Wish Upon A Dish: 2017

August 21, 2017

Kentucky Hot Brown Stuffed Tomatoes ♥ Rise & Shine with a Savory Breakfast - RecipeReDux Challenge August 2017

Hi there,
Time for another Recipe Redux Challenge.

This month's challenge is a Rise and Shine with a Savory Breakfast
The trend of protein-packed breakfasts is catching on…and back-to-school time is looming. This month, show us new healthy takes on eating savory or dinner-inspired dishes for breakfast.

I knew this dish was the national dish of the Kentucky Derby. Wasn't until this year that I expressed an interest in making the Hot Brown.
What clinched the deal is a daily bumper crop of tomatoes that is on the verge of being unmanageable. For tomato lovers this is a year to brag about.

Anyone who grows tomatoes knows it is hit and miss from year to year. Last year it was so hot, I bought umbrellas to shade my crops but by August, the vines dried up and stopped producing.
This year I kept my produce choices to 4 vegetables. Swiss chard, Asian eggplants, cubanel peppers and tomatoes.

So where do I stand as of today? Bumper eggplants, decent amount of chard, absolutely NO peppers. Ahh but there are 6 kinds of tomatoes that just won't stop producing. I think the cooler weather this August has lots to do with that. Not complaining but I am not as big a lover of tomatoes as the Nudge is, so he gets a grape, cherry & teardrop tomatoes in a jar salad he eats weekdays.

Finally the large meaty tomatoes started to turn red and all at the same time. My San Marzano's have been appearing in sauces, salsas, and salads for a month but the Rutgers are finally sitting in the sun waiting for it's day in the spotlight.

The timing could not have been better for posting this recipe.
Anyone not familiar with a Hot Brown needs to know that it is as Southern as can be.
Bacon, tomatoes, egg toast (brioche), cheese sauce and poached eggs. What's not to love.

For a healthier version (and one that can be prepared the day before), I am taking those iconic ingredients and stuffing them into a tomato instead of on top.

Originally this dish is made with freshly roasted turkey breast and if you use your leftover Thanksgiving turkey for sandwiches why not make this instead.
Too hot to roast any bird, I bought a pound of deli Black Bear Green Hatch Pepper Chicken Breast (sliced 1/8" thick) & chopped that into bite sized pieces. I baked the egg bread and set the tomatoes on top, which will not only act as the sponge at the bottom of the tomatoes, it helps to keep them snugly straight. The rest was layering, baking and then topping with a poached egg. I am giving my Hot Brown a Texas spin by using pepper jack cheese and the hatch pepper chicken.

I have to say, while I lightened up this version there was no indication of lighter flavor.
This was good and different so come Thanksgiving, will make an appearance on my turkey day leftover buffet.
Next time I am going to place a grilled slice of artisan Italian bread to sop up all the tomato juices and the sauce.

Kentucky Hot Brown Stuffed Tomatoes
makes 2 tomatoes
* 2 large tomatoes, insides removed & salted
* 6 oz cheese (2oz Pepper Jack, 2oz 50% less fat sharp Cheddar, 1oz Asiago, 1oz Parmesan)
* 1/2 can evaporated skim milk
* 5 slices bacon, cooked
* 1 lb roasted turkey or chicken, chopped
* 2 large eggs, poached or fried, salted & peppered

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the tomatoes upside down on a paper towel while you grate the cheeses.
Divide the cheeses in half.
Heat the evaporated milk and add half the grated cheeses.
Stir until sauce is smooth with no lumps. Remove from the heat.

Toast the bread and chop into crouton. Place croutons in bottom of baking dish.

Stuff the tomatoes starting with a quarter of the meat then the same with the cheese. Repeat.
Top the tomatoes with bacon strips.

Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. The tomatoes should be hot and tender but still hold their shape. Tent the tomatoes with the foil and reheat the cheese sauce.
Ladle a few spoon fulls of the sauce on each dinner plate and then place half the croutons on the sauce. Top that with one tomato.
Place poached egg on top of bacon and then spoon more of the cheese sauce over the egg.



August 19, 2017

Slow Cooker Beet, Goat Cheese & Walnut Salad ♥ a no-fail way to cook fresh beets

This salad was inspired by two ingredients I recently had the pleasure of being introduced too.
Fresh beets and Trader Joe's Honey Jalapeno Goat Cheese!!
Oh, my what a combo and by adding a few tomatoes from my garden with glazed walnut pieces I had the BEST salad the other day.

I love fresh beets but with all my culinary accomplishments, roasting/cooking fresh beets comes in dead last.
I can not count the times I bought fresh beets only to eventually throw them in the trash.

Funny stat. I eat jarred beets in every chop salad I eat weekday. How sad is that?
My success rating on making fresh ones is probably 3:20. I eventually got the hint, succumbed to my failures and bought good jarred salad beets.

Luckily the season & my success with cooking beets coincided, so while all my other ingredients moving forward will probably be hot house varieties, my beets with be the star.
If you have never eaten a fresh beet you have to try this food-proof preparation.

Did you ever have a "duh" moment in cooking?
Mine came the other day when I saw not one, but a few recipes for carrot vegan hot dogs.
Not sure I would make a hot dog with them but I would definitely use that technique for my usual veggie contribution to our Thanksgiving table this year.
As soon as I committed that to memory, I had my moment.

Why not cook my beets using the slow cooker technique on those carrots?
OMG, this was too easy (and boy, did I feel dumb).

I bought a beautiful bunch of beets (tops in great shape but that's for another post) at a local farm stand the other day and set my iPad to remind me to cook them no later than Friday.

I simply washed three baseball-sized beets and placed them in the slow cooker insert. No water, no seasonings, no nothing. I used my small 2 quart cooker and if you find your beets too big for the pot, just slice them in half. Yes, it's that easy. 
I set the cook selection to high, closed the lid and set my timer to 3 hours.

When I got back from my walk, I took a skewer and tested a beet. It was perfectly cook!!
Just the right resistance. I placed them in a bowl to cool to room temp and when they did, I peeled the halved beet for a salad tonight and the other two were wrapped in a paper towel and tucked into veggie bags.... I now have enough for about a dozen salads.

Slow Cooker Beet, Goat Cheese & Walnut Salad
makes 2 servings

* 1 cooked fresh beet, sliced into 1/4" pieces
* 1/4 package jalapeno-honey goat cheese, broken into small pieces
* handful of chopped plain or glazed walnuts
* Favorite vinaigrette (I like a Vidalia onion one)
* chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil, lemon verbana)
* thinly sliced sweet or red onion, optional

Last minute I threw in a few grape and teardrop tomatoes from my garden (first harvest of the summer).

Besides the sweet sugary taste that cooked beets have, a 100 gram amount (3.4oz) has only 43 calories, 10% carbs, less than 1% fat but has 27% folate and 16% magnesium.
I like that they also have 3g of fiber. Yes, please.

July 27, 2017

Roasted Icelandic Creole Cod ♥ One pan - thirty minute fish for two

I had this can of smoked oysters in my pantry, part of a food basket won at a Christmas party years ago.
At least once a year I clean and reorganized my canned food rack and that can would move back & forth and reminded me I just have to find a recipe or throw that can out.

Today was the day. I bought a beautiful thick cut Icelandic cod fillet that would be perfect with a smoked oyster creamed sauce with roasted potatoes.
My inspiration? A sauce based on that iconic oyster chowder at the famous Grand Central Terminal Oyster Bar.
I couldn't wait to write up the ingredients and get cooking.....that is, until I could not find that can of oysters. Hell of a time for me to forget.....I hate when a plan falls apart.
Since I was hoping to post about the smoked oyster sauce, I thought I would share this one dish dinner.
So, here we have plan B.
A creole sauce instead.

I have made so many different creole dishes, each with a different sauce to pair with the protein.
I geared this one towards the neutral flavor of the cod. It never had to compete with assertive flavors so I made a lite version. Most creole sauces are thick with tomato sauce & paste. I made this one with the tomato juice leftover after I used the canned plum tomatoes to make a tomato jam.
A can of V-8 or basic tomato juice would also work.

I finely chopped about 1/2 cup of mixed colored peppers and one large shallot. The rest was spices, Worcestershire and liquid smoke. A splash of vermouth to tone down the acid in the tomato.

I roasted the cod on top of the sauce and before I served dinner and to finish the dish, I stirred a dollop of sour cream (or Greek yogurt) into the sauce.

While I am into whole foods, Creole dishes should be served over converted white rice. If a low glycemic index is of concern to you, converted rice has half the GI of regular long grain rice. I like to think that an old Cajun smiles each time I do.

1/2 cup minced bell peppers (red, orange, green, yellow or blend of all)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, or large shallot, minced
salt & pepper
olive oil
1 1/2 cups tomato juice from canned plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon creole seasoning
1 teaspoon Goya Adobo
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 cup vermouth
2 tablespoons light sour cream of Greek yogurt
1 pound Icelandic Cod

Heat a large skillet and add a tablespoon or two of EVOO. Set the oven to 425°.
Add the garlic, peppers and onion. Saute on medium low until they start to brown.
Add the Creole seasoning, Worcestershire, liquid smoke and 1/2 cup vermouth.
Simmer until reduced, then add the tomato juice and season with salt & pepper.
Continue to simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened.
Season cod with adobo and place in skillet.
Carefully add the hot skillet to the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, depending on how thick the cod is. Remember the rule for cooking fish "10 minutes an inch".
Place the cod on a plate. Stir the yogurt into the sauce and spoon over the cod.

Enjoy! This will become a favorite, I promise.


July 13, 2017

Greens Stuffed Corn Pudding ♥ Easy, peasy side for two

I happen to love polenta or anything made with cornmeal. Seems I am the only one (of two) in this house that does.

Now the Nudge tells another story. He will look me in the eye and say "I like polenta, just not as much as you do."
I saw these stuffed polenta cakes and just had to make them. When cooking for two (and the one of the "two" not a big cornmeal fan), I know enough to make a sample batch.
Just to test the waters, so to say.
If he takes a bite and I get good reaction, I pin the recipe and do the happy dance. Needless to say that list is small but this was big.

I think the key was making this with corn muffins. They tend to be on the sweeter side with a lighter consistency than corn bread, at least the oversized Puffin Muffins at my local supermarket. Damn those babies are way too good (meaning NOT good for a diet).

You could make homemade muffins but when cooking for two, a dozen muffins means 6 muffins each and I know (because of the "one" of the two being a cornmeal zealot) that I would end up eating 10 muffins.
Not good.

Buying one large muffin (picture Costco-size) makes more sense and is the perfect amount for two sides.

While I baked mine in 2-8oz ramekins, for a family a Texas muffin tin is perfect.

I successfully halved the original recipe. I also used canned mustard greens. You need a hearty green, like canned collards or fresh kale or arugula (will add an additional step) that won't disintegrate during the baking process.

Don't poo poo me for not making polenta, it would not work in this recipe. Trust me, I tried it the first time.
Could you make this recipe presentation in a casserole pan? No, and I will tell you why.
If you look at the first picture you will see that when cutting for picture purposes, the greens cut into the tender corn pudding. I would like the appearance of sharp clean sides, after all, that's why it is baked into ramekins. A nice neat package.

If you were OK serving this as you would a dressing or stuffing, making this in a baking pan is great.

I plan or taking this concept and running in all different directions, including Tex-Mex, Creole & Italian to name a few.

Greens Stuffed Corn Pudding
makes 2-8oz ramekins

adapted from NYT Cooking

For the greens:

  • 2 slices smoked bacon
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/3 cup canned mustard or collard greens
  • Salt to taste

For the pudding:

  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 large (or 4 small) cornmeal muffin, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 eggs
For the greens:
Cook the bacon and the onions. Drain on a paper towel and mix into the greens, reserving the fat. Taste for salt (you probably won't need any depending on your bacon).

For the pudding:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cook the onions & garlic in the bacon fat. Add the peppers & cream.
In a small bowl add the cooked to the muffin and then the eggs. Mix thoroughly.

Spoon 2/3 of the mixture evenly into the prepared ramekins. Add half the greens on top of the pudding and finish with the remaining pudding mixture.

Place the ramekins in a baking pan, covered with foil, and bake for 60 minutes. Remove ramekins & let them rest for 10 minutes.
Run a knife around the inside of each ramekin and revert onto a dinner plate.
Serve with a roast, steak or seafood.

July 3, 2017

Citrus Salts ♥ How to get more pucker from your citrus

How many times has this happened to you.....
Sign says "limes 10 for $2"?

Wow how could you possibly pass up that deal? In the bag and the basket and then you get home.
Now, a week later you open the fridge to the realization those limes don't quite look as good as they did when you brought them home.

Answer me this. What the heck are you going to make to use them up? Yes, you can freeze the juice in ice cube trays but I am talking about the zest. A vital part of citrus, the zest can be used in a myriad of ways but my favorite is to make citrus salts.

So easy to do, especially if you are using the juice. I have heard many chefs tell us to always zest the rind before squeezing the fruits and what do I do? Yup, you got it.

Did you know that the zest has, if not more, nutrition attributes than the juice.
Yes, the rinds seem to be more nutrient dense than the flesh. Citrus peels are packed with immune-boosting vitamin C, bone-building calcium and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant bioflavonoids. They also provide potassium, which helps keep blood pressure in check, and limonene, a phytochemical that may have anti-cancer effects.

To totally understand the benefits of bioflavonoids I have included a list of the top 8 benefits or having bioflavonoids in your daily diet:
Varicose veins
Cardiovascular health
Cold Sores
High blood pressure

While most people under 50 will probably think they don't need to worry about half the concerns on that list, but since this house is now occupied by senior citizens as are all our family and friends, this is pretty important information especially since citrus is easy to do in fresh form.

That said, let's get back to the business of zesting. You only need two ingredients to make citrus salt.
A microplane & a lemon, lime or even an orange.
I bought a microplane that comes with a plastic sheath. They can be purchased at any restaurant supply or houseware store for at or under $12.00. The cover traps the zest, allowing the user to scrape the zest into a bowl without it falling on to the counter.

I recommend either a flake sea salt or kosher salt for the best absorption of the zest and flavor. I do not think table salt will work as well and will form clumps adhering to the zest.

Ratio of zest to salt: I like 1 tablespoon zest (a small lime or half a large lemon) to 4 tablespoons of salt. Mix it well, cover it tightly, put it in a cabinet and forget about it....for about 1 week or two.
We need that time for the salt to pull out and absorb the moisture in the zest.
I find that those square small zippy containers are perfect for individual batches.

I use mine on fish, chicken, lamb, vegetables & of course, on the rim of a cocktail glass!!
After 1 week of storage, the lemon that hits your nose is stronger than fresh and dry preserved to last 'till the very last sprinkle. The longer it is stored the better it gets.

Don't throw out any unzested citrus & Enjoy!!


June 28, 2017

Sicilian Cod with Fresh Garlic Tomato Sauce ♥ a lite, flavorful & easy one pot meal for two

Right about this time of year I get into a food funk. I ask the Nudge for ideas for dinner and all he can come up with is sausage & pepper sandwiches, chicken parm, carbonara and hamburgers.


I think it was time to seriously hit my favorite food sites and blogs for inspiration.

Food & Wine often posts themed slideshows and I save them on my iPad for times such as this.
This recipe was posted in this batch of More Healthy Fish Recipes.

I made this dinner in one pan and it was on the table in less than 45 mins.
While I usually make slight adjustments this time I followed the recipe verbatim.
It was delicious, healthy and so easy.
I always worry that by halving the ingredients to make a dinner for two sometimes won't work, this time it was spot on.

While the recipe called for halibut fillets, they just did not look as fresh as I would have liked for the price so I went with cod steaks thinking the skin would keep the meat intact and once cooked would peel easily away.
It did.

Since I had arborio rice on hand, that's what I used but any rice would be fine, really.
This is the kind of dish that I usually make when the Nudge is traveling and I want something quick and healthy.

Cod with Fresh Tomato Sauce
makes 2 servings (can be doubled)

* 3 tablespoons EVOO
* 3 large cloves garlic, minced
* pinch red pepper flakes
* 1 1/2pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 4 plums)
* pinch saffron threads
* 3 oregano sprigs, dried or fresh or, 1/4 teaspoon dried
* Salt & pepper to taste
* Zest of 1/2 an orange (1/2" strips), plus finely grated zest (for garnish)
* 2 large bay leaves
* 1 whole clove
* 1/2 cup arborio rice (or basmati and long grain)
* 2 4-ounce skinless cod or halibut fillets
* Chopped parsley, for garnish

1. In a large, deep skillet, bring 2 cups of unsalted water to a boil and add the zest, bay leaves, clove and rice. Cook for 15-18 minutes. Drain the rice, discarding the aromatics. Reserve in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil & salt & pepper to taste.
2. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and saffron to the garlic and cook over moderate heat until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano and season with salt & pepper. Cook over low heat until the sauce is thickened and liquid is reduced, about 20 minutes. Discard the oregano.
3. Nestle the cod in the tomato sauce, cover and steam for 10 minutes, until fish starts to flake.
4. Divide rice into two bowls and place a piece of fish on top. Spoon the tomato mixture over the fish and garnish with the orange zest & parsley.

Serve & enjoy!

June 9, 2017

Steak & Potato Salad ♥ a cool version of a steakhouse dinner

Whenever I get back from vacation, I find that it is the best time to pull food from the freezer before filling up that empty fridge.
It so happened that when The Nudge grabbed a filet mignon to defrost, he did not realize there were two fillets in the same bag.
Not a problem, I would grill them both and use the second one to make a steak & potato salad for dinner during the week.

Potatoes made the vacation food purge as well as a half dozen eggs, blue cheese crumbles and a container of sour cream.
All I needed to purchase was lettuce, tomato and fresh horseradish.

I have to say that this was a pleasant delicious surprise after eating my daily garden salad for lunch everyday.
I kept it simple and the only thing I had to cook was the roasted potatoes and hard cooked eggs.
Next time I put steak on the menu I will remember to buy more than we normally eat so that I can make this salad again.

You are probably thinking that this salad doesn't sound all that impressive with the basic ingredients used, so why put this on my list of "must make again" meals?

It was the horseradish cream dressing that took it up a notch. I usually buy fresh horseradish root when we put fresh oysters and shrimp cocktail on the menu and I love it so but never get many other chances to cook with it. Probably why this salad made the cut.

If you do not eat much steak, I would suggest buying sliced roast beef from the deli man when it goes on sale. You can even by precooked hard boiled eggs, bagged salad & my supermarket sells roasted potato wedges. Really is an easy weeknight meal sure to impress.

Steak & Potato Salad with Horseradish Cream Dressing
makes 2 dinner & 1 lunch salad

* 1 (6oz) grilled filet mignon or 6oz deli roast beef
* 1 tomato, sliced
* 2 potatoes, 1" chunks
* vegetable oil
* 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
* 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
* 2-3 cups chopped lettuce, your favorite
* chopped chives or lettuce or basil

Coat potatoes with oil and roast for 45 minutes at 400°. Season with salt & pepper.

Horseradish Dressing:
* 1/4 cup sour cream
* 3 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish root, or prepared horseradish
* 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
* 1 teaspoon honey
* 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
* 1 teaspoon milk (if sauce is too thick)
* Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

 Mix ingredients with hand blender or small processor. Thin with milk if needed.

May 21, 2017

Cocktails and Mocktails for May Celebrations ♥ #The Recipe ReDux May Challenge

Cocktails and Mocktails for May Celebrations
Showers and celebrations with friends abound this time of year. Show us your healthy, colorful drink concoctions for festivities like bridal showers and graduation celebrations.

I have been making this sangria for over 40 years. Even today, except for swapping the white wine with Prosecco, it's the same recipe and I would not change a thing.

For those of you lucky enough to have watched The Frugal Gourmet, you might remember this recipe. Could make this in my sleep.

The beauty is it can be a mocktail or a cocktail. The simple swap of a good white grape juice, orange syrup and club soda along with the fruits, make this the perfect non-alcoholic drink to cool you down in the middle of the summer.
For those of you who want a light, easy and fruity drink, this is for you.

White Sangria
inspiration from Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet)

* 1 bottle Prosecco or 3 cups white grape juice & 1 cup club soda
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1/2 cup orange juice
* 1/4 cup triple sec (or orange syrup)
* 1 tablespoon brandy
* 1/2 orange, sliced
* 1/2 lime and lemon, sliced
* Handful grapes, optional

Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher and refrigerate for minimum 2 hours for optimal flavor.


April 24, 2017

Persian Onion Soup with Poached Eggs ♥ Soup for Two

I am totally intrigued with European spice blends.
If you are like me and want to bump up the volume on your food you need to play with your spices, and that means going back to school and familiarize yourself on the history of spices and the Spice Trail.

No question that French Onion Soup reigns supreme in this house, so when I saw this recipe for Persian Onion Soup, I made a copy and tucked it into my Wish List folder.

Before the heat of summer arrives, there are still a few Souper Monday's ahead and today was THE day I finally pulled out that recipe.
One of those 5+ spice wonders, it was on the table in under an hour. I loved the warmth of the traditional Middle Eastern spices and the sweetness of the caramelized onions.

The seal on the deal was the eggs poached into the soup.
OMG, we love Eggs in Purgatory in this house so what could possibly not be a no-brainer than this technique. Imagine the flavor the whites will absorb from all those warming exotic spices.

Super easy to make and including the time it takes for the caramelizing of the onions, can be on the table in under an hour. Plan ahead and cook the onions earlier in the week. Better yet, make a big batch in your slow cooker, measure portions and freeze them in zippy bags.

The turmeric stains everything a bright orange color and that includes the eggs. If you would prefer white eggs, poach them in a separate pot.

I sauteed escarole to add a bitter element along with green power.

Persian Onion Soup with Poached Eggs
makes 2 bowls

* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 4 small yellow onions (around 400g), finely sliced
* 1 tablespoon corn starch
* 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
* 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
* 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon dried mint\
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 2 eggs, room temperature
* Salt & pepper to taste
* Chopped parsley for garnish, optional

(if you do not want to buy bottles of each spice, 2 1/2 teaspoons of your favorite curry will do just fine)

1. Melt the butter with the oil in a heavy stockpot.
Add the onions and saute on low, stirring every 10-15 minutes until the onions are tender and golden (about 35 minutes).
2. Add the corn starch to the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the spices, stirring to combine and then the stock. When the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat and add the lemon juice and honey.
3. Season to taste, with the salt & pepper.
4. Right before serving bring the soup to a simmer and add the eggs, one at a time at different sides of the pot.
5. Cover the pot and cook for a few minutes. The whites should be firm and the yolk a pale yellow.
Remember, they will continue to cook until you serve them up.

I sliced a baguette for dipping in the broth.

March 24, 2017

Butternut Squash Cannelloni with a Sage Walnut Sauce ♥ Pasta for Two

Every Fall my local small chain Italian restaurant puts my favorite pasta dinner back on the menu.
What I thought was butternut squash stuffed large tortellini (called tortilacci) actually turned out to be pasta stuffed with a basic cheese mixture who's sauce was butter & spiced roasted cubes of butternut squash. Still very good but in the back of my mind I made a mental note to make homemade squash stuffed pasta.

While checking out my daily Pinterest recommendations, I spotted a pin for Butternut Squash Cannelloni with Walnut Sage Cream Sauce from Martha. I immediately pinned it.
I just had to make this yesterday.

Before I cook a recipe, I checkout the ingredients and then I hit the reviews. If the reviews are not favorable but just nit-picky and I could adjust easily, it goes on my menu & the shopping list.
I usually don't print the recipe until right before I start the cooking process because I learned the hard way when it took me a full week to file less than half.  

Two things I did change. I added Parmesan to the top right before baking and hit the broil for some crunch.
While the Nudge would never pick this in a restaurant, he has become more tolerant of my vegetable main meals. Heck, when he has lunch out, he's been known to order the avocado eggrolls!

This was a thumbs up! Very rich and filling. Would I make it again. Yes, most certainly but the next time I would save a few steps and use the filling for jumbo shells.

Butternut Squash Cannelloni
makes 6 cannelloni

* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 to 1/2 pound butternut squash meat, 1" pieces
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon cumin
* 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 1/2cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
* 2 cups chopped spinach, chard or other greens
* 2 tablespoons EVOO
* 6 sheets no-boil lasagna sheets
* 1 teaspoon dried sage

1. Heat 2 tablespoon butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
Add onion & squash and saute for 5 minutes, flip over and repeat 2x more.
2. Add 1/2 cup water, a lid and steam for 3 minutes or until squash is soft. Remove the lid and continue simmering until the water is almost gone.
3. Sprinkle spices (up to pepper) over squash and mash mixture. Transfer to a bowl. When cool, stir in ricotta and Parmesan.
4. Add remaining tablespoon butter to a saute pan and cook greens until wilted and liquid has evaporated. Season with salt & pepper. Cool and add to cheese mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Heat water to a boil & add a tablespoon of salt. Cook pasta for 6 minutes, drain and lay the pasta on a cookie sheet that has been drizzled with olive oil.
6. To assemble the cannelloni: Lay a pasta sheet on a wooden board. Spoon three tablespoons of cheese mixture down the middle, lengthwise <---------------->. Add 1/6th of the greens mixture over the cheese and fold the top part of the pasta towards you, pat down to adhere and roll again, seam side down.
7. Spoon half the sauce into a 9x13" casserole pan. Lay the rolled cannelloni seam side down, side by side. Spoon remaining sauce over cannelloni and bake immediately in preheated 425° oven or cover and refrigerate.
8. Right before baking, sprinkle additional Parmesan on top (optional).
8. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and browned around the edges.
Sage-Walnut Cream Sauce
makes 2 cups

* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons AP flour
* 1 cup milk
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 1 tablespoon ground sage
* Salt & pepper
* 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
* pinch of nutmeg 

1. Heat the butter in a a large saucepan over medium heat. When bubbling, add flour and whisk until all the lumps are gone. Add milk, cream & wine to butter/flour mixture and simmer on low, whisking continuously until mixture is free of lumps. Add walnuts & nutmeg to sauce and salt & pepper to taste.

March 22, 2017

Pantry Pickin' Chicken Shawarma ♥ #RecipeReDux March Challenge

If you are a food blogger, you will most certainly have one recipe (or 20) in your blog post section that has been delegated to the draft pile.

Without even counting and at the top of my head, I can honestly say my drafts are well over 100.
So, once a year I go back in and clean them out, that is, except the few that I still want to blog about but just never get the chance too.

Meet one from 2011.

I have been trying to make shawarma for years. Why now?
A few reasons, one being I have an abundance of pita in my freezer, the other is the acceptance of The Nudge to try new ethnic cuisines that I have always wanted to explore but wouldn't dare put on our menu.

This month's theme was picked with me in mind. We are challenged to cook with three ingredients already in our fridge & pantry.
Besides the chicken thighs, everything in this recipe came right out of my pantry.

If you open my pantry door you would swear that I snapped a pic of my store's spice racks and recreated them in the over-the-door storage rack that leads to my pantry.
I am not kidding.
What better way to take a trip around the world from your diner table?

Last week I printed out well known spice mixtures from around the world and made a whole bunch. You have to figure that there will be no more excuses for all those drafts.

Ras el Hanout

With all those pre-mixed spice blends, the one I did not make was, yea, you got it.....shawarma.
I can now add it to my list.

What I love about this recipe is the ease and quickness.
When I cook chicken, I always try to leave the bone in and remove the skin myself.
Takes me all of 2 minutes but remember we are a family of two and four thighs are easy work.
If I needed 10-12 thighs I would buy them already prepared.

First thing before I start my day, is to marinade or spice that nights dinner. If I was working I would do it the night before. If this was a liquid marinade I would minus the pan and just put everything into the bag but if I have the room, and it is a dry rub, I prefer to leave the meat flat and side by side.

Then I bag it, suck out as much air as I can and pop it into the bottom drawer.  

By laying them flat and not touching, the spice mixture stays in place and evenly flavors the meat.

While I prepare the salad garnish, I heat the grill and remove the pan.
Never cook meat straight out of the cold. It will seize and never relax. I got into the habit of taking the food out of the fridge as soon as I walked into the kitchen.

The vegetable salsa is as simple as this dish is. Chopped tomatoes, lettuce, red onions and a yogurt sauce. I would place a bottle of your favorite hot sauce (sriracha here) for those who like a kick.

Chicken Shawarma
makes 4 pitas

Spice blend (exactly enough for four thighs but an be easily doubled):
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1/2 lemon slice, wedged
1 tablespoon olive oil (recommend light)
1/4 cup apple juice

Yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon tahini
1/4 teaspoon mint
1/4 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon honey
Squeeze lemon juice
Salt & pepper

4 pitas, wrapped and warm from the oven
Julienned lettuce
Chopped tomatoes
Sliced red onion
Hot sauce
Yogurt sauce
Guacamole (optional)

1. On a grill or in a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the thighs for 5 minutes on each side.
2. Add the apple juice, cover the skillet, lower the heat and steam the chicken until the apple juice thickens.
3. Remove the skillet from the heat and cool. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken from the bones.
4. Pour any juices over the chicken and serve.


March 19, 2017

Secret Surprise Chocolate Bundt Cake ♥ Baking for Two

I suppose telling you I subscribe to Smitten Kitchen would be tantamount to confessing that I love food.
No surprise there. Actually she was the first blog to introduce me to blogging, way back in 2009.

I recently saw a mention on her blog about this famous chocolate cake made with a secret ingredient (mayonnaise) about the same time as I was just about to open my Cooking for Two cookbook to see if they had a pixie-sized decadent chocolate cake.

Yes, mayonnaise. Don't knock it. I grew up on that cake, it was superior! I had completely forgot about it.
Thanks Deb!!!

I decided to try to marry the mayonnaise part with the ingredient list of the Cooking for Two chocolate cake recipe.
I have to say the first try was pretty darn good, and it disappeared in two days.
I knew I heard a leprechaun, I think his name was Dave!

I love when something comes together quickly since I confess I waited until the last minute.
I wanted to flavor it all with Irish Mist and I wanted it in time for a St.Patty's Day treat.

This recipe makes enough for two small layer cakes or one small 6" bundt. You can get a really nice frosting here that you might want to halve.

If you decide to make the bundt style, you will want a pan that serves 4 (Nordic makes a nice 6 cup sturdy one). I happened to luck out with a clearance sale on an aluminum one but I know you can get one made of silicon. 

Irish Mist Chocolate Bundt Cake 
4 servings

Preheat oven to 350°.

* 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
* 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso pr instant coffee powder
* 1/2 cup Irish Mist (or water), boiling
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar or low sugar baking blend equal to 1/2 cup (mine is 1/4 cup)
* 1 large egg, room temperature
* 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Whipped cream, whipped topping or powdered sugar glaze flavored with Irish Mist.

Prepare the pan with release spray. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 25 minutes for two round cake pans or 30 minutes for a bundt pan.

March 12, 2017

Margherita Frittata ♥ #Sponsored Toufayan Recipe ReDux Challenge

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

I did not grow up eating pita. Growing up there was no pita bread. My Mom was a nutritionist and growing up there was the usual oatmeal or eggs for breakfast, prepared sandwiches to take to school and a well balanced meal for dinner. The one thing that was always on the dinner table was an Italian salad.
Every dinner, every night.

What does a salad have to do with pita bread?
My first exposure to pita was on the job. When you live paycheck to paycheck, you bring your lunch from home but when you can't you buy the only thing you can afford, a basic ice burg/tomato/cucumber salad. Back then that salad came with a free packet of salad dressing and a piece of bread.
One day I spotted a pita in with the breads and before they could realized the mistake, made my salad and stuffed it into the pita. It was an instant hit. Filling, big enough for a substantial amount of salad, light and most of all, affordable.

I think I ate that lunch for the next 4 years.

When this challenge was presented to the Recipe ReDuxers, I loved the idea of creating another healthy dish using pita but a pita recipe for today's advanced palate.

Toufayan Bakeries is a family-owned bakery and get this, they are right here in my home state of New Jersey!
I love that.
They offer a full range of flavored cholesterol free and trans fat free pita breads and chips, bagels, croissants, wraps, flat breads and rolls.

Nowadays, meals often have to be portable, eaten on the go whether at work or at school.
Of course they should be nutritious, affordable and satisfying but updated to fit with the adventurous palates of today.

Tough assignment so I decided to stick close to what I know and am comfortable with, so that means something of Italian origin.
I would make a one dish wonder....a frittata.
Frittata's are quick and easy. All you really need to know is how to beat an egg.

While I could have used the pita as a container for the eggs, I wanted a dish that would fit right at home on a holiday brunch table.

Baked eggs = frittata.
Baked eggs with bread = strata.

Tomatoes, ricotta, herbs = in the Margherita style

From start to finish, 30 minutes. While I used my 8" cast iron skillet (made for two), the recipe was created to serve 4 using a 10" skillet, cast iron or non-stick as long the non-stick is acceptable up to 450°.  Can be successfully doubled to serve 8.

If you are serving a crowd, it can be assembled in a casserole, ahead of time, covered and refrigerated the night before. It should be brought to room temperature then baked for 30 minutes before serving.
Portion off for lunches, microwave 1 1/2 -2 minutes.

Margherita Frittata
makes 4 servings

* 2 tablespoon olive oil
* 6 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 pita bread (I recommend the sweet onion), cut into 1/2" cubes
* 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
* 2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
* 6 eggs, beaten
* 1/3 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
* 1/3 cup rated Parmesan cheese
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
* 1 tablespoon shopped fresh parsley
* 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped

* 1/3 cup ricotta cheese

Preheat the oven to 450°.

1. In an ovenproof 10" non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until you can smell it. Do not brown.
2. While the garlic is cooking, mix the Italian seasonings, the ketchup and the cubed pita in a large bowl. Pour onto a baking pan and toast for 5 minutes. Remove to cool.
3. In the same bowl as you mixed the pita cubes, whisk the eggs with the yogurt until there are no white specks. To the eggs, add the Parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper, pesto, parsley and the tarragon.
4. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the garlic and sprinkle the toasted pita evenly over the eggs. Cook on the stove for 2 minutes, or until you see the edges start to set.
5. Remove the skillet from the heat and using a spoon, place six dollops of ricotta evenly spaced and not touching into the egg mixture. Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes. The eggs should shimmy slightly but not firm. It will continue to cook off heat.
6. Portion and serve.


February 22, 2017

Asian Inspired Fish Tacos ♥ #Recipe ReDux February Challenge

Taco Tuesday.
Perfect time to make fish tacos.

Since our February #Recipe Redux challenge fell on a Tuesday, they thought it would be a great idea to showcase our favorite taco for Taco Tuesday.

In the summer we fish for local fluke here in New Jersey but in the winter I can get flounder at a good price and it's lean and tender and perfect for tacos.

While most fish tacos use a flavored mayonnaise or sour cream, I like the canned Media Crema and for a change from the traditional Tex-Mex flavors I leaned towards the east with a Chinese touch so I grabbed my Hoisin sauce. I immediately made a batch to mellow in the fridge.
Save the salsa for chips.

Hoisin Crema
makes about 1 cup

* 1/2 cup lite Media Crema (can be found with the sweetened condensed milk or the Tex-Mex products)
* 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
* 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
* 1 tablespoon Thai-style Chili Sauce
* 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Mix everything together and store in the refrigerator for a few hours or up to a week so the flavors blend.

Fried Fish Tacos
makes 4-6

* 2 fish fillets, cut into 12 strips
* 1 egg + 1 teaspoon water
* 1 cup both bread crumbs + panko crumbs mixed together
* 2 cups canola oil
* Creole seasonings
* salt & pepper

1. Whisk egg and water in a bowl.
2. Mix bread crumbs to incorporate.
3. Heat oil in a fry pan until it reaches 350° (or the handle of a wooden spoon dipped into the oil bubbles immediately).
4. Season each side of fish strips with salt, pepper and creole seasonings.
5. Dip fish in egg wash, then into crumbs and then into oil. Repeat with 3-4 strips, being careful not to crowd the pan.
6. Saute on one side until the edges start to brown. Carefully flip over and repeat.
Drain on a paper towel lines sheet pan placed in a warming oven (about 200°) if serving immediately.
7. Repeat until all the strips are fried. Place in a zip bag for up to 4 days.

Shredded lettuce or cabbage, pickled vegetables like carrots, onions, radishes, and jalapenos, hoisin crema or sour cream, avocados, chipotle sauce or salsa.

To serve:
I used a 4" ring to cut each tortilla 3x. I like that in Mexico you get two small tortillas for each taco you order. I also like that it drastically reduces the amount of bread and has portion control. If you are using corn tortilla, they are usually small enough as is.

If reheating - Wrap tortillas in foil and place them in a preheated 350° oven with the fish for 10 minutes.
If serving immediately - do the same as above but only in a 200° oven while the fish is frying.

I like to place some lettuce on the bottom of the tortilla, then place 1-2 strips of fish, some crema, the pickled carrots, radishes or jalapenos and another pinch of lettuce or cabbage. For extra heat, I put out a bottle of Texas Pete. For a spritz of zest, a quartered lime.

These would be perfect as appetizers passed on a platter with a margarita or cold beer, but they were perfect portions for our dinner. I don't know why we don't have these more often. I love that they are light enough to eat two!!