Prosciutto wrapped Shrimp

Today my friends, you get not one.  Not two.  But 3, yes 3 different pictures of Proscuitto Wrapped Shrimp!  Yes, 3 different pictures, because I can’t seem to get a great picture of it, and I’m pretty much shrimped out for the moment.  These are so easy and fast to make, are an excellent appetizer, or can be a main course.  Grill them outside, or in a grill pan inside.  Don’t have a grill pan?  Put ’em in a pan.

 

Here, the shrimp were grilled.  The radicchio was also grilled.  I think doing the shrimp this way, with corn and radicchio, is a superb flavor combination.  I do have some “non” prosciutto shrimp on this plate as well.

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In this picture, the toothpicks were left in so you could see how to spear with a toothpick on an angle.  This helps to keep the shrimp straighter when cooking.  This was on a stovetop grill pan.  The little cakes are just left over polenta that I mixed with leftover artichoke dip.  Those were pretty good.

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This is a pile of shrimp that I was taking to a party as an appetizer.

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With no further ado, let’s get started.  Ready?  It’s a little bit complicated…

Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp

12 large sized raw shrimp

12 basil leaves

3-6 pieces prosciutto crudo  (crudo is uncooked – air dried, and the most commonly found outside of Italy) cut into strips about 1- 1 1/2 inches wide

12 toothpicks

pepper

If necessary, clean and devein the shrimp.  I prefer to leave the tails on like a little handle, but I like the heads off.

Wrap one piece of basil and 1 prosciutto strip around the body of each shrimp, and secure with a toothpick.  Grind some pepper over the shrimp.

If using a gas grill outside, make sure the grate is cleaned and oiled, and at a high heat.  Grill only 1-2 minutes on each side.  The prosciutto will start to get crispy, and the shrimp will continue to cook even after you take it off the heat.  I like to soak a bamboo skewer and thread the shrimp on that, rather than using a toothpick per shrimp.  It’s easy to turn and you can serve it like a kabob if you like.

If using an inside grill pan, set it to just under medium (you know best how your stovetop works), and cook 3-5 minutes per side.

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Miso Soup with Kimchi

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I have a confession to make.  I eat kimchi directly from the jar.  Just open the jar, stick my fork in, and go for it.  Sometimes it’s the first thing I eat in the morning.

I also buy a rotisserie chicken from the store just so I can eat the skin off of it, and then I have to figure out what to do with all the rest of it.  Thankfully there’s a lot you can do with a rotisserie chicken.

As long as I’m confessing, I confess that there is not one thing homemade in this recipe.  But it’s still very healthy, as well as quick.  All because I discovered these little packets of miso soup mix that you can just add hot water and kimchi to, and make a soup!

The holiday season is a time of overindulgence.  Lots of sweets – oops.  Dropped a mint frosted brownie crumb on the keyboard.  Constant eating.  Late nights.  Alcohol.  Pastries.  Dips.  Oh look!  The token fresh veggie plate.  Let us call it “crudite”.  “Crudite” is just a fancy way of saying “token fresh veggie plate”.

No wonder our digestion is off, our brains get foggy, we can be emotional, and then we start coughing and catch a cold or flu.  We’re so busy enjoying the holidays that we forget to take care of ourselves.

Miso and kimchi have so many health benefits that it would be difficult to list them all and risk leaving anything out.  Both are high in vitamins and trace minerals, like C, D, E, Selenium…but I think the best value they offer is probiotics.

Without probiotics, you can’t assimilate all of the nutrients you are getting.  How do you keep these beneficial microbes alive in your body?  By eating crudite!  Salads and raw foods.

What kills them off?  You guessed it.  A diet heavy on alcohol, meat, pastries, party wings, and panetone.  Are you starting to see what I’m getting at?

Our ancestors were really wise.  Even sausages were served with saurkraut, another probiotic rich food when it’s raw and fermented.  Even when it’s cooked you’re still eating a superfood.

So toast in the new year with your glass of bubbly, knowing that kimchi and miso are also some of the best hangover recipes known to man.  Again…these ancestors of ours were a lot more wise than we remember!

Miso and Kimchi Soup (quick and easy version)

1 C hot water (not boiling, it kills the probiotics)

Instant miso packet (follow directions)

1/4 C cooked, shredded chicken

2-3 T crispy chicken skin

1/4 C kimchi

Cooked noodles (I used some noodles made from beans)

optional toppings include chopped scallions, boiled egg, cilantro

Fry up the sliced chicken skin and fat in a pan, cook the noodles, shred the noodles and heat up the water for the miso.  Put the chicken and the noodles in the bowl.  Mix the miso soup according to directions on the package, and pour over the chicken and noodles.  Add the kimchi, and put your toppings on.

 

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Polenta Uncia

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  The first picture is my recipe for polenta uncia, and the second picture is my favorite polenta uncia in the entire world.  

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Here in the Northern part of Italy, at the foot of the alps, they eat a kind of polenta called “polenta taragna”.  It is a mix of corn and buckwheat flour, and the word “taragna” is actually dialect for the long handled paddle spoon that was used to stir the mixture many years ago.  Traditionally, it’s cooked in a copper pot over a wood fire, and the constant stirring is to make sure that it did not burn.

Today the stirring is mechanized and very few places still cook it outside over a wood fire.  This farm and restaurant in the mountains shows how it’s done!

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“Polenta Uncia” is polenta taragna layered with mild, buttery, local cheese.  My version for Americans uses two cheeses that can oftentimes be found in the states.  Fontina and American Grana.  If you can’t find American Grana, go with a parmesan.  When I first attempted to copy my favorite polenta uncia at home , I was inundated with several different opinions of exactly which cheeses were needed to make a correct uncia.  Italians have a lot of opinions as to exactly how things should or should not be done in the kitchen.  However, after tasting several different versions, I stuck to my own opinion on who’s was the best.  And that would be at a place in the mountains called La Bolla.  Here is a view from their patio.

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I realized I could talk about polenta for many pages, but I’ll end here.  It is one of those things that I cook over and over, not quite getting it right, sometimes close enough.  Always it tastes good, but it’s one of those recipes that is a quest.  It can only get better as time goes on, and with more and more practice.

Polenta Uncia

4 T pasture or alpine butter divided

4 cloves garlic

2 C polenta (course ground corn meal, I use Bob’s Red Mill)

2 T buckwheat flour (I cannot find course ground in the US)

6 C water

1 t salt

thin sliced fontina cheese – as much as you want, I recommend lots

grated American Grana or Grana Padana – I recommend lots

fresh sage leaves

3 qt saute pan

glass baking dish

4 small cast iron skillets

Melt 2 T butter with the garlic cloves in a saute pan for about a minute.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Add salt and regain boil.  Take out garlic cloves and save for later. Slowly pour in the polenta mixture, whisking constantly and set timer for 20 minutes.  Cook for a few minutes, still whisking, and then lower heat to a simmer.  Once the heat is down you only have to whisk occasionally.

At the 20 minute mark, reset the timer for 10 minutes and start watching the polenta and stirring more often.  You are looking for it to get as thick as possible.

I think polenta uncia is best made with polenta made the day before, but if you want to eat it the same day, give it some time to cool down and firm up.  This recipe makes it quite soft.  I put it in a glass baking dish.

Preheat oven to 425

Divide the polenta into 4 portions and scoop 1/2 the mixture into the bottom of each skillet.  Layer the fontina slices on top.  Follow with scoops of the remaining polenta, some more slices of fontina, and then cover completely with the grated grana.  Put pans on top rack for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.  This really depends on your oven.  In the meantime, slice up the garlic cloves, and melt the remaining butter with the sage and garlic.

Bring out the polenta when the top is completely melted.  Turn broiler on to high.  Pour the butter, garlic, sage mixture over the top of each, and return to oven for 3-5 minutes.  The top should be crispy and the entire pan should sizzle and pop!

Enjoy!  This is one of my favorite dishes, and most people eat it as the entire meal.  I was told that you must eat it with a glass of wine, or in the case of children, sparkling water, to help with the digestion of the fat.  Red wine is best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxtail Chili

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To bean or not to bean.  That is the question.

For the record, I think that chili is all about the peppers, which is why it’s called “chili”.

There are no beans in this recipe, but I actually like beans in chili.  I just don’t have them in this particular recipe.

In fact, I’ve never eaten this chili because I’m…get this…allergic to beef.

It’s true.  That’s why you’ll discover very few beef recipes on this website.

I make this chili for other people, and it’s definitely an all day labor of love.  Lots and lots of love. So give yourself an entire day to cook, knowing that this chili is worth every minute of that time.

I hope you enjoy this just as much as my friends and family do!  I think it’s best served plain with a big slab of cornbread, but chili is a personal thing.  So put whatever toppings on that you like. It might be a little too spicy hot for small kids though, so if you want to lighten up the heat level a bit just reduce the amount of the hot peppers in it.

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Oxtail Chili

Stock

2 1/2 – 3 lbs oxtail medallions

6 C water

1 C red wine

1 bay leaf

salt

Chili

5 C stock (add more if needed)

hand shredded oxtail meat

1 28 oz can tomato puree

1 slice bacon (optional) or you can use the fat from the oxtails

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 dried Ancho chili, rehydrated in stock

1 dried Pasilla pepper, rehydrated in stock

1 dried Guajillo pepper, rehydrated in stock

1 Chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 heaping T of your favorite chili seasoning powder

1 heaping t mexican oregano

Dutch Oven

Blender

Making the Stock:  Heat dutch oven on stove top to medium low and add oxtails, big end down.  Salt the oxtails and cover with water and wine, and add the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 4 1/2 to 6 hours.  The meat should be falling off the bones.  Remove from the broth and let cool down so you can shred the meat.  At this point I take out the bay leaf and transfer the broth to another container to let it cool down in the fridge for just a little bit.  This makes it easier to skim the fat off the top.

Rehydrating the Peppers:  At some point during the stock making process, you can rehydrate the peppers.  Place them in a glass dish or bowl and ladle some of the hot stock over the top of them.  Cover with plastic wrap.  They will take at least 1/2 hour to rehydrate.

Time to Make the Chili!:  In the same dutch oven, cook up a chopped slice of bacon if you are using it.  Remove the bacon when done, and leave about 1-2 T of the fat.  If not using bacon, just use the fat from the oxtails.  Cook the onions and garlic in the fat over medium low heat until the onions are translucent.  If you are using the bacon fat, you don’t really need to add salt, but you might want to add some if using the beef fat.

Put the onions, garlic, rehydrated peppers, chipotle pepper, and pepper soaking liquid into a blender.  Liquify until smooth.  Cook the diced bell peppers until slightly soft and then add the powdered chili spice blend.  Cook for about a minute.

Pour in the pepper onion mix and stir.  Add the tomatoes, the oregano, and if you want, crumble the bacon pieces and add that.  Stir.  Add the shredded oxtail meat, and the stock.  Stir.  Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, and checking the temperature, for 2-3 hours.  Taste for salt level and season accordingly.

Serve it the next day!

*tip* – when choosing your dried peppers, make sure they are like raisins.  If they are brittle and hard, they are too old and wont taste very good.

 

 

Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup

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Wisconsin is known for it’s beer, award winning cheeses, and it’s extremely good looking and intelligent people.  🙂  They obviously got that way by consuming a steady diet of beer and cheese throughout their lifetime.

If you haven’t yet tried a soup like this, here is your chance.

It would be very difficult to find these ingredients in Italy.  Believe me, I looked.  The beer would be no problem, they have a lot of great beer and small micro-breweries.  It’s the cheddar that is the problem.  Almost no cheddar to be found.  So like all recipes that get carried from one area to another, you might have to change it around a bit.  Use ingredients you can find locally and make it your own version.

We like this one, and like to serve it with a soft pretzel or any kind of bread.

This gives me an idea.  Pretzel bread bowls.  Looks like I’ll be doing some baking in the future!

Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup

1 T butter

2 small cloves garlic, sliced

1 C chopped sweet onion

1 T dried mustard

2 T cornstarch mixed with water to make a liquid

16 oz beer (I used a locally made gluten free pilsner)

32 oz container vegetable broth

1 C heavy whipping cream

12 oz shredded cheddar (I used a variety of types)

2 oz cubed velveeta

few drops worcestishire sauce

salt and pepper

In a dutch oven or other heavy pan at medium low, cook butter, garlic, and onions with the dry mustard, and a little bit of salt and pepper until the onions are translucent and soft.  About 4-6 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add some of the vegetable broth and liquefy.

Pour back into the pot and stir in the beer.  Turn heat up to medium and add the vegetable broth, worcestershire and cream.  Start letting it get hot, and then whisk in the cornstarch mixture.  Whisk often!  Right as it wants to come to a boil, start adding the cheese in batches, whisking continuously.  If it starts wanting to boil very strongly, turn it down a bit.  Bit by bit add the cheeses, whisking continually.  I think it works best to add the velveeta first, then the rest of the cheese. Taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper, and serve.

Very simple, and quick.  Sometimes I like to add red pepper, or jalapeno.  You can add carrots and celery if you like, or sausage or potatoes.  Bacon goes good with just about everything, so a topping of bacon would be just fine.

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Golden Soup

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This soup was created for my son when he was a little boy.  It’s almost 20 years later and I wouldn’t change a thing because it does what it was meant to do.

Quiet the mind and bring you back into your body and into the present moment.  It’s just a vehicle for 3 very important spices: cumin, coriander, and turmeric.  That’s why it’s mainly broth and there isn’t a lot of “stuff” in the soup.

Now, science has shown us the incredible benefits of these spices.  Regulating stress hormones, reducing inflammation, and boosting the immune system are just some of them.  This is all well and good, and very important.  But sometimes it’s not about the specific science.

It’s about whether it helps you to focus on what is important, and whether it helps you to be come grounded and fully within your body so you can self-soothe in a healthy manner.

I was a busy single Mom to one child and a bunch of animals.  I owned a business that I had built from the ground up that was dedicated to natural health. Belonged to numerous networking groups, was speaking to organizations, and was a Cub Scout Den Mother.

This is not a fancy, take a lot of time meal.  It comes together in less than 1/2 an hour using ingredients I had at the time, and ingredients you might have as well.  It’s perfect for those days when you are slammed by the waves of a sudden storm and need to find your footing.

Hopefully you have time after eating to cuddle under a blanket in your jammies.  Maybe watch a comedy, read a book, or just be.

Plus, it’s vegan and gluten free.

Golden Soup

1/2 C diced sweet potato skin on

1/2 C diced baking potato skin on

pink salt – if you don’t have it, use what you have.  Seriously, 20 years ago there was NO PINK SALT available anywhere near me.

1/2 t ground coriander (the seeds)

1/4 t ground cumin

1/4 t ground turmeric root

1/2 T dried whole rosemary leaves

2 T oil of your choice

1 C frozen mixed vegetables – organic.  In America this is corn, peas, green beans and carrots

3 cubes vegetable bouillon

8 C water

few drops fresh lemon juice

In a dutch oven, or any pan you have, heat to just under medium. Add your oil.  Then put in your potatoes and sprinkle with some salt.  Stir around a bit.  Add your spices.  Fat releases the healthy oils from herbs and and helps to carry them to your cells.  Heat releases the aroma, also very important, because your sense of smell goes directly to your brain. So smell your food when you are cooking.  Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add your veggies, toss in the bouillon cubes, and add the 8 cups water.  Sprinkle the rosemary leaves over the top.  Stir, and smell.  Cover and set the timer for 10 minutes.  If it’s boiling, reduce the the heat to simmer.  Technically it’s done, but you can simmer or put on very very low to keep warm if you are not ready to eat.  Sprinkle a few lemon juice drops once it’s in the bowl.

 

 

Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti with Baby Clams)

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I will be completely honest.

Everything that says optional in the recipe is optional because it’s not traditional.  I just have a thing for a sauce made with garlic, shallots, white wine, lemon, and butter.  So I took some liberties.  Small liberties just to make it something I liked a little bit better.  I did however put optional in red italics as a warning.

I also make a lot of extra broth because I get into “scarpetti”.  Scarpetti means “little shoes”.  It’s basically just tearing off a piece of bread and then mopping up the juices with it.

But I’m not going to stop here with the impromptu Italian language lesson.

I also have an amazing tip for you.

If you look at your pasta spoon, you might notice a hole in the center.

This….is a serving.  Not an Italian sized pasta serving.  Italian servings are huge and we’ll talk about it at another time.

This is the serving recommended by nutritionists.  How cool is that!  Just measure out your dry pasta through the handy opening, and you’re good to go.

Unless you encounter this:

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Three different sized measurements.  Huh?  I named them 2 oz. 4 oz.  and “I don’t care what the heck you say I’m going with this much”.

Anyway, it was a cool tip until I noticed the discrepancies.  So just make as much pasta as you feel like eating.

This recipe is for 1 person, but just double it for 2!

Spaghetti alle Vongole

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 clove minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced shallot optional

pinch red pepper flakes

1/3 C white wine

1/3 C clam juice

12 little clams

2 T rough chopped italian parsley

salt and pepper

2-4 oz spaghetti

smidgeon of butter optional

lemon zest optional

If necessary, purge the clams to get rid of any sand they might have.  Scrub the outside with stiff brush.  I did not do this, because they were very clean and other people had eaten them and said they weren’t sandy.

Bring your pasta water to boiling and add some salt.  Not a lot, because the clams can be pretty salty.  Heat a heavy saute pan to just under medium.  Add olive oil, then garlic and shallot. Cook for maybe 1 minute – the garlic will be a toasty brown color.  Put your clams in, the red pepper, and pour the wine and clam juice over the top.  Cover and cook, shaking the pan a bit to roll the shells around, until the shells pop open.  These were about the size of a silver dollar, and so they only took about 5-6 minutes to cook.

Look at your pasta directions and plan accordingly.  My pasta said 9 minutes to al dente, I said HOGWASH.  You’ll want to pull the pasta out of the water a minute or 2 before it is done so you can finish cooking it in the saute pan.  I figured about 6 minutes would be good.

As soon as the clams pop open, pull them out and put them in your dish.  Add your pasta directly from the water to the broth in the saute pan.  No need to drain.  Add your parsley, and put the clams back in.  Cook for maybe a minute or 2.  Add the wee butter if you want.  Taste the broth.  I did not need to add any salt at all.

Pour out into a dish and serve immediately with a bit of lemon zest, fresh cracked pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.