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The Kitchen Witch

November 1st, 2016

Super Quick California Cream Soup.

 

With the coming of the holidays and all the shopping and partying and everything that must-be-done, isn’t it nice to have a quick soup to make up when you come home all tired out and want something that’s thick and filling but still nutritious and yummy good? “Super Quick California Cream Soup” is perfect for these kinds of days.

I love canned cream soups – Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Onion, Cream of Celery and all the others – for casseroles and quick gravies. This soup uses Cream of Potato soup. I’m not even sure where I picked this can of soup up – it must have been Aldi’s – because normally I would just make mashed potatoes and just add extra milk for a cream of potato soup. But I’ve had this can in my cupboard for so long, I decided to use it in something. And yes! I did look at the date on the bottom of the can!

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You also need a bag of frozen “California Mix” of vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. I confess that I didn’t have a bag at the time and used fresh but it worked out the same. I think the cooking time might be a little less if you have frozen vegetables. Mine were still a little crunchy, but I like crunchy vegetables.

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Super Easy California Cream Soup

¼ cup celery, chopped fine

¼ cup onion, chopped fine

1 teaspoon butter

Splash of olive oil

1 can cream of potato soup

1 can milk (use the empty can)

½ cup white wine

1 cup Colby-jack cheese, grated

4 cups California Mix, steamed according to package directions

Melt the butter with the splash of olive oil and sauté the celery and onion in it until they are soft. You don’t want them to get brown. Add the cream of potato soup and the milk. The best tool for mixing this is a whisk.

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Next, add in the grated cheese until it’s smooth and creamy and then all the white wine.

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After this, all you have to do is add in the steamed vegetables.

Let simmer for at least ten to fifteen minutes up to thirty minutes – however long you need to prepare the rest of your meal. Serve garnished with more grated cheese and a piece of crusty bread. Bon appetite!

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This recipe keeps well – I put it in a container and reheated it the next day and thought it was even better! So if you want to make it ahead and perhaps serve it in a bread bowl or take it to a holiday meal, this would work out just fine. Quick and easy and yummy too! Pure magic!

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The Magic of Applesauce

Applesauce is so easy to make I honestly don’t understand why anyone ever buys the stuff they sell in the supermarket. The last time I ate any of that – um – substance was several years ago, and it was in a bag of food I got from a food pantry. It was so bland and watery that I couldn’t even tell that it was made out of apples. I refrigerated it and eventually used it in a cake.

I always have apples in my house. An apple is the perfect snack. And apples work so well in pies, kuchens, coffee-cakes and other baked goods. It’s also the side dish for many pork entrés and works perfectly with potato pancakes. I often eat it for breakfast with my oatmeal. Naturally, I always have applesauce on hand. Here is how it’s done.

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First you have to peel and chop up the apples. I was making a major amount this time, since I had a lot of apples that were getting really soft. But generally I use 4-6 apples and put them in a quart pan and then cover them with water and a dash of salt.

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Apples float. They’re not heavy like potatoes. So when you add the water, they’re going to be on top of the water. Just take a spoon and press them down into the water. Put the heat on high and bring the water to a boil. Then turn the heat down and let them simmer.

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The beauty of making your own applesauce is that you can make it as sweet or as spicy as you want. I prefer brown sugar and cinnamon in my applesauce, but if you like white sugar, then use that. If you like nutmeg and cloves, then throw that in. Do it differently each time! Experiment! A kitchen witch plays with her food!

Your kitchen – your entire home – will smell heavenly when you are making applesauce. It is one of the very best aromas in the world. Talk about creating a magical atmosphere in your home! You have to simmer applesauce for a good long time, since you have to reduce the liquid – let it boil off – and create the syrupy sauce. If you want a smoother sauce, take a potato masher and mash the apple chunks.

Cosmic Crabmeat Stir-fry

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This is an easy and simple meal that can be put together in under thirty minutes. It’s a recipe I got from the father of my son – it’s the only thing I think he knew how to make!

You only need a few ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small green pepper, chopped

¼ red onion, chopped

4 ounces (half a package) moonlight mushrooms, sliced

1 package imitation crab meat, broken up a bit

1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes

Dried parsley, oregano & basil to taste, as well as salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan. Sauté the green peppers, red onions and the moonlight mushrooms until half-way soft. Add the crab meat and stir and cook for about a minute. Then add the tomatoes, smashing them up a little. Add the seasonings and then let simmer while you prepare the pasta or rice on which you will serve the stir-fry. Don’t forget the grated cheese!

The day I made this, I didn’t have any mushrooms but it was still very good. I served it on angel hair pasta. One thing about this dish – it doesn’t work very well the next day. I love leftovers but Cosmic Crabmeat turns into Cosmic Catfood after twenty-four hours. So if you plan to make this, plan to eat it all immediately. What you’re looking at here will feed four decent appetites – especially if you have a salad for a side dish. And maybe a nice hunk of bread as well!

Baked Whole Rainbow Trout

The best food is the freshest food. There is nothing better than food out of your own garden or bought from a local farmer’s market. Some of us are hunters, spending long hours in the woods and field, in order to return home with the bounty of Artemis. Other of us prefer to fish the creeks and ponds and lakes. Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to go trout fishing. It was a perfectly cold spring day. There was frost on the grass and we could see our breath. But the fish were jumping!

I must confess that I did not catch any fish at all. But my companion caught several small ones, lost what must have been some bombers and then brought in this beauty:

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Now, that’s fresh!

A few hours later, it was cleaned and ready for the oven. I preheated the oven to 400 and prepped

a shallow pan with aluminum foil. First got out my herbs and cut my lemon and onion. For herbs, I used parsley, basil, and tarragon. I also used garlic powder, lemon pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

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I put about a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the foil and then placed the fish on the oil, turning it so it was oiled on both sides. Then I stuffed the fish with the lemon slices and onion and some of the herbs, perhaps a quarter teaspoon of each. I use tarragon leaf very sparingly – a little goes a long way. But that’s me. Maybe you like it better. And maybe you like a different mix of herbs – thyme, perhaps or rosemary – any mixture will do.

After stuffing the trout, sprinkle some more herbs on top and spritz with lemon juice. If you have white wine, add this to the packet but if not, just add a few tablespoons of water to keep the fish from drying out when cooking. I didn’t have white wine when I cooked this particular trout and I have to say I never missed it.

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Then wrap it up and put it into the oven. It’ll take about a half an hour to cook. You want the flesh of the fish to be flakey when you touch it with a fork. The spinal column of the trout will come out easily after it is fully cooked but there will still be some little bones so be careful!

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I like to serve trout with rice and a green vegetable like broccoli or fresh green beans.

Even if you’re not the kind of person to go fishing, you can go to your local fish market and usually find a whole fish like this. Trout is yummy good! And good for you.

Skillet Pork Chops with Rice and Tomatoes

There is nothing like an heirloom recipe. I cherish the ones I have from both of my grandmothers and my mother. To me, it’s a way of preserving the magic that they instilled in me from an early age – that of kitchen witchery. I doubt that they would have looked at it in that way – I know my mother wouldn’t! – but magic in the kitchen is magic in the kitchen, no matter how you term it.

This is an old recipe of my Gramma Mac’s. Like so many recipes of that era, it doesn’t give very good directions and in the ten years or so that I have been making this, I have tweaked it numerous times to improve it.

The original recipe called for four pork chops but I think that chops must have been must smaller in the old days because it never works for me with four whole chops. I generally get three or – like I did this time – I get pork steaks. Personally, I have never been a fan of pork steaks but, as they say, “the price was right”!

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Take them out of the package, salt and pepper them, and then brown them in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When they are browned on both sides, add a cup of onion slices (it depends on the size of your onion, but half a large onion, sliced) and half a green pepper, sliced.

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Let them cook a little bit and then add a third of a cup of rice. My grandmother’s recipe said half a cup but I’ve found that a third of a cup works better. You want to spread the rice around so it browns a little bit in the flavored oil.

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At this point, my grandmother’s recipe said to add a can of whole tomatoes. I used to do this and I would break up the tomatoes to facilitate the cooking process. And I started adding seasonings… At first, Italian seasonings – basil, oregano and parsley but that didn’t seem to work too well. So then I started adding chili powder and cumin and that worked much better. So that’s how I do it now.

BUT. This particular time I did another cool tweak! I bought this can of tomatoes:

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If you don’t have this particular brand in your store, I am sure you can find something similar – Ro-Tel or something like that. Adding this instead of the whole tomatoes meant that I could cut the seasonings in half and WOW! What a flavor!

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Of course, after you add the tomatoes, you will have to add a little water to the pan to give it enough moisture to cook the rice. If I have white wine, I’ll add the wine but if not – water is just fine! You just want enough fluid to cover the meat and vegies. Cover it up and let it simmer for twenty or so minutes.

And here it is, all ready to serve:

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So, give this a try and maybe give the recipe a few tweaks of your own. And create some kitchen witchery of your own!

 

Cooking in a Small Area

 

I just moved into a new apartment. I am not quite where I want to be, nor is the apartment what I really wanted. But it’s okay for now. I like the city in which I am living – Lowell, Massachusetts – which has a lot of beautiful old buildings and historic places to explore and photograph. I eventually want to find a place nearer to the ocean.

My main problem with this place is the kitchen – or the lack of a kitchen.

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The “Kitchen”

There are so few cupboards that I didn’t even unpack most of my dishes. And I have my baking supplies – my flour, sugars, sodas and salts – in a Coleman cooler – while my herbs and spices and decorating sugars are in two Tidy Cat containers!

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Where I keep my baking supplies & herbs & spices.

I accidentally left my beautiful wood cutting boards back in Buffalo, so I am now using a small plastic apple-shaped one that was previously just a decoration. But I wouldn’t have room for them on these tiny counters anyway! I honestly don’t think this kitchen is meant for cooking in at all. It’s meant for reheating take-out and perhaps making a quick cup of coffee in the morning. I live right downtown so there’s any number of restaurants to choose from for eating out every night of the week, if your wallet can handle that. But – mine can’t!

So I do have to cook. Because I can’t afford to eat out more than a few times a month and I love cooking! And I love to bake. Even without anyone in my own household to bake for, I will bake. I’ll take cookies down to the rental office and give them to the office personal – I have worked in plenty of offices and I know that cookies are always welcome (and cursed!).

So for the next year – since I signed a lease – The Kitchen Witch will be exploring ways to cook in a tiny space – with no counter space – with just a few tools – being as efficient as possible. Preparation will be the key.

This month’s recipe is a re-imagining of the classic Toll House cookie. Instead of using chocolate chips, I used peanut M & M’s. Before adding them, I cut a tiny hole in the bag and crushed them up. You can use a rolling pin for this but if you have kids helping you out in the kitchen, I suggest getting a small hammer and letting them hit the bag with the hammer. It’s a lot of fun for them – what kid doesn’t like to smash things with a hammer? I admit – I used my hammer too!

The key to cooking in a small place is having everything out and ready before you start. For me, that means clearing off my desk because that’s the only place I have to work.

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Candy Cookies

Sift together: 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Cream together: 1 cup (2 sticks) very soft butter

1 cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

Beat: 2 eggs & add to creamed mixture

Add: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add: flour mixture

Add: crushed peanut M&M’s

Drop walnut-sized balls onto a greased baking sheet & bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden.

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These are addictively good!! I took a plate down to the ladies in the rental office and was told I could bring them cookies anytime I want.

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Which

is a very good thing.

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