Wish Upon A Dish: September 2012

September 27, 2012

Corn, Zucchini and Poblano Lasagna

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, I just have to say.....


I have made a lot of lasagna's in my cooking life and most of them have been traditional with either a bechamel/ricotta filling or a tomato based sauce. I have done the primavera, the artichoke and spinach, the bolognese, the seafood versions and even a polenta lasagna (way too over the top, and I love polenta).

The flavors in this dish are so unique that I have to say it has changed the way I view lasagna. A whole new world has opened up with all sorts of possibilities.

How about a Bah Mi lasagna? Even better yet....braised pork belly. Oh my!!

I really wanted to try this corn lasagna while I could still get very fresh New Jersey corn but I know this could be done with frozen.
I went to Whole Foods for my vegetables this week and I have to say the corn was spectacular.

I did make a few adjustments and I have some suggestions, but overall, make this lasagna, please.
Poblanos are not hard to find anymore, even I can get them here where I have no access to many ingredients.

You can make most of this dish ahead of time and if you are planning on using the grill prior to making this, grill the poblanos, the corn and the zucchini all at the same time and store them in the fridge until the night you are planning on making this.
The recipe does not call for grilling the corn or zucchini but I found it added an extra level of flavor and made it easier in the long run. I will post the recipe as written but insert the changes I made and you can decide in which direction you want to go.

Corn, Zucchini and Poblano Lasagna
Recipe courtesy Marcela Valladolid
6 to 8 servings

* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears), or frozen and thawed
* 2 cups heavy cream (2 cans evaporated fat-free milk + 1 tablespoon flour)
* 1 ear corn kernels, separated

* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion
* 4 poblano chiles, charred, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips
* 1 large zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise (seasoned with SW spice blend and grilled)
* 1/2 cup Locatelli cheese, grated

* Twelve 7-by-3-inch no-boil lasagna sheets
* 2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese, or mozzarella


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add two-thirds of the garlic and the corn and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and season with the thyme and some salt and pepper, and puree until smooth.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the poblano strips and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

Spread about one-quarter of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 11-by-8-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread one-quarter of the poblano mixture and one-quarter of the cheese over the pasta. Repeat the layering three more times. Cover with foil.

Bake until the pasta is cooked and tender, about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to broil. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

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A Pot 'o Mussels

The only thing better than eating al fresco is eating mussels al fresco.

A two pound bag of Maine mussels runs about $3.99 and is a real bargain, besides, they taste yummy. There were three different mussels to choose from, ones that were harvested in Rhode Island, ones from Massachusetts and the ones I bought, from Maine.

The smaller the better, I think they are sweeter and much more tender. The large ones are excellent for stuffing and baking (just like clams casino).

The process of cooking mussels is as easy as it gets. Make a flavorful broth, throw them in, slap on a lid and steam until they open, usually 3-4 minutes.

Mussels are a good source of Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Phosphorus and Zinc, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin B12, Iron, Manganese and Selenium.
They are low fat and diabetic friendly.

Mussel Broth
* Extra Virgin olive oil
* 1 shallot, minced
* 3-4 slices fresh ginger
* 2 cloves garlic, sliced
* 2-3 slices fresh lemon
* 1 teaspoon Tamari
* Pinch red pepper flakes
* 1/4 cup vermouth

Sort through the mussels, throwing away any ones that remain opened when tapped on a table. In a big bowl place a good spoonful of flour or cornmeal and fill with cold water. Let it rest while you start the grill.

Place the coals to one side so that you can move the pan to the cool spot if the broth is boiling too fast.

Heat a paella pan or a large cast iron pan on the grill and cover the bottom with the olive oil.
Saute the shallot, garlic, ginger and lemon slices for 2 minutes. Add in the vermouth, the pepper flakes and the Tamari. Simmer for 1-2 minutes, throw in the mussels, slap the grill lid down and check after 3 minutes.

Stir the mussels so the sauce hits them all and continue cooking until they all open.

Place the pan on the table and pass some good bread around.

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September 26, 2012

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Last week I made a Catalan spinach recipe to use in a stuffing for bone-in chicken breasts.
The Nudge loves the chicken cooked with the bone and I don't blame him.

If you have trouble determining when chicken is cooked, I would suggest buying bone-in parts, not only are they tastier, they remain juicy even if you tend to overcook your poultry. It's a win-win for all.

It also is easier to stuff. Take a few tablespoons of stuffing, loosen the skin and push the stuffing under the skin and secure with a pick. An instant read thermometer right through the thickest part of the meat should register 160° (you can see where I speared this breast). I grilled mine while the weather is still cooperating and I can see what I'm grilling.

To make the stuffing you will need 1/2 recipe of this or you use plain sauteed spinach with garlic & olive oil.

These breasts were huge so we shared one. The skin stayed crisp and the meat was tender. A simple side of angel hair pasta with browned butter and herbs made The Nudge happy, it's his favorite.

I am making a chicken and spinach dumpling stew with my lovely leftovers. Stay tuned for that recipe.
Another healthy way to enjoy a tasty meal.

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September 25, 2012

14 Snacks Under 200 Calories

One very important thing I have learned about controlling diabetes, is the necessity to eat small meals all day.

Not eat all day, eat 5-6 small meals a day. I subscribe to three diabetic newsletters, attached to professional diabetic informational sites. Two are attached to diabetic magazines, the other is a medical site, written by medical professionals.
My favorite is Diabetic Living. I find this site easy to navigate, people friendly and easy on the eyes. They also have excellent information and great tips.
This is not a paid sponsored post, the opinions are strictly mine and they have no idea who I am (except a subscriber).

Every once in a while I read an article that I feel is not only pertinent to diabetics but to anyone fighting a weight problem and I like to share the information with as many people as I can.

This article is based on sound medical advice that most of us are aware of yet don't put into practical use. We are talking about snacks. Based on your daily calorie allotment, try to keep snacks between 100 and 200 calories each. To help slow the rise in your blood sugar and satisfy hunger longer, pair a protein-rich food with a nutritious complex-carbohydrate choice.

If you choose to snack once, twice, or three times a day, make your snacks healthy, and see that they help you fill in your nutrition gaps. Snack on cut-up or ready-to-go vegetables. Dip these in a low-fat salad dressing or yogurt with herbs. Try a piece of fruit or a no-sugar-added fruit snack pack. A handful of nuts or a piece of part-skim cheese with whole grain crackers might suit your fancy. Smart snacking requires you to plan ahead to have snacks on hand where and when you need them. Keep the portion size small. When PWD type 2 Patty Gilliam is on the road, she likes to take "snack bags of preportioned nuts or celery sticks filled with peanut butter."

Carb Choice + Protein Choice = Satisfying Snack

Download the PDF and print your own card pack of these 14 snack ideas plus many more. The cards print 4 per page on 8-1/2 x 11-inch paper (you will need 6 sheets). Print on cardstock or heavyweight paper for sturdier cards. Each card includes one snack recipe plus the nutrition information. With these cards on hand, you can cure your next snack attack with a healthful and tasty treat!

Pears & Cheese
Carb: 1/2 large pear
Protein: 1 ounce President Light Brie Cheese

130 calories, 4.5 g total fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 15 g carb, 3 g fiber, 7 g protein

Easy Veggies
Carb: 1 cup raw kohlrabi sticks
Protein: 1/2 cup Cascadian Farm Shelled Edamame, thawed

126 calories, 4 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 34 mg sodium, 15 g carb, 7 g fiber, 9 g protein

Raisins & Seeds
Carb: 1 mini box Sun-Maid Raisins
Protein: 2 tablespoons Eden Organic Dry Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

145 calories, 8 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 14 g carb, 3.5 g fiber, 5 g protein

Quick & Easy Quesadilla
Carb: 2 Mission Extra Thin Yellow Corn Tortillas
Protein: 1/4 cup finely shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Microwave to melt the cheese. Serve with 1/4 cup salsa, which counts as a free food (under 20 calories, and less than 5 grams of carbohydrate).

160 calories, 7 g total fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 20 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 16 g carb, 2 g fiber, 9 g protein

Open-Face Bagel Melt
Carb: 1/2 Thomas' 100 Percent Whole Wheat Bagel Thin, toasted
Protein: 1 slice Kraft Reduced-Fat Swiss Cheese + 1 slice Oscar Mayer Natural Oven Roasted Turkey Breast

145 calories, 5.5 g total fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 23 mg cholesterol, 267 mg sodium, 12 g carb, 2.5 g fiber, 13 g protein

Cheese Toast
Carb: 3 slices Old London Salt-Free Whole Grain Melba Toast
Protein: 1/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese + freshly ground black pepper

120 calories, 3 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 20 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 15 g carb, 2 g fiber, 9 g protein

Apples & Peanut Butter
Carb: 1 small apple, cut into wedges
Protein: 2 tablespoons PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter

Dieters love this low-fat peanut butter powder. Just add water and stir.

105 calories, 1.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium, 20 g carb, 4.5 g fiber, 5 g protein

Rice Thins with Sunflower Seed Butter
Carb: 2 slices Real Foods Whole Grain Rice Thins
Protein: 4 teaspoons MaraNatha Sunflower Seed Butter

Sunflower seed butter is a super source of the antioxidant vitamin E.

166 calories, 8 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 63 mg sodium, 15 g carb, 3 g fiber, 7 g protein

Cottage Cheese & Carrots
Carb: 1 cup raw carrot chips
Protein: 4-ounce Breakstone's Snack Size Small Curd Lowfat Cottage Cheese

Get 100 percent of your daily vitamin A in one serving of carrot chips.

125 calories, 2.5 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 455 mg sodium, 14 g carb, 2 g fiber, 12 g protein

Crackers & Cheese
Carb: 10 Reduced-Fat Wheat Thins crackers
Protein: 2 pieces Weight Watchers Natural Reduced-Fat Cheddar Cheese Snacks

171  calories, 8 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 344 mg sodium, 15 g carb, 1 g fiber, 8 g protein

Mini Tuna Sandwich
Carb: 3 slices Rubschlager 100 Percent Whole Grain Cocktail Rye Bread + 3 diced cherry tomatoes
Protein: 3-ounce pull-top can Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna in Water

Add 1/4 cup diced cucumbers -- a free food -- to keep the tuna moist.

165 calories, 2 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 40 mg cholesterol, 420 mg sodium, 17 g carb, 2 g fiber, 20 g protein

Fruit & Nuts
Carb: 1 bag (1/2 cup) Brothers-All-Natural Fuji Apple Fruit Crisps
Protein: 1 ounce (49 kernels) dry-roasted, salted shelled pistachios

200 calories, 13 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 115 mg sodium, 16.5 g carb, 5 g fiber, 6 g protein

Strawberries & Yogurt
Carb: 3/4 cup sliced strawberries
Protein: 6 ounces Chobani Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt

140 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 81 mg sodium, 16 g carb, 2.5 g fiber, 18 g protein

Mini Pizza
Carb: 1/2 EarthGrains 100 Percent Whole Wheat Thin Bun, 1/2 cup thinly sliced veggies, and 1 tablespoon pizza sauce
Protein: 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Assemble pizza and microwave about 30 seconds or until melted. Sprinkle with fresh basil or dried oregano, if desired.

141 calories, 6 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 293 mg sodium, 14 g carb, 3 g fiber, 9.5 g protein

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September 24, 2012

Fettuccine with Pancetta, Brie, Escarole and Pine Nut Bread Crumbs

I think it's official. My favorite pasta shape is fettuccine, dry or fresh. Doesn't matter with me. Make any fettuccine with any sauce and I will eat it. Not that I don't like all the other wonderful shapes out there, but if you ask me the desert island thingy I would say fettucine.
It's wonderful with a plain butter sauce, or a cream sauce. Great with tomato and meat sauces. It has a nice flat surface to hold any sauce and there is enough tooth feel so as to actually taste the pasta and yes, good pasta has taste.

When I saw a recipe at foodandwine.com that used brie with fettucine, I just had to put it on the menu. I started out planning to make the recipe as written but I ended up with adding goat's cheese and a crunchy Italian breadcrumb and pine nut topping.
While the escarole and brie were a wonderful creamy component, I thought it screamed at me to add crunch of some kind and I needed the goat's cheese to add to, what I thought was enough brie. Someone's been having late night snacks.

I probably could have added more escarole, but I was saving half the head for another recipe, and although I was cooking for one, I forgot that escarole is like spinach, it cooks down to nothing. I will post the correct amounts with my additions and don't be like me and skimp, it's one of those vegetables that remains inexpensive which is a good thing for us escarole lovers.
The other thing I have to let you in on....while most dried pastas are in 1 pound boxes, fettuccine can weigh in at 12oz. Determine if you need more and buy an extra box. In this house 3/4 pound would make 4 servings easily.

Fettuccine with Escarole and Brie
makes 4 servings
  •  3/4 pound fettuccine (I mixed whole wheat and regular)
  •  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •  2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
  •  1 large garlic clove, minced
  •  1 shallot, minced 
  •  1 pound escarole, cut into 1-inch ribbons
  •  Salt and freshly ground pepper 
  •  1/2 pound Brie (preferably a wedge), rind removed  
  •  1/4 cup chicken broth
  •  1 serving Italian Bread Crumb and Pine Nut topping (recipe follows)
1. In a large pot of generously salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 1/4 cups of the cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook over high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and shallot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the escarole and broth, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, just until wilted.
3. Add the pasta to the skillet along with 1 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Cut the Brie into 1-inch pieces and add to the skillet. Cook the pasta over moderate heat, tossing, until the Brie is melted and the sauce is thick and creamy, about 4 minutes; add more of the pasta cooking water if the sauce is dry. Season the pasta with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to bowls, top with bread crumbs and serve immediately.

Pine Nut and Bread Crumb Topping
makes 4 servings
  •  2 slices sturdy bread, torn into pieces
  •  1/4 cup pine nuts
  •  1/4 cup grated cheese (Romano or Parmesan)
  •  2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •  1 teaspoon Italian Seasonings
Pulse bread in processor until the crumbs are the size of petite peas.
Add butter and seasonings and pulse until evenly distributed.
Remove to a baking pan and add the pine nuts and cheese.
Toast in a 350° oven for 8-10 minutes until the crumbs start to brown. (this can also be done in a non-stick skillet)

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September 21, 2012

Fermented Foods - The Recipe Dedux Challenge September 2012

This month The Recipe Redux has picked a theme near and dear to my heart, and stomach.
I am in LOVE with fermented foods. I can bet you are, too.

The word fermentation sounded confusing at first, I thought they were talking about sauerkraut or pickles.
I soon realized it was much more then simple pickling. It included breads, alcohol and cheese, oh yea.

The challenge was to ferment a food and then use it in a dish. Well, I don't make cheese, I certainly don't make wine, and I was leaning towards bread when luck intervened once again, I actually planned on making a stuffing for chicken using Catalan Spinach with Preserved Lemons. My market had boneless breasts at a huge discount and since I cleaned out much of my freezer this month, I have room for more goodies!!

If you have had the time to wander over to my other blog, Pass the Sauce, you can read how fermented ingredients and sauces (vinegar-based) can greatly effect your glucose readings, all for the good.

Preserved lemons are lemons which have been pickled in salt and their own juices. Also called pickled lemons, they add a salty, distinctive lemon flavor to Moroccan tagines, sauces and salads. In Morocco, they're referred to as l'hamd marakad or mssiyar.

Although they are essential to many Moroccan recipes, personal taste dictates how preserved lemons might be used. Some cooks always remove the flesh, for example, while others leave it on when adding preserved lemon to tagines and sauces. In salads, however, only the finely chopped rind is usually used.

Both the saltiness and pungency can be controlled by how much preserved lemon is used, and when the lemons are added to the dish. The longer the lemons simmer in the sauce, the more salt and lemon flavor that will be released.

Preserved lemons are very easy to make at home. It takes only a few minutes to pack the lemons with kosher salt and cover them in a jar, but you’ll need to allow about a month or more for the lemons to soften and pickle. Two ingredients, that's all.
Simply cut the lemons into quarters lengthwise, place two pieces in the bottom of a glass jar and pack salt (I use sea salt) on top of them. Repeat, forcing the lemon pieces down tightly. I used a chopstick. When the lemons are all snug, top with more salt, cover the jar tightly and store in a cool, dark, dry place.

If you can find spring thin skinned lemons, they work the best.

If you don't want to make them yourself, you can buy preserved lemons online from vendors such as Mustapha's, Zamouri Spices and Belazu. Locally, preserved lemons might be found in Middle Eastern or halal markets, or in larger grocery stores which stock imported and specialty products.

I happen to have the end of a batch I preserved using Meyer lemons.

I found a Catalan Spinach recipe that uses the juice and zest from one lemon so I am substituting that with minced preserved lemon rind.
Should make a nice, healthy stuffing for chicken but I would think it would also work well stuffed into peppers (with the addition of rice) or served over toasted bread and poached eggs.


Espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan Spinach)
Recipe adapted from Katie Brown, Curate, Asheville, NC
Makes 4 servings

* 1 cup water
* 1/4 cup raisins
* 1 tablespoon EVOO
* 1/2 medium Granny Smith apple, diced
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
* 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
* 1 tablespoon dry sherry
* 1 pound baby spinach
* 1 quarter preserved lemon rind, pulp removed and rind minced

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the raisins to the hot water. Set aside to rehydrate until plump, about 5 minutes. Strain the raisins and set aside on paper towels to drain.
2. In a large skillet set over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the apples and cook gently until they're soft but still retain their texture, about 3 minutes. Add the raisins, shallot and toasted pine nuts. Cook until the shallot is soft and translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sherry, spinach and lemon rind, tossing to coat and removing from the heat before the spinach is completely wilted.
3. Taste for salt and pepper and remove the spinach mixture to a platter, leaving the liquid behind.

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September 20, 2012

How I Improved My Food Photography

This post is not about the food. Well, it is about food but the photography of food. I am talking about something I stumbled on, literally.

I have tried countless ways to improve my pictures, I knew my food was good but without a good picture the food looked unappealing. Can I erase two years off my blog and start over? Should I remake every recipe to take a better food shot?

I certainly am not a food stylist, but there is lots of room for improvement. What I needed to do first was find the sweet spot in my house. Took me two years to understand about the sweet spot and then The Pioneer Woman explained and the world was a better place.

Once I found that, I needed a work surface. While visiting a post on one of my favorite food blogs, Almost Bourdain (thank you Ellie for returning to us), the "Stumble On" gadget caught my eye. One of the segments was a picture of a white molded chair with the caption "Searching for a seamless white background....".
She used that chair for her food pictures in the early days. I think that post changed my blogging life. How come, in two years, I am now getting smart?

The only area in my whole house that has natural light is in front of my sliding doors that lead out to my deck. Unfortunately it's in the living room and there is not much room for a table that has to be moved after each shot so that chair of Ellie's made such good sense.

I finally went looking for that chair but my budget was $20.00 and a new one was out of my price range. Our Town Garage Sale was this weekend, I was hoping to get lucky and find a suitable substitution that was within my budget, but I guess plastic chairs never get old and need to be sold. Off to Target we went.

I bought two white wood and Formica side tables, reduced so both were perfectly priced, and took several pictures a wine glass in a few different camera settings to see which worked the best.

Now it's not perfect but it is way much better than using the flash when going outside is not feasible. I disliked all those very bad pictures taken at the dinner table and made excuses, but not any more.

Like Ellie's post has breathed new life into my food photos, I would love to pass on what I have learned. It only takes one good picture to inspire a whole blog's worth.

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September 19, 2012

Artichoke-Olive Chicken Salad w/Feta Dressing

Why is it when I see something done to food that is so simple, so easy and so not my idea, you call it GENIUS and immediately wonder why I didn't think of it first?

I think we have all  So  Been  There.

I am a fatalist by nature. I truly believe that things happen for a reason.
This time it was about an ingredient I am not real fond of but one The Nudge enjoys. I figure I can just hide it under my napkin shuffle it to one end of my plate. I think with this ingredient it is more about the consistency than the taste, just like me and cottage cheese.

Tonight's recipe is very healthy, flavorful, easy and includes....sigh, feta cheese.
Yup, you got it, I don't like feta cheese. I get that it's salty (I like salty), and I get that it's healthy (I love healthy). Maybe feta, cottage cheese and tofu are to me what pasta or mayonnaise is to others.....yucky.

Yes, there are people out there who do not like pasta (my neighbor refuses to eat it). I don't refuse to eat feta, just refuse to eat most of it. There had to be a better way, everyone else seems to love it.

Remember I said if I puree cottage cheese I will eat it in everything?
Tell me why I never thought to whip the feta?

Ina did. Yup, right under my nose she did something that will forever change my eating, and I HATE HER FOR IT!! Sorry, Ina, I don't really hate you. I am sure you borrowed it from somewhere and used it in your new cookbook. Isn't that what cooking and cookbooks are all about, sharing? Well, I am stealing borrowing it from you.

I served mine over a bed of tomatoes and lettuce and yes, I should have used a larger platter (sorry).

This dish went from tolerable to I can't wait for dinner. Genius, simply genius.

Chicken with Artichoke-Olive Sauce
Adapted from Food & Wine with inspiration from Ina and smart borrowing from me

* 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon EVOO
* 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
* 1 1/2 cups halved artichoke hearts, patted dry
* 8 pitted kalamata olives, halved
* 1/2 cup feta cheese
* 1 ounce fat free cream cheese
* 1 tablespoon honey
* Boneless chicken breasts, sliced into fingers or chicken tenders
* 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
* 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

Serve over spring mix salad greens or not.

1. Process the feta and cream cheeses until smooth, adding a drop of cream or milk to help it blend. Add a Tablespoon honey to balance out the tartness and freshly ground black pepper. Place mixture in a squirt bottle.
2. Season chicken with salt & pepper and brush with olive oil or marinade in bottled balsamic salad dressing (I use Newman's Own) for 30 minutes. Drain and place on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes at 350°. Remove and cool. Place pine nuts in oven for 8 minutes. Remove them and cool.
3. Mix olive oil, lemon zest and juice, artichoke hearts and olives in a bowl with garlic, oregano, salt & pepper.
4. Lay a bed of salad on a platter with the tomatoes. Place the chicken down the center, spoon the artichoke-olive mixture over plate and squeeze the cheese mixture over the chicken. Sprinkle pine nuts on top.
5. Serve at room temperature.

My neighbor came over to drool at my salad. This was terrific. So much flavor and texture. Salty, sweet, spicy and sour, all in one. A healthy, diabetic friendly home run!! A good salad for the end of the summer and for easing into the fall soups to come. Every ingredient can be purchased year round.

September 17, 2012

Mexican Jumping Bean Pasta....because sometimes you need a little help.

I know I did not have this dish on the menu for last night but I honestly needed to eat something fiber-rich, not just vegetables, but fibrous vegetables.
Yes, my digestive tract needed a good scrubbing, there I said it. It happens to us all at one time or another. This was my 'nother.

The best way I know how to pack a punch into one dish is with whole grains, beans and fat soluble greenage. Keeping my promise to The Nudge to not buy any more food until I make a massive dent in the freezer, fridge and pantry that's where I started. I grabbed a can of beans, a bag of greens, a chorizo sausage from the freezer and a box of whole grain pasta from the basement and started dinner.

I am not a fan of these types of dinners, but I simply had to give a jump start to my tummy.

I added a half an onion, 2 cups of chicken broth, a red pepper, 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of fajita spices.

I wasn't all that bad, it was actually quite tasty. If I was to make this again, I would add tomato sauce or paste, a more substantial vegetable (which I had none of) and a melty cheese sauce (like a mac 'n cheese sauce).

I cooked the pasta (like risotto) right in the pot with the vegetables and beans so it truly was a one pot dish.

I could not think of an appropriate name for this dish, but this morning, while I was writing this post, it suddenly hit me.......

I am going to call it "Mexican Jumping Bean Pasta" because it made me jump out of one seat and onto another.

Mexican Jumping Bean Pasta
makes 4 servings

* 2 cups dry pasta (1" and under)
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 1 Mexican chorizo, skinned and smashed
* 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
* 1/4 red pepper, chopped
* 1 can beans (white, roman, garbanzo or black)
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1 tablespoon fajita spices (taco or burrito)
* 1 tablespoon canola oil
* 1 cup vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or cabbage)
* 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
* 2 tablespoons grated cheese

1. Saute chorizo in oil until cooked. Add garlic and onion and saute until soft.
2. Add wine to deglaze the pan. Add chicken broth and spices. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add pasta, vegetables and beans.
4. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
5. Remove from heat, add any broth or water if needed, taste for salt & pepper, sprinkle in the cheese and serve.

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September 16, 2012

Best Fast Convenience Food Choices - Popeyes

I can't believe I have done 11 of these so far (my list has the top 50, enough for a year).
While some of them do not exist in my area, I have heard about No. 12 - Popeyes.
Their commercials run constantly and they are in virtually every mall food court.

One of the most recent thing I have learned about these places is they actually have an industry all their own called QSR (Quick Serve Restaurants) or QSC (Quick Serve Carts). My SIL and BIL are in the QSC industry, Owner/Operators of Auntie Aunnie's in the North East. I always knew it was a HUGE business but when I read that their domestic sales would make companies like Nike, Whirlpool, and Progress Energy blush, I got a little scared. We really are a nation that lives in their cars.
On to our chosen QSR for the week......

After working the same sales strategy for more than a year, Popeyes is making some tweaks. “We now know what the vital few initiatives are that drive Popeyes results,” says Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of parent company AFC Enterprises. So what are they? The development of more Louisiana-themed products, improving operations by using surveys to verify that staffers hustle, and stepping up expansion.

As I did with the others, I am not showcasing the food that defined what they are today, but the recent alternatives that offer something other then all things battered and fried. I will start with sandwiches and wraps, move on to their "leaux" menu (lighter items) and then their signature sides, all, as usual, rated by Total Carbs.

SANDWICHES & WRAPS - rated by Total Carbs

No. 1
Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya
Calories 220 * Total Fat 11g * Total Carbs 20g * Sugars 0g

No. 2
Naked Chicken Wrap
Calories 200 * Total Fat 6g * Total Carbs 22g * Sugars 0g

No. 3
Loaded Chicken Wrap
Calories 310 * Total Fat 13g * Total Carbs 33g * Sugars og

No. 4
Naked BBQ Chicken Po'Boy
Calories 340 * Total Fat 7g * Total Carbs 49g * Sugars 11g

No. 5
Chicken Po'Boy
Calories 660 * Total Fat 34g * Total Carbs 61g * Sugars 3g

No. 6
Shrimp Po'Boy
Calories 690 * Total Fat 42g * Total Carbs 66g * Sugars 3g

No. 7
Chicken Livers
Calories 1190 * Total Fat 80g * Total Carbs 65g * Sugars 3g

LOUISIANA LEAUX - rated by Total Carbs

No. 1
Naked Tenders (3 pcs)
Calories 170 * Total Fat 2g * Total Carbs 2g * Sugars 0g

No. 2
Green Beans
Calories 40 8 Total Fat 1.5g * Total Carbs 6g * Sugars 1g

No. 3
Calories 90 * Total Fat 2g * Total Carbs 18g * Sugars 1g

No. 4
Large Green Beans
Calories 120 * Total Fat 4.5g * Total Carbs 18g * Sugars 3g

No. 5
Naked Chicken Wrap
Calories 200 * Total Fat 6g * Total Carbs 22g * Sugars 0g

No. 6
Get Up & Geaux Kids Meal (2 Naked Tenders/Applesauce/Toasted Baguette Roll/Zero Calorie Drink)
Calories 260 * Total Fat 5g * Total Carbs 32g * Sugars 10g

No. 7
Naked BBQ Chicken Po'Boy
Calories 340 * Total Fat 7g * Total Carbs 49g * Sugars 11g


No. 1
Mashed Potatoes
Calories 110 * Total Fat 4g * Total Carbs 18g 8 Sugars 1g

No. 2
Cole Slaw
Calories 220g * Total Fat 15g * Total Carbs 19g * Sugars 15g

No. 3
Cheddar Cheese Tortilla
Calories 140 * Total Fat 4.5g * Total Carbs 21g * Sugars 0g

No. 4
Red Beans & Rice
Calories 230 * Total Fat 14g * Total Carbs 23g * Sugars 0g

No. 5
Cajun Rice
Calories 170 * Total Fats 5g * Total Carbs 25g * Sugars 4g

No. 6
Onion Rings (6pc)
Calories 280 * Total Fat 19g * Total Carbs 25g * Sugars 2g

No. 7
Macaroni & Cheese
Calories 200 * Total Fat 7g * Total Carbs 26g * Sugars 3g

No. 8
Calories 260 * Total Fat 15g * Total Carbs 26g * Sugars 1g

No. 9
Cajun Fries
Calories 260 * Total Fat 2g * Total Carbs 30g * Sugars 0g

No. 10
Corn on the Cob
Calories 190 * Total Fat 2g * Total Carbs 37g * Sugars 0g

SIGNATURE SAUCES - rated by Total Carbs

No. 1
Tartar Sauce
Calories 140 * Total Fat 15g * Total Carbs 1g * Sugars 1g

No. 2
Blackened Ranch
Calories 120 * Total Fat 0g * Total Carbs 2g * Sugars 1g

No. 3
Calories 150 * Total Fat 15g * Total Carbs 3g * Sugars 1g

No. 4
Mardi Gras Mustard
Calories 100 * Total Fat 8g * Total Carbs 5g * Sugars 4g

No. 5
Calories 30 * Total Fat 0g * Total Carbs 6g * Sugars 6g

No. 6
Creamy Horseradish
Calories 130 * Total Fat 11g * Total Carbs 6g * Sugars 6g

No. 7
Calories 45 * Total Fat 0g * Total Carbs 10g * Sugars 8g

No. 8
Sweet Heat
Calories 70 * Total Fat 0g * Total Carbs 19g * Sugars 14g

For complete menu nutrition information, click here.

September 14, 2012

Homemade Scrapple without the Oink!

I have a secret. I watch Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and I like that show.

I can't say the same for The Nudge. He constantly reminds me that he's making a sacrifice for ME, on Monday nights.

I keep telling him I don't watch it for Guy, but for the ideas I get for dishes and techniques that are done on this show and that I can make for HIM.

I do actually keep a notepad on my night table for when I hear something I might want to expand upon. Then I can write down the dish or idea because most recipes in that show are not listed.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I have a love affair with corn in any shape, form or color. Married to a man who's family hails from Philadelphia PA, scrapple was a staple on his breakfast table.

Many years ago I watched the Frugal Gourmet make homemade scrapple and it looked good. I had never eaten scrapple and thought I should order it the next time I saw it on a menu. Back then I really had no idea what polenta was but because of 'The Frug' I did know that scrapple was made with cornmeal and bits of pork products, then fried and served with maple syrup. I later found out that the store bought kind had a reputation for using all the pig products (offal) even the hot dog manufacturers won't use.

I got my first taste of scrapple in Atlantic City, whose daily attendance consists of at least 80% PA residents, and I thought they would have decent scrapple. That one time was enough to never give it another thought.....until the other night, when I watched a diner make scrapple, not in PA but in CA, and Guy loved it. I tucked this dish away on my nightstand until the next day....there was a 50/50 chance this recipe was online.

I knew why this was not the type both me & Guy hid in our napkin. This was something I had to try. It was up-to-date, made with pork products I could easily buy in my local market and it was made with polenta. YAY!!

I even had pulled pork leftovers looking for a home. Once again, the leprechaun tossed me a coin, and I immediately put it on the menu.

The Nudge thought it would be like a sausage patty and although the taste was OK, he couldn't wrap his mouth around the consistency. I think the ratio of meat to cornmeal was off and although the outside was crisp, the inside was soft.
I loved it, but I know this is not something he would like to see on his plate again.
Seems the old-timey scrapple from his childhood was sliced thin, fried like a potato chip and smothered with lots of syrup. I don't think he really remembers what it tasted like. Put sugar on anything and a kid will eat it. It was cheap and available.

For those of you who would like a healthier alternative to sausage and toast with your eggs, you should try this. It really is just fried polenta cakes, flavored with pork, and with a an egg on top, is a great way to start your day.

I know I will eat this even without the egg, drizzled with Sugar-free syrup or topped with applesauce.

Recipe courtesy Bette Kroening, owner of Bette's Oceanview Diner, Berkeley, CA.
Makes 30 servings

* 1 whole pork butt, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
* 4 whole hocks, fresh
* 1 whole onion, peeled and cut in 1/2
* 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
* 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
* 4 bay leaves
* Water
* 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
* 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
* 3 tablespoons kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
* 3 cups white cornmeal
* 3 cups yellow cornmeal
* Clarified butter, for pan frying
* Applesauce or maple syrup, for serving

To a large stockpot, add the pork butt, hocks, onion, celery, peppercorns and bay leaves. Barely cover with water and simmer over low heat until the pork is tender and the meat falls off the bones, about 2 hours.

Drain and reserve the stock. Pour the solid contents onto a sheet pan so that you can easily discard the celery, onions, peppercorns, bay leaves and all of the bones. Make sure to pull the meat completely off the bones, being careful to remove all the small pieces of bone.

Add the meat to a food processor with blade attachment and pulse to coarsely chop. Don't over grind it.

Measure 1 gallon of stock and return it to the pot with the meat and cayenne, black pepper, salt, and sage. Bring to a simmer over low heat.

Add the cornmeal and stir, stir, stir. Simmer until smooth and thick, about 15 minutes or so. Add a little stock or water, if needed, to ensure a smooth texture.

Pour into 3 loaf pans and refrigerate until solid, preferably overnight.

Unmold, slice and fry in clarified butter until golden brown. Serve with applesauce or maple syrup.

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September 13, 2012

Mustard Barbecue Sauce

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a huge crush on Bobby Flay. Yes he's cute, yes, he kissed me on the cheek when I met him (such a gentleman) and have eaten in a few of his restaurants because, well, I also have a crush on his food.

I love, love, love his new show Grilling Addiction. I hope he writes a companion cookbook to the show. What I love the most about his foods is he uses fresh finishing sauces. Ones that require no cooking and have tons of flavor. I think if he did a book just on finishing sauces I would be his first sale.

Yes, I can print out all the recipes that are on foodnetwork.com but who has the time or the paper (and ink mind you) to print them out.

I am sorry that more of his recipes don't get batted about the blogosphere, he's really a genius in his simplicity and knows his herbs and spices.

All this is leading up to a BBQ sauce that I saw on an older show, Grill It!
He grilled these porterhouse lamb chops and finished it with a no cook Mustard Barbecue Sauce. When The Nudge picked my second personal Chopped Challenge ingredient, he choose bison burgers. While you can't mess with bison the way you can with poultry, I needed a WOW condiment if I have any chance of winning, instead of just boring cheese or tomato (sorry honey).

I also found a container of those French's Fried Onions while pulling the ingredients for the sauce. Hey, this is all about eating out of your pantry and I like those onions. Even Jacques uses them, so there!

I imagine The Nudge will top his with a slice of homegrown tomato but maybe I can entice him to try a dip. I divided the original recipe into an eighth of the full amount, making it just enough for two burgers (no waste here) but I will post the original amounts.

I doubled the amounts of honey, ketchup and molasses and at the last minute I added a squirt of my Shasha sauce, recipe here plus a whole minced Hungarian pepper for a little kick.

This sauce would work well with any sliced steak or cut of pork.

And the winner is......US!! I know I won this big time when The Nudge added extra sauce to his burger.

Last challenge ingredient is fluke fillets and this one is simple.

I am liking this challenge almost as much as The Nudge, maybe I will do one at the end of every month. My fridge has room, my pantry has shrunk and I found 20 items I forgot I bought. Go figure.

Mustard Barbecue Sauce
makes 4 servings

* 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
* 1/4 cup Sherry Vinegar
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 1/4 cup molasses
* 1/4 cup honey
* 2 tablespoons maple syrup
* 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
* salt and pepper to taste
* hot sauce (optional)

Whisk together the ingredients and let it sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

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