Wish Upon A Dish: November 2014

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.

November 21, 2014

Lightened Lemon Meringue ♥ Thankful Food Memory - Recipe ReDux Challenge November 2014

This month's Recipe ReDux challenge was actually very difficult for me. No, not in the cooking but in the picking. When you reach my age, there are so many food memories, some long forgotten, and then factor the in-laws foodie times and all of our travels (remember we are DINKS) and I suddenly  found myself skipping all over my life. Happy to have had the chance to eat in many different places around the world with many different people, I am not sure that is what the gals at Recipe ReDux had in mind with this challenge.

Then I thought I might be reading it wrong and it wasn't about memorable foods but about a memory from a meal. I have got to slow down and read things carefully. Is everyone in the same speed zone as I am? I hope not.
I went back to the web site's description of this challenge and carefully read the words again and that's were I found the word thankful.

"A Food Memory For Which You Are Thankful

In the US, November marks the Thanksgiving holiday. But many of us are especially thankful for food memories we have shared with friends or relatives throughout our lives. Was it a special meal you ate as a child? Or, maybe it was a food you grew and harvested with your own children. Please share one of your favorite food memories and the healthier “redo” of the recipe."

Once I "got it" I knew exactly what food memory I was most thankful for....

Everyone knows the favorite foods of their family members and close friends, especially when you have shared many of them together.
While my MIL has been characterized as one of many all time fast food cooks in a large family, Sundays were the only day my FIL insisted they all sit down to dinner. It was like that, in all my friends homes during the baby boomer era. With the advent of TV dinners and city sponsored childhood sport venues, regular daily dinners were grab when you can but holidays?, they were a different animal. While my Mom was an excellent baker and she always made three pies at each holiday meal, over the river and through the woods at my in-laws, Mrs.Paul's frozen pies were the special of the day. The Nudge loved the pumpkin, my BIL was a coconut fanatic and my MIL loved lemon meringue pie and as she aged, the children made sure there was always one just for her at each family celebration.
Near the end of her life, visits to the hospice were more frequent and while she had her bad days and good days, we knew she would probably would not be at our Thanksgiving meal. On what would be our last weekend visit, I brought a slice of lemon meringue pie from her favorite bakery, not sure if she would even have the strength to eat anything. To our surprise, and a full 5 minutes of suspense, she managed to hold her fork with this huge piece of pie precariously balanced, up and into her mouth with the largest smile we had seen in a long time.

While it would turn out to be the last piece of pie she would ever eat, we were sure she knew that and she made sure she was going to saver every bite. For all the dinners and all the memories I had given her over a 40 year span, I know for sure at that one time, with that one simple piece of pie, it was one of her best food and family memories and the one I was most thankful for.

Four days later she passed away.

Once again I thank the gals over at the Recipe Dedux for showing me how important food can really be.

In memory of my Mother-in-Law, I have chosen to lighten up her favorite (and my) version of lemon meringue pie.
What I hoped to create would be a creamy, lemony, low carb, low sugar and easy-to-assemble individual free-form lemon meringue pudding parfait.

Wow, that is a mouthful in more than one way.

Research on the Intraweb produced a few recipes that while light in the fat area they were still full of sugar and more prep than I wanted until I found this totally sugar-free 2 ingredient lemon meringue pudding. It was a good start.

Don't judge me, I know I can make this whole dessert from scratch using whole foods but I did not want to. Every one's time is sparse and spread in many directions and I feel that if I can give them an easy and tasteful dessert with minimal prep and cost, I am OK with that.
I am a fan of Jello products and their sugar-free puddings and pie fillings are a fast and easy way to end the meal with something sweet. Diabetics need all the help they can get, I would love to see the ADA symbol on as many boxes as there are gluten-free, low fat and low carb, but I don't.
Not a fan of most fake sugar substitutes and their off flavors, I decided to use the sugar-free lemon gelatin and a full fat vanilla pudding and make my decision after taste testing. I also added 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice to the mix and a 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese that I pureed and added to soften the sweet and tart.

Now, one more word of advice. Low fat graham crackers compared to a box with low fat on the cover, had the same nutrition labels. Yup, just buy the Keebler crumbs and you will be fine.
Also, the crumbs will be the bottom of my individual parfaits and the added honey will give them sticky power without using butter or heat.

"This recipe has been flying around the weight watchers message boards. The whole recipe is 4 Weight Watchers points as written (all sugar-free mixes with no dairy or crumbs). NOTE: Use the small boxes of jello and pudding that serves 4, AND you must use the cook and serve pudding (no instant here). You can make this with mixes thayt are full sugar instead of sugar free and as a pie filling or a light lemon mouse (with whipped dairy product)."

Lightened Lemon Meringue Pudding Parfaits
Makes 3 cups
* 1 (3oz depending on brand) box cook and serve vanilla pudding (NO instant)
* 1 (2-3oz depending on brand) box sugar-free lemon gelatin
* 1/2 cup large curd cottage cheese (your favorite), pureed
* 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 2 1/3 cups coconut water
* 1/2 cup heavy cream,whipped to soft peaks

1. Mix cook and serve vanilla pudding with water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
2. Take off heat and add lemon jello. Mix well.
3. Pour into a quart-sized measuring bowl and let chill for 2 hours.
4. Add the pureed cottage cheese, stir and set in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Day of serving, add 1/4 cup whipped cream for two servings. Fold in gently.

To assemble: Mix the honey and the crumbs until combined. Spoon 1 tablespoon into each glass followed by 1/4 cup pudding, another tablespoon of crumbs, 1/4 cup pudding and a final sprinkle of crumbs.

While the recipe makes enough for 4 full servings, I did made two parfaits and set them in the fridge till today when there would be enough light to take a decent picture. When I woke up this morning to remove them, there was only one!!

There was a gremlin in the fridge!!
Seems The Nudge had a snack before bed and somehow forgot to tell me.

November 17, 2014

Tex-Mex Au Gratin Potatoes ♥ Even the French would approve

When you marry into an Irish & English family, you better learn how to cook potatoes in 100 ways. Based on some minor sleuthing, I figure The Nudge ate potatoes in one way or another at least 5 days a week.

When I put a baked ham on the menu, in a matter of minutes I can predict I will hear "can we have au gratin potatoes with that?"

While white potatoes are on the "bad" list for a diabetic, omitting them from every one's diet is not a good thing.
I decided to see if I could bulk up on the diabetic friendly ingredients to tilt the dish in my favor without sacrificing the potato presence.

I made a list of ingredients that would pair well with potatoes and started cooking (turnip was added towards the end).
Tilted towards Tex-Mex foods with the addition of turnips, I added pepper jack to the traditional cheddar and I threw my first version into the oven.

Sometimes you hit a new recipe out of the ball park, sometimes you don't. This wasn't even a bunt.
While the flavor was good, the texture was horrible. Time for some research into the secrets of what makes a perfect potatoes au gratin.

Took me a few tries and a push in the right direction to get the right ratio but once I identified the problem the last batch was the final one. It wasn't the ingredients or the time in the oven it was the technique that was askew.
While most au gratins are made by simmering the potato slices in the cream, my first version turned out watery. The potatoes and turnips spent too much time in the cream sauce and could not absorb enough to create the consistency au gratin is loved for. Change the way ingredients are cooked before adding the cheese. That was the key to success.

My third try was perfection, and in my opinion easier. I remember watching America's Test Kitchen on PBS and many times making a potato dish, required microwaving first to remove liquid and optimize the starch molecules that were necessary to create a creamy texture in the potato before any cream was introduced. It was all about the food science.

A casserole or ramekins, your choice. I am all about the portion control so I made sure either was viable. The baking time was the same for both.

This was created for the last contest recipe but the cooking time fell well above the requirements for entries. Their loss, your gain.
No use deleting a good thing.

Let's get cooking.

Tex-Mex Au Gratin Potatoes
makes 6 servings

* 12 ounces canned or frozen corn
* 1 (6oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
* 3 medium russet potatoes
* 1 medium white turnip 
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
* 1 large clove garlic, pressed
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 1 teaspoon chili powder
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 tablespoon butter, softened
* 4 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, grated
* 2 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 475°F and prepare a microwave and oven safe baking dish.
2. Peel and cut potatoes and turnip into 1/4" slices (I used a mandolin).
3. Beat together the cream, milk, flour, garlic, chili powder, bay leaf, salt & pepper until well combined. Pour mixture into a saucepan and warm over a medium heat while you slice the potatoes and grate the cheeses.
4. Coat the inside of a large microwave/oven safe baking dish or 6 (3/4 cup) ramekins with the softened butter. Mix the beans and corn with the slice potatoes and turnip.
5. Arrange the mixture evenly into the baking dish/ramekins.
6. Cover with wax paper and microwave for 10 minutes on high. Using a small knife or skewer inserted into potatoes to check for resistance. The knife should slide in with some resistance but the potatoes should not be hard. Microwave for 3 more minutes and test again. Once the knife slides in and out without help from you, remove them from the microwave.
7. Pour the cream mixture evenly over the potatoes and bake in a conventional oven until almost all the liquid is gone. Add the cheeses and bake another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. (I used the broiler right before serving)
8. Remove and allow to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.
Can be prepared up to two days in advance and reheated before serving.

November 13, 2014

Souffled Pea Stuffed Pasta Shells ♥ When you want a little something before the bird

Yes, I am lazy or, I think I am. No one has ever called me that. They seem to think that I never stop moving.
OK, let's rephrase that. I am lazy with the things I do not like to do. You know, cleaning the bathroom, washing the floors, the windows and my least favorite, kitty litter.

Today I can add more one item to the list of "Things I have gotten lazy about."
I seriously am just not into it lately. Not happy, I think cooking might make it on the hate to do things list. Maybe I am in need of a break from the kitchen or maybe from all the kitchen antics? When I think about cooking dinner nowadays, my thoughts go to baked ham or baked ziti or even plain grilled cheese. The Nudge would never complain about those meals, he loves basic comfort foods and could eat them every night of the week.

Want to know exactly how tired I am of cooking? I agree with him about basic comfort foods, am tired of trying new challenging recipes and I actually made a tuna casserole for dinner last night. You have to read the story as to how it ended up in my oven and you will see how lazy I think I really am.

I have recently been involved in a recipe contest sponsored by Libby's Fruits & Vegetables. Took about 2 full weeks of my time. The first day I started the posting process, I read all the requirements and realized the dishes I had created (and which took two weeks) were all wrong and should never have been created. I had no choice but to run to the store and purchase more ingredients and start all over, making dishes according to the specifications Libby's required.

Last Sunday was the deadline, and come Monday morning, I saw the four previous posts sitting in my archives, pictures and recipes, all complete. Yes, I know it is my fault I wasted so much time but what was more crazy was that I started all over again.

Now you tell me, who can think about making dinner with all that contest cooking going on? I had stacks of containers of uncooked leftover ingredients in my fridge. Not something I wanted reminding me of my stupidity every time I opened that door. Then it dawned on me.....make a tuna noodle casserole. Yes, with peas and carrots and a can of tuna along with pre-grated cheeses and buttered bread crumbs.
When I got done assembling and baking, there was not one pea or carrot to be seen. I was done. I was happy and we were full.

But you might ask, where's the tuna casserole? You are right, there is no tuna casserole in this post. So what's up with that? You waste my time because you wasted your time?
I would never make you read a post without a prize attached.

Today, I am posting one of my non-contest worthy creations because it's all ready baked, photographed and eaten. Oh, and by the way, one of "the best lite stuffed shells in 30 minutes" dinner that just might change your mind about canned peas. It did mine.

Here we go..............

Processed vegetables can be boring, sometimes tasteless and soft. Not anything every person who has to make dinner under the gun didn't already know. They are, however, a must have essential item in your pantry but simply opening a can and plopping them on your table is not the best way to get kids to eat essential vegetables.

If you have been reading my blog last week you have seen what creative dishes the Recipe Redux members created in 10 minutes using pantry stable vegetables. I am in awe at their creativity and let's not forget, these gals are professional nutritionist, dietitians and nurses so they know their veggies.

Those stuffed shells at the beginning of this post? Stuffed with pea souffle. Yup, peas out of a bag.
The two of us ate 24 shells in two days, they were that lite and that good.

I am not done, there's more.

The filling for these shells can be ready before the pasta is even cooked. There are a few tricks to this dish starting with a food processor, a container of pre-grated cheese, a jar of your favorite marinara sauce and of course, a pouch of Libby's peas. Just the tricks a lazy cook needs.

While the shells bake in the oven, the table gets set and the hands get washed.

In an Italian family, it is tradition to serve pasta as an appetizer to the main meal, especially during holiday feasts, but it seems everyone gets so full that no one enjoys the main event.

These shells are light and healthy, reheat extremely well and have a built in portion control option.
These can be made ahead, covered and stored the night before to be baked as soon as everyone has their coat off and is ready for dinner. The stuffing mix ends up as a souffle, light and airy but full of flavor. I almost ate the whole first test, they were that good. And I am a fussy pasta perfectionist.

From the processor to the table, 10 minutes to prep 10 ingredients, all found right in your neighborhood grocery store. Unattended time is only 25 minutes.

One batch makes 24 shells, and with the holidays soon upon us, they will disappear. If you should have any leftover and no one has dibs, they can be frozen and microwaved for lunch.

Souffled Pea Stuffed Shells
makes 24 large shells

* 24 jumbo pasta shells
* 1 cup canned peas, drained, liquid reserved
* 2 small garlic cloves
* 1 cup 4% large curd cottage cheese
* 1 extra-large egg
* 1 cup grated Locatelli cheese
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice
* 15 mint leaves, divided
* salt and pepper to taste

4 cups prepared favorite marinara sauce, reserving 1 cup for presentation.
Preheat the oven to 375°

1. Puree peas, cottage cheese, garlic, egg, half the mint leaves, and half the grated cheese. Add the lemon juice and adjust seasoning.
2. Cook the pasta according to package directions and when done, place in a large bowl of ice water.
3. Prepare a large baking dish and fill with the marinara sauce.
4. Stuff one tablespoon of filling into each shell and carefully lay them snug together over the sauce.
5. Mince the remaining mint and set aside. 
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling. Remove and garnish with minced mint, grated cheese and a dollop of sauce.

These make an excellent first course to a holiday meal or a lunch for work.
We ate them for dinner one night (with a salad) and then for lunch the next day.

We could not stop eating them, they were that light. This is one recipe I will be making many times and share with my Dad.

November 9, 2014

Pea and Apple Purée ♥ Libby's Vegetable Pouches "Speedy Starters & Sides" Recipe ReDux Challenge #Ad

There is a wave of vegetable purées on my plates lately. I am sure you have seen the colorful and beautiful swoosh that roasted meats are artistically placed on and I love them. I also like that they don't have to be complex, simple is always best. You want to taste the sweetness of the vegetable with the addition of a few choice spices, cream or butter.
Now you can make them in your own kitchen.

When Libby's Fruits & Vegetables challenged Recipe Redux members to create delicious appetizers, soups, salads and side dishes in 10 minutes or less using their new Vegetable Pouches as the hero, I immediately knew what I would make.
I received a pouch each of peas, corn and green beans to test on my creations.

I actually created quite a few recipes using their products so really appreciated the convenience of the microwavable pouches. These pouches stand up in your pantry so take up less space. They are extremely easy to open and very easy to carry. My Dad is going to love these, no sharp edges from a can opener and BPA free.

Libby's Vegetable Pouches are rolling out in select Walmart stores this fall, but will be available nationally in January 2015.
Each recipe used one pouch but until you can buy them in your store, one can of Libby's vegetables holds the same amount of product and can be easily substituted.

"I received free samples of Libby's Pouches mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Libby's and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time."

Only 8 ingredients plus salt & pepper, I had this dish on the table in 10 minutes. Everything went right into a blender or processor, spooned into a oven safe dish and heated in the oven or microwave.
How easy does all that sound? Anyone can make this dish to impress, no special skills required.
Make it ahead, it freezes well.

It really was that simple to make but not simple in flavor at all. The coriander and cinnamon played well off the creamy peas and sweet tart apple. Any crisp apple will work, I used a Jonagold but a Gala or Macintosh are just fine and you could also use applesauce and I won't tell anyone.

Pea purees are very versatile and I think a roasted chicken or duck breast would look mighty pretty sitting on a swoosh of green.

You have probably seen it as the base for scallops or shrimps to sit on. 
Also great New Year's buffet offering.

Pea & Apple Purée
makes 6 servings

* 1-12 ounce Libby's sweet peas pouch, drained, juice reserved
* 1 sweet crisp apple, seeded, peeled and chopped
* 1/2 lemon, juiced
* 1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
* 1/4 cup both apple juice and chicken stock
* 1 tablespoon heavy cream
* 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon salt & freshly ground pepper

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a processor or blender and puree until smooth.
Use reserved juice if the mixture is too thick.
Taste for seasoning and correct. If the mixture is too thick, use the reserved juice to thin it out.

Purée of Carrots and Turnips ♥ Libby's Vegetable Pounches "Speedy Starters and Sides" Recipe ReDux Challenge #Ad

I am only going to say one thing.....

Nearly every restaurant I have eaten in this year, plated my choice of meat, poultry or seafood on a beautiful swoosh of vegetable purée and I loved it.
They don't have to be complex, simple is best. You want to taste the sweetness of the vegetable with the addition of a few choice spices, cream or butter.

When Libby's Fruits & Vegetables challenged Recipe Redux members to create delicious appetizers, soups, salads and side dishes in 10 minutes or less using their new Vegetable Pouches as the hero, I immediately knew what I would make.

While I received a pouch each of peas, corn and green beans, we were also encouraged to use their full line of pouches including sliced carrots and mixed vegetables.

I actually created four recipes using their products. I really appreciated the convenience of the microwavable pouches. These pouches stand up in your pantry so take up less space. They are extremely easy to open and very easy to carry. My Dad is going to love these, no sharp edges and BPA free.
Libby's Vegetable Pouches are rolling out in select Walmart stores this fall, but will be available nationally in January 2015.

Each recipe used one pouch but until you can buy them in your store, one can of Libby's vegetables holds the same amount of product and can be easily substituted.

"I received free samples of Libby's Pouches mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Libby's and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time."

Only 7 ingredients plus salt & pepper, I had this dish on the table in 12 minutes. I used the microwave to cook the onions and turnip and then to heat the finished dish.  One microwave safe bowl and my immersion blender was all that was required. While I did chop my onions and peel the turnip by hand, I believe they are available pre-chopped in the freezer or produce section of your store..

It really was that simple to make but not simple in flavor at all. The garam masala is a mix of five warm spices that are perfectly suited for the sweet carrots and the zesty snap of the turnip.
Just in time for your Thanksgiving table, even the kids will like it (tested on my neighbors 'tween).


Carrots & Turnip Purée
makes 6 servings

* 1-12 ounce Libby's sweet carrot vegetable pouch, drained, juice reserved
* 1 large turnip, peeled and sliced
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1/4 cup light cream
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
* 1/4 teaspoon salt & freshly ground pepper
In a large microwave-safe container, place the butter, onions and sliced turnip, cover with sheet of wax paper and microwave on high for 10 minutes.

Add the garam masala, cream, carrots and salt & pepper to the onion and turnip.
Puree using an immersion blender, processor or stand blender.
Taste for seasoning and correct. If the mixture is too thick, use the reserved juice to thin it out.

       An InLinkz Link-up


November 5, 2014

10 Minute Green Bean Casserole Redux ♥ Libby's Vegetable Pouches "Speedy Starters & Sides" Recipe ReDux Challenge #Ad

I ate a version of this green bean dish growing up. I can't remember which side of Europe it hailed from but it sure was good, even for a veggie. Back in the day, fresh vegetables were not always available so my Mom would use what she had on hand. Usually that included canned green beans.
While over the years I learned about food science, nutrition and picked up some pretty good cooking techniques, I was never a snob about canned goods and when Libby sent me these new pouches, I couldn't wait to cook with them.

Everyone is familiar with a canned soup bean casserole, usually served during the holidays.
I created this healthy version using only 5 ingredients and 10 minutes of cooking time. No there is no soup, no fried onions, no dairy and most of all, no baking. Everything is cooked in a skillet and on the table in no time. Who doesn't love that?

What I love about the new Libby's pouches is that the vegetables taste fresher, can be microwaved in their pouch (yay for that!), easy to open, no sharp edges to cut little fingers on, takes up less space on a pantry shelf and is environmentally friendly and BPA free.

While I do not usually use the water the canned vegetables are packed in, I found the pouch liquid to taste just as sweet as the vegetables and it was so good, I use it for the sauce in this dish.    

You will need 5 simple, easy to find ingredients.
An onion, unsalted butter, dried mushrooms, quick mixing flour (less gluten and better for Diabetics) but regular AP is fine, and salt & pepper.

What gives this dish the umami that takes this to another level is the caramelizing of the onions.
I am going to share a restaurant secret on how to caramelize onions in 3 minutes using only 1 tablespoon of butter. Yes, it is possible.

Caramelizing food, whether in the oven or a skillet, is the key to bringing out the natural sweetness in all foods, yes, even anchovies.

A few minutes of your time will make boring food, gone!
Let's get cooking.

" I received free samples of Libby's new Vegetable Pouches mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Libby's and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time."

10 Minute Green Bean Casserole Redux
serves 4-6

* 1 Libby's green bean vegetable pouch, liquid drained and reserved
* 1/2 white onion, 1" thin slices
* 2 tablespoons tap water
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1 tablespoon AP or quick-mixing flour
* 1 tablespoon dried mushrooms, soaked
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

1. Drain the beans and reserve the juice.
2. Chop the onion into 1" thin pieces, about the same length as the beans. Melt the butter in a skillet and when it starts to sizzle, add the green beans and 2 tablespoons of tap water.
3. Season with a few pinches of salt & pepper, cover the skillet and cook on medium-high heat until the water evaporates and the onions & the bottom of the skillet are brown with flavor, about 3 minutes. Remove to stop the cooking.
4.  In a microwave-safe bowl, add the mushrooms and 2 tablespoon of the bean juice and microwave for 3 minutes. Rest the mushroom until they are cool enough to mince. Add the minced mushrooms back to their soaking liquid. Whisk the flour with the mushrooms/soaking liquid until it is a smooth paste. Add the paste to the remaining bean liquid and stir to combine.
5. Add the mushroom/flour/juice to the beans onion mixture in the skillet and heat until the sauce thickens and turns a deep brown. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your taste.




November 3, 2014

Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup ♥ Cocozia Original Coconut Water Review

Do you believe in fate? I do because I am a fatalist. Isn't as bad as it sounds. It means that I believe 'if it's meant to be, it will'. I also think that there is a reason for everything and luck is a reason.

Case in point. My Dad recently suffered a non-debilitating stroke, a TIA.
Thinking it was because he slipped in his diet and went back to old ways, I was surprised to find out that his potassium at the time was at a life threatening level.
I had no idea. Here I thought he was eating his banana and Cheerios, spinach 4x a week, etc.
What I did not know that I do now, is Potassium (an electrolyte) is a very important mineral to the human body.
Right after I educated my Dad on why potassium was so important in his diet, the Cocozia Company  asked if I would be interested in reviewing their product. I was more than happy to do so.
Can't find Cocoziain your neck of the woods? I ordered mine through Amazon and it arrived in 3 days. So no excuses, right?

See, fate. This was my chance to test a product that if approved, could stock my Dads pantry shelf (shelf live of 1 year +) and with a few other adjustments, be assured he was getting all the potassium his body and blood needed to work at optimum performance.

You get out of your food, what you put into it, or literally, use inferior ingredients, get inferior flavor.
Cocozia is the best tasting coconut water I have ever used, so, while most people carry their coconut water where they exercise, mine is in my pantry.
I am happy when I can honestly report that coconut water is excellent for diabetics, people who have elevated blood pressure and a good addition to a recipe anywhere liquid is called for.

In my family, the cooler weather meant soup and making one homemade is not only easy but can be consistently healthy, very filling and economical. My SIL gives us a homegrown butternut squash every year and while it can sit in a cool place for a few months, I prefer to at least roast the flesh, feed the squirrels with the peels and seeds and freeze what I do not immediately consume.

Apple and butternut squash soup does freeze well and whatever doesn't end up in a soup bowl, will make an excellent sauce for pasta. I think my Dad will enjoy this and once he finds out I used my slow cooker, he will love it even more.

Such a perfect soup, it fits all the diets known to man & then a few.
Squashes are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.

Unfortunately butternut squash has no fiber (really, right?) so that is where the apple comes into play but you must leave the skins on. Apples are also very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium but is an excellent source of Dietary Fiber.
I used unsweetened almond milk for a creamy taste and the coconut water for additional sweetness.
Not only is this soup full of flavor, it is loaded with nutrition, one just has to love the thought of that.

As is, this soup is Vegan and there are a few additions if you would like this to be more substantial. Most are Vegan but a few are not. They include toasted pepitas, ground sausage, ricotta cheese, curry, sour cream, frizzled shallots and even banana chips. I will toast pepitas and drizzle butternut squash seed oil on top. The pepitas took it to another level and the crunch was a wonderful texture to the silky soup.

Hope you enjoy it!!

Roasted Butternut and Apple Soup
makes 4 cups

Roasted Vegetables:
* 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
* 1/2 small red onion, chopped
* salt & pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
* Olive oil
* 1 apple, skin on, chopped
* 2 whole large garlic cloves (or 3 medium), peeled

1. Heat oven to 425°. Place all ingredients in a large plastic food bag and close the top. Shake vigorously until all the vegetables are coated with oil and seasonings. What clings is all it needs so they never get overly oily, it's a good thing. Place on a sheet pan and spread evenly.
2. Roast for 40 minutes until the edges start to brown.

* 1 batch roasted vegetables
* 16 oz Cocozia Coconut Water (original flavor)
* 11 oz. container soy or almond milk, unsweetened

1. Place roasted vegetables in a slow cooker, add Cocozia Coconut Water and soy/almond milk.
Set on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours.
2. Make sure soup is cooled before pureeing. Use an immersion or stand blender and puree until smooth.

Two things:
If you want a completely smooth soup, press through a strainer but remember that you sacrifice some fiber. Lately "rustic" is all the rage, mainly because cooks are busy and less steps means less work.
I prefer a smooth soup so strain is my aim.

Get a look at the nutritionals, they are out of this world wonderful!!!

I like to think of myself as Alton Brown thinks of his tools.
Multi-tasker. If I make something that produces leftovers, they best be useful in many applications.
I am loving this coconut water. I have already made bean soup, curry sauce, hot chocolate, iced tea and this soup. My Dad will be so happy and sooo healthy.

Thank you Cocozia!!

Disclaimer: While I was supplied with the product for review, the recipe and positive opinion is all mine.
Wish Upon A Dish