Gnocchi and Sausage Soup Warms the Soul

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup Warms the Soul

The great thing about homemade soup is that it is such a forgiving meal. You can forage through your pantry, swag measurements, and make each pot your own creation. The downside is that I can never quite replicate the same pot twice!

That said, this pot of gnocchi and Italian sausage soup was delicious.

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup

Ingredients
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (I used hot)
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-2 chopped fresh tomatoes (optional)
1/2-1 bag spinach
4-6 cups chicken stock (See recipe for homemade.)
1 package gnocchi
1/2-1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Brown sausage in the bottom of a stock pot and drain off grease. You could use turkey sausage or links. If you do, remove casings before browning.

hot sausage, onion, pepper

Add diced onion, chopped bell pepper, and crushed garlic. Sauté 3 minutes longer. I had a homegrown tomato in the windowsill and chopped it up and added to the pot. It was not an essential ingredient, but like I said before, it’s soup so be creative!

Tip: If using a milder sausage, add 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper for some heat. If using your own chicken stock, add 1-2 chicken bullion cubes to intensify the flavor.

Add chicken stock and bring to gentle boil. Add gnocchi and cook 5 minutes or until gnocchi are cooked through. Add spinach and heavy cream. Stir until warmed through and spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

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Italian sausage is a great soup ingredient since it comes with its own built-in seasoning. I’ve also used kale instead of spinach. Of course kale needs to cook a bit longer so I add it during the sauté step. You could leave out the heavy cream or substitute with coconut milk and a tablespoon of red thai curry for a completely different outcome.

bowl of creamy hot sausage and gnocci soup

Serve with a warm slice of home baked French bread. Here’s my recipe!

Let me know how you like it.

Buon appetito!

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Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

I learned a few things about pasta when in Italy. First, the pasta is the star so don’t drown it. Second, never overcook it. Third, salt the water well. Fourth, finish it off in the pan with your toppings. Fifth, you can make a pasta dish out of just about anything. I even had penne tossed with fresh strawberries, olive oil, and parmesan cheese served to me once. For the record, it was delicious!

When faced with a crap load of fresh tomatoes, I’ve had to find multiple ways to use them up. One can only slice and eat so many tomato sandwiches! Since I love BLTs, I decided to try something similar as a pasta dish. Like I said, you can mix just about anything with pasta! Sorry there are no measurements. This is one of those thrown together deals!

Ingredients
Fresh tomatoes, sliced
Garlic cloves, sliced
Olive oil
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil, chiffonade cut
Pasta, I used cavatappi, but any shape would work. FYI: My favorite brand of pasta is DeCecco!
Bacon

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

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Layer sliced tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast to desired doneness. I roasted this batch for about an hour. The longer they roast, the sweeter they get.

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Cook bacon until crispy and drain well. Crumble.

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Prepare your pasta. Cut the fresh basil into thin slices (chiffonade).
Toss hot pasta, more olive oil, salt, pepper, roasted tomatoes, and bacon together. Serve warm with parmesan cheese. And of course, hot pasta is always delicious with warm home baked bread!

Buon appetito!

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

I happened upon this video from Epicurious last week and then gave it a try using items already in my fridge and pantry. It’s brilliant…simple, delicious, and looks like I spent hours. I’ll be trying more combinations over the coming weeks. This will be the best 2 1/2 minutes you’ve ever spent! Watch it!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs with White Beans

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Ingredients
8-12 chicken thighs
1 fresh lemon, thinly sliced
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, slivered
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
Salt, pepper
2 cans white beans or 2-3 cups dried beans you’ve soaked and cooked

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Directions
Please rack in top third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Arrange in 9×13 baking dish. Brush top of each piece with a small amount of olive oil.

Spoon beans around chicken. Space out the slivered garlic. Tuck in the lemon slices. Pour liquid so that it comes about halfway up the chicken. Leave tops exposed. Lay rosemary sprigs around dish.

Bake in top half of oven until chicken browns, about 30-45 minutes.

It was really that simple!

For a more exotic way to prepare chicken, try spicing things up with chipotle and ancho chili!

Tomato Jam Goes with EVERYTHING!

Tomato Jam Goes with EVERYTHING!

If you have homegrown (or farmer’s market) tomatoes coming out of your ears, today is your lucky day! This recipe for tomato jam is so delicious, you’ll be spreading it on everything. Heck, I help myself to a spoonful every time I pass the fridge! Scrambled eggs, hot dogs, burgers, cheese & crackers, bruschetta … use your own imagination (or Pinterest) to figure it out. But beware, tomato jam goes down easy and when eaten in large quantities, results in a slight, albeit “so worth it,” sugar headache. I speak from experience.

I modified Mark Bittman’s recipe as listed in the NYTimes just a tad. He’s a brilliant cook so I have not changed his recipe to improve upon it. To be perfectly honest, the first time I made it, I did not have enough limes, so I improvised by adding balsamic vinegar for more acid. And I like a little more spice, as you’ll see.  Finally, I more than doubled the recipe because those tomatoes cook down so much, you’ll be sorry if you start with too few tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds ripe tomatoes, any variety, or a mixture. 
  • cups sugar, or less if you don’t want it as sweet.
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoons fresh grated ginger or 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thai chili paste

Directions

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Core and chop all the tomatoes. You could even do a course chop in your food processor to save time. I used my Miracle Kitchen Plus which worked great!

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Toss the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients in a heavy pan and bring mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for several hours.

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You should be able to pull your spoon across the bottom of the pot and see the bottom. It will be thick like jam.

Cool and store in the refrigerator or freezer. I spoon it into small mason jars while it is still warm and screw the lid on tightly. As it cools, it sucks the lid in a bit for a tighter seal. This is not the same as canning (which you could totally do) so each jar lasts only a week or so in the fridge.

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It makes a great gift for friends and neighbors if you are the sharing type!

One amazing way to use tomato jam is on a grilled cheese sandwich with fresh mozzarella and a slice or two of fresh tomato. Talk about delicious!

If you have a recipe for tomato jam or a great way to use it, please share below!

 

These Cinnamon Chip Scones Will Change Your Life

These Cinnamon Chip Scones Will Change Your Life

IMO the perfect scone is tender and not sickeningly sweet. They are one of my favorite baked goods. I am slightly partial to cream scones, but also enjoy ones that use buttermilk or yogurt. They key of course is not over-stirring them once liquid is combined with the dry ingredients. Like biscuits or pie crust, the less handling, the better!

I offered to bake scones for a friend’s birthday this week and had a craving for cinnamon and maple. I combined those two flavors for what I believe is one of the best scones I’ve made yet. If you are one of those folks that believe scones should be sickeningly sweet like a giant cookie, move along. These are not your kind of scone. If these are a bit too sweet for your liking, leave off the glaze. They’ll still be delicious!

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cinnamon chips

Directions

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Mix all dry ingredients together. Use a pastry cutter to incorporate butter until mixture looks like small peas. It is fine to have a few larger pieces of butter. You can work with it as much as you want at this stage.

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Add cinnamon chips and stir in with a fork.

Measure heavy cream into liquid measuring cup. Stir egg and vanilla into the cream using a fork to incorporate the egg. Pour liquid into dry ingredients and carefully mix together until it comes together. A spatula works great.

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Turn dough onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a baking mat. Press into a 8-inch disc. Add a bit more cream to measuring cup and brush the top of the dough with a thin layer of heave cream. Lightly sprinkle the top with a pinch or two of sugar. Use a pizza cutter to cut into 8 wedges.

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Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Glaze (optional)

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In a separate bowl combine 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup. Stir until smooth. Add more syrup or sugar to alter consistency. Drizzle over scones.

Scones are always best served warm. You can keep these in an air tight container for a day or two. Just warm them for 30 seconds in the microwave or place them in a warm over for 5-10 minutes. You can also wrap them individually and freeze some for later.

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

mygrandmasrecipebookThank you Morgan for this delightful recipe! If you’ve never visited mygrandmasrecipebook.com, you are in for a treat – or two! Morgan chronicles some great old-fashioned recipes including this one she sent exclusively for my blog!

Chocolate Hedgehog Slices

This is a very nice, traditional Australian recipe from the 70’s and 80’s that is often served for afternoon tea or parties.  I remember my grandmother and mother both making this for children’s birthday parties or just a special treat.

Ingredients
400 grams (14oz) plain sweet biscuits/cookies (shortbread or plain graham crackers would work)
250 grams (9oz) unsalted butter
1 cup caster or granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecan nuts


Putting the biscuits/cookies in a zip-loc plastic bag, crush the biscuits with a rolling pin or other heavy tool until they are small pieces.


Melt the butter in a large bowl.  Add the cocoa powder and stir until mixed.


Add the other ingredients and the biscuits, and then stir to combine.

7 in the tray

Line a lamington tin (13” x 9” slice tin) with baking or greaseproof paper and spread the mixture into a thick layer.

8 finished slice

Refrigerate for 1 hour; before the slice is set too firmly, cut into squares.

Keep refrigerated until served.

Notes:
It is possible to substitute walnuts or almonds for the pecans.

This is an unbaked recipe using eggs, so it is not advised for young children or pregnant women. Please practice good egg safety.

Note from Brad: This no-bake dessert really hits the spot when you need a chocolate fix.  And since it uses cocoa powder and nuts, it’s a bit healthier than other sweets! Give it a try and let me know what you think! Better yet, make it at home and tag me (@GourmandBrad) and Morgan (@grandmasbook) on a photo of your concoction in Twitter.

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

If you are a Stromboli aficionado, please don’t be offended. I know I broke a few rules, but honestly, this recipe I whipped up is delicious. Like it’s relative, the pizza, you can use whatever ingredients you’ve got on hand. I highly recommend you get a bit adventurous and try a few new combinations.

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This is where the purists will pitch a fit…

I used my French bread recipe as the base. Most recipes call for a pizza dough, but I like the sweet, chewy texture of the French bread I make, so I took culinary license!

Follow the recipe linked to below, but STOP when you get to the directions for punching down the risen dough and separating it into two halves.

French Bread Recipe explained in excruciating detail with photos!

Ingredients for Filling
2 packages or 1 pound sliced Black Forest ham
1 package sliced pepperoni
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 egg, beaten

Directions
While your dough is rising, prepare your filling ingredients. I sliced and sautéed a green pepper in some olive oil. If you wanted to use spicy sausage, you would cook, drain, and cool it. You could slice and fry up an onion.

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Roll out dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Layer cheese, meat, and vegetables. For my two Strombolis, I used mozzarella, ham, and peppers on one and I used ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, and provolone on the other. Season with salt and pepper. Roll tightly. Please on cookie sheet and brush on egg wash.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Baking time will vary depending upon your oven. Let it sit for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with a small dish of pizza or red pasta sauce for dipping. Please note I did not spread sauce inside of the Stromboli before baking. I was worried it might get a little soggy after sitting. Since the recipe makes two, any leftovers are easily wrapped in tin foil and reheated later.

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How do you like your Stromboli? Please share your preferences!