Monday, October 28, 2013

Rosemary Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls

 We have to go to a "Pasta Kick-Off Dinner" tonight for my daughter's high school swim team, and we are supposed to bring dinner rolls and ice tea or lemonade. Most people would run out and pick up a couple of dozen dinner rolls from the bakery of their favorite grocery store. I was thinking of doing that too, but yesterday while I was catching up on reading a few of my "foodie" friend's blogs, I came across my friend Marianne's blog, where she had posted a beautiful picture of Chef John's Homemade Hamburger Buns. They looked so delicious, I knew right then and there that I was going to make some homemade rolls for tonight's dinner.

I found another recipe on Allrecipes by Chef John that sounded really good, and I knew that they would go really well with the pasta themed dinner.

I followed the recipe to a "T", yielding 20 medium sized rolls, rather than the 36 smaller rolls per the recipe instructions. They are light , soft, baked up beautifully and I love the addition of the rosemary in the dough. I've decided that this recipe is getting added to my Thanksgiving menu this year!

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Crazy Weeknights

I don't know about you, but it has been crazy busy in our house lately.  My husband has been super busy with work, and the kids with their activities. Getting everyone fed and out the door on time is sometimes a challenge after a long day at work.

This month, Allrecipes teamed up with Ore-Ida®, and it made my life a little easier!

I have to be honest with you. It has been ages since I used frozen potatoes. I got so used to making my own oven baked wedges or roasted potatoes, but I was willing to give them a try.

I cannot believe how many different types of french fries Ore-Ida® makes!  TWENTY-ONE . . . YES . . . 21! And that's JUST the french fries! You can check out all of their product offerings HERE. I decided to pick up a bag of their Zesties® fries, as well as their Tater Tots®.

Here I paired the Zesties® with lamb sandwiches with caramelized onions, cheese, tomatoes and tzatziki sauce. I was surprised at how crisp the Zesties® got by baking (not frying), and they had just the right amount of seasoning. The lamb I had left over from a leg that I roasted awhile back, and had sliced and frozen - saving it for one of those days when all you want to do is scream "Calgon, take me away". Came in very handy.

  Have you seen the tater tots waffles on Pinterest? Well, I tried to make those, but they didn't turn out like the photo in the Pinterest Pin - but they were still delicious topped with a dollop of sour cream and fresh scallions! (Can you see the waffling on the right? LOL!) Paired with a Costco rotisserie chicken and some green beans. Easy-peasy dinner!

I had some of the Tater Tots® left, and wanted to incorporate those into a recipe, rather than just using them as a side. Since I was also working with Johnsonville® this month, I found this recipe on Allrecipes for Amazing Muffing Cups, which called for frozen hash browns. Hmmm . . . a Tater Tot is really just frozen hash browns in a different shape, right? Well even if they're not, I used them in the recipe, and it worked great!

Don't be afraid to take the easy way out once in awhile and give yourself a break. You deserve it!

Buon Appetito!   

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

French Apple Tart with Vanilla-Almond Pastry Cream

I love autumn! It's my favorite time of the year. The leaves are changing colors, it's cooler outside, and we can finally shut off the A/C, open the windows and let the breeze blow through the house. It's also apple picking time!

Last year, we waited until too late in the month of October to make our annual trek to the North Georgia Mountains to go apple picking. By the time we finally got around to going, we made the one hour, twenty minute drive, only to find that all of the U-Pick fields were already closed for picking. I was NOT going to let that happen this year.

 So, this past Saturday, that's exactly what we did. We loaded up the car and headed for R & A Orchards in Ellijay, GA. This time, they were still picking Granny Smith, Rome Beauty and Stayman Winesaps. We brought home two large bags, mixed with some of each variety. My kids requested that I make Apple Butter like I do every year, but I also really wanted to make an apple tart. I just bought a new large tart pan, and what better way to put it to use.  

French Apple Tart with Vanilla-Almond Pastry Cream
Adapted from Savoring Time in the Kitchen

Crust (to fit a 12" tart pan)
1-3/4 cups + 2 Tblsp all purpose flour, chilled
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 Tblsp ice cold water

  1. Place chilled flour in food processor and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Add the diced butter (be sure it's nice and cold) and pulse until all you can see are pea size chunks of butter in the flour. Pour mixture into a bowl.
  3. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring gently with a fork between additions. Try not to over work the dough, only stirring it enough to incorporate the water.
  4. When all of the water has been added, place a large piece of plastic wrap on your work surface, and dump the dough into the center of the plastic wrap. Run your hands under cold water and quickly bring the plastic wrap up around the dough, pressing it together with your hands to form a ball, while enclosing it in the plastic wrap.
  5. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill, or overnight.

Pastry Cream
1-1/4 cup almond milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
5 Tblsp corn starch
1 Tblsp butter

  1. Place almond milk and vanilla in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat, and heat until hot, but not boiling.
  2. Place egg yolks, sugar and corn starch in a bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until pale yellow in color (about 3-4 minutes).
  3. With mixer on low, slowly add a ladle of the hot milk to the egg mixture. Once incorporated, add another ladle of the hot milk and mix well.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the remaining milk in the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture starts to thicken.
  5. Remove from heat and add the butter, whisking to remove any lumps.
  6. Place into a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until cool. 
For the Tart
3-4 apples of your choice, sliced thin (I used my Pampered Chef apple-peeler-slicer-corer)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tblsp butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface, large enough to fit your tart pan. Place the crust in the pan, pressing the dough evenly to fit the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim excess dough.
  3. Spread pastry cream evenly over the bottom of your tart dough.
  4. Starting on the outside of the tart, place the apple slices in a circle, overlapping slightly. The next row should overlap the first row slightly. For the inside row, you can cut the apple slices in half.
  5. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar and cinnamon, then drizzle with the melted butter. I cut out 4 leaves with the remaining crust dough, and placed them in the center for decoration.
  6. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.

My son says to me "it tastes like a creme brulee, apple pie combination". You know what? He's right, and it is SO good!

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


It's getting to be that time of the year again, when all of our basil plants are turning yellow, starting to seed, and dying off from the cooler night time temperatures. It always saddens me, for some reason. We watched as the plants started growing from seed, getting bigger every day, until one day they had grown into these beautiful huge bushes, of this lovely green herb that we just can't seem to get enough of in our house.

Although I do freeze fresh basil to carry us through until the following Spring (See my very first blog post <<HERE>>), there is nothing like the fresh leaves, just picked from the plant when making bruschetta. I've been making this recipe for years, and it's always my "go to" appetizer when entertaining.
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-8 leaves of fresh basil (depending on size), chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 loaf of crusty bread (such as French, Cuban or Baguette)

  1. Slice bread into 1/2" slices. Grill or broil bread until lightly brown on top. Turn over and grill or broil until lightly browned. Remove from grill or oven and set aside.
  2. Place diced tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir.
  3. Add olive oil and fresh basil to the tomatoes. Stir to combined.
  4. When ready to serve, spoon tomato mixture on top of bread and serve immediately.

I'd love to hear what some of your "go to" appetizers are! Leave me a comment and let me know!

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with Italian Sausage

I was shopping at Aldi recently, and as I was waiting in the never-ending checkout line, this older gentleman picks up a package of gnocchi and says to himself "what is this stuff?" Oh my . . . good thing my kids weren't with me (they would have died of embarrassment by what was about to happen next)!
I couldn't help myself . . . I proceeded to explained to the man what gnocchi is, how you prepare it, and a few ideas on what you can toss it with to make a quick meal. He was more than appreciative, and threw three packages in his cart.

 My kids love gnocchi. Whenever my mother-in-law comes to visit us from Italy, she always makes sure that our freezer is stocked with zip-lock bags full of homemade gnocchi.

This month, I have the pleasure of working with Johnsonville Sausage again, as part of the Allrecipes Allstar program. I started searching the Johnsonville Collection on Allrecipes, trying to decide which recipes that I'd like to make this month.  When I came across this one, using gnocchi, I knew that I had to give it a try. 

<<Click link below for recipe>>

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with Italian Sausage

Here is how I prepared it:

Here's everything that you will need. (The onions were not part of the recipe, but I had them left over, and needed to use them up, so in they went).

Saute the peppers, pea pods (and onions if you so choose) in the olive oil for about 4 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Remove the Johnsonville® Sausage from the casings, and brown it off over medium heat, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks.  I drained mine in a colander lined with a few paper towels to soak up some of the grease, then added it back to the pan.

Add the peppers and pea pods back in.

In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil. Add the gnocchi and cook just until the gnocchi start to float.

Add the pesto and the light cream and mix well. Keep over low heat.

Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon, and place directly into the pan with the sausage mixture. Gently toss until gnocchi is coated with all of that creamy pesto yumminess.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Usually when we make gnocchi, we dress it lightly with a red sauce or maybe some sauteed vegetables, and serve it as a "primi piatti" or first course. With the addition of the Johnsonville Italian Sausage, this made for a quick and easy, weeknight main course dish that my family loved.

Buon Appetito!