Gnocchi

I haven’t ever made gnocchi before, but my boys love it and I find it delicious and with the weather having turned cold while I was in Germany for business, it just sounds delicious.

I found a recipe online and decided to give it a whirl.

First, I gathered all of my ingredients, including the sweet potatoes I baked on Sunday.


Set the sweet potatoes where already baked, I started on the lemon ricotta. I zested my lemon after cleaning it, then juiced a half.

  

Minced a few leaves of sage.

  

Then whisked it up with the olive oil and ricotta.

 

Then I started the pasta and found the errors in the recipe: not nearly enough flour and serves 4?!?

Since the potatoes were already baked, the only tasks were to unwrap and peel.

    
Peeling was very easy. I used an applesauce pan because I don’t have a potato ricer. Then I added the other ingredients, mixed them and determined that the flour was insufficient to form a dough.

      

The recipe called for 2 cups of flour, I added another 2 cups while kneading to make smooth dough.

        
From here I cut it into quarters and then each of those in half before rolling them into ropes.

  

I cut each rope in ½” segments.

I don’t have a gnocchi board so I used a fork to roll them by setting a piece on a floured fork, pressing gently with my thumb, and then rolling it off the end. 

      
The result was two pretty trays of gnocchi; one would have been enough for 4.


While these rested, I boiled the water and sliced the garlic.

    
Once the water was at a full rolling boil I added salt to the water and started browning the butter with the sage, thyme, and garlic.

    
The pasta only took two minutes, then I added it to the butter.

  
Meanwhile, I cooked some chicken apple sausages in a bit of hard cider with a quick broil at the end to brown them.


Fabulous dinner.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Lemon Ricotta

Prep 20 minutes ∙ Cook 1 hour and 10 minutes ∙ Makes Yield: 4 servings ∙ Source Tastingtable.com

INGREDIENTS

For the Gnocchi:

  • 1 pound (2 medium) sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 sage sprig

For the Lemon Ricotta:

  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon minced sage

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Wrap each sweet potato in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until tender, 1 hour. (Canbe done inadvance and refrigerated.

2. Meanwhile, make the lemon ricotta: In a medium bowl, whisk all of the lemon ricotta ingredients together until smooth.

3. Let cool slightly, then peel each sweet potato and rice through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Add the ricotta, eggs, 2 cups flour, salt and pepper, and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.

4. Transfer to a heavily floured work surface and knead with the remaining flour (as needed) until smooth. Your dough will be soft. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and roll each into a long rope, ½” thick. Using a bench scraper or paring knife, cut the gnocchi into ½” pieces. (If you want, you can press the gnocchi against a gnocchi board or a fork.)

5. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, heat the butter with the garlic, thyme and sage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the butter has browned, 4 to 5 minutes. After 2 minutes of cooking the butter, drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook until they float, 2 minutes.

6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the pan of brown butter and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Divide between plates and top each with a dollop of the lemon ricotta, then serve.

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Simple Pasta

I have been focusing a lot lately on recipes I have found and fixing them to something I like. Today, however, I approached dinner with my husband out of town for the week after all of us were gone for the weekend. You may have guessed, I have not been grocery shopping so it was time to test my other skills.

My examination of the the possibilities yielded 3 Italian sausages, two partial packages of farfalle pasta, and two cups of cherry tomatoes. I always have herbs outside (until the hard frost), cream, butter, and garlic…my idea formed.


It came together quickly. I minced my garlic, chopped the herbs, cut the tomatoes, and sliced the sausage while the water came to a boil.

    

After adding the pasta to the pan and setting it to cook a couple minutes shy of al dente, I heated a touch of olive oil in my skillet and added the sausage over high heat. It was already cooked, so I simply wanted to heat it through and start browning the sides of the slices.


I added in the garlic with a quick stir and followed with the tomatoes and herbs.

  
It only took a few minutes for the tomatoes to start to soften, at that point I added the pasta and a cup of the pasta water to continue the cooking. While stirring I added about ½ cup more of the water and just a dash of pepper flakes.

  
When the pasta was done and the liquid mostly gone, I added just a bit of cream and stirred in some Parmesan.

  
A tablespoon of butter and some fresh basil brought it all together at the end with a slice of garlic bread.

  
A perfect meal.

Chorizo and Shrimp Burgers

I started my planning for this meal yesterday while making my grocery list, I didn’t have a recipe for is simply the concept above listed as the title. Because my youngest says that everything is better with bacon, and that I have to have extra beyond what the recipe calls for just for him, I am starting with 12 slices of thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon.

And, typical for me, I am baked them at 400°F. I don’t preheat the oven, I simply put the tray in the cold oven and turn it on.
While they were cooking, I cleaned the shrimp.

      

I placed these in a bowl where I chopped them with my Pampered Chef Mix ‘n Chop.

  

Then I added in the chorizo and some basil from my garden which I chopped; I also set aside some basil to use as lettuce.

 

I mixed these together with a bit of salt and pepper.

 

After that, I took the bacon out of the oven.

I decided to make very thin burgers, with the intent of double stacking them. I placed each on a sheet of foil brushed with olive oil.

I also added some parsley to my basil “lettuce” and thinly sliced a red onion as condiments to go with my guacamole.

Then I shucked my fresh Michigan corn and waited for everyone to be hungry.

  

With the weather not cooperating, I elected to grill inside.

Knowing that the chorizo has a tendency to stick, I left the burgers on the foil to cook.

      

The burgers took ~2 minutes per side and the corn was done in 5.

 

Yum!!!!!

Tortellini with Pesto

It’s the second to last dinner for my eldest before he heads off to college so I picked an old favorite from his childhood. It’s one that we all love and has carried through as the years go by, of course it’s hard to go wrong with homemade pesto. 

When we found out that he was allergic to nuts I went on a mission to find one that I liked that was nut-free. This one has stood the test of time. 

I started with my basil: a mix of Thai and regular basil (any basil works, I had extra since I’m using it in my dessert tomorrow too). Once it was cleaned I pulled off my leaves and separated it out into portions.


The portion for the pesto went into the food processor with a few cloves of garlic. 

      

Then I started the grill and the water. The Italian sausage took 10 minutes so I started those first, then came in and blanched the basil for tomorrow in my pasta water.

.              

Then I cooked the pasta in the basil water and turned the sausage.

  
I blended up the pesto in the food processor just before the pasta finished, adding salt, pepper, and olive oil after the basil was chopped and finishing with the Parmesan.  

         

While the pasta drained I pulled the sausage off the grill.

  

Then I came in and tossed the pasta – dinner is served and I have a happy boy. 

    

Tortellini with Pesto
Entrées, Pastas, Tested and Approved!

Cook 10 minutes ∙ Makes 4 ∙ Difficulty Easy 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups basil leaves, fresh, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1½-2 pounds tortellini, cooked

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor, pulse the basil and garlic until roughly chopped. With the machine on, slowly pour in the oil until just blended. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper and mix until just blended. 
Toss the pesto into cooked tortellini. 

This can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Dinner for One

It’s been a long time since I prepared a dinner for only myself, in this typically busy house it’s more common to cook for extras. Today was an oddity, my eldest is off with his friends for the week enjoy the last bit of summer before they head in their separate directions, my youngest had an opportunity to go out with friends, and my husband is at a work event.

We had a busy weekend after arriving back from vacation, and today was actually my first full trip to the grocery store so I tossed my original plan for dinner and picked myself up something simple.


I chopped up my tomatoes, mozzarella, and olives, then brushed the naan with the oil from the marinated tomatoes and mozzarella.


I decided to cook on my grill pan over medium high heat, and after turning the bread I topped it with the tomatoes, mozzarella, and olives, along with my fresh basil and torn prosciutto.

    

At the end, I sprinkled it with cracked pepper and some pepper flakes and enjoyed it with my wine.


Perfect.

Dining at Disney – Sanaa

Time for another disclosure, this is my second favorite restaurant at Disney World and there are days I have difficulty making that ranking decision between Sanaa and California Grill. They are dramatically different restaurants both in food and price, but the quality shines through in both locations. The food is so unique here that we verify all of our dishes are nut and fish free so that we all can share bites of everything.

I remember our first visit to Sanaa and encouraging my husband and boys to try the bread service with all of the toppings, they weren’t sure about it, but I had visited India and knew how good this could be. Sanaa executes this perfectly and we now order it every time we visit; yesterday was no exception and it vanished quickly.


We ordered a South African wine to pair with our food; most of the menu is African and Indian flavors and my husband and I learned long ago that a wine local to the type of food will pair well.


All of our dishes were amazing, and I have sincere compliments to the chef; that original visit inspired me to bring lamb into my own cooking. My eldest ordered the lamb shank, on our original trip it was the youngest, and I tought them both to make sure they get the marrow from inside the bone as well as the meat from outside. After the duration of cooking it’s perfect. The meat simply falls off of the bone when you pick it up: perfection.


I selected the duck; I can’t get it fresh and I haven’t had success reproducing recipes with frozen so this has not made it into my repertoire. It was served a perfect medium rare, with very crispy skin and duck confit (made from the legs and thighs) on the side. Like the lamb and other red meats, when cooked correctly it simply melts in your mouth.


My husband opted for the Braaivleis, a trio of grilled meats; the meats aren’t ever listed on the menu as they are subject to change. His came with pork tenderloin, lamb chops, and a boar meat sausage. All were perfect and flavorful, with the sausage as a clear favorite of my husband and boys due to the unique flavor profile.


My youngest selected the Spicy Durban Shrimp with Aloo Masala after researching all of the terms so that he knew what he was ordering. Again, another amazing dish, the shrimp were full of flavor, and we may have to start ordering extra bread to soak up the sauces.


When it comes to nuts, the desserts are different story and my eldest made sure he ate enough that he didn’t want dessert. My youngest got the Spice Trade Candy Bar and my husband and I split the Kenyan Coffee Petit Entremet. Both were amazing.

  

If you are willing to be a bit more daring in food options, definitely try Sanaa.


Dining at Disney – Via Napoli

Yesterday we enjoyed another favorite, not for dinner, but rather for a very late lunch. We try to do this at least once during our longer trips at Disney to get a pizza “fix” which we enjoy at home at least once a week. Via Napoli, is our well-established favorite for this with their flour imported from Italy, San Marzano tomatoes, and in-house made mozzarella. In the future, we may have to try Blaze in Disney Springs…maybe.

The meal is simple, red sangria, an appetizer (prosciutto and melon this time), a family style salad, and a large pizza.


The melon and prosciutto is easy to do at home, the saltiness of the prosciutto and the melon are simply a perfect complement. This is a very elegant simple appetizer on skewers if you are looking for something unique. And the salad was loaded with tomatoes, cucumber, green and Kalamata olives, marinated mushrooms, and peperocini and peppadew peppers with a simple red wine vinaigrette was perfect in the heat of the day.


We followed this with a pizza with some of our favorite toppings; this is always the difficult decision since we love them all. We selected Italian sausage, pancetta, and pepperoni.

All good!


We rounded out the day with snacks as we got hungry.

Dining at Disney – The Boathouse

My husband made yesterday’s reservations based on a recommendation from a friend. It is one of the new restaurants located in Disney Springs and it is right on the water. They have a collection of vintage Amphicars (they go straight from the road into the water) that you can take tours of the lake on. The evening was nice, so we elected to sit outside and enjoy the view. We began our meal with wine and bread.

  

They have a very good raw bar and we elected to have a dozen oysters as a starter, on a good/bad note the raw bar was so backed up that they didn’t arrive until our meal, but the manager made it more than right and they were really good. We had selected the Lucky Dux oysters which are harvested in Massachusetts for the Boathouse. They were served with a classic cocktail sauce loaded with horseradish and a cucumber mignonette (cucumber, garlic, lime, oil); I could not decide which complemented them better. 


For the table, my husband ordered Truffle Fries with Lemon Aioli; we rarely eat fries so these were a treat, even more so since they were tossed the the truffle oil and freshly minced garlic and parsley. They did however deliver a huge bowl of these, since we have plenty left I am considering turning them into hash browns or making a hash with those and the shrimp (see next paragraph) this morning. I thought I had a better picture, this will have to suffice.


Concerned about the portion sizes after looking around I selected a cup of Maine Lobster Bisque and the Firecracker Shrimp appetizer as my dinner (especially in consideration of the oysters and fries). I was right and still brought back over half of the shrimp. (I still need to get lobster bisque into my recipes.) The shrimp really were deserving of their name; I had been looking for some spicy food and these delivered. The shrimp are very lightly fried with sliced Serrano and sweet peppers, and then tossed in the sriracha mayo; wow.

  

My husband selected the New Smyrna Beach Wild Cobia from their daily fish features; it was cooked perfectly and well complemented by the roasted vegetables.  


My youngest select the Grilled Fresh Fish Tacos, which arrived with huge chunks of fish (we forgot to ask the variety) and avocado along with a jalapeño-lime crema. He simply devoured the plate and commented that they were amazing. He did have enough space to help me with a few shrimp, taste my husband’s cobia, and devour some fries.


My eldest, with the fish allergy, selected the Grilled Sea of Cortez Shrimp & Grits. Somehow I didn’t get to taste this either, he said it was delicious and that the grits were amazing.


This was certainly some of the best seafood we have had, not only at Disney, and we will be returning!

  

Dining at Disney – Kona Café

Decided to relax yesterday evening rather than finish this post, it is a vacation after all. 

Margaritas were the choice for this evenings accompaniment; I selected habanero lime, it had a very mild hint of spice. I would recommend that they allow it to be a bit hotter and ease up on the sugar.

As with all Disney restaurants they are very helpful when it come to allergies. They serve a Hawaiian bread made with pineapple juice and serve it with a house-made macadamia nut butter. For my nut allergy eldest, they brought real butter and kept the other off of the plate. For those without allergies, the macadamia butter is really good.


We had the Seasonal special roll for an appetizer, a California Roll with lightly seared Hamachi Tuna and our fish allergy eldest selected the Tomato Bisque topped with Bacon and Arugula Oil. The sushi was really good, definitely what a had a craving for. I did get to taste the soup, wow, another item I need to work on at home. 

  

For dinner, we had very varied meals, I selected the Tuna Poke appetizer along with another roll, the Hamachi Tuna-Cilantro Roll. I have to say it was too much for me, and I should have skipped the second roll even though it was really good. The poke was awesome!

My husband had the fresh fish of the day, a pistachio encrusted tile fish, which was really good and prepared well.


The boys selected the Duo of Pork and the Island Burger. The chili-rubbed pork loin elicited the only (mild) complaint; my boys are used to very moist pork tenderloin, as I cook mine until the center reaches 135, and then let it rest so that I serve it at 140-145.

  
Overall, it was a very good reasonably priced meal, I forgot to take a picture of the menu, but all Disney menus can be found, here is the one for Kona.

Dining at Disney – The California Grill

My up front disclaimer: this is my favorite restaurant on property. In my opinion worth every single penny.

As usual we started with drinks, a very dry, slightly dirty vodka martini for me and a vodka gimlet for my husband while the boys dug into the lavender focchia bread with butter and Hawaiian sea salt.

  
  

And then we ordered the wine, which was just waiting to be paired with food.


As I sit here and look out at Cinderella’s castle I am content reflecting on our dinners. My husband and eldest had the win with the filet on black truffle risotto and a side of French green beans. The steaks were a perfect medium rare and the truffle risotto was simply divine.


My youngest selected the sushi for his meal; thankfully this way I could steal a taste in trade for bites of my own dinner. He had the lobster and spicy Kazan rolls (these are a great appetizer, as are the beet salad and flatbreads). The menu changes regularly but there are certain consistencies that I have recognized over the past 21 years. 


I had the cioppino, also amazing but messy since everything is in its shell. 


Please enjoy, it’s amazing. Also, note that you need to dress for the occasion; this is not a casual restaurant.