Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Lunch – MacGyver Style

In Beans, Quick Meal, Rice, Vegetables on January 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Being away from home really makes me appreciate my kitchen.  Not only do I know where everything is, but there is always something I can whip up in a flash.  However, sometimes I find myself away for the weekend, scrounging around in my host’s kitchen or on a hotel menu to find something other than sliced bread to eat.  Such was this case this past weekend.  My host will surely be reading this post, so I will do my best to objectively describe the situation.

The night before, I had used up all the veggies bought for me to roast as a side dish.  Eggplant, zucchini, peppers.  They were really delicious.  But not delicious enough to eat 3 times a day as my source of produce.  After making an omelet that morning using the leftovers, I had to think about what I would eat for lunch.  I knew I was about to go for a run, and I wanted to make sure when I got back I could eat something as soon as I finished stretching.  There weren’t any other fresh vegetables left that I could see, so I searched the pantry.  At first glimpse all I found was sugar cereal, white pasta, tuna, non-vegetarian soups, and so on.  Typical pantry items, but none that I could eat.  After some rearranging, I found and pulled out some brown rice, artichoke hearts, and chickpeas.  Not bad.  I also looked in the fridge and found some parsley and sundried tomatoes.  On another counter I found a fresh tomato and a shallot.  Okay, time to get started.

I wasn’t sure if there was a rice cooker, so I had to cook the rice the old fashioned way. 1 cup of rice, 2.25 cups water, and a sprinkler of salt.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat as low as possible, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.  That is a lot of time, plus you’re supposed to let it sit another 5-10 minutes before eating.

I was going to saute the vegetables in spices and add the peas, but I thought it would make more sense to just create a chickpea salad.  I began by mincing the shallot.

Then I diced up the fresh tomato.  Juicy.

Then I minced up some parsley.  Grassy.

I opened up the can of artichoke hearts, draining them in a mesh strainer and rinsing with water to rid of the extra sodium added in the canning process.  Then I chopped them up to add with the previous ingredients to a tupperware container.

I rinsed and patted some sundried tomato with a paper towel to rid the product of excess oil and salt.  I usually would use the kind not packed in oil, but I made due with what was available.

The last can to open was the chickpeas.  I drained and rinsed them very well, and then added to the container.

As you can see, the container was pretty packed.  I wanted to dress the salad some, but it would be very difficult to accomplish like this.  As a result, I made another dish dirty by pouring the ingredients into a metal mixing bowl.

I added some onion and garlic powder, as well as some oregano, lots of pepper, and a smidge of sea salt.  I also added about 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar.

I mixed everything up and spooned the mixture back into the container.  I love all the bright, pretty colors!

When the rice was done, I let it sit while I suited up for my run.

I let everything hang out at room temp while I was gone.  I came back, stretched, and remembered to take a picture of my plate before I inhaled.

As I stood and took a bite, both my dog and the dog living there approached me for scraps, but I’m not a sucker.

I was pleasantly surprised by my MacGyver cooking skills.  It took some creativity, but I was able to make a yummy, nutritious lunch that rendered leftovers for the rest of my stay.  Hooray!

What are some recipes you’ve created, MacGyver style?


Another Soup – Hope You’ve Stocked-up on Stock!

In Beans, Bread, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegetables on January 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I had originally planned to make three separate dishes for this meal: a bean dish, a greens dish, and a veggie dish.  I had soaked some white beans earlier in the day and figured I’d experiment with them.  However, I came back from a really hard workout and was so exhausted that I could barely even conjure up the mental energy to try something brand-spanking new.  As a result, I opted to make a soup with the beans.  Genius.

After soaking, draining, and rinsing the white beans, I added them to a pot with enough water to cover and added some dried bay leaves.  I set the pot on a high flame until it boiled, producing A LOT of foam.  I always capitalize A LOT because my 9th Grade English teacher started her first day of class writing those words out – “A” on the far left black board and “LOT” on the far right blackboard.  Obviously, her job was well done.

After 5 minutes, I lowered the heat, covered, and let it simmer.  I had some butternut squash, so I decided to use half of one for this recipe.  Normally I’d peel and cube squash for a soup, but since I had to wait about 30ish minutes for the beans to cook, I figured I’d multitask and roast the veg.

I scooped out the seeds and placed the squash flesh side down on a cooking spray covered baking tray.  I let it roast for about 25 minutes.  It came out all caramelized and yummy looking.

Once it was cool enough to handle, I cut up the flesh into cubes and scooped out with a spoon.  (Actually, it wasn’t really cool enough, so I used an oven mitt, which in turn created more laundry).

When the beans were done and tender, they looked like this.

I had made more than needed for this soup, so I put aside all but 2 cups into individual freezer bags for another day.

I chopped up about 1/2 of a large white onion and sauteed in 2 tsp EVOO until translucent, then added a couple cloves of garlic.

Then I added the squash and beans, and stirred around for another minute.

I added a quart of vegetable stock, and then chopped up some purple kale to add to the pot.

I mixed everything up, and then added some sage, marjoram, salt, and pepper, and let the soup simmer for 5 minutes.

To accompany this dish, I made some garlic toast for Nick.  He had some leftover Italian bread from ordering in over the weekend, so I sliced the pieces in half and brushed with some EVOO and sprinkled with salt.

After toasting in the toaster over, I took a smashed clove or garlic and rubbed it on the hot bread.  It tastes just like garlic bread but without having all the nitty gritty pieces on your loaf.

At this point, the soup was thick, warm, and the kale was soft enough.

I served Nick his bowl with garlic toast.  Mmmmmmmm.

I poured myself a couple of ladles, and painfully sat down to eat.  Warning, doing squats and lunges after not doing any in 3 weeks will make it very difficult to sit and get up from your seat.

The next day, I was preparing my lunch and snacks for work.  I filled a container with this same soup, and I watched Rachael Ray for a bit.  Guess what?  You know what she made that day, nearly 15 hours after I made dinner?  A vegetable chowder that had white beans, butternut squash, onions, and kale.  I was like “oh no, she didn’t!”  But then I continued to watch, and see that she made a bechemel sauce to thicken hers up.  Okay, slightly different, but still.  I made practically the same thing with my own creative genius as Rachael Ray, who gets paid millions of dollars to be on daytime TV and look perky and cook food.  If you are reading this, and want to pay me millions to do the same, I am available.  Only I won’t say Yum-oh.

Chili Sin Carne

In Beans, Lentils, Mexican, Rice, Saving Money, Vegetables on January 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I’ve written previously about my love/hate relationship with Hale & Hearty (“H&H”).  They make some pretty tasty, relatively healthy soups with clean ingredients.  My go-to lunch in my corporate ladder days was either Tuscan white bean soup with spinach, or 3 lentil chili.  The latter was by far the best vegetarian chili I’d ever had, aside from the version I’d eaten as a young child at this small vegetarian coffee shop called The Smile in Queens.  Like I’d mentioned before, the H&H version of chili can be quite costly.  Even if you buy the large quart sold in grocery stores (which I never did during those days), it’s still $2 a cup.  One day, I actually looked at the ingredients on the container.  They all seemed like pretty standard ingredients, and similar to my chili con carne recipe of meat-eating past.  I opted to tweak my version to match theirs, and it came out really well – I’d say about 95% spot on.  And cost half as much as their cheapest option.

Last week, I decided to revisit this recipe (along with some additions I wanted to play with) for a Thursday night dinner.  I gathered all the ingredients (pictured above).  The only problem was that when I went to gather all three of those lentils varieties, I was left with only  standard green lentils.  I’m usually pretty good with replacing bulk bin items, but I suppose I hadn’t visited the section since my last few lentil recipes?  Or perhaps it was super busy at Fairway and I just didn’t visit the section?  Whatever the reason, I had to find a suitable substitute.

Luckily, I had made some pinto beans some time ago and had frozen the leftovers.  I soaked them in water to defrost while I prepared all the other ingredients.  First, I started chopping up all the veggies: onions, carrots, pepper (all from the original recipe), and zucchini and summer squash (which I had in the fridge and used to bulk up this chili).

I added them to a heavy pot with 1 tbsp evoo, and let them cook at a medium-high heat for 10 minutes covered, making sure to stir every few minutes.  Then I measured out some spices: cumin, marjoram (because I was out of oregano), ancho chili powder, and regular chili powder.

I also washed, rinsed, and dried the lentil so that they’d be dry when it was ready for them to join the pot.

Another preparation was to dice up some chipotle in adobo.  Chipotle are smoked jalapeno peppers, and are super tasty!  You buy them in a small can, and usually only need 1 of them.  I will open a can, and freeze the remainder for another day, just like today!

I slice off a section, and then mince it up to add to the pot later.

10 minutes have passed, and the veggies are tender enough.  Now it was time to add the spices, and cook them into the veggies for about a minute or two.

Then I raised the flame to high and added those lentil, stirring for about 2 more minutes.

At this point, there are a lot of brown bits stuck to the pot.  Time to deglaze!  Normally I would just add water and canned tomatoes, but in the H&H recipe, they listed sherry cooking wine, so I used this opportunity to incorporate that into my version.  I added 1/2 a cup, making sure to scrape the pot really well.

After another minute or so, the alcohol had cooked out, so it was time to add the other liquid ingredients.  I had half a carton of vegetable broth, because I had already used half to make some brown rice, so I added that to the pot.  I also used a large can of san marzano crushed tomatoes, some water, and the diced chipotle pepper.  Salt and pepper were added as well.

I cooked the veggie/lentil/liquid mixture slightly covered for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to make sure nothing stuck to the bottom.  It became really thick and saturated.  Mmmmm.

Then I added the defrosted pinto beans, and cooked for another 15-20 minutes.

While that cooked away, I shredded some lowfat Monterey Jack cheese for garnish.  I also wanted to use avocado, but when I cut it open, there was mold INSIDE the flesh.  I had never seen that before!  Usually I don’t buy organic avocados, because they are less susceptible to contamination than other produce.  However, this time I did and it was a mistake!

The chili was ready, and it looked and smelled so yummy!

Then came time for assembly!  I lined a bowl with brown rice for Nick, creating a well for the chili.

I added a couple of ladels of the chili, and sprinkled some cheese.  EXTREME CLOSE-UP.

Non-extreme close-up.

Instead of using a bed of rice, I opted for a bed of baby spinach.

Veggie super powers, unite!

Although I was sad about the lack of aguacate creaminess, I was still very pleased with this chili rendition.  Not only did I have it for lunch the next day, but I had 4 more portions left to add to the freezer.  I love having leftovers in the freezer, because it really makes my lunch making process a hell of a lot easier on a Monday after a non-cooking weekend.

What are your favorite soups or stews to freeze?

My So-Called Cleanse

In Challenge, Fruit, Quinoa, Salad, Sweet Potato, Vegetables on January 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Every winter, I usual pack on an extra 5 pounds.  I’m totally fine with that.  This year, however, it was not even half-way through January and I was closely approaching that benchmark.  To prevent a record-breaking hibernation heftiness, I decided to get a jump start on a Spring slim down.  I really wanted to start with a clean slate, so I opted to revisit a cleanse I’d read about on the Vegan Fusion Blog.  It seemed like a rather manageable endeavor, considering all the solid foods allowed and no harsh powders or shakes.  The image above depicts the preparation for my attempt.

Day 1 was pretty easy.  I was allowed to eat quinoa and baked sweet potato, as well as fruit and steamed or raw veggies.  For breakfast, I had quinoa with sea salt, lime juice, a smidge evoo, diced apple, and grapefruit.  It was actually very refreshing and a nice change from my normal oatmeal.

For lunch, I had a large salad.  I started with my small diced veggies: tomato, cucumber, pepper, and avocado.

After squeezing some lime juice and salt on the first set of ingredients, I added all the leafy things: baby arugula mix, purple kale, and broccoli sprouts.

That is how I always prepare a salad for lunch:  chopped/wet ingredients with dressing, topped with the leafy bits.  It prevents the salad from getting soggy come lunch time.

Once I was ready for lunch, I shook the container with the lid on until everything was mixed up.  I paired the salad with a side of quinoa (no picture of the side).

For an afternoon snack, I had some leftover pureed squash soup I made earlier in the week.  I’m not sure if it fit the guidelines, but I figured for the first day it would be fine.

Once I left work, I still felt pretty good, so I kept my reservation for 5:50 PM yoga.  I think it actually helped with the detoxifying process!  Knowing that I’d be coming home a little later, I prepared some sweet potato and eggplant on an oiled and salted roasted pan to be baked in the oven while I was in class (thanks Nick for helping out :)).  They cooked at a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes on each side.

Then I came home, and it was dinner time.  Nick was definitely not on board with eating just steamed veggies for dinner, so I had to supplement his plate with some chicken.  The quickest method was to do a thin-sliced cutlet chopped in to pieces and sauteed with onion, garlic, and oil.  First I chopped the aromatics.

I added the chicken pieces (sprinkled with salt and pepper) to the oiled saute pan.  After a few minutes, I flipped and added the onion and garlic.  I lowered the heat, covered, and let it hang out while I sliced up and steamed some zucchini and yellow squash.

At that point, the eggplant was cool enough to handle.  I originally wanted to do a babaganouj style eggplant, but then I wasn’t sure if my tahini would fit the cleanse bill.  Instead, we just had cut up roasted eggplant.

I filled my plate with the eggplant, sweet potato, and squash.  The plate looked really pretty.

I ended the day feeling light and refreshed, which was a nice change from the heaviness I had recently been feeling.

Then came Day 2.

Day 2 was Raw day.  This meant only raw veggies and fruits and fresh juices.  I had done raw before, but with some nuts and sprouted grains.  Just produce was definitely a challenge.  I started the day with a beautiful fruit salad: half of a honeycrisp apple, half of a bosc pear, half of a grapefruit, half of a banana, and half a cup of blueberries.

All those halves added up to a whole lot of fruit and sugar.  It all tasted really good, but within an hour I had a headache from all the sugar and lack of protein.  I drank some detox tea as I anxiously awaited lunch time, where I could eat another large salad with avocado and all those same ingredients as yesterday.  The only difference was swapping romaine for arugula, and adding some extra radicchio.

Another hour later, and I was fading fast.  I could have had another cup of tea, but the smell of it made me really nauseated.  I kept drinking water, and sipped on my afternoon green smoothie (I spared you a picture because it didn’t look very appetizing).  It had blueberry, strawberry, peach, banana, dandelion leaves, and kale.  Dandelion leaves are really good for you, but super bitter, so the fruit helped mask it a smidge.

After work, my in laws wanted to have a drink with us.  I was trying to be a good sport and socialize, sipping on my water.  They ordered the cheese plate, and it was over.  My hubby had to basically airplane a raisin slice with some brie before I fainted.  At first I was so mad at myself – I gave up not even 2 full days in to a 7-day cleanse.  But then thinking about it, the next day was only fruit and the following was only juice.  If I was feeling this awful on fruits and veggies, imagine how I’d feel just on juice?

The lesson I learned from this experience was that there’s no miracle fix.  I’d have to just go back to clean eating and slowly reap the benefits of solid good foods, ones that actually contained protein, complex carbs, texture, and flavor.  Another lesson I learned is that this cleanse severely weakened my immune system.  Not 2 days later I was sick with a cold, which altered my appetite and prevented me from engaging in any physical activity.  Coincidence?

Guess it’s back to square one.  More cooked food posts and pictures to follow.  Yay!

Soup, Salad, and No Breadsticks

In American, Beans, Salad, Soup, Vegetables on January 18, 2012 at 11:08 pm

If any of you have every been to the Olive Garden, you know that the only self-respecting menu decision is the soup, salad, and breadsticks option.  Although the breadsticks are amazingly warm, garlicky, and oily, they can certainly pile on the calories to a seemingly healthy lunch.  But hey, it’s still better than whatever meat and cheese stuffed pasta topped with cream sauce lies on the other side of the page.

This post is not about the Olive Garden, nor is it about Italian cuisine (if you could dare to even place the former and latter in the same sentence).  This is just a simple way to grab your attention as I unveil another winter dinner of soup and salad.  Trust me, you won’t regret the transition.

One of Nick’s favorite soups is broccoli cheddar.  My version is a little different than a typical cup you’d get at Subway or Hale & Hearty.  For one, I don’t use any milk or cream.  Another difference is my use of low fat cheese and vegetable broth, instead of full fat and chicken broth.  Mine may not be as rich, but it certainly is as flavorful, and even more delicious.  Especially since it’s light enough to stomach more than 2 spoonfuls.  Like any good soup, I start out with a mirepoix of carrot, celery, and onion.

The next step, which is probably the most critical, is to chop up both the stems and florets of a large bunch of broccoli.  Normally stems are thrown away, but they contain a lot of nutrients and strong flavors which enhance the quality of the soup.

After adding the broccoli to the pot, I poured in a quart of vegetable broth and a quart of water.

To thicken up the soup, I added some defrosted chickpeas (leftover from when I made falafel).

I let the soup get to a boil, then reduced to a simmer and covered to cook for about 20 minutes.  During that time I prepared a simple salad of tomato, cucumber, pepper, celery, and avocado.

Then I added in some chopped romaine, and mixed everything up with fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder.

The last ingredient in the soup was cheddar cheese.  I grated 2 ounces of low fat organic cheddar to sprinkle in before turning the burner off.

The cheese turns the soup into a more yellowish green color.

The final step was to blend the soup with an emersion blender.

When everything was blended to a smooth consistency, yet still speckled with broccoli pieces, soup was on!

Usually broccoli cheddar is white or cream hued, probably because of the white milk or cream cream that is often added.  Since my version used yellowish brown vegetable broth, it rendered a yellowish-brown soup.  I know, shocking.  What was even more shocking was just how delicious this soup could be without all the added fat and calories.  With all those savings, you could have another bowl.  Or a breadstick.  Your choice.

What are some of your calorie and fat saving tips?

Black Eyed Peas Masala

In Beans, Couscous, Indian, Quick Meal, Vegetables on January 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I really love Indian food.  My affair with this cuisine began in college.  Before Junior year, my experiences were limited to eating stocked up Amy’s frozen entrees.  Then I was introduced to a guy at a party through a mutual friend who was obsessed with Indian food.  He told me in Albany there were three places that had all you can eat lunch buffets, ranging from $5.95 during the week to $6.95 on the weekend.  After a drunken Saturday night, I woke up on Sunday and took him up on his offer to check out one of these buffets.  I know it sounds cliche, but it definitely was love at first bite (the food, not the dude).

I think what was most appealing to me about Indian food was its exoticness – not only in ingredients, but in methods of preparation.  It took me years to build up the courage to experiment in my own kitchen.  I started with a few recipes, stocking up on some essential spices, and then I was able to create  my own flavor profiles in the style of this category.

I’m sure there’s an actual Indian word for Black Eyed Peas, but I’m not sure what it is.  I hardly ever cook these peas, but I bought some in the dried bulk section to force myself to experiment.  Since they are related to chickpeas, I thought a good way to incorporate them into my repertoire is to replace them for chickpeas in a recipe I’ve made before.  One of my favorite chickpea dishes is chana masala, which is a spicy, slightly saucy dish found on many Indian menus.  Paired with a variety a veggies, this is the type of meal I dream of every time I’m hung over.  The original recipe I used was from Smitten Kitchen, so you can follow along there for exact measurements.

Before I prepared the masala, I cut up an acorn squash that I had on hand as a side dish.  I sliced it in half, then into crescents, and spread on a baking sheet covered with EVOO spray.  I sprinkled salt, pepper, and cinnamon on both sides, and let roast in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes on each side.


While that roasted, I chopped up some onion, garlic, and grated some fresh ginger.  I added everything to a lightly oiled sauté pan.


I measured out all of the spices: ground coriander, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, amchoor powder (dried mango found in Indian spice shops), paprika, and garam masala.  I didn’t have any whole cumin seed (as the recipe dictated, so I just added some more ground).  I also didn’t have any green chilis, so I omitted.

I added the spices to the onion mixture, and cooked them out while I diced up some tomatoes.


I added the tomatoes to the pan, and cooked a few minutes more.

Then it was time to add some water and the black eyed peas, which I had soaked the night before and cooked earlier in the day.

I let the masala hang out while I prepared a second veggie dish.  I had some red swiss chard, and I really wanted to use it.  There’s this restaurant in my neighborhood called Char No. 4, which is a whiskey bar and nouveau-southern style restaurant, and they once had this lemon and garlic chard as a side on their menu.  I’m sure their version had a lot of oil, but I decided to try to make it a lil slimmer.

After chopping up the chard, I warmed up a non-stick pan (which is very useful for low-oil cooking) and added the leaves and some fresh squeezed lemon juice.  I used my handy-dandy lemon and lime squeezer.

Another interesting element to the original recipe was that there was preserved lemon peel pieces mixed into the chard.  I wasn’t sure how to accomplish that exactly, but I figured adding in fresh lemon peel while sautéing could perhaps yield a similar effect.

What was really interesting during this process was the redness of the chard stem dying the lemons to a juicy pink.  It kind of reminded me of pink lemonade, only not as pixie-stick-addictively delish.

I let that finish cooking while I prepared some couscous.  I know that couscous isn’t really Indian, but it’s the quickest pearl shaped grain I could whip up for this meal.  I would have preferred to make brown basmati rice, but it would have taken a much longer time, especially since I didn’t even think about the grain aspect until half way into the preparation.

When everything was done, I plated Nick’s portion.

My plate had no couscous, but more of the veggies 🙂

I thought all of the meal components complemented each other extremely well.  The tartness from the lemon chard goes perfectly with the masala – especially since amchor powder and/or lemon juice are featured flavors in the masala.  The acorn squash provided a nice balance to the plate with its silky texture and subtle yet sweet flavors.  I had the leftovers for lunch the following two days after, so I was definitely a happy camper.

Creating this meal (and now recreating it visually for this blog) really inspires me to try more ethnic cuisines or dishes out of my comfort zone.  The sad part about inspiration it that it is fleeting. Hopefully there’s a glimmer left for a future post :).

What are some dishes you’ve made that are out of your comfort zone?

Happy (Very, Very, Very) Belated New Year!

In Beans, Bread, Dessert, Holiday, Italian, Pasta, Potato, Vegetables on January 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm

It’s still the first half of the month, so I suppose this post can still pass for a New Year’s edition.  I know you all are probably well into considering giving up those resolutions, but here is a reminder of the foods the drove you to go on your January diets.

We had our annual New Year’s Eve party, so the whole week before was super busy preparing the apartment, doing the food shopping, experimenting with drinks, etc.  Hence, the lack in posts the week before, and also the week after (I told myself I get a few days off after working 2 days non-stop cooking for the party).

Every year, we choose a different theme for the party.  This year was an Italian theme.  We got red, white, and green decorations/plates/napkins, made a delicious Italian meal, and served this amazing Italian fruit punch.  It is Giada’s recipe, and everyone loved it so much that I had to make 5 PITCHERS WORTH.  Here’s a snap of the first batch.

For those of you who want to make this recipe, I actually used half the amount of seltzer recommended and substituted with proseco.  I also added maraschino juice because the liqueur I got was clear, and not red.

For the appetizers, we of course had slices of Italian bread, bruschetta crackers, and bread sticks.  Italians love their bread.  We also had an antipasto platter that had prosciutto, salami, fresh mozarrella, parmeggiano reggiano, and pecorino romano.  The pecorino was soooooooo good, and VERY expensive.  But it was really worth it!  There was some roasted red peppers, marinated veggies, and crudités serve with a cannolini bean and roasted garlic dip.  I forgot to take pictures of each step, but here is a photo of the spread.

For those of you curious as to how I made the bean dip, here are the steps.  The night before, I soaked 2 cups of dry cannolini beans.  The next day, I drained and rinsed them, and cooked until tender.

At the same time the beans were cooking, I roasted a whole head of garlic in the oven for an hour.  To prepare the garlic, you stand it up, and slice off about 1/2 a centimeter on top.  Then you place it on a sheet of aluminum foil, and top with some EVOO, and wrap it up tightly.  When the garlic is ready, you have to unwrap the foil to let it cool to the touch.

The other element to the dip is sage.  Sage and cannolini beans are a perfect match!  I used about 6 big sage leaves, pulsing them in a large food processor.  Then, I added the beans and about 1/2 cup of the liquid.  Finally, I grabbed the garlic by the bottom and squeezed out all of the gloves, which had cooked to a paste consistency.   You could also use the roasted garlic as a spread on a sandwich or in mashed potatoes.  Adding some salt, I blended the ingredients in the food processor until smooth.  It was so yummy!

For the main course, we made the gnocchi and chicken dishes from our cooking class.  This time the gnocchi came out so soft and delicious, it was definitely restaurant quality.  We also baked it with some fresh mozzarella for an added special touch.

I also made some sauteed spinach with garlic.  It’s a typical contorno in Italy.  I used very little EVOO (maybe 2 tbsp for 2 lbs of spinach) in a pan with some crushed garlic cloves.  Then I added the spinach, which wilted down to a rich, green, delicious masterpiece.  Everyone was pretty full, so there was plenty leftover for me to use for the week.  I probably had a spinach omelet 4 days last week.  Here’s one of the first.

For dessert, there was tiramisu.  We made a double batch from the last time, only this time we layered the lady fingers and cream in a rectangular tin.  Unfortunately, people were really full and there was a good half of it left.  Looks like the resolution was going to be delayed a few days…