Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I used to think making your own pasta was super intimidating. And I still think some types of pasta are tricky. Especially the kind you roll out. But gnocchi is pretty easy to throw together. Now I'm not going to claim I can make pretty looking pasta or anything but it sure did taste delicious. I'm a big fan of sweet potatoes so they were a natural choice for my first foray into homemade pasta. Oh, and did I mention the awesomely good bleu cheese sauce that goes with the gnocchi? 

What You'll Need:
2 cups cooked, pureed sweet potato
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces gorgonzola or other bleu cheese
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted

What to Do:
Cook your sweet potatoes and scoop out the flesh. It took 3 small sweet potatoes to get 2 cups. Puree the sweet potato and add the salt. Gradually add the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together and and is easy to handle. Depending on how juicy your potatoes are, you may not need all of the flour. Divide the dough into 4 balls. 

Generously flour your work surface and roll out each ball into 1/2 inch thick ropes. I'll admit I rolled my a little thick and they took a bit longer to cook. Try and err on the smaller side. Cut the logs into 1 inch pieces. You can get fancy and press a fork into each piece to make them look more traditional but you can cook them as is. 

Cook the gnocchi in boiling water until they float. Let them cook for a few more minutes and test one to see that it's cooked through. They should be chewy but still soft.

For the sauce, mix the cheese and half and half until the cheese is melted. Cook the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Add the walnuts at the end. Drizzle the sauce over your gnocchi and I promise you'll love it :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Petite Potatoes

I know. I'm a terrible blogger. Leaving you hanging for weeks on end with no explanation. Well, really there is none. Life's just busy. But that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. Just not blogging. Like I said. 

So a few weeks ago I found a ton of amazing potatoes at the Athens Farmers Market. They came in all shapes, colors and sizes but what I thoughts sounded most delicious was the golden mini potatoes. They're sweet and buttery and pretty much impossible to cook incorrectly. My dad suggested the following preparation. I took a few liberties but I think he should still get credit :)

What You'll Need:
1-1.5 pounds petite potatoes, halved
1 bell pepper, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
Oregano, thyme, marjoram, garlic powder*
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk

*This is basically greek seasoning

What to Do:
Saute the pepper and onion in a dutch oven until the onions turn clear. Remove them from the pot and set aside. Add the potatoes to the pot along with the water, salt and pepper. Close the lid and steam the potatoes over medium high heat for about 20 minutes or until tender. 

Remove the lid and add the pepper and onion back to the pot along with the milk and spices.   Turn the heat down to medium and reduce the milk, stirring occasionally until it forms a creamy sauce. Add grilled chicken to make a complete meal. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Banana Caramel Fudge Brownies

You know those chocolate cravings. Like gotta have chocolate or I'm going to die no I'm not kidding cravings? Ladies, you know what I mean. Enter banana caramel fudge brownies. Think of these as chocolate-meets-bananas foster. They're super gooey, fudgy and will totally hit the spot. Plus, they use store-bought brownie mix so you have no excuse for not making these. 

What You'll Need:
1 box brownie mix 
1 banana chopped and mashed
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1/3 cup caramel sauce

What to Do:
Basically, you make brownie mix according to the box but substitute the water for banana. I prefer Ghirardelli because it has a dark chocolate flavor and chocolate chips. You can certainly use your favorite brownie recipe for this too, but the box mix makes it so easy. The batter will be really sticky when your done mixing.

Pour the batter into a greased 8x8 pan and drizzle caramel sauce over the top. Although you're using a pre-made mix, I highly encourage you to make your own caramel sauce. It's so much better! Bake for the least amount of time recommended on the box, about 40 minutes, at 325 degrees. The brownies won't seem done when you take them out but they are. And they are surprisingly easy to pry out of the pan...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Zucchini Crisps

You know those moments when someone introduces you to a new idea and you think, why have I not tried that yet? This is one of those recipes. My aunt made these while we were in the mountains for our annual family get-together. As much as I love zucchini, it never dawned on me coat them with cheese and breadcrumbs. Which makes everything taste awesome. Duh.

So here's how to make this ridiculously easy, yummy and crunchy appetizer.

What You'll Need:
Olive oil
2 zucchini
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs

What to Do:
This is super easy. Slice zucchini thinly and place it in a ziplock bag along with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and shake to coat. Lay the zucchini out on a parchment coated cookie sheet, trying not to overlap them too much. Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs together and generously sprinkle it over the zucchini. Flip the zucchini over and sprinkle the other side. You can also add a dash of red pepper to make these a little spicy.

Bake the zucchini at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Warning: these are highly addictive and will be eaten quickly. Two batches may be necessary. You can also do this with tomatoes. Although they won't be crispy, you can add a little fresh basil after they've roasted and they are delish. Thanks for the idea Aunt Beth!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blackberry Lemon Mousse

Blackberries are in season. And they are awesome. Even with all of the rain we've had over the summer, you can find some killer blackberries. I picked up a carton at the farmer's market a few weeks ago and needed something to do with them (besides eat them all out of the bowl!). 

I thought they would be perfect with my go-to lemon mousse recipe. Adapted from Martha Stewart, this version is slightly less lemony to complement the blackberries. This is a great dessert to impress your friends. You don't have to tell them how easy it was ;)

What You'll Need:
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 cup heavy cream

What to Do:
Heat the eggs, sugar and lemon juice over medium-low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about five minutes. Stir the whole time or you might scramble your eggs! Strain the mixture through a sieve, pressing it through with a spatula.

Pour the mixture in a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface. Chill for at least an hour. Meanwhile, whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the lemon mixture and chill at least 30 minutes. Top with fresh whole and macerated blackberries. Garnish with basil if you like and dig in!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Okra Two Ways

Okra's one of those foods that, the more I cook, the more I enjoy. Okra tastes amazing if slow cooked in gumbo or with tomatoes but my favorite way to eat is fried. Classic right? For a little healthier version with a similar flavor, nothing beats grilled okra. You can use a traditional grill but the Foreman works nicely too (thanks Jeni!).


Preparing okra is so simple that it almost doesn't need a recipe. For the fried version, wash the okra and slice it into rounds. Dredge the wet okra in cornmeal and shake to remove the excess. Heat peanut oil in a dutch oven and add okra. Fry okra until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Try not to move the okra around too much to make sure it caramelizes.

For the grilled version, brush the Foreman grill with peanut oil. Wash the okra and pat dry. Grill okra lengthwise for about 5 minutes until you get a nice sear and the okra just starts to deflate. 

Season the okra after you cook it to keep it from drying out. A little sea salt is all you need but I also like to add a kick of hot paprika. Ready to go cook yourself some okra yet?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vidalia Plum Relish

My husband is not a very good southerner. I mean, he doesn't like peaches. Not even in pie. And we live in the peach capitol of the south. Sigh. But he does love sweet onions so I thought I'd make a version of this relish with plums instead of my go-to peaches. Honestly, I can't tell much of a difference between the peach relish and the plum, but hey, whatever it takes to get him to eat it, right?

What You'll Need:
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup gin or vodka
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1 pound vidalia onions, diced
1 pound plums, pitted and diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced

What to Do:
Bring the water, sugar, vinegar, alcohol and spices to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir ocasionally to make sure the sugar doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the plums, onions and garlic and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Pour the relish into jars and refrigerate. This recipe make about 24 oz and should keep for a few weeks in the fridge. I love serving this over pork roast but it would also be great with chicken. You can easily can this and add it to fall dishes and it makes a great southern housewarming gift :)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake with Balsamic Glaze

I hope everyone's having a fabulous 4th of July weekend. I can't think of a more patriotic southern dish than shortcake. I mean southern ladies practically make biscuits in their sleep. And it's almost red, white + blue with the hand-whipped cream,  fresh strawberries and sweet balsamic vinegar... ok I'm drooling again. Let's get on with the recipe (which I adapted from Southern Living btw). 

What You'll Need:
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs
8 ounces sour cream
2 teaspoons real vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
4 cups fresh strawberries

What to Do:
Boil balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a non-reactive pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the vinegar is reduced by half and it has a slightly syrupy consistency. It should coat the back of your spoon when it's done. Cool the glaze. The glaze will thicken as it cools. If it's too thick, re-heat it and add a few tablespoons of water. Set aside.

Mix together flour, 1/4 cup sugar and baking powder. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter. If you don't have a pastry cutter, here's your excuse to buy one. Or use 2 forks. Mix together eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla and sour cream. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture until just incorporated.

Grease two baking sheets with butter and drop 1/2 cupfuls of batter onto the sheets (this recipe makes about 12). Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes or until golden on top. The biscuits will be pretty dense. Meanwhile, whip the cream with two tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Chill the whipped cream until your biscuits are done and cooled slightly. 

To assemble, cut biscuits in half and top with strawberries. Add whipped cream and drizzle balsamic glaze over the top. Eat immediately :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Greek Inspiration

One of my friends in elementary school came from a big greek family. We used to make up plays in Greek and she even roped me into dancing at the Greek Festival one year. I thought I was so cool. That might explain my love of greek food. So when Patricia Moore-Pastides, wife of USC president Harris Pastides, came out with a greek cook book, I was super excited. In fact, I think I received at least 3 signed copies for Christmas that year.  It's a delicious collection of flavorful greek recipes and they're all pretty healthy too.  This recipe is an adaptation of her chicken stew, kotopoulo kapama.

What You'll Need:
1 onion, quartered
4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 pound chicken
1/2 pound red potatoes, quartered
1 can artichoke hearts
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice and zest from one lemon
Salt, pepper, paprika, cumin
Olive oil

What to Do:
In a large saute pan or dutch oven, brown the onions and garlic in olive oil, being careful not to burn the garlic. Set aside. Season chicken with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika (use hot paprika to give it a kick). You can use white or dark meat, bone-in or boneless- it all works well. I think a combination of white and dark meat gives this dish a nice flavor. Brown chicken over medium-high heat.

Add uncooked potatoes, garlic, onions and vinegar to the pan. Fill the pan half way with water, just covering the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Simmer partially covered for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Add the artichoke hearts and lemon at the very end. 

Even though it's hot, the bright, lemony flavors of this dish remind me of summer. This would be great to make in the crock pot as well. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

NYC Eats

I haven't been cooking much lately. But I have been traveling. We just got back from a long weekend in New York last week. I'm the kind of traveler to likes to eat my way through cities and NYC is a foodie paradise. I always discover a new place to eat or dish to try every we time we visit the Big Apple. Here are a few places we enjoyed this time.

(Clockwise from top left)

1. The Hungarian Pastry Shop 2. Food-themed displays from Anthropologie at Rockefeller Center  3. Katz's Deli 4. Amy's Bread 5. Heartland Brewery and the Gray Lady 6. The Bryant Park Grill 7. Koffeecake Corner (We also loved Naples 45

Monday, June 10, 2013

Margarita Shrimp

We're lucky to live close enough to the coast that local seafood is available most of the year. The South Carolina Aquarium keeps a list of local sustainable seafood that helps us choose which we eat. Good for the ocean, good for the economy and good for your belly. Awesome right? Shrimp is a particular favorite of ours. So are margaritas. Guess how I came up with this recipe?

What You'll Need:
1lb large shrimp, peeled
1 medium sweet onion
1 large yellow/red/orange bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tequila
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh cilantro
Sour cream

What to Do:
Cut the onion and pepper into strips or chunks and season with salt and pepper. Place them on a pre-lit grill (a grill basket works well for this if you have one). Char veggies on the grill until they wrinkle and set aside. Meanwhile, combine garlic, tequila, lime, lemon, pepper, cumin and salt with the shrimp. Grill marinated shrimp just until they turn pink.

Assemble peppers, onions and shrimp on warm (or grilled!) tortillas and top with cilantro and sour cream. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice. Fix a plate, make yourself a margarita and enjoy the sunshine! 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fried Green Tomato Breakfast Stacks

So yesterday was National Donut Day. Did you eat one? I definitely had a warm Krispy Kreme to celebrate. But let's be honest. Donuts are not real breakfast. I'm not saying that breakfast has to be healthy, but something that doesn't induce a mid-morning sugar crash would be ideal. You know. Like bacon and eggs. Add a delicious fried tomato and you have yourself a real meal to start your day.

What You'll Need:
(per stack, multiply accordingly)
2 slices thick cut bacon
2 large eggs
3 slices green tomato
Oil for frying (peanut is my fave)
Salt + Red pepper

What to Do:
This one's pretty easy folks. Crisp the bacon. Personally, I like to use a foil-lined pan in the oven for about 15 minutes. Fry the eggs how you like. Over medium or hard is best. These get messy if your eggs are runny. 

Now, for the tomatos, coat with buttermilk and dredge in corn meal. Add salt and pepper either at the end or to your cornmeal for an extra bite. Fry until golden brown, a few minutes on each side. 

To assemble, start with a tomato, add an egg then bacon. Repeat if desired. You could sandwich these between some crusty bread slices too. I also think these would be nice with a little avocado on top. You have no excuse to skip breakfast now :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

In Season: Green Beans

Have I mentioned I love this time of year? Mostly because all of my favorite foods are in season. Which means they are not only tastier but usually cheaper too. Winning. Green beans are hands down one of my favorite green vegetables. I could probably eat them raw for breakfast. But that wouldn't make for a very interesting blog post. Instead, I've added garlic, soy and bread crumbs. Now we're talkin.

What You'll Need:
Generous 1/2lb green beans
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons butter

What to Do:
Simmer green beans in a shallow pan filled 1/2 way with water. Don't completely cover the beans. Add the soy sauce and cook just until tender (I like them crunchy, personally). Meanwhile, saute breadcrumbs in butter until brown. Add garlic for a minute and remove from heat. Be careful not to burn the garlic! 

Drain the beans and spoon the breadcrumb mixture over the top. You could add onions (fried or sauted) to these too. I recently served these with meatloaf but this would be a great side dish for salmon or chicken too. So how to you like your beans?