Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ricotta Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto and Mushroom Cream Sauce

Several weeks ago I took my first cooking class with my friend, Sandy.  We went to our local Sur la Table, and learned how to make three different kinds of gnocchi, and three different sauces.  We had an awesome time, learned a lot, and ate some serious pasta!

Recently I have hardly been home long enough to turn on the lights before I brush my teeth and fall exhausted into bed, let alone make delicious, blog-worthy food.  Last night I planned to make these Ricotta Gnocchis, but unfortunately I forgot to buy cheesecloth when I went shopping, so I pushed it off till tonight.  

So, here is my first attempt at making gnocchi at home all by myself.  Here goes nothing!

You will need:

For the gnocci:

15 oz. ricotta cheese (I used whole milk, but any will work)
1 egg
4 Tbsp chopped basil
6 Tbsp flour
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper (1 tsp, 1/2 tsp)

extra flour for the counter etc.
cheesecloth for the ricotta
fork or gnocchi paddle for rolling

For the sauce:

4 c. arugula
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic ( I omitted this because I don't enjoy raw garlic)
1/4 c parmesan cheese
1/4 c. olive oil

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced (or 1 small onion)
12 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1 c. cream
salt and pepper

To start, put a colander in a bowl and line it with cheesecloth.  Then add the ricotta and allow it to drain in the fridge for about an hour.  

Once it's drained (now, I'll admit that there wasn't anything in the bowl after an hour so maybe it's just the moisture that the cheesecloth soaks up?), pulse the ricotta in the food processor to break it up and then mix it in a large bowl with the egg, basil, salt, and pepper.  Then add and fold in the cheese, flour, and panko. 

Flour your work surface, break it into 4ths, and roll out one section at a time to a snake about the diameter of your thumb.  

Use a bench scraper or knife to cut off little pieces, and then gently roll them down the back of a fork.  Put them on a floured cookie sheet and cover them with a kitchen towel until you are ready to cook them. 

Now, I actually decided to prep my sauce and make the pesto part of the sauce while I was waiting for the ricotta to drain.  Put the arugula, nuts, cheese, and garlic in a food processor, pulse it for about 20 seconds, and then while it's still running, stream in your oil.  

Then get the other part of your sauce going before you drop your gnocchi.  Oh, and you may as well get some water boiling (a big pot!)  In a large pan, heat your oil over med. high heat and saute your shallots or onions until they are soft.  Then add your mushrooms.  Now, they will go through a stage where they look too dry and you will be tempted to add more oil.  Don't!  They will power through and soften up, get brown and delicious, just be patient.  Once they they are cooked, add the garlic, thyme, and season to taste.  Then you can add the cream and let it simmer.  Finally, add the pesto to taste and simmer it until your gnocci is cooked.  

This looks much less green than it does in real life...  Sorry!
So, now salt your boiling water and add your gnocchi in batches.  Wait until they float, then give them another minute, scoop them out and add them to your saute pan of sauce. Keep cooking them and adding them until they are all finished. 

 If you can't eat them all, you can freeze your uncooked gnocchi.  Just put them on a sheet pan and put them in the freezer for a while, once they are frozen, throw them in a storage bag or container and keep them in the freezer.  Cook them the same way, no need to thaw them first! What I did was wrap half of my dough in seran wrap and put it in the fridge until tomorrow.  I also set aside half of the sauce.  I may end up freezing some of them, but we'll see how I feel tomorrow!  Tonight, I was too hungry and impatient to roll them all out! This really would be a fun dinner to make with a friend or loved one because you could put them to work rolling the gnocci!

Serve and enjoy!  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sausage, Beans, and Greens Soup

Fall is my favorite season.  Well, if I'm being honest, I would have to admit that my favorite season is whatever season is beginning.  So, really I just like the change of seasons I guess.  I'm rambling.  

Fall is my favorite right now, and besides loving the changing colors, the cool crisp air, and crunching leaves, I love fall foods.  Apples, pumpkins, leafy greens, pies, and my absolute favorite, soups.  This soup was my first of the season.  Oh, by the way, as soon as I start back to school in September, it's fall in my book, forget the calendar.

This soup was so yummy that I'm a little sad it's all gone.  I loved eating it with a hunk of good bread to soak up the broth.

You will need:

  • about a lb. of hot italian turkey sausage (removed from it's casing)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • about 5-6 cups chicken stock
  • a large bunch of swiss chard, chopped roughly
  • 2 cans of Great Northern White Beans
  • Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
 Start by browning your sausage in a big soup pot.  Once it has started to get some good color, add the onion, shallot, and garlic.  

Let these cook down and get soft, maybe 3-5 minutes after you add the veggies.  Stir them occasionally to keep everything cooking evenly.  If you have a lot of fat, drain it.  Turkey sausage usually is very lean, so I didn't need this step.

While this is cooking together, go ahead and chop up your swiss chard.  I like to pull the leaves off of the stems, and then just give them a nice rough chop.  It will cook way down, so don't worry too much about the size.  

Then add the swiss chard, rinsed white beans, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (to taste), and the chicken stock.  I just eyeball the stock.  I like my soups to be hearty, so I go a little light on the stock.  If you like more broth, add more stock. 
Give it a taste to make sure your seasonings are how you like them (I prefer heat over salt :), bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  I topped mine the first two nights with a little Parmesan cheese, but it's not at all necessary.  Serve it up with a hunk of good bread (I love Wegman's garlic tuscan bread, or 7 grain sourdough.)  It makes about 5-6 good sized servings.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Kale and Watermelon Salad

Two weeks ago my colleague and friend, Candy and I spent a week in NYC at the Columbia Teacher's College Reading Workshop Project.  We learned so much about reading, took in two Broadway shows, and ate so much delicious food!  One of the things that I absolutely loved was a salad very much like the one I'm about to tell you about.  The funny thing was, it wasn't even my meal!  I tried one bite of Candy's salad and had to make my own version of this at home.  Neither of us could remember exactly what was in it, but I think I got the key components and made a few changes based on my tastes.  I'm not sure I'll go so far as to tell you it was better than the one we ate in NYC, but it certainly was delicious!

You will need:

1.5-2 cups of chopped raw kale
1 cup of watermelon, cubed
1/2 cup ish of quartered cucumber
1/2 an avocado, chopped
1/4 cup of warmed hazelnuts

Lime Vinaigrette: (This serves 3)

Juice of 1 lime
equal parts olive oil and champagne vinegar (maybe 4 Tbsp. each)
salt and pepper

So basically, heat a dry saute pan and warm your hazelnuts over very low heat until you smell them, then take them off the heat.  While they are heating through, chop everything, make your dressing, and put it all together in a bowl.  Last, add your warmed hazelnuts, eat and enjoy.  

The bitterness of the kale is balanced by the acidity of the lime and the sweetness of the watermelon.  Try and get every component in each bite, it's so perfect!  I will definitely be making this one again and again!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

S'mores Bars

I don't bake.  No, seriously.  Baking and I broke up long ago and it was just too painful to even try to be friends.  If I'm being honest here, putting something in the oven relinquishes too much control of the process for me.  Come on, I'm a Kindergarten teacher, and you thought I didn't know I have a few small control issues?  Wrong.  Anyway, as I just mentioned, I'm a teacher and last year I had a parent of a child in my class who was an amazing baker.  She made us these S'mores bars for the winter holidays, and then, because of the way we all raved over them, again at the end of the school year.

After the first time eating them, I insisted on her sharing the recipe.  Again, if I'm telling the whole truth, I asked for it so that I could get one of my "baking inclined" friends (I'm looking at you, Christine!) to make them for me.  So, after 6 months of waiting for them to magically appear before me, I got tired of waiting. (I'm really only patient with children...) It was time to make things happen for myself.  

My friend, Allie was having a big BBQ and I decided this was my chance.  I had plenty of time to figure something else out if they didn't work, so I went for it!  

Let me tell you how good it feels when you sit at a party and hear person after person walk by with just a bite of something you made left saying, "Oh, man, these are SO GOOD!  Who made them?"  I was proud.  I also felt a little protective of the recipe.  So much so, in fact, that I almost didn't share it here.  And also, remember, it's not even my recipe!  I got it from a parent who got it from somewhere else.  But trust me.  Make these.  They are worth it. 

Spicy Smoky S'mores Bars
Recipe courtesy Anne Thornton
Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
2 hr 0 min
Cook Time:
20 min
24 servings

     2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more, softened, for pan
     18 plain graham crackers (about 2 packages)
     1/4 cup sugar
     1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
     3 cups milk chocolate chips
     1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder, optional
     3 1/2 cups mini-marshmallows


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with foil. You want to leave about 4 inches of overhang on the 2 opposite sides. These are going to serve as your handles to remove the bars from the pan in 1 piece, so make sure that there is enough of the overhang for you to have a solid grip. Grease the foil well with the softened butter.
In your food processor, grind the graham crackers into a fine meal (you need 2 cups). 

In a large bowl, combine your crumbs with the sugar, sea salt and melted butter. The mixture should look and feel like wet sand. Set aside a heaping 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture for the topping. Evenly press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom the foil-lined pan. Pop your crust into the oven and bake until it is golden brown and your kitchen smells of graham crackers, 12 to 15 minutes. 

Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack or on a dishtowel on your counter.

Melt the milk chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring continuously until fully melted. Do not turn up the heat to hurry this process, you must keep it on low. Alternately, you can microwave the chocolate on low power, stirring after 2 minutes. Once the chocolate is fully melted, it's time to add the chipotle pepper powder, if using, and stir it in completely.  I didn't use it because I was taking these to a party, but next time I will totally try it!

Preheat the broiler.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cooled graham cracker crust. Spread the chocolate evenly over the crust with a butter knife. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the chocolate and press them lightly into the chocolate. 


Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over and in between the marshmallows so that you cannot see the chocolate peaking through the marshmallows. 

Broil the bars 6 inches from the flame until the marshmallows are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Refrigerate the bars until the chocolate is hard, 2 hours or so. Grab the ends of the foil liner and lift the bars out of the pan in 1 piece. Move to a cutting board and cut into 24 squares.  

I would normally be the first person to tell you that 24 tiny bars is too many and that you should make the squares bigger.  In this case, the dessert is so sweet and buttery, that you really only need one small one (at a time, anyway!)  

So, I've given away my only secret baked dessert weapon (so far), and I hope that you go on to make them, share them, and swoon over them the way that I do.  Trust me, if I can bake them, anyone can!  Let me know how they go for you!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Eggplant pizzas

I have a few "black hole" type time sucks on the internet, with Pinterest being one of the big ones.  The good thing is that sometimes I get really great recipes and recipe inspirations.  This one was based originally off of a Julia Child recipe, and then was adapted by this website http://www.joysama.com.  I made a few changes based on what I had around, but wanted to credit my source of inspiration!

These took a little bit of time, but were super easy and delicious!  I made these for 1, so double, triple accordingly.

You need:

1 medium sized eggplant
2 tomatoes diced
1-2 cloves of garlic minced
1 small shallot minced
1 tsp. tomato paste
olive oil
dried pizza seasoning
salt and pepper
pizza cheese, shredded

Start by pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees and slice your eggplant to about 1/2 inch slices.  Liberally sprinkle both sides with salt (I use kosher or sea) and then let them sweat out their moisture on two stacked paper towels for 30 minutes.  

 While they are sweating it out (which keeps them from getting rubbery when roasted), you can get your sauce ready.  I chopped up the garlic and shallot and got them cooking over low heat in a little olive oil.  Then I chopped up two tomatoes and a bunch of fresh oregano from my garden (maybe 2 tbsp?) and add them, along with the tomato paste to the saute pan.  Let them simmer slowly until the tomatoes break down a bit and it gets thick and sauce-like.  Then turn off the heat and it will thicken up even a little more than pictured below.

 Once the 30 minutes are up, use a dry paper towel to wipe off the remaining salt, and then place the slices on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spay.  Brush each slice with a little olive oil and sprinkle some pizza seasoning on them.  Pop them in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.  You can then julienne your basil (stack the leaves together, roll them up, and slice them thinly into little ribbons.)
When they come out, top each one with some of the sauce, some basil ribbons, and plenty of pizza cheese!


Lastly, pop them under the broiler for just a few minutes.  I did 5 and it was too long, or I had them too high in the oven because they got a little bit too toasty (although they were still delicious!)  My best advice is, watch them closely!
Here are a few that didn't get as burnt!  These taste so good that I almost felt guilty eating them.  I had to keep reminding myself that really they only "bad" thing for me in it was the little bit of cheese!  Give them a try!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer smoothie

You may have been wondering whether I'm still here because it's been pretty quiet here on the Hungry Monster Blog....  Well, I am, but I'll let you in on a secret...  I don't really like to cook in the summer.  Crazy, I know, right?  You would think, being a teacher, that I'd be in the kitchen all the time.  If that's what you thought, you'd be wrong.  It's hot, I'm busy, and honestly, not nearly as interested in food in the summer.  Thus, I cook significantly less.  I make salads, and soon I'll have a bunch of veggies to harvest from my vine garden, so look for new recipes for cucumbers, eggplant, and squashes soon...  But for now I will fill you in on what I've been living off of the last few weeks.


I love smoothies.  They are tasty, healthy, cold, easy, and utilize many of my favorite things, fruit, veggies, and yogurt!  I'll share with you my basic go-to smoothie, but really you can throw whatever fruit you like into it!  This one was mostly berries.

I used:

About 3/4 c fat free plain greek yogurt
1 ripe banana
a few each frozen strawberries and blackberries
a handful each of fresh raspberries and blueberries
a big handful of kale (Yes, kale!  It's super good for you, and you'll never taste it!)
a splash of pomegranate juice

Layer them up in your blender, I do it in the order listed above and as pictured below:
Yogurt and bananas

Then add frozen berries

Next add fresh berries

Then add the kale
Last, splash in some Pom!

 Put on the lid and let it whirl on the puree or liquify setting until it's all mixed together and smooth.  Sometimes I have to use a spoon to push down the kale so that it catches the blades.  Then just pour it into a glass and enjoy!  I like to snack on a few coco dusted almonds with mine, but that's just me.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Simple Summer Supper

Confession, this dinner was born because of the hungry monster.  I had a yummy salad for lunch, but after a busy day of cleaning and tutoring, I was starving.  It had become a hot and humid evening and I had no desire to cook....  But, I had bought some perfect sea scallops and since I am thinking about going to the beach tomorrow, I knew I had to eat them up!  So, I started doing a mental scan of my kitchen, quickly counting out the spaghetti squash I had originally planned to eat with them because it was too much of a time commitment, and remembered I had frozen quinoa with veggies that I had never tried. I also had some yummy asparagus and a lemon, and then a meal was born.

This meal consisted of pan cooked sea scallops, garlic-lemon pan sauce, quinoa with veggies, and quick sauteed asparagus.  You will need:

4-5 scallops per person
olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
1 garlic clove minced
salt and pepper
quinoa (I used Trader Joes Frozen with veggies, but you could totally cook your own)
asparagus (5ish stalks per person)

Ok, so start by mincing garlic and heating 2 tbsp each of the butter and oil over med-high heat in a pan, then add the garlic.  Let that cook for like, 30 seconds and try not to let your garlic burn (mine got a little browner than I wanted, but it still tasted good!)  Season your scallops with S and P, then add them to the pan.  Turn them ever minute or so until they are cooked through and brown on both sides.  They cook quickly, so watch them!  They only need between 2-4 minutes depending on their size. 

While that was cooking, I heated a few tablespoons of water in a pot and heated the quinoa through.  Then I removed it from the pot, put it on the plate as a bed for the scallops, and heated a little oil and butter for the asparagus. I snapped the bottom of the stalks off the asparagus because they are really tough, and then chopped them into thirds on the bias (cause it's pretty).  Then I added them to the hot butter and oil, and tossed them around with some salt and pepper.  Looking back, I may add some red pepper flakes for a little heat next time.  They just need a few minutes until they are tender, but still snap when you bite into them.  

Remove your scallops from the pan, and add the juice of a lemon to the pan and scrape the yummy bits that are stuck to the pan.  Be careful, it will spit when you add the juice!  Once you take the asparagus off and are ready to eat, spoon some of your sauce over the scallops, and then enjoy!  
This was such a tasty, flavorful, healthy, FAST meal.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!  Or invite yourself over and I'll cook it for you!

Gardens Make for Great Eating

Over the past few years, I have really taken to gardening, particularly growing my own vegetables.  There really is nothing like harvesting things from your own yard that you grew from seeds, planted and cared for with your own hands, and then eating them!  Each year I try to grow something new.  This year I'm trying eggplant and broccoli, so we'll see how that goes!  I even had to build a new raised bed this year because I was a little over-zealous during my seed ordering!  In this one are all of my vines (squash, zuchinni, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, and eggplant).  Here's hoping I didn't plant too late!
This bed is my older one and this year it is home to radishes, romaine, spinach, arugula (which didn't do too well), shelling peas, green beans, broccoli, cayanne peppers, and bell peppers.  I have some roma tomatoes, blueberries, and my herbs in planters elsewhere in my yard.  

So, what I love about this time of year is thinking to myself, "what's for lunch?" and being about to walk outside and pick what looks good.  This particular day, I made a yummy salad with the lettuce, spinach, radishes, and peas.  Just add some fresh mozzarella, salami, vinaigrette, and some crunchy Chinese noodles, and you have a lovely lunch!  I usually make a lemon vinaigrette, which I will share with you (it's super simple!) but here I just used a balsamic vinaigrette.  

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 c. good olive oil
1/4 c. champagne vinegar
juice from half a lemon
ground ginger-a pinch
a pinch of lemon pepper spice mix

Whisk together and pour over your salad!

What do you love to grow and eat? 


Friday, May 17, 2013

What can I do with radishes, you ask?

           Radishes are in the back left

I started growing radishes a few springs ago when someone told me how fast they grew.  I'm not actually sure if I had ever really eaten a radish, but I grew them none the less. I also found out later that my Nana loved them, too, which now always make me think of her when I bite into these little beauties. Now, radishes are delicious in a salad, adding color, crunch, and just enough spice, but if you really want to enjoy a radish, I'm going to fill you in on a secret.... Are you listening?  You have to put them on bread.

No, seriously.  Start with good bread, I like sourdough or Italian.  Slice it, butter it with real butter, top it with thinly sliced radishes, and finish it with a sprinkle of sea or kosher salt.  Trust me, this may be one of the best snacks you'll ever eat!  As a matter of fact, I may go have to pull some out of my garden right now because my mouth is watering just writing about it.

  Take my word for it, go grow some radishes (or go to the store, whatever) and then eat them on bread.  You will thank me for it!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Eggs Benedict

I was feeling adventurous today, so I decided to tackle one of my favorite breakfast foods, eggs benedict.  I actually wanted to do florentine, but my mom had the spinach and decided not to come over for breakfast this morning, so here it is, simplified.  And, actually, I was stressed out enough without worrying about the spinach.  

I feel like making eggs benedict was sort of like making caramel for the first time.  Once you get a feel for it, it's pretty simple and straight forward, but the first time through, the unknown can be intimidating!

So, I made this for one, but the sauce makes enough for two or three, so if you are making it for two or more, just make more eggs, meat, and english muffins. 

You will need for the Hollandaise sauce:

2 egg yolks
a pinch of salt
1 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp softened butter
1 Tsp lemon juice
1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

For the rest of the dish you will need:

1 toasted English muffin per person
2 slices of pork roll (I prefer this over Canadian bacon, but it's your call)
butter, if you are using Canadian bacon- none if you use pork roll
2 eggs per person 
1 Tbsp white vinegar per two eggs
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

I cooked the components, one at a time.  I was worried about timing, but having done it once, I feel like there were things I could do next time to coordinate the timing better.  I'm going to blog what I did, and let you be the judge about timing.  I started with the sauce, because I was most worried about it.  Before I began, I had everything else ready to go; the english muffin was split and sitting in the toaster ready to be toasted, the pork roll was cut and ready to be heated through in the pan, and the water and vinegar were in the pot, ready to be heated up.  

Start the sauce by separating two eggs, and add them, the Tbsp of water, and a pinch of salt to a small sauce pan.  Heat them over REALLY low, gentle heat and start whisking. 

Keep whisking until your sauce gets foamy and thickens up. If it starts to curdle, don't panic, just take it off the heat and keep whisking. 

Once it is thick and foamy, like the picture to the right, take it off the heat, and whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. 

Once that is all incorporated, add in the lemon juice and set it aside.  I made the mistake of putting my sauce on really low heat until I was done everything else and it thickened up more than I wanted.  I would suggest just leaving it be, or maybe putting it in a bowl over a pot of steamy water so it stays warm gently.  If you let it get too thick, like I did, I thinned it out with a little water and a little more lemon juice and did a lot of whisking.  It was still delicious!

So, now get your water (about an inch deep) and vinegar boiling for the poached eggs. Once it is bowling, lower the heat back to a gentle simmer. Crack one egg at a time into a small bowl, and carefully slide them into the water.  Don't crowd the pot, just do two at a time.  Let them cook gently for about 3-4 minutes.  It's not a very pretty process, but it works.  Sorry I didn't get a picture of it!  

Once you drop your eggs, go ahead and heat your meat through in a frying pan.  Use butter if you are using Canadian bacon because it's low in fat, pork roll has plenty of it's own, and doesn't need it.  Give them about a minute or 2 on each side and then turn off the heat.  You can also toast your English muffin at this point. Use a slotted spoon to remove your eggs.

Once your whites are white, you can go ahead and plate.  Start with the muffin, then layer the meat, then your poached eggs, top with the Hollandaise sauce, and garnish with a little cayenne pepper and chopped parsley.