Gnocchi with Chicken, Vegetables and Pesto

Dumplings are found all over the world, especially in the colder climates.  They are usually made with potatoes, but they can also be made with a variety of other ingredients too.  Gnocchi are the Italian version of these potato dumplings.  It is believed that potato gnocchi were first created in Northern Italy sometime during the 16 & 17th centuries, after the Spanish explorers brought the potato back to Europe from their explorations in South America, although gnocchi of different variations were popular as menu items for banquets and feasts during the Renaissance period, which was much earlier.

Gnocchi, as we know them today, were created in Northern Italy, where the climate is cooler than it is in Southern Italy.  The cooler climate is much better for growing and producing potatoes than it is for grain.  Though they are mostly made from potatoes, they can also be made with other root vegetables, spinach and sweet potatoes too, as well as semolina and other ingredients.

The word gnocchi is believed to have been derived from two words.  The first is nocca, which is the Italian word for knuckles, and the second is knohha, which is the Lombard word for knot.  Both are plausible, since both words refer to the small, tight, rounded dumplings we know and love as gnocca, or the plural, gnocchi.

I love gnocchi, but I was always a little intimidated to make it.  I was always waiting for someone to “show me how to make them”, though that never happened.  But as with most things, I easily taught myself how to make them and the rest is now history.  They are actually pretty easy to make and are not nearly as intimidating as I first thought.

 

My gnocchi dish was loosely, very loosely I might add,  inspired by this gnocchi dish from my “Flavours of Urban Melbourne Cookbook” that I received as a Christmas gift from my nephew and his wife a few years ago.  I completely changed it and made it my own, which is just what I do.  I had a few of Priscilla’s Parmigiano savory cookies left too, A Simple Celebration which was a nice accompaniment to the gnocchi.  I made my dish with chicken, added more vegetables and pesto sauce.  It was very tasty indeed.  And the Queen would be so proud of me for creatively using more leftovers too.  These gnocchi  are made from mashed potatoes, and I had some leftover mashed potatoes from the other night.  Perfect.

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Gnocchi with Chicken, Vegetables and Pesto

2 lbs chicken, cut into strips

1 yellow or crookneck squash, sliced thin

1 zucchini, sliced thin

1 shallot, sliced very thin

1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1 cup tomatoes – I used the yellow sun tomatoes, cut in 1/2

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

 

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Gnocchi

1 1/2- cups cooked and cooled mashed potatoes

2 cups flour

1 egg

 

Mix the mashed potatoes, flour and egg together and knead until it becomes a ball.  Break off equal parts and form into smaller balls and roll on a smooth surface until they become long, snake-like tubes.  Then cut into small pieces about 1 inch in size.

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When the gnocchi are all made, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the dish.

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If you are making your own pesto, Pesto Pasta Primavera with Chicken and Vegetables prepare it in the food processor and set aside.

Slice your vegetables and cut the chicken.

Saute the vegetables in the olive oil along with the salt & pepper.  For those of your garlic lovers out there, fear not!  There is plenty of garlic in here already.  I always add garlic to my mashed potatoes, so the gnocchi already have garlic in them, AND I am very generous with my garlic when I make my pesto.  believe me, this dish has plenty of garlic.  No need for more.  So, I purposely left it out of my vegetables, not to over power the dish with garlic.

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When the vegetables are cooked, remove them from the skillet and set aside.  Add the  chicken and cook it until it is fully cooked.  When the chicken is fully cooked, add the vegetables back to the skillet and combine well.

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While the vegetables and chicken are cooking, start a large pot of water to boil.  Once it starts to boil at a rapid boil, add the gnocchi.  You may need to make a few batches.  Let them boil for about 4-5 minutes, or until they float at the surface.  When they float, they are done and are ready to eat.

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When the gnocchi are done, plate everything up.  I like to layer my foods.  It makes for a much better presentation.  So I started with my gnocchi, added a little pesto, then the chicken and vegetables mixture, with more pesto on top.  Then I added just a few tomatoes at the very end.  I also served this with some warmed ciabiatta and white wine to make a perfect Northern Italian dinner.  Mangia!

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The Things They’ve Been Saying

I admit, I have not been as busy in the kitchen as usual lately.  Things have just been very busy and very chaotic.   Everything is getting back to normal once again, however, which means, the kitchen will soon be in full swing once more very soon.  When the kitchen slows down, I “listen” to the advice of others and share that advice with all of you.  Here are some good words of kitchen wisdom I hope you all enjoy.

 

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, Author of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit ~

 

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote attention to eating.

~ Luciano Pavarotti, Italian Opera Star ~

 

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.

~ Oscar Wilde, British Author of The Portrait of Dorian Gray ~

 

Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.

~ Dr. Alan. D. Wolfelt, author, educator and grief counselor

 

People who love to eat are always the best people.

~ Julia Child, Cookbook Author and Chef and Culinary Pioneer ~

 

Nothing brings people together like a generous spread of food.  It’s the universal unifier.  Food serves as a cultural marker, attends every milestone and celebration, and can be dressed up or down.  Food is where the heart is.

 

 

 

A Golden Celebration

Our friends Janet and Bob just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  We are very honored to have been apart of their special celebration.  For those of us who are married, we all know it can be full of trials and tribulations, and to make it for 50 years is really quite an accomplishment.  Congratulations Janet and Bob!

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Janet and Bob chose to celebrate their big day at Root Down, a fun and hip restaurant in Denver.  Root Down is one of 6 restaurants in the same “family” that are all known for being “renegades of flavors and masters of remix”.  All 6 of these restaurant siblings are also known for serving “responsibly-grown and innovatively simple sourced foods that are veggie-forward” (sic).  The other restaurant “siblings” include the first restaurant in the family, Edible Beats, that was started in 2008.  From there, it grew to include Linger, Ophelia’s, Vital Root, El Five, and 2 Root Downs, one in Denver (the one we dined at) and the other at Denver International Airport (DIA).

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There were 8 of us in the celebration party.  We all decided the best way to sample as much as possible was to order small plates and share.  We all got to taste and enjoy quite a few different menu items this way.

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As we were waiting for our food to arrive, we were all given a small little “palate cleanser” with a dollup of goat cheese, spicy beets and beans.  It was zesty and quite refreshing, as well as being a fun way to start the meal.

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The menu selections.

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And the food arrives.

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We all started with either soups or salads.  This soup was the sunchoke soup with spinach pesto.   The other soup choice at the table was a carrot and red curry soup with an apple-ginger chutney.  Both soups were very good.

We also chose two bottles of wine from our very own Bookcliff Vineyards, located in Boulder.    We had the 2017 Ensemble Red and the 2018 Viognier.  We also just happened to be dining with the owners of Bookcliff Vineyards, John and Ulla, who are dear friends of Janet and Bob.  Our waiter was very cute, and was also a bit surprised to be serving the owners of the winery.  That is not something that happens everyday, that’s for sure.

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We all shared bits and pieces of a wide variety of dishes.  These are the lamb sliders with sweet potato fries and a lime cilantro dipping sauce.  I will most definitely be making these in the near future.  They were delicious!

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The flavorful flank steak.

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The crab and avocado tacos with the “tortillas” made from very thinly sliced jicama.  This was definitely something very new for me.  I never would have thought of that.

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And the scallops.  These were cooked to perfection and served on top of a bean patty with delicate cream sauce.  Fabulous!

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Once were done eating and our tummies were full, we were all treated to a bit of the bubbly from Inga Veiss, the Asst. General Manager and the staff, in celebration of Janet and Bob’s major lifetime achievement.  A toast to the happy couple.

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Inga also gave me a cookbook with recipes from all their restaurants, which I gave to Janet as yet another memento for the occasion.

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Our entire experience at Root Down was incredible.  The food, the staff, the ambiance; everything was orchestrated perfectly to make for a fabulous celebration.  A good time was definitely had by all.  Thank you.   Root Down is located at 1600 West 33rd Avenue, Denver, CO 9-80211.  You can contact them by phone at (773) 829-1463 or by finding them online at ROOTDOWNDENVER.COM.

After leaving the restaurant, we all headed back to Janet and Bob’s for another champagne toast and some dessert.

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Happy 50th Anniversary Janet and Bob.  May your love for each other continue to grow.

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Pasta with Creamy Ham and Vegetable Sauce

We eat a lot of pasta dishes in our house.  It is very versatile and can be cooked with anything.  You can eat it hot or cold, with any kind of sauce, any kind of meat and any kind of vegetables, or any combination thereof.  To me, pasta is the perfect food that is perfect for any meal and any occasion.  You can dress it up or dress it down and either way, it will always be a winner.  Pasta is a dish that is considered universal comfort food no matter where you live or what your background.  Pasta is very easy to make as well, with only a few basic ingredients.  The basic recipe for making pasta really has not changed much at all through the centuries either.  All you need to make the basic pasta recipe is flour, salt, 1 egg and water.  Anything else is just extra.   I do know how to make my own pasta, and yes, I have done it, but why?  There are so many great pastas available to purchase, so it just doesn’t make sense to make my own, especially since time is always against me.   Once you’ve made your basic pasta, you can cut it and shape it however you like.

When we think of pasta dishes, we tend to think of Italian dishes.  But pasta was actually introduced to Europe back in the days of Marco Polo, when he came back from China and Asia, in the 13th century.  Today, every almost country has their own version of pasta.  In Germany and Hungary they have spaetzle.  In Greeze, orzo. In Poland, they enjoy pocket-like pierogi.  Ashkenazi Jewish families make kreplach dumplings, and these are just some of the many wonderful things you can create with pasta.  The only thing to limit your creations is your imagination.  The word pasta is an Italian word that means paste, which is another reason why we tend to think of it as an Italian delicacy, but the basic ingredients are found everywhere in the world and used in every culture, and has been pretty much since the beginning of time.  Here in America, it was actually Thomas Jefferson who first introduced pasta to the States, but it really became popular in the late 19th century with the influx of Italian, German, Polish and Jewish immigrants who ate some form of pasta as a dietary staple.

As I mentioned above, we eat a lot of pasta.  So, not only do I make the traditional pasta dishes we all known and love, but I am always creating something different too.  This time, I was once again visited by the Queen of Leftovers, and was trying to be creative.  I used my leftover pasta and ham that we took out of the freezer from the holidays and mixed them with vegetables and a creamy Alfredo Sauce.  Christmas Eve Celebrations 

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Like with most things I make, there is no real set recipe, and as always, use what you like and leave out what you don’t like.  I loaded mine up with vegetables because I LOVE all kinds of vegetables.  I honestly can’t think of any vegetables I do not like, so we eat a wide variety, all the time.  Often times I am really just trying to be creative with the bits and pieces I have leftover from other meals.

Pasta with Creamy Ham and Vegetable Sauce

IMG_01361 1/2 lbs cooked ham, cut into strips

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 shallot, sliced very thin

1/2 crookneck or yellow squash, sliced

1/4 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1 cup frozen peas

2 cups spinach stems removed and chiffonade, or cut into thin strips

1 TBSP garlic

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp each, dried thyme and sage

1/2 cup dry white wine

1-1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4-1/2 cup shredded Mozarella cheese

 

Saute the vegetables, except the spinach, garlic and seasonings in the olive oil until the peppers are tender and the shallots are translucent.  Then remove the vegetables and set aside.

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Add the wine to the skillet, bring to a boil, and let cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced to about 1/2.

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Then add the cream and the cheese and mix together thoroughly.

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Once the sauce is mixed together, add the vegetables, ham and spinach, and combine everything together well.

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Once everything is blended together and the sauce is done, serve it over your favorite pasta and enjoy with some warm bread and the same wine you used for your sauce.  And dinner is served.  Mangia!

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Bavarian Goulash

Goulash is a beef and vegetable stew that has been a main staple of many European countries since around the 9th century.  It is a staple in the diets of Hungarians, Germans, and many of the Slovic counties.  Hungry for Hungarian  Sometimes you will hear goulash referred to as Hungarian goulash and other times, as Bavarian goulash, but they are basically the same dish, with various regional differences.  It is a hearty stew made with meats and hearty vegetables.   Hearty vegetables are the only vegetables that are suitable for the harsh, rural conditions and cold climates of these regions.  There are many dishes from these areas that are made from either potatoes or beets, since both are staples in the German, Bavarian, and Hungarian diets.   Goulash is never eaten on its own.  It is always served with either potatoes, noodles, dumplings or rice.

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Today, Bavaria is part of Southwest Germany, and has been so, officially, since 1949.  Bavaria is the largest of Germany’s 16 states or Bundeslands.  It comprises 1/5 of the total land mass of Germany.  Before this time, however, the Bavarian borders have shifted and switched allegiances to different countries many times through out the centuries, and its beginnings, back in the 1st century BC, when is was occupied by the Roman Empire.  Bavaria was even it’s own country for a brief time.  Bavaria is located 157.7 miles or 129 km from Munich and 494 miles from Hungary.  Bavaria, Germany and Hungary all share a long history, with many similarities and traditions.

Bavarian Goulash

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1/4 cup oil, butter, or a combination

2 lbs lean beef, cubed

1 large onion, medium dice

1 green bell pepper, medium dice

2 large tomatoes, medium dice

salt & pepper to taste

3-4 TBSP flour

1 TBSP garlic

2 tsp paprika

2 bay leaves

2 cups beef broth

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

 

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Mix the flour, salt and pepper together and coat the meat with it.

In a skillet with the oil/butter combination, saute the vegetables and garlic until the onions are translucent and the peppers are tender.  Then remove from the pan and set aside.

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Add more oil and/or butter to the skillet, then add the meat and brown completely.  Stir frequently so the meat and flour do not burn or stick.

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When the meat is cooked, add the vegetables back into the skillet.  Mix the beef stock, wine and bay leaves together and pour over the meat and vegetables.

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Mix everything together well, then add the paprika and tomatoes and thoroughly combine everything together.  Cook at a medium heat for about 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently.

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When the sauce has thickened and the goulash is ready, remove the bay leaves and discard them.  Serve the goulash over your choice of potatoes, dumplings, noodles, or rice.  I served it over creamy mashed potatoes.

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Complete the meal with some good bread and a nice red wine to make a perfect warm meal on a cold and chilly night.  Wundebar!

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Another Present in the Mail

This week is definitely ending on a very good note.  Two presents in two days.  It’s not even Christmas or my birthday.  These are just because presents.  Those are the best.  🙂 Today’s present is a book from our very own “Goldie”.  It’s  called Static Dreams, Volume 2.  I am so excited to read this book.

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If you don’t follow Goldie’s blogs, you should.  She has very good insight and information on a wide range of topics.  Though Goldie and I have never met in person, yet, I feel like I have known her for years.  I have come to rely on her as a my editor and second set of eyes, but more so, I am honored to call her my friend.  And WE WILL meet one day, which I just know will be the start of an even better friendship.  You can see what Goldie is up to and what’s on her mind at https://dailyflabbergast.wordpress.com/,  and by following her special categorical blogs NROP or News Related Opinion Piece, CW or Creative Writing, BT or Blogging Tips, HW or Hashtag Week, and Awards.   Goldie is one busy bee, as you can see, and yet she still finds time to write books as well.  She is amazing!  We all need more Goldies in our lives.  I’m just glad I have this one in mine.  🙂  To borrow your phrase Goldie, “stay golden”.

A Surprise in Today’s Mail

As we all know, sadly, the holiday season of 2019 has come and gone.  We are now into a new year and a new decade.  But that doesn’t mean presents aren’t still loved and greatly appreciated.  I love presents anytime.  🙂  I received a surprise present in today’s mail, from my friend Karen, in San Diego, CA.  It totally made my day.   I was feeling a little wiped out after an event that happened at work this morning and was just really kind of in a bit of a funk.  It really knocked my socks off.  So getting this surprise today really perked me up.  My care package from Karen made it all better.

Every year, Larry and I host our annual ornament exchange party to ring in the holidays.  Part of Karen’s care package included a fun ornament.  NO!  This one is for my tree.  It is not one for the 2020 exchange!  I love my new ornament, but the part of the gift that was just what “the doctor ordered” was a fun little packet of cocktail recipes called “Karen’s Twelve Cocktails of Christmas“.  I think I just might need to make one for tonight.  Karen knows me well.

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The cocktails included in this libatious packet are:

  1.  Christmas Cookie Cocktail
  2. Poinsettia Cocktail
  3. Santa’s Sleigh Cocktail
  4. Champagne Cocktail
  5. Candy Cane Cocktail
  6. Hot Spiced Butterscotch Rum Cocktail
  7. Glacier Cocktail
  8. Classic Cognac Cocktail
  9. Holly and Mistletoe Cocktail
  10. Orange Coffee Cocktail
  11. Gingerbread Cocktail
  12. Christmas in a Glass

Don’t these all sound fun?  I can’t wait to try them all.  I promise I will have tried them all at least once WAY before Christmas comes around again.

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My favorite gifts are ALWAYS those that are fun, creative, and made from the heart.  This was a perfect gift that I can enjoy anytime of the year.  Thank you, thank you, thank you Karen.  Love you lots.  🙂