Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Hammy Mac'n'Cheese and Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

Ham. Mac and Cheese. Tomato Soup.

The trifecta of yummy. They harmonize like a bunch of carolers, don't they?

I had lots of leftover Christmas ham, some elbow macaroni, milk, and lots and lots of tomatoes from the garden. Picked up a block of medium cheddar cheese, and a great 2DG experience was on the way!

Now, I need to 'fess up here. I made the Hammy Mac'n'Cheese Tuesday night using the leftover Christmas ham. I used Elise's Simply Recipes version of Macaroni and Cheese, and it calls for a really interesting way to make it. Basically, you cook the elbow macaroni in milk, using about 2 cups of milk for each cup of macaroni. Sounds odd, I know, but I brought the milk just to a boil, put in the macaroni and simmered it for about 12 minutes, and diced up about 2 cups of ham. At about the 10 minute mark, I melted about 4 Tbs of butter and then added about 2 cups of shredded cheddar and grated some nutmeg and a little pepper. When it was good and melted and gooey, I added the ham and the cheese mix to the macaroni and stirred it all together. A good sprinkle of bread crumbs on top, then into the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. It was quite tasty!

On Wednesday, I worried that the cold snap we are having here in Orlando would be bad for all the tomatoes still on the plants out in the garden, so I went out and picked any that were at least beginning to turn pink. I came in with  1.25 lbs. of Juliets and 5.50 lbs of Romas. So...the ripest ones from that batch and the ones I already had in the house became soup, to go along with the Hammy Mac'n'Cheese.

I diced a medium/large onion and about 3 cloves of garlic. Browned these in some olive oil until they were soft, added the diced tomatoes. I didn't dice all of them...maybe a few pounds.  I added about a cup of chicken stock, and then dissolved about a Tbsp of cornstarch in about a half cup of stock and set it aside. I let the soup simmer for a little while, then stirred in the reserved stock/cornstarch and some chopped fresh oregano, marjoram and basil. (I saved a little basil for a garnish.) I let it simmer on low for half an hour or so, then turned it off and let it cool a little bit before carefully purreeing it with a stick blender. I thought I'd need to strain it, but I didn't, so it was a slightly thickened.

I served it garnished with some ribboned basil and diced tomatoes. And the Hammy Mac'n'Cheese, of course!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fried 'Mater Sammich

Tomatoes. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.

There are not many things on this planet I love more than fresh homegrown tomatoes. Yesterday I had a tomato sandwich for lunch. Just slices of a fresh ripe tomato on toasted whole wheat bread slathered with mayo. Mmmmm...

So tonight, it was Fried Tomatoes for dinner. Now, I know southerners use green tomatoes when they make Fried Green Tomatoes, but that's not for me. My mom used to make fried tomatoes using ripe tomatoes from our huge garden (usually about 200 tomato plants every summer, among all the other veggies), and she just dredged hers in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and fried til the outside was a little crisp.

I did that tonight, but I also took a different approach. After I dredged them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, I dunked them in an eggwash and then coated them with panko breadcrumbs mixed with Mrs. Dash Seasoning.

Then I fried them in a hot skillet with vegetable shortening, and served them on a Martin's Potato Roll topped with shredded Mexican cheese mix. And allow me to add...Michael, who does not share my affinity for the tomato, ate his entire sammich, loved it, and said it was like a burger!

BTW...this does qualify as 2DG...the tomatoes were fresh from our garden, but the rolls were left from burger night, and the cheese from some fajitas.

Plate up and enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cheesy Biscuit Turkey Pot Pie

Here's a really excellent way to use up two types of leftovers...Thanksgiving turkey and last night's Baked Potato Soup.

First off, let me just say that the turkey I used for this dish was from Thanksgiving, but Michael had frozen it on Friday. I did not use turkey that was just hangin' out in the fridge for over a week for this dish!

Secondly, this is one of those double 2DG wins! I used last night's Baked Potato Soup in the filling for this dish.

Here's how it went...
Similarly to last night's soup, I cooked some chopped carrots, onions and celery in 3 T butter for about 10 minutes to soften them.  I added some chopped fresh parsley, rosemary and oregano from the garden while the veggies were cooking. Then I sprinkled about 1/4 c. flour on them and stirring constantly, cooked the mix for about 2 minutes. I gradually stirred in 2 c. chicken/turkey stock combined into a nice gravy. then I added about a cup of last night's soup, and stirred it and let it thicken up. While that was simmering, I chopped up the remaining turkey and got about 3 - 4 cups out of it. This got added to the filling, along with a few handsful of frozen peas. Let the bubble away while the oven preheats and you work on the cheese biscuits.

If you don't have buttermilk on hand, make your own "sour milk" by putting 1 Tblsp vinegar or lemon juice (I used lemon juice) to a cup, and fill the cup with milk. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes so it can "sour". Meanwhile, combine 2 c. flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Add 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese and 1/4 c. parmesan cheese and toss to coat cheese mix with flour mix. Dice 3/4 stick of cold butter and combine with flour/cheese mix, using pastry knife or fingertips until mix is course.

Before you add the sour milk to the flour, get your filling into your baking dishes. I managed to get 3 good sized individual servings and 1 deep dish pie plate out of mine. When that's done and you're ready to put them in the oven, go back and finish the biscuit dough. I recommend this because the acid in the sour milk will activate the leavening power of the baking powder and soda, so I always wait until the last possible second to add the milk to the mix, since I don't want all the rising power of my biscuits to be used up before I even get them in the oven.

To finish the biscuit dough, add the sour milk to the flour/cheese mix and stir until just combined and a loose dough forms. Drop the dough by spoonsful (I use an ice cream scoop) onto the fillings in the dishes.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 35 - 40 minutes until the biscuits are nice and brown. I rotated mine front to back and top to bottom after 20 minutes to ensure even baking.

Mike asked me to make a few individual pies so he could give them to his grandmother and 2 friends, so I did that and also made a bigger one for the two of us. I filled all of the dishes at the same time, using a big ladle, to make sure I'd have them all relatively even. I also did all the biscuits at the same time too, to make sure they were all fairly even.

If you have any leftover cranberry relish, serve it up with this!


Baked Potato Soup

It's a cold night. I have potatoes, celery, carrots and onions to put to use. So...Baked Potato Soup it is!

"Bake" 4 - 6 medium potatoes,about 1 1/2 pounds, in the microwave oven (pierce them all over with a fork first).

Chop about 1/2 cup each of carrots, onion and celery. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large pot over medium low heat. Put in chopped veggies, cover and cook until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle,reserve two, peel the remaining potatoes, or leave some peel on, as desired, add to veggies and mash with a potato masher.

Stir in 1 c. chicken stock and 1 1/2 c. milk to veggies and potatoes, salt and pepper to taste. I also added a pinch of nutmeg. Let simmer for about 20 minutes.

While soup is simmering, cook 4 or 5 pieces of bacon in the microwave, covered with a paper towel, for 1 minute per slice. When cool, drain and crumble. Add about 2/3 of the bacon to the soup, along with about a Tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary and the reserved baked potatoes, chopped. Continue to simmer until you are ready to eat, which should be fairly soon after smelling all of this! You may need to add about another 1/2 c. of milk prior to serving. (I did.)

Serve topped with a little more crumbled bacon and shredded cheddar.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Caprese Pasta - Italian Mac n Cheese

I'm taking a break from my Thanksgiving turkey leftovers to use up some fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden and some mozzarella that's been hanging out in the fridge for a while.

The result...Caprese Pasta! I like to think of it as Italian Mac n Cheese.

Put a pot of water on to boil for the whole wheat penne. While that's heating up, lightly brown some garlic in some olive oil. Chop up some tomatoes (I used our Juliets) and toss them in and let them sizzle a while. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar in just to cut any acidity from the tomatoes, and sprinkle a little flour in to serve as a thickener. Stir occasionally and let that go while the pasta cooks. Cut some fresh basil into ribbons (chiffonade) and toss some in, reserving some for the final plate.

When the pasta is finished cooking, reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Then toss the drained pasta into the sauce and work it all together. Put in a little water, a little at a time, until the sauce gets to your desired thickness. Then mix in some cubed fresh mozzarella and mix that in to melt.

Plate, toss on some more fresh basil ribbons for garnish and salt and pepper to taste.


Sunday, September 11, 2011


I had some leftover egg whites in the fridge, some leftover Nilla Wafers from some banana pudding, a mango and cantaloupe from my Orlando Organics delivery, and I wanted to use them up for a pot luck dinner I pondered...and then I thought MMMM Pie!

So here it is...Mango Melon Mint Meringue Pie!

Mango Melon Mint Meringue Pie

  • Cookie Crust:
    4 cups finely crumbled vanilla wafers
    3/4 cup white sugar
    14 tablespoons butter, melted
    1 ½  teaspoon ground cinnamon
           Crush cookies in zip top bag. Divide between 2 10” pie plates. Add half of the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon to each plate. Mix by hand and press into pie plates. Bake in 350 degree oven, 7 minutes. Set aside.
  • Filling:
    1 mango diced
    1 cantaloupe, diced
    1 T chopped fresh mint
    ½ c orange juice
    2 T lemon juice
    lemon zest from half a lemon
    6 oz Greek yogurt
    1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup white sugar
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    4 eggs, beaten

Puree fruit with juice and zest. Blend in Greek yogurt. In separate bowl, mix flour, sugar and cinnamon. Add to puree and blend until well mixed. Blend in eggs. Pour into prebaked cookie crust. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  • Meringue:
             6 egg whites
             1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
12 tablespoons sugar

Mix egg whites and cream of tartar on low for 1 minute. Add sugar one spoonful at a time and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Don’t over beat!

Top pies with meringue and bake for 15 additional minutes until brown.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cream of Celery Soup

I have a surplus of celery. Really. In the fridge, I had almost a full bunch and another completely full bunch. Then today, in our Orlando Organics delivery, I got another full bunch.

So what could I do with bunches of celery? Cream of Celery Soup!

I rough chopped the nearly full bunch and sliced a medium onion and sauted these in about 2 Tbsp. butter. I let them go for about 10 minutes because of the large amount of celery.

To that, I added about 3 cups of a combination of chicken stock and veggie stock. (I had these in the freezer. I made them some time ago.) Let them simmer for about 15 minutes or so.

After straining the broth, I put it back in the now clean pot and added 2 cups of milk, and another half cup of milk in which I had dissolved about 2 Tbsp of cornstarch. I let this simmer for another few minutes, and voila!

Cream of Celery Soup.

In the picture I garnished it with some fresh ground nutmeg and parsley flakes. Whatever doesn't get eaten will be frozen to be used later in sauces, soups, casseroles, whatever. The perfect 2DG dish!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Steak MonaVie

Well, 2DG has spent the last few months settling into our beautiful new kitchen and saying goodbye to the old one. I've been too busy with everything to let you know what's going on! Well today, I tried a meal based on Beef Burgundy, but using a top sirloin steak and MonaVie Essential. I figured since it's fruit based, I could use it in place of the burgundy wine.

First I cubed 1 pound of boneless top sirloin steak and marinated it in 2 oz. of MonaVie Essential juice for about an hour. While that was sitting, I sliced a medium onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks and minced 1 large garlic clove and put that aside with some sliced baby portabella mushrooms.

Next I browned the steak cubes in about 2 T of butter just to sear them on all sides, reserving the marinade, and put them in a casserole dish. Then all the veggies went into the skillet to soften for about 5 minutes, then they went into the casserole dish. Now I deglazed the pan with the reserved marinade and another 2 oz. of MVE. After that bubbled a little bit, I sprinkled in 2 or 3 Tablespoons of flour and stirred til it thickened. Slooowly I added about 2 cups of beef stock, stirring to thicken. Then into the casserole dish with the sauce. The covered casserole dish went into a 350 degree oven for an hour. Then I put in another 2 - 3 oz of MVE and put the dish back into the oven for another hour, uncovered this time.

Served on a bed of mashed potatoes, it was very tasty and the steak was nicely cooked and tender. I was afraid it would be over cooked and dried out, but that wasn't the case at all.

I will be incorporating more MonaVie juice into my meals from time to time, and will let you know how it turns out.

-J I can hardly wait for some homemade peach/plum pie!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tamale Pie

2DG is preparing to move to a new home, so my mission for the past few weeks is to use stuff up rather than move it, so I've been trying to clear out the pantry and the freezer. My philosophy is "I'm gonna carry this stuff one way or the other, so I may as well enjoy it!"

I've had a bag of masa harina in the pantry since I made enchaladas a while back, so this time I'm going to use it to make a dough for something similar to a deep dish pizza. I also used the remaining chicken sausage, ham and sliced portabella mushrooms I got to make Chicken and Wild Rice soup on Friday. I'm sure there's a better name for it, but I'm calling it a Tamale Pie.

To make the dough, I took 2 cups of masa harina, mixed it with 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, 2 tsp. Adobo seasoning and 2 tsp. baking powder. I added 2 Tbsp of olive oil, and slowly worked in almost a cup of water to form a dough. Once it held together, I tried to knead it a little bit, but it wasn't really cooperating, so I put it back in the bowl to rest while I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat about a Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet. Crumble the sausage in a skillet without the casing and let it brown. Be sure to tend it and stir it occasionally to prevent it sticking. Chop half a green bell pepper and a small onion. When the sausage is nearly browned all the way, put about half a cup of sliced mushrooms, half the chopped pepper and onion in with it to brown, reserving the rest to go in the pie au natural. Chop about half of a medium tomato and set it aside. When the sausage and veggie mix is pretty well cooked, I put about a cup of diced ham in just to warm it up a bit. Once that's done, turn off the heat and let the mixture hang out and wait til you're ready for it.

Lightly oil a deep dish pie pan, and sprinkle with some masa harina and/or some cornmeal. I tried to roll the dough out, but it wasn't really roll-able, so I put it in the pie pan and pushed it with my fingers to shape it.

I put about half a can of enchilada sause down next, and then put in the sausage/veggie/ham mixture. Now it's time for the remaining chopped veggies. Put in the rest of the sauce and now it's oven ready!

Let it bake for about 15 minutes, then pull it out and top it off with a mix of Mexican cheeses, and put it back in for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is all nicely melted.

Pull it out when the cheese is melted and the crust is brown. Let it rest for 10 - 15 minutes, then dig in!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Grilled Shrimp Salad

For Valentine's Day, Michael made Shrimp Fra Diavolo and a Ceasar Salad for dinner. It was delicious!However, he didn't grill all the shrimp he got for it, so that meant that lunch today was all about 2DG!

He put them in some really good Citrus Sesame dressing to marinade, so they were already very nicely seasoned. All I had to do was heat up the cast iron grill pan, put in some olive oil, and then put in about half the shrimp. After about 2 - 3 minutes, I turned them and let them go another 2 minutes or so.

Next, I put some of the leftover romaine lettuce, chopped, and some of our homegrown tomatoes, sliced, some leftover onion and sliced black olives in a bowl. Topped it off with the grilled shrimp, salt and pepper, and then added a little catalina salad dressing to mimic cocktail sauce a little bit.

Yum! Lunch!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Pasta Primavera with Chicken Sausage

Tuesday I was jonesing for some pasta. I've cut back on carbs since the beginning of the year. Not totally doing the Atkins thing, but cut way back on 'em. So since we were getting another produce delivery from Orlando Organics on Wednesday, I decided to use up all the remnants of our produce and use a half box of whole wheat penne on the shelf. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I went to the grocery store and actually only bought TWO things! I got some of Publix's Greenwise Mild Chicken Italian Sausage and a grated cheese blend with Romano, Parmesan and Asiago.
First, I browned the sausage on all sides in a cast iron skillet. When that was done, I took it out and using the same skillet, browned some chopped onion, garlic, bell pepper, all sprinkled with salt, in olive oil. Put in some chopped carrot and parsnips. When they were somewhat cooked, I sprinkled about a tablespoon of flour over the whole thing and mixed it in to make a little bit of a roux. Then in went some frozen chicken stock. I sliced the cooled sausage, which was mostly cooked, but not quite thoroughly, and put that back in the skillet with the veggies and stock.
While the sausage was cooling, I put on a pot of water for the penne. Salted it. When it boiled, I put in the half box of penne and cooked it for a minute less than the box said. When it's done, save some of the pasta water. You can use it to add a little juice to the sauce if necessary. Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot.
Dump the veggie/sausage/sauce in with the pasta, and toss. Add some of the pasta water if it's too dry. Sprinke on some of the grated cheese blend, salt and pepper to taste, and serve!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hall of Shame: Kiwifruit Jellies

I have to admit that not all of the things we try here at 2DG are raging successes. I have had my share of culinary disasters. All the way back in the mid-80s, when I was but a mere child (well it seems that way now!), the first, and for a very long time ONLY cake I ever made was an Oreo Cake, from scratch of course. The recipe called for about a cup of crushed Oreos, as I recall. Well to my way of thinking, if a cup is good, a POUND is BETTER! So in went way more crushed Oreos than it called for, and into the oven went my cake. What came out later was not a nice fluffy tasty Oreo cake. Nope. I got crumbs. Lots and lots of crumbs. Evidently all those crushed cookies soaked up every drop of moisture. Oh well, live and learn.

Years later, I made one of those "impossible pies" for dinner, using canned salmon. I also used fish stock. And probably one other fishy ingredient. What I got was "impossible", all right...impossible to eat! But Mike, being the wonderful and smart man that he is, while I was grousing and scraping my plate down the disposal, was saying "No, Honey, it tastes good!" What a guy.

Well my most recent less than successful endeavor was a few weeks ago, when I was trying to use up about 8 or so kiwifruits that had accumulated in the fridge from our produce deliveries. I found a recipe for something called Kiwifruit Jellies, that sounded like they'd come out like those Spearmint Leaves or Orange Slice candies. The puree gels and you can cut it into whatever shapes you want. Sounds great!

I also read that kiwi fruit contain an enzyme that will prevent gelatin from setting up unless the kiwi puree is cooked to a certain temp, but that shouldn't be an issue here, since this was a recipe for jellies, and it called for cooking the puree for several minutes. I go.

I prepared the kiwifruit, pureed and cooked it as directed. I poured it into an 8 inch square pan, lined with wax paper, as instructed. I chilled it in the fridge for the prescribed amount of time. It looked like it was nicely set. With great anticipation, I picked up the wax paper edges to move it onto a cuting board and...instead of nice little wiggly jellies, it was still runny! So I put it back in the fridge for a while and tested it. No good. OK. So I transferred it to a sheet pan and put it in the freezer overnight.
The next morning, nope now I had slush.

I let is sit in there for a while longer, then I was tired of playing this game, and I rolled it up and wrapped it in plastic, and if I need some sort of sweet jelly/paste fruit type thing, I'll slice some off and put it in.

But at least I got a 2DG post out of it!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing, Poached Egg and Clam Chowder

The title says it all. Mmmmm!Along with nearly everyone else, I've resolved to drop some pounds this year. I've found that carbs, while they pretend to be my friend because they taste soooo good, are actually the thing that makes me heavier than I want to be. So we're trying to live a reduced carb lifestyle. One of the benefits of that is that we get to use things like bacon! I don't know about you, but I think it's a pretty fair tradeoff...less bread or potatoes or pasta, more bacon! I also love spinach, so I'm sure you see where this is heading.
Mike wanted a nice soup to go with our spinach salad with hot bacon dressing, so he made a delicious red clam chowder. It's not exactly Manhattan Clam Chowder, but it sure is good. He started with cooking some bacon, which we'd use in both dishes. When that was done, he reserved some of the browned bacon and some of the fat for me for the hot bacon dressing, and then he put in some chopped carrot, parsnip to cook them down some. He browned some onion, celery, and green pepper in the same pot. Later he added tomatoes (from our garden!) and his spice blend of thyme, fennel, and all kinds of assorted goodies that he won't tell me and let them simmer for an hour or so in 2 cups of our homemade chicken stock and 2 cups of water. He did reserve some extra chopped carrot, parsnip and tomato to add later so that there would be some "less cooked" veggies in there too. Then he put in 2 cans of whole clams and 1 can of chopped clams and the liquid, reserving a tiny bit for the cats who'd become his best friends when he opened the cans. That all simmered for a while longer, then I added the rest of the chopped veggies about a half hour before we were ready to eat.
After putting the rest of the veggies in, I started on the Spinach Salad. After thoroughly cleaning the beautiful fresh spinach we got in our Orlando Organics delivery, I took some of the leftover bacon drippings, 2 T or so, and heated that in the top of my double boiler. (You don't have to do it in a double boiler, but Mike mentioned that's how the restaurant he worked in had heated up their dressing, so I thought I'd give it a try, and it worked well.)
While that was heating, I mixed together 1 T of flour and 2 T of sugar, and separately mixed together 1/4 c. cider vinegar and 1 c. water. Then I added the flour mixture to the hot bacon fat and whisked it for a minute to make a light roux. Still whisking, very slowly add the water/cider mix in small batches, only adding more when it looked like it was thickening up nicely. Next time, I think I'll add the vinegar and water separately so I can control the thickness and amount of each a little better, but this time it still tasted great.
While that was keeping warm, I put a small skillet with about 1 1/2 inches of water on the burner and added about 1 T of white vinegar to it. While that was heating, I tore up some spinach and put it in salad bowls. Then I thinnly sliced some red onion and added them and some chopped pecans to each salad, along with the remaining crumbled bacon.
Now the water was about to boil, so I turned it down a little to just about a simmer. Break each egg into a small bowl and then carefully add it to the simmering water. Do this one at a time! One egg in the bowl at a time, into the water. Let them simmer for 3 minutes, slightly less for a softer egg, longer for a harder cooked egg. While they're cooking, spoon some of the dressing on the spinach salad and toss to coat. Add a little more as you go if you'd like. When the eggs are done to your liking, fish them out with a slotted spoon and let them drain off all the water for a few seconds, or hold them over a towel for a few seconds. Place them on the salad, and season with a little pepper.
Serve along with the clam chowder and enjoy a reduced carb dinner!