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Gnocchi Yo’ Mama!

By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

Have you ever gotten an idea into your head and you just can’t shake it?  That’s how I am with dishes that I’ve read about, eaten or seen cooked.  That’s how I’ve been with gnocchi (pronounced NYOH key).  You know, those cute little soft doughy dumplings made with potatoes, flour, and eggs and can be served with all sorts of yummy sauces.  I was pretty sure that gnocchi was an Italian dish, and in searching through my cookbooks for a wonderful, definitive recipe, I was amazed that my collection was fairly anemic when it italiancame to cookbooks featuring Italian cuisine.  Good grief!  How could that be!  I love Italian food, so wouldn’t you think that I would be covered up with cookbooks of that genre?  Turns out I’m not, and the ones that I do have, do not have a recipe for gnocchi.  I am stunned!

Well, as luck would have it, I finally found one way up on the top shelf.  It’s a very thin, 95 page Italian cookbook that was part of series put out by Better Homes and Gardens and published by Meredith Press in 1979.  I tried to research this series of cookbooks to see if I could find out a little about the history of them, but unfortunately I was unable to find out much of anything. However, I do own 13 of them, and they cover all sorts of foods and ethnicities.  Although this book isn’t very big, it packs more than 230 recipes between its covers along with some lovely, full-color photos of great looking, mouth-watering Italian dishes.

From the antipasto all the way through to the spumoni, this cookbook has recipes for some of the best Italian cooking you could ever hope for.  There’s one thing that the western Europeans know how to do, and that’s put on a good spread at meal time.  What more could you ask for at the end of a long, hard day than sitting down with good friends and family to a hearty and filling meal served up with a glass of red wine.  It sounds like a great plan to me, and with this little cookbook up your sleeve, you’ll be able to transport your dinner guests, if not to a trattoria in Rome, at least to one of the small cafés in Little Italy, NYC.

So, believe it or not, I’m about to head into my kitchen to whip up some gnocchi!  After all, I didn’t spend an hour in my “library” trying to find the definitive recipe for it for nothing!  The ingredients are simple – let’s hope I don’t fail!  First, peel 2 medium potatoes (starchy – like Russets) and boil in water until fork tender.  Drain, let cool, and break up with a fork.  Measure out 1 cup of potatoes, packed, and reserve the rest for another dish.  Now, in a large bowl, combine the mashed potatoes with 1 tablespoon butter, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 egg and 2 cups of flour.  Mix together – you will probably need to use your hands. On a floured surface, knead into a smooth ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Let rest for 20 minutes.  Now, unwrap and divide the dough into four pieces and roll each piece into a ½ inch rope.  Cut the rope of dough into 1/2 inch pieces, roll each piece in flour.  If you’d like, you can roll the gnocchi down the tines of a fork to create ridges that will your sauce cling to the gnocchi.  Drop the gnocchi into salted, boiling water and cook until they begin to come to the surface – about 3 to 5 minutes.  Dip them out of the water with a slotted spoon and shake off the excess water.  Serve with your favorite sauce.  I just made a batch and poured garlic butter with parsley flakes over them.  Oh my!  Very good.

But, I must say (and my husband pointed it out before I said it out loud) these taste a whole lot like one my favorite foods – Norwegian Clöb – which are, interestingly enough potato dumplings!  Hmmmmm

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Wasn’t That Just Yesterday?

 

By Gini Rainey

It seems like just yesterday that my daughter Beth came home from middle school and announced that one of her classes was going to put together a booklet of favorite recipes of the students’ families.  Interestingly enough, she just celebrated another year around the sun yesterday, and as her older sister reminded her, she is on the downhill slide to 50!  At least she included a laughing emoji.  

So, there I am, cooking dinner, with her sitting across the bar from me asking where the recipe for what I was making (I think it might have been pepper steak) was so she could copy it down and take it with her to school.  Imagine her dismay when I tapped my head!  I could tell she felt like that was never going to work.  But I told her get a piece of paper and a pencil and we would figure it out together.  She may not even remember that moment in time, but seeing what a good and experimental cook she has become, perhaps what she learned that afternoon stuck with her.  Things like always, always taste what you are cooking, less is better when it comes to salt/pepper, your cupped palm will hold about a teaspoon, rub dry herbs between your palms as you sprinkle them into what you are cooking, and never be afraid to try something new.  

So, believe it or not, this memory was jogged by a cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Unlocked, written by Todd Wilbur and published in 2009 by Plume Books/Penguin Books.  As I was flipping through it, it occurred to me that even though there are some pretty good recipes in it, I found it interesting that it also included recipes for Jimmy Dean® Breakfast Sausage, Kraft® Miracle Whip, Hidden Valley® The Original Ranch® Dressing, Fritos® Hot Bean Dip, and Lipton® Brisk® Iced Tea.  Just reading the Dressing recipe made me hyper-ventilate over the list of ingredients it called for.  I mean, if I‘m going to the store to pick up all of that, why not just grab a packet of the mix? 

But, I will say the recipes included for things like Panera Bread® Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Popeyes® Red Beans & Rice, Boston Market® Butternut Squash, and Carnegie Deli® Classic New York Cheesecake sound pretty darn yummy and the ingredient lists aren’t terribly daunting.  The cool thing about this book, and the others out there that have copycat recipes, is someone took the time to taste – really taste – the original foods and experiment in their kitchen to come up with the end product that is a pretty darn good second to the original.  That’s turning cooking and your kitchen into a food lab – and I’m for that! 

One of the recipes that Beth and I saved for posterity was for my version of Pepper Steak.  First trim about 1 ½ pounds of round steak and slice paper thin (this is easier to do if the meat is slighty frozen) making the strips about 3 inches in length.  Dredge the strips in flour and brown in hot oil in a Dutch oven or a 4 quart pan. Mix 1 ½ teaspoon of garlic powder with 4 tablespoons of corn starch and blend with ½ cup soy sauce (I prefer Kikoman®) and 3 ½ cups water and pour over the beef strips.  Stir until well mixed and beginning to thicken.  Cover and reduce heat. Cut 1 large, white onion and 2 large bell peppers into eighths and add to the beef mixture.  You can also add a small can of drained sliced mushrooms and a small can of sliced water chestnuts.  Continue to simmer until the onions and peppers are cooked, but still a bit crunchy.  Serve over steamed rice.  This is some might good eating and so relatively easy to make, you might want to have the kids help cook it. 

 

stanleys bbq tyler tx eguide magazine

 

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Blogs

Foodie Events: Cookie Decorating Workshops

ben wheeler

Cookie Decorating Workshops will be held this month. You will receive 1/2 dozen cookies to decorate as well as instructions on how to decorate themed cookies using a special blend of Royal-Glaze icing. These will be a mix of Vanilla-Brown Sugar and White-Almond cookies that you can take home to enjoy. Each person will receive cookies and access to multiple colors of icing bags and tools to work with. All tools and supplies will be provided. Also, a 10″ sturdy plate will be provided for carry home (you may bring your own container). Classes are:

  • August 6th (6:30pm): Beach Camping Cookie Decorating at Potpourri House, 3320 Troup Hwy., Tyler
  • August 12th (3pm): Seaside Cookie Decorating at Pottery Cafe, 5380 Old Bullard Rd., Tyler
  • September 9th (3pm): Sunflowers Cookie Decorating at Pottery Cafe, 5380 Old Bullard Rd., Tyler
  • September 18th (6:30pm): Safari Cookie Decorating at Kiepersol Salt Kitchen, 4120 FM 344E in Bullard. RSVP at goodjujucookies.com/workshops

August 11th, September 8th (10am): Yoga & Beer at True Vine – Held every second Saturday of the month, this beautiful yoga practice is held under the pavilion. The class and one beer is included in price of admission. Sola Bread pizza will be there as well serving up breakfast pastries and lunch. Tickets available at the door for $10 and include an hour yoga session and a beer. True Vine Brewing is located at 2453 Earl Campbell Parkway, Tyler, truevinebrewing.com.

August 18th, September 15th (10am): Barre + Brew at True Vine – Held each third Saturday of the month, Barre + Brew classes are with Studio B Pilates+Barre. For $10 at the door, you can enjoy this amazing class inside the brewery and enjoy a cold beer after. Barre classes mix elements of ballet at the barre and functional movements set to motivating music. You’ll use the barre, small balls, bands, and hand weights to work your entire body. Isometric training and small range of motion exercises along with planks, push-ups, and core focused training will round out these energizing classes. Sola Bread pizza will be there as well serving up breakfast pastries and lunch. True Vine Brewing is located at 2453 Earl Campbell Parkway, Tyler, truevinebrewing.com.

September 26th (7-9pm),  Vitner’s Dinner: South of the Border – It’s a fiesta! This will be a delicious Mexican-inspired dinner that will wow your taste buds. Who says the only drink that goes with Mexican food is tequila? Come learn how Keipersal’s wines can pair with any food you love! Food will be Shrimp and Avocado Ceviche, Seabass Caldo, Roasted Guajillo Ribeye, and Pierre’s Rum Tres Leches Cake. Cost is $100 per person not including tax and gratuity. This will be held at Kiepersol, 21508 Merlot Ln., Bullard. RSVP by calling (903)894-3300, or visit kiepersol.com. Other Vintner’s Dinners will be November 28th, Fall Harvest featuring Baked Gouda Stuffed Olives, Corn Bourbon Bisque, Salmon with Curried Fennel Wine Sauce, and Mustard Roasted Tenderloin with Squash Polenta. Dessert will be a surprise.

September 21st (5:30-6:30pm) – XTC Barbells, Bites & Beer – Start your weekend with a Friday evening XTC Workout, followed by some appetizers, bites, and beers on the patio! Members are $20 a session and non-members are $25 a session. For more info or to register please contact Tony Cruz at (903)561-3014 or email xtcruz@gmail.com. This will be held at Tyler Athletic and Swim Club, 11208 Oak Creek Blvd., Tyler.

September 29th (All Day): German Fest Bier Garten Festival will be held at High Hill Farms, 12626 CR 217, Arp. More details to come.

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The Cookbook Junkie

Dang It’s Hot!

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By Gini Rainey

Living in Texas during the summer can be quite a challenge for someone who grew up just a couple hundred miles south of the Canadian border.  I don’t believe I will ever get acclimated to the heat here.  I came close at one point, before I had a heat stroke in Puerto Vallerta, but that’s another story!

This week we are lucky enough to be facing some record temperatures and I can honestly say that as many times as I told myself during the chilly winter temperatures we had this past winter how much I would appreciate those days in the summer…those thoughts have totally been wiped out thanks to the 100°-plus weather we’ve been blessed with recently.

Growing up it seemed like we had a lot of hot days in Minnesota, and while we didn’t have air-conditioning, we managed to stay semi-cool most of the time.  It was always great fun to run through the water-sprinkler or find a shady place to play a quiet game or two.  One of my favorite things to do was grab a book and climb about half way up one of our apple trees. Not only had this tree been gracious enough to grow a couple of branches that actually crossed each other and made a great sitting spot, but it usually had some yummy apples just ripe for the picking.

My mom would get around the heat of the kitchen by baking apple dumplings (from the benevolent apple tree) early in the day and making great salads for dinner that were a welcome relief after the heat of the day dissipated.  One of my favorites she would make was a macaroni and shrimp salad that still works well today in the Texas heat.  In fact, I just finished making one for dinner this evening.

Although I haven’t been able to find the tiny little macaroni “o’s” like she would use (the lighter pasta goes well with the shrimp), today I cooked a 1 pound box of Barilla® Ditalini in 6 cups salted water until al dente.  While the pasta was

cooking, I diced half a medium white onion, 3 stalks of celery, 2 avocados, and 3 hard boiled eggs.  When the pasta was cooked, I drained it and rinsed thoroughly with cold water to reduce the temperature and poured it into a large serving bowl along with the diced ingredients.  I then put a cup of Miracle Whip® (I’m sorry, all of you dyed-in-the-wool mayonnaise users, but Miracle Whip® adds a needed zing to this salad), 3/4 cup of milk, ½ teaspoon freshly ground green peppercorns, and ¼ teaspoon salt (feel free to adjust your seasonings) into a covered jar and shook to blend.  I folded the dressing into the salad along with a pound of small steamed shrimp and it is now refrigerating until I serve it later today with a tomato cucumber salad and fresh baked rolls.  Dessert?  What else but a frozen Key Lime pie! Now if that isn’t good summer eating, well then I don’t know what is!

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