Cranberry Christmas Tea Cake

 

IMG_3801 When fresh cranberries begin appearing in the markets every year sometime before Thanksgiving, I usually buy several pounds because we have so many favorite ways to use them – whole berry sauces, in bars and cookies, relishes, and hot salads. I love their color, the way they heap up, glistening, in a colander or on a cutting board.  They are beautiful to work with, if a little frisky to chop!  But I like most the delicious foods prepared with them, plus the good nutrition they offer. This year I made a tea bread, beautiful in its simplicity and dusted with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. I even love the plate, one my sister gave me along with its companion book, A Cup of Christmas Tea. The title is on the plate under the cake!.

Yields 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries, roughly chopped (fresh or dried)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • powdered sugar, garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F and lightly grease 2 loaf pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl or mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened in color and fluffy. 4-5 minutes.
  4. Beat in egg and vanilla extract and mix well.
  5. Alternate between adding 1/3 cup of dry ingredients and 1-2 tablespoons buttermilk. Begin and end with flour mixture.
  6. Gently fold in chopped cranberries and pour batter into loaf pans.
  7. Place in oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Let cool, then sift powdered sugar on top and enjoy! (But one of our loaves disappeared while it was still warm!)

 

Chicken, Kale, and Gnocchi Soup

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Someone asked me this week about my favorite type of food to cook. I quickly replied: “Soups!”  Of course, I love to cook many things, but this is my answer because there are so many wonderful, nutritious soups, often the main course of a meal. Most are very inexpensive per serving. I like trying new recipes, too. This one definitely belongs in Kitchen Keepers. I used fresh mini potato gnocchi found at Costco.  Make your own if you if the time, but these were perfect for the recipe. Is there any prettier soup on the table for a cold Christmastime evening?  The hearty, creamy goodness was just what we needed.

 

Chicken, Kale, and Gnocchi Soup

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups half-and-half
1 (12-ounce) package gnocchi*
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth (if you enjoy thick soup, use just 1 can)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh kale (original recipe used spinach, but I have kale in my garden!)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)

*You can find dried gnocchi in the pasta section of most grocery stores; some stores also sell fresh or frozen gnocchi. You may want to cut your gnocchi in half before cooking if it is large, or purchase the mini size if available.

Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and sauté until the onion becomes translucent. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Let the flour mixture cook for about a minute and then stir in the half-and-half.

2. Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, add the carrots and chicken to the roux. Once the mixture has thickened, stir in the chicken broth. When the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasonings; simmer the soup over medium-low heat until it is heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt if needed.

Olive Piccanti

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Olives all by themselves are a treat, but with the addition of a few ingredients, a jar of large pitted olives becomes the star of the party!  This recipe is one I adapted from a tiny recipe book by Frances Mayes: Bella Tuscany, The Sweet Life in Italy. I have Mayes’ larger Tuscan cookbook and have used recipes in several other books she wrote, but this one was a freebie with one of the book purchases. It has lots of “want to try” recipes. This one is certainly a keeper!

Olive Piccanti

2 cups large green olives

2  hot peppers, 1 red, 1 green, minced

1/4 cup onion, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I use Meyer lemons from our tree)

1 thinly sliced lemon

Put all ingredients in a bowl with cover, mix, and refrigerate.  Best after about 24 hours.

 

 

 

Lemon Zucchini Pickles

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I have loved this recipe for a long time and have always made it with zucchini. However,  it is a great refrigerated cucumber pickle as well. We have a bumper crop of Meyer lemons so I am delighted to say my granddaughters went out to the tree the day before Thanksgiving and brought in a bucket full of lemons for our holiday cooking. This is a perfect side for so many meals,adds a fresh veggie touch that is more condiment than salad, but so good that you want to eat a bowlful!  It keeps in the refrigerator for 3 weeks, but never lasts that long around our house.

Lemon Zucchini Pickles

5-6 medium zucchini, sliced very thin.  Do not peel

1 green pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 teaspoons celery seed

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 lemon, sliced very thin into rounds, then halved

Cut thin zucchini slices and combinewith green pepper, celery seed, onion, and salt in large bowl.  Toss gently and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Combine sugar and lemon juice and stir to dissolve. Pour over vegetable mixture and add lemon slices. Stir gently to blend, cover, and refrigerate at least 24 hours. This will keep up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.