Gnocchi with Mushrooms in Rosemary butter

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter G. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

Little potato pillows of yum

I was having trouble with inspiration for G.   Not that there aren’t a bunch of great G foods (ginger, garlic, gummy worms, etc), it’s just that I wasn’t feeling inspired.   While we were discussing our alphabetic progression, I mentioned to Kettle that I was falling flat with G.  He thought for a second, and then offered up “What about homemade gnocchi?”
Mmm, genius.  And that’s why I love him.

Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s a very nice place to start.

We had never made gnocchi before.  It’s one of those items we think about making periodically, but never seem to get around to.  You’ll remember that we have a love for the homemade pastas, so it only seemed logical that we tackle gnocchi at somepoint.  Since I haven’t the foggiest on where to begin when making gnocchi, I generously put Kettle in charge.

Sending the hot potatoes through the mesh strainer creates a light, airy texture.

We decided to focus our creativity on how to sauce and complement them.  Kettle went basic with our first gnocchi prep, so we could learn the techinique and get a little more funky with it next time. For saucing them, we decided to build on the earthy nature of the potato but without going to heavy.  Though the gnocchi were soft and light, they are filling!  Kettle was aiming for a way to bring flavor without adding weight to the meal.  We ended up with an earthy concotion of mushrooms, rosemary, garlic, and butter.  The smell was awesome.  We used fresh Rosemary from our semi-successful patio garden.

Rosemary and Mushroom for the top.

Overall project gnocchi was a great success.  Sure, it takes a little extra work, but they taste wonderful.  Th most important part is not over working the dough and maintaining the light, airy texture that comes from sending it through the mesh strainer.  And Kettle will definitely be invited back for another round as head chef!

Gnocchi with mushrooms in rosemary butter

Inspiration found here.

1 lb russet potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 egg white
3/4 cup flour, extra for dusting
1/2 cup butter
5 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
1 pint baby bell mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
shaved parmesan for topping
First bake (or microwave until soft) potatoes, remove the skin and rough chop the potato as quickly as possible to release steam.  This part is hot so watch your finger! Then pass the hot potato mash through a potato ricer (or mesh sieve if you don’t have one) into a large bowl.  This creates a light and airy potato mixture and allows as much moister to leave the potatoes as possible.  Don’t mash them, they won’t get nearly light enough and the steam will remained trapped in the potatoes. Add the flour slowly to the potatoes and, with your hands, gently mix together to preserve airiness of the potatoes. Add the egg, salt, and baking powder, and mix together.  Your gnocchi dough is prepped.

Rolling out some gnocchi

Once the ingredients have been incorporated, dust a flat, open surface with flour and roll out small amounts of dough into a snake, roughly 1/4″ in diameter. Cut into 1″ segments and roll a fork over each piece to score the pasta. Add the gnocchi, roughly 10 at a time, to a large pot of highly salted water. The pasta will float to the surface within 1 minute. Cook the pasta for an additional 3-4 minutes and remove from the water.
To prepare the mushroom sauce, sauteed a pint of sliced baby bella mushrooms in olive oil for several minutes. We then added chopped garlic and sauteed for another two minutes. The heat was turned down to medium and a stick of butter was melted into the pan. Once the butter turned a shade of light brown, three sprigs of rosemary was added and the temperature was dropped to low to await the addition of the gnocchi.  Gently add the gnocchi the butter sauce. Top with fresh parmesan and rosemary and enjoy!

Back from the great beyond…..

I’m still here.  I started a new job in the fall and it keeps me a little busier.  Could you tell?  Sadly, it took me away from blogging for a bit as I adjusted.  But now that our ‘busy season’ is calming down, I’m back.  And not a moment too soon.  I’m back in time for all those lovely foods that come back in spring and summer.  This is not to say I haven’t been cooking.  I wouldn’t let poor Kettle and Mini starve!  I’ve got so much to share, so sit back and get ready.  Here’s a quick teaser of what’s to come.

I’d love to hear how you all are doing and what you’ve been cooking.

 

Enjoy!


Farmer’s Cheese with basil

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter F. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

Finished Farmer's Cheese

CSA mini-workshop number two was on making homemade cheese.  When it was announced, I thought it would be interesting, but I wasn’t sure how much I would really use it at home.  But never one to miss a learning opportunity, I was first to arrive again.

Let's eat.

The woman who taught it had lived on several organic dairy farms and had made all types of cheeses.  She was a wonderful resource for questions and ideas and, of course, I took full advantage.  We focused only on soft cheeses in order to complete the entire process (including prep, cooking, and taste testing) in under an hour and a half.  We made two soft cheeses: a farmer’s cheese and ricotta.

Bringing the heat.

It’s incredibly simple, like silly simple.  I actually could be heard saying a bit too loudly, “It’s that easy?  You’re kidding!”  The basic idea is to separate the curds from the whey.  Though the method is very simple, there are plenty of opportunities to make the recipe your own, starting with your choice of dairy.  Animal (cow, goat, etc), diet (grass fed, grain, etc), and fat content are all important factors that influence the flavor.

Separating the curds from the whey Miss Muffet style.

The process of making Farmer’s Cheese starts by heating the milk, removing it from heat, and then adding an acid.  The acid causes the curds (fats) from the whey.  The choice of acid will influence the final flavor and can add to the overall flavor profile.  I chose to use fresh lemon juice because I like the light freshness it adds to the flavor, and went with a less is more philosophy as far as volume.  If you don’t get good separation, you can always add more.

Strain carefully! Mixture is VERY hot!

The firmness of the cheese will depend on how long you strain it.  For a drier, more crumbly cheese, strain the cheese longer.  Once you are done straining, additional flavor can be added with fresh herbs or flavored salts. It’s perfect for ravioli filling or just spread on a good piece of crusty bread.  It’s so fresh and simple, and it tastes like nothing you buy in the store.  And eating it warm is pretty awesome too.

All strained and ready for flavoring

Farmer’s Cheese

For this demo:
2 cups whole milk
1+1/2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 leaf basil, chiffonade
.
Heat milk to 140°F with gentle stirring.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until there is a distinct separation between the curds and the whey.  Strain through cheese cloth, using a mesh strainer to support the cloth.  Be very careful, as the mixture will be extremely hot (trust me, I have the blisters to prove it).  Hang cloth (or wring gently) to remove excess moister.  Once desired firmness is obtained, stir in salt and other flavors.  Consume immediately or store in the refrigerator for a few days.  Cheese does not contain preservatives, so use the sniff test to check for freshness.
.
Enjoy!

Edamame Succotash

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter E. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

Mini's favorite green vegetable

One of the biggest challenges in feeding any mini human is getting them to eat their veggies, and Mini Sous Chef is no different.  Kettle and I are always trying to devise new veggie containing options that will please her peculiar palatte.  She is an odd one sometimes.  She loves miso soup with extra tofu, but won’t touch peanut butter with a ten foot pole.  But there are a few vegetables that she will gobble up, including edamame and corn.  This led Kettle and I to attempt to develop an Edamame Succotash this summer worthy of Mini Sous Chef’s attention.  We thought we’d come up with an idea that she’d love.  However, even though she liked all of the ingredients individually, she unfortunately didn’t like the salad.  At all.

Sweet Summer Corn

But Kettle and I sure loved it. So with a little extra tweaking, it became a mainstay of our summer salad rotation.  Not only is it simple to prep and easy to scale up, but it is also quite healthy and flavorful.  It features one of my favorite summer veggies, sweet corn, and utilizes my favorite summer cooking method, grilling (which can be substituted with broiling in the event of rain or lack of grill).  It makes a great side dish, salad for a cookout, or quick lunch out of the refrigerator.  It’s lovely eaten hot or cold.  The ingredient list is flexible and the ratios can be changed to favor items you like more or less. Below is the combination we thought worked best.

Edamame Succotash

Edamame Succotash

1/2 bag of shelled edamame (about 6 oz), drained

1 medium red pepper

4 ears of corn, still in husks (can use frozen, roasted corn from the cob)

3 tbsp Green Onion tops (green ends), thinly sliced

2+1/2 tbsp Olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

To roast the red pepper, grill (or broil) the red pepper whole, until skin is slightly charred on all sides. Remove the peppers from the grill and allow them to cool. Peel and dice the peppers and set them aside. Skin should peel away easily after roasting.  Remove silk from corn and wet down husks with a quick rinse in water.  Roast ears on grill or in oven (400 F) for about 20 minutes until husks are browned, turning several times.  Let corn cool, remove husks, and cut corn from cob (To add some additional flavor, grill the ears of corn for a few minutes to char slightly). Heat olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat.  Saute green onions for 2-3 minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add diced red pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes more.  Mix in corn and continue to saute 2 minutes.  Add edamame and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or cold.

Enjoy!


Dilly Beans (and a few other dilly items)

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter D. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

I’ve really wanted to get into canning.  My grandmother canned all types of things when I was little (relishes, pickles, jams, etc), but I never had a chance to take advantage of her knowledge before she passed away. I regret that now big time.  She had the advantage of using things directly from my grandfather’s garden.  It was big as he often overplanted resulting in any visitor being sent home with at least one brown bag full of produce, lopsided pumpkins, or other piece of garden bounty.  I have fond memories of wondering the rows with him and snacking on fresh green beans as we go.  How I cherished those memories and wish I could relive a tenth of it.

Green beans are my most favorite veggie

But, as luck would have it, canning is hot right now.  However, my inner nerd is petrified of giving Kettle botolism and therefore ruining my canning career and killing off my test audience.  That would be a big downer.  When our summer CSA started free mini-workshops at pick-up and announced the first one would be pickling, I nearly came unglued I was so excited.  Finally, someone with decades of experience trapped in a room with me, stuck answering all my questions.

The last bean and the leftover spices

The good news is that pickling is essentially the gateway method to harder types of canning.  It’s simple, you can’t really mess it up, and better yet, you can’t really kill anyone with it (unless they OD on your pickles because they are so awesome).  To put it nicely, my inner nerd flourished at the CSA workshop.  Did I sit front and center and show up 15 minutes early?  Yes and yes.  Did I take notes and email the lovely woman with additional questions?  Of course.  Did I enviously eye other people’s veggies to pickle and wish I had thought of it?  Yes, and I may have even bummed  spare veggies off them just to try.

In a pickle.

The set-up was awesome.  The organizers brought a whole variety of recipes, herbs, and spices and let us have at it.  There were only about 8 or 10 of us in the class, so there was plenty of time for me to accost the experienced canners without monopolizing their time.  We discussed variations, family methods, and ways to mix it up.  I focused on making dilly beans.  They are my favorite pickled snack and they make a fantastic garnish for bloody mary’s.  I also made a jar of cucumber pickles and jammed a few extra veggies in just for fun (carrot coins and radish halves).  I used garlic, dill, black mustard seeds, all spice, and coriander seeds to flavor my pickles along with a classic cold pack pickle brine.  After packing all the ingredients, the jars were topped and left at room temperature in a cool dark place for 5 days.  Once a day I did invert each jar to recirculate the spices.  On the sixth day, I put the jars in the refrigerator to stop the pickling process and on the seventh day, we ate.  Overall, major pickling success.  I may get a little more creative next time and add other spices (hot peppers) or more spices, but we had no problems eating them all.

Dilly Beans (a cold pack pickle recipe)

Care of the lovely ladies at our CSA

Brine

1+1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup coarse kosher salt

5+1/2 cups water

Spices (use as desired)

3 sprigs dill

1 clove garlic, halved

coriander seeds

black mustard seeds

all spice seeds

Place spices in the bottom of jar.  Tightly pack cleaned veggies upto 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.  Fill jar with brine to cover veggies (but no higher that 1/4 from top of the jar).  Cap and leave at room temp in a cool place for 5 days.  Stored in the refigerator for 24 hours and then eat.  They won’t last long!

Enjoy!

Green beans are my most favorite vegetable.


Chocolate Curry Ice Cream

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter C. Stay tuned for the rest to come.
The other day I found myself home alone with a little time on my hands, and this situation usually leads to devious behavior.  After a quick scan of the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, I landed on an activity to occupy my time.  Now, I’ve been wanting to make this item for sometime now, but I never seem to have the ingredients on hand, or the time, or the audience who is willing to eat it.  But I figured, what the heck.  Its pouring outside, I’m in my pj at 7pm, and I’ve got nothing better to do.  Now’s the time.

This is the start of something good.

I made ice cream, but not just any ice cream.  I made a Chocolate Curry ice cream.  Yep, you read that right.  Chocolate curry.

In a curry.

We make ice cream a lot around the casa.  So much so, that the ice cream maker had to go on hiatus because our joy for the process was beginning to show and I don’t just mean in our happy smiles, I mean in our waistlines.  But I figured this was a good enough reason to bring it back out.

Chopped!

I started with a rich, velvety chocolate ice cream base.  Like super rich.  Kettle actually thought I had made a custard base, but really the chocolate flavor is just that rich.  I used both dark chocolate and chocolate cocoa powder, not because I’m that creative, just because I ran out of dark and realized the new container was just regular.  I also used a mix of milk and semi-sweet chocolate chunks, once again not because I am a cooking genius, but because that’s what I had on hand.    As for the curry powder, this is the step that requires the most care.  Curry is a very strong ingredient and could easily overpower the whole flavor scene.  I went with the less is more philosophy since it was a first attempt.  It wasn’t overpowering by any means, it just provided some spice and depth on the backside of each taste.  In the future, I may add a little more.  This step is really up to you though and requires excessive taste testing!

In need of a tongue bath

Chocolate Curry Ice Cream

based on a chocolate ice cream found here.

2+1/4 cups heavy cream

3 tbsp unsweetened dark cocoa powder

3 tbsp unsweetened milk cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

pinch of salt

3oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1 oz milk chocolate, chopped

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp vanilla

Curry powder to taste (I used 2 tsp)

Whisk together cream, cocoa powder, sugar and salt on stove and bring to boil.  Whisk in chopped chocolate until melted, then whisk in milk, curry, and vanilla.  Chill mixture in the refrigerator. Once cool, pour into ice cream maker and let stir for about 15-20 min (or as recommended by machine).  Transfer to freezer and enjoy!


Banana Bread

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter B. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

There aren’t too many recipes I can say are family recipes.  My mother, though I love her dearly, is definitely not known for her cooking.  At least not in a good way.  Simple was the name of the game growing up.  She always made sure we ate well.  Colorful and balanced plates were always achieved.  But creativity and flavor were not always a focus.  When I think back on my mom in the kitchen, I have vivid memories of the few items she did well.  They were the few items she made from scratch and she made them very well and the scents and tastes of those items bring me great joy.

Golden brown goodness.

Banana bread is one of them. Even now when the wafts of warm banana bread fill the kitchen, I’m taken back to cooking with my mom.  Instead of lamenting the ugliness of overripe bananas, mom would dig out the old recipe card, tucked somewhere on the cookbook shelf in the livingroom.  The cookbooks were hidden on the very bottom, left shelf, tucked behind the rocking chair, as they were not used often.  In fact, I can’t remember her actually using any of the books except to hold the tinged old recipe card with the banana bread recipe.

Hot out of the oven

Now I too have a well aged index card that I keep stashed away with the simple recipe for banana bread.  It’s the only recipe I actually keep on an index card, the rest are in a word document.  I have a fondness for pulling it out whenever we end up with overripe bananas.

Dig in.

Banana Bread

2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

greased bread pan, I like a simple butter flour combo for this recipe

Bake at 350 for 45-55 min.

Nothing fancy here.  Just mash the bananas and stir in the rest of the ingredients.  Occasionally I will add a little cinnamon for some extra depth of flavor, but it good just as it’s written.  Serve warm with cream cheese or just plain.

Enjoy!


Back to School: Apple-Honey Shortbread Cookies

It’s back to school time here in the south.  As a northerner, I always find it odd seeing the school buses on their morning rounds before the temperatures have even thought about dropping.  Fall is one of my favorite parts about back to school, but there isn’t even hint of fall in the air down here, mostly just humidity.  And even though I myself am not heading back to school, my nostalgia hasn’t waned.  So I was inspired this week to work with the icon of back to school: apples.

A good way to keep the doctor away.

Yes, I know.  Gone are the days when students bring teachers apples, but there is something so classic about the apple I couldn’t resist. Plus, I have a new challenge to overcome at work.  Oh, don’t worry it’s not actually job related.  It’s cooking related.  Several of my coworkers are on diets.  The kind where you need to keep track of exactly what you are eating and count up things throughout the day.  I couldn’t be more supportive of their efforts, but it leads to a bit of a dilemma in terms of my baking.  You see they are often my test audience as much of my baking is for events at work (birthdays, fairwells, French lunch), so this new development has led me to look for ways to reduce the fat and up the health content of my recipes so that everyone can enjoy them.

Stacked.

This week for French lunch I decided to make cookies, but in an effort to appeal to my food conscious coworkers, I wanted to make something that tasted sweet but had a healthy bonus.  I settled on apple-honey shortbread cookies.  I used whole wheat pastry flour, grated apples, and honey to improve the content of these cookies.

Made with love.

I really like how they came out.  I used a smaller cookie cutter (1.5 inch heart) that made a ton of small cookies.  They were the great size for a quick snack, and they pair perfectly with tea.  I would probably reduce the sweetness a touch for the next batch, but that’s a personal choice.  Overall a great option for a group esp a morning meeting or snack.

Melt my heart

Apple-Honey Shortbread Cookies

Based on a recipe found here.
1+3/4 cup wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
1+1/4 sticks butter, at room temp
~1/3 cup grated apple
2 tbsp honey
Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whip together butter, honey and sugar.  Stir apple into butter/honey/sugar mixture.  Slowly fold in dry ingredients. Dough will be dry, but all ingredients will blend together.  Split dough in half, form into large disc, cover in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Roll out dough to ~1/2 inch thick and cut-out cookies with cookie cutter of your choice.  Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes on parchment lined cookie sheet.  Overall yield will depend on size of cookie cutter.
Enjoy!

Back to blogging

Sorry for the inexcusably long summer vacation here at the blog.  It was a very busy one full of all those major life events you rather space out (moving, finding a new job, etc).  I am happy to report all is well and I have lots of new thing to share!  Here is a quick photo recap of the summer to keep you happy until tomorrow when food posts return!

Nothing like putting your toes or suction cups in the sand.

Not the usual type of jelly we talk about here!

Lucky Horseshoe crab.

Sometimes it's nice to leave the city!

But it's always nice to return home again.


Homemade Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Sorry about the lack of posts last week.  My dog literally ate my ‘homework’, which in baking terms means my dog (Kettle calls her “the stomach”) attempted to eat a 2lb bag of flour while I was at work and became violently ill, consuming a lot of my time last week. She is going to be fine, but the jury is still out on the carpet.  May you never have to try to get paste made from flour and dogdrool out of your carpet!  What a mess.  But enough with the excuses and on to the good stuff!  Baseball/ballpark food week continues!

So festive and fun!

Mmm hmmm, you read the title of this post right.  I went there.  I made them at home there by forcing myself to eat way too many of them.  But you know what?  I liked it. Every last bite.
The cookie ice cream sandwich is my brother’s weakness.  The boy can pop them down like its going out of style.  Not normally someone I would like to for recipe ideas or food advice, he is a true junk foodie, whose diet includes things like Hot Pockets and Doritos. But in the case of the cookie ice cream sandwich, I can’t fault him.  They are dang good and even better on a hot day.

Who doesnt love having these guys around?

These are silly easy and I think that is the biggest problem with the recipe.  If you can make chocolate chip cookies, and have the patience to combine said cookies with ice cream in an orderly fashion (as opposed to swallowing them all whole in some cookie monster style feeding frenzy), then you can make them too!  Oh, and mini sous chefs love them too.  Then again, I think everyone loves them.

In need of sprinkles.

The only bonus to making them at home, besides being able to play with different cookie/ice cream combos, is portion control.  I chose to make mine on the smaller side as to minimize the guilt of eating them.  Oh, who am I kidding, I don’t feel guilt.

I swear I didnt eat them all!

Homemade Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

For this recipe, I used a classic chocolate chip cookie and paired it with vanilla ice cream.  Feel free to get creative!  You can use any combo you can think of!

Classic Chocolate chip cookies (small batch)

1+1/8 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/8 cup brown sugar

3/8 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 egg

4-6oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla.  Beat in egg.  Slowly combine in dry ingredients.  Once well combined, fold in chocolate chips.  Bake at 375°F for 8-10 minutes.

Make cookies as directed and allow them to fully cool on a cooling rack.  Be careful to make evenly sized cookies so they make prettier sandwiches.  I made the cookies one night and assembled the sandwiches the next so I didn’t rush it.   When you are ready to assemble, let the ice cream sit on the counter for 15 minutes.  This allows it to soften and make assembly much easier.  Assemble cookies and ice cream, and then rotate sandwich on end in a bowl of sprinkles (or mini chips) to decorate.  Pop sandwiches back in the freezer for a few minutes to allow the ice cream to firm back up.
Enjoy!

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