Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Potato Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce

Until a couple of weeks ago I probably would have passed up this recipe thinking it was too complicated.  But for some reason, after watching the Cake/Kitchen Boss, Buddy Valastro, make this dish I thought, "I think I can do that.  That looks pretty easy."  Our special Valentine's dinner seemed like a good time to give this one a try.  I tend to put myself under undue pressure, making recipes for the first time for special occasions or for group gatherings.  I haven't learned.  But thankfully I've had more successes than failures and this was another success.  This dish is not a quick one, but I'm considering making a couple batches of the gnocchi and freezing them for future use.  That would really cut down on the prep time.  The gnocchi are a nice alternative to regular pasta on occasion. 

Let's get to it.     
Put baked potatoes through ricer

You can even leave the skins on.  Before...


Season riced potato and let cool

Cut in egg and flour in batches and form ball

Divide dough, roll out, and cut into gnocchi

Boil gnocchi in batches

Saute mushrooms in oil.  Yummy smells start happening here.

Add in cooked gnocchi with finished mushroom sauce

My handsome Valentine

Try this one.  You'll feel very accomplished.


Potato Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce
adapted slightly from Buddy Valastro (TLC Kitchen Boss/Cake Boss)


3 large Russet potatoes
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1-2 cups all purpose flour (may not use all)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
few gratings of nutmeg (optional)

Mushroom sauce:
1 1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped and trimmed
.07 ounce package dried porcini mushrooms
2 1/4 cups of chicken stock
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons butter
fresh grated Parmesan to garnish

Preparation Instructions


1. Preheat oven to 400°. Prick potatoes and bake until done, 45 minutes to one hour. Remove from oven, and slash lengthwise through each potato, pressing short ends to open to release steam (you want the potatoes as dry as possible = less gummy gnocchi). When cooled enough to handle but still quite warm, scoop out the potato flesh and force through a ricer. Measure out 3 lightly scooped cups (do not pack) and spread out into a rectangle on a clean board or counter. Allow potatoes to cool until warm room temperature.

2. Sprinkle with salt and grate over nutmeg. Drizzle the egg over potatoes, followed by 1/2 cup of flour. With a (metal) bench scraper, begin to lift and fold the potato mixture on to itself, cutting the flour and egg into the potato mixture. When almost incorporated (mixture will begin crumbling), sprinkle over another 1/4 cup flour , and repeat until mixture is in small crumbs. Lightly press the dough together into a ball and move it aside. Clean any sticky dough from counter with the scraper and cover with a light dusting of flour.

3. On the floured surface, lightly press the dough together and fold/knead just a few turns -- dough should be workable with some potato texture and not sticky. Adjust by adding more flour if necessary -- the less flour and handling needed, the more tender the resulting gnocchi.

4. Cut the dough into quarters. On a lightly floured board, roll one portion of dough into a long rope, about 1/2" wide. With the bench scraper, cut 1" pieces of dough from rope and place on a floured sheet pan -- these are your gnocchi.

5. Cook gnocchi at a gentle boil in a large pot of abundant salted water. Gnocchi are done when they bob to the surface and cook about a minute longer. Scoop from water and place in sauce.

Mushroom Sauce:

1. Warm 2 cups chicken stock and pour over the porcini mushrooms in a bowl. Allow mushrooms to soak at least 20 minutes to hydrate. When hydrated, remove the mushrooms, rinse and trim away any tough gritty bits if present. Coarsely chop the mushrooms and set aside. Filter the mushroom soaking liquid through cheesecloth, a paper or tea towel and reserve.

2. Slice the creminis. Heat a large saut̩ pan medium-high Рyou want it large enough to eventually hold both the sauce and cooked gnocchi. Add the olive oil. When shimmering, add the mushrooms and a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, and allow the mushrooms to exude their juices. Let the juices cook and reduce down until almost completely evaporated. Add the porcini, garlic and red pepper. Continue to cook until well combined, everything smelling fragrant and beginning to dry out.

3. Add 1/4 cup chicken stock.  and let reduce. Add 1/2 cup of the mushroom-soaked stock and let reduce until rich, add in another 1/2 cup stock, reducing again. Stir in the parsley. Taste and check for salt; correct if necessary. Turn off heat if the gnocchi has not yet finished cooking.

4. Meanwhile, begin cooking the gnocchi. Gently scoop the gnocchi as it’s done into the waiting mushroom sauce. Turn the heat to med-high and add another 1/2 cup of the stock, turning gnocchi to coat. If the gnocchi looks like it can absorb more stock, add in a little more -- you don’t want it to become too soft. Fold in the butter. Garnish with grated or shaved Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentines Day and Surprises...

...but not Valentines surprises.

I guess the very nature of a surprise is the unexpectedness. 
The funny thing about a surprise is it can be met with widely varying reactions.  Surprises like many received yesterday for Valentines, those involving flowers, sweet notes, and chocolate, are met with a flood of happy emotion.  This emotion usually results in big smiles, hugs, kisses, and even happy tears.  On the other hand, surprises like the one I just received, those involving things not being where you would expect them to be, are met with overflowing terror.  So imagine my surprise terror upon finding a LIZARD under my desk on the power converter of my laptop.  This terror manifested itself in the form of multiple loud shreks, a mad dash to the other side of the apartment, and a breathless phone call to my husband, who is away studying, to come home and capture the beast.   He may have had to remind me to breath and I may have told him I was about to wet my pants.  Thankfully, my Valentine and knight in shining armor came quickly to the rescue and lured the beast into his trap. 

So in addition to all the mushy, gushy reasons I love my valentine, I'm now adding beast catching abilities to the list.  I'll just forget the part about him worrying over the lizards ability to breath once contained.  The fact that he only mildly chuckled at me on the phone makes him pretty much the husband of the century.  He so could have rubbed this in my face.  Instead we took a picture and released the creature back into its natural and rightful habitat.

In other news, we had a laid back Valentine's Day.  I wasn't feeling like making a big deal of the Hallmark holiday this year.  Plus, we go to NO this week, so 1. Will has hardly been home and 2. I'm holding out for a dessert at Sucre.  Yesterday morning Will lit a candle and left a sweet note for me to wake up to.  Saturday I cooked a nice meal (new recipe coming soon) that we were able to enjoy together between study sessions. 

Today, the 15th, is actually the a more meaninful day in our relationship.  It was five years ago today that I first told will that I loved him.  We call it "Jamie Loves Will Day". 

Back down memory lane....

Will had already told me that he loved me, but at the time I wasn't quite ready to say those words.  Will encouraged me to wait until I was ready.  That I did.  It only took me 4 months.  Will was exceedingly patient and only asked me about it once during this time.  When I decided it was time to tell him I wanted to make it special.  I think I may have even waited a little longer so I could tell him on Valentine's.  In true Will and Jamie fashion we decided that year that we would make our gifts to each other. 

As I recall we weren't able to spend the actual day together that year because I was having to study for a big exam.  Even though we weren't able to be together that night Will went out of his way to have a friend deliver a box of chocolates and a single red rose to my dorm room.  He cheated slightly on that one, but I wasn't going to say anything. 

The next night we celebrated together at Will's parents' house.  We started the night with a meal of homemade spaghetti and watched the always romantic Disney's Lady and the Tramp.  For Will's gift to me he made a magnet consisting of a red construction paper heart layered with a white doily and a teddy bear sticker.  He's not the most crafty.  But who cares, because then he played and sung a song he had written just for me. 

Sigh...I'm married to a song writer.  He writes songs about me.

Sorry, back from la-la land.

When it was my turn I started off by giving him a crossword puzzle I had made with clues that were personal to our relationship (places we had been, things we had done together).  Crosswords had become significant to us.  We worked one together almost everyday in college when we met up for lunch in the Tiger Den.

I also made him a box of filled chocolates.  Lastly, was a jar of little notes about what I liked about him.  With the jar were a couple of special wooden hearts.  After having him read each one I told him there was one more.  I had something up my sleeve, literally.  I pulled out the last heart and told him that "like" wasn't a big enough word anymore (that's what he had told me).  I handed him the heart and on it was written "I love you".  He was so surprised, in the happy emotional way.  It was a very special moment. 

We have only grown in our love for each other since.  That growth is what causes my valentine to drop everything he is doing and come running at my beckon scream. 

Happy Jamie Loves Will Day, babe.  You're my favorite.

Love always,

Your girl

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wheeling and Dealing

OK...so maybe not in the original sense, but it sounds so much better than coupon clipping. 

Yes, I clip coupons.  You start by admitting it, right?  :)

I haven't written much about it here, but it has become one of my weekly activities.  For a while I was spending a lot, too much, time reading others' blogs about the latest and greatest deals and I was killing myself trying to follow the plans to get some of these deals.   I was seeing decent results on our grocery bill and at the pharmacies, but not what I wanted to warrant the time, and sometimes I found myself disappointed when things wouldn't go as planned. 

Recently, I've cut back my time keeping up with others deals and I'm really trying to focus on what works best for us.  I don't have a newspaper subscription.  I only buy the paper about once a month, and I print a lot of coupons off the computer.  I now clip the coupons when I get them and carry them with me, instead of digging through inserts a million times and not having a coupon when I need it.  I buy what we use.  I try not to get something just because it's a good deal.  If we don't need it, we don't need it.  Even though it's tough sometimes, and doesn't happen often, I allow myself to buy an item even if it's not on sale or I don't have a coupon.  It's too restrictive otherwise.  I feel like I'm beginning to find my groove with the whole thing.  It's fun and it's practical...two of my favorite things. 

Couponing has come up several times recently in conversations with friends.  Partly due to the show on TLC, Extreme Couponing, and partly because it's beneficial to individuals and families that are looking to cut expenses.  Let me just say, those featured on TLC's show are exactly what the title proclaims, extreme.  That level of couponing isn't healthy, in my opinion.  Nor is it fair to others trying to care for their families. 

That said, there are a few things I will "stockpile".  Most of these things center around our weekly Sunday spaghetti meal (pasta, canned tomatoes, pasta sauce), a few other food items (soup, boxed meals i.e. Zatarains - Will's favorite) and personal hygiene/health items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, body wash, deodorant). 

This is what I recently stockpiled through deal scenarios I created myself, because it worked for us....

*not pictured: a 12 pk of toilet paper

Using coupons and rewards earned on previous purchases, I spent $15.79 out of pocket for all that you see above (and the tp).  The total retail of these items is $82.98.  That's 81% savings.  I also earned $9 in rewards to use in the coming weeks.  So it's like getting everything for $6.79.

This got me really excited.  I saved a lot, I did what was good for us, and I won't have to buy these items for a while.  Now realize, this is not a common occurrence, saving 81%.  Every penny saved, is a penny saved.  I'm proud of the times I save 23%, and 48%, and even 5%.  It all counts in our family. 

So, I just wanted to share my success and say, use coupons, but do so in a way that is right for you.

Happy wheeling and dealing,


Friday, February 4, 2011

Cold and Easy Comfort Food

News Flash: It's cold! 

But what's worse, about this time last week it was sunny and upper 60s to low 70s.  Will even spent an afternoon on our patio in shorts and sandals.  The temperature has now been below freezing for about 3 days. Last night we got around an inch of dry snow and the weather man said today we may see more later in the week.   We've already had about 3 rounds of the white stuff.  As you would suspect this is rather unusual for East Texas. 

Penny needed some cold weather gear.  Here she is looking cute in her new sweater. 

This morning we let her test it out.  She didn't seem to be bothered by the snow.  As a matter of fact, I think she quite enjoyed it.  I enjoyed that it was dry and didn't stick all in her hair.  Easy cleanup.  :)

This weather just begs for nice warm comfort food.  Below are a couple super easy versions of some of our favorite comfort foods.  You probably have most of these ingredients around so they don't even require a trip to the store.  Enjoy and stay warm.

Skillet Stroganoff


• 1 lb ground beef
• ½ large onion, chopped
• 1 can beef broth
• 1 can mushrooms, drained
• 4 oz egg noodles, uncooked
• 1 ½ cup water
• ¼ c ketchup
• ¼ t garlic powder
• 1 cup sour cream

Preparation Instructions

Brown ground beef and onion in skillet; drain.
Stir in broth, mushrooms, noodles, water, ketchup, and garlic powder.
Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer until noodles are tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in sour cream and heat just until hot.

Sausage – Cheese Chowder


• ½ lb ground turkey or pork sausage
• 2 cans of cream of potato soup
• ½ c frozen corn
• 2 c milk
• 1 c shredded cheddar

Preparation Instructions

Cook/crumble sausage in soup pan; drain.
Add soup, corn, and milk.
Heat for 5 minutes; add sausage. Stir in cheese until melted.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A List

my current age and the number of items in this list

times I told myself I needed to blog over the last month

reasons I have for not posting over the last month - once I just didn't feel like it

things I accomplished while not blogging - once I stared at the wall, and once I forgot what I was supposed to be doing

books ordered for Will's spring semester of school

times I've told Penny "stop" today;
"no" doesn't fall within the parameters of this list

times Penny has not pottied in the appropriate place (i.e. times I've cleaned the carpet, or my bedding, yeah)

apps I've downloaded to my new iPod touch (Thanks, Mom!)

days until our next trip to New Orleans

days since my birthday

cans of tomatoes I bought at the grocery this week - no really, they were .45/ea and if it starts with PA and ends with STA, we eat it

games of Words with Friends played in 3 days; unfortunately I haven't won that many

energetic reasons I love teaching PreK/K choir and also why I often want to pull my hair out

number after 11 and before 13

times I check my email each day - don't judge

number of dark chocolate Hershey kisses I would like to will eat right now

guitar chords learned - I did not say mastered

toys scattered around the den floor -  that I will be picking up before bed

times the puppy has greeted me at the door after having left her confined in some manner

gourmet cupcakes I could have consumed for my birthday

times I have been confounded by how the puppy escaped confinement

commands we've taught Penny...sit, wait, come, down

cupcakes I actually consumed for my birthday - key lime was the best!

friends that came to visit for the weekend

person whose anonymous comment spurred this post

"I will now get you up to speed.
We know nothing.
You are now up to speed."

(name that movie)