03 March


Celery Soup

celery soup

March: National Celery Month

March 31: National Celery Day

The month of March is associated with the color green since the Emerald Isle’s patron saint, Patrick of Ireland, is honored on March 17.

This reminds us of when Islander used to work in retail at a bridal shop. She had to put tags on the new shipment of bridesmaids’ gowns in the trendiest colors of the time: aubergine and celadon. What exactly were those hues? Aubergine is French for eggplant and sounded more chic for a deep purple. So she figured that celadon meant celery since the color was close to that of the vegetable, too. Wrong. Celadon is a shade of green commonly used in Asian pottery. But Islander will remember the word association for celadon and celery.

That brings us to a celery soup recipe, which barely even cooks to the color of celadon! Even with the help of leeks as an ingredient, the white sour cream dilutes the whole green color of this dish. Although the color was disappointing, the soup was delicious.

Get some green gourmet going on and cook some celery soup during the month of March, National Celery Month, especially on the last day, March 31, National Celery Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food and Wine)

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 cups of water
  • ½ cup sour cream

Directions

Prepare the vegetables by chopping and slicing the leeks, onions, garlic and celery.

celery soup

In a large pot, slowly melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the leeks, onions and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until softened but not browned (about 10 minutes). Add the celery and sauté until softened (about 3 minutes). Add 6-8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.

celery soup

Transfer the soup in batches to a blender. Puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot and heat through. Stir in the sour cream and adjust the seasonings. Ladle into soup bowls. Serve hot with garnishes of celery sticks and sprinkles of parsley flakes.

celery soup

Notes 

  • At her oft-mentioned friend Lisa L.’s wedding in Germany, as the maid of honor Islander wore a light green gown. Although there are subtle differences in the hue’s shade, this particular dress manufacturer labeled it in a more understandable color instead of celadon: sage.
  • We like our celery soup thicker so only added 6 instead of 8 cups of water. Add more water to make a thinner soup.

 

Sfinge di San Giuseppe

(Cream Puffs of St. Joseph)

Sfinge di San Giuseppe

March 19: Feast Day of St. Joseph

In our nearly 19 years of marriage (since 1996), we have moved five times (excluding the time we lived apart for a year when Islander took a temporary job back home in Hawaii while Highlander stayed in New Jersey for his job). We are aware of the legend of the St. Joseph statue to sell a house—and we do have such a statue. But we have not followed tradition by burying it upside down in the front lawn when we put our homes on the market. We just relied on God for His timing and His care whenever we moved.

St. Joseph is known as the patron saint of real estate and home sales. The earthly father of the Jesus was a good role model to the Christ Child, providing a happy and stable home life to Jesus and his wife Mary. We admire the virtues of St. Joseph and are honoring him on his feast day by making an Italian-style cream puff called Sfinge di San Giuseppe.

Recipe

(Adapted from Recipe Goldmine)

For the filling

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup chocolate, grated (we used mini chocolate chips)
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios, finely chopped

Directions

In a bowl, cream the ricotta cheese with the powdered sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the vanilla.

Sfinge di San Giuseppe

Mix in the grated chocolate or mini chocolate chips and chopped pistachios. Cover and chill to thicken.

Sfinge de San Giuseppe

For the cream puffs

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Directions

In a large pot, boil the water with the butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt. When the butter is melted, remove from heat. Add the flour and quickly stir until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Sfinge de San Giuseppe

Return to the stovetop on medium heat and beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from heat and let the dough rest in the covered pot for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with buttered parchment paper. Scoop a tablespoon of the dough onto the baking sheet about two inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Sfinge de San Giuseppe

For the topping

  • Powdered sugar
  • Maraschino cherries, drained

Directions

When ready to serve, slice each puff and sandwich the filling between it. Or spoon the filling over the top of each puff. Arrange on a platter and sprinkle powdered sugar over the puffs and top each with a maraschino cherry. Serve immediately so the puffs do not get soggy.

Sfinge de San Giuseppe

Notes

  • Various versions of the St. Joseph cream puff recipe are called sfinge/sfingi and zeppole/zeppola. Some deep fry the pastry balls/fritters, some are star-piped into circles, some are drizzled with chocolate and some have a custard-like cream filling piped inside.
  • Joseph has another feast day on May 1, which honors him as the patron saint of labor workers.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies

Irish Oatmeal Cookies 

March 17: Feast Day of St. Patrick

Highlander likes to eat oatmeal for breakfast to begin his workday at the top o’ the mornin’! And sometimes he can’t resist eating oatmeal cookies for a sweet snack to sustain him through the rest o’ the day. So especially in observance of St. Patrick’s Day, we used two Irish imported products to make Irish oatmeal cookies—McCann’s Irish Oatmeal and Kerrygold Butter. The recipe yields over three dozen cookies, which are enough to share with Highlander’s lucky co-workers! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

A wish that every day for you

will be happy from the start

and may you always have good luck

and a song within your heart.

~Irish Blessing

  

Recipe

(Adapted from McCann’s)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups quick cooking oatmeal
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ½ cup walnuts, chipped

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the brown and white sugars. Beat in the egg. Stir in the vanilla.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies 

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and ground cinnamon. Gradually add this to the butter mixture. Blend well. Stir in by hand the oatmeal, raisins and walnuts.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies 

Scoop a tablespoon onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with the ball of your hand. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 3-4 dozen cookies.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies 

Notes

  • Highlander traced his ancestry to Ireland and is considered an Ulster-Scot. 
  • Search our blog for other Irish-inspired recipes for St. Patrick’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Appleseed Cake

Johnny Appleseed Cake

March 11: Johnny Appleseed Day

In elementary school, we enjoyed “movie mornings” when we learned about legendary people of the American frontier like Johnny Appleseed. Formally known as John Chapman (September 26, 1774-March 18, 1845), he was an eccentrically-dressed man who was famous for planting apple trees and establishing orchards across the Midwest. While planting apple seeds, the New Church missionary was also planting seeds of his faith by living simply, touting the health benefits of his fruits, caring for animals and showing kindness wherever he traveled. Johnny Appleseed is also associated with this hymn:

“Oh, the Lord is good to me,

and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need,

the sun and the rain and the appleseed.

The Lord is good to me.

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.”

There are many tales about Johnny Appleseed as there are variations of the Johnny Appleseed cake. Some recipes are made from scratch using fresh-diced apples, while others use shortcut ingredients like canned apple pie filling or jarred applesauce. We chose the easiest one because 1) a child can participate in making this delightful dessert during a teachable moment and 2) we had a coupon for “buy a cake mix and get a can of pie filling for free”.

Celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day and bake an easy Johnny Appleseed Cake.

Recipe

(Adapted from Mr. Food)

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix (may use sugar-free)
  • 1 can (21 ounces) apple pie filling (may use sugar-free)
  • 4 eggs (may use egg substitute)

Directions

Mist a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, apple pie filling and eggs. Mix until smooth.

Johnny Appleseed Cake

Pour the batter into the prepared ban. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Slice into squares and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon (optional) or enjoy plain with a cup of tea or coffee.

Johnny Appleseed Cake

Notes

Absinthe Cake

March 5: National Absinthe Day

As we were looking ahead to find green-colored recipes on the Internet to try for our upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities, we found a loaf cake made with “The Green Fairy”—also known as the alcohol Absinthe.

The legendary licorice/anise/fennel tasting spirit was a popular drink in Europe in the 18th century. The fluorescent green liquid’s strong flavor and aftereffects are believed to have inspired “creativity” in artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde.

Absinthe developed a reputation for causing hallucinations and was thus banned in a few countries such as France and America, especially during the Prohibition years. However, the crazy claim has been exaggerated, only adding to the alcohol’s mystique. It was just as recent as 2007 that America lifted its ban on the purchase and consumption of Absinthe.

Now we are legally able to try a recipe for Absinthe cake, the glaze topping of which follows the traditional style of serving the drink: place a sugar cube on a special slotted Absinthe spoon over a glass filled with a shot of Absinthe and slowly pour ice water over the sugar cube to dissolve and sweeten the beverage. The glaze itself is a mixture of sugar and Absinthe. Overall, it is definitely an adult dessert! Though the cake is not green, its ingredient “The Green Fairy” can give the leprechaun some serious competition this month. Go crazy and bake a boozy cake containing Absinthe on National Absinthe Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz)

For the absinthe cake

  • 1 ¼ teaspoon anise seeds, ground fine
  • 1 ¼ cup cake flour
  • ½ cup stoneground yellow cornmeal (see Notes)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick/8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup Absinthe
  • orange zest

For the absinthe glaze

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Absinthe

Directions

Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Set aside. Grind the anise seeds with a mortar and pestle or spice mill. Add the ground anise seeds to a bowl of cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Combine well.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. In a small bowl, mix the milk and Absinthe. Stir in about a teaspoon of orange zest.

Beat the eggs into the butter mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk mixture. Blend well but do not overbeat. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack over a foil-lined lipped pan to catch any glaze drips. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke several holes in the warm cake.

Make the glaze by mixing the sugar and Absinthe in a cup but do not let the sugar dissolve completely. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle additional orange zest on top (optional). Let cool completely. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • Cornmeal adds a bit of a crunchy texture to this cake. Substitute with ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of pistachio or almond meal, if preferred.
  • The green color from the Absinthe alcohol bakes out. So tint the batter with a tiny bit of green food coloring, if desired. Author David Lebovitz suggests adding chopped candied angelica (looks like green licorice sticks) to the batter before baking.
  • Learn more about Absinthe from Wikipedia

Shamrock Shortbread

Shamrock Shortbread

March 17: Feast Day of St. Patrick

How lucky and blessed are those who can taste some homemade shamrock-shaped shortbread on the Feast Day of St. Patrick. He used a three-leaf clover, which grows abundantly in Ireland, to teach the pagans about the Holy Trinity—God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and convert them to Christianity in the fifth century. Inspired by the sweet symbolism, we baked shamrock-shaped shortbread sprinkled with green sugar crystals that sparkle like emeralds from the isle of the Irish patron saint. Honor St. Patrick and his evangelistic efforts and make Celtic-style clover cookies.

May your blessings outnumber


The shamrocks that grow,


And may trouble avoid you


Wherever you go.


~Irish Blessing

 

Recipe

(Adapted from Irish Culture and Customs)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (we used Kerrygold brand Irish butter)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 – 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 2 cups flour
  • green food coloring (we used Wilton brand Leaf  Green icing color)
  • green sugar sprinkles (we used Wilton brand dark green colored sugar)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until fluffy. Mix in the cornstarch and sugar and blend well. Gradually mix in the flour until a cookie dough is formed.

Shamrock Shortbread

Tint with green food coloring to the desired shade. Roll the dough into a ball, place in a covered bowl and refrigerate till firm (about an hour). Divide the dough into two or three smaller pieces. Place between sheets of waxed paper. Roll each to ¼-inch thickness. Cut with shamrock-shaped cookie cutters. Place on greased baking sheet at least an inch apart. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Re-roll the dough scraps, place between sheets of waxed paper, roll to ¼-inch thickness and refrigerate for another 15 minutes or until firm. Continue cutting out shapes and refrigerating.

Shamrock Shortbread

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with green sugar sprinkles. Bake in a preheated oven at 275 degrees F for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Shamrock Shortbread

Notes

  • While this shortbread recipe is tasty, we prefer other sugar cookie doughs that are easier to handle. This one requires lots of chilling time and patience in order for the cookies to hold their shape. They do spread out a little in the oven but the puffiness goes down toward the end of the baking cycle.
  • Irish butter is creamier and more yellow than the domestic one. This may have affected the dough being more moist than other recipes.
  • Add a little flour to the work surface or waxed paper so the dough does not stick too much.
  • Baking time is longer for this recipe because it has a lower heat (275 instead of 350 degrees).
  • Search our blog for other shortbread, cookies and other Irish-inspired recipes for St. Patrick’s Day. We also recommended browsing for more feast day food ideas from Catholic Cuisine.

Chicken Long Rice

Chicken Long Rice

March 13: National Chicken Noodle Soup Day

Whether found at the fanciest luau or in a humble Hawaiian home, chicken long rice is the islands’ comfort food equivalent of chicken noodle soup. Ironically, the “rice” in this dish is actually bean thread (also known as cellophane noodles for their transparency). The taste is similar to tinolang manok without the noodles. The hot gingery broth helps relieve congestion, the chicken provides protein and mushrooms are full of vitamins, making this textured noodle soup a healthy option.

For National Chicken Noodle Soup Day, try a dish with a tropical twist and make some chicken long rice. Aloha!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4-5 bunches of long rice
  • 5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • water
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 4-6 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 2-inch piece ginger, crushed
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 stalk green onions, chopped (optional garnish)

Directions

In a large dish, pour boiling water to cover the long rice. Soak until soft, at least 30 minutes. Cut into shorter pieces. Drain before using. In a shallow dish, pour boiling water to cover the dried shiitake mushrooms. Soak until soft, at least 30 minutes. Remove from the water, squeeze out excess liquid and slice the mushrooms. Set aside.

Chicken Long Rice

While the noodles and mushrooms are being hydrated, chop the chicken and ginger. Heat the oil on medium high and sauté the garlic cloves. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Pour the water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Chicken Long Rice

Lower the heat, add the bouillon cubes and ginger, cover and simmer for 30 minutes to let the flavors develop. Add the mushrooms. Gently stir in the noodles and cook on medium heat for another 10 minutes. Discard the ginger and garlic. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve hot with chopsticks and a soup spoon.

Chicken Long Rice

Notes

  • Season the broth with a tablespoon of soy sauce, oyster sauce or hot sauce (optional).
  • Search our blog for other soup recipes.

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