The Christmas Angel

The Christmas Angel sits atop the tree.
As she watches over each family.

Her wings are as white as new fallen snow;
Shimmering brightly with a delicate glow.

A soft hum from her harp fills the room.
And you hear a familiar Christmas tune.

She spreads a halo of light that embraces the tree.
As children giggle and laugh happily.

The Christmas Angel spreads peace and joy from above;
Filling hearts with an abundance of Love.

A Blessed Christmas to One and All!

2016 PDJ

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Rockefeller Center, NYC

 

Squash Stew

Burrrrr!!  Harvest moon, wind chill factors and snowflakes falling  brings memories of this delicious dish to mind.  As I saunter through the aisles of my local grocer,  I inspect the variety of squash available today including many different types of pumpkin.  I decide on a perfectly formed, bright orange pumpkin called “Sweetie Pie!”  My mother-in-law made this every Fall with just a small everyday orange pumpkin.  During the Depression when food rations were given out my husband’s family lived on Lansdowne Avenue in Camden, New Jersey.  An empty lot was behind their house  and was often used as a short cut for those traveling home with their rations.  At this time of the year  recipients were given flour, sugar, butter and a pumpkin!   Often times a lone pumpkin would be left in the lot. Mom would send her son out to retrieve each and every pumpkin that was left behind.  She would clean and roast them for puree.  Her pumpkin pies were coveted by the family and a staple at Thanksgiving dinner.  Others were cleaned, peeled, and quartered.  One quarter was  slice thin, dipped in egg then floured and fried until golden brown.  The remaining pumpkin was cubed, combined white beans and other veggies into a delicious  stew.  This weekend when the temperatures dipped  and the wind blew, it was time for my Sweetie Pie to meet its fate!  I cleaned and quartered the pumpkin as I had watched my mother-in-law do so often.  Three quarters went on a baking sheet; skin side up at 350 degree for 45 minutes.   No need to peel the flesh will easily come away from the skin.  Process in a food processor until smooth; Viola! fresh pumpkin puree!  Now for the recipe for this hearty, mouth-watering squash stew.

Peel the remaining piece of pumpkin  (you can use butternut squash) and cube

1 large onion chopped

2 carrots cleaned and sliced

2 ribs of celery chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1/2  jalapeno pepper  seeded  (you can use hot pepper flakes, I like the fresh pepper)

1 large potato peeled and cubed

1 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes

1 16 ounce can of white beans, rinsed  (I like navy beans for this)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon of salt                                                                                                                                              1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 small piece of Parmesan rind (optional)

In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil;  add the onion and celery.  Cook together about 3 minutes.  Add the carrots, garlic and hot pepper cooking about 5 more minutes.  Next add the potato and pumpkin cooking for 3 more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the potato is just tender, about 20 minutes.  Add the beans and check for salt.  Cook about 15  minutes more to heat beans.  Grab some crusty Italian bread and Kerrygold Irish butter then enjoy this healthy, hearty dish on a cold, windy night!

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No Guilt Oatmeal Cookies

Something sweet is always in a corner of my mind and at the root of my growling stomach.  My other struggle is losing weight!  Cooking for myself and using fresh whole foods keeps me healthy however, portion control is a must.  I was inspired by my dear friend Lorraine to  go back to the Weight Watchers plan to control, not what but, how much I was eating.  My other issue is the processed so called low fat/diet items that line every grocer’s shelves.  I have issues when I look at the ingredients. Half the time I can not pronounce them nor do I recognize them!  There was only one decision to make, create my own low fat treat.  These cookies are delicious, dairy, gluten free and you will be familiar with all the ingredients!

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together

1 cup of gluten free flour  (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats  (Bob’s Organic Gluten Free Rolled Oats)                                                                                                                  1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 3/4 cup raisins

In a large bowl whisk together:

1/2 cup sugar  (I like natural organic sugar)

1/2 cup organic brown sugar

Add to the sugar:

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup organic unsweetened applesauce

Whisk until well mixed and then add in the  dry ingredients. Whisk until well mixed; then add in the rolled oats, raisins and walnuts. Mix well and refrigerate for 15 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Once the dough is chilled drop generous tablespoons of dough about three inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes switching baking sheets half way through the baking process.  Cookies will be lightly brown.  Cool slightly on baking sheet then remove and cool on a wire rack.  Makes about 30 cookies.  3 cookies are only 2 points!  Woo Hoo!!

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Cacio e Pepe ala Broccoli

Last Saturday my beautiful baby girl, her husband, his wonderful parents along with yours truly took a trip to Eataly in New York City.  Eataly is the brain child of Mario Batali, Lida Bastianich and Joe Bastianich.  It is an Italian’s delight with various market- place type stalls offering top quality products imported and produced on the premises.  Patrons can meander through the marketplace sipping on fine Italian wines inspecting the many offerings found in each stall or while waiting for their reservations at the restaurants on site.  We devoured a delicious lunch of appetizers, pizza and pasta.  My choice was the Cacio e Pepe; a Roman dish of pasta, Pecorino Romano and black pepper.  I found it amazing with the creamy cheese sauce, lots of black pepper and al dente fresh pasta. It took me back ten years to Rome and the Jewish Ghetto where I first had this delicious dish a few days before my daughter’s wedding!  So of course the next day while preparing my Sunday meal an idea emerged. My mother-in-law would prepare pasta every Sunday;  an Italian law!  One of her signature dishes was broccoli and pasta, olio crudo which is olive oil drizzled generously over the finished dish of pasta and broccoli along with a generous amount of grated Pecorino cheese.  So why not incorporate her recipe with the traditional Cacio e Pepe?   I found a simple recipe on Splendid Table originating from Leonardo Vignoli’s sauce adapted for the home kitchen. The combination of cheese sauce, broccoli and pasta was Magnifico!

1/2 pound of the pasta of your choice  (spaghetti is usually used for Cacio e Pepe)

1 head of fresh broccoli cleaned and broken into florets (I happened to have broccolini)

1 cup of finely grated Pecorino Romano

1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

a pinch of red pepper flakes  (optional)

1 cup hot pasta water  (remove just before the pasta finishes)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add both pasta and broccoli cooking according to pasta directions for al dente.

In a large bowl combine 3/4 cup of cheese with the pepper.  When the pasta/broccoli is almost done add about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the cheese mixture.  Stir with a wooden spoon until it makes a paste.  Strain pasta and broccoli then add to the cheese paste.   Toss sauce with pasta adding a little hot water at a time to make a creamy sauce that coats the pasta and broccoli.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top the pasta and then finish with the remaining cheese and a pinch of black pepper!  Buono Apppetito

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Smothered Cutlets with Mushrooms 

Most of us will think of  Chicken Marsala when checking out this recipe.  However,  I like my spin using thin Italian style chicken cutlets, gluten free flour, onions, mushrooms, chicken stock and sweet vermouth!  The thinner Italian style cutlets cook quicker and are an economical imposter for veal cutlets.  Trying to eat healthy and stay gluten free, as much as possible for a pasta/bread lover,  I’m always scheming and tweaking recipes.  I have to give my mother-in-law all the credit, she was always developing a twist on basic recipes or reinventing leftovers.  I recently took my leftover meatloaf and added it to a simmering tomato sauce to make a wonderful easy Bolognese over gluten free pasta!  Check out my recipe for  tomato sauce on my blog!  You’ll never go back to jarred sauce again.  Anyhow here is my recipe for smothered cutlets!

12 ounces of cremini mushrooms cleaned and sliced

1 large onion sliced thin

4 -6 Italian style chicken cutlets (depending on size)

1/4 cup gluten free flour. I was using Cup for Cup but have switched to Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1.

1/4 cup sweet vermouth

1 to 1 1/2 cups of low sodium chicken stock

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of ghee or butter (optional)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

Heat a large nonstick skillet with olive oil. Place flour on a large platter, mix in a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Season both sides of the cutlets with salt and pepper. Dredge the cutlets in the seasoned flour, shake of excess and place in the hot pan. Sauté about 2-3 minutes on each side. They should be slightly brown. Remove from pan a set aside. In the same pan add a tablespoon of olive oil and a 1/2 tablespoon of ghee or butter. Add mushrooms, no salt cover and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Mushrooms should be brown. Move mushrooms to sides of the pan and add sliced onions with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes then mix mushrooms and onions together, cook for 3-5 minutes more. Add vermouth, cook about 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. In a small bowl mix a scant tablespoon of flour with 1/2 tablespoon of ghee and a splash of chicken stock to make a paste! If you are not using ghee/butter then make a slurry using flour and chicken stock 1 to 1 stock and flour ( 3/4 to 1 tablespoon of each mixing well) Add to mushroom mixture cooking about 2 -3 minutes.  Add chicken stock and cook until thick. Nestle in the cutlets and simmer for 15 minutes adding more stock if needed. Transfer cutlets to a platter and smother with sauce and mushroom mix. Dress with chopped parsley. Enjoy with a glass of Cline Zinfandel 🍷

Carbonara 

While watching the Chew recently I saw Alton Brown prepare a breakfast dish he called carbonara using breakfast sausage.  It brought to mind a recipe that has been in my husband’s family for more then 75 years.  Most of us think of carbonara being prepared with pancetta or guinciale.  However my mother-in-law made an amazing carbonara using Italian sausage.  This recipe came from a cousin who had moved from the hometown of Bari to Rome in Italy.  As a young man he had worked in the coal mines of Italy.  He told the story that the coal miners made this pasta dish with browned chunks of Italian sausage that represented pieces of coal.  It is deliciously simple with only a few ingredients. 

8 links of good Italian sausage cut into small chunks

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 eggs

1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 pound linguine pasta

Salt and pepper 

In a large sauté pan heat up the  olive oil.  Add the chunks of sausage and begin to brown the sausage.  Toss pieces until quite brown on all sides.

Into a large pasta bowl break the eggs and beat vigorously with a fork.  Add 1/2 the cheese and 1/2 the parsley and a pinch of black pepper.  Beat again the set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Make sure to salt the pasta water well before adding pasta.  Drain pasta and toss into bowl with the egg mixture. Mix hot pasta with egg mixture until egg mixture is just cooked. Then  toss in browned sausages. 

Top with remaining cheese and parsley. Serve immediately with a nice glass of red vino! Serves 6

Buono Appetito

Cauliflower Mushroom Risotto

I love cauliflower and the  versatility of this cruciferous vegetable!  On its own cauliflower is mild and will pick up the flavors that it is married to.  Garlic cauliflower mash is an amazing healthy replacement for mashed potatoes.  Clean and cook a head of cauliflower while roasting two heads of garlic in a 425 degree oven. Drain the cauliflower (reserve some of the water) and return the cauliflower to the pot.  Begin to mash with olive oil and a bit of the water, then add the roasted garlic and mash again.  Season with salt and pepper, Viola!  One of my favorite recipes was one my mother-in-law would make on a Sunday; Cauliflower with pasta and garlic sautéed in olive oil, salt, pepper and grated pecorino cheese, Yum!  Making cauliflower into rice is a fabulous substitute while trying to limit carbs and when following a gluten-free diet.  All you need is a food processor and a cleaned head of cauliflower.  Place about 1 cup of the cauliflower florets in the food processor and process for about 15 seconds until the cauliflower resembles rice, then transfer to a bowl. Continue in small batches until you have used the entire head.  You can purchase the cauliflower already prepared but unless you live near a Trader Joe’s it is a bit pricey!  My daughter has used the riced cauliflower to make a pizza crust, that is next on my list!

Here is the recipe for this delicious and healthy dish!

2 cups of cauliflower rice (any extra cauliflower rice can be frozen)

8 oz cremini mushrooms cleaned and sliced

2 shallots diced

5 scallions cleaned and chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of butter divided  (you can use earth balance)

1 tablespoon of flour  (you can use gluten-free)

2 cups of chicken stock or vegetable stock

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional if you are dairy free)

1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large sauce pan heat 1 tablespoon of butter with the 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. add sliced mushrooms, cover and cook about 10 minutes. Do not salt! Once the mushrooms are browned add the shallots and scallions. Add salt and pepper then cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Mix the remaining flour with the softened butter to form a paste. Add the paste to the mushroom mixture and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the stock and cook until beginning to thicken. Now add the cauliflower rice and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and add most of the cheese, stir.  Place into a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil,  sprinkle top with remaining cheese and parsley.

Pour a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy next to Zuni chicken which is also on my blog!

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