Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's a Gnocchi Night!

I found this recipe while browsing thru blogs and it looked fantastic. Now I just needed to convince the hubby that he would like it. He "thinks" that he doesn't like pasta with anything other than a red sauce or an alfredo sauce. I tried to get him to try my aglio e olio one night when we were out for dinner and he turned it down, saying there was "no sauce." *sigh*

So I kinda sprung this on him tonight...saying we were having gnocchi with sausage. I figured at least if he thought there was something Italian that had sausage in it he'd be game. I think he was skeptical at first (took a tiny serving and hoped for the best). Then went back for seconds and thirds. Ladies and gents....we have a hit!

I made a couple of slight modifications from the original recipe (as posted on a blog titled "Delish" - how could it NOT be good?????). My modifications are noted below...

Gnocchi with Sausage & Spinach
(Source:, adapted from Real Simple Magazine, March 2007)

2 9-ounce packages refrigerated gnocchi (or a 17.5-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi) *I used 1 pkg of whole wheat gnocchi
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped *I used maybe 1/3 c chopped onion
1-2 Italian sausages (~1/4-1/2 lb), casings removed * I used 2 hot Italian turkey sausages
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
7-ounces baby spinach *I used probably 3 oz total
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
*1/4 c white wine
*1/4 c chicken broth (in place of reserved cooking liquid)
*hot red pepper flakes

Cook the gnocchi according to directions, drain. Meanwhile, heat sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling with a spoon until browned, 5-7 minutes. Add the onion & garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add wine to deglaze pan. Let cook 1-2 minutes. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Add the drained gnocchi, chicken broth, let heat thru. Add Parmesan and toss. Add red pepper flakes to taste.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chili Night

Even though the weather is still a little warm, it's Fall and that means Chili! Norm and I like spicy foods, so we really kick the heat up a notch in our chili with the addition of some habaneros, a little cayenne and a couple of dashes of Tobasco. Coupled with some basic bisquick butter milk biscuits (i topped them with some butter and a little garlic salt and parsley) and a salad, we had ourselves a great dinner!

Ann's Easy Chili
(Source: me!)

1/2 lb extra lean (95% lean) ground beef
2 habaneros, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 C diced white onion
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1 can diced tomatoes, chili style
1 can tomato paste
1 can Bush's chili style beans
1 T chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 t cayenne powder
salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste

Brown ground meat in cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add garlic, habanero and onion. Cook until onion is tender. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, beans and spices. Let simmer 20 minutes until thickened.

I like my chili over whole wheat macaroni, topped with shredded mexican cheese blend, sour cream and a dash of tobasco....yum!

Dinner in a Pinch

Normally when we plan meals for the week, we make sure we have everything on hand. And normally we have a supply of staples on hand. However, even the best laid plans can, lol. So it was a little strange when we went to make dinner on Tuesday night (pasta with grilled shrimp) found we were without one of the main components of the meal! No pasta sauce. Not one single jar. I know, I can't believe I wouldn't make sauce myself - being Italian and all. But we found this spicy red pepper sauce from Classico that's yummy, we doctor it up with a mix of spices and away we go.

But since there wasn't any pre-made sauce to be hand, we had to ge by in a pinch. I did have a can of diced tomatoes with basil in the cupboard, and a can of tomato paste, so I made my own. The hubby was a bit skeptical, to say the least, but it turned out delish! Here's basically what I did...sometimes when I cook I just toss things in and don't measure.

Quick Pasta Sauce
(Source: me!)

1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 C diced white onion
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
1 tsp (approximate) Italian seasoning
salt, pepper, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, hot pepper flakes - to taste
1/4 C cabernet sauvignon (wine makes everything just a little bit better)

Sautee onion and garlic in cooking spray. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, spices to taste, and wine. Let simmer for until thickened (approx 15 minutes).

We had the sauce over multigrain pasta, topped with grilled shimp seasoned with cajun seasoning, salt and pepper.

Thinkin' Pink with Steely McBeam

So my fraternity's Alumnae group (Zeta Tau Alpha, Steel City Chapter) does an annual event at Heinz Field where we distribute pink ribbons before a Steelers home game. This year, the Steelers organization really helped us to promote the event, and put a blurb about us on their game day info email that they send out to the fans as well as hooking us up with the local radio station during their pre-game broadcast to promote the event. Woo hoo! So I made my radio debut on Sunday.

We handed out nearly 6K pink ribbons to fans around the stadium and collected $90 in random donations that will go to our BC awareness programs nation-wide (our primary purpose is simply to hand out ribbons to support for breast cancer education and awareness - people just kept giving us money!) We also got a picture with Steely McBeam. I have reallllly mixed feelings about Steely...Pittsburgh in no way shape or form needs a mascot. Since this is the Steelers 75th season, they ran a content to name the guy. Let's just say that Steely is NOT a popular addition with the vast majority of Steelers fans - myself included. But since he had a pink ribbon on, a photo op couldn't be passed up!

A Visit From My Parents

Wow, it's been so long since I had some time to do some blogging! Now I'm playing catch-up....

My parents came in for the afternoon from Johnstown last Saturday to have lunch. We haven't seen them since the wedding over two months ago, so it was nice to catch up for a little bit.

For lunch I made a yummy breaded pork chop recipe that I tried a couple of weeks ago from Eating Well magazine. The original recipe called for a pork tenerloin, trimmed into cutlets. I used chops instead. It was definitely a keeper! I had that along with some roasted red potatoes (just halved, mixed with EVOO, salt, pepper and garlic and roasted), and a tomato/zucchini gratin (from the Food Network) and baby spinach salad. For dessert we had pear pie served with some vanilla cool whip.

Golden Baked Pork Cutlets
Source: Eating Well Magazine

1 lb pork tenderlion, trimmed
1/2 C dry breadcrumbs
1 t sugar
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t salt
4 tsp canola oil (I used EVOO)
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
4 tsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut tenderloin into 4 long thin "fillets" (hold chef's knife at 45 degree angle and perpendicular to the tenderloin)

Mix breadcrumbs, sugar, paprika, onion powder and salt in a shallow dish. Drizzle with oil and mash with a fork until the oil is thoroughly incorporated. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in another shallow dish. Sprinkle cornstarch over the pork slices and pat to coat evenly on both sides. Dip the pork into the egg, then press into the breading mixture until evenly coated on both sides. (discard leftover egg and breading mixture)

Place pork on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until just barely pink in the center and an instant read thermometer registers 145 degrees, about 14-16 minutes.

Tomato and Zucchini Gratin
(Source: Emeril Lagasse,

1 pound Creole or beefsteak tomatoes, 1/4-inch slices
1 pound zucchini, 1/4-inch slices (I used zucchini and yellow squash)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped mild herbs (basil, chervil, tarragon, etc.)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Salt and pepper
Garnish: parsley, Essence

Preheat the oven 400 degrees. Lightly grease four individual gratin dishes with olive oil. Season each slice of the tomatoes and zucchini with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. In a small mixing bowl, combine the bread crumbs, herbs, cheese and remaining olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Season the bread crumbs with salt and pepper. Alternate layers of the tomatoes and zucchini in each gratin dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top the vegetables. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Garnish with parsley and Essence.

**I also had some cippoline onions that I sliced up and layered with the veggies. Overall the dish was 'ok'. I personally didn't think it had a lot of flavor, but everyone really liked it.

Monday, September 17, 2007


I had some very ripe bananas on the kitchen table that I really needed to do something with. I decided to try a recipe for Banana Crunch Muffins, which I got off the a Weight Watchers message board that had been in my "must try" pile of recipes for a long time. They were good...not great...but good enough to be a nice subsitution for breakfast this week in place of my usual Kashi granola bars. Maybe next time I'll doctor up the recipe a little and add some raisins, bran and some almonds to it to give them a little more oomph.

Banana Crunch Muffins
Source: message board
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup Kashi GOLEAN crunch cereal
½ cup splenda
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large bananas, mashed
½ cup skim milk
¼ cup egg beaters
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients In a large bowl, combine all of the wet ingredient. Stir into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Pear Pie

Yum! Wow, I'm not a baked fruit person, but I had an urge to bake today (something about the cooler fall-like weather that we are having this weekend) so I found this recipe on

My father-in-law's birthday was today and we had him and my mother-in-law over for lunch. We made some of his favorites, grilled marinated veggies and grilled salmon and baked potatoes and brought out the pie for dessert. Norm was more than a little skeptical about the pie. In his words, "Ew that doesn't sound good." But he was the first to say how good it was! His parents even took the rest of the pie (except for a piece that I saved for Norm and me). This recipe is a keeper!!!

I made some adjustments to the original recipe, per recommendations from the Web site. Here's my adjusted recipe:

Source: (Pear Pie III)
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
4 pears - peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup white sugar (or 1/4 cup splenda blend for baking)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon almond extract
2 eggs, beaten
Dash of ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Press the pie pastry into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie plate. Flute the edges. Place the pear slices in the pie crust with the small ends toward the center. Layer additional pieces on top, after you've finished the first layer.
3. In a medium bowl, mix the butter and sugars together until smooth, then beat in the eggs one at a time until light and fluffy. Stir in flour and extracts. Pour over the top of the pears.
4. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, until pears are soft and custard is set in the center. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Start...

Woo hoo!
My first adventure in the world of the blog = )

What's to come...some recipes (who doesn't love food, right?), some samples of my craftiness, (lol, I fancy myself a creative person), some thoughts and some general "stuff" from our lives in good old Pittsburgh, PA.
A little about me...
I live in Pittsburgh with my husband, Norm, and our crazy cat, Dallas (aka The Gatto). We just got married in July and I'm going thru some serious wedding planning frenzy withdrawl. I did a ton of DIY project for the wedding...everything from wedding invitations, programs, favors and placecareds to rehearsal dinner invites and out-of-town welcome bags for our wedding guests. I loved it! It really gave me a creative outlet - something I thoroughly enjoy, but also something that I do NOT have in my profession. So now that the wedding is over, I'm hoping to keep my creative streak going with new projects at home (scrapbooking, cardmaking and other crafty goodies) and some culinary adventures in the kitchen!
Norm and I both love to cook. You'll often find us at meal time cooking side by side, whipping up delicious dishes. I get a kick out of finding new recipes to try and challenged my making things as healthy as possible to fit in with our healthy eating plan. I'm luck to have a guy that lets me experiment in the kitchen and doesn't complain (much) about the ever-growing stack of cookbooks on the bookshelf = )