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EXTRA CREAMY MUSHROOM SOUP

15 ounces of your favorite mushrooms

(mixture of shiitake, portobella and

cremini mushrooms)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 pound unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 carrot, chopped

1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon

minced thyme leaves, divided

Salt

Black pepper

2 cups chopped leeks

1/4 cup flour

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

Thoroughly clean the mushrooms with a dry paper towel and remove the stems. Coarsely chop the stems, and slice the mushroom caps into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, onion, carrots, the sprig of thyme, salt and pepper; cook for 10 to 15 minutes over medium-low heat until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid, yielding approximately 4-1/2 cups of stock. In another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the leeks begin 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, minced thyme leaves, 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 and heat thoroughly; do not boil the soup. Serve hot. Yield: 6 servings.

PEACH GLAZED HAM

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

6 to 7-pound fully cooked, bone-in smoked ham

For glaze:

1/4 cup peach preserves

2 tablespoons orange juice

Combine first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Score top and sides of ham with knife in criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Place ham in roasting pan; bake at 350º for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. After 1 hour, cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning.

To prepare glaze: Combine the peach preserves and orange juice in a small cup. Uncover ham; brush with preserves. Bake an additional 5 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

BAKED OR GRILLED SALMON STEAKS

4 salmon steaks, sliced 3/4-inch thick

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup corn oil

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

Bearnaise sauce (recipe follows)

Place salmon in baking dish. Combine and blend remaining ingredients; pour over fish and marinate at least three hours or more. Place salmon in a glass baking dish and bake at 350º for 20 minutes, basting frequently with the marinade. Salmon is baked when it flakes easily.

To make grilled salmon: Barbecue salmon on well-greased grill, 5 to 6 minutes on each side, basting with the marinade. Grill must be very hot to avoid sticking. Yield: 4 servings.

For Bearnaise sauce:

2 tablespoons white wine

2 teaspoons tarragon vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped tarragon

1 tablespoon chopped scallions

Dash of black pepper

1 stick butter

3 egg yolks

1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

To make sauce: Combine wine and next 4 ingredients in saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook quickly until almost all liquid disappears. Heat butter in small saucepan until it bubbles; do not let butter brown. In a blender or processor, place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Cover and flick motor on and off at high speed. Add hot butter while blending at high speed. Add herb mixture, cover and blend at high speed a few seconds. Serve at once. Yield: almost 1 cup.

CROWN OF THORNS EASTER BREAD

(Requested by several of our readers)

Basic dough:

1 small fresh yeast

2 tablespoons lukewarm water

1 cup boiling milk

1-1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons shortening

3 cups flour, sifted

Cheese dough:

1/2 pound dry cottage cheese

1 cake yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 stick butter, melted

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup milk

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon salt

4 cups flour, sifted

1/2 cup sugar

To make the basic dough: Crumble yeast in water; set aside for 5 minutes. Pour boiling milk over shortening and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast mixture. Add half the flour and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour and knead until smooth. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Divide dough in half.

To make the cheese dough: Soften yeast in lukewarm milk to which 1 tablespoon sugar has been added; let stand 5 minutes. Soften cottage cheese to remove lumps; add melted butter, raisins and yeast mixture. Then add unbeaten egg yolks, remaining sugar, salt and flour. Knead as for bread. Set aside and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Directions: Take one-half of the cheese dough and shape into a roll; place in center of one-half of basic bread dough which has been pulled into a rectangular shape. Do not flour board or dough. Fold edges over center cheese dough and put into 10-inch tube pan. Set in warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk. Brush with beaten yolk of an egg. Clip top of paska with scissors to make thorns. Bake 1 hour at 325°. Yield 2 paskas.

BUTTERMILK-GARLIC PASTA SALAD

12 ounces wagon-wheel bow ties

1 recipe Salad Dressing (recipe follows)

6 small green onions

1 (15-1/2-ounce) can red kidney

beans, rinsed and drained

2 large stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 medium red sweet pepper, seeded

and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Cook pasta according to package directions. Prepare salad dressing; set aside. Drain cooked pasta in a large colander; rinse under cold water until cool. Set aside. Using kitchen scissors, snip off root ends from the green onions and about 2 inches of the green tops; leave some of the green tops attached. Snip trimmed onions crosswise intothin slices. In a large bowl gently toss together cooked pasta, kidney beans, celery, red pepper and green onions. Pour on salad dressing, and toss until pasta is well coated. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

For buttermilk-garlic dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon snipped green onions

with tops

1 tablespoon snipped parsley

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1 small clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place mayonnaise or salad dressing and buttermilk in a plastic container with tight-fitting lid. Cover and shake until smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and shake until well combined. Pour over Pasta Salad. Yield: 1 cup.

Any comments, questions or favorite recipes? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send your email to helenkitchen@msn.com, and please write “Helen’s Kitchen Request, ATTN: Lori” in the subject line to make sure that I receive your email. Thank you! WEB BONUS RECIPES

DOUBLE VANILLA MERINGUE COOKIES

1 cup sugar, divided

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 large egg whites (room temperature)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325º. Place 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl. Add vanilla to sugar, stir well with whisk. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt at high speed of a mixer until foamy. Gradually add 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating mixture until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla mixture; beat until just combined. (Stiff peaks will take on the consistency of marshmallow cream.) Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper; secure to baking sheet with masking tape. Drop batter by level tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes or until crisp. Cool on pan on wire rack. Repeat procedure with remaining batter, reusing parchment paper. Store in airtight container. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

HERBED LAMB WITH GRAVY

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

5-pound leg of lamb

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

Black pepper, to taste

Combine oil and garlic; rub over complete surface of lamb. Combine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce; brush over complete surface of lamb. Mix salt and next 4 ingredients; stir well and sprinkle evenly over lamb. Place lamb, fat side up, on rack in roasting pan and bake at 350º for 2 hours. Transfer lamb to serving platter, reserving drippings in pan. Set aside; keep warm.

To prepare gravy: Combine 1 tablespoon each of water and cornstarch; stir until smooth and mix it into pan drippings. Stir again until gravy becomes thick and begins to bubble. Serve lamb with gravy. Yield: 8 servings.

GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATO AND BACON

6 slices of bacon cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, cut into1-1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon Black pepper

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove bacon and blot with paper towels. Reserve the drippings in skillet. Add onions to the skillet and cook until lightly browned. Add beans, broth and pepper; mix well. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer approximately 40 minutes, or until beans are tender. Next, add tomatoes; increase heat to medium-high. Cook until the tomatoes are thoroughly heated. Before serving, sprinkle with bacon, if desired. Yield: 6-8 servings.