Reaping the Benefits...

...of a husband who loves to plant things. Seriously, he has the *Midas Touch* in gardening. Don't believe me? Just check this out:

Nick came in from our balcony and said bluntly - "We need to eat chard, like today," and passed me a big, lush bouquet of chard.

I love chard. It's one of those veggies that is really so versatile. Sauteed with a little garlic and onion and you have a simple side dish that compliments almost any meal. It's an easy substitute for spinach in dishes like pastas and ravioli fillings. I've also used thin, wilted strips of chard in quiches and the like.

I felt like something a little different, so I consulted my How to Cook Everything cookbook by Bittman. He had a simple, but flavorful recipe for chard with olives, shallots and feta. It was simply scrumptious. It was relatively easy to prepare. I made it while our pasta was cooking and the clam sauce was simmering on the stove.

Nick mentioned that this would also work well as a stuffed mushroom filling, mixed with a little bread crumb, for a quick appetizer. The saltiness from the olives and feta would be nice with the earthiness of mushrooms.

Spinach Gnocchi

When I was younger, I actually would go over to the neighbors house every Friday since that was their gnocchi day and gnocchi just was not something we ate at home. I thought it was incredibly exotic (my mom ate stuff like chicken mole, gorditas, and enchiladas - how boring). I'm sure they were store bought, because I seem to remember them being a bit chewy, topped with a can of red sauce, but at the age of eight, with my discerning palette, I thought they were totally the best. thing. ever.

Fast forward about 10 years and I tried making some pre-made gnocchi remembering my love of it as a child. Sadly, the stuff from the grocery store was just not that good. Now, almost 20 years later, I decided to try my hand at making them from scratch. It's not a complicated process and I'm sure it would get speedier the more that I work at it. As it was, it took me about an hour and a half, but I'll be reaping the rewards for some time (we froze seven dinners worth and ate one that night), so I'm okay with it.

Cooked up in salted boiling water until they floated with an optional sizzle in a skillet, topped with either butter and grated cheese or your favorite sauce and you've got a flavorful, light and airy dough ball dinner. And as much as I love love love potato gnocchi, these spinach gnocchi can alleviate some of the guilt that you might get from eating a meal consisting solely of carbs. But (in my opinion, of course) I think that occasionally indulging in something delicious and not insanely healthful is nothing you should feel guilty over. But if you are tinged with guilt, remember, you're eating vegetables too!
Spinach Gnocchi

Spinach, 12 oz
1 3/4 lb potatoes
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Begin by cooking your potatoes, until soft, in salted boiling water. This should take about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. While the potatoes are cooking, wilt the spinach in a large saute pan or pot. Once all the leaves have turned a darker green color and have completely wilted, remove from the heat. Once cooled, squeeze any remaining water from the leaves and chop fine. 

Once the potatoes are done, drain them and then mash. I used a potato ricer to get a finer texture, but you could also use a regular masher or fork. Add the flour, egg yolks and spinach to the potato mixture and season with salt. Then get in there and get dirty. With some additional flour standing by, begin to knead the mixture until it is incorporated together. It will still be a bit sticky, so keep whatever surface you are working on well floured. 

Break the large dough ball into smaller, easy to handle sizes to begin rolling into logs. Roll the logs into 2/3" diameter and then cut out the individual gnocchi (with a sharp knife!) to about 1/2 in length. Flour the gnocchi so that they don't stick together or to the board while you work on the rest. Continue until all the dough has been used up. 
To cook the fresh gnocchi, boil some salted water on the stove. Give it a stir to begin a whirlpool effect right before you drop them in - this will prevent them from sticking together and from immediately sinking (and sticking) to the bottom. Once they float you can remove them - they are done cooking. 
At this point, you can top them with you sauce and enjoy. Or you can add some olive oil to a skillet heated over medium heat and add the gnocchi to that pan, giving each a nice crispy outside while preserving that puffy, pillow-like ball of dough on the inside. Top with sauce (this shallot cream sauce, for example) or butter and enjoy!

To freeze the gnocchi for later use (which will taste way better than the frozen store bought, in my opinion), place the floured gnocchi on a large metal sheet pan (covered with parchment paper) and freeze. Once individually frozen, the gnocchi can be placed in bags or containers to be enjoyed later. We put 30 gnocchi in each container to yield 2 adult servings. Boil directly from frozen.

Proscuitto, Carmelized Onion & Cheese Pyrohi

This is what happens when you have leftover procuitto, a craving for pyrohi and a husband that will indulge your creative cooking side.

Prosciutto, Caramelized Onion & Cheese Pyrohi
(yield: approx. 3 to 3 1/2 doz)


1 egg
2 c. flour
1/2 c. water
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt

Mix together and knead for about 5 minutes. You can also let your mixer and dough hook do the work. Let dough rest on a floured board for about 1/2 hour. 


5-6 potatoes (I had red on hand), peeled and cubed
1/2 c. grated mild, creamy sheep or goat's milk cheese (I used a mild goat's cheddar)
2 yellow onions, caramelized in olive oil*
6 pieces prosciutto, cooked until crispy and broken into bits
salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes until tender. Run through a ricer (or mash) until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste (no milk!). Mix in the caramelized onions and prosciutto. Also add the cheese and mix until combined and melted.

Making and Filling Pyrohi

Roll out dough about 1/8" thick and cut in 3" rounds (use a donut cutter). Put 1 tbsp. potatoes on a round and pinch them shut. Use a little flour on your fingers if the dough is sticky or if it doesn't seal right away. No need to put water on the edges before sealing. I worked in batches so that the dough wouldn't dry out.

Put completed pyrohi on a lightly floured surface until ready to cook. If not cooking for a while, cover the pyrohi with a dish towel until ready to cook so that they don't dry out.

Cook in a large pot of boiling water, stirring gently until pyrohi come to the top of the water and then let simmer for 3 or 4 minutes; drain, serve with sauteed olive oil and onions.

The other option is to fry them. I caramelized some yellow onions in some olive oil and once they were done, added a bit more olive oil and sauteed the pyrohi until they were cooked through.

*To caramelize the onions, heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over low heat. Add in thinly sliced half moons of onion and stir, adding just a touch of salt. Continue to cook over low heat until the onion have turned an amber color. This must be done over low heat to ensure caramelization. If done over higher heat, the onions will burn. Be patient. It's worth it.
Pyrohi can be frozen individually on a cookie sheet and then combined (once frozen) into storage containers/bags.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is one of those ingredients that I like to use (because ya'll know how we love pasta in this house!). It gives us a little more veggies and just switches things up on occasion. I've tried this squash with plenty of sauces, but my absolute favorite is this recipe.

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

1 small spaghetti squash
1 recipe Vodka Sauce (recipe below)
1 lemon, cut into wedges (optional)
1/2 lb Italian turkey sausage, cooked into crumbles (optional)
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

To bake the squash, you'll need to cut it in half lengthwise. Please only attempt to do this with a sharp knife as the squash is rather hard to cut and I don't want you all to get maimed.

Once cut, scrape out the seeds and the stringy portions from the center of the squash. You can reserve the seeds and bake them as you would pumpkin seeds (or toss them, your choice). Rub some oil onto a baking sheet and place the squash cut side down onto the baking sheet. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is tender and can be punctured easily with a fork or butter knife.

Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool slightly before handling. When it is cool enough to touch (you can also use an oven mitt or oven-safe glove like I do because I am not quite so patient at this point), scrape the insides of the squash with a fork and remove the pasta-like strands. Place the strands of squash in a large bowl or smaller serving-size bowls and top with the vodka sauce. I like to serve with a bit of grated pecorino romano, chiffonade basil and a wedge of lemon which I find breaks up all the sweet flavors of the sauce and squash. Another option is to top with sausage crumbles; the heat from the sausage also compliments the sweetness of the vodka sauce & squash.

Vodka Sauce
adapted slightly from this Food Network recipe

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. vodka
3/4 c. heavy cream, at room temperature
3/4 c. grated Pecorino Romano 

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add the celery and carrot and continue to cook until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cans of tomatoes and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the bay leaf and adjust seasonings.

Stir in the vodka and reduce by a quarter, stirring often. Once reduced, stir in the cream and then the cheese. Stir to combine. Once heated through, you can serve or allow to cool to room temperature before freezing. The sauce can be frozen for up to 6 months.

Our Kitchen

Before we left Florida, I figured I would take you on a tour of our itty bitty kitchen* for a couple reasons. First, because I am a neb nose** and love to see other people's kitchens and living spaces. The second reason is because we live in an apartment. We don't have any fancy storage spaces built in, we don't have a fabulous professional stove. No butcher block island here. No ma'am.

On a lot of food blogs, when I see their kitchens, it looks like a magazine spread. The colors, the design, the storage, their perfectly placed everything. And I think, of course they can cook. They have counter space. They have a six burner oven. So, while our kitchen is a bit more, um, realistic, I wanted to post it to encourage those of you who live in itty bitty kitchens that you can cook and make great tasty meals.

We use every inch we have, including the walls. On one side, we have pots and utensils, along with a bit of book storage.

Bread board, pot rack, box lid turned utensil holder

Our apartment issued stove and our personal toaster oven (which is used far more than our big one). Salt pig and oil are standing by for frequent use. Our case iron skillet practically lives on the stove.

Our spice drawers.

Sink and the dishwasher that sounds like an airplane. We also park our mixer and blender there. It's our baking and smoothie corner. Our pasta maker is attached to the overpass.

Under our cabinets. We did our best to maximize space with the racks on the top shelf.

Our main work station. We put as much on the wall as we could to maximize the little amount of countertop that we have.

Hanging our measuring cups makes them easily accessible.

Our most used cookbooks are in the kitchen. We store others in the living room.

Our pots hang on the wall so we have more cabinet space for other items.

Our little kitchen has served us well. We've modified it as much as we are allowed so that it was the most useful for us, and in most instances, those changes have increased our storage space and efficiency in the kitchen. As we head across the country, we'll miss our itty bitty kitchen, but look forward to maybe, just maybe, not having to wear noise cancelling headphones when we run the dishwasher.

*I realize that our itty bitty kitchen is probably a luxury in New York City, but in the burbs, where kitchens are frequently the size of our apartment, ours is pretty small.

**Pittsburgh for nosy. I'll get you all educated, slowly but surely.

Lamb Stuffed Peppers

So, a while back, we got a good deal on a leg of lamb. We ground most of it since I could think of more recipes to use it that way, one of them being this lamb stuffed pepper.

This version, a twist on your typical stuffed pepper, makes use of ground spices and pantry staples, making it a good meal idea for a weeknight. If you make the rice in advance (aka the day before), you can easily whip this up after work. It is also a good way to stretch the lamb meat, as I used 1/2 lb of ground lamb which made about 3 large peppers filled generously. Served with rice and a veggie, we actually split the pepper, equating to 6 servings (but we're little people, so I would assume you could make 3-4 normal servings of 1 pepper per person with this recipe)

Lamb Stuffed Peppers

1/2 lb. ground lamb*
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green bell peppers**
8 oz. diced tomatoes
1 c. cooked brown rice
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
goat's milk yogurt, for topping (optional)

Begin by cooking your rice. I used this easy brown rice recipe. You can easily make the rice ahead of time, or just start it an hour before you plan to cook the rest of the dinner.

Prepare the green peppers by removing the tops and inner membranes and seeds. Toss the membrane and seeds, but save the top. Just remove the center stem portion and dice the remaining pepper. Rub the outsides of the pepper shells with olive oil.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and pepper to the oil and cook until the onions are just transparent, about 5 minutes. Toss in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the meat and dried spices to the onion and peppers and cook, breaking up the meat as it browns.  Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through. Add the tomatoes and rice to the mixture and stir to combine. Spoon into the prepped pepper shells and cook for 25-30 minutes in a 350 F oven. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or hot sauce or both! 

*You could substitute ground beef in this recipe, but I think the spice combination works best with the flavor of the lamb.

** Nick prefers a bit of crunch to his peppers, but if you want a soft pepper shell, blanch the peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes and allow to cool before filling.

Snack Break: Salmon and Cream Cheese Crackers

I'm pretty sure that it's quite obvious that I am an avid snacker. When I had a desk job, I'm pretty sure that if you stopped by my cubicle, chances are I would be munching on something. And while I certainly love a cookie now and then, regular snacking usually consists of more savory foods. Sliced apples being a particular favorite.

My favorite thing about snacking is the relative ease in preparation. This "recipe" is no different. Crackers spread with cream cheese, topped with just a bit of salmon. Add a sliced apple and you've got yourself a light lunch.

For an easy alternative, if salmon leftovers never occur at your house, try adding smoked salmon in place of the leftover salmon.