Saturday, March 15, 2014


Making herb blends is something I like to do and one of the ones I like the most is made with powdered dried mushrooms.  It's hard to find anything but dried shitakes around here so I shopped on line for a full one pound bag of dried Oyster Mushrooms.    I also ordered 8 oz. of dried Portabellas. 

Most of the dried mushrooms I buy get made into a powder using my spice grinder.  I keep a jar full of the powdered mushrooms on the shelf all the time.  I use it in all kinds of dishes: soups, meatloaf, eggs, salad dressings, and it's great on beef or chicken for roasting or coating veggies to roast.  The dried Oyster Mushrooms were delivered on Friday so I wanted to use some right away.  My first thought was mushroom soup.
Using dried mushrooms versus fresh makes for a much richer mushroom flavor.  The instructions on the package suggested rehydrating in boiling water for 15 - 20 minutes and at least 25 minutes of cooking time. My niece suggested soaking them overnight.  I'll try that next time. When I chopped my rehydrated mushrooms, I think I should have cut them smaller - small enough where you feel like you don't need to chew them.  They were a little tough but I must say I kind of enjoyed the chewiness.  They were kind of meaty.  So I decided that the recipe I provide will give you the option to puree the mushrooms for a silkier soup.  I didn't puree the mushrooms, but I think next time I will try it that way.  Then I'll sauté some sliced button mushrooms to add.
Here's the recipe.  Reading over the ingredients, I'd say this is a very healthy soup!

2 oz. dried oyster mushrooms (about 1 c) (any kind of dried mushroom will do)
2 c. boiling water
1 T. dried shallots (or use 1 small fresh shallot diced finely)
1 T. Maggalicious Mushroom and Herb Powder *
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. sea salt (or to taste)
2 c. beef stock (or water or vegetable stock can be used)
2 c. water
2/3 c cream or half and half, or fat free evaporated milk + 2T butter (I used the latter)
2 T rice flour (or regular)
2 - 3 T fresh chopped parsley (for garnish)
Sautéed sliced mushrooms (optional for garnish)

In a medium bowl, add the dried mushrooms and cover with boiling water.
Let stand for 15 - 20 minutes.
Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon, place in colander and rinse and drain well.
Pour the rehydration liquid from the mushrooms through a coffee filter or paper towel and add to a small soup pot.
Add the dried shallots, dried thyme, Maggaliscious Herb Mix* water and beef stock to the soup pot.
Set heat at medium low and let simmer.
Meanwhile chop all the rinsed and drained rehydrated mushrooms into very small pieces and add to the pot.

Let simmer for 30 minutes. **
Turn heat to medium.
Add the flour to a little water and mix well, pour into the pot. 
Let this come to a bubble to help thicken the soup a little.
Add the milk or cream and the butter if you are using fat free evaporated milk.
Let this simmer for at least 30 minutes.

** There are a couple of options here.  If you want the soup to be somewhat chunky
with mushrooms, leave it like it is.  Rehydrated mushrooms have a tendency to stay a little chewy though. If you want it to be silkier, use your stick blender, or your kitchen blender to puree most of the mushrooms in the soup.  Then you can always slice and sauté some button mushrooms to add to the soup.

*Maggalicious Dried Mushroom and Herb Seasoning Mix is a blend I mixed myself.  It contains powdered dried shitake mushrooms, dried basil, dried oregano, dried onions and dried  garlic, all blended together. So just add a few extra pinches of these herbs and spices to your soup.  If you are interested in a jar, let me know.  I also have blend for a pizza seasoning, and several flavored powdered sea salt blends.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


I'm addicted.  And I didn't know how bad it was until two nights ago when I just had to do it again.  

I had already eaten my dinner. There were left overs in the refrigerator, but I just had to cook!!  Hi, my name is Maggie and I'm a cook-aholic. This is where I feed my addiction; on this little corner of countertop space and my stove top.

I cook every night.  Even if I don't eat it that same night, I want to cook when I  get home from work. I just can't help myself.  I suppose some of it is habit.  I spent more than half of my life married and always cooked dinner every night.  Friday night when I got home from work, I found the low fat pimento cheese spread I made in the refrigerator and some rice crackers, so I had a little cheese and crackers for dinner.  It was really good, but something was missing.  I wanted to cook.  So I set to looking at what ingredients I had in the fridge.  As soon as I opened the fridge door, I knew what I would make.  I had a package of chicken tenders, Greek yogurt, mushrooms, a box of chicken stock and a jar of preserved lemons that I made about a month ago.   My niece in California posted a recipe on FB she made using preserved lemons and I wanted to try it.  So she gave me her recipe for the lemons.  (That's another blog, or you can go to her blog  I think the  preserved lemon recipe is posted there).  When I made my lemons I used fairly large lemons so I cut them into quarters.  I used one piece in my recipe and after tasting, I decided to add a second piece. So much better!! Preserved lemons taste like lemons, of course, but they aren't sour or bitter.  Just intensely lemony.  They are "pickled" with salt, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and pepper corns.

So the dish I saw when I looked around in the refrigerator was Chicken  Stroganoff with Preserved Lemons.  I gathered a few more ingredients:  garlic, shallot, salt, pepper.  Here's how I made it.

8 - 10 small chicken tenders
1 t. salt
2 T olive oil
10 - 12 mushrooms, sliced
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced finely or pressed
2 pieces of preserved lemon, rinsed and cut into very thin strips
1 1/2 c. chicken stock
1 container of non fat Greek yogurt (you can use low fat or fat free sour cream)
1 T rice flour
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Lightly salt the tenders.

Slice the mushrooms and set aside.  Mince the shallot and set aside.  Mince or press the garlic and set aside.  Slice the lemon into very thin strips, turn them and cut across to make the strips a little shorter and set aside.  Measure the chicken stock, mix in the rice flour and set aside. Now you have everything ready.  It goes fast and it will only take a few minutes to put this together.

In a large skillet, over medium heat add the olive oil when the skillet is hot.  Add the tenders and sauté on one side only until they are lightly browned on that side.  Should take about 5 minutes all together.
Use a spatula to lift the tenders and turn over to let them cook for just a minute.  They don't have to be finished cooking yet.  Remove the tenders to a plate.

Add the mushrooms immediately to the same pan.  When they have cooked for a minute or two, add the shallots and garlic.  Cook until most of the liquid the mushrooms release has cooked away - probably 3 or 4 minutes.

Stir the rice flour in the chicken stock and add it to the mushroom mixture in the skillet.  Keep stirring over medium heat, add the lemon pieces and stir until the sauce thickens a bit.  If it gets too thick, add a little more chicken stock.
Turn the heat to low and add the yogurt and stir it in well. Be sure not to make the heat too high here, the yogurt will curdle.  If it does, don't worry.  It's not spoiled, it just looks different.  You can still eat it and it will still be delicious!  Add the tenders back to pan along with any juices that may have run out.  Let this sit on low heat for about 5 minutes to bring it all together and finish cooking the chicken.

It's done! A nice grind of black pepper and I ate mine with just a small piece of Nan - and Indian flat bread.  This would be delicious served over wide noodles, on a baked potato, or even over rice.  Steam a nice bunch of broccoli, asparagus or green beans to serve along with it. When you taste this, you'll understand a little better why I'm addicted to cooking.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

When It's Really, Really Cold ......

When it's really cold, colder than usual, even record breaking cold temps, there is nothing like a bowl of your favorite soup.  I make a lot of soup, and I've made many, many different kinds of soup.  I took a dish from my childhood, Chicken Paprikash, a Hungarian kind of stew, and turned it into a soup.  My own version of Olive Garden's Tuscan Sausage and Kale Soup and a silky pureed carrot soup with tarragon of my own creation for my vegetarian friends, are some of the stand outs.  Hmm, some day I should try and take an inventory of the different soups I've made over the years.

I used to do a monthly Soup Night October through March each year and invited approximately 30 people each month.  I did that for about 6 years.  I often made two kinds of soups for my guests.  One "featured" soup, and another for those who preferred a vegetarian bowl or weren't a fan of the "main" soup.  I love having people at the house and it was the perfect, casual, easy prep way to have as many people as I wanted.  I even had a "guest chef" a couple of times when someone else wanted to feature their own favorite soup recipe.

I came across this soup recipe about a year ago and I wanted to try it. It sounded like it would be really delicious and so comforting.  Sweet Corn and Chicken Soup.  I can't claim that it's my recipe, but I've made it often enough I don't need the recipe any more. The name of the soup is somewhat deceptive.  It's so much more that corn and chicken!  It's a recipe I found at Food Network TV from Arti Sequeria, and Indian girl, whose recipes are mostly Indian cuisine.  I don't know what drew me to the recipe, but it may have been all the ginger. It also has egg drop in it which I love! At the time I saw her make this on television, I had only recently discovered how much I loved fresh ginger in recipes.  So I set out to get what I needed to make it.  I made it on a Saturday afternoon because I could see it would take a while - a couple of hours to get it together because everything is from scratch.  It requires poaching chicken gently with warm and savory spices and vegetables.   Lots of sliced ginger perfumes the broth, and then more fresh grated ginger is added later.  

The recipes calls for canned cream corn.  Canned vegetables are not something I use much. Each season I buy several dozen ears of local sweet corn, blanch it and cut all the kernels off to freeze for the winter.  I thawed and slightly warmed some of the corn, added some of the stock from the simmering soup then used my stick blender to make my own creamed corn to add to the soup.   It's really the only change I've made to the recipe, unless I use chicken thighs instead of chicken breast.  Using chicken on the bone is essential to make a rich and hearty stock. The canned corned is perfectly acceptable if that's what you prefer to use.

One other note about the recipe at the site: As I read the instructions I noticed that it says to add the Ginger-Garlic Paste.  This ingredient is not on the ingredients list.  So I just pressed two cloves of garlic into the soup at the point where instructions said to add the ginger-garlic paste.   Tweek as you please, more ginger, more garlic, whatever you like.
So if you want to try this lovely soup, I have two pieces of advice.  Read the recipe all the way through since there are several steps and it helps to do them in order.  Secondly, make it when you have the time at home while you are doing other things.   If you like this soup as much as I do, you will feel like the time you spent making it is worth every minute.  This is the 5th time I've made it.  I never tire of it and I'll make it again and again.