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Ciao! My name is Yolanda and I'd like to welcome you to my Blog! I have always had a love for cooking, baking and eating. This blog is mainly a place for me to record and share precious family recipes from those living and deceased as well as delicious recipes that my friends have given me throughout the years.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi

        Gnocchi's are Italian dumplings.  They can be made in many different ways.  In my mom's village, Carpinone they would make them with either potato or ricotta cheese.  It would depend on what they had available to make them with.  I have stayed in my mom's village in Italy with her and my family for many months at a time and I remember a man in a truck always driving by yelling "POTATO POTATO PER I GNOCCH!" (potatoes, potatoes for gnocchi).  People would stop and get there potatoes for the gnocchi's right there and then would make potato gnocchi.  My Nonno and Nonna (Grandma and Grandpa) had a farm (la massaria) down the hill from thier house.  They raised many animal and would make their own cheeses including fresh ricotta cheese.  My family was not rich so they would use whatever they had in their garden or what they could make with what they had on their farm.  With the ricotta cheese my Nonna, mom and aunts would make ricotta gnocchi's and also add spinach to them to make spinach ricotta gnocchi's or cooked carrot.  These gnocchi's are as delicious as the potato ones, but I prefer them over potato, because they are lighter and not full of carbs as the potato ones are.  
         This year I hosted my first family Christmas Eve dinner and made these because they had green from the spinach and red from the sauce to make Christmas colors! I also made a batch of plain ricotta ones as well to toss in.  I have been making gnocchi's since before I could read! These are any easy pasta to make, trust me and try these at home with your favorite homemade sauce!
Ingredients:
* 2 cups of whole milk ricotta cheese (I like Sorrento, unless you can get a fresh ricotta cheese)
~NOTE: DO NOT USE SKIM RICOTTA! ONLY WHOLE MILK!
* 2 eggs
* 2 tsp. of salt
* 2 cups of all purpose flour
* 1 bag of spinach (1lb)
~NOTE: for plain ricotta gnocchi just omit the spinach (For Chrismas Eve I did one batch spinach and one batch without spinach and tossed them together)
Procedure: Step 1 preparing the spinach
* Open bag of spinach and remove all stems
* Place spinach in colander and rinse
* Toss all spinach in a large pot and put on med high heat
~NOTES: do not add anything to the pot. The spinach makes its own liquid and will cook just fine by itself
* Toss Spinach around with tongs while it cooks
~ NOTE: It looks like a lot of spinach, but it will cook way down!

* One the spinach is fully cooked, place in a colander to drain and then once cool, squeeze out all the liquid.  You will be surprised how much liquid spinach makes and you do not want that liquid in your gnocchi dough.
* Once spinach is all drained, place in a bowl and cut it up in little pieces with a knife and fork.
Procedure: Step 2 making the gnocchi dough
* In a large mixing bowl, put ricotta, eggs, and salt and mix with a wooden spoon or other large spoon
* Add  chopped spinach and mix
 * Add a cup of flour to the mixture and stir and them add the other cup and at this point you will want to mix it up with your hands until you form a dough ball.  It is okay if the mixture is a little sticky.  You will be adding more flour later. Set the dough aside.
Procedure: Step 3 getting work spot ready
* Grab a large wooden cutting board (or if you have a large table that is fine too, but a large board works best)
* put a pile of flour on the corner of the board and sprinkle flour on the rest of the board to prevent sticking.
* Next, get a large cookie sheet and sprinkle it all over with flour (this is where you will place your gnocchi after you cut them.
Procedure: Step 4 making the gnocchi
* Take about a golf ball size piece of the dough and toss it in the flour and then with your palms and fingertips roll them into 1/2 inch ropes.
* Dip a sharp knife into flour and cut the gnocchi into about 1/2 inch pieces.
* Scoop them up with a scraper or a cookie spatula and place into the floured cookie sheet.  Make sure they are separated, or else they will stick together.
~TIP: if you want them to have that fancy gnocchi design, just take a fork and dip it in flour.  Then put the fork sharp side down on the board. take your gnocchi and roll it down the fork.  It will curl and make a pretty design. (It takes a long time, so I only make the design if I am making a small batch.  For a lot of people I don't even bother!)




* Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil
* Once the water is boiling, carefully toss the gnocchi in and let cook for about 6 minutes.  You will know the gnocchi are done, when they are floating to the top.
  As they float to the top, take them out with a slotted spoon and put into a pasta bowl.
* Once they are done, pour sauce over them and serve with some grated cheese on top!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sfinges

       Sfinges are a delicious Sicilian fried dessert made with ricotta cheese.  The outside is crispy and the inside is soft and airy.  They remind me of round sponges.  Sfinges taste best right when you make them and are eaten by dipping them into some honey. I sometimes like to dip them in some syrup as an American twist.  It taste just like a fried waffle that way!
      Ever since I was a little girl, instead of cut out cookies,  it has been a tradition for my grandma (Yolanda) and I to make them every year together during Christmas time or on Christmas day.  This recipe was given to my grandmother from her Aunt Callea and I was lucky enough to have it passed down to me.  It is definitely not Christmas without this dessert around!  This year I made these with my cousin Michelle who would make them with her grandmother as well and we taught my best friend of 24 years Carmen how to make them.  There is nothing better than being in the kitchen with family and friends,  laughing and enjoying good food!
Ingredients:
* 1 lb of whole milk ricotta (I use Sargento)  (DO NOT BUY REDUCED FAT!)
* 2 eggs
* 1 Cup of Siften flour (If you do not own a sifter, then go buy one! They are very inexpensive and you must sift the flour for this recipe)
* 3 TBSP of baking powder (yes I said TBSP, this is what will make the sfinge's get so plump)
* 3 TBSP of sugar
* 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
* a pinch of salt
* Confectioners sugar (to sprinkle on top when done and make pretty!)
* Vegetable oil for deep frying
* Honey for dipping
Procedure:
* In a bowl, whisk ricotta, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla
* Sift flour and baking powder and add to mixture (at this point you will need to mix it with a large spoon)

 * Set mixture aside and in a deep frying pan pour oil about 2-3 inches deep and heat on Medium High heat
~Tip: You will know oil is hot and ready by splashing some water into the oil with your fingers.  If it sizzles then it is ready, if it doesn't then it needs to heat up more.
* Drop batter into hot oil by the TBSP's  (do one first just to test and make sure the oil is hot enough and then add more)
* The sfinges will be floating on the top and when the bottom is a nice golden brown flip them over so the other side can get golden brown.  

* When done, remove them from the oil with a large spoon with holes and place them onto a cookie tray that is lined with paper towels to drain some oil.  Continue making the rest.
* When done, transfer to a bowl or plate and sprinkle some powdered sugar on top.
* pour some honey in a small bowl and dip a Sfinge in the honey and eat!





 
This is one family recipe I intend on always making each Christmas to come!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tortellini Stracciatella Soup

        On cold days I would love when my mom made Tortellini soup.  My mom was born and raised in Italy and growing up she had meals where scrambled eggs were dropped into hot pasta or pastina or into boiling soups.  As a kid and now as an adult my mom cooks many foods that she knows to make from her village and therefore I learned to enjoy the same foods.  
        The word stracciatella means "torn apart" and has a few different meanings when it comes to food.  It can mean an egg drop soup.  Here you heat soup to a rapid boil and then pour the egg in and whisk as fast as you can while the egg makes sheds of egg string.  In ice cream (Gelato) Stracciatella means a vanilla Gelato with thin shavings of chocolate.  This Gelato called Stracciatella is delicious and they serve it at many gelaterias in Italy and in the U.S. There are many places near my house that have that flavor!  The last meaning I know of for the name Stratacciella is one that I recently learned from a cooking show called "Extra Virgin," is it is a type of cheese used to stuff a soft mozzarella and it is called Burrata. 
        The Tortellini Stracciatella soup I make is comforting to eat and easy to make!
Ingredients: 
* 8 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
* 2 carrots cut up into whatever size you prefer
* 2 cups of cut up cooked white meat chicken (I buy the rotisserie chickens from Wegmans for $4.99 and cut up all the white meat on that for the soup.  It is inexpensive, tender, and already cooked for you!)
* 1/4 cup of freshly chopped parsley
* 2 cups of Barilla Mini Tortellini.  (The tortellini are dry and can be found in the pasta section of your grocery store)
* A bunch of baby spinach
* 2 eggs
* Salt and pepper to taste
* Grated cheese
Procedure:
* Boil 8 cups of broth
* Add cut up carrots and let cook in the broth until tender
* Once carrots are tender, add chicken, parsley and tortellini for 5 minutes
* After 5 minutes, bring soup to a rapid boil
* Beat 2 eggs in a small bowl and slowly pour egg mixture into rapid boiling soup with one hand and whisk egg quickly in the soup with a fork with the other hand.  You will see that the egg is turning into thin cooked shreds.  


* Let cook for another 3 minutes and ladle soup into bowls
* Take the baby spinach and put some in each bowl of soup.  The hot soup will cook the spinach perfectly!
* Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and enjoy!
~TIP: feel free to add celery and onion if you like or any other vegetable.
This is one soup that will definitely warm you up!
<a href="http://www.mycitycuisine.org/wiki/Stracciatella_(soup)"><img alt="Stracciatella (soup)" src="http://www.mycitycuisine.org/exlink/index.php?pg=1175&tp=2" style="border:0px;padding:0px;width:150px;height:61px" /></a>

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Orange Jello Shot Slices

        A few years ago I was at a birthday party and my friend Jordan walked in with these fancy Jello Shot Slices.  They were so pretty and tasty with a mild vodka taste, orange flavor from the Jello, and you even get a slight bite of the actual orange from the bottom of the slice..  I had her describe to me every detail on how to make these, because I had never seen Jello shots presented in this way.   They are always made inside a Dixie cup or some other sort of mini cup where you had to swirl your finger around it just to get it out.  These make it so much easier to eat and will wow anyone you serve these to.  These would also be fine to make as a non-alcoholic version for the kids or your self.  You would just omit the Vodka and follow the Jello directions on the box as is.  I love to make these for my annual work Holiday party and for other occasions where you have to bring something to pass.  
        Other variations you could make are: Limes- use lime Jello and Lime Vodka or Lemons with Lemon Jello and Lemon Vodka.

Ingredients: 
(I used about 12 oranges, which made about 40 slices.  Depending on the amount of people your serving them too you can double my estimated recipe or cut it in half).
* 2 packages of Orange Jello
* about 12 Oranges
* 2 cups of water
* 2 cups of Orange Flavored Vodka (That's what I use, but you can use plain Vodka too if you want)
~NOTE: If you want to make these non alcoholic, just substitute the Vodka for 2 cups of ice cold water.
Procedue: 
Step #1(Getting the Oranges Ready)
* Slice each orange in half, from the sides where the stem sticks out. (if you cut it from the other side, then it will not sit flat!)
* With a sharp knife, carve around the inside of the orange half
~TIP: be sure you do not cut through the Orange or else when you pour the Jello in, it will leak out!)
 

* With a spoon, scoop around the orange and scrape as much out as you can and toss the Oranges that you scoop out into a bowl to eat later.
* Lay all of your scooped out hollow oranges onto a tray (a deep tray works best)
~TIP: If your oranges seem like they wont sit up, then just slightly grate the bottom to form a flat surface.
Procedure: 
Step #2 Making The Jello
* In a small sauce pan boil 2 cups of water
* once that comes to a boil, turn the heat off and empty 2 packages of Orange Jello mixture into the boiling water and stir until all the Jello powder dissolves.
* Once that dissolves, pour in 2 cups of Orange Flavored Vodka (or 2 cups of ice cold water, if you are making non alcoholic).
* Pour mixture into a 4 cup measuring cup that has a pouring slot.
* pour Jello Mixture into each orange half all the way to the top
* CAREFULLY and SLOWLY transfer oranges to your refrigerator and let chill over night to firm up.
~TIP:I always wait to cover them when they are slightly hard, because if you try while they are in liquid form, then they will probably spill.  They will also spill if you slam your fridge door.  I have done that! So pretty much stay away from the fridge if you can haha. 
Procedure:
Step #3 cutting the Oranges Jello Shot Slices
* Take the oranges out of the Fridge and with a sharp knife, cut your oranges into 3-4 slices, depending on the size or how big you want them to be.



















*place them on a serving tray if you are going to serve them right the.
* If you are bringing them somewhere, then place them in a deep baking pan (I buy the throw away Lasagna size ones)
I promise you will enjoy these as will your friends and family. Just be careful with how many you eat!
 What to do I do with all the left over oranges I scooped out?
You definetly do not want to waste them! Here are a few things you can do:
1) Cut them into slices and spread then around a tray.
This is the one I made last year
2) Keep them in your fridge and have a bowl for a snack every day.
3) Strain the juice from them and make some fresh orange juice