CHOCOLATE PUDDING – The Mac ‘N Cheese Of Desserts!

Creamy CHOCOLATE PUDDING!

Creamy CHOCOLATE PUDDING!

Good ol’ Chocolate Pudding – the ultimate comfort food dessert. It’s chocolaty. It’s creamy. It’s a wonderful finish to a filling meal. Much as I love cakes, cookies, and pies, quite often nothing hits the spot like Chocolate Pudding.

If you like, you can even dress it up by swirling in raspberries or bananas, baking a graham cracker crust in custard cups then pouring in the cooked pudding, sprinkling on pound cake cubes, or piping on a cloud of whipped cream, topped with a cherry. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Puddings can be made with eggs, gelatin, flour, or (my preference) cornstarch. Also, they can be steamed, baked, or cooked on the stovetop (again, my preference). I’ve come up with what I believe is the perfect blend of ingredients.

Note: Take the time to smash out all the cocoa lumps by making a paste with the milk BEFORE you begin cooking. Then you’ll have a nice, smooth pudding.

CHOCOLATE PUDDING – makes 2 cups

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 T cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk (I use nonfat)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 T butter

In a saucepan mix together the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Pour in about 1/4 cup of the milk (you don’t have to measure). Using a flat headed stirrer (see photo), blend the milk into the cocoa mixture, smashing out all the lumps.

Flat-headed wooden stirrer

Flat-headed wooden stirrer

As the mixture becomes too thick to blend, add a little more milk. You don’t want to add too much milk until all the lumps are smashed – otherwise they’ll just float on top and you’ll never get rid of them. Once all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the milk, making it a thick paste, add in the remaining milk.

Over a medium flame, cook pudding until thick, stirring frequently – about 10 minutes. At approximately 8 minutes, you’ll notice it begins to thicken. Keep going until the boiling point. Remove from heat and add in butter and vanilla.

Pour into serving containers and cover to prevent a skin from forming (unless you like skin).

 

 

 

 

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PARMESAN BISCUIT SLICES – Cheapness Wins Again!

PARMESAN BISCUIT SLICES

PARMESAN BISCUIT SLICES

I can’t tell you how many recipes I’ve created due to my frugality (aka, cheapness!). For last week’s blogpost, Parmesan Pasta Salad, I needed Parmesan cheese (duh!). Normally, I would never buy grated or shredded cheese (once again – cheap). I would purchase a block and do it myself.

However, when I went to select the Parmesan wedge, there – beckoning me like a siren, RIGHT AT EYE LEVEL! – was a bag of powdery, grated cheese. It would take some doing on my part to get cheese this fine. So, in a Thelma & Louise moment, I grabbed the bag and didn’t look back.

Once the Parmesan Pasta Salad was bagged, tagged, and logged (I watch a lot of Law & Order, SVU), I found there was quite a bit of leftover cheese. Which is where my frugality came into play. I had to use up the stuff.

I decided to make biscuit sticks (like bread sticks, without the yeast), incorporating Parm into the dough AND sprinkled on top. Well, as you can see from the photo above, they didn’t come out at all like I envisioned, but I actually like these ‘slices’ better.

Being a biscuit rather than a bread, there’s no need to wait for rising dough, so they’re fairly quick to put together. Including baking time, start to finish is around half an hour. Not bad!

Note:  I chose to use grated Parm, but you could also use shredded.

PARMESAN BISCUIT SLICES – makes about 20, depending how you cut them

  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter (salted) – you can use more if you’re feeling decadent
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used nonfat)
  • about 1/2 T butter, melted for brushing
  • extra grated Parmesan for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and Parmesan.

Add in chilled butter, crosscutting with 2 knives until the texture becomes pea-like.

Pour in milk and mix with a fork until most of the flour is incorporated.

Knead the dough 10 times. Count! You don’t want to overmix. You can either empty the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, or knead directly in the bowl by pushing the dough down with your well-floured knuckles, folding the far half on top of the close half, turning the bowl 90º, and repeating process. TIP:  I always count aloud so I don’t lose track.

Pat the dough into a rectangle using well-floured hands. Then, using a well-floured rolling pin (are you getting the idea the dough is sticky?), roll the dough to 1/2″ thick.

Cut the dough into 1/2″ wide strips using a pizza cutter or knife.

Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit.

Generously grease a cookie sheet (even nonstick). Place the strips cut side down (and up) at least 1½” apart. Brush sides and top with melted butter, then sprinkle on the dusting Parmesan. Gently pat cheese into dough.

Bake at 450º F for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest 1 minute. Remove to wire rack or directly to serving basket.

 

 

 

PARMESAN PASTA SALAD – It’s The Simple Things

 

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Sometimes you want a little something to go with that sandwich. Nothing fancy, just…..well, a little something. I’ve got just the thing – Parmesan Pasta Salad.

This is a recipe I came across years ago, before I knew much about cooking. There are only four ingredients: pasta, mayonnaise, Parmesan, and salt. What’s not to like? Not only is this a kid favorite, but even adults have specifically requested it for potlucks.

This a tasty delight only takes about 15 minutes to prepare, no matter how much you’re making. Fast, easy, and delicious – the three best adjectives in the cooking world!

PARMESAN PASTA SALAD – makes 2 1/3 cups

  • 1 cup uncooked ditalini pasta (sometimes called short or salad macaroni)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cook pasta until it’s done to your liking (about 10 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Mix together the pasta, mayonnaise, Parmesan, and salt. Chill.

 

ZUCCHINI TOMATO STIR-FRY – Why, Yes, I’d Love Some Zucchini!

ZUCCHINI TOMATO STIR-FRY

ZUCCHINI TOMATO STIR-FRY

We’re in the throes of summer and that means only one thing:  ZUCCHINI! Lots of zucchini. If you’re not growing it, then your neighbors are. “How’s it going?” has been replaced by the hopeful, “Need any zucchini?”

Overnight, that perfect 7″ summer squash balloons in size to something that looks like it came out of a science fiction film. It needs to be eaten, and it needs to be eaten FAST! It’s just wrong to throw out perfectly good food – gargantuous as it may be.

“Isn’t there something else I can do with zucchini?” you ponder, trying to squeeze one more loaf of zucchini bread into the freezer.

Look no further! I have a zucchini side dish that’s easy, it’s delicious, AND it’s low in calories! But, wait….there’s more! It uses tomatoes, which are also in abundance right now. Stop the madness!

ZUCCHINI TOMATO STIR-FRY – makes 3 servings

  • vegetable oil for stir-frying
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/8 tsp oregano
  • 2 cups zucchini, chopped in whatever shape you want
  • 1 cup tomato, chopped
  • optional:  grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

NOTE:  To easily chop parsley, use your kitchen shears:

It's easy to finely chop parsley using kitchen shears

In a skillet or wok, heat a teaspoon or so of oil – just enough so things don’t stick. Add in the garlic, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, rosemary, and oregano. Cook at medium heat (375º Fahrenheit if using a wok) for a few minutes, until onion browned – stirring often.

Add in zucchini and tomato, continuing to stir-fry until the zucchini is done to your liking. This takes about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle on cheese, if desired, and serve.