Archive for April, 2011

Easter is a time of true celebration. I mean, we are talking about the God of the universe loving us so much that He came down to Earth, suffered and died for our sins, and then to make sure everyone noticed He rose from the grave a few days later. Wow. And the best part, all we have to do is say “I do” to Jesus and we’re golden. What’s not to celebrate??

This year I decided to do something really special for Easter. Duck. As you may recall, I once helped process ducks in exchange for free duck (will work for food) but my roast duck was a bad call due to the age of the birds. (The crock pot duck, however, was fantastic!) This year though I proudly paid for a young duckling from Nature’s Harmony Farm, a good recipe and was ready to go.

All trussed up!

I pulled the roast duck recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple (yes, I’ve been hanging out with the primal crowd lately) and used the Spice Seasoning and the Orange Honey Sauce. After liberally seasoning, I trussed a duck for the first time (well, any fowl actually). For chickens it doesn’t seem to matter much to me but the duck legs were way out there so I decided to tie him up. It’s actually much easier than it looks. Into the oven the bird went and I focused on my other dishes.

Cream of Swiss Chard Soup

I made some mashed potatoes to please my sweetie, threw together a salad with shallots and red wine vinegar, and got some sugar snap peas ready for a quick saute (sauteed them in bacon fat – heck yeah!) I had some swiss chard from my CSA hanging out in the crisper that had gone pretty wilty on me, so I decided to try a cream of swiss chard soup. Since it turned out really well (test subject Bill even ate the leftovers!) I thought I’d post what I did here:

1/2 onion, chopped

1 big bunch swiss chard, stems removed and chopped

3 cups chicken stock

2 T butter

1/2 c half and half or heavy cream (I used half and half only because I was sadly out of cream)

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and chard stems in the butter until soft, then add about 1/2 cup of the stock, cover the pot and simmer until everything is nice and soft. I was busy doing other things, so I probably left mine for 30 to 40 minutes. Add the leaves of the chard and the rest of the stock, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Use a stick blender to puree the soup well, then return to heat and stir in the cream or half and half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

It didn’t look so attractive, but turned out quite tasty. It doesn’t require a lot of work so it was a good starter course to let simmer while I was handling other important kitchen tasks, like picking out a nice pinot to accompany the duck. Also, I sprinkled some shredded parmesan on the leftovers and that made it even better.

Roast Easter Duck

Back to the duck. I had a three pound duck so I shaved some cooking time off of the recipe, which uses a 4 pounder. When I was ready to take its temperature, I discovered that my probe thermometer was broken. Great! So I used a grilling fork that has a thermometer built in that someone gave us once. It said it was 10 degrees short of done, so I stuck the bird back in for a while, pulled it and measured again. 3 degrees short. At this point I am convinced the hand-me-down grilling fork had a reason for being given away, because this duck is DONE.

Crispy local veggie salad with red wine vinaigrette

I let the duck rest, finished prepping everything else and set the table. For everything I did (5 dishes) it was two hours from pulling stuff out of the fridge to table service. Not bad for a celebration feast! The duck did end up a tad overdone due to my faulty thermometers so I went online and bought this one yesterday since I pitched the useless probe thermometer immediately.

Seasoned roast duck with orange honey sauce, sauteed local peas, buttery mashed spuds

Everything turned out well, the orange sauce was delicious on the flavorful duck, and I spent a nice meal at the table (wow!) with my sweetie. Reasons to celebrate abound!

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My latest Viking cooking class covered some classic Thai cuisine. I have a favorite Thai place by my house and I have to say…the stuff we made was BETTER. Here’s the menu:

Thai Spring Rolls with Sweet n’ Sour Dipping Sauce

Chicken Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper (with Red Curry Sauce)

We also got to sample Thai Cucumber Salad and Thai Roasted Coconut Cashew Nuts. (Both delish!)

The roasted cashew dish is a cinch. Pretty much all you do is heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok (I would use coconut oil), stir in a few tablespoons of honey, toss in a few cups of cashews and a few cups of unsweetened shredded coconut (the kind that looks like shavings) and toast them. At the end, toss in a few seeded, finely chopped fresh red chilies and salt and pepper to taste. Wok it a few more minutes until everything is as you please. Nice party dish!

Spring rolls. Check me out. I did the stylish plate arrangement myself!

The spring rolls were UH-maze-ing. Sure, it takes some time to do all the chopping, etc., but once you get everything rolled up…guess what? You don’t have to deep fry. I’m serious. We pan fried these spring rolls, just rolling them around in a pan with some oil (again, I’d use coconut oil, but we use canola oil in class which I try to avoid) and they turned out fantastic. Next time you’re on a roll try a pan fry (and make sure you’re using spring roll wrappers, not egg roll wrappers).

Chicken Satay

The chicken satay was good but I’ve gotten so accustomed to the deep flavor of the dark meat on a pasture raised chicken that they seemed really dry to me. I would definitely try them at home along with their dipping sauce but I’d use thighs from a free range bird.

Snapper in banana leaf

The snapper dish was really interesting. We made the curry sauce first (which tasted almost exactly like the red curry I get from my favorite Thai place – wow!) and let it cool while we prepared the fish. We cut banana leaves into strips, then crossed them, added the fish and some sauce and wrapped them up. Using kitchen twine, we tied them up and into the oven they went for a steam. The fish turned out really delicate and moist.

Snapper unwrapped!

I have to say this was probably my favorite class. The dishes and techniques were excellent, and the instructor was very enthusiastic. So exciting to see someone else get worked up over quality ingredients! Thanks for a great class Chef Sandra!

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It was a normal Friday. I did my work thing, test subject Bill did his work thing, we went out for sushi, we came home. Then it happened. SNACK ATTACK. I was just sitting at my computer Facebooking when all of a suddent I HAD to have something sweet or I was going to turn into a DRAGON.



My cat Midori may bear a striking resemblance to Toothless, but the kitties really do not dig fire-breathing in the house. So something had to be done.

As luck would have it, I’d been out and about today and picked up ingredients for these Cocoa and Coconut Balls I found over at Mark’s Daily Apple. This would be my speedy fix – nuts to keep me from turning into a dragon. A quick zip of a multitude of nuts, dates, coconutiness and cocoa. Heavenly!

I followed Mark’s recipe very closely. I used 5 dates (I noticed he likes to use dates for sweeteners. Who can blame him? I sort of have a crush on dates after the Moroccan salad.) and about 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. I used 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/3 cup shredded coconut and no ground coffee. After a squeeze and a taste, I added about 2 tablespoons of my favorite sweetener, Grade B maple syrup.

The recipe said to form them into balls. Yeah, right. Maybe you could do it, but it would take the patience of Job and I’m just not there yet. So I pressed the nutty, sweet mix into the bottom of a square glass pan and stuck it in the fridge while I cleaned up my mess, then cut them into 9 squares.

Cocoa and Coconut Not Balls (AKA Dragon Nuts)

Despite my sub-par walnuts (they were a little old. I’m ashamed.) these little treats turned out really well. They are very crumbly, but that’s why God made forks. (Ok, God probably didn’t make forks. But he gave us brains that invented forks. And cute scarves.) The dates offer a really sophisticated sweetness that granular sugar in it’s overpowering way could never duplicate. Dates and maple syrup are Wushu. White sugar is WWE.

Anyway, I ended up not turning into a dragon so the evening is ending well. I recommend playing with this recipe and making it your own. It’s nutritious, fast, delicious and it could save your life.

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