Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Sage and Parmesan

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I am attempting to cook more vegetarian dishes (good for us, good for the earth). My traditional hesitation in abandoning meat is the concern that the dish won’t be filling enough; that we will all be left wanting more.

This dish easily addressed my concerns. The combination of the earthy taste of the mushrooms, the rich and creamy cheese and the hearty gnocchi was both delicious and hearty enough to satisfy. Again, it is a very simple dish…good for weeknight cooking.

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Gnocchi With Mushrooms, Sage and Parmesan

  • 1 lb of mixed mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 Tsp. butter
  • glug of olive oil
  • small bunch of sage leaves, ripped up into pieces
  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 c. cream
  • 1 package of gnocchi
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan
  • small handful of toasted pumpkin seeds (optional, but really great if you have them)

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Comfort Food – Spaghetti Carbonara

When I crave pasta, it is usually carbonara I yearn for. There is something truly satisfying about its creamy goodness…it also contains pancetta which I think should be recognized as a integral component of a well balanced diet…(I know, I know….my arteries are cringing at the thought).

I have to admit that I have fussed with my recipe a bit…I am not sure if it is a true carbonara anymore, but I like it a lot.

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Spaghetti Carbonara

  • 3 – 4 slices of pancetta, I obviously opt for 4
  • 1/3 c. green onions, white and light green parts, sliced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese + 1/4 c.
  • 1/4 tsp. dried chili flakes (totally optional)
  • 1 c. peas, fresh or frozen
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package of fettuccine or spaghetti, whatever your preference

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Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries, Pecans & White Chocolate

If you were to look inside my freezer right now, you would know that my mom has been to visit lately. The evidence is right there on the top shelf…bags of beautiful cookies, all in a row. These particular cookies are so packed with yummy that there is barely enough dough to hold it all together.

Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries, Pecans & White Chocolate
Adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 74

Toasted Coconut

  • 3/4 c. un-salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (my mom used 1 c. whole wheat and 1/2 c. all-purpose with excellent results)
  • 1/4 c. cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 c.¬† pecans pieces, lightly toasted *
  • 1/2 c. coconut, lightly toasted *
  • 4 oz good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped

* My mom notes that she has tried to omit the toasting of the nuts and coconut…she recommends that you take the time to pop them in the oven, as it really does enhance the overall taste of the cookies.

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Comfort Food – Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Pasta and melted cheese topped with a toasty crumb crust….no need to say anything else.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Baked Macaroni & Cheese
You can mix it up a bit with your cheese selection. If your audience is under 12, stick with the aged cheddar, gruyere, or mozarella types but, if this is an adult-oriented dish, you may want to consider incorporating something in the blue family or a nice Fontina. You know, something with a bit of “nose” to it…

  • small glug of olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 3 Tbps. butter
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 3 c. warm milk (do warm it up…it does make a difference)
  • 4 c. of grated cheese that melts well, whatever you fancy
  • 3 Tbsp. butter + 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. bread crumbs (fairly fine)
  • 1/3 c. grated Parmesan

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In Season – Creamed Corn

I remember eating something called “Creamed Corn” as a kid. I am not entirely convinced that there was a) cream or b) corn present in those cans. However, fear not… this recipe (if you can call it that) is so simple and so good and it actually contains what its name implies.

Corn on the Cob

Creamed Corn
makes enough to serve 6 adults

  • 8 cobs of corn, shucked and washed
  • a knob of butter (I estimate about a tablespoon, maybe a bit more)
  • 1/2 c. creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper to taste

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For the Kids – Individual Meatloaves

Let’s face it… kids would rather have their “own” than share (the common cold and flu virus being the obvious exception). Over the years, I have come to realize that this sentiment extends to food as well. For example, fudgesicles seem to be more popular than chocolate ice cream at Chez Wittmann, but they are essentially the same thing (sans stick, of course).

I was mulling over this interesting facet of the juvenile psyche as I was mixing up some meatloaf for dinner. It inspired me to try something new. Instead of reaching for the loaf pan, as I normally do, I broke out the muffin tins. Voila, personalized meatloaf…

Chez Wittmann’s Signature¬† Meatloaf
I have been experimenting with this recipe for as long as I have been responsible for feeding children (and that seems like so many years….). Regardless, I think I have it just right now…

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Meatloaves

  • 1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • small glug of olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 c. fresh breadcrumbs, not too fine
  • 2 eggs, whisked in a small bowl
  • 1 c. grated carrot
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Glaze

  • 1 c. ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. mustard (ground)

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Must try – Braised Leeks

I have come to love leeks later in life and am now making up for lost time. This beautiful dish is an excellent compliment to any roasted meat or, now that I think about it, could be tossed with pasta and topped with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan. Regardless of how you serve it, you must give this dish a try…so easy but so good.

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Braised Leeks
I found the original recipe at the delightful SmittenKitchen

  • 6 large leeks
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/2 c. white wine or vermouth
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. of stock (I use chicken but you could just as easily use a vegetable stock)
  • 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard

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Apple Hand Pies with Butterscotch

You will not find this recipe in any fancy cookbook or magazine, as it relies on two shortcuts that a true chef would never stoop to (or at least in my imagination, they have much higher standards); frozen puff pastry and butterscotch chips. Read on….

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Apple Hand Pies with Butterscotch
makes 12-ish

  • 1 package of frozen puff pastry…I have to say I found the best ones at Whole Foods…they were 12 rounds of pastry, all perfectly cut for you.
  • 3 baking apples (I used Granny Smith for excellent results)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cardamon
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 1 c. (or more) of butterscotch chips
  • 1 egg, beaten in a small bowl
  • brown sugar for sprinkling

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Elegant Side – Braised Potatoes with Herbs

This dish is a like a nicely tailored suit….versatile and easy, with a touch of elegance. I served this with Chicken Marsala with Gorgonzola but I have also used it as an accompaniment for roasts (lamb, beef and pork). I try to choose the herbs I use to compliment the main dish I am serving it with.

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Braised Potatoes with Herbs

  • 2 lb of potatoes…I prefer fingerlings for this dish, but you could use any type of waxy potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • several springs of fresh herbs…(in this case, I used thyme to compliment the chicken, but you could use rosemary, parsley, oregano or a combination thereof) plus 1/2 tsp. of chopped herbs
  • 2 c. chicken stock (approximately)
  • juice of half a lemon (approximately 2 Tbsp.)

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Easy but Impressive – Chicken Marsala with Gorgonzola

ChickenMarsala2This is one of my “stand-by dishes” when having guests over. It is rich, flavourful and does give off an air of sophistication (not my usual state I know, but I do like to mix it up a bit). The best part of it, however is that it maintains all of those aforementioned qualities while only taking a minimal amount of time and effort to create.

Chicken Marsala with Gorgonzola
Adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 63
Serves 4

  • 4 chicken cutlets (if your butcher doesn’t have any, 4 chicken breast halves pounded thinly between sheets of wax paper will do just fine).
  • 1/3 c. flour for dredging
  • 2 glugs of olive oil
  • 1 lb. cremini or white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thinly
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced or crushed
  • 2 – 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 c. marsala
  • 1/3. heavy cream (you can lighten this up and use half and half)
  • 1/3 c. crumbled gorgonzola TIP: Pop this in the freezer about 20 minutes before you intend on crumbling…it will be much easier if it has had some time to “chill”
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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