♥ Irish Colcannon

So much for my New Year’s resolutions. Yep, I’m back to being a lazy blogger. Ah, well. I did make it back and that’s what counts. And just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day leftovers. March 17th is J’s day (er, excuse) to celebrate all things beer and his perennial favorite, corned beef and cabbage. Myself, I prefer to celebrate the Irish whiskey cake. :)

This year, I resurrected a favorite old recipe for this year’s potato side dish: Irish Colcannon. Colcannon is traditionally served at Halloween with charms such as a ring (marriage), a coin (wealth), a button (bachelorhood), a thimble (spinsterhood) and a tiny horseshoe (good luck) stirred into the Colcannon.  The recipients of each charm would benefit accordingly. Whatever the tradition and significance attached to Colcannon, it’s a wonderfully flavorful side dish. The kale and the cabbage in the potato dish bring just the right amount of green to the Saint Patrick’s Day table.

The Colcannon is even better the next day with leftover corned beef, diced, and the corned beef gravy drizzled over the top.

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Irish Colcannon

Ingredients:

2 pounds yellow potatoes, diced

1/2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 leek (white part only), rinsed and chopped

3 cups green cabbage, chopped

3 cups frozen kale, thawed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup nondairy butter

1 to 1-1/4 cups soy milk

Directions:

Place the potatoes in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, and cabbage; sauté until softened. Add the kale, garlic, salt and pepper. Continue to cook until tender; remove from heat.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Stir in the kale and cabbage mixture. Heat the nondairy butter in 1 cup of the soy milk in the microwave and pour over the potatoes. Mash with a potato masher, adding more soy milk if necessary. Check the seasoning and serve hot.

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Here it is, the best for last. And the absolute best use for leftover corned beef (in fact, I always double the corned beef recipe to ensure leftovers): the mighty Reuben sandwich. The king of all sandwiches, really. Teese mozzarella cheese, Bubbies sauerkraut, sliced red onion and homemade Thousand Island dressing between two layers of corned beef on dark rye bread from the bread machine. Oh, how I love thee, Reuben!

♥ In The Mood . . . For Cacao

Looking for something different this Valentine’s Day? How about whipping up an aphrodisiac in your kitchen blender for you and your beloved? Rest assured, no eye of newt is required for this love potion.

“What the h—?” you may be thinking. And rightfully so. Truth be told, I stumbled upon this recipe a couple of years ago and, of course, I was intrigued. How could I not be?

“You have to try it to believe it! Every ingredient in this beverage is an aphrodisiac designed by nature to enhance your senses. This elixir is a marriage of flavor with none overpowering the others. Don’t omit the salt; it is the spark that lights the fuse.”

Does it work? Hmmm . . . maybe. :) It’s a tasty beverage nonetheless. And different. Different, but ‘good’ different. Be forewarned, though: this recipe makes 4 cups. Wow, that’s a whole lotta aphrodisiac!

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Cacao Aphrodisiac Elixir

Recipe from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw.

Ingredients:

1 cup raw almonds

2 3-inch cinnamon sticks

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

6 green cardamom pods

1 Tablespoon ginger, minced

4 cups filtered water

4 dried Kalamata figs, soaked in 1 cup of filtered water

2 Tablespoons raw cacao powder

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon rosewater

Pinch of salt  (I used Fleur De Sel)

Directions:

Place the almonds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, ginger, and 2 cups water in a blender. Blend, gradually going from low-speed to high-speed, for 20 seconds. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Rinse the blender well and return the spiced water to the blender.

Add the figs and the fig soak water, cacao powder, vanilla extract, rosewater, salt, and the remaining 2 cups water. Blend on low-speed for 20 to 30 more seconds or until the figs are well blended.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer again and serve.

Happy Valentine’s Day . . . don’t stay up too late. ;)

♥ Southwestern Pulled Soy Curl Sliders

I guess there was a game on today. Despite all the hype, I can’t even tell you which teams played today. What’s more, I just don’t care.

I’ve wanted to make a meatless version of the bar menu favorite–sliders–for a while now. And today seemed like the appropriate day to do it. Butler Soy Curls are the perfect stand-in for pulled pork or beef. After several hours in the slow cooker simmering in the traditional spices, the “meat” is melt-in-your-mouth tender. I think this recipe could easily fool any meat-eater in a blind taste test. Hey, wouldn’t that be fun?!

I served these sliders on our favorite homemade buns. J likes his sandwich with coleslaw; I like mine with a slice of Tofutti American cheese.

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Southwestern Pulled Brisket Soy Curl Sandwiches

Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 package soy curls, re-hydrated (1-1/2 pounds)

2 Tablespoons canola or safflower oil

1 sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 Tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1-1/2 cups filtered water

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices

2 whole canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (that’s 2 chilies, not 2 cans), chopped

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup molasses

Hamburger or slider buns (try this wonderfully easy bread machine recipe)

Pickled jalapenos, optional

Tofutti American cheese slices, optional

Coleslaw, optional

Directions:

Place the soy curls in a large bowl and cover with filtered water; let sit about 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large deep-sided cast iron skillet. Add the onion, garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, sea salt and black pepper to the skillet and stir until fragrant, not more than a few minutes.

Add the vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat wooden spoon. Add the water, tomatoes with juices, chipotles, bay leaves, and molasses. Stir well and remove the skillet from the heat.

Add the soy curls to the slow cooker crock, tearing apart the longer curls. Pour the sauce over the soy curls and stir well. Cover the slow cooker and set the temperature to ‘low’. Cook 6 hours.

To serve, remove and discard bay leaves. Pile the meat on sandwich buns and serve with jalapenos, a slice of cheese or coleslaw.

♥ Slow Cooker Hominy Soup

I’m happy to report that I am (finally!) a working woman again. I have been fortunate in that I was able to transform my volunteer work into a paid position. To my way of thinking, that makes every paycheck a bonus. Having Fridays off does not suck, either. Yaaah me! :)

Now that I’m away from the house during the week, the dinner schedule has drastically changed around here. I’m lucky enough to be off by 4:00 in the afternoon and I live a mere 5 minutes away from my new office. But, when I return to the house, the greyt boys are my first priority (sorry, J!) and not the usual dinner prep work. Luckily, we have just enough daylight left to take a walk down the street to the boys’ favorite hang-out spot.

The meadows adjacent to the lake are chock full of squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, coyote and bear. The greyt boys practically go berserk with all the delightful scents and sights they encounter. And they love to eat snow, which is funny considering that both of our boys spent their racing careers in very hot climates.

The slow cooker has become my best friend since I returned to work. In fact, I think I might be forming an almost-romantic attachment to mine. It’s reliable and it’s dependable and when I return home from walking the dogs after work, it’s waiting for me with a hot, home-cooked meal. I’ve known a lot of men that can’t deliver on those basic desired qualities! Now, if it could only shovel the driveway…

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Slow Cooker Hominy Soup

Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:

4 cups yellow and/or white canned hominy, drained and rinsed (alternatively, use 2 cups hominy and 2 cups frozen corn kernels)

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 small zucchini, sliced in halves or quarters

2 small yellow squash, sliced in halves or quarters

2 poblano peppers, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 8-ounce package soy curls (chicken-style seitan works, too), soaked for 15 minutes in filtered water

3 cups vegetable broth

1 14-ounce can tomato sauce or tomato purée (preferred)

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon azafrán or saffron (see note)

2 teaspoons Mexican oregano leaves

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Optional Garnish:

Shredded green cabbage

Diced tomato

Diced avocado

Chopped cilantro

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, zucchini, yellow squash and peppers until crisp-tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Cut the heat and remove the pan from the burner to cool.

Meanwhile, drain the soy curls and cut into bite-size pieces. Add to the slow cooker with the hominy, vegetable broth, tomato sauce or purée, tomatoes, crushed red chilies, bay leaves, azafrán (saffron), oregano, thyme and salt. Stir in the cooked vegetables and turn the slow cooker to ‘low’. Cook for at 8 to 10 hours. Add the corn the last 30 minutes, if using.

Serving suggestion: place a handful of shredded cabbage in a large soup bowl and ladle the soup over it. Garnish with diced tomato, diced avocado and/or chopped cilantro.

Note: The azafrán (saffron) ingredient won’t make or break this recipe. If you have it on hand, great, but know that buying this costly ingredient for this dish is strictly optional. Myself, I use it liberally because I happen to have a large box of Iranian saffron in my pantry. That’s one of the few perks of being married to a man who deploys to the Persian Gulf (way too) often: care packages from the Spice Souk in Dubai. I’ve been spoiled by having access to some of the world’s best spices at dirt cheap prices.

Can't you almost smell the heavenly aroma of the Spice Souk?!