Wish Upon A Dish: March 2013

March 30, 2013

Parmesan Veal with Mushroom Wine Sauce

I found really nice looking veal cutlets this week. The Nudge was surprised, last time we bought veal at the butchers we were so disappointed we were afraid to try again because let's face it, with the price per pound, nothing makes me sadder than to throw money in the garbage.

This time, I thought I would peruse my local market. Yes, the one where I avoid the fish section as if my life depended on it. But since we aren't talking fish here and they have renovated the whole store, I am hoping that included the meat counter.

I scored 6 cutlets at the same price as a package of lean ground sirloin.
They were small ones but if you tenderize them with a few pops of your handy dandy mallet they actually grow in size.

I must have been a wizard with that mallet because The Nudge took one bite and didn't say one word till he was done. If I knew it was this easy to get him to be quiet I would be feeding him veal every night. I actually got the chance to tell him about my day. Hmmmmmmmm

There's a moral in there somewhere. Let me know if you see it. I on the other hand will continue to find a way to work the same magic on vegetables. I wonder if broccoli can be tenderized............

Parmesan Veal
makes 4 servings

* 1/2 pound veal cutlets, pounded to 1/8" thickness
* 1/2 cup breadcrumbs + 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (store grated is fine here)
* salt & pepper
* 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 1 cup chopped onions
* 1 cup sliced mushrooms
* 2 cloves garlic, minces
* 4-5 fresh basil leaves chopped
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1 teaspoon flour mixed with a teaspoon of wine
* 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1. Salt and pepper veal cutlets. Dip in egg then in bread crumb/cheese mixture.
2. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet to when you drop in a bread crumb it fizzles immediately.
3. Saute veal until the edges start to brown, flip them over and repeat with all the cutlets. Remove to a platter
4. In same skillet, add the onions and garlic. Turn heat to low and slowly cook the onions. Once they become translucent add the mushrooms. Cook them till they soften. Add the wine, the flour slurry, basil and the parsley.
5. Simmer until the sauce thickens and place the cutlets back into the pan. Cover and heat through.

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March 29, 2013

Italian Polenta Bake

This would be a great dish for a crowd. Promise me you will buy a package of instant polenta and make this dish. Those of you who like to make the traditional soft, creamy polenta, I applaud you but this dish is nothing like that. You know how mashed potatoes get when they cool off? If I did not know I was eating polenta, I would think I was eating pumped up mashed potatoes.

I really did not start out with what I eventually ended up with. The original inspiration was a recipe for a baked semolina which I thought meant the semolina flour. The Italians make dumplings with semolina or farina and simmer them in a rich chicken broth with spinach and serve as their secondo. Not really reading the recipe, I thought I could do the same thing by substituting polenta for the semolina (one grain for another). Problem was, they were referring to semolina couscous.....DUH

Well, I still wanted to make a baked polenta dish so that is what I did. I thought that I could use my regular baked polenta but add all sorts of flavors. Then I got worried the stone ground wouldn't bake the way I wanted it to with all that extra stuff, so I pulled out the instant polenta.
No pre-cooking involved, just chop and drop. Would be a quick side for a weeknight dinner and while you are roasting a chicken breast or grilling a chop, this could be in the oven.
Once cooled it could be sliced and served, but hot it softens to "spoon onto a plate" consistency, almost like a baked souffle. I made Parmesan Veal and a Mushroom Wine Sauce (post tomorrow) to serve this with and it was good great fabulous!!

Italian Polenta Bake
makes 6 servings

* 2 cups fresh spinach
* 1 cup 1% milk
* 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
* 1 small tomato, seeded and diced
* 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
* 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
* 3/4 cup instant polenta
* 1 cup chicken broth + 1/3 cup (could use vegetable broth)
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 egg, beaten
* salt & pepper
* 2 ounces goat cheese

1. Prepare a small baking pan with butter or spray. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Process the spinach and milk until the spinach is chopped fine but mot pureed.
3. Whisk the egg and ricotta in a large bowl. Add the spinach mixture, the mushrooms, tomato, grated cheese, salt & pepper and the polenta. Spoon mixture into baking pan.
4. Pour chicken broth over top but do not mix in. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
5. Remove and stir in remaining chicken broth and the goat cheese. Cover and bake another 15-20 minutes.
6. Remove and let it cool. Stir to fluff and serve.

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March 28, 2013

Cream of Mushroom Barley Soup and How to Organize Your Produce Bin

One way to organize your refrigerator (produce especially) is make a menu plan that uses the same ingredient in at least three recipes. Also, try to find the ones that most often go on sale, like this week asparagus, mushrooms and artichokes are showcased. Depending on what you will be serving for Easter will also dictate some of your meals for the week.

I love those huge stuffing mushrooms that my market sells for a mere $5.99 a 40 oz container (15 cents per ounce) and I always buy two cartons. For Easter appetizers, stuffed mushrooms will make an appearance and during the week, a creamy mushroom soup, a mushroom wine sauce, a frittata and on Saturday, as a break from all my holiday cooking, flat bread pizza made with all my leftovers....yay for the cook!!! Oh, that's me.

Yay for me!!

Nothing went to waste. Since I do all my prep work on Sundays, I sit at my kitchen table with my TV shows on my iPad (the Nudge is always watching sports of some sort on the BIG TV), I got my cutting board, my knives, my mushrooms, three bowls and a cup of coffee, and went to work. First I popped the stems from inside the prettiest mushrooms, into one bowl those went. One dish, done. In the next bowl, I threw those stems and the chopped up ugly mushrooms for the soup (they will be purĂ©ed),  and the rest were sliced for both the frittata, the wine sauce and the pizza.


Each portion went into snack, sandwich and storage bags and those were stashed in a plastic container. Easy grab and go!

I also will do that with any other vegetables that make a few appearances in the rest of the dishes, like carrots, onions and garlic. Whatever does not get used, will be labeled and placed in another plastic container in my freezer. In a week or two that bin will be emptied in a soup. I do my leeks the same way, and even chop all my scallions. Now, you may think I am wasting plastic bags but I give them a quick rinse and reuse them next Sunday. I also reuse some as garbage bags, to throw away those items that will stink up your garbage before the sanitation crew can haul them away (like those Fancy Feast cans, whew!!). The larger ones line a small garbage bowl on my counter. I have tried using those small plastic Glad containers, but they take up too much room, are hard to see what is in them and, sorry, but less dirty dishes I have to wash (those suckers don't do well in a dishwasher) is another time saver.

My first dish using those 'ugly' mushrooms and stems is this tummy warming soup.

This was so full of mushroom flavor (umami) and I will let you in on how I did it using button mushrooms.

Every once in a while you can find dried mushrooms on sale. Two reasons, pieces that are not whole mushrooms and less desirable and stores reorganizing to make room for more salable ingredients. If you can find them buy all you can afford. They last forever, great to grind and make a powder that will add a flavor to stews, soups, sauces and even homemade pasta. You can also order mushroom powder online at any site that sells spices. My favorite is this one. While you're there buy some tomato powder also, another secret ingredient used in professional kitchens.

When making a soup that requires a puree of the aromatics, make sure the first batch of cooking is with only those vegetables that will be pureed. How many times I have dumped my garnish in with my base and had to fish it out, you do not want to know. When you have kids (and husbands) pulling at your skirt tails, you can forget what order things need to be in and "POOF" there goes the barley......OMG that doesn't go in there yet!!

Cream of Mushroom Barley Soup
makes 4 servings

* 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 teaspoon for shittakes
* 1/2 leek, white and light green parts, sliced
* 1/2 shallot, minced
* 1/2 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
* 1/3 cup white wine
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 2 cups water
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
* 1 cup beef broth
* 1/2 teaspoon Coleman's mustard
* 1 tablespoon mushroom powder
* 1 tablespoon dehydrated soup greens
* salt & pepper to taste
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1 cup barley, rinsed
* 3 large shiitake mushroom caps, sliced thin
* Italian parsley, chopped (garnish)

1. In a heavy stock pot, heat olive oil and saute leeks, shallots and button mushrooms until soft and starting to color. Add the wine and simmer until it almost evaporates.
2. Meanwhile boil 3 cups salted water in a saucepan and cook the barley for 30 minutes. Remove and drain.
3. In a small fry pan, saute the shiitake mushrooms. Reserve.
4. Add the flour to the stockpot and stir to combine. Add the evaporated milk, the beef broth, thyme leaves, mustard, mushroom powder, soup greens and water. Simmer, uncovered for 40-45 minutes.
5. Using a stand or hand blender, puree the soup until it is completely smooth. Strain through a sieve if needed. Add barley and simmer until the barley is soft, about 15 minutes more. Soup will continue to thicken.
6. Taste for seasonings and adjust. Add cream and sauteed shiitake mushrooms and heat through.
7. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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March 27, 2013

Lox, Dill and Cream Cheese Frittata

Great dish to put out on your holiday brunch buffet table.
I am roasting a pig over at my SIL's house this Sunday and since we have to be there at the crack dawn, I thought I would surprise her with breakfast.
I wanted to make a trial this Sunday to make sure I got all the components in perfect harmony. Too much Lox or onion could be the Yang without the Ying.

While I ate my share, I am glad I made a trial run. Lox with cream cheese on a bagel is a good thing but I think in this frittata, a Norwegian smoked salmon would have worked better and I am going with that. Don't let me dissuade you, pick your personal salmon preservation.

So, armed with fresh bagels, a frittata and a pig, I will be the Easter Bunny this year.

Lox, Dill and Cream Cheese Frittata
makes 2 servings

* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 3 XL organic eggs
* 1/3 cup low fat milk
* 1 jumbo mushroom or two large, sliced
* 1 ounce Nova Scotia Lox (buy the trims)
* 1 ounce 1/3 less fat cream cheese
* 2 tablespoon sliced leek, white part
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh dill or 1/4 teaspoon dried
* 1 scallion, white and green parts, sliced
* salt & pepper

1. Heat oil in a cast iron or non-stick ovenproof skillet.
2. Saute leeks and mushroom until lightly browned. Mix the eggs and milk together while the vegetables saute.
3. Turn heat to low and add the eggs and milk mixture.

4. Turn the oven on to broil. Drop the salmon evenly in the pan and then dollops of cream cheese.
5. Add the salt, pepper and dill and cover for 4 minutes. Uncover and place under the broiler until the eggs set and the cheese melts.
6. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.

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March 26, 2013

Festive Fettuccine with Shrimp, Peas and Walnut Sauce

You would think that a man married for 30+ years has finally figured out the reason why there are 1000+ pasta shapes, and every time I ask him which pasta he would like with a certain recipe he picks the right one.


The Nudge is a simple man. He likes a few things and that's what he likes.

OK, for instance. Short pasta...."those ones that look like a pen".
Baked Cheese Macaroni.....elbows.
Thick sauces.....spaghetti.
Meat sauces......rigatoni.


Then I say "no way am I using elbow macaroni in this dish" to which he always replies "then just make the one you want, I will eat anything you serve me".
"So why don't you just tell me to use the one I think will be the best shape for the dish?"
"Because I keep hoping that maybe ONE time I would actually get the one I asked for!"

You know, now that I think about it, I am the one that should know better after 30+ years of marriage.
Today I have stopped asking and just made fettuccine. Also, he got his spaghetti the other night.

I resolve this problem with the comforting thought that this goes on in just about every house in America.
At least I hope it does..........

Festive Fettuccine with Shrimp and Walnut Sauce
makes 2 servings
* 2 teaspoons each nut oil and whipped butter
* 1/2 ounce walnut pieces
* 1/2 pound shelled and deveined shrimp
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
* 1/4 cup low fat ricotta cheese
* 1 1/2 cups cooked fettuccine (5 ounces dry)
* 1/2 cup frozen peas
* 2 tablespoons each grated Parmesan and sliced scallions
* 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley

1. In 10" skillet heat oil and butter together until the mix is hot and bubbly; add walnuts and saute until they start to brown but do not burn (do not take that phone call, they will burn in a second). Using a slotted spoon remove them to a bowl and set aside.
2. In same pan combine shrimp and garlic and saute until shrimp turn pink. Reduce heat to low; stir in milk and cheese and let simmer, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add fettuccine, grated cheese, sauteed walnuts and scallion. Toss well until pasta is thoroughly coated with sauce, continue cooking until mixture thickens slightly, 1-2 minutes longer. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

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March 25, 2013

Happy 1000th Post!!

Yesterday I finalized my Week Four Meal Plan. I also realized I am behind in posting the recipes for the dishes highlighted in color. I will get there, I had a few setbacks this week and certain dishes got moved up and others, well, they were pushed to the back burners.

I have enjoyed creating these meal plans. I have learned something new from every week so far and I figure that if you do also, it is worth the work put into it.

When a dish doesn't work well but the idea is a good one, I bookmark those to re-do at another time.
If you need a running total of all the completed and posted recipes, just click the "Meal Plan" label and they all show up from newest to oldest.

This week I will hit my 1000th published post. I took the time to visit some from my first few months and have to admit, we ate some really good meals. Oh, the pictures where horrible and although better today, not beautiful by any means.

Starting my second month of meal plans next month, I am going to pull some of those more interesting dishes and make them again. Not only to taste them again but any changes needed will get updated, any new & healthier products I have found since will be utilized and I will compare the both. This blog has been a lifesaver. No, really, it has saved my life.

I am healthier by far, than three years ago, a more accomplished cook, a more adventurous cook and a much more knowledgeable cook and eater.

I can walk up & down the stairs without my bones cracking (or holding onto the rail), I love to take walking vacations (DC here we come), I have a reason to grow vegetables again and my recycle bin holds only wine and water bottles. Gone are the days of eating out once a week (which I know The Nudge misses) and my fridge is organized and not much grows mold in there, except the cheese of course.

I am making my first suckling pig for Easter this year and three years ago I would never think to try such a meal. I am less stressed about things and if I miss a day, I am OK with it, life goes on.

I am happier, healthier, hopelessly in love with life and having a great time. All this because as I write my daily life down in this forum, it's like looking in a mirror and seeing what you don't like about yourself and what you do.
I don't think there are many people (even those that have given up blogging) who would say the experience was a bad one.

So from me to you and back to me.....Happy 1K Birthday!! Thank you for reading my words and maybe even cooking my dishes.
Now let's get into the kitchen and cook that dish.

Happy Living!!

March 23, 2013

Steak au Poivre Vert

Hmmmmmm, what's a vert?
Traditional bistro au Poivre used black peppercorns, this dish uses green (which by coincidence is what I have in my fridge) hence the vert.

Green peppercorns are unripe black peppercorns that they store in a brine, kind of like capers. They actually look like capers and you do not want to know how many times I grabbed the wrong bottle. Who reads the label?

While ordering my suckling pig for Easter dinner (can't wait to post about that) I bought a cute little Filet Mignon and decided to make something we have never tried before, yes, even my steak loving husband with all his steakhouse meals has never had au Poivre.

A 8-10oz filet is enough meat for the two of us but if you need more steak at a reasonable price, try a nice 12oz boneless strip or a really well marbled top round. It will be sliced with the sauce spooned on top so who will know? I am splurging with garlic mashed potatoes (I offset the potatoes with pureed cauliflower) and this allows me to enjoy a rare scoop (yes, I have snack bags with pureed cauliflower in my freezer, who can eat a whole head in one sitting?).

I just happen to have the last 8 stalks of my bunch of asparagus (I actually take off the rubber bands and count out 4 stalks per serving and yes, you can do that when it's per pound).

This was exceptional and will appear again, soon. It's nice to have just a touch of a sauce that still allows the steak to shine.
Don't go out and buy green peppercorns (there's a good chance you will never use them again), just roughly crack whole black ones and press the steak into them then continue with the recipe.

Steak au Poivre Vert
makes 2 servings

* 10 ounces Filet Mignon or other tender steak
* 2 teaspoons Smart Balance
* 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon green or black peppercorns
* 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
* 1/4 cup canned low sodium beef broth
* 2 tablespoons fat-free evaporated milk 
* 1/8 teaspoon each salt & pepper

1. Preheat a cast iron or oven-safe frying pan.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Meanwhile, crack the black peppercorn using a mallet or a heavy pan. Salt each side of the steak liberally and press each side into the peppercorns, using them all. Green peppercorns are added to the sauce.
2. Melt the butter spread in preheated pan and place the steak into the pan and don't touch it for 4 minutes.
After 4 minutes flip the steak over and repeat. After both sides are browned, place the steak and the pan in the oven for 3 minutes or until cooked to your preference.
3. Remove the steak, tent with foil and  place the pan back over medium heat.
4. Add the green peppercorns at this time and the cognac. Simmer until it reduces by half. Add the milk and beef broth and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
5. Slice the steak and spoon the sauce over.

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March 22, 2013

Banana-Farfel Custard

With Passover very close to Easter this year, I wanted to create a diabetic-friendly Jewish custard that follows the laws of Passover. Can be chilled for a fast breakfast or warm as a dessert.
I found this site on how to eat diabetic dishes while following the rules of the Jewish holidays. I think the foods eaten during Passover are more well known than the other religious holidays due to the large section of matzoh that appears in the early spring.

Matzoh is a problem in two ways. Religion dictates a certain amount of matzoh be consumed during the day, mostly at two different times. I am not truly aware of the exact amount so I will give the carb counts for this dish at the end.
I also found out that Equal, Spenda and NutriSweet are not Kosher so make sure you check for Kosher sweeteners. You can download this extremely informative booklet on eating diabetic-friendly Jewish foods for passover and how to eat eat the correct amounts with your medications. 

This dish contains Matzo farfel, which is just matzo boards that are broken into little pieces. I had a hell of a time finding the already prepared farfel but if you can't find it, place a few boards in a plastic bag and crush them with either a rolling pin or a mallet. Better yet, use the whole wheat matzo if available.

What I loved about the final dish was not only did it have a really good banana flavor, the top was crunchy and the interior was a bread pudding. A good way to end a dinner and an easy breakfast. Microwave on high for two minutes and eat with a tablespoon of sugar free syrup. If you bake these in Texas Muffin Cups they are easily transportable for work.

I will test different fruit combinations like blueberry or pineapple with coconut. Yummy.

Banana-Farfel Custard
makes 2 servings
* 1 medium banana (about 6oz), peeled and cut in half
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup skim milk
* 1/2 teaspoon Truvia
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 ounce (about 1/2 cup) matzo farfel
* 2 teaspoons pancake syrup or pomegranate molasses

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray two 10oz custard cups with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
In blender combine 1 banana half with the eggs, milk, sweetener and cinnamon and process until smooth, about 1 minute; stir in matzo farfel.
Dice remaining banana half; add to farfel mixture and stir to combine. Pour half of mixture into each prepared custard cup; place cups on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes (until a knife, inserted into center of custard, comes out clean). Serve each portion with 1 teaspoon syrup.

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March 21, 2013

Ricotta Panna Cotta with Basil-Lemon Syrup

I developed this light but creamy panna cotta using a basil syrup in my head while staring at a huge pot of basil that I seriously needed to start using and wanted to use it for more than just a garnish in a savory dish or a pesto. That was over a year ago.

Somewhere in the deep crevices of my strange but weirdly working brain during my obsession with savory cheesecakes phase, I imagined a sauce of basil-oil combined with citrus, spooned into the slight depression that forms on most cheesecakes and it just made the dish.

When the gals at the Recipe Redux choose the use of herbs in a non-traditional way as our March challenge, I immediately remembered that thought of making a sweet syrup with basil.

For those of us who have never use gelatin (me me me), it may seem like a scary, so much could go wrong like soufflé type technique need not worry at all. Honestly, when I was finally ready to pop these babies in the fridge, I looked down and said out loud (of course to the cats) "that's it, I'm done?" It was so easy, I was ashamed I have never made a panna cotta before. The perfect dessert for a hot summer night, and after eating one with the syrup, the perfect way to surprise family and guests with a taste they probably would never have thought. Plus, it's just the prettiest shade of green on that white pudding.

While most cotta's are unmolded onto a plate, I choose to leave them in the ramekins and eat them like you would pots de creme. So, the next time you have end of the season basil begging to be used, think about trying this syrup, if not with a panna cotta, how about a cheesecake.

Ricotta Panna Cotta with Basil-Lemon Syrup
makes 4 servings

Panna Cotta:
* 1/2 cup fat-free half and half
* 10 ounces fat-free condensed milk
* 1 tablespoons Truvia (it works great in cooking)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2/3 cup low fat ricotta cheese
* 1 1/4 teaspoon gelatin (I used Knox)

 Basil Lemon Syrup:
* 1/2 cup raw honey
* 1/4 cup lemon juice
* 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves

* 4 (3/4 cup) ramekins
* Blender or processor
* Fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth

1. Mix gelatin with 2 tablespoons milk. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes. Lightly spray ramekins with nonstick spray.
2. Heat half and half, remaining milk and Truvia. Add gelatin mixture and cook until it dissolves. Remove from the heat, add ricotta and vanilla and stir to incorporate. Pour evenly into ramekins, cover and place in the refrigerator until mixture is set, about 4 hours and up to 2 days.
3. While panna cotta cools, place the honey, lemon juice and basil into the bowl of a processor and pulse until the basil is finely chopped. Strain the mixture through the sieve or cheesecloth.
Serve with 1 tablespoon syrup. Can unmold or serve in the ramekin.

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March 20, 2013

Red Beans & Rice

Been a while since this dish graced our table. I'm not sure why I put this on the menu but I am glad I did.

I happen to spot a baby smoked pork shoulder. Exactly enough for four. One reason I don't make a whole pork shoulder or Boston butt is the fact that my market does not usually sell small cuts of shoulder, you have to buy the whole thing. Way too much food for a family of four, let alone two. This baby smoked pork came wrapped in netting and was about the size of a softball. The perfect piece of pork to flavor my red beans and I will have plenty to make a Diappropriate Chicken Cordon Bleu Macaroni & Cheese next week.

Red beans made the right way are loaded with flavor but no guilt. Extremely healthy it's the kind of dish that would cook well in a slow cooker, an oven or like I did, on top of the stove. I have a Sunday Gravy cooking alongside so I am doing double vegetable chopping.

I forgot to soak my beans overnight so I did a quick soak. Just bring a pot of water to boil (no salt!!) simmer the beans for 3 minutes, shut off the heat and let the beans rest in the water for 1 hour. I do think the beans don't cook as evenly and they break up more than the overnight slow soak but in a pinch and the appearance is not a concern (like when it's smothered in sauce) it works well.

To round out the dish I am roasting a newly introduced andouille sausage. Yes, I got a coupon but I have found some of my best healthy foods that way. I love that this brand comes packaged in two separate sausages, so I just threw the second one in the freezer. It closely resembles a kielbasa in appearance and I new I would be correct that it probably tastes more like kielbasa than a true andouille but unlike the poultry versions, this actually has pork, spices and heat in it. The Nudge loved the touch of heat and he was very happy. The other main component is the rice and the best rice for a diabetic is basmati and it's cooked the same way regular long grain white rice is cooked. So nice when there is no extra work required of the best that are good for us. Makes it easier to stay on track.

I do mine in the microwave and mine is never under or over cooked. It is perfect every time. I have this clear Corning Ware glass casserole dish that I use but the regular French White works just as well since a lid is mandatory.

To microwave rice, quinoa, bulgar and barley :
Place the amount of water required for the amount of grain and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Set the oven to #5 (or medium), the time to 15 minutes, cover the pot and hit the button. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes after cooking so the steam is absorbed and the grains fluff up.

Now to the beans. I make enough for a 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1/2 cup rice, and a 4" sausage (sliced) per serving.

Red Beans
makes 4 servings

* 1 cup dry red beans
* 1/2 large white onion, chopped
* 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 bay leaves
* 4 cups water
* 1 packet Sazon with Azafran
* 1 dried ancho chili, seeded and chopped
* 1 ham hock or smoked sausage
* Vegetable oil

1. Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a small tall stockpot (just big enough to almost cover the pork with water). Saute the onions, garlic, green pepper, dried chili and bay leaves until they soften. Add the soaked beans, the smoked pork, the packet of Sazon and enough water to cover 3/4 of the ham.
2. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour, check the liquid level and turn the pork over. Cover and simmer another hour and remove the beans. Uncover, remove the meat and reduce the liquid to half. Puree a spoonful of beans to thicken the sauce and add the beans back to the sauce.
3. Pull the meat off the hock if not serving sausage add it back to the beans.

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March 19, 2013

Chicken Zaragoza

This recipe had to be named after something someone ate in Zaragoza, Spain.

I really did not know that, I had no idea where it was from. I put it on the menu because I liked the name and it was perfect for my meal plan.

I am assuming that somewhere, someone had eaten a braise or soup with cardoon's while in Spain and wanting to know what they were, asked the waiter or host what a cardoon was and they were informed they were the stems of an artichoke (as well as they can describe something so an American would understand). Like most traveling foodies, many home cooks tried to make that same dish back home only to be disappointed they could not find the same ingredients. So, without cardoons but having access to artichokes they just substituted and used artichoke hearts and for whatever reason, called it Chicken Zaragoza.

Don't hold me to it, but that's what I'm going with. Does it really matter? No but it explains the name.

What matters is that it's good, it's easy, it's inexpensive and it's ready in under 30 minutes. Win Win.
Since artichoke hearts were the main component, The Nudge is not a fan so I just substituted another great spring vegetable, asparagus. After some research, braised celery would have been another good substitution.
Celery is braised all throughout the Mediterranean. I also added sliced radishes which also sweeten when cooked.

While the dinner was nice and filling, I am not sure I would put this on the menu again as written. There are too many really exciting dishes that are in line way before this one, but with a little tweaking on the flavor components, it could make a major jump forward. I think some investigating into the cuisine of the Zaragoza region of Spain will shed some light and maybe the next time I run this recipe through the ringer, it will actually be a dish from Zaragoza.

Chicken Zaragoza
makes 4 servings
* 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
* 1 pound chicken breast halved
* 1/2 cup frozen peas
* 4 stalks asparagus, cut into 2" pieces
* 1/4 cup diced red peppers or jarred diced pimientos
* 3 slices bacon, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 cup canned low sodium chicken broth
* 2 tablespoons dry sherry
* 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
* Dash black pepper

1. In a 12-inch skillet heat oil; add chicken and cook over medium-high heat, turning when necessary, until browned, 4-5 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate and set aside.
2. Cook bacon until fat is rendered and meat is browned. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon to plate with chicken. In the same pan add the garlic, peas, red pepper and asparagus. Add the sherry and thyme.
3. Saute for 1 minute, then sprinkle with flour and stir quickly to combine. Gradually add broth and stir till there is no raw flour or lumps. Return chicken and bacon to pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the mixture thickens and chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes.

I served a bulgar pilaf on the side.

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March 18, 2013

Banana Pancakes

You do not want to know how long it has taken me to make edible pancakes of any kind that The Nudge will eat. There is a long list of types he won't sanction and these include......

Whole Wheat

.........to name a few.

He's completely happy with basic Aunt Jamima's boxed buttermilk pancakes. I am not.
Pancakes require a baker's mentality. I am baker impaired.

About 2 years ago, by mistake, I made a batch of banana pancakes that were great but I never wrote the recipe down and have been trying since then to duplicate. With no success.

I wanted them to be healthy, fluffy, light and flavorful not lead laden pasty flour tasting bombs. Mine are definitely more from the latter arena. 
I tried a large grill pan with both grill and flat top. The pan was not the problem.
I tried the technique of whipping and folding the eggs whites, they deflated.
I finally threw up my arms and surrendered. I bought a box mix but they tasted like cardboard. It has been a while since I attempted pancakes again.

Last week was the day to try again. I felt renewed and this time going with bananas for flavor. Everyone loves bananas, right?
The Nudge took one mouthful and spit it into his napkin. OMG, they were so bad.
What the bleep was I doing wrong?

Maybe the bananas made the batter too dense? They weren't ripe enough? I have seen 2 ingredient banana pancakes all over the net, if they work why won't mine?

Like I said, I am not a baker and the ingredients must be perfectly measured. How do you measure a banana? I found that most recipes only say small or medium, they don't give a weight. Also, the eggs. I always buy local organic extra large eggs and they are huge. 1 medium egg is 1/4 cup so two of mine equals 2/3 cup which make a difference. I decided to use Gerber Infant Bananas and one container is 3.5oz.
I was half way there.
To make up for the larger amount of eggs I reduced the milk but used skim to replace the thickness of the pureed bananas.
Sweet perfection, these were what should have been in the making for over three years now.

Banana Pancakes
makes (8) 6" or (12) 4" pancakes
Adapted from 4 separate recipes on the net

* 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off 
* 2 tablespoons sugar 
* 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
* 1/2 teaspoon salt 
* 1 (3.5oz) container Gerber pureed bananas
* 1 cup skim milk 
* 2/3 cup eggs (2 XL, 3 small or Egg Beaters)
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter substitute, melted

In a small bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. In another bowl mix all the wet ingredients together.
Fold the batter gently with a rubber spatula until just blended; do not over-mix. The batter will be thick and the lumps about the size of peas.
Spray a non stick pan with butter flavored spray and drop a ladle full of batter into heated pan. Cook over medium heat until little holes appear on the edged of the pancake. Flip over and cook for 2 minutes more.
On a sheet pan that is in a 200° warming oven, place the pancakes on the sheet pan when done.
Serve with sliced bananas and your favorite sugar free syrup or maple syrup.

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March 17, 2013

Soda Bread Brisket Patty Melt w/Irish Cheddar Cheese

I know what you are thinking, looks good but what is it?
I follow enough blogs daily that I can count on my fingers and when you head down to the toes, they cover the ones I get in my reader that I check 2x a month.
Reasons why I am not a habituate with blogs is, I tend to travel from blog to blog the way I think. I never know where I will end up, but getting there is an adventure. Every once in a while I will email myself a published post that I want to keep for references but don't have the time to totally absorb them. Those get put into folders marked magazines, blogs, wish list recipes, etc.

Once a month I spend a Friday reading them. This is were I polish up the bunch. This is were my idea for this dish came from.

The Nudge loves a good corned beef sandwich, he refuses to eat those boiled cabbage and potato pots, so every year I try to find a recipe that showcases the brisket in different ways. This year I came up with a great idea and after passing it by The Nudge, I peaked his interest also. So much so that when I started to question my sanity he pushed me back onto the straight and narrow. I had no choice but to peruse this avenue.
The Pioneer Woman made Patty Melts on her Food Network Show and The Nudge happened to see this episode and he muttered, "yum, don't they look good". Since he is not a fan of cooking shows (expect Jacques or Bobby) when he expressed interest in a dish my ears perk up and they did.

Mental note "put patty melt on the menu".

While checking out the pink meat in the sealed bags an idea immediately hit me and I picked up the smallest one I could find with the best marbling of fat I could see. I was going to grind down that brisket into ground meat for burgers.
Not just any burger, ones shaped like a piece of sliced soda bread and make a Patty melt straight from that show. Now who's cooking with gas?
You do not need a meat grinder, you could easily ask your butcher to do one for you or use your food processor.

Remove the meat from the corning liquid, wash the juice off, dry it well and cut away the layer of fat from the top of the meat. Mine was well cleaned and all I had to do was slice and cut 14oz of 1/2" cubes, place them into a freezer zip bag, fill the bag as it lays flat on a cutting board and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
If your brisket does not have the nice marbling as mine did, use some of the top soft fat (nothing hard please).

Grind 1/4 at a time (about 3/4 cup at a time, pulsing 10x and then checking the meat. It should look exactly like the ground round you buy in the store only pinker).

Git to the store and buy you some corned beef brisket for $1.99 lb. and freeze them before they go back to $7.99 lb. I am serious, DO IT NOW.

I use beef briskets for burgers many times and they always come out juicy and tender. A brisket has marbling that when you grind it, it not only distributes the fat throughout the meat, it tenderizes it.
Why not use a corned beef brisket? It will have the corned taste we love this time of year but with the outside crust and juicy interior of a great burger. Make a patty, top with Guinness caramelized onions, a slab of really good authentic Kerry Gold Cheddar cheese and put it on your panini press and you have something spectacular.

OMG I hit the jackpot with this.....you have got to taste it. At first you taste the salt but with the sweetness of the whole grain mustard and the sweet onions, the creaminess of the cheese, you just get taken to another level. Oh YES, this is a keeper!! I did something great........whoohoo!!!

We both decided we would love to grill them next time and make them thinner. The bread was all wrong, a good Ciabatta would have been a better choice but not Irish, so next time.
I also think I would love to make meatballs with the ground corned beef and make a cabbage and potato soup to simmer them in.

Happy St. Pat's Day to everyone who feels green.

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Kimchi & Gnocchi Haluski w/Pork Schnitzel

Last year I bought my first container of homemade kimchi at our local Korean market last year. I think I was going to use it on a burger or something and then Sandy came by and I had to throw it out. Recently I noticed this sneak-up-on-you obsession happening again with kimchi, and when I saw a jar I bought it. Not sure what I was going to do with it but I knew I had time to decide. This was sealed and preserved so even if Sandy's cousin  made an appearance I would still have my kimchi. And they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

My BFF growing up had Ukranian immigrant parents and when I was asked if I wanted to stay for dinner, I never said no. I enjoyed foods that, as diverse as was my diet growing up, was never anything like what Lynn's mom cooked.
She introduced me to stuffed cabbage (holubchi), split pea soup, halushky, homemade pirogi and borscht. I was in love. Another Ukranian dish I adored was Kasha Varnishkas which was buckwheat groats in a brown gravy served over farfalle. I will have to put that on the menu soon.
Since some recipes have the same ingredients weaving into other familiar dishes, it can be confusing as to why people call one dish something you would call another. Sort of like a bolognese sauce, there are many versions. She made these small potato filled dumplings and then sauteed them with cabbage, onions and caraway seeds. Probably the Ukranian version of a pirogi. I am going to make it Italian (gnocchi) with a side trip to Austria (pork schnitzel) right after a fly by in Korea (kimchi).
I hoped this was not going to be another miss in this years hit parade of failed attempts to rework a classic. I have mangled a potato gratin, destroyed a chicken cannelloni dish and blew up a souffle, and it's only the second month of 2013.

Potato gnocchi is probably my favorite gnocchi, second only to ricotta and then there's polenta. Let's see, after that the squash are good and the blue cheese ones are unique and spinach is in there too. Oh, let's face it, I am a gnocchi junkie. My Nana used to make potato dumplings that were really good but they hit your stomach like a lead balloon. Gnocchi is a much better option, a spoonful satisfies and totally lead-free.

Potato Gnocchi
makes approximately 8 dozen

* 1 1/4 cups mashed potatoes
* 1 cup AP flour
* 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 3/4 cup Romano cheese, grated

Mix everything in a laarge bowl, using a spoon. Scrape the mixture onto a large wooden board that has been covered with flour and pat and roll the dough into a disk. Cover with the bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Simple and easy way: Make long ropes and cut into 1" logs. Lay them on a kitchen towel and repeat until there is no more dough.

Traditional way: Follow easy way but roll each log off the back of a fork or off a butter paddle. The grooves hold more sauce. Those Italians think of everything.

Pork Schnitzel
makes 6 (5") scallopini

* 1 pound pork tenderloin or pork loin, cut into 3/4" slices, pounded thin
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1/2 cup panko crumbs
* 1/2 cup flavored dried breadcrumbs
* salt & pepper

Make a breading station. One bowl is the egg, the second bowl is for both crumbs mixed together.
Season cutlets with salt & pepper on both sides.

Dip seasoned pork cutlets into egg and then into crumbs to coat on both sides.
Heat 1/2" of vegetable oil  in a large skillet. Saute on both sides until they are golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Gnocchi & Kimchi Saute
makes 4-6 servings

* 6-8 gnocchi per person
* 6oz kimchi
* 3 slices bacon cut into 1/4" strips
* 1/4 white onion chopped
* 1 glove garlic, minced
* 1/4 cup brown gravy
* 1 tablespoon olive oil

Put a large pot of salted water to boil.
Heat oil in fry pan and saute onions and bacon until bacon is cooked. Add garlic and gravy and stir in kimchi. Drain gnocchi and add to pan.

To serve: Place pork cutlets on a platter and top with haluski.
Review: This was excellent. We liked our first taste of kimchi. As a matter of fact, it will be soon a topping on my hot dogs. Say goodbye to sauerkraut.

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March 16, 2013

Personal Flat Bread Pizzas

When I can't get to my grill, I use flat breads as pizza crusts. The thinner the better, I don't like those Boboli and Dijorno ready crusts. We are a thin crust pizza family and if I make my own using yeast I can never get the crust as thin as we like it. Pizzas are an inexpensive way to make a quick dinner, and who doesn't love pizza?

The Nudge likes a basic tomato & cheese pizza and on rare occasions with sausage and pepper.
Last night he wanted a tomato meat pie. I will skin a hot Italian sausage and fry it up with a hunk of red & green chopped peppers. Doesn't even have to be perfect, just chop away. He said it was really good but I am a white pizza person myself.

I had garlic broccoli in the fridge, pesto and ricotta cheese and topped with Kalamata olives. Yum, it had so much flavor.

These were about 8" in size, the right size for a personal pizza and the next time you find you have leftovers you need to use, plan a pizza pie party at your house.

When I check the deli "ends" section and find a special on a hunk of their slicing mozzarella, I put pizza on the menu.

Bake them at 400° for 20 minutes, then slide them under the broiler for no more than 5 minutes or until the cheese browns on top. Double yum!!

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March 15, 2013

Mexican Pasta Salad

I am so looking forward to Spring.
I developed this salad of simple ingredients with bright flavors, fresh ingredients and a hint of heat because I just needed something to liven up my mouth.

Sinfully simple it can be bumped up with the addition of beans or vegetables but I wanted what would amount to a Pico de Gallo Pasta Salad. As a matter of fact if I was pressed for time I would have bought a fresh deli pico and started with that.

A wonderful side to a plain turkey sandwich or a grilled chicken breast, make plenty it will keep well. Great for the office, just add a can of tuna.

One, must do step, is to roast the jalapeno (or serano) pepper but leave the green and red peppers raw.
I was inspired by how much The Nudge flipped over my fresh green pepper salsa I made for these, so much so he mentioned it again the next day.

One thing I have learned in 30+ years of marriage as I am sure have many mom's of picky eaters, find what works and repeat it, often.

Mexican Pasta Salad
makes 2 servings (about 1 cup each)
* 1 1/2 cups cooked small soup shells or elbow macaroni (3/4 cup dry)
* 1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
* 1/4 cup each diced onion and red or green bell peppers (I used both)(poblanos are also good)
* 1 medium roasted jalapeno, seeded, deveined and minced
* 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
* 1 small clove garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 1/2 teaspoons each red wine vinegar and lime juice
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon oregano
* Dash black pepper

Corn, beans or avocado can be added but in small amounts and only right before serving (do not store with the salad).

1. Set jalapeno on baking sheet lined with foil and broil 3" from heat source, turning frequently, until charred on all sides. Let it cool to handle. Peel pepper; remove and discard seeds and veins and mince.
2. In large bowl combine all ingredients and toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

March 14, 2013

Oriental Chicken and Edamame

I have been trying (without much success) to infuse soy into our diet. I am down to tempeh and edamame, everything else was not a success story in this house.

As usual, I am late to the edamame party. Yes, I knew what it was, it's easily found around here and it seems to appeal to everyone, especially kids. Hey, I have a kid in the house, and like most who do all the cooking, find a good time to slide it in the shopping cart and you're halfway there. I suppose I could have just plopped a dish down and let him try it, but I find that if the recipient gives the A-OK there's a 99% chance it will get eaten.

After what seemed to me to be as tough as the Spanish Inquisition, I finally wore The Nudge down and after explaining, in what also felt like I was on the rack, what EXACTLY these beans were, he agreed to try them.

The Oriental Chicken and Green Beans became Oriental Chicken and Edamame.
This will be interesting, after my fiasco on Sunday with a banana pancake recipe I was developing. In all my years of cooking, I have never had anyone spit their food out seconds after touchdown. Oh, yeah, was something right out of the Sunday funnies. I thought for sure after that, he would nix the beans.

I did some research on the Internet about how to cook them from a frozen state and it's pretty much the way you would cook fresh green beans so the original recipe won't change all that much.

As with most stir fries, the meat is marinaded, cut into small pieces and then flash fried. This also gives the dish good flavor so make sure your marinade is highly spiced. This is where the umami comes into play. The BBQ and Southern crowd is fond of Worcestershire, the Mediterranean crowd loves anchovies, the Japanese have miso and the Asians thrive on soy sauce or fish sauce. It's all about those small little fishes that swim in the sea.

Ever see that commercial where the older brothers aren't sure about the new "healthy" cereal?
Well, I am happy to say, "He likes it, yea Nudge!!"

Oriental Chicken and Edamame
makes 2 servings

* 2 teaspoons Tamari
* 1 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1 whole clove garlic, smashed
* Black pepper
* 1/2 pound chicken, cut into thin strips

* 1 tablespoon peanut oil
* 1/2 cup onion, diced
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 cup frozen edamame
* 1 cup sliced mushrooms
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 packet Herb-Ox chicken broth and seasoning mix
* 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
* 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
* 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

1. Place the chicken with marinade into a zip bag and refrigerate for up to 4 hours or on the counter while you prep the other ingredients.
2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and saute in a hot pan coated with the peanut oil. Stir fry until the edges brown, remove to a bowl.
3. In the same pan, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the mushrooms and ginger and continue to cook 4-5 minutes. Add the water, the seasoning packet and the frozen edamame. Stir, cover, reduced heat to simmer and cook for at least 5 minutes. Check for bean doneness. It should slice easily but still be firm to the tooth.
4. Add the chicken back to the pan, uncover and cook through for another 4 minutes, allowing the sauce to reduce down and thicken. Right before serving, drizzle with the vinegar, toss one last time and finish with the sesame seeds.

Serve with brown rice, but in this house I use a long grain and wild rice mix, another of The Nudge's favorites. He enjoyed this dish even though it felt like I underwent a little torture.
In the end, I was happy to say the beans got eaten and nobody was hurt in the making of this recipe.

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