Wish Upon A Dish: September 2011

September 30, 2011

Lemon Bars Are Creatures of Habit

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

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

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

Many reasons.

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

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

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

and

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

Case in Point....

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

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

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

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

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

Lemon Bars courtesy of Ina Garten
Makes 12

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

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

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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


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

September 24, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies

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

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

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

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

A serving is 2 cookies but they are soooooo good.

September 13, 2011

Good Advice for those recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cereal is out, I am not a cereal person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Belated Pie for Mikey



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

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

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

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

I made a Chocolate Peanut Cheesecake for Mikey.

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

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

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

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



Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
Serves 10 to 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

September 9, 2011

Clean Out the Fridge Pasta Bake

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

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

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

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

My time is NOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm sure our tummies will be happy also.

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

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

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

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

1. Cook pasta, reserving 1 cup water


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


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


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


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


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


7. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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

September 7, 2011

The Case of the Leftover Collards

The Nudge adores, and loves, loves, loves soft shell crabs.

Did I mention drools over?

"I object!!! Misleading the readers. This has noting to do with collards...."

Your Honor, I promise to get to the collards. I only need a few minutes.....

"Objection overruled, you may continue, but get on with it."

"Thank you, your Honor...."


As I was saying.......his birthday dinner every year has to be sauteed soft shell crabs and frites.

We just never got around to eating or even seeing them in a restaurant this summer. Oh, not for the lack of trying. We did go to a few restaurants where they have had them on their specials menu before, but not this year.

Maybe they were not a good batch this year with all the rain in the spring or they just were too expensive.

As the end of the soft shell crab season comes to a close, my Shop-Rite surprisingly had a sale this week at $3.99 each, and since they were a decent size, I bought two.

I have a new cast iron frying pan so I will simply dust them with seasoned rice & AP flour and saute them in butter, deglazing with wine, lemon juice and capers.

I decided I wanted to make an orzo salad to catch the juices of the crab as we cut into them, and I immediately thought of a salad like the Macaroni Grill Spinach and Orzo salad. After all, I am already adding capers and lemon juice to the crab jus.

I remembered that I made a batch of collards in my Crockpot last week and this is the perfect recipe to incorporate them into, instead of the spinach and radicchio. Collards have both those flavor profiles, sour and bitter, a perfect combination.



Greens and Orzo Salad
Makes enough for 6 servings

* 8 ozs dried orzo pasta, cooked
* 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
* 2 large sun-dried tomatoes, diced
* 7-8 Kalamata Olives, sliced
* 1 cup braised collard greens, chopped fine
* 1 corn cob, stripped of kernals, about 1/2 cup
* 1/2 cup red onion, diced
* 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
* 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
* 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* Pinch dried tarragon
* 5-6 basil leaves, chiffonade
* 1 teaspoons sugar or honey
* salt & pepper to taste
Mix everything in a bowl and let rest, in the fridge, for a few hours. Bring to room temp before serving but can also be served warm.

This salad was the perfect base for the sauteed crabs but would be equally good with any grilled meats, shrimp or firm white fish. Add some tuna or cubed ham and lunch is served.

"I rest my case!

September 6, 2011

Testing Turkey Bacon

Let's face it folks, pork fat rules.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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