Pasta Contest and Top Chef Winner

Do or Do Not

There is No ‘Try’

-Yoda

While my favorite show in all the land is wrapping up the competition now, the pasta competition I was planning on entering ended last night…

I don’t know how I feel about these weekly competitions that I keep planning on entering but completely miss the deadlines for. I ended up with a great recipe, but trying to figure out what I am going to make, cooking, photographing, editing, writing, and posting before the 7 day deadline is up is kinda crazy!

The weekly competition I was planning on entering was “Your Favorite Pasta Challenge” . I don’t really have a signature pasta dish, other than chicken tetrazzini, which seemed entirely to heavy and wintery, for an early spring time dish.

Instead of coming up with somethng extravagant or complicated I just picked some of my favorite ingredients that I knew would make an excellent coupling.

Things that are Yum

Most importantly I needed to pick a pasta, when the ingredient is in the name of the contest you know its important. I had my heart pretty set on a more robust pasta. No angel hair for me, orzo need not apply, only Fettucini could foot this bill. Whole wheat fettucini to boot, because if you have the option to be healthy, why not!

I cooked the pasta in boiling water with salt and olive oil.

A Watched Pot...

While the pasta was cooking I threw chopped panchetta, olive oil and onions in a pan to carmelize.

The good stuff...

Once the pancetta started getting crispy, like bacon, I added the sun-dried tomatoes, and basil to wilt and incorporate.

The best stuff!

With the toppings ready to go I topped the past with the veggies and pancetta and a healthy dose balsamic and goat cheese crumbles.

Even better!!!

I think I have a new favorite pasta dish that totally would have kicked butt! Unfortunately I didn’t win, mostly because I didn’t enter, but congratulations to Richard Blais who won Top Chef!!!

WINNER!!!!!!

Sweet Potato Ice Cream

seven days, a Monday made
the mile to my house,
and had me do
a stroll with you

-The Shins

 

Yum!

I get the feeling that Sweet Potato Ice Cream doesn’t have the instant appeal that I originally thought it would. I wanted to start out with a picture of the finished project so when I say sweet potato ice cream you can have a picture in your mind’s eye.

I started off on the great sweet potato ice cream adventure with leftover sweet potatoes that I had peeled and chunked for the sweet potato hash that I did not have room for in the pan. I cranked the oven up to 400° and put the potatoes in for 30 minutes until they were cooked through.

Once they came out of the oven I mashed the potatoes with a fork and let them cool until they were ready to puree with the maple syrup.

Sweet Potato Puree

A mini food processor did the trick and I had perfectly smooth potatoes in no time!

While I was working on the potatoes I put the milk, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg on the stove to heat up to 170°.

Stewing

With the base brought up to temperature it is time to whisk in the sweet potatoes. Whisk until there are no lumps and the mixture turns sherbet orange.

Ready To Freeze

When the base is made let it chill and then follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to freeze and turn into ice cream!

Frozen Thanksgiving

I personally love to top my sweet potato ice cream with candied pecans, when combined this lovely ice cream harkens to Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole in the best way possible.

Enjoy!

 

1 cup sugar, minus two teaspoons

1 cup baked sweet potato

1 tbs maple syrup

2 cups half and half

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp nutmeg

 

Bake two sweet potatoes in a 400° oven for approx. 45 minutes. Remove from oven and peel. Let potatoes cool to room temperature.

In a large saucepan, combine heavy whipping cream, half and half, sugar, cinnamon stick and nutmeg. Cook on medium until an inserted candy thermometer reads 170°.

Puree sweet potato with maple syrup in a food processor.

Remove cinnamon stick and whisk into the ice cream base until there are no lumps.

Cool ice cream mixture for at least three hours, if not overnight.

Add ice cream to ice cream maker and follow instructions.

Freeze overnight and serve with candied pecans.

 

The Cooktestant Goes on Vacation…

What an odd thing tourism is. You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home, and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile attempt to recapture the comforts that you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place.

-Bill Bryson

I just finished up a lovely bowl of sweet potato ice cream with candied pecans and I can’t wait to share the recipe for the ice cream, but that i just going to have to wait until tomorrow!

Believe it or not, but every once and a while they let me out of the hotel and the kitchen and I get to have some fun. Just to prove it to you I thought I would share some of my favorite pictures from the weekend.

My aunt is graciously invited the entire family, including Esq., for some family fun time, and fun was certainly had by all!

Jealous Yet?

Not that the above picture is a spectacularly great one, but it pretty accurately sumerizes how I spent Saturday. The first half of the day Esq. and I went for a long bike ride on the beach and then came back to hang out in the pool until it was late in the evening and the rain started to come down.

Alligator!

On the way out to the ocean Esq. spotted a little alligator spying us as we crossed over a bridge. They are fairly cute when they are small, but anything larger that this little guy and I wouldn’t have gotten close enough to take a picture. I blame my gator fear on the Riverbanks Zoo here in Columbia. As a child they had the giant gators located in a long dark tunnel of animal pins that separated the polar bears from the giraffes. In order to see my two zoo favorites I would have to run the gauntlet, always sure that one of these times the glass was going to break and I would be gator food. I have another similar story regarding penguins, but that is neither here nor there, so I will regale you all with my inordinate fear of caged animals at a later date.

While on the beach we also spotted a crock…

Crock Attack!

We peddled way out to the end of the island where we parked out bikes and wandered about.

My Life as a Postcard

Because we were so far away from all of the island hubbub we were able to find some amazing shells. I have always marveled at those who just stumbled upon unique and beautiful shells. It seems like the only ones I can find are somethings home, shattered, or just plain ugly, but I hit the jackpot this trip!

Sally Sells Sea Shells

Yes, that’s right…I found  perfect sand dollar! I even found a channel whelk. In the above picture you can see the more traditional lightning whelk that has the pointy knobs. Well if you take a look at the picture below, you will see the more rare channel whelk, which was the very first shell I picked up!

All Mine!

Thinking that we had explored and plundered all we could, Esq. and started heading back towards the house when he stopped me all of the sudden. Low and behold, there was a bald eagle surveying the scenery just 50 yards ahead of us!

God Bless Kiawah

In case you don’t believe me and need an up close view…

Majestic!

I feel so blessed to have been able to spend a great weekend away and relaxing with my loved ones! I promise I will be back to cooking tomorrow. I also hope to be installing an option to print just the recipes soon, please be on the look out! Thanks so much, and I hope you enjoyed this tangental post into the life of the Cooktestant!

One Last Obligatory Vacay Picture

Candied Pecans – An Excellent Ice Cream Topper

Sun rising
Dangling there
Golden and fair
In the sky

-Fleet Foxes

I was going to try and write a post for tonight about sweet potato ice cream made from the leftovers of my sweet potato hash. I always forget how long ice cream takes, so the ice cream will be my next post, but for tonight we can talk toppings!

My original plan for the leftover sweet potatoes was going to be an over the top fried sweet potato gnocchi rolled in cinnamon sugar served with vanilla ice cream. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that this was an epic undertaking that would require a lot of time and patience that quite frankly I don’t have right now.

Instead of torturing myself for the uncertain outcome that is gnocchi I melded the flavors in my head and sweet potato ice cream it was! Worried about the flavor I began to think about what you could add to the ice cream to steer it away from side dish and into the dessert category. I was apparently still a little in side dish world so my ideas were marshmallows and candied pecans. Thanksgiving ice cream anyone?

While you could incorporate the pecans into the ice cream, I decided to use it simply as a topping so that those who have nut allergies, like Esq., would still be able to enjoy it.

To make the candy coating for the pecans, or any other nut you choose, all you need is brown sugar, and egg white, vanilla and cinnamon.

Step 1: Separate the egg white from the yolk.

Lonely Yolk - Post Separation

Step 2: Whisk the white till it is frothy and then mix in brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract.

Candy is Dandy

Step 3:  Spread out the pecans on a wax paper lined baking sheet.

Naked Pecans

Step 4: Pour sugar/egg mixture over pecans.

All Dressed Up and Ready for the Oven

Step 5: Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Candied Pecans

Simple as that! Now all you need is ice cream to put it on. Hopefully I will have that for you tomorrow! I am so excited to be spending this weekend with my family at the beach. Much needed rest and relaxation is on its way!

Candied Pecans

1 egg white

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinammon

Whisk egg white until frothy. Stir in sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Spread out pecans on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Cover pecans with candying mixture. Stir so all nuts are coated. Spread out the nuts evenly and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Ott, A’s Iron Chef Challenge: Canned Tomatoes – Gazpacho

Maybe you don’t like your job,

Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep,

Well nobody likes their job, nobody got enough sleep.

Maybe you just had the worst day of your life,

But you know, there’s no escape, there’s no excuse,

So just suck up and be nice.

-Ani Di Franco

I feel like the above quote might not come of quite like I mean it…so I shall elaborate.

I recently switched jobs at the hotel. I went from a fun, sometimes stressful job working with amazing people to a job that could best be described as Atlas-like.

Under Pressure

It is not that I am not capable of carrying the load, I just haven’t quite found the best way to carry it. Last night I kept trying to describe what walking into a position that has been vacant for probably year, but is utterly necessary to the operation of a hotel is like and I kept using food metaphors. Like an apple so big I am not sure where to take the first bite hits the nail on the head. Despite the overwhelming amount that is on my plate, I know I have support from my peers and superiors which is crucial every time I hit a roadblock. It is refreshing to be challenged everyday with new experiences and hurdles, only to find that they are totally surmountable. When I first started baking nothing ever turned out like it was supposed to. There were many times I nearly gave up out of frustration. Now baking is my stress reliever. Give me an empty kitchen, a glass of wine, and music and I come out a new woman. I am putting faith in the thought that one day, and probably sooner than I think this new gig is going to become natural. There will be things like macaroons or disciplinary action that will throw me for a loop, but at the end of the day I did the best I could.

Doable!

Alrighty-roo, therapy session and overwrought food metaphors are over. Thanks for letting me vent via blog. On to the cooking!

a Latte' with Ott, A

Over at A Latte’ with Ott, A there is a great cooking contest sponsored by Red Gold Tomatoes for the person with the best canned tomato recipe. I had been pondering for a while on which direction I wanted to go with my tomato-y inspiration and everything Italian immediately bounced around my noggin. As much as I love spaghetti and the like, with Spring breathing down my neck (and into my sinuses) I just wasn’t feeling a heavy, hearty dish.

Ever since Esq. and I celebrated our first Meatless Monday, on Sunday, I realized how much meat I eat and it was a little excessive. Call me southern or old fashioned, but to me a normal meal is Meat and Three. I have kind of surprised myself with how easy it is to just skip the meat part of the meal and still feel totally full and satisfied. By no means am I becoming vegetarian, more power to those who are, but did you read my post about baking chicken?

Long story short. When warmer weather, meatlessness, and a light meal collided in my head Gazpacho was declared the winner. Gazpacho is a cold, tomato based Spanish soup, that in my experience can be done really well, or not. A bad gazpacho is one that is overly acidic, anemic, not fresh, or to runny. Good gazpacho is harder to quantify, let’s just say it is the perfect answer to a hot day when you are craving something fresh.

Despite the pretty horrid versions I have tried, it is pretty fool proof. Do you have a food processor, fresh veggies, and tomato juice? Great! You too can make gazpacho!

Gazpacho is fairly versatile. When I was at the store I stuck to the basics, but then just selected those veggies that were the freshest and fit within the flavor profile I was going for.

Before I began to process all of the ingredients I cut all of the veggies into cubes and kept them separate.

Chopped Veggies

For my gazpacho I used:

Red Bell Pepper, I had a momentary thought about roasting the pepper first, but for the sake of saving time I did not. I think when I make this again I will go ahead and roast it to bring out a smoky flavor.

Bell Pepper - To Roast or Not to Roast!?!

Red Onion not only provides more color to the dish, but its flavor is not to acrid to serve raw.

Red/Purple Onion

Cucumber is really key in providing the light fresh flavor that makes gazpacho so delightful, just make sure you remove the seeds!

Seedless Cucumber

I decided to add just a little bit of celery to my gazpacho, some people have very strong feelings on celery…if you hate it, feel free to ditch it. I personally find celery to be great at enhancing other flavors in a dish. Count me as a celery fan!

Pro Celery

The last of the veggies to go in was the jalapenos. I removed all of the seeds to prevent the heat from becoming overwhelming. Please remember to either wear gloves or wash your hands throughly after messing with jalapenos. I managed to burn my eyes a bit when taking a shower several hours later, jalapenos mean business!

Jalapenos

The very last things to go into the chopper are the power players; garlic, parsley, and cilantro.

Fresh Herbs

In order to make sure nothing liquifies and all ingredients are equally chopped make sure to put only one ingredient in the food processor at a time.

Chopping Red Onion

Chop everything till it is a fine mince, before it begins to liquify.

Finely Minced

Now that all the fresh veggies are ready to go, stir until well mixed.

Mixed Vegetables

While stiring together the veggies its time to work on the star ingredient, Red Gold Diced Tomatoes!

Red Gold

I drained off the excess juice from the tomatoes and threw them into the processor for just a few seconds. Perfection!

Tomato Perfection

With the tomatoes included, I added tomato juice, olive oil, vinegar and whole kernel corn. In case you haven’t noticed, Esq. and I have a bit of a love affair with corn. Should I add corn is a rhetorical question…

Corn Please

With all of the ingredients incorporated it’s time to seal your gazpacho in an airtight non-metal container and let sit overnight in the fridge so that all of the flavors have time to develop and it can chill to the proper temperature.

Immature Gazpacho

Tonight, after the gazpacho had ample time to develop and chill I topped my bowl with ripe avocado and dug in! So yummy! The cool but spicy bowl of vegetable-y goodness hit the spot.

Gazpacho for Dinner!

Red Gold Gazpacho

1 red onion, medium sized

1 red bell pepper

3 celery stalks

1 cucumber, seeds removed

2 jalapenos

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh parsley

3 cloves garlic, peeled

23 oz Red Gold diced tomatoes

3 cups tomato juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn

1 avocado (for garnish)

Cube pepper, cucumber, celery, jalapeno into large chunks. Place each vegetable one at a time into food processor, chop until finely minced. Scraping down sides often.

Process garlic, parlsey, and cilantro until minced.

Combine chopped ingreients in a large bowl. Stir to incorporate.

Pulse drained Red Gold diced tomatoes for a few seconds or until it is a chunky sauce. Add tomato mixture to the chopped ingredients.

Add tomato jucie, corn, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir well until everything is incorporated.

Store overnight in a well sealed non-metal bowl in the refridgerator.

Serve with cubed avocado garnish.

Enjoy!

Just a few of my favorite things…

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

-Neale Donald Walsch

Who is the Cooktestant you may be asking yourself, or you might not. At this point I think pretty much everyone reading is a friend, family member, or acquaintance, but what the hey, this post is going to be all about me anyway!

In case you can’t tell, I didn’t have time to cook today. I actually probably could have whipped up some killer gazpacho I have planned for the canned tomato contest (check out tomorrow’s post), but I didn’t even have to think about lifting a finger tonight! The oh so wonderful Esq. swooped in and had the most wonderful Meatless Monday tacos ready for me when I walked in the door. My hero!

Veggie Tacos

Long before I started cooktestant I became a veritable blog junky. To date I subscribe to 101 blogs, meaning every time one of those 101 bloggers post I have new reading material. Heaven forbid I go a week without checking Google  Reader, we are talkin’ 2,000 posts to catch up on.

There are some blogs that I never miss, even inundated with posts I will always stop to read:

101 Cookbooks

Green Olive Gnocchi

This was the first real cooking blog that ever lured me in. I think this is one of the most beautiful websites known to man. Not only are the recipes WONDERFUL, but they are fresh, healthy and beautifully photographed. I am in awe! May I recommend the carrot fries or cous cous soup?

Cake Wrecks

Literally Awful

Who knew cake could be soooo funny! Not only do they have hilarious baking disasters, but every so often they show examples of how amazing cake can be.

A Thing of Beauty

A Cozy Kitchen

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad

Another absolutely wonderful cooking blog. They always seem to come up with a twist on the ordinary, for example the fried avocados I mentioned in an earlier post. Love!

The Shop Tart

The Shop Tart

An epic local blogger! If you are ever looking for something to do, somewhere to go, or something wonderful to eat the Shop Tart is a can’t miss. I think the Shop Tart was probably what made me think I could really do this whole blogging thing, so thanks Shop Tart!

So that’s what I am reading! How about you? What are your favorite go to blogs? I have many more that I love, but today I just wanted to share some of my all time favorites that really got me started on this whole venture.

Enjoy!

Sweet n’ Healthy Recipe Contest – Sweet Potato Hash

Where am I?
I feel as though I’ve been here before
Maybe I’m just walking round and round
It’s a beautiful day to be aimless.

-Jump Little Children

After a weekend of yummy, but not necessarily healthy food, Sunday night called for a nice light and healthy dish that would start the week off right. In deciding what to make tonight I scoured the contest possibilities, and decided that the Sweet n’ Healthy contest was right up my alley. This contest asks entrants to come up with a kid friendly, vegetarian, or no sugar added recipes with sweet potato as the main ingredient.

Sweet Potato Contest

I had been waiting awhile to enter this contest, mostly because I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go, dessert or entree. Tonight, in need of a healthy option, my choice became very clear. Entree it is!

Originally, my heart was set on a sweet potato pot pie, despite how yummy this sounded, and I how can taste its potential even now just thinking about it, I ultimately decided to go a lighter, easier route, and created a veggie rich sweet potato hash.

Sweet Potato Hash

According to one definition, a hash is a mess, a muddle or jumble. With a base of cubed sweet potatoes this hash can be any sort of jumble you would like for it to be for anytime of day. Tonight it was an entree, but with my leftover sweet potatoes tomorrow morning it could be a whole new animal with breakfast. However, watch for a blog entry soon on sweet potato gnocchi in dessert form!

Leftover Sweet Potatoes

For this hash there is an abundance of veggies, but it really is the sweet potato that brings it all together and makes it a meal and not just a side dish. In addition to the taters, the hash includes; baby bella mushrooms, edamame, red bell pepper, and Brussel sprouts, however, any vegetables could be included to suit your tastes.

The base of this dish begins with olive oil, red peppers, onions and garlic. You can use butter, however, since I was already making a vegetarian dish I decided to take it once step further and make it vegan by simply emitting any sort of animal products. I did cheat a little by topping my personal bowl of hash with a dash of goat cheese, there is a reason I am not vegan folks.

Flavor Base

While the everything cooked to a state of juicy, translucency, I got to work cubing sweet potatoes. One thing I learned tonight…glass cutting boards were invented by someone with sadistic tendencies.  Cutting up raw sweet potatoes is not a particularly hard task, but when your knife goes through and slams into glass the sound is ear splitting! Note to self, buy Esq. a wooden cutting board, stat!

Cubed Sweet Potato

Next to be chopped were the Brussel sprouts. They need to have their stems removed, be chopped in half and have their outer guard leaves removed.

Brussels Ready for their Close Up

While chopping, Esq., went to work prepping the edamame by boiling them in salted water until just cooked.

Edamame Ready To Go!

With the onions, garlic, red peppers, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and Brussles sprouts in the pan it was time to throw a lid on it and let it cook till sweet potatoes were tender and starting to brown.

Almost Ready

At the very end we threw the edamame in to come up to temperature, and it was ready to serve.

While we were waiting...

To make a real meal out of the hash we placed a healthy serving on top of a bed of spinach, which along with edamame, provided all the protein one needs for a complete meal. On top of the hash a added just a bit of crumbled goat cheese and balsamic vinegar.

Ready to Eat!

It was such a satisfying meal. I really think Meatless Mondays might just become a thing in our house with options like this!

The facts:

  • Sweet potatoes are virtually fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium. One cup (200 grams) of cooked sweet potatoes has 180 calories.
  • Sweet potatoes provide many other essential nutrients including Vitamin B6, potassium and iron.
  • Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.
  • On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.

With all of that handy dandy info why not make today a Meatless Monday with my Sweet Potato Hash?

Sweet Potato Hash

2 tbs olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 large sweet potatoes, cubed

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms

1 1/2 cups Brussels sprouts

2 cups frozen edamame

Salt

Pepper

1 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp rosemary

In a large skillet heat olive oil, onion, garlic and red bell pepper on medium heat until onion is translucent.

In a pot of boiling water add edamame and cook until just tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms to skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Add additional seasoning Cover and cook on medium for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once sweet potatoes are cooked until they are beginning to brown and can be cut easily by fork remove from heat and stir in edamame.

Serve over baby spinach and dressed with crumbled goat cheese, or as is.

Enjoy!

St. Patrick’s Day Potato Gnocchi – Better Recipes 2011 Semi-Annual Recipe Contest

You snooze, you lose
Well I have snost and lost
I’m pushing through
I’ll disregard the cost

– Mike Doughty

If you asked me where my ancestors are from, and often you don’t even have to ask, I will say loud and proud, NORWAY! I will probably also find a way to mention that one of the things that makes my ancestry so awesome is that we have a pavilion in Epcot. Not only do we have one, but it is by far the best one ! I will accept Mexico as a tie. The next thing out of my mouth will either be that the perfume I wear is the very  essence of Norway, Layla, or that the Minnesota Vikings are the most superior NFL team in all the land. I can’t guarantee the order of the last two, but I will promise that they will be said.

Viking Museum at WDW

St. Patty’s day, however, is the day that I proudly reclaim my Scotch/Irish side! I think the main reason why I obsess over Norway is that my grandparents are first generation American, so the connection is closer. Also, my very first memory is of me in the kitchen with my grandmother and great grandmother making rice crispy treats and hearing  Great Grandma Hagen tell me “watch your head dearie” in her lovely Norwegian accent. I also might be a little bit more jazzed about the Scotch/Irish side if they had a World Showcase pavilion, until then St. Patty’s day will most likely be the one day a year I focus on it.

Representin'

This St. Patty’s day I knew I had a potato recipe that needed to be made for the “Better Recipes 2011 Semi-Annual Recipe Contest”, and figured what better day then today to get my potato on! I thought of several options, but everything seemed fairly ordinary and overdone. After pondering a bit I decided to take a big risk and try something I have never made before, let alone even tried, Potato Gnocchi.

So Many Possibilities

As a long time Top Chef aficionado I watched Fabio make gnocchi time and time again, each time thinking that his dishes looked like perfect pillowy dreams of a potato/pasta love child. Gnocchi not only looks good on a plate, but it looks like a lot of effort and work went into creating the little nuggets of deliciousness.

King of Gnocchi

Turns out I was right, in my case a little know how and dumb luck resulted in an eventually scrumptious dish any potato loving Leprechaun would adore.

I did a lot of research as to what ingredients resulted in the perfect potato gnocchi. I discovered there are three key components; starchy potatoes, flour, and a liquid, be it water or egg. Pretty much everything I read recommended egg over water as it provides more stability to the precious puffs of pasta.

My recipe calls for four medium sized Gold potatoes that must be halved and cooked till tender all the way through in salted boiling water.

Potato Water

Make sure when the potatoes are done to keep the starchy water, as it will be perfect for cooking your gnocchi later. Once you pull the potatoes out peal them as fast as your fingers will allow you to. I found that sticking a fork prong under the skin and pulling it away it made it pretty easy  to peel with out getting 1st degree burns.

Peeling and Fluffing

No fancy tools are needed to mash the potatoes, mash really isn’t the right term, its more like fluffing the potatoes. I found that using the fork from earlier kind of like a knife to cut the potatoes created a nice fluffed effect.

Fluffage

Once the potatoes are fluffed and no visible lumps remain, create a little mound of potato. Do not pack the potatoes down, simply just gather them into one general place so you can mix in the remaining ingredients.

It's Dough Time!

In a small bowl I beat the egg and drizzled it over the potatoes. On a side note, make sure to let the potatoes cool enough so the egg doesn’t cook on contact. Finally, I added 1/2 cup of flour on top and combined with a pastry spatula. I found the spatula was handy, as it gave when pushed down so everything wasn’t pulverized and it covered a long surface area that was convenient for the combining technique of making one long stroke, pulling the spatula from one end of the mound to the other to incorporate. Make sure to get the underside of the dough so everything is evenly distributed.

From Potato to Dough

I added more flour to the mix as it was a bit to tacky to work with. In all I used approximately 3/4 of a cup of flour. Once everything was mixed in I folded the dough into a ball and cut it into 8 equally sized pieces to be rolled out. I rolled the dough until it was the thickness of my thumb, this step took me back to the good ole’ days of playing with a play-dough, only I could legitimately eat the end results of this craft project.

Gnocchi-ing

Once the log was rolled I cut it into little 3/4 inch sized bits and dusted them with flour to keep them from sticking in my hand.

Gnocchi Pillows

I think the most frustrating part about my first attempt at gnocchi is getting the technique down for scoring. You kind of have to use the Caesar technique with the pasta, and no I am not referring to the salad. For those of you who are not familiar with Caesar Millian, he is skilled at teaching people how to interact with there troublesome dogs just by getting the humans to change their behavior and attituted. Caesar’s catch phase is “calm, assertive”.

Sad Sally Gnocchi

When I first started scoring the gnocchi I put on a brave face and went for the kill, unfortunately this resulted in a lot of flatish gnocchi with prong poke marks, not attractive. When I realized I was not a natural I lost my faith and the gnocchi started looking worse. Eventually, I think when I got bored of screwing up gnocchi I calmed down and went for the kill. Wouldn’t you know, but they started turning out awesome. Unfortunately, at that point I only had about 4 left.

End of the Line

The main thing I learned is that as opposed to rolling the fork so that each cut mark is on either side of the fork prongs, simply rotate the dough 90° so that one cut mark is up and one is down and then drag from top to bottom with your thumb where the top of the prongs meets the handle. Gnocchi magic!

Calm and Assertive Grooves

Once everything was rolled out, about 10 at a time got thrown into the pot of potato water that had been brought back to a boil.

Boiling Gnocchi is Not Attractive

The gnocchi does a pretty good job of letting you know when it is done, it floats back to the top of the water. Once they were on the surface I let them continue to cook before pulling them out with a strainer to get rid of excess water. I then threw them into a dish with olive oil, balsamic and pepper.

Ready for Gnocchi

Once they were all done I tossed them in the oil and vinager and added red pepper flakes because they just seemed like they were missing something.

Soaking it Up

The red pepper flakes did magic, but the consistency was still a bit on the doughy side, however, having never tried gnocchi before it was a bit hard to judge. I decided I had to find a way to make the pasta taste better after having spent so much time on it. As any good Southern, Norwegian Scotch, Irish would, I fried them in butter.

Bubbling Butter

In a hot pan I melted the butter and emptied the contents of the serving dish in and let the gnocchi sit undisturbed for about 2 minutes before filliping them for another 2 minutes. The results were AMAZING! Yummy little puffs of potato pasta, some with crunchy edges and rich in flavor.

Perfection!

Now I just want to try a professional’s version of fresh gnocchi and see how close I was to hitting the mark.

St. Patty’s Day Potato Gnocchi

A nice pesto would really amp up the St. Patty’s day aspect and would be a yummy addition!

4 gold potatoes

1 egg, beaten

3/4 cup of flour

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

3 tablespoons butter

Boil halved potatoes in salted water. Cook until tender all the way through, approx. 25 minutes.

Remove from water and as soon as you can peel the potatoes.

Slice peeled potatoes with a fork to flake the potato. Fluff the potato with a fork until there are no visible lumps, but do not mash. When they reach the appropriate texture create a pound of potato.

Drizzle the egg over the potato and add 1/2 cup of flour on top. Using a pastry spatula incorporate all flour and egg. Sprinkle on additional flour a little at a time till the mixture is no longer tacky.

Cut the dough into eight equal sized chunks.

Roll out each segment into a log about the width of a woman’s thumb and cut into 3/4 inch sized pieces. Sprinkle flour onto dough.

Using a fork score gnocchi with ridges in a calm assertive manner.

Reheat the water used for boiling potatoes back to boiling. Dump 10-15 gnocchi in at a time, when it is cooked they will rise back up to the surface. Once they rise wait an additional minute and remove with a strainer to remove excess water.

As soon as gnocchi are done add sauce of choice, in this case a mix of olive oil, balsamic, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Heat butter in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook for 2 minutes on each side.

Serve hot!

Post “Beyond Breakfast” Recipe Contest – Frozen Apricot Yogurt Pie

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy
-Benjamin Franklin

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!
I hope no one forgot to wear their green, and if you did then I hope you get pinched! As a Columbia native St. Patty’s is a holiday that is near and dear to my heart. Making the trek down to 5 Points for the epic extravaganza is just something you do here. When I was little I would go for the parade, the petting zoo, or the butterfly fries.

Yum!

Those fries are amazing, and I still go back and get those every year, but these days its more about grabbing a green beer, a free green bagel and listening to good music. I can’t even begin to tell you why, but everything is just better when it is green!

Go Green!

Not really sure how to transition topics, other than to tell you that you will be green with envy that you didn’t get to try my Frozen Apricot Yogurt Pie with a Post Shredded Wheat Crust…

A Post Post

After spending entirely too much time yesterday trying to find a way to create a savory entry with my personal favorite of the Post cannon, Shredded Wheat, I gave up. Instead, I decided that I could probably make a pretty mean pie crust by pureeing the shredded wheat with some butter and sugar.

Breakfast of Champions

Now that I had the foundation for my plan I just needed to wrap my mind around what I wanted to use as a filling. I couldn’t help but be inspired by the beautiful weather outside this evening and looking forward to spring with its warmer weather and all of its bright and fresh flavors on the horizon.
In my twisted little mind, if Spring were a fruit it would be an Apricot. I am not really sure if I think this because it is one of my all time favorite fruits, or if its bright orange hue and sweet mellow flavor just scream spring! Either way apricots are an amazing fruit because they are so versatile. My first real experience with apricot was as a jammy topping on top of my mom’s mini cheesecakes. I loved how well the tanginess of the cream cheese paired with the vibrancy of the apricot, and ever since I have been on apricot patrol sampling anything and everything apricot .

My Tasty Friend

When I decided I wanted to go ahead with apricot as my base profile the very next thing that came to mind was creating a tangy frozen greek yogurt base to make the apricot flavor really pop!
First I started with the crust. In a food processor I pulsated 8 large shredded wheat pieces until they were completely broken down into a sawdust like texture, appetizing, I know…

Shredded Shredded Wheat

Next, I slowly added in a room temperature stick of butter until the crust started to stick together.

Powdered Sugar Time

Once the butter was added it was time to add powdered sugar to help bind and add just a hint of sweetness.
At this stage I realized the crust needed to be more moist, or else it was going to be very apparent that you were eating crushed up Shredded Wheat and there would be a bit of the  splinters in the mouth effect.
In order to moisten the crust I added half a cup of the heavy syrup the apricots came in, and last but not east, almond extract.

Post Crust Paste

I processed the crust mixture until it was paste like.

Gettin' Crusty

Then I dumped the pie crust paste into the center of the pie pan and worked it out to the edges to make a proper crust.

Into the Oven!

Once the crust was evenly distributed it was time for the oven!

Things I ❤

While the crust baked, I emptied the apricots into a bowl and used a potato masher to make what could most closely be related to apricot jam.

Apricot Mush w/ Cardamom and Vanilla

Into the bowl I added vanilla and cardamom, maybe just a dash to much cardamom at that. Luckily, because this is a frozen pie the intense flavor will lose some of its edge to the cold.
An entire container of 0% greek yogurt was stirred in, as well as a little bit of sugar to help intensify the apricot flavor.
The filling was complete, easy as that.
When the crust came out of the oven it was spongy, however, once I let it cool for a few minutes it firmed up into a texture very much akin to a graham cracker pie crust.

Ready to Fill

Once the crust had a chance to cool I poured in the filling and the waiting game began.

Times I Wish I Had the Power to Insta-Freeze

In case you were wondering, I lost. I didn’t really think it fair to write a blog entry about an item I never actually tried. The filling was nowhere near frozen, but it had gotten quite chilled. The cardamom, indeed, lost its intense edge and instead brought a spice note to the bright and tangy apricot yogurt pie. Overall, I think it was a great success, and will be a perfect go to on a hot summer’s day.

My Desperation Slice...is melting

Tomorrow I will let you know what the real deal super frozen pie taste like, but tonight I sleep and dream of Spring and apricots!
Frozen Apricot Yogurt Pie
Post Shredded Wheat Crust
8 large shredded wheat biscuts
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/4 powdered sugar
1/2 cup apricot heavy syrup
2 tsp almond flavoring
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Pulse the shredded wheat until it reaches a fine consistency. Slowly add butter and powdered sugar to the mix until it is clumpy.
In order to turn the mixture from clumpy to pasty slowly add apricot syrup while the ingredients are being processed.
Once the crust reaches the desired consistency add almond flavoring and cinnamon.
In a well greased pie plate, spread out crust till it creates and even crust.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the crust turns gold brown. Remove from oven and cool before filling the pie.
Frozen Apricot Yogurt Filling
18oz apricots in heavy syrup
16oz 0% greek yogurt
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup of sugar
Mash drained apricots with a potato masher until the desired level of chunkiness is achieved. Mix in yogurt, cardamom, vanilla, and sugar. Once combined pour into cooled pie crust and place in freezer until frozen through.

Feasting on Art Recipe Contest – The Art of Grilled Cheese

Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.

– Jim Henson

I had little to no desire to cook tonight, well let me rephrase that… I had little to no desire to think overly complicated thoughts tonight, and that completely shot trying to make an entree out of Post Cereal. Any time my mind had a chance to wander today, which wasn’t too often, was spent trying to suss out a way to use Shredded Wheat as breading on chicken. Every which way I thought of resulted in chicken shrouded by a layer of tiny wheat splinters. Not appetizing.

Instead of torturing myself with cereal, I spent some time searching the Contest Cook website in search of a category that would yield a more palatable meal. I passed by the Feasting on Art Contest once or twice immediately discounting the entry upon the assumption that this would require elegantly artistic plating, and that was just not in the cards tonight. When I went back and read the description, however, I was sold.

Feasting on Art is a really unique blog that takes paintings of art and turns them in to wonderful recipes. As you might imagine, and I invite you to check out, there are beautiful pictures of wonderful sounding food. For the blog’s second birthday the author invited readers to interpret a painting and submit their recipes.

Feasting on Art Inspiration

The painting in question is Floris Gerritsz van Schooten , A Still Life of Cheese.

The only required ingredient was cheese, however you could use the bread and currants seen in the picture if you wished. When I think bread and cheese I think Grilled Cheese. How could you not!?!

Grilled Cheeses!!!

For my grilled cheese I made sure to use a garlic Italian “artisan” bread.

Artsy Fartsy Bread

In order to get the beautiful, brown crust there was butter, a lot of butter.

Paging Paula Dean

I piled the bread high with mozzerella, havarti, and an extra sharp white cheddar to make sure there was an excellent ooze factor.

Bread + Cheese + Butter = Great!

I have always loved grilled cheese, but I am often entirely too impatient to actually make it, as I crank the heat way up high and end up with burned bread/butter and still firm cheese. Tonight, I took my time and kept the heat right above medium and slow cooked the sandwhiches until the cheese began to drip down the sides and the bread was crunchy perfection.

Grilled to Perfection

I have heard that is required by law to have tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, and wanting to remain a law abiding citizen I happily obliged. Can I call it making tomato soup if I combine two different kinds? I didn’t think so…

Cheater, Cheater, Tomato Soup Eater

The grilled cheeses really hit the spot and were perfect for this lazy evening. Mozzarella really shouldn’t be over looked when going for a dramatic, fancified grilled cheese. Every bite results in a dramatic string of cheese falling from your mouth back to the plate, letting everyone around you know that you are eating a GREAT sandwich.

So Good, You Need Another Look

If one wanted to be very literal interpreting the painting, might I recommend a currant jelly with a goat cheese, brie and havarti sandwich. I seriously contemplated the idea, but the ingredients required would have resulted in a $20 sandwich, so yeah…no.

I hope you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to mix any cheeses you have in your fridge to create your own “artisan” grilled cheese sandwich.

Artisan Grilled Cheese Sandwich

8 slices of italian garlic bread (for four sandwiches)

8 oz mozzerella

8 oz havarti

8 oz extra sharp white cheddar

1/6 cup of butter

Cut four 1/2 inch thick slices of bread. Cut cheese into thin slices. Layer cheese in an alternating pattern on the bread.

On medium heat half of the butter in a skillet. Place sandwich hardest  cheese side down and cook for 5 minutes.

Place reserved butter on top of uncooked bread before flipping the sandwich. Flip sandwich.

Cook for 4 minutes, or until both sides are golden brown and crunchy and the cheese is melty.