Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Beurre Noisette

sweet potato gnocchi, Thanksgiving side dishes, browned butter, pasta recipes, gnocchi recipes

Rich little pillows of deliciousness, these hearty sweet potato gnocchi are spiced with fresh nutmeg and finished simply with beurre noisette (which, I believe, means "drink me" in French. Only kidding..."beurre noisette" is just a pretty word for butter cooked until it's hazelnut brown).

Beurre noisette, also called browned butter, is what young, ambitious butter aspires to be. It makes a ridiculously easy and utterly delectable sauce for anything from pasta to fish, and is a fantastic way to elevate any simple protein or pasta dish to "company" status.

Sweet potato gnocchi are perfect for the fall table. Try them alongside roasted ham, chicken, or pork. Consider starting a new tradition and serving these as a side dish with your turkey this Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Beurre Noisette 

Yield: 3-4 main dish servings 

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, baked, peeled, and mashed 
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten 
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or more, as desired)
  • Fresh herbs; chopped toasted nuts to garnish (optional; see Note below)

1. Place mashed sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add flour, lemon juice, beaten egg, nutmeg, and paprika, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Stir with a fork or spatula until mixture is smooth. (You can make this easy by using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.)
2. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and spray with nonstick baking spray; set aside. Divide sweet potato mixture into 3 parts. On a flat surface dusted with flour, roll each part out into a rope approximately 1/2” in diameter. Cut into 1” sections and roll out on tines of fork to mark. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet and continue with remaining sweet potato mixture.
3. Cover gnocchi with plastic wrap and freeze on the baking sheet at least 30 minutes or until ready to use. (Once gnocchi are frozen solid, transfer to a resealable plastic bag; may be frozen up to 6 weeks.)
5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Cook frozen gnocchi in batches, browning on each side, adding more oil to the pan as necessary. Keep warm.
6. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, place 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium-low heat. Let cook till just browned. Pour over warm gnocchi, stir, and serve immediately.

If you want to dress this up a little, add some chopped fresh sage or rosemary to the butter while it's browning. Sprinkle finished gnocchi with chopped toasted hazelnuts or pecans to garnish.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pumpkin and Stout Soft Pretzels

pumpkin stout pretzels, pumpkin spice, soft pretzelsWe know, we know...everyone is overdosing on pumpkin spice, it's a fall cliche, it's just too hip. But . . . so? We're not ashamed to admit we love pumpkin spice! In fact, we're downright happy to ride the pumpkin-spice tidal wave until it crests sometime next week, following the palate-resetting mini-candy-bar blowout that is Halloween.

Stout is very complementary to pumpkin; the flavors work really well together, especially with the addition of warm fall spices, yeast, and a touch of brown sugar. You can use whatever stout makes your heart sing. (I used our own homebrewed oatmeal stout, which is a damn fine specimen, if I do say so myself.) Canned pumpkin works a treat--but be sure to use plain pureed pumpkin and not pie filling.

Don't skip the boiling process--it takes only a few seconds and is super simple to accomplish. Make sure to let the pretzels cool before buttering and sugaring them. And this is one case where less is more, as far as the butter basting goes. Too much butter (hard to believe there is such a thing), and your spiced sugar will just clump up and fall off. Restrain yourself.

soft pretzels, pumpkin spice, pumpkin pretzels, stout

Pumpkin and Stout Soft Pretzels

  • 1 cup stout
  • 1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 packet dry active yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup baking soda (for boiling)
For topping:
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Combine stout, pumpkin puree, and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until very warm but not hot (no hotter than 110 degrees F, please). Remove pan from heat and sprinkle yeast over the pumpkin mixture. Stir and let stand 5 minutes. AT the end of that time, your yeast should be "blooming."
  2. To the bowl of a stand mixer, add all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and spices. Pour in the pumpkin-yeast mixture, add the oil, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to moisten dry ingredients. (If the dough is too dry, add another tablespoon or 2 of stout.) Using the dough hook attachment, knead on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until dough forms a smooth ball around the hook and doesn’t cling to the sides of the bowl.  If the dough is too sticky, add additional flour a tablespoon at a time. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes. (The dough won’t quite double, but it should have a decent lift.)
  3. Line baking sheets with parchment and spray with pan spray.  Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (I weighed mine whole, then used a calculator to divide the ounce total by 12 for accuracy; pastry chef habit), and roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long.  Form each dough rope into a pretzel and place on pans. Cover pretzels with a clean linen cloth and let rise for 25 minutes.
  4. Bring a stockpot or other large pot of water just to a boil.  Add ¼ cup baking soda--careful, it will bubble aggressively for a moment--and stir to dissolve.  Boil the pretzels in batches for about a minute, turning halfway through. Remove pretzels from water bath and let drain for a minute on clean towels.
  5. While you’re boiling the pretzels, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place boiled pretzels on parchment-lined and sprayed baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
  6. Transfer the pretzels to a rack to cool completely.  While they’re cooling, combine sugars, spices, and salt in a pie plate or similar rimmed dish.  Brush the pretzels with a very light coat of melted butter, then toss in sugar-spice mixture until coated.


  • If you buy your yeast in 1lb packages like I do, the equivalent to a single yeast packet is 2.25 teaspoons. Now you know.
  • These can be frozen before they are coated. Just wrap plain pretzels in plastic wrap and place in a zipper-sealed plastic freezer bag. When ready to serve, thaw, brush with butter, and toss in sugar-spice mixture.
This recipe was originally posted on my craft beer blog, Stop by and visit me there for all things related to craft beer and home brewing. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Caramel Browned Butter Glaze

In Las Vegas, the smell of pumpkin spice on the air is pretty much the only indicator that fall has arrived (unless you count the Christmas decorations for sale in Target and Home Depot). With temps in the 90s still, it's too hot for carved jack o' lanterns, and we don't have a "leaf season" to speak of.

So we make do: we throw on shorts and sunblock to go outside and put up our decorations, and we sip frozen pumpkin spice lattes. As a transplant from New York, I like fall. I like a landscape of variegated leaves and apple picking and the promise of dozens of tiny candy bars. 

So here's my contribution to seasonal baking. These Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Caramel Browned Butter Glaze are probably one of my favorite things to make and to eat. The icing is so good, it's worth a day's sugar carbs to eat it straight up, from a spoon. Not that I've done it. I'm just saying. 

Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Caramel Browned Butter Glaze

Yield: 8 servings

Using a blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flours contributes to the flavor and texture of this bread. Be sure to use freshly ground nutmeg if possible; the flavor is superior to that of the off-the-shelf preground variety.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 11/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Caramel Browned Butter Icing
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup (one stick) salted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 11/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Add cubed butter, and use a pastry blender to work it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, half-and-half, egg, and vanilla. Pour pumpkin mixture over flour mixture. Use a fork to combine until all the dry ingredients are incorporated and a soft dough forms.
  4. Working in the bowl, knead the dough a couple of times, just until it comes together—do not overwork. Line your work surface with parchment and sprinkle lightly with flour. Turn dough out onto prepared work surface and pat or roll out until it’s about 1 inch thick. If making wedges, form the dough into a circle. If using a biscuit cutter, shape doesn’t matter.
  5. For triangles, cut dough round into 8 wedges. If you prefer round scones, use a biscuit cutter to cut scones out as close together as possible, then gently press dough scraps together and cut again.
  6. Arrange scones on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until tops and bottoms are golden and scones feel set.
  7. Let cool completely on wire rack before icing.
  8. To make icing: Combine brown sugar, butter, and half-and-half in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring, bring to boil and allow to boil for 2-3 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature. Gradually beat in sifted confectioner’s sugar ¼ cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Spread over cooled scones. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Are You Really Eating?

Author Griffin Smith
Guest Post by Griffin Smith

When it comes to diet, I’m a huge proponent of the phrase “everything in moderation.” A few sweets here and there definitely won’t hinder your progression toward your fitness goals in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, it seems that the FDA have taken this expression a bit too literally. To them, everything really means EVERYTHING, including but not limited to: mold, maggots, bugs in food, and even *shudder* rat poop. Yup, rat poop.
Apparently, in limited quantities, these elements are perfectly safe for human consumption. If you’ve got a stomach of steel, read on to find out about 10 unsavory things that the FDA will allow in the food that you buy.
Click here to read the complete article.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Three-Cheese Creamy Chicken Quesadillas

Here's a terrific meal you should have in your arsenal for when you're pressed for time and dinner has to be on the table in a heartbeat. Using Del Real's precooked chicken makes this dish come together lightning-fast. If you have a picky eater, just leave out whatever toppings he or she doesn't care for ~ these are easy to customize.

Have unexpected guests or need a quick dish for a pot luck? Try making up a big batch of these creamy, spicy, filling quesadillas! They're guaranteed to be a friend-and-family favorite.

Serve this with a green salad or veggies and dip for a balanced meal.

Three-Cheese Creamy Chicken Quesadillas
Serves 4
• 4 ounces cream cheese (plain or jalapeno-flavored; low-fat is fine)
• 8 8-inch flour tortillas
• ½ cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
• 1 15-ounce package Del Real precooked shredded chicken
• ¼ cup sliced green onions
• ¼ cup sliced black olives
• 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
• Sour cream, guacamole, and salsa to serve, optional

1. Spread 1 ounce cream cheese on each of four tortillas. Top with 2 tablespoons shredded Pepper Jack, 3.5 ounces chicken, 1 tablespoon green onions, 1 tablespoon black olives, and ¼ cup shredded Cheddar. Finish by topping with the remaining four tortillas.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat ~ there is no need to grease the pan. Carefully transfer one of the tortilla stacks to the skillet. Heat until the cheese begins to melt and the bottom begins to brown in spots. Using a large flat spatula, turn the quesadilla over and heat on the other side, approximately 3 to 5 minutes total. Remove to baking sheet and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven while you cook the remaining three quesadillas.

3. Cut each quesadilla into 6 wedges and serve with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa, if desired.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Del Real Foods Heat-and-Serve Dishes

I'm not generally a fan of pre-cooked packaged foods. I'm picky in a way that makes most of these products fall far short of what I like to eat--and what I like to serve to my family. I prefer scratch-made, authentic food without the chemicals and additives that most processed packaged foods are burdened with. That said, there are times when I've used ready-made products on a whim (shopping hungry gets me every time) or by necessity (barely enough time to eat, let alone cook) and have been pleasantly surprised.

The first time I tried a Del Real ready-to-serve product falls into the "whim" category. It was Superbowl Sunday, and we were returning from a long day of work just in time to catch the game--and more importantly, the snacks.

I'd decided to make "dinner nachos," so exhausted, starving, and looking forward to game time, we stopped at the supermarket to grab ingredients. 

I typically make nachos with sauteed ground beef, but as I was heading to the meat aisle, I happened to see a package of Del Real Seasoned Shredded Beef on the endcap. I'm not going to lie: I was lured by the possibility of not having to turn on the stove or wash a skillet. Reading the ingredient list, I was surprised to see only 5 ingredients, all of which I could identify. On impulse, I bought precooked shredded beef for the first time in my life and we headed home toward nachos.

Half an hour later, we were happily devouring a pile of tortilla chips layered with black beans, melted Cheddar and Jack cheese, green onions, and some of the tastiest shredded beef I've ever had the pleasure of not cooking myself. 

When Del Real offered me some product for review a few months later, I jumped on the chance. The Beef Tamales were so good, we started looking for them in the grocery store the very next time we shopped. The Chipotle Chicken Tinga was smoky and delicious, with just enough spice.  

Big quesadilla fans, we tucked the pork Carnitas into folded tortillas with cheese and veggies and grilled them in an iron skillet. Again, a huge hit with the whole family. 

In spite of my best attempts to scratch-cook everything my family eats, life happens, and that's not always an option. Keeping a few packages of these pre-cooked meats on hand in the fridge has been helpful on several occasions. Having quality beef, pork, and chicken accessible and ready to heat means that we can assemble a decent meal at home in minutes. Instead of resorting to cold cereal or a fast-food run, my son can pop of bowl of meat into the microwave and have a real meal in minutes.

Visit the Del Real website for recipes, product info (including ingredients and nutrition facts), and a store locator!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Soda Bread

In my broad and complicated ethnicity, there is not a single iota of Irishness. I'm a first-gen American, and our family gatherings when I was growing up looked a lot like potluck day at the UN. We hail from Germany, Argentina, Italy, Ukraine, Colombia, and many points in between. But Ireland? Not so much.

In spite of that, I love St. Patrick's Day. Actually, I love the foods of celebratory days in general, but there's something about the St. Patty's Day spread that is particularly endearing to me. All those easy-to-prepare comfort foods...and beer! What's not to love about that?

My contribution to our collective St. Patty's Day dinner get-togethers has always been Irish Soda Bread. I generally make two loaves--one with raisins, one without--and never come home with leftovers. 

While might be used to serving this traditional quick bread alongside your St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage. Leavened with baking powder and baking soda, this soda bread is really so good and easy, there’s no good reason to limit it to one meal a year! Make it a few times and it just might become a staple in your home. It’s not much different in makeup from, say, a giant scone, which makes it perfect for brunch, breakfast, snacks, soup-side, or teatime. Also, it freezes beautifully because it is so moist ~ make 2 and freeze one, if you can keep everyone away from it.

Irish Soda Bread

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup raisins, optional
  • 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar.
  3. Cut in butter until mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal. In a separate small bowl, use a fork to beat together 1 egg and yogurt. If using raisins, stir them into the yogurt mixture.
  4. Pour yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and combine just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for 8 to 10 turns, just until dough forms a cohesive ball. Place dough on the baking sheet and form into a nicely rounded loaf, approximately 6 inches in diameter. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a 4-inch cross into the top of the dough. Brush loaf with egg wash and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and the interior of the cross cut appears dry. When thumped lightly on the bottom, the bread should sound hollow.
  5. Let cool at least 15 minutes to avoid crumbling when cut. Serve warm with butter.

Cranberry Brown Sugar Soda Bread variation: Replace raisins with dried, sweetened cranberries. Place dough on lightly floured surfaced, sprinkle with additional 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Knead 4 turns; sprinkle with 1 to 2 more tablespoons brown sugar. Knead final 4 turns. {Don’t worry about mixing the brown sugar into the dough ~ it’ll form a lovely melting ribbon of sugar throughout your loaf.} After brushing with egg wash, sprinkle top of loaf with turbinado sugar. Bake as indicated.

Makes 1 loaf (about 12 slices)

Click here for printable version.



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