Wish Upon A Dish: January 2011

January 31, 2011

Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Creme Fraiche

I do not think I will make baked macaroni and cheese any other way then this from now on.

Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Creme Fraiche
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 8 servings

* 1 head cauliflower, cut into 1" florets
* 2 large tomatoes
* 5 tablespoons butter, divided
* 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
* Kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons WW flour
* 1 cup heavy whipping cream
* 3 cups coarsely grated Comte cheese or 1/2 Gruyere-1/2 Fontina) divided
* 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, also divided
* 1 cup creme fraiche
* 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon
* 10 ounces penne
* 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Cook cauliflower in large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using large sieve, transfer cauliflower to bowl. Add tomatoes to water and cook 1 minute to loosen peels.. Remove and peel and dice. Reserve water to cook penne in.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower, saute until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, green onions and season with salt & pepper. Remove from heat.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Cook until sauce thickens, Add 2 cups cheese, whisk until melted and sauce is smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup Parmesan then creme fraiche and mustard. Season with salt & pepper.

Bring reserved pot of water back to a boil and cook penne, drain. Add to cauliflower and sauce.

Butter baking dish. Spoon half of penne mix in and top with 1/2 cup cheese. Top with remaining pasta mix and 1/2 cup cheese. Melt butter in small skillet and add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Sprinkle over pasta.

Preheat oven to 350F and bake, uncovered 35 minutes, until bubbly.

January 30, 2011

Meatloaf, Cauliflower Puree and Broccoli

It is no secret that The Nudge loves meatloaf.
For the playoffs and the freezing weather, I picked chopped meat for the main ingredient this week.
That always means 2 things, meatloaf or meatballs.
I opted for meatloaf.
I am obsessed with creamed cauliflower, so it was a natural progression that I would combine the 2 for this week's Sunday meal.

Leftover broccoli from last weeks rosti's made a complete meal with some prepared gravy (I use the Knorrs Basic Brown Gravy mix).

Basic Meatloaf
makes 8 - 1" slices
* 1 1/2 pound 80% ground meat
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 1 tablespoon brown mustard
* 1 teaspoon ground thyme
* salt and pepper
* 2 slices country bread, processed
* 2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, soaked in ice water
* 1 tablespoon water

In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients and mix well, careful not to over work the meat.
Once everything is mixed, stop.

Form a loaf shape in a baking pan or use a aluminum loaf pan as a form and turn over into a baking pan. You need to bake a meatloaf in a large pan so the outside gets browned all over.

Set oven to 375F and bake 1 hour 15 minutes. You will smell it and it will be golden brown and delicious.

Caramelized Cauliflower Puree
makes 2 cups
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 pound cauliflower, sliced 1/2-inch thick
* 3/4 cup heavy cream
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Roast chopped up cauliflower for 45 minutes at 350F.
In saute pan add cauliflower, cream, butter and salt & pepper. Simmer until cream is thick. Process till smooth, adjust seasonings and serve.

The Nudge took a lunch and the remainder will be chopped into 1/2" cubes for the Meat Chowder on Thursday. Save the broccoli, cauliflower puree and the gravy, also for the chowder.

January 29, 2011

Baked Shrimp Scampi on Quinoa Cakes

This dish started out as a simple Baked Shrimp Scampi.
Easy, flavorful but slightly boring.

Yes, boring.
What do you serve with it?

Those are the usual suspects.
I didn't want usual, I wanted healthy and different.

About a year ago I saw a recipe for Quinoa Cakes....made like potato pancakes but using quinoa. I made them back in July and decided to visit them again tonight. Tonight's recipe is a more substantial recipe with cottage cheese, carrots and cheddar cheese.

I love quinoa and I admit with all the new grains out there I forget about quinoa. The new designer grains are farro and spelt and wheatberries. Poor quinoa never really got the press it deserves.

It has a nutty, pleasant flavor but it is a powerhouse of nutrients (especially for women). You cook it like rice...a standard 1:2 ratio.
Twenty minutes later you have quinoa.

I thought I could make small cakes and sit the shrimp on top then spoon the scampi sauce over them.

The Nudge said if I made a platter of these for a party they would disappear immediately. That's pretty good praise from him.

Baked Shrimp Scampi
makes 4-5 servings
* 1 pound U28-32 peeled and deveined shrimp
* 1/3 cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs
* 1 tsp parsley
* 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 tbls fresh lemon juice
* 1 tsp olive oil

Spray a baking dish with Pam. Combine bread crumbs, lemon rind, salt and garlic in a bowl. Stir in lemon juice and olive oil.
Lay shrimp down in baking dish and sprinkle bread crumbs over the shrimp. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes.
Lay quinoa cakes on a platter, place one shrimp on each cakes, spoon dripping over shrimp and keep warm until ready to serve.

Quinoa Cakes
makes approximately 40 1" cakes
* 1 cup quinoa
* 2 cups water
* 1/2 tsp salt

* 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
* 1/2 cup cottage cheese
* 1 medium carrot, grated
* 3 eggs
* 2 tbls whole wheat flour
* 2 green onion, sliced
* 1/2 tsp Splenda
* 1/4 tsp black pepper
* 1 tsp cumin
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1/8 tsp garlic powder
* Canola Oil for frying

In a medium saucepan bring the 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil over high heat. Add quinoa and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and the seeds are tender. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, carrot, eggs, flour, green onions, Splenda, pepper, cumin, salt, and garlic powder.

Heat a frying pan and a couple teaspoons oil over medium heat. Using a small 1oz ice cream scoop, place as many scoops in a non-stick skillet as it will hold and sauce until golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove to a platter and repeat until all the mixture is done.

Review: I would remove the tails from my shrimp next time so they can be a 1 bite item. I probably would also serve them over sauteed spinach or chard.
These were very good and would certainly make them as an Hors d'Oeuvre at my next party.

January 28, 2011

Corn & Crab Pudding

I am a huge corn person, especially corn relish. I could eat it right out of the jar (and I have done that). I used to buy a jar that Williams Sonoma sold, when I had a chance to visit a mall store. They no longer sell it but I found a recipe for one that is very close. Now I 'can' a few pint jars of it when Jersey corn is at the peak...YUM (I promise to post the recipe come the summer).

This pudding recipe has been in my 'recipes to do' file for 2 years now. Since we had corn on the menu I thought I would sneak it in. Unfortunately I am still with major cold and all I could muster was to call for pizza. I am posting the recipe for all those following this blog without colds...........

Crab & Corn Pudding
makes 8 servings
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 box frozen corn in a butter sauce
* 3 scallions, chopped
* 1/2 medium red pepper, chopped
* 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
* fresh nutmeg
* 3/4 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp pepper
* 3/4 pound crabmeat or surimi (I like it enough to use it in this recipe)
* 1 1/3 cups fat-free half & half
* 3 eggs
* 3 egg whites

Lightly grease eight 8-oz. custard cups; set aside. In a skillet, saute green onions, red pepper and corn in butter until tender. Remove and cool.

Once cooled add the eggs, crab, flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper.

Pour into prepared custard cups or 2-quart baking dish.
Place cups in a large baking pan and add 1 in. of boiling water to pan.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes (for ramekins) and 45-50 minutes (for 2-qt dish) or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Review: I eventually made these with the Baked Salmon. They were sweet and tasty with a creamy cornbread base. The kids will love these.

January 27, 2011

Too sick to cook......

I am so sorry that I could not make the Moo Shu Pork for dinner.

All week my throat was scratchy and my nose was runny, but up till today it didn't effect my routine.

I got home from a long day of driving 5 hours and taking my Dad to the doctor's and shopping and just could not even think about cooking.

The Nudge took me out to the Macaroni Grill.

Followers of this blog know how we feel about this specific location.

The fact that on Thursday's their bottles of wine are half-priced (every table had one, and yes, I was spying) had no weight in us going there, we argue that it is the food and the staff.

Just the place you need when you want to be left alone with a good plate of pasta or chicken marsala and just get toasty warm (well, maybe the wine had a little to do with that).

So...even though I did not actually cook the Moo Shu Pork, I will still post the recipe for those of you looking forward to eating this.

Moo Shu Pork
(adapted from Woman's Day Magazine)
makes 12 servings
* 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
* 3 large cloves garlic, minced
* 2 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
* 2 T dark Asian sesame oil
* 1 T. cornstarch
* 1 bag shredded coleslaw mix
* 1/2 bag shredded carrots
* 3/4 pound leftover pork

1. Stir together hoisin, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and cornstarch.
2. Saute carrots and coleslaw in a non-tick pan with 2 tsp canola oil.
3. Once they soften, add pork and heat through.
4. Add sauce and toss to coat.
5. Warm tortillas wrapped in foil for 5 minutes.
6. Place 1/2 cup mixture in center of tortillas , top with scallion strips (optional), and roll up.

January 26, 2011

Cheesy Broccoli and Red Pepper Rosti

Back in September, I created a healthy but very tasty stuffed potato rosti.

When I created this week's menu, I saw the opportunity to make another one, this time with broccoli & cheddar cheese (using the Mexican blend from last night's enchiladas).

The technique is the same so you may want to refer to this post to see the step-by-step pictorial.
I think I did a pretty good job explaining how to make a rosti as healthy as possible.

I suppose I get cravings for crunchy hash brown potatoes because I limit myself to them.
Reason #1 why you should not deny yourself a food you love.
Eat in moderation and you will never binge.

The beauty of this dish is that it is like a potato omelet, the fillings are endless.
Figure one Yukon Gold potato per rosti, so it is easy to portion.

These can be made ahead, separated by sheets of parchment paper, in the fridge for up to 3 days. To soften them slightly, nuke for about 1 minute each. Place the filling on one half of the circle and then fold over to cover. Bake in an oven until the cheese melts.


This recipe makes 4 large rosti's but make 2 more potato pancakes and add 6 more ounces of broccoli and you can feed 6 easily.

Cheesy Broccoli and Red Pepper Rosti
makes 4
* 4 Yukon gold potatoes, grated
* 1 cup shredded cheddar
* 2 cups cooked broccoli
* 4 red pepper halves, chopped
* leftover shredded chicken (optional)

Review: These were excellent. Crunchy outside and moist & flavorful inside. The Nudge says it nuked really well for lunch the next day. I forgot the red peppers but they were not missed at all.
I will make these again and I am already thinking of all sorts of great leftovers to fill them with.

January 25, 2011

Shrimp Enchiladas with a Corn Sauce

I really did not have any pre-conceptions of this recipe.

It looked like the ingredients would get along and the idea of a corn sauce intrigued me along with hash browns in the stuffing.

If you are looking for a non-traditional enchilada recipe, this is it.

No salsa, no sour cream and no tomatillos. Your kids will love these. They are not spicy, they are very sweet and there is plenty of cheese.

I only made 4 but the recipe is for 8. They are filling so one would be enough for a child. You could serve these with all the trimmings....salsa, guacamole, sour cream and pickled jalapenos.

I just kept a few shrimp whole for a garnish. I was getting tired of all the standard Tex-Mex dishes, this was a nice change.

I would do this again, but I would add more heat (like a serrano instead of a jalapeno) and I would make more sauce and mix the cheese in with it (I forgot I am not a fan of pre-shredded bagged cheese, it does not melt ooey gooey).

I will not buy low-fat pre-shredded cheese again. For some reason they just don't melt, they brown. I also had that problem on the Potato Rosti recipe.

If you want to use a low fat version of cheese, please buy chunk and grate it yourself. You will enjoy your healthy meal more and be less tempted to use gross amounts of regular cheese the next time.

Shrimp Enchiladas with Corn Sauce
makes 8

* 1 box (10 oz) Green Giant® Niblets® frozen corn & butter sauce
* 1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles
* 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro sprigs
* 3/4 cup 1% milk

* 1 tablespoon Light Olive Oil
* 1 teaspoon lime juice
* 12 oz uncooked medium shrimp (about 24), thawed if frozen, peeled and deveined
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 cup refrigerated cooked shredded hash brown potatoes (from 20-oz bag)
* 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
* 1 jalapeño chile, seeded, diced
* 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (8 oz)(I used a low fat version)
* 8 Whole Grain flour tortillas for soft tacos & fajitas (from 10.5-oz package)
* Finely chopped red cabbage, if desired
* Finely chopped green onions, if desired

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with No-Stick Cooking Spray.
2. Cook corn in microwave as directed on package.
3. In blender or food processor, place 1 cup of the corn and butter sauce, 3 tablespoons of the green chiles, the sugar, cilantro and milk. Cover; blend on medium speed until creamy. Pour into medium bowl; stir in remaining corn and butter sauce until well mixed. Set aside.
4. In 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil and lime juice over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sprinkle cumin over shrimp. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, turning once, until shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from skillet to cutting board; chop. Set aside.
5. In same skillet, cook potatoes over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat. Stir in shrimp, remaining green chiles, the bell pepper, jalapeño chile and cheese until mixed.
6. Heat tortillas in microwave as directed on package.
7. Pour half of the corn sauce in bottom of baking dish. Spoon about 1/2 cup shrimp mixture down center of each tortilla. Roll up each tortilla; place seam side down on corn sauce in baking dish. Pour remaining corn sauce evenly over enchiladas.
8. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. To serve, place 2 enchiladas on each of 4 serving plates.

January 24, 2011

Broccoli and Chorizo Soup

What don't we know about broccoli that we think we do?

Broccoli provides a high amount of vitamin C, which aids iron absorption in the body, prevents the development of cataracts, and also eases the symptoms of the common cold.

The folic acid in broccoli helps women sustain normal tissue growth and is often used as a supplement when taking birth control pills and during pregnancies.

The potassium in broccoli aids those battling high blood pressure, while a large amount of calcium helps combat osteoporosis.

The vegetable is also fiber-rich, which enhances the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, as well as aims to reduce blood cholesterol levels.

In recent years, broccoli has made the headlines regarding three components found in the vegetable. For instance, indole-3-carbinol has captured the attention of those looking to prevent hormone-related cancers, such as breast- and prostate cancer.
I3C promotes "good" hormones, while working against destructive ones. The sulforaphane in broccoli also helps to increase the level of enzymes that block cancer, while the beta-carotene in broccoli transforms into vitamin A within the body, providing an effective antioxidant that destroys free radicals (responsible for weakening the defense of cells).

Additionally, the health benefits of broccoli have been linked to preventing and controlling the following medical concerns: Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, calcium deficiencies, stomach and colon cancer, malignant tumors, lung cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and even the aging process.

This soup should be on the menu once a week for lunch.

I did not want to do the traditional cream of broccoli soup. I picked up a package of really good fresh chorizo in a local Latin Market on Saturday planning on using it for the enchiladas and rosti later in the week but when I opened the package and smelt that sausage I just had to add it to the soup.

Broccoli soup can be very boring and I imagine not many kids are thrilled to eat it but I think they will like this version.

It has a small kick and a spicy undertone plus a creamy finish. I added the other half a can of navy beans and I suppose you could throw in some soup pasta, a crouton or two and a dollop of lite sour cream.

If you have the leftover carrots, onions, garlic and broccoli from last nights meal, use those instead of new.

Latin-Style Broccoli Soup
serves 4
* 1 link chorizo, 1/2 sliced into coins and sauteed, the rest skin removed and diced fine
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 2 cups broccoli
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 1/2 cup carrots
* 1 tsp garlic
* 1/2 cup fat free half and half
* 1 cup navy beans
* 1 cup croutons (optional)

Spray a saucepan with Pam and saute chorizo. Add onion and saute until soft.
Add broth and vegetables. Simmer for 20 minutes. Puree in blender or with immersion blender. Add half & half and beans.

Bring to a simmer and serve.

January 23, 2011

Honey Roasted Pork Loin with Onions, Garlic and Broccoli

Main ingredient for our third week is the all versatile boneless pork loin.
While we do eat pork tenderloins more (the size is perfect for two people), once a year my market has the whole loin for sale and I take it home and butcher it. The one end I always cut into a 7-8" roast and the rest into 1 1/2" chops (for grilling in the summer).

I can't resist the chance to roast a pork loin along with sweet potatoes. It goes so well with just about any vegetable and sauces but especially winter ones, like brussel sprouts and squashes.

This time around I roasted 1 large sweet potato for an hour, removed it from the oven and peeled off the skin.
Into a small earthenware ramekin I topped the mashed potato with a cinnamon compound butter I keep in the freezer.
I returned the dish to the oven to bake while the loin rested.

When ever I turn on an oven, I am baking for a few meals. The broccoli and garlic will be for for the soup tomorrow night.
I cut a few slashes in the fat on the top of the loin so that the honey glaze could penetrate into the meat.

Once they were done (about 40 minutes) I removed them to a dish. I squeezed the garlic out of their skins and cut the root off the onion, separating the layers.
I salted and peppered the vegetables and removed the loin to my cutting board to rest for 20 minutes.

After I removed the loin to the board, I drained the juices into a small saucepan and boiled it down till it thickened (but not syrupy thick).

I served a few broccoli spears along with the carrots and onions.

After dinner, I chopped enough pork for the Moo Shu Pork, a bunch of slices for Cubanos and a chunk of loin for the freezer.

Honey Roasted Pork Loin with Onions and Carrots
serves 6
Cook Time approx 90 Minutes

* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish
* 1 (3 pound) boneless pork loin
* Salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 1 cup moscato wine
* 1 tablespoon juniper berries
* 3 bay leaves
* 3/4 cup honey
* 1 lemon, juiced
* 1/2 to 3/4 cup water
* 18 small cipolline or pearl onions, peeled (I used sweet onions, quartered. Could not find cipollines and forgot to buy pearl onions)
* 6 medium carrots or baby carrots, peeled, quartered, and cut into 2-inch lengths
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat oven to 350º. Lightly brush a 9-x-13-inch roasting pan with oil.

Season pork with salt and pepper and place in baking dish with carrots, onions and garlic. Roast for 30 minutes. Add wine, juniper berries, bay leaves and all but 1 tablespoon of the honey. Remove the vegetables and add in the broccoli; continue roasting until thermometer inserted diagonally 2 inches into meat registers 150º, about 45 minutes more. Remove dish from oven and transfer pork to a cutting board to rest. Strain juices into a medium saucepan; add lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce juices by about half to a syrupy glaze, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove glaze from heat and cool slightly to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes. Brush over pork.

Slice pork and serve with vegetables.

January 22, 2011

Warm Pasta Salad with Turkey Sausage

On first glace you would think this is a traditional pasta salad with a dressing of either mayonnaise or oil & vinegar, but you be wrong.....

It has all the traditional components of a pasta salad (the green vegetable, the mushrooms, the beans and the meat) but the dressing is just a warm, light sauce that coats the ingredients which don't over power them, so you taste them.

I am not a fan of turkey or chicken sausages but I thought I would give them a try this week.

First of all they are way over priced. I noticed anything relating to healthy or less fat items are 4x more expensive.

I was telling The Nudge that the senior citizens on a fixed income are never going to buy these products and they are the half of Americans that really needs to watch their sodium and cholesterol intakes (the other half being the overweight).

I guess to take advantage of their better nutrition you eat less of them and more of the beans and vegetables.

This dish does exactly that.

I used only 2 turkey sausages and made enough for 6 servings, easily.

Warm Pasta Salad with Turkey Sausage, Mushrooms, Rapini and White Beans
makes 6 - 1 cup servings
* 3/4 pound gemelli or farfalle pasta, cooked
* 2 turkey sausages cut into 1" julienne
* 2 cups, cooked rapini (or escarole)
* 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
* 1 can Navy Beans, drained and rinsed
* 1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
* 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
* Pinch red pepper flakes
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil and saute mushrooms. When they brown add the sausages and garlic.
Saute until they brown and add red pepper flakes, broth and rapini.
Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Put in a large pasta bowl, sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Review: Light but very filling. Cooking the pasta and rapini last weekend made this dish came together in less then 30 minutes as I was in no mood to cook a complex recipe.

This might look like a small amount of ingredients, but the pasta swells 2x and it really makes a nice big bowl. I ended up with a quart of leftovers and we each had a substantial serving for dinner so 6 (1 cup) servings is very doable. Some whole wheat rolls or breadsticks will stuff their bellies well. Warming to the tummy on a cold night, I could add chicken broth for soup to eat all week for lunch.

January 21, 2011

Turkey Sausage Cassoulet

The genuine bean-and-mixed-meat casserole of southwestern France is truly a labor of love. With this no-work version, the love stays in, but the labor evaporates.
Serve a salad on the side.

Healthy Turkey Sausage Cassoulet
serves 6
* 1 cup chopped onion
* 3/4 cup bagged baby carrots, halved
* 1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
* 2 tablespoons garlic
* 1 1/4 pounds Italian turkey sausage, cut into 2" lengths
* 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
* 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
* 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 2 cans (15 ounces each) great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
* 1/2 cup (2 ounces) bagged precooked crumbled bacon

1. Saute the onion, carrots, oil, and garlic.
2. Coat the inside of a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker pot with cooking spray. Add the sausage, tomato sauce, herbs, pepper, and the reserved onion mixture. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on the low-heat setting for 7 to 8 hours. Add the beans to the pot in the last hour of cooking. Stir gently to combine.
3. Place the bacon on a microwaveable plate. Microwave on high power for 1 minute, or until sizzling. Sprinkle on each serving.
4. Note: To use the high-heat setting, cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Nutritional Facts per serving
Calories 459
Fat 22.3 G
Sat Fat 4.7 G
Sodium 1187.4 MG
Carbohydrate 33.7 G
Total Sugars 4.7 G
Dietary Fiber 7.6 G
Protein 31 G

January 20, 2011

Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken

Today's nutrition lesson is on peanut butter.

Peanut butter may protect against a high risk of cardiovascular disease due to high levels of monounsaturated fats and resveratrol; butter prepared with the skin of the peanuts has a greater level of resveratrol and other health-aiding agents.
Peanut butter (and peanuts) provide protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate, dietary fiber, arginine, and high levels of the antioxidant p-coumaric acid.

As it relates to diabetes: People who regularly eat 5 tablespoons of peanut butter or 28g of any nuts can significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20%, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

I would say that peanut butter is a good thing.

Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken
I like the flavor and texture of conventional chunky peanut butter in the sauce because it tends to be sweeter than natural or old-fashioned versions.

serves 4 to 6
* 1/4 cup sesame seeds
* 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
* 2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
* 5 tablespoons soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
* 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
* 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
water (hot)
* 1 1/2 pounds shredded cooked chicken (leftover from Sunday)
* 1 tablespoon table salt
* 1 pound fresh Asian noodles or 12 ounces dried spaghetti
* 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
* 1 tablespoon Thai-style chili sauce (optional)
* 4 scallions, sliced thin on diagonal
* 1/2 cup from bag pre-grated carrot (save rest for next week's Moo Shu Pork)

1. Toast sesame seeds in medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon sesame seeds in small bowl.
2. In blender or food processor, puree remaining 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds.
With machine running, add hot water 1 tablespoon at time until sauce has consistency of heavy cream, about 5 tablespoons; set blender jar or work bowl aside.
3. Bring 6 quarts water to boil in stockpot over high heat. Add salt and noodles to boiling water; boil noodles until tender, about 4 minutes for fresh and 10 minutes for dried. Drain, then rinse with cold water until cool to touch; drain again.
4. In large bowl, toss noodles with sesame oil until evenly coated. Add shredded chicken, scallions, carrot, and sauce; toss to combine. Divide among individual bowls, sprinkle each bowl with portion of reserved sesame seeds, and serve.

January 19, 2011

Frittata di Pasta

For an Italian, I really do not cook a lot of Italian dishes.

I am always reminded of that when I come across a recipe for something I never cooked or tasted, that is totally Italian. Fennel is another ingredient I never ate as a child and upon asking my Dad if my Grandma ever cooked it, his simple statement of "yes, but I wouldn't eat it", explained it all.

This meal is a prime example. The uniqueness that is Italian is in their propensity for using leftovers in such a morphed way, that the recipient would never recognize it as last night's dinner.

This time around, I am making it 'tonight's dinner', morphing the pasta into a dish later in the week.

Simple ingredients, perfectly balanced, a fast-food candidate for one of Rachael's cookbooks, kid friendly all the way and healthy.

I will cook the whole box of spaghetti and halve it (a little EVOO will help to keep it unstuck in the bag).

I use the Ronzoni Smart Taste spaghetti. It's the first white pasta to be enriched with Fiber, Calcium and Vitamin D-- and lots of it. It is also an excellent source of Fiber and contains Calcium and Vitamin D equal to an eight-ounce glass of milk. Studies show that many diets are lacking in these three important nutrients. Plus, Ronzoni Smart Taste is lower in calories and fat than traditional pasta.

The Nudge will eat brown rice but not whole wheat pasta, so this is the best I can do to up the nutritionals in what can be, a very bad thing on a diabetic diet.

Everyone will say, why not use Dreamfield's? I do use Dreamfield's when I can get it on sale (which is almost never) and I like the taste of Ronzoni pasta. America's Test Kitchen ranks Ronzoni as their #1 pasta year after year and I agree. More importantly, so does The Nudge.

That's all the endorsement I need.

Frittata di Pasta
makes 6 servings
* 6 eggs (beaten well) or 1 1/2 cups Egg Beaters
* 1/2 pound of cooked spaghetti
* 2 cups spaghetti sauce (optional)
* 1 tablespoons oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced
* 3/4 cup fontina or jack cheese
* 1/4 cup grated Romano Cheese
* 2 tablespoons EVOO
Preheat oven to 350F.
In an oven proof skillet, heat the EVOO. Place the spaghetti in the skillet, scatter with the tomatoes, salt & pepper, cheeses and eggs.
When the eggs start to set around the edges, place in the oven for 25 minutes.

Remove, let it cool and flip it onto a platter large enough to serve the whole frittata on. The bottom should be crusty and browned well.

Heat the spaghetti sauce and ladle a spoonful onto each persons plate, slice the frittata into 6 slices. One goes on each plate.
You could also serve it nekkid with a salad and rolls.

January 18, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings - Two Ways + a dessert too

I am not sure what my inspiration was for making my first Chicken and Dumplings. We never had it as kids, it was never requested by a boyfriend or co-worker. There were no blogs back then, only cookbooks.

I do remember I got the recipe from a Weight Watchers Quick Success Cookbook, circa 1987. That was almost 25 years years ago. The same book I got my meatloaf recipe out of. A meatloaf recipe that has stood the test of time.

Same as the chicken and dumplings. I make it the same way every time and it is consistently good. I have tweaked it by adding a smidgen of cream instead of the flour and skim milk and I add mushrooms for a meaty taste feel.

I have always wanted to try the Cracker Barrel-type dumplings which are more pasta/gnocchi like.

They are almost like unfilled pirogi (actually exactly like pirogi dough) but I am not sure how The Nudge would feel. He has always been partial to the fluffy texture of the biscuit-style dumplings I make.

The Nudge votes for biscuit dumplings, so that's what we will have.

Chicken and Dumplings
serves 4 - can be doubled successfully
* 1 tablespoon EVOO
* 1/2 onion, chopped
* 1/4 cup slivered red peppers
* 1/2 c diced carrots
* 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
* 1 quart chicken stock
* 1 tablespoon fat-free half and half
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* pepper
* 12 oz cubed cooked chicken
* 1/2 cup frozen peas

Fluffy Dumplings
* 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons buttermilk baking mix or
* 1 cup self-rising cake flour
* 1/2 cup buttermilk
* 1 tsp herbs de provence

Noodle Dumplings
* 3/4 cup sour cream
* 3 cups AP flour
* 1 egg, beaten

In large bowl make a well in the middle of the flour. Whisk sour cream with egg and pour into well.
With wooden spoon mix until comes together. Will be sticky.
On board with flour, knead dough until smooth. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 minutes.
Roll out to 1/4" and rough cut with a pizza cutter or use a biscuit cutter.
Simmer a pot of salted water and drop noodles into water and boil until the rise to the top. Remove to Chicken mixture.

For Chicken Base:
1. Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms and carrots in oil.
2. Add chicken stock, chicken, cream and peas.
3. Simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Mix dumpling mixture together and with a spoon, scoop a heaping tablespoon onto the simmering stock.
5. Cover and steam 10 minutes.
6. Serve.

Peak into the pot after the dumplings steam and this is what you see.

I am still getting used to my new camera so a few pictures were blurry and unusable.

I will try got get a good pic at the table.

While I was cleaning the dishes I found a box of pears from Harry & David that someone sent The Nudge over the holiday. Amazingly they were still edible but very soft. Too soft for poaching in wine so I decided to make a Crisp (recipe here). Last time I made one of those, it had to be summer because I used plouts and they are ripe in August.

I admit I made a double batch of topping. That really is the best part, isn't it?
This really is easy, I should make it more often. I do it in the processor but a fork or your fingers would work just as well.

I think that a savory topping with cheese instead of brown sugar would be a wonderful addition to a casserole or a boring vegetable puree. I will have to try it.

It looks good, hope it tastes good, too.

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January 17, 2011

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Going to my Dad's on Thursday, Shop-Rite having their annual Can-Can sale and a case of pint canning jars. What do they have in common?

I always buy 2 cases of Whole Plum Tomatoes and make sauce for the rest of the winter.

This time I decided to make my dad a few so he can have some good ravioli's with a sauce sans cholesterol and sodium. He's not supposed to eat red meat anymore and use no salt, so I went with a marinara but made with a low-sodium beef broth.

Homemade sauce is so easy. You do some sauteing and then let it simmer for a few hours while you do housework or blog.

The last time I visited my Dad I bought a quart jar of homemade from a local Italian deli here in Hopatcong, cost me $7.25.
Four pints of homemade cost me $3.65 (twice as much for hal the price).
Why would you ever buy it again??

Homemade Marinara Sauce
* 3 tbls EVOO
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, chopped
* 2 tbls tomato paste
* 1 carrot, grated
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 2 cups beef broth
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
* 2 - 28oz cans whole tomatoes in juice
* 2 tbls Italian Spice Blend
* 1 tbls pesto

In olive oil saute onions and garlic till they are caramelized. Add tomato paste and cook till that caramelizes.
Add carrot, wine and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.
Add tomatoes, pepper and spices.
Simmer for 2 hours.
Puree, add the pesto and jar.
Refrigerate and use in 1 month (if you water bath them, they will last for at least a year in your pantry).

Monday Soup Night - Minestrone (Morph #1)

Tonight is an example of 'use what you have if what you have is no time'.

Monday has been soup day in this house for the last 3 years. During the winter, I use Mondays as the 'clean out the refrigerator' day.

In most Italian homes, this is standard procedure. Some will make a frittata or a pasta dish, but the majority will make soup. Italians eat soup even in the hottest days of the year.

I love soup and am converting The Nudge. At first I made the basic soups, chicken & noodle, minestrone, French onion, tomato, beef barley and cream of 'whatever'.

I found out The Nudge does not like cream of mushroom or cream of potato, etc. He prefers a broth based soup.

OK, yell at me now for last week's Carrot and Parsnip Soup but that soup had only a smidgen of cream in it, just enough to round out the mouth feel.
He does not mind a pureed soup as long as 75% of it isn't cream-based.

He does love a good Minestrone, I mean, who doesn't?
The vegetables get really soft and sweet, the beans are creamy and rich and the pasta will get your kids (or Dad's, mine loves plenty of noodles in his soup) to love it.

I had every intention of making this soup as the recipe called for but I ended up not being home till 30 minutes before dinnertime.

I had to eliminate a few step to put diner on the table. That was the pesto croutons and the farro (needs to soak for at least 1 hour).

I ended up using soup pasta and store bought cornbread croutons.

I adjusted the recipe accordingly but left the pesto croutons on in case you decide you want to make them.

Minestrone with Pesto Croutons
serves 6
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 onion, chopped
* 4oz unsmoked bacon or chopped pancetta
* 2 large carrots, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
* 1 cup chopped tomatoes in their juice
* 1 quart vegetable stock + 1 cup water
* 2 tsp chopped sage leaves, or 1 tsp dried
* 1/2 cup coleslaw mix
* 1 cup lima beans
* 1 cup soup pasta
* 1 bay leaf
* handful chopped spinach, rapini or chard
* cheese rind (optional)

* slices of crusty bread
* 3 tbsp olive oil
* 1 tbsp pesto

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and pancetta or bacon and fry for about 5 mins until the onion is starting to brown. Tip in the carrots, celery, and garlic, stir well and cook for a few minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, stock and sage, and bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce heat to simmer and cook partly covered for 30 mins, stirring in the cabbage after 15 mins. Add the limas to the pan with the parsley. Season and serve with pesto croûtes, see right, or crusty bread.
3. For the pesto croûtes: Cut 3-4 slices of crusty whole wheat bread into chunks, about 1" thick. Tip into an ovenproof pan. Mix the olive oil and pesto, then add to the bread, tossing it with your hands until the croûtes are evenly coated. Bake in a moderate oven for about 10 mins until crisp.

If you are adding pasta or egg noodles, cook them separately so that they do not soak up all the good broth and make the soup starchy. I would omit the croutons.

To make it vegetarian leave out the bacon and use 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms instead.

This may seem like a lot of calories for a soup but it is a complete meal in a bowl and includes the croutons.

People tend to forget that in a balanced meal, you eat a protein at around 350 cal, a starch at 350 cal and a vegetable at 250 cal. That is almost 1000 cal in just your dinner.
Add a salad or a roll....you are up there baby. If you truly want to loose weight (and not just eat healthier) you have got to measure everything. That is why Weight Watchers is so successful.

This is such a nutritional powerhouse of a soup that you will feel full on less.

January 16, 2011

Week 2 - A Sunday Roasted Chicken

I love a roasted chicken. I could sit there and pick at those bones all night.
My sister and my Dad are the same way. My Mom must have made a mean roaster for us to all love it this much.

It is one of the easiest things to bake, if all you have is salt & pepper, it will still be great.

I like to rub mine down with unsalted butter then sprinkle either Italian seasonings or herbs de Provence. Salt & pepper, maybe a few cloves of garlic inside and bake.

Must be room temperature and the legs tied.

I put a liquid in the baking dish, either wine, chicken stock or just plain water.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes then turn the oven down to 350 for 1 hour. If the roaster is 4+ pounds then an 1 1/2 more. Instant read thermometer should read 165 in the breasts.

I am making mashed potatoes for The Nudge, lima beans and left-over red cabbage.

After you carve the chicken, save the leftovers and clean the meat from the bones.
You will need at least a cup for the sesame noodles and another cup & a half for the chicken & dumplings. Bag and label them.
The extra limas go into a plastic container to add to the soup for tomorrow night.

To prepare the roaster:
1. Remove the giblet bag and wash giblets, then chicken inside and out and dry the skin totally.
2. Scallion tops, garlic cloves and half a lemon get shoved into the cavity.
I do not bother to salt & pepper the inside, we aren't eating that are we?
3. Arrange the giblets along the outside of the pan
4. Loosen the skin under the breasts and with a lump of butter, place that under the skin and push it all the way to the chicken's tush, pressing down with your fingers to trap the butter in there. Repeat with other side.
5. Spread butter all over the outside and sprinkle herbs de Provence and salt & pepper well.
6. Place in baking pan, tucking the wings under the neck.
7. Chop a large white onion and garlic and spread it all around the chicken where the giblets are.
8. If you have parsley stems, tuck them in here & there.
9. Pour olive oil over vegetables in pan and then lightly on the chicken skin.
10. Preheat oven to 450F.
11. I have a 5 pound roaster so I set my timer for 2 hours.
12. After 30 minutes I lowered the oven to 350.

While my chicken is roasting I clean and slice 2 bunches of scallions and place them in a snack bag.

I also peeled 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes for mashies, and get the limas ready for steaming.

Was a very tasty little chicken meal, perfect for a night of watching football playoff games.
Nothing fussy that The Nudge could eat quickly and not hurt my feelings....lol
I ended up with over 2 cups of pulled chicken for the rest of the week, and a lunch for the The Nudge for tomorrow using all the mashies and the limas I did not stash away for tomorrow's soup.

They did not have escarole at the market so I chose rapini for the warm pasta salad at the end of the week. I will clean a bunch of that and pre-boil them (rapini tends to be bitter and steaming them before sauteing will leach out some of that bitterness), cook the pasta and the lima beans while I am roasting the chicken. Doing 3 things with one cooking vessel is a great time saver, not to mention less pots to wash.

I can sleep knowing I got a huge jump on the meals for the rest of the week and maybe I will make a pear crisp for dessert.

Buttermilk Waffles + how to make really good ones

The Nudge has requested waffles for breakfast this morning.
Since he will be traveling for 2 days starting tomorrow, I like to give him a good home cooked meal before he goes. He really doesn't eat all that well on the road. They tend to stop at local places and he ends up with no vegetables and the usual hamburger. I understand that because you can rely on a burger to be a burger.

You need to understand that I have not had much success with waffles.
I bought a spanking new Belgium waffle maker last year and the first batch was perfect.

After that I could not make a good waffle. The first time I used an overnight yeast recipe and I stupidly threw the recipe away and can not for the life of me find it again.....sigh.

I have unsuccessfully tried 4 other recipes to failure so I have not been asked to make them again.

Away went the appliance and when The Nudge wants waffles, he gets them at the Diner on Saturdays.

For some reason he asked for waffles today, so I went on the Internet, yet once again, and since I had buttermilk I needed to use, I found this recipe for the BEST buttermilk waffles ever.

To me, waffles were supposed to be light, airy, and, most of all, crisp. But by the time they got to my plate, they were always damp and limp.

So what's so unique about this waffle recipe? At first glance, the ingredient list isn't all that unusual, but a closer look reveals a few twists. Cornstarch may look a little out of place in a waffle recipe, but its role is key. Coupled with flour, it's this ingredient that guarantees waffles that are crisp on the outside and tender yet toothsome on the inside.

This waffle batter starts with a traditional method—pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and then whisk until just combined.
But there's a surprising twist. Reserve the sugar to whip with the egg white separately to create ultralight waffles.

Some say it doesn't matter whether you separate the egg and whip the white before folding it into the waffle batter. I find, however, that waffles made with a whipped egg white are not only lighter and more airy, they're also taller and more tender. Plus, they brown better. Many waffle recipes contain sugar, but most include it with the dry ingredients. I find that beating it with the egg white accomplishes two things. First, it stabilizes the white, improving the batter's longevity. Second, the sugar softens the egg white, making it much easier to fold into the batter.

Unlike most waffle recipes that call for either milk or buttermilk, this recipe calls for both. Buttermilk waffles are more flavorful, but the batter is thick and the waffles less crisp. Waffles made with milk, on the other hand, are more crisp but less flavorful than buttermilk waffles. A combination of the two milks offers the best of both—milk for crisp texture, buttermilk for full flavor.

Vanilla extract, the last unusual ingredient, is my addition. The extract improves the flavor of the waffle so dramatically that I often eat my waffles plain—no butter or syrup.

Once the waffles are cooked, crisp them further in the oven. The last step I take to guarantee this waffle's crispness is a required rest directly on the rack of a 200°F oven for five minutes. This allows you to make all the waffles before serving, making it possible for everyone to eat at the same time. The low heat of the oven also beautifully reinforces the waffle's crispness. Don't stack the waffles or within seconds they'll turn moist and limp. But if you forget and accidentally stack them, don't worry. Separate them and arrange them in a single layer again. Almost as quickly as they got soggy, they'll crisp right back up.

This got a HUGE thumbs up from The Nudge.
He said (and I quote) "Yum, this is tasty and the texture is perfect".
"Does that mean I finally nailed it?"
"Yup, you can make these anytime".

The recipe as was made 2 cups of batter which was just enough for 2 8" waffles.
Depending on how much your kids can eat, you probably should double it.

What I liked about the texture was very crunchy on the outside but airy in the middle which did not sink to the bottom of my stomach.

Light, Crisp Waffles
makes 2 8" waffles
* 3/4 cup bleached all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 1/2 tsp. baking powder
* 1/4 tsp. baking soda
* 3/4 cup buttermilk
* 1/4 cup milk
* 6 Tbs. vegetable oil
* 1 large egg, separated
* 1 Tbs. sugar
* 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 200°F and heat the waffle iron. Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Measure the buttermilk, milk, and vegetable oil in a Pyrex measuring cup; mix in the egg yolk and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg white almost to soft peaks. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue to beat until the peaks are firm and glossy. Beat in the vanilla.

Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just mixed. Drop the whipped egg white onto the batter in dollops and fold in with a spatula until just incorporated.

Pour the batter onto the hot waffle iron (mine takes about 2/3 cup) and cook until the waffle is crisp and nutty brown (follow the manufacturer's instructions for timing at first and then adjust to your liking). Set the waffle directly on the oven rack to keep it warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining batter, holding the waffles in the oven (don't stack them). When all the waffles are cooked, serve immediately.