Mexican Wedding Cookies with Anise: Pastelitas de Boda con Anís

IMG_0278Bizcochitos are anise studded Mexican sugar cookies. I combined this idea with the recipe for  Mexican Wedding Cookies I found in Joy of Cooking. It made a tasty cookie even more delicious. These are a special treat at Christmastime which melts in your mouth with a lovely anise flavor.

Ingredients:

Anise

1 cup shelled pecans

2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 pound), softened

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar plus 1/3 cup for rolling the cookies in

1 Tb vanilla

1 teaspoon anise seeds

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

raosted pecansSpread pecans on a baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes. Let cool on a plate. Run in food processor until they are in tiny pieces, but not powdery or oily.

whip butterBeat softened butter, add salt, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla on medium speed until it is fluffy. Gradually add pecans and anise and beat until they are incorporated into the butter mixture.

Sift the flour over the top and slowly beat until well blended.

Grease cookie sheets. Roll 1 inch balls between your palms and place them on the cookie sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake the sheets one at a time at 350′ for 12-15 minutes until tinged with golden brown. Rotate the sheet halfway through for even browning.

Place sheet on a rack to cool until the cookies begin to firm. Then remove the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

roll in powdered sugarRoll cooled cookies in 1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar to coat them.

 

 

 

 

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Cream of Roasted Mushroom Turkey soup

serving cream of mushroom soupOne of my comfort foods as a young woman was Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup over noodles. This post-Thanksgiving soup brings it up a quite few notches with roasted Cremini mushrooms. These earthy brown mushrooms, also known as baby bellas, are the middle child between the common white mushroom and the mature portobellos. I  add a large portobello and some shiitake mushrooms and a few pungent dried chanterelle and porcini mushrooms for extra savory umami flavor.

I used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving for the broth.

This soup takes a couple of days to make. Make the broth the first day. You can also roast the mushrooms the first day, or wait until the second day.

Makes about 8 bowls of soup

Ingredients:

roasted mushrooms1 turkey carcass with accompanying herbs, vegetables and drippings

about 16 cups of water (1 gallon)

1 pound cremini mushrooms

1 large portobello mushroom

5 shiitake mushrooms

5 dried chanterelle mushrooms

5 dried porcini mushrooms

4 Tb olive oil, divided

1 leek

1 shallot

3 handfuls (4 ounces) of egg noodles

1/2 cup cream, half and half or milk depending on the amount of richness and calories you desire.

several grinds black pepper

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 – 2 tsp salt to taste (I use sea salt)

8 oz (1/2 pound) frozen peas

Make a turkey broth using the skin and carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey and the accompanying roast vegetables and drippings, adding a gallon of water (16 cups) to a large pot. If you make a plain roast turkey, add several stalks celery, an onion, several leeks and a couple of carrots along with several sprigs of rosemary, sage and thyme to the broth. Scrape as much white meat and wing meat from the carcass, making this a bare bones operation (couldn’t resist that one!) Save some of the dark meat but add the thigh meat into the broth. Add salt to taste. Boil for a couple of hours, then pour through  sieve into a large container. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight until the fat separates.

Shred and chop the turkey meat until you have 2 cups, and set aside.

Soak the dried mushrooms in a cup of water for at least 20 minutes until soft.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub fresh mushrooms with a soft mushroom brush or wet paper towel. Wrap a paper towel around a bunch at a time to dry them. Slice the woody ends off of the stems. If your creminis are really large, cut them in half. Cut the portobello into quarters. Place in an oiled roasting pan and toss with 2 -3 Tablespoons of olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes. Let cool, then slice them. Cut portobello into bite-sized pieces.

Slice the leek lengthwise into quarters, then cut crosswise into small pieces. Soak in a salad spinner and rinse three times until all dirt is rinsed away. Slice the shallot thinly. Saute the leek and shallot in 1 Tb olive oil.

Spoon the fat from the top of the broth and reserve 3 Tb. Heat the broth to boiling and stir in the roasted mushrooms, sauteed leeks and shallot.

chopped soaked dried mushroomsChop the chanterelle and porcini mushrooms finely and add to the broth along with the soaking liquid.

Cook the soup for half an hour. Let cool for half an hour.

Ladle out 1/3 of the soup into a blender. Blend on high.

Melt reserved fat in a frying pan. Whisk in 1/4 cup white flour and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in blended soup, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Stir into the rest of the soup and bring it to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add a spoonful of salt. Stir in 3 handfuls of egg noodles. Cook for 6 minutes on medium heat. Drain noodles.

Add noodles to soup. Stir in pepper and sherry. Add cream, half and half or milk. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and adjust to taste. Stir in reserved turkey meat and peas and cook for 5 minutes.

Green Beans with Chestnuts

serving in casseroleThis Thanksgiving side dish incorporates the Native American foods chestnuts and pine nuts tossed with Blue Lake green beans, red onion, shallot, and  roasted almonds in a butter bath.

Ingredients:

One pound, more or less, Blue Lake green beans

4 Tb (1/2 cube) salted butter

1/2 red onion

1 shallot

5.2 oz package chestnuts, peeled and precooked (available at Trader Joe’s and Berkeley Bowl)

3 Tb pine nuts

About 1/4 tsp salt to taste

Several grinds black pepper

1/4 cup roasted almond pieces (available at Berkeley Bowl)

Directions:

boil beans

Fill a 3 1/2 or 4 quart pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Cut the ends off the green beans and cut into 2 inch pieces. Boil for 5 minutes, until they turn bring green.

While waiting for water to boil, fill a large bowl with ice and ice water. When beans have finished cooking, drain them over a colander then plunge into the ice bath.’

Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Thinly slice the red onion and shallot and saute in the butter over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until they are soft.

chopping chestnutsSlice chestnuts and toss them and pine nuts into the onions for a few minutes. Add salt black pepper

mix in large pot.jpgDrain green beans, and be careful to remove any pieces of ice. Put green beans into a large pot. Scrape all the onion chestnut mixture over the green beans and toss well with toasted almond pieces. Adjust salt.

Spoon into a flat casserole dish if planning to reheat.

Serve as is, or make ahead and reheat in the microwave.

 

 

Gingery Yam – Carrot – Coconut Soup

in bowlHandle this soup gingerly.  The spices in this delicious soup make it a perfect Fall warm-up and it’s chock-full of vitamin A. I made mine with Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup, but you can use vegetable broth for a vegan version.

ingredients.jpgIngredients:

4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 large yam, peeled and chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced

5- inch piece of ginger peeled and thinly sliced

1 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp cumin powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp salt to taste

a few shakes cayenne to taste

a few shakes pumpkin pie spice

13.5 oz can low fat coconut milk

chopped yam and carrotsHeat broth to boiling. Peel and chop yam, carrots, onion, ginger and garlic and stir into broth. Let come to a boil and turn to simmer.

IMG_0077.JPG

Cover pot and cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are soft. Cool for about 20 minutes or overnight.

in pot

Pour into a blender and blend in batches until smooth. Add coconut milk to the last batch, reserving a spoonful or two of the cream for garnish. Adjust salt to taste.

in bowlServe with a bit of coconut cream swirled in.

 

Pumpkin Banana Muffins topped with Pepita-Yam Streusel

muffins with yam streuselHere’s an upgrade to my Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel Topping

recipe. I  subbed bananas for the applesauce for an banana bread-pumpkin bread combination and added  yam pieces to the streusel for a sweet chewy goodness. Where in the world did I get that crazy idea? From eating Cheeseboard’s pizza topped with yam pieces, which was really good.

banana pumpkin

Ingredients

1 cup unbleached white flour

1 cup finely ground whole wheat flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I use Trader Joe’s brand)

2 eggs

½ cup brown sugar

1 Tb olive oil

3 Tb soft butter

¼ cup honey

15-ounce can pumpkin puree

½ tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 speckled bananas, mashed

1/3 semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)

¼ cup pecan pieces

¼ cup pepitas

yam

Streusel: 

2 TB  softened butter

¼ cup yam peelings

3 TB  brown sugar

2 TB white flour

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

½ tsp cinnamon

a couple shakes sea salt

1/3 cup pepitas

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F

Make the streusel:

Peel about 4 inches from a yam. Then use peeler to make strips from the yam until you have about ¼ cup. Cut these into pieces about ½ inch long. Mix the softened butter into the yam pieces.

Sift together the dry ingredients and whisk well in a small bowl. Mix in pepitas. Add softened butter and yam, and mix it with your fingers until it comes together when squeezed. Cover it and freeze until ready to use.

Make the batter:

Sift both flours, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice into a medium bowl and whisk well.

Mash bananas with a potato masher or fork in a shallow bowl until soft.

Whip eggs in mixer until well combined. Add brown sugar and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy. This is called making a ribbon.

Pour 1 TB oil into a ¼ cup measure and coat it well, then add the oil to the egg mixture. Now pour the honey into the same measuring cup and it will slide right out into the mixer!

Add the vanilla, softened butter, mashed bananas and  pumpkin puree and mix well.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture. Mix only until ingredients are almost combined. Fold in nuts, pepitas, and chocolate chips until they are just combined.

Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray. If you choose to make a pumpkin bread loaf, line it with parchment paper and spray it with non-stick spray. Spoon batter into tins or loaf pan.

Putting the streusel on:

Remove the streusel mix from the freezer. crumble it up with your fingers. Sprinkle a little bit on each muffin top so it comes out evenly. Press it down just a tap onto the muffin.

Place on the middle shelf of preheated oven. Bake loaf 45- 50 minutes, muffins for 35 – 40 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Let pan cool on a rack a few minutes.

split muffin with yam streusel

Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk

soup with coconut creamI whipped up this rich and creamy soup without dairy, using coconut milk. The spices lend warmth and a bit of a kick. You can roast the squash, but I found that microwaving it works well and takes only 15 minutes.

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash

4 cups broth. I use chicken broth, but you can use vegetable broth for a vegan soup

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp ground sage

several grinds pepper

13.5 oz can coconut milk. Full fat yields a richer soup; low fat is lower in calories. Reserve a spoonful of the coconut cream that rises to the top for garnish

1 couple of shakes of cayenne (to taste)

salt to taste (depending on how salty the broth you use is)

1/4 cup pepitas (Green shelled pumpkin seeds)

Directions

Stab squash in a few places and microwave for  15 minutes. Squash should be soft. Let it cool enough to handle it. You can do this the day before and store it in the refrigerator.

Heat the broth to boiling.

split squash

Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Spoon out the squash and put it in the soup.

Add the seasonings except for cayenne and salt, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Let it cool for about 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk, reserving about 2 tablespoons of cream from the top.

Ladle the soup and squash into a blender and blend on high. (You may want to start low, then build up speed.) It will likely take 2 batches, so pour the first batch into a large bowl. Heat soup again and add cayenne and salt to taste.

roasting pepitasHeat pepitas on a comal or heavy frying pan over medium heat until crispy. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle with pepitas. Stir in a teaspoon of the coconut cream until a pretty swirl appears.

 

 

Roasted Mushroom Barley Soup with Chicken Stock or Vegetable Broth

I made a simpler version of my roasted mushroom barley soup with rich chicken stock instead of beef broth and a mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms. I used Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup made with double the amount of bones and drippings. I save the bones and drippings from roast chicken in a container in the freezer, then boil them with the vegetables and herbs to create a rich broth. After letting it sit long enough for the fat to solidify, I spoon out the fat, leaving a spoonful for flavor. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan you can substitute Vegetable Broth

I use a variety of dried mushrooms, including porcini, shiitake, and chanterelle. I soak them in warm water for ten minutes, then chop them and add to the broth, along with the soaking liquid.

roasted mushrooms

Roasted fresh Crimini mushrooms make the bulk of the mushrooms in the soup. These brown mushrooms are a more mature version of the common white mushroom, so you can sub white mushrooms if you can’t find criminis in your grocery store.

I roasted fresh shiitake, king and oyster mushrooms. They stand up to roasting and add a variety of flavors and textures. You may be able to find them at your farmer’s market in the fall. You don’t need to buy too many of these more expensive but flavorful mushrooms. Feel free to mix up the mushrooms as you find them. King mushrooms can make some good food porn too, if your tastes run that kinky!

King and Oyster mushrooms

Ingredients

6 cups chicken broth

½ cup pearl barley

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2  tsp white pepper

several grinds black pepper

3 – 4 Tb olive oil

1 lb crimini (brown) mushrooms

6 fresh shiitake mushrooms

1 fresh King mushroom

5 fresh oyster mushrooms

4 dried shiitake mushrooms

5 dried porcini mushrooms

5 dried chanterelle mushrooms

3 Tbs dry sherry

1 tsp salt, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring broth to boil in a large pot over high heat.

While waiting for the broth to boil, soak the dried mushrooms in enough water to cover them by 2 inches.

Rinse and gently scrub the fresh mushrooms with a wet paper towel or mushroom brush and let them dry over paper towels.

When broth is boiling, Stir in barley, thyme and pepper.

Place fresh mushrooms in a roasting pan and toss with olive oil. until they are coated on all sides. Roast for 20 minutes. When they are done, let cool, then ladle a few cups broth over them, then remove the mushrooms to a cutting board and pour back the extra broth.  Chop the mushrooms roughly and stir them into the broth.

chopped soaked dried mushroomsRemove the dried mushrooms from the soaking liquid onto a cutting board. Dice them, then add to the soup along with the soaking liquid.

Simmer  the soup for 30 minutes. Correct seasonings, stir sherry in and salt to taste.

serve.jpg

Serve the pearl barley inside the oyster mushrooms for good luck!