30 October 2007

Gnocchi with Pesto


Gnocchi are little dumplings made with potato flour. So even though they are potatoes, it's not like you are eating little chunks of potatoes. They are Italian, and are usually included in pasta categories, although technically they aren't pasta.

I don't make gnocchi myself, but I like to buy it premade and make different sauces to go with it. Last weekend I went on a bus trip to Chicago with my mom and sister and we stopped at a Trader Joe's. Jim and I used to frequent Trader Joe's when we lived in St. Louis, but there aren't any in the Grand Rapids area. Anyway, I picked up some gnocchi there. You should be able to find it in any decent grocery store. It may be in the refrigerated section with the prepackaged filled pastas.

We had it for dinner last night. I decided to prepare it with pesto. Pesto is a flavorful paste made up of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil (traditionally.) It can be made with a variety of fresh herbs. It is usually served with pasta as an alternative to a red or cream sauce. You can find hundreds of different pesto recipes online and in cookbooks. Here is the one I use:

Basil Pesto

2/3 oz. fresh basil, torn into pieces
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
In a food processor, pulse together the first five ingredients. Stream in the olive oil. Remove from food processor and fold in the Parmesan.

Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta.

I think next time I make this, I might cut back on the oil just a tad.
It makes pretty simple meal. I just boiled the gnocchi for a few minutes and drained them. Then I just tossed them with the pesto until it was evenly distributed. I served it with some chicken breasts that I seasoned very simply with salt and Herb de Provence and browned up in the skillet.

Very simple, delicious meal. If you have yet to try gnocchi or pesto, I encourage you to do so.

Squash Dressing

This is a dish I made for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration in September. I got the recipe from a community cookbook when we lived in Hamilton, Texas. I ended up changing it a bit. The original recipe was written very casually and didn't include a lot of details. Several details were missing, such as how many squashes (is that the right word?) to use and how to cook it. It included sauteed celery and cream of chicken soup. I decided to skip the celery and use cream of celery soup instead. I thought that having chicken flavors going on wasn't really necessary when there were already a lot of other flavors included, like celery, corn, onion, and squash. And it also included chicken bouillon, so additional chicken wasn't necessary. Skipping the celery also made it a little easier; less to chop! The original recipe also failed to say what kind and size of dish to use.

Here is the original recipe:

3 cups cooked squash, drained and mashed
1 package corn bread mix, baked (yellow)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup onion
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup green pepper
1 teaspoon sage (optional)
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 can cream of chicken soup
Crumble corn bread in milk. Saute onion, celery, and green pepper in 1 stick of margarine. Add all remaining ingredients. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

(Recipe courtesy Dora Kunkel. Published in A Taste of Hamilton, 2003)

Here's how I made it. This is doubled.

Squash Dressing

2 boxes corn bread mix, prepared (I use Jiffy. This will require 2/3 cup milk and 2 eggs)
5-6 small yellow squash
1 cup diced onions
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp sage
4 tsp chicken bouillon powder (equivalent of 4 cubes)
2 cans cream of celery soup
4 cups milk (I used 2%)
Directions:
Prepare corn bread mixes in 8 inch square glass baking dish. Let cool. Preheat oven at 350.

Chop the ends off the squash and cut into 1/2" to 1" slices. Boil until soft. Drain and mash, leaving some chunks.

Saute the onions and garlic in butter. Add sage and bouillon powder. Add cream of celery soup and mix well.

After the corn bread has cooled, crumble it and soak it in the milk.

Combine the corn bread mixture, soup mixture, and squash.

Bake in 9 x 13 glass dish for one hour.


Here is the finished result. I couldn't believe how pretty it turned out!


I kept the bouillon in because I didn't know exactly what part it played in the recipe. And I omitted the green pepper simply because I don't like the flavor of it and didn't think it was necessary.

This recipe is hard to write because you kind of have to do three things at once. You have to let the corn bread cool (unless you make it the night before, like I do) and soak it in milk while you chop the squash and cook it and saute the onions and garlic. So don't do it as it is written; get each of those things going so they can all be done and ready to combine at the same time.

A note of warning: This looks absolutely disgusting when you combine it and pour it into the baking dish. I know. But trust me, it will look beautiful when you pull it out of the oven, and it will taste even better!

23 October 2007

Simple Stovetop Chili

I used to make chili in the crockpot, but mine bit the dust over a year ago and I haven't replaced it. So I had to come up with one that was just as easy and was made on the stovetop. I found one on allrecipes.com and changed it up to fit my tastes.


Simple Stovetop Chili

1 pound ground beef
½ small onion or ¼ large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
1 tbsp chili powder
pinch red pepper flakes or 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

Directions:
In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft, but not browned. Brown the ground beef either in a separate skillet or in the microwave. Drain. Add to onion and garlic. Add the tomatoes (with their juice), tomato sauce, and kidney beans. Season with chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.


Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for at least 15 minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the better the flavors meld together. If you simmer for an extended amount of time, you might need to add some water with the other ingredients so it doesn’t dry out as it reduces.

Makes four servings.





It is really good served with some shredded cheddar cheese and light sour cream. This recipe is nice because it can be ready in about half an hour (if you let it simmer only 15 minutes.) And it tastes just fine this way. But the longer you let it simmer, the better it gets.

The reason I saute the onion and garlic before adding the hamburger is because I like to make sure they are soft. I like the flavors they add to the finished product, but I don't want to have big chunks of them when done. And this way Jim doesn't even notice them! You may still see some small pieces of garlic, because it is white and not clear. But as long as it is soft, you won't even taste it. The other reason I don't brown the hamburger in the pot is that it hard to drain and I usually buy the cheaper stuff that has to be drained before anything else is added.

And the spice is really easy to alter to fit your tastes. The recipe I found online only called for a pinch of chili powder. You couldn't taste it at all! So I upped that quite a lot and added a bit of extra heat with the red pepper flakes or cayenne.

10 October 2007

Food Pyramid


The Quigmans
10 October 2007

06 October 2007

Hilary's Heavenly Hummus

Hi everyone! Sorry I've been MIA for a few months. The first trimester was really rough on me and cooking was the last thing on my mind. It took me a while to get back in the swing of things, but I am much better now and am actually in the mood to cook again! Yay!

While I was sick, my sister, Hilary, came up with an awesome recipe for hummus for a summer family gathering. I thought since I didn't have anything to contribute, I would post her recipe.

Hilary’s Heavenly Hummus

1 16 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained
1 clove of garlic
5 grape tomatoes
1 small tuft of fresh parsley
1 tbsp olive oil

I put the garlic and beans in the chopper and it was too thick so I added the olive oil. If you want it to be fat-free, just keep some of the liquid from the beans. Once it was pasty, I added the grape tomatoes and parsley and just chopped a little longer. Since I added these late, the final product had neat red and green flecks.

I bought whole wheat fat-free pita bread, cut it into triangles and toasted them under the broiler. I really like it, but I have to stop eating it or I'll have to make another batch in the morning. If I were making it just for me, I would have added another clove of garlic.

Thanks so much, Hil, for sharing!

I will probably be more active in the coming months. I hope you all didn't give up on me completely!