Wish Upon A Dish: October 2012

October 30, 2012

Chicken & Pasta Casserole

As soon as I said casserole, I got a chill. I can not remember the last time I made a casserole.
Nowadays a casserole for me would be lasagna, but I really did mean the vegetable, meat, pasta sauced and baked concoction with a crunchy cheesy top.

Why? Well, I spotted a sale on chicken leg quarters and baked the bunch. Now I have 3 pounds of cooked chicken meat I have to find a use for. You can only eat so much chicken salad no matter how good it is, especially on a toasted onion bagel.

I am not grossed out by casseroles, I have made my few, but The Nudge just loves them and when I mentioned I was thinking of making one for dinner, instead of asking me what would be in it, all he wanted to know was if it was going to have a crunchy topping. Are men really that easy?

This is what I did......
I bought a bag of vegetable medley. It's kinda neat and I never knew it existed before. I was thinking frozen but when I walked by the bagged salads I spotted a bag with broccoli & cauliflower florets along with baby carrots. Oh my love, where have you been? This is perfect for a family of two. I roasted a handful with garlic and onions and the carrots went into my pot of veal stock. I lightened up the cheese sauce by using chicken broth instead of milk in the bechamela and only used 2 ounces of grated sharp cheddar cheese.

I bumped up the flavor with a tablespoon of Taco Seasonings, a teaspoon of Bell's Seasonings and smoked paprika.

I will not use melted butter in the crunchy topping, I will use olive oil and Italian Seasonings.
I seemed to use lots of seasonings. Well, casseroles can be very bland and seasonings add lots of great flavor. That's a good thing.

Please pardon the lousy picture but it has been cloudy for days and as soon as Sandy flies directly over our house, I probably will loose my Internet. Right now, this is as good as it gets.
To everyone out there on the east coast, stay dry, stay put (unless the Governor makes mandatory evacs)  and stay safe.

Chicken, Orecchiette and Vegetable Casserole
makes 4 servings
  • 1 cup uncooked small pasta
  • 1 cup mixed roasted vegetables
  • 1 chicken leg quarter, roasted and pulled from the bones
  • 2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon Taco Seasonings
  • 1 teaspoon Bell's Stuffing Seasonings
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In a small saucepan make roux. by melting butter and whisking in flour and seasonings.
3. Add chicken broth and whisk until smooth and bubbling. Add cheddar cheese and remove from heat.
4. Add chicken & vegetables and cover.
5. Bake for 35-40 minutes until bubbling.
6. Uncover, add bread crumbs mixed with olive oil and cheese and spread as even as you can.
7. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until topping starts to brown.
8. Remove and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.

This was really good for a casserole. Chock full of chicken, it had lots of flavor. Do not be thrifty with the seasonings. That is one area us Americans do not excel. That's why we crave BBQ, Tex-Mex and Chinese.

October 28, 2012

Pasta Rosettes w/Spinach-Ricotta Mousse

I love picking up cookbooks that I haven't opened in too many years and putting my own spin on the recipes. Nowadays even my rural market gets gourmet foods and super-sized supermarkets have come to Sussex County. If there is money, there will be international foods.

I remember when I didn't have to travel back to my home town to buy fresh mozzarella and Prosciutto d' Parma. We still don't have a Whole Foods near by but I have my fingers crossed.

This recipe calls for mascarpone cheese and if I tried to make this 5 years ago, I would have no idea where to buy it. Now I can make my own because I found a blog with excellent instructions.

I am calling mine rosettes. I am not calling them roll-ups because I am baking them ruffle side up and they look like rosettes. Why not just make a lasagna? I did not think the filling would souffle with the weight of everything. I wanted an airy, fluffy filling and I wanted something different. I think these would be a perfect way to start a holiday dinner and you might consider serving just one as an appetizer.

I decided to use store bought dried ruffle-edged lasagna noodles instead of fresh to make it accessible to everybody. I had to tweak the directions to work with the pasta but I think it came out great.

I know most cooks don't have 10 (4") tart pans so I used a muffin tin and although the original recipe grouped 12 rolls into one tart pan, that would only work if you were using fresh pasta sheets and cut them into 1" pieces. With the standard boxed lasagna noodles, I figured 3-4 rolls, my way, for each serving.
The pans are just for baking, the serving is done in a pasta bowl. So either way they are removed from any pan you use to bake these in and no one will know.

Precook the pasta for 2 minutes shy of box directions. Immediately drain them into a bowl of cold water.
Remove to a towel lined sheet pan and pat to dry. At this point you can place a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper between each sheet of pasta, accordion-style, rolled and stored in the fridge for up to two days.

I used Stouffer's Spinach Souffle (which is the only one I buy and it's wonderful), letting it defrost but not baking it. If you are using a non-souffle spinach, say a bag of creamed spinach or frozen chopped, add the egg in the recipe and just defrost (squeeze the frozen chopped). If you try it with the souffle, omit the egg. If you forget, it's OK.

Two things you need to know - you can prepare everything a day ahead and assemble the morning of the day you are planning on serving these. Took me 30 minutes to assemble. You could even bake these off the day before, we all know that baked pasta dishes taste better the next day. If you are bringing these to someones house, I would transport them in the muffin tin, then pop them into the oven while the bird is resting. 

Pasta Rosettes w/Spinach-Ricotta Mousse
makes 12 rosettes (3 each)
  • 6 ruffle-edges lasagna noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed
  • 1 recipe filling (recipe follows)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoon parmigiana reggiano cheese, grated
makes 24 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 6oz of frozen chopped, creamed or souffled spinach
  • 1 egg
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 oz goat cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Melt butter and spoon 2 teaspoon into each muffin cup.
2. Mix filling ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Cut each lasagna noodle in half lengthwise.
4. Spread 2 tablespoons filling along the middle of each noodle and roll up loosely, so the filling does not squeeze out.
5. Place a rosette in each muffin cup, ruffle side up and tent with foil.
6. Bake covered for 35 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with parmigiana cheese and bake for another 10 minutes, until the tops are browned.
7. Spoon a ladle of spaghetti sauce (your favorite) in a pasta bowl, top with three rosettes and serve.
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October 25, 2012

Updated and Slimmed Down Easy Apple Dumplings

My Mom was President of our local Junior Woman's Club. Once a month they would have a committee meeting to decide how to raise money for donations they gave to local worthy causes. One of these was the proverbial cookbook that I think in some areas are still published today and the older books are in prized collections. I happened to find one during my local supermarket's book drive. I could not wait to dig in.

While not as old as some of the ones out there, I got a kick out of recipes submitted that were supposed to be the person's favorite and all-time requested recipe. Even only 20 years ago, the dishes were still archaic compared to today's fare. Not one fresh vegetable side dish, no olive oil, not even Monterrey Jack cheese.
People still opened cans, bags of frozen vegetables and boxed cake mixes. They didn't use spices or herbs because they were not available. It was the way many families ate and while some of them were probably great covered dishes in their day, I think that there was way too much sugar and dairy used. How can they complain that the kids of today are in trouble. Americans have been eating this way for at least 65 years from the end of WWII to now. Even with all the information available, I see blogs that continue to post these same dishes and we still eat that way. I think that everyone I know at my age is on either Lipitor or a BP pill. and those 15-20 years younger will be right behind us.

I happened to stumble on an Apple Dumpling recipe on a popular blog that was so obscenely ridiculous with the amounts of butter, sugar and soda that my arteries hardened and my BS soared just reading the recipe. I can only think that this was also from a homegrown cookbook who's recipes made the circuit at all the gatherings where it was traditional to bring a covered dish. After a search on Google, I was surprised I did not see more than a handful of variations on this style dumpling. Although the concept is a good one there had to be a better, healthier way to make these dumplings.
I hit the kitchen with 3 packages of crescent roll dough.

Maybe there is hope for the younger generation after all.

Easy Updated Apple Dumplings
makes 8 dumplings
  • 1 (8oz) can refrigerated reduced fat crescent rolls
  • 1 large apple, cored, peeled and cut into 8 wedges (I used a Rome)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter substitute (I like ICBINB baking sticks)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Truvia
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup orange, apple or cranberry juice, no sugar added
  • Creme fraiche (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°.
Separate dinner roll dough into eight triangles. Place an apple wedge on the large end and roll to the other end.
Place in a sprayed 9" square baking dish, with room between each dumpling and brush with the melted butter.
Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the dumplings. Pour juice into the pan around the sides.
Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 35 minutes. Do not place on a sheet pan, we need the heat to hit the bottom of the baking pan.

Without the creme fraiche this is not a-bad-for-you dessert as long as you eat one. Well, maybe you could eat two if you were good at dinner.....
I subscribe to the school of moderation and no deprivation.

You could use sugar free juices but with the Truvia, it was on the brink of going over to the dark side of sugar sub aftertaste, so I opted for no sugar added and it worked out fine.

You could add a spoonful of dried cranberries or raisins to each dumpling and reduce the sugar to 1 tablespoon.

These were easy to make, took me all of 10 minutes to wrap and roll. I would add the juice right before baking or it will start to break down the dough so up till that step these can be made, covered with the foil and placed in the fridge. Just remember to remove them while the oven is preheating.

I found myself with extra sugar/cinnamon so I sprinkled 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon/sugar mixture on the apple slices before wrapping with the dough. This might seem like a little amount of sugar but I was generous and still did not use all of it. I sprinkled the last of it on top of the dumplings as soon as they came out of the oven but I think a small drizzle cinnamon glaze would make these have more eye appeal. Let them cool to the touch, they would be great served warm, but I put mine into cupcake liners to eat on the go. Make these just for the way it makes your house smell....yummy!!

I have to say these were really good, better than I expected and The Nudge is going to will love them. The apple did not break down, there was plenty of moisture to steam the dough and enough sugar and cinnamon to flavor them all. I would not change a thing, except maybe the fillings. I am going to try these with fresh roasted pineapple and another batch with banana slices and brown sugar (like a Banana's Foster).
Now top these with a scoop of frozen yogurt and you have a second alternate dessert for Thanksgiving.
Even I get tired of pumpkin pie.

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October 24, 2012

YogaEarth Protein Bars

Every time my dad calls to talk to me about his latest kitchen triumph or catastrophe, it reminds me of why I am a proponent of the rule "buy the best ingredients you can afford".
He found a good deal market called Aldi's near him and he tells me about all these great food bargains.
For each great deal, there is always two "terrible" deals that he had to throw away.
You can imagine he is always asking me why this food did this and that one didn't do that, etc, etc.

Today it was about onions. He said he cooked them for a long time and they tasted like shoe strings.
Oh, and by the way, he got 7/$1.00.......sigh

I know he's a Depression Baby but with his health issues and age, he needs to eat whole foods that are fresh and nutritious. He's always looking at the lowest deal he can get, thinking he's got the "Deal of the Day" in his bag and wasn't he just so smart to find it?

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I don't always practice what I preach and my garbage pail has seen many a poo-poo boo-boo because I talked myself out of paying top dollar for an ingredient I needed for a recipe.
I should know better. Yes, I have found that Walmart's Name Brand Honey Roasted Peanuts are just as good with a nutrition label better than Planters but that doesn't always play out with other things.

Not just with food, this mind set seems to invade every shopping trip I take. The good thing is, I always learn my lesson and never repeat. I am getting better. I have too, I am running out of time where it will make a difference.

Now I do small batch taste tests. When I find a brand I like lots, I buy only that. No matter how many new products come out, I stay with what I know and unless I have a coupon for "free" or it is something the reviews raved about, I don't buy.

So when a company asks if I would try a new product and blog about it and would love for me to try some samples I will say yes every time.

The other day I received a package from YogaEarth.

YogaEarth offers the world’s finest products for optimal health and sustainable living.
Every item in their store unites the best of modern science and ancient wisdom with the finest sustainable ingredients and cutting-edge materials.
Their community of health-conscious consumers and ambassadors come together online and in the world to curate, design, and share new products that embody the best in nutrition, yoga, and eco-design.
I like companies that listen to their consumers and when you visit their site you are encouraged to explore their community and let them know what you would like to see happen in the world of healthier food alternatives.

I was sent these three flavors of protein bars to sample and test and give feedback on how I feel about their taste, texture, health and function.

YogaEarth’s new line of organic, vegan and gluten-free bars, called Keen-Wah Decadence have made their mark based on a unique formulation that features quinoa, one of nature’s best sources of complete plant-base protein, low glycemic coconut nectar, high-antioxidant dark chocolate and over 500mg of Omega 3s from heart-healthy chia seeds and almond butter. Each bar effectively balances 100% healthy, gluten-free, vegan and organic ingredients with great taste and texture: a true Intelligent Indulgence ™.

All three of YogaEarth’s Keen-Wah Decadence flavors are based on the company’s community-built model, which gathers feedback from thousands of consumers, community members and wellness leaders. Yoga teachers like Elena Brower and Sadie Nardini, as well as professional athletes including the nation’s top female rock-climber Sasha Digiulian, come together to develop and test YogaEarth’s innovative superfoods products.

I love love quinoa and if I was to buy a protein bar, these would be the perfect ones for me. I do not usually buy protein bars because they are most often loaded with sugar and ingredients I can't pronounce. Every item listed in the ingredients list of these, was something not only could I pronounce, I knew what it was.
Besides, they tasted great.
  • Chocolate Chia Keen-Wah Decadence has a malty richness from its 75% dark chocolate coating that accentuates the savory-sweet core. Subtle earth tones of Peruvian quinoa contrast with rich cacao butter and notes of light red fruit and Jasmine. This is a full-bodied, seductively sweet affair that tantalizes with depth, chocolate and nuance. An ineffable experience of richness and depth; a perfect Intelligent Indulgence just for you or special addition any romantic occasion.
  • Coconut Almond Keen-Wah Decadence provides a mild, nutty sweetness and satisfying natural crunch that you'll love. Imagine the almond joy of your youth, reinvented with pure organic ingredients which linger sweetly on the palate, oozing buttery rich flavors dense with sweet caramel and creamy coconut. Then weave in generous toasted almonds and bold dark chocolate to reveal a juicy kaleidoscope of buttery mid-palate smoothness and walnut infused sensuous citrus floral notes to finish. Keen-Wah Decadence Coconut Almond pairs impeccably well with lazy afternoon hammock siestas.
  • Cayenne Cinnamon Keen-Wah Decadence provides an opening salvo of chocolate and cloves with a bold, peppery cayenne finish for an exotic spice on spice explosion of flavors and aroma. Bold chocolate notes amidst an exotic, earthy, assemblage of cinnamon swirl on the palate with hints of all-spice and clove to salute the finish. This unique flavor combination excites the palate and energizes the body; adding depth and maturity to the decadent dark chocolate bar.
The protein bars are only few of the products they sell. Each month they offer a wellness package at a substantial discount and they have an online store. If you are into health foods and super foods, you might want to spend some time on their site.

Disclaimer: I was sent free samples to taste test from YogaEarth through Social Media Chimps and as always the opinion stated is strictly my own.  

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Spicy Zucchini Pickles

Yes, another zucchini recipe. Isn't that the way zucchini goes & goes & goes. I was tired of the traditional fritters and stuffed or sauteed zucchini.

There had to be more things to use them for.

Hey, how about pickles?

My mother used to buy these pickled green beans. They were not only sweet and sour, they were spicy!!

Wonderfully spicy. Can't stop eating them spicy.
Did I mention that I love spicy pickled anything?

You really should make these. The Nudge puts them on everything BBQ, especially hot dogs. Double Yum!! A perfect food for a diabetic. Go ahead, eat them all.

The great thing about these pickles is you don't have to "can" them. They will keep in the fridge for months (but they won't last that long, trust me).

Spicy Zucchini Pickles
makes one pint jar

* 1 cup white vinegar
* 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
* 1 1/2 cup water
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 3/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
* 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds, yellow or black
* 1/2 tablespoon peppercorns, I used a tri-color blend
* 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel or 1 tsp whole fennel seed
* 4 garlic cloves sliced
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
* 3 1" round zucchini or yellow squash or a mix of both

1. In non-reactive saucepan (because of the acids), bring to a boil all the ingredients. Simmer for 3 minutes just to marry the flavors
2. Slice squashes into thin coins using either a mandolin or sharp knife. In an aluminum or glass bowl pour pickling liquid over squash slices. When cool, pour into glass containers and store in refrigerator for 1 month. Make sure liquid is covering vegetables. If not, just add some water. You can also can them using standard processing equipment and techniques for 15-20 minutes and store in a cool dark place for up to a year.
3. This marinade can be doubled or tripled to make as much as you need. 3 days is all you need to let them marinade but I can never wait and eat about half of them the next day. I have been know to even eat them the same night while watching a movie.

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October 23, 2012

Magrini Family Carrots

I posted this recipe two years ago and since I was in the orange food state of mind (and I made a batch last night), I thought I would pull it out of retirement and update this family favorite carrot dish. I do know that unless I actually make this for people, they do not believe it has only three ingredients. Kids love these carrots and I suppose that is why my mom made these all the time. I could not eat a raw carrot. Allow me to rephrase that. I could chew a raw carrot, I just refused to swallow it, but every time my mom was cutting carrots, I would beg my mom for a piece of carrot and she never tired of telling me how I did not swallow my chewed carrot and every time she said that I promised that "this time I would do it, I promise, please!".

I never did. Mom's are always right.

Like most Italian dishes, simple is the way and the best ingredients are utmost. I always buy the carrot bunches with the tops still attached. I also splurge on the Irish butter, and this is one time when I buy salted.
The third ingredient is sweet onions. Walla Walla, Texas 1015, Vidalia's and Mayan Sweets work well, but any white onion would do.

This recipe is all about the technique so cooking times are approximate. It will depend on the thickness you cut your carrots, the size of said carrots and the heat settings on your stove. What we are eventually going for is that beautiful caramelization around the edges of the carrots. This dish can not be cooked quickly, but it is doable in 30-40 minutes. My mom always put her carrots in a heavy dutch oven. Best comparison I can give is to think about caramelized onions and how long it takes to get them to taste like they were cooked in sugar. Same process only with carrots.

Slice the carrots on the diagonal at least 3/8" thick but not quite 1/2". Onions are the same thickness and at least 3/4" long pieces.

For 4 carrots I use 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 white onion. 8 carrots = 4 tablespoons butter and 1/2 onion.

Never Never Never add any liquid. Sorry I did not mean to yell, but I did mean to make a point.

Place everything in a stainless steel frying pan or heavy dutch oven and set on low heat. Cover and let it go for at least 20 minutes.
From this point on you will check and stir the carrots every 7 minutes.
The first time you check the carrots will be steaming in a puddle of liquid. This is a good thing.
The next  time you check the liquid will be almost gone and the pan will be making a light sizzling sound. This is also good.
Once you see the carrots and onions start to caramelize you will check every 4-5 minutes until almost all the carrots have a golden brown exterior. If they start to stick, lower the heat a touch.

That is it. They store well in the fridge and they freeze even better so make a couple of containers. You can also chop an apple and process for a tasty puree and if you add milk or cream and some coriander and cumin to the puree you have a wonderful soup.

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October 21, 2012

Orange Food - Recipe Redux Challenge October 2012

If I am lucky when I click on our local PBS channel I can watch the French Chef.
I was lucky this weekend. Whenever they are running a donation day, I can almost guarantee that The French Chef Video Series is one of the gifts.

On the menu this week was crepes, which I was going to turn into manicotti and fazzoletto (handkerchiefs). The more I thought about it, the more I started to lean towards a crepe cake, but when I saw Julia making stacked omelets, it hit me. I would make an egg omelet crepe cake. Instead of French-style thin and light crepes, I made these with more eggs than usual and less flour so they cooked like a thin egg omelet.

The Recipe Redux challenge this month was to make a dish with "orange" food. Seems this time of year every food blog and magazine is featuring the foods of fall. I wanted to use them in a way I have never seen done before so since I had a half recipe of tofu ricotta still in my fridge, a container of roasted squash, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them. This is not a recipe written in stone, so use the ricotta of your choice but I highly recommend using a squash (orange of course) that has been roasted to sweet perfection.

Easy as can be, it's great for dinner or a leisurely Sunday Brunch. Can be made ahead and heated right before serving. I decided to serve a light Provolone bechamela as the sauce. I also had a few slices of baked ham hanging around.
This was going to be good. Simply decadent but actually not all that bad for you.

I used a 6" spring form pan as the baking pan of choice to keep it all nice and neat and to also cut the omelet to the exact size to fit into the pan, that when ready, goes right into the oven. You can make this free form but the filling may ooze out a bit.

 This cake will be perfect for four dinner servings or six for brunch.

All the components (steps) can be made ahead and then built right before baking or if you have the room, make the whole cake ahead. Will keep in the fridge for 3 days covered tightly.
I thought 4 layers would be the perfect amount but you can make as many as you want. You could even make a large cake using a 9" spring form pan and a large skillet.
I would say the larger version would feed 10-12.

Omelet Mixture
makes 4-5 (6") omelets
  • 3 eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup low fat milk or buttermilk
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour (for stability)
Blend well but a few small lumps are OK. It should be the consistency of heavy cream. Pour a little more than 1/4 cup mixture into a 9" non-stick frying pan sprayed with a release agent. Swirl the mix around the inside of the pan, trying not to go up the sides too high. Once it cooks and only a small spot is wet, flip it over to cook the other side.  Try not to get any color on them. Place a strip of wax paper between each crepe.

Omelet Filling
makes 3/4 cup
  • 1 cup cubed butternut squash
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, tofu or milk
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 slices of baked ham
  • Grated sharp provolone cheese
Preheat oven to 400°. Meanwhile cut squash into 1" cubes or buy a package cubed.
Mix squash, garlic and shallot with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove and cool.
Peel garlic and mash with the squash and shallot.Place ham and provolone to the side for assembly.

makes 1 (6") omelet cake
  1. Place one crepe on the bottom of the pan that has been buttered or sprayed with a butter flavored release agent.
  2. Spoon 1/4 of the squash mixture on the crepe, place two pieces of ham on the squash and about a tablespoon of grated provolone cheese. Give it a few grinds of fresh black pepper and place another crepe on top. Using your fingers, press gently to even the filling.
  3. Repeat with another layer of filling without the ham and just the cheese. Add another crepe and a layer with the ham & cheese. You should have one layer with ham, one without, another with and the last one without.
  4. Place the last crepe on the top with the best looking side facing up. Top with grated cheese and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate till ready to serve.
Preheat oven to 350°. Place spring form pan on a sheet pan and bake covered for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese starts to brown, about 5-8 minutes.

Provola Bechamela
makes about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 1/2 cups low fat or skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup grated provolone cheese
Melt butter in saucepan and add flour. Whisk to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add milk and continue whisking until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Stir till it melts. Reserve.

Once the cake has rested for 10 minutes, run a knife around to separate the cake from the sides of the pan.
Place pan on an upside down cup, release the spring and push the form down. Heat the sauce.
Spoon the sauce over a wedge and sprinkle with extra cheese if desired and some chives or parsley for color.

A few slices of tomato on the side would be nice or a slice of Italian bread, even better.
This concept can be adapted to include many other fillings. All those small containers of leftovers were made for this Omelet Cake.
Have fun. Use a cookie cutter the size of ramekins or a Texas muffin pan to make individual cakes.

The omelet cake was surprisingly tasty, savory and very filling. The sauce was exceptional, much better than I expected and The Nudge gave me permission to make this again. I give you permission to make this often.

October 20, 2012

Fazzoletto - A French Undertaker Wearing a Headscarf

My fourth entry into the College Inn Ultimate Recipe Contest is my take on a Croque Monsieur.

This will be my last post about the contest, but you can still submit your recipes to their Facebook page or enter my giveaway by clicking on the picture to the right. Giveaway sponsored by College Inn along with a generous complimentary giveaway package to get me started. Thank you, College Inn.
Contest ends on October 28th and good luck to those that enter. My giveaway will run till November 1st and good luck to all that enter.

Did you know that the literal translation of Croque Monsieur is gentleman undertaker and that an egg on top was not a ladies breast, as I have heard it said over and over, but it actually represented a woman's hat.
Living through food from my favorite place, Italy, I decided to make the Italian version of the Undertaker called Nonne Fazzoletto (grandma's handkerchief or headscarf).

It's sounds so confusing but as far as I am concerned, they both take the American grilled ham & cheese to a whole 'nother level.

OK, let's break it down.
Ham - check
Cheese - check
Sauce - check
Egg - check

Now the Italians use a French food, crepes, to make their version and depending where you shop, you can buy premade crepes. Yes, I'm serious. I have seen them where the egg roll and won ton wrappers are usually stocked.
I like to make my own because I can make them savory and healthier but using egg substitute, quinoa flakes, mustard, chicken broth and evaporated fat-free milk. A small amount to flour is used to give them structure.

One cup will make 4 (6") crepes. I was making crepes for three separate recipes so I made four times the amount listed here and froze them till I am ready. Place a piece of wax paper between each crepe, roll them into a cylinder (like the pie crusts are rolled), wrap them in foil and into a storage bag. To defrost, let them sit on the counter for 1 hour or leave them in the fridge overnight.

I assembled these early in the day, wrapped the dishes in Saran Wrap and set them in the fridge. While my oven was preheating I let them come to room temperature.

I fried two eggs for The Nudge and one for mine and placed them on top after the gratin was removed from the broiler. You could poach your eggs but I thought over easy's would be better.

The beauty of this dish is you could fill them with whatever you had on hand. I have done them with sliced sauteed zucchini, leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, the last of a brisket and BBQ sauce. Just use cheese appropriate to the stuffing.

They are impressive, tasty and very filling.
The Nudge just raved about them.
Great inexpensive way to use up leftovers and the kids will love their personalized portion, my kid did!

makes 4 servings (1 each)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons quinoa flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup College Inn Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard
  • salt & pepper 
  • 8 slices of thin sliced ham
  • 1/2 cup Cabot Lite Pepper Jack cheese, grated 
  1. Mix first seven ingredients (up to ham) in a pourable container.
  2. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Fry the crepes in a medium-hot 9" non-stick pan sprayed with a release agent.
  4. Pour in 2 ounces of batter for each crepe. Tip and turn the pan until the batter covers the bottom. Cook until the top appears dry and the bottom has just begun to brown. Turn with a spatula and brown the other side very lightly. You should have only little specks of brown..
  5. Repeat until all the batter is used. Stack a piece of wax paper between each.
  6. Place two pieces of ham on a crepe and two tablespoons grated cheese. Fold in half and place one (child's portion) or two crepes into one gratin dish.

Cheese Sauce
makes about 3/4 cup
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Coleman's mustard
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup Cabot Lite Pepper Jack cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup College Inn Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free evaporated milk
  • Smoked paprika for garnish (optional)
  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and whisk. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add mustard, chicken broth and milk, whisking to mix thoroughly.
  3. When sauce comes to a boil, remove from the heat and stir in cheese. Reserve.
  4. Spoon sauce over crepes, sprinkle with some smoked paprika (optional).
  5. Place under the broiler until the cheese bubbles and browns.
  6. Remove and add eggs.

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October 19, 2012

Biscoff Cheesecake

I admit I did something I do not normally do. I jumped on a food fad. Yes, it's not a real new fad, but new to me and I probably would not have done so, if I did not happen to see a container of it snuggled in where my JIF should have been.

Yes, I am talking about Biscoff spread.

Honest opinion? It's way to sweet for me, sorry. I just can't get over the sweetness.
Way too expensive, OMG mine was almost $8.00. I had heard everyone raving about this product so I made, what was to become a very bad decision and bought a jar. I am a cynic by nature and usually let these fad's play out and fade away as most do, but the reviews sucked me in (I still refuse to make a red velvet anything).

I read the label and it seemed no worse than peanut butter. Could the cookies they use be that sweet? I am truly amazed. So now I have an almost full jar of something I can't eat as a spread, so what to do with it?

Seemed redundant to make a cookie with it, so I made a cheesecake. The texture of the cheesecake was perfectly schmucky. A good New York style one. I bought a can of Hershey's syrup and dribbled a little on the end of a slice.

I have to admit I will not be buying another jar of Biscoff Spread but I might buy the cookies.

Biscoff Cheesecake
makes 1 (9") cheesecake
  • 2/3 jar Biscoff Spread
  • (2) 8oz bricks 1/3 less fat cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup 4% large curd cottage cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 20 shortbread cookies
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. 
  2. Process crust ingredients till it looks like wet sand.
  3. Press into bottom of a 9" spring form pan.
  4. Bake for 11 minutes. Remove and cool totally. Reduce oven temp to 300°.
  5. With a mixer, blend filling until smooth. Pour into cooled crust and bake for 90 minutes. 
  6. Shut off the oven and leave the door open 4" for another hour.
  7. Remove and refrigerate overnight or minimum 8 hours.

October 15, 2012

Baked Eggplant with Tofu Ricotta Mushroom Filling - "How To...Tofu" Recipe Challenge

They say people have a cilantro gene, I so agree, you either hate or love that herb. I also believe that there is a tofu gene. You either love it or not. I was the NOT part but wasn't sure if it was the texture or the taste. 

Don't get me wrong, I am well aware of the benefits of soy and from time to time I have made dishes that include tofu, thinking that we might have to ease our way into making it a regular part of our diet. I started with a dish nobody doesn't like.....cheesecake, but the consistency was all wrong and not what I was used too. I then tried a Chinese stir-fry. I ate everything but the tofu.

Thinking it was all in my mind, I bought a well known soy based fruit yogurt, but I only ate half. I gave up trying after that until now.

To celebrate October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Soyfoods Council is challenging The Recipe ReDux to inspire family, friends and readers to add more soyfoods to their diet by creating recipes using one of the most versatile soy foods available - tofu.

This was a double whammy challenge for me. If I can't inspire me how can I inspire anyone else? This time I was determined to create a recipe for a dish using tofu that would not only taste good but have a consistency I could live with. After weeks of deliberation I took my own advice that when in doubt stick with what you know and do that the best you can......and  for me that's Italian food.

I had just made a batch of Eggplant Parmigiana when it hit me. Why not see if it was possible to make tofu ricotta cheese. It seems that like everything relating to tofu, there are those that think the consistency is just not like ricotta, while others say if you close your eyes and not concentrate on the taste, you would swear you were eating cheese.

HEY out there, why would I want to do that? I want to make a cheese substitute that tastes like a creamy cheese without the dairy. If you can buy soy cheese that tastes like Swiss, cheddar and blue (and it does, I have eaten it), why can't we make a homemade curd cheese. After all, isn't tofu pressed curds?
It really is about the flavor then, and not the texture. Ricotta is milk and an acid so the acid was where I started. Now, what to make with it. Since I love eggplant and mushrooms, I would start there. I also wanted to keep the dish Vegan, and as healthy as I could but it needed to pass THE taste test...me and The Nudge.

Most eggplant dishes are fried in a breadcrumb coating, with an egg and flour dredge.
I am changing all that and using a falafel coating and baking each piece of eggplant. The mix has all the spices you need to season the coating.
I sliced the eggplant horizontal to the counter and after layering the cheese/mushroom mix between each slice of baked eggplant, stacked the layers back to the original shape of the eggplant so it will look like a log. If you prefer to slice them cross-wise like a loaf of bread, three slices will make one stack. I then am giving two choices on how to serve the same dish, one hot with a tomato sauce and the other, cold as a salad, with a vinaigrette.

This was really good. The cheese, when heated, became creamy and had the same consistency as ricotta. I have to admit that it passed both our taste tests. We both leaned towards the hot version because that is how we love our eggplant prepared but I am sure for the salad lovers out there, the one with a vinaigrette will be just as good.

So if right now I may not like a soy yogurt or a tofu stir-fry, I can make creamy Italian Baked Dishes that  include an ingredient I know will not only make my heart happy but will also make my tummy happy!

While most recipes with tofu call for you to drain it, I found that you do not need to do so for this recipe; just open the container! (Drained tofu is too dry to pass for a good ricotta)

For strict vegans who do not consume honey, using agave nectar works as well.

Tofu Ricotta Cheese
makes 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes

  • 12-oz. Extra Firm Silken Tofu
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  1.  In a small bowl, mash the tofu with a fork or crumble with your hands. Mix in the remaining ingredients until well combined. Ricotta will keep for 3 days in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Oven Fried Eggplant
makes 6-8 pieces
  • 1 box (2 bags) falafel mix
  • 1 cup soy yogurt (vegan) or regular plain yogurt (not vegan)
  • 1 large or two medium eggplant (at least 1lb total weight), as even a width as possible
  1. Remove the stem and bottom of one large eggplant. Slice eggplant into about 1/4" horizontal slices (from tip to toe using a mandolin), keeping eggplant slices in order. First 3 bottom slices will not be used so stack will lay flat on platter.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons water to the yogurt to thin to the consistency of buttermilk.
  3. Dip first piece eggplant in yogurt on both sides and place on falafel mix. Turn and press to adhere as much coating as you can. Repeat until all slices are coated.
  4. Place (still keeping it in order) on a sheet pan that has been sprayed with olive oil. Spray the tops of all the slices with the olive oil and bake in a 400° oven for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, flip the slices over and bake another 10 minutes.
Eggplant Stacks
makes 4-6 servings
  • 1 recipe oven fried eggplant
  • 1 recipe tofu ricotta
  • 1 (12oz) container sauteed sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup favorite spaghetti sauce or favorite Italian salad dressing
  1. On a heatproof platter, center first slice of eggplant and spread 1/4 cup cheese, then a layer of sliced mushrooms on top.
  2. Continue layering, ending up with the eggplant as the last layer.
  3. If serving as a hot appetizer heat eggplant in a 350° oven for 15 minutes while you simmer the sauce. Cut 2" vertical slices in the stack, pour some sauce on each plate and top with a slice of eggplant.
  4. If serving as a cold appetizer (or salad) cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour up to overnight. Cut a 2" vertical slice in the stack and serve with dressing and maybe a few olives or roasted pepper strips.

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Soyfoods Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

October 12, 2012

Southwest Quinoa Bake

This post is my second entry into College Inn's Ultimate Recipe Contest.

College Inn is donating $1.00 to each recipe submitted (up to ten each person) to Share Our Strength®No Kid Hungry® from now until October 28th.

I have been toying with a side dish that used quinoa since before the summer and finally got the chance to see it to fruition. There are two flavor combinations I find myself gravitating to over and over, Asian and Tex-Mex and since I already submitted a recipe with an Asian flavor profile, I leaned towards the other for this dish.

I bounced back and forth, first with the quinoa and then without, and decided that I would make a side dish with the quinoa. This is an excellent way to introduce your family (especially the kids) to quinoa.

An excellent source of essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron, and in contemporary times, quinoa has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (14% by mass), yet not as high as most beans and legumes. Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source of complete protein. Furthermore, it is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System long-duration human occupied spaceflights.

Sounds like a good reason to add it to the dish, no? The other reason is, it just tastes great.

My original idea was to make a black bean, corn and red pepper cheese dip that could be morphed with rice into a side or added to ground meat for a unique chili or used to top hot dogs or burgers and spooned over grits or corn bread. What I ended up with, was all that and more.....a healthy, rich, flavorful, zesty side dish baked with a light pepper jack cheese.

This is beyond yummy, ooey gooey good and I guarantee it will disappear in no time flat.

Six ingredients, this was as easy as it gets, can be prepared a day or two ahead and baked off right before serving. Doesn't require any knife skills and if you own a grater you are done.

Southwest Quinoa Bake
makes 4-6 servings
  • 2/3 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/4 cup College Inn Chicken Stock
  • 2 tablespoons dehydrated soup greens
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 can Baked Black Beans with Jalapeno
  • 1 (8oz) brick Light Pepper Jack cheese (I used Cabot Creamery), shredded
  • 8 dashes of hot pepper sauce
  1. Bring stock to a simmer and add quinoa and soup greens. Cover and lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Add beans and hot sauce. Stir, cover and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt butter and add flour. Whisk to combine and cook for 2 minutes. Add milk and continue whisking until it comes to a bubble. Add 2 oz of the shredded cheese. When cheese has melted, add it to the quinoa. Remove and cool completely. 
  4. Add 2oz more of the cheese to quinoa/bean mixture and spoon into a prepared baking pan. Top with the remaining shredded cheese and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until top bubbles and starts to brown. Top with pickled jalapenos or salsa.
  5. Serve as a side dish with roasted chicken, pork or steak.
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Shrimp Parmigiana - Gamberi alla Parmigiana

Jeez, I really hate getting sick. I am not talking about the flu or a cold, I am talking about the "hi, honey, I think I need my appendix taken out!" kind of sick.
While I am all better and walking around again (although rather diligently) my whole schedule has been set back days.
Just enough time for my greens to wilt, my dairy to become sour cream, my bread to become day old and the last of my summer produce to wave goodbye.
What did survive rather well was a quart of homemade spaghetti sauce, my well wrapped cheeses, and  a few very hardy fall veggies.
So while The Nudge brought me breakfast in bed for dinner (he does make a mean scrambled egg), we mapped out a menu easy enough for him to make the rounds at the market.

Today's post is about the first meal he chose, Shrimp Parmigiana. I don't think I have ever eaten, let alone cooked shrimp with mozzarella, so I can only deduce that he must have seen Lydia's rendition on TV.
I gave him ample time to change his mind but he remained steadfast and resolved at sticking to his guns.
What a man!!!

At any time of the year, there is always a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer, so all I needed was the cheese. I prefer to use a packaged brand because the fresh can sometimes have too much water and watered down breaded shrimp is not my idea of good eats, so when I use mozzarella for parmigiana anything, it is always the packaged kind.
That being settled, the only other thing that I had to think about is the breading. Since this is a true Italian American creation, you would think a bread coat but with everything else going on in this dish I needed to treat the shrimp in a minimal way, so I opted for an egg white and cornstarch coating.

Ladle a spoon or two of sauce (not too much) in the bottom of an oven and broiler safe dish, place the shrimp in a single layer on the sauce and mound a pinchfull of grated mozzarella on each one.

Broil on HIGH for 5 minutes, until the cheese just starts to brown.
You could either serve this over pasta or in a hero roll.
Done in less then thirty minutes.

Honestly, I probably would not rush out to order this in a restaurant but I might consider making it at home again.
The Nudge informed me it reheated excellently for lunch today. Just the right amount of cheese.
As Americans we over cheese, over sauce, over do just about everything we eat but this dish keeps it in perspective and real.
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October 10, 2012

Sea Bass topped with Shrimp in a Creamy Garlic Cognac Sauce

These impromptu visits to the grocery store get me into all sorts of trouble.
I swear I only went in for eggs, cream and ground turkey.
$50.00 over budget, 4 bags more than my intent and a dinner different then I originally planned to cook, I walked out of that store feeling very guilty. I am supposed to be on a food buying sabbatical, remember?

I was going to make Shrimp Scampi over fresh linguine with lots of garlic and butter. What ended up on the table was a Roasted Sea Bass with a Shrimp & Garlic Cognac Cream Sauce.

How does that happen....a lot....to me? I was there to buy bay scallops (this is the time of year for them so eat lots) saw a fillet of sea bass which I swear had my name on it. It didn't? Are you sure? Absolutely?

I'm not upset, it was decadent, creamy, full of flavor and absolutely wonderful. So easy to make. One skillet, one roasting pan and a microwaved spinach souffle (my favorite), no one should say they can't make this.
It will make a fish lover out of anyone.

About 2 years ago I ate dinner in an Italian restaurant in Harrah's and this dish was what I ordered only with broccoli. I was finally able to duplicate that meal. Yummy+5!

Roasted Sea Bass topped with Shrimp in a Creamy Garlic Cognac Sauce
Makes 2 servings (can be easily be increased to 4-6)
  • 8oz sea bass (any firm white fish will work)
  • olive oil + butter
  • 8 medium shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Place fish in an oiled baking pan. Salt & pepper and brush with olive oil. Preheat oven to 375°.
Season shrimp with salt & pepper and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil + butter. Saute shrimp until almost cooked. Remove. Add shallot and garlic to pan and cook until softened. Add white wine and simmer for 1 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Add cream and pepper. Simmer until sauce thickens.
Strain to remove solids and return to pan. Add shrimp and butter and heat right before ready to serve.
Meanwhile roast fish in oven for 10 minutes. Remove to a warmed platter.
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October 8, 2012

Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter Sage Sauce & Spiced Pepitas

Well, it's official. Football season is in full swing, the weather has definitively made it's turn into Fall and we are starting our Comfort Food Sundays and Soupreme Mondays.

Although I fought the good fight and did not put on a pair of socks until yesterday, I am looking forward to moving into a new season. I am tired of zucchini and was SO happy to covet my first butternut squash.

Since I found a pint of ricotta cheese snuggling next to said squash in my cart, I knew it was a sign I had to make Butternut Squash Ravioli in a Brown Butter Sage Sauce. In this house that goes under the label of Comfort Food.

Having a half a package of eggroll wrappers I needed to use within the week, it was sorta a no brainer, right?
Isn't that what you would have thought of? No? Well, you should and I will tell you why......

I do love making pasta dough, I do hate making raviolis. I bought one of those contraptions, you know, the one that looks like it came out of an erector set that allows you to drape a sheet of fresh pasta down, then spoon a tablespoon of cheese in the indents, lay another piece of pasta over that and with one roll of your rolling pin, seal the whole deal and magically break into 12 raviolis.

I have no place to roll a decent length of pasta to make them the old fashioned way and I tickled with the idea from Alton Brown of using an ironing board but I draw the line at factoring in the extra work of having to vacuum my floor. That's not my idea of fun, sorry.

If it can't be made using a 24" x 30" cutting board, it don't get made.
I have convinced myself lately that it's OK to resort to Chinese pasta for ravioli making, especially if I can't get to Whole Foods to buy their fresh ones.

What you say? You have seen homemade pierogi on this site a few times, made from scratch. Yes, you be right mon, but it's a different dough and I used a pierogi press to make them.
So, why not do that? Well, ravioli's are never pleated.

It's an Italian thing and it's the cross I bear.

Butternut Squash Ravioli (the semi-cheater's way)
6 servings of 6 raviolis
  • 2 cups diced butternust squash (but any squash will do)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 4-5 whole cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon Fajita seasonings
Place all the ingredients in a large storage bag and grabbing the open end in one hand, shake aggressively until all the oil and seasonings are distributed evenly.
Preheat the oven to 375° and dump the squash in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the squash finds no resistance. Remove and cool, then process to a puree.

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, drained if using low fat variety
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Pureed squash mixture
  • 8 egg roll wrappers or 18 wonton wrappers
  • small bowl of water
  • floured linen towel 
Cut the egg roll wrappers diagonally from point to point, making a triangle.
Place one piece wrapper on a work surface and using a teaspoon, place the filling in the middle.
With a pastry brush or a fingertip, moisten the edges of the wrapper and fold over matching point to point and sealing by pressing gently along the edges.

These took me all of 30 minutes to assemble and they can be frozen at this stage. When ready to eat, drop them into a pot of simmering water, bring back to a boil and cook.

It will be a triangle but look off-centered because the filling isn't centered. It's OK, trust me, they will taste just as good.
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • 5 whole sage leaves
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese
  • additional chopped sage for garnish (optional) 
  • Spiced pepitas (optional, but worth it)
Bring a gallon of water to a rolling simmer and season with 1 tablespoon sea salt.
Gently drop the raviolis in one at a time and once they float to the top, I simmer 1 more minute then remove them to a sheet pan that has been coated with melted butter.

Move past to a warmed oven and in a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and cook until you can see small brown bits forming in the bottom, add a ladle of pasta water to the butter to stop the butter from burning (yes, it goes from perfect to ruined in the blink of an eye).

Continue to simmer, adding the sage leaves and then the raviolis. If it gets too dry, add more water.
Spoon the ravioli's onto a warmed platter and spoon the sauce over them. Top with some additional grated cheese and chopped sage (optional), pepitas (also optional but SO worth it) and serve.

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October 4, 2012

Mi Amigo Chico Frico

My email box is buzzing this month. I have been asked if I would like to test a few new products and blog about them (which I love to do) and one thing I got that I am totally jazzed about is two new light flavored cheeses from Cabot.

I have participated in a sponsored recipe contest for Cabot through the Recipe Redux group in the past and was happy to try these new cheeses in a few recipes. The fact that each cheese has 50% less fat, are lactose free and naturally gluten free was also a bonus.
I needed a dish that followed this lead  and it had to be healthy, new and fresh, but easy for anyone to make.

I have been trying to create recipes with only 5 or 7 ingredients and it's nice to push yourself once in a while and really find something unique that people will want to make NOW.

I originally was leaning towards a fried fritter (like a zucchini fritter) but without deep frying, most fritters can be soft or loose their crunch after a few minutes. So I threw out two tries and after sleeping on it one night it hit me.....make an Italian Frico but with American Cheeses. Cabot cheeses, new Cabot cheeses, spicy new Cabot Light Cheeses.......can you tell I'm excited about this?

Due to the flavors of the cheeses it was only natural I should lean towards the Southwest/Mexican arena and there were two directions to go in.

Allow me to introduce to you the way of the black bean, corn, red pepper, green chili stuffed frico...
a.k.a. The Chico Frico.
I tried both types of cheeses, and we all agreed that the more neutral flavor of the Monterrey Jack went better with the stuffed frico but if you keep them simple and make plain fricos, either cheese is good (I thought the cheddar was slightly saltier) and it's still the same technique.

The Nudge thought it tasted like a Mexican Pizza but without the dough. I thought they had so much flavor with so little ingredients.

I did not add any Tex-Mex seasonings with all the toppings available and will let people design their own.
This cheese really packs a nice punch so if I was going to serve these at a tailgate party or indoor sports party I would make the crispier plain one (above) and serve lots of bowls of toppings (just like a nacho/taco bar) which we all know is the way people like it. If I was serving them for dinner at the table I would treat them like a quesadilla (stuff them) and serve with ranch dressing, salsa & sour cream.

Build a Chico Frico bar and they will come.

Chico Fricos
makes 8 (5") fricos
  • 1 (8oz) package of Cabot Cheddar Jalapeno Light or Pepper Jack Light, grated
  • 1/4 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed then slightly crushed with a spatula
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red pepper
  • 1/2 can diced green chiles
  • 1/4 cup corn, frozen or canned, drained
Heat a 9" non-stick frying pan or cast iron pan for at least 5 minutes.

Stuffed fricos:
While pan is heating, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and drop 2/3 cup cheese and vegetable mixture into dry pan and press to flatten with a spatula, pushing the sides in to make a round circle.
Cook on medium heat, until the bottom starts to brown, at least 4 minutes. Flip over and repeat for 3 minutes. Remove to a parchment-lined sheet pan and place in a 225° oven until ready to serve.

Plain cheese fricos:
Drop 1/2 cup cheese in the pan, spread as evenly as you can. Cook 3 minutes on first side, flip and cook 2 minutes on second. Remove from pan and immediately slice into wedges (6 or 8).

These will also be great with a bowl of chile, a hardy soup or stew, a healthy salad and with a bowl of dip. Best of all is the lower fat in these crisps vs. Parmesan crisps. I see these as a win-win for all.


Disclosure: Although the cheese was provided by Cabot it did not influence any opinions expressed herein. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Cabot Creamery.

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