Diversions Welcomed

Diversion:  “An instance of turning something aside from its course -or- an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns; a recreation or pastime.”

These are the moments in my day when ideas spark. Creativity shines. When the “I should be…”, becomes a captured photo, a creative twist on a recipe or a fun little project. These are the sunny spots that add warmth to my life. They help define who I am.

And this is my opportunity to share my “Sunny Diversions”.

 

Porketta

If you live on or near the Iron Range in Minnesota for any length of time, you will learn to love and appreciate the 3 P’s:  Potica, Porketta and Pasties. They represent some of the best of the diverse culture of the region. Serbia/Croatia/Slovenia for its Potica, Italy for Porketta and Cornish miners for the pasties. Having moved away from the “Range”, our family has really missed these traditional dishes. In the past, I’ve taught myself how to make Pasties and Potica, now it is time to learn how to make a Porketta. With two pork roasts on hand, I can make one to roast now and one to freeze for later.

It was so fun to research this boldly seasoned roast. I found many slight variations on a common theme of four staple ingredients: lots of fennel, salt, garlic and pepper. Around these seasonings were a variety of other fresh and dried herbs. I chose to concentrate on a Porketta with dried herbs only, since that is what I have in my pantry.

Toasting the fennel seeds would bring out a warmer, nuttier flavor and release their aromatic oils. After toasting, I ground them to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Fresh ground pepper, coarse sea salt and garlic powder completed my base spices. A few recipes had paprika in the mix. I love the flavor of paprika and incorporated that as well. Oregano and coriander were included to blend with the fennel as additional herbs.

The aroma in the house was amazing. And our Porketta sandwiches were delicious. It brought a bit of the Iron Ranger to our Wisconsin home.

Porketta

5 pound Boneless Pork Roast (approximately)

1 Tablespoon Fennel Seeds (toasted, and ground in mortar/pestle)

2 teaspoons Garlic Powder

2 teaspoons Coarse Ground Salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper (Fresh ground is best)

3/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons Oregano

1/2 teaspoon Coriander

I Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup apple juice

Toast the fennel in a frying pan on the stove for three to four minutes or until just slightly browned (be careful not to burn them). When cooled, grind in a mortal and pestle. In a small dish, mix the ground, toasted fennel with the other listed spices.

Butterfly your pork roast so that it lays flat in a cookie sheet. Pat dry with paper towels. Score the open roast with a one inch grid pattern, about I/2 inch deep, being careful not to cut all the way through the meat. Spread the inside with olive oil. Rub about 3/4 of the spice mix on the inside of the roast. Roll the roast, starting with the shorter edge. Tie roast with kitchen twine to hold together. Rub the remaining spice mix on the outside of the roast. Wrap the Porketta in plastic wrap and place in ziplock bag. Refrigerate for at least six to eight hours. Overnight is the best.

 

Pour the chicken broth and apple juice in to a slow cooker. ( I use a Nesco roaster). Unwrap roast and place it in the liquid with the seam side down. Cook on low heat for six hours or until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily with a fork.

Porketta is best served on a fresh crusty hard roll. We like to make our sandwiches ahead of time and refrigerate. The roll takes on some of the flavor of the meat which makes the Porketta sandwich taste even better.

 

 

Light Russian Tea

It is funny how the changing seasons affect what you like to eat and drink. Fall brings a desire for warmth and spice. Which has me wanting a warm cup of Russian Tea; that simple mixture of powdered instant drinks and spices. It has been several years since I made up a batch. But, even though I was craving that spicy orange tea, I really did not want all the calories that are in the classic recipe. So I spent my morning calculating how to tweak the recipe, plus reduce the calories, without using artificial sweeteners. Tang is made with sugar, so the calories would need to be diluted by the rest of the ingredients. A packet of Crystal Light Pure Lemonade, which uses stevia, was in my pantry. It easily substituted for the sugared lemonade mix. I tried my combination without adding any additional sweetening, but the spices didn’t pop without it. I added 2 teaspoons of stevia powder, which was just the amount. My tea was delicious, and only 35 calories per serving.

Russian Tea

1 cup Tang powdered drink mix

1/2 cup Instant Unsweetened Tea

1 packet Crystal Light Pure Lemonade (pitcher pack)

1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Cloves

1/8 teaspoon Ginger

2 teaspoons stevia powder

Shake all the ingredients together in a pint jar until well blended.

Mix one tablespoon in one cup of water, or 1 1/2 cups if you prefer a lighter drink. Enjoy, warm or cold.

 

 

Exceptional! Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Every once in a while, a recipe gets better when you have to make a substitution, due to lack of the proper ingredient in your pantry. That is how my Chocolate Crinkle cookies when from good to exceptional! I only had a small amount of vegetable oil left, and I really wanted a chocolate cookie. I substituted two thirds of the oil with softened butter. The result was a better flavored, soft cookie that stayed moist and chewy for days.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1/2 c. softened butter
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
*powdered sugar for coating cookies

Cream butter, vegetable oil, sugar and cocoa together. Fold in eggs, one at a time until smooth. Add vanilla and stir. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients, about 1/2 cup at a time until blended. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill at least 3 hours or overnight. Drop teaspoons of dough into powdered sugar and roll into balls. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Do not over bake. Place warm cookies on baking rack to cool. Store in tightly sealed container. Makes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 dozen.


*These roll well in granulated sugar, too. The last time I baked them, I divided the dough in half and made one half rolled in powdered sugar and one half in granulated.   Although there was not much difference in flavor, they did look nice when served together.

 

 

 

“Oat-standing” Bread (Triple Oatmeal Bread)

I always have enjoyed oatmeal bread, but have never found one that had quite enough oat flavor to satisfy me. This winter my bread making goal was to come up with an oatmeal bread that did just that. It took a few experiments to get the balance right, and now that spring has arrived I am ready to publish.  I settled on a combination of three types of oats; old-fashioned oatmeal, oat flour and steel cut oats. The cooked steel cut oats added a nice texture and all three gave enough oat flavor to the bread.  The applesauce and brown sugar add the sweetness needed to make the oats shine. Since the recipe turned out to make three loaves, I made one loaf in to a cinnamon swirl bread.  I am ready to make up another batch, because this bread has become another hit with my family, or as my son put it “Oat-standing”.

Triple Oatmeal Bread

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup oat flour
6 cups bread flour (plus extra for kneading)
1/4 cup buttermilk powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup cooked steel cut oats*
1 1/3 cups warm water
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon yeast

In large bowl, sprinkle yeast on top of warm water. Let sit for five minutes to start activation. Stir in applesauce, brown sugar and cooked oatmeal. In separate bowl, mix bread flour with oat flour, old-fashioned oats, buttermilk powder and salt. Add one cup of flour mix at a time to wet ingredients until incorporated into a nicely shaped dough ball, Take dough ball out of bowl and knead on a lightly floured board for eight minutes. Place in large greased bowl and let rise in warm, draft free area until doubled. Punch down and shape into three loaves. Place each loaf into a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 greased bread pan. Cover pans with towel and again let rise until doubled in a warm draft-free place. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350º.

*I made up a batch of steel cut oats and froze them in one cup containers for my experimental loaves. A thaw in the microwave and they were ready to use.

For Cinnamon Swirl Loaf:

Roll one loaf out into rectangle that is 8″x 20″. Beat egg yolk mixed with one tablespoon of water and brush a thin layer onto the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and raisins. Roll tightly and seal edges. Place in loaf pan and let rise until doubled. Bake the same as the regular loaves.

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