Wish Upon A Dish: January 2014

January 30, 2014

Cheesy Baked Barley with Squash ♥ You will never miss the pasta

I have been experimenting with grains that can easily substitute for carbs in traditional dishes without changing the original concept.

My first success story is this dish. Instead of pasta I used barley and I actually like it better. I love the chew of barley and I find that the macaroni in a traditional baked macaroni and cheese can sometimes become soft and starchy. Barley is almost impossible to overcook.

It reheated perfectly for my lunch today and I will be curious to see what The Nudge thinks, especially when I don't tell him what he's eating.

The squash adds additional nutrition and makes this dish a complete meal.
I chose to use a small round wheel of Gouda for a meatier cheese flavor and besides that, the preparation is that of a regular baked macaroni and cheese.

I soaked my barley overnight, then rinse and dry than toasted in a dry skillet. I made a flavorful cooking liquid using a packet of Goya Sazon and a teaspoon of Goya Adobo. Reserve a cup of the cooking liquid (just as you would for pasta) and that becomes part of the bechamel sauce. I also used a can of fat-free evaporated milk but 1% regular would also work.

Let's get cooking.....

Baked Cheesy Barley with Squash
serves 6 as a side
* 1 cup pearl barley, soaked overnight (optional)
* 1 packet Goya Sazon
* 1 teaspoon Goya Adobo
* 1/4 small onion, chopped
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1/2 can fat-free evaporated milk, or 1/2 cup 1% milk
* 1 cup barley cooking liquid
* 1 small whole Gouda in red wax, peeled and cut into small chunks or 1 wedge
* 1 teaspoon Coleman's Dry Mustard
* 1 cup chopped squash, fresh or frozen
* Sliced scallions for garnish
* Bread crumbs for crust
* 1 tablespoon of butter cut into 5 pats

1. Bring a quart of water to a boil. Add the Goya seasoning and stir.
2. In a small dry skillet (or the oven) toast the barley until it starts to color.
3. Add the barley to the water and simmer for 45 minutes. Check for doneness.
4. Reserve a cup of cooking liquid and drain the barley.
5. In the same saucepan, melt the butter and add the onions. Cook until they are tender.
6. Add the flour and stir well. Pour in the cooking liquid and the milk and whisk constantly until there are no more flour lumps. Add the barley, the squash and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
7. Add the mustard and the cheese and stir to melt.
8. Pour the mixture into a casserole pan, sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top, creating a thin crust.
Dot the butter over the crumbs and bake at 350° for 35 minutes, uncovered or until the edges bubble.

Follow Me on Pinterest

January 27, 2014

Italian-style Tuna Salad ♥ Canned never tasted so good!

Tuna salad gets a bad rap. We either love it, tolerate it or won't go near it with a can opener.
You will almost always see it on a plate in a diner listed on the menu as the triple salad platter. Choice of egg, tuna and if you're lucky, chicken. Comes with potato and coleslaw or macaroni.

My first baptism into the Jersey diner scene was on Friday nights after all the bars closed. Wasn't anyone I knew that no matter which drinking holes they patronized, we always ended up at the diner for food. It's a rite of passage for every teenager and yes, we could drink back then at the ripe old age of 18, so there were many years of diner diving (as we called it). The food of choice for me was always an Open-faced Chicken Salad on a Toasted Bagel with Sliced Onions and American Cheese. At 4am there was no way two over easy's were gonna stare up at me.

It wasn't until I got my first real job, that diner's became a great place to eat lunch. The service was fast, the food was pretty good & filling, and the prices were very budget friendly.

My mom was the tuna salad maven in the family and every once in a blue moon I would ask her to make one for me while she was making hers. She ate tuna because she liked it and the only tuna available back then was Charlie packed in oil. No one knew about those healthy Omegas.

Fast forward to the 90's when the food police decided that anything packed in oil was "bad" for you, so water packed tuna was 'the man of the decade'. It was then that I stopped eating tuna all together. Tasted like cardboard and no amount of mayonnaise would disguise that.

Yes, there is a point. Fast forward to the 80's and the discovery of a small Italian deli in the basement of the office building where I worked. They only served breakfast and lunch sandwiches and the occasional soup in the winter. With all the business that walked in and out of that closet deli, it was inevitable I would end up with someone else's sandwich and if it wasn't someone in my office, and no one would trade, I was stuck.

Lucky for me, they never made a bad sandwich and the first time I got tuna instead of chicken, I was about to toss it when I realized I was out of luck and money.

I must have been really hungry because it turned out to be the best tuna salad I had eaten....ever! What kind of tuna could taste that good? I needed to know, so I volunteered to retrieve the next lunch order. That was when I found out the secret and the rest is, as they say, history.

To this day, I have been making my salad this way. The fact that I could buy Italian canned tuna down the street in King's Supermarket made it easy for me to get my fix of that wonderful mix of ingredients that made the best tuna salad.

The test on how good that recipe really is, came yesterday when all I had was two cans of the water packed Charlie brand, which was earmarked for a tuna noodle casserole The Nudge wants to learn how to make (but that's another post).

The Nudge wasn't home, so who was gonna tell him.

While I will probably never run out of Italian canned tuna again, Charlie did OK. It was surprisingly good. Really.

OK, I ate the whole darn thing myself!!
Happy now?

So, if you like a water packed tuna salad, you will love this one. It does contain some mayonnaise because for me, it's not worthy of making an appearance as a platter salad without some mayonnaise and if you wanted too, you could even make your own and I would just have to ask you "what time should I drive by, to pick up the lunch order?"

Italian Tuna Salad
makes enough for two sandwiches
* 1 can your favorite tuna, drained and flaked
* 2 tablespoons your favorite mayonnaise
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 3 sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil and herbs, finely diced
* 1 teaspoon of sun-dried tomato oil
* 1 tablespoon minced shallot, red onion or scallions
* 1 teaspoon sriracha, but any hot sauce would do
* 1 small garlic clove, minced
* salt & pepper to taste

Mix everything together and enjoy!

Follow Me on Pinterest

January 23, 2014

Cheesy Baked Grits ♥ Perfect Blizzard Fare

The Nudge is traveling, the whole east coast is covered in snow and I have a kitchen full of groceries, a handful of recipes and absolutely no where to go.

On Monday I made coffee rubbed pork in my slow cooker, St. Louis ribs in the oven, a container of no knead dough to make 4 loaves of bread, stuffed portabellos from Ottolenghi's Plenty and a batch of ham meatballs.

On Tuesday, I baked. I choose a spice cake and a Maple Apple Breakfast Bread.
With 7" of snow and a mere 10°, baking is the perfect chore on my agenda. Soon as the sun rolls over the house I will do some shoveling, so for now I am off to gather my ingredients. I will surprise The Nudge with all my efforts when he finally arrives safe and sound from his trip to Vermont (during a snowstorm no less!).

After all that baking, it was time to figure out what I wanted for dinner. I thought a hot bowl of lentils and kielbasa over cheesy baked grits would hit the spot, especially with a slice of buttered homemade baked boule on the side.

I missed The Nudge but I like that I can eat what I want and when he's away that always includes cheesy grits, plus, I was just informed they are extending their trip one extra day because of the storm, so I can bake all day Wednesday and Thursday.

Cheesy baked grits are so easy to make, everyone should make these at least once a week.
Many people have a meatloaf day, a spaghetti day, vegetarian day, pizza day and roast chicken day.
If I did have planned days, it would look like this.....
Polenta/grits day, soup day, pasta day, vegetable day, salad day and bean day.
If The Nudge planned the menu.....
Steak day, hot dog day, meatball day, meatloaf day, chicken cutlet day, pastrami day and veal day.
I try to add his to mine and he is making progress. He's been asking for salads.....lol

Mix all the ingredients into a broil-proof oven casserole you will be eating out of, and right before serving, stir in the cheese and throw it under the broiler for a few minutes. These are so good. Now, for a family larger than one, this recipe is made of ratios, so 2x for two, 4x for four, etc.
Top with any leftover stews or roasted vegetables that are sitting in the fridge or make this dish
If you have any leftover grits, you can make these croutons.

Cheesy Baked Grits
serves 1
* 1/4 cup stone ground grits (works the same with polenta)
* 1 cup water
* 1/4 cup cream
* 1 teaspoon honey
* 1 teaspoon salt
* Lots of ground pepper
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1/4 cup Parmesan, Cheddar or Jack cheese, grated

1. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes, covered. Uncover, stir and adjust the texture with more water if needed.
The consistency at this point should be like farina or cream of wheat. Remember, the cheese and resting with thicken the grits to the perfect consistency. Place the butter and the cheese on top and stir to combine.
2. Rest at least 15 minutes. It will stay lava hot for almost 20 minutes.

Follow Me on Pinterest

January 21, 2014

Mussels Meuniere ♥ Pizza Party - Recipe Redux Challenge January 2014

Just so happens I always have this pizza dough in my freezer. One full recipe is way too much for two, so right after kneading I throw it in a zip bag and then into the freezer.

Recently I have fallen in love with a Caesar salad atop my pizza, but while delicious it is already out there and I like to take my challenges up a notch while still keeping with the theme.

While a basic cheese pizza is pretty healthy, I usually get roasted peppers or artichokes on my half.

For this pizza, I went with my ultimate favorite food, clams. I had a problem, clam pizzas are served in all good Italian pizza parlors, so I tilted it slightly to another bivalve, mussels.
A quick search on the Internet produced a measly amount of recipes, which had most of them dumping the shelled mussels on top, just as I do with my beloved Caesar. Why would anyone want to shell a mussel, then eat the pizza?

Wild caught mussels made their way into my market at a great price and last night I served them steamed and tonight they will make an appearance on my pizza. Minus the shells of course.

2 dinners - check
1 challenge - done

I made a sauce by combining the pureed court bouillon from the steaming pot with my homemade sauce, topped with tons of roasted garlic, dollops of Coach goat cheese and grated Fontina cheese. Right before serving, instead of a drizle of olive oil, I gave it a squeeze of my spiced balsamic glaze.
This pizza was truly.....

......da bomb!!

You should make this next week. Mussels are in season now, inexpensive and in very fine form (I think I found only 3 bad ones).
I have to tell you that I was a little wary of the leftover slice that was my lunch two days later. Sometimes when you open a container that had mussels stored in them, the odor is quite distinctive, but when I peeled back the foil, I smelled pizza, just pizza, no seafood at all. That's how fresh the mussels were.
Oh, and lunch was excellent.

Mussels are low in fat, carbohydrates, and sodium as well as high in protein. An excellent source of selenium, vitamin B12, Zinc and folate.

Mussels Meuniere Pizza
makes (1) 14" pie

* Dozen steamed mussels + steaming liquid
* 1/3 cup marinara sauce
* 1 head garlic, roasted
* 2 ounces goat cheese
* 2 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
* Olive oil (or balsamic glaze)

* Romano cheese, grated

1. Roll out the pizza dough to 14-15". Spread the roasted garlic on the dough and top with the sauce. Brush the crust with olive oil.
2. Place the mussels evenly on the sauce and drop pinches of the goat cheese around the mussels.
3. Sprinkle with Fontina and bake on the upper rack of a 425° oven for 15 minutes.
4. Turn the oven to broil (HI). Broil for 3-5 minutes until the edges start to singe and the cheese is bubbling.
5. Finish with a turn of the olive oil (or a balsamic glaze) and a grating of Romano cheese.

I always serve my pizza on a wooden board with a pizza cutter, a pile of sea salt and red pepper flakes just like you get in a pizza parlor.

Follow Me on Pinterest

January 17, 2014

Refrigerator Sauerkraut

There is something to be said about quick pickling. I make zucchini pickles every summer. A quart jar is always in my fridge and The Nudge puts them on hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches and potato salad.

So, why am I talking about pickles when this post is about a quick sauerkraut? Well, it's the same process as making my pickles, just done with a slightly different marinade.

I wanted to update the typical Rueben sandwich, ya know, elevate it to the next level.

I already have my honey mustard braised corned beef, a really good Swiss cheese (not that rubbery stuff, please), a really good German mustard and a great loaf of Stone Milled Rye bread (Panera's makes the best, but get the large one. There is something better about the large loaf vs. the small one, probably because the small one is all crust and no bread, really, I am serious).

Can't have a Reuben without sauerkraut but I dislike canned and bagged kraut immensely, and buying homemade barrel fermented (like in NYC) is not gonna happen here.

There had to be a way to pickle cabbage as you would a pickle in like 1 hour? There were a few recipes for quick fresh sauerkraut but I wanted more flavor then the ones I found.

I would create my own marinade, can't be too hard, I did it with my zucchini pickles and I have heard they are perfect, right?

When I informed my "will not eat cooked cabbage" husband I was making a fresh cooked sauerkraut he was all for it. I give up. And he wonders why I always ask him after he negs on something "are you sure?"

We all know that anything containing vinegar is good for a diabetic as well as anyone wanting to help out their digestive tract do it's thing more efficiently.
Prior to hypoglycemic agents, diabetics used vinegar teas to control their symptoms. Small amounts of vinegar (approximately 25 g of domestic vinegar) added to food, or taken along with a meal, have been shown by a number of medical trials to reduce the glycemic index of carbohydrate food for people with and without diabetes. This also has been expressed as lower glycemic index ratings in the region of 30%.

Multiple trials indicate that taking vinegar with food increases satiety (the feeling of fullness) and, so, reduces the amount of food consumed. Daily intake of 15 ml of vinegar (750 mg AcOH) might be useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing obesity.

Bet you will think differently about that bottle now.

Fresh Sauerkraut
makes 1 cup
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1/2 medium green cabbage, shredded
* 1/2 cups cider vinegar
* 1/4 cup honey
* 1 bottle hard cider
* 1/3 cup water
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
* 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
* 1 tablespoon juniper seeds
* 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
* Pinch celery seeds
* Pinch hot pepper flakes or to taste

Pour cider into a wide skillet and boil to half. Add all the seasonings (except oil and cabbage and water) to cider and boil to 1/4 cup. Strain into a bowl.

Clean out skillet and heat vegetable oil. Saute cabbage until it wilts to half the volume. Add the reduced cider mixture and water and simmer cabbage, covered until it is totally limp, about 1 hour. Add water so that it always has about 1/2" in the bottom. Store in a container in the fridge. Adjust seasonings, adding more honey if you want it sweeter or more salt.

It really smells just like fermented sauerkraut but this is fresher and pregnant woman can eat this safely because it isn't naturally fermented.

This tasted wonderful on our sandwiches, just ask The Nudge, in between bites that is.

Follow Me on Pinterest

January 14, 2014

Sesame Chicken ♥ Cooking for Two

I can not for the life of me remember where this original recipe was published. Are you like me and start a post, save it and forget it's on your dashboard? Please say yes.

While organizing my computer, I found this recipe under the draft section. I completely forgot it was there with the holidays and all that other stuff that demands your attention. I was just about to hit delete, then decided I better read it, ya know, just in case.

From what I had already written, I did know this recipe was from my old index card file from back in 1983.
Now think about this for a minute. Back in 1983 there was no Internet, only food magazines and those you could count on one hand. What we knew about Asian cooking was that Chow Mien in a canister (every baby boomer knows exactly what that is) and local take-out.

While it was made using very simple pantry ingredients and minimal prep work, what really caught my attention was that this was a Cooking for Two recipe and perfect for busy days. So, while it was worth revisiting, it is by no means an authentic Sesame Chinese Chicken. I did make a few revisions but after a day of cooking and testing contest recipes, I did not get too creative. I really needed an easy peasy but tasty dinner.I have to say, the flavor was great! If you love General Tao's you will really enjoy this.
I would not hesitate to make this again. The Nudge took seconds. He rarely does that!

You could substitute the rice with couscous or quinoa, and the peas for broccoli, snap peas or spinach. I cooked what I had on hand, like I said, no fuss pleasy. 

Sesame Chicken
Makes 2 servings

* 6-7 ounces chicken cutlets, sliced into thin, 1" strips
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 3/4 cup plain or spicy tomato juice (I used V8)
* 3 tablespoons dry white wine
* 1 onion, thinly sliced
* 1 tablespoon Tamari
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 small clove minced garlic
* Juice of one lime
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar
* 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce, or more to taste
* Salt & pepper
* 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

1. Dredge the chicken in the cornstarch and fry in a hot skillet that has been sprayed with a release agent. Remove to a bowl.
2. Respray the same skillet and saute the onion, garlic and ginger until they soften.
3. Add the tomato juice and Tamari and simmer until it thickens to a sauce consistency.
4. Add the lime juice, rice wine vinegar and the honey, adjusting the seasonings to your liking (more vinegar or more honey).
4. Add the chicken and right before serving and heat through.
5. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken and serve.

Follow Me on Pinterest

January 12, 2014

Wild Blueberry Jelly and PB Roll-Ups ♥ Recipe Redux Wild Blueberry Recipe Challenge

After taking two car trips last year, I realized a few things that I am sure Mom's & Dad's already know about traveling anywhere in a car with kids. You need to keep them entertained at all times and you need to have healthy snacks, lots of different ones. We might not have kids but I am diabetic and the snack part, also applies to me.

At one gas station Quik-Mart, I needed to eat something just to hold me over till lunch. I stood in front of that counter and could not find one healthy snack. I eventually settled on a fiber bar. It was better than the alternative.I really needed to start taking homemade healthy snacks on road trips.

Before our last car trip this Christmas, an email was sent to all the Recipe Redux members on an upcoming recipe contest in the new year that was sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association and we should keep that in the back of our minds until after the New Year.

Wild Blueberries have advantages over the larger cultivated blueberries, including:
  • Intense flavor & color
  • More berries per pound
  • Less water, so they freeze better and perform better in baking
  • Higher concentration of beneficial phytochemicals, making them a more powerful ally against disease
  • Wild = more protective phytochemicals in every serving
  • Wild Blueberries are leaders in antioxidant capacity; They are rich in anthocyanin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which may help prevent chronic diseases
  • Anthocyanin is a flavonoid found in the deep blue pigments of Wild Blueberries, giving them their color and their antioxidant power. We call it the “The Power of Wild Blue”
Wild Blueberries are the subject of hundreds of research studies looking at potential benefits to humans including:
  • Brain health
  • Anti-aging
  • Heart health
  • Diabetes prevention
  • Cancer prevention
  • Reducing oxidative stress
  • Preventing UTIs
  • Eye health
  • Most Wild Blueberries are frozen at harvest, locking in their intense blueberry flavor and antioxidant power
  • Frozen Fresh Wild Blueberries are just as nutritious as fresh and may even retain their nutritional value longer
  • Frozen Fresh Wild Blueberries are available year-round; they can be used right out of the freezer – no thawing required
  • Frozen Fresh Wild Blueberries offer consumers the most convenient way to have the Antioxidant Superfruit at hand at all times.
  • Frozen Fresh Wild Blueberries make it easy to get your “Daily Dose of Wild Blue”
  • Frozen Wild Blueberries are an excellent value, they offer consistent quality, ease of use, high antioxidant content, health benefits, less spoilage, affordability.

This snack was the perfect use for wild blueberries. The addition of Peanut Butter makes this possibly one of the healthiest snacks around!
Line a sheet pan with plastic wrap. Using a standard squeeze bottle filled with the peanut butter mixture, lay down lines about 1" apart. Do each line 4x.

Most roll-ups are made with meaty (pulpy) fruits. Strawberries, mangoes, peaches, raspberries and apples. All of those have natural pectin, something very important for the roll-ups to, well, roll-up. Blueberries are mostly water, no pulp and they need our help. Determined to keep these as organic, natural & healthy as possible (plus easy to make), I excluded the packaged pectin for the natural one. I chose plums, and dried ones at that. Plum have lots of natural pectin, plus they are the same color.
Also, using granulated cane sugar makes the leather brittle, so in order to sweeten and keep the mixture flexible I used agave nectar and a drop of corn syrup.

Using a bottle that has a larger hole than a basic squeeze bottle (pancake syrup works very well), fill the bottle with the wild blueberry mixture. Fill in the spaces between the PB lines and using an offset spatula, spread the berry mix evenly over the lines, carefully covering the peanut butter until all the fruit is used.
Don't worry, the lines won't move or get messed up. 

The peanut butter got an infusion of banana and a teaspoon of lite corn syrup. This was not only easy to make, the kids can help.
So this is what you need to do to make sure that your first batch is successful.
You need a sheet pan with sides (double my recipe to use a half sheet pan), plastic wrap, an offset spatula, a squeeze bottle and a syrup bottle (larger hole in the cap), wax paper, a ruler and a sharp knife.
A saucepan, a good blender or processor and about 5 hours of unattended time. 
Let's get cooking....

"By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North American and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time."

Wild Blueberry and Peanut Butter Roll-Ups
makes a dozen 2" roll-ups

* 10 ounces frozen Wild Blueberries (about 2 cups), defrosted over night
* 1/4 cup dried plums, chopped fine
* 2 tablespoons water
* 2 tablespoons light corn syrup - divided
* 2 tablespoons Agave Nectar
* 1/2 cup peanut butter or choice (even chunky)
* 1 small banana

1. In a small saucepan add the wild blueberries, plums, water, 1 tablespoon corn syrup and agave. Simmer until the mixture resembles the consistency of tub butter. Remove and cool.
2. Process the banana and peanut butter and add the last tablespoon of corn syrup. Remove to a squeeze bottle.
3. Once the wild blueberry mixture is cooled, puree for a smoother mix or leave it with texture and additional fiber.
4. Cover a sheet pan with plastic wrap. Lay down the peanut butter lines and cover with the wild blueberry mixture.
5. Preheat your oven to 170°. Not hot enough to melt the plastic wrap, leave it in the oven for 4 hours.
6. After 4 hours, check to see if the mixture is tacky or sticking to your finger. If it is, bake for another 30 minutes.
7. Remove the sheet pan and allow the mixture to cool to the touch.
8. Using the plastic wrap, remove to a cutting board and place a piece of wax paper on top and flip it over, making sure the lines are on top.
9. Using a ruler and a sharp knife, cut the leather into strips. Mine were 2" strips and I got 5 from a quarter sheet pan.
10. Roll the leather up and store in a plastic container in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Wild Blueberry-Filled Dessert Gnocchi ♥ Recipe Redux Wild Blueberry Recipe Challenge

There are two foods that are on my top 10 list.
Blueberry anything and gnocchi.
If you are like me and love gnocchi, you will adore this dessert version and guess what? They are filled with Wild Blueberry Jam.
These are easy to make, can be frozen before cooking and after. Very versatile.

I always learn something from these Recipe Redux contests and this one was no exception.
Everyone knows that blueberries are a Super Food. Low in calories, fat and carbohydrates, they are high in antioxidents. Great reasons to eat as many as you can.

Better yet, wild blueberries have more intense flavor and have twice the antioxidants as regular cultivated blueberries. Since they only grow in cold climates like Maine and Canada, having the availability of fresh is not possible for most of us. Luckily, my supermarket carries bags of frozen wild blueberries by two well known name brand fruit companies and are available year round.
Eating blueberries cuts the risk of type 2 diabetes by 26%. I would say that alone is a good reason to add them to smoothies, muffins, cereal, and in any dessert calling for fruit.

Other benefits of eating wild blueberries is their potential benefits including:
o Brain health
o Anti-aging
o Heart health
o Cancer prevention
o Reducing oxidative stress
o Preventing UTIs
o Eye health

There is no reason to not seek out wild blueberries the next time you buy blueberries.
Let's get cooking..........

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of
North America and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my

Wild Blueberry-Filled Dessert Gnocchi
makes 16 (2") gnocchi

* 1 brick fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
* 1 1/2 cups AP flour
* 1/4 cup Natural Sugar substitute
* 1 large egg
* Pinch of salt

* 1/2 cup wild blueberry jam (recipe follows)
* 1 cup plain bread crumbs
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
* 2 teaspoons cinnamon.
* 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a food processor, blend the ingredients until the mixture comes together. You need it to be slightly sticky.
Remove and place on a work surface. Cover with wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

2. Roll the dough into a log and cut that log lengthwise into 2 logs. Cut each log into 8 pieces for a total of 16.
3. Flatten one piece of dough into a 3" circle in the palm of your hand.
4. Spoon a teaspoon of jam into the center of the circle and pinch the seams together, rolling and patting the dough into an oblong ball. Pinch together any tears and gently tap the tops flat. Transfer the gnocchi to a plate dusted with flour. Can be frozen up to this point.
5. Bring a large stockpot of water to a gentle boil and place half of the gnocchi into the water, stir and simmer until they rise to the top. make sure the whole gnocchi has risen, not just one end.
6. Remove the cooked gnocchi to a sheet pan using a slotted spoon and gently pat the top to dry. Repeat until they are all cooked.
7. In a skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and saute the bread crumbs until they start to color. Remove to a bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
8. Right before serving, melt the last of the butter in a skillet and saute each gnocchi on both sides and then add them to the breadcrumbs, toss to coat.
9. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or just as they are.

Wild Blueberry Jam
* 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
* 1/4 cup honey
* 1/4 cup water
* Pinch of cinnamon
* Pinch of salt

1. Simmer all the ingredients in a sauce pan until it is the texture of apple butter. Remove to cool. Puree for a smooth jam but I like the texture and the added fiber by not pureeing the jam.


January 9, 2014

Blue Cheese and Pear Spaetzle

Blue cheese and pears, everyone loves that combination. Why not make a sauce of those favorite foods and serve it over pasta? I could only think yum and I was right. The secret is not overloading the blue cheese and to use a juicy soft pear. The rest is sauce 101.

I think The Nudge was expecting a heavy blue cheese sauce, you know, the kind you dip wings into. Not the case here. It was perfectly balanced and I would make this again for when I am serving simply grilled, roasted or sauteed meat.

I used Anne Burrells recipe for spaetzle, minus the fresh herbs. Instead I added a pinch of dried rosemary to the sauce. Was the right choice.

If you do not have a spaetzle maker, you could do what I do and use your pasta drainer, one with large round holes. It must be able to handle heat since it will sit on a pot of boiling water and you will also need a spatula to force the dough mix down. A simple set-up but it works well for me, every time. If you have access to a large insert on your food mill, you can use that and the large disk for a potato ricer, although will produce small spaetzle, will also work. If you want to bypass the whole from scratch pasta thing, buy small gnocchi or even fresh cavatelli, but dried will not work as well.

The most important thing is to buy a wedge of real blue cheese, not crumbles we throw into salads and Buffalo dips, they are coated with something that stops them from sticking together. Any blue cheese will melt perfectly, so origin is not important.
Add splash of sweet Moscato and a touch of honey and you have the ultimate sauce, the kind I would serve with a fillet of beef as easily as with a bowl of gnocchi.

Blue Cheese & Pear Spaetzle
serves 4

* 1/2 small white onion, diced
* 1 medium clove of garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup sweet white wine
* 1 teaspoon honey or Agave Nectar
* salt & pepper
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 2 ounces wedge bleu cheese (I love the new buttermilk style)
* 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, minced
* 1 pear, peeled, seeded and diced

* 1 batch spaetzle (recipe here but can also buy the box mix)

1. Chop the onion, garlic and saute in the butter along with the rosemary. When soft, add the pear, wine, honey and simmer until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the cream, salt & pepper and when the cream comes up to a boil, add the cheese, cover, turn off the heat and let the cheese melt.
2. Right before serving, heat the sauce with the spaetzle until is starts to simmer. Serve immediately.

Follow Me on Pinterest

January 6, 2014

Our Tour of America's Capitol Building

Spending our Christmas Holiday in DC turned out to be a great idea. The hotel was a 1/3rd the regular season price, the restaurants that normally require a reservation almost six months in advance, was more than happy to see us and the museums and monuments were practically empty, allowing us to move at a slow pace, see and read everything and even take a break for a few minutes and sit down.

DC federal buildings shut down the week of Christmas thru New Year's Day but all the monuments, memorials and the museums were all open. We sent a request through our Representative for three tours, the White House, a tour of the Department of Printing and Engraving and one of the Capitol.
The Capitol was the only one open that week.

One out of three ain't bad and we found out there are really several ways to book a tour of the Capitol.
U.S. residents can go directly through the offices of their Representative or Senators (which we did). Many Congressional offices offer their own staff-led tours to constituent groups of up to 15 people, and most can assist you in booking a general tour. There is a line for walk-ins but they can not guarantee a time or even a tour during the busy times, but you can also get them on-line. If you want to see the Chambers, you need a special pass for that.

I contacted my Representative and everything was finalized in two weeks. During the summer, they may ask for 3-6 months to process your passes. I asked our tour guide how many the local politicians are allowed to dispense and was informed as many as they want, so be persistent.

The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center (above) is the newest addition to this historic complex. At nearly 580,000 square feet, the Visitor Center is the largest project in the Capitol's more than two-century history and is approximately three quarters the size of the Capitol itself. The entire facility is located underground on the east side of the Capitol so as not to detract from the appearance of the Capitol and the grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1874.

The bronze Statue of Freedom by Thomas Crawford is the crowning feature of the Dome of the United States Capitol. The bronze statue stands 19 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds

He then sculpted a graceful figure in a classical dress wearing a liberty cap encircled with stars, holding a shield, wreath, and sword, which he said represented Armed Liberty. It was sent to Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who was in charge of the overall construction at the Capitol. Davis objected to the liberty cap, the symbol of freed slaves, because “its history renders it inappropriate to a people who were born free and should not be enslaved.” Davis suggested a helmet with a circle of stars. In response, Crawford designed a crested version of a Roman helmet, “the crest of which is composed of an eagle’s head and a bold arrangement of feathers, suggested by the costume of our Indian tribes.” This third design was approved by Jefferson Davis in April 1856.

The plaster model of the statue, which had been in storage for 25 years, was reassembled and restored in the basement rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, where it was returned to public display in January 1993. In late 2008 the model was relocated to the new Capitol Visitor Center, where it is now a focal point of Emancipation Hall (above).

There is a law in DC that states nothing should stand taller than FREEDOM and is still on the law books, but like with most things nowadays, a movement has begun to amend this and allow buildings to expand upwards. Seems they have run out of viable building space and when they do find a building that can be demolished, the bids are fierce and costly.
The city will lose the views and they are not happy about that.

Why can't people just leave things alone?. Not everything should move into the 21st century.

This is the magnificent Rotunda. Painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi, the Apotheosis of Washington in the eye of the U.S. Capitol Building's Rotunda depicts George Washington rising to the heavens in glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame and surrounded by six groups of figures. The fresco is suspended 180 feet above the Rotunda floor and covers an area of 4,664 square feet.

The Apotheosis of Washington, his most ambitious work at the Capitol Building, was painted in 11 months at the end of the Civil War, soon after the new dome was completed, for $40,000. In the central group of the fresco, Brumidi depicted George Washington rising to the heavens in glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame. A rainbow arches at his feet, and thirteen maidens symbolizing the original states flank the three central figures.

If I remember correctly, four of the maidens have their backs to us, symbolizing the four original states that seceded the Union.

The Frieze of American History in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol contains a painted panorama depicting significant events in American history. The frieze’s 19 scenes is the work of three artists: Constantino Brumidi, Filippo Constaggini and Allyn Cox. The frieze is painted in grisaille, a monochrome of whites and browns that resembles sculpture. It measures 8 feet 4 inches in height and approximately 300 feet in circumference. It starts 58 feet above the floor.
The sequence of 19 scenes begins over the west door and moves clockwise around the Rotunda (above pic).
  1. "America and History"
  2. "Landing of Columbus" (1492)
  3. "Cortez and Montezuma at Mexican Temple" (1520)
  4. "Pizarro Going to Peru" (1533)
  5. "Burial of DeSoto" (1542)
  6. "Captain Smith and Pocahontas" (1607)
  7. "Landing of the Pilgrims" (1620)
  8. "William Penn and the Indians" (1682)
  9. "Colonization of New England"
  10. "Oglethorpe and the Indians" (1732)
  11. "Battle of Lexington" (1775)
  12. "Declaration of Independence" (1776)
  13. "Surrender of Cornwallis" (1781)
  14. "Death of Tecumseh" (1813)
  15. "American Army Entering the City of Mexico" (1847)
  16. "Discovery of Gold in California" (1848)
  17. "Peace at the End of the Civil War" (1865)
  18. "Naval Gun Crew in the Spanish-American War" (1898)
  19. "The Birth of Aviation" (1903)
At ground level are the eight historic portraits. View slideshow of all eight here.
See how empty the rotunda was?

The United States Capitol Building is home to sculpture of both well-known and lesser known figures in American and world history. The AOC is responsible for serving Congress as curator and steward of many of these famous figures. Featured here are sculptures from the National Statuary Hall Collection featuring two statues from every U.S. state along with the busts and other sculptures located throughout the U.S. Capitol.

There is a part of Ronald Regan's statue that not many people know it is there.If you look under the statues platform, there are what looks like a row of marble pieces. That is actually broken chunks of the Berlin Wall, set into the base! Neat, huh?

After the tour of the Rotunda you can get a ticket to see the Senate and House Chambers where the laws are debated and voted on. We wanted to see the Library of Congress, so we found the underground walkway that takes you right into the middle of the Library (below).

If you stand outside, on one of the balconies located in the front of the Library of Congress.......

....and take a picture of the back of the Capitol (see the top of the Washington Monument on the left?

The highlight of our tour of the Library was a current traveling museum exhibit of the Civil War, including two original drafts, written in Lincoln's hand, of the Gettysburg Address. Unfortunately, no pictures allowed and after visiting the archives, I can understand why.

Follow Me on Pinterest

January 3, 2014

DC Gem - Ben's Chili Bowl ♥ Oh, Mr. Obama, where are you? ♥

In NW Washington DC is this little gem of a chili joint called Ben's Chili Bowl. If you watch any of the best places to eat ..... on the Travel Channel, chances are you saw this place showcased.
I would not leave DC this time around without either eating there or getting a pint to go. Luckily it was on the way to I-495 and there was a spot right out front. They open at 6:00 and at 10am when we pulled up, there was a line for take-out. When I asked for a container of just chili, the server didn't know what to do or how much to charge me. I guess it's ordered with a dog, on a burger or in a single serve bowl with grated cheese, diced onions and crackers. They couldn't understand why I would not want "the works". When the guy asked me if I wanted a gallon, I actually had to think about it but The Nudge would have killed me. He didn't even want to stop. I think he thought it would be in a rough neighborhood. Such a weird man, this place was famous and I am sure no one in the hood would allow any problems and yes, I was the only white woman in there at 10 in the morning.

If you haven't heard of Ben's, here's a little history........On August 22, 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl opened for business.
From the tumult of the late 60’s race riots to the tough times in the 70’s and 80’s and finally to the revitalization of the U Street Corridor beginning in the 90’s, Ben’s has seen it all.  Bill Cosby and thousands of others attended our 45th anniversary in August 2003.
And just ten days before his inauguration on January 10, 2009, President-Elect Barack Obama visited and ate lunch here.
After a 50 plus year journey, business is booming and the Ben’s brand is red hot.  Ben’s has also expanded by opening a new restaurant and bar called Ben’s Next Door [www.bensnextdoor.com], in addition to outposts at Nationals Stadium and FedEx Field.

Tonight I pulled a package of Nathans Famous from the freezer, chopped an onion, grated sharp cheddar cheese and put 4 ales out on the stoop to chill.
It's been ages since we had a chili dog, so long in fact, I can't remember when.

I was really looking forward to these.
At Ben's they told me they sell more chili atop a smokie (smoked sausage) and I have to admit I almost bought a few bratwursts but The Nudge is a diehard beef dog lover, you know the kind that snap when bitten into.

I was worried the reputation of Ben was what made this place famous and loved but one bite told me that Ben's made serious chili. Very meaty beef chili with large chunks of ground beef (no sausage here), kidney beans and large pieces of green onion (not sure if bell or poblano). The spice level was around average (to appeal to everyone) so I grabbed my Tabasco, yum!

This should be easy to replicate and it's already on the list. Now, it all depends on what The Boss thinks as to how many times it makes an appearance. Since he ate three fully loaded, I have a feeling he'll be asking for this on SuperBowl Sunday. I will make extra for Nachos and Enchiladas.