Wish Upon A Dish: 2011

December 30, 2011

Shrimp Stir-Fry ♥ Cooking for Two

I am loving these recipes from a Cooking for Two cookbook. I probably should have served this over quinoa but I cheated with a boxed fried rice.

It was nice to cook a one pot wonder while the rice microwaved and even nicer that it was on the table in less than 30 minutes.

I do think this dish needed more pop (we are chili sauce converts) so I added a tablespoon of Thai-style Sweet Chili Sauce to the recipe. If you have someone who doesn't like the heat just omit it. I served this over fried rice.

Stir-Fried Shrimp for Two
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, April 2007
* 1/2 pound extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 count), peeled and deveined
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry
* 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 2 scallions, white and light green parts, minced, plus scallion greens, sliced thin and reserved
* 1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed with garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
* 1/4 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 teaspoon) * 1 teaspoon peanut oil or vegetable oil, plus an additional 1 tablespoon
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
* 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
* 1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar
* 1 tablespoon Thai-style chili sauce
* 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1. Toss shrimp with sherry and soy sauce in medium bowl; set aside to marinate 10 minutes. Combine minced scallion, garlic, and ginger, and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in small bowl; set aside. Stir together water, sesame oil, oyster sauce, sugar, and cornstarch in small bowl or measuring cup; set aside.

2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until shimmering Add shrimp and cook, stirring every 10 seconds, until just opaque, about 1 minute. Push shrimp to sides of skillet, clearing a spot in center of pan. Add remaining scallion mixture to clearing and mash with spoon; cook until fragrant, 10 to 15 seconds, then stir mixture into shrimp. Remix water mixture and stir into skillet; cook until sauce has thickened, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to serving plate, sprinkle with reserved scallion greens, and serve.

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December 28, 2011

Pernod Cream Chicken ♥ Cooking for Two

My inspiration for this dish was from all the lovely, simple, easy but flavorful Cooking for Two recipes I have been highlighting recently.

I bought a bottle of Pernod because it was an ingredient in a steamed mussel dish. Pernod is a highly loved appertivo that the French can not get enough of. Pernod and water, period. For them, that is the equivalent of our dry martini before eating. While I am not a fan of either, in cooking, a small drop of the anise flavor goes a long way and seafood and chicken prove to be extremely compatible. Next time you need a quick dish to impress, this is it.

I choose an orzo and corn combination side and another dinner was on the table in under 30.

Corn Orzo Risotto
makes 4 servings

* 1/2 cup orzo pasta (or any small soup pasta)
* 1/4 cup finely diced onion
* 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
* Olive Oil
* small can sweet corn (drained) or 1 cup frozen
* black pepper

Heat olive oil in sauce pan and saute onions until translucent. Add orzo and stir to coat in oil. When the orzo starts to brown slightly add chicken broth, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add corn, stir, adjust moisture and grind the pepper to taste.
Mixture should be wet but not soupy.

Chicken Cutlets with Pernod Cream Sauce
serves 2-3

* 6 thin chicken cutlets, pounded thin
* flour
* salt & pepper
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 shallot, minced
* 1/2 cup Pernod, Sambucca or fresh tarragon
* 1/2 cup chicken broth
* 2/3 cup heavy cream

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan. Season both sides of chicken with salt & pepper and dredge in flour. When oil is hot, add chicken and saute on both sides. Remove to platter.

Add shallots and saute until soft. Add Pernod and simmer until almost all evaporated. Add chicken broth and simmer until that is almost evaporated. Add cream, adjust seasonings and add cutlets back to pan, coat in sauce and serve on a platter spooning any additional sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Review: This was excellent. The Nudge even loved the orzo. For less carbs, sub the orzo for barley or quinoa. This sauce is going into my rotation of quick cutlet meals. Even good enough for a dinner party. They will happy with the unique taste the Pernod gives the sauce. Unlike anything you probably have ever had.

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December 26, 2011

Pasta with Asparagus, Prosciutto and a Balsamic Glaze

Continuing with my food rescue recipes, tonight's feature presentation is a unique list of ingredients that not many would put together. If you want a quick healthy pasta to carry you through shopping for all those after-Christmas sales, try this dish.

Asparagus, balsamic glaze, lemon juice, onions, red pepper flakes and Romano cheese. Yes, I added the prosciutto.
Hey, I had a few slices from Christmas dinner.

It fits the requirements. Easy to prepare and quick to cook. I takes longer to make the glaze and boil the water then to make this dish. Luckily, I always have a balsamic glaze in my pantry, so all I need to do is chop and drop.

I imagine if you did not want to make a trip to the store (I am avoiding the stores myself, right now), you could use artichoke hearts in place of the asparagus. The important ingredient is the balsamic glaze.
Simmer a bottle of vinegar to 1/4 cup, about 20 minutes. I drop in a bay leaf, some whole peppercorns and a clove or two.

If you do not have Balsamic vinegar to make the glaze, I would simmer down 1 cup apple juice with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar until the consistency of a syrup.

Campanelli with Asparagus, Basil, and Balsamic Glaze
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, March 1, 2003
Serves 2.

Why this recipe works:

Well aware that most vegetarian pasta recipes feature a flavorless, boring pile of starch, randomly studded with bland vegetables and topped with a mound of low-quality grated cheese, we set out to develop a vegetarian pasta recipe with big and intense flavors that would also be easy to make. The keys to our best vegetarian pasta recipe turned out to be sautéing asparagus and other vegetables to deepen their flavors and using restraint with a balance of salty, sweet, and sour ingredients in order to let the asparagus flavor shine.

Campanelli is a frilly trumpet-shaped pasta. If you cannot find it, fusilli works well. Take care not to over reduce the vinegar, or it will become bitter.

* 1 tablespoon table salt (for pasta water)
* 1/2 teaspoon table salt
* 2 cups dried campanelli
* 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 pound asparagus, bottom 1-inch trimmed and discarded, spears halved lengthwise if larger than 1/2-inch in diameter and cut into 1-inch lengths
* 1/2 medium red onion , halved and sliced 1/8-inch thick (about 1 1/2 cups)
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1/4cup chopped fresh basil
* 2 teaspoons lemon juice
* 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain and return to pot.
2. Just before putting pasta in boiling water, bring balsamic vinegar to boil in 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer slowly until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. While pasta is cooking and balsamic is reducing, heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until beginning to smoke. Add asparagus, onion, black pepper, pepper flakes, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir to combine; cook, without stirring, until asparagus begins to brown, about 1 minute, then stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 4 minutes longer. Add asparagus mixture, basil, lemon juice, 1/2 cup Pecorino, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil to pasta in stockpot; toss to combine. Serve immediately, drizzling 1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic glaze over individual servings and passing remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino separately.

Review: If you are looking for a light but very flavorful pasta dish, this is the one for you. A great dish after all those holiday goodies.

December 23, 2011

Cranberry, Apple and Pear Tart

It's funny how when Christmas falls on a Sunday you loose all track of the date. This year was no different.
All week I thought it was Tuesday when it was Monday, so when I was done with all my Holiday dishes, I was at a loss.

I don't so well with days off. I just can't do nothing.

So, what's a gal to do on her day off? You got it. Bake a tart.
I had 3 cups of fresh cranberries that were calling my name.

I am so happy with my effort. My kitchen smells like a Christmas cookie factory.
You will love this recipe. A press-in crust, no fail filling and a topping tested by the best test kitchen staff ever.

Looks good so far, huh? The Nudge thought it was too pretty to cover with streusel, but I promised him the next one will have a custard filling.

This recipe is my own but you need to know I got my inspiration from the three most influential chefs I admire the most, Jacques Pepin, Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. The crust was from Jacques, the streusel from Ina and the filling from Martha.

I can cook anything without a recipe but I am lots less sure about my baking. Hey, I just mastered pancakes without a recipe. Only took me 45 years.

I should have used more cranberries and less streusel. I personally have realized that in some cases, less is oh, so, much, better and it only took me 46 years.
Pear, Apple and Cranberry Tart with Streusel Topping
Makes 1 (9") tart

* 1/2 cup AP flour
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 4 tablespoons melted butter
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

* 2 firm Bosc pears, peeled, cored and sliced crosswise into 1/4" slices
* 4 apple slices, cut into 1/4" slices, then cut to fit space
* 12 fresh cranberries
* 3/4 cup flour
* 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 cup lard + butter
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 2 tablespoons buttermilk

1. Dump all the ingredients for the crust into a food processor (or hand mixer) and pulse until a ball starts to form. Remove the dough and with the help of plastic wrap, press the dough into a 9" tart pan and up the sides. Place the pan in the fridge to chill and set, about 30 minutes.

2. Cut the fruit into slices and arrange over the dough (you can also fan them longways like the hands of a clock, alternating pear and apple slices). Drop cranberries so they fill in any empty spaces using more than you think you need, they will pop as they cook and the juices will settle into all the empty spaces. Yum!

3. In a bowl, mix the streusel ingredients and sprinkle on top.

4. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes, then up the oven to 350 for another 20 minutes.
Remove tart and cool.

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December 21, 2011

Steak with a Mustard Cream Sauce/another 30 minute rescue recipe

We are getting down to the last inning peeps, the nitty-gritty, the brass tacks, the nuts and bolts and finally....last hurrah.

What do you, still have left to do, before the weekend?

I spent my day buying last minute gift ideas, mostly for The Nudge. Since all he wants is golf stuff, I ended up running to his favorite course and "buying" him a few lessons and new shoes (he doesn't read my blog, so no worries here).

I came home to bake 4 cheesecakes in 6" cookie tins.

I love this last minute rush of Christmas cooking and decorating. I am looking forward to traveling next week. I need to get out of this house.

I really wanted to share with you a recipe made with a cut of meat that is still a secret to only the butchers and now to you.

It's called a flap steak. A cross between a skirt and a sirloin, it had to be most tastiest tender cut of meat that is perfect for slicing and serving with a flavorful sauce.

I can't wait to grill this in the summer. I paired this steak with my Mashed Potato/Lima Bean Puree which is really only mashed potatoes mixed with a garlic bean puree instead of cream and only a pat of butter on the top. So so good for you and absolutely delish!!

(this was only half the meat sliced, the other half was squirreled away in the freezer, more than enough for 4 servings)

Pan-Seared Inexpensive Steak with Mustard-Cream Sauce for Two (but serves 4)
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, April 2007

* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 boneless whole flap meat steak or shell sirloin steak (top butt), about 1 pound and 1 1/4 inches thick
* 1 small shallot , minced (about 2 tablespoons)
* 1 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine
* 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
* 3 tablespoons heavy cream
* 1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
* Salt and ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Meanwhile, season both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Place steak in skillet; cook, without moving steak, until well browned, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip steak; reduce heat to medium. Cook until well browned on second side and internal temperature registers 125 degrees on instant-read thermometer for medium-rare (about 5 minutes) or 130 degrees for medium (about 6 minutes).
2. Transfer steak to large plate and tent loosely with foil; let rest until internal temperature registers 130 degrees for medium-rare or 135 degrees for medium, 12 to 15 minutes.
3. While steak is resting, pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from now-empty skillet. Return skillet to low heat and add shallot; cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and increase heat to medium-high; simmer rapidly, scraping up browned bits on pan bottom, until liquid is reduced to glaze, about 30 seconds; add broth and simmer until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 3 minutes. Add cream and any meat juices; cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in mustard; season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Using sharp knife, slice steak about 1/4 inch thick against grain on bias. Arrange on platter or on individual plates, and spoon sauce over steak; serve immediately.

Review: Wow, what a steak, even The Nudge said he would eat this every week. You will probably have to go to a butcher for this cut, but I if you can only find a sirloin, try to get one with even marbling in the flesh.
The leftovers are planned for a ooey, gooey, cheesy Steak Sandwich next week.

December 19, 2011

Buttermilk Onion Pull-Apart Rolls


I should be very unhappy with my new oven. Why?


Help me, please....

Getting to the point where I can't even give it away. What am I possibly going to do with eight huge onion rolls?

They do look good, huh?
I thought so, that's why I just had to bake these.

Instead of serving with Smothered Pork Chops (which I did), I will stuff the pork chops with a stuffing made with these rolls. I bet anything stuffed with these rolls would taste great.

Either way, I must repurpose, I must repurpose, I MUST repurpose.
Oh Martha, stop creating wonderful recipes. I can not resist.

The dough is a joy to work with. Light and flaky, would be excellent with a sweet filling.

Buttermilk Onion Pull-Apart Rolls
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, November 2005
Makes about 1 dozen

* 11 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks), softened, plus more for bowl, plus 5 tablespoons melted
* 1/4 ounce active dry yeast
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 tablespoons warm water (105 degrees to 110 degrees)
* 3/4 cup buttermilk
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and pin
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 2 pounds sweet onions, such as Rio (1 1/2 pounds cut into 1/4-inch slices, 1/2 pound finely chopped)
* 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1. Butter a 9-inch cake pan using 1 tablespoon softened butter. Butter a large bowl; set aside. Stir together yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl; let mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir until dissolved. Stir in buttermilk and egg.
2. Mix 2 3/4 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Make a well in center. Pour in buttermilk mixture; mix to combine. Add 6 tablespoons softened butter; mix on medium-high speed until a soft dough forms, about 10 minutes.
3. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured work surface; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer to buttered bowl. Cover dough with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons softened butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions; raise heat to high, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Stir in nutmeg. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let cool.
5. Punch down dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 17-by-10-inch rectangle, and brush with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Spread onions evenly over dough. Starting on 1 long side, roll dough into a log. Press seam to seal. Cut into about 12 slices, about 1 1/4 inches thick each. Arrange slices, cut sides up, in buttered pan, and brush with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 50 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Immediately invert and unmold rolls onto a wire rack. Serve warm.

December 18, 2011

Frappuccino Mocha Eggnog Bundt Cake

I had my issues with sugar substitutes.

I decided it was time to find out why.

When I bake a cake or a batch of brownies with it, the end result ends in the round file (trashcan).

Sugar, it seems, is always listed with the "wet" ingredients. If you melt sugar you get a wet syrup, so therefore, when you take the sugar out of a recipe you must replace it with additional moisture or you get hockey pucks (and trust me, you do). Every recipe on the Splenda site will sub half the amount called for and leave real sugar in. I can see that, so I decided to give it a try.

I made a Frappuccino Mocha Eggnog Cake. I am determined to use up that gallon of eggnog I bought.

I think this cake will be requested many, many times. Easy to make (can be made with a spoon and a large bowl) bakes like a dream (and if you over bake, it still stays moist) and tastes truly amazing. The eggnog keeps it moist and tender. If you love coffee you will want to make this.

Frappuccino Mocha Eggnog Cake
makes one Bundt cake or two layers

* Bakers Joy for pan
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
* 1 cup Coconut Palm Sugar
* 1 cup Splenda No Calorie
* 3/4 cups good cocoa powder (do not use processed)
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 cup Eggnog
* 1/2 cup applesauce or vegetable oil
* 2 extra-large eggs or 1/2 cup Egg Beaters, at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
* Frappuccino Icing, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 1 Bundt cake or two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the eggnog, applesauce or oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 45 minutes for Bundt and 35-40 minutes for layers, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Pour the icing over the top and let it roll down the sides. If making layers: Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Frappuccino Icing
* 2 cups powdered sugar
* 1 tablespoon freeze-dried coffee mixed with 1 tablespoon coffee liquor (like Kahlua)
* 1/4 cup cream

Warm coffee liquor in microwave and dissolve instant coffee. Add cream and then add that to sugar. If too thick add more cream.

December 15, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings - Southern Style

I am cheating this week and my gnocchi, or dumpling, is a traditional American dumpling.

I had to do a little web research on Southern-style dumplings, you know, the kind they serve in Cracker Barrel's Chicken 'n Dumplings.

In the north (and probably the west also) we make a drop dumpling (I just can't see a chuck wagon traveling with a rolling pin).

As I understand it in the 'ole South, money was short, families large and good meat was for company.
I imagine most of good southern dishes were actually slave recipes handed down and 'round about.

Usually an old, old, about to die chicken was used after her laying days were over. Slow, long stewing was the best way to handle any fibrous older meat, and since it had to go a long way, different ingredients were needed to stretch the meats.

Flour, rice, greens and potatoes were always part of a meal with creative cooks consistently perfecting those handed down techniques.

Necessity is the mother of invention and dumplings were no exception. At their best, minimal ingredients like flour, animal fat, buttermilk, salt and pepper were the base for many stretchers, which changed little over the years except for the addition of baking powder and soda.

I don't know why I picked this week, of all weeks, to try and make this rolled out biscuit-like noodle dumpling but I imagine it has a lot to do with my 'To Do List of 2011' and "time is running out' or I am a glutton for punishment and it is still a week before Christmas (and yes, I am ahead of schedule).

The other reason is I am craving comfort food this week and had leftover roasted chicken in the fridge (leftover being the great inspiration of most dishes this week).

I finally choose a recipe that included schmaltz, which like in matzo balls gives a bland recipe oomph and a silky texture.

Simple to do, if you have ever made biscuits. Rolled out to 1/4" (or thinner) and using a pizza cutter, cut into diamond shapes, 3/4" x 1" pieces (or as best as you can get them).

makes 4 servings

* 1 cup AP flour + more for rolling
* 1/2 cup whole milk
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3 tablespoons schmatlz (or lard or butter)

Melt the schmaltz in warmed milk but do not boil. Whisk dry ingredients, pour liquid in the middle and mix with a spoon until it comes together. Scrap onto a well floured board and knead until you can pat it out without it sticking to your fingers. Roll to a mere 1/4" and cut into diamonds.

Now for the stew.....
Chop 1 large carrot, 1 small parsnip and 1 small sweet onion.
I like to tear the cooked leftover chicken into pieces, cutting is just not rustic enough for this dish.

Saute vegetables in olive oil and butter until just softened. Add a chopped clove of garlic and 1/4 cup flour. Stir until all flour in incorporated. Add 2 cups chicken stock, Italian seasonings, Bell's seasoning (about 1/2 teaspoon of each), salt and pepper and simmer until thickened. Add 1 cup milk and when it simmers, drop in the dumplings, a few at a time. They will cook in the liquid and naturally thicken the sauce. If it gets too thick just add more milk. Check for seasonings, I always find I need more salt with a cream-based sauce.

Once the sauce comes back to a boil, drop in the chicken meat and a handful of frozen peas.

Bring back to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve hot.

I did add some grated Romano cheese because that's what I do with most long cooked dishes to pump up the flavor.

This dumpling stew is very thick and creamy, I certainly understand why most Southern recipes call for using a canned cream of chicken soup, but making a bechamel is just as easy as opening a can and healthier for you. I suggest thickening as much as you would like.

Review: The Nudge said although it was different then what we are used top, it was very good and creamy. Perfect for a cold night. So now I have a Summer Chicken & Dumpling recipe and a Winter Chicken & Dumpling recipe. Neat, huh?

December 14, 2011

Char Siu Stuffed Bao Buns - Daring Cooks Challenge December 2011

This dim sum bun is perhaps the most well known outside of China. People who are not even familiar with the term or concept of 'dim sum' know "pork buns."

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles!
Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

I immediately opened my Chinese Kitchen cookbook by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. She provided two wonderful recipes for a pork filling and I chose the BBQ style pork. I also used pork rib meat and my trusty slow cooker.

I have been wanting to make these buns, buying a wok and bamboo steamer just to make dim sum, so this was a good challenge for me. Having this challenge was the little kick in the butt.

I made a few mistakes and learned a few important things....

1. Read the recipes three, four times, then read them again. Lots of steps and you need to plan ahead.
2. Use a pork tenderloin or loin to make the BBQ'd pork. I used country style ribs and thought they would shred nicely, they shredded too much so I had to process them into a baby food consistency. If I did this again I would buy an order of BBQ'd pork from my local take-out joint.
3. I had problems with stuffing them. The dough was a dream to work with but I think because of time, I would use the steam dough instead of the bake dough. Took me all day to make these.

Barbecued Pork (Char Siu Pork)
(adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo)

* 4 1/2 pounds lean boneless pork loin
* 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 1/2 cup honey
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
* 2 tablespoons Mei Kuei Lu Chiew or gin
* 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
* 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
* 1 1/2 ounces miso paste
* 1 teaspoon 5-spice powder

1. Cut the pork into slices about 1/2″ to 1″ thick.
Prick all over both sides with a fork.
2. Line a roasting pan with foil. Place the pork in a single layer in the bottom of the pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients and pour over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate 2 to 4 hours.
3. Heat the oven to 450 F. Place the roasting pan on a rack in the middle and roast for about 25 minutes. Turn the meat over and baste every 5 to 6 minutes. If the sauce dries out, add some boiling water to the pan. Some of the sauce may burn in the pan, but the meat should be fine. Check for doneness by removing one piece of pork and slicing in the middle to see if it is cooked through.
4. Remove from the pan to cool.

Baked Pork Bun Filling(Guk Char Siu Bau)
Makes 12 buns

* 1 tbsp oyster sauce
* 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
* 2 tsp ketchup
* 2 tsp sugar
* pinch white pepper
* 2 tsp corn starch
* 1/4 cup chicken stock

* 1 tbsp vegetable oil
* 1/2 cup diced onion
* 3/4 cup char siu pork, cut into 1/4″ pieces
* 2 tsp Chinese rice wine
* 1/2 tsp sesame oil
* 1 package dry yeast
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup hot water (115°)
* 2 cups high-gluten bread flour
* 1/2 egg, beaten
* 5 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening

1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water. Place the bowl in a warm place to allow the yeast to activate, about 30-60 minutes. A brownish foam will have formed on top.
2. Add the flour, egg and lard/shortening and stir continuously with your hand until a dough mass begins to form.
3. Begin to gather the dough in the bowl, and when the mixture becomes cohesive, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface for kneading.
4. Knead the dough for about 15 minutes, picking it up with a scraper and sprinkling the surface with more flour if it begins to stick.
5. When the dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a large mixing bowl and cover with a lightly dampened towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until it has tripled in size, about 2-3 hours.

To make the filling:
1. Heat the vegetable oil on high in a large saucepan and spread to coat the pan thinly. Add the onion, lower heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is light brown. Add the pork and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the rice wine and mix well. Stir the sauce, pour into the pan, and cook for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat, and stir in sesame oil. Set aside, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until needed.

To assemble:
Roll the dough into a cylinder about 12″ long and cut into 12 equal pieces. Keeping the unused dough covered with a damp cloth, work with one piece at a time. Flatten slightly, spoon about 1 1/2 tbsp into the middle, and pinch the dough together to enclose the filling. Set onto a small square of wax paper, and repeat with remaining dough.
Arrange the buns so they have room to expand (leave at least 1 1/2″ between them).

Place all of the completed buns on a cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart to allow for expansion. Put the buns in a warm place to allow to rise for another 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Using a spray bottle, spray each bun lightly with warm water and then brush each with beaten egg.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through baking to promote even browning. When the buns are golden brown, remove them from the oven and serve immediately.

The buns can be frozen after baking. To reheat, defrost and bring to room temperature. Cover with foil and place in a 350° oven for 10 15 minutes or until hot.


The only beef we eat in this house is steaks or hamburger meat. Every once in a blue moon I get a chance to buy skirt steaks and the occasional veal.

Reason? Most cuts of meat are too large for two. I am dying to make a BBQ'd brisket and when I do buy mine I will ask the butcher to grind half of it.

With a freezer full of loin of pork, and a hankering for a sauerbraten, I decided to use a pork loin instead of the traditional beef roast. Pretty sure I had a one-of-a-kind idea I went researching the Internet and found I was so wrong. While I was slightly disappointed at not being in the forefront I was content in knowing it could be done successfully and easily.

Pork required only an overnight marinade while the beef needed three days. I also found that if the marinade ratio was off, the beef turned out slightly mushy, where I know the pork will not. Armed with that information, I had to settle on a marinade good for pork. That meant I could use a more vinegar to sugar ration (great for Diabetics).

I also wanted to use my baby slow cooker (remember this loin was all of 1 1/4 pounds).

Pork Sauerbraten
serves 4

* 2 pound pork loin
* 1 medium onion, sliced
* 1 cup apple cider vinegar
* 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* enough chicken stock to bring liquid 3/4 the way up the side of meat.
* handful of gingersnaps, crumbled
Mix first 7 ingredients in a bag and marinade overnight. Drain meat from marinade and dub dry. In a saucepan, heat a teaspoon of oil till it shimmers and brown the loin on all sides, about 4 minutes a side.

Pour marinade over cooked meat to deglaze the pan and spoon everything into a small crock pot. Pour enough chicken stock to bring the liquid level to at least half way up the sides of the meat. Cover, set on low for 8 hours and walk away.

Remove meat from crock pot and throw handfuls of crushed gingersnaps into the sauce and whisk until you get the thickness you desire.

Review: Although I checked on the pork every hour and took it's temperature, I have to admit pork loin does not do well in a slow cooker. It doesn't have enough fat content to keep it moist. I probably should have used a butt or shoulder cut and braised it in a low oven with the liquid coming only half the way up the meat. Overall, the flavor was wonderful and I would do this again.

December 13, 2011

Eggnog Cheesecake/I passed my final exam!!

The reviews are in. Test #2 was a success. I added nutmeg, cinnamon and a pinch of allspice as well as doubling the eggnog and eliminating the sour aspect I usually include in my regular cheesecake. I find that a filling of all cream cheese is just too much and depending on the flavors (berries, spices or purees) I will add sour cream, pureed cottage cheese or ricotta.

By taking out the sour aspect and doubling the eggnog you can actually taste the eggnog.

I traditionally make a 9" cheesecake but this year I am feeding 11 people and that calls for a 12".

Eggnog-Cranberry Cheesecake
Makes 12 servings

Cranberry Sauce:
* 1 cup sugar (can use sub here)
* 1 cup orange juice (no pulp)
* 2 tablespoons cornstarch
* 1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

* 2 packages Honey Graham crackers
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (do not use sub here)
* 2 tablespoons agave nectar
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 4 bricks of cream cheese ( 2 regular, 1 fat-free, 1 low-fat), room temp
* 2 cups eggnog (I used Southern Comfort brand which was tested to be #1 store bought brand)
* 1 cup sugar substitute
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 4 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/8 teaspoon allspice

1. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in OJ until smooth. Add cranberries and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Place graham crackers in processor and pulverize. Add cinnamon and sugar and pulse to combine. Add butter and agave and pulse until it starts to stick together.
Pat mixture into bottom of a springform pan that has been lined with parchment paper and about 1" up the side. Use a glass dipped in flour to press the crumbs, but do not press too hard.

3. Bake in a 300F oven for 11 minutes. Remove and cool thoroughly.

4. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, mix cream cheese with eggnog and add flour, spices and sugar sub. Blend until completely smooth. Taste for sweetness and overall flavor. Make any adjustments before adding the eggs. If everything is to your liking, blend in the eggs until just combined. We do not want to add any air to the mixture.

5. Pour into cooled pan, place on a baking sheet and bake at 300F for 60-70 minutes or until when you shake the pan, the center just shakes slightly. Shut off oven and leave door ajar (place a kitchen towel or wooden spoon in door) and let it rest for 1 hour.

6. Refrigerate at least 5-6 hours, overnight being the best. Remove from cooler when you sit down to eat. I use unflavored floss to cut my cakes but you could use a cheese wire or warmed slicing knife (a thin bladed knife works best) rewarmed in a glass of hot water and cleaned with a towel each time you slice.

I like to travel with the cake in the springform pan, but if you are going to present it for Christmas dinner, run a knife around the side and place the cake on a stable can. Open the spring and let the side fall down, leaving the cake on the can. Run a warmed icing spatula under the parchment paper and slide it onto your serving platter. Pour the sauce into the middle of the cake or serve it on the side so each guest can pour their own.

Sit down to rave reviews. This is a cheesecake you will get asked to make over and over.

November 13, 2011

Pommes Anna

I am making a good ole Italian meal of roasted veal chops with roasted potatoes. Not just any potatoes though, The Nudge loves crispy roasted potatoes and now that I have a cast iron pan, I will be making Potatoes Anna (or Pommes Anna).

Pommes Anna was created during the era of Napoleon III and named, as were many culinary triumphs in those days, after one of the grandes cocottes of the period. Whether it was an Anna Deslions, an Anna Judic, or simply Anna Untel, she has also immortalized the special double baking dish itself, la cocotte a pommes Anna, which is still made and which you can still buy at a fancy price.

This simple recipe is all in the preparation and presentation, and the use of very, very thinly sliced potatoes, that's the key to success. Since the dish is inverted, it is important that the first layer of potatoes be attractively arranged. Select perfect slices, and overlap them carefully. Keep in mind the final shape makes the presentation. A watercress or parsley garnish adds color. Serve warm and cut into wedges, like a cake or quiche.

Use very waxy potatoes like New potatoes and Yukon Golds. A mandolin is a MUST HAVE.

I slightly adjust the recipe (which really is NO recipe) by adding grated Parmesan to each layer after brushing with butter. It's all about the technique, that's the recipe.

Potatoes Anna
Serves 2

* 2 medium red new potatoes (same size), sliced thinly
* salt & pepper
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* Romano cheese, grated

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
2. Put the potato slices in a colander and rinse under running water to get rid of the starch. Place on a cloth in a single layer and pat dry.
3. Generously grease the base of an ovenproof pan or baking dish with melted butter.
4. Arrange the potato slices in the pan in overlapping circles, brushing butter over each layer and seasoning as you go.
5. Cover with grease proof paper or a lid. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or up to 1 hour. Test with a skewer to see if the potatoes are done.

Cook this in a cast-iron, heavy-bottomed, stubby-handled frying pan that goes in the oven. Traditionally it should be lidded - mine isn't, so I used a piece of parchment paper and a saucepan lid.

October 17, 2011

Denver Ham Hash with Poached Eggs

Every once in a blue moon, when a company is introducing new products, I get my hands on good coupons and with the double offer at my store, I almost get the items for pennies on a dollar.

That in itself is enough to buy more than I can use in a normal week. This time though, it was all about potatoes and in this house, as I am sure in over 90% of the house across the nation, is the one side that does get eaten often. We love potatoes in the USA.

The fact that they came in nicely portioned bags that fit in my freezer, made it all that easier to take advantage of.
I bought a Garlic Mashed, a Mashed Sweet Potato and Southwestern Hash Browns.

Half the mashed went with a comforting Beef Brasciole and that leftover potato product was the base for gnocchi .

This morning I broke open the hash browns and with a nice thick ham steak that was also in the freezer, Denver Hash immediately came to mind. Those Southwestern Hash Browns were calling my name.

Denver Ham Hash
makes 4 servings

* 1 package Southwest Style Hash Browns
* 1/2 small onion, diced
* 1/2 half roasted red pepper, diced
* 3 slices ham, diced
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* Canola Oil
* 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
* Salt & pepper to taste
* Frank's Hot Sauce
* 8 poached eggs

Heat oil in saute pan. Saute onions, garlic, red pepper and ham until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add potatoes and cook on high heat to form a crust. Once the crust is formed, add the vinegar to deglaze. Scrap the mixture from the bottom of the pan (it will release with the vinegar and the heat, give it time). Add salt & pepper to taste and hot sauce.

Serve a portion with 2 poached eggs on top.

This was delicious and very easy. Perfect for a Sunday lazy brunch.

September 30, 2011

Lemon Bars Are Creatures of Habit

There are so many things I want to make, dishes I have seen, copied and filed away for future use.

If you are like me, the list grows longer then the days in a month and eventually they get downloaded onto a memory stick and stored in a drawer, never to emerge again.

Why is that? Why is that we find ourselves making the same ole recipes over and over again, when we know that list is in that drawer?

Many reasons.

No.1 reason: Something comes up and we need something fast, familiar, tried and true and certainly not the time to try a new recipe.

No.2 reason: We forget to buy an ingredient in the recipe or we just can't find it in a local store.

No.3 reason: Just not in the mood for that dish on that day.


No.4 reason: The same ole dishes are perfect, wonderful and things we crave.

Case in Point....

Ina's Lemon Bars (as are most of Ina's recipes for that matter). Humans are creatures of habit, some worse then others, but just about everyone finds comfort in their habits. The Nudge tells me every year, "Do not change your meatballs or your meatloaf recipe!!"

I think every home cook hears the same thing about many of their comfort dishes.

Lemon Bars are one of my comfort desserts and since I am not a great baker, there aren't too many comfort desserts I can make well. Ina's coffee cake, shortbread cookies and lemon bars I can do really well, so I do them often.

Sure I would love to bake a Seven Layer Double Chocolate Cake with Homemade Chocolate Icing, but THAT ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

Make these for yourself and you will make them over and over again.
Easy, delicious and very comforting.

Lemon Bars courtesy of Ina Garten
Makes 12

For the Crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup palm sugar (do not sub this, subs don't cream like real sugar)
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Filling:
6 extra large eggs, room temperature
3 cups No Calorie sweetener
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2 inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2 inch edge on all sides. Chill.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Cool to room temperature. Cut into squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

If I am not planning on eating them all in a day, I wrap each square in plastic wrap, place them all in a large gallon Zip bag and freeze them. Place one in your brown bag when you make lunch and it will be defrosted in time.

September 24, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies

If these cookies are as good as the reviews as is, with the substitution of a sugar sub and egg whites, these cookies may be one of the best things a diabetic eats.

Flourless Peanut-Chocolate Cookies
Makes 24
Adapted from marthastewart.com

* 1 cup reduced fat creamy peanut butter
* 3/4 cup Ideal, Truvia or Splenda
* 1/4 cup Egg Beaters
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a large bowl, stir together peanut butter, sugar, egg, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Stir in 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts.
2. With moistened hands, roll dough, about 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, into balls. Place 2 inches apart on two baking sheets.
3. Bake until cookies are golden and puffed, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Cool 5 minutes on sheets; transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.

A serving is 2 cookies but they are soooooo good.

September 13, 2011

Good Advice for those recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes

I think I can recite the GI by heart. Something I knew I would have to do to live a life untethered to a pamphlet or phone App for ordering food out or even buying weekly groceries.

In February of last year, I had to make a decision after spending countless hours on the Internet reading all about Type 2 Diabetes. Two things became clear to me.....I had to NOT listen to diet gurus and find the key FOR ME on lowering my A1C. Also, my goal was to do it without medication. IF you do not have access to a nutritionist specializing in Diabetes, you have to become your own.

I have a huge bottle of 500mg Metformin that sits on my desk. I have not opened it yet, 18 months later. I was told to take one before every meal. It is like that FAT picture many of you have posted on the door of your fridge.

My A1C is down to 107 (from 118) and I have lost 10 pounds (and kept it off).

I have consciously made it my mission to eat less starchy carbs and refined sugars.

I do not feel deprived nor do I get cravings for something I know I should not have.

I, like everyone I talk to with a dietary problem, thought I was eating a good balanced diet. I was so wrong.

I notoriously would miss breakfast except on the weekends when I am with The Nudge and about 3x a week, would skip lunch also.

Nowadays I have a fridge full of Weight Watchers Yogurt, a large container of cut up fresh fruit and sliced turkey breast. No excuses. Yogurt or fruit first thing in the AM, fruit or yogurt around 11:30, and a turkey wrap for lunch (1 slice thick cut oven roasted turkey breast with lettuce and salsa fresca (Wholly Guacamole or Sabra makes good ones). If I get hungry at 3PM, I eat 1/4 cup of honey roasted peanuts and a BIG glass of 4C Light Green Tea (with Splenda).

In the winter when fresh fruit as at a minimum, I will buy containers of red grapefruit sections (with no added sugar) and peaches (also, no added sugar).

When I get the chance to bake my banana bread, I will toast a slice and spread 1 tablespoon low-fat PB on it....yum.

Cereal is out, I am not a cereal person.

I refuse to eat oatmeal but I will make pancakes with the instant packets.

What I am saying is, there are endless possibilities to find something diabetic friendly to eat without resorting to processed packages that say they are good for you. Stay away from the Energy and Granola Bars. Buy Glucerna bars, they are made for Diabetics and taste good too.

If you eat right in the beginning of the day it is easy to eat right at dinner.

I would print out a list of the foods that are in the 50 and lower GI range. Take an hour of your day and check off those foods you know you will enjoy eating.

Prepared to be surprised, there are quite a few of them, and all readily available in every market across the USA.

Take that list with you, where ever you go. Make out your shopping list choosing at least 15 of them each week. The rest will be the bread or pasta/rice.

Now, take the breads and pastas and rice and make them Whole Wheat or even better, make a grain instead, like Quinoa, Bulgar, Barley, or cornmeal (polenta, grits).

If you start with this rough outline, you will eventually not need to refer to that list again. After 6 months of eating this way, I guarantee you next BG reading will be lower, even for those taking medication.

For those who need a more structured diet but want to eat normal foods, by all means, join Weight Watchers Online or for those who want to cut out all carbs, South Beach is the one.

I, personally, find a no carb diet boring and I just won't stick to it.

Take the time to check my other pages, there are downloadable GI, GL and Exchange lists. All to help you get started.

Disclaimer: All products mentioned on this blog are solely my favorites. The companies have no idea who I am and I was not compensated for testing them.

A Belated Pie for Mikey

With everything going on here this last month, I am surprised I still kept a personal promise to make A Pie for Mikey.

I did not know Jennifer Perillo personally but was introduced to her over at Food52 through her writing about, what else, food. A little over 30 days ago, while walking down the street with his daughter, he suddenly fell and never got up. A young man, beloved husband and Daddy, gone without warning. My heart immediately went out to her and her young family.

I am not an established blogger with a following so running an auction would have depressed me more then it would actually help someone. I can not bake, I haven't crafted in 10 years and I certainly can not style food so I really had nothing to contribute but a financial pledge and to make this pie.

Somehow I felt compelled to do something on my blog to acknowledge this tragedy and the awesome blogging community's efforts to raise money to help two fatherless little girls and their mother. The one thing I can do is make cheesecakes, so that's what I did with the recipe.

I made a Chocolate Peanut Cheesecake for Mikey.

The problem when dealing with peanut butter is to lighten it up while keeping the tartness from the cheese that we love so much in a cheesecake. Too heavy and it is inedible. The original recipe called for whipped cream added to the PB, cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. That's a lot of smucking right there.

I thought about this problem for a few days and when I was ready to finally try my creation I decided on pureed cottage cheese instead of the whipped cream.

It is tangy, creamy, low-fat and puree's beautifully.

I will post the recipe as written and then tell you what I changed.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
Serves 10 to 12

* 8 ounces chocolate cookies
* 4 tablespoons butter, melted
* 4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
* 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
* 1 cup heavy cream (8oz 1% fat large curd cottage cheese)
* 8 ounces cream cheese
* (I added 2 eggs)
* 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk (I omitted this totally)
* 1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
* 1 cup confectioners sugar (I used granulated sugar)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan (I used 4 mini cheesecake pans).

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form. (I pureed the cottage cheese in a blender or use an immersion hand blender until completely smooth).

Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk (I omitted this, just mix the lemon and vanilla), vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream). Fold in the remaining whipped cream. (I mix the eggs with the sugar and then into the cottage cheese and then into the peanut butter mixture).

Pour the filling into the prepared spring form pan. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

I chopped another 1/3 cup honey roasted peanuts and sprinkled that over the chocolate while it was still warm.

If you love peanut butter and chocolate (and come on, really, who doesn't?) you will adore the original version of this pie...BUT if you love peanut butter chocolate cheesecake make it my way, share it with family and friends, cut a piece and be thankful we are here to enjoy it.

After all, isn't that the reason for making this pie?

September 9, 2011

Clean Out the Fridge Pasta Bake

I am getting a new stove on Friday, finally. We have talked about this for the last 2 years and it took the oven to go POP before we walked into PC Richards and purchased one.

I knew nothing about the new Elements cooking surfaces so I spent the day on the Internet educating myself. I hate that I can not have a gas stove and I am still not on board with this glass top burners.

I am totally jazzed about the convection oven and finally, I get a self-cleaning oven.....yes, we are pathetic. I should have updated years ago.

There were more important things to take care of first, like 2 Mom's and 2 Dad's, and I had to wait.

My time is NOW.

My problem is THIS......water in the basement, move items upstairs. Items in the way of installing new stove, move to one end of the dinning room.

My house looks like a hurricane hit it.....OH wait, it did.....duh!

Since I have to hang home to babysit our pump downstairs, I decided to clean out my fridge. With no oven, my options for cooking were pots 'n pans or toaster oven.

I decided on making a baked pasta dish. Yes, another pasta dish but as with my orzo salad, this one is also filled with vegetables.

Every thing in this casserole is a leftover. Lil containers of the last of cheeses, sauces, meats and vegetable sides.

Kinda of like a Primavera Pasta Bake. Meaty mushrooms, a layer of eggplant and chicken sausages combined with provolone and Parmesan cheeses, a spoonful of Italian herb cheese, a drib of cream, a splat of tomato sauce and creamy fresh mozzarella and my fridge just gained 1000 sq ft of space. What could possibly be wrong with that?

I'm sure our tummies will be happy also.

Now, remember this is all about leftovers, so anything you have you can use. I would not make something from scratch for this except the pasta if no leftover is available.

If you have steak or chicken, sub the sausages for that. The eggplant layer could be zucchini, roasted peppers or even mashed potatoes.

This recipe is the amounts in what I used to make a 9x9in. casserole.
If you want to make a larger amount, just double everything or add what you think your family would like.

Move Over Left-Over Baked Pasta
serves 4-5
* 1 1/2 - 2 cups dried orrechiette, cooked
* 1 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise, unpeeled
* 2 cups leftover marinara or spaghetti sauce
* 1/4 cup cream cheese (or herbed Boursin), mascarpone cheese or ricotta
* 1/4 cup cream or half & half
* 2-3 tablespoons grated provolone or fontina
* 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano
* 8oz pre-packaged mozzarella, grated
* 1/2 package of button mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in olive oil
* 1 cup water or pasta water

1. Cook pasta, reserving 1 cup water

2. Coat a 9x9in baking pan with sauce. Add eggplant slices to cover, overlapping and grate Parmesan cheese over them.

3. Mix pasta, meats, 1/2 the mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, cream, cream cheese, mushrooms, pasta water and 3/4 cup sauce together. Spread evenly over eggplant.

4. Layer remaining eggplant slices over pasta mixture, sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and remaining marinara sauce.

5. Sprinkle remaining grated mozzarella over sauce and cover with foil.
Spray foil with release agent before covering pan. This will stop the cheese from sticking.

6. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese is browned and bubbly.

7. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

This was really ooey gooey and good. I like that you get two dishes in one, Eggplant Parmigiana and sandwiched between....creamy, cheesy baked sausage and pasta.

September 6, 2011

Testing Turkey Bacon

Let's face it folks, pork fat rules.

I admit it. I love pork but I am not in love with bacon.

The Nudge, on the other hand (like most men), could eat it every day of his remaining life. I keep his allotment at home to three slices on Sunday and he gets a few at the Diner on Saturday.

To me, that's more then enough and he's begrudgingly happy with that. He's also lucky he can eat bacon without worry. The man has no clogging of his arteries whatsoever and I am begrudgingly happy for him.......NOT!

I would not even think of buying turkey bacon on an average day, but give me a coupon and a sale......

Yes, there are now two packages of Butterball Turkey Bacon in my fridge.

I tell him I am testing it for my Dad (which I sort of are), and he will try in once.

I am more concerned with the flavor then the texture. Come winter when we go back to Soup Monday, I usually use pancetta in 98% of my soups for the flavor it gives. If I could sub the bacon out and still get that flavor I am looking for, we all win.

Today, being a big bacon day (BLT's for dinner), I decided to fry up some turkey bacon for our Egg and Bacon Breakfast Sandwiches The Nudge requested.

The Nudge said it tasted fine to him, and I got a good bacon flavor from it.
I did some research and this is the comparison between the turkey bacon and Oscar Mayer bacon and as you can see, it is totally worth substitutions when you can.

I will say that when making a BLT, you need to use real bacon and I find that baking or nuking on a rack is the best way to cook it. The fat drips off and the slices stay flat. If you can not have bacon at all, the turkey substitutions are a great alternative.

According to a taste test done by a local Miami newspaper, the Applewood Farms brand ranked #1 in texture and flavor but at half the price, the Butterball did fine.

Disclaimer: Butterball has no idea who I am and this is our opinion.

August 31, 2011

Grilled Goucho Steak Tacos

I haven't made a recipe from one of my cookbooks in ages. They are high up on a shelf and not easily accessible, so I usually turn to the computer for meal ideas and recipes.

Tonight I am making a recipe from At Home with Michael Chiarello's cookbook.

The Nudge will like this because he loves blue cheese with steaks. I will be serving thinly sliced iceberg lettuce along with the tomatoes and grilled onions.
Except for the tortillas (which I use my favorite healthy Tortilla Factory brand), this meal is totally diabetic friendly, low fat and low cal.

You could use grilled London Broil or Flank steak, freshly grilled or leftover.

You could serve it with Salsa Fresca instead of sliced tomatoes and Monterey Jack instead of the blue (I know kids don't always eat blue cheese).

This sauce is a thick version not the loose, oily version so often made.

Grilled Gaucho Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Serves: 8

* 3 red onions, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
* 3 pounds skirt steak
* Chili Water, *recipe follows
* 8 fresh pita breads or tortillas
* 4 vine-ripened tomatoes
* 1/2 pound blue cheese
* 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon Chimichurri Sauce
Prepare a medium-hot fire in the grill.

Lightly brush the onion slices with olive oil. Place on the grill and cook about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a platter and reserve. Place the steaks on the grill. Baste a couple of times with Chili Water and cook until done, about 4 to 6 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter.

Lightly brush the pita bread with olive oil and grill for 1 minute to heat through.

Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices and then cut the slices in half. Lay out the pita bread on 2 sheet pans and crumble the blue cheese on top. Transfer to the oven to keep warm. Slice the meat lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices and put into a bowl. Toss the meat with 1/2 cup Chimichurri Sauce. Remove the pita from the oven and divide the meat between them. Place the sliced tomatoes on the side of the meat and top all with rings of grilled onion. Spoon the remaining 1 teaspoon of Chimichurri Sauce over top and serve.
*Chili Water:

1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup warm water
Mix all ingredients together.
Chimmichurri Sauce
Yields: 2 1/2 Cups

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the parsley, bay leaves, garlic, paprika, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until combined. Put the sauce in a glass or plastic container, using as needed. Chimichurri will last for up to 1 month, refrigerated.

August 30, 2011

Yet Another Beer Can Chicken

I was hoping my Shop-Rite would have decent soft shell crabs. They were on sale this week for $3.99 each. They were tiny and anemic looking which means all shell and no meat. Not worth even at $.99 each.

When I plan my menu for the week, it is usually after I have seen the weekly circular. I try to schedule as many sale items into my week, along with pantry and freezer items on hand.

I found an organic roaster on sale at $.99 a pound and a Beer Can Chicken made it on to the menu. It probably is The Nudge's No.1 favorite dish.

I must make this recipe once a month on the grill in the summer and at least 4x in the winter. We love a traditional roasted chicken too, but the skin gets crisper and the meat is definitely more moist when it roasts standing up.

I like to throw in some soaked apple wood chips for a light smoke flavor. That you can not do in your oven.

Wash and dry your chicken. Rub it all over with olive oil and then sprinkle Italian Seasoning liberally over the front and the back of the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sit it on the can. The can is 3/4 full, with 2 whole cloves of garlic additional Italian Seasonings in it.

Set up a 2 zone fire on your grill. If you do not have coal containers, just place lite colas evenly on both sides of your grill. If using a gas grill, shut either front and back burners off or one side. You want to place your chicken for indirect grilling.

Place the chicken on a glass Pyrex pie plate and set it in the middle of the grate.
I have found that a chicken over 4 pounds tends to touch the top of my grill cover so I place a shawl over the top. It also helps to keep the breasts from over cooking and getting dry and tough.

Add a handful of soaked chips on each side of the coals, close the lid and grill for 90 minutes a temperature of no less then 350F. When the breast registers 160F on an instant read thermometer, I take the chicken off and let it rest.

I carve mine right off the upright chicken.

I bought carrot bunches and will throw them on the grill, with just a pat of butter, salt & pepper in a foil pouch for the last 20 minutes of the grilling time.

No pots to wash and we like that.

You could make mashed potatoes, baked potatoes or sweet potatoes for the family but we are eating carbs less lately and I want to keep that up.