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Archive for March, 2010

I had a vague memory of reading about a lemon-kale pesto a while back, but couldn’t remember where I heard about it. I didn’t have a ton of kale in my fridge, but I did have some spinach and a few lemons. Give all that a whirl in the food processor with a few other ingredients, and you have a the makings of a quick weeknight meal.

And look at that texture! I don’t like my pestos pureed to mush — I like to taste the little bits of pine nuts and cheese. This recipe is awesome, too, because the lemons make up for the bite of the basil in a classic pesto. Yum!

I served mine in a bowl with red quinoa and chickpeas, and Mason had his atop chicken, with the quinoa as a side. Since mine was pretty starchy, I paired it with a salad of field greens, chilled beets I roasted this weekend, chevre, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. And I can think of several other things you can do with the pesto:

  • Add a spoonful to chicken or vegetable soup
  • Mix with roasted vegetables and pasta
  • Spread across warm, grilled zucchini slices

And so on.

Here it is about to be spun in the food processor:

My quinoa-chickpea-pesto bowl:

And the beet salad:

Lemony Kale-Spinach Pesto

2 cups kale, roughly chopped
2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Zest of two lemons (about 3 tsp)
Juice from two lemons (about 1/3 cup)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Add all ingredients to a food processor. Process about 30 seconds, until everything is combined. Enjoy!

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I usually spend Sunday evenings fixing a meal that takes a lot of time, something we can eat from for a few days. Tonight, though, I went with something easier, but still delicious — gotta have time to watch the Oscars! It’s sort of a tapas spread, with yummy cheeses, cured meats, and a few different spreads.

Peppered salami and a salami made with Chianti:

Two kinds of crackers, strawberry chipotle jam from local Blanco Valley Farms, classic Maytag blue cheese, smoked gouda, local Wateroak Farms chevre, and Wensleydale cheese with cranberries (could they sound more British?):

Homemade hearth bread with flaxseed:

Antipasti spread from the olive bar at HEB: artichoke spread, bruschetta, and peppadew peppers. Yum!

Some of it plated. I added grapes and apples to the cheese and meat:

My plate. Mmm! A few combos I tried were blue cheese and apple, and strawberry-chipotle jam and chevre. So good! I added some egg salad to my spread to get in some extra protein. Oh, and we had a Finca el Origen malbec with the meal. Nothing like a lush red to round it all out.

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Oh yes. This is what every caffeine-loving mom dreams of: a mug that kids can shake upside down and not spill. My friend Jackie told me about this one day at work, and that weekend I came across it at Target. I thought, “What the heck?” and bought one.

The next morning, I made the rookie mistake of leaving my coffee on the end table by the couch while I cut up an orange for Ryan. When I came into the living room, he had climbed up on the couch and was gleefully shaking my coffee upside down. I freaked, until I realized that NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. Not a drop was spilled on my nice, beige couch. I became a fan for life.

Plus, my coffee stays hot for hours. If you’re a slow drinker like me, a mug that keeps your coffee hot for 2-3 hours is a rare find. One that does that and is spill-proof? It’s pretty much the holy grail.

Contigo Autoseal Stainless Steel Coffee Mug

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Dishes with gnocchi always make me think of college. One of my Italian professors had a party at his house one evening, and he invited all of his students over for a homemade meal. He and his wife served gnocchi, which means “knuckles” — each gnoccho is about the size of a knuckle, so I guess it makes sense. Anyway, it was the first time I’d ever eaten gnocchi, and I fell in love. They are pillowy potato dumplings, often served with a cream sauce. Good gnocchi melt in your mouth.

If you like comfort food, this is the dish for you. It’s creamy and indulgent, and everything I want when the weather is cool outside. And since we (hopefully) don’t have many more cool days ahead, I wanted to enjoy it soon.

I thought about how to make it for a few days. I knew I wanted gnocchi baked in a creamy sauce with cheese. I had a bunch of chard from my Greenling box, so I added that, because adding greens automatically makes a dish healthy, right? Nutmeg adds a delicious, earthy touch. And for a non-vegetarian version, crispy pancetta gives a bit of smokiness. A homemade toasted breadcrumb topping finishes the dish with a slight crunch.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

Spinach would be an excellent substitute for the chard. I used fat-free milk, but whole, 1%, or 2% would work just fine. I’ve included both  meatless and meaty versions below. The pancetta version varies only slightly in the cooking method. Let me know what you think!

Creamy Baked Gnocchi with Chard (vegetarian)

1/2 lb of chard (or spinach*)
2 lbs vacuum-packed gnocchi (I used a mix of regular and whole wheat)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups skim milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup grated grana padano or parmesan cheese
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup breadcrumbs*
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a stockpot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse chard really, really well. (I spotted a bug in the water after I washed my bunch. Ew.) Remove tough stems and give chard a rough chop. Add a generous sprinkling of salt to water, and then add chard. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain chard and set aside to cool.

Bring another stockpot of water to a boil. Add another generous sprinkling of salt, then add gnocchi. Cook 2-3 minutes, until gnocchi float to the top of the water. Drain.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add gnocchi. Cook, 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until gnocchi are browned. This step does a couple of things. It adds flavor, but also removes some of the moisture from the gnocchi, keeping them from getting mushy when it bakes. Add gnocchi to a large, greased casserole dish.

In the same saucepan, add milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cheese, and cooked chard (give it a squeeze to get rid of extra moisture). Bring to a simmer. Whisk flour with a small amount of milk or water and add to milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until mixture thickens, whisking often to keep the sauce smooth. Pour over gnocchi.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add breadcrumbs and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until browned and toasted. Sprinkle over gnocchi.

Bake for 20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly.

Creamy Baked Gnocchi with Chard (not vegetarian)

1/2 lb of chard (or spinach*)
2 lbs vacuum-packed gnocchi (I used a mix of regular and whole wheat)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil
6 oz pancetta (or bacon), diced
3 cups skim milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup grated grana padano or parmesan cheese
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup breadcrumbs*
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a stockpot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse chard really, really well. (I spotted a bug in the water after I washed my bunch. Ew.) Remove tough stems and give chard a rough chop. Add a generous sprinkling of salt to water, and then add chard. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain chard and set aside to cool.

Bring another stockpot of water to a boil. Add another generous sprinkling of salt, then add gnocchi. Cook 2-3 minutes, until gnocchi float to the top of the water. Drain.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until pancetta is crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a few layers of paper towels to drain.

Add gnocchi to pan. Cook in pancetta fat, 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until gnocchi are browned. This step does a couple of things. It adds flavor, but also removes some of the moisture from the gnocchi, keeping them from getting mushy when it bakes. Add gnocchi to a large, greased casserole dish.

In the same saucepan, add milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cheese, pancetta, and cooked chard (give it a squeeze to get rid of extra moisture). Bring to a simmer. Whisk flour with a small amount of milk or water and add to milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until mixture thickens, whisking often to keep the sauce smooth. Pour over gnocchi.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add breadcrumbs and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until browned and toasted. Sprinkle over gnocchi.

Bake for 20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly.

*If you use spinach,  you can skip the blanching step. Just give the spinach a rough chop and add it to the milk when you begin your sauce.

*I made my own breadcrumbs using a couple of thick slices of stale bread that I ran through the food processor. This produces crumbs that are bigger than the kind you buy in a can at the store. If you use store-bought breadcrumbs, you may want to reduce the amount for this reason.

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