Wish Upon A Dish: 2014

December 31, 2014

The Mid-Mall ♥ Washington Monument - WWII Memorial

I bought an old Kodak digital "Instamatic camera" off a clearance shelf, buried under all the opened/retaped boxes of who knows what crap, for $20.00.
Why would I do that when I just bought a brand new Nikon with all the bells and whistles?
To tuck into what I call my "tourist bag" which is a slightly larger, over the shoulder, nicer looking fanny pack.
It takes surprisingly good pictures and has become my GO TO where ever we GO GO.
So now I travel with an android phone, an iPad mini, a camera and my laptop.
No, the laptop stays in the room but I do carry the other three. Oh, and two eyeglass cases, a bottle of water and various other sundries required for a full day of sight-seeing.

Anyways, back to the camera. While the pictures are pretty darn good, it can not go everywhere. So I give up getting all the details of our day to day excursions. Mostly the food (which has been pretty good to OK so far).

Our first full Mall day started out with the Smithsonian Metro stop. This castle last year was covered with scaffolding, as was the Washington Monument, so that was No.1 on our list.

For those of us interested in the Smithsonian story, this is a good place to start.
Seems a wealthy British chap was so enamored with our fight for independence and the building of our capital city, he bequeathed quite a substantial amount of money to the United States with instructions it be used to build museums, all dedicated to the history of our land and country.
Last year we did about 95% of the museums so we wanted to wrap up the last of that list, this year, or so we thought.
We have to come back for the last chapter as soon as the last two museums are completed.

If you wish to actually go to the top of the Washington Monument, you should think about buying your tickets on-line because it was closed after the earthquake and now everyone wants to visit, so advanced ticket purchases are a MUST and call weeks in advance. Each day they only allot 300 tickets for walk-ins and they open at 8am. I would highly recommend spending the $3.50 to call and reserve them so that you can go anytime on that day.

We took a walk down the Mall to try to get lucky but we were not. Our only chance will be to get up at dawn to hopefully get two of those 300 tickets or wait till next visit.

Looking back from the Washington Monument is the Capital covered with scaffolding. Seems each time we are here there is scaffolding all around. Most monies allocated for restoration work are usually from wealthy endowments given by those family names we all know (Rockefeller, Gates, Carnegie,etc) but I have seen expansion everywhere. Thruways have added additional lanes and full blocks have been torn down and apartment housing created. Something is going on and it will be interesting to see this town in the next few years.

The Capital building is the beginning of the National Mall, the Washington Monument the middle, and right next door is the new WWII memorial.
We were there last year but The Nudge wanted to spend more time there, and no tickets to the Washington Monument made it possible to do just that.

If you have one trip to make, do the Mall. The rest can wait till another time.

Moving on down the Mall, is the entrance to the WWII Memorial.
In the warmer months there are fountains everywhere and it really is a peaceful place for contemplation and remembrance of those family members who served in what was called The War to End All Wars or The Greatest War. I am still not sure why it took an actor to get it done, but I am so happy it did.

I would say that this is the best of the best.

The whole memorial is a circle, symbolizing the world and broken into the Pacific and Atlantic campaigns. Each semi-circle starts and end with a large stone column with quotes engraved pertaining to each campaign. For better information and history of all the Monuments and Memorials, I found this site to be an excellent source.

While most of these photos were taken with that Kodak digital camera, I have found that my mini iPad produced better versions were there were shadows, so you will notice different colors in the marble.

Finally there is the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial. this year I am assuming that the amount of tourists tripled from last year at this time is due to the low cost of gas, allowing people to load up the car and drive in. The amount of small children was staggering, even knowing that they will not remember anything they have seen.

On the North side of the Mall, is the Ellipse, where the National Tree and Menorah are displayed, and of course the White House.
I would highly recommend doing the Monuments and Memorials by Night tour, everything is lit and spectacular at night.

This was our National Mall crawl for 2014. By the end of our visit we will have crossed off everything there is to see and explore in DC - DONE!!

I have plenty of pictures and as soon as I get home I will finish with the American Indian, Botanical Garden and a side trip to Manassas (the first battle site of the Civil War).

Happy New Year everyone, we are on our way home to ring in the bell.
See you in 2015!!!!

December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas Dinner in DC

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We are finally in Washington, DC. Took us about 4.5 hours. There were a few accidents on I95. People have to remember that most drivers on the road during the holidays do not usually drive on Thruways, only in their small neighborhood.
You need to tame that aggressive side and have patience.

We had just enough time to change our clothes and walk to the restaurant, which was three blocks away off of M Street.

This year we picked a Hilton near Dupont Circle, planning on walking to most of the bars, pubs and restaurants. The District was empty, we actually had most of the streets all to ourselves.
This was the neighborhood right outside Teddy and the Bully Bar.

For some reason The Nudge thought this would be a pub decorated in the style reminiscent of Teddy Roosevelt's study.
He was so wrong!

While most of the houses in this area were row houses built around the turn of the 19th century, there are whole streets right around the corner with huge modern office complexes so there really is no flow. It is totally street by street, building to building.
If you look to the end of the pic above you can see one such building and up the street from these homes was another steel office building.

When we rounded the corner up 19th street I have to say we were totally surprised by the modern look of the place, and slightly disappointed. I would have much preferred a turn of the century building to this.
Pardon the bad picks, I only took my iPad to dinner. I do not do flash while people are eating.

The food was basic American fare, nothing fancy and while the place was open since 1 PM, there was constant movement at the tables.
Most restaurants in DC at Christmas do a fixed menu, so we knew the main meat selection was buffet (a large carving station) at Teddy's.

We could choose one starter and one dessert. The vegetables and sides were also buffet but nothing we couldn't get at a casino buffet.
Brussels sprouts, creamed spinach, broccoli, mac n cheese, yams and stuffing.
I loved the cranberry compote so that was what I ate with my Virginia ham. I do believe it had raspberries in it instead of the usual orange.
I probably should have eaten the Salmon but I have had nothing but bad experience's when ordered in a NON seafood restaurant.

While nothing to get excited about, if you should crave a very nice carving buffet while in DC, you should try Teddy and the Bully Bear. The service was exceptional and you can eat all you want.

First night down.
Today we head down to the mall to see if we can nab a ticket to the newly opened Washington Monument. Seems the pre-ordered tickets are not available until after Jan 3rd.
I will keep my fingers crossed for The Nudge. He was so looking forward to that.
Good thing the Smithsonian Castle is nearby.

December 16, 2014

Cranberry Pear Crostata ♥ A successful dessert from a not-so-successful baker

Coupons make me do strange things.
Somehow I know someone else also understands that.

You see, I had a coupon for Ocean Spray cranberries. A tradition in this house that I make a dessert as soon as fresh cranberries appear or I miss them till next year. Armed with that coupon and one for Pillsbury pie crusts, I was on my way to the store for my annual cranberry harvest.

For some bizarre reason, my local supermarket decided to buy a generic brand and the bags they finally got in (two days before Thanksgiving mind you), had crinkled, split or mushy cranberries.
I was terribly disappointed that this would be the first year without a fresh cranberry dessert. It wasn't so much that I disliked frozen cranberries but I can never find them when I want them. Each year I buy enough to freeze 3-8oz bags then I have them all year.

Last week I was in my big box warehouse store and right next to the bags of Brussels sprouts, I noticed a few bags of cranberries, oh yes, but not just any cranberries, Ocean Spray cranberries. Forget the coupon, all I could think about was my dessert. You would think I found truffle oil on sale.
I have never baked a crostata before and I had just enough ingredients. It only required pears, cranberries, almonds, a few spices, and of course, sugar (but just a touch).
It was kismet (or maybe Christmas magic), I never get lucky.

I know prettier pies are out there but I posted mine because I wanted you to know that if a non dessert maker can do this, anyone could and it was the easiest thing I have ever made. No measuring required, you want it sweeter, add more sugar, more cinnamon? sprinkle more in. I used the spices that I thought I would like with pears. No pears? then use apples. It's all good and in 40 minutes it's on the table, cooling.

I don't even peel the fruit. All the fiber and nutrients are in the skins, leave them on.
I baked mine in a deep dish pie plate to catch all the juices and to keep it from flattening out. It worked wonderfully. A Pyrex pie plate would also work great.

Foolproof, I only wished I had uninvited guests popping in.
"But of course, I always whip out a dessert like this."

Let's get baking .......

Pear & Cranberry Crostata
makes one pie

*  3 Bosc pears, seeded and stemmed, cut into 1" chunks
* 1/2 cup cranberries
* 1/4 cup sliced almonds
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1/4 cup granulated sugar
* 1 pie crust
* egg wash (beaten egg)
* handful of Demerara (or sanding) sugar, optional
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
* pinch of salt

Spray a pie plate and preheat the oven to 425°.
Place the pie crust into the pie plate.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the first 7 ingredients and then mix in the cornstarch and salt.
Spoon the mixture into the pie crust and turn the edges back over the mixture, creasing every 2-inches and gently pressing down to adhere.
Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sanding sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the juices bubble and the crust browns.
Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

Serve with Yogurt Ice Cream or whipped topping.

December 11, 2014

Beef Osso Bucco with Milanese Barley Risotto ♥ A day in the life......

The boss is somewhere around Picadilly Circus trying to get used to sitting on the right passenger side of his ride. My morning was all about negotiating the traffic around Laguardia Airport. I think we were both out of our element.

A cold, damp day that can't quite decide if it wants to rain, hail or snow so it's doing all three.
I spent the rest of my late afternoon chasing away two deer trying to hog in on our resident squirrel's private stash of pumpkins.

Every year we buy four pumpkins (one for each step)  and once Thanksgiving is over, the gorging starts and the whole pumpkin feeds our buddy right up till Christmas. I always feel good when the ground freezes and they have food. Once the deer discover them, they will be gone in one day.

About a month ago I spotted beef shanks and grabbed the last two. I often buy something hard to find knowing I have no idea what I would make with them. A great reason to have a free standing freezer.

The other day I was searching for new hot spot eatery in DC and stumbled on an Osso Buco made with beef instead of veal. Yes, Serious Eats also does recipes.
The perfect foul weather dinner, oven or slow cooker + minimal work = yum.
Osso Buco is often served on top of a decadent Risotto Milanese but rice is no longer welcome in my house so instead of a rice risotto, I made a Barley Risotto (regular with saffron in the stock).
The recipe calls for using a slow cooker, but I used my Dutch Oven placed on a back burner for 3 hours.

If you have never eaten Osso Bucco, you really should make this version. Veal shanks can be expensive, not to mention almost impossible to find unless you have a butcher. This beef version (veal is baby beef) is just as good. Trust me on this. I have eaten Osso Buco in Lidia's Becco and this is right up there.

Good news, The Nudge doesn't like slow braised meals, so the timing was perfect.

Slow Cooked Beef Shank Osso Buco
serves 4

For the Shanks:
* 4 cross-cut, bone-in beef shanks (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
* 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
* 2 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup) * 1 stalk celery, diced (about 3/4 cup)
* 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 4 teaspoons)
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
* 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* 4 sprigs thyme
* 2 bay leaves
* Pinch ground cloves

For the Gremolata:
* 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon grated zest from 1 or 2 lemons
* 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

For the Shanks: Pat shanks dry using a paper towel. Place 1 cup flour on a plate. Season beef with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add meat and cook without moving until well browned on first side, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on second side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Add onion, carrots, and celery to the Dutch oven, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin have softened, about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic. Stir and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon.

Transfer the contents to a slow cooker and add stock, vinegar, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, and ground clove. Season with salt and pepper and cook on low until meat is tender, about 6 hours.

Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Skim fat from the sauce and transfer 1/2 cup of gravy to a medium saucepan. Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour into the reserved gravy until no lumps remain. Add the rest of the sauce to the saucepan. Whisking frequently, bring the sauce to a rolling boil over high heat and cook until the sauce achieves a gravy-like consistency, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Gremolata: Meanwhile, combine parsley, lemon zest, and garlic in a small bowl.

Arrange shanks on a spoonful of risotto on a plate and spoon sauce on top. Garnish with gremolata and serve.

December 8, 2014

Healthy Baked Ziti with Squash & Sausage ♥ Good enough for my Dad

My SIL sent me (by way of my other SIL) a beauty of a butternut squash. Instead of my carrot tart contribution to the T-day table, I thought I would use her squash (sort of like drinking the wine a guest brings, only better).

After filling a 10" tart shell I still had quite a bit of roasted flesh and when I saw this recipe at the Nestle's Very Best Baking site, I pulled out all the ingredients (this is one reason to have a really great stocked pantry) and made this for dinner. I also made enough to bring a baked version down to my Dad's. We need to pump him up so he gains weight and this looked very pumpy.

While I am not a fan of fat-free dairy, he is allowed to eat 2% dairy so I used reduced fat ingredients and whole wheat pasta for much needed fiber.

The original recipe called for canned pumpkin (which I could have used) and while pumpkin has good nutritional value, I know that butternut squash is slightly ahead in Vitamin C and potassium.

Baked Ziti with Squash & Sausage
makes 12 servings
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 cups (12 oz.) dry regular or whole-wheat ziti
  • 15 oz. squash, roasted and mashed
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Fat Free milk
  • 12 oz. (4 links) Italian-seasoned chicken or pork sausage, casings removed
  • 1 pkg. (6 oz.) or about 4 cups pre-washed baby spinach or chopped Swiss chard
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded part-skim or 2% milk reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese


PREHEAT oven to 425º F. Spray 4-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

PREPARE pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and set aside for later use. Drain pasta; return to cooking pot.

MEANWHILE, COMBINE sausage meat, squash, garlic powder, salt, nutmeg and cayenne pepper in medium skillet over medium heat. Slowly stir in flour and add evaporated milk, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken slightly. Pour over pasta in pot. Add reserved pasta cooking water; stir well.

SPREAD half of the pasta mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with spinach. Cover with remaining pasta mixture. Lightly spray piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray. Cover ziti with foil, greased side down.

BAKE for 20 minutes or until heated through. Combine mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in small bowl. Remove foil; sprinkle with cheese mixture. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
My dad is going to love this and once cooled, I sliced the casserole into 4x4-inch squares, wrapped each in plastic wrap & foil and placed them all in a large gallon bag (labeled of course).
TO EAT: All one needs to do is to defrost and heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes, nuke for 4 minutes or if still frozen, place wrapped squares on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350°.
I will include the reheating directions (also wrapped in plastic wrap) inside the freezer bag.

December 5, 2014

Pear, Pomegranate and Walnut Salad ♥ 'Tis the Season

You can't beat a Summer farm grown garden salad, but my favorite salads are made with Fall ingredients. As much as I like to think I am adventurous in the kitchen, the only pomegranate that ever graced the shelves in my fridge was in the form of a bottle for summer sangria or to add tang to a boring Vodka and Tonic.

Last year, after watching countless food show hosts extol the virtues and the ease of rendering the seeds from a labyrinth of what can only be described as Mother Natures packing material. I can only think that pomegranates were the initial inspiration for the ultimate design of shipping peanuts.

Why go through all the trouble to extract those seeds? Well, besides the fact that their nutrition has put them in the category of Super Foods, every pomegranate is composed of exactly 840 seeds, each surrounded by a sac of sweet-tart juice contained by a thin skin. Moderate in calories; 100 g provides 83 calories, slightly more than that in apples. It contains no cholesterol or saturated fats.

A good source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, providing about 4 g per 100 g (about 12% of RDA), which aid in smooth digestion and is suggested by nutritionists for a diet of weight reduction and cholesterol control. Regular inclusion of fruits in the diets boosts immunity, improves circulation, and offers protection from cancers.

If you prefer not to beat your food, pomegranate juice is widely available and is also good source of antioxidant vitamin-C, provides about 17% per 100 g of daily requirement. Consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents by boosting immunity. Regular consumption of pomegranate has also been found to be effective against diabetes.
Further, it is an also good source of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), folates, pyridoxine and vitamin K, and minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, and manganese.

So, while I like mine in salads, I think they would make a great addition to a sweet ending.

While I know I could wing it when it came to a salad dressing, it never hurts to go to a few pro's for the technicalities, and that meant Williams Sonoma.
After all, they have published more books than Martha on holiday feasts.

Pear, Pomegranate and Walnut Salad
makes enough for 4 salads
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Healthy In a Hurry

* 1/3 cup glazed walnut pieces
* 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 1 teaspoon Dijon
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 8 ounces Boston Bib (butter) lettuce
* 2 ripe pears, such as Bartlett,cored and sliced
* 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
* 1/4 cup goat (or blue) cheese
* Handful of crispy onions

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, honey, mustard, salt and pepper to make a dressing.
Add the lettuce, pears, pomegranate seeds and walnuts to the bowl and toss gently to mix and coat well. Divide the salad amongst four plates or bowls and top each with about 1 tablespoons cheese and a pinch of onions.

December 4, 2014

Candy Corn Gnocchi ♥ Big wow & yum factor

Each year around this time when squash season is in full swing, I think about these gnocchi.
I call them candy corn gnocchi.

Squash, semolina & ricotta. The flavors are subtle but the nutritionals and the wow factor makes for a fun meal. The kids will get a kick out of them and would love to help form them. The younger ones could certainly make ropes (like with Play Doh), the older ones could handle cutting the ropes into sections and the 'tweens could roll them down the back of a fork (or a butter paddle if you make lots)

When I am done with mine, I lay them on floured dish towels to dry and make them easier to handle. From there they can go into a freezer bag or a pot of boiling salted water.

One recipe of dough makes about 150 gnocchi and there is always enough to give away or freeze.
One dozen per person makes about 12 servings. Very substantial and when you spend the time to make these, it is nice to make many.

The freeze wonderfully.I place mine in a aluminum pan, freeze to hard and roll into a zip bag. Cook from a frozen state until they float to the top and then count 1 minute more at a rolling boil.

Basic Candy Corn Gnocchi Dough
makes about 150
* 2 cups of ricotta cheese
* 2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
* 1 cup grated Romano cheese
* 2 cups garbanzo flour
* 3/4 cup all purpose flour
* 1/2 cup roasted or canned squash
* 1/2 cup instant polenta
In large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups ricotta, 1/2 cup Romano with the two eggs.
Divide mixture into 3 smaller bowls.
In first bowl add squash, 1 cup garbanzo flour and 1/4 cup AP flour.
In second bowl, add polenta and 1/4 cup AP flour.
In third bowl add 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup Romano cheese, 1 cup garbanzo flour and 1/4 cup AP flour.

Mix each bowl separately, adding additional AP flour, until they no longer stick to your fingers. Each dough takes different amounts of flour. Remove and form into three balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow them to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Cut each ball into 4 slices and roll each slice into a 3/4" wide roll. Cut each roll into 1" nuggets. Flour lightly and with the back of a fork, roll each one and place on a floured towel to dry.

I made a Hazelnut Goat Cheese Sauce. A light sauce with light flavors. While a tomato sauce would be OK, I really like my gnocchi with a white sauce.

Hazelnut, Goat Cheese and Port Sauce
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1 shallot, minced
* 1/2 cup chicken broth
* 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
* 2 tablespoons cream
* 1/4 cup Port wine
* 5 fresh sage leaves minced
* 1 tablespoon goat cheese

Simmer for 30 minutes. Puree and return to pot and simmer another 30 minutes.
Strain and add another 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts and goat cheese to sauce before serving. Stir to combine. Additional tablespoon of butter is optional.

December 1, 2014

Sweet Potato Cheesecake ♥ Restored from the archives

I love to shop the day after Thanksgiving, but not in all those stores with the Black Friday sales, I head to my supermarket.

This is when I buy the large packages of stuffing mushrooms, boxes of sweet potatoes and all the other items that were part of yesterdays T-day dinner. Most all at a great discount.

I now have a Black Friday tradition. I bake this Sweet Potato Cheesecake and share with all my neighbors. While I love sweet potato pie, I seem to be in the minority around here but this cheesecake is always well received.

I recently was asked to reincarnate this post from the archives.
The original recipe came from Betty Crocker, but I made a few adjustments.

Here it is..............

Sweet Potato Cheesecake
makes (1) 10" cheesecake
* 1 cup ground gingersnap cookies
* 1/4 cup hazelnut flour
* 1/4-1/3 cup sugarless pancake syrup (like Careys)

* 1 cup whole hazelnuts, skins removed, roasted and chopped (divided 1/4 + 3/4 cup)
* 3 medium sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed (about 2 cups)
* 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 4 eggs

Crumb Topping:
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
* 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts (from above)

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Mix crust ingredients in a bowl using just enough syrup to moisten.
2. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until crust just begins to brown around edge. Remove to cool, sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
3. In medium bowl, beat sweet potatoes, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, the nutmeg and vanilla with electric mixer on low speed until blended; set aside. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1 cup sugar on medium speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Beat in sweet potato mixture on low speed about 1 minute or until blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
4. Spoon batter into crust in pan. Place 10" spring form pan in larger pan on oven rack. Pour very hot water into larger pan to one-third the height of spring form pan.
5. Bake cheesecake about 1 hour 30 minutes, adding very hot water to larger pan as needed, until center is set.
6. Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir flour, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon until crumbly. Stir in hazelnuts. Set Crumb Topping aside.
7. Sprinkle Topping over cheesecake. Bake about 30 minutes longer or until topping is set. Remove from pan of water. Cool cheesecake 30 minutes. Loosen side from pan; remove. Refrigerate uncovered 3 to 4 hours or until chilled. Store covered in refrigerator.

November 27, 2014

Honey & Clove Sauce ♥ For those who eat ham & turkey

I hope everyone had a great foodie and family day!!
For those who make more than the turkey as the main event, this glaze is a great way to dress a ham.

Ever since Joan Lunden was the host on Good Morning American, we have been making our baked hams with her recipe. It was easy to make and easy to halve for a small baked ham.
I love that BJ's sells a three pack of small DAK brand canned ham and they are perfect for a family of 2. I always have one, or three, in my pantry.

While researching duck breast recipes, I switched on my local PBS channel and the show just happened to be about cooking duck breasts. There have been a few chefs not only own restaurants in Ireland but they have managed to take traditional Irish cooking and turned it on it's head.

It caught my attention and I jotted down the website and printed out a few recipes.
Realized the sauce for the duck was on the very sweet side I stuck it on the "to be filed" pile and moved on.
The other day I was about to throw it out when I too a good look at the actual ingredients and realized it was the recipe for our baked ham but up three notches.

It went from the "toss this" pile to the "make this now" file and this night was NOW.

Honey & Clove Sauce
Adapted by Neven Maguire: Home Chef

makes 1/2 cup

* 8 ounces beef stock
* 4 tablespoons clear honey
* 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
* 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons ketchup
* 2 teaspoons whole cloves
* sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1.  Place the stock, honey, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and cloves in a small pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer vigorously for 20 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and right before it gets too thick (it will thicken as it cools).
2. Season to taste then pass through a sieve into a clean pot, discarding the cloves. Reheat gently and use as required.

This will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge in a rigid container or can be frozen.

To bake the ham, I pour a cup of beer into a baking pan and cut diagonal slits on top of the ham, making a diamond shape. Cover with foil and bake in a 250° oven for 30-40 minutes until the cuts in the ham split open to receive the glaze.

Brush a liberal amount of sauce over the top and return the ham to the oven, uncovered this time, for another 10 minutes and repeat the brushing one more time.
Serve with some of the sauce in a small bowl.

This sauce was sweet but had a slight tart taste (from the balsamic and soy) but was perfect on a fatty, salty baked ham, and I think any cut of pork would do well with this glaze.

When The Nudge requested bone-in pork chops for Football Sunday this week and since I had about 1/2 cup leftover, I gave him a brush, a bowl and my leftover sauce. Since we were eating cheesy cauliflower gratin and garlic mashed potatoes, it was a nice departure from all that dairy.

November 24, 2014

Seven Onion Soup ♥ Caramelized onions in soup form

There are millions of soup recipes and hundreds of cookbooks devoted just to soups.
I have to admit I am a soup junkie. In the colder months my lunch often consists of a bowl of soup.

I grew up helping my mom make chicken soup from scratch, starting with the stock. Back then chicken wings were as cheap as beef bones and only beef consomme sold in cans. You had to make your own stock.
For me, making a good old Jewish Chicken Soup required a whole day or preparation but there was enough for an army and I always froze a bunch.

Today making homemade soup is easy with the many stock & broth options available and a pretty good soup can make it from stove to table in an hour.

The Nudge likes soup but prefers a strong broth with a few brunoise of vegetables floating about. He's not a big fan of cream soups and while I am happy for dietary reasons, I do not look forward to making a clarified stock when I want to serve soup for dinner.
I have had success with a few thick soup options like Pasta Fagiole and Bisque's, oh, and this soup, for some reason. While there is a minuscule amount of milk, once the onions are pureed, the broth is sweet with lots of flavor and takes on a creamy texture.

We all know onions are used as a aromatic and are instrumental in the making of the Holy Trinity, a Mirepoix and a Soffritto/Battuto, but did you know that eaten as the hero, their flavors can vary from sweet and juicy with a mild flavor to sharp, spicy, and pungent, often depending on the season in which they are grown and consumed. It is estimated that 105 billion pounds of onions are harvested each year worldwide.

They are also full of nutrition.

"Onions are a nutrient-dense food, meaning that while they are low in calories they are high in beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. One cup of chopped onion contains approximately 64 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein and 10% or more of the daily value for vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and manganese. Onions also contain small amounts of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and the antioxidants quercetin and sulfur."

Well, if you an imagine the taste of caramelized onions on steroids, you should make this soup. If you aren't buying that, then make it for the leftovers. I usually end up with 2 cups and if you plan it right, sitting next to the soup should also be a container of roasted cauliflower.

This soup will make any "yucky" vegetable taste wonderful and no one will even know it's in there and you have the secret of next week's soup already done. If your cauliflower just happens to be gratinéed then all the better.

Obviously this is called Seven Onion Soup for a reason but I have been making this for so many years, the exact measurements of each onion are long forgotten. All you need to know is that 6 of the 7 have an amount of 1. The 7th is the scallion garnish.
The other great thing about this soup, knife work is inconsequential, everything gets puréed in the end.
While a basket of dinner rolls, sliced artisan bread or bread sticks add some bulk to the meal, I opted to make a bread crouton with Swiss cheese broiled on top.
Let's get cooking......

Seven Onion Soup
original recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse
makes 1.5 quarts

* Olive oil
* 4 garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 red onion, chopped
* 1 Spanish onion, chopped
* 1 sweet onion, chopped
* 1 white onion, chopped
* 1 shallot, chopped
* 1 bunch of scallions, green & white parts separated
* 1 leek, soaked, cleaned and chopped, white and lite green part only
* 1 large carrot, chopped
* 1 quart low sodium chicken stock
* Cheese rind (optional)
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
* 2 tablespoons pancetta or bacon, chopped
* 1/4 cup whole milk or light cream (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot. Saute the garlic until you can smell it.
2. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and saute until it starts to brown but not burnt.
3. Add all the onions (the white part of the scallions), the carrots, the bay leaf, thyme and salt & pepper. Saute on low heat, stirring every 10 minutes, until the vegetables brown with flavor, about 40 minutes.
5. Add the chicken stock and the cheese rind. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Remove the bay and rind and remove from the heat. Once the soup has  cooled, puree in a blender  or with an immersion blender.
7. Reheat before serving, add the milk and serve with a sprinkle of the green scallions tops and a toasted Swiss cheese crouton (optional).

If you omit the pork and dairy, this soup is Vegan, no croutons makes it Gluten Free, Paleo and Diabetic friendly
A very nice hot soup for the recent vortex that hit us this week.

So, after marrying this with my cauliflower gratin to make another soup for Monday, I eventually use the last drop as a sauce for a solo tasty pasta dish while The Nudge is in Baltimore.

When I can plan 5 meals with virtually no prep, I am one happy camper.