Gnocchi with bacon and escarole

Sometimes you can just read a recipe and know it’s going to be awesome. I saw this recipe for gnocchi with bacon and escarole from the Food Network Magazine and knew I had to try it for several reasons.

A. Bacon

B. I’m usually starving when I get home after a long day of working with words, and this looked like something I could make quickly.

C. I knew the flavors of the tomatoes and gnocchi and cheese and olive oil and onion would work perfectly together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers or Kim and Kanye, for those of you way younger than I.

D. Bacon

And it didn’t disappoint. I made it for the Youngest Spawn of He Who Must Be Fed, and we both hoovered it down like two people anticipating that long walk down the green mile.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 small head escarole, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 17 .5-ounce package potato gnocchi If you’re really with it, you can use the homemade gnocchi you made earlier, which is frozen and just waiting for you to use
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Add the onion and continue cooking until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the escarole, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the escarole is completely wilted, about 3 minutes.Escarole In Pot

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the gnocchi and add to the pot with the escarole mixture. Add the reserved cooking water and stir to coat, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, Parmesan and parsley; season with salt and pepper.

Full-recipe disclosure: I doubled up on the bacon. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.) Also, I sprinkled a couple shakes of hot pepper flakes to jazz it up a bit. Perfect.

GnocchiDishFinished

 

Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette

The other day we were contemplating having lamb burgers for dinner. But I couldn’t think of what to have with them. So, I did what I usually did. I started trolling the Food Network and found this recipe for Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette from Chef Bobby Flay that sounded awesome and easy.

I wasn’t disappointed. Neither was you know who. The potatoes were a perfect complement to the lamb burgers, but they’d taste great with other main dishes, too. In fact, the second time I made them, I had some leftover vinaigrette, which I used to marinade pork chops on the grill. Yum.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large shallot, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 sprigs oregano, leaves only (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, plus some 1 tablespoon chopped, for serving
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 pounds large russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into wedges (Keep the skins on.)

GreekPotatoSaucePreheat your oven to 425°. Put the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, oregano and parsley in a food processor; add 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Puree until mostly smooth.

Toss the potatoes with 1/2 cup of the prepared vinaigrette in a large bowl and spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Save the remaining vinaigrette. Roast the potatoes until tender and golden, turning occasionally, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Mine took 45 minutes.GreekPotatoesInOven

Transfer the potatoes to a platter and drizzle with some of the remaining vinaigrette. Season with salt and garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

GreekPotatoesFinished

If you make these for another main dish, let me know. As you know, I’m always on the prowl for cooking ideas.

Chewy (and awesomely delicious) sugar cookies

I was looking in the refrigerator the other day — well, I look in the fridge multiple times a day — and noticed that I had some extra strawberry frosting and some leftover lemon frosting from the cookies I made a while back.

What was I going to do with it? I certainly couldn’t let it waste, right? So, I thought I’d make some sugar cookies and frost them with the leftover frosting. That would make them delicious and pretty, right?

I have a good sugar cookie recipe, but that involves flouring the counter top and rolling out the dough and using cooking cutters, and I just didn’t want to work that hard. So I went trolling for an easier recipe. The Food Network  never lets me down. I found this recipe for chewy sugar cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 375° degrees. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

SugarCookieBatterIn a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in dry ingredients. Add enough of the buttermilk to moisten the dough and make it soft, not wet.

BrushingButtermilk

Roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and place on a ungreased cookie sheet. With a brush or your fingers, moisten the top of each cookie with the remaining buttermilk and slightly flatten the top of each cookie.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden. Let stand for 2 minutes before removing to cool on a rack.

Full-recipe disclosure:  I flattened one batch then forgot to do it with the rest, and they turned out just about the same. So save a step; no need to flatten.

So, they were easy, but you’re wondering: were they good? Well, when He Who Must Be Fed tried one, he said, “Now THAT’s a cookie.”

And, he’s not only cute, but he’s smart. He suggested making sandwich cookies out of them. So, instead of frosting the tops, I frosted the bottoms with some chocolate frosting I found in the fridge — yes, our refrigerator is full of these kinds of goodies — and made sandwich cookies.SugarcookieSandwidch

Yum.

Easy Taco Melts

If you’ve been following along, you know I love to cook. I have to admit, though, there are some days when I’ve had an exceptionally long day of thinking big thoughts at work, and I don’t feel like picking up a pan and making anything too complicated when I get home. But then what would He Who Must Be Fed Do?

I stumbled across this recipe for Easy Taco Melts from Pillsbury that is not only easy but also incredibly versatile. More on that later.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package taco seasoning mix
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
  • 1 can Pillsbury Grands biscuits
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream, optional   
  • 1 egg, beaten, optional
  • a sprinkle of chili powder and smoked paprika, optional

Preheat your oven to 375°. In a medium skillet, cook your ground beef. Once browned, drain off grease and add the 2/3 cup water and the taco seasoning mix. Stir until thickened. Yes, just like you’re making tacos.

RollingOutTacoMeltsPress or roll each biscuit into a 6-inch round. (Hint: Spray your rolling pin with nonstick cooking spray to make this super easy.) Spoon 1/4 to 1/3 cup meat mixture and 1 tablespoon cheese onto center of each round. Fold dough in half over filling; press tightly to seal. Place on greased cookie sheet.FillingTacoMelts

Brush each with beaten egg and sprinkle with chili powder, smoked paprika and a little extra cheese. Bake for 9 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

TacoMeltsIntotheOven

Super hint: These are even easier to make if you have some leftover taco meat in the refrigerator. No need to heat the meat beforehand. In fact, it’s much easier to work with if it’s cold. It’s easier on the fingers, too.

Other ideas: This recipe works great with other fillings, too. Try sloppy joe filling or shredded barbecue chicken. I’ve tried both, and they’re fantastic.

It also would be tasty with pepperoni, salami, provolone, a little roasted red peppers and some pizza sauce, don’t you think? Use your imagination. If you come up with a great combination, let me know.

Easter cookie wreaths

When I got the last King Arthur Flour in the mail, I couldn’t help but notice right away the recipe for Easter cookie wreaths.

They were pretty and looked like they’d be perfect to add to Easter baskets for the grandkids.

Plus, my granddaughter, Briar, loves anything — and I mean almost anything – if it’s got sprinkles on it. So these looked like a winner.

Ingredients:

For the cookies

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, optional
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup confectioners’ or glazing sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ or glazing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • nonpareils, for decorating

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, Fiori, salt, baking powder, and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, mixing until smooth. Divide the dough in half, shape into disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (I only refrigerated mine for 45 minutes, and the dough was fine.)

CookieCutterPreheat your oven to 350°. Roll the dough 1/8″ thick on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out 2-inch circles and transfer them to greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Using a 1/2-inch pastry tip — or whatever else you have handy — cut out a center circle from each cookie. When you’ve cut all of the cookies you can, gather up all of the dough pieces, re-roll and cut out more. MakingCookieCenter

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until their bottoms and edges have turned slightly golden; they won’t brown very much.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely before icing. WreathBeforeOven

To make the icing, combine all of the ingredients — except the nonpareils, of course — until smooth. Dip the top of each cookie into the icing, and sprinkle with nonpareils. Allow the icing to set before serving or storing the cookies. WreathCookiesAreDone

This recipe yielded  27 cookies for me. If you’ve never worked with Fiori di sicilia, I suggest you try it. It has a lovely, light citrusy taste that isn’t overpowering. In fact, when I make these cookies again, I’m going to use 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon of it to rev up the flavor a bit.

If you try these, let me know how they turned out for you. I’m hoping my grandkids like them more than a plain old boring chocolate bunny in their Easter baskets. After all, anyone can buy a chocolate bunny, but only a super-duper grandma will make cookies. :-)

Sweet corn muffins

I admit it; I’m a sucker for the word sweet in a recipe title. How ’bout you? So, when I saw this recipe  for prize-winning winning (that’s another modifier I can’t resist) sweet cornmeal muffins, I knew I had to try them.  This comes from the Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake blog.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup whole
  • sparkling sugar for the top, optional

Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400°ͦ degrees. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray or use paper muffin cups.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl until well combined and light colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs and whisk vigorously until thick and homogeneous, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add 6 tablespoons sour cream and ¼ cup milk and whisk to combine, then whisk in remaining 6 tablespoons sour cream and remaining ¼ cup milk until combined.

CornMuffinBatterAdd your wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened. Be careful not to over mix. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, dropping batter to form mounds. You don’t want to flatten the batter.

Bake until muffins are light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking. Let muffins cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack, let cool 5 minutes longer, and serve warm.

CornMuffinsDone

Full-recipe disclosure: I let my batter sit for a couple of minutes to let the baking powder work its magic a bit more. Also, I sprinkled some sparkling sugar on each to give them a deliciously sweet crunch on top.

Delicious breakfast sausage casserole

I love all things breakfast. Pancakes. Waffles. Bacon. Bacon. Bacon. Eggs. Sausage. While He Who Must Be Fed and I don’t usually eat those delicious breakfast items Monday through Friday, we do like to enjoy some of them on the weekends.

And if you can combine some of those breakfast ingredients together? Fabulous.

Here’s one to try, a breakfast sausage casserole that includes some of those marvelous breakfast ingredients: eggs, cheese, bread, sausage. What’s not to love?

Ingredients:

  • ½ loaf of sliced white bread
  • 1 pound fresh bulk pork sausage with sage
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • I medium onion, chopped
  • 3 small sweet peppers chopped or ½ green pepper chopped
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten

Grease a 9×13 pan. Cut your bread into 1-inch cubes and spread into the bottom of your greased pan.

BreadCubesForCasserole

In a medium skillet, brown your sausage until no longer pink. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon. In the sausage essence (AKA fat) left in the pan, cook your onion and peppers until they’re soft, about five minutes.

Layer your cooked sausage over the bread. When the veggies are done, layer them on top of the sausage. Then top with cheese.BreadAndSausage

BreadSausageAndCheese

Stir together the half-and-half, dry mustard, salt and eggs. Pour the mixture over the cheese. Cover the casserole with foil and refrigerate for eight hours or overnight. I overnighted it.

CasseroleIntoOven

Preheat your over to 350°.

Bake your covered casserole until set and slightly golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it set for 15 minutes before serving. We were super hungry that Sunday, so I didn’t let it set, but it turned out fine.

Full-recipe disclosure: If you check out the recipe online, you’ll notice it calls for 10 ounces of cheese, but that was just too much cheese, so I reduced it to eight ounces. You’ll also notice the original recipe doesn’t call for onions and peppers, but c’mon, what goes better with sausage than onions and peppers? Adding them, my friends, was a no-brainer.

Enjoy.

Coconut macaroons

I know I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like to be bested in the kitchen. Well, a while ago, we were on the road, and He Who Must Be Fed had a pretty strong sweet tooth. He grabbed a package of coconut macaroons at Wegmans, and I heard how delicious they were the whole ride back home.

I had never made them before. But how hard could they be? This recipe is from Food Network chef Ina Garten, and it’s easy-peasy.

Ingredients:UncookedCoconut

  • 14 oz. sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 extra-large egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 325°.

Combine the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and salt on high speed with an electric mixer that has a whisk attachment.

(OK, I have to digress here a bit. I bought a new mixer with this funky whisk attachment, and this was the first time I MixerAttachmentused it. While I was whisking the egg whites, I needed to grab something, so I let go of the bowl for a second. Just as I let go of the bowl, the egg whites splashed everywhere. Sticky egg whites on the floor, in my hair, in the crevices of the cabinets, all over my shirt. Everywhere.  So, if you have something similar, learn from my mistake. Keep one hand on your mixer and the other holding the bowl in place.)

Back to baking: Once you have successfully whipped the egg whites into medium-firm peaks, gently fold them into the coconut mixture.

UnbakedMacaroonsLine your cookie sheets with parchment paper, and drop about a tablespoon of batter onto the sheets for each cookie. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

He Who Must Be Fed said they’re better than the store-bought ones. Take that, Wegmans.

BakedMacaroons

Luscious lemon cookies

When I first tried these cookies, I never knew they would be so popular. He Who Must Be Fed loves lemon, so I started making them for him. Then I had to stop for a while because his pants were getting a little tight.

Then, when others tried them, they loved them, too. Now, sometimes some of my friends on campus slyly (though it’s really not that slyly) hint that I haven’t made them in a while.

So it seems only right that I share them with all of my foodie friends. 

Ingredients:

Lemons

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Sugar

For the frosting

  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons butter

Heat your oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix sugar and butter until creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add honey and eggs and continue beating for another minute. Add the remaining cookie ingredients. Continue beating until just mixed then finish mixing by hand.

Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into balls then roll the balls into sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork. I forgot to do this the last time I made them, so my cookies will look rounder, but they still tasted terrific. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely.

LemonCookiesFor the frosting, combine all the ingredients into a large bowl. Beat on low speed until mixed for about a minute. You’ll want to start the mixer slowly, or you’ll end up covered in powdered sugar. Then beat at high speed for about two minutes.

Frost your cookies and enjoy.

Irresistible strawberry frosting

I love strawberries. In shortcake. Jam and jelly. Covered in chocolate. On and in ice cream. All by themselves. But I had never thought about making strawberry frosting. I had seen tubs of ready-made strawberry frosting in the store, but they always looked kind of gross.

Then I saw a  picture of a beautiful strawberry-frosted cake in a magazine. The cake was so beautiful that I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m so glad I did. This frosting is delicious and deliciously simple.

StrawberriesIngredients:

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 32 oz. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries

Mix the butter with your mixer until it’s light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add your sugar and strawberries. Start your mixer slowly, or you’re going to end up with sugar all over the kitchen. Trust me on this one. My Corgi is still licking up the sugar from the floor.

I always use this frosting on a white cake, which is freakin’ awesome. But imagine how delicious – and pretty — it would be on a chocolate or red velvet cake? It’d kind of be like a chocolate-covered strawberry.StrawberryCakeDone

If you try it on a chocolate cake, let me know how it turned out. That might be my next experiment.