Wish Upon A Dish: March 2015

March 31, 2015

Kielbasa Cassoulet Casserole

In this house the list of favorite sausages has to start with a good hot Italian sausage. After that, kielbasa is a close second.
Growing up it was knockwursts because it was a simple bologna mixture shaped into a fat hot dog shape, as cute as a bug and perfect for little kitty taste buds.
Hey, sorry but back in the 60's that was it, no bratwurst or kielbasa.

Today, somehow (and The Nudge still has no idea why) one knockwurst always sneaks into our annual grilled sausage board dinner, then disappears until next year. Kielbasa? must be the garlic, we adore it. Trust me when I tell you that Hillshire Farms Turkey Kielbasa tastes as good as the original and so much healthier (compare the labels) and makes it OK to serve at least once a month.

Usually I prepare it this way unless grilled, but this time I wanted something different and I started to lean towards a baked presentation. Shame on me, I swore I would not go down that road unless it was a Mac 'n Cheese.

This is the time that you will find be staring at my canned goods and when I spotted a can of small white beans, I knew where I was going.

Since kielbasa is of European dissent (Polish & Ukrainian) I was actually thinking French and that wonderful dish Cassoulet.

A Cassoulet uses garlic sausage, duck, white beans and bacon. OK, no duck or bacon so I moved a country over and added an Italian twist. By infusing wonderful Italian flavors into the beans, I was able to make a broth that would flavor the whole dish. Sounds complicated? It was actually a two pan operation.

I sauteed aromatics in a small stock pot, added the beans, three cups of chicken broth, sliced red peppers and chopped kale and simmered them for 30 minutes.
I added another cup of water and drained the liquid into a measuring cup.

I needed three full cups of liquid to cook the noodles. 3 cups back into the stock pot, the noodles boiled for 5 minutes. Add the bean mixture, the kielbasa and a Knorr packet of Alfredo sauce and a packet of 4-Cheese sauce. Stir to combine and pour everything back into a baking pan. Top with bread crumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese and olive oil and bake for 30 minutes at 350° and 15 minutes at 400° to brown the top.

Over the top with flavor and texture, this version is healthier than a traditional Cassoulet and I know that tomorrow it will be even better.

Let's get cooking....

Kielbasa Cassoulet Casserole
makes 4 servings

* 1 turkey kielbasa, sliced into 1/3" coins
* 3 cups No Yolks broad noodles
* 3 cups chicken broth
* 1 can small white beans, drained and rinsed well
* 1/2 small white onion, chopped
* 1 large garlic cloves, chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves (not ground)
* freshly ground black pepper
* 1 cup chopped kale
* 1/2 large red pepper, 1" thin slices
* 1/2 cup dried croissant crumbs
* 1 tablespoon butter, melted
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
* EVOO for finishing

Preheat the oven to 350°.

1. In a 2 quart stockpot with a tablespoon of olive oil, add the white onion, garlic, bay, red pepper flakes, rosemary and saute until the onions are soft. Add the beans and the broth. Season with black pepper. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile slice the red pepper and the kielbasa and chop the kale. Make the breadcrumb/cheese topping. Reserve.

3. After 30 minutes drain the bean mixture and pour the broth back into the pot. Remove the bay leaf. Add the egg noodles, kale and red pepper to the broth and gently boil for 5 minutes.

4. To the broth/egg noodles, add the packets of sauce mix, whisk to combine and bring back to a simmer. Add the beans to the noodles and then the kielbasa, stir and pour into a casserole pan.

5. Top with the breadcrumb/cheese mixture and a drizzle olive oil.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, uncover and then up the heat to 400° and bake until the top browns, about 15 minutes. Remove, cool and serve.

March 30, 2015

Meatball Biscuit Sliders ♥ Dinner that can be eaten while you work

I haven't forgotten that my last post was over a week ago, but this time of year my business explodes. It isn't strange to find me eating right where I work and when The Nudge is traveling, I don't leave my work bench until I shut the house for the night. I have no time to plan much of anything so I grab lots of quickies that require almost no cooking and that means foods that are eaten in hand.

Of course, knowing this will happen like clock-work every spring I do think ahead. I make a batch of meatballs that I cook in a homemade sauce and freeze in large plastic containers. Dinner done.
I always have biscuits or rolls in the freezer and basic cold cuts in the cooler drawer. Pestos of all flavors are a great staple to have. It elevates a basic sandwich to another level.

While a pizza could be a good go to, I hate delivery pizza and unless The Nudge picks one up on his way home, you will never see a delivery man of any kind in my driveway.

As you can see, these photos were taken wright were I work (please excuse) but if you are like me and certain weeks are crushers on the dinner plans, maybe these will help you out.

The kids love them and they are so easy to prepare in the oven, in one pan, so no cleanup.

More about the technique than the recipe, they were ooey gooey cheesy sloppy good!!

You will need:
A dozen large meatballs, homemade or store bought
Fresh mozzarella
Marinara sauce,homemade or store bought
Package of biscuits, pop cans or frozen
Pesto, homemade or store bought

Muffin tin, regular or Texas depending on the size of your meatballs (aluminum for easier cleanup)

Ladle marinara sauce into each muffin tin, place a room temperature meatball into each tin and top with a slice of mozzarella cheese. Place in the oven and set the temperature to what is required for baking the biscuits.
In a sheet pan, bake the biscuits as per package directions.
Split baked biscuits in halve and spoon a tablespoon of pesto on to each top.
Spoon the contents of each muffin tin onto the biscuit bottoms, pressing to split the meatballs so they would sit better, place the pesto top over the cheese covered meatball and serve hot.

Any leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated. Nuke for 1-2 minutes until cheese melts.

These were so good and while I made three, I could only eat two.
I love that I have found other uses for my muffin tins because I do not make muffins.
This technique can be used for multiple food combinations and I find the Texas-sized muffin pan the most versatile.

Back to the drawing board. I have a dozen plates that must be shipped by Easter.

March 21, 2015

Korean Chicken Noodle Bowl ♥ Two For One - Recipe ReDux Challenge March 2015

I have been enamored of Korean cooking since I watched my first Korean food show on TV and made Kalbi.
I am so enamored of Asian food in general, I have more cookbooks in my house than any other cuisine except Italian.

I do not get the chance to cook many Asian dishes because my better half does not share my love.
Lately, because he has no choice (he either eats or starves) he has enjoyed Kalbi (Korean BBQ short ribs), dumplings, a very authentic Orange Chicken, some fried rice and Korean Fried Chicken (the best ever). Yes, I know. Not all that impressive.

Tonight I twisted his arm and we ate Korean Ramen Bowl for dinner. Probably not the most authentic but as close as I could get. I even ordered foods from Hmart.com.

The recipe I adapted this meal from called for all vegetables but when this month's Recipe ReDux challenge was to cook one dinner to make another, I put a roaster on the menu and the leftovers made it into this noodle bowl. I also used the carrots and the spinach from a salad. Yum for us and more free fridge space for me.

Most noodle bowls call for raw vegetables but I quickly blanched a few in the broth. The Nudge might not have enjoyed his if I did not do that.

Ramen Noodle Bowl
makes 4 bowls
* 1 carton (4 cups) good quality chicken stock
* 1" nob of ginger
* 5 whole medium garlic cloves
* 1/2 medium onion, sliced
* 1 tablespoon red miso or Korean soybean paste (daenjang)
* 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
* black pepper
* 1 cup kimchi, chopped with juice (I found mine with the wonton and egg roll wrappers)

2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced (leftover from a roast)
2 packages ramen noodles
1 package Shiitake mushrooms, sliced (sauteed)
Dozen carrot slices, julienned (also leftover from a roast)
2 big handfuls of pea pods, sliced (blanched)
4 handfuls of baby spinach
4 - 6 minute eggs
2 scallions, sliced
Big handful of bean sprouts (blanched)
Kochujang (Chili pepper paste)

1. Fill a large stockpot with the stock, 2 cups water, ginger, onions and garlic. Simmer for 20 minutes while you saute the carrots and mushrooms and cook the ramen noodles in salted boiling water.
2. After 20 minutes, strain the broth and return it to the stockpot, return to a simmer.
3. Blanch the pea pods for 2 minutes, skim into a bowl. Blanch the bean spouts and remove to another bowl. To the broth add the kimchi, soy sauce and miso and stir to blend.
Place each vegetable in a bowl. Slice the eggs in half and season with chili flakes or paprika.

To serve:
Fill a serving bowl with ramen noodles. Place the meat in the middle (optional, if serving), and place a large spoonful of the vegetables around the edges and the eggs on the vegetables. Spoon a dollop of chili paste over the meat, some scallions and serve.

This was so good and extremely flavorful. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did it matter? Not one bit. Best leftover dinner no matter which way you plan it out.
My next show? scallion and mung bean pancakes.



March 16, 2015

Sorghum Peasant Bread

While The Nudge was traveling last week, I totally redid the dry goods section of my pantry. I was using quart canning jars but when I moved them to the top of my wire rack they seemed way too unstable. I went to Shopping.com to check out all the plastic ones available but I had requirements.

1. They needed to be big enough to fit one bag of Bob's Red Mill products (standard industry size).
2. They needed to be easy to grab off a very tall rack.
3. They should be stack stable.
4. They could be no more than $1 each.
5. They had to have a surface that can hold a long detail label.

I never realized how many plastic containers are out there, and the fact that I could filter out the things I didn't need made it all that much easier, not to mention quick.

Turns out a dollar store had exactly what I needed, so I ordered a case of 24 to be delivered store to store (no shipping cost).

OK, I will say one thing, well two things. I filled all 24 containers and reordered another case.
I now have every bag of flour out there, labeled and stacked. If they milled it, I bought it, all in the name of Diabetes research.
Problem is, I needed to start using them, as flour goes rancid quickly and there was no way 30 (32oz) plastic containers would fit in my fridge. The oldest ones went into my dorm-sized refrigerator (yes, it actually gets used outside in the summer) and I hit the Internet for recipes.

So, what recipe uses lots of flour? Bread.
I have become obsessed with peasant breads, you know the ones that don't require a machine, only a wooden spoon and bowl? The texture is rustic and dense. Perfect for a grilled cheese.
Now I bake one weekly, right in my French White casserole.
My last one contained a cup of sorghum flour.
One down, 127 to go.........

Sorghum Peasant Bread
makes 1 round or two medium standard loaves
* 3 cups unbleached AP flour
* 1 cup sorghum flour
* 2 teaspoons active yeast
* 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 2 cups tepid water (110°)
* 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Oven-proof bowl or loaf pans.

Preheat oven to 425°. Butter baking pan.
In a large bowl add the water and the yeast, along with the honey and a few spoons of flour. Stir to combine.
When the mixture starts to bubble, add the rest of the flour and the salt. Stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. At this point the dough can be placed in the refrigerator overnight. Bring back to room temp before baking.
Move to a sunny, warm spot and let rise till doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.
Over butter the baking pan(s). Scrape the dough into the pan(s) and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the pan and lower the temperature to 350 and continue baking for 15-17 minutes.
Remove the pan to cool for 10 minutes. Invert on to a wire rack and if the interior crust is pale, return to the oven for 10 more minutes to brown. Remove to cool completely, about one hour.

Yes, it is that easy. I have seen Jacques mix and bake his in the same saucepan. It does work. Remember, this is a peasant bread and it's all about the flavor, not the crumb.
Don't know sorghum? Here's a few facts that might entice you to experiment:
Sorghum can be substituted for wheat flour in a variety of baked goods. Its neutral, sometimes sweet, flavor and light color make it easily adaptable to a variety of dishes. Sorghum improves the texture of recipes and digests more slowly with a lower glycemic index, so it sticks with you a bit longer than some other flours or flour substitutes.

March 15, 2015

Individual Carrot Tarts with a Cheesy Rice Crust ♥ USA Rice Federation Sponsored Recipe ReDux Challenge #AD

I gave up on making savory crusts and gave in to store bought.
This recipe challenge finally gave me the push I needed to create a crust for savory applications.
Two years ago, on Thanksgiving, I created a goat cheese carrot tart, with the store bought shortcut crust, and it disappeared the first go round.
This year I found what I was led to believe was the ultimate crust recipe and watched as it melted into a puddle of butter.

Although I wasn't caving in, it did remain on my "To Do" list. Until now.

The USA Rice Federation, in conjunction with the The Recipe ReDux, is sponsoring a recipe contest during National Nutrition Month, featuring nutritious and delicious recipes using U.S.-grown rice.

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by USA Rice Federation and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

Many years ago brown rice was only sold in health food stores and mostly eaten in communes or by  hippies. My mom was a health educator, so while I was exposed to health foods at an early age, brown rice and kids? not the best marriage.

Today, due to social media and the Internet, brown rice is no longer misunderstood. Did you know that rice is the most consumed grain in the world? It's affordable and makes a great partner to other healthy foods. Naturally gluten-free, it is a great option if you find yourself sensitive to gluten.

As a Diabetic, that's excellent news. Not only does it help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses (Diabetes being one of them), it helps lower blood pressure and is a great source of fiber.
I love the nutty taste of brown rice and US-grown Basmati (one of many) is the rice at the bottom of the Glycemic Index. Everyone can benefit from eating low GI foods.

I live in an empty nest home, so many of the recipes we eat, I scale down. When I enter a recipe contest, I am always thinking about families of two and six.
While this recipe was made in a 6-cup Texas muffin tin, the amounts listed in the recipe will also fill a standard casserole baking pan. 

My first attempt was baked in an au gratin pan and while I ate the whole thing, it needed a few tweaks. This version, using a muffin tin and US-grown short grain brown rice was a complete success. A short grain rice has just enough starch to make a successful crust.

Carrot & Goat Cheese Tart
makes 6 portions

* 2 cups cooked U.S.-grown short grain brown rice
* 1/4 cup grated cheese, 4 Cheddar or 4 Italian blend 
* 1 egg

* 1 1/2 pounds carrots, sliced into 1/2" coins
* 5 peeled garlic cloves
* 1 tablespoon both olive oil and unsalted butter
* 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
* 3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
* 2 ounces goat cheese
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 2 tablespoons honey
* 1 teaspoon sea salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

You will need:
One pie plate or a 6 piece Texas muffin pan
Large sheet pan
Small bowl of water

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, add the carrots, garlic cloves, coriander, olive oil & butter. Toss to coat and season with salt. Add mixture to a sheet pan, evenly spaced and roast for 40 minutes, mixing halfway.
2. Remove carrots from the oven and add to the bowl of a blender. Add the eggs, buttermilk, honey and goat cheese and puree. Does not have to be perfectly smooth.
3. Season with nutmeg, salt & pepper.
4. While carrots are roasting, mix the rice, cheese and egg. Separate mixture into 6 equal 3 ounce portions (if using muffin tin) and spray the pan of choice with a release agent.
5. Using a spoon dipped in the water, spread the rice evenly to the edges of the pan. Dip the spoon into the water if the rice starts to stick.
6. Bake the crust for 30 minutes. Remove and cool. Can be refrigerated, covered, up to two days or frozen up to one month).
7. Spoon the carrot mixture into the pie plate or muffin tins, filling right to the top, without going over.

8. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°. If you stick a toothpick into the center, it should be moist but not wet. Remove and cool for 15 minutes. Serve immediately or, if refrigerated, bring to room temperature and reheat in the oven for 20 minutes. They are done when the tip of a knife inserted through the tart comes out warm.

The crust was crisp and chewy and the interior was creamy, tart and sweet. The perfect side to a roasted meat or a baked fish.
What child wouldn't love their own tart?




March 12, 2015

Italian Pork Fried US-Grown Rice ♥ US Rice Federation Sponsored Recipe ReDux Challenge #AD

Rice was part of my dinner 4x a week, I loved it that much, which is funny because at the age of eight I was making homemade pasta. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes my whole world was turned upside down. No more rice? I actually did not know where to begin my education. Information back then was lean at best and did not have social media questioning every printed word. There were too many inconsistencies. All that has changed with the efforts of many associations to educate consumers and health professionals. It's a good thing!

I was happy to throw my frying pan into the fire for the US Rice Federation's challenge to create recipes that sing the praises of eating rice once again. Rice does have a valuable place in a Diabetic friendly diet, but there are rules (aren't there always?).
First and most important rule, it must be brown rice. Whole grains can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, Diabetes being one. US-grown rice, naturally gluten-free, makes it a great option for those with Celiac's disease, a insensitivity and intolerance to gluten and since about 25% of Diabetics have Celiac's disease, it makes even better sense to put brown rice on the menu. Another good thing!

For more in-depth nutritional information on US grown rice visit their informative website.

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by USA Rice Federation and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

With thousands of recipes centered around rice, I made the decision to stay close to home.
Since fried rice is the only Asian dish my husband will eat and to toss a coin into the Italian fountain, I traded the Asian ingredients for the Italian counterparts.

Most of these ingredients are already in your pantry so the next time you have a double batch of rice planned & you hit the deli, pick up a quarter pound of hot capacola sliced as they would the thickness of liverwurst. You could use any salami, American pepperoni, Italian Hard or Genoa style, or if you are lucky enough to score roasted pork, grab some of that.

I have to say that this version was delicious and a one pot wonder. The prep took a little bit of time and while I love knife work, I give you permission to use a mini chop or processor to do it for you.
Dinner was on the table in 15 minutes. Hubby asked why I hadn't made it before.
Go figure.

Let's get cooking.....

Italian Pork Fried Rice
makes 4-6 servings
* 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 4 eggs, lightly beaten
* Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
* 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
* 4 slices of pancetta, chopped
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
* 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, minced
* 1/4 cup Marsala wine, or dry sherry
* 1/4 cup chicken broth
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 6 cups cooked U.S.-grown brown Basmati rice
* 2 teaspoons anchovy paste, or Worcestershire sauce
* 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon squash seed oil or sesame oil
* 5 scallions, thinly sliced

1. In a large pan or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until very hot. Season the eggs with salt & pepper and pour into the pan. Scramble the eggs over high heat until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
2. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to the plate with the eggs. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan.
3. Add the garlic, ginger and nutmeg and cook for 1 minute. Add the onion, red pepper and tomatoes and cook until the onions are golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine, broth, sugar and anchovy paste.
4. Stir and cook until the liquid reduces by half. Add the US-grown rice, Worcestershire, soy sauce, nut oil, eggs, pancetta and all but two tablespoons of the scallions.. Check for seasonings and stir-fry until the rice is hot, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining scallions and serve.