Monday, April 30, 2012

Gnocchi Mac n' Cheese

I will never forget the first time I had was a this adorable family-style Italian restaurant in Atlanta where some friends had taken me to celebrate my birthday.  It was served with the most delicious vodka cream sauce and from that moment on I was in love!  Ever since that amazing meal I have not been able to pass up gnocchi whenever I see it on the menu.  One day I am going to try my friends recipe for homemade gnocchi as she learned from her beautiful Italian grandmother, but for now, the store bought is going to have to suffice!

When I saw this recipe I immediately sent the link to my sister-in-law and it was decided we had to make a dinner date to try this new find!!  How could we go wrong, I mean it is a combination of some of my favorite things....gnocchi AND cheese!!!  It did not disappoint!  Everything you hope it is going to be is realized when this amazing dish is served!

Gnocchi Mac n' Cheese

2 pound purchased or homemade gnocchi
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 oz.shredded Gruyere cheese
4 oz. shredded fontina cheese
Salt and white pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
2/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
Basil leaves for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 375o F. Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and place gnocchi in a single-layer in a 1-1/2 quart shallow baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
 Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles, then whisk in milk and Dijon. Continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
Combine Gruyere and fontina, then add by the handful to milk mixture, stirring until melted before adding the next handful. Once all cheese is melted, season sauce with salt and pepper, red pepper and nutmeg.
Pour sauce over gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano over top. 
 Bake gnocchi until they puff and cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let gnocchi rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Evidently my brother thought it was even better with some Frank's Red Hot Sauce...
....Maggie thought it was better with Sriracha Sauce
This dish could easily be served as a side dish or you could add some panchetta or sausage and have a hearty, tasty entree!
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kale Salad with Grapefruit

I might be one of the luckiest girls in the world.  My friends and family are amazing and I am constantly humbled by the love that surrounds me.  What makes me most happy is to see the wide range of friends I am blessed to have in my life.  Some old, some new, but all just as valuable to my heart.  

One of my oldest friends, "Katie B", and I have been friends since we 5 years old.  Our childhoods were intertwined from the beginning.  We began babysitting together when we 11 (really when we were 9 and our brothers were supposed to be babysitting but we were really the ones in charge) for a neighborhood full of children, we played German Spotlight, flag football and countless other games with our neighborhood gang, and we went on to the same high school together.  No matter where our lives have taken us or what has been going on, some how, some way, our paths always come back together.

For this I am most grateful, for she will never lie, she will always tell it like it is but above all else, I know she will always have my back!  Since moving into her neighborhood we have been cooking more often together, which makes me SO happy!   Ever since my friend, Reed, first made his now legendary kale salad I have been on a tireless hunt for more kale in my life....I mean come on, it's a freaking super food!!!  Recently I had dinner at Katie's house for our healthy Monday meal and to my great surprise and delight she had kale on the menu.  I was thrilled to learn a new way to make a delicious kale salad.  Evidently, one of the tricks to eating raw kale, is to let it sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes, though longer is better, as this will tenderize the tough leaves.

Since Katie pretty much wings it in the kitchen, to rave reviews I might add, we didn't really have a set recipe, but here is my best attempt at capturing her creativity.

Katie B's Kale Salad
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons spicy mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons honey
Parmesianno Reggiano cheese

Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, lemon juice, and minced shallots. 
 Pour over the raw kale and let stand for at least 30 minute.  
Just before serving add Parmesan cheese and grapefruit
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Baked Salmon with Olive Tapenade and Caper Butter Sauce

Sometimes I want Mexican food, a whole lot of the time I want pizza and most of the time I want pasta, but I have come to realize that living off this old college diet is not as practical as it may have once sounded.  So in an attempt to eat a little better, at least a couple nights out of the week, I have tried to find some great, easy fish recipes that I can have on a "school night" that won't break the bank and are tasty enough not to make me curl up in dreams of garlic cheese bread and marinara sauce.

I realize it is a terrible frame of mind I am in when I turn up my nose to the word "healthy" when it comes to food....the more butter the better, I have always thought, but alas I have also learned that "healthy" and "tasty" do not have to be mutually exclusive terms.  They can, in fact, live in harmony with one another so long as the right recipe is used!

In a grand search, basically playing on Pinterest again, I have found several that I want to try, but am always open to suggestions so please let me know if you have some you think I would enjoy!

Since salmon is a reasonably priced fish and one for which there seem to be a million different recipes, it seems to be my go-to fish.  Though I realize some people think salmon is too "fishy" tasting, I find that if it is cooked correctly it has a rich, light flavor that compliments so many other flavors well....especially the salty ones like capers and olives that I love so much!  After a long exhaustive search I decided to combine several of the recipes that peaked my interest and came up with the following....ENJOY!

Baked Salmon with Olive Tapenade and
Caper Butter Sauce
Salmon Filet
Shallot, minced, divided
2 tablespoon capers, drained, divided
1 tablespoon olive tapenade
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Slice lemon and lay out in a baking dish (make sure your dish has sides so you don't have juice running all over your oven).  

Lay the salmon filet on top of the lemons.  

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and half of the minced shallot.  

Top with half of the capers and tapenade.  
Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  
While the salmon is baking melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan.  

Add remaining shallots, capers and the lemon juice.  

Let this simmer until it begins to reduce.  
Remove the salmon from the oven and transfer to a plate.  
Top with the caper butter sauce.  Serve immediately.
Serve this with a side of steamed broccoli drizzled with the caper butter sauce!
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Lynn Osland's Chocolate Cake

Ohhhhh chocolate!  Sweet, delicious chocolate!  Is there anything more decadent, anything more sinfully delightful than chocolate, topped on top of chocolate served with a side of ice cream?  The answer is no.  As far as desserts go we were never big into the sweet ending to a meal growing up, but there are some I can simply not resist.  One such dessert is chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  In my entire life I had never actually had a homemade chocolate cake with chocolate icing that had not been purchased from one of our many incredible bakers in town, until recently.  

That special occasion came when some friends were in from out of town and my dear friend, Jennifer, offered to make dessert.  I knew that if she offered to make something as specific as a chocolate cake with homemade icing it must be incredible but it was when she said she was going to use her mother's recipe that I was 100%, without question on board.  Jennifer is a wonderful cook so it was certainly not my lack of faith in her ability, but it was more my knowledge of her mother's baking abilities and former experience with her brownie recipe that really peaked my interest.  

For researching purposes and for the sake of the blog, of course, we thought it was only fitting that I take pictures while she made this absolutely heavenly dessert.  Once again Lynn Osland pulled through and her recipe and Jenn's baked prowess knocked it out the park!  As full as we all were after dinner there was not a soul who was going to pass up this most delicious treat! 

Lynn Osland's Chocolate Cake
as adapted from the Hershey recipe
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk 
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.  

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. 
Add eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. 
Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). 
Pour batter into prepared pans.  
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with chocolate frosting. 10 to 12 servings.

Chocolate Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa (my mom uses less cocoa than this, to improve the taste)
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Note: If you cover the top of the bowl with the butter wrapper you won't have butter splatter all over the microwave!
Stir in cocoa. 
Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.
Great tip in how best to transport it....stick some uncooked spaghetti noodles in the cake and cover with cling wrap so that the wrap doesn't stick to the frosting!

The night was a great success and ended with all of us sitting by a big fire outside....perfection!
ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.
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