Wish Upon A Dish: 2016

December 21, 2016

Cast Iron Skillet Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie ♥ #theRecipeReDux Monthly Challenge - December 2016

I have had a on-line digital subscription to Cook's Illustrated website for years. A few years ago I added the digital magazine of Cook's Country to the mix.
Each one is as different as night and day, Cook's Country being more for people interested in home-style cooking.
When I saw this dish on the cover of last month's magazine, I knew I had to make this ASAP.
The Nudge is a huge lover of pot pies and if it has a double crust he could eat the whole thing himself.

Lately I have been scaling favorite recipes down to two servings and this was one of the more successful ones. Successful because the crust was spectacular!
If one was to have a favorite family pot pie recipe they are not interested in updating, I do suggest the next time you make your pot pie you give this crust recipe a try.

I have to admit  the reason I do not make pot pies all that often is because I am 'homemade crust' impaired.
When I choose a ATK recipe, I mentally agree to make them as is. No substitutions and in this instance, included not only a double crust but a homemade double crust at that.

This month's Recipe ReDux monthly challenge was to celebrate the end of 2016 by cooking a recipe from one of our favorite cookbook's that was on any page that contained a "2" "0" "1'' "6" or a combination of that.

My digital magazine does not have their pages numbered but when I counted the pages starting at the index, this recipe is was on their virtual page "6".

I say that's destiny.
It was time I started using my 9" cast iron skillet to cooking something besides egg dishes.
While I did make a few adjustments to use ingredients I already had in the fridge, I followed the preparation and baking instructions.

This was the perfect recipe for a cast iron skillet.
There can sometimes be trouble with a double crust not baking correctly in that the bottom ends up raw.
Now you know why I stay away from pot pies with homemade double crusts. I never could get the bottom to cook correctly. Either too well done (prebaking can do that) or just not enough.

Not anymore.
I plan on putting this on rotation during the colder months and I know The Nudge will be happy about that.

This was so good, he took the last piece to work and it reheated perfectly.

So to celebrate the end of 2016 with a kaboom, I give you this recipe that is easy and fail-proof.

You will need a 9" cast iron skillet (or 9" deep dish pie plate)
A day to rest the dough in the refrigerator
Food processor

Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie
makes 4 servings
Adapted from Cook's Country magazine

1/2 cup light sour cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups (12 oz) AP flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into1/2" cubes & chilled

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4" dice (about 2/3c)
2 celery ribs, cut same size carrots (about 1/2c)
1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
6 tablespoons AP flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fat-free half & half

1 small russet potato (6 oz), peeled and cut into 1/4" dice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 rotisserie chicken, skinned & boned and shredded (about 3c)
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Sea salt & crushed pepper for crust (optional but worth it)

For the crust:
1. Combine sour cream ad egg in a bowl. Process flour and salt in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds.
Add butter and pulse until pea-sized pieces remain, about 10 pulses. Add half the sour cream and pulse until combined, about 5 pulses. Add remaining sour cream and pulse until dough begins to form, about 10 more pulses.
2. Transfer mixture to lightly floured counter or board and knead until dough comes together.
Divide dough in half and form into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (I did mine overnight).
3. Let chilled dough come to room temperature about 10 minutes before rolling.
Roll 1 disk into a round at least 1"larger than the circumference or the baking vessel.
Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll in onto a 9" baking dish (I used my cast iron skillet).
Ease dough over baking dish and gently press the dough down.
Roll other disk into 12" circle and place on a peice of parchment paper. Refrigerate both for 30 minutes whole you prepare the filling.

For the filling:
1. Preheat over to 450° and place rack to lowest position.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet and add onions, carrots, celery, salt & pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until golden, 1-2 minutes.Slowly stir in stock and half & half and bring to a boil over med-hi heat.
3. Stir in potato and thyme. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce is thickened and potato is tender, about 8 minutes. Off heat, stir in chicken and peas.
4. Transfer the filling to dough-lined baking pan. Loosely roll remaining dough round around pin and gently unroll over filling. Trim overhanging to 1/2" beyond lip of pan. Tuck overhang under itself and crimp with a fork or use your fingers.
Cut 4 - 2" slits in top of crust.
5. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle the sea salt & pepper if using.
Place pie on rimmed sheet pan and bake for 18-20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°, rotate pie and back until crust is golden brown, about 12-15 minutes more.
Let pie cool at least 45 minutes.

October 31, 2016

Creole Shrimp with Greens & Cheesy Baked Grits

There are three ways I will eat shrimp.
Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp Japchae or Chap Chae
Shrimp (creole-style) & Grits

I take the best of a Creole sauce, marry it to Low Country Shrimp and serve it over a cheesy bowl of Italian grits (aka; polenta).
Now I ask you, what could possibly be better than that? 

Nothing, absolutely freakin' nothing!

OK, you want to know the difference between Low country Shrimp and Creole Shrimp.
Creole has spice and a tomato based sauce.
Low country is not as spicy and the shrimp sit in a lighter butter/wine based sauce.

When I make mine, I take my inspiration from K-Paul's recipe.

First thing you need to do is peel and devein large shrimp but save the shells.
In a bowl, I put about a tablespoon of BAM into a cup of beer and stir to dissolve. Add the cleaned shrimp and set aside.

Bring 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock to a boil and add in the shells. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain out the shells and set aside.

Fry the bacon (or pancetta) in a skillet to render the fat and once that is done you add in the Holy Trinity and saute until the vegetables start to brown. Add in a tablespoon of Cajun spices (BAM)
and 3 tablespoons of flour.

Cook off the flour and add in half the shrimp-infused broth. Stir to blend and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the fresh tomato and continue to simmer on low for another 15 minutes. It should look like this........

After simmering, add the tomato paste and the remaining broth.
Simmer for another 30 minutes on low and it should become smoother as the vegetables cook down, just like this........

Remove the skillet and set aside to cool.
At this point you can refrigerate for up to three days or simply reserve in a bowl.
Since the shrimp should be and best be sauteed right before serving them together with the spinach over the grits.

I like to add a sauteed green with this dish even though grits is technically a vegetable, and spinach is easy to cook.
It adds to the nutritionals and it adds color to what can be, a bland base.

Meanwhile, make my famous cheesy baked grits.

Easy Creole Shrimp 
Makes 2 servings

* 1 pound U18 shrimp, veined and shelled (reserve the shells)
* 2 tablespoons BAM (or favorite creole spice blend) divided
* 1 cup beer
* 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
* 4 strips bacon cut crosswise into 1/4" slices
* 1/4 cup both red & green bell peppers, minced
* 1/4cup celery, minced
* 1/4 cup onions, minced
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 3 tablespoons flour
* 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
* 1 tablespoon tomato paste

Peel and devein large shrimp but save the shells.
In a bowl, put about a tablespoon of BAM into a cup of beer and stir to dissolve. Add the cleaned shrimp and set aside.

Bring 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock to a boil and add in the shells. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain out the shells and set aside.

Fry the bacon (or pancetta) in a skillet to render the fat and once that is done you add in the Holy Trinity (peppers, onions, garlic and celery) and saute until the vegetables start to brown. Add in the rest of the Cajun spices (BAM) and the flour.

Cook off the flour and add in half the shrimp-infused broth. Stir to blend and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the fresh tomato and continue to simmer on low for another 15 minutes.

After simmering, add the tomato paste and the remaining broth.
Simmer for another 30 minutes on low and it should become smoother as the vegetables cook down.
Remove the skillet and set aside to cool.
At this point you can refrigerate for up to three days or simply reserve in a bowl.
Since the shrimp should be and best be sauteed right before serving them together with the spinach over the grits.



October 26, 2016

Salmon Mignon Ramen Bowl

When eating alone I always make fish and chances are it is salmon 95% of the time.
I buy North American Salmon steaks, never frozen, and make 2 Mignon's from one piece.
Takes a little prep time but in my opinion, the only way to eat this particular preparation.

I have tried this recipe on side fillet but it just never works. I think the King Salmon steaks are the right type of salmon and the Mignon is boneless and always the right thickness to cook perfectly on the grill.

To see how these are prepared, check out this post of mine. I believe there is even a YouTube video of how to make salmon Mignon's inspired by Alton Brown.

The marinade is only 4 ingredients and everyone probably has all the ingredients in their pantry.

I admit I always have at least 4 of those dried ramen soup packets in my pantry and was the perfect start to this noodle bowl.

I added asparagus tips, savoy cabbage, carrots & sun-dried red peppers to the soup to steam for 5 minutes. The salmon, I grilled for 5 minutes on each side, but a broiler would work just as well.

Oh, and I took it's picture with my new iPhone. Sorry, I was so hungry and I wanted to eat it hot, so I did an Instagram click and sat down to dinner.

Salmon Marinade
makes enough for 2 steaks & can be doubled/tripled

* 1 tablespoon Coleman's dry mustard
* 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 2 tablespoon water

Mix, marinade for an hour & grill 5 minutes per side.


October 24, 2016

GOOGLE link felon update........

For those of you who are also having problems with illegal links vs. GOOGLE, there is good news.
If you take the time to "no follow" your links, Google will retest your site for compliance if you ask them (nicely). Just explain what you did to rectify the problem, in a few days you can also get a clean bill of health.

I am no longer a felon and can blog in the sun again!!!

Just thought  I should finish what I started and let you know.

Have a GREAT day!!

October 21, 2016

Marco Polo Chinese Wedding Bowl ♥ Plant Protein Power Bowls #thereciperedux October challenge

When I worked for Xerox in 1975, I was sent to their technical training facility in Virginia for 6 weeks.
It was one of the most modern facilities of it's time and it offered everything. Room and board included a full buffet all day and night up to 10pm.

Even though the facility was state of the art, the food, while better than that at a state college, was still cafeteria-style and it was there that I became a Vegetarian. Eventually I added fish but for 4 years I survived on vegetables. That was after the hippy health food era but way before Vegan.

In my quest for eating healthier, I knew my goal was a reduction from 25% to 10% dairy and an increase from 33% to 50% vegetarian. I probably will never visit 100% Vegetarian again, I have been trying to gradually introduce more Vegan options into our meals.

The perfect opportunity to finally "play" with tofu came this month when #TheRecipeRedux October challenge was to create a plant protein power bowl and not use one already posted.
I got the idea to take a favorite soup recipe (Italian Wedding Soup) and repurpose those ingredients for this challenge.

In place of the pasta I cooked Korean sweet potato noodles (also plant-based). No chicken broth here. I used a vegetarian broth to thin out two packages of miso broth with kombu and mushrooms.

Keeping in the spirit of the Italian version, the meatballs are made using firm tofu. I subbed out the with watercress (a more POWER green) and switched to mung beans for the white beans.
I was apprehensive makes tofu meatballs but except for making them way too large, they tasted meaty and something I know The Nudge will even like.


The only thing in this bowl that isn't vegetarian is the egg. Not your thing, just omit and in doing so takes nothing away from the dish.

I was not a fan of the mung beans. By the time they were tender they split and shed their skins. I think next time I will simply open a can of beans and go back to using the mung beans to bulk up my rice.

All in all I was happy with the result but I made the meatballs with garlic and onion salts thinking they might be too bland and after poaching them in the miso broth, they absorbed too much salt. A easy adjustment to make.
That being said let's get cooking......

While baking the meatballs, I put the stock and miso broth to a simmer.
I poached, in this order.....
1. the tofu meatballs
2. the mung beans
3. the sweet potato noodles
4. the carrots and watercress
5. the poached egg

Tofu Meatballs
makes 11-12 1" meatballs
* 1/2 pound firm tofu, drained, blotted and mashed
* 1/4 cup oat or chickpea flour
* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
* 1 tablespoon Bragg's liquid amino's or 1 tablespoon soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon onion salt
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
* 1 garlic clove
* 1/2 small shallot
* 1 big handful watercress

Roll 1" balls and bake on parchment paper at 425° for 25 minutes. Cool.

Protein Bowl
makes 2 dinner-sized bowls

* 2 packets of miso soup with kombu and mushrooms
* 1 box vegetable broth
* 1 cup julienned carrots
* 1/2 cup dried mung beans
* 1 salad package watercress
* 2 ounces Korean sweet potato, glass or soba noodles 
* remaining watercress
* sesame seeds for garnish
* 2 eggs, poached (optional)

Place half the noodles, the beans, the carrots & watercress and the tofu meatballs in a large soup bowl. Ladle enough broth to come up to but not over, the vegetables in the bowl.
Place the egg in the middle and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

October 17, 2016

Jamaican Pork Tenderloin ♥ A much needed update

This is one of my most posted recipes over the years starting in 2010, when I was a virgin to blogging.

Back then, like most, newbies started their blog for the same reason we all did. To have a digital recipe book of our favorites. Only difference was I was updating and posting on foods that I needed to eat in order to live. You see, I was on the teeter-totter to full blown Diabetes.
I refused to take medication, food was what I knew and what was killing me could also be my savior.

I have come a long way since then. The diabetes disappeared, my sugar is under 90 and am off all those requisite meds you take when you are obese. Cholesterol, blood pressure and asthma.

One thing I do know is there is no cure for diabetes, and although I am healthy now, I can not continue the eating habits I had before I got normal.

Medical science has come a long way. Now the world knows about Celiac's disease, the benefits of eating vegan (not just because of political & personal preferences), the Glycemic Index, what sodium levels should be, the definition of additional sugars and everyone can just about understand nutrition labels.

It's a good time to be in control of our health.

What does all that have to do with this dish? Well, besides the fact that it's delicious, doable in 30 minutes, it also remains a good dish for gluten intolerance, pre-diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and it's lean and low in calories.

It sorely needed an update.
I don't know about you but if you have never cooked a pork tenderloin, you need to make this your first attempt. It's so fool-proof, I made my first tenderloin for a dinner party and it has remained my go-to for years. Got so, I can make this without reference to a written recipe.
Have I ever tried this recipe with poultry or seafood? Not yet. I am afraid that without the benefit of a pork product to flavor the sauce, it wouldn't be as user friendly.

The title is a little bit misleading. Not a typical Jamaican dish like Jerk, it does have the warm spices associated with that iconic dish except they are mixed into a marinara sauce.
Trust me, it is totally people friendly. Kids will ask for seconds.
It reheats well so a good take-in lunch for work and if you make the two tenderloins in a package, the second one freezes beautifully.

I always serve mine with long grain & wild rice (for the sauce) but roasted potatoes would work well and even mashies would do.

Let's get cooking.....

Jamaican Pork Tenderloin
makes 4 servings
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 pork tenderloin, about 1 1/2 pounds
* salt & pepper
* 1 cup basic marinara sauce, homemade or favorite jarred
* 2 tablespoons lite brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon each cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, thyme, cumin and coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 2 small bay leaves
* 1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
* 2 pats of unsalted butter
* Salt & pepper to taste

Heat an oven-proof skillet and your oven to 375°.
When the skillet is hot all the oil, season the pork with salt & pepper and brown the meat on all four sides, about 3 minutes each side.
Mix the brown sugar, all the spices and the pepper with the marinara sauce. Add the bay leaves.
When the pork is browned, pour the sauce over, cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, place the pork on a platter and cover with foil.
Turn the heat back under the skillet, add the vermouth to the sauce, and simmer for three minutes. Remove the bay leaves and swirl in the butter. Taste for salt & pepper.

To serve: Slice the pork and pour the sauce over the slices.

If you try this with other proteins, drop me a line and let me know how it went.

October 7, 2016

Italian Pork & Vegetable Grilled Cheese with *NEW* Sabra Sandwich Spreads

Sabra #Sponsored "Take your sandwich from good to great with Sabra Spreads"  Recipe Contest

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

A few weeks ago I was in the Sabra section of my market, looking for hummus, when I spotted these spreads on the shelf.


OMG, was it??? Really??? Oh, yes. This was genius on their part. You see, I have been using Sabra hummus, not just as a dip but as a base for sauces, dressings and spreads. Life in the kitchen just got easier.
Is is possible to be that excited about a new product?

It is when that product is tasty, fresh, have great flavors and in a convenient squeeze bottle.
Best of all, they have 75% less fat than mayo.
For the longest time I have been trying to create a sandwich that is from our sister state, Pennsylvania, and is so well loved it has given the Philly Cheesesteak a run for their money.

I am talking about the pork, rapini, cheese and french fry sandwich that hails from Pittsburgh.
Containing all my favorite Italian ingredients, I adapted my version based on ingredients I could find in my neck of the woods and, ease of preparation.

Now I get to share my inspiration with you.

Let's break it all down.

The reason why this sandwich is a favorite in our house is because it contains all the necessary flavors that will make your mouth happy.
Salty, sweet, bitter and sour.
I made a spread using two of the new Sabra Sandwich Spreads (Garlic Herb & Honey Mustard) for the inside and the third (Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper) acts as the "grill crunch" on the outside.
The only addition was a tablespoon of both olive oil and an additional one of honey.

Buy a good loaf of Tuscan or Sourdough bread and cut off two identical slices, at least 1" in width.
(For more ideas see my Cook's Tips at the end of this post.)

Mix equal parts of the Sabra Honey Mustard & Sabra Garlic & Herb spreads. I made 1/2 cup for each sandwich. Depending on how bitter the rapini is to your tongue, you may want to add an additional teaspoon of honey per sandwich.

I used hot capicola today, but have made this with spicy Italian-style pork, chicken or turkey sausage. Using your local Deli can be a great time saver.

On top of the meat, I added a generous amount of shredded Fontina cheese (option #2: provolone) and cooked broccoli di rabe (aka; rapini).
While rapini is a bitter green, it plays well off the fatty meat and to tame it a bit for the kids, my Mom flavored the simmering water with a tablespoon of both salt and sugar per gallon. Cook for 5 minutes, then immediately drain in cold water and then strain.
Once dry, chop into 1"pieces.
To save even more time, deli cooked rapini can be easily found in most Italian deli's and local supermarkets.

Find a good quality sweet potato chip (or make your own) and press them into the rapini so they crack in all the right places and settle down in the crevices. This component adds not only a sweetness, it also adds texture with the crunch.
The original uses French fries but I am a sweet potato addict and the chips are a much healthier option.
Got to love a sweet with crunch.

Another generous layer of cheese.....to which I add the top slice of bread that has been slathered with the same mixture of Sabra Sandwich Spread as the bottom.
Make sure you spread edge to edge on that piece of bread.

Now for the final but best part....
Mix 1/4 cup of the Sabra Black Pepper & Sea Salt with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spread on the outer sides of each slice of bread, just as you would do with butter.

Heat a griddle pan, a panini pan or a cast iron skillet until is it hot. Place the sandwich on the pan and cover with another pan, weighted down with a few cans of tomatoes.

Really, all you need to do is what you would do with a basic grilled cheese that is 4x fatter.
Grill until the edges are browned. Flip and repeat.

Can be kept warm in the oven while you make the 2nd, 3rd or 4th sandwich.

Italian Pork & Vegetable Sandwich
makes 4 sandwiches

1 loaf Tuscan or Sourdough Bread, sliced into 1" slices
1 pound hot capicolla
8 ounces grated Fontina cheese
1 bunch Broccoli di Rabe, cooked
2-3 cups sweet potato chips

1/2 cup each Sabra Garlic/Herb & Honey/Mustard Sandwich Spreads (total 1 cup)
1 cup Sea salt & Cracked Black Pepper Sandwich Spread
1 tablespoon honey, optional
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Mix Garlic/Herb & Honey/Mustard spreads in a bowl. Taste and add honey if desired. Makes 1 cup.
2. Mix Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper with olive oil.  

Cook's tips: In some deli's, cooked rapini is available for purchase. Rapini not available, sub in cooked radicchio, collard greens or kale. Sweet potato chips not available, use sweet potato tots but I much prefer the crunch of the chips. Sweet potato not your thing, just use baked regular potato chips.
You want to be the bell of the football tailgating party?!?.... slice the bread horizontally (a ciabatta or focaccia works really well) and make one large sandwich on the BBQ grill and slice that like you would a 6 ft sub.



October 1, 2016

Eggplant Meatballs for Two with a Roasted Garlic Caramelized Onion Marinara ♥ You might just want to double this recipe

I apologize for the  lack of a picture. I am working on a recipe contest this week and placed this dish in the freezer to finish posting when the contest was over.
Unfortunately, I forgot I had pre-dated this post and it, as you can see, published before it was completed.
This is for Mimi, who was looking for the recipe. The pictures will be added next week.
I recently purchased the Complete Cooking for Two cookbook published by America's Test Kitchen and passed the two beginning year cookbooks to my SIL who lives alone.
She was hoping it would give her incentive to start cooking.
While take out is easy, we all know it can be the worst foods a person with medical concerns could eat.

Got me thinking that there must be many people in the same boat, that eating a home cooked meal could make the difference between being healthy and unhealthy. We all see the frozen dinners and the prepared meals available in the big box stores, the deli counters and freezers in all the supermarkets but I have tried them. Unless you can not cook for yourself or have a spouse that can, they are better than take out or even restaurants where the sodium and fat is through the roof.

I am a family of two and have recently discovered that I throw massive amounts of food away and I don't even want to tally the bill but with retirement looming in the next few years I do know that I can not continue in my wasteful ways.

I remember a few years ago I emailed Ina Garten asking if there was a cookbook of the foods she cooks for her and Jeffrey. An assistant was nice enough to respond telling me that Ina feels most of her recipes, usually serving four, can be successful halved for two.

I'm sorry Ina, that isn't always true and a recipe for exactly two servings can not always be halved and taste the same as one serving 4.

So, where am I going with this?

I stumbled on a recipe for Eggplant Meatballs in a Roasted Garlic Caramelized Onion Marinara Sauce that served four, which meant it served 6 because Americans eat way too much food and my doctor says "Americans eat until their plate is clean, Europeans eat until they are no longer hungry". So true.

So realistically, if I halve the recipe I will still have leftover food. Now that The Nudge is taking a jar salad for lunch and I am eating lean deli, there should be no reason for any leftovers.
In the winter I will make one large pot of soup for us both to eat for lunch all week so our dinners have to be scaled down.

Most of my posts going forward will be healthy, whole foods in a dish serving two but I will post both if the original inspiration was a recipe for 4.

Sauces are easy to freeze so only the meatball amount had to be sized down. The recipe posted is for meatballs for 2 with a sauce for 6. I used the leftover sauce for our Friday night pizza.

The concept of meatballs made with roasted eggplant and mushrooms sounded too good to pass up and I bookmarked it for when local eggplants had enough time to grow into large beautiful specimens and the meat inside would be enough to forgo the amount of bread to extend the quantity, so no filler.

Eggplant “Meatballs” in a Garlic Confit Marinara
Serves 2
Eggplant “Meatballs”
1 medium eggplant
2 ounces diced fresh mushrooms, divided use (see Garlic Confit Marinara)
1 medium yellow onion, divided use (see Garlic Confit Marinara)
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (fresh is best)
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan Reggiano, shredded
2 teaspoons flat-leaf, Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
All-purpose flour, for coating
Vegetable oil, for frying

Garlic Confit Marinara
1/2 of mushroom and onion mixture (from Eggplant “Meatballs” recipe)
1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes with juice
1 1/2 t sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Serve with…
Parmesan Reggiano
Garlic bread

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick eggplant all over with a fork. Place in a roasting pan and roast for 1 hour or until it collapses. When cool, scrape the flesh (only) into a bowl.
  2. Saute the mushrooms in olive oil. Set aside to cool. Reserve 1/2 for meatballs and the other half for the sauce.
  3. While the eggplant is cooking, begin your tomato sauce by gently cooking garlic and onions in olive oil, covered in a large pot, stirring occasionally, for one hour or until brown and bubbly. Remove from heat and spoon out one half of the mixture into the bowl containing the eggplant.
  4. Next, add tomatoes, 1/2 of the chopped mushrooms to the pot; bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Blend until smooth with a hand-held stick blender. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until sauce is thickened. Adjust seasonings.
  5. To make the meatballs, add remaining mushrooms, breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs and parsley to the eggplant and garlic-onion mixture. On a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper, shape mixture into approximately twenty 1-1/2 inch balls. Dust with flour and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes until firm. Fry in 1/2 inch of oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven until browned all over. Drain on paper towels.
  6. Ladle the Eggplant “Meatballs” into the sauce and simmer until reheated.
  7. Before serving, sprinkle with Parmesan Reggiano and chopped parsley. Serve with garlic toast or chunks of Italian bread.

September 22, 2016

Italian Stew (Ciambotta) ♥ First Cooking Recollections - #thereciperedux September Challenge

Ciambotta or Giambotta.
An Italian stew, usually with vegetables but can contain some meats.
Until today I did not know the official Italian name for this, only that this was weeknight dinner for my father growing up.

#theRecipeRedux September challenge........

First Cooking Recollections
Stir up some of your earliest culinary recollections. Did you stand at your grandmother’s elbow to learn to cook? Or did you learn by stumbling through a cookbook by yourself? Share a healthy recipe and the accompanying story about one of your first cooking memories.

I have a very vivid cooking recollection of the first food I learned to make standing on a chair at my Nonna's house to help her roll out pasta dough with a broom handle.

I know from time to time I mention childhood food memories, learning how to cook the dishes my Pop grew up eating but until I made the pilgrimage to Ellis Island (finally finished bringing it back to it's glory), did I get the bug to learn as much about my family as I could.

That started with a sit down with my Dad and his twin sister.

Grandpa immigrated from Rome and Grandma from Florence, each one traveling solo. In those days a local Church had families that would sponsor Catholic Italians providing room and board and a job until they could speak English and become self sufficient. My grandma and grandpa met through that church, married and started a family.

While most of my memories from that time were about playing with my cousins and running all over during hide n seek, I do have a few clear memories about helping Grandma Louise make dinner.
Since I was a pipsqueak and could not reach the stove, I stood on a chair to help her make the pasta. My job was to break the eggs and after she rolled the dough to the right thickness, I help roll up the dough on a broom stick for the journey to the bedroom where there awaited a sheet for drying.
That dough was as big as the bed and she really did need help. If there was to be one big moment in time for me, that would be it.

As a child, I regularly enjoyed the hearty stew that my Nonna Louise prepared as a way to use up surplus produce from the garden.
This dish is exactly what would have been served for dinner on a weeknight, only now the vegetables are from my garden, the bread from my oven and the pasta cut with a machine, not on my bed, but on my dinner table, drying on a towel.

Grandma Louise would have been pleased.

While this is not difficult to make, like most Italian dishes, there is a technique used.
In this case it is the addition of vegetables in a specific order ending with a bechamela right before serving.
Since during the week, with busy days, making homemade pasta is not doable, I use a good quality packaged fresh pasta that is either fettuccine or sheets to be torn.

While I was reminded of that dinner 50 years ago, the Nudge immediately said (after proclaiming he wanted this every Soup Monday, please! ) that it tasted like the insides of a great pot pie.
That was the best compliment I could have gotten.
Now I have to find a few different variations, as the cold weather rolls in.
Yes, please!

This may look decadent but I ran it through my recipe analyzer and it gave me a total under 400 calories per serving, and yes, that included the pasta!

Let's get cooking......

You will will need:
a quart of good quality chicken stock/broth
an assortment of late-summer vegetables
a bechamela
dark meat chicken
packaged soup vegetables (usually near the wrapped veggies)

Italian Vegetable Stew
makes 8 servings
For the broth:
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 4 chicken thighs
* 1/2 medium whole onion
* 1 whole carrot, cleaned
* 1 celery stalk, 2" pieces
* 4 whole cloves of garlic
* 32oz. chicken broth/stock
* 2 cups water
* 1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon (chicken base)
* seasoned salt and black pepper

For the stew:
* 1 large carrot, diced into corn kernel size
* 1 large potato, diced into corn kernel size
* 1 medium zucchini, same dice
* 1 medium summer squash, same dice
* 2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
* 2 packed cups spinach, 1" strips
* 1 large tomato, seeded and slivered
* 6oz. fresh fettuccine, roughly chopped

For the bechamela:
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 1 cup fat-free half & half
* 1/2 grated Romano cheese
* salt & pepper to taste
1. Heat a Dutch oven or heavy bottoms stock pot. Add olive oil and heat.
2. Season chicken with seasoned salt & pepper.
3. Add chicken, carrot, celery, garlic and onion to the oil. Nestle them in to contact the pan.
4. Saute until they brown and flip over, about 5 minutes.
5. Repeat with other side and add herbs.
6. Once browning is achieved add the stock and the water. Cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken to a bowl to cool and strain the broth through a sieve. Throw out the aromatics. Pick the chicken clean and tear into large pieces. Reserve.
7. Add a little more oil to the pot and saute the potatoes with the carrots for 4 minutes.
8. Add the corn and the sliced tomato. Pour the broth over the vegetables and simmer until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.
9. Add the spinach and pasta and simmer until the pasta is cooked. Add the chicken meat.
10. In a small bowl whisk the flour and the half & half until there are no lumps left.
11. Add the roux to the pot and stir until the broth starts to thicken, adding additional cream if needed.
12. Finish with the grated cheese, stir to mix, adjust the salt & pepper and serve.

Can be stored, cooled and covered for up to a week in the fridge. Gently reheat before serving.

I am already jotting down different batches of vegetables for when the weather gets cooler and then frosty. I think that this stew requires hardy vegetables, not ones that will disintegrate with simmering.



September 10, 2016

What to do if you have illegal links on your blog and GOOGLE calls you a fellon.

I got a nasty letter from Google last week. It didn't help that I was in the middle of a massive redo on my computer and generally pissed about that.
At 3 in the morning as I tried desperately to move my downloader into my "C" drive with my fingers crossed that FINALLY I could install iTunes once again, I did not need to read that I was doing illegal things on my blog and if I did not fix the problem, my rank for Google Search would tank to the ends of the universe.

Excuse me??? I don't even have ads on my blog and do not get paid to post recipes using Brand Name products. What the hell where they talking about.

Seems I have bad links that cause search engines to click on sites that don't follow the rules, giving them FREE clicks.
OK, once again......what the crap do they mean?

I did not need another massive problem solving, time wasting project to fix when I couldn't even fix the vehicle they said I needed to remove these "bad links" from.

Instead of explaining how to fix this problem, they posted a video that pretty much told me I was breaking the GOOGLE law and if I continue in my bad ways, they would bury me in outer space.

I finally had to laugh, because I am pretty sure my ranking on search engines is at the bottom of the barrel, so do I really care what they can do to me?
I do care that there are bloggers out there that are as clueless as I was, who could benefit from the info I gathered on what to do if they also get a letter from the GOOGLE police.

What are bad links and how do you fix them?

When you link to an outside source (food blogs would link to give credit to the inspiration for posted recipes, retail food and book sellers, contest sponsors and other blogs in general), the search engines don't distinguish why those links are there, they think you are selling your links for profit and therefore, that must stop!!
So, at the very end of the coding that points to an outside site, you must include a "no follow" direction. People on your site, can still be linked if they click, so credit will be given where it deserves to be, but the "no follow" code stops the search engines from clicking on them, therefore you will no longer get counterfeit clicks.

If you are like me, and dutifully link back nice things to others, you will have to add a few words to each link on your site. If you have published posts for 6 or more years, have entered numerous contests that require many posted links, it could take you a week of doing nothing but opening each post and making the necessary corrections.

I have been doing just that for three days straight and have only manage to correct 200 of the over 1,000 published posts. Why am I only finding out about this NOW????

Here goes........
a basic link looks like this (http://www.cookingwithdiabetes.blogspot.com/).
To make the link legal you will have to add "rel="nofollow" right after the .com so that it should look like http://www.cookingwithdiabetes.blogspot.com/ rel="nofollow">.

The next time you set up a link using blogger you should see at the bottom of the link box, the option to use the Add 'rel=nofollow' attribute. From this day forward you will never break the law. Unfortunately all your old links will have to be fixed.

Do I feel stupid? No, I do not. I am pissed that blogger did not make this clear when I created my blog and I have many more hours of bull crap ahead of me.

August 22, 2016

Eggplant Margherita Bar Pie ♥ Vacation Inspired Dish - #thereciperedux challenge, August 2016

I finally had enough heirloom tomatoes to make two margherita bar pies.
I also picked two white eggplants and thinly sliced one to top MY bar pie.

Turns out The Nudge almost ate 3 qtrs of mine before I told him only one had the eggplant, and I had yet to eat one piece.

He is a pizza junkie. That is why I made these pies.
When we were in No. Carolina checking out the landscape for future retirement, we ate at this local pub in Wilmington called the Copper Penny where Wednesdays are Margherita Bar Pie day.
There was no way we were leaving there before Wednesday nite!

It just made sense when The Recipe Redux challenge for August was to recreate a vacation inspired dish, that pie would be my choice.

While I am not a pizza monger, I will eat certain pies in a handful of places, top of that list being from my own kitchen. This dough recipe is so good, pizza is on the menu once a week now and with ripe juicy yellow and red heirlooms ripe for the picking, guess what we had last night?

So simple to make, they bake in 15 minutes and we have been eating this original version all summer.
While calling for a homemade pizza sauce, we were really counting the days when we would pick heirlooms with tommy's from our deck garden.

(basic margherita)

You really can not get anything tastier or easier than sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil but adding the eggplant put it over the top for me.

The best part? they bake in cake pans. No special stone or pan required. I will never bake a pie in my oven any other way than this way.

Let's get cooking:

You will need two 9" metal cake pans.
Preheat oven to 500°.

In a processor or bread machine, place all the ingredients into the bowl and run the blender until the mixture comes together in a ball and then a few more minutes to knead it.

Cut into two balls and cover to rise for at least 30 minutes. Press the dough into the pan that is coated with EVOO, add the toppings and bake for 15 minutes.

Really, is there anything easier than that. Perfect for the kids to do as long as you slice and grate the ingredients.

makes 2 (9") crusts

* 1 2/3 cups (8 1/3 ounces) AP flour
* 1 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2/3 cup water
* 1 1/2 teaspoon EVOO
* 3/4 teaspoon salt

8 oz grated mozzarella, divided
Assorted vine ripened tomatoes, sliced at least 1/4"
Small white eggplant, thinly sliced on a mandoline
Fresh chopped basil for garnish after baking
Additional sprinkle of really fruity olive oil before serving, optional



August 16, 2016

Banana Cinnamon French Toast in a Travel Mug ♥ I LOVE this!!!

A few months ago, I was checking out a few of the Recipe Redux blogger's monthly challenge posts when I ran across this post: Meal Make Over Moms Blueberry Banana French Toast-in-a-Mug.

I have seen various cake in a mug posts, a few eggs in a mug recipes but not one on French Toast in a Mug. While reading the info, I got the idea to take their idea and transfer it in a disposable travel coffee cup for The Nudge to take to work.
Right now he takes a Rubbermaid sippy cup filled with a weekly smoothie I always have in the fridge.  I was tired of them everyday and thought he might like a change.

This seemed like a great idea so the gals over at Makeover Moms told me to try it and let them know how it went.
I bought the To Go cups at Wally World at a decent price and finally got a break to work out the details.

Knowing that the mixture would be packaged the night before presented some concerns about the paper of the cup. It might soften with the egg & milk mixture and the bread would be over saturated to the point that the final texture would really be a bread pudding and not a "toast".

I needed a plan.

For the bread to remain intact (as French Toast is), I would have to toast it before cooking, then cut it to fit into the bottom of the cup.
I made two circles using 2 cookie cutters, one that fits snug in the bottom and the other the next size up to fit where the cup is larger. The small pieces that where not large enough for my smallest cutter, were torn into 1" pieces and became the gravel on the bottom.

I then made the egg/milk mixture and it fit perfectly into a large condiment cup and that sits on the toast. In a smaller condiment cup, I filled with maple syrup and that sat on the egg mix.

The lid is domed so the syrup fit on top perfectly.
Try to find the cups with the domed lid. I'm pretty sure all the ones I looked at were domed but double check just to be sure.

I wrote the cooking directions on the cup and placed it in the fridge.
I did my part, now it was up to The Nudge to do his.
I really hoped it worked. I know he will like having a change in the usual smoothie.

I am happy to post that the experiment was a huge success and The Nudge was the talk of the break room!!
I know he enjoyed that but did remember to give me some credit.....lol

Banana French Toast In A Mug
makes one serving, but two would fit in the travel cup
Adapted slightly from Meal Make Over Moms Blueberry Banana French Toast-in-a-Mug
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1/2 a medium banana, smashed, ripe but not mushy
* 1 tablespoon milk, any kind
* 1/4 cup fruit (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) I used dried Sugar-free Craisins.
* pinch of salt
* 1 slice cinnamon swirl bread, cut to fit the vessel

Maple syrup, optional

1. Mix the egg/milk mixture with the banana and berries (if using).
2. Place the bread in the mug/cup and microwave for 90 seconds.
3. If the egg is not set microwave in 10 second intervals until the bread starts to rise.
4. Remove and cover with the lid to set for about 5 minutes (also lets the berries cool down).
5. Pour the syrup over and eat.

The Nudge's Review: It cooked up perfectly. I wished I had poured the egg mixture down the sides of the bread because the bottom pieces were firmer than the others. I don't mind that but others might. I have no problem rotating this with egg mug omelets for breakfast at work.

So happy it worked like a charm and I have gotten a request to change up the fruit when the seasons change (apples, pears or anything that you would pair with French Toast).

I also think chocolate mini chips would be a nice surprise and instead of the banana, a spoonful of favorite jam (maybe even a swirl of peanut butter).
So many possibilities.