Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

This post is dedicated to my brother Andy,and his fiance, Stephanie.  Less Andy and more Stephanie - since she mentioned about 5 times a couple of weeks ago that I needed to pick this back up.

I've thought about food blogging since my last post on November 17, 2013 and truth be told, it just seemed so....hard.

And, time consuming.

And, UGH!  

If you like comfort food, then make this.  Just be prepared that you do need a little time on your hands to fully execute the preparation.  I gave myself a full hour for prep because I have a wicked small kitchen and needed to wash dishes along the way.

This recipe works for a 9x13 pan, but it can be doubled (and tripled) for bigger pans to fit your needs.

Chicken and Spinach "White" Lasagna

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bag of fresh baby spinach (or you can use frozen spinach)
2 garlic cloves
1 medium onion, diced
1/8 tsp pepper flakes (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 quart of whole milk
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 box of ready to use, no boil lasagna noodles
4 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup of parmesan cheese
1 large container of ricotta cheese 
1-2 eggs
salt and pepper
parsley, dried or fresh

In a stock pot, boil chicken breasts until done all the way through.  Set aside to cool.  Once cooled, shred chicken, and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add onion and garlic, sauteing until onion has softened and garlic is fragrant.  Add washed baby spinach, and saute until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add hot pepper flakes, if desired.  Set aside.  (Remember, spinach is mostly water - - and that big bunch you start off with is going to basically look like a single serving...but a little goes a long way.  If you really like spinach, double that shit.)

To make the "white sauce," aka béchamel sauce:
Melt butter is large sauce pan.  Once butter is melted, add flour and whisk.  Allow to cook until mixture takes on a nutty smell, and the roux darkens slightly.  Slowly add milk while whisking, and stir every couple of minutes until the mixture thickens.  This will happen when the mixture comes to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper, and add nutmeg.  Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta and 1-2 eggs to form a smooth, spreadable cheesy, messy glob of goodness.

Time to assemble this mass of chicken and cheese.

Layer one: Spoon some of the béchamel into the bottom of a 9x13 pyrex dish.  Lay down a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles.  Layer half of your cooked chicken.  Spoon a third of your ricotta on top of your chicken.  Top with mozzarella and parmesan.

Layer two:  Lay down a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the béchamel over the noodles.  Add all of your spinach mixture. Spoon a third of your ricotta on top of your spinach.  Top with mozzarella and parmesan.

Layer three: Lay down a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the béchamel over the noodles.  Add the rest of your cooked chicken. Spoon a third of your ricotta on top of your chicken.  Top with Spoon some of the béchamel over the noodles. 

Layer four, and final (for me, at least): Lay down a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles.  Spoon some of the béchamel over the noodles. Top with mozzarella and parmesan.  Sprinkle some parsley on top, just to make it look pretty.  Cover with foil, and bake - or keep in your fridge for a day or two and bake off another time.

Bake that bad boy for about an hour at 350 degrees, covered.  Remove foil during last 20 minutes to brown the top.  Let sit about 15 minutes before serving.

So, normally I would have a lovely picture to share, but since this was made for a funeral and taking a photo didn't seem proper, you will have to use your imagination!  

If you make this, beware - you do not need to serve big, giant helpings.  This recipe, as is, will make about 9-12 filling servings.  You can also freeze portions.  Just chill and cut, and either place in a freezer bag, or a tupperware container.

It is best to reheat in the oven, but the microwave will do a fine job as well.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

You know that craving that sometimes takes over your whole brain and no matter what you try to do to get rid of it, it just nags and nags at your taste buds until you find yourself drooling?  That has been me with the thought of cinnamon raisin bread for several weeks now.  I tried satisfying this craving by purchasing a loaf of the stuff at the store, but it failed miserably.  It was scrawny and flavorless and basically tasted like cardboard...with raisins.  No umpf.  No pizazz.  No...love. 

I've been messing around with yeast products lately and making lots of homemade breads and other carb'y yummy things, so why can't *I* make a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread? 

I can make this, right?!

Do you want to know why?  Because I'm lazy!  And, every time the thought entered my mind (basically as often as when 16 year boys when they think about sex), I either was in the middle of something, or didn't have enough eggs, or not enough milk, or I needed to clean my kitchen, or....name any other excuse here.

But, the craving was too great.

Let's break out the labor this recipe will generate.  Rising times of 1 hour, 40 minutes and 30 minutes.  Baking time of 45 minutes.  That's close to 3 hours, and doesn't even factor in mixing, kneading and cooling.

Was it worth it?

Fuck yeah. 

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
(makes 2 loaves)

For the dough:
2 1/4 tsp of dry, active yeast (or one envelope)
2 cups milk, warmed
6 1/2 cups of flour, plus more for dusting
1 stick of butter, plus more to lubricate pans
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of raisins
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp water

In the large bowl sprinkle yeast over warmed milk and whisk slightly until combined.  Set aside.

Take dried raisins and place in a small bowl covered with hot water.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment, add flour, sugar, 2 eggs and salt. Start mixer on low speed and slowly pour in milk mixture.  Once combined, raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. 

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat dough into a 9 inch round, approximately 1'' thick.  Drain raisins from water and pat dry with paper towel.  Place in the middle of the dough round.  Sprinkle raisins with ground cinnamon.  Knead entire mixture until raisins and cinnamon are incorporated.  Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise 1 hour.  (Dough will be doubled in bulk.)

After first rise, return dough to lightly floured work surface and pat into a round.  Fold dough upon itself like a present, and return dough to the bowl with the seam sides down.  Let rise another 40 minutes. 

Near the end of the second rise, combine all of the ingredients for the filling in a small bowl.  Prepare your 2 loaf pans with butter.

Return the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Roll one half into a 10 x 12 inch rectangle.  Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with half of the filling mixture evenly, all the way to the ends.  Fold 3 sides of your rectangle in about an inch or two and tightly roll down from the top, creating a log.  Place log seam side down in the prepared loaf pan.

Roll from the top, down.

Repeat with second half of dough and filling. 

Cover pans loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for the third and final time, for approximately 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Brush the tops of the loaves with remaining beaten egg and place loaf pans on a lined baking sheet.*  Bake for 45 minutes, rotating half way through baking time.  Remember to use a foil tent if the tops start to brown faster than you'd like. 

Turn bread out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing...if you can.  I couldn't.  I waited about 10 minutes in misery before deciding that a burnt mouth wouldn't be too bad.

That's a whole lotta goodness right there!

How best to describe the taste?  Hmmmmm....soft, soft bread, juicy raisins and gooey cinnamon sugar filling.  It tastes like heaven.  Like, when I think of relaxing on the cloudy surface of heaven looking down at mere mortals while they are showering, I can see myself feasting on this bread.  It's that good.
*I don't know why I didn't do this.  My loaves split slightly and I had a hot sugar eruption.  If I used a baking sheet, it would've caught the mess so that I wouldn't have to clean my oven.  Grrrr....

Friday, July 26, 2013


I like bagels.  I buy them at the grocery store on every "big" shopping day.  In between, I fill my bagel need by spending the additional $2.99 when I grab my morning "Medium Carmel Mocha Iced Coffee with Cream and Sugar please" at Dunkin Donuts.  Bagels are tasty.  They scream comfort. 

I can totally make bagels that taste as good at home, right?  RIGHT???

Yes.  Yes, I can.  And, I did.  And you can too!

The first thing you will need are muscles.  Make a fist and bring it up to your ear.  Feel your bicep?  Good.  You have the necessary muscles needed to make great homemade bagels.  Time to get down to it....

Homemade Bagels

2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups of warm water (you may need up to a 1/2 cup more, depending on climate)
3 ½ cups of bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
¼ cup cornmeal (for dusting)

In ½ cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for 5 minutes.  Stir the yeast and sugar mixture until it all dissolves in the water.

Mix the flour and salt in the bowl of stand up mixer.  Pour in the warm yeast/water. Mix and stir in additional water as needed. Depending on where you live, you may need to add anywhere from a couple tablespoons to about ¼ cup of water. Your dough should be moist and firm after you have mixed it.

From here, you can keep the dough in the mixer with a dough hook and have the machine knead it, but I feel it's better to hand-knead the dough.  Playing with your food makes the end result more rewarding.  On a well floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Work in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.

Large, raw well-kneaded dough ball.

Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel, or piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.

Divide your dough into 8 pieces, using a sharp knife.  (For GIANT bagels, cut into 6 pieces, or smaller bagels, 10 pieces.  I recommend being consistant with the size for more thorough baking.)  Shape each piece into a ball.  Take your dough ball and knead it gently against the countertop by moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion until a perfect little dough ball forms.  Repeat with each piece.

Gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Repeat with each remaining dough ball.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow for a 3rd and final rise, approximately 10 minutes.

Post boil, pre bake.  Like large dumplings!

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and start a large stock pot of water to a low boil.  Use a slotted spoon or lower the bagels into the water. Do not overcrowd!  The bagels will float to the top either immediately, or in a couple of seconds.  Let them boil for a minute on each side, for lighter bagels...2 minutes for chewier bagels.  (I went with the 2 minutes!)  Remove from water and place on a baking sheet dusted with 1/4 cup'ish of cornmeal.  If you would like to top your bagels, do it now!  Optional toppings include: caraway seeds, coarse salt, minced fresh/dried garlic, minced fresh/dried onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or all of the above. Or none. It's your call.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack, then enjoy! 

Smother those bad boys with sweet cream butter, or tangy cream cheese, or peanut butter, or jam. 

I ate my first homemade bagel, split, toasted and smeared with regular full-fat cream cheese.  And, I loved every second of it.  I also paired it with Banana Bread Muffins, using this recipe.  But seriously, the bagel would've been enough.  At this point, I was so gosh-darn hungry that I went a little overboard.  :-)

If you are afraid of yeast...don't be.  I use the dry active yeast jars located near the flour in the supermarket.  You can also purchase packets.  Something of note...there is about 2 1/4 tsp of yeast in a single packet.  I've googled that about 30 times over the years because I always forget. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pizza Crust

Yesterday I had the biggest craving for pizza.  After spending an hour trying to call my local pizza joint (I kid you not) and not getting through, I gave up and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which did NOTHING in satisfying my craving.  Today, I took matters in my own hands and decided that if I was going to eat pizza, I was going to have to make it myself, since obviously no one wants to answer my cry for help.

Enter one of my favorite Martha Stewart cookbooks - Favorite Comfort Food, which was printed in 1999. Like most of Martha's recipes, nothing is very basic or easy.  "Proper" pizza dough was going to take about 2 hours to prepare!  I thought to myself..."Self?  You have the day off.  Just do it so you can go to bed with a smile on your face.  Feed to your belly and move on!"

Things you don't need, which are included in the recipe:
  • A pizza wheel - just use a knife
  • A pizza stone - a cookie sheet works just fine
  • A pizza peel - where the FUCK to you store THAT thing?!  Come on Martha!!!
So, although this is Martha's recipe...I have simplified it for the average home cook.  You still will need 2 hours though, so be prepared.


(This recipe makes dough for two 12 inch round pizzas or one large square pizza.)

1/4 tsp sugar
1 package of dry yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp olive oil, plus more for oiling your bowl
pizza toppings of your choice

Pour water into a small bowl.  Sprinkle in sugar and yeast and whisk with a fork to dissolve.  Set aside for 5 minutes while yeast activates or "blooms."  Mixture will become slightly foamy.

Meanwhile, mix together flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add olive oil and yeast mixture and combine with your hands, adding more flour if needed, until dough is smooth when squeezed.  Transfer to a clean surface and knead for about a minute, then shape into a ball. 

Oil a large bowl and place your dough ball, smooth side up.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for about 40 minutes, until dough doubles in size.  Remove wrap and punch down with your fist.  Knead for another minute and once again, place dough ball smooth side up and return to let rise a second time, for about 30 minutes until it again doubles in size.

This is when my stomach started to growl.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Punch down the dough for the second time in preparation for the third rise.  Place dough on a clean, flat surface and let rest for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, sprinkle your cooking surface with cornmeal in preparation for your crust!  If making two pizzas, divide your dough in half.*

Using your fists, knuckles and fingers, gently stretch your dough to the size of your cooking surface.  Top your pizza as you wish - I used leftover boneless hot chicken wings, onions, peppers and pepperoni.  And, maybe extra cheese as well.  Bake for 12-18 minutes, let cool and enjoy.

*If you plan on baking only one 12 inch round pizza, wrap up your remaining dough and freeze.  Thaw completely before using. 

This dough had a great chewy crust and baked evenly in my oven, without turning - - but if you have hot spots, you may want to turn once during baking.  This crust has sparked an interest in having a homemade pizza party with my friends and the next time I have a couple hours of free time, I'm making a couple of batches of this dough and freezing it for future uses!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Swordfish topped with mango salsa

My ex's father's side of the family is Russian and used to make the best Pierogi which we would fest on for weeks after the Russian Orthodox Easter, or AKA, the Pierogi Sweatshop holiday.  All of the women used to gather in his aunt's kitchen and make homemade potato pierogi until their hands fell off.  Being an outsider, I was never invited to participate and even though I knew how mind-numbing the work was, I kinda wish I was.  Because then I would've never tried to make them alone, at home this past weekend. 

I followed the recipe for Potato and Onion Pierogi from Robert Irvine.  It was HORRIBLE.  So - if you follow the rest of my recipe below, just pick up some Mrs. T's Pierogies and call it a day.  DO NOT suffer like I did!  (BTW - that is a free endorsement right there for Mrs. T's, but really, I love their pierogi!) 

You know what was most horrible about the pierogi making experience?  The fact that the recipe said it would make 24 and I when I finished, I had a solid 6.  Most didn't stay closed in the boiling water, my dough was too thick for some and created a mushy mess and others just looked like something spewed from an animal.  I wish I had photos for the outtake reel, but that would've been just a slap in the face.

Swordfish Topped with Mango Salsa Over Pierogi

For Protein (feel free to change out swordfish with tilapia, or even chicken):
(4) 4oz pieces of Swordfish
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp compound butter (butter, parsley, salt and pepper combined)

For Salsa:
2 ripe Mangos, peeled and diced
1 cup of fresh pineapple, diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1/2 a jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
2 ripe kiwi fruit, peeled and diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp honey
zest and juice of one lime

Pierogi "soup":
3 pierogi per person
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cut green beans
1 carrot, grated
1 small onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, diced
1/2 cup vodka
1 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Prepare mango salsa a day ahead.  Mix all ingredients and refrigerate to let flavors combine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place fish in a shallow baking dish brushed with oil, presentation side down. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fish is done, turning once.

Meanwhile, bring water in a large pot to a boil.  Add pierogi and cook and it floats.

In a large skillet, melt butter.  Add onion and garlic until translucent.  Remove.  Add cooked pierogi and slightly brown each side, turning once.  Add sauteed onion and garlic, green bean and carrots until slightly tender, approximately 2-3 minutes.  Add vodka and reduce by half, then add vegetable stock and simmer with a lid off until slightly reduced.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Arrange pierogi and vegetables in a shallow serving dish.  Spoon broth over.  Top with fish and finally the mango salsa.  Each bite is a party in your mouth!  Plus, it's pretty. 

Note: Please be advised that swordfish contains high traces of mercury in it, and if you are prone to migraines, make the substitution!  I got the worst migraine headache hours after feasting on this and my doctor said the mercury may have attributed to it - who knows...but you may want to err on the side of caution. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Fried Rice - why order takeout?

I don't know why, but New Years day always makes me crave asian food. Why is this?! Someone please explain!!! Actually, let me think about this for a moment...it could be because New Years is a turning point in America's healthy brigade, and all I can think about (besides the fact that I will not be able to find a parking spot at the gym) is that I want something salty that will give me cankles, high blood pressure and make me hungry a couple of hours later! I've tried my hand at a couple of "asian inspired" dishes throughout the years, but my fried rice has become a staple.

I don't know why more people don't make fried rice at home?! It's easy, and if the rice is already cooked - and left over from your pork chops and applesauce dinner - fast to prepare. It can also be very substantial and satisfying because you can load it with as many vegetables and lean protein as you want! Really, you are limited by your own imagination.

I like making it at home because I like to keep the crunch in my vegetables - something my mother never believed in growing up! A mushy piece of broccoli makes me want to run towards the front door kicking and screaming about the monstrosity of it all. It's funny how I said "growing up" as if her mushy veggie love doesn't still appear to this day. Someone take away her steamer!!!! Or, give her a new kitchen timer that clips to her apron that doesn't go over 6 minutes.


2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cups of prepared, cooled white rice of your choice*
1 cup cooked and cubed pork or beef
1/2 cup soy sauce, or ginger flavored soy sauce (whatever suites your palette)

1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup grated carrot

In a large WOK, or skillet heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add eggs and stir until they form a soft scramble. Remove eggs from WOK and set aside.

Heat remaining vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add rice and meat, stirring to combine. Add soy sauce and sesame oil, and cook through. Before serving, add frozen peas (they will defrost with the heat of the rice), reserved scrambled egg and carrots. Serve.

That's it...about 10 minutes in prep, total. I've seen fried rice with lots of different kinds of vegetables, seafood and meats...but this happens to be my favorite combination. Oh, and the leftovers are AMAZING!!!

*I use Jasmine rice for all of my rice needs. It's the only kind of rice that I don't seem to burn, and I like the way each individual piece of rice stands on it's own and doesn't clump up or stick.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pumpkin Spiced Ice Cream

The ice cream maker...my nemesis.

I loved you so much the day I brought you home. You were hiny and new and smelled good...then I began to loath you as one recipe failed. Then, another. And another. I spent so much money in hopes that I would win you over. Finally, I gave up on you. I stored you in the back of the cabinet, out of sight and out of mind. I forgot about you and all of the embarrassment you laid on me. I forgot your smell and your newness and the hum of your motor.

Then one day, I made a joke to my niece who *hates* pumpkin everything, and said "hmmm...I'm going to make some pumpkin ice cream to go with our pumpkin pie." Why would say such a thing when all you have done over the course of 5 years is fail me? I think it's because I'm a persistent bitch. And, I really want to make a successful ice cream!

On Wednesday, November 23, 2011, I cracked your code and your ice cold heart!

That's right!!! Ice cream SUCCESS!

I promptly threw out your little "recipe book" that does not have one single recipe that tells me to make an ice cream base with eggs. That truly is the secret.

So, now that I'm onto you and your trickiness, I can welcome you back into the family. Instead of the back of the cabinet, you now take center stage next to the blender and food processor. Welcome home, ice cream maker.


1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
the seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
5 grates of fresh nutmeg

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 1/2 cups of the cream and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, approximately 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the egg yolks, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg. Add the remaining cream and brown sugar. Whisk until the sugar begins to dissolve and the mixture becomes creamy.

Remove the cream mixture from the heat and temper your egg mixture. (Seriously - click on the link to learn how to "temper" your eggs - or else you will make scrambled egg ice cream, and that can't be tasty.) Transfer tempered mixture into the heavy saucepan and cook over medium hear, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and keeping the custard at a low simmer, until it becomes thick and coats the back of the spoon. Not not allow the custard to boil! Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and place the bowl into an ice bath, stirring occasionally to cool. Whisk the chilled pumpkin mixture into your ice cream base. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard, so you don't make a "skin." Chill for 3-24 hours.

After chilling, transfer to your ice cream maker and churn per the manufacturer's instructions. (I have to completely freeze my maker's bowl prior to churning, so there is definitely some plan-ahead activities to be aware of.) Transfer your ice cream into a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm. Scoop and serve!

Our Thanksgiving dessert was pumpk'tastic! Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spiced ice cream and a little drizzle of homemade Carmel sauce. Funny thing is, I didn't taste much pumpkin in the ice cream - just the essence of it, which is fine by me. The ice cream was surprisingly smooth and VERY rich, so one scoop really went a long way. My niece did try a small spoonful, but was not impressed. Oh well. I was! And really, all that matters is that the whole experiment didn't crash and burn.

Pumpkin spiced ice cream is so freaking good!!!

For those looking to make plain vanilla ice cream, I italicized the base ingredients. The recipe itself is pretty easy to decifer. If you'd like to add in something special, prior to churning, throw in whatever you'd like: fresh strawberries, chocolate chips, crushed cookies, etc.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How To - fluffy gnocchi

The word gnocchi may derive from the Italian word nocchio, meaning a knot in wood, or from nocca, meaning knuckle...and it's easy to see why, because that's exactly what these tasty little potato dumplings look like. For years I have been purchasing pre-made vacuum packed gnocchi at the grocery store, and it's so silly! Gnocchi are fairly easy to make, and taste a hell of a lot better when made with your own two hands, and not vacuum packed, to sit on a shelf for god knows how long. Although I try not to think about it, I do wonder how many chemicals it takes to keep the egg in them from going bad while sitting on said shelf. Hmmmmm....barf.

Gnocchi are often the served as an alternative to soups or pasta in some Italian eateries. I prefer them to be the star of own soups, which then enable those soups to become more of a meal of substance.

Contrary to popular thought - and what the Food Network has been pounding into my head for years, which is why I've never made them before - you DO NOT NEED a potato ricer. A fine strainer and a spoon will do the job quite nicely, and since most home cooks have them at their disposal already, there's no need to take a trip to the local kitchen supply store. Who has that kind of expendable income now-a-days anyway?!

I think it's pretty amazing that you can take 3 simple, everyday ingredients and transform them into something new and exciting.

Little cute pillows of potato GNOCCHI!

Basic Gnocchi

2 large potatoes
2 cups of flour
1 egg
salt, to taste

Peel and dice the potatoes into bite sized pieces, add to a medium pot and fill with water until potatoes are just covered. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain into a fine strainer for 5 minutes, or until potatoes have lost their moisture and are cool to the touch. Set strainer over a large bowl and mash cooked potatoes into the strainer, until your potatoes are "riced" into the awaiting bowl. It should look something like this:

Combine your "riced" potatoes with two cups of flour and one egg and combine using the paddle attachment of your mixer until the dough just comes together, about 1-2 minutes. Do not overwork the dough, as the gnocchi will then become tough.

Collect a handful of dough and roll into a long log, about 1/2 inch in diameter on a slightly floured surface. Cut into 1 inch pieces, then using the tines of a fork, flick each dough piece off, creating the shape and texture of the gnocchi. Place pre-cooked gnocchi in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and repeat until all the dough is used.

Don't worry if your gnocchi don't look uniform...homemade cooking should be rustic!

To cook: place handful of gnocchi in salted, boiling water until it floats to the top. Serve immediately in your favorite gnocchi application! (You can also store your homemade gnocchi for several days in an air tight container, or freeze them for later use.)

Like I said before, I like to beef up my soups with gnocchi, and since I recently dined on soup, salad and bread sticks from a chain that shall not be mentioned - I was inspired to whip up my own version of creamy chicken and gnocchi soup.

Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 large celery stalks (leafy tops included), diced
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cups pre-cooked chicken - your choice of diced or shredded white and/or dark meat
2 quarts of chicken stock
16 oz. of prepared gnocchi
1 cup of heavy cream
1 tsp each: dried parsley, oregano and thyme
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt oil and butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Add parsley, oregano and thyme - then add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Drop chicken and simmer for 1/2 hour until the liquid reduces slightly. (You can add more stock if your soup reduced too much.)

Right before service, add gnocchi. When the gnocchi floats, turn off the heat and add the cream, salt and pepper and grated nutmeg. Spoon into shallow dishes and serve with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

The texture of this soup is to die for...between the tender chicken and the fluffy, pillow'y gnocchi...I was in heaven! I also baked up some homemade bread to go along with this, so I could dunk the bread into the broth, which was so flavorful.

Truth be told, not only was this dinner - but also breakfast the next morning.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Frozen Tiramisu

I like Tiramisu. I like ice cream. Is there a way to combine the two? Hell yes! Buck "tradition" and make this...pronto! (And be extremely disappointed when there are no leftovers to chow on.)

Frozen Tiramisu

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups strong, freshly brewed coffee
1/3 cup Kahlua liqueur
Pre-made angel food cake
1/4 cup crushed Oreo Cookies
1/2 gallon of chocolate ice cream, softened*
1/2 gallon of coffee ice cream, softened*
whipped cream
Cocoa (for garnish)

Place sugar and 2/3 cups of water into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in brewed coffee and Kahlua. Let syrup cool completely.

Meanwhile, spray a 9x9x2 inch baking dish with vegetable spray. Using a serrated knife, cut angle food cake into thin squares, layering along the bottom of the dish. Using a pastry brush, brush the cake layer with the coffee syrup. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of crushed oreos over cake.

Spread a layer of chocolate ice cream over cake. Place a second layer of angle food cake over ice cream, and once again brush the cake with the remaining coffee syrup. Place in freezer until completely frozen.

Remove from freezer, sprinkle with remaining oreo cookie crumbs, and spread a layer of coffee ice cream over top. Freeze until completely hardened. When ready to serve, top each portion with freshly whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa, if desired.

Hello, lover.

*Time saver: If you do not have time to let your ice cream soften, place into a stand mixer bowl and beat on low until spreadable.

I was completely amazed at how great this turned out! The layers of angel food cake absorbed all of the liquid and became this gooey, coffee goodness - and the ice cream just held it all together, making it taste like traditional Tiramisu. It was a big hit at the "going away" dinner party I held for a friend who is going on a mission trip to Africa.

I may have licked my bowl.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Very Berry Gummy Squares

My all-time favorite candy is a tie between RED Gummy Bears and RED Sour Patch Kids, so when I came across a recipe in Taste of Home Magazine for making your own gumdrops, I was intrigued, but I had to change it up because I wanted more of an all-inclusive berry taste.

I must admit, I shelved it for quite some time. I like instant gratification and the process of making these provides none of that. There is a full 24-hour waiting period, while the semi-done gumdrops stare at you from across the room, taunting and whispering your name in their gelatenous sweetness. If you have a sweet tooth, like me, it's worse than Chinese Water Torture - or so I would think. The payoff is grand if you can muster up the extreme patience.

These gumdrops are soft and chewy and go down a little too easy, especially if you cut them into small bite sized pieces. They were the most perfect little Valentine's Day gift. I was impressed with how the cranberry flavor wasn't overwhelming, and am left wondering how I could change up the recipe to include other flavors. I have a couple of ideas that center around lemon curd and fruit juices, but that may include adding an additional packet of unflavored gelatin, to balance the liquid out. I'm up for figuring out the science of it all, because they are just that good.

My warning to anyone who makes this must be headed...1.) If you eat too much, you will get a severe stomach ache. And, 2.) Embrace the pink pee and poo! It means your systems are all working! *Sadly, this is not the first time I've mentioned poo on this blog.*


2 envelopes unflavored Knox gelatin
1/2 cup cold water

1 can jellied cranberry sauce

2 cups sugar

2 3-oz packages of raspberry gelatin

1 3-oz package of strawberry gelatin

granulated sugar, for dusting

In a saucepan, sprinkle unflavored gelatin over water. Let stand for two minutes, or until the gelatin softens. Add the cranberry sauce and 1 cup of sugar and cook over low heat until the cranberry sauce is melted and the sugar is completely dissolved, whisking lightly. Remove from the heat and add the raspberry and strawberry gelatin, stirring to completely dissolve.

Coat an 8x8x2'' pyrex baking pan with cooking spray. Dust lightly with sugar, and pour your gelatin mixture into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature overnight.

Cut into 1-inch squares with a knife that you've run until hot water, so it slips through the candy easier. Roll each piece in sugar. Place on baking sheets and let stand for 3 hour
s. Turn pieces over, roll in additional sugar, and let stand an additional 3 hours until very firm.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature until they are gone!