Wish Upon A Dish: December 2010

December 31, 2010

Bonefish Grill Review

Very nice place, not over done. My first time.

What a wonderful dinner. A nice way to end the year. Christmas was not a family dinner this year, so if we wanted to see my in-laws, we had to meet at a place halfway between.

I started out having, not 1, but 2 Fresh Apple Martini's. They went down smooooooooth. The Nudge had the usual Grey Goose Martini, Up, with a twist.
Soon as my BIL, SIL and niece arrived we ordered starters. Everyone was pretty hungry, which helped because the food never stopped all night.

We started out sharing  appetizers. I have the pics of the ones we gobbled up.

The dumplings were tasty and provided the crunch of the 3.
The calamari was tender and provided the heat of the 3.
The mussels were OUT OF THIS WORLD and I wish I had the recipe. I couldn't stop dipping the bread in the sauce, it was that good. I just did not want to fill up and not enjoy my main dish which was the Spinach Bacon Gorgonzola Norwegian Salmon served with their butter wine sauce.

I was the best salmon I ever had in a restaurant. I can never get good salmon around here. I was not disappointed.

The Nudge had the Mahi Mahi Lobster Thermador. He has had that before.
Guess he liked it.

Our niece had the American Kobe Burger and said it was the juiciest, beefiest burger she ever had. Another score.

For dessert I ordered the Key Lime Pie, The Nudge ordered a regular Creme Brulee and his niece is a chocoholic so she ordered the Chocolate Creme brulee. My pie was wonderfully tart (I never see Key Lime Pie on any menus around here), the creme brulees were basically a standard good brulee recipe, nothing wow there.

An Irish Coffee, a Baileys Coffee, an espresso and Sambuca and then bye bye, goodnight.

All in all I give this dinner a 4.5 out of 5.
Minus points for NO oysters and the scallops were blah.

I would go again and again if the distance was closer. Tough drive to make if you want to imbibe.

December 27, 2010

Pipette, meat sauce and a fan roll

Sometimes a good ole bowl of pasta with a homemade lite meat sauce is the best thing to eat on a cold winter's night.

Pair that up with a batch of homemade Fan Rolls (or pull-aparts) and you have a very nice, not so heavy, meal.

I think we will try to head out tomorrow and get my Dad's stuff done. This way I can come back north and have the New Year's dinner with my brother-in-law and wife.

Buttermilk Pull-Aparts
1/2 cup warm water (105-115F)
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm buttermilk (105-115F)
1/3 cup butter or butter spread, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups AP flour + more if needed
1 egg, beaten
Place water in bowl of mixer or into a large warmed bowl.
Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add warm buttermilk, 1/3 cup melted butter, sugar, salt and 1 1 /2 cups flour; blend well.
Stir in egg and enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Place in greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
Remove from refrigerator. Punch dough down.
Divide the dough into 3 portions. I freeze 2 of them.

Roll the dough into a 17x6" rectangle and cut that into 6 slices.
I brush each slice with melted butter and cut each of them into 6 pieces.
I stack all 6 squares on top of each other and place them into a muffin tin, slices facing up in the muffin tins.
Each rectangle yields 6 rolls.
Bake 350F for 20 minutes, remove.

See you all in a few days.

Big snow came.....now let the shoveling begin

I want to make sure The Nudge has a good hot breakfast in him before he heads outside to tackle the snow.

The strata that was soaking overnight is what I had in mind.

I put it in a cold oven, set the temp for 350F and set the timer for 1 hour.

An hour later it looked like this. Pretty tasty looking I must say since this is my first ever strata.

We were supposed to go down South Jersey but they got 17" of snow and everything is shut down. We will try to get there tomorrow if we can reschedule his doctor appointments.

Breakfast Strata
makes 4 servings
* 2 cups dried bread cubes
* 1 cup milk/cream
* 3 eggs, beaten
* 1/4 cup minced ham
* 2 tbls minced red onions
* 3 peppadew peppers, minced
* 1 oz grated smoked cheddar cheese, grated on the small side
* salt & pepper
* 2 tbls Romano or Parmesan cheese (for the top)

Butter a small baking dish and add all of the ingredients except the Romano. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours.

Bake for 1 hour. Sprinkle the Romano cheese after you remove it from the oven.

Tonight I am making a huge pot of pasta with the leftover meat sauce from the batch I made for the Pastitsio.

I am also making sour cream rolls, yummy.
I will post that recipe tomorrow with the pics from dinner.

December 26, 2010

Big Snow is coming!!!!

Breakfast this morning was French Toast and Turkey Sausages. Getting carbed up for the Blizzard.

It would have to snow Big Time when I HAVE to travel to South Jersey to take my Dad to 2 Dr's app'ts. I'm not sure they will even open the office on Monday and he runs out of 1 med on Monday.

I guess the best thing is to talk to the doctor and make sure he can miss one day, ask them to call in a prescription and he can pick it up at the CVS where he is staying.

I am not even sure how much the snow will effect the traveling on the NJ Parkway, they do keep it clean......plus

We live in northwestern NJ where it will snow less, so getting out of here tomorrow AM will be not so bad, but, it will get worse as we head southeast, so there is no way to know how the roads will be.

If it wasn't for the fact that he needs a prescription filled, we would just go on Tuesday or Wednesday.

With no plans in place we still need to eat before we take off in the snow, so I am making a Strata.

You have to let the bread cubes soak up the egg/cream mixture overnight then bake it off in the oven in the morning.

Blizzard Strata
* 2 cups day old Italian or French bread, 1 1/2" cubes
* 1 cup milk or light cream
* 3 eggs
* Any leftover egg mixture from French Toast
* Chopped ham
* Chopped peppadew peppers
* Minced red onion
* Grated Smoked Cheddar Cheese
* Grated Parmesan
* Salt & pepper

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes until top is GB&D (pics tomorrow).
Let rest 15 minutes, slice and serve.

Dinner tonight is French Onion Soup.

I french-cut 1 large sweet onion and saute them in 3 tablespoons butter till they caramelize, about 30-40 minutes.
Squeeze about 2 tsp tomato paste from a tube and saute for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup red wine and reduce. Add 1/2 cup white wine, 1 tsp dried thyme leaves and 2 cups good beef stock.
Cut up another 1/2 onion and add to the liquid and simmer until they are soft and tender.
Add salt & pepper to taste.
Add 2 tbls apple juice, 2 tbls dry sherry and simmer to combine.

Cut 4 bread rounds out of french bread and grate 1 oz of Gruyere Cheese.

Toast bread, place on soup in crock, lay one slice provolone cheese on bread then grated Gruyere.
Place under broiler until cheese is GB&D.

Serve with some grated Romano, a salad and a Pinot Gris.

December 25, 2010

Cheese ball memories

I was watching Mad Hungry on Friday and Lucinda was making 3 different cheese balls for a cocktail party themed show.

I almost completely forgot my Mom's cheese ball. For years when my sister did holidays, she always made a cheese ball. I googled cheese balls and could not find one that was made my mom's way.

I am not even sure if this is the exact recipe but the base of all cheese balls are pretty standard....(I honestly believe Philly started the craze in the first place).

I wanted to share this with you..........

2 bricks of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
Prepared horseradish to taste
1/2 small onion, grated
A dash of hot sauce
A few glugs of Worchestershire Sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
3-4 thinly sliced good Virginia Ham, diced

Mix all the ingredients except the ham in a mixer, by hand, but not the processor.
Shape into a ball and roll into the diced ham, covering it totally.
Chill overnight or at least 4 hours. Can be frozen ahead without the ham and then defrosted and rolled.

Serve with crackers.

December 23, 2010

Cheesecakes Baked in a Cookie Tin

I give everyone cheesecakes for Christmas.
No, not the large 12" kind.
OMG, you trying to kill me?
The small Juniors-sized 6" kind.

Phew!! That was close. For a minute there I thought I would be making cheesecakes from now until Friday.

I make one BIG batch of filling and can bake 6 of them on one rack in the oven.

Let's see......my in-laws usually get 3, my neighbors...2, The Nudge's office buddy gets 1 and I have to make one for us too!
I will make one for my Dad and his lady friend to be delivered after Christmas.

Every year there is a different flavor. Last year was mint chocolate chip (everyone raved on that one), coffee the year before, chocolate swirl, pumpkin (an old favorite I used to sell as a caterer) and butterscotch swirl.

This year The Nudge has requested an old fav....Bailey's Irish Creme but not one to leave things alone, I will kick it up with Frangelico and call them Nutty Irishmen after the drink I do adore.

I used to bake them in a 6" spring form pan but with only 2 pans it would take me days.

Last year I tried something new. I bought 6" cookie tins for $1.00 each at Walmart's and baked the cheesecakes right in the tins. I try to get non religious themes so I do not have to remember who gets which.

It worked perfectly. I can do all 6 at one time, cover them and store them in my shed until I send them out.

They are made the same way a traditional cheesecake is baked.....graham cracker crust and cheesecake. The baking time is different and if you aren't careful they can dry out pretty quickly. I try to bake them around 35 minutes on 300F and then if the wiggle is slight I shut off the oven and let them sit for 1 more hour with the door ajar.
Cover and it's to the shed and I am done.

I have a standard cheesecake formula......For each bar of cream cheese I use 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and 1/4 cup sour cream. Then you add the vanilla, salt, the Kahlua, Frangelico and the Baileys to taste. Once the base is made it is a matter of what tastes good to you. If you want to hold the eggs out after you taste the mixture that's OK too. I think that cheesecake mixtures are pretty much composed of the same ingredients but it is the thickness, creaminess or flavors that define the differences between yours and mine. I find that if I whip the eggs with the cream cheese the texture is fluffier. If I add the eggs in by hand at the end it will be more dense.

Cheesecakes in a Cookie Tin
Makes 6 - 6" cheesecakes
* 4 bricks of cream cheese, room temperature (lowfat or regular)
* 4 eggs, beated
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 16oz container of sour cream or 3 cans of Media Crema (in the Spanish isle)
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 2 tablespoon flour
* 1/3 cup baileys
* 1/3 cup Frangelico
* 1/4 cup Kahlua
* 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
* 2 tablespoons melted butter
* 4 tablespoons sugar

1. In a standing mixture, place cream cheese, sour cream, salt, extract, and flour and using the paddle attachment, mix until combined.
2. Add liquors, tasting till you like the flavor combo.
3. Remove the bowl and by hand stir in the eggs, thoroughly.
4. In processor mix crumbs, sugar and melted butter until blended.
5. 2 1/3 cup measures of crumbs into each tin. Press with a spoon until even. Do not press too hard.
6. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, remove and cool.
7. Once cooled, pour, evenly, the cream cheese mixture.
8. Down the oven to 300F and place all 6 tins on rack and bake for 40-45 minutes, checking at 35 minutes.
9. If the jiggles is very slight but still a jiggle, remove them and cool for 1-2 hours.
10. Place the lids on the tins and refrigerate overnight before gifting.

Make sure you make one for yourself.
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December 22, 2010

Pastitsio - My Way

Very strange that the week I want to make pastitsio I get a post from a blog about pastitsio and the Barefoot Contessa airs her version all on the same day.

I will probably make my own version, taking a little from each recipe.

Traditional pasta is bucatini (although I have seen ziti used more), ground chuck (usually it is ground lamb) and a bechamel with a mix of cheeses and egg yolks.

Pastitsio is like lasagna, each family has their own recipe and there really is no wrong way to make it.

I have a dentist's appointment today and I will need something soft to eat for dinner and this is soft enough.

Most dishes arrange the layers in a specific order, just like lasagna, and the order is really up to the cook. Most start with the pasta on the bottom, a layer of the meat sauce then topped with the bechamel.
That is how I will be assembling mine because I am using uncooked ziti rigatis and I need the sauce to surround the layers.

I start with a lite layer of sauce, then line up the uncooked ziti rigatis.
Do not crowd them in there, they will expand to twice the size once cooked.

Add a substantial layer of sauce next.

Another layer of ziti rigatis.

Another good spoonful of sauce.
Remember, we need the moisture to cook the pasta or else it will be like glue.

A side version of our assembling. It should go to halfway up the baking dish.

Pour the bechamel over the top, yes all of it.

Some will seep into the sauce layer but that's OK. It will all taste really good.
Cover it tightly with foil and place in a preheated 350F oven for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, take off the foil, sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup grated cheese over the top.

You can see the egg yolk firmed the bechamel and it did not seep deep down into the bottom layers.

Now, up the oven to 400F.

Place the uncovered casserole into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is GB&D.

Please let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This dish would even be better, made a day ahead and reheated.

This was excellent!!
A ton of flavor and the bechamel is just creamy enough.

You need to seriously put this on your list of recipes to do next year, if not next week. If you are feeding a houseful of guests, this is the perfect dish to make.

My Pastitsio
makes 3 servings
* 2 tablespoons EVOO
* 1 pound chopped chuck or ground lamb
* 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
* 1 28oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted crushed tomatoes
* 1 14oz can tomato sauce
* 1 tablespoon dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 bay leaf
* 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 14oz can water
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon

* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1/2 cup grated cheese (I used a sheep's milk Romano)
* 1 good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
* salt & pepper to taste
* 1 egg yolk

* Enough uncooked small ziti rigatis to make a single layer 2x.

1. Saute the onions in EVOO until translucent. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute.
2. Add the ground meat and brown (about 5 minutes).
3. Add the oregano, thyme, bay leaf and saute for 1 more minute.
4. Add the tomatoes and sauce. Season with salt & pepper. At this point you do not want to add the cinnamon unless you are using the whole batch of sauce.
5. Simmer the sauce for 1 hour covered on low, and 30 minutes, uncovered to thicken.
6. Store half the sauce in a quart container and to the other half add the cinnamon. Reserve.
7. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, whisking until smooth.
8. Add the milk and continue whisking until smooth and bubbly.
9. Add the nutmeg, grated cheese and whisk until smooth. Take off the heat to cool.
10. Taste for salt & pepper and adjust seasonings.
11. Once bechamel is cool, add the yolk and whisk once again.
12. Assemble casserole.

Serve with warm bread or rolls, a nice salad and a Pinot Gris.

December 21, 2010

Sweet Potato Gnudi, Sherry Mushroom Gravy & Seared Pork Tenderloin

A word that kids will snicker at.

Yes, it is as it sounds....nudie

Gnudi is ravioli filling....simple as that.
I have made Spinach Ricotta Gnudi but I want to make sweet potato gnudi and there are no potatoes in a gnudi.

Then I thought of Malfatti.

Malfatti is a dumpling made with left-over bread and although I have made sweet potato rolls, I did not want to go to all the trouble of making sweet potato rolls just to dry them, chop them and mix them with speck and onions to make a dumpling.

I looked on the internet for a sweet potato gnudi recipe.

Guess what I found?

Yup, nothing.

So I guess I have to make my own. I took my sweet potato roll recipe, my spinach gnudi recipe, a malfatti recipe and a canderli recipe, took a few ingredients from each and rolled them all into one.

The reason for sweet potato gnudi or even gnocchi for that matter instead of the regular potato kind?

Sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes for a Diabetic, they are higher in nutritionals than a white potato and they have more flavor.

That is enough for me right there.

This is what I developed:

I baked the sweet potatoes in their skins for 1 to 1 1/2 hour on 350F or until a knife goes through it without resistance.

Let them cool to the touch, slice in half and scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl.
This is where you add things to get a certain consistency. I added a 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta, 1/2 cup Romano cheese, salt & pepper, sauteed 3 garlic cloves and half a sweet onion (minced fine), 3/4 cup egg beaters (or 3 large eggs, beaten), 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of dried bread crumbs to start. I also sauteed 4oz of leftover sausage roll (from my turkey stuffing) into the mix.

The flour is added after everything else is mixed thoroughly. You add all the flour at first. I mix mine in the KitchenAide and drop a sample into boiling water. If it falls apart I mix in more flour, test again until it simmers and stays whole. I found that once they float to the top I give them 45 seconds and strain them to a baking sheet pan to dry. This step is crucial. You do not want mushy gnudi. Best thing would be if you could make them a day or two in advance or freeze them, defrost them and saute them in some brown butter and sage before serving.

They remind me of matzoh balls. I suppose you could even poach them in a chicken broth and serve as is. The problem with that is the liquid gets cloudy, full of the bits that separate from the gnudi and after a while you have to pour it down the drain and start over with fresh salted water.

Pork Tenderloin and Sherry Mushroom Gravy with Gnudi
* 1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed of silverskin
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
* 1/3 cup sherry
* 1/2 tsp herbs de provence
* salt & pepper
* 1 tbls unsalted butter
* 1 tsp canola oil
* 1/2 large shallot, minced
* 1 tbls flour

Cut tenderloin into 2" pieces and flatten with fingers.
Salt & pepper both sides.
In saute pan, heat canola oil and saute tenderloin pieces on both sides. Remove and cover with foil.
Place sherry and chicken broth in sauce pan and heat until boiling. Shut off and throw in dried porcinis.
Saute shallots in butter until soft, add flour and make a roux. Add mushroom soaking liquid.
Chop mushroom and add to gravy. Add cream and salt & pepper to taste.
Simmer with herbs and pork until pork is springy to the touch. Add 12 gnudi to gravy and heat through.
Serve with Caramelized Creamed Cauliflower and a Pinot Noir.

23 Year Old Banana Bread Recipe

Twenty years ago there was nothing writen about cholesterol as it is today, nothing about Diabetes or High Blood Pressure. Let's face it folks, 20 years ago there was no Internet...

WHAT?, you say.......nah, really?

No way, wait.....

Maybe you're right......no, has it really been only that short of a time? Didn't we have computers back then?

Yes, dummy, we had computers..........but no WORLD WIDE WEB.

Information was gotten the old fashioned way....

Off the TV

NOW, back to the subject at hand.

Recipes written over 20 years ago were still full of shortening and butter and real sugar and real eggs and all the stuff that made a recipe wonderful.

I am not saying that healthy recipes can't taste good. I built this whole blog around that theme, but old timey fashioned recipes had....


I can not remember the last time I ate a gluten free pancake and looked off in that far away place to a time I remember when my Mom made something exactly like it.

I do think that unless the cooks of today pass down the recipes of yesteryear, that gluten free pancake will become the norm and the kids of tomorrow will not have recipes that give them fond memories of times past.

What a sin.

I am glad to see a resurgence of cookbooks dedicted to Mom's & Grandmom's cooking.
Look at Thomas Keller. His newest phenom cookbook is about old fashioned cooking.

I think that deep down inside, even for one day a year, everyone craves that dish that takes them back to a time in their life that they know will never exist again.


After all is said and done, it comes down to a 23 year old recipe for the bestest, most decadent, moist and dense banana bread you will ever eat.

Banana Bread
Adapted from Woman's Day - 1987
Makes 1 loaf, 18 slices

* 1 3/4 cup AP flour
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, softened in the microwave
* 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk or yogurt
* 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

Mix all ingredients and pour into a sprayed loaf pan.
Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes.

I have made this with all the "healthy" adjustments.

Healthy Banana Bread
* 1 3/4 cup flour
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1/4 cup apple butter
* 1/4 cup butter spread
* 1 cup Splenda No Calorie
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup egg beaters
* 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk or no fat Greek yogurt
* 2 medium bananas, mashed

One toasted slice of this bread, topped with gooey peanut butter, is one of the best breakfast on the run that you can eat.

I am making 2 loaves, one healthy for my Dad and one original but with Splenda for me. I will slice and wrap my Dad's so he can freeze the slices and toast them right before eating.

Yes, I am a good daughter.