Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so many of you are probably not thinking about what to make for dinner tonight. Since I will be on the road during dinner time, sweet potato pie oat bars will be keeping my belly filled. But for the rest of you, I have a quick and easy dinner idea. It’s called trapanese pesto and is filled with all kinds of wonderful things, such as cherry tomatoes, almonds, basil and a pepperoncini. Who knew pesto could be so much fun? If you have some time to spare, this is great served with some oven-fried chicken and a spinach side salad.
What are you plans for Thanksgiving? Are you hosting dinner or bringing a side dish to someone else’s home? Or will you be enjoying the couch, away from any responsibility in the kitchen?
One year ago: Butter Pecan with Brandy Ice Cream
PENNE WITH TRAPANESE PESTO
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup almonds, lightly toasted
2 cloves garlic
12 basil leaves
1 pepperoncini, stem removed
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, almonds, garlic, basil, pepperoncini, crushed red pepper, cheese, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to get it going. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Taste it. Add a little more salt if needed.
- Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pot.
- Pour the pesto over the pasta and toss to combine. You don’t have to use all the pesto if you don’t want to. Store whatever is left in a sealed container in the fridge for a week.
- Serve with with more cheese and basil.
Source: Bev Cooks
I finally got my hands on a purple sweet potato!!! One day at lunch I noticed that Qing was eating something that had a beautiful purple color and I immediately knew what it was. You see, months earlier I had been searching for purple sweet potatoes after finding out they existed at all. Unfortunately my search produced no results. That was until Qing informed me that her friend grows them in his backyard! The very next day she came in and handed me the biggest sweet potato I have ever laid my eyes on. In other words, I am going to be making more than one recipe out of that baby.
This purple beauty came into my life at the perfect time too, because I recently discovered that November is “Better Nutrition Month”. Orange fleshed sweet potatoes are praised for being one of the best sources for beta-carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A). But what about purple sweet potatoes? Their purple color is caused by anthocyanins which have important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But no matter the color, sweet potatoes contribute greatly towards your daily intake of Vitamin A and antioxidants. Totally nutritious and delicious! Now let’s make some gnocchi out of it, because it’s my favorite thing to make out of potatoes.
Obviously, I do not expect you to find your own personal purple sweet potato grower but you can most definitely make these gnocchi with a regular sweet potato. I am not aware of any taste difference, but my color preference is most definitely biased. However, when trying to decide what kind of sauce to make with these gnocchi I was perplexed. At first I thought of a pancetta butter sauce, but felt like that was just an easy way out after the butter sauce I served with another sweet potato gnocchi recipe I posted. But then I though of the guiltless alfredo that I love so much and decided to change it up a bit with goat cheese instead of using cream cheese. Now I want to smother everything in this goat cheese alfredo sauce. It’s so stinking good! And not overpowering, for those of you that might not enjoy a strong goat cheese flavor.
PURPLE SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI WITH GUILTLESS GOAT CHEESE ALFREDO
Serves 4, with some extra sauce
1 lb purple sweet potatoes (about 2 cups cooked and mashed)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3/4 cup flour
2 cups 2% milk
3 oz goat cheese
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp light butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
- For the Gnocchi: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and fully cooked, between 40 to 55 minutes depending on size. Cool slightly.
- Cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Mash the sweet potatoes and transfer to a large measuring cup to make sure the sweet potatoes measure about 2 cups.
- Transfer the mashed sweet potatoes back to the large bowl. Add the egg, salt, nutmed, and pepper and blend until well mixed. Add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough in a ball on the work surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. Roll out each ball into a 1/2-inch wide rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces.
- If desired, roll the gnocchi over the tines of a fork using your thumb. Transfer the formed gnocchi to a large baking sheet lightly sprinkled with flour. Continue with the remaining gnocchi.*
- For the Alfredo: In a food processor or blender, combine milk, cream cheese, flour, and salt. Process until smooth and set aside.
- In a medium-large sauce pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.
- Add the milk mixture to the pan. Stir constantly for about 3-4 minutes until the sauce begins to simmer. Keep stirring and let it cook for a few minutes more. It should become thicker.
- Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan until melted and cover the pan immediately.
- Let stand for at least 10 minutes prior to using. It will continue to thicken to desired consistency.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi in 3 batches and cook until tender but still firm to the bite; they will float when they are done. Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon and sprinkle with olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Serve (I served it with pecan crusted chicken).
*If you would like to save some of the gnocchi for later, after forming the gnocchi, freeze on a cookie sheet in a single layer then transfer to a sealed freezer bag. When you want to cook them, proceed with directions, although they may take a tiny bit longer to cook.
Source: Gnocchi adapted from Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Browned Butter Sauce. Alfredo adapted from Guiltless Fettuccine Alfredo.
Exploring alternative pizza toppings is fun. Sometimes the toppings become so creative that the essence of pizza only remains in the crust upon which it all sits. This is one of those times, but you know what? I am perfectly okay with a completely unconventional pizza, especially after the revelation of kale and balsamic vinegar together. There’s just something about crispy kale and sweet & tangy balsamic that just get me.
Even went ahead and served it with a drizzle of balsamic reduction leftover from making a Caprese Pizza at the same time. Is there such a thing as too much balsamic? Of course, one cannot forget the presence of the seasonally appropriate sweet potato on this pizza. (I promise I have not forgotten about you, pumpkin.)
One year ago: “Don’t Judge Me” Mac & Cheese
SWEET POTATO KALE PIZZA WITH ROSEMARY & RED ONION
Your favorite pizza dough
1 large sweet potato, thinly sliced, about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 red onion, sliced
1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper, for seasoning potato slices and onion
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1-1/2 cups chopped kale
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp, freshly chopped rosemary
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the sweet potato slices and red onion slices in a bow and toss with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place on a large baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and tender. Make sure you turn them once during the 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the pizza dough.
- Turn the oven to 500 degrees or as high as your oven will go. If you have a pizza stone, place the pizza stone in the oven to get hot. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pizza dough, using a rolling pin. Roll it out to about 3/8 of an inch. Place the pizza dough on a pizza peel or pan that has been generously coated with corn meal. Lightly brush the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. In a small bowl, toss the kale with balsamic vinegar. Top the pizza dough with mozzarella cheese, sweet potato slices, kale, red onion slices, and fresh rosemary.
- Place the pizza in the oven-directly on the pizza stone, if using one, or on the oven rack. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until pizza crust is golden and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before slicing.
- While the pizza is baking, add the balsamic vinegar and stir in the brown sugar in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and heat until the vinegar is reduced by half. Remove from the heat. Drizzle over the pizza as desired.
About two months ago I bought one of those starter kits at Target, found in the dollar spot. And after much patience I finally used it for the first time in this recipe. It needs to grow faster because I want to use it all the time! Thankfully my parents have a bunch in their garden so I can avoid hacking mine down to much. It’s still just a little thing.
Thanks in part to my homegrown basil, this zucchini ribbon pasta is a great summer dish. It is light, fresh and full of vegetables. I even used tomatoes from my parents garden. I am really going to miss having access to a garden once my time in Knoxville comes to an end.
ZUCCHINI RIBBON PASTA WITH CREAMY LEMON-BASIL SAUCE
1/2 lb (or 8 oz) fettuccine
1 medium zucchini
2 tsp olive oil, divided
10 oz. grape tomatoes (about 2 cups)
Salt and pepper
3-4 cloves finely minced garlic
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth (or chicken)
3 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1 cup very loosely packed basil, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, more if desired
- Prepare a pot of water and cook pasta according to package instructions. Cut ends off zucchini and slice along the long direction, cutting the zucchini into about ⅛ inch slices. Cut each of those slices into long pieces, about the same size as the fettuccine. When pasta is just about done, add zucchini strips to pot (so they’re cooking with the pasta). Boil for about 2 minutes, or until tender. Drain zucchini and pasta, set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, heat a medium size skillet to medium heat. When hot, add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add tomatoes and give them a little sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3-4 minutes. Just until they start to burst and look blistered. Remove tomatoes from pan and place in a small dish, covered, and set aside.
- Add another 1 teaspoon olive oil to the empty pan and add garlic. Stir constantly on medium-low heat for about 30-60 seconds. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and use a spatula to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 1-2 minutes and then reduce heat to low.
- Place cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and soften for 20-30 seconds, until it can be easily stirred smooth. Ladle in a couple spoonfuls of the chicken broth mixture into the cream cheese and stir to combine. Once the mixture is smooth, add it to the pan with the remaining broth mixture and whisk until smooth and creamy. Add chopped basil and lemon juice and stir to combine. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine pasta and zucchini with sauce. Gently toss in tomatoes, or simply add them on top of each serving. Garnish with additional basil if desired.
Source: Adapted slightly from Our Best Bites.
Ever since I first discovered the deliciousness that is gnocchi, I was under the impression that they were all created from potato. But recently I discovered they can also be created with ricotta – which sounds like it would be richer and more flavorful. Especially more so if using goat-milk ricotta! So I busted out my gnocchi board for the first time and got to work.
I haven’t made gnocchi in years, but remember the first time I ever made them – it was in my high school Italian class and I thought they were the most precious things ever. We didn’t do anything fancy to make them ridged, just cut them up into little pieces and boiled them, but their freshness was nothing like I had ever tasted before.
This time around I added the ridges, but unfortunately they were not very pronounced as I had hoped for visually. They still did their job holding onto the sauce, but I was expecting deeper, bigger ridges like you see on those you buy in the store. I am not sure why I expected that since I knew how small the ridges were on my gnocchi board. Sometimes my brain doesn’t make sense.
The original recipe said it served six. I do not see how that could’ve been possible without being served alongside some other dish. I barely got three servings out of this, and honestly it took a lot of will power not to make it a two-serving recipe. I could’ve eaten the entire pan in one sitting, it was that freaking amazing. Guess who will never be found buying pre-made shrink-wrapped gnocchi from the grocery store again?
And homemade gnocchi is pretty quick to make, especially compared to other homemade pastas which require the pasta rolling devices. You just roll these up into long logs, slice them up, roll on a gnocchi board (or the back of a fork or cheese grater), let sit in the fridge for a few minutes, then boil in water until they float. Add preferred sauce.
In this scenario I went for a butter sauce complimented by California walnuts and fresh thyme. Don’t forget a nice sprinkle of Parmesan before serving!
GOAT CHEESE RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WALNUT THYME BUTTER SAUCE
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup 100% whole wheat flour
12 oz. goat-milk ricotta (1 cup soft fresh goat cheese mixed with 3/4 cup cow’s milk ricotta)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped California walnuts
1 Tbsp chopped thyme, plus more for garnish
Salt & pepper
- Mix together the flour and ricotta (or ricotta and goat cheese), and knead until a nice soft dough forms. Cut the dough into 4 even pieces. Roll each piece out into a 1/2-inch-thick rope and cut each rope, with a pastry cutter or knife, into 3/4-inch pieces. With your thumb, roll each piece of cut dough against the back of a handheld cheese grater, the back of a fork, or on a gnocchi board. Place the gnocchi on trays dusted lightly with flour and place in the refrigerator.
- Bring 6 quarts salted water to a boil. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook until they rise to the surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon. Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 12-inch sauté pan. Once it begins to foam, add the walnuts and thyme. Sauté a few minutes, until the butter begins to brown and the walnuts are lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the reserved pasta water and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Toss the gnocchi in the butter sauce, sprinkle with some fresh thyme, Parmesan, and serve.
Source: Adapted slightly from Fine Cooking.
I am so excited to have been assigned to A Healthy Jalapeno for Secret Recipe Club this month! She had my blog for SRC once and that’s how I discovered her blog and have loved it ever since, so I definitely had a hard time picking out just one thing to make for today.
Since I have never had spaghetti squash before, I decided I should try out her recipe. It involves a white cheddar cheese sauce inspired by Annie’s White Cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese, which meant it had to be good!
Upon my first bite, I was first surprised by the little bit of crunch that the squash still had despite being fully cooked – but I liked it! And the white cheddar sauce was so good I would love to pour it all over every pasta dish I make in the future. Thanks Laura for great first experience with spaghetti squash!
SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH WHITE CHEDDAR CHEESE SAUCE
1 large spaghetti squash
1 tomato, diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
WHITE CHEDDAR CHEESE SAUCE
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp whole-wheat flour (regular all-purpose works too)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain almond milk
Dash white pepper (black pepper is fine if you don’t have white)
1 cup shredded white sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese, plus more for topping
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half (lengthwise) with a heavy duty kitchen knife. Once open, use a spoon to scrape away the seeds and stringy bits, until the inside is clean. Bake rind side up about 30 to 40 minutes in about 2 tablespoons water.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in sauce pan over low heat. Using a whisk blend in flour, salt and dash white pepper. Add milk all at once, cooking quickly, stirring constantly until mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove sauce immediately upon bubbling and add cheese. Mix, cover, and set aside.
- Check to see if the squash is cooked by sticking a knife into it. The knife should slide in easily. Flip the squash over with a spatula so that the cut side is facing up. Using a dinner fork, scrape the flesh of the squash, moving gently around the shell fluffing up the strands of squash. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Fold in the tomato, red onion, salt, pepper and cheese sauce until mixed. Serve immediately with freshly grated Asiago cheese.
Source: Adapted slightly from A Healthy Jalapeno.
Frequent flyer miles irritate me. I have been flying all over the place this year on Delta, including to Europe, and I still have not stocked up enough to be bumped up to whatever the next level is from the bottom. I sometimes think that frequent flyer mile programs are only meant for business folks who travel for their jobs. Which seems unfair since their job is paying for all of it anyway. And speaking of frequent flyer miles, assuming it wouldn’t be as much of a pain to stock up on how about frequent driver miles? My time in the car has greatly increased as of late and I feel like there should be some compensation for it. I’d take even a free CD of my choice to keep me entertained and awake. Music provides safety.
But I digress. Let’s talk about soup. Yes soup in the middle of this hot, gross summer. For some reason when you call it “chowder” it becomes summer appropriate and sounds more appealing. This corn chowder uses corn freshly cut from the cob and there’s even a mix of zucchini and orzo to top it off. This was one batch of leftovers I didn’t mind eating for a few days in a row.
CORN CHOWDER WITH ZUCCHINI AND ORZO
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided (I used Melt)
1 medium zucchini, medium diced
1/4 lb cooked whole wheat orzo
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
3 cups corn kernels (from 4 ears), cobs reserved
- In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high. Add zucchini and saute until crisp-tender, 4 minutes. Stir in orzo and heat until warmed through. Transfer to a bowl and toss with scallions greens; season with salt and pepper.
- Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the same saucepan over medium-high. Ass scallion whites and saute until tender, 3 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook until tender, 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock, water, and corncobs and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until chowder thickens slightly, about 8 minutes.
- Remove from heat and discard cobs and season with salt and pepper. In batched, fill a blender halfway with chowder and puree, or use an immersion blender. Serve chowder topped with zucchini mixture.
Source: Adapted slightly from Everyday Food, July/August 2012
Despite waking up at 5:30am every day this past weekend to play with yeast (not the baking kind), I had a pretty nice weekend. It’s amazing how much I accomplished in the little amount of free time that I had, and how relaxed I felt by Sunday night. Even got in a lovely phone chat with my friend Amber back in Columbus. It’s the little things that keep me going . Especially since as I write this, it is 10pm and I am doing that graduate student research thing at lab.
This recipe serves one person and it’s quick and easy to prepare. Perfect match for my mission to not produce any leftovers before I head out of town, in combination with my sparse time. It was also my first time ever using fresh ginger, and smells amazing! I never want to use dried ground ginger again. Which brings me to a question, how do you store ginger root? Is it supposed to be refrigerated or left out on the counter?
VEGETABLE FRIED RICE FOR ONE
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
4 tsp vegetable oil, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 medium zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cooked brown rice, cold
1 cup baby spinach
- In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
- In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high. Add egg and cook until set. Transfer to a cutting board.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add carrot, and zucchini and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add scallion, ginger, and garlic and cook until scallion is soft, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Add soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Coarsely chop egg and stir into rice, serve.
Source: Adapted slightly from Everyday Food June 2012.
My life has been hectic lately. After my return from Prague and Berlin, I had to pump up the intensity with my lab research in preparation for wrapping things up to be published and also start writing up said publication. On top of that this summer, we are planning for me to train for a month with a collaborator in Knoxville working with mice. Then Tuesday of this week I got into an accident and my car is in the shop for at least a week. Thank goodness for car insurance, but at the same time a graduate student such as myself cannot fork over a $500 deductible very easily. I did luck out by being able to borrow a friends car in the meantime, so at least I don’t have to pay for a rental on top of everything else.
Between the precious time of each day going by and my black hole of a bank account, you could say I’m just a bit stressed out- by a bit I mean a lot. As a result I will be having some guest posters lined up about once a week to alleviate some of that stress. Hopefully I will start sleeping better at night too, due to a combination of getting over jet-lag and mind-racing thoughts even when my head is in contact with a pillow. Sometimes life needs a pause button, if only for one day.
Going along with my busy schedule these days (and yes I am still somehow managing to go to the gym almost every day and cook myself dinner), I have been increasing the number of quick meals I prepare. When I get home at 9pm I require food in front of me in less than 30 minutes, in order to battle the desire to give in to the Taco Bell right around the corner from where I live.
This is a fast and flavorful weeknight no-meat dinner option. And in fact is the very first time I have cooked with orzo. I used to think it was a type of rice, but turns out it is just a short pasta (which is why I could not find it in the rice section of my grocery store). But in this recipe it cooks up just like rice by absorbing the liquid. Then just add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped basil and you’re all set to chill on the couch with your favorite fur-ball.
One year ago: Italian Herb & Cheese Fettucine
ORZO WITH PARMESAN AND BASIL
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups whole wheat orzo
3 cups vegetable stock
6 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
- Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and saute for a few minutes, until the orzo starts to get golden brown. Add the broth and cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until all the broth has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, add the basil and Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Source: Tasty Kitchen