Twisted Tuesday: Fruit Sushi

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I know I’ve mentioned before that I tend to get on different kicks at different times. And…I know that I’ve mentioned my tunnel vision on that certain food until I’ve had my fill. It could last a day…it could last weeks…months… and of course, if it’s a yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles, then it can and will last for years…

But this isn’t about cupcakes today..
It should be (because you know I love them), but it isn’t.
It’s about sushi.
Fruit Sushi to be exact…

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I’ve been on a sushi kick lately; and in my tunnel vision, I’d eat it every day for lunch if I could! I actually had it for lunch today..

Speaking of my lunch, here is a quick story…

So my boss and I went out for lunch today. We are fairly new working with each other (just under a year), so, naturally I want to put my best foot forward at all times.. or at least show a little class once in a while…

He’s kind of on a sushi kick too, so when he sent me a meeting notice to go to lunch for sushi, I immediately accepted! Well, we went to Fuji Grill, and on the menu are these lunch boxes that include some California rolls, a couple of dumplings, a small salad, and your choice in entrée. Jerry chose the teriyaki salmon. I chose the chicken tempura. When I ordered it, the waitress asked “You do know they’re fried, right?” I answered: “That’s fine”. Red Flag Number One: Went totally over my head.

So we’re sitting there talking, and all of a sudden I see the waitress walking across the restaurant carrying a box filled with huge (and I mean huge!!!), claw-like THINGS that were topped off with this massive fried ring of SOMETHING. I thought to myself at the time: “Wow, whoever ordered that must be starving”…

And then she started walking toward our table. Red Flag Number Two: Suspicious Activity Heading Your Way. “Please don’t let it be mine…please don’t let it be mine…” I kept thinking as she was getting closer… and then she stopped in front of our table. Yep. It was mine. Red Flag Number Three: Target Hit.

And as she stood in front of us, in one hand holding a box with the perfect lunch size piece of salmon for Jerry, and in her other hand, a box with that mammoth STUFF for me… Jerry just burst out laughing. Of course he did, as I struggled to maintain any ounce of dignity that hadn’t already drained from my body… What else could I do, but dig in? Have you ever tried to eat a whole chicken with chopsticks? It isn’t pretty. By the time I finished eating, there were tempura crumbs all over the table. Probably all over my sweater, and I’m quite sure on my face.. Absolutely no class at all..

Reality is..it was delicious! Great food, wonderful company, and some serious laughs. Eh, I never really had a best foot to put forward anyway…

Ok, back to the fruit sushi..

My friend Steve came up with the genius idea of making fruit sushi for Twisted Tuesday… LOVE it!! We brainstormed a little bit, trying to figure out what could take the place of rice, what could take the place of nori, the soy sauce, and wasabi. He came up with the brilliant idea of using fruit roll-ups for the nori, and we kind of thought that because this was going to be more of a sweet dessert type of deal, Rice Krispie treats would be a great substitute for the rice, not to mention a great texture feature.

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In place of the wasabi, I made a strawberry crema with peach schnapps.
Orange juice reduced with peach schnapps and sugar worked perfectly in place of the soy sauce.

I do admit I was a little worried about how they would turn out. Would the rice krispie treats be pliable enough to roll, and would it stay rolled? That worry continued on to taste. How would they taste? Would they be mushy? We were pleasantly surprised! I was able to roll them up, slice them, and they stayed in a roll, just like regular sushi should.

Honestly? I’m pleased with the way they turned out. I think they taste really good, and I think they’re very, VERY cute. This is a fun dessert, and the variations could be endless! It would be perfect for a kid’s party, a summer party, or any kind of party for that matter!

Tempura crumbs and fruit sushi? Life just doesn’t get any better…

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Fruit Sushi
Makes about 18 individual sushi rolls, from 3 sushi logs

Just a quick note:  In case you’re wondering when you get to the pictures below… I could only find tattoo fruit roll ups.  I’m sure that they make them plain, but they were nowhere to be found the day I was out shopping!  I think they’re Spiderman!

You will need:
A variety of fresh fruit such as: Strawberries, Melon, Blackberries, Blueberries, Pineapple, Apples, Pears
Fruit Roll-ups
Rice Krispie Treats
Heavy Cream
Peach Schnapps
Sugar
Orange Juice

The Fruit
Thinly slice your choice in fruit into matchstick size pieces. You’ll want to leave the blueberries and blackberries whole, for the middle and topper of the sushi. Set aside.

The Rice Krispie Treats
I just used the recipe from Kellogg’s website (cut in half)

1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 cups mini marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat, and add the Rice Krispies. Stir until well blended.

Assembling the Sushi:

On a piece of waxed paper, shape about 1/2 cup of Rice Krispie treats into a square about 1/2 inch larger than the fruit roll-up. It should be about 1/4 inch thick. Add more Rice Krispie treats if necessary.

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Lay a fruit roll-up on top of the square of Rice Krisipies. Line a row of blackberries down the center of the fruit roll-up. Top with matchstick fruits.

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Using the wax paper, roll the sushi up until the Rice Krispies meet, squeezing tightly so that the sides adhere to each other.

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With a sharp knife, carefully slice the ends off of the sushi log. Slice the sushi log into six individual rolls.

Garnish with blueberries. Serve with strawberry creme, and orange juice reduction.

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The Strawberry Crema
1 cup heavy cream
6 whole strawberries
2 tbsp peach schnapps

In food processor, add the heavy cream, strawberries, and schnapps. Blend on high until thickened. Serve on the side with the sushi.

The Orange Juice Reduction
1 cup orange juice
3 tbsp peach schnapps
2 tsp sugar

Pour the orange juice, schnapps and sugar into a small saucepan, and simmer over low heat until reduced by half. Serve on the side with the sushi.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Pretzels

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I made pretzels today!

It’s ok, go ahead…roll your eyes, and say it. “Big whoop, Prudy”..

Apparently, I’ve been researching and planning for nothing. This is no big deal.

Katie and Ryan stopped by right just as I was rolling the pretzels into logs. I looked at Ryan, and said “I’m making pretzels…” I braced myself for unconstrained excitement.. and instead he just nodded his head as if he could tell what I was doing. Hmm…

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After I had them all rolled out and laid out on parchment covered cookie sheets, I started to get the poaching bath ready. I had decided that I was going to make brown sugar and honey pretzels, and as I was pouring the honey into the water, Ryan asked me what I was doing… “I’m making the poaching bath…” He nodded his head as if he knew what that meant. Hmmm.. (In reality, he was only asking me what I was doing with the honey..)

After I added the baking soda to the water, I was in awe… “This totally smells like pretzel!! I can’t believe it smells like pretzel!!” I excitedly exclaimed..

Katie and Ryan just nodded their heads as if they knew that already… What the heck?

Katie said “I know, isn’t that so cool? I love making pretzels, I haven’t made them in a couple of years though”…

I stopped.
I turned around and looked at her in disbelief.
“You made pretzels?” I asked nonchalantly, trying to contain my urge to yell…
“Yeah, mom. About two years ago. You were eating them. Don’t you remember?”
Apparently not.
What the heck?

And Ryan has been making them all along??
Seriously. What. The. Heck.

Honestly…where have I been all these years?

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So. Here they are….

Pretzels.

Yay.

In the end, it doesn’t matter that pretzels are a cinch to make…and that people have been making them homemade forever…and I just didn’t know it.

I had fun making them.

And while I did my research and knew that it’s actually the alkali (from the baking soda) in the water that gives them that distinctive pretzel smell and that familiar shiny brown crust. I was still in awe when I smelled it for the first time! I had no idea.

It’s like I invented the wheel today. At least in my own little world, I invented the wheel.

Life is good. It’s good, especially when you’re clueless. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss; it helps us to be excited about things that might otherwise be ordinary…

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Pretzels

This recipe makes about 2 dozen.

You will need:
Bread flour
Kosher salt
Active dry yeast
Brown Sugar
Honey
One egg
Water
Pretzel salt
Parchment paper
Shortening or olive oil

The Pretzels

Grease a medium size bowl with shortening or olive oil. Set aside.
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

3 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (between 95F and 110F)

Dissolve the brown sugar in the water, and add the yeast. While your yeast is busy feasting on the brown sugar, you can start preparing the flour and salt:

3 cups bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt

Mix flour and salt together in the bowl of your stand mixer (or if doing this by hand, a large bowl).

Once the yeast/water mixture is foamy, pour into the flour and salt mixture. Mix on low with bread hook attachment until dough is smooth and elastic. If mixing by hand, mix together until a dough forms, and move dough to floured surface. Knead for about 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough into a medium bowl that has been greased with shortening or olive oil. Cover with a towel, and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size.

Remove the dough, and divide into 24 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a log that is about 8″ by 1/2″. Lay the dough logs onto the prepared baking sheets, cover with towels, and place in a warm spot. Let rise for one more hour. 

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The Poaching Bath
10 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup baking soda

Bring the water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add the brown sugar, honey, and baking soda. Stir and simmer for five minutes until the sugar is dissolved.

Baking the Pretzels

Place about four dough logs at a time into the poaching bath. Simmer for about 30 seconds on one side. Flip. Simmer for about 30 seconds on the other side. Remove with tongs and place back onto the parchment covered baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining dough logs.

Prepare the egg wash by whisking one large egg and one tablespoon of water together.  Brush each pretzel with the egg wash, and sprinkle with the pretzel salt (as much, or as little as you like).

Bake for about 30 minutes at 300 degrees.  Remove from oven, and cool completely on cooling rack.

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Enjoy!!

Whose Wok? What Wok?

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I’ve been a little under the weather for the last couple of weeks…  I know I’m really behind in posts, emails, and keeping up with the blogs I follow!  I”m so, so sorry for that!!  I promise I’ll get back into the swing of things by tomorrow..

I’m also in need of advice…

I’m looking to buy a wok, and I don’t know a darn thing about them. 

I’ve read that carbon steel is the best. Then I read that carbon steel comes with some sort of protective coating that is almost impossible to remove, and then takes forever to season.  I’m an “I want it now” kind of girl, so I’m not sure that’s for me.  Maybe it is.  I need you to tell me that.

I also read that cast iron is the best.  Then I read that cast iron is the worst because of the way the heat distributes after you take food out or add food to the pan.

I’ve been looking at them on Amazon, and I make the mistake of reading all of the reviews.  You just never know who to believe.  “I love this wok”   “Do not buy this wok” “This one is the best”  “This one is the worst”…

I’m hoping that someone might provide some insight, and point me in the right direction.  Your guidance would be so appreciated!!

See you tomorrow!

Twisted Tuesday: Cobb Lettuce Wraps

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I was watching the weather on the news before I left for work this morning, and the weatherman said something like: “If you think you’ll be walking out the door to dry roads this morning, you will be very mistaken”… and of course, he was right. It was yet another slippery morning, one of the many we have had in the last month and a half. It just set the tone for the rest of the day.

And….There is a very good chance that this weather could be my fault.

I’m quite certain this past summer I proclaimed to the world that I was melting (numerous times throughout July and August), and how I would love a raging blizzard outside my window. I goofed. I should have made it clear that I only wanted one raging blizzard. One blizzard. For only one day. And then the snow could shut off, and the sun could come out, and the roads could be dry for the rest of the winter. But that’s not meant to be. Not just yet, anyway. Apparently we have about six more weeks of winter.

Six weeks.
I think we can handle that.
Right?

Six more weeks of winter.
Ugh.

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I can remember how excited I was in October to start making winter meals. I love them. They’re truly comfort food. They’re the stick to your ribs, keeps you warm meals. That seems like so long ago.

I’m sick of them.
At least for today.

All day long I thought about summer, and how a salad with an ice cold bottle of pop (Yep.. I call it pop. Western NY girl here!) would taste so good…

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A Cobb salad. With blue cheese, chicken, bacon, eggs, tomato, and avocado. For the twist? Maybe something a little lighter… like a Cobb lettuce wrap. Everything we love in a Cobb salad, but a smaller version that we can just pick up and eat. Drizzled with homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, and topped with chopped chives. And a bottle of ice-cold sparkling clementine. Perfect.

It was definitely a pick-me-up, and brought a little summer into what was a rather dreary day.

Six more weeks… we can do it, right? Yeah, I think we can..

Cobb Lettuce Wraps
Serves Four / Two Wraps Each

8 Boston lettuce leaves, cleaned and left whole
2 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced into cubes
4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp, and chopped
1 avocado, cut into cubes
4 hard boiled eggs, cut into cubes
1 large tomato, chopped
4 oz blue cheese
¼ cup chives, chopped
Lemon slices for drizzling

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (Recipe Below)

Assemble the lettuce wraps:

Lay each lettuce leaf on work surface. Place a few cubes of chicken on each lettuce leaf. Arrange the bacon, avocado, eggs, tomato, and blue cheese in rows on top of the chicken.

Drizzle with buttermilk ranch dressing, and garnish with chives.

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Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp fresh parsley
, chopped
1 tsp fresh chives
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise, garlic, ground mustard, cayenne, parsley, chives, salt, and pepper in a small bowl until well blended.

Cover and refrigerate for up to one week.

Enjoy!

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Coconut Macaroons

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Years ago, I had boss who would bring me four coconut macaroons on a weekly basis from a little bakery that was near his house.

It only took me a couple of weeks to realize that those macaroons weren’t really for me. Well, they were, but they were for me in pretense only. It became a little routine that we had, every Wednesday morning the little bakery box would be sitting on my desk when I came to work. We would sit at my desk, and enjoy a macaroon…and we’d discuss the weekly report that was due on Friday. I would then leave the box containing the other two macaroons on my desk, and they would randomly disappear throughout the day.

It was an unspoken understanding.
One was for me.
Three were for him.

The other day I was sitting at my desk with my usual morning cup of tea, and I started thinking about the macaroons. It’s been so many years, but there are times that I miss that little routine. I miss that weekly macaroon. I don’t, however, miss that weekly report….

I came across some coconut in my refrigerator yesterday morning, and knew right away what I was going to do with it. Within a half hour, there were a dozen coconut macaroons sitting on my counter.

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Coconut macaroons can be found in cookbooks from as early as 1725. Earlier versions were made up of leftover mashed potatoes, covered in chocolate and topped with roasted coconut. Once they became commercial, the mashed potatoes didn’t have a very long shelf life, and eventually, the potatoes were replaced with fondant.

According to Wikipedia, this particular recipe is most popular in the United States, Australia, The Netherlands, and Germany. It goes on to say that they’re commonly coated in chocolate, and at times almond slivers are mixed in. And apparently in Australia, raspberry jam or candied cherries are hidden in the center before they’re baked.

Almonds? Cherries? Chocolate? There’s a good chance I’ll be making these again very, VERY soon…

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Coconut Macaroons
Makes One Dozen

A quick note:  Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of recipes, either by tearing them out of magazines, or newspapers.  Some I’ve acquired from friends.  Most of them I’ve changed up to suit my own taste.  This recipe was torn from a magazine, but I don’t remember which one, or when.

The original recipe actually calls for almond extract, but I actually use vanilla paste for this.  It is super fragrant, and the cookies are speckled with pure vanilla.  If you don’t have vanilla paste, you can use the almond extract, or vanilla extract.

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla paste
¼ tsp salt
3 cups shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla, salt, and shredded coconut until well blended.

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If you have a cookie scoop, drop mounds of the coconut mixture onto the parchment lined baking sheet. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, measure a heaping tablespoon for each macaroon.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and with a melted piece of a Cadbury’s Dairy Almond bar, I made a couple of Almond Joys with them. Luckily I only made two, or I would have eaten the whole batch!!

Enjoy!

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Gnudi: What’s the Hub-Bub, Bub?

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Have you ever heard of something for the very first time one day…. And then all of a sudden, you’re hearing about it all the time as if it’s become an overnight sensation? Well, that’s what happened to me with gnudi.

The very first time I heard of them was about three weeks ago, as I was watching “The Best Thing I Ever Made” on the Food Network, while working in my kitchen. Scott Conant was sharing his recipe for gnudi.

Gnudi? Now that’s a word that I’ve never heard before. I know…I don’t know how that could possibly be, but it’s true. They’re new to me.  They kind of looked like big balls of gnocchi. I made a mental note to Google them later on, so that I could see what they were all about.

While I was researching them, I found that gnudi became popular around 2008, because of a restaurant called The Spotted Pig , in New York City. I’ve never heard of that restaurant either, but it looks wonderful, and when I make it back to the city, I’ll be sure to visit there. The photos make it look so quaint and inviting.

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Ok, back to the gnudi…

Pronunciation (so as not to butcher it as we say it…):
Gnudi: Ny-oodee
Gnocchi: Ny-oakey

Gnudi have been around for centuries, according to Oretta Zanini de Vita in “Encyclopedia of Pasta,” they’ve been around since the late 1200’s. Again, overnight sensation, as they’ve become quite popular in the last couple of years.

The difference between gnudi and gnocchi is the amount of starch used in the recipe. Gnocchi are made from potato and flour, while gnudi are made from ricotta and breadcrumbs. Gnocchi tend to be a little bit dense and chewy, whereas gnudi are fluffy and soft.

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My mom (Marsh) called me last week to tell me about an article in the Buffalo News … it was about…well, what do you know… Gnudi. She read the recipe to me over the phone, and then made a copy of the article for me, and sent it to me. This article contained a couple of variations of gnudi: plain, spinach, and butternut squash. Marsh made the spinach version, and was really disappointed. “I didn’t like them at all, but you make them and see what you think” she said.

According to the article, gnudi are much easier to make than gnocchi.

“We’ll see about that…” I said to myself this morning as I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I decided to make the butternut squash gnudi.

Well, about 20 minutes later… the gnudi were already in the saucepan, boiling. I admit, they are easier to make. Much faster for sure. They’d probably make a great 30 minute meal for after work, with a butter and sage sauce, or a quick pomodoro sauce.

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But the question is, do I like them better than gnocchi? No.

My reason? Texture. They’re just too fluffy for me. I prefer the chewiness of the gnocci.

Don’t get me wrong; you can really pick up the butternut in them, and with the lemon-sage butter sauce, they were really delicious. I will make them again, especially when I’m pressed for time.

I do think that they would make a great beginning, the first course to a meal, or an appetizer of sorts.

Anyway, I’m really glad I tried them… now I can get in on that hub-bub when they come up during a conversation…

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Butternut Squash Gnudi
Makes 16 gnudi

A quick note:
The recipe suggested that the ricotta and squash be drained for a half hour, so that the gnudi didn’t turn out watery.

It called for ½ cup of fresh breadcrumbs, but to add more if they were too mushy. I tried them with just ½ cup, and test boiled two of them… they broke apart in the water (see photo below). I added another cup of breadcrumbs, and that did the trick.

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It also calls for just ½ cup of parmesan. When a recipe calls for cheese, you can be sure that I’ll be adding more than what it calls for, just because I like it.

The recipe also suggested browning the gnudi in butter before serving them. Brown them in butter? You don’t have to ask me twice…

The Gnudi:
¾ cup whole milk ricotta, drained
½ cup frozen butternut squash, thawed and drained
1 cup parmesan (technically ½ cup)
1 egg yolk
1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (technically ½ cup)
½ tsp salt
dash nutmeg (optional, I didn’t use it)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread a layer of flour over the parchment.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, squash, parmesan, egg yolk, breadcrumbs, salt, and nutmeg until well blended.

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Using either your hands, or a cookie scoop, form balls with the dough, and roll in flour that is on the parchment. Gently shake the flour covered gnudi in your hands so that the flour falls back onto the parchment paper, and the gnudi is left with a thin layer of flour. This will prevent them from sticking. Line them on the baking sheet while you form the remaining gnudi.

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In a large frying pan, melt three tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Remove from heat.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat, and cook the gnudi in batches. Do not crowd them. Once they float to the surface of the water, boil them for about 2 more minutes. Remove with slotted spoon, and place in the frying pan of butter. Repeat with remaining gnudi.

When all of the gnudi are in the frying pan, turn the heat back on to medium, and fry the gnudi until they’re golden brown.

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Move to a paper towel lined plate.

While the gnudi are browning, begin preparing:

The Lemon-Sage Butter Sauce:
4 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 sage leaves, whole
Juice of ½ lemon
Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste

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Melt the butter in a medium frying pan. Saute the garlic and sage leaves for about two minutes. Add lemon juice, and cook for another minute or so.

Place the gnudi on individual plates, and pour the butter sauce over them. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan.

Enjoy!

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Twisted Tuesday: BLT with a Twist and a Chicken Soup Disaster Story

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Today is National Homemade Soup Day. It has nothing to do with my Twisted Tuesday recipe at all, except that it makes me think about my chicken soup disaster last night, and I thought I’d share it with you..

I thought about chicken soup all day yesterday.  I decided to make a quick pot of it last night after I got home.  Sometimes I like to take the easy way out, and I’ll throw some chicken stock in with a store bought rotisserie chicken, and some onions, a bay leaf or two, carrots, celery, canned tomatoes, potatoes and tubettini.  Ninety-nine percent of the time it comes out fabulous.  And then there’s last night’s 1% which turned out to be a total train wreck. I was totally off my game last night.  It definitely was not the easy way out.

It all started out as what I believed to be a normal preparation.  The soup was simmering on the stove. Michael came into the kitchen and asked what I was making for dinner.   “Chicken soup” I told him.  “That’s awesome” he said.   And as usual, he proceeded to grab a spoon for a taste.  “There’s no flavor” he told me.   I tasted it.  He was right. I added some salt.  Still no flavor.  Now, here is where it gets a little messy… I had a very small timeframe to get this soup finished and on the table, and in a panic, I threw a chunk of parmesan cheese in, which only succeeded in making a mass of burned cheese on the bottom of the pan.

Come on!! (said dramatically)..I always throw cheese in my soup.  It always melts into it just fine.  I realized that I still had the flame on high, and I was burning it! Seriously…Really?  …and…there was still no flavor.  I threw in a few spoonfuls of grated Romano.  It was a little bit better… but while I was stirring it, I realized that the potatoes and carrots had disintegrated in the high heat.  It was basically broth with onions, celery, a few chunks of chicken, and globules of melted cheese (that hadn’t burned to the bottom) floating around!

I was still going to try to pass it off as edible…
It didn’t work.
They were on to me…

I had Michael come in and taste it again… after he tasted it he said: “Mom, what is going on with you?  I always tell my friends how awesome your soups are, but if they tasted this, they’d be like ‘dude, what’s up with your mom’s soup?’  This is really bad”. 

Now, that normally would have made me feel bad, but what stuck was the fact that he tells his friends that my soups are awesome…

Luckily I had a beautiful loaf of country bread from my beloved Wegmans, and I sliced that up to go with the “flavorless, disintegrated potatoes and carrots, burned cheese on the bottom of the pan” chicken soup. Apparently I sliced the bread into what Mike called “mini loaves of bread” and “mom, you better get out of the kitchen NOW before you hurt yourself..”.

He was right, and after I skimmed the salvageable flavorless soup off of the top of the pan and served it to everyone; I walked away from the mess in the kitchen, and didn’t look back until I got up this morning, when I was ready to face the war zone to clean up the burned on cheesy mess…

Honestly? I think they ordered a pizza after I left the room!

Things just happen in the kitchen… sometimes bad….but most of the time good…

Twisted Tuesday…

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I went out to dinner with my friends a couple of weeks ago, and there on the menu, were corn fritters. I really love them. But I know if I order an appetizer, then I’m not going to enjoy the entrée…so I passed.  I’m still kicking myself for that, and have had them on the brain for the last few days.  I’ve also had BLT’s on the brain, and I thought I’d combine the two tonight!  Bacon, lettuce, and tomato on corn fritters should take care of my cravings all in one sitting!

Even Better: Corn and potato pancake BLT’s, with avocados and chipotle mayonnaise.  Now that, my friends, is a beautiful thing…

Life is still good, even though I burned the soup….

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Corn and Potato Pancake BLT’s
Makes 4 “Sandwiches”

Just a quick note:  You really have to eat this with a fork and knife…it’s not a pick up and eat kind of BLT..

The Pancake:
3 large potatoes, grated and drained
Juice of ½ lemon
2 cups frozen corn
1 large onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 ½  tsp white pepper
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne

¼ cup vegetable oil

Grate the potatoes, and mix them with the lemon juice.  Drain them until there’s no more liquid coming from the strainer.

Stir together the potatoes, corn, onion, eggs, salt, white and black peppers in a large mixing bowl until combined.

Heat vegetable oil in large frying pan.  Measure 1/2 cup potato mixture into the pan, and flatten to about ½” thick.  Fry for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you fry the remaining pancakes.

The Chipotle Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tbsp milk
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

The Rest of the Ingredients:
1 pound thick sliced bacon, fried crisp
2 tomatoes, thick sliced
Boston Lettuce leaves
1 avocado, sliced
Fresh Chives, chopped

Assemble the BLT:
Place one potato corn pancake on the plate, layer the bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and avocados on top, and drizzle with the chipotle sour cream.  Place another pancake on top. Garnish with fresh chives.

Enjoy!

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Impulsive Purchases and Mini Headlights

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Sometimes I do things that I have no other explanation for, except that it was a spur of the moment thought, that led into a spur of the moment online purchase….there was no thinking involved…just a thought, and the click of a button…and then guilt for the purchase.

On Wednesday last week, I decided that I wanted a donut maker.
By Friday, it arrived in the mail.

I should probably mention that I am not being paid to talk about this donut maker. This is really all about me, and my impulsive nature.

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When I opened the package on Friday, and sat there staring at this powder blue donut maker, I honestly wondered what the heck was I thinking on Wednesday.. I don’t know..I guess I thought it would be kind of fun to be able to make little donuts when the mood struck. I thought that I’d rather eat a homemade donut, and it would be much better than deep frying…but I was feeling guilty for such a random purchase.

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I can honestly say it works pretty well for the $25 I paid for it. I do agree with the reviews on Amazon, when they complained that the donuts cook unevenly. They definitely cook faster on the bottom than on the top.

This little donut maker probably appeals to a very young crowd (or impulsive people like me), but I certainly wouldn’t let a child use it, at least unattended. It gets really hot to the touch on the outside. The donuts didn’t stick to the pan at all, but it was pretty hot when I was pulling them from the rings.

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And now for the donuts… they’re about 2 inches in diameter, so more of a little nibble than anything. I do think that they’re a nice little treat for a Saturday morning… possibly rolled in sugar, cinnamon, or even plain! I liked them because they were quick and easy. A breeze of a clean up!!

I decided to make mini headlights, and I’ll tell you why I love these little things…

I’m not sure about you, but when I lose my willpower (which is often), and go for a full size crème filled chocolate frosted donut, and eat the whole thing while I’m thinking to myself that it doesn’t even taste as good as I thought it would…and then that sickly sweet feeling comes over me immediately after that very last bite…the bite that I really didn’t want, but ate anyway…and then I’m miserable…sick and miserable.

Well, these mini headlights were the perfect size to remedy that. I ate one, and it satisfied any crème filled donut craving that I might have had. I could have even eaten two of them, and still wouldn’t have gotten that sickly feeling. And the beautiful part of the whole thing? It tasted good, because I made it exactly the way I thought it should be made.

So, in the end… will I use this little donut maker often? No, probably not. I do know that I’ll pull it out once in a while, and make these fun little donuts.

I’m definitely not sorry for this impulsive purchase. No guilt here!

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Mini Headlights
Makes About Two Dozen

The Donut:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1-1/3 tbsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ cup milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat your donut maker.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil until well blended.

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You can spoon the batter into the donut rings, but I found that it’s much easier to use a disposable piping bag. Fill the rings just to the top with the batter, close the top of the donut maker, and let cook for exactly two minutes. Remove the baked donuts from the rings, and let cool on wire rack.

The Ganache:
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp heavy cream

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Place the chocolate chips and heavy cream into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted, and spreadable. Add a few more drops of heavy cream if you feel it needs it. Dip the tops of the donuts into the ganache, and set on wire rack to cool.

The Crème Filling:
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
¼ to ½ cup heavy cream

In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and ¼ cup of the heavy cream until fluffy. If it isn’t as fluffy as you’d like, continue to add heavy cream until it becomes your preferred piping consistency.

Pipe onto the chocolate covered donuts. Decorate with sprinkles if desired.

Enjoy!

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January Calendar Fun: Butter and Almond Shortbread and Homemade Vanilla Extract

IMG_8189I have what I believe is a very fun calendar for my desk at work.  It’s this Country Cooking calendar for 2014. I normally have a cupcake calendar at my desk every year, but for some reason, I chose this one instead this year.

I like to keep the element of surprise, so I don’t look ahead at the upcoming month until the first day of that month! I have to say that I’ve never been disappointed. They’re always really good recipes.  I guess they’d have to be, you have to look at them for at least 28-31 days in a row!  Since today is February 1st, and it’s Saturday, I won’t know what February’s recipe is until Monday.

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For the month of January, day in and day out, I’ve been sitting at my desk staring at these cookies, and yesterday I came up with the idea  that I should prepare the recipe at the end of every month.. and then write about it. Well..I will usually try to follow a recipe to the tee, but there are times when I have a strong gut feeling that it just doesn’t sound right. This just happened to be one of those recipes…

When I first read this recipe, I was a little worried that it didn’t call for enough wet ingredients.  I thought one cup of butter, along with the two egg yolks, and  3 tbsp brandy / to five cups of flour didn’t sound like a good ratio.  But what do I know?  I’m not a baker.

So, I did a little research.

It turns out that shortbread  is made with one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour.  I did learn a little bit about shortbread… it originated in Scotland, but was made from medieval bread dough that was rolled in sugar and spice, and then twice baked into a hardened biscuit which is called a rusk.  Apparently Mary, Queen of Scots, took a liking to them with her afternoon tea, and ate shortbread flavored with caraway.   They were expensive to make, so they were considered a luxury, made only for special occasions such as Christmas or weddings.

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I went with my gut feeling, and decided to cut the flour down to three cups.  Instead of using brandy, I used orange juice, which gave the cookies a lovely orangey-citrus flavor.  I’m going to call my version: Orange and Almond Shortbread.

After making my own changes, this turned out to be a nice cookie recipe, one that would easily fit into your Christmas repertoire, or just to use as an everyday type of cookie. The most common shape for these cookies a circle of the dough cut into wedges named petticoat tails. They’re also popular cut into circles, or long rectangular shapes. You can use any shape, really. I chose hearts just because we’re so close to Valentine’s Day.

These cookies would be perfect for that cup of afternoon tea, or added as a little bit of dolce to go with a cheese platter and a glass of wine…

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My Version: Orange and Almond Shortbread
Makes 2 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp orange juice
½ tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

2 cups powdered sugar, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To toast the almonds:
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spread almonds onto a baking sheet, and bake for 5-10 minutes.  When you can smell them baking, they’re done. Mine took exactly 7 minutes.

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In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Add the vanilla and orange juice. Beat for another minute.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Add to the butter mixture one cup at a time until fully incorporated.  Stir in the almonds.

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On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough to about an inch thick.  Using your favorite cookie cutter, press out shapes, and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining half of dough.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are set and a very light brown on the bottom.

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Add 1 cup of powdered sugar to a dish or a bowl.  As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, roll them around in the powdered sugar until they’re coated.

Let the cookies for about 15 minutes on a wire rack, and then using a fine mesh sieve, generously sift the remaining powdered sugar over the cookies until they are pure white.

Enjoy!

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Their Version: Butter and Almond Shortbread

225g/8oz/1 cup unsalted butter
150g/5oz/ 2/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar
2 egg yolks
5 ml / 1 tsp vanilla
2/5 ml / ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda  (baking soda)
45 ml / 3 tbsp brandy (optional)
500g / 1 ¼ lbs / 5 cups all purpose flour, sifted with a pinch of salt
175g/6 oz/ 1 cup blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
350g/12 oz/ 3 cups icing (confectioners’) sugar

  1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar, until it is light and fluffy.  Add in the egg yolks one at a time, and then the vanilla.  Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the brandy (if using) and stir into the mixture.
  2. Add the flour and salt and mix to a firm dough. Using your hands, knead lightly, add the almonds, and knead again.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350F  Cover half the dough with clear film (plastic wrap), and set aside.
  4. Roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface to 2.5cm/1in thick.  Press out shapes, using pastry cutters. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until pale golden.
  6. Meanwhile, sift a quarter of the icing sugar onto a plate. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, dust them generously with  icing sugar. Let them cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.  Place them on the sugar coated plate.
  7. Sift the remaining icing sugar over them. The aim is to give them a generous coating, until they are pure white.

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Homemade Vanilla Extract 

Make your own vanilla…  it’s so simple, and so handy to have in the pantry, and in the end much cheaper than the store bought.

1 cup vodka or 1 cup bourbon
3 fresh vanilla beans
1 bottle or jar

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise down the middle from about ¼ inch from the top.  Place the three beans into your bottle or container.  Add the vodka or bourbon.  Close the container tightly, and place in a cool dark spot for about 2 months.  Give the jar / bottle a shake about once a week.   You can add more vodka or bourbon to the used vanilla beans a second time, once you’ve used up your vanilla.

I recommend making two bottles at a time, so that you have a second bottle waiting in the wings for when you’ve gone through the first bottle twice, so that you don’t have to wait a full 8 weeks for it to steep.   Once it’s emptied, make another batch of vanilla, so that it can steep while you’re using up your other bottle.