Wish Upon A Dish: October 2014

October 30, 2014

Oeuf Mollet with Asparagus & Ham ♥ Surefire way to make perfect baked eggs

Strangest week I'm having. You know when you have a weekend of completing projects that should have been done two weeks ago, and are feeling really organized and can finally flush the 1/2 bath toilet once again?!?! I was having one of them (it felt great) when Monday came and my computer decided it didn't have as great a weekend as I did and refused to install the new security software I bought and then I burnt not one but two batches of roasted spiced pepitas I am testing for Christmas gifts this year. I wasted valuable camera time calling technical service and scrubbing burnt sugar off of sheet pans so dinner was just grilled cheese and soup. I am so grateful I made the soup last week.

The only thing accomplished was sorting through a large pile of papers on my desk and finally getting my Halloween Lights and decorations in place before Friday.

Where does the time go? I mean this year was on a fast pace, wasn't it? The holidays are closer than you think and I am so happy family will be on the West Coast for Christmas so there is no rush for gifts and no reason for baked goods this year. Sounds callous doesn't it? Not this year, I really need a rest and a possible squeezing of another trip to DC.

The absolute other worse thing that adds to a bad week, is not knowing what or even wanting to make dinner. It had to be a no recipe dish (I would only yell at the writer) and I needed to use up the last of the older eggs.

Ah ha!! I had older eggs? No, I am not going crazy, well I am but not that kind of crazy. Older eggs peel easier, as in hard boiled, but in this case as in Oeuf Mollet.

For those of you who consider poaching an egg food torture needs to pay attention, NOW.

I have the easiest, non-problematic way to serve totally cooked white and runny yolked eggs.
Leave it up to those country French Mamas who always made French food easy to make.

Remember when you watched someone blow the insides of a whole egg into a bowl so they could decorate and save without any spoilage?

You need a push pin and cold eggs. Push the pin into the fatter side of the egg and gently slide them into boiling water for 6 minutes. Remove to a large bowl of iced water and let them sit there until they cool completely. If you use room temperature eggs, the yolks will not be as runny, so might be better for the kids. While that is happening we can make the rest of the dish.

Whatever vegetable you have on hand, and whatever prepared meat product is in your fridge.
I had a ham steak and grilled asparagus but you could use Brussels sprouts or green beans and Italian sausage or Chicken sausage and I think leftover pork, sliced thin would also work.

I made a Bearnaise sauce with a nob of goat cheese, some maple syrup and mustard. It was sooooo good.

Oeuf Mollet
makes up to 8 eggs

* 8 cold eggs
* 1 pound vegetable (asparagus, green beans, broccoli, etc)
* 3/4 pound ham steak, sausage or shrimp, rough chop
* 1 package Bearnaise sauce mix, prepared
* 2 ounces reduced fat goat cheese
* 1 tablespoon maple syrup
* 2 teaspoons mustard, your choice
* Unsalted butter
* salt & pepper to taste

1. Fill a 2 quart saucepan with water and heat to a vigorous simmer
2. Poke a hole into the larger end of each egg with a push pin
3. Slowly lower the eggs into the simmering water and set the timer to 6 minutes. Get a large bowl of ice & water ready.
4. In a saute pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Saute the meat until the edges crisp. Add the vegetables, pour in a small amount of water, cover and steam until the vegetables are crisp tender, about 4 minutes.
5. In a small saucepan make the Bearnaise as per package directions. Add the syrup, mustard and goat cheese. Stir to combine.
6. When the eggs are cold to the touch, roll them gently on the counter to crack the shells. Peel and place back in the bowl.
7. Pour the vegetable mixture into a baking pan, and lay the eggs evenly across the top.
Spoon the sauce over the mixture and place in a 425° oven for 20 minutes, until the edges start to bubble and brown.
8. Remove to cool and serve with toast points or dinner rolls.

October 23, 2014

Cuban Turkey Meatloaf

This day started in the wrong direction and just kept going. The Nudge drove three miles out of town and just as he hit the entrance ramp to Interstate Route 80, he got a flat.
He called to tell me he was going to change the tire and would I meet him back in town at the tire place?. Now, mind you, he drives a mid-sized SUV and on a highway that if you go slower than 80, they will run you over, I was sure I would not allow him to attempt at doing something he hasn't done in twenty years.

So, there I am screaming at him to call AAA because, excuse me, isn't that why we pay them money? to do road assistance? Trust me, I would have strangled him if I was in that car.

Finally, common sense prevailed and he pulled in our driveway thirty minutes later, tire changed. I am sure my husband would never admit he was happy to see the the young stud that showed up, but to me he confided in the fact that he feared for his life as huge 18 wheelers blew by him. Great way to start the day, huh?

Luckily the piece of metal that speared his tire wasn't so big that a plug wouldn't work, and a mere $25 later, he was back on the road again. That sucker was in there!!

I thought that I would make a favorite for dinner tonight but I refused to go full blown winter meatloaf when the thermometer was still cracking 70° here in the NE.
That didn't mean I couldn't create a lighter version using lean turkey.
What could be better than a turkey meatloaf and a side salad of late harvested deck tomatoes, cucumbers and blue cheese? I think he'll like it.

I don't make much meatloaf with turkey and was trying to think of a way to put a spin on this one.
I ran the contents of my pantry through my mind and I remembered a can of Deviled Ham I bought for a cheese ball I wanted to try and as soon I thought about mixing that in with the turkey mixture, when my mind went to a famous sandwich we both are fond of, you know it as a Cubano.
When I travel to South Jersey I make sure I have deli meats in the fridge if The Nudge doesn't want leftovers, he won't mind a sandwich for dinner. With enough ham & Swiss to make a Cordon Bleu meatloaf, I had dinner planned.

I made my usual meatloaf mix, but with lean ground white turkey and on a large moistened wooden board I covered the surface with plastic wrap (the water acts like glue). Evenly press the meat mixture with your fingers until it is the width of a standard loaf, then lay the ham then the Swiss evenly over the meat, to a 1/2" of the edge.

Using the wrap as you would for a Sushi roll, tucking in the deli as you go, roll the meat to the end and place the roll in a baking pan. Remove the plastic and allow the meat to come to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 ° and set a pot of salted water to a boil.

While the water was boiling, I started the mustard sauce.

You will need:
Belgium Ale
Dijon and Spicy Brown Mustard
Salt & Pepper

1 cup ale, minced shallots added; reduce to 2 tablespoons.
Add 1 tablespoon of each mustard, whisk in 1 tablespoon honey and 1 cup cream.
Reduce by half and season with salt & pepper to taste.
I add a drop of cognac to up the background taste but that is optional.

With my meatloaf I cooked a pot of yolk less noodles and some peas.
Hint: Peas float so cook them in the noodle water first, fish them out and then cook your noodles. Any nutrients that leach from the peas will be absorbed into the noodles.

I roasted the loaf for 45 minutes because it was skinny and longer than usual. On a thermometer it should read an internal temp of 165°. Tent the meat for 10 minutes, while you chop the herbs for the noodles.
Dinner is served. 

This was full of flavor and better than I thought it would be. You may be tempted to add more ham and cheese but trust me, one layer was more than enough. You should make the sauce,  it took this loaf over the top.

I can't wait to make a meatloaf sandwich with my new favorite.

October 22, 2014

Black CatSpooky Spices ♥ Curry Sauce - Recipe ReDux Challenge October 2014

This month's Recipe Redux challenge was created just for me. Well, not just for me but maybe with me in mind?

This is the challenge for October: Spooky Spices: You know they are lurking there: Way in the back of your spice drawer. There lie the herbs, spices, or rubs that are getting dusty because you’re afraid to use them… you simply don’t know what to do with them! Well, pull them out and show us a recipe you created to deliciously conquer that fearful spice. (Or maybe the recipe was a flop – and the spice still give you nightmares?!)

Now, please, don't judge me too harshly but they wrote that knowing my secret. I hate curry. Just the smell will chase me away.
I know we are in a small minority here, because curry dishes are loved worldwide and I often wonder what it is about that spice, that makes my face scrunch like a little kids, who has just smelt liver and onions for the first time. Yes, quite the nightmare.

Or is it?
I do know that curry is from India and is actually a blend of many spices, each cook creates their own. Maybe I could experiment and come up with a version that isn't an aversion to my senses.

When it comes to curry, I think a British one is a good place to start so I need to find a proper right Englishman who can cook. So who did I choose? Jamie Oliver.

I have been watching him when he was a single bloke that called himself the Naked Chef and have recreated many of his dishes over the years. Except, that is, his curry. With the recent release and excitement for his new cookbook, I thought it was the perfect place to start. It seems his favourite curry sauce is everyone else's also. He gives the basic mixture of spices, then the appropriate additions, depending on what protein you will be cooking.

Simple enough, even for me. I knew that jar of fenugreek seeds I bought would be good for something. The only thing I had to buy was Serrano peppers and I had to omit the curry leaves (no time to order and nowhere locally). I decided my use would be with chicken.

Wish me luck!!! Aren't I such a sorry arse? You would think I was about to pluck that chicken, geez.

Update: While I was measuring each ingredient into it's receptacle I realized it was the fenugreek that gave curry that unique smell, so what was any good little curry hating girl to do? I reduced the fenugreek from Jamie's teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon. Yes, I am a wuss, but one that likes my customized version and The Nudge totally agreed with me.

While mine was made with chicken and coriander seeds, I added a few cubes of butternut squash to round out the meal. I served mine with brown basmati rice and we both ate our dinners. I am not sure he even realized that this was the curry, and psssst....I am not going to tell him.

If there are any other curry haters out there, make this sauce (with a smidgen of fenugreek). You will really like it and technically it is a curry sauce and a wonderful Asian sauce, that I might just use with everything, from now on.

Once again, I have to thank The Recipe Redux for showing me that where there is a will,, there was a way.

Jamie Oliver's Favourite Curry Sauce
Adapted from  Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef

* 5 tbsp vegetable oil
* 2 tsp mustard seeds
* 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
* 3 green chillies, seeds removed, thinly sliced
* A handful of curry leaves, ripped into small pieces
* 2 thumb sized pieces of ginger
* 3 onions, chopped
* 6 tomatoes, chopped
* 1 tsp turmeric
* 1 tsp chili powder
* 1 or 2 wineglass water (about 10 oz)
* 14 fluid oz can coconut milk
* Salt

Fish version
* 4 (225 g) haddock fillets, skinned and pin-boned
* 1 knob (1 tbsp) tamarind paste or 1 tsp tamarind syrup
* A very large handful baby spinach (optional)

Chicken version:
* 4 chicken breasts, sliced into 1/2 inch (1 cm) strips
* 2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed

Vegetarian version:
* 800 g mixed veg, chopped (potatoes, zucchini, onions, sweet potatoes, spinach, chard, cauliflower, lentil beans)

1. Heat the oil.  When hot add mustard seeds & wait for it to pop.  Then add fenugreek, green chillies, curry leaves and ginger. Stir fry for a few mins.
2. Using food processor, chop the onion and add to the pan.
3. When brown & soft, add the chili powder and turmeric.
4. Using same food processor, pulse the tomatoes & add to the pan.  Cook a couple of mins.
5. Add 1 or 2 wineglasses of water & the coconut milk.  Simmer about 5 mins until it has the consistency of thick heavy cream.
6. Season carefully with salt & take this sauce as the base.

7. To make fish curry:
- 1.  Add the fish & tamarind to the sauce and simmer 6 mins.
- 2.  Add baby spinach at the end of cooking time.

8. To make chicken version:
- 1.  Stir fry chicken strips & coriander seeds until light colored.
- 2.  Add to sauce & simmer for 10 mins.

9. Vegetable version:
- 1.  Simply add all vegetables to the sauce at the beginning when you add the onions.
- 2.  Continue to cook as normal and simmer until tender.

October 20, 2014

Mediterranean Olive Oil Poached Swordfish

I have this weird thing I do in the supermarket. I can't stop myself from checking out the seafood, even when I have trout, flounder and cod in my freezer.

So that could only mean two things, The Nudge is traveling and I am hopping they have swordfish.

I love when a plan comes together. I'm OK that it's frozen, I actually prefer the ones shrink wrapped and frozen. I got lucky with a piece with no bloodline that was pink and perfect. And on sale!!!!

Starting the day he left for Chicago a huge storm stretching from Canada to the Panhandle finally made it's way east. While it's only raining on and off today, there is too much 'on' to grill so that left me two options. Sear or roast. But wait, there was another way. I remember a method not used much here in the US but all over the Mediterranean. Olive oil poached fish. It is best used on firm fish, such as tuna, salmon, halibut and swordfish. No, I have never poached anything in olive oil, but I have slow roasted white beans the French way and tomatoes in the Italian way.

Yes, I am having herb infused olive oil poached white beans with my swordfish. Why use two pans when one will do? Why dirty two pans when you are doing the dishes?  Get it? Good.
First you need to season your fish and bring it to room temperature. I used my herb sea salt.
Next, preheat the oven to 250° and pour at least 1" of olive oil in a straight sided oven ready pan (I used my small cast iron, it was perfect).

Poached the beans before cooking the fish. Yes, they were canned beans, but rinsed and drained well. Next I add two smashed cloves of garlic, a spring of rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage to the oil and a half a small shallot. When the oil reaches 120° add the beans and return the pan to the oven for 15 minutes. Move the beans over and carefully slide the fish into the oil. Remember, it's very hot.

I covered mine for the last 10 minutes but it only took 30 minutes to cook. While the fish poached, I made a sauce of tomatoes, oil-cured olives, capers and a minced clove of garlic, salt & pepper along with a pinch of red pepper flakes for character. I will add the beans to the sauce and spoon it over my fish.

One of my best swordfish meals and I am not just saying that because I like my cooking.
Healthy, low fat, low carb (if any) and diapropriate.

Mediterranean Swordfish

* 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup white beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 small shallot, finely chopped
* 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
* 5 canned San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
* 6 black oil cured olives, pitted and finely chopped
* 1 tablespoons capers
* 1 swordfish steak, about 4 ounces
* salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 250°. Fill a cast iron pan with olive oil and herbs.
2. When oil registers 120° remove the herbs and add the beans. Braise for 15 minutes.
3. Carefully slide the fish into the oil and return to the oven. Poach for 30 minutes.
4. Remove the fish to a plate and in a bowl, add the beans, the shallot, garlic, olives, capers and tomatoes. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning.
5. Spoon the beans over the fish and serve.

October 17, 2014

Spanish Meatballs ♥ One Sauce, Five Meals

I am having a very hard time writing this post but I owe my readers a finish to something I started a few weeks ago.
I admit my mind is elsewhere and I hope that my lack of concentration is due to family not to a lack of enthusiasm for cooking. I have seen many blogs end due to burnout and I would hate to be the next casualty. Time lately, has just flown by and happily we have a small 4 day trip to Gettysburg planned until Tuesday. I am so looking forward to surrounding myself with history and not cooking vessels.
So before I go, I will finish all loose ends and return with renewed energy.

So, let's finish this series "Master Sauce, Five Dishes".
To recap, Oxtail Stew inspired a Shrimp Etouffee, then Braised Ribs in Tomato Sauce, a Sichuan Baked Cod and, finally, Spanish Meatballs.

I have to admit planning and making the dishes was easy, taking their picture and writing the post was so very difficult.
I liked the conception but picked the wrong time to implement the project.

I liked the idea that these were baby meatballs, the kind kids will gobble up and adults will appreciate. These are no way near an Albondiga which are Mexican meatballs. Picture a baking dish of sizzling garlic shrimp and substitute the shrimp for meat.

There it is in a nutshell. Served with noodles or rice and even Fideos would work, I served mine with a salad and a loaf of Panella bread. Yum. The sauce is to die for. I must worn you, there is copious amounts of garlic but it's cooked not raw so toned down a bit. This makes quite a few meatballs and leftovers would be good as an addition in a soup, just quarter them to make them bite-sized.

If you are interested in my opinion, the Etouffee and these meatballs are worth making again but the cod, although good, was not a Nudge favorite, but then cod is not on the top of his fish list.
The ribs? OMG, they were out-of-this-world fabulous and made it into our top 20 favs for 2014.

These meatballs were made in my slow cooker and the aromatics were microwaved to bloom the flavors before adding them along with the broth, white wine and master sauce to the insert.
It was that easy.

Spanish Meatballs
makes about 40 1-inch balls

* 4 sliced white sandwich bread
* 1 cup whole milk
* 2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
* 1/2 cup grated cheese
* 2 large egg yolks
* 1/4 cup minced parsley
* 6 cloves garlic, minced
* salt & pepper
* 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
* 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
* 1 cup master sauce
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 2 bay leaves
* 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475° degrees. Place wire rack in aluminum foil-lines rimmed baking sheet.
2. Mash bread and milk into a paste in large bowl using fork. Mix in ground beef, Parmesan, egg yolks, 1/4 cup parsley, 2 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper using hands. Use a tablespoon scoop to portion the meatballs, roll and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
3. Microwave onions, remaining 4 garlic cloves, oil, paprika and saffron in bowl, stirring until onions are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
4. Stir broth, master sauce, wine, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Transfer meatballs to slow cooker, discarding rendered fat. Cover and cook until meatballs are tender, 4 to 6 hours on low.
5. Let meatballs and sauce settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves. Gently stir in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Here are the four dishes made with the same master sauce.
(links below)

Insanely Good Oxtail Stew (not shown)
Shrimp Etouffee
Braised Pork Ribs in Sauce
Baked Miso Cod in Sichuan Sauce
Spanish Meatballs

October 15, 2014

Baked Miso Cod in a Sichuan Sauce ♥ One Sauce - Five Meals

This is the last (the 5th and final) recipe using the last cup of leftover sauce from the original Oxtail Stew. While the final post will be Spanish Meatballs (on Friday), the meatballs were still in the freezer so I posted this recipe while they defrosted. We have come full circle.

This dish came together in no time. Simply coat a firm white fish like cod or snapper in a miso marinade and serve it in a Sichuan sauce. Takes less than 30 minutes from oven to table.

If you can not find miso, a good substitute would be black bean paste and that can be found where Kikkoman is sold. I did make a batch of Basmati Fried Rice but plain rice is fine. I also recommend Near East's Bulgar and Whole Wheat Orzo Pilaf.

Sichuan Braised Cod
makes 4 servings
* 1 1/2 pound cod
* 1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
* 3/4 cup chicken broth
* 1 1/2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
* 1 tablespoons ketchup
* Pinch red pepper flakes
* 4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
* 1 cup Master Sauce

Miso marinade:
* 1 tablespoon white miso paste
* 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 2 teaspoons white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place the marinade in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify.
Rub the fish on both sides.
2. Bake fish for 20 minutes.
3. In a saucepan, add ginger through pepper flakes and simmer until it thickens, about 15 minutes.
Add the white parts of the scallion and remove from the heat.
4. When the fish is done, spoon the sauce over the fish, sprinkle with the green parts of the scallion.

All Five Dishes using the Master Sauce:
Insanely Good Oxtail Stew - Master Sauce
Shrimp Etouffee
Braised Pork Ribs
Spanish Meatballs (post - Friday)
Sichuan Cod

October 12, 2014

Terrine of Butternut Squash and Egg Noodles ♥ National Pasta Association - Pasta Fits Campaign

Let's just say that I always wanted to bake a kugel and and a pasta pie. Just about says it all, huh?
Not sure how other cook's get their ideas for original recipes but I like to start with something that I know I will like so I know I have a shot at creating something edible.

The National Pasta Association wants to know how we will celebrate October is National Pasta Month so they sponsored a recipe contest along with the gals at the Recipe Redux and, yes, it's all about the pasta!!

Right up my alley, pasta has always been an important part of my life. No, you do not have to be Italian to love pasta but when I was growing up, you tell someone you're Italian and they immediately ask you "is it sauce or gravy"?

When I was five I could be found standing on a chair at my Nonna's kitchen table, rolling dough with a broom handle. Oh, yes. I was a pasta machine!!!

Pasta has always been a staple at our family meals and back in the day, feeding 10 children, it was a necessity. There is much truth that Italians are frugal and know how to stretch a dollar.

Today, pasta is not only easy on the budget, it's a healthy way to put a quick and tasty dinner on the table. Pasta is all about the simple.

Some of the world's most famous pasta dishes have no more than 5 ingredients and a 30 minute cook time. What's not to love about that? Plus, it tastes wonderful and is the perfect vehicle for just about every food. There is no right or wrong with pasta.

Although I write about Diabetes and my relationship with food, there is no norm in a Diabetics diet, like in a gluten-free or Vegan diet, just recommendations and I like to stay within the guidelines posted by the American Diabetes Association. They include a 2 ounce serving of pasta in a diet plan, and I never say no to a gift!!

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

This year, I am in charge of the vegetable for Thanksgiving, but this year I wanted to blow their minds. Take a vegetable and bake a sweet pasta inside and start a new food tradition. I think this recipe is fantastic for a dinner party. Guaranteed to make a statement. I bet I even had you..........

So, Susan where does the kugal come into play? Well, let me explain, the addition of grated Granny Smith apples, eggs and onions to the noodles makes it similar to a kugal.

This was delicious and worth the step to cover the loaf pan with what I like to call, squash lasagna.
While I left my slices long, it is easier to cut the neck in half and make each slice into a 1/4"x 3" square.

Butternut Squash Stuffed Egg Noodle Terrine
Serves 12 as a side dish

* 10 oz. egg noodles, your favorite
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
* as much black pepper as you like
* 1 large squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded, the neck cut into half crosswise and then into 1/4-inch slices, the bottom into crescents
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* 1 egg and 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
* 1 granny smith apple, peeled and grated
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the salt, spices and black pepper in a small bowl. Brush the squash with 1 tablespoon of the oil and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. As you would sprinkle powdered sugar, sprinkle the slices with half the spices; reserve remaining spices for the noodles.
2. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tip of a knife slides easily in and out. Remove but leave the oven on.
3. While the squash cooks, bring 2 quarts salted water to a boil. Add the oil to a skillet and saute the onions until the start to caramelize. Cook the noodles as per the directions on the package, about 7 minutes.
4. Drain the noodles: reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Return the noodles to their pot. Add the egg and the whites to the noodles along with the spices, the butter and the reserved cooking water.
Add the grated apple and carefully fold in.
5. Butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Line the sides and bottom with the squash slices, covering all the surface as best you can, saving the worst looking ones for the top (which will be the bottom).
6. Add the noodle mixture to the pan, cover with the last of the squash slices and cover with foil. Using a sheet pan with a cast iron pan or brick to cover and weigh the mixture down, bake for 35 minutes. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes before unmolding.
7. Run a knife around the inside of the pan, pressing against the pan. Carefully invert onto a platter and remove the pan. It will come easily out of the pan. Present the terrine whole or cut into serving slices.


Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Orzo Salad ♥ National Pasta Association - "Pasta Fits" Campaign

There is a side dish at my favorite Italian restaurant that is soooo good I order the same meal every time we eat there.

How many times have you eaten something that inspires you to run home and recreate?
When the Recipe Redux forwarded our next sponsored recipe contest, I couldn't have been happier. This was it, the chance to finally nail that dish but make it healthier because we all know, restaurants best friends are salt and butter.
Did you know it is also National Pasta Month?

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

After six tries, The Nudge gave me the thumbs up and actually proclaimed it had more flavor than the original. Always the pessimist, I thought I might have missed something but than I realized that I added more vegetables, ones that were high on flavor, to the pasta, instead of the other way around.
They have to make money, I could be generous.

Seriously loaded with flavor, easy to prepare and extremely healthy by side dish standards.

Did you know that a pasta dinner, complete with the addition of vegetables and/or a lean protein can be enjoyed by all, so I know you are wondering. How do I handle my pasta consumption with Diabetes? The American Diabetes Association recommends no more than 2 ounces dried pasta per serving.
Want in on a little secret? Orzo is one of those pastas (like angel hair, and fusilli) that cooks to more than 3x it's dried weight, so it easily satisfies your hunger at what might seem small at only2 ounces. Add all these great vegetables and chicken or shrimp and you have a power house dish.

Pasta is a must for those on a budget and besides feeding an army on a box, I know no one who does not love pasta.

Next time you need a covered dish for a pot luck, triple the recipe and be a star!!
A seriously easy dish that you could serve at a dinner party but tastes like you ordered take out!!

Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Orzo
makes 4 cups
* 1 cup dried orzo pasta
* 1 tablespoon salt for pasta water
* 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, your choice (oil packed or dried)
* 1/4 head radicchio, thinly shredded
* 1 cup torn raw baby spinach, about 2 cups whole
* 2 tablespoons butter, divided
* 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* 1 tablespoon capers, minced
* 1 small shallot, minced
* salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup cooking water.
2. In the same pot, add 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon olive oil, reserved pasta cooking water, garlic and shallot. Saute until you smell the garlic. Add the radicchio and the spinach and cook until they just wilt. Drop in the tomatoes, the capers and the orzo. Stir to combine and right before serving, add the remaining tablespoon of butter.
Taste for seasonings and make adjustments.

Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 1 week. Return to room temperature before serving.



October 9, 2014

Braised Pork Ribs in Sauce ♥ One Sauce, Five Meals

When you reach the ripe ole age of 21 and get the kind of first job that includes a company car, you can sell your Nova SS and put a deposit on your first apartment. Two years later, I was broke, out of work, out of that apartment, out of transportation and living with a musician.
Cooking on a budget was born out of necessity and ribs were dirt cheap.

What was a good Italian girl to do? Make spare ribs in tomato gravy and invite the whole band to dinner. I haven't cooked spare ribs in sauce since then and last week while trying to create recipes with a meat sauce flavored with tomatoes, a long time ago memory hit me hard.

What I really did back then, was to cook the ribs in the sauce, which in turn would flavor a few cans of tomatoes that I would make into a sauce for another night when rigatoni's were on the menu.

Back then we would use various foods to throw into a pasta sauce. A basket of crabs for $5.00, a huge package of cheap thin pork chops, chicken wings and the best, a box of calamari rings (which was sold as bait in certain parts of New Jersey). We would buy a cheap gallon of Chianti, a few loaves of day old bread (reinvented into garlic bread) and two boxes of Ronzoni pasta. Yes, that was the one thing I insisted on buying although I could get a generic box for half the price (which was a quarter back then). We would open 4 large cans of tomato sauce, a whole head of garlic and a whole onion into an old aluminum stock pot that someones mother probably could not even remember how it disappeared, and simmer that pot for 4 hours. We would pass the hat around and it would cover the cost of next week's meal.

I was worried that my expectations might not hold up as well as the memory of those meals, but I figured it was worth the travel back in time. Anything cooked with ribs had to be good, right?

While I used my grill for the initial braise (a good excuse to hang outsideon a good weather day), this dish is perfect for the oven on a day when you have the time or slow cooker when you don't.

A simple rub of Italian spices (the ones that make our sausages taste so good) and in a lasagna pan (or roasting pan), tightly covered with foil, I set the heat to 325 and slowly braised one rack of spare ribs for one hour.

While the ribs were slowly cooking, I made the gravy.

The last cup of my master sauce, 1 cup of broth (chicken or beef), a 14oz can of your favorite tomatoes (I used stewed), a half a whole onion and 4 cloves of garlic into a sauce pan. I added a few bay leaves, some red pepper flakes, and simmered on a back burner while the ribs cooked. Slow cooker: omit the cup of broth.

After an hour, I drained the fat from the pan, poured the sauce over the ribs and placed the covered pan back on the heat for an additional hour. 20 minutes before setting the table, I put a large pot of salted water to boil.

Carb watchers could cook up some barley or use a Diabetic-friendly pasta, or better yet, just pick the ribs up and eat as you would BBQ. These are so rich with flavor, we were happy and full with two ribs each.

They say that most childhood dinners revisited after a few decades are never the same as remembered. These were better than remembered and a wonderful way to end an Indian Summer weekend. Next time I won't wait 35 years.

Tender and with an intense deep meaty flavor from the juice the meat added to the master sauce. Now I know why pork bones always went into our Sunday Gravy.

I am looking forward to a lunch of ribs, and a pot of memories. After all, isn't that what food is all about? This was so easy, you could also make this without the master sauce. The ribs marinade overnight and in the morning, open a jar of good quality marinara sauce, pour that plus the red pepper flakes into the insert and place the ribs over the sauce (do not cover with the sauce). Set to LOW for 6-8 hours.

Braised Spare Ribs in Tomato Sauce
makes 4 hearty servings

Marinate overnight or minimum 4 hours
2 hours oven/grill time or 6-8 hours slow cooker

* 1 package of full rack of pork spare ribs, cut in half
* 1 cup master sauce
* 1 cup broth, chicken or beef
* 14oz can stewed tomatoes
* red pepper flakes
* half a medium onion
* 4 cloves of garlic
* 2 bay leaves
* Italian Spice Rub (recipe follows)
* 1 pound pasta, your choice
* Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Loaf of bread, optional

1. Rub spice mixture on ribs, cover tightly in foil and double bag them (can cut the rack in two). Place in fridge overnight, or a minimum 4 hours.
2. Grill: Place ribs in aluminum pan, cover with foil, and grill at 325 degrees for 2 hours. Last 30 minutes, add the sauce, uncover and continue cooking until the meat falls off the bones.
Oven Braise: Place ribs in a large roasting pan (dry), cover tightly and roast at 325 degrees for 1 hour, removing every 30 minutes to baste with their natural juices. After one hour, spoon as much fat from the juices as you can and pour the tomato sauce over. Cover and return to the oven for 1 hour longer.
Slow cooker: Place the master sauce, the broth, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and the bay leaves over the ribs, set the machine to LOW for 8 hours.

Spice Rub
makes enough for a full rack of St. Louis ribs
* 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves
* 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
* 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
* 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
* 2 teaspoons chopped sage
* 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
* 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
* 1 teaspoons crushed red pepper
* 1 teaspoons ground coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and rub the paste all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight (best).

Recipes in this series:
Insanely Good Oxtail Stew - Master Sauce
Shrimp Etouffee
Braised Pork Ribs

October 6, 2014

Broccoli & Goat Cheese Souffle ♥ A good nuclear disaster

The other day I was in Google looking for a recipe that I already forgot about, but I do remember finding a blog post where the writer not only showcased a total recipe bomb but the pictures that went with it. Yay for her.

Got me thinking. It was refreshing to see when a recipe really flops. I know a few bloggers that will talk about their travel from inception to conception of various recipes (and the redo overs) but you never see those pictures. I recently downloaded Instagram on my iPad (little late I know) but realized that Instagram is what blogs used to be. You know, those personal logs that allowed you to meet the person behind them. Now it's big business to run a professional site and I do not consider them a blog anymore. They are now business websites and have lost that personal touch. Sometimes it's reassuring to know we are not the only ones that make boo-boos.

Unless you are a professional trained schooled chef, and I am not, my dinners just don't look like that. Best I can do is to take a serving from dinner and the next day, make it look as pretty as I can for it's picture (and my photography is terrible) so if dinner is good and there is no leftover, I have nothing to post.

I baked a souffle in the wrong dish and.....well..... see what happened?


I almost did not post this because it was not something that looked all that great. Let me tell you, we almost ate the whole thing and the main event it was not. Want a way for your family to embrace vegetables?

It was light, moist and the absolute perfect mouthful. The Nudge went back 3x!!! for more. This morning I filled an omelet with it (yes, a Better than Eggs omelet).
I also put a 2 quart souffle dish on my shopping list.....lol

Now, would you make this recipe, even though it was the dish that was the problem? You could bake this in a large lasagna pan (Jacques does it) and it would still puff up.

I forgot how easy and good souffles can be and I will bake another one again (hopefully in a bigger pan), maybe with carrots or maybe with kale. It's the perfect dish for using up all those bags of frozen vegetables that are almost petrified in the back of your freezer. Yes, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Souffles I can do, sweet and savory. I love them all. I like that I can make some of them using egg whites only so they are healthier and totally low carb for Diabetics.

I am going to post, for those who want a fail-safe souffle recipe, the base that you can add any vegetable or fruit to and make the perfect souffle.

The secret is to use the right ratio of whole eggs & whites to # of servings. A souffle for two would require 2 whole eggs + 1 extra egg white, a souffle for four, 4 whole eggs + 2 extra egg whites and 6 people and up, 6 whole eggs + 3 extra egg whites.
I have made dessert souffles using only egg whites but fruit purees are lighter in general and the texture is total air so that's a good thing for fruits. A heavy vegetable puree might require a few yolks to get the lift needed but I will be testing savory souffles that use a chia pudding base. If that works well, we will have the ability to make a perfect food.

I say "YUM" to that!!

Broccoli Souffle
makes 4-6 substantial servings

* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1 can fat-free evaporated milk
* 2 ounces reduced fat goat cheese
* 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese, divided
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 3 whole eggs, separated + 2 whites (5 whites total)
* 20oz frozen broccoli florets, steamed, your choice
* 1 small shallot
* 1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning
* freshly grated pepper
* pinch nutmeg
* pinch of cream of tartar

1. Puree the steamed broccoli, yolks, shallot and seasonings.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking continuously. Slowly pour the milk into the roux, whisking until the mixture starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and the honey.
3. Replace pan on a low heat and stir until the mixture thickens. Remove off the heat and bring to room temperature.
4. Butter a 2 quart souffle dish and coat the insides with grated cheese, adding what doesn't stick back into the broccoli mixture.
5. Heat your oven to 375°. Using a stand or hand mixer, pour egg whites with tartar into a bowl and whisk on high until you see the whites start to glisten and shine. You want a firm peak.
6. Add a third of the whites into the broccoli base and gently whisk to lighten the base.
7. Add another third of the whites to the base, this time gently folding them in. Add the remaining whites to the base and fold until there are no streaks of white. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and run a knife or spatula across the top. Run your thumb around the inside edge to create a crevice, which will help the souffle rise evenly, giving it the traditional "top hat" look.
Although not necessary, it does make for a prettier souffle.
8. Bake for 45 minutes, and serve immediately before it deflates. The broccoli will give the souffle more structure and it will stay puffed long enough for the oooh's and aaah's, but do not wait too long.

I found that the next morning the souffle was still light but not quite as airy which was perfect as a filling for my omelet or for a stuffing into baked mushrooms. You will appreciate the fact that the flavor does not diminish with time and will hold, in a container, for a few days.
When i ran the stats through my analyzer I was quite happy with the outcome. Enjoy your leftovers.
Yay for me!!

October 2, 2014

Lattice Crust Chicken Pot Pie

I am under the assumption that The Nudge, if allowed, would eat chicken in any form or style, almost every day. It sure does seem that way. It is always the first thing out of his mouth when asked what he wanted for dinner. Now I like chicken, don't get me wrong but I would eat seafood like he would eat chicken so to keep our food life interesting, I try to be fair.

I secretly smile when Fall comes knocking on our door. If a lottery was the question, "if your spouse could take one meal with them to a desert isle, what would that be?" and the game was running in the cold months, I would win the grand prize. Yesterday, for me, I made a huge baked macaroni and cheese, which I haven't done in at least a year so, and to be fair I asked The Nudge if there was anything he would like. I wasn't all that surprised when I was asked to make a chicken pot pie.

There are a few dishes that are favorites of his but not mine. This is one of them. I am not sure what the appeal is and I thought it was the double crust, requested each time, but when he ordered said pie in a Bermudan Irish Pub and it came with a square baked piece of puff pastry perched on top of what looked like a typical chicken pie filling, I watched him eat the whole thing, in the summer, on one of the hottest days that month. All these years of feeling guilty not making a homemade pastry crust when a puff pastry square would suffice? I have tried different crust recipes over the years and this crust was a hit but required more time than I had.

Been on the run these last few weeks so I planned on an easy crescent top which I have made a few times (not the best but not the worse either) but when I saw the bread sticks I immediately thought of a lattice top. I am pretty sure this has been done already, but not by me and not in this house.

Not sure how well it will taste as a topping, but The Nudge is a huge bread fan so he will flip at that crust, he can tear off a piece, dip it in the sauce and play with his food. What little boy could pass that up? For me, it is all about the filling. I thought I would change things up a bit. I do think peas and carrots are boring and potatoes with a crust? Not in this house.

Butternut squash has the same texture as a boil potatoes, baby limas could easily pass for the peas, and instead of bacon, I made cracklings from the chicken skin. The Nudge loves the skin.

Not wasting a thing, I took a page from Rachaels Week in a Day show and simmered the chicken bones for the sauce, and along the way I chopped some red peppers for color and as a creamy component, an aged Gouda (yum).

This recipe might actually give into him more than once a year.
This was the best pot pie I have ever eaten and obviously the best I have ever made.
I had a feeling one would be too much food, we should have shared.

We have a new rule in this house, as it pertains to his lunches.
Eat what you can and toss the rest. No bringing home half eaten lunches. What the heck would I do with them?
He used to think he was being considerate by bringing home leftovers of the leftovers since I hate to throw foods away, but even I draw the line. Most times, he just eats the whole thing, even when he's full. I know he loved this recipe because his Rubbermaid came back clean.

Lattice Crust Chicken Pot Pie
makes 2 pies

* 1 package refrigerator bread sticks
* 1/2 the meat from one organic chicken, bones and skin reserved
* 3" piece of the neck on a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
* 1/2 cup baby lima beans
* 1/4 red pepper,chopped
* 1/2 small onion, diced
* 1 large garlic clove, minced
* 2 teaspoons Adobo seasoning
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 tablespoon butter
* salt & black pepper
* 1 inch cube aged Gouda cheese
* egg wash

1. Remove the skin from the chicken and cut it into 2-inch pieces. Line a sheet pan with parchment and place the skins on the parchment and into an oven set to 400°. Bake until they are crisp and the fat has rendered, about 15 minutes.
2. In the same oven, add the cubed squash to another sheet pan that has been sprayed with Pam. Season the squash with salt and pepper. The squash will be done at the same time as the cracklings.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions, garlic and red pepper. Saute until they are soft. Add the flour and the butter and 3 ladles of broth. Whisk until smooth and when the sauce bubbles, add the limas and the Adobo and then the cheese.
5. Taste for salt and adjust.
6. Split the mixture between two ramekins and make the lattice.

7. Make a cross using two bread sticks that you have twisted. Lift one side off the cross and place one bread stick on either side. Repeat with the other bread stick. You should have three across and one down the middle. Continue to lift the sides of the bread sticks and weave them with the ones already down. If you can't,don't worry just place three horizontal and three vertical across the top of the ramekin.
8. Use an egg wash to coat the dough and season with black pepper and a few more crumbles of chicken skin.
9. Bake in a 375° oven until the sauce is bubbling and the dough is golden brown and wonderful. Sprinkle the top with chopped parsley and serve.