Wish Upon A Dish: December 2012

December 29, 2012

Minestrone Soup

 There are as many variations on this soup as there are cooks who make it.
Tonight because a mean Nor-Easter is upon us, I pretty much cleaned out my crisper drawer and little containers of soups I had all intentions of eating for lunch but never did, into a big pot of bubbling goodness.

Who cares if it's not exactly a real minestrone, I did add all the obligatory vegetables plus some bonus dinosaur kale I got at whole foods.
What I did add that is not normal, is a hunk of baked country ham (instead of pancetta) and corn (the last of this soup), and instead of chopped tomatoes I used tomato paste. It was good, hot and warmed our bellies.

Soups are not only good for those wintry blizzard nights, they are a good way to get vegetables into the kids (and husbands alike) and clean out your fridge. In the south and all around Italian-American homes, long simmering soups were cooked on wash day. They would take the bones and scraps of the weekend roast, add the ends of tough vegetables, lots of beans and set it on the stove to simmer for hours. Whether it be a Red Bean and Rice, a Minestrone soup or a Brunswick soup, our mothers and nana's knew how to use every last bit of food. They called it being frugal and smart, people today actually call it gourmet and I call it comfort in a bowl.

Go figure. I love it.

So, you ask, why would you post about a soup that would be very hard to replicate. I want you to start creating your own. I want you to open the fridge and pull out a little of this and that and make a meal.
I want you to create, what will become your family's favorite winter soup.

Minestrone Soup
serves 4
* 4 slices ham, bacon or pancetta, diced
* 1 teaspoon olive oil
* 1 carrot, diced
* 1 large garlic clove, minced
* 1/2 onion, chopped
* 1/2 cup leeks, sliced
* 1 stalk celery, chopped
* 1 parsnip, chopped
* 4-5 kale leaves
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 quart chicken broth
* 1 chicken bouillon cube
* salt & pepper to taste
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1 tablespoon tomato paste
* 1 cheese rind
* 1/2 cup white beans
* 1/2 cup vegetable (green beans, peas or corn)

1.  Saute bacon in olive oil. Add onions, garlic, carrot, parsnip, leeks and celery and saute until they soften.
2. Add bay leaves and white wine. Cook the wine out and add the tomato paste.
3. Add chicken broth and bouillon cube and stir to combine. Add cheese rind, beans rest of vegetables.
4. Simmer for 1 hour. Add 1 cup soup pasta and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Remove bay leaves and cheese rind.
6. Serve with grated cheese and bread.

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December 28, 2012

Crack Red Cabbage

For some reason I thought I posted my red cabbage recipe. I like this version because there are no onions or fruit, just brown sugar, white vinegar and chicken stock.
Simple, easy and I like to call it Crack Red Cabbage. Every year during the holidays, I would bring a container for my BIL who would eat the whole thing. He's no longer with us and The Nudge is not as fond of cabbage as I am so, I hardly ever make this dish.

I found myself with a half a head of red cabbage in my fridge and I thought our German dinner screamed out for a little sweet and sour somethin'. I don't think that red cabbage should get the bad rap that green cabbage does. It does not make you musical. It is naturally sweet and the longer you cook it the sweeter it gets. By cooking it in chicken broth we can use less sugar and that is a good thing. Tradition usually has you adding applesauce or sliced apples, sometimes raisins and always onions. Now, don't get me wrong, I am an onion junkie, but with red cabbage, I want to taste the vegetable, not the aromatics. Plus, all that extra stuff adds up to a whole lot of carbs and sugar and that we don't need.

To my surprise The Nudge said the cabbage was good because it wasn't really sickly sweet as some others he's had.

Braised Red Cabbage
makes 6 servings
  • 1 head red cabbage (about 2 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 small bay leaf, crushed
  • 3  tablespoons packed brown sugar (or brown sugar sub)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Chop up the red cabbage, being careful to remove the core. Place in a pot and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer over medium low heat for an hour, or until the cabbage is tender.

Red cabbage is very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Potassium and Manganese.

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December 26, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-Eight - Chili Dogs

I hope everyone had a great Christmas Day and dinner. We had a very unstressful Christmas and now have the job of getting back to normal (well, as normal as we aren't). The cat needs shots, the The Nudge needs glasses and a haircut and mama needs a break. Were you like me and made 3 trips back to the house because I remembered I forgot something and still arrived in PA without the chicken liver paté and the sauce for the banana souffles.....sigh!! I hope you forgot nothing and remembered to enjoy the day.

If you need something easy, simple (because we all know you will be out getting all those 50% off bargains and will not feel like cooking), and great tasting, make a platter of chili dogs. Yes, hot dogs.
You could even buy pre-made Chili (but you did not hear that from moi). This is always a GO TO in my house when I do not want to prepare anything, plus The Nudge is a lover of hot dogs. Keep a package of dogs in your freezer, and you will be very happy they are in there.

I am a bad blogger. Does anyone really care that we had chili dogs for dinner? Does anyone care that for the last three weeks I have spent less than $25.00 a week on food? I don't think so.
Unfortunately I made a promise to The Nudge and for 28 days we are in extreme budget mode.
This post is less about the meal (no recipe required) and more about the cost. The whole concept behind my extreme budget is to use every bit of food and waste nothing.

This family friendly meal uses the last of my three bean chili and an onion. I bought four 100% beef hot dogs for a buck a piece and with the four potato hot dog rolls the total cost for this meal was $5.65.

There was hominy in the chili so I ran it through the food processor and pulsed it until everything was the same size. The result was a sweet & spicy hot dog chili that will go great with the crunchy skinned hot dogs which I will grill in my panini pan till the skins pop and split open. YUM!

I know it doesn't sound like a well rounded meal but the chili in itself with the beans and hominy was completely balanced by itself. If I had thought about it I would have bought a vinegar based coleslaw but I will chop some of these and put them on the dogs. Now we're talking.

If you are like me, you go through periods where you could a hot dog a day and then once you get your fill, you won't eat them again for months. I do know that some kids only meat is hot dogs. My nephew would only eat hot dogs, yogurt smoothies and Velveeta Mac n Cheese until he started school, then he added pizza.

I guess I had my share of hot dogs this year but this dog was great! The chili didn't hide that deep beef flavor in these wonderful beef dogs (and yes, hot dogs can taste beefy).
I won't eat any other dogs but these because I am spoiled and I have a great butcher.

Well, this was a good extreme way to end the 28 days. I ended up 2 bits under my $100 budget.
Yay, me.

Next year my whole format will change.
I hope everyone had a great holiday season and a wonderful New Year's Eve. I will post while I switch over to Word Press, but I will leave the URL on the very last page of this blog when I am totally switched over. The name is not changing but the URL is, so see you next year (hopefully). I have heard of a few glitches moving to Word Press and I hope mine is a somewhat smooth transition.

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December 24, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-Seven - Pasta a la Vodka

This is why I love to take the leftovers of one dish (especially a sauce or creamed soup) and use it in another.
For one thing, the cooking has been done for you. All you are doing is adding one or two new ingredients and boiling some pasta.

In this instance I had enough of this soup leftover to make a vodka sauce. Yummy!
The two ingredients I added was the vodka and a smidgen more of cream. Oh, I also added Parmesan cheese.
I would make this soup again just to make this dish, it was that good. As a matter of fact, this soup would make a good start to a wonderful Chicken Cacciatore. Imagine this, add a bag of frozen peppers and onions to a cut up chicken that has been browned in a pan with olive oil and then the soup. Cover and bake in a 350° oven for 45 minutes, boil some pasta or make mashed potatoes and dinner is served. YUM again!

I feel like I am gypping you of a recipe so I will link back to the soup so you can print that out first.
Two other ways to easily make this dish......
1. Buy a really good tomato bisque. You know, the kind that comes in a box and seems to have a good nutritional profile. While not as good because you didn't add all the goodies you would like, but not a bad way to start. I recommend this brand.
2. Make the Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola that Ina made on her show. It is just as good.
Just remember that unless you make a double batch you won't have any leftovers and the whole idea about my Extreme Budget was to get as much out of a recipe as you can.

Campanelle Alla Vecchia Bettola
makes 4-5 servings
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
3. Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
5. Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.

Cost for my version: $ .85
Running total for 27 days: $93.85

The next meal makes a full month of budget meals. My goal was to pay for no more than $100 a month on food for 48 servings. Anything in my pantry before I started this challenge was free.

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December 23, 2012

Tagliatelle with Hominy Pesto

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of corn. Not necessarily the kernels but anything made with cornmeal and hominy to be precise. I started to think of things to make with hominy besides posole and when I saw this recipe for fresh corn pesto I immediately thought of trying a version with the hominy. Well why not, it's sweet, it's creamy, it's very diabetic friendly, gluten free and low fat. I only hoped I wasn't going to regret wasting a whole can of hominy on a whim, so I decided to do some research to see of anyone else had the same idea.

The only thing I found was whole hominy mixed with a jarred basil pesto. Not even close. I was on my own with this one, I only hoped that hominy is as good in a paste as it is, eaten whole.

I had a cup of hominy and a cup of this in the freezer and was a good way to not only use up leftovers but to give a good start to this pesto.

I also liked the addition of bacon (can be omitted) and using the rendered fat (use olive oil) to saute the hominy and caramelize 1/4 cup of thinly sliced onions. I will reserve 1/4 cup whole hominy and process the remaining with the onions, the toasted pine nuts and the pesto from last week. I always add the cheese right before serving, as the heat generated from the processing does change the texture and the taste of the cheese (use a vegan Parmesan).

Now that we have particulars of the dish, let's discuss the nutritional benefits of hominy. Yes, it is corn but recently the food police have realized that corn is a high-resistant food, which is a great thing for a diabetic. Also, 1 cup of hominy is equal to about 1/3 cup of corn by volume, so you are actually eating less corn.

One serving, or 1/2 cup of hominy, contains about 100 calories, 0.5 grams of fat and 4.5 percent calories from fat. A serving of hominy also provides your body with 4 grams, or 16 percent of your daily recommended intake of dietary fiber which regulates your blood sugar, encourages a healthy digestive systems and may help reduce cholesterol levels. Hominy contains no saturated fat or cholesterol and only 1 gram of sugar.
I'm sold, you should be too. I have officially added this food to my list of not so popular good diabetic foods to experiment with in the coming new year.
Hang with me peeps I will have you eating foods you never thought you would or could.
If you do not already have premade pesto follow the directions as written, for those with pesto, omit the ingredients in red.

Tagliatelle with Hominy Pesto
 serves 4
* 1 box (12oz) fettuccine
* 3 slices bacon, cut into lardons
* 1/2 onion, sliced thin
* 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
* 1 cup canned hominy, rinsed and drained, reserving 1/4 cup
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 2 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil (walnut will also work)
* Salt & pepper to taste
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
 * 1/4 cup prepared pesto (I used this one)
 * 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated + extra for serving
 * 3/4 cup basil leaves, divided
* 1 garlic clove

1. Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add 3/4 cup hominy and onions to drippings and saute until the onions are soft. Shut off the heat and add vinegar, scrapping the bottom to remove the browned bits.
2. Place everything but the cheese and 1/4 cup reserved hominy into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Remove to a bowl, add in bacon and hominy (that has been roughly chopped).
3. Cook pasta in large pot of salted water according to the box directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water.
4. In skillet add 1/2 cup pesto with 1/4 cup pasta water and stir to combine. Drop pasta into skillet and toss, adding more pesto and water to get the consistency of a light sauce. Serve with additional grated cheese.

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December 22, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-Six - Soupreme Monday Lima Barley Soup with Corn

I first need to explain that the posts of my extreme budget meals are 3-4 days after we actually eat them so you will get our Soupreme Monday soup sometime around Thursday. I know you know everyone schedules a week in advance, I am just not as good as the others and I post frequently, so I am totally in a daily time warp around here.

My one resolution for next year is to organize my site, change over to WordPress and organize the meals so the post of Monday Soup is up on Monday, yay for me! Oops, that should be yay for you!

Turns out because The Nudge took this Monday off and he wanted steak I am making Monday Soup on Tuesday which means it may actually make the post on Monday.

Yipes, how confusing is all this? Now you know why I have no clue what day it is.

OK, back to business. Any of my regular readers has heard me sing the praises of using pureed white beans as the cream in many recipes and as the roux in most. I do prefer to soak dried beans and simmer them with herbs and aromatics until they are extremely tender, then puree them using the cooking liquid to get the consistency of mashed potatoes, in the fridge and ready to use. In a pinch a good canned white bean will work as well, they just won't have the flavor. If you have a crock pot, these can easily be done while you are away.

Last night I soaked a full bag of dried Lima beans, 1 cup will go into the soup, the rest will be made into a puree. I like the Lima's because they are more neutral in flavor, very creamy in texture and twice the size of the smaller ones. This is a good bean to introduce to the kids.

This soup is loaded with nutrients. So healthy and easy to make. Without the crostini, this soup is Vegan, Vegetarian, No fat, Low Cal, Low Sodium, Diabetic Super Friendly, Gluten-Free (there is gluten in barley but interestingly, its different gluten to that in wheat) and Inexpensive.
A win-win on every level. Yes, you could add some sausage or pasta but that changes the whole dynamic structure of the soup. Try it as is and see what you think. If you love pasta fagiole you will love this soup.

Succotash Barley Soup
makes 4-5 servings
* 1 quart water
* 1 cup dried Lima beans, soaked overnight
* 2 stalks celery, chopped
* 2 onions, chopped
* 1 clove garlic, chopped
* 2 carrots, chopped
* 2 whole cloves
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 small can diced petite tomatoes, drained
* 1/2 cup dried barley
* 1 cup corn, frozen or canned
* Salt & pepper

1. Place the Lima's and the next 9 ingredients (up to barley) in a quart of water.
2. Simmer, covered for 3 hours.
Note: if using crock pot set to low for 6-8 hours.
3. Add corn, stir and adjust seasonings.

I made a few garlic rubbed crostini's to place at the bottom of each bowl and drizzled a good olive oil on top. This was very filling and perfect for a cold dreary night.

Check out this nutrition bombshell!!

Cost for this meal: $2.00
Total for 26 days: $ $93.00

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December 21, 2012

Favorite Kitchen Gadget - Recipe Redux Challenge December 2012

This was a really good challenge. Name your favorite kitchen gadget and make a dish using it.
Ah the minds of those tricky Redux Gals.This was not easy, I have a ton of gadgets and I love them all but the only thing I could think of that gets used more than any other gadget in my drawer, was my dumpling press. It's one gadget that makes one thing but in many different ways. I can make Chinese dumplings, Yiddish pirogi, Mexican empanadas and Italian ravioli with those presses.

Now that's a grand gadget. Sometimes you can buy one or, like me, buy a box of three different sizes.

It just so happens I have a savory crust dough in the freezer and a piece of ribeye with cheddar cheese.
I am going to make hand pies or empanadas, something new to me but with a filling that is not.

Philly Cheese Steak palm pies, a side of crispy onion rings and a red cabbage slaw. Yummy, no?
All baked in the oven, and the best part? Won't cost me anything. I am using all leftovers and pantry items.

I made this crust recipe for pot pies last week and it proved to be a dream crust. Easy to work with, baked up wonderfully and as the bottom crust of a pot pie, stayed dry, crisp and flaky. Everything you could want in a crust. Plus, I made it in my processor. I just love to use my processor for doughs. Wait....is that two favorite gadgets? No, kitchen electrics are not gadgets. Gadgets are one hand items that make life easier.

Got it? Good.

I guess these pies are not much of a recipe but I did give you a good crust recipe.
I have to admit, cheese steak sandwiches rank right up there as our favorite hot sandwich.

I had a half a leftover rib-eye in the freezer and some really good sharp cheddar cheese. I sauteed thinly sliced onions and green peppers until they were soft and sweet.
I rolled out the dough to a thickness of 1/8" and using a 4" cutter, I made 8 rounds. Using the largest of the dumplings presses, I spooned 1 teaspoon of filling into each round, wet the edge with beaten egg white to seal the dough. After making each one, I put them back in the fridge to firm up the dough.

Bake with the onion rings (I love Alexia Panko Rings) for 18 minutes at 375°, turning half way through.

Red Cabbage Slaw
makes 4 servings
* 1/4 of a 1 pound red cabbage, shredded 
* 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 1 carrot, shredded
* 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup lite mayonnaise
* 1 tablespoon agave nectar

1. Place red cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to mix. Let it sit for minimum 30 minutes.
2. Drain the liquid and to the wilted cabbage, add all the other ingredients and let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but overnight is always better.

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December 20, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-Six - Steamed Mussels

I love a sale on mussels, especially P.E.I. mussels. I can easily get two dinners with one bag. Dinner No. 1 is a pot of steamed with bread and Dinner No. 2 is Baked Mussels Casino with angel hair pasta. Yes, just like Clams Casino but with mussels.

We do eat mussels quite often. They are low carb, low fat, low calorie, Diabetic friendly and nutritious. What's not to love?
This time around I would have liked to head in the Asian flavor direction, but The Nudge wants them done the Sicilian way and what The Nudge wants, The Nudge gets.
I don't have an written recipe for these but if you use a basic good white wine sauce recipe, just replace the wine with Pernod or Sambuca and drop in some chopped tomatoes.

I start by cleaning my mussels in cold water, throwing away any that are cracked or opened. I then fill a large bowl with fresh cold water, drop in a handful of flour and let them purge for 30 minutes.

While they are soaking, prep your ingredients and put the bread in the oven. You always need bread to sop up all those juices, and remember, do not throw away any steaming liquid or any bread not eaten. We will use the liquid to moisten the stuffing that was made with the bread. If you want to make both dishes and are cooking for 4, buy 2 bags of mussels and double the steaming liquid. More is better in this case.

Steamed Mussels
makes 2 servings
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 large shallot, minced
* 3 small garlic cloves, sliced thin
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1 tablespoon chopped tomatoes
* 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
* 1 teaspoon agave nectar
* 1/4 cup Pernod or Sambuca
* 2 pound bag cleaned mussels
* 2 tablespoons sliced scallions.

1. Saute garlic and shallot in butter. Add white wine and lemon juice.
2. Simmer for 5 minutes, add zest and tomatoes.
3. Simmer 2 minutes. Add agave and Pernod. Simmer until it starts to thicken. Dump in mussels and cover.
4. Simmer 4-5 minutes on high heat. If all mussels have opened, shut the heat off, sprinkle in scallions and serve.
5. Cool remaining half cooked mussels and juice and store in a container.

Cost for this meal: $ 4.99
Running total for 26 days: $95.99

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December 19, 2012

Bananas Foster Impossible Cake - Holiday Dessert Test #1

With 2 diabetics in the family and 8 with no dietary concerns, do I prepare desserts for the holiday meal as I would eat them or do I make desserts with no adjustments.

This year I am testing a few new dessert recipes, some with full fat and sugar and others that are not.
I picked bananas as our annual Christmas flavor and the first dessert I made was an impossible cake.
I have done a version of this technique a few years back at Thanksgiving, and everyone loved it.
Since I do not take food pics at my holiday table (I don't think my guests should be asked to wait while I snap a pic), I had nothing to post about so this time I took a few pics.

I am sure there are plenty of posts devoted to this two layer food science experiment. What exactly is an impossible cake? It's a flan on top of a layer of cake all baked together in one pan. Like I said, a science experiment. I am not sure who developed the first one, or where it's origins are, but my guess is because of the flan, it's roots took hold somewhere in South America.

Meet my first test.......Bananas Foster Impossible Cake

Although I have never eaten this iconic New Orleans dessert, I have always been enamored with banana anythings.....bread, muffins, ice cream, smoothies.

Bananas are not a great fruit for diabetics (they recommend eating them hard not ripe, but would you?) and most banana dishes require the bananas to be as ripe as can be and one step before the garbage pail.
I am, therefore, using a banana liquor, which we know that as it bakes, the alcohol will burn off, but you could also use a banana extract (but only a teaspoon will do, please). I happen to have a nice little bottle banana brandy.

This recipe could not be any easier. You don't need any special equipment, a bowl and a spoon will do.
You could make these without the syrup and they would still be just as good. A dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or Cool-Whip would work well, as would a scoop of frozen yogurt or a low sugar ice cream.

Bananas Foster Impossible Cake
makes 6-8 servings or 8 ramekins
* 4 eggs (room temperature)
* 1 can sweetened condensed milk
* 1 can evaporated milk
* 1 tablespoon banana liqueur or 1 teaspoon banana extract
* 4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)

* 1 cup banana cake mix
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 egg

* 1/4 cup brown sugar (lite or dark)
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 cup banana liqueur
* 1/4 cup dark or spiced rum

Preheat oven to 350°.
1. Mix eggs, milk, vanilla and cream cheese until smooth.
2. In a separate bowl mix cake mix, oil, milk and egg until well blended.
3. In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, liqueur and rum, and simmer until it is thick and syrupy.
4. Butter or spray 8 ramekins or a bundt cake pan.
5. Evenly spoon about a tablespoon of syrup in each ramekin or spoon evenly into the bottom of a bundt pan.
6. Pour the flan mix over the syrup. Pour the cake mix over that (it will sink to the bottom but that's OK).
7. Place the pan or ramekins into a baking pan and fill with boiling water. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes for ramekins, 1 hour for bundt pan.
8. Remove from the oven and let it cool. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. The Foster's sauce will flow over the cake.
9. To serve, flip the cake over into a platter or dish just like you would a simple flan.

This was a wonderful treat. Just the right size for after a Holiday meal.

I will continue to play around with different flavor combinations but I can see an apple impossible cake in our future.
Stay tuned for dessert #2.
I will give you a hint......it cooks to a pillowy light and airy decadent but not unhealthy treat.

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December 18, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-Five - Squam Scallop Pie

Ever heard of Squam Scallop Pie? First time I made it, I was in my 20's. I don't remember where I got the recipe but it was always a huge success when I entertained a friend of the male persuasion.
Nowadays it's Engagement Chicken, for me it was this pie.

Cooked in a Pyrex pie plate I actually bought a scallop-shaped dish (just like the Shell gas logo). Although there is one recipe called squam scallop pie floating around the blogoshere, it is not exactly the same recipe. Mine used piped mashed potatoes around the edge of a scallop dish with the scallop mixture in the middle, almost like a pie, but not.

I liked my version and decided I needed to revisit this recipe again. I know there is a Squam Lake in New Hampshire and I imagine someone vacationing up there had the dish at a local restaurant or B&B and created a rendition. Wherever it's origins are, it's a tasty and filling dish for those fall bay scallops that come around once a year.

You will need one recipe favorite mashed potatoes and a piping bag or storage bag with a hole cut out of one corner.
This dish will take all of thirty minutes if you already have leftover mashies in the fridge (which I do).

Squam Scallop Pie
makes 4 servings
* 1 teaspoon butter
* 1/2 c. chopped onions
* 1 pound scallops
* 1/4 c. white wine
* 2 T flour
* 1 c. fat-free evaporated milk
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon pepper
* 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
* 2 tablespoons melted butter
* 2 cups mashed potatoes
* 2 egg yolks
* Parsley garnish

1. Mix yolks into mashed potatoes and pipe around edge of round gratin dishes. Brush with 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
2. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Melt 1/4 butter in a saute pan and cook onion till translucent, 5 min. Add in scallops, cook stirring 2-3 min. Add in wine, cook 3 min. Remove scallops with slotted spoon and reserve.
4. Whisk flour into pan, whisk in half & half.
5. Reduce heat, cook stirring constantly till thick and smooth, about 2 min. Add in salt and pepper. Place scallops into middle of ramekins and pour over sauce. 
6. Bake 15 min, turn oven to broil, and broil until potatoes start to brown, about 2 minutes. Watch them carefully. Garnish with parsley.

Cost of this dish: $5.97
Scallops - $4.19
Onion - $.25
Milk - $.99
Yolks - $.54

Running total for 25 days: $91.00 ($3.64 per day)
I promise I will stop the daily totals after the first month is over.

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December 16, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-Four - Steakhouse Creamed Spinach and Artichokes with Mushrooms

Spinach has to be my favorite vegetable right after artichokes and mushrooms. So why not put them all in the same dish? When Spinach and Artichoke Dip was all the rage, it had my name all over it and the only one I have been known to drive out of my way for. I am not sure how they made it but I have only made Alton's recipe, and always to ravs. I am going to assume it was pretty darn good, so when I got the idea to make that dip into a side dish with the addition of mushrooms, I used his flavor profile with a few of my adjustments.
One thing I should insist on....baby spinach for all it's ease of use, is great for a salad. Put it to heat and, it not only disintegrates, it becomes totally tasteless. Please buy the fresh large curly bunches. I picked up two beauties, soaked them in the sink, pulled off the stems and ran them through the salad spinner. Was really not that much trouble but it had such great flavor and it's so much less cost then the baby.
I did splurge on a rib eye tonight but after three weeks I was still in my budget and I will still have half the spinach to stuff into something like lasagna rolls or manicotti, yum again.

Creamed Spinach and Artichokes with Mushrooms
makes 4-6 servings
* 1 ounce cream cheese
* 1/3 cup heavy cream
* 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1/2 large shallot, minced
* 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
* 2 tablespoon Marsala wine
* 1/2 cup mushrooms chopped
* salt & pepper
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon agave nectar
* 2 huge bunches of fresh spinach (not baby)

1. Steam the spinach in a large stockpot. Remove just as it wilts. Reserve.
2. Melt butter and saute shallots and garlic for 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and wine. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Add the heavy cream, cream cheese, Worcestershire, agave nectar, Parmesan and reserved spinach. Simmer gently until the cream cheese melts. Adjust the salt & pepper to taste and sprinkle some extra Parmesan over the top before serving.

Cost for this meal: $ 12.00
Spinach - $ 1.16
Cream - $ .42
Cream Cheese - $ .32
Mushrooms - $ .50
Garlic - $ .10
Rib eye - $ 9.50

Running total for 24 days: $ 85.03 ($.68 under budget)
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December 14, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-Three - Soupreme Monday Roasted Tomato Soup

I'm not sure I ever made a homemade tomato soup. I'm sorry but I like the canned condensed tomato soup. I make it the way my mom always did, with bits of cheddar cheese melted in and milk instead of water and the best part, those thin egg noodles.
What's not to like about all that good stuff? The Nudge likes it better then next day after the noodles soak in all the goodness.

I must have over 3 cases of canned whole tomatoes. I usually make a large batch of Sunday sauce and process a dozen pints for use all winter long. This year, for whatever reason, I did not. I think it's time to start seriously opening up those cans.

This soup was a good way to start. Since I like creamed soups and The Nudge prefers consommé but will devour a bisque, that was the avenue I wanted to travel down. I also wanted it to be spicy but not hot spicy, flavor spiced.

Best place I know where spice is king, the Gulf Coast. I found this recipe on a site that is all about Jackson, Mississippi and they do Creole good. I adapted the technique to use canned romas instead of fresh. I remember a few years back that a restaurant made "oven dried canned tomatoes" for appetizers.
The writer praised them as having immense flavor and a great way to eat oven roasted tomatoes all year round. A great appetizer by spreading goat cheese on crostini and topping with a tomato.
 I will open a few cans of whole tomatoes, slice and seed, salt & pepper and bake them in the oven for 4-5 hours. Hey I have the time and I will have the oven on all day. You can put a batch into a 225° oven overnight. Store them in a container with olive oil and refrigerate them. There must be thousands of quick and easy dinners that use these tomatoes and at less then a dollar a can, I made two batches.
While I am roasting the tomatoes I also roasted garlic.
If there is any tomato soup left over, save it for an easy Pasta a la Vodka later in the week.

Roasted Tomato Bisque
Serves 4
* 24 oven roasted half plum tomatoes (recipe follows)
* 1/2 white onion, caramelized
* Reserved juice from canned tomatoes, strained
* 1 head roasted garlic
* 2 teaspoons Emerils Creole Seasonings

* 1 cup chicken stock
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* salt & pepper
* pinch of sugar

1. Simmer the reserved tomato juice to reduce by half.
2. In a small frying pan, cook the onions on low heat with a pat of butter for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Add a tablespoon of white wine to deglaze the pan and pour everything into the reduced tomato liquid.
3. Add garlic, creole seasonings, chicken stock and salt & pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add roasted tomatoes, cream and sugar. Simmer another 30 minutes. Puree until smooth. Taste to adjust seasonings and if slightly bitter, add a pinch of sugar. Stir and taste again, Repeat as needed.

Roasted Tomatoes
makes 2 batches
* 2 cans whole Roma tomatoes, the best you can afford
* 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
* salt & pepper
* Dusting of sugar
* Sprinkle of olive oil
* Dried thyme & oregano

1. Drain tomatoes over a large bowl. Holding one in your hand, slice in half and run your fingers between the sections to remove the seeds and any tough stems.
2. Place each half skin side down on a quarter sheet pan and continue until the pan is covered, or there are no more tomatoes. I like to place my tomatoes touching each other but not crowded. They will shrink slightly so the heat can surround them.
3. Salt, pepper, sugar and olive oil every tomato as evenly as you can.
4. Place one slice of garlic in each half and sprinkle with oregano and thyme.
5. Roast for 1 hour at 300°, reduce heat to 250° and roast for two hours more. As soon as the tomatoes are dried and the moisture is all gone, remove from the oven and cool.

Cost for this meal: $ 2.00
Cheese - $ 1.00
Cream - $ .75
Garlic - $ .25

Running total for 23 days: $73.03

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December 12, 2012

TGIF - Omelet with Skillet Potatoes, Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-Two

TGIF - I wrote this post last Friday. That's how behind I am. I do apologize but today could be a Monday or Wednesday to me. All I know is this will not be published on a Friday.
I have lost track of time. The only reason I know it's Friday is because tickets to the Giants game needed to be given to someone else because I am not 100% and with the rain and cold, am not risking getting worse. One of the guys The Nudge works with is taking his family. I am glad they went to someone who really appreciated the chance to go.

Getting sick right before Christmas is the pits. I have a unique recipe for Cranberry Cheesecake that I have developed and before I make my final approach, I need to make one for testing. We have a huge family Christmas Reunion/80th Birthday Party in Philadelphia next weekend and I still have stocking stuffers and wrap I need to buy. My side entrance is still not decorated and with the rain I doubt I will be plugging in any light sets. Yes, really, TGIF.

To all of those celebrating Hanukkah, I wish you a week of peace and good will.

The Nudge wants a dinner omelet tonight. No, I am not making potato latkes, I was requested to make southwestern skillet potatoes. Now I know why I lean towards unfreedom of choice.

I suppose I could make two different kinds of potatoes but why would I? I don't even feel like making the one.
So if a blooper poops pops up on this blog in the near future, please forgive me although I am backwards and upside down, I will always TGIF.

Southwestern Skillet Potatoes
makes 2 very generous servings
* 1 large Russet Potato, cubed but not peeled
* 1/4 white onion, chopped
* 2" strip of green onion, small dice
* 1/4 teaspoon SW seasoning mix
* salt & pepper
* canola oil

1. Heat a nonstick pan and saute potatoes on one side on low heat for 15 minutes, or until they brown. Flip them over and repeat on the other side. Remove, salt and reserve.
2. Saute onions and peppers in same pan until soft. Add the seasoning, salt & pepper and potatoes.
3. Stir to mix and place on a sheet pan.
4. Right before eating, place the sheet pan in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes at 400°.

Cost for this meal: $ 1.26
Running total for 22 days: $71.03

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December 10, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-One - Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce

As much as I have weaned my shopping list and cut way back on my food buying, I have found that the buying may not be my only problem. Six days ago I started with a lean mean freezing machine and now, when I opened the door to put my three containers of stock inside, I had to move and rearrange the items in there to make room. Where did all that space go?

This Saturday, before I go food shopping I will be taking an inventory of all the bags and containers of food in both the fridge and freezer and creating dishes to GET THEM THE NECK OUT OF THERE!!!

I'm not quite sure The Nudge will buy my "I've really been good at buying, just bad at applying" theory. He just teased me the other day because he couldn't find the limes amongst all that food! Can't fault a girl for trying.

I have 5 bags of dried mushrooms hanging in a basket and I think it's time to use a few up.
The inspiration for this dish came from America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook.
I was looking for an easy, cheap meal that I already had mostly all the ingredients for in my pantry and this was one of a few.

Dried mushrooms may seem expensive per pound but since only ounces are used (usually 2oz per recipe), that's about $2.50. Combine that with about $1.00's worth of pasta and $ .50 worth or cream, you can feed four for $1.00 each and feed them well. Dried mushrooms are underused and underrated. Pop them into your spice grinder and pulverize them and then go have some fun. Add them to eggs (not quite a truffle but close enough), add a pinch to gravies and sauces and sprinkle them right on top of a filet mignon. They say mushrooms are Unami and at 0 calories, fat and carbs, it is my best kept secret. (you can order mushroom powder at The Spice House)

To get the ounce of mushrooms I need for two servings I am using a mixture of dried porcinis and morels. Two mushrooms that can stand on their own.

I suggest you use the processor or blender to mince the onions, just pulse until they are minced but not pureed. If there is no processor or blender I would suggest grating them but you will have to squeeze out any excess liquid.

I am using radiatori pasta. The more ridges the more sauce will cling and since the sauce is not chunky, it makes the perfect sauce delivery system. You could also use fusilli, rotelle or campanelle, anything with curls and swirls to trap the sauce.

Pasta with Porcini Cream Sauce
Serves 4-6
* 1 cup water + 1/2 cup sherry
* 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 teaspoon roasted garlic paste
* 2 onions, chopped fine
* Salt & pepper
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
* 1 pound swirly pasta
* 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving

1. Microwave water/sherry mix and porcini in covered bowl until steaming, about 1 minute. Let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain mushrooms through fine-mesh strainer lined with coffee filter: reserve liquid and chop mushrooms into 3/4-inch pieces.
2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoons salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in strained mushroom liquid, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream, thyme and garlic and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot. Add sauce and Parmesan and toss to combine. Season with salt & pepper to taste and add reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency. Serve with extra Parmesan.

Cost for this meal: $ 1.91
Running total for 21 days: $69.77

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December 9, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty - Roasted Chicken with Mashed Potatoes

I found a roaster for under $5.00. A manager's special, I love those orange labels.
Why is that such a big deal? Me and The Nudge have this deal that we would not buy a chicken unless it is priced under $5.00. Two reasons - two people really don't need that much cooked leftover chicken and unless you make your own stock constantly, it really isn't saving you all that much money. As long as I can still get leg quarters for under $1 per pound and boned breasts for $1.29 a pound, it makes more sense for you to buy the pieces we will actually eat. For example: if I did not like dark meat, I would never buy a whole chicken.

After tonight's meal, I am the proud owner of a leg, a thigh and half a breast. What to do with all that cooked chicken? Since I have half a package of Jack cheese and flour tortillas, I think quesadillas are on next weeks menu.

Tonight's chicken was split down the middle (spatchcocked), injected with a Cajun marinade and roasted very simply on a half sheet pan. I also made a double batch of mashed potatoes that half of, will be used in a Squam Scallop Pie.

I don't eat potatoes much anymore. Part of making healthy changes in my diet these last two years has been the elimination of rice and potatoes, but when I do make them, I love the steaming method that Cook's Illustrated taught me. They do not get water logged, you can add a few garlic cloves (which sweeten while steaming) and you only need a small amount of milk, cream, butter.

A side of these carrots, the chicken au jus and dinner is served!

I have been feeling under the weather this week and finally felt good enough to come down to cook The Nudge a proper dinner. Although he doesn't mind a pizza now and then, I know he hates eating alone.

Cutting the backbone out of a whole chicken really is not all that hard. Since I have to assume everyone has a good pair of kitchen shears we shall use them. When dealing with spatchcocking  I always use my shears to ensure a good grip. Just cut up one side of the tail (you know that pointy little hard piece of chicken skin where the stuffing usually goes), and then the other side. You may have to really use some power to cut through the bones that attach the thighs to the carcass but after that, it's smooth cutting.

Spread the chicken open and using a knife, cut down the center of the bone at the neck of the bird. Don't be afraid, it will take a small amount of pressure but it will cut. You need to do this in order to get the chicken to lay flat and have good contact with the pan.

Drain the juice from the pan, whisk in some flour, add salt & pepper, a little white wine and simmer until it thickens slightly.

Cost for this meal: $4.61
Running total for 20 days: $67.86 ($3.39 a serving) and $7.00 under my allotted budget.

December 7, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Nineteen - Turkey Pot Pie w/Sage Crust

I am about to make a savory pie crust. Does it sound like I am bragging? It is a big deal because I think in my lifetime, I might have made 5 doughs from scratch.
So, if I'm going to make a crust from scratch it's going to be a good one and went to B. Flay for inspiration. I used his sweet potato crust recipe to make these little darlings in March.

This time I opted for a sage crust. Since I happen to have a huge sage bush still alive and well in my garden, fresh thyme in the fridge and flour, shortening and butter in my pantry, this was a no-brainer for my 19th budget meal.
All I needed to buy was a package of frozen vegetable mix just made for pot pies.

This meal is down there with a total of $.99 for the vegetables and since I will be using only half the box, you figure it out.
I splurged on scallops this week so this meal needed to be cheapo.

Turkey Pot Pie with Sage Crust
Makes 4 individual pies
  • 1 cup cooked turkey meat
  • 1/2 box frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans, Lima beans and corn)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup leek, white part, sliced thinly
  • 1 large shallot, finely sliced 
  • 1 teaspoon Bell's Poultry Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoons fresh sage chiffonade
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup ice water
Butter a 4-quart baking dish.
Shred turkey meat and add vegetables.
Melt butter in the same pot over medium heat. Add leeks and shallots and cook until soft. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and white wine. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook until reduced slightly. Add cream and cook until sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley and sage. Pour the sauce over the turkey and vegetables in the bowl.

For the Crust: Place flour, herbs, and salt in a food processor and process until herbs are finely chopped. Add butter and shortening and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add a few tablespoons of the cold water at a time and pulse until the mixture just comes together. Gather dough into ball and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll dough into a 15 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle and cut out 4 (7") circles and 4 (4") circles. A small paper plate is about 7".
Place 7" circle on bottoms of 4 miniature pie pans (I used spring forms), spoon a quarter of the turkey mixture into each and top with 4" circle and crimp edges of dough together. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cut a few slits in the tops to let the steam escape and bake until crust is golden and gravy is bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

This was by far the best dough I have ever made. It was flaky yet tender, had great flavor and the bottom crust remained dry and perfect. We all know those bottom crusts can be glue.
I am very proud of myself.

The Nudge already put in his order for a beef pot pie. 

Cost for this meal: $ .50
6Running total for 19 day: $63.25

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December 5, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Eighteen - Turkey Enchiladas

Enchilada aficionados will be upset with me. Why? I am making mine with flour tortillas.
While I like corn tortillas, I can only buy the good ones in packs of 20 and I end up throwing away at least 14 of them before I can use them. I always use the flour tortillas so none goes to waste.
Yes, I did pick up the corn ones first and seriously had to think of what I was doing but in the long run, my budget won over. Plus, they were on sale BIG time and I had a coupon.

Don't hate me 'cuz I'm cheap.

I had a batch of homemade Chile sauce (already in the fridge), the turkey leftover from last Thursday (defrosting peacefully on the counter), chopped roasted green chilies in the can, pickled jalapenos, a half package of southwest corn in the freezer and Tex-Mex seasonings in my pantry. I was all set. I bought a huge quart of yogurt, which is straining as I type, a batch of pear nectar margaritas in the fridge and I am making Spanish yellow rice and black beans. 
I really can't remember the last time I made enchiladas but I do know The Nudge is looking forward to this dinner and so am I. I think after Asian flavors, Mexican comes in second as my go to when I want a dinner that blows your taste buds away.

Turkey Enchiladas
makes 4 servings
* 5 flour tortillas
* 2 cups cooked turkey
* 1 cup ancho chili sauce
* Small can mild enchilada sauce
* 1/4 green pepper, chopped
* 1/4 cup onion, chopped
* 1/2 cup strained yogurt or low-fat sour cream
* 1/2 can chopped roasted green chilies
* 1 tablespoon Tex-Mex seasonings
* 1 cup frozen southwest corn with red and green peppers
* 4 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, grated (I used Cabot's low-fat version)

Yellow Rice and Beans
* 1 teaspoon Adobo with pepper
* 1 cup long grain rice
* 1/2 packet Sazon Goya with Azafran
* 2 cups water
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup canned black beans

1. Tear turkey meat into shreds and put in a large bowl, along with the roasted chilies, seasonings, frozen corn mixture and yogurt.
2. In a small saucepan place the enchilada sauce, the chili sauce, green pepper and onion. Simmer for 20 moinutes, cool and puree.
3. In a 7x11 inch baking dish spoon 1/2 the enchilada sauce evenly on to the bottom.
4. Measuring out 1/2 cup turkey filling into each tortilla, roll and place, seam side down next to each other in the baking pan.
5. Top with remaining sauce and all of the cheese.
6. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes covered, 350° for 20 minutes uncovered.

I will say that I understand why corn tortillas are used in this dish. The flour tortillas were very soft and it took two spatulas to remove them and place them on a plate. Corn is sturdier and I will use them next time.

Rice directions: Add rice, Adobo, Sazon, salt and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add canned black beans, stir and serve.

Cost for this meal: $ 5.16
Running total for 18 days:$62.76

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December 4, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Seventeen - Cheese Raviolis

Not a recipe but a budget meal and the last of my square meatballs with sauce.

Celentano pasta.....everyone in the Tri-State area growing up when we did, has eaten at least one Celentano  product a week. If you had a macaroni night, it was Celantano. My Aunt Jennie still buys the manicotti.

They were having a 1/2 price sale on the cheese filled products and I could not resist buying a bag of the  round cheese ravioli's.

I thought they would be a good GO TO when I needed a quickie nearer the holidays but when I mentioned I had a bag in the freezer, The Nudge immediately nixed a pizza at our favorite BYO.
I was pretty shocked but I understood. They are good, they are inexpensive and they make you feel like a kid again. I should have bought two bags.

I had the last of the sauce with square meatballs, a few dinner rolls from the night before and we were ready to eat in 30 minutes.

Cost of this meal: $ 1.39

Running total after 17 days: $ 57.60

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December 3, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Sixteen - Linguine Carbonara w/Homemade Italian Bread

Another week of menu planning. I can honestly say that I appreciate those that have to make budget meals every night of the week. Unfortunately in this house, we are not fans of chopped or stewed meats and it gets difficult at this time of year to find sales on anything but those types of meats and the produce is not only expensive but not in good shape.

I have done a good job of using up mostly everything I bought these last two weeks and by Sunday, everything should be gone.

I have a turkey breast tucked away in my freezer, the freebie the stores gave out and I probably should work my menu off of that.

Tonight I am getting off easy. The Nudge requested Linguine Carbonara. Another great simple Italian masterpiece. I make mine the way I watched Jamie Oliver make his on the series where he cooked everything from his garden including the eggs his chickens laid.

I love eggs but I have a hate relationship with undercooked whites so while most will add a whole egg to the pasta and toss, I will whisk mine well and mix with the cheese and pasta water and then toss it with the pasta while it's in the hot pan where I had the bacon and drippings. This dish is inexpensive and delicious and super easy.The sauce was eggy cheesy salty creamy good and because I added a splash of cream when most Carbonaras are not.

I found this dinner roll recipe over at Cook's Illustrated and I was preparing to make them for this meal.
95% of every bread recipe I have made could be done from kneading to oven in 2-3 hours.
As usual I did not read the recipe through to the end, where it said, these need to rise for at least 6-7 hours in a cool place in your house....
So I froze the dough and will make it another day when I can start the night before, so recipe in a few days.

Linguine Carbonara
Serves 4
* 1/2 pound thin linguine
* 2 eggs, beaten well
* 1 tablespoon heavy cream
* 4 slices bacon, chopped
* 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 cup pasta cooking water
* freshly ground pepper

1. Put a gallon of salted water to boil. While the pasta cooks, saute the bacon in a large skillet.
2. Mix the eggs with the cheese and cream.
3. When the pasta is al dente, remove the pasta right into the bacon drippings. Add reserved pasta water mixed with the egg/cheese mixture and toss vigorously until all the pasta is coated. If it becomes too dry, add more reserved pasta water and continue tossing. The pasta should be totally coated and moist but not dripping (if too wet just keep tossing in hot pan for a few more minutes). Remove from pan to bowls and serve with additional grated cheese.

Cost for this meal: $ 2.34
Bacon - $ 1.80
Eggs - $ .54

Running total for 16 days:$ 56.21

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December 2, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Fifteen - Italian Pork Chops

I was hoping to get to my grill today, but the snow has not melted and it will only hit 43°. As much as I love to grill and as much as pork chops scream "grill me" it ain't gonna happen today. Yes, I could freeze them for Sunday but I am not a fan of freezing bone-in chops.

I will use my grill pan and make a really good pan sauce. I have been wanting to make some sort of an Italian version of a sweet/tangy/savory mixture of peppers and onions that uses balsamic vinegar. I bought a bottle of really good aged Balsamico when I was in Florence and we all know vinegars are very healthy for digestion and glucose control.
I had 6 pee-wee potatoes left in cold storage and asparagus I will add right at the end.

A good cold winter night's meal. Those spring rolls might just make an appearance next spring at this rate.

Right now in a plastic container I have three chops in a mixture of sweet ice tea mix and salt. I always use a less sugar sweet tea ice tea mix in my brine and yes, you can taste the tea. In the south they brine their fried chicken in sweet tea and I now do the same to everything I brine, even shrimp.

The ingredient list for this dish is sparse and could almost qualify for a 5 ingredient fix. You could use chicken but buy the ones with the bones and roasted everything in one pan.

Since this post is mostly about the topping, I need to warn you that bottled hot peppers are very hot and so is the brine that they are stored in. I only used 3 small pepperoncini and even though I seeded and de-veined them, I should have rinsed them. I am not a wimp when it comes to hot stuff but my mouth was on fire and I honestly could not finish this dish. Next time I make a version of this I will use pickled jalapenos.
Other than the heat, it was full of flavor and The Nudge enjoyed that last blast of vinegar at serving.

If your balsamic is inexpensive, you might want to boil down to half before using.

Grilled Pork Chops with Peppers, Onions and Potatoes
makes enough to serve 4
* 4 pork chops with rib bone attached
* 1 large red onion, quartered with stem end intact (I used half sweet, half red)
* 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon EVOO
* dozen pee-wee potatoes, cut in half
* 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
* 1 jar roasted red peppers
* 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 6 peppadew, banana peppers or pepperoncini, julienned
* Course sea salt
* Aged balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 375°.
1. Place potatoes and onion quarters on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Toss to coat.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Add peppers and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. Mix well.
2. Bake for 10 more minutes and remove from oven. Scrape everything into a bowl and add the red pepper flakes. DO AHEAD TO THIS POINT, COVER AND CHILL UP TO ONE DAY.
3. Brush chops with oil and season with salt & pepper.
4. Heat grill pan till very hot about 5 minutes.
5. Grill for about 5 minutes per side. Remove and tent with foil.
6. Add asparagus to grill pan and cook for 2 minutes on high heat. Add potato and pepper mixture to pan, stir to combine flavors and reheat.
7. Place one chop on each plate and spoon 1/4 of the vegetable mixture over top. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with additional sea salt.

Cost for this meal: $8.12
Pork chops - $6.67
Onion - $ .55
Asparagus - $ .90
This was a splurge meal but I am still on track.
Running total for 15 days: $53.87

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