Mushroom Barley Soup
Saturday, March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day and many of us will be making Corned Beef and Cabbage for the Green Event. Almost always when Corned Beef and Cabbage is prepared for dinner, there are bound to be leftovers. The usual leftover fare for Corned Beef and Cabbage is Corned Beef Hash or Red Flannel Hash as it is known in the New England States. Corned Beef Hash is a very good breakfast or supper item when served with poached eggs on top. However, if you are tired of this version of Corned Beef leftovers try my latest creation “Mushroom Barley Soup”. Mushroom Barley Soup is usually made from Lamb Broth but the cooking liquid from the Corned Beef serves as a perfect vehicle for this hearty Winter fare.
When you have finished cooking and serving your Corned Beef Dinner, skim off any meat particles or fat residue and cook the Barley in the same pot as the Corned Beef was cooked in. Set aside the leftover meat and vegetables and cover and refrigerate them. Follow the directions below and you will have a hearty meal for your family.
MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP
1 medium to large Onion (yellow or white)
2-3 ribs Celery
8 oz. Mushrooms
Cooking liquid from Corned Beef
1 cup Barley
1 Qt. Chicken or Beef Stock, as needed
Leftover Vegetables from Corned Beef & Cabbage (not potatoes)
2 large additional Carrots
Salt and Pepper as needed
- After you have removed the Corned Beef and Vegetables from the cooking liquid, add 1 cup of Barley to the pot with the liquid still in it.
- Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the Barley has softened.
- Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature; place in a covered container and refrigerate, being sure to retain as much liquid as possible.
- When you are ready to make the soup, remove the leftover meat and vegetables and the cooked Barley from the refrigerator.
- Cut the Vegetable up into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- Clean and slice 8 oz. of Mushrooms and dice 1 medium Onion.
- Using a large pot, cover the bottom with a thin layer of Olive Oil or melt 4 Tbsps. Butter; add the Onions and Celery to the heated Oil or Butter and sauté until they start to soften.
8. Add the Mushrooms and continue sauteing until the Vegetables begin to caramelize or start to turn
a light brown.
9. Add the Barley and its liquid to the pot; add more water as needed or 2-4 cups of Chicken or Beef Broth.
10. Simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes (add more liquid if needed) and then add the remaining Vegetables and the leftover Corned Beef, if desired.
11. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary by adding Salt and Pepper as needed.
12. Serve hot in large soup bowls with Rustic Bread and a Green Salad.
Yield: 6-8 Hearty Servings
- NOTE: The Vegetables that I used in the Corned Beef and Cabbage dish were: Cabbage, Carrots, Golden Beets, Baby Red Potatoes (did not use the potatoes or cabbage in the soup)
Valentine’s Day, named after the Martyred St. Valentine is known as a day for lovers. Flowers & candy are sold and given in abundance and restaurants are booked weeks in advance for this special day. My husband Ev, loves to take me out for dinner and I in turn love to cook for this day. This year we came up with a compromise. Ev will take me out for dinner on Valentine’s and tonight, the night before Valentine’s Day, I made a special dinner for us. So in the end we both get and give what we want.
For our dinner tonight I made Lobster Alfredo served with Penne Pasta and a salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette. Dessert was the Heart Shaped Decorated Cake that I made as a sample for my Parent/Child Cake Decorating Class last Saturday.
To make this dinner for two you will need:
1 half pound lobster tail
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Saffron
1 tbsp. minced Basil
Half Cup Marsala Wine
1 Tbsp. Butter
Half Pint of Heavy Cream
Salt & Pepper
½ shredded Parmesan Cheese
2 cups (uncooked) Penne Pasta
Greens for Salad
¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced Basil
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
½ cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
To Make The Dinner:
Use a Sharp knife or cleaver to cut the back of the lobster Shell in half.
Remove the meat from the shell and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in a shallow dish.
Combine the Lemon Juice, Saffron, minced Garlic and minced Basil and add to the lobster meat in the dish. Toss to completely cover the Lobster with the marinade. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes.
Looking at the photo below, you will see that I put the wine in with the marinade. You can do it either way, either in the marinade or add it as in the directions below after you saute the lobster.
Fill a 4 qt. saucepan with water and 1 tsp. Salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
While the Lobster is marinating, wash, dry and tear up the greens for the salad and place in a salad bowl. Peel and slice the cucumber and cut up the tomato and add to the lettuce in the bowl.
Slice and remove the pit from the avocado. This is best done with a spoon.
If there are any dark spots on the avocado, remove them also with a spoon. Cut the avocado up and add to the salad bowl.
Mixed Green Salad with Tomatoes, Avocadoes & Cucmbers
When the water in the saucepan begins to boil, add the pasta and cook for 11 minutes or per the package directions. (Leave the lid off) When the pasta is cooked (remove a piece first to taste for doneness) pour into a colander or strainer and set aside.
Add 1-2 Tbsps. Olive Oil to a sauté pan; when it is hot, add the Lobster and cook just until the outside of each piece has turned white. Remove and place in a covered bowl while you cook the sauce.
Add the Wine to the Saucepan and cook over high heat until it is nearly evaporated. Stir a tablespoon of Butter into the sauce; when it is melted add the Cream and Cook until it is reduced about ¼.
Add Salt and Pepper to taste.
Return the Lobster to the Sauce and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the Pasta and shredded Parmesan to the Sauce.
Toss the Salad with the dressing and plate it.
Transfer the Lobster/Pasta mixture to a serving dish (unless your cooking vessel can serve as one). Garnish with the minced Parsley and serve immediately along with the Salad and Hot French or Italian Bread and a beverage of your choice. We had Pinot Grigio with ours.
Lobster Alfredo with Penne Pasta
As mentioned earlier our dessert was the sample Heart Shaped Cake I had made for my Parent/Child Valentine Class on Saturday at Let’s Get Cookin’.
A chocolate dessert would also be good with this dinner. Try Chocolate Mousse or Cream Puffs filled with Chocolate Ice Cream or even a Lemon Meringue Pie. Hurry, Valentine’s is almost here. If you miss out on a Valentine’s dinner, this is a good meal for any special event. Enjoy!
Even though we tend to think of mint as spearmint or peppermint, there are actually over 600 varities mint in the world. This is one plant that grows like a weed and if it is in your yard, you will never get rid of it. For this reason, many gardeners, never actually plant mint in their gardens. Instead they plant them in boxes where they will be contained. If you do have mint growing, be happy, because there are so many uses for it that you will be glad that you have it. The mint that I have right now that is often a pain, is spearmint which creeps under the fence from my neighbor’s yard and keeps surrounding my tomato plants. Not good for the tomatoes unless I keep it pulled out, which I do. The reason that you can’t get rid of mint, even when you pull it out is that the plant puts down deep roots and even when you think you have pulled it all out, there is still enough left in there for it to grow again. Just like the mythical phoenix bird, mint keeps coming back and rejuvenating itself.
The two main types of mint are Peppermint and Spearmint. Spearmint is the preferred mint for using fresh as the Peppermint Variety has a high menthol content and tends to taste medicinal when not dried before use. There are many varieties within the Spearmint category which can be used freely for cold drinks or hot tea. My favorite is Chocolate Mint. One of the nice things about Chocolate Mint is that it does not grow as rapidly as the other varities and when you water it gives off a delicious Chocolate Mint fragrance which smells just like an old fashioned Chocolate Mint Patty, something I used to love when a child. In fact, I still do. A few of the other varities of mint which are available are Lemon Mint, Banana Mint, Lavender Mint, Orange Mint and Pineapple Mint. If you do find yourself fighting the mint battle, just take advantage of its presence and use it whenever youcan. Following are some of the things that I do with Mint and that you can do too, if you like.
I just pulled out a large quantity of mint that was surrounding my tomato plants. I pulled the mint out, roots and all but like I mentioned earlier, there will probably still be roots left in the ground and I will find myself pulling the mint out again in a few weeks. Since the mint roots where still attached, there was some dirt clinging to the plants. I first rinsed them off with the hose before taking them in the house. Once in the kitchen I filled the sink up with cold water and plop in the mint stems and swish them around to get rid of any loose dirt, bugs or other debris. Then I pull the leaves off the stems and put them in a colander. The easiest way to remove the leaves from the stems, is to run your fingers down the stem in the opposite direction of growth. When you do this, the leaves come off easily. Once you have the leaves off and in the colander, then run cold water over them, shaking the colander well to distribute the water and get rid of the unwanted material.
Once your mint is clean, you can then use it for a variety of things. I find that the best way is to make a mint infusion. The infusion can be used for making tea or jelly or can be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. The infusion itself can be use for mint tea (no tea leaves needed). Not only is mint tea refreshing, it is also a great digestive aid. You can also make mint lemon or limeade or use it for cooking. One of the advantages of making the infusion is that when it is simmering it gives off a wonderful fragrance that will permeate your home and act as a natural air freshener.
To make an infusion, place the mint leaves in a pot where they will have ample room and then cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil, turn down the flame and simmer for about 10 minutes, then shut off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit until the infusion is cool. Pour the infusion through a strainer into a clean container and discard the leaves. Again, the infusion can be used for tea either hot or cold. For iced tea, place some ice cubes in a pitcher, pour the infusion over it and then serve. For added flavor, add lemon or lime juice or orange, lemon and lime slices. The infusion can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two or can be frozen until you are ready to use it.
To make mint jelly, recipes can be found on line just by typing in ‘Recipes for Mint Jelly’ into your browser search area. Mint leaves can also be used to cook lamb and can be used in salads. Remember that if you have mint growing in your yard, don’t let it go to waste. Use it and don’t be afraid to pick it. It will grow back!
ENTERTAINING FOR CINCO DE MAYO
Cinco de Mayo is the Fifth of May and is a Mexican national Holiday which celebrates the Mexican Victory over the French at Puebla in 1862. Cinco de Mayo is a time for celebration and fiestas throughout Mexico and throughout much of the United States. Cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago and Colorado have Cinco de Mayo Festivals. For those of us who do not live near where these festivities are planned or who like to celebrate at home, Cinco de Mayo is a great time to have your own party, whether it be for family, friends or your children. Your party can be as elaborate or as simple as you would like to make it. Sometimes though, simple can be best. When one tries to be elaborate, many complications can get in the way, so the following paragraphs will be a guide to a simple Cinco de Mayo Celebration at home either in your house or backyard.
Let’sstart with the decorations. The first thing you would want to buy would be the center piece of your party and that is a Pinanta. A pinata is made from paper maiche and comes in many different shapes and is usually filled with candy and other treats. The Mexican Flag is Red, White and Green and much of the Paper Goods that are made for Cinco de Mayo will be made in those colors but there will also be additional varieties that are very colorful. You can keep it simple and purchase solid shades so that leftovers can be used for other parties or you can go all out and buy paper goods that are made specifically for this event. Following is a list of paper goods and other items that you may wish to purchase for a Cinco de Mayo party:
- Tablecloths & Napkins
- Paper or Plastic Plates and Cups
- Cutlery to Match
(these can be made from crepe paper)
Flag (small paper ones for favors or party bags)
- A piñata ]to fill with goodies and for the children to break
- A Punch Bowl
The next item to think about would be the food you serve. A great way to serve food for a large crowd is to have a ‘build your own taco bar’ Purchase or prepare the meat fillings and set them out in warmers or chafing dishes for guests to help themselves. You would also need a variety of condiments. Listed below are suggested fillings for Tacos and Condiments to go along with them.
- Carne Asada (Beef)
- Tomato Salsa
- Carnitas (Pork)
- Shredded Cabbage or Lettuce
- Shredded Cheese
- Diced Tomatoes
Crema (Mexican version of Creme Fraiche)
Grilled Scallions (Green Onions)
Of course you are going to need tortillas for your tacos. Authentic tacos are made with soft shells which you can just steam, microwave or heat up on a hot grill or over a gas flame. If you like crispy shells (best made with corn tortillas) you can do them ahead of time or purchase them already made.
Most of the meat items and condiments can be made or prepared ahead of time. If making the meat items ahead of time, undercook them slightly so that when you reheat them they won’t get overcooked. Shredded Cabbage keeps better than shredded lettuce and is actually more authentic than lettuce. Salsa keeps well for many days, but guacamole is best made right before serving as the avocado has a tendency to darken. Non Alcoholic Beverages such as Virgin Strawberry Margaritas or horchata can be served.
Other Menu Items which you may wish to have are:
- Fruit Salad
- Rice & Beans
Watch our website (Recipe Section) for Mexican Recipes you may wish to try.
Thanksgiving in the United States is a family holiday that is usually celebrated with a huge Turkey Dinner. Even though most of us will probably have the traditional turkey and dressing some of you may like to make it a little different this year