Wish Upon A Dish: November 2012

November 30, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Thirteen - Soupreme Monday 7 Onion Soup

I make this soup once a month in the colder months. The Nudge just adores it. I'm not quite sure why and if you ask him he says the same thing...."I don't know why, I just do".
It is a simple soup to make, no one need have any special knife skills. A basic chop and drop soup.
Everything gets pureed in the end. Since onions are usually a good bargain, I am sure the tally will be a small one. The beauty of this dish is, any leftover bits of onions will not go to waste, I use onions in just about everything.
I like a fortified wine with slow cooked onions, so I added a tablespoon of Madeira just to kick it up a notch.

As many times as I make this soup I am always surprised at how easily I forget how good it really is for such simple ingredients. 

Seven Onion Soup
serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sliced yellow onions
  • 3/4 cup sliced red onions
  • 3/4 cup sliced white onions
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallots 
  • 1 tablespoon Madeira or Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup sliced leeks, bottoms only, well rinsed in several changes of water
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions (white parts only)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons snipped chives, for garnish
  • Shaved Parmesan, for garnish

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and set aside for garnish.
To the fat remaining in the pan, add the yellow, red, and white onions, shallots, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme and cook, stirring, until very soft and starting to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the leeks and scallions and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Dust flour over, and stir and cook until flour turns light golden. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cream, stir well to incorporate, and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and pulse soup with an immersion blender. Return to the pot, stir to combine, and heat gently.
Divide the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with bacon, chives, and a little shaved Parmesan. Serve slices of the Parmesan-Garlic bread on the side and serve immediately.

Total for this meal: $3.44
Running total for 13 days: $40.78

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November 29, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twelve - Flounder Meuniere with Long Grain & Wild Rice

I love sauteed fillets with a sauce. Yes, I mean all fillets, meat, poultry and fish.
This time I was doing flounder.
You can use a butter and almond sauce, a white wine and butter sauce, a lemon and caper sauce and a tomato concasse. It's all good. While rice would be good to sop up all the sauce, The Nudge requested his favorite, long grain and wild rice. It so happened I had a package in my pantry.
The only food I needed for dinner tonight was the fillet of fish and I got such a good sale on that I splurged on a half pound of asparagus @1.99 a pound for which I only used half.

Flounder Meuniere
serves 2
* 1/2 pound white fish fillets
* 4 tablespoons butter
* flour for dredging
* salt & pepper
* 1 tablespoon white wine
* 3 slices of lemon

1. Season fish with salt & pepper. Dredge both sides in flour, pat to remove excess.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in pan on high heat. When foam subsides, place 1 fillet of fish in pan and saute for 2 minutes. You want the top to brown evenly. Carefully turn over and saute for 1 more minute. Remove fillet to platter and keep warm. Add another tablespoon butter to pan and repeat with other fillet.
3. Pour white wine into pan and boil until sauce thickens. Add last 2 tablespoons butter and 3 slices of lemon. Simmer until the lemon is soft and the butter has browned.
4. Place 1 fillet into each dinner plate and spoon the sauce over equally.

Cost for this meal: $4.89
Fish - $3.99
Asparagus - $ .90

Running total for 12 days: $37.34

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November 28, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Eleven - Three Bean Chile con Carne

Now that the holiday weekend is over, I can get back to normal routines. It was nice after all the stress of the storm to have a quiet, uncomplicated Thanksgiving and the three days after.
It's also nice when everyone at the table is over 25. If they don't want Aunt Jackie's Mashed Potatoes they can make their own. We also don't have the many concerns that other families do. No gluten intolerance, no dietary concerns (even with two diabetics at the table) and no fuss budget's.
I tucked all my goodies into the freezer for later in the week and got down to the business of making my extreme budget shopping list.

First thing I did after cleaning out the fridge was buy a large rectagular food container to store my odds and ends in and found 4 carrots, a half an onion, a cup of butternut squash, a half pound of bacon and a gallon of milk. In my freezer was 1/2 pound of meatloaf mix, 3 boneless chicken breasts, a bag of frozen brussels sprouts and corn.
I already knew that that 1/2 pound of meatloaf mix would be used for a chili, I just needed to refine the type. I am a little behind in my consumption of beans and I have more cans then I can count so I decided on a three bean chili. Always trying to do double duty (DDD) when I cook, I am making a homemade chile sauce so that I will have a container tucked away for a Chicken Enchilada dish later (plus, it's so much better using whole chiles instead of ground spices).

I find that the recipe Rick Bayless uses has a great amount amount of flavor and the perfect amount of heat that we prefer.

 Ancho (or Guajillo) Chili Sauce
(makes about 3 cups)

* 8 medium (2 ounces total) dried Ancho chiles (your choice depending on your heat level), stemmed, seeded and torn into flat pieces
* 1 whole onion, peeled and cut in half horizontally
* 4 cloves of garlic, skins on
* 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted like Muir), drained
* 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided use)
* 3 cups chicken broth
* 1/4 teaspoon sugar
* Salt

1. Toast the chile pieces in a dry heavy skillet or on a griddle heated over medium, pressing them flat against the hot surface with a metal spatula until they are aromatic, about 19 seconds per side. In a bowl, rehydrate the chiles for 20 minutes in hot tap water to cover; place a small place on the top to keep the chiles submerged. Be careful not to breathe in the fumes. I have problems with frying in cast iron so I use the outdoor grill or skip this process completely. Use a pair of tongs to transfer the rehydrated chiles to a food processor or blender.
Add the garlic cloves and the onions, skin side up and toast them for 15 minutes, until blackened.
In the blender measure in 1 cup of soaking water, the tomatoes, toasted chopped onions and peeled garlic cloves and process to a smooth puree. Press through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl.

2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium (4-5 quart) pot or Dutch oven or a large (12-inch) deep skillet over medium-high heat—you’ll need a lid for whichever vessel you choose. When hot, add the chile puree and stir until reduced to the consistency of tomato paste, about 7 minutes. Add the broth, partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Season with sugar and salt, usually about 1 scant teaspoon. You should have about a generous 4 cups of brothy sauce.

Reserve 1/2 cup chili sauce and freeze the rest in 1 cup containers.

For my bean lineup, I chose black beans, white beans, red beans and for a little surprise (no, not a bean) a can of hominy. I thought it would add a nice texture and flavor to the chili. Hominy's soft corn-like texture makes it a frequent ingredient in stews and soups, and it's also served on its own as a warm breakfast dish. For people with diabetes, these tasty kernels may be a welcome addition. Since hominy won't cause extreme blood sugar spikes the way some foods do, it's a safe choice in moderation for diabetics.

I totally loved the addition of the hominy. I should experiment more. I doesn't have a corn taste but offers a unique chew that is pleasant and satisfying. 

Three Bean Hominy Chili con Carne
makes 3 cups
* 1/2 pound chopped meat mixture
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 cup red or green peppers, chopped
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 bottle dark style beer
* 1/2 cup chili sauce
* 1 teaspoon mexican oregano
* dash worchestershire sauce
* 1/3 can each 3 beans (choice), rinsed and drained
* 1/3 cup hominy
* salt & pepper to taste

1. Saute meat in heavy stockpot until browned. Add onions, garlic, bay leaf and peppers. Saute until softened and bottom of pan starts to brown. Deglaze with bottle of beer.
2. Add chili sauce, oregano, worchestershire and salt & pepper to taste.
3. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Adjust seasonings.

Cost for this meal: $3.93
Meat Mix - $1.60
Onion - $ .55
Garlic - $ .60
Chicken Broth  - $1.18

Running total after 11 days: $32.45

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November 27, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Ten - Spaghetti and Square Meatballs

I think I can finally breathe and get this house into order. All previous commitments have been made and on time. Now I can enjoy the holidays although I hate that I lost Fall and November. Right now I am staring at all my outdoor Christmas decorations on the deck and I am hoping to get them assembled before the snow arrives.

I am just not ready for Christmas this year. Luckily I do not have to buy Christmas gifts. We all decided to just put the money into the bank and give a contribution to the Governor and Mrs. Christie's Help for Sandy foundation they set up.

My extreme budget is so successful that I have been ordered to report updates on the running total to date every time I write a post. This meal was another example of good planning. If you have kids, don't tell them they will be eating square meatballs. They will get such a kick out of them, be prepared to make these again.

Since my meatloaf recipe is the same one as my meatball recipe but with Parmesan Cheese added, knowing I was using the recipe for both, we had cheese in our meatloaf. The Nudge thought it was really good this time, thinking it was because the outside got crispy, crunchy, which he loves. Know why it was extra crispy?
Yes, the cheese. The cheese melted and the protein (whey) oozed out, basting the outside and giving it a crisp skin.

My meatloaf recipe already posted, I am posting the sauce or gravy as I call it.
One thing I have plenty of is canned plum tomatoes. I planned ahead and roasted a head of garlic while I roasted the vegetables for my T-day side.

Spaghetti Sauce with Square Meatballs
makes 6 servings
* 2 cans plum tomatoes in juice
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 4 garlic cloves, roasted
* 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
* salt & pepper
* 1 teaspoon honey
* 12 square meatballs

1. Heat oil in a saucepan on low heat and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute for 5 minutes.
Add the bay leaves, oregano, thyme and salt & pepper.
2. Add tomatoes that have been pureed with an immersion blender or in a processor.
3. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
4. Cut the leftover meatloaf into 1 1/2 -2" cubes and add to the stockpot.
5. Cover and simmer for 30 more minutes.
6. Uncover and continue simmering for another 30 minutes while you boil a pot of salted water to a boil.
7. Cook the spaghetti until al dente (about 8 minutes). Drain. Add enough sauce to the spaghetti to coat but not drown the pasta, top with the meat and serve with grated cheese.

Yummy, yay!!

Any leftover sauce gets stored in the freezer, dated and labeled, for another dinner.

Cost for this meal: $4.45
Meatball Mix - $3.20
Garlic - $ .60
Onion - $ .15
Cheese - $ .50

Running Total after 10 days: $28.52

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November 26, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Nine - Pumpkin Seed Pesto Squash Gnocchi

I found over a pound of pepitas in my freezer, refrigerator and cabinet and seriously needed to do something with them.

Every year I give a homemade food gift to each sibling. Last year it was an Italian roasted tomato salsa, the year before cheesecakes baked in a cookie tin and this year it will be spiced pepitas.

Even after making three large glassine bags I still had way too many seeds.
That's when I decided to make a Pepita Pesto. A few of them om the Internet simply swapped out the pine nuts for pepitas, but I wanted more southwest flavor than that. I finally found the recipe I was looking for over at Shutterbean who adapted hers from the Rachel Ray Magazine.

One of the vegetables for my Thanksgiving side this year is butternut squash. Even the small ones give up way to much meat so I took 1/3, roasted it off and made butternut squash gnocchi.

While gnocchi can be filling on it's own and well rounded nutrition-wise, I also made a small salad.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
makes approximately 250 gnocchi
* 1 cup AP flour
* 1/2 cup chickpea flour
* 1/4 cup cornmeal
* 1 cup mashed roasted squash
* 1 egg

1. Mix everything together in a large bowl, adding more flour if needed to obtain a consistency of bread dough.
2. Roll a small amount into a rope and cut into 1" pieces. Using a butter paddle or the back of a dinner fork, roll each piece of dough down the utensil, pressing hard enough to make grooves and roll off.
3. Place gnocchi on a floured tea towel until they are all formed. Either freeze or cook in a pot of boiling salted water.

Pepita Pesto
makes 4 servings
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 1/2 cup parsley
* 1/2 cup cilantro
* 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
* 1/3 cup toasted pepitas
* 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
* 2 cloves garlic, crushed
* 3-4 shakes of hot sauce

In the bowl of a food processor, place parsley, cilantro, pepitas, pepper and garlic. While processor is running stream in olive oil until everything is emulsified. Remove pesto from processor and stir in cheese.

If pesto is too thick for the gnocchi, add small amounts of chicken or vegetable broth to get the right consistency. You want it to coat the pasta but not leave a puddle of pesto in the bottom of your bowl.
Serve remaining pesto on the side. Pasta continues to adsorb liquids while it is hot and you might need a spoonful when seated.

Cost for this meal: $4.42
Chicken Broth - $ .40
Squash - $ .80
Jalapeno - $ .22
Parsley & Cilantro - $1.00
1 egg - $ .27
Small salad - $ 1.73

Running total for 9 days: $24.07

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November 25, 2012

A new outlook on life....and a very important exam

To try to maintain my sanity while we had no power (plus, I was tired of audiobooks and radio), I drove to the mall to get a haircut (and a wash) and while I waited for The Nudge, I ran over to Pearl Vision and made an appointment to have a long overdue eye exam and new frames.

When you are diagnosed with diabetes, a foot exam, a bone density test and an extensive eye exam is something you should do immediately. I did every one of them but the eyes. I had nothing to do on Monday, no where to go and I did not want to spend another day in that house. Time to complete the trifecta, change my image and update my look. I deserved a little pampering after being so depressed for two weeks.
I ended up getting a pair of Versace frames that were not too flashy but had lots of quiet style, plus they were large enough for progressive lens and were almost the same shape as my sunglasses which The Nudge calls my Mafia Momma look.

Two good things happened, my prescription did not change all that much after three years of constant blogging and detail painting and my eyes look good, inside and out. No damage from the diabetes and although I showed a slight allergy reaction in my left eye, it can be controlled with OTC drops.

According to the American Diabetes Association.............

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the eye, potentially leading to blindness. While those with diabetes are at an increased risk of vision problems, most people with diabetes have no or only minor eye disorders.
Eye Disorders include:
  • Retinopathy – Also known as damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye, is more common if you have had diabetes a long time, or if your blood glucose or blood pressure haven't been under good control.
  • Glaucoma – Occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. Vision is gradually lost because the retina and nerve are damaged. People with diabetes are 40% more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. The longer someone has had diabetes, the more common glaucoma is. Risk also increases with age. There are several treatments for glaucoma, including drugs that reduce pressure in the eye as well as surgical options.
  • Cataracts – People with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts. People with diabetes also tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them progress faster. With cataracts, the eye clouds, blocking OUT light. To help prevent and deal with mild cataracts, wear sunglasses outside and use glare-control lenses in your glasses.
Don't forget to get an annual dilated eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Many eye problems are silent until they are advanced, but early detection and treatment truly saves vision.

I want to bring this to the attention of anyone who cares for a diabetic or has diabetes themselves because my SIL had to have laser photocoagulation and if not caught early could have caused blindness.

Stay safe and stay well and get that test done.

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November 24, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Eight - Soupreme Monday's Ham & Corn Chowder

This meal cost me next to nothing. Everything needed was already in my pantry. I told you I had an awesome pantry. (please, forgive the really bad pic, it should have been a white bowl but I was hungry)

I am a fan of chowders. The creamy, thick ones and the brothy versions, they are all good.
Corn and ham go well together, so I chose to crack open a DAK canned ham and use it in three different dishes. I have a chunk of canned ham left to use and I could not think of a better way to use it.
I am making it pretty traditional. Corn, ham, potatoes, onions and milk (evaporated, that is) and broth.

I just happen to have a batch of homemade rolls from the Lactose-free Recipe Contest to round out the meal. Nothing budget tasting about any of this. Anyone would love a dinner with this homemade bounty.

If you did not want to use ham, you could substitute clams, another great partner of corn and a bargain this time of year. Leave it out and keep in simple. Add other vegetables like red peppers, green beans, broccoli or maybe some cheddar or Parmesan. This is the perfect conduit for using up leftovers.

Ham & Corn Chowder
makes 2 servings
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 can Mexicorn, drained
* 1/4" thick slice of ham
* 1/4 cup chopped onions
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
* 1 chicken boullion cube
* 2 cups water
* 1 tablespoon Romano cheese
* 5 peewee potatoes, diced
* parsley for garnish

1. Saute onions in olive oil until tender. Add corn and ham. Cook for 3 minutes.
2. Add flour and stir to incorporate. Cook 1 minute and whisk in milk and water.
3. Simmer until liquid bubbles. Add bouillon cube and potatoes.
4. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cheese.

Cost for this meal: $.10
1/4 cup chopped onions - $ .10

Running total for 8 days: $18.85

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November 23, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Seven - Meatloaf and Roasted Mashed Cauliflower

I hate when you shop in a warehouse store and there are no prices on packages of meats or even a shelf label. Who can you ask? I never see clerks walking around or even those "check your item here" machines that I love in Walmart. I can't ask The Nudge because he is always looking for the prices under the items when they are actually over the item, therefore making him think that 36 rolls of toilet paper are on sale for $11.99 when they actually cost $24.99.

Since I only have room in my budget for 2-3 pounds of chopped chuck, I ended up buying a meatloaf mix.
Those mixes are great for meatloaf and meatballs, but I could not convince The Nudge he would like a meatball mix hamburger. Off the menu it came. I will be making three bean chili next week.

So all I have to do now is make one 2 lb meatloaf.
Since I bought a large head of cauliflower I decided to use 1/3 in my Thanksgiving side dish, 1/3 for the Recipe Redux challenge this month and 1/3 for faux mashed potatoes.

Have you ever had the roasted cauliflower mash? I have made mine many times and The Nudge actually asks me to make it, it is that good. This dish was developed years ago when the No Carb Diet was big time and now there is a whole new generation of cooks, looking for healthier sides. This is as healthy as it gets, It's no carb, diabetics will embrace it and it just darn tastes good. You will NOT miss the potato, trust me.

Caramelized Cauliflower Puree
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 pound cauliflower, sliced 1/2-inch thick
* 3/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk 
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Roast chopped up cauliflower for 45 minutes at 350F.
In saute pan add cauliflower, cream, butter and salt & pepper. Simmer until cream is thick. Process till smooth, adjust seasonings and serve.

Meatloaf & Meatball Mix 
makes 1 meatloaf or 12 large meatballs
* 1 pound 80/20 ground beef
* 1/4 cup chopped onion
* 1 large clove or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 1 teaspoon brown mustard
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried leaves (not ground)
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
* 1-2 tablespoons water
* 1/4 cup grated hard cheese (your choice Parmesan or Romano)

1. Mix everything together, gently but evenly.Using a loaf pan, pack the pan with the meat mixture and turn it upside down into a baking pan. Remove loaf pan and let it come to room temp while the oven reheats.

2. Preheat oven to 350° and bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes.

1. Use a large ice scream scoop to measure amount of meat mixture and then roll them in your hands to make a round ball.

Cost per meal: $4.30 (3 meatloaf/cauliflower puree servings)
Cauliflower - $ .83
Meatloaf Meat - $3.20
Egg - $ .27

Running total for 7 days: $18.75

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November 22, 2012

T-day Side - Maple Ginger-Roasted Vegetables w/Walnuts

This Thanksgiving I have lots more to be thankful for then most years past. Sandy has touched just about everyone here in the Tri-State area and we will become that story of "remember whens" except it will be our grandchildren telling the story to their kids. While we were one of the lucky ones who still has a roof over our heads, it still had a resounding affect on how we go about our daily routines.
Instead of twice a month drop off of food to the local pantry, I have been going and plan on going, every Monday.

So, with that said, I want to wish everyone the best Thanksgiving they can possible have and to hug those around you and keep them close. 

This is a side dish I am contributing to our dinner today. Since I am the Queen of Vegetables in my family, my share of T-day diner is, you guessed it, vegetables.
The last few years I would try three or four new recipes and then everyone would tell which they like the best.
This year because we all decided we had way too many sides (and we all do, don't we?), I would do one vegetable dish and the rolls.

This vegetable dish was picked from a Food & Wine newsletter that so conveniently arrived in my mailbox last week (which with the storm may have been 2 weeks ago). It was a mélange of vegetables roasted in a ginger-maple sauce topped with roasted walnuts. Well it called for pecans but I already had walnuts and they are basically the same, aren't they? (please don't hate me those in the south and in Texas, I try to please all)

I chose it because of two very important features. It can be left at room temperature for two hours before serving (which my hostess will truly appreciate being she has only one oven), and any vegetable could be substituted for the ones your family would love to eat.

My family, luckily, loves all the ones in the original, so this was a no-brainer. Sort of the way my mind is working lately. I am still playing catch-up and this was such an easy-may-come recipe.

This is an appropriate covered dish to bring to a, well, a covered dish event. 
Yes, The Nudge always says I am a smart-ass. I like to think of it as a smarty with a nice ass.
We just won't tell him.

I am sorry I could not post this sooner (I had post commitments that had to come first) but with all that left-over turkey, this can still be made for round 2.

Maple Ginger-Roasted Vegetables with Pecans
Serves 12
* 1 1/2 cups walnuts or pecans
* 4 medium carrots (3/4 pound), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick on the bias
* 2 large parsnips (1 pound), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick on the bias 
* 1 medium head cauliflower (2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch florets 
* 1 small butternut squash (2 pounds)—peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice 
* 1 pound brussels sprouts, halved 
* 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
* 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 
* 1/3 cup pure maple syrup 

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Let cool. 
2. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, squash and brussels sprouts with the olive oil and nutmeg and season generously with salt and black pepper. Spread the vegetables on 2 large rimmed baking sheets and roast for 30 minutes, until the vegetables begin to brown. Scatter the pecans and ginger over the vegetables and drizzle with the maple syrup; toss well. Continue to roast the vegetables for 25 minutes longer, until they are tender and golden. Scrape the vegetables into a bowl and serve hot or at room temperature.

Can be served at room temperature up to two hours.

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November 21, 2012

Vintage Side Dishes - The Recipe Redux Challenge November 2012

Our task this month was to showcase a family Thanksgiving side dish that has either been on your Thanksgiving table as long as you can remember, or to take an heirloom recipe and update it to be healthier and more about the way we eat nowadays.

I have posted about my family carrots, my family red cabbage, my family green beans and my Mom's Brussels sprouts. The only dish that is left to brag about is the way my Mom made cauliflower.

Most people learn how to cook from their mom, my mom's were influential with what we ate as children. Her mom was Swedish, her step mom was Sicilian, and her MIL was Tuscan. Her dad was German and met her step mom while she worked in a German restaurant.

My mom's desserts were full of butter, sour cream, cream cheese, jams and jellies and fruits.
Her pasta was red and her vegetables were sauteed with garlic. She made rouladen and sauerbraten and great potatoes. We ate parmigianna and dumplings.
What a wonderful diverse childhood I had.

This side was from her Swedish side. Extremely easy, it is cooked and baked in one pot and all about the cheese. Corning Ware was our bakeware of choice and since that's what she used, I will make mine in the same dish.

First thing that has to be done is to clean a whole head of cauliflower by cutting off any green leaves leaving the core entact, but cut so that the head still stands upright on it's own.

Place the cauliflower and 1" of salted water in a large dutch oven or oven safe stockpot. Cover and steam until a knife slides cleanly and easily through the middle of the cauliflower but not so soft it will not retain it's shape.
Drain the water from the pot, carefully making sure the head does not break apart.
Pour or brush melted butter that was seasoned with freshly ground nutmeg and black pepper evenly all over the florets and cover completely with the grated cheese.
Place the pot in a pre-heated 350° oven and bake until the top is golden brown and bubbly.

Something just happens to that cauliflower when baked with the cheese. I know that when Swiss cheese is browned it gets very nutty and that mixed with the cauliflower makes a very unique marriage and I remember that cheese melting into the florets and down into the stem. In the winter it was always on our dinner table.

Since Swiss cheese is naturally lower in fat then other cheeses, this dish is not all that decadent and unhealthy but there are a few things I could do to make it healthier.

Instead of natural butter I used butter buds and mixed that with the nutmeg and black pepper. Sprinkled over the cauliflower while moist with the steam, it will stay in place.
I also used a lite Jarlsburg cheese which, when eaten on a cheese platter tends to be a bit rubbery then the full fat one, but will work well when melted and still has that nutty flavor so important to this dish.

November 20, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Six - Chicken Milanese

Budget food can be gourmet and easy to make. Take for example Milanese.
While most often it is veal, nowadays chicken shows up more on a menu.
My version is served with a salad spooned on top and I use a mix of panko, Parmesan cheese and dried seasoned bread crumbs for the coating. We eat some version of a breaded chicken dish at least twice a month.


I bought a 2 1/2 pound package of boneless chicken breasts that were on sale for $1.99 a pound.
Knowing I needed one large breast and four smaller ones, I searched through the pile and found exactly the one I wanted.
I butterflied and pounded the large cutlet to a 1/4" width which when done just fit in my 12" fry pan.
Sliced into four sections (2 pieces per) I made a small simple salad of Campari tomatoes, cucumber and butter, romaine and iceberg lettuces and a sprinkle of bleu cheese.
I love all the different textures and flavors of this dish and it is another budget friendly, thirty minute meal perfect for all the time we don't have to make dinner at the start of this holiday season.

If your breasts are small then a simple butterfly might be all that's needed, but if you use a roaster-sized breast (like I had) you will have to butterfly and pound it into an even thickness throughout.

If you are not a blue cheese fan, small cubed Jarlsberg will work well with it's nutty flavor.

Chicken Milanese
makes 2 servings
* 1 large boneless chicken breast (6-8oz)
* 1/4 cup each panko, seasoned bread crumbs and Parmsan cheese
* 1 egg, beaten
* 2 cups salad greens (your fav mix)
* 2" piece of cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
* 2 Campari tomatoes, diced (or a handful of grape)
* 2 tablespoons Italian dressing, homemade or bottled
* 1 tablespoon crumbled bleu or Swiss cheese

1. Butterfly and pound breast meat to a thickness of 1/4". Salt & pepper.
2. Mix bread crumbs and cheese in a large dish.
3. Dip chicken in beaten egg and then into crumb mixture, pressing to adhere an even coating on both sides.
4. Pour a thin coating of olive oil into a large frying pan and saute until golden brown on both sides.
5. Drain on a paper towel and keep warm while you make the salad.

Here's the run down on the total cost: $3.25
Chicken - $1.25
Salad mix - $1.10
Tomatoes - $ .50
Cucumber - $ .13
1 egg - $ .27
Crumbs, cheeses and dressing - FREE

Running total: $14.45

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November 19, 2012

Lactose-Free Recipe Contest - Homemade Buns and Sandwich Bread

The Southeast Dairy Association is challenging The Recipe ReDux to creative "Festively Lactose Free" appetizers, entrees and desserts using lactose free (cow's) milk.
Lactose free milk is real milk without the lactose (the milk sugar naturally occurring in milk) and offers the same nine essential nutrients as regular milk. Lactose-free milk is made when a lactase enzyme is added to real milk, breaking down lactose into simple sugars (glucose and galactose).
The resulting milk contains about 0.25g of lactose per 100mL, compared to 4 - 6g of lactose in regular milk.

Usually before I have to wander into an area I am not familiar with, I do extensive research.
This is what I found and I also have a link at the end for a test you can do to see if you are lactose intolerant or simply have a problem with dairy.
Difference? Well, some cheeses are lactose free in the way they are fermented. Most people that are lactose intolerant can tolerate hard cheeses like Parmigiana Reggiano, Romano, Sharp Cheddar and yogurt. People with dairy issues can not even tolerate most natural lactose-free cheeses.

The one product that kept coming up as a lactose bomb was bread. If you check the labels you will see that most name brand breads and rolls are made or fortified with dried milk. A big no-no for lactose intolerant peeps. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of foods that have milk on the label, you have to check carefully.

I am putting this in the "entree" category. It might not quite fit that category but I believed so strongly in entering this recipe because everyone should be able to eat bread. It is a crucial part of everyone's diet. If 3 people make this and are then able to eat bread without all the tummy trouble, it was worth putting a square peg into a round hole.
Now lactose intolerant eaters can make hamburgers, hot dogs, sloppy joes, stromboli, dinner rolls, slider rolls, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and a loaf of sliced sandwich bread. Make a loaf for Grandma and the kids can now eat normal "kid" food, everyone will be happier and your table will be the favorite place to be.

It freezes well and defrosts overnight right in your fridge or in a few hours on the counter. The beauty of this is anyone, even a non-baker, can make this bread. If you have a food processor, stand mixer, bread machine and the time with good ole human arm power, you can bake wonderfully, warm, doughy but sturdy enough to not disintegrate, delicious rolls.

The beauty of this bread is you can form it anyway you want.

I will tell you that if your house is cool, you may need to place the dough near a heat vent, a radiator or a very low toaster oven. If you do not have access to any of these areas you may have to let the dough rise on the counter, covered, for 4-5 hours or in the fridge overnight. This type of dough requires two full rises to let the flavor and crumb to develop. Since the cheese tends to make the dough heavy it is imperative to treat it with respect and let the yeast do it's thing.

Homemade Bread or Rolls
makes enough dough for both 8 hamburger-style rolls and one regular sandwich loaf
*  4 1/2 cups AP flour
* 4 teaspoons Instant Dry Yeast
* 2 tablespoons honey
* 1 cup lactose-free cottage cheese
* 1 cup water
* 1/4 cup shortening
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 egg
* egg white for glazing

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In the bowl of a processor, a stand mixer (outfitted with dough hook) or a large bowl, combine 4 cups flour, the salt, 3/4 of the cottage cheese and mix well.
3. In a 1 cup glass measuring cup, nuke 1/4 cup water for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup cottage cheese (just eyeball it), the yeast and the honey. When the mixture starts to bubble, it is ready to make the bread.
3. Nuke the shortening  for 1 minute. Shortening does not need to melt totally. Add the shortening to the flour, then add the yeast mixture to the bowl and mix until it just comes together. Add egg to the remaining water (3/4 cup) and mix into the flour on medium low until it gets incorporated (about 3 minutes).
5. At this point, place it in the bread machine and set to knead.It will be a shaggy mess.
6. Stand Mixer - knead on #4 for 8 minutes. Processor - blend until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the sides. By Hand - knead for 15-20 minutes. If the dough does not come off the sides add teaspoons of flour (mixing after each addition) until the bowl is clean and dough forms a nice ball. Remove to a floured board.
7. This is the point where you would divide the dough into the portions you will use now and the amount you want to freeze. Place dough into a plastic freezer bag , deflate the air out and date.
8. Place remaining dough in a greased bowl and allow it to double in size (1-1 1/2 hours but up to 2 if your kitchen is on the cool side). Punch down and divide into equal portions of about golf ball size for dinner rolls, baseball size for hamburger rolls and an oval or round for a free-standing loaf. If using a loaf pan, shape into a cylinder that is the same length as the pan and place in the pan for it's final rise.
9. Place rolls on a sheet pan that was lightly greased or lined with parchment paper. They can be placed in a square cake pan for dinner rolls, touching on all sides to keep them contained or spread out with 1" spacing to allow them to grow larger for hamburger buns.
10. Let them rise for 30 minutes more (covered with a clean dish towel), When the dough is ready, brush the tops with the egg white and bake the loaf for 40 to 45 minutes, the rolls for 20 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
11. This in important. Let the bread come completely to room temperature to allow the inside crumb to form. If you move them too soon the bread will be dense and unappealing.

Can be stored in a cake carrier or in a bread box. If using a plastic bag, I would line the bag with a paper towel to absorb the moisture and seal.

Trust me, it may seem intimidating, but to make sure you are successful have all your ingredients measured beforehand and read the recipe 3x then read it again. Remember, if it doesn't come out perfect the first time, just make bread crumbs with the bread.  Nothing needs to go to waste.

PDF for lactose or dairy test.

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Southeast Dairy Association. I am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

November 18, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Five - Cacio e Pepe

This meal is by far the cheapest meal all week. I will use $1.00 worth of Romano cheese I bought and that, my friend, is all. I already have the pasta and black pepper, along with Romano cheese.

If one pasta dish exemplifies the complexity of pan sauce precision, it's cacio e pepe (literally, cheese and pepper). The minimalist recipe calls for only a few ingredients and doesn't even include garlic. It's a simple standard by which cooks are measured, yet no two chefs agree on how to do it right. 

I am using a recipe from Bon Apetit and they suggest combining a milk based cheese and a sheep's milk cheese to get the right mix of velvety and sharp flavor. It also suggests cracking whole peppercorns under a pan (like for steak au poivre) to get the right sized pieces necessary for the right amount of heat required.

While we were in Rome, down in the Jewish Trestavere section, we found a small place that had gnocchi e pepe on the menu and we both ordered it. I was surprised The Nudge went for that instead of the gnocchi & gorgonzola, but since he ate the whole plate I thought I would make it for him with spaghetti, his favorite pasta shape. 

Cacio e Pepe
Adapted from Bon Apetit

* Kosher salt
* 6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
* 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
* 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
* 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
* 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino

1. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
3. Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Parmesan, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Romano, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

This was the best pasta dish I have ever made. I'm serious. This is da bomb. OMG, I am so sorry I never bought into the wonderment of this dish, reading all the accolades. We have moved this right up to the level of Manicotti as THE best pasta dish EVER.

Please, if you ever want to surprise your family and friends, make this dish.
Please (and I know I overdid the please) you owe it to yourself to try this one time. It costs next to nothing, so there is no money down the drain if you don't like it.

MAKE THIS BLACK FRIDAY. Perfect for a busy day after buying all that Christmas loot. Easy, tasty, flavorful and requires no special skills in the kitchen to make this. I am serious, you will look like a rock star if you make this dish.

OK, done.

Total cost of this meal: $1.00
Grand Total for 5 days: $11.20
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November 17, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Four - Ham & Pimento Cheese Panini

I have half a ciabatta loaf that I need to use before it gets hard. I already put the 4 slices of toasted cubed bread leftover from Budget Day 1, in a bag for a panzanella salad this weekend. I have a small DAK canned ham that I will cut two slices from and half a brick of cheese to which I will add roasted red peppers I have in my pantry.
Pimento cheese is an excellent way to use up those nubs of cheeses that always accumulate in your drawer. Normally made with Jack & Cheddar, except for Swiss I imagine you could use a Gouda or a Havarti and even a young Provolone. I did not have any cream cheese so I used a spoonful of sour cream (actually made it through the power outage in a cooler out back) and I had a brand new bottle of mayonnaise on the shelf.

I have to find a red pepper pasta sauce recipe for the use of the rest of the bottled peppers since I needed only 1/2 a pepper for the cheese. This is where careful planning keeps all those small containers of odds and ends that eventually you will throw away, on the menu to use.
I also found 3 bags of pumpkin seeds, can you guess what I will be making for stocking stuffer gifts this year?

This was really good and I will use it again. Maybe add some hot sauce or even use those Italian Cherry Peppers.

Pimento Cheese
makes 4-6 servings
* 4oz Jack & Colby cheese mix
* 1/2 red roasted pepper
* 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
* 1 tablespoon sour cream or cream cheese

Process ingredients until smooth. Spread a liberal amount on both slices of bread. Add the meat (optional) and butter outsides of bread and press into a non-stick pan or panini maker.

Serve with a cup of soup or a salad.

Total cost for this dinner (excluding pantry items): $1.40
Bread - $1.00
Cheese - $ .40

Grand Total for 4 meals: $10.20

Day One of my Extreme Budget did start on Monday even though the post was published on Wednesday so this sandwich was eaten on Thursday night. I still have $14.80 to spend for Saturday & Sunday but remember on the weekends I have to add in breakfast (Sunday) and lunches.

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November 16, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Three - Tuna Giambotta Over Polenta

I am getting a first class education in food economics. When you simply must get as much from your food as you can, you start by measuring everything. I am guilty of "eyeballing" ingredients but now I am getting smart and pre-prepping bags of measured aromatics. I realized that where I would normally use a half an onion for a recipe calling for 1/4 cup chopped, I was using twice as many onions then I had too, and one medium onion yields 8 (1/4 cup) portions.

What does this mean? If you were regularly throwing away leftovers not eaten or all those food ends that have gone bad, you are actually throwing away 2x more food then you thought already were doing. OMG, what a rude awakening.

I decided that I might as well chop a whole onion in the processor and measure 1/4 cup amounts into snack bags, and then place them into one quart freezer bag. Now I won't have to chop any onions for at least one week. If you do all your produce in one day, prep and measure, store and freeze, you can easily do a full meal in one hours time. The other thing that is oober important is to label, label and label all those containers that go into the freezer.  Trust me, in one week you will not remember what it is and you might as well just throw it away and not even freeze it.

Tonight The Nudge wanted a tuna casserole. He has been suggesting putting one on the menu for weeks now. Tonight he gets his wish. Well, it fits into my extreme budget.

A traditional tuna noodle casserole is quite boring and very unhealthy. I eliminated the milk, the buttered bread crumb topping, the noodles and the cups of cheese melted into the sauce.

I wanted to make it healthier and since we have been heavy on the carbs these last two weeks, I decided to omit the noodle part by adding beans and serving what is almost a tuna stew, over polenta.
This is how to assemble this dish.
In an oval ramekin, pour a layer of soft polenta to cover the bottom. Let it cool and then ladle the stew over the polenta, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cheese on top and The Nudge can nuke it for 3 minutes when he gets home. I will bake mine until the cheese melts and the polenta is bubbling. The chow mein noodles are optional but I added a spoonful. Provides that crunch you might miss from the bread crumbs and healthier than those fried onion rings.

Tuna Giambotta Over Polenta
Serves 2-4

* 1/4 cup stone ground polenta 
* 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
* 1 teaspoon honey
* salt & pepper
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons Romano cheese

Stir the first four ingredients into an oven safe baking pot and bake, covered, for 40 minutes at 350°. Remove, check to see if it has the consistency of wet cement. If too thick, loosen with some water, stir and add Romano cheese and a pat of butter. Spoon half of mixture into two oval ramekins and allow it to cool.

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/4 cup chopped onions
* 1 can tuna in oil, drained
* 1 can small white beans, drained and rinsed, divided
* 1/2 cup frozen peas
* 1/4 cup dehydrated soup greens
* 1/2 cup chicken broth
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1/2 can condensed roasted garlic mushroom soup
* 2 oz. Colby/Cheddar cheese
* 1 teaspoon Italian Seasonings
* 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes
* 1/4 cup chow mein noodles, smashed in a bag (optional topping)

Heat oil in a saucepan until it starts to ripple.
Add onions, red pepper flakes, Italian Seasonings and thyme leaves and saute until onions are tender.
Add white wine and soup greens. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Add soup & chicken broth. Whisk to blend.
Add half the beans, the tuna and peas and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add cheese and stir until melted in.
Remove from heat. Puree the last half of the beans and add to the saucepan. Stir to thicken.

Spoon the stew over the polenta, top with additional grated cheese and bake until cheese melts and polenta has tiny bubbles around the edges.

The Nudge cleaned his plate so I have to assume he liked it. I thought it tasted like a tuna casserole should but with so much more. I love the way the pureed beans gave it a creamy consistency. I use this little trick on everything that needs to be thickened. I saved the last half for my ham & corn chowder on the menu for Soupreme Monday.

Cost of meal (excluding pantry items): $2.75
Peas - $ .60
Soup - $1.10
Colby Cheese - $ .50
Romano cheese - $ .40
Onion - $ .15

Grand total to date: $8.80

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November 15, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Two - Broccoli w/Cavatappi

Tonight we had cavatappi with broccoli. Why cavatappi? Because that's what pasta I already had in my pantry. Day two on my extreme food budget, my goal is to only buy $25.00 of food for the week.
Very basic but tasty pasta dish with simple ingredients. I could eat broccoli & pasta every night of the week.

Still sticking to my budget plan I am happy to announce The Nudge is really into it. Now he wants to know exactly how much I spent on dinner.
I bought a head of broccoli which was priced at $1.99 'each' as opposed to 'per pound' (which I love because you can always find a large bunch amongst the average ones). I cut the heads into florets, peeled the stems and made two portions from one bunch. I will use the other half for my ham and corn chowder.

Rule of thumb.......1 cup dry measure = 2 cups cooked pasta
So if you are making enough for dinner and 2 lunches you will need 2 cups dry.

You will also need 4 cloves of garlic (minced), 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, a 1/4 cup olive oil (plus extra for garnish), a 1/4 cup white wine, 1 cup pasta cooking water, 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese, 1/2 large head broccoli, 2 cups cooked pasta and salt & pepper to taste.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. When it starts to ripple, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer.

Add the broccoli to the pan and season with salt & pepper. Cover and simmer for 4 minutes. Add the pasta cooking water, the grated cheese and stir. Drain the pasta and add to the broccoli, stir until it starts to bubble and cover.

Serve with extra cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

I cut 6 slices out of my ciabatta loaf, lightly warmed them and dinner was served.

Cost for dinner (not including pantry items): $2.45
1/2 bunch broccoli = $1.00
4 cloves garlic = $ .60
1/4 cup cheese = $ .50
Bread = $ .35

Total for the week so far: $6.05

Next meal up is Tuna Casserole with a healthier twist.

While I was writing this post, my electricity went off without warning. I had just cleaned out my freezer and threw away all the buckets and bottles of water strategically placed around the house and all I could think of was....OMG, please make this outage a turnoff to finish fixing the rest of the town for everyone to be up and running and not another long ordeal.

In an hour and a half, it WAS back on and I had a spotless, organized and completely labeled computer wiring area under my shelving unit. This time I was taking advantage of down time to do something on my list. I felt good that I didn't let it get to me instead of like the way I felt those 14 days.
Will I ever shake those feelings away? Probably not, but I will be better prepared for what could happen the next time they predict a storm coming my way.

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November 12, 2012

Braised Stuffed Breast of Veal

What possessed me to make a stuffed breast of veal?

I honestly do not know for sure. I was craving a stuffed something lately and I did the Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Loin last year, I stuffed a bunch of shrimp, I did a ton of chicken and I even stuffed a hamburger with French Onion soup ingredients.

I think I did a breast of veal over 15 years ago and if I remember correctly I made a pocket in a whole breast with ribs between the meat and the rib bones and placed the stuffing in the pocket. This time I wanted a boned breast, stuffed, rolled and tied with the bones on the side so I could make homemade stock.

I found a recipe for Stuffed Breast of Veal Genovese on the Internet and took some ingredients from that and added a few of my own.

This was easy to stuff and tie and once in the oven, it roasts like a pork shoulder, low and slow for 4 hours. The only thing I had to do was add water to the pan halfway through.

I asked the butcher to bone the breast and roll and tie it, so that it retains the roll shape and would be easier to re-roll (like a jelly roll cake).

Stuffed Breast of Veal
makes enough stuffing for 1 (3lb) breast of veal
  • 2 ciabatta rolls, crusts removed
  • 2 Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1/4 cup cooked spinach, chopped
  • 2 eggs, slightly beated
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons Parmigiano cheese, grated
  • salt & pepper
1. Tear the bread into pieces, place in a bowl, add water to cover and leave it soak for 10 minutes, then drain and squeeze out.
2. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
3. Spread the filling to 2" of the end and roll meat. Tie every 2" and push any stuffing back into the meat.
4. In a large roasting pan, pour 1 cup water, cover tightly with foil and bake for 4 hours at 325°.
5. Add another cup of water halfway through.
6. Internal temperature should reach 190°.
7. Remove from oven and place on a cutting board and tent with foil. Let meat rest for at least 20 minutes.
8. Slice into 1" slices and serve with a gravy made with veal stock, homemade or carton.

This was very tender but took a little work to cut off the fatty parts. It was hard to distinguish where the fat was because the veal fat is the same color as the meat, unlike beef, which is easy to see where the fat is.

I think if I was to do this again, I would use less stuffing or roast the veal on the bones and bake the stuffing on the side like you would with a turkey. I admit that the fat on the outside, melted into the meat, but the fat on the inside did not and although The Nudge ate his, I was put off by it.

As for the stuffing, I would use this recipe to stuff just about any roast, it had tons of flavor.
The sauce, was to die for (if I say so myself) and after simmering my homemade veal stock for 4 hours to reduce, I think I ended up with 2 cups and that was just enough for my sauce (recipe here).

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November 3, 2012

Brown Veal Stock

I can always tell when fall settles in, besides the hundreds of squash and sweet potato recipes that flood the blogosphere, I notice that I tend to start putting stuffed roasted meats on the menu.

I do not know what possessed me but I ordered a breast of veal from the butcher. I think I have made this cut of meat once about 20 years ago and the only reason why I could think I did that was because of a recipe I must have seen or a cooking show.

Although The Nudge loves veal, we rarely wander off the scallopini trail and dabble in other cuts. I am not sure why, veal has a great flavor and I have had veal chops, I remember till today, unlike that stuffed breast.
I am a little intimidated by this cut, it isn't cheap (I forgot to ask) and I would hate to ruin it using the wrong stuffing. First thing, though, I have to find a recipe for veal sauce which will inevitably start with a good brown veal stock. For inspiration I always turn to Wolfgang Puck for great Cooking 101.

Until I open his cookbook, I forget how he makes quality restaurant-style dishes easy for the amateur cook. I should spend more time with him. Classically trained there are a few techniques that require time, but mostly because of knife work and stock making but nowadays we can purchase pretty good stocks and broths and even pre-cut up aromatics.

Since I am making this dish a big deal, I asked the butcher for the breast to be cut off the rib cage and the ribs chopped into manageable pieces so I can make the stock. This is definitely a Sunday affair but the stock can be started ahead when you find a few hours to roast the bones and vegetables. While the breast is roasting the stock can be simmered and while the breast is resting, the gravy can be made.

Brown Veal Stock 
adapted from Adventures in the Kitchen, Wolfgang Puck, 1991
makes 1 quart
  • 4 pounds veal bones, cut into 2" chunks
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, quartered or 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cups water
1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
2. Arrange the bones in a roasting pan, large enough to hold them in a single layer. Roast in the oven until dark golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours, turning to brown on all sides. After one hour add the remaining ingredients to brown. Transfer the bones and vegetables to a large stockpot, 10 quarts.
3. Pour off the fat from the roasting pan and deglaze the pan with 2 cups water, scraping up any particles that stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour into the stockpot with enough additional water to cover the ingredients by 2 inches, Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, 4-6 hours, skimming the foam as it accumulates on top, and adding water as needed to keep the bones and vegetables covered at all times.
4. Strain the liquid into a clean pot, pressing down to extract all the juices. Reduce, over medium heat, until 1 quart remains.
5. Cool and refrigerate in a covered container up to 3 days, discarding any hardened layer of fat before using or freezing.

This could not have been any easier to make. it is time consuming but it requires no effort on your part. It sits on the stove for hours, you cool, drain and put in the fridge.
I forgot how good homemade stock can be, and I think I will do this more often.

November 1, 2012

Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie ♥ A Homecoming Surprise

I told The Nudge that when he got home I would have a surprise for him.
Apparently I said too much when I asked him to fetch my cake keeper from the basement and he guessed it was a baked pie or cake. I told him a cake keeper isn't just for a cake. I don't think he would ever guess what I am planning on putting in that keeper.

I have always wanted to make a Boston Cream Pie. It is his favorite flavor combinations and when I find a chocolate creme doughnut, I always bring it home. I'm not even sure he ever had a true Boston Cream Pie but for some reason he's convinced it's the best cake ever. Just like a kid, huh?

Well, the time has come for me to make my first try. When America's Test Kitchen sends me a recipe for their fail-proof Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie it is a sign. They do that a lot to me. Maybe my Wish List is way to long and they just got lucky?

I did learn a few things along the way and my mistakes are your gains.

It is very hard to keep the pastry cream from oozing terribly from between the layers. I did not want a pastry cream so dense (like frosting) so there was no corn starch. I would either use a plastic cake band when assembling or bake the cakes in a spring form pan and then use the pan to set the cake in. I had a dickens of a time trying to get the ganache to drip down the side with the pastry cream popping out so I just placed it in the fridge till it firmed up and spread it like a frosting around the sides. The pastry cream oozed no more.

When they say line the pan with parchment paper, release spray is not enough, please use the paper.

Do not touch the ganache once it cools, you can see dull and shiny parts on my top, that is why.

Try not to refrigerate the pastry cream more than 1 day ahead. It starts to break down and get runny and I'm not sure why. If you place it in a bowl and whip it on high with a mixer you can firm it back up again.

It may seem like a lot of work but it is worth it.

Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie
serves 8

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated - March 2011


Pastry Cream  

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • pinch table salt
  • 1/4 cup unbleached AP flour
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine


  1. For the Pastry Cream: Heat half-and-half in medium saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Add flour to yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Remove half-and-half from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add ½ cup to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to half-and-half in saucepan.
  2. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 8 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted and incorporated. Strain pastry cream through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
  4. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and cover to keep warm.
  5. In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar at high speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes. Remove mixer bowl from stand. Add hot milk mixture and whisk by hand until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated.
  6. Working quickly, divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake until tops are light brown and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.
  7. Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool -completely in pan, about 2 hours. Run small plastic knife around edge of pans, then invert cakes onto wire rack. Carefully remove parchment, then reinvert cakes.
  8. To Assemble: Place one cake round on large plate. Whisk pastry cream briefly, then spoon onto center of cake. Using offset spatula, spread evenly to cake edge. Place second layer on pastry cream, bottom side up, making sure layers line up properly. Press lightly on top of cake to level. Refrigerate cake while preparing glaze.
  9. For the Glaze: Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Whisk gently until smooth, 30 seconds. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
  10. Pour glaze onto center of cake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze to edge of cake, letting excess drip decoratively down sides. Chill finished cake 3 hours before slicing. Cake may be made up to 24 hours before serving.
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