cranberry crackle tart; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Cranberries are a vital part of the holiday season for many Americans.  In my family, we cook them up into a sweet sauce flavored with oranges, vanilla bean and spices and the kids eat them by the bowl full.  It is one tradition that I really will miss this holiday season.  We relocated from Nashville to Williamsburg and our family group that gathered together each Thanksgiving and Christmas is now separated by nearly 700 miles.  Even so, I couldn’t resist buying a bag or two, or four of cranberries and had to find a tasty way to use so many fresh cranberries.  Thankfully, this recipe used more than half of a bag, and now I only have 3 and a half more bags in the fridge…

The recipe gives you some good options and I decided to test some of them out.  With two different dough recipes to choose from,  I decided to mix up a batch of the sweet tart dough and as I mixed it, I chose to follow the recipe suggested in the “Bonne Idee” sidebar; it gave the option of using a small portion nut flour in place of the all purpose flour called for in the recipe.  It was quick to mix up in the food processor but I really think the amount of dough it produces was about double what was needed to make the pie shell.  As a result, I formed a patty with the leftover dough and tucked it away in the freezer.

As a person who literally has rolled out hundreds of pie shells by hand, this dough was very pleasant to work with and I did not have any sticking or crumbling or tearing.  It was so easy to work with that I had the crust rolled and in the pan in a matter of minutes.  Where I had issues, the baking time.  When I read the instructions and saw 20 minutes at 400, I was skeptical, it seemed like a long time for such a high temp.  In hindsight, I wish I had listened to my inner voice.  My crust came out of the oven a little black around the edges.  Luckily, I had not trimmed it down by one-third as the recipe called for and had enough to trim away the burnt edges and still have a side crust.

The filling of a marshmallowy meringue was such a small amount that I had trouble mixing it in my 6qt kitchen aid bowl; it just wasn’t enough volume for the beater to really come in contact with it at first.  After a really long time, it finally came together.  Since I did not want to buy any jam-I have two dozen jars of homemade blackberry jelly in my pantry, I just used some of my own from the open jar in the fridge.

As the tart baked in the oven, it puffed and cracked and finally, it was a nice, light golden shade and had a few deep cracks across the top. Carefully, I removed the pan from the oven, closed the door and set it down to cool.  A quick glance at the clock, 11:12pm; we wouldn’t be tasting this pie tonight.  Off to bed, to sleep and to dream of crunchy, crackly meringue and tart pockets of ruby red berries…

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One bag of kale, part 4; greens and beans

IMG_1856In my final recipe of the series, I give you one of my favorite recipes.  This recipe is adapted from one by famed vegan chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and can be found in her book, Appetite for Reduction and on her website, theppk.com.

Living in the south for as long as I have has influenced many aspects of my life and my meal choices reflect my current location frequently.  The biggest change on my plate is the heap of cooked greens and beans, two things I have never disliked but I also never thought to make a meal of them either.  The difference from the ones I feast on and the ones typically found in the south it that there is no pig on my plate.  Yes, I am a meat eater, yes, I like bacon but truth be told, I like my greens without the added pork products.  Honestly, if they are made well, they do not need the bacon because they have tons of flavor all on their own.

Despite the fact that I am technically a trained chef, while I can bake just about anything, my cooking skills sometimes are lacking and that is where Isa Chandra comes in, specifically her cookbook.  By using her book, I have learned how to make vegetable dishes every bit as amazing as the desserts I produce in my professional life.  Appetite for Reduction as well as Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance are some of the most used books on my shelf and I highly recommend picking any of them up if you come across them.

This recipe uses the last portion of the big bag of kale, it calls for approximately 4 ounces or about 4 cups of kale or any other cooking green.  If you have been following this series, this is approximately 1/4 of the 1 pound bag; part 1 used half of the bag, part 2 and 3 each used 1/8 of the bag and this recipe uses the remaining 1/4.  To repeat the dividing process, for part one, use half the bag.  Take the remaining half of the bag and divide it in half.  Place one half into a storage bag and place it in the fridge till you need it.  Divide the remaining portion into two equal parts and bag each separately and store until needed.  For those of you that are not kale fans, try using mustard, collards or any other green suitable for cooking in place of the kale.

While I used white beans, specifically white kidney beans, you can use any bean you like.  The original recipe calls for black eyed peas, one of my favorites but I have made this recipe with chick peas, fava beans, butter beans and several different white beans, all with delicious results.  Do what you like, you’re the one who is going to eat it!

Greens and Beans

serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups, packed, torn kale with stems removed, about 4 ounces

3/4 cup broth, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (14.5oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed

3/4 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional

In a large, deep pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute longer.  Dump in the kale, salt and 1/4 cup of the broth and immediately cover the pot for at least 1 minute.  Stir the greens and keep it covered to allow them the time to cook down, about 10-15 minutes and be sure to stir them occasionally to make sure they are cooking evenly.  Reduce the heat to medium low and add the beans, tomato sauce and the remaining broth and allow to cook for at least 5 minutes, covered.  Stir in the sriracha, paprika and the smoke flavor and allow it to simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  Check the seasoning and add additional salt and hot sauce as needed.

One Bag of Kale Recipes:

Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash

Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

Vegetable Barley soup with Kale

local friday; a hike on the back bay trail

IMG_1155When our daughter came to visit last month, she had only a few requests:  she wanted to visit a winery and she wanted to go to the beach.  Fortunately, in Williamsburg, Virginia, both requests can be met quickly because there are wineries all around us and the beach is just over an hour away.  We set the GPS for Virginia beach and went on our way.  After one of the best breakfasts I have had in a while (beachside no less!), more on that another day, we walked the boardwalk and visited some shops along the way.   It was a windy day and we decided we wanted to see more than the typical tourist beach stuff so we drove further down the coast to the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, is about 30 minutes from the main drag on the beach and it features multiple trails and activities.  The trails lead to the bay and the beach.  You can also launch boats, canoes and kayaks here as well as travel by bike.  Since we were on foot, we took the Charles Kuralt trail.  It was cool out but sunny and breezy and we wandered all over.  The walk from the trail to the dunes was easily negotiated along the raised boardwalk.  Until you hit the base of the last dune, you can see the footprints that lead up over it to the beach and it was impossible to do without getting sand in our shoes!

IMG_1158Along the way, I spied what almost looked like a champagne cork sitting on top of the sand.  A closer inspection revealed that it was a mushroom.  Imagine that-a mushroom growing on the sand, the mycelium was actively fruiting and we saw many of them around us.

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At some point, I hope to get this identified but it will be tricky, we did not bring it with us because you cannot remove things like this from a refuge.  The color of the gills was a rosy red, almost a purple tint to it.  If anyone has a clue as to it’s identity, please, leave a comment.


IMG_1147We walked to the beach and found it nearly deserted.  Swimming is not allowed here but fishing is and the only other people we saw had multiple lines in water.

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It was a beautiful day with a deep blue sky, and the visibility was very good.


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Walking along the trail we passed a marsh where migrating birds will stop to hunt.  Can you see the Great Blue Heron near the center of the photo?  We have seen many of these birds all around the country.  Although this is part of a birding trail, this guy was the only bird we were able to spot!


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The trails around the Visitors center are interpretive and they are also at water level.  What this means is that at high tide, some areas are flooded.  We couldn’t take the one trail because it was about 6″ underwater in one area and neither of us had on waterproof boots.  The marsh that the path cut through was almost like a corn maze at times and we could not see anything but the plants on either side of the walkway.  This wet area with its tree roots and grasses was eye-catching.  It was nearly impossible to see where the water stopped and the plants started.  The only clue was the rings on the surface of the water.

IMG_1124A shot from further away of the reflection pond.

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When you visit a wildlife refuge, you hope to see the wildlife.  Aside from a bunch of seagulls and a heron, we only say this snake.  Actually, it is a cottonmouth and it is not a snake you want to mess with.  Luckily for me, he wasn’t threatened by my presence and let me take his picture.


IMG_1121You can see how well he blends in, we walked past him the first time.  A teacher leading a group of students on the trail pointed him out to us in warning and we were grateful.

Do yourself a favor, visit the refuge and take in the sights and see what wildlife inhabits the area .  There are multiple activities from bird walks to whale watches available.

Winter waterfowl walks

Whale watching

535412_193698534082190_1827035283_nclick on the image to visit the Friday Favorites linkup on the Virginia Bloggers website!

One bag of kale, part 3; vegetable barley soup

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For those of you who just joined, this week I am posting recipes using one bag of kale.  Everyone who shops in a grocery store has encountered the large, pillow sized bags of greens and probably most of us thing out loud, “I could never cook all of that before it goes bad…”  Well, worry no more, you can use that bag of kale before it turns to slime and you will wonder why you didn’t try this before.  Of course, you have to like cooked greens or this will not work for you!  To see the first two recipes, follow the links at the end of this post.

With the change in season, soups are appearing on the table often at our house.  Lunch or dinner, either will work, I enjoy a soup that is full of vegetables and beans but I really love it when barley is in the mix as well.  To make this soup, you can use whatever vegetables you like but to end up with a hearty vegan soup that is full of flavor, you do have to add some things to replace the flavor that meats and salts provide.  The kale will impart some flavor and contribute to the hearty profile, the beets will add an earthy quality along with color but the ingredient that really does it is the mushrooms.  They will take the flavor profile in a direction that is full flavored and satisfying without needing a single bit of meat or poultry.   Mushrooms and mushroom powders are the secret ingredient I reach for whenever I am making a soup or sauce that is meatless because they give it a similar flavor profile and add a richness that meateaters (and some former meateaters) often find lacking in a vegan recipe.

Vegetable Barley Soup with Kale

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serves 2-4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large onion, diced small, about 3/4 cup

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced small, about 1/3 cup

1 celery stalk, diced small, about 1/3 cup

1 fresh beet, peeled and diced into small cubes, about 1/3 cup

1 1/2 cups diced mushrooms

6 cups vegetable broth, more as needed

1/3 cup pearled barley

2 cups chopped kale

salt and pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute.  Add the carrots, celery, beet and mushrooms and saute for a couple minutes to get the mushrooms to release their juices.  Pour in the broth and the barley and bring the mixture to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat so that the soup simmers slowly.  Continue at the simmer until the barley is soft.  The cooking time will depend completely on the barley and it can take from 30-45 minutes to soften completely.  As the soup liquid reduces, you can add additional broth or water.  Stir in the kale and cook until the it turns bright green and wilts a bit.  Season with the salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread or crackers.

One Bag of Kale Recipes

Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash

Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

Greens and Beans

amaretti; a tuesdays with dorie post

Amaretti, even the name sounds delicious.  These little cookies are so simple to make, it is almost a crime not to whip up a batch.  Of course, you have to be a fan of the bitter almond flavor the almond paste contributes to the cookie.

Traditionally, these cookies are served with a cup of coffee or bit of wine or liqueur.  In our house, they are consumed by themselves, two or three at a time, every time we pass by the box they are stored in.  Needless to say, I will not be making these again for a while-my clothes are getting tight…

Way back when, in my days of working at the World Trade Center in New York City, I was a pastry cook in the hotel that sat between the two towers.  Our pastry chef, who was from France, had us make these all the time but he called them macaroons or maybe macarons, it was a long time ago and I cannot remember.  The recipe was nearly identical to the one we used at the hotel.  This I do remember because I still have the recipe and I make them from time to time.

The crazy thing about all of this, I was probably toiling away, below the plaza while Nick Malgieri, the contributor of this recipe to Baking with Julia, was working away at the top of the towers in the world famous restaurant, Windows on the World.  Small world, isn’t it?

To see what the other Tuesdays with Dorie-Baking with Julia bakers came up with, be sure to check the homepage.  Consider baking along with us if you have the book, or buy/borrow one and join in on the fun.  We are also baking our way through Dorie’s new book, Baking Chez Moi.

One bag of kale, part 2: Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

Hash browns, real true hash browns have always been a favorite of mine.  Chunks of potatoes, slabs of onions, maybe a few pieces of bell peppers all fried up together so that they get a little color and a little crispy around the edges.  Add a couple eggs, over easy and that could easily be one of the best meals to eat if you ask me.  Actually, I can live without the eggs, but the rest of it, I could eat it every day.  Unfortunately, it isn’t good for healthy diet to eat like that daily.

Rather than eliminate this from the menu, I try to make it so that it is a little less unhealthy.  Using kale to bulk up the dish is a great way to add nutrients and fiber without adding the extra starch that a larger quantity of white potatoes contains.  The chickpeas also add lots of fiber and give the dish a nice flavor.  My favorite addition to the dish is a sprinkle of Nanami Togarashi, a Japanese red pepper blend that adds a little bite and a ton of flavor.

This is a quick dish to put together and it is good for anytime of day, not just breakfast.  The next time you bake a potato, put a couple extra in the oven so that you can mix up a batch of this hash.  If you have read the previous post, Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, this recipe uses on of the small portions of kale as explained in how to divide the 1 pound bag, it is approximately 1/8 of the bag.

Potato-Kale Hash
serves 2-4
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onions
2-3 medium baked potatoes, cold and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chickpeas, canned or cooked dry
2-3 cups kale leaves
salt and pepper
nanami togarashi
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onions until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the potatoes and let them cook on one side for a couple minutes.  Turn the potatoes to allow the other sides to color.  Give each side 2-3 minutes, the idea is to add a little color and crisp, not to char the potatoes.  If they are getting dark, lower the heat.  If the pan is dry, add additional oil, a few drops at a time or give it a spritz with spray oil.  When the potatoes are almost completely browned, add the garlic, chickpeas and kale and continue to saute, turning the mixture as you go, until the kale is wilted and the chickpeas have gained a little color.  Season with the salt and pepper before serving.  Sprinkle a little of the Japanese pepper blend over the top if desired.
One bag of kale recipes:

one bag of kale, part 1: autumn kale salad with butternut squash

The butternut squash with it’s coating of spices and oil before going into the oven

Kale, it’s everywhere, it’s added to every dish you can think of including sweet breakfast smoothies.  Get over it already.  Kale isn’t meant to be added to a smoothie.  Honestly, have you ever listened to someone go on and on and on as they list the ingredients in the 24 ounce smoothie they just whipped up at home?  Seems to me that if you are going to eat an apple, a banana, a tub of Greek yogurt, a scoop of peanut butter a handful of kale, a scoop of…and so on, you are probably slurping down way more than you really need and that could explain why you haven’t lost much weight.  Ranting a bit, aren’t I.  Well, can you blame me?  As a gardener and a trained chef, it irritates me to see something as nutritionally packed and tasty as kale is being so over used.

So let me start this all over again.  Kale is one of those plants that loves cold weather and is so easy to grow that it is almost impossible not to have a few plants in your garden.  As a matter of fact, kale is a plant that you can grow 3 out of 4 seasons simply by harvesting just the outer leaves and if it sends out a flower stalk, cut it out and add that to the pile of leaves you are going to cook!  One simple rule of thumb, kale should not be grown in the hotter months and for most of us, that means between May and August; not only will it bolt(go to seed) it will attract all sorts of undesirable insects to your garden.  To keep it interesting, search seed catalogs for the different varieties available; we generally grow 2 or 3 types in our garden for variety.

But what if you do not have a garden or do not want to grow your own kale?  Head to the grocery store and buy a bag of kale.  Most grocery stores offer large bags of cut cooking greens, usually kale or collard greens and they weigh a pound.  While most stores offer the traditional curly kale, some carry Tuscan kale in large bags too.

The bag is almost big enough to be a pillow and I can hear you now:  “that’s a lot of kale, I won’t be able to eat all of that!”  Well guess what?  You can eat all of that, you will not waste any of it and you will not get tired of eating it.  Why buy it in a bag instead of by the bunch even though it is a smaller amount?  Because the bag is cheaper, the kale is already cleaned and the larger, woody stems are removed making every bit in the bag usable.  This is the first of 4 posts on the blog showing you how to use the entire bag.

For the first recipe, I have decided to make a salad.  The only thing that gets cooked is the butternut squash and while the squash is in the oven, you can prep the rest of the recipe.  This salad tastes a lot better if it is allowed to sit for a few hours in the fridge and if you make it a day ahead, it will be just fine.  It actually holds up pretty well in the fridge for a couple days but it will not be as crunchy by the second day.

To get started, first divide the contents of the bag in two.  Place on half in a large mixing bowl and set it aside for the salad.  Take the remaining kale and divide it in half as well.  Place one half into the bag it came in and then divide the last portion in half again and bag each of these separately; one will be used in a hash recipe and one will be used in a soup recipe.  Store the other portions of kale in the fridge until you are ready to make the other recipes.

The recipe for the salad comes to me from a fellow blogger, Angela Roberts of The Spinach Tiger.  My husband came with me to a potluck and Angela made the salad for the party.  He liked it so much that he actually looked her recipe up and he has been using it ever since.  We both enjoy it and often use the recipe as a starting point.  For this version, I used a butternut squash instead of the sweet potatoes and I subbed dried apricots and smoked pecans for the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

This is also one of those dishes that you can serve as a vegetarian entree or serve it on the side with grilled poultry or fish-you choose.  As a matter of fact, the recipe is so flexible that you can get creative with what you add to it.  You could easily swap out the kale for another green, arugula comes to mind, just be mindful that a softer green will not hold up as well as kale in the long run.

The addition of nuts adds protein so if you are keeping this vegetarian or vegan, feel free to add more than the recipe calls for.

Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash
Adapted from The Spinach Tiger
Makes enough salad for 2 large entree sized portions or 4 side salads
8 ounces chopped kale, half of a bag
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Vinaigrette dressing, recipe follows
1/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped smoked pecans
additional dried fruit and nuts for garnishing the salad if desired
Preheat the oven to 400.  Place the kale in a large bowl and set aside.  Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil, maple syrup, salt and the spices, place it on a baking tray and roast until soft, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let it cool.  While the squash cools, make the vinaigrette dressing.
To make the salad, add the squash, apricots, pecans and the vinaigrette to the kale in the bowl and toss to combine.  Place the salad in the fridge and let it sit for a few hours to soften.
Vinaigrette Dressing
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
6 tablespoons olive oil (or all olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place the vinegar, garlic, maple syrup and mustard into the canister of a blender.  Turn the machine on to a low speed and with it running, pour the oils in in a steady stream to emulsify.  Add the salt and pepper while it is still running.
One bag of kale recipes:
Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas