Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Food for finals

No time to cook. Seriously. But if I had just a little bit more time, I would make this. It takes 15 minutes. I kid you not.

The recipe calls for fresh green beans, but you could substitute frozen, making this a great "pantry meal" -- you could definitely keep all of these ingredients on hand for quick weeknight dinners.

We made this a week or two ago and it was delightful. I clipped this from an issue of Real Simple forever ago. The recipe posted below is my adaptation. Enjoy!

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with Green Beans and Ricotta

1 pound gnocchi (we use the freeze-dried stuff from the pasta aisle)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
**Note: At Smith's they sell pouches of green beans washed and ready to steam in the microwave, so I used one of those. You could probably use frozen ones, too.
2-3 Tbsp. store-bought pesto
1/4 cup heavy cream

Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions. Drain.
Meanwhile, get green beans going in the microwave. Steam for 3 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Then combine pesto and cream in a small pot and heat over medium until heated through (2-3 minutes or so).
Remove beans from microwave (and cut into 1 inch pieces, if you got the bag from Smith's like me).
Add the pesto and cream to the gnocchi and beans in the pot. Stir until well coated. Divide between two bowls and top each with ricotta, kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

{photo and recipe via Real Simple}

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On being a good girl

I am trying to be a good girl. I am trying to get good grades in my courses this semester. I am trying to write two major papers before Tuesday night. I am trying not to waste time watching MythBusters on Netflix streaming when I should be studying.

And I am also trying to post here twice a week.

This isn't meshing so well with my finals.
But I did make a lovely cheesecake this past weekend, and it got rave reviews from my family. Please make it. I promise you'll like it. And I also predict that you'll like the calorie count. (If you're into that sort of thing...)

Lemon Scented (Crustless) Ricotta Cheesecake with Glazed Strawberries

(adapted from Food Network)
1 16-ounce container of part-skim ricotta
1/2 cup of reduced-fat sour cream
8 ounces of neufchatel cheese
3 large eggs
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a food processor, or using a blender (I used my immersion/stick blender), process ricotta until smooth. Add sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Process until well blended.*

Pour into greased, 9" springform pan and bake at 325 for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is just set.

Let cool in pan, then move to refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours. Serve cold.

Strawberry Glaze
1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1. 3 oz. pkg. sugar free strawberry jello

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, water and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat for a minute or two until sugar has dissolved, then pour in jello powder. Cook until slightly thickened; it should lightly coat the back of your spoon. (I wouldn't let it thicken too much -- it will continue to thicken as it cools.) Remove from heat and mix with sliced strawberries. Place in refrigerator to cool.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Local Flavor: Smash Burger

My brother had raved about Smash Burger on FB, and hubby and I were intrigued, so we decided to check it out.
Sometimes you just crave a juicy burger and crispy fries, you know? This day was one of those days. I definitely did NOT want to be disappointed. (Plus I was starving.)

First impressions: The dining room had a clean, modern feel, and was very streamlined. There were comfy booths on either side of the room and two rows of tables in the middle. There were already a lot of people there when we arrived, which I took as an excellent sign.

We each ordered the Classic burger and a side of Smash fries (ringing in at about $16 for the two of us when we added drinks). It wasn't long at all before our food came out. 

Right off the bat I loved the Smash fries: regular french fries tossed with fragrant herbs and olive oil. They are served with a fry sauce that complements them beautifully. I didn't even have to taste them to know they would be amazing; the smell alone had me sold. The burger was juicy and flavorful, with extremely fresh toppings and a beautiful bun. It was the most beautiful burger I had ever eaten, and it tasted every bit as good as it looked.

The verdict: We have already gone back for round 2! For the quality and deliciousness of the meal, the price is very reasonable. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Have you been to Smash Burger? What did you think? Leave a comment!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Your assignment for today...

First make these:

Then this:
(only do me a favor; finely grate one or two carrots and add them to the meat when you brown it. You'll hardly even notice them, I swear.)

Then these:

And finish with these:

Then come back here and tell me how it turned out. Leave no detail unrecounted.

While you do that, I'll be furiously scrambling to finish reading voluminous tomes of research and writing papers for my upcoming finals.
{images poached from each item's respective website, as referenced above}

Thursday, April 8, 2010

With trepidation

I know that look you're giving me.

You're looking at the little baggie of beige glop I've just handed you and you are (a little) terrified. Because this is the song that never ends. This is a project, heavy-laden with guilt if you choose not to participate or "mess it up" despite your good intentions. (Plus, it smells funny. Let's not mince words.)

I mean it when I say, "DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT!"

In the past, you may have received aforementioned baggie along with a strict schedule of feedings and stirrings. This probably made you want to throw in the towel right away. And I don't blame you. If you wanted a pet, you would buy a goldfish.

Then there's the matter of the never-ending cycle of feeding your little pet and finding unsuspecting new victims upon whom to foist its offspring. Because at the end of the alloted feeding/stirring schedule, your pretty little pet will give birth, as it were, to 4 little clone-babies. One to bake/keep for yourself, and 3 to give away (hence the unsuspecting victims).

Maybe your starter came with some song and dance about how the world as we know it will end and children in Ethiopia will die if you break the cycle and don't pass starters on to your friends and neighbors. It probably also included hooha about not refrigerating or freezing your starter.

What if I told you that it doesn't have to be like that? (Would you stop looking at me like that?)

To debunk this myth, let's talk about what "Amish" Friendship Bread really is. Which is delicious. And addictive. And basically just cinnamon-y bread made with a sweet sourdough starter (aka glop in a baggie).

This is not a big deal. There is no commitment here. This goop has no magical powers, and you will not go to hell if you simply throw it out. But if you take my advice, there's really no reason this can't work with your schedule.

For the past month or two I have cultivated my own Friendship Bread starter. For the first ten days, I kept to the proscribed schedule: Stir days one through four, add 1 c. each of milk, sugar, and flour on day five, stir days six through nine, add 1 c. each of milk, sugar, and flour day 10. Then I divided my starter, gave one to my mom, stuck one in my freezer, and baked some crack Friendship Bread with the last cup of starter.

I had one cup of started left to work with, so I just kept it going. This time I stirred whenever I felt like it (usually every day, but I missed some), and fed the mixture 1/2 c. each milk, flour, and sugar once a week or so until I had done it four times.

So what I'm really saying is, you can neglect your starter and it will be just fine. According to the information I read, as long as it doesn't turn pink/orange, it should be just fine. You can stick it in the fridge if you don't want to deal with it for a couple of days (or even a week, probably). If you don't want to deal with it for a month or so, stick it in the freezer. It will be fine. And if you don't want to deal with your starter at all and you just want to make bread, guess what?! You can just go ahead and use the 1 c. of starter you have been given to make bread that very day.

And if you are still not convinced that this little bag of goop will not take over your life, just throw it out. All it is is yeast, milk, flour, and sugar.

Now, isn't that better?

Friendship Bread
(Recipe courtesy Moms Who Think)

Day 1 - receive the starter (the recipe for the starter is below)

Days 2 - 4 - stir

Day 5 - Add 1 cup each flour, sugar and milk.

Days 6 - 9 - stir

Day 10 - Add 1 cup each flour, sugar, and milk. Put 1 cup each of starter in 4 containers of your choice: 1 cup each for three of your friends and 1 cup for you to keep if you want a start for yourself. Give friends the instructions for days one through ten. (Be sure to also include the recipe for baking the bread.)

After removing the four cups of starter, combine the remaining cup with the following ingredients in a large bowl:

2/3 cup oil (or applesauce or plain yogurt)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Combine ingredients in order listed. Beat by hand until well blended.

Grease two loaf pans (cooking spray works just fine), sprinkle with sugar (or cinnamon sugar) instead of flour.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour). Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Makes two loaves of Amish Friendship Bread.

Friendship Bread Starter


1 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk


In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well.

In a 2 quart glass or plastic container (or even a gallon ziplock bag), combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.

Stir in milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Loosely cover the mixture with a lid or plastic wrap. The mixture will get bubbly. Consider this Day 1 of the cycle, or the day you receive the starter.

For the next 10 days handle starter according to the instructions above for Friendship Bread.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I'm sure anyone who reads/follows this blog has noticed my marked 2-month absence. I don't know that I'm sorry I haven't blogged. I've certainly had my hands full with lots of other things.

But to own the whole truth, I just don't know what I'm doing with this blog.

A little while ago I was talking to my friend, Libby, and she mentioned that she and her sister were planning to start a foodie blog. She outlined this really awesome plan. I was VERY impressed. I have no plan. I blog willy-nilly, as it were, with no driving theme or blueprint.

So, now I want a plan.

If you're reading this, I assume that you read my blog. So I put the question to you, readers of mine: What would you like to see here? More or less of anything in particular? Are you even here? Should I just give up? Any and all input is welcome.