Wish Upon A Dish: February 2011

February 27, 2011

Ham and Chorizo Strata

I love good casseroles. I am not talking about opening a can of soup, adding noodles, some chopped or canned meat, a few frozen vegetables and cover it with cheese type casseroles. I mean the ones that use good quality ingredients, require a few gourmet steps to bring out the best flavors in those ingredients and the ones that have great taste.

If you are a pork lover, this strata is for you. Full of flavor and meat, it was a great way to use up old bread. I guess you could call it a savory bread pudding.

Downfall of this recipe:
Needs to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight before baking, so plan accordingly. I did not and had to put it off for another day when I had the time to let it sit for 4 hours.

Ham and Sausage Strata
serves: 6
* 1 baguettes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
* 1 celery rib, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (if using chorizo you may want to halve it)
* 1/3 pound sweet Italian sausages (about 2), casings removed, or, chorizo, cut into dice
* 1/2 pound smoked baked ham, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
* 1 andouille sausage (about 4 ounces), finely diced
* 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 1/4 pound Gruyère cheese, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 2 cups chicken stock
* 3/4 cups half-and-half or whole milk

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the bread on a large baking sheet and bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through.
2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion, celery and jalapeño and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 6 minutes. Add the Italian sausages and cook, breaking up any large pieces, until no longer pink, 8 minutes. Stir in the ham, andouille, thyme and salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
3. Add the Gruyère, Parmesan and bread to the meat. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, stock and half-and-half and add to the meat and bread mixture; toss until evenly mixed and moistened. Cover the strata with plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 4-quart glass or ceramic baking dish. Transfer the strata to the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface. Butter a large sheet of foil and cover the baking dish with it. Bake the strata in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, or until barely set. Remove the foil and bake for 45 minutes longer, or until the strata is bubbling and the top is golden and crusty. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

February 26, 2011

Spicy Turkey Sausage with Black-eyed Peas and Spinach

This week after keeping a food diary, I found out I was really lacking in iron.

Here I thought taking a Centrum everyday would cover all the bases but not iron or calcium.

I have decided to add spinach into a recipe where ever it would go well. I buy one of those HUGE plastic clams loaded with baby spinach and just drop it into a dish.

Feel free to use any sausage you like but I chose a Hillshire Farms Turkey Kiebasa.

Spicy Turkey Sausage With Black-Eyed Peas and Spinach
Serves 4

* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 pound turkey kielbasa, sliced
* 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
* 10 ounce baby spinach
* 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
* 1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas, drained
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
* 1/4 teaspoon paprika
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer sausage to a plate, then add remaining ingredients to pan and simmer about 10 minutes. Return sausage to pan and serve over cooked brown rice, bulgur or quinoa if you like.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 348 (36% from fat)
Protein: 26g
Fat: 14g (sat 5.6)
Carbohydrate: 32g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 1740mg
Cholesterol: 60mg

February 25, 2011

Turkey Marsala Tetrazzini

I would say this dish was a combination of a traditional Tetrazzini and a alla Marsala.

I did not want a heavy cream sauce so I lightened it up with Marsala wine.

I did not use spaghetti, I broke up strands of fettuccine instead.

I added red peppers instead of peas and no way was I adding a can of condensed soup.

Although it has 1/4 cup of cream and a roux made with butter, this is a way better for you version but has all the creaminess (thanks to pureed cottage cheese) and savory (thanks to herbs de Provence and the Marsala wine) you want in a sauce.

Turkey Marsala Tetrazzini
serves 4
* 1 pound turkey cutlets
* salt & pepper
* Herbs de Provence
* 1 package button mushrooms, sliced
* 1 package Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
* 1/2 cup Marsala wine
* 1/2 cup pureed cottage cheese
* 1/4 cup creme fraiche
* 2 tablespoons grated cheese of choice
* 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, minced
* butter and olive oil
* 1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
* 1/2 onion, chopped
* 12 fettuccine strands, broken into 2" pieces

1. Heat olive oil and butter in fry pan. Sprinkle cutlets on both sides with salt, pepper and herbs de Provence. Saute in fry pan for 1 minute on med-high. Remove to a 9x13" Pyrex.
2. Saute onions, peppers and mushrooms in same pan until golden brown, adding more oil if needed.
3. Deglaze with wine. Add creme fraiche, cottage cheese and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer, add the pasta and stir for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften. Add tarragon, check for seasoning, cover with lid, lower heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Top cutlets with sauce and cover with foil. Bake for 35-40 minutes on 325F.
5. Remove and serve.

Baked in one casserole (yes, even the pasta went in dry) this came together in 30 minutes and will gently bake in a 325F oven and will be bubbly hot when The Nudge gets home.

I would have served this with a salad but I had no time to make one.

Review: This was wonderful. The Nudge could not believe it was turkey, it was so tender. I would make this again when they have a good deal on mushrooms (usually around Easter).

February 24, 2011

Chicken and Cremini Mushrooms over Polenta

Make the polenta while the chicken simmers so everything will be ready and hot at the same time.

I could eat polenta every night and never get tired of it. It is an wonderful side for Diabetics and you really should try it.

The instant type comes together in 10 minutes so less time than it takes to make rice. Standard ratio is 1 part polenta to 5 parts water. A pat of butter or cream and a handful of grated cheese at the end and you will adore it.

Chicken with Sage and Cremini Mushrooms Over Polenta
(Makes 4 servings, 1 breast each)

* 4 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to a even thickness
* salt & pepper
* 2 tbls whole wheat flour, for dredging
* 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tbls butter
* 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
* 8 ounces cremini mushrooms sliced
* 1 shallot, minced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped, plus more for garnish
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 1/4 cup fat-free half & half or pureed cottage cheese
* 1 tbls butter for finishing the sauce
* 1 tbls minced parsley

1. Place the chicken breast on a square of cling film and sprinkle with a little water. The water helps prevent the chicken from shredding or tearing while pounding. Fold the cling film over and then using the flat side of a meat tenderizer or something equally heavy, pound the chicken until it's an even thickness.
2. Season the chicken on both sides with salt. Meanwhile, add the flour to a wide, shallow bowl and dredge the chicken in the flour, patting off any excess.
3. Place a skillet over medium high heat and add the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Once the butter has melted and is foamy (it should not be brown), place the flour coated chicken into the pan and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes for the first side, until golden brown.
4. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook for 4 minutes or so. Remove the chicken from the pan, place on a plate and cover with aluminum foil.
5. Add the chopped pancetta to the pan and cook until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove and place on a plate covered with several layers of paper towels, to soak up the grease.
6. Add the mushrooms, shallot, garlic, sage and 1/4 cup water to skillet. Season with salt & pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until mushrooms are tender.
7. Add wine and dairy; simmer over med-high heat until slightly thickened. Add the chicken breasts and any juices that have collected on the plate to the pan, as well as the pancetta and remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir to combine, turning the chicken to coat in the sauce. Add a few whole sage leaves, the parsley and serve.

If making polenta or grits, add whole sage leaves and 1 bay leaf to the water and remove once the polenta is thick.

February 23, 2011

Faux Swedish Meatballs

I was looking for a quinoa cake recipe and came across this site developed by 2 Moms that have made it their mission to get kids to eat healthy, tasty foods.

Called Meal Makeover Mom's their mission statement is.....

I just loved the whole concept of this dish. The use of quinoa (which I adore) and turkey. I am trying to cut down on red meat dishes, slowly changing from ground meat to ground turkey or chicken, and quinoa for rice and some pastas.

I am lucky that The Nudge has embraced quinoa and will even eat more chicken and fish but he refuses to eat chicken/turkey burgers. He wants a beef burger and once a month is not all that bad. He usually orders them when on a company visits and takes him out to lunch, so I might eat a burger 3x a year.

I can live with that and live longer, best of both.

I knew this recipe would appeal to just about anyone, kids included, and is a good dish to bring to a covered dish or open house affair. Easy to make, healthy and very tasty. A good finger food or as I like to call them "Grab 'n Go Grub".

Sweet Turkey & Quinoa Meatballs
Makes 6 Servings (about 4 meatballs per serving)

Toss the cooked meatballs with our tangy sweet & sour sauce, place them on a platter with a frilly toothpick in each one, and you’ve got the makings of a festive and fun party food!

* 1 pound lean ground turkey
* 1 large egg, beaten
* 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
* 1/3 cup golden California raisins, coarsely chopped
* 2 tablespoons ketchup
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
* 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil then spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the turkey, egg, quinoa, raisins, ketchup, basil, soy sauce, salt, garlic powder, and pepper until well combined. Using a medium cookie scoop with a release (we used a 1½ tablespoon scoop which made 1¾-inch balls), form into 22 to 24 meatballs. Bake until cooked through and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the Sweet & Sour sauce (see recipe below).

Tip: For the quinoa, cook 1/4 cup dry quinoa according to package directions. The yield will be 3/4 cup.

Sweet & Sour Sauce
* 1/2 small can pineapple juice (3 ounces)
* 2 tablespoons ketchup
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
* 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 2 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
* 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Whisk together the pineapple juice, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cornstarch, garlic powder, mustard powder, and ground ginger until well combined. Place in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes. (Recipe adapted from About.com.)

February 21, 2011

A Plum Souffle

The other day I had the pleasure of testing a souffle recipe for review. The main ingredient was a jam, a plum jam to be exact, although any good smooth jam would work. I wanted to test it for 2 reasons...

#1 - I love souffles.
#2 - I can make a pretty perfect souffle and I love to eat them and do not know anyone that has had the pleasure, not wanting to do it again.

The fact that I can use any jam was a big bonus to testing this recipe. Like 99% of most houses, I always have half-used bottles of jam/jelly just sitting in my refrigerator. I am not a bread and jam person, so most of them were for a recipe that usually only calls for 1/4 at the most.

I never know what to do with the rest of those jars.
Now I do.

This was my first attempt. Looked really good coming out of the oven, huh? It also did not fall fast like most of my other souffles.

I already loved this recipe until I took a spoon to it, getting a good amount to taste.
Imagine my surprise when it was still totally underdone in the middle, the consistency of soup. That's not good. If it was a tad underdone in the middle, that would be OK. Some people like their souffles molten in the middle. This was not like that. Boy was I disappointed. I really wanted this recipe to work.

Then I figured, I already made them, just put them back into the oven and continue baking.

Now remember, I took a dozen pictures while they stood on the table. Had to be at least 15 minutes out of the oven. Baking them again, is not something that is successfully done in the souffle world. I figured, I wasn't serving them to company, it was only me there, and I could have a great lunch.

Was I surprised when they came out of the oven, it rose even higher than the original ones. I baked them for 10 minutes more a total of 25 minutes in all.

This was the original, first souffle that I pulled out of the oven. It really did rise right back up again. Re-baked souffles usually do not do that. This was something exciting for me.

The one I didn't touch, when re-baked.....turned out like this one....

You can tell by the smoothness of the top. One perfect souffle. Amazing.

When I tasted the first attempt again, it was perfectly cooked in the middle. Light and airy and had great fruit flavor. The top achieved a meringue-like crust.....I will be making these again, soon.

What I love the most about this is I know that I can halfway pre-bake them and then hold them until I am ready to serve and pop them back into the oven for the last 10 minutes and have a perfect souffle without all the hassle.

Plum Souffle
makes 4 (1 cup) or 6 (3/4 cup) ramekins
* 4 eggs, separated at room temperature.
* scant 1/2 cup sugar
* 2/3 cup plum jam
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
* pinch of salt
* powdered sugar, for dusting
* sugar and softened butter, for ramekins

1. Preheat oven to 375. Butter and sugar each ramekin. Set aside.
2. Beat egg whites with salt until stiff peaks form. Add 3 tablespoons sugar, beating till stiff and when bowl is turned over they stay put.
3. Beat yolks and remaining sugar on high speed until lightened. Add lemon juice and cardamom and beat for another minute.
4. Whisk in 1/3 of the egg white mixture until light and fluffy.
Fold in another 1/3 cup gently until white streaks just about disappear. Repeat with the last of the egg whites and fold until no lumps appear, some white streaks are perfectly ok.
5. Fill ramekins to the top, and smooth over.
6. Place on a sheet pan and bake for 25-28 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 150 degrees. Remove from oven and serve with powdered sugar.

If prebaking ahead, bake for 14-18 minutes, remove from oven and set aside. Finish making dinner and when ready for dessert, bake souffles for an additional 10 minutes.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Continuing our love affair with mushrooms this week, our soup contains wild rice for fiber and nutrition.

My market had a special on the standard 10oz package of button mushrooms. They were selling them for 3/$5.00 which is $1.66 a package. That's a substantial savings and we need 3 packages for all the recipes for this weeks menu. I also bought a package of Shiitake mushrooms just to add a little wild mushroom flavor.

Yesterday, using my egg slicer, I went through those 3 packages in 5 minutes.

I love that tip. Would have taken me 30 minutes to do it by hand. I sat and watched Martha while I cut the mushrooms. Using about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a huge chicken fryer, I sauteed the mushrooms until the edges were browned and divided up the proceeds into 4 sandwich zip bags, labeled them and through them in the freezer. Now I have cooked mushrooms ready to go.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup
I used pureed cottage cheese for the cream in this recipe, but you could use a fat-free half & half. Prep and Cook Time: 1 1/2 hours (due to the 45 minute cooking time for the wild rice). Notes: I used a premeasured package of long grain and wild rice and shorten the cooking time to 30 minutes.

Total: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield: Makes 8 servings

* 3/4 cup wild rice
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
* 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature, divided
* 4 ounces pancetta, finely chopped (see Notes)
* 8 ounces button mushrooms, finely chopped
* 1 leek, halved, rinsed, and white and light green parts thinly sliced
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
* 3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 2/3 cup pureed cottage cheese or fat-free half & half


1. Put wild rice, salt, and 8 cups cold water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, put porcini in a small bowl and pour in 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Let sit until soft, about 15 minutes.

3. In a large pot, cook 1 tbsp. butter and pancetta over medium-high heat until the meat renders some of its fat and turns a lighter pink. Add button mushrooms and leek. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms give off their liquid, about 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, lift porcini from liquid with a slotted spoon (reserving liquid), chop finely, and add to pot.

5. Sprinkle vegetables and pancetta with flour and cook, stirring constantly, until flour starts to stick to the bottom of the pot (scrape it up as much as possible while stirring). Add wine, reserved liquid from soaking porcini (pouring slowly so as to leave any grit behind), and broth. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook 15 minutes.

6. Add reserved wild rice to vegetable mixture and cook 10 minutes. Stir in dairy and cook until hot, about 1 minute. Divide soup among 8 bowls and serve hot. Can dollop some lite sour cream on top before serving.

February 20, 2011

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

I do not remember the last time I made stuffed shells.
I even asked The Nudge if he could remember.

He just shook his head.

My inspiration for this dish......I absolutely adore this Spinach & Artichoke Dip at our local Pub 399. They serve it with these wonderful soft pita wedges and I never fail to eat it all.
The Nudge might nibble on a few while drinking his martini but he waits for dinner.

I wanted to stuff these with a mixture of artichokes and ground turkey and keep it white so I added cream cheese and ricotta, lots of grated Locatella cheese, some diced tomatoes (for sweetness and vitamins), a chopped leek and lots of garlic.

The sauce was a bechamela with Locatella and cream, nutmeg and lots of freshly ground pepper.

I laid a layer of diced tomatoes on the bottom of my baking dish to help the shells stay upright.
I cooked 18 large shells and rinsed to cool.
I poured the bechamela over the filled shells and a layer of grated mozzarella.

Into a 425F oven for 20 minutes. Took it out and covered it with foil, turned down the heat to 350F and baked for 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes I removed the foil, upped the oven to 425 once again and baked for another 15 minutes or until the top was GB&D.

Remember to place baking dish on a sheet pan. The sauce will bubble over.

Baked Stuffed Shells
makes 18
* 18 large shell pasta
* 1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
* 1/2 pound ground turkey
* 1 leek, sliced and washed
* 3 cloves minced garlic
* 2oz. cream cheese
* 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
* 1/2 cup grated Locatella or Romano
* 1/4 cup diced tomatoes + 1/2 cup for baking dish
* Salt & Pepper
* 1 egg, beated
* 2 tsp basil or pesto in a tube

1. Saute turkey and garlic along with leek and artichokes until cooked through. Add cream cheese, ricotta and remove from heat.
2. Once cooled add egg, grated cheese, tomatoes, pesto and taste for seasoning.
3. Meanwhile boil pasta for 10 minutes. Remove, drain and rinse to cool; set aside.
4. Layer additional chopped tomatoes on bottom of baking dish of choice.
5. Stuff shells full and layer side-by-side in baking pan.
6. Spoon bechamela sauce over shells and bake as per above.

Bechamela Sauce
makes 2 cups
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 1 cup cream
* 1 cup milk
* grated nutmeg
* salt & pepper
* 1/2 cup Locatella cheese or Romano

1. Melt butter in saucepan. Spoon in flour and stir to blend. Cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Add milk and cream and whisk until smooth.
3. Add nutmeg, cheese and salt & pepper.

February 18, 2011

Ricotta and Roasted Pepper Frittata

With all the egg whites I have in the fridge I was happy I put a frittata on the menu this week.

I will have some ricotta leftover from the Nudis and that will go great and got lucky when I found really red peppers on sale at my Shop-Rite this week.

Ricotta and Roasted Pepper Frittata
Serves 4-6
* 1⁄2 cup grated pecorino
* 2 tbsp. roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
* 1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
* 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
* 8 eggs, beaten
* Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
* 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
* 1 small waxy potato, peeled and sliced into 1⁄8" rounds
* 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and cut into
1⁄4" strips
* 3⁄4 cup homemade or store-bought ricotta
1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°. In a large bowl, whisk together 1⁄4 cup of the pecorino, parsley, 1⁄2 tsp. of the salt, oregano, and eggs and season with black pepper. Set egg mixture aside.
2. Heat the oil in a 10" nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining salt, onions, and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and soft, about 20 minutes.
3. Remove skillet from heat. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and stir to distribute the onions and potatoes evenly. Scatter the peppers over the top, spoon the ricotta over the mixture in 6 dollops, and sprinkle with the remaining pecorino. Bake until lightly browned and the center is set, about 15 minutes. Run a rubber spatula around the edges of the frittata to loosen it. Slide the frittata onto a serving plate. Season with more black pepper, if you like.

February 15, 2011

Tempura My Way - Daring Cooks Challenge February 2011

This month's Daring Cooks' Challenge was to make tempura and soba.

I never did get a chance to complete the soba part of the challenge even though I did buy soba noodles and found a wonderful recipe I wanted to try. Life got in the way and the tempura was the only thing I did mange to do.

I used a tempura recipe from Ming Tsai's PBS show Simply Ming.
I liked the idea of light, crunchy vegetables and as we know, everything else tastes good fried. I also liked the idea of seltzer or beer (fizzy) and rice flour as the protagonist. This was on my "short list" of recipes I wanted to make this year. This tempura batter is not the goopy egg, flour and water mixture, it has no egg.

It reminds me of a fish & chip batter, not quite as heavy but light and airy nevertheless. It's extra crispy and with the addition of blanched basil, flavorful. Season well with sea salt at the end and dip in an aioli with 2 vinegars. You have a great first course or a platter for noshing and with seafood, the Japanese version of Frito Misto. I have to say, the slices of tomatoes were exceptionally tasty, crispy and delicious (try salting after slicing to remove excess moisture as you would with zucchini and eggplant). The uses are endless. The coating stays crunchy even after 2 hours.

Makes 2 cups of batter & 1 cup of aioli

Tempura Batter:

* 1 cup seltzer or club soda, freezing cold
* 1/2 cup AP flour
* 1 cup rice flour
* 1 cup basil leaves, blanched in salted water, squeezed dry and chopped fine

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and place on top of ice. Must be kept ice cold at all times. The batter will have a slight grainy texture as the rice flour does not soak up moisture like AP flour does. That is why the batter remands crunchy even after sitting for hours.
2. With canola oil at 375 degrees F, dip food into batter and let excess drip off and gently lower tomatoes into hot oil. Fry, in batches of 3-4 pieces, until GB&D (golden brown & delicious), about 2-3 minutes. It will not get dark brown like breaded frying. Drain on paper towels, season with sea salt, then move to cooling rack and keep warm in oven while you finish the rest.
3. Tomatoes are wonderful with this batter. I also did chicken, scallops, yellow pepper strips and slices of mozzarella. Onion rings would be the best. Do not expect it to completely coat the food. The whole idea is to add a light crunch.

Vinegar Aioli:

* 1 egg yolk
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice
* 3/4 cups canola oil
* 1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar reduced to a syrup
* 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
* 2 teaspoons Agave nectar or honey
* 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1. In blender, mix first 4 ingredients. With blender on, drizzle oil in until it gets thick then you can pour in faster. Remove to bowl. Add in garlic.
2. Add the vinegars and agave nectar in next, cover and refrigerate till ready to use. Will last for a month in the refrigerator.

I will post the recipe I was going to use for my soba and I will make this sometime soon.

Winter Soba
adapted from food52.com
Serves 4

For the dashi::
* 1 ginger finger, 2 inches long and slivered into 4 pieces lengthwise
* 1 konbu, 4 x 6 inch piece wiped with a damp cloth
* 2 cups bonito flakes
* 5 cups cold water
1. Place the ginger, konbu and water in a large pot and put it over medium high heat. Once the water gets a few bubbles around the edges turn off the heat and set a timer for 10 minutes.
2. At the end of 10 minutes remove the Konbu from the water and discard it. Turn the heat back on and once again when bubbles start to appear at the edges turn off the heat and add the bonito flakes. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
3. When the timer goes off strain the stock into a bowl, discard the bonito flakes and clean out the pot.

For the Winter Soba:
* 10 ounces Japanese soba noodles, they should only have buckwheat and flour in them
* 3 1/2 cups dashi
* 1/2 cup soy sauce
* 4 tablespoons mirin
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1/2 cup shiitakes, stems removed, julienned
* 2 leek, 3 inch white only, cut into super thin, no wider than a soba noodle, strips
* 2 baby radishes, sliced into paper thin rounds
* 2 scallions, cut into thin rounds
* 4 eggs
* 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
* 1 1/4 pound salmon, skin removed, and minced
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook them according to the instructions. Usually 3 to 5 minutes. Drain them and cool them under cold running water to stop the cooking. Clean the pot and add 6 inches of water. Add the vinegar to the water. Place it over medium heat.
2. In a sauce pan add the dashi, soy, mirin, sugar, shiitakes and leeks. Place the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium.
3. Bring the pot with vinegar water to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Crack each egg into a separate saucer and gently slip them into the water.
4. Divide the noodles between four bowls. Place 4 oz of chopped salmon into each bowl, add some turnip slices. Bring the broth to a boil and ladle some into each bowl. Add some leeks and shiitakes to each bowl. Add a poached egg and then top with green onions, toasted sesame and furikake seasoning.

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

Stuffed Cabbage Soup

This month is American Heart Month. I try to have soup for dinner once a week in the winter. This recipe fits both.

The Nudge does not like stuffed cabbage but he likes my soups.
If I told him cabbage soup he would furrow his forehead and go into dinner thinking stinky cabbage soup.

We all know that when cabbage is cooked slow and long it gets very sweet and practically disintegrates.

I took a recipe from Saveur.com for Stuffed Cabbage and turned it into a stoup.

I bought some wheat berries at Whole Foods. I have always wanted to try them. I know that they are usually used in salads but I think they will work in a soup also.

At the last minute because I did not have any bread and I knew The Nudge missed lunch and would be starving, I made dumplings.

I am glad I did.

When he isn't nicely full he will eat pretzels or crackers and he needs to be healthier also.

Stuffed Cabbage Soup
Adapted from Saveur.com
* 2 cups chopped cabbage
* 1 shallot, minced
* 2 slices pancetta, diced
* 1 tsp EVOO
* 3 small carrots, diced
* 1/4 sliced leeks
* 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
* 1 quart chicken stock
* 1/2 cup wheat berries
* 2 tsp cumin
* 1 tsp sage
* 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
* 1 cup diced, cooked chicken

Chop the pancetta and saute in EVOO until cooked through.
Add the shallots, carrots, leeks and cabbage. Saute until softened.
Add chicken stock, cooked chichen, tomatoes, wheat berries and spices.
Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Take 1 cup self-rising flour and 1/2 cup buttermilk. Mix until a moist biscuit-like texture, adding buttermilk as needed. I added a half teaspoon of smoked paprika to the flour for extra flavor. Using 2 soup spoons I dropped 6 nounds of dough on top of the stew and covered and simmered for 10 minutes.

It might not be great looking or very gourmet, but it is delicious, warming on a cold night, filling and extremely healthy for every diet.

That's a win-win in my book!

February 14, 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings (or Nudi) with Sausage and Cabbage

I am combining 2 recipes into 1.

I am making the Dumplings to sit on Rao's Sausage and Cabbage Sauce.

For Valentine's Day I wanted to make something sexy and nudi's are sexy. Add hot sausage (one of The Nudge's favorite meats) and you have a meal guaranteed to please your better half and any kids.

This was totally delicious.
The Nudge couldn't tell me that quick enough, he stopped mid-chew.

It was phenomenal, I must say. I used up the last of my Sunday Gravy that I held aside from the quart that I put in the freezer and I am happy to say I am tired of tomato sauce.

Perfect meal for a Valentine's Day dinner. I used a medium scoop to drop the dumplings into the water to cook and dropped them right into the pan with the sauce in it. When The Nudge got home I just lit the stove and gently simmered until time to eat.

Ricotta and Spinach Dumplings with Rao's Sausage and Cabbage Sauce
makes about 24 - 2" dumplings
* 2 lbs. fresh spinach, cooked
* 1/2 lb. ricotta, drained
* 4 extra-large egg yolks
* 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
* 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
* Cayenne pepper (optional)
* Freshly grated nutmeg
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 cup flour
1. Place spinach in a clean tea towel; squeeze until completely dry (ravioli will fall apart during cooking if there is moisture on leaves). Finely chop.

2. Combine ricotta, egg yolks, 1 cup of the parmigiano-reggiano, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Stir in spinach and season to taste with cayenne, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Add flour and stir just until combined.

Cabbage and Sausage Sauce
serves 6
* 1 small savoy cabbage (about 1 lb.), cut into 6 pieces
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
* 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed, cut into small pieces
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 3 cups warm Marinara Sauce
* Freshly grated pecorino romano

1. Put cabbage in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes. Drain, then plunge cabbage into ice water, drain again, and pat dry. Cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.

2. Heat oil with garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add sausage and sauté until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add cabbage, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring a few times, about 2 minutes. Add marinara sauce and cook until flavors blend, about 5 minutes.

3. Cook dumplings in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but firm, 3-4 minutes. Drain, return to pot, stir in some sauce, then transfer to a platter and top with remaining sauce. Serve with grated pecorino romano.

February 13, 2011

Homemade Ricotta, Mascarpone and Creme Fraiche

I am making ricotta cheese today. I have a quart of milk that is about to expire and buttermilk I have to use (I either have none and need it or don't need it and eventually throw it out. Now I know to make creme fraiche when I have too much).

Making your own ricotta, mascarpone, creme fraiche and even yogurt is soooooo easy.

I love to buy the non-pasteurized milk and cream from Whole Foods. Makes the best cheeses. If it says ultra pasteurized on the carton, use it as milk.

Besides the right milk or cream you need lemon juice, fresh please, not bottles. Some people use vinegar, I prefer the lemon for taste. If you generally do not have lemons in your fridge on an everyday basis, you can buy citric acid powder and have it on hand all the time. Works just as well as lemons at a fraction of the price. Lemons by me are $.79 each (yuck).
Once again, do not use bottled lemon juice, it has preservatives in it and will not curdle the dairy.

How to make ricotta cheese:
Heat a quart of whole milk and 1 cup of either cream or buttermilk to 180 degrees. Using a very clean linen kitchen towel, get your bowl and strainer ready.

Stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and let it sit in the pot for a few minutes.

Pour through towel lined sieve and let it drain until it is cool to the touch. If you drain it longer it gets really thick which is good for the spinach and ricotta dumplings I am making for dinner tomorrow night, so I will leave it on the counter until it is cooled completely.

If you want it creamier, drain it less. Store in a plastic container in the fridge for 3 days. I make just enough to use for my recipes for the week.

Homemade Mascarpone
* 2 cups (1 pint) of whipping cream preferably unhomogenized (Whole Foods sells it).
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bring 1" of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190F. It will take about 15-20 minutes of delicate heating.

Add lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently until the cream curdles. The whipping cream will become thicker and should evenly and thickly cover the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove the bowl from the water and cool for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a sieve with 4 layers of washed cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined space. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface. Once cooled completely, cover the bowl with wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours. The next day, remove mixture from the bowl and sieve, transferring it to another bowl. Your mascarpone will be removable as one solid piece. Stir it to reveal it's creamy consistency.

February 11, 2011

Jamaican Pork Tenderloin and a Wild Rice & Collard Casserole

The Nudge really likes Long Grain & Wild Rice. I buy the Carolina brand package (just enough for 4 servings). I had a half a box of frozen chopped collards I had from a dip I made for Super Bowl Sunday (different post later). When ever I find small containers or bags of vegetables I try to add them into a dish going forward. I also found a snack bag of peppers onions and garlic in the freezer, so I added that also. A beaten egg, a spoonful of cream cheese and a splash of cream.....into the oven it went. I added a few toasted Pepita's for a topping and it was really good. The perfect side for my tenderloin.

I make this recipe at least 4x a year, which is a lot because I only repeat maybe 6 dishes during a 6 month period.

I like this recipe because it uses one baking dish and one bowl, it is foolproof and can be made for company. Prepare the meat, pour over the sauce and throw in the oven 30 minutes before you eat. The rest of the time you can enjoy your company.

Jamaican Tenderloin
Serves 4, can be doubled successfully
* 1- 1/2 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin
* 1 cup marinara sauce
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
* 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar
* salt & pepper
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/2 cup vermouth
* 1 tablespoon of butter for finishing

1. Brown pork on all sides in an oven save dish.
2. To marinara sauce add all the spices, sugar, salt & pepper and bay leaf.
3. Pour mixture over pork, and then pour vermouth over that. Do not stir in the vermouth. Cover with lid or foil, and bake for 25 minutes in a 375F oven.
4. Instant read thermometer should read 145 degrees. Remove pork to a warmed platter and cover with foil.
5. Remove bay leaf from sauce. Stir in butter. Slice pork into 1/2" diagonal slices and pour sauce over. Serve.

February 10, 2011

Latin Chicken w/Swiss Chard over Italian Polenta

Now that we made all that Sunday Gravy we need to use it up.

Tonight's recipe is all about a Latin-Style Chicken with Swiss Chard over creamy, cheesy polenta.

I defrosted 2 chicken breasts and 2 leg quarters (basically, 1 whole chicken fryer minus the wings).

The Nudge likes the white meat...me? I love dark meat.

No one fights over the drumsticks or the breasts. I knew this would be a marriage for the ages.....lol

Yesterday I had a dentist's appointment and The Nudge has a cancelled doctor's appointment so he took me to mine (after, of course, I helped him shovel the mound of icy snow at the end of our driveway).

While we were out we stopped for a pizza which meant, no cooking dinner last night.

Today I will make the Mexican-Style Chicken, but instead of making penne, I will make the polenta that was supposed to go under the shrimp.
That way I combine 2 days into one.
The shrimp? Well, it will remain in the freezer for another day.

This is my cat's favorite perch. His sister sits on the window sill and he usually sits on the same stair going up to the second floor, as we eat dinner at the table that sits right under the stairs. I happened to walk into the dining room and right there, as usual, was my 'lil boy but this time he was sitting on 2 stairs. So, cute.

I had to take a pic, this is one shot I might never get again.

I spooned the polenta into a bowl and then topped it with the swiss chard mixture (it is hard to see under the chicken & sauce).

I cut the breast in diagonal slices and pulled the dark meat into chunks, placed that on top of the chard and then spooned the sauce over everything.
I might have over done the sauce a bit, but, after all, I am a saucy woman!!
I pureed the sauce but you can just strain it for a smoother sauce. The chard has onions, garlic and roasted peppers that will give you texture and the braised onions have given up all their flavor.

Latin-Style Chicken
makes 4-6 servings
* 1 tablespoon Anchiote Paste or olive oil
* 2 chicken thighs, legs and breasts
* salt & pepper
* 1 small onion, slivered
* 3 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1/4 cup recaito
* 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
* 1/2 cup Sunday Gravy or a good quality marinara sauce
* 2 cups water

Swiss Chard
* 1 head chard, stems removed and sliced
* 1/2 sweet onion, slivered
* 1/2 roasted red pepper, strips
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
* Salt & Pepper
* 1 tablespoon butter

* 1/2 cup instant polenta
* 2 1/2 cups water
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 2 tsp honey or agave nectar

1. In a frying pan, heat the anchiote paste.
2. Season the chicken pieces on both sides and saute them in the pan, till a crispy crust has formed. Remove to a baking dish.
3. Remove most of the fat and saute the recaito, onions, garlic for a few minutes. Once the onions are soft, add the tomato sauce and the water. Bring to a simmer and pour over the chicken. Cover the dish and bake at 375F for 40 minutes.
4. Remove the dish from the oven and reserve the breasts, leaving the dark meat in the dish. Return to the oven, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes.
5. While that is baking, saute oil & garlic in same frying pan from cooking the chicken. Add the chard and wilt. Remove chard to bowl and add butter & saute slivered onions until caramelized. Add wine to deglaze. Add chard back to pan and add sherry vinegar and reduce. Check for seasoning. Remove and reserve.
6. Right before eating, boil salted water for polenta. Add bay leaf and agave nectar. Slowing add polenta, stirring constantly. Lower heat so that the bubbles do not explode all over your stove. Stirring continuously for 8-10 minutes only polenta is thick. Add a tablespoon of cream, a nob of butter and grated cheese. Keep warm on the stove.
7. Slice and pull your chicken, heat the sauce, rewarm the chard and plate your dishes.

Review: I would make this again, changing the chicken to Italian-style, Moroccan-style, Southern-style, Chinese-style.....the ways are endless, the results are wonderful.
Healthy, diabetic friendly and very flavorful. The Nudge agrees.

America's Test Kitchen, The Nudge and Brownies

For some strange reason The Nudge actually likes to watch America's Test Kitchen. He enjoys the equipment corner of all things.

Sunday, with all the empty air time on TV now, he put on NJN and Test Kitchen happened to be making Chewy Triple Chocolate Brownies.

He turned to me and with a gesture said "You writing this down?".

I looked up from my puter and said "Nah, I can get this recipe anytime, I have a subscript."

I decided that I would treat him this week and make a batch of brownies. I had all the ingredients and some time.

These are way too good. I gave a container for The Nudge to take to work.

Triple Chocolate Chewy Brownies
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
makes 24 2" brownies

* 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
* 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
* 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
* 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
* 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
* 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 large eggs
* 2 large egg yolks
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
* 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
* 3/4 teaspoon table salt
* 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1 1/2 hours.
4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Review: Do exactly as the recipe says. Do not add or subtract anything, trust me, I already threw 1 batch away because I tried to use Splenda.

February 8, 2011

Coming up on my 1 year Anniversary soon...

I can't believe I have been writing this blog for 1 year.

I went back to my first posts when I knew nothing about blogging, taking pics or writing I had to laugh. Not that I have improved all that much, but I have made strides in the right direction.

We are eating way more healthier now, I got me a new camera and my pics are getting better. The writing? well, me is me and I might have gotten more at ease but I still write the same.

I will never be a professional writer but I am getting to be a better editor.

So now I write my blog, let it sit for a few hours, re-read it and make changes. Mostly I wrote badly because I am too tired to go into detail but when you are talking about food and recipes details are important. I promise to get better.

I would like to thank all of my older readers for hanging in there for a year.
To my new ones, I hope you hang around some more. I like sharing my healthy recipes with others.

Now, if I could only learn to bake........

Roasted Tomato Soup and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

On a cold, icy, basically miserable night, nothing hits the spot better than a hot tomato soup and a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.

I know this is one of The Nudge's favorite things, well not the soup, but he would eat a grilled cheese on the nights he isn't eating a hamburger or pizza.

I wanted to use a better cheese than the fat laden American or Muenster, so I looked for a Spanish sheep's milk cheese that was creamy with a slight sharpness to it and a smokey undertone.
I found just what I was looking for in a Zamorano. I shredded about 1oz for each sandwich.

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup
* One 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar
* drizzle of olive oil, about 2 teaspoons worth
* 1 1/2 cups reserved tomato juice
* 1 cup vegetable stock
* 1/2 - 2/3 cup fat-free evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil; set aside.

Drain tomatoes, saving the juices for preparing the soup (you should about 1 1/2 cups reserved). Slice the tomatoes in half and place cut-side up on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and brown sugar. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the preheated oven for one hour. Remove tray from oven and let cool 10 minutes.

Transfer cooled tomatoes to a blender. Add the vegetable stock, reserved tomato juice and blend until smooth. Pour soup into a 2-quart pot and heat until warmed, but not boiling. Stir in the evaporated milk and cook for one more minute.

When I make my grilled cheese I use a panini press but a George Forman would work just as well. I like the crunch it gives the bread. I also use ICBINB spread, but mayonnaise would work as well and a light one is perfect for a diabetic and I do believe 1 tablespoon is a freebie.

Yes, mayonnaise as a spread for grilled cheese. It really works, try it!!

February 7, 2011

Good Monday Morning

What's so good about it, you ask?

The sun is out, my cold is almost over and I am finally going to sell my old car that has been sitting in the driveway for over a year now.

The Nudge bought a brand new Nissan Rogue and I inherited his 2009 Nissan Sentra. The Jetta did me good for 13 years but with all the long traveling to South Jersey I have been doing, I needed a reliable car.

One item off my "To Do" list for 2011. Tomorrow I go to the doctor for blood work analysis and then Wednesday I head over to the Dentist for another round of surgery.

Busy week. Today I am setting up my crock pot to make a batch of Sunday Gravy for next weeks menu. I am trying to do as much ahead as I can in case there is a night I can't cook.

I bought spare ribs (they had a great sale on them, but I usually buy pork neck bones), a package of marrow bones and a case of 28oz cans whole plum tomatoes (although I will only use 3 cans). A few onions, (you only have to quarter them, skins and all) a couple carrots and lots of garlic cloves and that's all you need for a basic sauce. Remember, we will be straining out the solids after they are all used up and seasoning the sauce then.

The beauty of a crock pot is I can add the meat frozen.

Sunday Gravy
* 3 cans whole plum tomatoes in juice
* 1 small can tomato paste
* 1 can water
* 2 onions, quarters
* 4 carrots, chopped
* 1 whole head of garlic sliced across into 2 halves
* 3 bay leaves
* 1 large package marrow bones
* 2 pounds pork spare ribs

Dump everything (except the pork ribs) into a large crock pot and set on high for 6 hours.

Meanwhile I will prepare the brasciole. I bought 6 thinly sliced top round pieces at my butcher, which was more than enough. I might only do 4 of them (they will shrink to half while cooking) and then freeze the other pieces for something down the line.

I have not made brasciole in 20 years. My Mom would fill them with the basic flavored bread crumbs with lots of Locatella cheese, but I decided to make these healthier by adding swiss chard and pine nuts. Sicilians would add raisins but we are not raisin lovers.

My butcher did a great job on the thinness of the steaks so all I had to do was place a chard leaf, then the stuffing. I added 3 strips of roasted red peppers, chopped pine nuts and rolled & tied them.

I sauteed them on all sides for 3 minutes each side and removed to a platter.
I will ladle enough sauce from the crockpot to cover all 4 of them and put them into a 350F oven to braise for 2 hours or until The Nudge gets home.

I took a 5 rib portion from the pork spare rib slab and covered the brasciole before I lidded and slid it into the oven. The pork fat and juice will baste the rolls as they gently cook....YUM

The other section went into the crock pot.
Now, if I have enough energy I will make some homemade pappardelle.

I recently treated myself to an online order from an Italian Sulumeria in Boston and purchased "00" flour. The dough feels like silk with the use of this very finely milled semolina flour.
I took 1 egg yolk, 1 egg and a tablespoon of water and in a processor with 1 1/2 cups of "00" flour and a tsp of olive oil I processed until it came together in a ball.

Outside on my board I kneaded it a few times to make a soft, smooth ball. Covered with wrap and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes.

Using my Kitchen Aide Pasta Roller I rolled the dough to the no.5 setting. Placing them on a floured towel I let them sit for 1 hour to make it easier to cut.

Using a pizza cutter, I cut each piece into 1-1 1/4" ribbons. They will dry until dinnertime.

makes 4 or 6
* 4-6 thinly sliced or pounded thin top round steaks
* salt & pepper
* 1/2 sweet onion, minced
* 1 carrot, grated
* 1 tbls olive oil + 1 tbls butter
* 2/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
* 1/4 cup locatella cheese, grated
* 1 roasted red pepper, cut into strips (3 strips per)
* 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
* 2-3 large stalks swiss chard, cut in half, stems discarded
* 3 cloves garlic minced
* 2 cups prepared Sunday gravy or very good jarred marinara
* cotton kitchen twine

Remove the twine and slice on the diagonal. I sliced 2 pieces.
Cook the pasta in salted water for 2 minutes. Remove to a large serving bowl. Spoon sauce over. Arrange sliced brasciole around the rim of bowl and place 2 ribs on the other side. Spoon sauce on the meat and sprinkle more cheese on top.

This is going to be a very nice, comfort food dinner. We bought a Sagrantino wine from Italy and that will go well with this hearty meal.

February 6, 2011

A New Twist on an Apple Tart

I do not make many desserts, simply because we never finish anything and I throw half away. The other reason is there are really not a lot of good, healthy, diabetic desserts out there.

I am not a fan of Splenda for baking and I have not found any natural alternatives to sugar.

I recently bought SweetTree at Whole Foods. It is made from coconut palm sugar and is naturally a low glycemic index sweetener. It has only 15 calories in 1 teaspoon and an average GI of 35.

I decided to make a tart. The Nudge wanted apple or blueberry and I refuse to buy out of the US blueberries so guess what I made? lol.

I saw a tart shell recipe made with oats and nuts and had to try it. If it is any good I will be using it for my cheesecakes in the summer.

I bought 3 very nice sized Rome apples. They have this red-tinged interior that looks great raw but these apples are not for eating. Not sweet enough. They are perfect for baking, especially where you need the apple to maintain their shape.

The recipe is pretty simple, which is why I like tarts. The crust is a non-rolled, pat down-style crust. Easy peasy for any level baker.

Oatmeal Cashew Tart Crust

makes 1 9" tart shell
* 1/2 cup instant oats
* 1/2 cup Promise or ICBINB, melted
* 1/4 cup spelt flour
* 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar or Splenda for baking
* 1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice

Mix everything ina bowl until well incorporated. Place in 9" tart shell and press bottom and 1/4" up the sides.

One apple was enough for a small tart so I will be planning on making an upside down apple cake later in the week (post will follow).

Peel one large apple, core and slice into 1/4" slices. Place in a bowl of water with lemon juice in it.
Once the apple slices are arranged in bottom of tart shell, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top of them and nobs from 1 tablespoon of ICBINB doted about.
Bake at 375F for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and spread raspberry jam on top and cool.
Serve room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Superbowl Chili and bonus Chicken Wings

I changed my chili recipe.....so today was a test.


That's what The Nudge said.

"Yeah, that's smart. Take something really good and change it."

I wanted to make a Texas-style chili. I am starting to not be a fan of chopped meat.

It's mealy when it cooks a long time and if I can not get to my butcher who will grind brisket for me, I really do not want to know what my Shop-Rite uses in their ground meat.

I have found that I really, really like diced real meat in my recipes. I bought 2 club steaks and cut them into 1/2" dice. I also bought 2 sweet Italian sausages, removed them from their casings and sauteed them in a Dutch Oven.

Add the beef, 1/2 a sweet onion, 3 garlic cloves.

Simmered that for 1 hour. Added a 4 chili spice blend (1 part each New Mexico Green Pepper powder, Ancho Chili powder, Negro Pasilla powder and Guajillo Chili powder) and let that heat to bloom the spices.

Added 1 bottle of Bass Ale, 2 fire roasted tomatoes and 1/2 cup juice, 1/2 diced red pepper and simmered for 2 more hours.

I then added 1 can black beans and 3 corn tortillas (cut into julienned strips) and simmered another 20 minutes. This will thicken the chili and add a nice corn and slight lard flavor.


I also found a package of chicken wings in the freezer so I baked them in a mixture of Ponzu, Terriyaki sauce, garlic, ginger, lime and lemon juice, herbs de provence and pepper.

They will bake for 1 1/2 hours till they are ooey gooey glazed.

The Nudge did not want sweet or hot so I made a neutral marinade. You really can not screw up wings. Anything is good on a wing, so use up the odds and ends of bottles of sauces you have in the fridge. I was able to recycle 3 bottles.

Review: Got 2 thumbs up!! I loved the chili....new recipe for us from now on.

February 5, 2011

Pizza alla Bismark

I could not find a definitive recipe for this pizza, just that all the recipes out there use an egg baked on the top. One that I saw used a bolognese sauce with lots of grated Locatella, a small amount of mozzarella and red pepper rings to contain the eggs in while it bakes.

Looked so good and since we had leftover bolognese, it was the perfect morph for the end of this week and, second good thing, we know how The Nudge feels about pizza.....

I use Wolfgang Puck's recipe for pizza dough and halve it, freeze the other half and roll it out to fit a quarter sheet pan.

I topped the dough with the bolognese sauce and then with Locatella cheese.
I cut a fresh red pepper across-ways in 4 strips and placed that on the pizza.

I baked the pizza for 10 minutes at 450F.

After 10 minutes I cracked an egg into each pepper ring.

Topped the eggs with some more mozzarella cheese and black pepper.
Put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes at 350F.

Once I removed it I sprinkled more grated cheese on top and let it rest for 15 minutes before attempting to cut it.

This pizza was fabulous!!

I do not like to praise a pizza but this one was so different that it deserves a mention.

The Nudge said that this is something he wants again and again and can't wait to take it to work for lunch. I know I did good when he wants the 'boys' to see what he has for lunch.

Best praise a cook can get.....

Review: OMG! This pizza was so good there where no words to describe it. We both wish we could have eaten more but you really have to eat a quarter and that was too much. I liked the egg for each portion instead of one plopped in the middle. Everyone gets a whole egg and it is worth it. Baking in the bolognese & cheese.....you have to make this.

February 4, 2011

Raven's Backyard Adventure

My male cat, Raven, has not ventured past the cars in the driveway or the stoop for months.

I knew that once he realized he could walk on top of all that snow he would go and never come back....

Today was that day. So cute. Like when your kid does something that says...I am growing up.....and your heart swells and you smile a BIG smile and laugh.

You know that is short lived.

These were the pics I took as he found his way in and out the backyard, next door and around the side of the house to the front.

"Yay, poopy, I knew you would figure it out!!"

That's my 'lil boy! (puffing out my chest)

Now, if only his sister would follow him.