Thursday, April 21, 2011

Knock, knock, gnocchi

Gnocchi is a big hit in our house.  We all love it.  There was a gnocchi request for dinner this week.  Considering I had some potatoes which needed a purpose, seemed like a sensible solution.

When I first ate gnocchi I decided it must be complicated to make.  It isn't.  I didn't understand exactly how easy it was until I purchased The Silver Spoon Cookbook.  (This cookbook is fabulous, by the way.  True Italian cooking.  Most recipes are short with a few ingredients and they all taste wonderful.)

I peel a few potatoes (weighed out how many I needed).  Cube and place them in the steamer to cook.

When the potatoes are done, rice them into a bowl and add the appropriate amounts of flour, egg and salt.  (I prefer ricing the potatoes to achieve a smooth even texture.  Ricing also creates less starch interactions in the potato than mashing.)

Flour a kitchen towel.  Form the gnocchi and roll in flour.  They are now ready to cook!  That simple.

Kale was on sale at the grocery store this week.  Since I came home with a big bag (we had sauteed kale with beef roast Sunday night), I immediately thought of the wonderful gnocchi with beans and greens at Piccolo's.  (I love living in an area that supports local food establishments.  We have tons of great, local options around here.)

First, I soaked some dried white beans overnight in the refrigerator.  When I got home that evening, I simmered the beans on the stove about an hour and half.  Then drained the beans (retaining the cooking liquid), placed them in a container and stored them, and the juice in a separate container, in the refrigerator for the next day.

I thawed some of my homemade smoked turkey stock (about 4 cups) and added the cooking liquid from the beans.  I brought this to boil, also adding salt to taste and chopped garlic.  I cooked the gnocchi in the boiling broth, then added the chopped kale.  Finally, I added the cooked beans to heat thoroughly.


News from the needles:

Look what arrived today.  Happy mail day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Java jive!

Anyone who has been to our house knows my husband and I enjoy coffee.

We REALLY enjoy coffee.

Exhibit A.
In the grand scheme of life, we splurged.  Was it worth it?  TOTALLY.  Considering I drink a four shot decaf (my contributions to world peace - I'm decaffeinated) cappuccino every morning + any that come up during the day, our splurge was worth it.  Every now and then, you need to treat yourself to something that makes your life easier and heck, it makes you happy.  Our Jura-Capresso Impressa F9 has totally been worth it.  I purchased a pre-brew from JL Hufford.  The great thing about sinking stupid money into an item, if you don't care for it, the manufacturer takes it back.  So, someone had buyer's remorse when our machine arrived at their home and sent it back.  Then we got a great deal on something we use every day.  Win. Win.

I love supporting local businesses.  While we have a fabulous local coffee roaster, their roasts were a little too oily for the internal burr grinder of the F9.  I found Specialty Java.  We love their espresso roasts.  If you don't live in our area (and have access to Jittery Joes) consider giving them a try for your coffee needs.  You can also order specialty labeled coffee to give as gifts.  (What coffee-loving teacher/care provider/family member/mail person/bus driver wouldn't love fresh roasted coffee vs candy in a coffee mug as a thank you gift?)

It is tax refund season.  Perhaps you earned a superautomated espresso machine this year....

News from the needles:
It appears I have finally won the battle of the resized sock pattern.  It took four knits (three rips) to get it all to work.  Second sock is swimming along.  I won.

Kaleidoscope Yarns had a 25% off all yarn purchases this weekend.  Yarn for six pairs on the way.  (At least it is a functional obsession.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Rainbow is a Promise

The sign-up sheet appeared two weeks ago when I was dropping the offspring off for choir practice:  Needed - cookies for end of the year children's choir party.  I signed my name on the dotted line.  How could I not?

1) I love my kid and totally support his activities.  (Ask me about Spring Fling sign-up at school.  I might be a workaholic and never make a single PTA meeting (which are during the offspring's Tae Kwon Do class), but I will be there for as a volunteer.)
2) I love the children's choirs director at our church.  Love.Her.
3) It involves food.
4) It is church.

No brainer.

Then the dilemma of "what to make?".  I have a tendency to make non-traditional foods (i.e. my offspring thinks they are great, but apparently other kiddos don't generally have ground oats/white chocolate chunk/cranberry cookies when their parent has a whim to bake cookies).  I guess they don't have food product development sessions where everyone in the family comes up with a list of target ingredients and Mom makes a baked good from them.  Typical life in our house.

[I have been chastised by my closest friends that I set my offspring's future partner up for failure.]

For some reason, rice krispie treats are the bomb for people of any age.  It kills me.  They are so simple to make.  [Full disclosure: one of the only food items I actually prepare using a microwave.]  Yet, for some reason adults rarely make them.  The commercial series from years ago of the mom throwing flour on her face before carrying out the platter of rice krispie treats is SO FREAKING TRUE!  People love them but never make them.  It isn't like they are expensive, difficult, or time consuming.  [shrug]

Problem solved: rice krispie treats for my cookie contribution!

This year's children's choir theme has been: A Rainbow is a Promise.  I love a good theme challenge.  [You should have seen last year's 100+ iced lighthouse sugar cookies]  As much as it pains me to admit it.  I caved.

For the purist (such as myself), plain ol' rice krispie treats.  The adult choir will kill a pan of these in minutes.  Add a few college students, the lifespan drops to seconds.

For the adventurous, half and half.  (rice krispies and fruity pebbles).

For the totally engrossed (I blame my mother-in-law for making these 30+ years ago.  My husband claims these are the best cereal treats EVER), full on fruity pebbles.

As much as this whole process kills me (anything with that much food colorant and artificial flavoring can't be that tasty), you have to admit that blending the cut krispie treats on a platter will make quite the rainbow effect.

A rainbow is a promise.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spice, spice baby!

I have a love affair with Penzeys Spices.  A true, deep, burning love (of the culinary kind).  If you live in an area with a local store - YOU ARE SO LUCKY.  I order mine (or visit any local stores when on travel).

What's not to love?  You can buy your spices and spice blends in jars or bulk bags.  You can see exactly what is blended into them.  Most contain no MSG (which I have developed an allergy to as years move on).  The quality is absolutely awesome.  The staff (if you call or visit a store - I have been to many) is very pleasant and knowledgeable.  The pricing is much more affordable than the little jars of crap in the grocery store.  All around, it is a wonderful experience.

What are our family's favorites?  (in no particular order)

4/S seasoning salt - great all-purpose seasoning.  I keep all varieties on hand and frequently give as gifts.
Cajun seasoning - I use this for lots of foods.  It is great for blackening fish and meats.  It is wonderful on pastas and vegetables.  I always use it in crab cakes.  One of my "go to" blends.
Chipolte pepper - The smokey notes and moderate heat is a wonderful addition to a variety of foods.  We especially enjoy it in macaroni and cheese.
Mural of flavor - I received this one as a free sample and we loved it.  It is great on vegetables and in pasta moistened with a bit of olive oil.  Fabulous on fish also.
Northwinds seasoning and Northwinds fire seasoning - Love to use this on briskets before smoking and grilling.
Taco seasoning - I always keep these on hand.  Super fast and easy to make as little or as much base for tacos/enchiladas/nachos/etc.  It is great for those fast dinner evenings after practice/meetings.
Parisian bonne herbes - this is wonderful in light, fresh dishes and fish.

There are many more!  Explore for yourself.  Since I buy spices in bulk, I needed to store them.  I ordered a spice storage set from Custom Magnetic Spice Rack.  I used magnetic primer according to directions and topped with latex wall paint.

Recently off the needles:
During the recent work travel, I knocked out a helix scarf.  I love it.

US 1 needles.  My handspun yarn (Forest Has a Long Memory, BFL/silk, Spinning Awesome Good).