Wish Upon A Dish

November 24, 2014

Seven Onion Soup ♥ Caramelized onions in soup form

There are millions of soup recipes and hundreds of cookbooks devoted just to soups.
I have to admit I am a soup junkie. In the colder months my lunch often consists of a bowl of soup.

I grew up helping my mom make chicken soup from scratch, starting with the stock. Back then chicken wings were as cheap as beef bones and only beef consomme sold in cans. You had to make your own stock.
For me, making a good old Jewish Chicken Soup required a whole day or preparation but there was enough for an army and I always froze a bunch.

Today making homemade soup is easy with the many stock & broth options available and a pretty good soup can make it from stove to table in an hour.

The Nudge likes soup but prefers a strong broth with a few brunoise of vegetables floating about. He's not a big fan of cream soups and while I am happy for dietary reasons, I do not look forward to making a clarified stock when I want to serve soup for dinner.
I have had success with a few thick soup options like Pasta Fagiole and Bisque's, oh, and this soup, for some reason. While there is a minuscule amount of milk, once the onions are pureed, the broth is sweet with lots of flavor and takes on a creamy texture.

We all know onions are used as a aromatic and are instrumental in the making of the Holy Trinity, a Mirepoix and a Soffritto/Battuto, but did you know that eaten as the hero, their flavors can vary from sweet and juicy with a mild flavor to sharp, spicy, and pungent, often depending on the season in which they are grown and consumed. It is estimated that 105 billion pounds of onions are harvested each year worldwide.

They are also full of nutrition.

"Onions are a nutrient-dense food, meaning that while they are low in calories they are high in beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. One cup of chopped onion contains approximately 64 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein and 10% or more of the daily value for vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and manganese. Onions also contain small amounts of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and the antioxidants quercetin and sulfur."

Well, if you an imagine the taste of caramelized onions on steroids, you should make this soup. If you aren't buying that, then make it for the leftovers. I usually end up with 2 cups and if you plan it right, sitting next to the soup should also be a container of roasted cauliflower.

This soup will make any "yucky" vegetable taste wonderful and no one will even know it's in there and you have the secret of next week's soup already done. If your cauliflower just happens to be gratinéed then all the better.

Obviously this is called Seven Onion Soup for a reason but I have been making this for so many years, the exact measurements of each onion are long forgotten. All you need to know is that 6 of the 7 have an amount of 1. The 7th is the scallion garnish.
The other great thing about this soup, knife work is inconsequential, everything gets puréed in the end.
While a basket of dinner rolls, sliced artisan bread or bread sticks add some bulk to the meal, I opted to make a bread crouton with Swiss cheese broiled on top.
Let's get cooking......

Seven Onion Soup
original recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse
makes 1.5 quarts

* Olive oil
* 4 garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 red onion, chopped
* 1 Spanish onion, chopped
* 1 sweet onion, chopped
* 1 white onion, chopped
* 1 shallot, chopped
* 1 bunch of scallions, green & white parts separated
* 1 leek, soaked, cleaned and chopped, white and lite green part only
* 1 large carrot, chopped
* 1 quart low sodium chicken stock
* Cheese rind (optional)
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
* 2 tablespoons pancetta or bacon, chopped
* 1/4 cup whole milk or light cream (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot. Saute the garlic until you can smell it.
2. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and saute until it starts to brown but not burnt.
3. Add all the onions (the white part of the scallions), the carrots, the bay leaf, thyme and salt & pepper. Saute on low heat, stirring every 10 minutes, until the vegetables brown with flavor, about 40 minutes.
5. Add the chicken stock and the cheese rind. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Remove the bay and rind and remove from the heat. Once the soup has  cooled, puree in a blender  or with an immersion blender.
7. Reheat before serving, add the milk and serve with a sprinkle of the green scallions tops and a toasted Swiss cheese crouton (optional).

If you omit the pork and dairy, this soup is Vegan, no croutons makes it Gluten Free, Paleo and Diabetic friendly
A very nice hot soup for the recent vortex that hit us this week.

So, after marrying this with my cauliflower gratin to make another soup for Monday, I eventually use the last drop as a sauce for a solo tasty pasta dish while The Nudge is in Baltimore.

When I can plan 5 meals with virtually no prep, I am one happy camper.

November 21, 2014

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

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

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

"A Food Memory For Which You Are Thankful

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

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

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

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

Four days later she passed away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's get cooking.

Tex-Mex Au Gratin Potatoes
makes 6 servings

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

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