Monday, February 24, 2014

Baked Potato Gnocchi in a Cheddar Cheese Sauce with Bacon and Broccoli

It's leftover week at our house. This usually occurs once a month when I search through the fridge and find these little bits of leftovers that we forgot about and that I refuse to let go to waste. Yesterday, it was Philly Cheese Steak Pretzel Pockets using leftover steak. Today... Leftover Baked Potato Gnocchi.

These poor, cold, wrinkly potatoes were just sitting there, in their container, begging me to use them. My first instinct was to make twice baked potatoes. Simple, right? 

No. It turns out, not so simple. Cold, wet potato skins rip pretty easily.

*sad face*

So, I opened up my handy dandy cookbook app and dug up the last of my recipe cards that still need to be entered, and what to my wandering eyes did appear?

No, not Santa and his reindeer, but my Gnocchi recipe. I always bake the potatoes first, so why not use up the leftovers!

So, I let my potatoes sit out for about a half an hour. Room temperature potatoes are much easier to deal with, especially since they're supposed to be slightly warm. I also set out two eggs to come to room temp. This probably isn't necessary, but it's a baker's habit, I guess.

Once the potatoes were ready, I pulled out my mom's old food millNo, I don't have a fancy schmancy potato ricer, and up until a few months ago, I didn't have this either. I used a box grater, and it worked beautifully. But, that food mill looked so lonely just sitting there in the cabinet...

Oh, the memories of all of the apples I milled as a kid helping my mom can applesauce...

Anyway, using a spoon, I scooped the flesh from my potatoes and into the food mill. I spun that mill with all my might until all of the potato was in the bowl below. 
Pretty, isn't it?
Next, I added two egg yolks. Yolks only here, folks, but don't you dare throw away those whites! They're great as an egg white omelette for tomorrow or an egg-cellent (tehe) excuse to make something with a meringue topping! 

I like to mix the egg and potato first. I've also seen recipes where the flour and egg are added simultaneously. I find that the dough is better incorporated with egg mixed first. Another baker thing, I guess. So, gradually add 1 cup of flour, a little at a time, until a nice, smooth dough forms. You may need a little more, you may need a little less. It all depends on the size of your potatoes and eggs.

In the end, you want something that looks like this.
Next, I roll it out like pretzel dough... Or those clay "snakes" we always made in elementary school art class. Remember those? 

Man, this is quite the nostalgic post.

Anywho... I tend to roll half at a time, as my table is on the smaller side. You want it to be about a half an inch thick, and then cut it into half inch to one inch pieces. 

Now, another dilemma... Some people will roll them on a fork. Some will leave them as they are. I tend to do what my mood and time allows for. Today, we roll!                                                                           
I've been told they hold sauce better when rolled. Whether this is true or not, I really don't know. It all tastes the same to me.

Now, if you want to freeze some (which I usually do. Gnocchi are surprisingly filling), this is the time to do it. Place them on a small baking tray lined with parchment, plastic or foil, and place them in the freezer. After about an hour, they'll be ready for bagging. Freezing this way prevents them from all sticking together!

If you're using them, cook in boiling water with 1 tsp of salt until they float (usually 2-3 minutes).
They will keep just fine in an air tight container if you want to make them in the morning for dinner later that day. I wouldn't let them go more than 2 days before using them.

Baked Potato Gnocchi

2 medium Idaho potatoes, baked and cooled
2 egg yolks
1 cup +/- flour

Grate, mill or rice potatoes into a medium bowl. Add egg yolks, mixing to combine. 
Add flour gradually until dough forms. 
Roll dough into 1/2" log. Cut pieces 1/2-1 inch. 
Freeze or boil 2-3 minutes. 

Basic Cheddar Sauce

1 T butter
1 T flour
1/2 cup milk
2 oz cheddar, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small pot over low heat, melt butter. Add flour and whisk together. Add milk, whisking to combine. Once milk warms, add cheese, increasing the heat slightly to melt, but do not boil! Salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in or top with broccoli and crumbled bacon.

Could I seriously make gnocchi any less Italian?!?

This recipe comes in at 334 calories per serving if making 4 servings with 3 slices of bacon and 1/2 cup steamed broccoli.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Oreo Pancakes for the Birthday Girl

First, and foremost, I have to wish a very special Happy 2nd Birthday to my wonderful daughter. Without her, I would be lost, and this recipe may have never been created. Happy Birthday Emily!

Now, I wanted to make her something extra special for breakfast. She's a big pancake fan, and as I perused Pinterest for pancake ideas, it hit me; she's in love with Oreo cookies. I mean, who isn't, right? But in all seriousness, she is obsessed with them. So, I sat down with my pancake recipe and my copycat Oreo recipe, and I set the wheels a churnin'.

I stuck with a basic pancake batter and added in the flavors that make an Oreo, well, an Oreo, and this fantastic breakfast was created!

Oreo Pancakes
Yields about 2 cups of batter

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 T white sugar
1 1/2 T brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant espresso
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten.

As with any pancake batter, you simply combine all the dry ingredients, add the wet ones, mix until smooth, and viola! Pancake batter. Cook them off in a buttered pan or griddle.  

Now, you're wondering, what about the filling? You didn't feed her a ton of icing, did you?... No. The "cream" filling is simply that, a little homemade whipped cream that was leftover from making the mousse for her cake. No syrup needed here! 

So there ya have it, folks. My recipe yielded 12 pancakes for a grand total of 85 per cake. Add a few tablespoons of whipped cream on top, and you're right around 250 calories for breakfast (2 pancakes)


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Pockets with Cranberry Honey Mustard andSteamed Broccoli

Our weekly menu creation is something I always look forward to. It gives me the ability to use the new ideas that I have pinned, gawked, or just created in my mind. Sometimes, if I'm feeling nice, I'll even ask for Cal's input. Usually, he'll "Iron Chef" me and give me one ingredient to star all week. This week, more in a effort to save money this close to Christmas, he gave me ham. I started thinking... Cordon Bleu, Eggs Benedict, Ham and Potato Soup, Ham and Broccoli Alfredo.... And then I remembered the bacon and pretzel wrapped cheese dogs I had made a few months ago... And how we had discussed using other combinations. Ham and cheddar was a classic and my original idea was a calzone, but pretzel dough is just so much tastier!

Growing up in "Amish country" PA, pretzels were more like a food group than a snack. I once read that the average American eats a pound of pretzels a year. Sadly, I have to say, we used to go through a "pounder" bag of pretzels a week as a family of four. Thank you Snyders of Hanover and Auntie Anne's. Now that I have my own family, we still eat more than a pound a year, but definitely eat less than the pound a week. 

The good news is, pretzels really aren't that bad for you. So, wrapping my dinner in one didn't really phase me in the least. So, here goes...

This one makes 2 with leftover pretzel dough.

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Pockets

3/4 cup water (110-115 degrees)
1/2 T sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups flour
2 T unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
Melted butter or egg wash 
Kosher salt for sprinkling

1/4 lb ham, julienned
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded

In the bowl of a stand mixer or medium sized bowl, add water, sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast on top and let rest 5 minutes or until foamy. While waiting, melt butter and let cool slightly. When yeast is ready, add butter. Mix with a dough hook or spatula, gradually adding flour until tight dough is formed. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

** if your house is generally cool, heat your oven to warm, turn it off, wait 10 minutes, then place the bowl in the oven for it to rise**

While waiting, julienne your ham. You can use sliced, deli ham if you have it available, but to me, fresh ham tastes so much better!

When your dough is ready, roll it out on a lightly floured surface. You can make them as small or as large as desired, but I like mine to be about the 1/3 of a size of a small calzone. I keep them about 1/4" thick. Just thick enough to hold everything in without being too thick to be a doughy bite. Cut out 2 pieces of dough (shape is not important) Place half the cheese in the center of one piece, top with half the ham. Using a bit of water, wet the outer edge of the dough, all the way around. Fold over, sealing tight. Cut off excess dough.

Bring 10 cups water to a boil. Add baking soda. Boil each pocket for 30 seconds. Place on greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash or butter (I prefer egg), sprinkle with salt and bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

For the mustard, I combined 1/4 cup of yellow mustard, 2 T whole grain mustard, 1 T honey and 1/4 cup cranberry sauce. Let chill while cooking. 

These ring in around 370 calories per pocket. Mind you this will depend on the amount of dough used. 1 T mustard comes in at 21 calories. I served these with steamed broccoli on the side for a total right around 400 calories. 


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Great Chinese Food at Home

I've lived in Pittsburgh for the past ten years, now, and I have yet to find anything I could even remotely call "good" Chinese food. There was one I found to be acceptable, but it is now under new ownership and the quality of food is suffering. There are plenty of places to try, often with glorious Yelp reviews, but I'm never impressed. I ate at the chain-ish Chinese establishments growing up, so why can't I find a good one out here? Perhaps it's because I was spoiled by the fabulous Tony Wang's Restaurant in Lancaster, PA. When Cal and I started dating, he took me to this little hole in the wall looking place that I had driven past millions of times throughout my childhood.
 It's run by Tony, a now elderly Chinese man, and his wife. The decor is greatly outdated, and the building looks, well, sad, but the food is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. 
We try to stop in each time we visit our relatives in the area. It's that good. 

Anywho... The lack of good Chinese made me search for recipes for making it myself. I came across this recipe for Orange Chicken using Foodgawker, and, I have to say, it's better than any take out that I've recently purchased. 

One thing I've always noticed is that when you halve a recipe like this (which I often do), the amount of sauce never seems to measure up to the rest of the ingredients, so I have made it a habit to make a full batch of sauce while halving the the rest of the recipe. So far, I haven't been let down. 

Orange Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 egg, beaten
1 T oil
1/4 c cornstarch
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 T minced garlic
1 T minced ginger
1/4 c green onion
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1 c broccoli
1 T mirin or saki
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 c water
1 T cornstarch
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1/4 c sugar
Zest of 1 orange

For the chicken: cut thighs into bite size pieces. Combine cornstarch, pepper, salt, flour. In a separate bowl, combine egg and oil. Add both to bowl of chicken, coating well.

Fill a deep skillet with 1" of oil. Fry chicken pieces until browned and cooked through (about 5 min per side). Keep warm.

For the sauce: combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and orange zest. Set aside.

Heat medium pan or wok over high heat. Add 1 T oil. Add garlic and ginger, stir 15 seconds. Add broccoli, stir another 15 seconds. Add green onion and pepper flake, stirring 15 seconds. Add sauce combo to the pan and bring to a boil. Add mirin/saki and sesame oil. Mix the water and cornstarch to a slurry, then add to pan. Stir constantly until sauce is thick and bubbling. Toss in chicken and coat well. 

I served it with plain ol' steamed rice and I do have to say it was scrumdidilyumptous! I will definitely be adding it to the recipe book. The beat part is, one serving (sans rice), comes in at a whopping 205 calories! Add one serving of instant white, long grain rice and you have a 305 calorie meal. No wonder Chinese food is always so filling at the time but you're hungry and hour later. 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cincinnati Chili With a Twist

Each morning starts the same... Get up, get Emily dressed, go for our walk, figure out what to make for dinner. It's kind of sad, now that I write it out. I had always dreaded the dinner part. Nobody really likes to decide on the evening meal when they've barely just eaten breakfast! While browsing Pinterest one day, I came across a photo that showed a week of meals planned out on a homemade white board (a picture frame and a white background). Perfect! So now, I plan my meals and then plan my grocery list around that week's plan. It actually saves me money because I'm not keeping us stocked on things we don't need.

Soooooo cool! 

So, I made this...

Please don't mind that it's empty. It's Thursday, which is planning day, so it's patiently awaiting to be filled in during nap time or after the little lady goes to bed.

Oddly enough, this recipe came about because I had hamburgers on the menu. We buy our ground beef in bulk and portion it into 10oz packages (4oz for each of us and 2oz for Emily). I had pulled a package to thaw with the intention of grilling burgers.

Then, Cal came home.

"Let's make chili," he says.
"Chili?" I respond, "We don't have enough beef thawed for me to make chili."

This resulted in a sad face, so I told him not to worry about it, I'd figure it out. I really wasn't in the mood for chili, but it's what he wanted... I really do give in more than I should, but this time, I'm glad I did!

And so, this recipe was born. I halved-ish my chili recipe to use 10oz of beef, threw it over some pasta, and, since I was now feeling creative, topped each plate with a poached egg, some cheese, and fresh jalapeƱo slices. I served it with a side of sour cream, but it wasn't really needed since I dulled the chili for Emily. Never the less... Yum!


10 oz ground beef
1/2 c white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 can kidney beans, drained
4 oz tomato sauce
1/2 can diced tomatoes
3 T water
1/2 T chili powder (or more if you don't have a 1 year old)
salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef in a small soup pot. When cooked, push beef to one side and saute onion in beef fat until translucent (about 5 minutes).
Add garlic and cinnamon saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
Add kidney beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chili powdee and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
Salt and pepper to taste. 

While chili is cooking, boil off a pasta of your choice. I used elbows because Emily can easily eat them.

Now, onto the poached egg. I have to admit, I had never poached an egg before. It always sounded like a very intimidating process, and, honestly, I was afraid of it. Now that I've done it, I can tell you there is nothing to be afraid of! It was sooooo simple. I waited until both the chili and pasta were done and sitting on low. 

Ready? Here it is...

Fill a medium, non stick saucepan with one inch of water. Add about a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Bring that water to a boil. Crack an egg into a small bowl. When your water is ready, slowly dip the rim of the bowl into the water and let the egg slide out. Repeat with the second egg. At this point, cover the pan and remove from the heat (I simply turn off my burner). They don't need to cook long, only about 3 or 4 minutes. You want your yolk to be runny but your whites to be cooked. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on top of your chili. Top with shredded cheddar and jalapeno slices.


I found that Alton Brown helped me a great deal. Here are his tips for success

Overall, the recipe is not all that bad for you. It's chock fill of protein with the egg and beef. Using a half a serving of elbow macaroni it rings in around 400 calories and is ridiculously filling! 


Monday, August 19, 2013

Orange Sriracha Glazed Chicken Kebabs

In this household, hot sauce is not an option. Well, at least on most things. Even Emily, at 18 months old, is a fan. So, when I find a recipe that calls for any type of hot sauce, it goes on the "must try" list.

I found an Orange and Sriracha Glazed Pork Chop recipe and decided to sub out some chicken breast chunks and make kebabs. The recipe calls for jarred (pickled) cherry peppers. I happen to be growing some in my garden this year, so I used those and added a little vinegar to make up for the pickled-ness of the store bought peppers. 

The recipe first calls to marinate your choice of protein in a garlic, cherry pepper, oil mixture. It's a quick 30 minute marinade, so nothing fancy. While your marinating your meat, make sure to soak your skewers too, if not using metal kebab skewers. You don't want them to burst into flame while grilling! You can also prepare your glaze while you wait. It consists of an orange juice, sriracha, soy sauce combo. Yum!

For my kebabs, I chose carrots, zucchini and some fresh cherry peppers. I chunked both the carrots and zucchini and removed the seeds from the peppers. I chose to par boil my carrots so that they would grill nicely but still be soft enough for Emily to easily eat. Boil them so they are still slightly crisp, but so a skewer will pass through with out any problems. Once they hit that point, be sure to shock them (drain the boiling water and immediately place them in ice water) to stop the cooking process. 

I lit my grill to hold a temperature around 300 degrees. I didn't want the chicken to dry out from cooking too quickly, but I still wanted it to get a nice 'grill marked' presentation. We use a charcoal grill. I, personally, find that it cooks and tastes better. If using a gas or electric grill, a medium heat will give you the desired result.

Ok, so onto the recipe!

Orange Sriracha Glazed Chicken Kebabs


1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, sliced
3 fresh cherry peppers, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 T olive oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 8-10oz chicken breast

Combine all ingredients, marinade chicken for 30 minutes. *if you do not have fresh peppers, use jarred and do not add the vinegar.


1/4 c fresh squeezed orange juice
1 T Sriracha sauce
2 T honey
1 T butter, melted
1 tsp soy sauce
1 fresh cherry pepper, minced
1/4 tsp vinegar

Combine all ingredients. Let rest. *again, if using a jarred pepper, do not add vinegar

When ready to cook, place kebabs on the hot grill, let cook about 3 minutes. Flip, and baste with glaze. Cook another 3 minutes, glaze again. Then, simply cook until chicken is done (165 deg), basting occasionally. They won't take long... about 15 minutes depending on the size of the chicken chunks.

I served them over brown rice seasoned with salt, pepper and green onions.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pan Fried Pork Chops with a Twist

Pork... Honestly, there are only so many ways you can cook it, and it can get old quick. It's not as versatile as chicken, not as delectable as steak, and can easily dry out with mere seconds of over cooking. It does, however, lend itself greatly to pan frying, especially with endless possibilities for breading flavors.

Tonight, while sitting in traffic on our way to pick up a cd changer and receiver (thank you, freecycle), we decided on pan fried pork chops for dinner. Mashed potatoes and gravy and some simple steamed  asparagus rounded out the meal. When we arrived home, I got to work. I contemplated cuisines... Did I want to go asian, or perhaps mexican or italian... As I pulled the parmesan from the fridge, I had a sudden thought... Let's throw some grated cheddar into the mix instead. And, it was so. Pork chops breaded with a breadcrumb, flour, cheddar mixture was now on the menu!

Pan Fried Pork Chops

2 boneless chops, about 1" thick
1 egg, beaten
2 T water
1/4 c flour
1/4 c bread crumbs
1/4 c grated cheddar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
Oil for frying

In one bowl, combine egg and water. In another, combine flour, bread crumb, cheddar, salt, pepper and paprika. 

In large pan, add about 1" of oil. Bring to temp (around 375), over medium heat.

Pat pork chops dry, dip in egg, then coat in flour mixture. Fry about 5 minutes per side, or until breading has browned and pork reaches a minimum of 145 degrees.

Let rest 2 minutes before serving.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

2-3 idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 T butter, at room temperature
1/4 c milk
Salt to taste

1/2 T butter
1/2 T flour
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 tsp sage
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a medium pot, boil potatoes until soft (about 20 minutes). 

While boiling, melt 1/2 T butter in a small pot. Whisk in flour. Add stock and whisk well. Add sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer to desired thickness.

When potatoes are done, drain well. Mash potatoes, add butter and mix until melted. Add milk and salt. 

You can reduce the amount of butter if desired. 1 T of butter per potato is more of a restaurant standard that I still tend to follow because it just tastes too damn good not to! 

The meal (with 1/4 c basic, steamed asparagus and a little salt) comes in around 400 calories!