Baked Gnocchi With Basil, Prosciutto & Cream Sauce.

Baked Gnocchi With Basil, Prosciutto & Cream Sauce.

Comfort foods come in all shape and sizes. A hearty beef stew or chili. Meatloaf or your grandma’s classic casserole. But last weekend, I had the good fortune of adding a new meal to the comfort food list: Baked Gnocchi with Basil, Prosciutto & Cream Sauce.

PicMonkey Collage2

Ingredients: 3 pounds cooked gnocchi / 2 cups heavy cream / 4 tablespoons butter / Salt + white pepper / 1/4 cup chopped basil / 1/4 pound prosciutto / 1/2 Pecorino Romano cheese / (Other suggested additions: Spinach, peas, bacon, etc.)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. / Warm cream and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. / Remove from heat, and add salt, pepper, basil and half of the cheese. / Lightly butter a 9×13 pan (or small, individual casserole pans), and add gnocchi. / Chop the prosciutto, and add to the gnocchi. / Pour cream sauce into the pan, and top with remaining cheese. / Bake for 25-30 minutes. / Pair with a crisp Pinot Grigio, and enjoy.

IMG_4319

Baked Cheddar Eggs & Potatoes.

Baked Cheddar Eggs & Potatoes.

Every morning, I eat a salad for breakfast. A bean salad, to be specific. Coffee bean salad. Okay, every morning, I drink coffee. A ton of it. I don’t actually eat breakfast.

I know, I know. It’s the most important meal of the day. But during the week, breakfast just isn’t a priority. But on the weekends? Well, that’s a different story. I love breakfast (and especially brunch) on the weekends. So, when my sista from anotha mista Brittany came into town, we decided to spend our Saturday morning in the kitchen, whipping up some breakfast grub. (I mean, what else is there to do the morning after the Pirates take down the Braves 3-2? Besides binge watch How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, of course.)

IMG_3840

Armed with a short grocery list and hungry stomachs, we hit the grocery store for the supplies we needed to make Baked Cheddar Eggs & Potatoes.

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons of butter / 1.5 pounds of diced red potatoes / Minced parsley / Salt + pepper / 8 eggs / Extra sharp cheddar cheese, or your preferred flavor

Directions: Preheat oven to 400˚F. / In an ovenproof skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. / Add potatoes, and cook until golden and tender. / Stir in parsley, salt and pepper to taste. / With a spoon, create four wells in the potatoes. / Break two eggs into each well. / Bake for 9-11 minutes. / Remove from oven, and sprinkle with cheese. / Bake for an additional 1-2 minutes. / Serve immediately with a mimosa. Or a manmosa. Or a bloody Mary. Or just your favorite breakfast cocktail. / Enjoy with a good friend.

PicMonkey Collage

Not Quite Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizza.

Not Quite Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizza.

Since Madison’s post about her amazing Roasted Toasted Roarin’ Chickpeas, quite a lot has happened that I haven’t had any time to write about.

I took a Gin & Tonic class at Wigle Whiskey to celebrate Dan’s birthday (Happy birthday!), where we made our own tonic and learned all about the gin they distill there. Uhhh-mazing, and something y’all should definitely do if you have the time.

IMG_2794

Then, I took a quick trip home to watch my brother’s play ice hockey — they killed it, by the way — and ate at Lancaster Brewing Company, where there was a surprisingly delicious selection of beer and food. Can’t beat that.

IMG_2795

Then, I made my first trip of the season to Pusadee’s Garden, an all-time favorite of mine. They never disappoint. The company wasn’t so bad either. (Holla atcha girl, future Volkmans. Who needs champagne on a sidewalk when you’ve got such a lovely spread on the table?)

IMG_2796

And then, I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon 5k with my family. Last year, it was the only thing my dad wanted: to run the marathon relay with his family. Unfortunately, an ill timed bum ankle prevented him from participating in the race, so we tried it again this year. The boys were too young to qualify as relay runners, so we signed up for the 5k instead. It sucked and I’m way out of shape, but it truly was the most gratifying thing to cross the finish line, hand-in-hand with my brother and my dad. A moment I won’t soon forget.

IMG_2797

And last weekend, I took a trip to the family farm to celebrate Claude’s 72nd birthday and Mother’s Day. I wish I could even begin to describe the feeling I get on that farm. It’s been around forever, but I always discover something new when I’m there. It’s comfortable and homey, but it feels like a vacation. And the company? Well, the company sure is hard to beat.

IMG_2798

Then I came home and pressed some grapefruit in my new juicer. Thanks, Gran!

IMG_2786

So, here I am, back in Pittsburgh on a Monday night after what has been a whirlwind few weeks. A 10-hour work day under my belt, and the air is thick and hot. The last thing I want to do is make dinner, but hey, a girl’s gotta eat, right? A spontaneous ride home from work with Hailey led me to the grocery store, and — more specifically — the part of the produce aisle where the eggplants live.

IMG_2791

The last time I was in Nashville, my best friend’s sister made eggplant pizza. It piqued my interest then, and it came flooding back to me today while Hailey was gathering her evening allotment of okra. I also remembered reading about Julia Child’s extra fancy, probably extra delicious eggplant pizza. Feeling like a semi-chef-rockstar and ready to tackle this weird looking vegetable, I grabbed the best looking eggplant I could find and threw it in the basket (along with some pesto, marinara and the biggest slices of pepperoni I’ve ever seen).

IMG_2792

Ingredients: Eggplant, cut into 1/4″ slices / Olive oil / Salt + pepper / Sauce (whatever kind you’d like) / Pepperoni / Cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 400˚F. / Brush the slices of eggplant with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. / Generously apply the sauce. I couldn’t choose, so I went with some pesto and some marinara. / Top with pepperoni and cheese. / Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown. / Serve with a glass of your favorite Barbera. / Enjoy!

Check out Julia’s recipe here.

IMG_2793

Roasted, Toasted Roarin’ Chickpeas

Roasted, Toasted Roarin’ Chickpeas

This week, I’m excited to introduce my very first guest blogger (and bestie): Madison Suarez! Newly engaged (holla!) and a fellow writing enthusiast, Madison shares her recipe for her Roasted, Toasted Roarin’ Chickpeas below! (Be sure to check out her blog, Happily Hangry!)


I grew up deprived. Deprived of certain foods. My mom is a picky eater, and my brother is cut from the same cloth—the most exotic vegetable I ate growing up were fresh green beans or corn on the cob, both seasoned with salt, pepper and butter only. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. I just missed out on a LOT of “exotic” food.

For example, it took me 26 years to discover the glory of Chickpeas.

Sure they’re in most salad bars, served as side dishes, in many vegetarian dishes. And college was a time of self-discovery (hard-boiled eggs, quesadillas, my very own chili!). I still wasn’t exposed to them. It took going to a nutritionist—“Give ‘em a shot. Protein-packed little suckers,” she said—to realize exactly how much I had been missing.

Since this summer I’ve been experimenting with them a few times a week: hummus, sautéed with spinach, burgers, check. I wanted more. It wasn’t until a stay in a Seattle hotel with a bougie vegetarian menu that I stumbled upon ROASTED CHICKPEAS.

After a few tweaks based on my sensitivities to life, I had my new favorite snack.

Roasted, Toasted Roarin’ Chickpeas

You’ll need:

1 can of Chickpeas
Some Olive Oil
Your favorite spices
Baking sheet
Strainer
A ton of paper towels

IMG_2222

Then you’ll

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Pop open your can of chickpeas, dump into a strainer and rinse those little guys. I removed the skin (because it was almost kinda fun, to be honest) but you can leave them on if you’re crunched for time.
  • Once your beans are washed, spread evenly on a layer of paper towels to dry. Use another layer of paper towels to absorb moisture from the top, and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Be patient because dryer pre-cooked beans = crunchier cooked beans!

PicMonkey Collage

  • Time to toss ‘em with Olive Oil and your favorite spices. I used:
    • Cayenne Pepper
    • Salt
    • Black Pepper
    • Paprika
    • Cumin
  • Mix it all together and pour onto a non-greased baking sheet. Toast for 20 minutes or until they meet your crunch desire.
  • Keeping your baking sheet of beans in the oven, turn the oven OFF and leave the door cracked open. Let them cool IN THE OVEN for an additional 10 minutes.
  • EAT! I don’t have a trick for storing. Hurry.

IMG_2223

Enjoy!

An Easter Away From Home.

An Easter Away From Home.

I’m big on family. Always have been, always will be. So when I made the decision to spend Easter here in Pittsburgh, a  part of me was sad… but there was also a small part of me that was excited to tackle an Easter meal all on my own.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

In the spirit of making the most of our Easter away from home, we wanted to celebrate the holiday with some friends who have been like family to us. (Shoutout to yinz, Nate and Megan!) So, I made a list of my favorite family recipes, scoured Pinterest for a few more ideas, and came up with a menu for my first ever Easter lunch.

IMG_2091

The ham turned out to be the easy part, although it was the one thing I had been dreading most. I woke up early in the morning to put our huge slab of meat in the crockpot with three cups of brown sugar and a can of chunked pineapple, turned the heat to high, and let it cook for five hours. Boom: done.

PicMonkey Collage

Next up: a simple seven layer salad. I used my mom’s classic recipe, where you literally just pile seven layers of ingredients (spinach, pees, red onion, a mayo/sugar dressing, cheeses, bacon and bread crumbs) on top of one another. Another Easter dish complete, check!

IMG_2087

Then I moved on to a dish that was a little unconventional: Rosemary Quinoa Mac & Cheese. My grandma makes the best mac and cheese ever — something I’m fairly certain I’ll never be able to recreate. So, I tried my hand at a much healthier version of this Easter staple. It took me a little while to find my groove, but I’m pretty pleased with the end result.

Ingredients: 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets / .25c cashews / .25c milk / 1 tsp. dijon mustard / Paprika, salt + pepper / 4c cooked quinoa / 1.5c shredded cheese / .25c rosemary

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375, and grease a baking dish. / Steam the cauliflower florets until tender. / Place steamed cauliflower into a blender. Add the cashews, milk, mustard and spices. Blend until smooth, adding in milk until you’ve reached a think soupy consistency. / Place cooked quinoa into a large mixing bowl. Add cream mixture and 1c of cheese. Stir to combine. Fold in rosemary. / Transfer mixture to the greased baking dish. Top with cheese and rosemary. / Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

IMG_2090

With the Rosemary Quinoa Mac & Cheese in the oven and looking scrumptious, I moved on to the Honey Mustard & Rosemary Glazed Carrots. (If you can’t tell, I’m all about rosemary these days.) These were super easy to throw together, and had the perfect sweet and salty ratio. Mmm mmm good.

Ingredients: Carrots — as many or as little as you’d like / EVOO / Unpasteurized honey / Dijon mustard / Rosemary / Garlic, minced / Salt + pepper / Parsley

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425. / Cut the carrots to your desired size. (I quartered mine – one cut across and one cut lengthwise.) / In a separate bowl, mix together the EVOO, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. / Pour over carrots, and mix thoroughly. / Spread carrots in a single layer on a baking dish. / Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally. / Sprinkle with fresh parsley (or some pecorino romano) before serving.

We hunkered down in the living room, plates full of food, and hearts full of happiness. It’s rare to have friends that feel like your family, but on a day spent away from home, it’s something I’m extra thankful for.

And one last thing: Huge shoutout to Hailey for her bomb.com green bean casserole, potato casserole, chocolate mousse and homemade ice cream, and to Nate for his homemade bacon herb bread! Y’all are the best.

Blue Apron: Baked Fontina Pasta. 

Blue Apron: Baked Fontina Pasta. 

It was another Sunday for the introverted books. After a go-go-go few weeks, I was relishing in my calm, quiet, planless afternoon. I took a nap, watched about a zillion episodes of Parenthood and decided that maybe I should cook some of the mountains of food in my refrigerator, rather than order sushi from the hole-in-the-wall place down the street.

 

I haven’t been on a huge meat kick, so I chose to make one of the vegetarian dishes we received in our latest shipment of Blue Apron: Baked Fontina Pasta. It combined quite a few of my favorite ingredients into one — cheese, Brussels sprouts and pasta — so I had a feeling it would be a resounding success for my tastebuds.

  

As I chopped and mixed and boiled and toasted, dancing around the kitchen to my Catgrooves playlist on Spotify, it dawned on me why I love empty Sundays so much. It’s a day when, generally speaking, I have the house to myself and I can take the time to do the things that I genuinely enjoy, but rarely have time for. Like cooking. And reading. And this: blogging.

 

So, I cozied up on the couch with a piping hot bowl of my creamy, salty, meat-free dinner, Netflix and Buxton, and I just couldn’t help but smile. I’m really fortunate enough to do the things that I love in a home that I love while surrounded by people (and a cat) that I love. And there’s really not a whole lot that’s better than that.

Ingredients: Campanelle pasta / Brussel sprouts, shaved / Sage, chopped / Flour / Fontina cheese / Butter / Heavy cream / Shallot / Panko breadcrumbs

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450. / Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until al dente. / Set pasta aside, reserving two cups of the pasta water. / Toast breadcrumbs and chopped sage in two tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick pan. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. / In the same pan, cook the shallot in olive oil until soft. Add brussel sprouts and cook until softened and bright green. / In the pot used to cook the pasta, melt the butter. Add the flour, heavy cream, reserved pasta water and fontina cheese. Stir until melted and combined. / Add the cooked pasta and sprouts to the sauce and thoroughly mix together. Season with salt and pepper. / Transfer to baking dish and cook for 5-7 minutes. / Serve with a crisp Chardonnay and enjoy!

Easy Like a Sunday Morning: Chocolate-Dipped Almond Biscotti.

Easy Like a Sunday Morning: Chocolate-Dipped Almond Biscotti.

This morning, I woke up slowly, warmly snuggled in my bed, wonderfully content and cozy. All of a sudden, my craving for breakfast — and an excessive amount of coffee — kicked in. Not a savory breakfast, which is my usual choice, but something sweet. Something with chocolate.

IMG_1147

I stayed in bed for another hour or so — because hey, that’s what Sundays are for — before I dragged myself out of bed and to the grocery store, armed with a recipe for almond biscotti.

PicMonkey Collage1

An hour and a half and two cups of coffee later, the biscotti was done and wonderful. I always thought that Sundays were for cuddling. Now I know that they’re for cuddling and biscotti.

IMG_1157

Ingredients: 1 c. toasted almonds / 2/3 c. sugar / 2 eggs / 1 tsp. almond extract / 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract / 1/4 tsp. salt / 1 tsp. baking powder / 1 3/4 c. flour / baking chocolate for melting

Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚. / In a mixer, beat sugar and eggs until thick. Then, add in the almond and vanilla extracts. / In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. / Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until combined. Fold in the almonds. / Place dough onto a greased baking sheet. (I recommend using parchment paper, too.) / Form dough into a log, approximately 3″ wide and 10″ long. / Bake for 25 minutes. / Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. / Reduce oven temperature to 325˚. / Cut the log into 1″ diagonal sections. / Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. / Turn biscotti over and bake for another 8 minutes. / Remove from the oven and let cool. / In the meantime, melt your baking chocolate in the microwave. / Dip one side of the biscotti into the melted chocolate, and place back on the baking sheet to harden. / Then, enjoy!

d76e314bff6bddd482a7c7c46d23acf9

Zuppa Toscana.

Zuppa Toscana.

In just under six hours, the clock strikes December. Winter is here, loud and clear. The scattered snowfall and quickly dropping temperatures are here to stay for the next 3-4 months.

With the onslaught of cooler temperature comes my desire for warm, hearty soups. Today, I decided to throw together a simple, but delicious 7-ingredient Zuppa Toscana. (Bonus: I bought all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s for $17.00! Score.)

Ingredients: One pound of ground hot sausage (I chose a spicy chicken sausage for a lighter soup.) / One small, diced onion / Four cups of chicken stock / One red pepper, diced and roasted / One bunch of kale, chopped and destemmed / One package of gnocchi / Half cup of heavy cream

PicMonkey CollageDirections: Dice the red peppers and roast them. / In a large stockpot, cook the sausage with the onion until both are cooked through. / Remove as much of the grease from the sausage as possible. / Add the chicken stock and roasted red peppers and bring to a simmer. / Reduce the heat to low, and add the kale and gnocchi. / Cook for about five minutes, or until the gnocchi has cooked through. / Add the heavy cream and stir together. / Season with salt and pepper. / Serve and enjoy.

IMG_0001

Blue Apron: Crispy Salmon & Barley-Fennel Risotto

Blue Apron: Crispy Salmon & Barley-Fennel Risotto

I’ll be honest. This meal was the one I was looking forward to the least out of our most recent Blue Apron shipment. Crispy salmon, sign me up. Barley Risotto, sure, why not! But fennel. Eh. Fennel. I have never liked the taste of anise, which is, unfortunately, exactly what fennel reminds me of. It’s been around forever — literally before the beginning of written history. Just ask Prometheus.

Anyway, I put my faith in this perfectly package meal, and started prepping the ingredients. While thoroughly working through this step, I learned that fennel would be used four different ways in our dinner. One little flowering plant, served in four different ways.

PicMonkey Collage

I threw two of the four parts of the fennel into a pot with some olive oil and diced onion, and stirred until they were fragrant. Then, we added in the barley and water, and let it simmer until it turned into, well, risotto. Meanwhile, I toasted the chopped walnuts, and mixed them with fresh parsley, tarragon, fennel fronds (fennel #3) and lemon juice to create a fresh herb and walnut salad.

IMG_9795

Then, the salmon. We added salt and pepper to each side, and simply cooked it in some olive oil. When the barley had turned into risotto, we added the leaves of brussel sprouts, lemon juice, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. We topped the dish with fennel pollen (fennel #4) and then, we dug in.

IMG_9796

The two parts of the fennel that were cooked in the risotto — the stems and the bulb — lost most of their anise flavor. Unfortunately, I didn’t dice the bulb into small enough pieces, so it was still a little much, but the barley risotto was inventive and, due to my heavy hand, perfectly salted. The salmon was expertly crisped, and simple in flavor, accented only by the soft, herbaceous flavors of the parsley, tarragon and lemon.

This dish wasn’t the best of our Blue Apron experiments (I mostly blame the fennel), but hey – it sure does look pretty on a plate, and that’s just about half the battle.

Blue Apron, Take 2: Flank Steak and Creamed Kale With Sunchokes Two Ways.

Blue Apron, Take 2: Flank Steak and Creamed Kale With Sunchokes Two Ways.

Our second Blue Apron shipment arrived last week, and we were so excited to dive in. The first meal we cooked was a spicy little number with turkey meatballs, red coconut curry, wilted bok choy and rice noodles, and – despite it’s spice level – it was delicious.

Last night, we tackled meal #2: Flank Steak and Creamed Kale with Sunchokes Two Ways. For anyone who is wondering, I should note that before yesterday, I had literally never even heard of a sunchoke, let alone seen one, cooked one, or eaten one. In fact, it quickly became a running joke between me and my friends, and we learned that the word sunchoke can easily be mistaken for the word sunstroke to a Brit. (However, Blue Apron did mention that sunchokes are the edible root of the North American sunflower.)

Anyway, I spent nearly 30 minutes prepping all of the ingredients for our dinner: I roughly chopped the kale leaves, peeled off the mint leaves, minced some lemon rind, quartered a lemon, cut 1/4 of the sunchokes into matchsticks and tossed them in lemon juice, and diced the remaining sunchokes.

PicMonkey Collage

I followed the rest of the perfectly spelled out Blue Apron directions, slowly working my way towards a complete meal, loaded with a food I still knew nothing about. Sunchokes.

IMG_9631

A short while later, I plated our dinner. I looked at it quizzically. I know that I enjoy flank steak. I had the best flank steak of my life at my aunt’s house earlier this year. I’ve never had creamed kale, but it was kale and cream, butter and parmesan cheese, all ingredients I knew would make a fantastic combination.

IMG_9633

But sunchokes. They look sort of like ginger root, with an earthy brown color and a crisp texture, yet I had no idea what to expect in the taste. We hunkered down at the table with our beautiful looking dinner and cautiously dove in.

The salad that accompanied our flank steak included the raw sunchokes, the baked sunchokes, sunflower seeds, mint and minced lemon rind. The raw matchsticks tasted mostly of lemon, as they had been soaking in the acidic fruit for almost an hour. The baked sunchokes, however, had just been removed from the over, after being doused in olive oil, salt and pepper. The warm, nutty and savory root was hands down incredible. It reminded me of the look and taste of a roasted potato, but had a slightly stringy texture, reminiscent of an artichoke – which, by the way, is the culinary cousin to the sunchoke.

We slurped down our dinner, agreeing that we would incorporate sunchokes into our routine more often. I mean, come on, they were so delicious! (And, by the way, the majority of this post may be about the sunchokes, but let’s be honest: the creamed kale was the real winner.)

After our hilarious night full of – ahem – noisy bodily functions, I decided to look a little deeper into sunchokes. Because I couldn’t morally tell you about the incomparable, incredible, earthy flavor of sunchokes without mentioning their one small drawback, I leave you all with this:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.18.49 PM

Just saying. I warned you. Thanks, Blue Apron.