaves

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust with flour.  In a large, ovenproof skillet, melt the butter in the oil.  Add the chicken, skin side down and cook over moderate heat turning once, until browned (about 12 minutes).  Transfer chicken to a large plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat until softened.  Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add the stock, lemon zest, thyme, capers and bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up.  Transfer the skillet to the oven, cover and braise for 30-35 minutes, or until the meat is tender.

Remove chicken, then return skillet to the stove and boil until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.  Discard thyme, bay leaf and lemon zest before serving.  Serve the chicken with the beautiful gravy this dish makes.  Very nice!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Buckwheat pancakes

My mother was always an adventurer in the kitchen.  When my friends were eating simple pancakes for breakfast, we had buckwheat pancakes.  Certainly richer in fiber, a little more "earthy" tasting and to me, very delicious.  I, personally, have never liked maple syrup.  If you can imagine, I preferred Karo white syrup on my pancakes.

We lived for 20 years in northern Wisconsin when our children were growing up.  A lot of Scandinavian influence in that area.  In fact, lingonberries could be found fresh in the produce section around Christmastime.  That is when I first fell in love with them.  Since then, whenever I am in a store with unusual foods, I search for lingonberries.  This jar says they are from Sweden.  If you have never tasted them, I would say that they are very tiny and remind me of cranberries.

So this morning, we had buckwheat pancakes with sour cream and a topping of lingonberries.  Absolutely delicious.  The Trout added some maple syrup to his, but I liked them 'just the way they are.'

It was probably 20 years ago when Martha Stewart was raving about her buckwheat hull pillows.  So, yes, I ordered a massive amount of buckwheat hulls and made pillows.  They were comfortable to lay on...comfortable to the head and neck, but I could not get used to the sound.  Kind of  like a crunch with each turn.  Hmm...wonder what happened to all those pillows.

In the end, I still prefer my buckwheat in a pancake with these delightful lingonberries.  But....I do remember visiting friends in Soltau, Germany, in the northern part of the country.  Actually it was in the "Heide," the heather country.  After spending an afternoon walking through the heather, we stopped at a delightful little restaurant.  It must have been about 4 p.m., because that is when Germans have their afternoon coffee and sweets.  I ordered a slice of buckwheat torte spread with layers of lingonberries.  It was so good, I remember the taste and that was over 30 years ago.  I hope one of my German friends reading this will tell me how to make this torte.  That would be a real tasty surprise!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"How about a kumquat, my little chickadee?"

The title quote comes from W.C. Fields, and is probably the first time I ever heard of a kumquat.  Growing up in eastern Iowa, kumquats were not something around in the 50's and 60's.

When I saw them at the market last week, I bought them knowing I would do something with them, but not quite sure what.  After searching, I decided a marmalade would be the best way to enjoy them.  The Trout and I did "pop" a few into our mouths whole.  They are sweet/sour and with no need to peel them.   They do look like little oranges, but are not even related.

The kumquat originated in SE Asia and has been cultivated in China since the 12th century.  Kumquats came to the US in 1850.  There are four varieties and Nagami is grown primarily in Florida and California.

I found a recipe here and followed it.  This morning for breakfast we tested it.  It was okay...the Trout said he tasted a strange spice.  I did not add spices.  I am guessing we were both thinking orange marmalade and it did not taste like orange at all.  The kumquat is unique to itself.

I would not say rush out to make kumquat marmalade, my little chickadee, but if you do have a chance to try it, please do.

I am hoping to try cooking new foods to me this year.  Two items I have not liked very much are kale and collard greens.  In all honesty, I love ALL foods, so I am determined to conquer these two 'green' leafy items to a tolerable side dish.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Homemade Créme Fraîche

Créme fraîche is a dairy product that we have come to love.  It is one of the main ingredients in Flammkuchen which we enjoy a lot.  In America, it is also expensive and not readily available.  I knew immediately when I asked the man stocking the dairy in the largest grocer in town for it, and he asked me to spell it, that it was not to be had!!  It is available in Whole Foods which means a trip to Tampa or Orlando which will take up 1/2 of a day.  And, it is still expensive.

I started reading about making it at home, and now I wonder why I waited so long to try it.  It is simple, it is delicious, and can be ready for use in 2 days.  Use it as a topping for soups instead of sour cream, as an ingredient in muffins and cakes, mixed with honey on top of fruit, in scalloped potatoes, etc.

Créme Fraîche

1 cup whipping not use ultra pasteurized
2 tablespoons buttermilk

Mix together in a jar and let set, covered, in the kitchen in a warm spot for 8 to 24 hours.  It will thicken when ready.  Refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.  So simple, so easy, and so good.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Norwegian Kringler

Having a husband who is 1/2 Norwegian and living in northern Wisconsin for a long time where most of the population has a Scandinavian background, this recipe was destined to fall into my lap.  It is wonderful with coffee...what European does not savor his afternoon coffee with a sweet treat?

It is a simple recipe and delicious.  The topping is a pâte à choux, cream puff batter, that is placed on a crust.  No matter what your nationality, I know you will enjoy this.

Norwegian Kringler

1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons water

Cut butter into flour and sprinkle water over mixture.  Roll into a ball and divide in half.  On ungreased cookie sheet, pat each ball into flat 12 x 3 inch strips.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
3 eggs

Heat 1/2 cup butter and water to a rolling boil.  Remove from heat and quickly stir in extract and flour.  Stir over low heat until mixture forms a ball  (about 1 minute).  Remove from heat and beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth and glossy.  Divide in half and spread over each strip.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour...until browned.  The top will fall.

Mix glaze ingredients and put over each strip.  Add sliced almonds on top.  Can be prepared ahead.

Glaze:  1 1/2 cups confectioner sugar (powdered sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons water
sliced almonds

Cut into strips and serve with coffee.  Enjoy.