Put An Egg on It: Gnocchi Edition

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In my campaign to be a more frugal, protein-fortified, maybe even eco-friendly human being, I’ve taken to putting poached eggs on top of many, many things–big piles of sauteed spinach, pasta, rice and beans–instead of eating meat. (Ok, I still eat meat, just not much.) So after picking up some whole wheat gnocchi at Trader Joe’s (<3 you), I decided instead of doing my usual gnocchi with sausage and spinach or broccoli rabe, an all-time fave from Real Simple, I’d go the egg route. And since I had broccoli at home, I’d use that as my shiny green veggie component.

Now, you may have noticed from my picture that the broccoli is also very finely chopped. I’m still pleased with myself for making this decision. I just sauteed it with olive oil, garlic, salt and lemon juice, and then I just threw it in the food processor. Like shredded brussels sprouts, there’s just something so exciting about vegetables served with different textures than usual.

So, this is a super-simple, really cheap meal. Gnocchi. Food processored broccoli. Poached egg. Little crumbles of goat cheese–I mean, a meal’s not a meal without cheese. It was so good that I almost didn’t miss the cupcake I was thisclose to getting on my way home from Trader Joe’s.

But What Do We Do Without the Snow?

As someone who’s spent my entire life, minus a few months here and there, in the Northeast region of the U.S., I think it is my right to complain about the weather constantly. Summer is too hot. Spring is too rainy. Fall, well, fall’s perfect. No complaints. Winter? Too miserable. If it’s not the snow, it’s the slush and the ice and the general gloom and mess all around.

But secretly, I just love it. I love staying inside, making stews and hot toddies, knitting, stroking my dog and cat, watching British period dramas (seriously, I feel like I’ve known Downton Abbey my whole life, even though we’ve only just met). 

So what’s a girl to do during a mild winter? What excuse do I have to stay in my pajamas, and when will I make the Irish Stew?!?! I mean, I know there are bigger problems in the world, and if it blizzards tonight, it will obviously be all my fault. But in the meantime, if anyone has any non-cold-weather slowcooker ideas, give me a shout. (I did barbecue chicken last week, and chili all the time, so not those please!)

Be It Ever So Humble

Exciting news, my reader-friends: I’ve created a proper home office/craft area.

More exciting/panic-inducing is that this is where I’ll be spending my days from here on out. After three-and-a-half years in the inflight mag biz, I’m becoming an unattached woman. I’ll be freelancing and blogging from here on out (until some website will have me as an editor).

Doing one thing a day that scares you has become a popular theme for bloggers–such as the lovely One Bad–and authors. For me, not having a job is about as scary as it gets. I’m literally terrified of my own life.

But I’m being positive! I won’t blog about that side of things! The good news is I have time for elaborate projects around the house and fancy meals. And I can tell all of you about it. Then you’ll tell your friends, and they’ll tell their friends, etc., and Spiffy will become famous. A book deal will follow shortly. I’m told this is how these things work.

As I embark on this weird new life, I welcome questions and suggestions (including “Dance, monkey, dance!”). This is going to be fun guys.

The Best Thing I Learned in Napa

Three words: shredded. Brussels. sprouts. Or, as they call them at Domaine Carneros, shaved Brussels sprouts. Whatever. You guys. If you’re like me, a woman torn between her love of the tiny vegetables and the man she loves’ refusal to eat them, this is big news. It cuts down on the sprouty taste. You can put them on anything!

I eat you
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At Domaine Carneros, they served them on caramelized halibut (they’re very good at putting a crusty exterior on seafood in Napa) with mashed (“pureed”) potatoes and sundried tomato aioli. Me? I’m going to put them on this baked potato recipe from Real Simple that I’m mad I didn’t think of long ago. That is, once I get (and maybe I’ve buried the lead here) my mothereffin’ food processor.

I Eat Me Spinach

I have a near-compulsive fear that I won’t eat vegetables before they go bad, so I cooked and froze two delicious leafy green lunch items, so I’ll give you some recipes!

Italian Wedding Soup

1/2 lb. ground turkey or beef (I used turkey)

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. each of rosemary, oregano and garlic powder

1 Tbsp. bread crumbs

1 egg

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, smashed

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup Israeli couscous (or orzo, ditalini, whatevs)

1 cup chopped spinach

Make meatballs by piling meat, salt, pepper, other seasoning, bread crumbs and eggs in a bowl and then mixing by hand until everything is just blended. (Nobody likes a tough meatball).

Heat oil in soup pot and add onion and garlic, then make little meatballs and drop them into the oil. Cook until outside of meatballs is browned, then add chicken broth.

Bring soup to a light boil, then add couscous. Cook for 8 minutes, then add spinach. Cook for another 4 minutes, et voila!

Spinach Turnovers

1 1/2 cups spinach

1 Tbsp. cottage cheese

Salt, pepper, garlic, cumin to taste

One tube Pillsbury crescent rolls

Lightly steam spinach, mix with the cottage cheese and seasonings. Divide into four portions. Sandwich each portion between two triangles of crescent dough. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350.

P.S. Obviously I would totally make my own pastry instead of using canned stuff, but my kitchen is too little. No counter space! Don’t judge me.

In any case, I’m hoping my muscles will pop out like little baseballs strapped onto my biceps every day at lunch from all the spinachy deliciousness. I’ll keep you posted!

Things That Happened in My Kitchen

I was lucky enough to enjoy the most relaxed holidays ever, in my new home, with A and Jasmine and Beatrice frolicking about. I spent a lot of time knitting and even more time cooking. My most proud accomplishments were beef gyoza and baked beans (from scratch!).

I bought gyoza skins at Fairway a while back, fried up the ground beef with onion, ginger and garlic (all chopped wicked finely, since I don’t have a food processor), stuffed the mixture into the skins, fried ’em up and put them in the freezer. A’s evaluation: “This is a good something different, not a weird something different.” The total ingredient cost was about $3 for 30 gyoza, so I was pretty excited.

The baked beans were a much longer process, but not much work. I was supposed to use navy beans, but there weren’t any at my grocery store, so I got something called miniature red beans, soaked them over night, threw them in the slow cooker with onion, turkey bacon, brown sugar, maple syrup (didn’t have molasses), ketchup, worcestershire sauce and water. They needed to cook for like 14 freakin’ hours, but the total ingredient cost was only like $4. Next time I would forgo the turkey bacon, because it doesn’t add much in a slow cooker situation, so if nothing else, this is a good go-to for frugality.

Too bad I mostly ate the cakes and cookies from A’s grandmothers, instead of my delicious homecooked goodness. I guess that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for…

Stocking Up the Larder

It looks like summer might end after all. I was kind of hoping for miserable hurricane weather to keep me in my kitchen. The hurricane never came, but I’ve been cooking up a storm. Here’s my summer-to-fall foodie concoctions.

  • My pickled green beans came out wonderfully. (Boil equal parts water and vinegar [I did half and half white and balsamic], with half that amount of salt and about four cloves garlic. Put green beans in a jar with a sprig or two of fresh dill. Pour brine over green beans. Leave for two weeks. Eat while standing in front of the refrigerator trying to decide what to cook.) I will be doing more pickling for sure.
  • I seem to be in a constant state of making and freezing spaghetti sauce, only to unfreeze and eat it about three days later. This time around, I sauteed turkey bacon with the garlic before adding the crushed tomatoes. Deliciousness ensued.
  • I’m having a little love affair with lentil salad these days. I thought that lentils were hard to cook and needed to be soaked overnight and whatnot. They don’t! Once cooked, I added carrots and feta, and a vinaigrette of balsamic, EVOO, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and some more fresh dill. I suspect the pickled green beans will make a nice addition to one or two servings.
  • Nothing makes me feel more domestic and accomplished than making and freezing a bunch of burritos. I currently have chicken in the slowcooker with sofritos, garlic, lime, salt, cayenne and a dash of cumin. I’ll shred and wrap it up with refried beans, rice and cheese. Between that and the lentils, I’ll be the happiest lunch-eater in my office.

Summer Eating

A few weekends ago, I was eating pickles, and A walked in and asked if I was doing my summer eating thing. The answer is yes. I don’t like to eat in the summer. I stick to foods such as cucumbers and popsicles—low-calorie, no cooking involved. It’s a balance, because these thing can get expensive. Pickles segue into olives, followed by hummus, then cheese. Individually, it’s a small splurge here and there on a nice, brainy-looking French cheese or a small olive bar expedition. But when one of those things only lasts a day, because it’s all I eat, yeah, pricey. So I’ve boiled it down to a list of budget-friendly essentials that can last for days (A’s diet—RED MEAT—not included):

  • Tomatoes
  • Canned black olives that you can eat off your fingers
  • Pickles
  • Avocado
  • A block of regular old grocery store mozarella
  • Pasta
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumber
  • Plain yogurt
  • Frozen blueberries

This list can be mixed and matched into salad, pasta salad, warm pasta salad, whatever. The yogurt can become a creamy salad dressing, soup (when mixed up with the cucumber), or a base for the blueberries. Try the Layla Summer Eating Plan (TM). You’ll feel refreshed and summery, and so will your wallet!

Standing Ova-tion!

I had the pleasure this week of breakfasting at Adour, the Alain Ducasse restaurant at the St. Regis hotel. They don’t generally do breakfast, so that made it extra (eggstra?) special. The highlight was the lobster eggs benedict. I mean, yum, lobster. And brioche instead of English muffin. The eggs were the most perfectly poached I’ve ever had. (It was kind of eye-opening that some eggs are poached better than others.) Anyway, it was all the inspiration I needed to make my very own eggs benny.

I found the same very basic hollandaise recipe in several places: stick of butter melted, four egg yolks, two tablespoons lemon juice, pinch of salt, pinch of cayenne. Whisk the yolks and lemon over a double boiler, slowly whisk in the butter, add the seasoning, et voila. I suspect I didn’t do these things as painstakingly as I was supposed to, as it only took about five minutes and the result wasn’t completely smooth. But it wasn’t separated, and it tasted delicious. I poached my eggs with a splash of vinegar and served the whole shebang on a corn muffin with a bit of turkey. It was, in a word, divine. Not quite as good as Adour’s but certainly tastier than what I’ve had at a few diners.

Sadly, hollandaise doesn’t keep, so after having it over green beans (in lieu of asparagus) for dinner, it was time to say goodbye. Still, I suspect that next time I have people over for breakfast, I’ll do it again. (It’s not really worthwhile for just me and A.) Eat your hearts out readers!

Great Steaks

Following years of vegetarianism, I just couldn’t get in to steak. There are usually cheap cuts at my grocery store, it’s easy to cook, and it’s pretty good when cooked with sesame oil (which maybe negates the cheap factor?). But, you know, not very exciting. Last night I got a grass-fed prime rib for A’s birthday. Now I get it. That’s all.