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Chicken Cacciatore With Gnocchi

I imagine that just about everyone is experiencing “shelter in place” right now, limiting going outside unless absolutely necessary and maybe getting a bit antsy being cooped up in your homes. Trying to turn this into a positive for me means spending a lot of time cooking. I recently made chicken cacciatore and it brought back some really wonderful memories, it has been a long time since I made this dish and after the first bite I understood why I liked it so much and wondered what took me so long to make it. I wish you all good health, stay inside as much as possible, wash your hands, a lot! We will get through this and things will be back to normal (maybe a new normal) Much love, be safe and be well.

What have you been cooking? Let me know.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 4-6

4-6 chicken thighs bone in, skin on or a whole chicken cut up

1 large green bell pepper sliced

mushrooms (sliced) as much or as little as you like

2 shallot chopped

2 cloves garlic (smashed)

1 26 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

splash of red wine to deglaze the pan

flour to dredge the chicken

Gnocchi (I didn’t make it used De Cecco

Dredge chicken in flour and set aside. Heat large cast iron or heavy fry pan (with lid) with high sides with enough olive oil to coat the pan generously. I used a Staub cast iron multi use pan with enamel coating (its awesome)

When pan is hot place the chicken in the pan careful not to crowd the pan skin side down. Cook approximately 4-5 minutes on medium high heat until nicely browned, turn over and repeat. Remove from pan.

On medium/high heat add shallots and green pepper and cook until softened. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue cooking until soft but not caramelized. Remove and set aside, add the red wine to deglaze the pan, add the chicken, vegetables and tomatoes, season to taste. Put lid on, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 or 2 hours stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

When done add the gnocchi directly to the pan, no need to boil them first. Let them simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes until done. Garnish with some chopped parsley and grated parmigiana or Romano cheese.

 

 

One Skillet Chicken With Orzo, Tomato And Spinach And Percy

It has been a while again! I am pretty active on Instagram and recently posted this dish from a great cook @halfbakedharvest.  I follow her on Instagram and when I saw this dish I knew I had to make it immediately! Its easy to make, is everything you need all in one pot or skillet and is incredibly delicious. I did make a few changes. I used dried sage and thyme on the chicken instead of oregano and paprika, oven roasted tomatoes rather than sun dried and for umami added a generous splash of Worcestershire. I love a one pot or skillet meal and I am a big fan of orzo, all the components spoke to me and it did not disappoint. You can see the original recipe, its hyperlinked above. I will not post her recipe without her permission so please visit her site. You can do as I did and make it your own its very easy to customize and still have excellent results. I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #306, it’s been a long time since I have participated in the party and figured its about time to get back in the swing of things.

On November 5th my sweet Percy passed away, it was sudden, completely unexpected and has literally torn my heart in half. Percy was the sweetest, most well behaved and amazing boy. I miss him every minute of every day. I would have had Percy for 4 years on February 13th. I have a very difficult time even typing this because my heart is broken. I will post a tribute to my dear Percy soon, but  right now I am trying to come to terms with his death. RIP angel boy 06/16/2005 – 11/5/2019

Masters Tea From Adagio

Happy Fall!

I have been using Adagio Tea for a few years now, in the summer I practically live on their cold brew tea and now that the weather is turning colder a cup of hot tea is exactly what I want. I recently discovered that Adagio launched a new concept called Masters Tea, this is for serious tea lovers. The curated teas that are offered are made by artisan tea makers and when you open one of the containers the aroma is intoxicating. Each tea is a limited edition and small lot production. If you are a fan of Adagio I recommend you give Masters Tea a try, I ordered several and have tried 2 so far, they give you explicit instructions to prepare the tea properly down to the water temperature.

Formosa Ruby 18 Black

In the photo is Formosa Ruby 18 Black tea. Earthy, multi dimensional and well balanced. This is a full bodied tea from Taiwan you will taste hints of spice and vanilla, its absolutely delicious.

Balsun First Flush

Balsun First Flush is a Darjeeling tea from India, an early harvest black tea. Early harvest tea differs greatly from a late harvest tea, it’s lighter in body, crisp, clean and fresh. There are fruity notes along with just a hint of floral. It was exceptional.

For me a cup of tea is spiritual, different than coffee. I relax and think more clearly when drinking tea for some reason, I hope you visit the site for Masters Tea its well worth it. Note: The tea was sent to me by Adagio Masters Tea, I will only promote and review items I use or would use myself and all opinions are my own. When I say I recommend this I really mean it. 

 

Creamy Baked Eggs

I am so sorry that my posts are few and far between. I feel like I am fighting my way back from a sort of dark abyss. I appreciate so much that you have stuck with me despite my lack of posts (totally inactive). It had been a long time since I had entered a contest at Food52 and missed it and the community. The most recent contest is “Your Best Creamy Breakfast”. Well, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and of course anything creamy is definitely something I can get behind. Thinking about what to make brought me to my childhood, on special occasions my Mom made baked eggs or shirred eggs. This is my updated version of my Moms recipe. I was lucky enough to be picked as a finalist and would appreciate so much if you would cast a vote for me, click here and it will take you to the voting page on Food52. Thank you again for being so wonderful!

Creamy Baked Eggs

Recipe by sdebrango

Serves 2-4 depending on appetite

Béchamel

2 tbs butter

2 tbs flour

1 1/2 cup warmed whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

The rest

4 large eggs

5 oz baby spinach cleaned

4-6 slices bacon cut into bite size pieces

10 cherry tomatoes cut in half

1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

Handful toasted breadcrumbs to coat pan or pans

Make béchamel or white sauce. Add butter to small heavy bottom saucepan, melt on medium low heat, add flour and whisk cooking for about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the warmed milk whisking constantly and cook until it thickens. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside

Heat a saute or fry pan on medium high flame and add the bacon bits, saute until lightly browned. Remove the bacon leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Remove and set aside. Place the tomatoes in the to pan and cook until they start to blister and soften, set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degree’s. NOTE: if bacon doesn’t produce enough rendered fat add a little olive oil.

Assembly:

Butter pans,( I used 2 individual oval pans), ramekins or cocottes. Sprinkle bottom with toasted breadcrumbs. Divide the spinach between the pans, add the bacon bits and tomatoes. Spoon 3 heaping tbs of the béchamel on top. Create a well and gently nestle the eggs in the well. Spoon more béchamel around the eggs. Place your pans on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, the eggs will not be completely set, that’s ok you are going to finish in the broiler. Remove from oven and adjust to broil setting. Cover top with grated cheese and place in broiler close to flame for about 1 minute or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.  Note: You can assemble this the night before and bake in the morning.

Serve with toast!

 

 

Royal Wedding Cake Redux

It has been a while, well quite a long while since I’ve posted anything. I needed a break, I thought it might be a month or so but it turned into a much longer hiatus. I really have missed everyone and cooking has taken a back burner, no pun intended. I am not putting any pressure on myself but hope to be posting more regularly and getting back to cooking and following your blogs again.

Last year for the 4th of July I made a cake that was an homage to the royal wedding cake, it was wonderful. The cake recipe was from Food and Wine. I followed the directions on their website and it turned out beautifully. I posted the recipe and must have written it down incorrectly because when I attempted to make it again it was a miserable failure. Oddly, the recipe was taken off of their website and after an exhaustive search I found that it has disappeared. I decided to delete my post, wish I hadn’t done that though because I had the recipe for the lemon curd, soaking syrup and buttercream. I found the buttercream recipe on Stella Park’s website (Bravetart) and a good recipe for the lemon curd, luckily  I remembered the amounts I used for the syrup. For the cake I used my recipe for tender yellow cake which is always a good choice, its one of my favorites. The lemon curd is from Epicurious and is simple to make and the results were great. The combination of flavors in this cake are so delicious, the elderflower cordial syrup with the bright, tart lemon curd are a heavenly combination. Thank you all for your understanding, not unfollowing me and sticking with me despite my absence.

Elderflower Cordial Syrup

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup elderflower cordial (liquor)

1 cup sugar

Add all ingredients to heavy bottom pot and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling reduce heat to medium and continue to boil stirring occasionally if needed. Once slightly reduced and sugar is completely melted transfer to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lemon Curd

Recipe can be found on Epicurious

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup sugar

3 large eggs

3/4 stick (6 tbs) unsalted butter cut into tbs size pieces

Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, sugar and eggs in a 2 quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over medium low heat whisking constantly until the curd is thick and holds a line on the back of a wooden spoon.

Transfer curd to a bowl, cover and chill completely before using.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Recipe by Stella Parks

6 ounces egg whites (approx 2/3 cup from 5-6 large eggs)

11 ounces sugar ( approx 1/2/3 cup)

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

20 ounces (5 sticks)unsalted butter softened to room temperature and cut into tbs size pieces

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs elderflower liquor

Fill a wide pot or saucepan with about 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a boil, once boiling reduce heat so that the water is simmering. Put the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer. Place the bowl over the simmering water (makeshift double boiler) NOTE: The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water, Stella’s hack to prevent this is to crumple some aluminum foil place in the middle of the pot so that your mixing bowl sits on that and not the water. Stir and scrape constantly with a flexible spatula or whisk, all of the granulated sugar should dissolve and mixture should register a constant 185 degree’s. It will take 10-15 minutes. Once sugar is dissolved transfer bowl to stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip on high speed for about 10 minutes (check bottom of bowl it should no longer be hot and the egg whites will be glossy and stiff.

With mixer running add the butter 1 or 2 tbs at a time. The volume of the meringue may decrease but that’s ok keep whipping and don’t be alarmed if it looks soupy. Keep whipping, as you add the butter it will start to thicken. The frosting will be soft and billowy, now add the vanilla and elderflower liquor, whip until mixed. Use immediately but also note the buttercream can be stored in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator for later use but you will need to bring to room temperature before you frost the cake.

Assembling the cake

Note: I made two 8 inch round layers.

Slice off (if needed) a thin layer of the top of the cake so that its flat. Place bottom layer on cake stand (cut side up) and brush with the soaking syrup, don’t be shy give it a good soak. Spread a thin layer of the lemon curd, now some of the buttercream. Brush cut side of the top layer with the syrup and place on bottom layer (cut side down).  Frost cake as desired.

 

 

 

Easy No Knead Bread

I first saw this recipe on Christinas Cucina, it looked amazing and she had me at no knead. Christina said that this recipe is from Jim Lahey who owns Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC. I love their bread, its nothing short of amazing. I bought his cookbook and tried one of the recipes and was less than successful (Milk Bread) but his recipe for no knead bread is absolutely fool proof. Christina tweaked the recipe so that she could produce a larger loaf, I chose to follow Mr. Lahey’s recipe which created a slightly smaller loaf. My most recent purchase from the Food52 shop is a Staub Cocotte, a beautiful dutch oven, I chose the 4 quart size (got an excellent deal it was on sale) it was just the right size for this recipe and the bread is outstanding.  I thought baking this bread would be an excellent way to christen my new pot.

There are only 4 ingredients, you don’t knead or have to use a stand mixer or bread machine. This bread is brilliant in its simplicity and I absolutely love it. Mr. Lahey uses white all purpose flour, I chose to add some spelt as well, Christina mixed in some whole wheat flour. The basic directions are dump ingredients in a bowl, stir with your hands or a spoon, cover and let sit for 12-18 hours (overnight) dump dough onto floured tea towel, cover and let rise 2 hours, transfer to your covered pot and bake on high heat. Simple, easy and delicious. This recipe is a keeper and would be a great bread for the novice bread baker.

I am bringing this bread to Fiesta Friday #257, I am a co host with Kat@Kats 9 lives

No Knead Bread

Recipe by Jim Lahey

3 cups flour (I used 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup spelt flour)

1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup warm water

Place all ingredients in mixing bowl, mix with your hands a spoon or a dough whisk, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let sit overnight 12-18 hours. It will double in bulk and have some bubbles. The dough is quite wet. Using your hand or a spatula (watch Christines video) bring the dough into the middle, lifting and pulling all the way around the bowl. Now you can use a tea towel or even a banneton for the 2 hour prove. If using a tea towel, generously flour the towel (I used flour and semolina flour) dump the dough on the towel, sprinkle the top with flour, bran or semolina,  cover and let sit for 2 hours.

Pre heat your oven about 30 minutes before the dough is ready to bake. If using conventional oven heat to 500+ as high as it goes and if using a convection oven 495 degrees. Transfer the dough to the pot, cover and bake for 30 minutes, decrease temperature to 465 degree’s, remove the lid and continue baking another 10-15 minutes or until it is browned.

Giveaway… There Is A Winner And Holiday Treats

Sorry I am a day late, yesterday was very busy. Thank you so much everyone for your kind comments. It really made my week and I am so thrilled to see you all again. The winner is: Annie @givememeatloaf!!!

Congratulations Annie I am thrilled for you. Shoot me an email with your shipping address, Michael will be shipping directly to you. Also let me know if you would like the board engraved (maybe with your blog name).

It’s time to start baking for the holidays and I have only just started planning which cookies and breads I will make. Every year I give homemade baked goods as gifts, a real labor of love. I want to try some different recipes this year along with my tried and true recipes. What are you baking? Would love some ideas and recipes if you would like to share.

More to come….

Crostata And A Holiday Giveaway

Well, it seems like forever since I’ve posted, it was July. I’m sorry to have been absent for so long. No excuses but simply needed a break. Honestly, I haven’t been cooking, hardly at all, maybe lack of inspiration, the blues or a combination. Trying to get back into it for the Holidays. Speaking of the holidays I wanted to offer a giveaway as my holiday gift to one lucky person. My friend Michael makes the most beautiful cutting/serving boards. I have given them away before and they are always a wonderful and welcome addition to any kitchen. The board is similar to this one, walnut rectangular with a handle. I will also ask Michael if he would personalize for the lucky winner.

The winner will be announced next week on Monday, December 10th, all you have to do is comment and you are entered. Sorry no international shipping :o(

Blogging should not feel like a job, it should be a joy and a creative outlet. What do you do when you lack inspiration? The other day I visited the food52 site and decided to enter their latest contest. The challenge is to post a recipe for the dish that you are known for, you are asked to bring or make when you go to gatherings with friends, families or neighbors. The truth is that whenever I go anywhere people ask me to make dessert and a favorite is so simple I didn’t feel that it was contest worthy. Instead I decided to enter my recipe for Crostata it is always a favorite and is perfect for a buffet because it is delicious served warm or room temperature. It’s also easy to serve and not at all messy to eat. The inspiration for this recipe came from Lidia Bastianich, I saw her make it years ago on her cooking show on PBS. The crust is super easy, flour, semolina, olive oil and water. The filling is a mixture of greens, different types of onion, ricotta and parmigiana. I like to serve it warm with homemade tomato sauce or roasted cherry tomatoes.

Crostata With Mixed Greens

Serves 6-8  or more depending on serving size

Crust

1 3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup semolina

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup water

1 tsp salt

Add the flours and salt to your food processor and pulse to mix. Add the olive oil and water and pulse until a cohesive dough is formed. Turn out onto your work surface that is floured and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and cover with a tea towel. Let sit for 30 minutes. If using a 9×13 baking pan you can double the recipe.

Filling

1 lb swiss chard, cleaned very well, tough part of stem removed and chopped

1 lb escarole cleaned well and chopped

1 lb baby spinach cleaned and chopped or a package of frozen chopped spinach defrosted and drained

2 cups sliced leeks (2 big leeks) cleaned scrupulously to remove grit use only the white and light green part

1 shallot chopped

1 cup chopped scallion (white and light green parts)

1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram

1 tbs fresh basil chopped

generous pinch of red pepper flakes

2 cups whole milk ricotta

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 large eggs lightly beaten

1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

In a large heavy dutch oven add a little olive oil and heat on medium high. Add the leeks, shallot, scallion and saute until they soften, add the marjoram, basil , red pepper and greens, continue to saute until all the water has evaporated and the vegetables are soft and cooked through. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature.

Place the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, heavy cream and optional lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly, add the cooled vegetables and mix well. Adjust seasoning (add salt and pepper to taste).

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface and line your baking pan, you should have approximately a 2 inch overhang. Spoon the filling in and fold the overhanging dough onto the filling. Brush with egg wash and if you like sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes until golden brown and filling is set. Serve with sauce or roasted tomatoes.

 

 

The Basics: Vanilla Ice Cream And The HIGH Cost Of Vanilla Products

 

When you look in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket there are hundreds of different flavors of ice cream, same when you go to the ice cream shop. How many of you ever order vanilla? Not very many I imagine and I also have to admit that I rarely if ever order vanilla ice cream when I go to out for a scoop. However, at home you will always find vanilla ice cream in my freezer. I love the versatility, on pie or cake, a black and white ice cream soda or shake, vanilla ice cream will always be my flavor of choice. My preference after trying many brands is Haagen Daz if not making my own. It’s simple to make ice cream but to be perfectly honest when you can get good ice cream at the store why make it yourself? Well, here is why, the flavor of homemade ice cream in my opinion is far superior to anything store bought, it’s definitely worth the effort and highly recommend giving it a try. I use an ice cream maker but you don’t have to, no churn ice cream is just as creamy and delicious.

 

I am appalled at the price of vanilla extract. Truth be told a friend told me that vanilla would be going up in price because of a problem with the crop, weather related I think almost 2 years ago,  I stocked up at that time but have used all of my reserve including homemade extract (2 bottles) I am now plowing through vanilla paste and after that I will have to break down and buy some. Vanilla is crucial in baking, you can’t not have vanilla in your pantry. I have to check Costco, I hate going there, the lines are horrible  and everything is so big, maybe their vanilla is less expensive and if so I will brave a trip there. Has anyone bought recently from them, do you know how much it is?

The recipe I used is custard base (uses eggs) but you can make without eggs using corn starch to slightly thicken the milk/cream it also  has a small amount of cream cheese in it and is delicious. This custard or ice cream base can be adapted or made into many other flavors. Add a ripple or swirl, use some brown sugar along with the white to add depth and a caramel flavor, add fresh fruit, strawberries or peaches. You can add cream cheese for a cheesecake flavor, instant espresso, chocolate or nuts. This is a basic recipe you can have fun with, let your imagination go wild.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Makes slightly less than one quart

Custard Base

1 1/2-2 cups heavy cream

1-1/12 cup whole milk

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbs vanilla extract

Separate your eggs and whip the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. In heavy non reactive saucepan heat the milk, cream and sugar until scalding. Slowly pour about half into the beaten egg yolks whisking while you pour. Pour back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat stirring constantly until it becomes thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon, run your finger making a line, if it stays intact and doesn’t run back together its done, it will be quite thick. Pour through a sieve into a heat proof bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until it reaches a temperature of 40 degrees or less. Note: I used 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk but you can use 1/12 of each.

If using an ice cream maker follow manufacturers instructions.  Freeze until scoopable at least 4 hours.

 

Elusive Inspiration

I want to start out by apologizing for being so lax in responding to comments and also want to apologize for not visiting your blogs like I used to. I want to do better and I won’t go into detail about what is going on but I want you all to know I will try to do better.

Blogging can be a lot of work, I love it but when I am uninspired I don’t like to just post anything just for the sake of posting something. I have been searching for inspiration and it eludes me, hence you haven’t heard from me in a while. I cook but it’s nothing new or exciting and certainly not blog worthy. It’s also so strange, as when I bake lately I have more fails than I normally do which is discouraging. I took that as a sign that maybe I needed to lay low for a while, re group and then start over.

I finally was inspired to bake something when I watched the royal wedding. Now I am not a big fan of royal weddings, I did watch so I could see her dress and what the guests were wearing but the pomp and circumstance doesn’t really peek my interest. The cake however did! It is simple and beautiful and the flavors sound wonderful. A lemon sponge with lemon curd and elderflower soaking syrup and it’s frosted with a Swiss meringue buttercream gently flavored with elder flower. I grabbed these photo’s from Instagram from the bakers feed. She is an American living in London who has been baking since she was a wee one and has a lovely bakery, Violets Cakes.

I love that this wedding cake is not fussy, simply decorated with fresh flowers, this cake spoke to me. So I plan on making it and will post no matter how it turns out. What could go wrong, well plenty given my penchant for fails lately but this cake inspired me and I have to make it.

On another note, Percy and Jenna Rose are doing well. Percy’s diabetes is much more difficult to deal with than I thought it would be and my poor boy is having a difficult time.  Percy has had a persistent eye infection that has not responded to antibiotics. Hoping the new meds I have now will work.