Monday, January 31, 2011

Italian 101

“Mangiando insieme, godiamo la vita”

(By eating, we enjoy life)


Any person who likes to cook or eat (usually a person likes at least one—in my case both!), can relate to the above Italian quote which is commonly used in Italian kitchens worldwide. There’s just something that screams comfort food, family, and fresh flavors when anything Italian hits the table. But in all reality, I haven’t cooked or eaten as many Italian foods as I’d like. And another reason I want to widen my Italian food palate; remember how I teach cooking classes? Well they implemented a new feedback/suggestion program, and one of the requested themes has repeatedly been Italian—brilliant, huh? I love my students!!

So how about I start this goal to get “in touch” more frequently with Italian food by making gnocchi? I’ve eaten it quite a bit, but I’ve never made it completely from scratch. And what better day to do it then on a lazy snowy Sunday afternoon?

Didn’t think you’d complain!!!

Gnocchi with Chicken and Tomatoes


  • 2 lbs whole baking potatoes

  • 2 beaten egg yolks

  • 1 1/2 cups flour

  • 1  medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 1  large can of chicken, drained

  • 1 large can of Italian stewed tomatoes, drained

  • 1  clove garlic, finely chopped

  • 1  5-ounce bag baby spinach

  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper

  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) grated Parmesan, plus more for garnishing


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spear the potatoes with fork tines in several places around each potato to vent moisture as the potatoes cook. Bake the potatoes in their skins until tender, about an hour. Let cool on a rack, cutting them open to help cool and let more moisture escape.


Scoop out the potatoes from their skins. Mash the potatoes by hand and fluff them up a bit with a fork. It is best to work with the potatoes when they are still warm.


Add the flour, egg and a pinch of salt. Mix by hand until you have a nice pliable ball of dough. Do not overmix.



Prepare a work area and dust it with flour. Take the dough, a piece at a time, and roll it out gently with your hands until you have rolls about 3/4 inch in diameter. It is very important to keep a light touch while you are rolling the dough. Gently roll the dough with your fingertips while while exerting the lightest pressure outwards, not down, to draw the dough out.



Cut the tubes of dough into pieces about one inch long. Using either the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press against a piece of the dough and roll it slightly to form an indentation (good for catching the sauce). As the gnocchi are made, place them on flat baking pan, lightly dusted with flour or lined with wax paper. At this point you can freeze the gnocchi ahead of time. Freeze them first on a floured or lined tray, then once frozen you can put them into a freezer bag for more easy storage. Bring water to a boil in medium sauce pot. Add a few gnocchi at a time—once they float to the top, place them on a wax papered cookie sheet. Reserve 1/4 c cooking liquid.


Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and  the tomatoes, garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Add the drained gnocchi, the reserved cooking liquid, and the Parmesan and toss. Divide among individual bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.


NOTES: This literally took 45 minutes from start to finish, which I think is quite good for such a delicious meal that tastes like it took all day!

What’s your favorite Italian dish? 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Better Late Than Never

So glad everyone enjoyed the Dialect Vlog. But lets face it, I guess there’s no hiding that I am from Minnesota! :-)


So everyone knows how you have intentions to do something, you push it aside for “just a day”. Well that day turns into a week, and eventually other life happenings come about, and before you know it, what you had originally planned to do about a month ago becomes a case of the better late than never fashion. I’m a big believer in realizing that procrastination is a serious art that you have to master, and I am determined to not let it creep up on me near as much as it has been lately!

So coming to you in a better late than never fashion….

Sometime before Christmas I was trolling the aisles of the Dollar Tree. Everything was pure craziness due to the fact that it was only a week or two before Christmas. So as I was pushing my way past people trying to make my way to the food aisle to check out their new offerings, I saw this


And there was only one left of the shelf, so I immediately swooped in and grabbed it and knew I had to have it. I mean, anything with Paula Deen on it has to be rich and delicious, right? So as I was giddy with joy at the super buy I got, I spotted a box of the vanilla cupcake mix as well. So keep an eye out for the review for those soon!

It’s your basic cupcake recipe—add eggs, oil, and water—nothing fancy.


Mix well..


Get your liners ready. I used Wilton pastel colors.


Once the oven is preheated, put em’ in..


Meanwhile..I wanted to make these as New Year’s cupcakes, so I got out my Wilton tips and bags..


Bag holder..


And some milk chocolate chips that I melted in a double boiler and put into a pastry bag. I made chocolate letters that said things like, “Happy New Year” and “2011”. I piped them onto wax paper and let them cool for about an hour, then removed with a metal spatula.


I found a recipe for Coconut Sour Cream frosting so I..

  • whipped up a batch of frosting (subbing coconut extract for vanilla)
  • frosted the cooled cupcakes
  • rolled in sweetened coconut flakes
  • topped with the chocolate letters


REVIEW: Paula Deen has done it again y’all! The cupcakes all domed up perfectly, the texture was a great balance between moistness and crumb. The chocolate flavor was right at the point where you know it’s chocolaty, but it’s not overdone. And for a buck? You just can’t beat a box of these when you need a quick cupcake fix!


What do you normally buy at dollar stores?

Another steal I always stock up on is jarred red bell peppers..they are identical to more expensive brands!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I’m From Minnesota eh.


Can someone please just whisk me away from the arctic tundra of a place..?


I don’t know about you, but I’m sure glad it’s finally the weekend. Not that I had a long week, being that it was cut a day short, but mostly for the fact that I can stay cuddled up inside till the temps warm up a bit instead of having to trek out in the wee hours of the frigid morning to class. Heck with snow days, I think someone needs to instill cold days into the university policy..eek!

I loved hearing about all of your favorite Progresso soup flavors. We all pretty much agreed that Progresso knows what they are doing in the soup department! Speaking of which, I suppose you’re wondering who one the fabulous Progresso prize pack?

Drum roll please…


We have a winner!


Jessica from The Novice Chef Blog! Great blog by the way—I love her sense of humor! So please send me your contact info and we will have all your goodies in the mail ASAP! :-)


No food fun today folks, I have quite a bit of homework I need to get a head start on. So instead, I did this Dialect Vlog I’ve been seeing floating around the blog world. It’s all about how everyone has different accents from all corners of the globe. Can you tell I am from northern Minnesota, eh? ;-) Have a great weekend all!

p.s. If you decide to do this, let me know—I’d love to tune in!

The Questions:

  1. What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
  2. What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
  3. What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
  4. What do you call gym shoes?
  5. What do you say to address a group of people?
  6. What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
  7. What do you call your grandparents?
  8. What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
  9. What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
  10. What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

The Words:

Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught


Do you say anything different than I do?!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Soup’s On

I went home again this past weekend being that I had 3 days off. And I’ve come to the conclusion that every time I have plans to drive a distance, it snows…


and snows…


until it’s declared a blizzard with hazardous road conditions.



And then of course once I finally reached my parents house (which took me more toward four hours instead of the usual two), we found out the highway I was on was rated the worst driving conditions in Minnesota..just my luck! :-/


For the weekend entertainment with my parents we had a new toy to play with…

My dad’s new remote control helicopter—so fun, if we can ever find out how to steer it in a flyable fashion.


And the second means of entertainment was our ongoing experiment of growing shiitake mushrooms! My mom ordered it for my dad from the Fungi website. It’s basically a shiitake mushroom patch composed of a unique blend of sterilized, enriched sawdust fully colonized with a select strain of shiitake. Shiitake kits are super-boosted to give the most prolific harvests yet.

After just 10 days…


Step 1: Harvest


Step 2: Observe— “ooh and ahh” over your shrooms


Step 3: Add them to your favorite dish—in this case, a veggie omelet!


End result: Delicious and fresh mushrooms grown in your own home. :-)


Next up on tonight’s menu? Another round of Progresso Soup news. (Member this one from last year?)

Last month I was contacted by MyBlogSpark asking if I wanted to try out some news soups from the Progresso line. Soup + MN winters=a good way to warm up…so naturally I said “yes”!

“Giving you a taste worth talking about with new varieties, Progresso continues to provide convenient options made to taste great and encourage good food choices, too. It’s important to make food choices for yourself and for your family that are both satisfying to your taste buds and nutritious.”

Currently on shelves:

Progresso® New World Recipes™ – Inspired by Mexican recipes, explore one of the fastest growing ethnic cuisines by giving the Progresso New World Recipes line a try. Made with authentic Mexican ingredients and seasonings, four new Progresso soups will be hitting grocery shelves near you - Chicken Tortilla, Meatball & Rice, Black Bean Jalapeno and Chicken & Vegetable.
Progresso Light - America’s number one Light soup just got better, as all 13 existing Progresso Light varieties are now packed with bigger pieces of white meat chicken, more tender pieces of beef or added vegetables. Need even more to talk about? Progresso Light New England Clam Chowder is the first creamy Light ready-to-serve soup that holds true to the Progresso Light name with just 1 Weight Watchers® POINTS® value per serving!
Progresso Reduced Sodium – With 49 percent of shoppers concerned about high cholesterol1, Progresso understands the importance of soluble fiber and reduced sodium diets. New Reduced Sodium Tomato Parmesan soup is one more tasty option that has a delicious blend of flavors and carries the “May Help Lower Cholesterol”2 benefit. In addition, five additional Reduced Sodium soups also carry the “May Help Lower Cholesterol”2 benefit.
Progresso High Fiber – With 9 out of 10 Americans not getting the recommended Daily Value of fiber, Progresso High Fiber line of soups are packed with 7 grams per serving. Giving you one more thing to talk about, Progresso brand’s first Chili Soup just joined the High Fiber family!

In the Progresso package I received one can of Chicken Tortilla Progresso Soup and one can of Light New England Clam Chowder Progresso soup, a spoon rest, soup can rack, and soup mug with matching spoon.



I don’t know about you, but when seafood is mentioned, I immediately jump at the chance to get my hands on some. This weeks seafood indulgence came in the form of soup..Progresso’s  Light New England Clam Chowder to be exact. I’ve never tried their original version, I always make this homemade version,  but for a canned version I would have to say Progresso has the flavor spot on, it’s just lacking big chunks in it. However, I realize not everyone is a fan of chunks, so it’s always better to go with less and let the customer add more of whatever if they wish. So if your a fan of New England Clam Chowder minus the chunks, make sure to add Progresso’s light version to your grocery list. Photo4272Fjfj

You can enter yourself in a Progresso giveaway just by entering an answer to the question below! You’ll get the same prize pack you saw above. (Let me know in a separate comment if you shared this giveaway on your blog—you’ll get an extra chance!

Contest ends this Friday!!


What Progresso soup flavor is your all-time favorite?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hittin’ The Texas Roads (Part II)

Spring semester started as of this past Monday. I am taking 18 credits, so my life is a bit jam-packed as of now. Bare with me and the sporadic posting if you will! :-)


Glad everyone enjoyed the recap of the first half of my trip. So here’s the part two recap I promised….


Like I said, this trip was a lot of things food-related, but another reason for going was to visit my aunt and uncle (my gram’s mom’s sister). And I have to add in that they are 90 years old, but would you have guessed if I didn’t tell you?!


They took my grandma and I to a Texas chain restaurant called The Black-Eyed Pea.


They pride themselves on all home-cooked style meals. Everything we ordered was delish, which was evident by the clean plates all scattered on our table! ;-)

I ordered their grilled Atlantic salmon with Cajun seasoning & a baked potato on the side. I guess I was on a salmon kick this trip!


My aunt ordered their homemade chicken pot pie. We couldn’t get over how “cute” it was when it came!


And my uncle ordered their home-style meatloaf which he couldn’t stop raving about.


My aunt actually doesn’t like to cook one bit, so they also took us out to Red Lobster one night and I got the steak and shrimp—my fav!



Then for what I like to call our “adventurous” day, we went to both the Natural Bridge Caverns and the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. They are located between Austin and San Antonio.


I had never been into any caverns before, so I had no clue what to expect. The only thing I can say to sum up caverns is “absolutely breathtaking”! It’s amazing how fascinating untouched nature can be!







And on a side note, this 3/4 hike was quite the workout, so I was kind of glad that at the Wildlife Ranch you get to sit in your car ha ha! :-/


The whole concept of the Wildlife Ranch is that you drive through a 4 mile fenced in area that is supposed to be like a realistic African safari. You are given a bag of food, and you basically feed all the animals right out of your car window. It seemed scary at first, but it’s by far the best “zoo” experience I’ve had, and believe me, I’ve been to a lot of zoos in my day.

The food.


Giraffes=my second favorite animal.


Obviously everyone today was a bit hungry!


This was proven true my the lick of Mr.Goat’s lips…




Gram’s favorite animal=the buffalo!


Buffalo photo shoot…


And of course a goat photo op couldn’t be passed up..



And finally I spotted my all-time favorite animal—the zebra.



Lucky for us, we got a zebra who had quite a personality.



I was laughing so hard I was in tears!!



I would highly recommend both of these attractions. They were $15 each which is a great price for all you get to experience!

To say are adventurous afternoon worked up an appetite would be somewhat of an understatement. I was hungrier than our new zebra friend was. Luckily, we came across one of my favorite restaurants—The Golden Corral!


Various plates included steak, shrimp, salad, baked potato, grilled veggies, and steamed cabbage.




I really wanted to see the San Antonio Riverwalk, and being that we were only ten minutes away, we decided to venture downtown to see it.

It’s basically a bunch of shops and restaurants all along the river—it’s very similar to what I imagine Italy to look like!




And did you really think I’d go a day without some fro-yo? Nope!

Hello Fruity Frogurt!


By far the cutest decor I’ve seen in a fro-yo shop so far!



I got the strawberry cheesecake flavor with strawberries and graham cracker crumbs—priceless :-) 


Well all, hope you enjoyed my trip to Texas—I know I sure did! Have a fabulous weekend! :-)

What is your favorite animal?