All posts by Jim Billings

Chicken and Dumplings

This dish is “Thanksgiving in a pot”.

Four Large Bone-In Chicken Breasts
Cold Water
One Inch Piece of Carrot
One Inch Piece of Celery
1/4 Spanish Onion Left Whole and With Brown Skin Left On
1/2 Garlic Clove
Two Fresh Italian Parsley Stalks
Three Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
Ten Whole Black Peppercorns
Two Bay Leaves
A Tablespoon of Sea Salt

Put all of the above ingredients in a large pot with a lid. Add just enough cold water to barely cover the ingredients. Place on low simmer until the chicken is cooked through or about 1 1/2 hours. Do not allow the mixture to boil rapidly. Strain the broth well through a cheese cloth and a colander. Remove all of the chicken meat from the bones. Cut the chicken into about one inch pieces. Set the cooked chicken and the broth aside.

Two Cups of All-Purpose Flour
A Tablespoon of Baking Powder
A Teaspoon of Sea Salt
Two Beaten Eggs
A Cup of Low Fat Buttermilk

Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk well. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.

Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Whisk well. Place the wet ingredients in the well of the dry ingredients. Whisk until all of the wet and dry ingredients are combined. Cover the batter and refrigerate for at least one hour.

A Cup of Diced Carrot
1/4 Cup of Diced Celery
1/2 Cup of Diced Spanish Onion
Two Minced Garlic Cloves
A Tablespoon of Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
Two Cups of Green Beans Cut Into About One Inch Length Pieces
Three Baking Potatoes Peeled and Cut Into About One Inch Pieces
Twelve Ounces of Sliced Fresh Mushrooms
A Cup of Frozen Green Peas
3/4 Cup of All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper, Divided
Two Teaspoons of Sea Salt
A Tablespoon of Finely Chopped Fresh Scallion
A Tablespoon of Finely Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

Add the olive oil, the butter, the carrot, the celery, the onion, the garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper and the sea salt to a large pot with a lid. Cook on medium high heat for four minutes stirring frequently. Add the flour. Cook while stirring for one minute. Start adding the chicken broth (that you previously made) a ladle at a time until you achieve a consistency that will cling to the back of a wooden spoon. Add the mushrooms, the green beans and the potatoes to the pot. Stir well. Cover and simmer on low heat until the potatoes are fork tender (about one hour). Taste and add more black pepper and/or sea salt, if needed.

Add the cooked chicken and the green peas to the pot. Stir well. Apply cooking spray to a tablespoon measuring spoon. Add one tablespoon dollops of the dumpling batter on top of the mixture in the pot. When all of the batter is used up, cover the pot. Simmer on medium low heat for about twenty minutes until the dumplings are cooked through. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper (or more if you like) evenly on top of the dumplings. Garnish with the chopped scallion and parsley and serve.

Lemon Blueberry Corn Bread

1-1/4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup of Corn Meal
1/4 Cup of Sugar
Two Teaspoons of Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon of Sea Salt
1 Cup of Skim Milk
1/4 Cup of Vegetable Oil
A Beaten Egg
12 Ounces of Fresh Blueberries
A Teaspoon of Lemon Zest
A Tablespoon of Fresh Lemon Juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Apply cooking spray to an 8 or 9 inch baking pan.

Combine dry ingredients. Mix well.

Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl from the dry ingredients. Whisk well.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Whisk until well blended.

Add the blueberries, the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Fold these ingredients into the batter with a spatula.

Pour the batter into the sprayed baking pan.

Bake 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven until golden brown. The bread is done when a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Sicilian Style Pork Braciole

A rolled meat dish that braises in tomato sauce. This is Sunday dinner at its best.

A Two Pound Pork Loin
3/4 Cup of Panko Breadcrumbs
Five Tablespoons of Olive Oil, Divided
1/4 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper
A Teaspoon of Sea Salt
Six Slices of Capicola Ham
3/4 Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese
1/4 Cup of Finely Chopped Roasted Almonds
1/4 Cup of Finely Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley
Two Minced Garlic Cloves
Three Hard Cooked Eggs
A Cup of Dry Red Wine (Select One That You Would Drink)
Eight Cups of Tomato Sauce

Slice the pork loin lengthwise down the middle but do not cut it all the way through. Open the pork loin like a book. Tenderize the meat with a mallot until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Brown the breadcrumbs over medium high heat with two tablespoons of olive oil until toasted. Put the breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl. Into the mixing bowl, add the grated cheese, the almonds, the parsley, the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

Lay the capicola slices on the pork leaving about one inch all the way around the edges. Add the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the capicola ham. Cut up the eggs. Add the hard cooked eggs to the center of the breadcrumb mixture. Roll the pork up tightly. With butcher’s twine, tie four times widthwise and once lengthwise.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a pot large enough to hold the meat and the tomato sauce. Brown all sides of the pork on medium high heat. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the red wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pot to loosen them. Cook the wine for three minutes. Add the tomato sauce and the pork to the pot. Simmer on low heat for 1 and 1/2 hours.

Let the meat sit at room temperature for ten minutes. Remove the butcher’s twine and cut into about 3/4 inch slices. Pour the sauce of your favorite pasta or polenta.

Beef Short Ribs alla Pizzaiola

This sauce captures the great flavor of pizza.

Four Beef Short Ribs
Four Cups of Tomato Sauce
A Cup of Dry Red Wine (select one that you would drink)
Four Minced Garlic Cloves
A Finely Diced Small Hot Red Pepper (such as an Anaheim or Red Hot Cherry)
1/2 Cup of Diced Spanish Onion
A Teaspoon of Olive Oil
Two Teaspoons of Sea Salt (Divided)
1/4 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper
A Teaspoon of Dried Oregano

Sprinkle the short ribs evenly with a teaspoon of sea salt and the ground black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a Dutch oven, add the olive oil and put the pot on high heat. Let the pan heat for 3-4 minutes or until the olive oil begins to smoke slightly. Brown the short ribs on all sides and remove the ribs to a plate.

Turn the heat under the pot to medium. Add the garlic, the red hot pepper, the onion, the oregano, and a teaspoon of sea salt. Cook on medium heat for three minutes while stirring constantly. Add the red wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen the brown bits that have accumulated. Cook the wine mixture for three minutes. Add the tomato sauce. Stir well. Taste and add more sea salt, if needed. Add the beef and any juices that accumulated in the plate to the pot.

Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with pasta or polenta.

Chicken Minestrone Soup

Two Cups of Cooked Chicken Meat, Cubed
Two Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Two Tablespoons of Pancetta, Cubed
Eight Cups of Chicken Stock (If not homemade, use sodium free)
Two Cups of Fresh Green Beans Cut Into About One Inch Pieces
A Pound of Kale Leaves (Cleaned, With Stems Removed and Roughly Chopped)
15 Ounces of Canned Rinsed Cannellini Beans
15 Ounces of Canned Rinsed Garbanzo Beans
1/2 Teaspoon of Dried Oregano
Two Minced Garlic Cloves
3/4 Cup of Chopped Red Onion
A Cup of Chopped Celery
A Cup of Chopped Carrot
28 Ounces of Crushed Tomatoes
1/2 Pound Cooked Ditalini Pasta
A Teaspoon of Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper

Combine the olive oil and the pancetta cubes in a large soup pot. Cook on medium heat until the pancetta is crispy. Add the crushed tomatoes. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen the brown bits of pancetta that have accumulated .

Add all of the remaining ingredients except the cooked chicken cubes and the cooked ditalini pasta. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally.

After 1 1/2 hours, taste and add more sea salt and/or pepper, if needed. Right before serving, add the cooked chicken and the cooked pasta.

Serve with grated cheese.

Italian Wedding Soup

Fall and winter are here. This hearty, healthy soup is the ultimate comfort food on a cold day.

Tablespoon Of Finely Chopped Red Onion
Two Minced Garlic Cloves
1/4 Cup Of Finely Chopped Italian Parsley
1/4 Cup Of Grated Parmesan Cheese
Pound Of Ground Chicken
Cup Of Breadcrumbs
12 Cups Of Chicken Stock (If not homemade, use low sodium stock)
Four Cups Of Shredded Cooked Chicken
Head Of Cleaned, Chopped Escarole
Two Cups Of Roughly Chopped Carrot
Cup Of Roughly Chopped Celery
Cup Of Roughly Chopped Spanish Onion
Three Large Eggs
Tablespoon Of Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Divided
1/2 Teaspoon Of Ground Black Pepper, Divided
Three Teaspoons Of Sea Salt, Divided
Six Ounces Of Cooked Pastina

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the first six ingredients along with a large egg, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of sea salt in a bowl. Using your hands, mix well. Form into golf ball sized meatballs. Place the meatballs on a greased baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Put the chicken stock into a large soup pot. Place the pot on medium high heat. When the stock just reaches the boiling point, turn the heat down to low. Add the escarole, the carrot, the celery, the onion, two teaspoons of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. Simmer on low for two hours stirring occasionally. Add the meatballs to the pot for the last half hour of simmer time. Taste the soup and add more sea salt and/or pepper, as needed.

Whisk two large eggs and the lemon juice in a bowl. Stir the egg/lemon mixture into the soup. Add the cooked pastina and the cooked chicken to the pot. Stir again.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Moussaka

Two Medium Eggplants

Olive Oil (as needed basis)

1/2 Pound Lean Ground Beef

1/2 Pound Lean Ground Lamb

Tablespoon Chopped Spanish Onion

Two Minced Garlic Cloves

8 Ounces Tomato Sauce

Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Teaspoon Dried Oregano

1 1/2 Teaspoons Sea Salt (Divided)

1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper (Divided)

1/4 Teaspoon of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Teaspoon of Lemon Zest

Three Tablespoons of Butter

Three Tablespoons of All-Purpose Flour

Cup Whole Milk

Beaten Egg

3/4 Cup of Grated Parmesan Cheese

3/4 Cup of Crumbled Feta Cheese

Pinch of Ground Nutmeg

Grease 9X9 inch baking pan with butter.

Peel the eggplants and cut into 1/2 inch round slices. Coat each side of the sliced eggplant with olive oil. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. Broil on high until brown. Turn and broil on other side. Set the eggplant aside.

In a large skillet, combine beef and lamb. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain the fat. Cook the onions in the same skillet for three minutes. Add in the garlic, the lemon zest, the cinnamon, the oregano, the tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper, the crushed red pepper flakes and the cooked meat. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

In the bottom of the baking dish, add half of the eggplant slices. Pour the meat mixture over the eggplant. Add the remaining eggplant slices over the meat mixture.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour. Stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Add the beaten egg. Mix well. Finally, add the parmesan and the feta. Stir again until cheese is well incorporated.

Pour the cheese sauce over the eggplant and meat mixture. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares.

Baklava

One Pound Chopped Mixed Nuts (Note: I use walnuts and almonds)

Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

16 Ounce Package Phyllo Dough

Cup Melted Butter

Cup White Sugar

Cup Cold Water

1/2 Cup Honey

Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9X13 inch baking dish.

Toss together cinnamon and nuts.

Unroll phyllo and cut the whole stack in half to fit the dish. Cover phyllo with a damp cloth while assembling the baklava, to keep it from drying out.

Place two sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the baking dish. Brush generously with butter. Sprinkle three tablespoons of the nut mixture on top. Repeat the process until all ingredients are used. End with at least 6 sheets of phyllo. Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava all the way to the bottom of the dish into three long rows. Then cut nine times diagonally to make 27 diamond shapes.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes.

While baklava is baking, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat . Bring to a boil. Stir in honey, vanilla and lemon zest. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 50 minutes, remove the baklava from the oven and spoon the syrup over it immediately. Let the baklava cool completely before serving.

Jim’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Four Cups of Tomato Sauce
Teaspoon of Red Wine Vinegar
Large Head of Savoy Cabbage
Two Tablespoons of Tomato Paste
One Pound of Italian (Sweet or Hot) Sausage
One Pound of Ground Turkey
1 1/2 Cups of Cooked Rice
Beaten Egg
Two Tablespoons of Finely Chopped Italian Parsley
Two Tablespoons of Finely Chopped Red Onion
Two Tablespoons of Finely Chopped Scallion
Two Minced Garlic Cloves
3/4 Cup of Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Three Teaspoons of Sea Salt (Divided)
Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper

Combine the tomato sauce and the red wine vinegar. Mix and set aside.

Combine the tomato paste, the Italian sausage, the ground turkey, the cooked rice, the beaten egg, the Italian parsley, the red onion, the scallion, the minced garlic, the grated cheese, the ground black pepper, and two teaspoons of sea salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix well.

Cut the core out of the cabbage with a sharp knife. Pull off the largest cabbage leaves carefully keeping them whole and as undamaged as possible. Get rid of all of the small leaves and save them for coleslaw.

Combine about an inch of cold water and a teaspoon of sea salt in a large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil. Place half of the saved cabbage leaves into the pot. Cover and steam the leaves for three minutes. Place the cabbage leaves in cold water. Repeat the process with the remaining cabbage leaves.

Pat the leaves dry with a paper towel. Lay them out so you can assess just how many blankets that you have to wrap up the filling. Using a sharp knife, cut out the center vein so they will be easier to roll up.

Place about 3/4 cup of the meat/rice mixture into the center of a cabbage leaf. Starting at once was the stem end, fold the sides in and roll up the cabbage to enclose the filling. Repeat the process until all of the filling has been used up.

Using any leftover cabbage leaves that you have, lay them on the bottom of a casserole pan. These leaves will serve as insulation to keep the cabbage rolls from burning when they are baking in the oven.

Place the filled cabbage rolls side by side in the casserole pan seam side down.

Preheat the oven to 290 degrees.

Pour the tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls and spread the sauce out evenly. Cover the casserole pan with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the aluminum foil during the last 30 minutes of baking time. Let the cabbage rolls sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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