holiday leftovers part 3

Remember when I said my family always makes WAYYYY too much food?! Well, it's so true. One year I found myself making dinner for 18 when I was only serving 6 people. I had a mountain of leftover mashed potatoes and after 4 nights in a row of reheating the leftovers, I had enough leftover mashed for a lifetime. Ok, lets be real, more like a few weeks but you get my point... I found myself with a ton of mashed potatoes and I couldn't even think about eating anymore. That's when it hit me. GNOCCHI made from the leftover mashed potatoes. Something that felt completely different from the original dish but used up the remaining leftovers. If you, like me, find yourself with an excess of mashed potatoes and don't fee like reheating them, you have to try this. Leftover mashed potatoes are always so dry and gross anyway. 

This is the type of recipe that will vary depending on how you make your mashed potatoes. Use it as a guide but know that you might have to adjust the amount of flower depending on how wet or dry your leftover potatoes are. There's nothing worse than a super gummy or heavy gnocchi. 

gnocchi from leftover mashed potatoes
makes about 180 gnocchi (enough for 4 generous servings)

2 c. leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ c. flour (more or less depending on consistency)
¼ c. grated parmesan
salt to taste

Start by sprinkling a large work space with a dusting of flour. If there are any beads of water surrounding your leftover mashed potatoes, pat them dry with a paper towel. Put your leftover mashed potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill, letting the pieces fall in a thin, rectangular shape in the middle of your work space. This will remove any lumps and skin that might have been in the mashed potatoes and will fluff them up resulting in a lighter gnocchi. If you don't have one of these, just do your best to fluff it with a fork. You'll sacrifice texture a little bit but it will still turn out. Pour your beaten egg over the mashed potatoes & sprinkle with 1 c. of the flour to start & the parmesan cheese + salt. Depending on how wet or dry your potatoes are, the amount of flour you'll need will vary.

Start to mix the dough together with your hands like you would any bread or pasta. Be gentle but make sure it's well incorporated. Sprinkle with more flour, as needed until the dough comes together and isn't too sticky to the touch. It shouldn't feel too fragile (like it won't stick together) but it definitely shouldn't be tough. It will be slightly elastic as you're kneading it. When the dough is the right consistency, divide it into 4 equal parts. Roll each section into a long, thin snake. Cut about 1 cm thick pieces. This will become your little gnocchi. On the back of a fork, gently roll the dough, creating little ridges in the gnocchi. This is an important step because this is what makes the pasta stick to the dumpling! Toss onto a lightly floured baking sheet and repeat. Turn up the Beyonce and get in your zone... if you're into that sort of thing.

In a large pot of boiling water, toss about 20 gnocchi in at a time. You'll know they're done when the rise to the surface. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or into a pan with your favorite sauce. Keep cooking them a few at a time until you've made your way through the batch. If you're not ready to make the gnocchi, you can freeze them uncooked on a baking sheet for a few hours. You can then transfer them into a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Or you can cook them and lightly toss them in olive oil to keep them from sticking. This will make the sauce not stick to them as well but it will work just fine if you're feeling a strong urge to cook them immediately. 

improv style:
you can make these with leftover roasted potatoes or even roasted sweet potatoes. you could even add in some roasted garlic for a twist on flavor. 

i like to serve them with all sorts of different sauces. i did a vodka sauce with mascarpone but brown butter and sage, fresh pesto, or even baked with alfredo sauce are all great ways to do it. 


holiday leftovers part 2

Stop everything you're doing and make this recipe, like NOW. It's that good.

One can never have enough bread, right?! Until you have too much bread and it goes stale. This happens to me all the time. In my family we live by one motto… NEVER, and I mean never leave people wanting more. I get this from my mamma who doesn't know how to cook for anything less than what she calls an army. This usually means that we have tons of leftovers and yes, tons of leftover bread which gets stale quickly. I just so happen to know the best way to put that stale bread to good use and I'm not talking about being wasteful and throwing it in the trash…

Bread pudding has a special place in my heart. My sister and I usually go on a date to a local brewery to catch up every now and then. It started when I was in college and she missed me and has continued through the years now that I live in another state. When she met my now husband for the first time, my family took him to that restaurant. She raved to him about how great the bread pudding was (which it is). She ordered one for herself and when he asked to share it with her, she said no way, get your own! Hahaha, love my family and our healthy appetites. Long story short, the bread pudding easily leaves 4 adults happy and satisfied. She'll never live it down! 

In my family, we LOVE bread pudding. So much so that when I got married in September, we served bread pudding instead of cake at our wedding. When I bought 1 too many loaves of bread for a holiday get together I knew exactly what I was going to do with that leftover loaf - re-create the bread pudding we served at our wedding. You know the saying that food tastes better when it's cooked with love?! This is by far THE BEST bread pudding I've ever had or made. I'll stop talking now and let you get into it...

The Apple State Meets the Big Apple Bread Pudding with Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce
adapted from the gilded fork
yields 10 - 12 healthy servings

ingredients for the bread pudding:
4 honey crisp apples, peeled cored & diced
¼ c. butter
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp salt
c. brown sugar

1 loaf bread (brioche, challah or country white), in 1" cubes ~8 c. 
1½ c. whole milk
1½ c. heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c. sugar
½ c. brown sugar
4 eggs + 3 egg yolks
1 c. almond slices

caramel can be made up to a week in advance. Otherwise, make it while the bread pudding bakes!

To make the bread pudding: 
Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Cut bread into 1" cubes and lay out on a baking sheet. Slightly toast the bread in the oven if it's not stale already. This will help it absorb the custard better. Pull out and let them cool while you do the rest…

In a medium sized skillet, cook apples, butter, vanilla bean split length wise with the seeds scraped into the pot, salt and the brown sugar. You want the sugar to dissolve and the apple juices to get nice and thick. This will take about 15 - 20 min.

While the apples cook, heat the milk & heavy cream in a medium sized sauce pan. You want to bring it to a soft boil and then shut the heat off. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, salt & extract together. Slowly ladle a small amount of the cream into the egg mixture to temper it. You want to incorporate the hot cream into the egg mixture so that the eggs thicken but don't cook. Slowly while whisking, drizzle in the remaining cream. Add in ½ c. of the almond slicess and your slightly toasted bread cubes to the bowl. Give it a good, aggressive stir for about 2 - 3 minutes. You want all of the cubes coated in the custard mixture and you want to break up some of the cubes. I've found this is what gives you the good bread pudding texture. Let mixture sit for 30 - 60 minutes until it fully absorbs the custard into the bread.

Butter or non-stick spray a 9x9 baking dish. Dump bread pudding mixture into dish, smushing (totally an official word) the mixture into the pan so it all fits. If you don't have a 9x9, you can use a smaller pan and put the extra mixture into individual ramekins or bake it in two smaller dishes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining ½ c. almond slices. Bake for about 45 minutes until it's slightly puffed and golden brown on top.

Serve warm with caramel sauce on top OR, chill in the refrigerator 4 hours and serve cold with caramel sauce. It's good both ways. So, so good. 

improv style:
bread pudding is essentially a blank canvas. the only things you need are the custard & bread. all the extras (i.e. spices, apples, nuts…) are just the flavor components. i did almond apple but you could do apple + pecan with a bit of rum. OR you could do dried fruits rehydrated in liquor or juice. pick your favorites… pear with some orange zest and walnuts or maybe dried cherries and chocolate chunks is more your fancy. any way you role, just make sure you keep the ratios for the liquid and dry fairly similar to this base. egg nog instead of the whole milk would be a really fun and festive interpretation. ooh, ooh... do that with rum! hello holiday leftovers being put to REALLY good use!

if you want to keep the same flavors but don't have almond extract, you could do amaretto in it's place. any kind of baking apple will work, granny smith, braeburn, gala fuji or empire. play with spices and zests... there's so many ways to completely change the flavor! lemon, orange or grapefruit zest is a great place to start. cinnamon is standard but what about star anise or cardamom for an indian inspired flavor?! steeping your cream with tea would be another way to infuse a different flavor into the bread pudding. the options are endless!!

have a bunch of leftover dinner rolls? as long as they're not savory in the sense of garlic or have weird toppings baked into it, you can use the bread! If it's a crustier bread you might need more of the custard base to soften it up. 

you can serve it with a caramel sauce, maybe add rum instead of bourbon? or maybe a creme anglaise is more your fancy? either way, there's so many things you can top it with... like ice cream or whipped cream!


holiday leftovers part 1

The holidays are in FULL swing and I couldn't be more excited about it. It's a great excuse to get together with friends, family and everyone who's special in your life. Holidays come with a lot of excess and leftovers. Which in my book is an exciting thing because it means I get experimental in my kitchen on new ways to improvise dishes. This week I'm going to share a few ideas of things you can do with all those random leftovers in the house. 

First up, a winter sangria. Nothing is more festive than a holiday cocktail, amiright?! I'm a huge fan of sangria so this drink is inspired by the Spanish classic. 

Is it just my family or do you guys buy a bag of fresh cranberries every year and forget about it in the back of the refrigerator?! This happens without fail EVERY year. I decided to put those bad boys to good use since once again, they were forgotten about. I always like to have a bottle of Martinelli's Sparkling cider for the kiddos but that usually leaves me with an almost full bottle of cider at the end of the night - they just don't drink that much… or maybe they're too little to drink that much. Either way, I made it work in my favor! That plus leftover wine from the evening come together to make this super simple sangria. Leftover rosemary from that roasted turkey?! Yep, we're using everything here! Who's thirsty?

Winter Sangria
Yields 4 servings**

1 c. fresh cranberries
2 - 3 TBSP rosemary simple syrup
1 c. sparkling cider
2 c. white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc are my favs)
1 honey crisp apple, sliced or diced

rosemary simple syrup:
¼ c. water
¼ c. sugar 
3" piece of rosemary

To make the simple syrup:
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and cook over medium high heat until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool. This can be made a week in advance. Just put in a mason jar or tupperware container and into the fridge it goes! I like to leave the rosemary in it to continue flavoring the syrup but also so I know what the heck it is in my refrigerator!

Cocktail assembly:
Place your cranberries on a baking sheet in a flat layer in the freezer. We'll use those instead of ice cubes so we don't water down our cocktail. Nothing worse than a watery cocktail!

Mix all ingredients (minus the cranberries) together in a pitcher and let it sit for 30 min in the fridge for the mixture to get happy. When you're ready to serve, add in the cranberries and fill your glass. Cheers to the holidays!

**Sounds yummy but you want to make a full batch?! Here's the quantities:
2 c. fresh cranberries
¼ c. TBSP rosemary simple syrup
2 c. sparkling cider
1 bottle. white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc are my favs)
2 honey crisp apples, sliced or diced
rosemary for garnish

improv style:
this drink pairs really well with any roasted meat. especially turkey and chicken. the subtle rosemary flavor is really refreshing. if it scares you, go ahead and leave it out. Like the idea of herbs but don't have any rosemary? thyme would be the next best herb to use. basil works too but i prefer to save that for my blueberry basil fizzes

don't have sparkling cider? you could totally use regular apple cider. in fact, i think i'd probably prefer it that way! not a fan of cider? try using cranberry or white cranberry juice instead. that would be super tasty!

can't find fresh or frozen cranberries? no worries. you can do pomegranate seeds instead. you'll still get that beautiful pop of red color and they're fun to crunch on too. actually, adding them in with the cranberries would be good too! get crazy, it's the holidays! 

no honey crisp apples at the store?! DAMN! they're the best, but that's ok. you can use ANY apple you have on hand. seriously, they're going to get boozy and really are mostly there for the crunchy freshness. 

not a fan of pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc? use what you like to drink! moscato or reisling would be just fine. it would also be super sweet… so if you're into that, do it! chardonnay is ok but not my favorite pairing for this drink. again, if you only like chardonnay, do it. life is too short!

happy holidays!