Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Simple Salad

Dreary February.  Well, at least it's not snowing.  Yet.  There is still plenty of time for that considering this is New England, after all.
I took a break last week and didn't post anything or take a photograph or attempt to invent anything new and exciting for dinner.  Except for this salad.  It came out of the necessity to use up all the beautiful, ripe oranges and grapefruits that no one except me seem to be eating.  Which is an absolute shame because everyone knows that this is the very best time of the year to eat all of the totally awesome citrus fruits.  Once I put it all together, the colors of the greens and the fruit just begged to be photographed.  Which I am now glad I did so that I can document it all here as not to forget all about it and never make it again and of course, so that I can share it with all of you.  So here it is, a simple citrus and green salad with honey lemon vinaigrette.  Enjoy.

This salad is also delicious served alongside an oven roasted chicken.  Yum.

Winter Citrus and Green Salad
Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
(serves 6)

1/2 head chopped romaine lettuce
1 orange
1 grapefruit
3/4 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Roughly chop the romaine and spread it out in a large serving bowl.  Cut the peel and pith off the orange and slice into segments.  Cut each segment into bite sized pieces and layer over the lettuce.  Cut the peel and pith from the grapefruit.  Slice in half and remove inner white section.  Cut into segments and into bite sized chunks.  Layer grapefruit pieces over oranges and lettuce.  Roughly chop almonds and sprinkle over salad.  Chop the dried apricots and scatter them all over the other ingredients. Sprinkle dried cranberries over everything.  Serve with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette on the side.  

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
(serves 6)

juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the lemon mixture while constantly whisking until oil is thoroughly incorporated.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Valentine's Day Cookies

  For me, these cookies are so very Valentine's Day.  Val made these every year for classroom parties and always, a batch to have at home, too.  I was allowed to bring them into school in her special square Tupperware container as long as I promised to, "Bring it home!"  I remember struggling up the bus steps in my winter coat, snow pants and boots, trying to carry that container so carefully, as not to jiggle and break the cookies inside and resting it on my lap during the seemingly endless bus ride from East Falmouth to Mullen Hall School located in the center of town.  My valentines, neatly labeled for each of my fourth grade classmates (even the boys, yuck!) safely tucked into my book bag at my feet.  The Snoopy ones with the perforated edges and the matching envelopes that I begged Val to buy for me instead of having to give out our usual construction paper and doily creations.  (None of the cool kids made homemade Valentines in 1979!) Looking back, I wonder how my 9 year old self managed to safely deliver those cookies, the star of the class Valentine's celebration.
  Memories alone are not enough to make a recipe stand the test of time. But these cookies are so good, I make them without fail at least two times a year: for Christmas and Valentines Day.  (I would make them more often but they are a bit time consuming and I have already admitted in the past to being incredibly lazy.)  The frosting to cookie ratio is just right.  The fond memories are intact. And really, who can resist a sugary, heart shaped confection decorated with sprinkles and/or red hots?  I know I can't. 

Cut Out Sugar Cookies
(makes about 4 dozen)

2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.  Using a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar well.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.  Add flour mixture and blend until smooth.  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out small portions of dough at a time, on a floured board, using a well floured rolling pin until dough is 1/8" thick.  Cut cookie shapes using well floured cutters.  Place cookies on greased pans, or pans lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 8-10minutes until edges just begin to turn golden.  Remove from pan and place on wire racks to cool.  Repeat process with remaining dough.  Cool cookies completely.  Frost cookies and decorate using the following recipe:

Frosting for Sugar Cookies
 (makes one batch)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk, room temperature


red food coloring
red hot candies

Combine butter and 1/2 cup sugar using a stand mixer.  Mixing well after each addition, slowly, add 1-2 teaspoons milk alternating with remaining sugar until all sugar is combined with butter and frosting is at desired consistency.  Frosting should not be runny or thick, but in between.  Adjust with more milk or sugar, as necessary.  Add a few drops of red food coloring, if desired.  Frost cookies and add sprinkles as you go before the frosting hardens.  Let cookies sit overnight before packaging so that frosting is firm.  Store cookies in airtight containers with wax paper between each layer.

Monday, February 8, 2016


  We were predicted to get some snow last Thursday night.  How much was anyone's guess since those poor Boston weathermen can never get their forecast right when it comes to Cape Cod.  For a previous snow storm, they said we would get a possible 4"-8". We ended up with 15".  Go figure.
 Val is out in CA visiting the little Hardings otherwise I would ask for her prediction.  Anytime of year, summer hurricane to winter blizzard, hers is always spot on.  From years of listening to local radio broadcasts and watching the Providence, RI news station, she has honed her skills for combining all the information: direction of the wind, tides and temperature.  She has been on top of whether or not we would have school in the morning, if my father would likely be called out to fix a broken pole or downed wires and most importantly, if she will have to take any precautionary measures to protect her precious garden.
   I now attempt to do the same.  Not so much for the above mentioned reasons.  I am most likely to check the wind speed and the amount of sunshine for summer beach days.  It's important to know which side of town will provide the most hospitable venue for a day by the ocean.  No one wants sand blown into their tuna sandwich at the beach. 
  So, Thursday night I was on my own.  At least now with computers and phone apps, I can study the Doppler myself (Thank you, National Weather Service!) and come to my own conclusions, which I can only hope will be close to what Val would tell me if she were here to interpret the data. But, if my predictions were off, I knew I will still be o.k.  After all, I am my father's daughter: I always have a full tank of gas in my car, a sturdy metal snow shovel, a 5 gallon bucket full of sand and salt and plenty of milk and bread.  By now, you all know I have more provisions on hand than just milk and bread. I had all my supplies for this easy tomato soup, too.  And of course, cheese and butter for grilled cheese sandwiches.
  As I write this post, the wind is howling and the snow is falling, yet again.  This time the weathermen are using nasty words like, "blizzard" and "power outage" to describe what is happening here on Cape Cod.  They think we may get 12"-18" of the white stuff before the day is over.  Of course, it would be great to be able to rely on some correct information from these paid "professionals".  But I know better and besides, I hope they are wrong, again. While I am a fan of snow days, and hunkering down with a warm bowl of soup, I would much rather keep the power on and the snow at a manageable amount, thank you.

Simple Tomato Soup
(serves 6)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium sized onion, diced
salt and pepper
2  large cans whole tomatoes (28 oz. each)  I use Pastene
1 cup chicken stock
1 bunch fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
crushed red pepper
fresh herbs for garnish (parsley, thyme or chives)

Melt the olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat.  Add the diced onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook until onions are softened and slightly caramelized on edges.  Add the 2 cans of tomatoes, chicken stock and thyme (if fresh, tie in a bundle).  Heat through.  Mash tomatoes with a potato masher if you like chunky soup or blend with an immersion blender (you can also transfer the soup to a regular blender) for a smoother soup.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar, taste and add more if desired.  Add the salt and pepper.  Remove the fresh thyme stems and discard.  Add cream and stir.  Heat through and serve.  If you like a bit of spice, garnish with a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Also garnish soup with any herbs you like.  I always use chives in the winter as these are my only herbs that usually survive indoors.

Our favorite accompaniment to this soup is a classic grilled cheese sandwich.  Here is how I make mine:

 Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich
(makes 1)

2 slices Val's Farmhouse White Bread   or Pepperidge Farm brand
butter, room temperature
2 slices mozarella cheese (about 2 oz)
2 slices cheddar cheese  (about 2 oz)

Heat a griddle on medium high.  Butter both slices of bread on one side each, being careful to spread butter to the edges.  Place butter side down on griddle.  Layer cheese evenly over the slices of bread. 2 oz. on each side.  Place a domed pan cover over the slices of bread so that the cheese melts.  Check often to make sure the underside (butterside) of the bread is not burning but is turning golden brown. Once the cheese begins to melt and the butter side of the bread is golden, put the sandwich together and turn the heat to low.  Let the sandwich rest under the cover until the cheese melts a bit more.  Cut and serve immediately.
Alternately, to make numerous sandwiches, begin with oven preheated to 250 degrees.  As you make each sandwich, transfer to a cookie sheet and place in the oven to keep warm until all sandwiches are completed and ready to serve.