Avatar Fun

I have been known to watch Sunny Anderson on the Food Network. She has some fun recipes. She is also this month’s Avatar Chef for several of us. Each month one of us chooses a chef/cook and we all choose a recipe to cook/blog and use the pic as our avatar on Twitter. Last month Nancy chose Delia Smith. January we had Donna Hay, Kayte’s choice. This month the choice was Peggy’s.

I wanted something Quick, easy and tasty and after looking through Sunny’s top 100 on FoodTV this one just jumped out and said, “PICK ME!”

And they were SOO good. Just the right amount of cheddar cheese, and bacon, with paprika, onion. I left off the onion because we were making them for breakfast.


    2 cups flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    Kosher salt
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup butter, melted
    8 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
    1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    1 egg

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl add the flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, paprika, and onion powder. Mix to blend then make a well in the center of the bowl and add the milk, butter, bacon and cheese. Mix gently with a wooden spoon. The dough will be wet and sticky. Using a 1/4 cup measure or ice cream scoop, portion the batter onto a baking sheet, leaving an inch or so around each biscuit.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with a splash of water and then brush this mixture on the top of each biscuit. Bake in the oven until the biscuits are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.

These were delicious. I could make and devour them every week for breakfast. or with dinner or as a snack!!


Another month, another chef. And all female chefs for the first 6 months of 2012. We started out in January with Donna Hay which was Kayte’s Pick. And now it is Nancy’s turn with Delia Smith. Delia is an English cook and the author of many basic cook books. She likes to teach people HOW to cook which is what her books are all about.

There are hundreds of recipes on her site so it was difficult to finally come up with just one. But I have been wanting to make gnocchi for ages and it seemed like the perfect time.

    Gnocchi with Sage, Butter and Parmesan

Now you have to know that gnocchi are not easy to make. Boil Potato. Peel Potato. Whip Potato. Cool Potato. And THEN you make the gnocchi.

    10 oz (275 g) King Edward potatoes (about 2 medium-sized potatoes)
    3½ oz (95 g) plain flour, sifted, plus a little extra for rolling
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the sauce:

    8 fresh sage leaves
    2 oz (50 g) butter
    1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed {and I diced mine small}

First place the potatoes, with their skins on, in a suitably sized saucepan, almost cover with boiling water, add some salt, then put a lid on and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until tender. Then drain well and, holding them in your hand with a tea cloth, quickly pare off the skins using a potato peeler. Then place the potatoes in a large bowl and, using an electric hand whisk on a slow speed, start to break the potatoes up, then increase the speed and gradually whisk until smooth and fluffy. Now let them cool.

Next, add the sifted flour to the potatoes, along with half the beaten egg, season lightly and, using a fork, bring the mixture together. Then, using your hands, knead the mixture lightly to a soft dough – you may need to add a teaspoonful or so more of the egg if it is a little dry. Now transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface, flour your hands and divide it into quarters. Now roll each quarter into a sausage shape approximately ½ inch (1 cm) in diameter, then cut it, on the diagonal, into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces, placing them on a tray or plate as they are cut. Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes, but longer won’t matter.

After that, using a fork with the prongs facing upwards, press the fork down on to one side of each gnocchi so that it leaves a row of ridges on each one; at the same time, ease them into crescent shapes. The ridges are there to absorb the sauce effectively. Now cover and chill the gnocchi again until you are ready to cook them. To cook the gnocchi, firstly bring a large, shallow pan of approximately 6 pints (3.5 litres) of water to a simmer and put the serving dish in a low oven to warm through. Then drop the gnocchi into the water and cook for about 3 minutes; they will start to float to the surface after about 2 minutes, but they need 3 altogether.

When they are ready, remove the gnocchi with a draining spoon and transfer them to the warm serving dish. For the sauce, melt the butter with the garlic over a gentle heat until the garlic turns nut brown in colour – about 1 minute. Next add the sage leaves and allow the butter to froth while the sage leaves turn crisp – about 30 seconds – then spoon the butter mixture over the warm gnocchi. Sprinkle with frshly grated Parmesan.

Despite all the work involved I would definitely make these again. So good with the browned butter and sage.

Visit Delia’s site and drown yourself in her wonderful recipes.

Several of us on Twitter who often bake and cook together decided to follow Nancy’s suggestion and do a new chef each month like we did in 2011. I was a huge slacker and have not participated since September when we cooked with Nigella Lawson. I had great intentions but time was not on my side.

Now that it is a new year I will try and do better.

The Chef this month is Donna Hay. Donna Hay is an Australian food stylist, author, and magazine editor. She has 14 cookbooks and is an award winning author. Her cookbooks are known for their simple recipes and beautiful photography. Kayte has been wanting to try some of her dishes, so here we are!!!

Chicken, Prawn and Tomato Paella

    1½ tablespoon olive oil
    1 x 200g chicken breast fillet, trimmed and chopped
    200g green (raw) prawns (shrimp), tails intact
    1 small brown onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
    ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
    ¾ cup (150g) medium-grain rice
    1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
    1 ¼ cup (310ml) chicken stock
    flat-leaf parsley leaves and lemon wedges, to serve

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium non-stick frying pan over high heat.
Add the chicken and prawns and cook for 4–5 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
Set aside and keep warm.
Add the remaining oil to the pan with the onion, garlic, chilli and paprika and cook for 2 minutes or until softened. Add the rice, tomato and stock, reduce heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
Cook for 20–25 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Stir through the chicken and prawns and cook for a further 1 minute.
Top with parsley and serve with lemon wedges. (Serves 2).

I doubled the recipe because I was feeding 3. It was aperfect pick because we had just picked up some fresh shrimp at The Gulf Coast this weekend and I was really craving some good shrimp. We spend the weekend in Bay St. Louis, a little town on the Gulf Coast.

It was one of the towns almost completely destroyed by Katrina in 2005. It is coming back, slowly, but the beach is nice. Even when it is chilly outside.

While Donna calls this a paella I call it a Jambalaya and make one similar to this several times a year. {Someday i will post THAt SOUTHERN recipe!}

Meanwhile enjoy this one!!!

Now that the month is almost 1/2 over I am finally changing my Twitter Avatar. This week’s food celebrity was Nigella Lawson chosen by our friend Marthe of The Baking Bluefinger. Actually I changed my Avatar the first of the month, but it wasn’t very pretty and the dish really wasn’t that good. Now I have the right dish and the better picture.

    Hassleback Potatoes

I had made these before but I didn’t like the way they came out. Nigella’s were perfect. Just basted in a little EVOO and butter.

    •18 medium oval-shaped potatoes, about 125g each, or 36 new potatoes, approx. 60g each
    •45g butter
    •5 tablespoons olive oil
    • Maldon salt {I used regular salt}

Serves: 6.

1.If you’re using the larger potatoes, preheat the oven to 400°F/210°C/gas mark 7; for roasting new potatoes, preheat to 395°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Put each potato, in turn, in the bowl of a wooden spoon, like you would carry an egg in an egg-and-spoon race, and cut across at about 3mm intervals.{This is a GREAT tip. You won’t cut them all the way thru’ and you don’t have to worry about it!!}
2. When you’ve cut them all, put the baking tin on the hob (don’t you love that word: stove} with the butter and oil and heat up till sizzling. Turn the potatoes well, putting them in upside down (ie, cut side down) first, then the right side up, and spoon the fat over them.
3.Sprinkle each potato well with salt and put in the oven: cook the large potatoes for about an hour and 10 minutes, testing to see whether the flesh is soft (you may need another 10 minutes for this); 40 minutes should be fine for the new potatoes.
4.Transfer to a warmed plate, and serve. {I sprinkled a little dried parsley over the top.}

Althought just a little variation on a good ol’ baked potato they look so elegant and are fun to make.

Mexican Food is one of our favorites when we eat out. I make it at home, but not often enough. Enchiladas, Tacos, [working up to tamales] but nothing fancy. This month Rick Bayless was our Avatar Chef – an idea of Nancy’s to do a different chef each month for our Twitter Avatars – for August. I wanted something quick and easy. And I found it.

Cheese and Mushroom Quesadillas: Quesadillas de Queso y Hongos


    * 2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin) or rich-tasting pork lard, plus a little more for the tortillas
    * 1 pound button mushrooms (or other flavorful mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, cremim, or chanterelles), cleaned and sliced 1/4-in-8h thick (about 4 cups)
    * 2 to 3 serranos or 1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
    * 2 tablespoons chopped fresh epazote leaves or 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    * Salt
    * 8 (6-inch) fresh corn tortillas (or flour tortillas if good corn tortillas are not available)
    * 8 ounces Mexican melting cheese (quesillo, asader, or the like) or Monterey Jack or mild Cheddar, shredded (about 2 cups)
    * About 1 cup salsa, store bought or home made

The mushroom filling:
In a medium skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons oil or lard over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, chiles, and epazote (if you’re using cilantro, set it aside to add later), stir well, and cover. Continue to stir every minute or so, replacing the cover each time, until the mushrooms have released a lot of juice, 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover, and let briskly simmer until all the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/4 teaspoon. Add the cilantro now, if that’s what you’re using.

Forming and griddle-baking the quesadillas:
Heat a well-seasoned or nonstick griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. Turn the oven on to its lowest setting. One by one, make the quesadillas: Lightly brush 1 side of each tortilla with oil, then lay it oiled side down on the hot griddle. Spread with about 1/4 cup of the cheese, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture down the center of the cheese-covered tortilla. When the cheese begins to melt (but before the tortilla begins to crisp), fold the tortilla in half along the line of the filling. Cook, flipping the quesadilla every minute or so, until the cheese is completely melted and the tortilla crisps, about 5 minutes in all. As each quesadilla is done, transfer it to a baking sheet and keep in a warm oven.>{Recipe courtesy Rick Bayless; From Mexico: One Plate at a Time, Scribner 2000.}

These were so easy and so good. I did leave out the out peppers. I like spicy, but a fan of hot.

This months chef was chosen by Jovonn. If you are on Twitter, you will see all the different avatars. I know the recipes are on their webpages. It’s a whole new Treasure Hunt!!

Ina Garten is one food celebrity I am not very familiar with. I have seen her on foodtv, but that is really about all. I don’t own a single one of her cookbooks — she has seven. When Phyl suggested her as our chef for July I saw it as a way to explore a different type of recipe.

Ina is The Barefoot Contessa and has had an interesting career before embracing her love of fresh food and becomming the owner in 1978 of the The BareFoot Contessa, a shop whose name she did not change (named for an Ava Gardner film). She claims she is a self-taught cook but she has had some fantastic mentors.

Exploring her recipes was fun. It was difficult to find just one. In the end, I chose one that used veggies from my garden and was quick and easy.

      Zucchini Pancakes


    2 medium zucchini (about ¾ pound)
    2 tablespoons grated red onion {I used yellow only because I was out of red.}
    2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
    6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    Unsalted butter and vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.)

Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat and melt ½ tablespoon butter and ½ tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used. The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot. {They are also good cold!! if you get a snack attack at 3 in the morning!! or warmed in a skillet with some browned butter for breakfast. Just sayin’.}

Can I tell you how good these were??

There is just enough seasoning to bring out the zucchini flavor. And the ease of making them means they are a quick side dish for any night of the week. While the batter is very liquidy, it doesn’t spread much and firms up nicely in the skillet and are easy to flip. The recipe says 10 pancakes but it depends on the size of the spoon you use. You could easily make the larger, or smaller.

Next time I make them I might try sweating the onions a little to soften them. The pancakes cook very quickly and it really doesn’t give the onions time to soften.

Thanks, aka Phyl, for introducing me to another chef.

Did you grow up eating Ravioli?? Ravioli made like this?

As a kid, I LOVED this stuff!! It was the best lunch EVER!! It never dawned on me that this wasn’t actually GOOD ravioli. And it never dawned on me someone could actually make ravioli in their own kitchen. And how, kinda/sorta, easy it is to make!

This month’s Avatar chef is Eric Ripert, chosen by Leslie of Lethally Delicious. I wasn’t familiar with Ripert until a few months ago when I noticed him on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. And then I was lucky enough to win one of his cookbooks – Avec Eric -(which includes 100 + recipes from his series) from Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. But now that I know who he is there are several of his dishes I want to try. This one was a good one to start with:

      Ricotta-Spinach Ravioli with Butter and Sage

I have been wanting to make ravioli again for a while. And it’s been a long while.

On order to make the ravioli I had to make the pasta first. I made Ripert’s Pappardelle. FUN!! I have trouble making pasta when the recipe begins with mound 2 cups of flour in the center of a work surface, make a well in the center, add eggs, slowly incorporate. My incorporation usually ends up as a dry mess. And this was no different, but I added a little more egg and it did come together. Although it wasn’t smooth and silky the ravioli came out quite well.

The filling was a mixture of ricotta and spinach. Simple and delicious.

Ripert’s mix for the filling is delicious.

The only change I made, sorry Eric, was to toss the ravioli with browned butter and fried sage rather than just plain soft butter and sage leaves. I liked the ‘sweetness’ of the browned butter. It was perfect!!

It was difficult to find just one recipe to use for June’s Twitter avatar so I guess I will just have to make more goodies from his recipes.

Each month a new Chef. How fun is that? We started in January with a recipe from Keller’s ad hoc cookbook which many of us found under the Christmas Tree. We then went through James Beard (Nancy’s Choice) in February, Emeril in March (My Choice), and Jacques Pepin in April (Di’s Choice) (sorry I missed that one) and now it is May and time for a new chef – David Chang which is Tracey’s Choice.

I don’t have Chang’s Momofukko so I had to rely on the Internet for a recipe. And they are few and far between. I found only five. I knew my Friend Kayte was making one of them so that left four. And since it had to be something fairly simple and photogenic I ended up making…

“Buffalo” Wings with an Asian Flair. And very, very tasty.

The wings can be baked or fried. I went with baked because it is less messy. The wings are then tossed with an Octo Vinaigrette which includes diced ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, red pepper (which I forgot), and oil. (And as I am looking at the picture I realized I forgot the green onion garnish. Ah, well!!) Wings with a twist.

You can find the recipe on Jaden’s blog – Steamy Kitchen.

Next month the Avatar Fun continues, but you will have to wait until June 1st to find out who it is…. (BTW, it’s Leslie’s Choice).

March is already upon us. In like a Lion – out like a Lamb, or so they say.The Windy Month. The first days of Spring. Flowers start to bloom. POLLEN!!! At least here in the South.

March also means Emeril. At least for the chef of the month on Twitter. Each month this year several of us are changing our avatar for a particular chef. This month the chef is Emeril. My Pick!!

    Jambalaya Pasta with Penne, Chicken, Shrimp, and Andouille

When I think of Jambalya I think of rice. When Emeril thinks Jambalaya he thinks pasta. And I am so glad, ’cause we LOVE pasta. This has all the ingredients of the rice dish – chicken, sausage, shrimp as well as onions, tomatoes, garlic. Except with Pasta. Recipe calls for Penne, but I was out so used Ziti instead. Just as good.

This was so so very good. It will be in my repeat list for sure.

Except for the hange of pasta I made this as written. I do think it needs to be sauce-ier! Maybe adding more cream and broth would work.

Jambalaya Pasta

    1/4 cup plus 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
    1 pound dry penne rigate
    3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    1 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp
    2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Essence, divided, recipe follows
    3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1-inch diced
    3/4 pound andouille sausage, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
    1/2 cup yellow onion, small diced
    1/2 cup green bell pepper, small diced
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    1/2 cup chicken stock
    1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Fill a large, 1-gallon stock pot with a pasta insert, 3/4 full with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and add 1/4 cup of the salt as it boils. Place the penne in the salted water and return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook the pasta until nearly al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta cooks, set a 14-inch saute pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, swirl the pan to evenly coat with the oil. Season the shrimp with 2 teaspoons of the Essence and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Place the shrimp in the pan and sear for 1 minute per side. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of the olive oil to the saute pan and season the chicken breast with 2 teaspoons of the Essence and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Place the chicken breast in the pan and sear for 3 minutes, turning to ensure even browning. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside with the seared shrimp.

Place the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the saute pan and add the sausage, onions and bell peppers. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is lightly caramelized and the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and saute for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock to the pan and scrape with a spoon to remove any browned bits that have formed in the bottom of the pan, about 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes, fresh thyme, the remaining tablespoon of Essence and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream to the pan and cook an additional 2 minutes. Return the shrimp and chicken to the pan, as well as the nearly al dente pasta and the reserved 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Continue to cook the sauce and pasta, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp and chicken are cooked through, the pasta is al dente and most of the pasta cooking water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the basil and Parmesan. Toss to combine and serve while hot.

For more avatar recipes visit Kayte for now and as more recipes show up I’ll let you know.

I have become a Tweeter. A year ago I don’t think I knew what Twitter was, now I would be lost if I couldn’t talk to my friends all over about stuff. Well, stuff and cooking/baking. It seems that every week we are having a TwitterBake or a TwitterCook. I am loving it and loving how much I am learning from all the great cooks and bakers there are out there. At the end of last year Nancy came up with the idea of using different chefs/cooks each month and making one of their dishes to use for the avatar. Now we have been through cookies and breads over the last months. But this was something new. Last month we used recipes from Keller’s ad hoc because several of us had it or had gotten it for Christmas. This month it is James Beard – Nancy’s Choice!!

    Gnocchi Verde

I have been wanting to make gnocchi for a while. I had made Dorie’s for French Fridays with Dorie, but they were not the regular gnocchi.

And, actually, these aren’t either…

    “These are sometimes called malfatti, which means “badly made,” because they are so delicate that when they are cooked they are quite uneven in shape. You have to skim them out of the water very, very carefully because of their fragility, but they well repay the care: they just melt on your tongue when you eat them.”
    James Beard

    12 ounces spinach, cooked, drained, and chopped
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    1 tablespoon butter
    8 ounces ricotta cheese
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
    3 tablespoons flour

    1/2 cup butter, melted
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Put the spinach in a saucepan with the salt, pepper, nutmeg, butter, and ricotta. Stir it over low heat for about 5 minutes to dry it out. Remove from heat and beat in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, and flour. Set mixture aside to cool for 2 hours.

    Dust a wooden board and your hands with flour. Pull off walnut-sized pieces of the spinach mixture, and form croquettes the shape of a cork. Roll them in the flour and, when they are all ready, drop them carefully into a large pot of very gently simmering water. Don’t let the water boil, the action may cause the gnocchi to disintegrate. If the mixture seems too soft, don’t worry, because the eggs and flour will hold the gnocchi together when they come in contact with the simmering water.

    Preheat oven to 350º.

    When the gnocchi rise to the surface of the water, they are finished cooking. Skim them off with a slotted spoon, drain them well, and place them in an ovenproof baking dish lightly coated with butter. Pour the melted butter over them, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and heat the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

    These are very light and tasty and they do practically melt in your mouth. Definitely a great side dish or good just by themselves.

    BTW this recipe came from The James Beard Foundation and was originally in Beard’s Beard on Pasta.

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