Thursday, March 28, 2013

Perfect Easter Veggie-Creamed Peas

I have seen recipes for creamed spinach, and creamed corn, even creamed leeks. I have not, however, run across a recipe for creamed peas. I am sure they are out there, and I am sure they are delicious, but as a last farewell the the heavy, cream-laden recipes of winter, I wanted one more good-bye. Easter is that last farewell. We introduce the fresh flavors of spring while indulging in roasts, au gratin potatoes and lavish desserts one last time. After that we begin to think about the fact that soon it will be appropriate weather for tank tops, but unfortunately our arms are not quite ready for that. And so lighter foods are presented, flavored with fresh herbs and citrus instead of bacon and butter.
THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE. So make these peas. They are enrobed in a creamy, bacon, shallot sauce, and topped with grated cheddar cheese they will make your mouth happy.

Creamed Peas
3 slices bacon, cooked
reserved bacon grease, plus enough butter to equal 3 Tablespoons
1/2 shallot, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups warm milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups frozen peas
cheddar cheese (optional)

Chop the bacon and set aside. Heat the bacon grease, butter (if needed), and shallots in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the shallots are soft, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Cook about one minute. Add the warm milk, whisking constantly. Add the salt, pepper, and frozen peas. Continue to cook, covered, until sauce thickens, about 4 minutes. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary. Just before serving top with reserved bacon and cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon

I asked my husband what I should write about, since nothing was coming to mind. He suggested several things that I have already done, then mentioned this salad that we enjoyed with our Sunday afternoon meal.
I realized I had never posted this recipe, and when I was preparing it I had difficulty remembering what I had done, therefore, I needed to write it out.
This is delicious, beautiful to look at, and a cinch to prepare. All you need are a few ingredients and you can have a restaurant-quality salad at home.

Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon and Balsamic

2 Bunches spinach (2-3 cups), washed and dried
3 pieces bacon, cooked and chopped
1/3 cup finely sliced red onion
1/3 cup dried cranberries, or fresh berries

1/4 cup bacon grease
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons blackberry jam (or any other jam you have)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Heat the bacon grease in a large saucepan. While it is melting, put the spinach in a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining ingredients for the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning and acid, if necessary (you might need to add a little more vinegar or sugar, depending on the brand). Whisk until it emulsifies. Pour over the spinach and toss with tongs. Top with bacon, red onion and cranberries.
Goat cheese, cherries, and pecans are also delicious additions.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Italian Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings (my favorite diet food)

Lately I have been trying to slim down. I have been cutting out butter, bacon, pastry, baking, cookies, sugar, coffee, dressing, breads, grains, sweets, rice, pasta, desserts, and potatoes. I have been eating lettuce and chicken.
Just kidding.
But sometimes it feels like that-right?
My husband told me that  friend of his has been eating light soups. I checked the price and at 2.99 each can, my budget can't handle that. I opted to make my own soup, that costs around $5 and lasts all week for me, my husband, and my sister.
In my quest for a comfort food lunch that still met my lo-cal requirements, I made up this soup. I hope you enjoy it, and you will find the dumplings are delicious and satisfying, but far lower in calories due to the cornmeal and restricted butter.

Italian Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings

For the soup:
12 cups chicken stock
2 cups carrots, in a large dice
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onions
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cups shredded chicken
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning

6 cups spinach (for serving)
1 bunch parsley (for serving)

For the dumplings:
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup buttermilk

Makes 12 servings

Combine soup ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 25 mins.

Meanwhile, make the dumpling dough. Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Work in the butter with your fingers. Add the buttermilk and stir with a spoon.
Drop pea-sized dumplings into the soup and cook for another 5 minutes or until the dumplings puff up and are cooked through.

Ladle soup into a bowl, top with 1/2 cup spinach and chopped parsley.

For your information, the dumplings are fine if you refrigerate the leftovers. They absorb more liquid as they sit so you might need to thin out the soup with more chicken stock.

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