Tag Archives: cooking

Heaven is Baked Gnocchi & Cheese (Oh So Much Cheese)

We just finished dinner.

It was…phenomenal. Fantastic. Deliriously and deliciously divine. Scrumptiously swoon-worthy.

Oh.mah.gawd.

I am sitting here, in shock, to be honest. Why? Because I made dinner without a recipe. Hell, I even went to the store for this without a real plan and ended up grabbing stuff on the fly. I often cook from scratch using just my imagination and it usually turns out absolutely delicious but tonight’s dinner stretched me beyond my comfort zone a bit in using an ingredient in a standard recipe. It was daring and I prayed like hell it would work out. It did – obviously. I had to stop at just one serving because it is the kind of dish in which you could easily over-indulge.

Bacon. Cheese. Potatoes. Onion. Garlic. Breadcrumbs. BACON. CHEESE. POTATOES.

For additional nutritional value, I tossed in a can of quartered artichoke hearts which actually worked quite nicely to balance the dish.

I did not keep track of exact measurements of ingredients but I will do my best in recreating the recipe below because you HAVE TO MAKE THIS and then bask in the heaven that is Baked Gnocchi & Cheese (OH SO MUCH CHEESE). You HAVE TO…it’s a food coma-inducing meal.

baked gnocchi

Baked Gnocchi & Cheese (OH SO MUCH CHEESE)

  • DeCecco Potato Gnocchi (1 pkg made a 9×13 pan)
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 8 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 lb Peppercorn crusted Center Cut Bacon (Or any Center Cut/Thick cut bacon will do)
  • 1/2 finely chopped/diced red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper as needed
  • Pinch Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
  • 2 cups Swiss Cheese, Shredded
  • Sargento’s Cheddar Blend, 2 cups
  • Panko Bread Crumbs

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut 1lbs of bacon into quarters. Cook in large deep saute pan over medium heat until crispy, place in a bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb fat. Let drain. Set pan aside. (If you’re the drinking sort – you can save the bacon fat, put it in a clean mason jar, add 1 cup of Vodka, cover, then let it sit overnight in the cabinet. Then put it in the freezer, let the fat freeze. Remove fat. Strain through tea filter, then coffee filter, then cheesecloth. Bacon Vodka. Boom.) Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes.

Large pot – fill with water, add a couple tablespoons of sea salt (kosher will do too), bring to a boil. Add Gnocchi. Once it starts floating, strain it. Put strainer (if you can) over the large pot to let the Gnocchi continue to drain while you start on the cheese sauce.

Chop garlic into fine pieces. Dice/chop onion as well.

Drain the bacon fat from large saute pan. Discard if you want or use it as recommended above. Add 3 tablespoons of butter to pan. Then add garlic. Let it saute for a few minutes before adding onion. Once onion starts to get translucent, add half of the gnocchi, place the other half on a clean plate. Pan fry gnocchi until it is golden brown, 4-5 minutes if you leave it alone and don’t stir it a lot. (Live and learn!) Remove pan fried gnocchi to colander you used to drain the gnocchi after boiling it. Add other half of gnocchi and pan fry until golden as well, removing to colander once complete. While you’re waiting for the gnocchi to pan fry, put 2 cups of milk in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Add 3 tablespoons of butter to pan. As it melts, add all spices – Cayenne, Paprika, Salt, (1/2 tsp or so), few turns of the pepper grinder. Using a wooden spoon, stir until spices and butter combine and turn a light caramel colour. Add flour. Stir until combined. Add slowly (and I mean SLOWLY), warmed milk. Whisk constantly as you’re adding it in order to avoid any creepy lumpage. You don’t want lumpy cheese sauce. Seriously. Trust me. EWWW. Stir constantly, and lower heat to low medium. Get your cheeses.

Add 2 cups of mixed cheddar, 1 cup of swiss, 1 cup sharp cheddar. Stir until melted. Lower heat and add additional milk to thin, up to 1 additional cup. Let simmer for a few minutes.

Open can of artichoke hearts, drain, and squeeze until no more liquid releases. Toss into cheese sauce along with bacon and pan fried gnocchi. Stir until combined and turn off burner, letting it gently simmer in remaining heat.

Spray 9×13 pan with non-stick spray. (We use Misto so we don’t use propellant chemicals). Pour cheesey deliciousness into pan. Top with remaining swiss cheese, then with remaining sharp cheddar cheese. Sprinkle lightly with 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs.

Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Melt remaining butter in small bowl.

Remove pan, sprinkle with additional panko, maybe 1/2 cup. Drizzle with melted butter.

Adjust oven temperature to 400. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until top is golden.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving to let cheese settle & cool. We want to enjoy the cheese, not have it sear our taste buds off. Warm gooey cheese is good. Molten searing cheese is bad.

Eat intentionally, savoring every single bit, wishing time would stop so you could eat this forever.

 

Whatever Wednesday: The Case of the Shanghai’d Shrimp

Since a few days before New Years, I have been working very hard at losing weight and getting into shape. I’m happy to report I have lost 20 pounds and am still going strong. I have a long road ahead of me but I have no doubt that I will get to my goal one day. Going back to where I was is simply not an option.

As part of this venture to get healthy, we have been eating a lot of Lean Cuisine meals. They’re affordable, quick, and easy. With three kids around, it’s very important to keep things affordable, quick, and easy. They’re all absolutely delicious too. Lean Cuisine has a new product line out called “Market Creations.” These steam right in the bag and up until Sunday, they have been hands down my favorite meals from Lean Cuisine. (FYI, no, there is no give-away and no, I’ve not been compensated. But you’ll figure that out in a minute.)

Sunday night I sat down to chow down on a new Market Creation, Shanghai Shrimp. Luscious Shrimp, udon noodles, spices, green and yellow pepper strips and we’re talking heaven. Things went horribly wrong with this one though. Horribly & wickedly wrong. And then Arcade Fire blinded me.

The following is the actual letter I whipped up and sent off to Lean Cuisine via their Customer Contact page at their website.

Enjoy!

Thrilled to finally see Shanghai Shrimp Market Creations at my local Kroger, I snagged it and brought it home with me along with a surprise picnic meal for my kids.

My kids had a blast, I let them run, play, scream, go crazy. They did so to the fullest. I rested easy in knowing I had my yummy Shanghai Shrimp waiting for me.

Finally, the kids went to bed once Daddy got home with our eldest after their night out. Bedtime was tougher than usual. But I rested easy. Shanghai Shrimp would save me.

I popped the bag in the microwave, punched in the required 5:30 and began the wait. I cracked open a beer. A delicious waft of Asian flavors soared through the air, both tempting and soothing me. Finally. BEEEEEEP.

Ahhhhh.

I grabbed a bowl, poured the heavenly Shangai Shrimp in and headed to the living room with my dinner and beer, sitting down to watch the Grammys.

But wait … what is this? It’s gummy. Gritty. Fleshy… Oh no.. it can’t be… an uncooked shrimp! Are there more? Has my Shrimp been Shanghai’d?

Alas, there were more. Two at least for a total of three uncooked shrimp.

What had gone wrong? I followed the instructions. I laid the bag down ever so carefully with the proper side facing up.. left it in the microwave for the recommended amount of time.

Sadly, I made the decision to share my Shanghai Shrimp with our trash can, wailing and gnashing my teeth the whole way.

I snatched my Thai Chicken Lean Cuisine from the freezer, the one that was to be my lunch tomorrow. It now awaits me in the microwave.

My beer is warmer.

And I am sadder, left with a stomach and tongue craving Shanghai Shrimp.

I do not know if I will ever recover. I know one thing for sure. I will never buy Shanghai Shrimp again, no matter how much my poor tongue and stomach beg me to do so.

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Avocado Tuna Salad

I recently put myself on an anti-candida diet due to the thrush Cameron and I have. While I’m not being as strict, I am continuing to try and eat healthier. Today I made myself an Avocado Tuna Salad for lunch and it was absolutely delicious. I want to share the recipe with you. (I also want to mention that I normally HATE canned tuna!)

Avocado Tuna Salad

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 ripe lemon
  • 1 can tuna (packed in water), drained
  • black pepper

Place tuna in bowl. Cut avocado in half, scoop one half on top of tuna. Cut lemon in half, juice half over tuna & avocado. Sprinkle some fresh ground black pepper on top if desired. Mash together with a fork. Cube other half of avocado and “sprinkle” on top. Eat. Would also be great on a wrap with dark greens, tomatoes, and julienned cucumbers.

Craving Smells??

I am craving a smell. The way my grandmother’s house smelled when she would make her homemade manicotti. I don’t have the recipe… she passed away before I even started high school, long before cooking became a passion of mine. I wish I had the recipe. I wish she were still here… To this day though, I make my manicotti like hers – fresh, homemade crepes instead of pasta, well, that’s about it. I remember that much. The filling is usually fresh homemade ricotta (yes, I know how to do that, it’s really not that hard), and I make a lovely homemade roasted red pepper marinara to go with it. If I’m feeling absolutely ambitious, I make fresh lasagna noodles too. I’d like to learn how to make homemade mozzarrella but I haven’t had the chance (or the guts) to do that yet. I have a feeling that I will be making lasagna this week – don’t have the energy (or back strength) to do manicotti. I could live off Italian food – for life. Give me some pasta, some marinara, and some decent parm and I’d be in heaven. Yeah, I know there’s other italian food out there, it’s not all pasta – but me, I’m in love with pasta. Which is why I would fail oh so miserably on a low-carb diet. My pasta usually goes with french bread and full on full fat butter. (hey, at least we KNOW what’s in butter, right?) YUM!

Yeah, I foresee a trip to the grocery store this evening… and tomorrow is NOT going to be a labor free day. I’ll be stinking the house up with delicious italian aromas!