Wish Upon A Dish: July 2013

July 30, 2013

A Cat's Life

When the weather finally broke, we weren't the only ones happy we could hang outside again.

Raven and his adopted brother, Bobby were just cooling it on the back patio. Two big ol' boys, just hangin' out.

Bobby was trying to get Raven's attention, but Raven was having none of it.

He tried being cute.


 He waved his paws.....


He even tried to nudge him with his back legs.

Raven was snoozing quietly.....

but after trying a few times,
he did get someone else's attention......

....and then there was three.
I am amazed as how well they behave together as long as all three are in a prone position.

I'm off to the shore for a few days. See ya on Friday!!

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July 29, 2013

Sweet Potato Hash w/Cheesy Mollet Eggs

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my demented mind, I remembered buying two corned beef briskets when on sale in March, so I went hunting in my freezer. BINGO, I actually found it. Hey, I wanted a Reuben.

I pulled out my slow cooker, made a flavorful braising sauce and set the timer.
One Rueben Panino later I still had more than half a cooked brisket.
Let's face it, not many dishes can be made with a corned beef, even one braised in BBQ sauce.
Yes, I went the hash route.
What I love about this preparation of the topping, is that it can all be prepared in the morning while it's cool, placed in the fridge and plopped under the broiler for 5 minutes to melt the cheese sauce and heat the dish.
Yes, I am melting cheese over hash, sue me but it's dinner and I wanted something more substantial than a breakfast.
If you don't have a corned beef, ask the deli guy at your local market to cut you a 1/4" slice (#7 on my store's slicer).
If you want to keep it Vegetarian, deep six the beef.

This was yummy, not overly cheesy, very filling and because we had our chimney being cleaned and certified, easy to broil on a two minute notice (we are installing a new furnace).

Hash is that type of dish, even though I adore it, is something you can eat only a few times a year.
It's a good dish to make when you have odds and ends in the fridge. A potato and a few veggies, a poach or fried egg and you're good to go, literally.

Sweet Potato Hash with Mollet Eggs
Prepared in the minuscule kitchen of Wish Upon A Dish with inspiration from Jacques (the MAN)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours + 30 minutes + 5 minutes
Yield: 4 servings with 2 eggs each

* 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
* 1 sweet onion, diced
* 1/2 red pepper, diced
* 1/2 frying pepper, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 pound chopped corned beef
* 1 tablespoon fajita seasonings
* Canola oil
* 1/4 cup beer
* 12 slices Swiss cheese or Muenster
* 8 eggs, soft boiled for 6 minutes

1. Put a saucepan, large enough to hold the 8 eggs, covered with water, to boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer and set the timer for 6 minutes. When done, remove, drain, bounce the eggs gently inside the pan to crack the shells and fill with cold water. Set aside.
2. Pour enough oil into a saucepan so that it coats the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a smoke point and pour the sweet potatoes into the pan and stir it immediately to coat the potatoes, then leave it be for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, if the bottoms look caramelized, flip as many over, repeat and crisp the edges. Remove to a bowl.
3. Add another teaspoon oil to the same pan and add the onion, peppers and garlic. Saute until tender and add the beef and seasonings. Stir to incorporate. Add the beer and turn off the pan. When the beer stops bubbling, add the sweet potatoes and set aside in a covered container in the fridge until ready to assemble.

Spoon a quarter of the hash into four oven ready ramekins or au gratin dishes. Make an indent in the middle to nestle the eggs. Peel the eggs and place two on top of the hash. Top with 3 slices of cheese, arranging so that all of the hash is covered.
Set the oven to broil on HI and place the dishes under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown. Remove and serve.

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July 26, 2013

Barley, Mushroom Chicken Meatballs in a Spicy Tomato Broth

Ever eaten a porcupine? The Nudge had no idea what I was talking about. Do you? I will give you an "A" if you know.
My Mom must have made them at least once a month, the other half month she simply turned them into stuffed peppers. I loved them both.

OK, got you curious? Porcupines were meatballs that had rice sticking out of them so they looked like 'lil porcupines in the pot. Kids love em. Make bigger porcupines and stuff it into red peppers. Yup, that's right. Might as well make a double batch at the git go.

Since rice is not at the top of my list of things I can eat and I was craving a meatball in a tomato broth, I decided to make a very diappropriate version as well as keeping it gluten-free, very low carb and low fat.
Instead of rice, I used barley. To add a meaty quality to the ground chicken, I used a mix of dried and fresh  mushrooms.

Why call this an Albondigas Soup? 

Albondigas is just a Spanish word for meatballs but the broth is the star. A light, spicy and loaded with flavor broth that the meatballs finished cooking in. This reminded me of a wonderful Albondigas Soup I had in Vegas and to tell you the truth, with the addition of the mushrooms, you would never know they were made with chicken.

First,  I simmered the meatballs in salted water until they floated to the top and then strained the poaching liquid to use in the broth. Why waste all that meatball flavored water?
A very satisfying and healthy dinner. You could even serve a cornbread wedge or muffin.

I have to admit, these were much better than I thought they would be but I did learn one thing. When you use ground chicken, you must double the spices and herbs you think you need and when you do this you will remember this post and thank me.

Now I will give you an even better tip. Before you cook the whole batch of chicken meatloaf, burgers or meatballs, take a small amount and fry it in a pan. Taste it for seasonings and make the necessary adjustments.

I froze half the meatballs to use in another recipe down the line. I was thinking of a Creamy Basil Sauce or better yet, a curry coconut sauce. Yum.

Mushroom, Barley & Chicken Meatballs
Yield: 40 (2oz) meatballs

* 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
* 1 cup minced onion
* 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, minced
* 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, water reserved
* 2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon vinegar
* 1/2 cup dried barley, cooked in 2 cups salted water mixed with porcini soaking water
* 3 mozzarella snack sticks, diced (or 1 ounce Biazzo, tiny dice)
* 2 eggs
* 1 pound ground white meat chicken
* 1 teaspoons Italian Seasonings
* Salt and pepper

1. Sauté onions, mushrooms, and garlic in olive oil. In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients with cooked vegetables, make a small patty and cook to taste for seasonings.
Using a 2 ounce ice cream scoop, make meatballs and carefully drop into a pot of simmering salted water. When they float, remove and reserve to cook. Run the poaching water through a strainer lined with cheesecloth & save for broth.

Lite and Spicy Tomato Broth
Yield: 1 quart

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 1 large clove garlic, minced
* 1/2 cup tomato sauce or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
* 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, mashed
* 1 tablespoon minced parsley
* 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
* 1 quart chicken broth or 1 bouillon cube dissolved in the meatball poaching liquid
* 1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1" pieces
* 2 large carrots, diced
* 1 zucchini, seeds scraped out and cut into small dice

1. Saute onion, garlic and chipotle in olive oil.
2. Add broth and tomato sauce.
3. Add parsley, cilantro, carrots and green beans and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Add zucchini and meatballs and simmer for 10 minutes more.
5. Garnish with extra cilantro, parsley, basil or mint.

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July 24, 2013

Vindaloo Chicken Skewers

Yay! I finally was able to grill our dinner last night.
Oh, how I have missed my grill.

The heat finally broke, and although still not happy about standing over hot coals, I was happy I planned a quick 10 minute meal. This newest weather pattern, while still not normal, has been better than another day of air conditioned jail, so I grabbed a chicken breast out of the freezer, a carton of Greek yogurt and a tablespoon of Vindaloo spice mixture. Most yogurt based marinades usually require a 24 hour soak (for dark meat), small chunks of white meat can get enough time with a mere 6 hour dip.

Yogurt is not just for eating, the process that turns milk into yogurt also acts as a tenderizer and in the Middle East, is used on every piece of protein they cook (especially a tough goat or lamb). If you have never tried a yogurt marinade, I beg you to try this rendition. Loaded with flavor, but not over the top, it makes the best chicken, especially those pieces exposed to extreme heat.

Even in the winter, it gets a blast from the broiler.

If you have been exposed to those subtle hints that the store must have sold you tough, dry white meat, this will make you a rock star. If you can get over the fact that those blackened edges are flavor, and need to be there, you will appreciate the fact that for once, the blackened parts are a good thing. Yes, you have permission to burn the toast!!!

A quick side of diced mixed vegetable couscous and dinner is on the table in 20 minutes.

Chicken Vindaloo
Adapted from Diary of a Foodie, 2008
* 1 cup plain yogurt (not low-fat; preferably Greek-style)
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
* 2 tablespoons vindaloo paste (preferably Patak's or Pensey's brand)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 large or 2 medium boneless chicken breasts
* 1 tablespoon Franks Hot Sauce (optional)

1. Cut chicken into 2" pieces.
2. Stir together all ingredients except chicken in a large bowl until combined well.
3. Drop chicken into a large zip bag and add the yogurt mixture. Refrigerate minimum 6 hours and up to overnight.
4. Soak wooden skewers while preheating grill.

Broiler: Transfer skewers to a large sheet pan and broil for 3 minutes on one side, flip over and repeat. Edges should be blackened.
Grill: Heat the grill and spray the grate. Soak wooden skewers while the grill heats. Poke 5-6 pieces (with a space between them) of chicken on each skewers and grill over a high heated grill for 4 minutes on one side and 3 minutes on the other.

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July 21, 2013

Healthy Snacks On The Go - The Recipe Redux Challenge July 2013

I don't know many Seniors that have good eating habits. I am one of them.
I constantly fight to remember to eat breakfast which always turns into brunch, which by then means a salad, sandwich or leftovers.
Snacks, what are they? I have never been a snacker. I don't even eat the snacks I put out for company, so when I saw this month's theme, it really was a major challenge for me. If I don't snack, what snack would I even consider making for a trip? The other problem was finding a recipe that doesn't make a dozen or more of anything we won't eat.

I could have made a turkey and lettuce roll-up, sliced into bite-sized coins, but that would have been cheating. I took this theme to mean, create a healthy snack to pack for a road trip. If we had kids, this would be easy, but with no kids, our choice is selecting a box of energy bars or mini bags of 100 calorie something's.

I am sorry, but asking me to bake or cook a recipe for a dozen granola bars just ain't gonna happen. Sorry, but that's our reality. Not only do we never have granola or energy bars in this house, when I do eat granola, it's usually on top of a purchased cup of flavored yogurt that I get on vacation included in the free breakfast.  

The Nudge buys one-size bottles of smoothies that he stores in the fridge at work and when I tried to make a quart of a homemade smoothie, he did not like the pressure of having to drink at least one serving a day because the contents might go "off" if it wasn't finished by Friday and had to be thrown away come Monday morning. Too much waste dictated smaller bottles with longer expiration dates.

When we plan a road trip, a small personal cooler gets filled with bottles of cranberry juice and water because the one thing we know we need to do, is stop for a good, hardy breakfast before hitting the pavement. No snacks required.
I took a poll of all my friends and when they were young most road trips were to the Jersey Shore and might require a stop for sandwiches packed the night before, but we never did snacks the way families of today plan their daily lives around them.
An apple or peanut butter filled celery was the choice for after school hold overs till dinner, we just didn't even say "snack". So, to participate in this challenge I either had to lie and make something I would have made if I was a Mother of the Millennium, or think long and hard, of a snack, I would enjoy eating at anytime I needed a little somethin' somethin' to quiet a grumbling stomach (not just while traveling).

I came up with brownie bites, but not your regular brownies. A brownie made with no flour so that people with diabetes and celiac's disease can have a homemade snack they can eat. This is not a new concept by any means but for me, it was a true challenge. The first time I tried to make these unique brownies, it ended as so many of my baking endeavors do, in the garbage. I do not remember why they were inedible, but this batch was excellent by The Nudge who would not except they were made with beans. I knew Whole Foods would not let me down.

This was one recipe that although yielded a dozen servings and would never really go on a long road trip, they would make a small but daily commute, inside a lunch bag tucked away besides a one serving drink of a Very Berry Smoothie.

Chocolate Chip & Walnut Black Bean Brownie Bites
Adapted from Whole Foods
Yield: 16 squares or 12 mini muffin bites

Cook's Note: If your processor is not powerful enough to make the mixture perfectly smooth (mine could not get to the skins), try using a blender. It is essential that the skins be included so try not to strain them out.

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Butter an 8-inch baking pan or a 12 muffin tin.

* 1 can (15oz) no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
* 2 large eggs
* 1/3 cup melted butter, more for the pan
* 1/4 cup cocoa powder
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cane sugar
* 1/2 cup gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips
* 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

Place the beans, eggs, melted butter, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.
Blend until smooth.
Remove the blade and gently stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes (8" pan) or 20-23 minutes (muffin tin) or until just set in the center. Cool before cutting into squares.

Whenever I buy store made muffins I save the plastic container they come in. I sent The Nudge off to work with 6 of them nestled contently for the ride.

July 19, 2013

30 Minute St. Louis Style Pizza, Promise!

I have made tons of pizzas over the years, most of them on the grill.

The last few times I did not have great success. Since Kingsford reworked their coals, I can no longer keep them lit for any extended time like I used too. We are thin crust people, and thin is in, but on the grill, thin doesn't work all that well. New and improved?? Bull......

To grill over coals, you have to pre-grill one side of the dough, flip it over, put the ingredients on the cooked side and set the pizza over the side of the grill with no coals, close the lid and bake the pizza. While a great way to do it, most times, by the time I get all that done the coals have lost half their heat so the cheese is not totally melted and the pizzas never browned around the edges the way we like it and if I leave it on longer, the bottom get overdone and hard as a bread stick. Now, The Nudge will eat it like that, but I like some chew in my crust. The other problem has been to time the rise for when The Nudge walks through the door. This cooking technique requires perfect timing, not easy to do on a week night

Within the same week, Diners, Dive-Ins and Dives and Cook's Country both showcased a St. Louis style pizza where the crust is yeastless and as thin as a cracker but still has a nice chew to it.
Last night I was in no mood to cook and not leaving myself with enough time to defrost anything (I think on purpose), I pulled up the recipe and got to work. Pillsbury sent me a gift of a pizza pan and this was the perfect chance to test it out.

THIS WAS THE BEST PIZZA I HAVE EVER MADE. Hands down. In 30 minutes from scratch to table.
The Nudge couldn't eat it fast enough and he suggested we do this Every Friday Night!!!
Weeeee Yoooo!! I agree. I can not say it enough. MAKE THIS PIZZA.......TONIGHT!!!!
It was that good but most of all, it was extremely easy and foolproof.

If you have always been scared to work with a yeast dough, this recipe is for you. The dough is made in the food processor or stand mixer and you could even use a wooden spoon and bowl. Easy to roll to a 1/4", you can roll it out an hour or two before you need to make it.
So while you heat the oven, you dress the crust and in 10-15 minutes dinner is served.
I kid you not. While I made mine with this sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves, you can dress your pizza with any toppings your family wants.
I am planning on making this recipe over at my SIL's house when this heat wave, waves goodbye. I know she will make this often, cooking for one.

I used half a recipe and that was enough for the two of us, but a full recipe makes one large or two medium pizzas, so you can make two different ones and bake them together.

St. Louis Pizza Crust
makes 1 (24") or 2 (14") pizza crusts

* 2 cups AP flour
* 2 tablespoons cornstarch
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
* 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Mix the dry ingredients and add the olive oil and the 1/2 cup water. Take a small piece of dough and press it between two fingers. If it comes together without crumbling, no need to add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. If it is crumbly, add 1 tablespoon, mix and feel it again. Repeat until the dough sticks together when pressed but does not stick to your fingers.

2. Place the dough on a board or place and invert a bowl over it. Let it rest for a few minutes, while the oven pre-heats. Can also be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Please, try this just once. I guarantee that will be the first and not the last time.

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July 17, 2013

Rigatoni Woodsman Style - Rigatoni alla Boscaiola

While I love trying new recipes, I also love making well received old ones. This recipe was an oldie but goody, buried 8 feet under a mile long wish list.
I thought I posted this, I remember printing it but I was 100% sure it graced our dinner table. What's not to love? It hits all the favorite buttons in this house and I had exactly a cup of homemade ricotta cheese in the fridge.
I have seen two versions of this recipe, one with the ricotta and the other, not. If you have ricotta use it, it adds a texture to the sauce and helps it to cling to the pasta, but add it right before the final toss so the curds stay intact.

A pantry always stocked with everything to make this recipe, and even if I can not run to the store to purchase fresh mushrooms, you will always find a bag of every dried mushroom hanging in this (packaged as an assortment).
I suppose you could use a good turkey or chicken sausage, but check the labels. Most of them have the same amount of fat that you find in pork sausages and if that is the case, the pork will give you 4x more flavor. I usually cut the amount the recipe calls for by 50% and also drain on a paper towel if I see more than a tablespoon of fat in the pan after cooking. 

While I would love to be outside grilling, the weather is soaring into the 100's, so a one pot dinner cooked in an air conditioned kitchen is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Rigatoni Woodsman Style
Rigatoni alla Boscaiola

serves: Serves 6

Lidia writes:
This a recipe that everybody loves and it is easy to make and so exemplary of Italian home cooking. Most likely the roots are somewhere with the shepherd community of the Apennines with the ingredients being pasta, ricotta and some meat in a casing. The other ingredients are an embellishment of living too well.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, without fennel seeds, removed from casing
1 pound mixed mushrooms, (button, cremini, shiitake, oyster) thickly sliced
6 fresh sage leaves
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound rigatoni
1 cup frozen peas
1 bunch scallions, chopped
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup ricotta
1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiana-Reggiano

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cooked until onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add sausage and cook and crumble with a wooden spoon until sausage is no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
2. Add mushrooms, cover and cook until mushrooms release their juices, about 2 minutes. Uncover, add the sage and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, slosh out the tomato can with 1 cup pasta cooking water and season with the salt. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
3. Once the sauce is thickened, add the peas and scallions. Cook until scallions wilt, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup pasta water and the heavy cream. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, add the rigatoni to the pasta water and cook until al dente. Remove pasta with a spider and add directly to the sauce, cook and toss until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Off heat, gently mix in the ricotta, sprinkle with the grated cheese and toss again. Serve immediately.

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July 16, 2013

Here Kitty, Kitty......

We adopted a stray cat that showed up around the same time we brought our new kitties home and everyone around us feeds him. He's a BIG boy.

Meet Bobby. You can't see them but he has the greenest eyes I have ever seen on a brown tabby. They melt me and yes, he's totally spoiled.

He's also the sweetest, most gentle stray I know and......

......the little princess ChaCha pushes him around like he's a mere kitten. She also knows he's gentle and after 5 years, she still has no idea what to do with him.

As you can see, Bobby really doesn't care as long as there is a constant source of food and someone to pet him.
(There happens to be a bird feeder directly above that plant but not within their reach. He thinks the birds can't see him.)

On the other hand, my boy, Raven, thinks Bobby's the coolest bud in town and will follow him everywhere.

Yes, he thinks Bobby won't know he's in the chives, hiding, but I knew. Who has the heart to chase him? Not me.

A glimpse into my backyard menagerie. They make me smile every day.

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July 15, 2013

Lite Coconut Parmesan Lobster Fettuccine with Grilled Shrimp

I was reading restaurant menus the other day, while looking for my annual NYC birthday dinner destination and stumbled on an entreé for a Lobster in a Light Parmesan Sauce and it so intrigued me that I decided to create a version of that dish. Most people know that seafood and cheese are a no no in Italian cuisine.
Most people be wrong. In the south of Italy, Sicily, Sardena and Capri, they do sprinkle seafood pasta dishes with Romano cheeses. I always wondered where my love of clams and seafood came from. I guess it was my Italian DNA.

Oh, yes, there is such a thing. Don't argue with me, I can curse in Italian and I know where Hoffa is buried.

The Nudge requested something with shrimp so I found a nice Malaysian marinaded shrimp recipe. You have heard of Pan Asian cooking, well I have invented Pan Asian Pisan cooking.

This dish had so much flavor and was not hard to make at all. Even though it uses this you could use Better Than Bouillon Lobster Base and I won't tell.

It's basically a dressed pasta technique. Lobster sauce in one pan, pasta cooks in another, they all get married together and topped with the shrimp. This is a perfect dish to serve to company. They will think they are eating something decadent but the sauce is made with lite coconut milk and all the flavor components are simmered right in. You can make the lobster sauce a day or two ahead and pull it all together in less than 30 minutes.

If you prefer a less expensive version, steam clams and mussels in the same broth and serve with angel hair or just a loaf of bread.

Not a seafood lover, sub out the lobster stock with chicken or vegetable. The uses are endless, and the coconut milk makes it creamy healthy good.
So Sue, where's the Italian in this, besides the pasta part?
Well, I simply infused my sauce with a Parmesan Cheese rind. Yup, just tossed it in there like you would with a soup. I can buy a container for under $3.00 a pound and that's a small amount for a BIG flavor boost.
In Pan-Asian talk....a big bowl of Umami.

Creamy Coconut Lobster Fettuccine
makes about 10 ounces

Lobster Sauce:
* 2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon cumin
* 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
* 2 tablespoons lite brown sugar
* 1 can lite coconut milk
* handful of scallions or chives, cut into 2" pieces
* 1 Parmesan cheese rind
* 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1/8 teaspoon sumac (optional) or 1/2 lemon zest
* 3 tablespoons homemade lobster stock, or 3 teaspoons lobster base

* 1 cup crushed tomatoes
* 1 cup peas
* 1 cup lobster meat
* 1 pound grilled or sauteed shrimp
* 6 ounces Ronzoni's Garden Delight fettuccine
* 1/2 onion, diced
* 1 large clove garlic, minced
* 1/2 sweet red pepper, finely diced or 1/4 cup pimentos

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. In a saucepan, add the coconut milk, the ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, sugar, scallions, red pepper flakes, sumac (or lemon zest), cheese rind. Simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Strain and reserve to cool.
3. Wipe out the stockpot and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Saute onions, garlic and red pepper. When vegetables are tender, add the crushed tomatoes and all but 1/4 cup reserved sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Add the lobster meat and the peas. Strain the pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add the pasta water, toss till everything is hot and put in a serving bowl.
Top with the grilled shrimp and spoon the remaining 1/4 cup sauce over shrimp.

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July 12, 2013

Homemade Stock 101

This year, because of all the warm water, the lobster population is through the roof. Here in my little world, we can even get them for $5.88 a pound. I bought two and had them steamed.

I can get three meals out of two little one pound crustaceans and at that price, it's a bargain.
I took all the meat out of the shells and that will be dish #1.
I roasted the shells and then covered them in water and slow cooked them for 10 hours. The best lobster stock, with minimal work.
Dish #2 and #3.

Not many people make their own stocks and as easy as they are, I am not sure why not.
Whether you want poultry, meat or seafood, the basic ingredients are always the same. It's the herbs and spices that change the game.

I am going to give you the basic base for all stock.  You could add tarragon to the seafood stock and sage for the poultry stock. I would not herb the basic beef stock but some cognac would go well.
You will need a slow cooker or a Dutch oven and a few hours of unattended time.

Homemade Stock
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10-12 hours
Yield: 1 1/2 quarts (can be multiplied)

* 2 pounds bones (beef, lamb,) or shells from 2 lobsters or 2 pounds shrimp shells
* 1 large onion
* 1 large carrot
* 1 celery stalk
* 2 large cloves of garlic
* 2 bay leaves
* 8-10 whole peppercorns
* bunch of parsley, stems and leaves
* handful of thyme stems
* 1 tablespoon tomato paste
* 1 cup white wine
* 2 quarts water
* olive oil
* salt

Make sure the chest cavity of the lobsters is cleaned out. Crack it in half and it will pop right out, promise.
Use a processor to mince the onion, carrot, celery and garlic.

Now let's get stocking!!

Directions (updated):

Meat stocks: 
1. Roast bones sprinkled with olive oil for 1 hour in a 400° oven. Remove to a bowl to cool.
2. In a heavy bottomed stock pot, saute vegetables in olive oil until softened. Once the vegetables are soft add the tomato paste, the bay leaves and herbs. Saute until the tomato paste starts to brown and add white wine (to deglaze), the whole peppercorns and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the bones to the vegetable mixture and add the 2 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer. With cover slightly ajar, simmer for 3-4 hours.
For slow cooker: Add mixture to the insert of the slow cooker, cover with the 2 quarts of water and set to LOW for 8-10 hours. Strain the solids from the liquid and taste for salt.

Seafood stocks:
1. Roast shells sprinkled with olive oil for 1 hour in a 400° oven. Remove to a blender and add 1 quart of the water. Puree until the shells are pulverized. Reserve.
2. Strain blender mix through a sieve into the slow cooker or Dutch oven. Add remaining 1 quart water.
3. In a heavy bottomed stock pot, saute vegetables in olive oil until softened. Once the vegetables are soft add the tomato paste, the bay leaves and herbs. Saute until the tomato paste starts to brown and add white wine (to deglaze), the whole peppercorns and simmer for 2-3 minutes.4. Add the pureed shells to the vegetable mixture and add the remaining 1 quart water. Bring to a simmer. With cover slightly ajar, simmer for 2 hours. (Shells release their flavor in half the time of meat bones).
For slow cooker: Add mixture + 1 quart water to the insert of the slow cooker, set to LOW for 8-10 hours. Strain the solids from the liquid and taste for salt.

You may need to simmer your stock, uncovered, to evaporate some of the water to intensify the flavor.
You are now ready to make a soup or bisque, pasta sauces, gravies, and risotto.

Cooks hint: I save the ends of all my vegetables in a bin in the freezer for when I am planning on making a stock. When you accumulate 4 cups of odds and ends you have enough to make your own vegetable stock. Substitute the bones or shells for the vegetables and just add what is not in your bin (peppercorns, tomato paste, bay leaves and white wine.

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July 10, 2013

Chocolate Humpty "Dump"ty Cake

I just love this blogging thingy I do, not because I have virtually eliminated paper recipes and my little note card recipe box (which we all had at one time or another), but when I need inspiration for a dessert that uses no butter or eggs, I can find hundreds of ideas with the click of my mouse.

I did not make this cake for dietary reasons, I really had no eggs or butter in my fridge. 

I dropped the last two eggs and our shopping trip was not for two more days. There goes my chance to bake while it's still cool and I had my heart set on making this as a surprise for The Nudge.
I would try to get creative, but me & baking do not equal success.

I remember reading about a dump cake which is just a boxed cake mix, dumped into a baking pan with a can of pop poured over? I probably would have tried it, but there is no boxed cake mix or soda in this house so I went to Google and typed in "no egg cake" and this recipe popped up, many many times, each with a different flavor and some with unique techniques (but I will not embarrass those bloggers, whatever works for you).
At first read, I must say, I was skeptical at all the boasting about how wonderful the crumb of this "dump" cake was but, it was a dump cake after all. Is it worthy of my guy? Best yet, will he like it? Hubby is as plain as it gets and chocolate cake without the trimmings is all about the plain. By all indications, this had his name written all over it, but me? I can always make a trifle out of it.

I grabbed all the ingredients and preceded to dump them into a bowl. This was easy as promised, 9 ingredients all mixed together in one bowl. No mixer, no creaming, no alternating of wet/dry, this was my kind of cake. Only problem was..... where the hell did I put all my Pyrex baking pans?!

One of these days I will reach for something and it will be right there. All I could find was a 9x13 baking pan. Much more pan that the recipe called for and if I had thought about it, I would just have doubled the recipe.
Trouble....I got trouble....hmmmmm. I sprayed the pan and there was no going back.

I am not enamored with the name. If i was skeptical, others would also be, so instead of what could be perceived as a, "what do you expect from a cake that has dump in the title", to a whimsical name that befits a magical creation.
I will call it a Humpty Dumpty Cake.

Did I make you smile?
This cake....did.

Chocolate Humpty Dumpty Cake
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
Yield: One sheet cake

* 1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose)
* 3 tablespoons cocoa (unsweetened)
* 1 Cup white sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon white vinegar
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare your baking pan (Pam, butter & flour)
Put ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to mix. It's OK if there are small lumps, they will work out as it bakes.
9" square pan: bake for 35 minutes.
9x13" baking pan: bake for 15 minutes.
Check with toothpick to make sure it comes out clean.
Cool and top with your favorite frosting or do what I did. Cut the cake in half and fill with your favorite jam. I had lemon curd, so I used that.

Review: I have never heard The Nudge discuss the many different variations of filling I could use in the next cake I am going to bake. Imagine that. If you have an avid cake lover and are baking challenged, this cake will make you look like a rock star, it was that good. For my next selection, I have chosen an orange marmalade filling.
This cake required no refrigeration due to the lack of ingredients that do, so it is perfect to bring to an outdoor venue where there will be no way to keep it cool. It remained true to form for one week on my kitchen table (covered of course).
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July 8, 2013

Homemade Chive and Shallot Boursin - Join Me For Happy Hour?

I work at home.

People get the wrong impression of the self-employed. It is harder to work at home.
I would prefer to work in someone else's building.
I do get up and dress for work every day, I just have a one minute commute.

I am what people call, tunnel visioned. I can get so wrapped up in a project that when I finally look at the clock, my day is over. People like us love jigsaw puzzles for that reason. I need to force myself to stop and walk away.

At 4:00 I clean and put away my brushes.
I also grab a package of cheese and crackers, pour myself a glass of wine and start dinner.
As Jacques always says, "dinner tastes better with wine".

My private Happy Hour. It is essential to define work and home. It is also essential to find a cheese you love and eat too much of it, on a daily basis. Only kidding peeps but not far off.
I was spending way too much $$$ on my cheese addiction. Happy Hour is supposed to be half-off everything, right?

Since my cheese drug of choice just happens to be Boursin's Shallot & Chive Cheese, and I have seen recipes for a copycat version, dipping my fromagerie foot into the cheese dip arena would go a long way to that Happy Half-off prize.

Emeril's recipe sounded like what I was looking for, so two bricks of cream cheese, a stick of butter and a few aromatics later, I had 8 servings of what tasted even better than the original. A single container of Boursin netted only two servings.
The difference? $5.00 for two vs. $5.00 for eight. Dere is gold in dem dere bills.

I purchased foil cupcake liners at Wally World, zip bag piped the mixture into 8 of them which were placed in a muffin tin for support. Refrigerate after wrapping in plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours, pop them out and into a large gallon zip bag to freeze. After eating one, I grab one from the freezer to defrost in the fridge. I am so crafty at times.

Chive, Shallot and Garlic Cheese
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: non
Yield: 8 filled foil muffin liners

* 2 tablespoons garlic powder
* 1 tablespoon onion powder
* 1 shallot, minced
* 1 tablespoon freeze-dried chives
* 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, soften
* 1 cup butter, soften
* 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
* Salt to taste
* Freshly ground black pepper

Mix ingredients in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer. Fill a quart-sized zip bag with the mixture, cut a corner 1/2" in and starting in the middle of each muffin liner, squeeze until the mixture comes up to the top.
Repeat with each liner. Place a piece of plastic wrap in top of the muffin tin and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Remove, individually wrap in plastic and store in a gallon zip bag, in the freezer until ready to serve.

Note: My next batch will include goat in place of the butter. I like the crumble of the goat.

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July 6, 2013

My New Favorite Kitchen Gadget

I hope everyone had a great Fourth!

I am not sure why I don't integrate good ideas in my life, even when I know they will make my life more organized or save me money.

With all this perpetual oppressive weather here in the northeast, buying a package of meat and making it home before it spoils is almost impossible. Should I dare mention ice cream? As nice as those freezer bags you can buy, try to help, they only work if you hightail your little butt home as soon as you complete the purchase, while trying to come up with a good story for when Mr. Trooper pulls you over.

Being a house of coolers (we have three, all different sizes), we always have one full of ice while we live outside in the summer.
On a typical Saturday we will shop at or visit:
Dry Cleaners
Pet Store
Post Office
Liquor Store
BJ's Warehouse
Farmer's Market
and finally......
Quik Check

My job is to plan our day, based on what I am buying, and it requires a degree in common sense. When The Nudge hits the ignition, the first thing he says is "OK, what's first?"

Used to be meat vs. frozen, pick one and make a second trip later in the week (not so efficient, huh?).
That was until I spotted this $3.00 life saver. Yes, a BIG duh moment!

Weighing almost nothing, I can fill it and still haul it up the stairs into my kitchen, it fits behind the passenger seat (out of the sun if you park correctly) and keeps one bag of ice, still frozen, overnight. Enough time for me to process (rubs, marinades, portion for freezing, etc) my perishables and when you have bought 2 weeks worth of meat at the butcher, seafood at the market and freezer items, it makes my Saturday less stressful and easier to buy what I want, not what I can't.

The Nudge said it's the best idea I have had in a long time. He got an extra scoop of ice cream for that.

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July 5, 2013

Ultimate Enchiladas

I admit, unless The Nudge mentions chicken enchiladas, I would never make them. I am a Chile's Rellenos person myself and it's much more economical to go out to eat at this little, very authentic Mexican Cantina in town, then go to all the trouble to make both.

This time around, I surprised myself by not waiting for The Nudge to give a hint, I was the one that was craving enchiladas. Plus, I never used corn tortillas (yes, it's true) and I found a healthier and foolproof way to soften them.

I am sure there are as many types of enchiladas as there are avocados, but I like the Tex-Mex kind.
Not wanting more leftovers, I used pretty much every container of leftovers of ingredients you would see on a Tex-Mex Enchilada Platter, inside these tortillas.
All wrapped up in pretty little corn packages.

I had a 1/4 pound of ground meat, chicken harvested from a Beer Can Chicken last weekend, small containers (about 1/4 cup) of corn, black beans, green chilies, one jalapeno, a quarter of a red pepper, a container of homemade enchilada sauce in the freezer and a can of Mexican Crema. The only things I had to buy was corn tortillas, Jack cheese and salsa Verde.
After I made the filling I realized I would have more than enough for 10 enchiladas so I made a package for my neighbor and shipped it over.
So, what else could you roll a tortilla around?
If I had rice that would be in there, I have seen zucchini hidden in them, bitter greens, pork chops, a mix of cheeses, chopped up seafood and ham & eggs (oh, yes).

What I like the most about enchiladas is, you can let everyone customize them by setting out condiments. Spicy salsa, avocado, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, chipotle sauce, slices of lime and shredded lettuce.

What ever you tuck into those corn tortillas, will be tasty and healthy, as long as you use low fat cheese and lite sour cream (or yogurt), so enjoy your dinner and clean refrigerator.

Psssssst......This is an excellent dish to make right after a holiday like yesterday. Leftover burgers? Throw them in there. Corn on the cob still on the cob? Throw it in there......
Woo Hoo!!

Ultimate Enchiladas
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 10 enchiladas

* 1 can enchilada sauce or 1 1/2 cups homemade
* 10 corn tortillas
* 1/4 pound cooked ground meat
* 4oz cooked chicken meat
* 1/4 cup corn
* 1/4 cup black beans
* 1 can chopped green chilies
* 1 jalapeno, chopped
* 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
* 1 tablespoon Taco seasoning
* Canola oil

* 6 oz Lite Pepper Jack cheese, grated
* 1 cup salsa Verde mixed with 1/4 cup Mexican crema or lite sour cream

1. Mix meat, corn, beans, green chilies, jalapeno, red pepper. Taco seasoning, salt & pepper and 2 spoonfuls of enchilada sauce.
2. Heat a cast iron pan with 2 teaspoons canola oil until hot and smoking.
2. Add one corn tortilla and fry for 2-3 seconds. Lift up with a spatula and place another tortilla under the fried one and cook for 2-3 seconds, lifting up the stack and placing another underneath. Repeat with 5 tortillas and place them on a paper towel lined platter and cover with an inverted paper plate.
3.Using the inverted paper plate as your work surface, place small handful of grated cheese in the center of the tortilla, a generous scoop of filling, and roll, starting at the bottom.
4. Cover the bottom of a baking pan with a ladle of enchilada sauce, and place each rolled tortilla, seam side down in the pan. Repeat until the pan is full.
5. Top with Creamed Salsa Verde and grated Jack cheese.
6. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes and then under the broiler for 3 minutes to brown the cheese.

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July 4, 2013

Oh Say Can You See......

While the actual flag is on display in Washington DC (and we got a chance to see it), I thought it only fitting to display the spot where it waved when Sir Francis Scott Key wrote those iconic words way back during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1812.

Enjoy your day!!!

July 3, 2013

Mini Dutch Peach Crumb Pie

It is no secret that I do not bake cakes, pies or tarts. Adore them? Oh, my yes! Tarts being my hands down favorite. When the weather is this humid and the fridge is packed to the gilders, there is no room to store a full sized tart, so last weekend, when The Nudge spotted white peaches at Whole Foods, an idea to make a white peach tart immediately came to mind. Not a full one, but mini tarts. Totally obsessed with all things baked in jars, I went in search of Ball jam jars I thought I owned but what I had were jelly jars, not the right ones.

That was OK, I had mini springform pans somewhere. Turns out I was wrong. I am beginning to regret organizing my kitchen last month.
This search turned up nada.... sigh......

Not one to give up, I knew where my one cup ramekins were, and they would just have to do. Certainly not tart-like, some adjustments would have to be made. This is where bad things always happen to me.

Experienced bakers out there could make these adjustments as easily and as efficient as an experienced cook could break down a whole chicken.

For me, it required careful mathematical calculations and three separate recipes off the web.

One thing I knew for sure, was that I wanted a French Apple Pie crumb topping. The rest was up for consideration.


While writing this post I was reminded that there is also a Dutch Apple Crumb Pie out there.
I told you trouble always finds me.

What I found out was that we are so totally wrong in our interpretation of a French vs Dutch Apple Pie.
A French Apple Pie is a Tart Tartine, where the filling is baked in a skillet with the crust on top, flipped out and topped with creme fraiche.
A Dutch Apple Pie is a pie with the crust on the bottom and then topped with a crumb topping.

Got it? Good!

So what I really have, is a Dutch Peach Crumb Pie. 
Phew, glad that is settled.

So, to recap...what I eventually chose was a shortbread crust (for ease in such a tight container), a simple chopped fruit and sugar maceration for the filling and finally a topping, which teetered for a minute to include oats as in Ina's iconic fruit crisps.

A Dutch Apple Pie topping, sans the oats, it would be and it just so happened that this site, had just posted her version of Apple Pies in a Jar with the exact topping. BINGO!

Two peaches would fill three ramekins, so out came my scale and up went the Kitchen-Aide. Oh, math, how I hate you so. Fortunately I live with a human calculator.

So far, too easy. I preceded with extreme caution.

Being all about the simple, I did not want to buy a premade pie crust (and I was not going to make one for just three portions). The Nudge loves shortbread cookies and I love the press-in part, yup I was on it like a cat to milk. I was done. I had my recipes and adjustments in hand.
Wish me luck?  LOL

As you can see from the pic, it looked great and it smelled better but the proof was in the pudding.

I was worried the shortbread would be soggy from the peach juice and sugar maceration but it was true to form. Crunchy, solid and buttery. 1st test = Excellent
The filling was thoroughly cooked but not mushy and had just the right amount of sweetness. You could taste the peach. 2nd test = Wonderful
The crumb topping was crumby but not crumbling, sweet and perfect. Next time there will be less of it for such a small portion. Easy to overdo. 3rd and final test = GONE

I know this will not be the last time making an appearance on my dessert cart this summer, since three portions is perfectly perfect for empty nesters, now that I have all the measurements figured out.

The best thing about these pies is you need only a processor or stand mixer, and no need to even clean the bowl after the crust or topping since both use the same ingredients.

Next time I hit Wally World, I will be sure to pick up a case of small jam jars.

Now that's a favor that only requires The Nudge's brawn, not his brain.

Mini Dutch Peach Crumb Pies
From the minuscule kitchen of Wish Upon A Dish, with inspiration from Glorious Treats

Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 50 minutes
Yield: 4 (3/4 cup) ramekins 

* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 3/4 cup AP flour
* 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

* 2 large white peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/2 tablespoon flour
* 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

* 1/3 cup flour
* 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°
Mix crust in a processor or stand mixer. Divide into 4 portions and use a floured measuring cup to press it into place. Repeat for each ramekin.
Mix the filling in a bowl and let it macerate while the oven heats. Divide evenly into each ramekin.
Use the same mixer to make the topping. Pulse until it starts to come together. Divide into 4 portions and spoon on top of the fruit mixture.
Place a silicon pad, piece of parchment paper or foil on a sheet pan to stop the drippings.
Bake for 50 minutes. Remove and rest. Mixture will settle. Can be refrigerated and brought back to room temperature before serving.

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July 2, 2013

Basic Ultimate Sunday Gravy 101

I like Saturday nights the best in the summer. I get the The Nudge for the whole day, we plan a nice meal after all the yard and house projects are completed and sit and talk late into the evening. Our conversation always seems to gravitate into past meals we shared around the dinner table as kids. My mom was an excellent cook and liked to try new foods and The Nudge had a Mom who was a great short order cook so there is lots to tell.

I still make a handful of dishes today, the same way I was taught more than 40 years ago. There are, also, dishes I have made hundreds of times since then that have never been cooked the same way twice. The biggest culprit was the Sunday gravy. Not once since then has it been made the same exact way, until last week when The Nudge yelled up from the basement.....
"Did you know you still have a case of tomatoes down here, and a case in the trunk of your car?"

Oops :o(

Time to make a batch in my slow cooker. It holds enough to fill 1 quart-sized Ball jar and 2 pint jars. They get processed (I just love when I hear that pop as the jars seal themselves) in a water bath and that will be enough to get us through the summer. It was then that I had a realization of needing to pin down one recipe.

Yes, there are a few posts for tomato gravy, but this is the one that will be a great base to any other sauce you want to serve. This is the one that you would have been taught if I was your Mom or Nonna, and I was passing on the family tradition of the Ultimate Sunday Gravy.

Tomato sauce is a great, healthy and diabetic way to add tons of great flavor to many low and no carb meals.You don't always have to have a pasta with tomato sauce. Chicken cacciatore, brasciole, meatballs to name a few and pretty much any seafood you like (anyone for roasted mussels?).

Next time you pass the massive section of jarred tomato sauce, pick one up and read the label. Bet you that they all contain some form of sugar and tons of salt. The expensive boutique sauces might appear to be better but not totally, and at over $5.00 a (approx. 20oz) jar, is just not worth it.
Since those days of cooking with my mom, I have never bought a jar of sauce, pinkie swear! If you do not have time to make a 20 minute marinara sauce, do what I do. Make a large batch and store it in your pantry.

I can make 2 quarts (64oz) of sauce for a little over $5.00 with no sugar or salt. Savings of $10.00!! Once my mom started teaching me to cook, she rarely ever made another Italian dish. That was relegated to me. See, my sauce was better than hers. Sorry Mom.

While Mom taught me the basics, Julia taught me about technique (or what the French like to call their WAY and THE only way to cook). Sorry Julia, but I will give you a bye 'cause your not French.

This is the very basic of a basic meat flavored sauce, there is no meat in it, so you can add cooked ground meat or turkey, roasted garlic, vodka, peppers (hot or sweet), mushrooms, basil or a mix of fresh herbs. Any way your family will like it, it's doable. My Dad adds cooked chicken legs. Recipe can be successfully multiplied.

Note: I do not have a built-in timer on my slow cooker so I bought a $3.00 manual timer. I set it for on at 10PM and shut off at 6AM. When I got up, the sauce had cooled off enough for me to strain out the bones and pick out the bay leaves.

Sunday Gravy
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes + 8 hours
Yield: 64 ounces

Slow cooker
Food processor
Food mill or potato ricer

* 3 (28oz) cans of Roma tomatoes in juice (not puree or sauce)
* 1 small can roasted garlic tomato paste
* 2 large sweet onions, large chop
* 1 large carrot, peeled & chopped
* 4 large cloves garlic
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 1 pound beef marrow bones
* 1 pound pork bones
* 4 small bay leaves
* 2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning (ie; McCormack, Pensy's, Simply Organic, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350°.
1. Place the bones on a large sheet pan and drizzle with vegetable oil. Bake for 45 minutes.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed stockpot while processing the vegetables.
3. Saute the vegetables until the bottom of the pan starts to brown and they soften.
4. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook until the bottom is very brown, scrapping up the bits with a wooden spoon.
5. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and let it simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated.
6. Add the Roma tomatoes to the slow cooker, spoon in the stockpot mixture, add the bones, and the seasonings. Use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes open, set the thermostat to low, the timer for 8 hours and walk away.
7. Remove the bones and the bay leaves and strain the sauce in a large colander into a large bowl underneath. Spoon the tomatoes and vegetables into the food mill (small hole disk) or ricer (large hole disk) and work them through leaving the seeds and skins behind.
Note: If you do not have either piece of equipment, just work it through a large (not a fine) holed sieve, discarding the solids. Repeat till all the sauce has be processed.
8. Refrigerate for up to two weeks, freeze for up to 6 months or process in a water bath for up to 1 year.