Leap of Faith

Happy Leap Day, Ya’ll!  I have been trying to think of what I was up to last Leap Day but I cannot remember for the life of me.  Getting old.  That’s me.  What I am not getting is less creative.  In fact, the #foodiepenpals program is awesome because I received a few foods that I wouldn’t necessarily purchase.   Case in point: pumpkin gnocchi from Earth Fare Market.  After abandoning Sparky last weekend for a girls weekend, I had been thinking about a nice welcome back meal for my return.  I settled on the gnocchi because it was a weeknight and the gnocchi cooks almost as fast as it takes to boil water.  I did a little internet searching for sauces that would compliment my little pumpkin pillows but there was slim pickings.  I had to create something on my own.  I am not a big recipe creator.  I worry about people thinking that I am stealing from them but in the past couple months, due to lack of time to scour the internet for recipes, there has been more winging it in the kitchen.  I think this was the first thing that was worth sharing with ya’ll.  Served with a green salad, this meal comes together in a flash.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
Ingredients
1 package of pumpkin gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
14 ounces mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup gorgonzola

Directions
1. Start a pot of water to boil.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter on medium high heat and add the shallots, cooking until golden.  Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and the water has evaporated part of the way.  Add the sage and cook for about one more minute.  Add the cream and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Finally, salt and pepper to taste, add the gorgonzola and stir until melted into the sauce.
3. When you are ready to serve, toss the gnocchi in the boiling water, cooking about 2-3 minutes, remove when they begin to float on top of the water.
4. Serve with love.

Happy Leap Day!!!

Love,
jessicaisbaking

February Foodie Penpals!

Foodie Penpals

Last month, while reading Leila’s blog, Spinach and Skittles, I learned of Lindsay’s (at the Lean Green Bean)  Foodie Penpal program.  Since I love receiving mail and especially edible mail, I jumped at the chance to participate.  This month I received a package from Melanie at Nutritious Eats and she rocked my world (and Sparky’s world).  She really spoiled me!

Melanie accurately predicted that I love chocolate, and little did she know, the Starbucks chocolate covered graham crackers are a favorite of mine.  Also, I was so happy that she sent me a new flavor of tea to try, I just love it!  It is so great to have someone push you out of your usual routine and introduce new things to you.  Last week, after a particularly tough Crossfit work out (as many burpees as you can do in 7 minutes), I enjoyed the coconut water.  Sparky likes it a lot but I had never had more than a sip, but as I drank it, I started to enjoy it.  Plus, I noticed a great energy boost from it.  Finally, I never buy gnocchi, but the pumpkin gnocchi was delicious and Sparky was in heaven when I served it last night with a mushroom gorgonzola sauce.  The other snacks have been awesome lunchtime additions.  I’m excited to participate in the program next month!  I also had the pleasure of sending a package to Guilt Free Cuisine, which I will blog about later. If you want to play along, I have included some information from Lindsay below on how to participate!

Happy Tuesday!

Love,
jessicaisbaking

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

If you’re interested in participating for March, please send  an email to Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:
-Your full name
-Your email address
-Your blog name/address
-Your twitter handle (if applicable)
-WHETHER YOU ARE A US RESIDENT OR CANADIAN RESIDENT. – this is SUPER important so you get on the right list!

You must submit your information by March 4th as pairings will be emailed on March 5th!

***PLEASE NOTE: if you send an email, you WILL GET A RESPONSE within 48 hours. If you don”t….please re-send your email or contact Lindsay via Twitter (@LeanGrnBeanBlog). Last month we had a few emails get lost as spam so we’re trying to avoid that!

Ragin’ Cajun Étouffée

This post is a bit belated since by now you have given up something for Lent (for me: Facebook) and are probably avoiding delights like butter. I made this last weekend to go with the King Cake.  Ironically, we never actually ate the Étouffée, followed by dessert of the King Cake to have the “actual” creole experience, but we had no problem polishing it off.  Also, I had planned to serve it with grits but my carb-avoiding husband kept ignoring my offers to make said grits, so I just served it with wilted spinach.

(Picture courtesy of the Saveur website)

I found this recipe as I was pursuing King Cake recipes: it was linked below the King Cake and since I had never made Étouffée, I figured now was as good a time as any.  Thanks, Saveur, for another great recipe: Chicken and Andouille Étouffée.  We gobbled this down so quickly that I didn’t get a picture and the directions were spot on.  It was full of flavor and could even be made on a weeknight, if you are feeling like putting in some effort.

Restaurant Review: The Lion, New York, NY

Sparky took me out for a hot date on Friday for a belated Valentine’s celebration of our love. We have been lucky to go to quite a few restaurants in NYC while we have lived here and have several that we use as measuring sticks to the others.  The Lion, while a solid choice, was not a measuring stick for us.  It was a beautiful loft space, decorated like the combination of an old library and boys club.  This was definitely a place to see and be seen.  Unfortunately, when you are not very cool like me, this might not be what you are looking for.  Nevertheless, the food was quite tasty.  They were a bit obsessed with putting truffles on everything, which I think is a cheap (as in easy) way to bump up the diner’s perception of the dish without really doing much.

(courtesy of the NY Post)

I started with the butternut squash soup.  It was way too hot and I had to wait a bit to eat it but after it cooled, it had a nice flavor and being a bit carb deprived, I really liked the soup-soaked croutons.  Sparky had the Burrata & Blood Orange Salad and the baby beets were a nice start to the meal.  We were also served a chive biscuit, (similar to Martha Stewart’s Cream Cheese and Chive Biscuts in her Baking Handbook) which was a major highlight to both of us.  It seems we are easily pleased (or just really love biscuits).

For our entrees, Sparky had the Lamb Shank Osso Bucco with creamy polenta and I ahd the trout wrapped in speck with black lentils and wilted endive.  I don’t care for wilted endive, it’s just not my jam, but the black lentils were cooked well.  Unfortunately the fish was just too much.  The speck made a very hard shell around the fish and it was sort of hard to eat.  The fish probably could have been cooked a little less too.  Plus, it was huge, just a totally unnecessarily large portion.  Sparky ended up eating half.  His lamb was quite delicious though and i would recommend this dish to future diners.  The best part of the entree was the last minute brussel sprouts side that we ordered on a whim.  The brussel sprouts were roasted to chrispy perfection and the apples added a wonderful sweetness.  Of course, everything is better with bacon (in this case, guanciale).  This saved the meal for me.

Finally for dessert, we both ordered something in order to sample a little of everything.  The server had been raving about the “scandalous” cheesecake in a jar so Sparky ordered that and I ordered the mint chocolate cake.  The cheesecake was no more scandalous than most cheesecakes and the serving was way too large.  It was in a “Le Parfait Canning Jar”, which I didn’t think really fit in with the aesthetic of the restaurant.  The flavor of the cheesecake was supposed to be caramel but wasn’t particularly overpowering or noticeable, for that matter.  It was served with 2 hard wafer-like cookies in lieu of crust which were pretty good.  My cake was delicious.  It had a crunchy wafer (for lack of a better term) in the cake that gave it a great crunch.  It was also a dense cake with a heavy ganache.  I am a huge chocolate fan so I enjoyed this tremendously.

Overall, this wasn’t my favorite place to eat in NYC.  I won’t elaborate, but our server was too over the top and as a former server, I prefer servers to be more understated.  However, Sparky and I had many laughs and we did enjoy ourselves.  Ultimately, that was the goal, to have a lovely evening out.  Check and check.

Have you been here?  What were your thoughts?

Love,
jessicaisbaking

Show Me Your Beads!

I am not from Louisiana.  I am not Catholic.  But I am from North Carolina, so I have a great appreciation for all things southern.  And I am Episcopalian, so I can get on board with Shrove Tuesday and other Lenten pursuits.  On the other hand, I don’t know that I ever want to go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  I don’t particularly love crowds and it seems like it might be challenging to find a bathroom, which I really dislike.  But, as you may have deduced, I do like to find a reason to cook and if there is a theme, I have to go with it.

I have had a New Orleansean-made king cake once, I worked in an office that had a New Orleans counterpart and they sent us a king cake.  It was delicious and I couldn’t stop eating it.  Couldn’t stop eating it in that way that every time I got up to do something, I cut a little slice.  And that went on until I felt sick and then probably continued to eat cake slivers, despite the tummy ickiness.  Not that I ever did that again.  Or had done it prior.  Moving on.

I am not sure if the guys over at the Table Set inspired me with their Mardi Gras themed podcast or I had already planned to make a King Cake but they did supply me with a recipe.  I had looked at recipes in the past but this seemed as good as any.  I certainly wasn’t doing this buy-cinnamon-roll-dough-in-the-can-and-pretend-it-is-King-Cake nonsense either. (no judgment, I am sure this is delicious, but I really like to do things the hard way).

The last thing I needed was a plastic baby.  What did was what any internet-loving lady would do: google “king cake plastic baby.”  Amazon sent me this little prize and I was off.

Of course there was also the yeast related drama.  I have struggled in the past with yeasted baked goods. I finally found success with the Pioneer Woman’s famous cinnamon rolls and that has helped my confidence.  Really, the main problem was the patience for letting the good rise and having a warm place.  My mom is my baking consultant and an expert at bread, but I think failed to understand this “drafty old house!” in which I live (name that movie).  Also, the grocery store hid the yeast from me and I am not great with reading directions when I haven’t had all my coffee (one 1/4 ounce packet, not 1 and 1/4 ounces of yeast). Reading this makes it sounds like this cake was never going to happen.  But there was really no more drama (thanks Mary J. Blige).

I turned on my oven to 150 and opened the door to allow the heat escape and help my little ball of dough.

After the dough rose satisfactorily, I rolled it out in a circle, cut a hole in the middle, filled it with the cream cheese filling and allowed it to rest again.  Then I realized I forgot the baby so I unfolded part and stuck that baby in there.

Finally, I baked it and drizzled it with these fabulously gaudy icings.  It was a hit. I would make it again but try a different filling. My tester and I thought a custard filling would be better.  This cream cheese filling tasted ok, but looked unappetizing.  Maybe just cinnamon and raisins would be good too.  Or chocolate?!  And I guess I bucked tradition without coloring sugar but just coloring the icing.

Guess who found the baby?  Me.  Guess I will be hosting the party next year!  And definitely making that cake!

Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Love,
jessicaisbaking