Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Smoked Provolone Cheese Sauce

I managed to knock over my personal fan no less than four times yesterday.  I’m sure our downstairs neighbors were very confused each time a big crash emanated from beyond their ceiling.  I’ll be glad when we move to the house and the only thing afraid of the noises my clumsiness causes is the bunny.

Somehow the fan is still intact and working properly.  I wish I could say the same for my memory card reader, which suddenly stopped working for no reason.  It’s quite frustrating when electronics fail on you without warning, especially an item as crucial as that.  Without it, I can’t share my lovely pictures of food with you.

Or the pictures of Izzy perched upon my back.  There’s a reasonable explanation people.  I was in her pen brushing her, and in trying to move to a more comfortable position, I leaned forward to one side with my knees planted on the ground.  She scurried up my thigh and was on my back before I knew it.  I felt strangely conquered; like how a mountain must feel when someone plants a flag in its summit.

Hopefully my new card reader will arrive shortly.  I got my new one from Amazon, as the last one was from Best Buy, but I’m certainly not going back to buy the same model that broke inexplicably in less than a year.

Thankfully I make and photograph a ton of food, so I have plenty to post about while my camera’s memory card reaches maximum capacity.

I love gnocchi.  Make that sweet potato gnocchi smothered in a smoky provolone sauce and I’ll probably never leave the kitchen table.  I may also drink the cheese sauce as my accompanying beverage.

I loved making this meal.   I loved eating this meal.  I can’t wait to make it again, and I strongly urge you to try it.  You can even skip the homemade gnocchi part and just make the sauce to drench the store-bought variety.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Smoked Provolone Cheese Sauce

Adapted from The Noshery

Makes 4-6 servings

For the gnocchi:

1lb sweet potatoes, rinsed, patted dry, and pierced all over with fork

6 oz  (3/4 cup) ricotta cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp packed brown sugar

1 tsp plus 1 Tbsp salt

¼ tsp nutmeg

about 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the cheese sauce (makes about 2 cups)

2 cups milk

¼ cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, sliced

3 fresh sage leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup smoked provolone cheese, shredded (you can sub in another cheese if desired)

First make the gnocchi.  Line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Place sweet potatoes on a plate and microwave on high until tender, about 5-6 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 1 1/2 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 3 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into a 20” long rope (about 1” in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 or so pieces. Roll each piece over the tines of fork to indent. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.  You can freeze any gnocchi you won’t immediately eat at this stage.

Bring large pot of water to boil; add 1 Tbsp salt.  Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender and they float, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to servings plates to cool.

Next make the sauce.  In a small saucepan combine milk, onion, garlic and sage.  Place over medium heat and heat until tiny bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Do not boil. Remove pan from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.  Remove and discard onion, garlic and sage leaves.  Cover to keep warm.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until blended, 1 minute.

Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. The sauce should cling to a wooden spoon or spatula, and leave a trail when a finger is drawn through it.

Strain the sauce into a clean saucepan.  Whisk in shredded smoked provolone (or cheese of your choice).  Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Dress the gnocchi with the sauce, garnish with extra cheese and sliced sage leaves and serve!


Herb & Cheese Frittata

We officially kind of have a house.  Technically the house isn’t completely ours yet because of slow processing on the bank’s end that led our 10am closing to take place at 5pm.  As such, the deed work was not completed in time, so we won’t get the deeds and keys until Monday.

My herbs

Our official move-in day isn’t until the 14th anyway, so this very minor hiccup really isn’t a problem.  I felt a little awkward at the closing though because I didn’t actually have to be there.  Luke is the sole purchaser of the house since we aren’t married yet and buying it jointly would have meant adding my student loan debt would have affected our financing options.  Ew.

So my name is nowhere to be found.  But I’ll get added on after the wedding, so that’s exciting…I guess.  What was exciting was the walk-through we did of the house before going to the closing meeting.  It’s such a cute house, I can’t wait to move in!

Now I just need to start packing, which also means trying to empty out the fridge, freezer and pantry.  I’m realistic; I know I can’t use up everything, but I can do my best to only buy groceries we absolutely need for the next two weeks, and make meals like this frittata, that use up extra ingredients lying around.

Frittatas are wonderfully versatile in that you can pretty much throw in whatever meats, vegetables, cheeses or herbs that need to be used up.  Make sure of course that your meats and veggies are cooked properly first.  I just wanted to use up some scallions, cheese and herbs.  Mission accomplished.  Now on to the pantry…

Herb & Cheese Frittata

Adapted from Cookie and Kate

Makes one 9” frittata, about 6 servings

6 eggs

½ -1 cup of shredded cheese (I used Monterey jack)

2 Tbsp milk

Vegetables and spices of your choice

I used scallions, shiitake mushrooms, a handful of mixed fresh herbs, salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan or 9-inch square baking dish or 9” oven proof skillet.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cheese, milk, vegetables and seasonings.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake until golden and puffy and the center feels firm and springy, about 25 minutes or more.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and serve warm.

Everything Drop Biscuits

Ever have a day that makes you want to collapse on your bed/couch/floor the minute you get home?  Yesterday was one of those days for me.  What was the cause of this horrific day, you ask?  Well, even if you weren’t asking, I’m going to tell you anyway.  It all started with an oil change.

A simple oil change, or so I thought.  Sometimes I feel like going to the mechanic is like taking a loved one to the doctor.  After an examination has been completed, the mechanic comes out to tell you what he’s found.  He sits in the chair next you with his clipboard, uses jargon you don’t really understand, delivering his bad news apologetically.

My baby…I mean car, had an oil leak, the exhaust pipe was at the end of its life, and my tires were badly worn, to the point where one had started cracking.  But what can one do in a situation like that?  The repairs must be made.

Four hours later.  I am starving, unable to concentrate on the book I brought because of hunger, so I stare reproachfully at everything and everyone, showing my disdain at how long I have been sitting in an uncomfortable chair.

My car is in much better shape now (it runs so quietly with its new exhaust pipe) so thankfully there was an upside to the day.  I only wish that I had the forethought to grab a biscuit on the way out.  At least I remembered to grab a book.

These biscuits are soft, tender and super yummy.  I especially like how some pieces of cheese don’t melt away into the biscuit dough, and you find these little cheese pockets during your noshing.  It’s wonderful.

Everything Drop Biscuits

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Makes about 20-24 biscuits (I halved the recipe and got 11)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (or more all-purpose)

½ tsp sugar

4 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 ¼ cups milk

6 ounces freshly grated mozzarella cheese (or cheddar)

For the everything topping: 2 Tbsp melted butter, ½ Tbsp dried minced onion, ½  Tbsp sesame seeds, ½ Tbsp poppy seeds, 1 tsp dried minced garlic, 1 tsp ground sea salt.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix dried onion, garlic, sea salt, poppy seeds and sesame seeds together in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda, and whisk until combined. Using a fork, pastry blender or your hands, add butter pieces to the flour and mix until coarse little crumbles remain. Add in cheese. Pour in milk and stir with a spoon until just combined; do not overmix. Use your hands if needed to bring the dough together, it might be easier.

Use a large spoon to drop batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, then use a biscuit cutter to shape the dough into rounds. (I didn’t bother with this step, since I like the shape of drop biscuits.)  Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle each biscuit with the everything topping. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown.  Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Homemade Pizza Snacks

I love pizza.  You love pizza.  Who doesn’t love pizza?  Even the weird people who don’t like cheese and pull it off their pizza still…eat pizza.  Though I don’t think I’d call that pizza anymore, it’d call it a sad mess.

I like tomato sauce and melted cheese on just about any baked grain surface.  It’s amazing how many things you can turn into “pizza” by just adding these two simple toppings.

Just so we’re clear on things though, these pizza snacks involve more than tomato sauce and cheese.  There’re also some extra onions and garlic thrown into the mix, making them even better.

Though I should admit, I was a little skeptical about how these would taste at first.  Would wonton wrappers stuffed with pizza toppings actually fool my taste buds into thinking there was real pizza in my mouth?

Yes.  I was shocked.  And quite delighted.   They totally taste just like pizza, only they’re smaller, so you can eat like 10 of them at once.  The edges of the wontons get crispy, but the middle stays soft because of the filling, creating its own notion of a “pizza pocket.”

At first I made a half recipe with leftover wonton wrappers from my curried shrimp wontons.  Later, I made a full recipe, and still have a container of them in my fridge.  Before you make them, I should warn you: they are addictive, and are really tasty late night snacks.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Homemade Pizza Snacks

Adapted from Back to Her Roots

Makes about 45-50 pieces

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided use

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cups marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or whatever cheese you want really)

1 package wonton wrappers (about 48 wraps)

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add in garlic and onion. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in marinara sauce and cheese.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Line two baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  On a work surface, work with one wrapper at a time.  Using a finger dipped in water, run along all the edges of each wrapper.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling into the middle, and then fold wrapper in half and press down to seal.  Continue until baking sheet is filled with pizza rolls (spaced about 1″ apart). Brush the tops of the wrappers with remaining olive oil and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until rolls are golden and crispy. Repeat process with remaining wraps and filling.

Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving and enjoy!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Strawberry Muffins

Sometimes cooking for two is a challenge.  What?!?  Cooking for two?  That’s not hard at all, you say.  But Luke and I have palates that seem to have come from different planets.  He’s definitely a meat-and-potatoes-what’s-that-green-thing-doing-on-my-plate kind of guy.

And while I’m not on the opposite end of the spectrum trying to work kale, chard or tofu into our every dinner, I do enjoy foods other than meat and potatoes.

I know that when I think about what to make for dinner, or breakfast, or any meal, I think about what my own taste buds desire first.  I mean, I am the one putting in all the effort to get the dang meal made.  This can be hazardous though, as some of the ingredients I love to cook with are reviled by my co-habitant.

I usually end up scraping my ideas if they involve any of these contraband items, but sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I make things just for me, knowing Luke will never want to lay a finger on them.  I do this because I can’t help myself.  My culinary curiosity gets the better of me.

Some concepts just intrigue me too much.  Like these muffins.  Luke abhors goat cheese, and while  I wouldn’t eat it with a spoon, I still enjoy its flavor in other dishes.  I particularly like it here, as a filling for these summery muffins.

The bright strawberries and tart goat cheese play off each other beautifully, rounded out by a pleasantly sweet muffin shell topped with turbinado sugar.  These are muffins that make me smile, even if they make a certain someone frown.

Goat Cheese Filled Strawberry Muffins

Adapted from Eating Well

Makes 12-15 muffins

3/4 cup (6 oz) crumbled soft goat cheese

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

1 ¼ tsp vanilla extract, divided

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 large egg white

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh strawberries, diced

3 Tbsp turbinado sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or coat with cooking spray.  I got 15 muffins out of this recipe, so be warned you may need your muffin tin twice.

Thoroughly combine goat cheese, honey, lemon zest and 1/4 tsp vanilla in a small bowl; set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Lightly beat eggs and egg white in a medium bowl; add brown sugar and the remaining 1 tsp vanilla and whisk until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in buttermilk and oil until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in strawberries.

Spoon half the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Add a generous teaspoon of the reserved cheese filling to the center of each muffin, and cover with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.

Bake until the edges start to brown and the tops spring back when gently pressed, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Chicken Fajitas

What do you do when you come back from Sam’s Club with a pound and a half of queso fresco?  Besides making bread, the first thing that came to mind was fajitas.

Especially since I have this badass cilantro plant hanging out by the window.  The herbs that managed to sprout have really taken off: I have lemon basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, sage, oregano, chives and one unidentified herb growing with the chives.  I can’t wait to move into the house and replant them in larger containers so they can grow even more!

But I digress.  Back to food musings.  I have always liked tortillas better than taco shells.  Always.  I hate when you bite into a hard taco, and the shell shatters, destroying the structural integrity of your entire meal.  The soft tortilla is flexible, and can be molded around its fillings, securing them for their trip to your mouth.

I kept my fajita filling fairly simple.  Just some sautéed vegetables and chicken.  Ok, so it’s really simple.  And tasty.  Did I mention tasty?

I know you can buy taco/fajita seasoning at the supermarket, but I prefer to use adobo seasoning.  I love that stuff.

Fajitas are also great because you can use whatever meat/vegetables you have on hand, given that they soften easily.  I know there are many different kinds of fajitas out there, but this is one you can have on the table in under 30 minutes.

And it’s tasty.  Or did I mention that already…

Chicken Fajitas

A Bashful Bao Original

Makes 3-4 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil (or other veggie oil)

1 large chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

8 oz button mushrooms

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, sliced into long strips

1 Tbsp adobo seasoning

8 medium flour or corn tortillas

cilantro and/or queso fresco for garnish (optional)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the chicken.  Cook until browned on all sides, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer meat to a plate and set aside.

Add mushrooms to the pan and sauté until they start to give up their juices, about 5 minutes.  Add in onion, pepper and adobo seasoning and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion start to turn a golden color and the pepper is softened, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the chicken back to the pan and stir to heat.  Remove pan from heat, spoon filling into tortillas, top with desired garnish (feel free to sub in other cheeses!) and serve.

Pesto Swirl Bread with Queso Fresco

Having guests over for dinner reminds me that I really like having people over for dinner.  We hadn’t entertained in a while, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Only now that I have this lovely little food blog, taking pictures of my dishes in larger company takes a little explaining.  Like yesterday, when I arranged my plate full of food, tweaked the positioning of some items, then picked up the entire place setting and transported it back into the kitchen for better light.

Thankfully Luke explained why I was leaving the table so abruptly, and I didn’t feel too embarrassed.

On a random side note, there was a point in the dinner, closing in on Izzy’s dinner time, that I peered around the corner of the dining room to spy on her, only to find her sitting at the closest end of the pen glaring at me.  I think she was trying to send me rabbit-hypno vibes.  It was kind of creepy but cute at the same time.  Also, we have a family of rabbits living in a bush near the back of our apartment.  Now I get to watch two sets of rabbits!!

While I make bread of course.  I had some leftover pesto from the chili recipe I posted about earlier this week, and wanted to do something different with it.  Different meaning not smother pasta with it.  So I smothered some dough with it.  Then I topped the pesto smothering with a layer of queso fresco.

Totally delicious, though I suppose you can make the queso fresco optional.  Or sub in feta or goat cheese.  Either which way, if you are a pesto lover, you will unequivocally enjoy this bread.

Pesto Swirl Bread with Queso Fresco

Adapted from Mmm is for Mommy

Makes one 9×5” loaf

¼ cup warm water
1 package dry active yeast
¾ cup buttermilk, lukewarm
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup pesto

1 cup crumbled queso fresco, feta, or goat cheese

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, warm water and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes or until it starts to foam.  Add in the buttermilk, oil, flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix for about a minute until the dough starts to form.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour if dough is too wet or water if dough is too dry.  Knead for 3-5 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball, spray a large bowl with non-stick spray or olive oil, put the dough in the bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.

When doubled, remove dough and place on floured board and roll into a rectangle approximately 9 x 13 inches.  Brush with pesto, then sprinkle the cheese over the pesto layer and roll up like a jellyroll, pinching seam and ends firmly to close (roll the shorter side, the roll should be the right size to fit in your loaf pan).   Place into a greased 9 x 5” loaf pan and cover with towel and let rise for another 1 ½ hours.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until done and hollow-sounding when tapped.  Let cool on wire rack completely before slicing.