Monday, January 2, 2012

Zeus, the Magnificent
Here it is, 2012, Day 2. It is pretty chilly outside, 25 degrees, but nice and warm here by the fire. Either my laptop or my Kindle and Zeus are keeping my lap and legs nice and toasty. Actually, between you and me, I may never feel my legs again. I hate to disturb Zeus, but I really need to get the circulation going again!

I’ve been enjoying my new Kindle; reading like a mad woman. I am really hooked on the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. I’ve read 4 in the last week and I’d say that qualifies as “hooked”, wouldn’t you? The problem with that is I am not painting, not working on the cookbook, nor am I cooking! My big mission for the day, besides walking Zeus 4 times, is making Jacquie Davis’ Potato Soup. So, you see, that means this evening I will be in my Lazyboy, Zeus in my lap, Kindle in one hand and a steaming bowl of Potato Soup by my side. Sounds pretty comfy to me. Problem is, #1, the cookbook needs to be worked on, #2, there is a gallery show coming up in April for the Somerset Ridge Painters and I haven’t even started!

I love my time outdoors with Zeus, even though this tiny little dog drags me around the block; I see so many Canada Geese overhead, the sky is clear and blue, and I am enjoying the short conversations with the neighbors out walking their dogs. It isn’t that I am a bad neighbor, I’m just not a “I want to get to know you” neighbor. But Zeus seems to be changing that.

Speaking of Canada Geese and the great outdoors, I just received the See What’s Happening in Kansas newsletter, and they suggest winter eagle watching. I have done this and it is exhilarating! The majestic American Bald Eagle is here in Kansas and so worth a few hours of your time! Here is the information from Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Winter Eagle Watching   January 2012, Kansas Wetlands Complex, Great Bend

Winter on the Byway is a magical time. The wetlands may be blanketed in snow & sheathed in ice, but wildlife watching and gorgeous winter photo opportunities abound. Eagles often appear in the icy blue skies over Cheyenne Bottoms & Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (two of the largest inland marshes & hottest birding spots in the US). For eagle watching details email or visit

I wish I could give you the wonderful recipe for potato soup, but I just tried calling Jacquie for her permission and, sadly, she isn’t home. Maybe next time….but that doesn’t help with something warm and creamy for tonight. After much thought, I’ve decided to give you a recipe for a rich woodsy mushroom soup. Years ago, as a caterer and personal chef, I made this constantly….even in the summer! I had clients that were addicted to it. It is very earthy, therefore, I call it
A Walk in the Woods Mushroom Soup

5 ounces fresh shitake mushrooms
5 ounces fresh Portobello mushrooms
5 ounces fresh porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided
2 cup chopped yellow onion, divided
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 sprig fresh thyme or rosemary, your choice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup Somerset Ridge Chardonnay wine
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the 1 cup onion, carrot and celery, the sprig of thyme or rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the other cup of chopped onion. Sauté for five minutes, stirring, until onions are golden, just beginning to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

Note: If you can’t find any of the wild mushroom varieties, you may substitute white button mushrooms, but you will loose a lot of the earthiness of the soup. Portobello are almost always available, but using just that variety makes for a very dark soup, but equally delicious. Half Portobello and half white button make a great combination.

Now, if you are up to baking a wonderful bread to go with your soup, may I so boldly suggest this one…..
Classic Dinner Rolls
1 cup whole milk
6 Tbsp. butter (room temperature)
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour (not unbleached) (4 to 4 1/4)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
Melted butter
Softened butter

1 Heat the milk to 120 degrees F to 130 degrees F; add the butter and set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a large bowl dissolve yeast in warm water. Add cooled milk, eggs, and sugar to dissolved yeast and stir to blend. With a wooden spoon stir in 2 cups of the flour and the salt; stir until smooth. Add 2 cups of remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and only slightly sticky. (Only if needed, after 3 minutes of stirring and dough is overly wet, stir in 1 tablespoon flour at a time.
2. Cover the surface of the dough with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Cover the top of the bowl with a second piece of plastic wrap.
Let rise until doubled (1 to 2 hours).*
3. Lightly butter 24 muffin cups. Gently press the dough to deflate. With lightly buttered hands pinch off generous 1-inch pieces of dough. Fold the dough over, turning and tucking the edges to form a ball. Pinch the seam together to seal. Dip in melted butter and arrange three dough balls in each muffin cup.
Let rise until fully doubled (about 1 hour).
4. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake rolls for 20 to 25 minutes or until well-browned. If needed, to prevent overbrowning, cover rolls with foil during last few minutes of baking. Remove from oven. Brush with softened butter.
Return to oven for 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Remove rolls immediately from cups to a wire cooling rack. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving. Makes 24 dinner rolls.
6. * For extra-light rolls, let the dough rise a second time (1 to 2 hours) before shaping. However, with this menu , the mushroom soup likes a less fluffy bread!

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