Tasty Tuesday … Homemade German Spaetzle

Spence and I love Spaetzle and I’ve long harbored a desire to make it from scratch. Spence bought me a Spaetzle maker late last year and I set it aside. Till now. Check out this truly authentic recipe from a blogger I follow, incahootswithmuddyboots.com. And wish me luck!

in cahoots with muddy boots

Growing up in Germany, we ate homemade Spätzle fairly regularly. The side dishes served with these tastily little morsels depend  on the region you live in. We generally ate brown lentils perked up with a splash of vinegar and Wiener Würstchen along with the Spätzle.
First we would make the batter, let it rest and then cook the Spätzle in salted water. When all the batter was used, we would sauté a finely chopped onion with some garlic in butter, add the drained Spätzle and fry them until they got a bit crispy in spots. Last but not least, we would sprinkle some Swiss mountain cheese over the top. Before you knew, a huge pan full of these popular little noodles had disappeared!

It has been a long time since I’ve made Spätzle at home. A while back I

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My Famous Roasted Chestnut, Sausage & Apple Stuffing (or Dressing)

Here's the ingredients, prepped and ready to go, plus a glass of wine for the cook!
Here’s the ingredients, prepped and ready to go, plus a glass of wine for the cook!

I know, I know. It’s stuffing if it goes inside the turkey and dressing if not. Whatever you call it, mine is seriously without equal.  Here you see the ingredients of what goes into it.  It’s just Spence and I on Thanksgiving and what looks like overkill on the quantity that I make, I call smart.  At least half of what I make I freeze – unbaked in air-tight freezer bags and some in large size muffin tins (once frozen popping them into freezer bags as well).  I make rotisserie and baked chicken throughout the year and this makes the best side dish, lovely to have on hand – simply thaw and bake!

This recipe is flexible. I’m going to list the ingredients and you can make as much or as little as you need:

Cubed leftover bread (I always have a lot in the freezer) I use a mixture some artisan, bakery & grocery store “regular” bread – even cubing up leftover cornbread if I have it on hand.  Place all cubed bread on a sheet pan in the oven overnight with the oven light on to let it dry out. (turn oven on lowest setting for 30-60 minutes the day of assembly if it’s still too soft)

Additionally I use both the Pepperidge Farm seasoned Classic Stuffing & Country Style cubed stuffing

1 lb cooked sage breakfast sausage, use your spatula to crumble it while it’s browning, drain off any grease and blot with a paper towel

Apples – I generally use two kinds and don’t peel them, just chop into bite size chunks

Lightly saute chopped onion and celery (about 6-8 minutes), in several tablespoons of butter, add some poultry seasoning during the saute.  I use equal quantities of onion and celery.

Chestnuts – I roast my own (check my blog for how-to roast chestnuts, link is below) if you want substitute toasted pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts.  (But the chestnuts are what make this special in my humble opinion)

Fresh herbs – flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary – adds both a pop of color but also lots of flavor, chop them. I use a mezzaluna (pictured above).

Poultry seasoning

Lots of chicken stock – have more on hand than you think you’ll need, trust me on this.

I assemble this using two very large mixing bowls and put half of the ingredients (except chicken stock) into each, little by little – and adding chicken stock and poultry seasoning along the way, stirring and then building more ingredients, seasoning and stock (you get it) until the prep station is cleared.

I fill a large oval baker and refrigerate this overnight – really packing it in (and fill a second one to refrigerate and bake later with leftovers. Freeze the rest). I take the oval baker (or casserole dish) out of the fridge on Thanksgiving morning to take the chill off. It will have absorbed a lot of stock overnight so drizzle an ample amount over the top. Bake this at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, uncovered, until it’s browning a bit and there’s some crunch happening on top. If you’re making this and have your oven set at another temp when this goes in it’s not a problem – just watch the top and feel for the crunch.

Bon appetit!

Assembled and ready to be baked tomorrow!
Assembled and ready to be baked tomorrow!

As promised, here’s the link on how-to roast chestnuts:

Roasting Chestnuts

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi

I love Gnocchi and when I saw this recipe being prepared on Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin, by actress Debi Mazar and her husband, talented Italian chef Gabriele Corcos, I went out immediately bought the ingredients and made it for Mom and Spence.  It was a huge hit – the fried fresh sage leaves from my garden made it extra delicious.

Fast forward to last night.  My lifelong BFF were attending a Harvest Meal, all plant based, locally sourced and delicious.  She has been a longtime advocate of meat free Mondays (and primarily eats vegetarian/vegan meals). It so happens that we are spending the next three days at her beautiful second home in the gorgeous Traverse City Michigan. Over dinner we discussed what we’d like to do while there and I suggested that I prepare dinner for Monday night.  I’d told her about this meal and she readily agreed.

I’ve kept the recipe very close to the original with only a few modifications.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi – serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a sidedish

  • 1 lb fresh spinach
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese (not low fat)
  • fresh grated Parmesan
  • 2 egg yolks – beaten
  • 4 T butter
  • sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
  • fresh grated nutmeg
  • fresh lemon zest
  • fresh sage leaves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil (I use a huge pasta pot with a strainer.

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Add the spinach to the boiling water, pushing it down over the next minute to wilt it.

Pull the basket and drain the spinach immediately, plunging it into an ice water bath to halt the cooking.  Drain the spinach and squeeze out the water completely.  (I wrap it in several paper towels, then place that bundle inside a clean kitchen towel and squeeze it)

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Squeezed out, it looks much smaller

Chop the spinach very fine.

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Chopped

Place the spinach in a large bowl, add the ricotta, 4 T of parmesan, eggs yolks, salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon zest.

Stir to combine.  Shape the mixture into balls about the size of large walnuts.

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Butter a casserole dish and lay the gnocchi in it, dressing it with a few thin slices of buttter and more parmesan (I use a generous amount of parmesan).

Bake the gnocchi for 20 minutes then set under broiler for 5 minutes to brown the top.

In a medium skillet, melt 1 1/2 T of butter and saute the sage until it starts to brown.  Serve the gnocchi, dressed with the sage and butter sauce, sprinkle on more of the parmesan.

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Prepare to fall in love….so yummy.

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Chef’s note: You could use frozen chopped spinach in this recipe.  If I weren’t retired, I think I might do that as the blanching step is time consuming (but worth it).  I added the nutmeg and lemon zest which really puts this into the “over the top” amazing category, in my humble opinion. 

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes

  • Fresh green beans, trimmed
  • Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
  • Sweet white onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Finely shredded cheese
  • Salt, pepper & seasoning blend ( I like Trader Joes 21 Seasoning Salute or Melting Pot’s Garlic Wine Seasoning)

Trim green beans, place in steamer basket. Steam on high for 4-5 minutes, remove from heat. In a separate pan, drizzle oil and sauté onions until carmelized. Add tomatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and seasoning. Place beans into serving bowl, sprinkle with cheese, add tomatoes and onion, add more cheese and serve.

Grilled Zucchini & Summer Squash with Goat Cheese

With the bounty of fresh produce from farmer’s markets and gardens, veggies are plentiful this summer. Recently, using a summer squash, zucchini and some imagination, I came up with this recipe and may I say – it was fabulous. The combination of fresh herbs, grilled squash, sweet sautéed onion, creamy goat cheese and a burst of fresh lemon make this a new favorite for Spence and I.

Grilled Zucchini & Summer Squash with Goat Cheese

Weight Watchers Smart Points 3*

  • Zucchini
  • Summer Squash
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Seasoning (I love Melting Pot’s Garlic & Wine Seasoning)
  • Coconut Oil

Step One: Slice the squash into 1/2-inch “planks” (on the diagonal). Lay the planks on a paper towel, season with salt, pepper and garlic seasoning on one side. Brush a grill pan generously with coconut oil and bring to a searing heat. Place the planks on the grill pan, flipping only one time after 2-3 minutes (you’ll see grill marks). Allow another 2-3 minutes of grill time, remove and place the planks into a baking dish in a single layer.

  • Diced Sweet Onion
  • Butter

Step Two: Saute the onion in butter on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Top the squash with the onions.

  • Fresh Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme & Chives – chopped together
  • Goat Cheese
  • Lemon Wedge
  • Red Pepper Flakes
Just before baking.....
Just before baking…..

Step 3: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Top the squash with chopped herbs, followed by crumbled goat cheese. Squeeze fresh lemon over the top. Bake for 10 minutes – just to soften the goat cheese. Top with red pepper flakes and serve.

Note from Spence’s Girl: I purposely left the recipe without quantities as you can adjust based on how many servings you’d like. If you don’t have access to these exact herbs, use what you have – basil, oregano, tarragon – have fun with it. While not vegan, this would be a lovely vegetarian entree.  

* To calculate the Weight Watchers Smart Points, I used 1 oz of goat cheese and 1/2 tablespoon of butter, based on 2 servings.

Oven-Roasted Smashed Potatoes with Gremolata Topping

For an easy side-dish, great for entertaining, try my new favorite potato dish.

Oven-Roasted Smashed Potatoes with Gremolata       serves 4-6

  • 1 dozen new potatoes (you could also use redskin potatoes)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, whole & peeled
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • olive oil

Fill a large pot with water and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of sea salt, bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and reduce heat to medium.  Cook until tender – use a sharp knife to test.  Drain and cool them for 5 minutes.

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Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil. On a cutting board, place each potato under a spatula (or lunch plate would work), I use a heavy meat tenderizer from Williams Sonoma. Press down with even pressure – gently – smashing but not pulverizing.

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My heavy-duty potato smasher.
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Place each smashed potato on the foil-lined baking sheet.

Drizzle the potatoes generously with olive oil, sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over them. (I also put the garlic cloves that boiled with the potatoes on the sheet pan)

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Heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake the potatoes for 18-20 minutes, remove, flip each one. Drizzle with more olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Bake for another 18-20 minutes. Remove the pan from oven, turn off heat. Top the potatoes with Gremolata (see recipe below) and place the pan back in the oven for 5 minutes and serve.

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Enjoy!

Gremolata

  • Zest from 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 lime
  • 1-2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 t coarse black pepper
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup chopped parsley

I use a mezzaluna given to me by my lifelong BFF, to chop the parsley and garlic, having first place the citrus zest, salt and pepper under the parsley and garlic. Cover until ready to serve.

This is what is looks like:

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Gremolata – delicious!

Arancini

I was looking for a recipe that would work with my leftover Butter Baked Rice. I’ve seen Giada make Arancini and so I scoured Pinterest for a version that would work with what I had on hand. It turned out better than I could have imagined. Here’s what I did:

2 c leftover Butter Baked Rice (see below for link to recipe)
3/4 c Parmesano regainno
1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix together the rice, Parmesan and egg, using your hands.

Block of mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese cut into small chunks (think sugar cube size)

Take a large spoonful of rice mixture into your hand, press a chunk of cheese into the center. I used a small ice cream scoop to form the rice mixture into well packed balls.

2 eggs, lightly beaten
Italian breadcrumbs

Line a platter with wax paper. Take each ball, gently roll into the egg, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Place on the wax paper.

Heat vegetable oil in a deep fry pan. Place the balls into the oil, once browned on one side carefully flip them and brown that side. Remove from oil onto a paper towel.

Serve immediately with marinara sauce. This made 10 balls. As you can see I served these as a side with an oven baked herbed chicken breast but these could be appetizers or a vegetarian entrée.

Here the link for the recipe for Butter Baked Rice:

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/butter-baked-rice

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Hot from the fryer with melted cheese in the middle.
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Plated with marinara sauce and served alongside herbed oven baked chicken.

Butter Baked Rice

BUTTER BAKED RICE         serves 4-8

  • 1 c long grain brown rice (white rice may be used as well)
  • 2 c boiling water
  • 5 T butter
  • 1 3/4 c chicken stock – heated (see Chef’s Note below)
  • 1-2 t garlic seasoning blend (I love Melting Pot’s Garlic & Wine Seasoning)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2-3 T chopped parsley (I prefer flat leaf but curly parsley works fine here)

Butter Baked Rice - a crowd pleaser

Preheat oven to 325. Soak rice in 2 cups of the boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse. Try to remove as much of the water as you can by gently pressing it or dabbing with a paper towel. Then in a large skillet, melt the butter over a medium low heat. Stir in the rice and keep stirring gently until all the butter is absorbed. This should take about 8 to 9 minutes. Add the butter rice to a 2 Qt casserole. Add the heated chicken stock pouring over the rice. Add garlic seasoning, red pepper flakes and sprinkle the parsley on top, stir. Cover tightly and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Chef’s Note: You can substitute the heated chicken stock with vegetable stock for a vegetarian version. If you should have any leftovers, throw it into a pan with chopped veggies, a shot of soy sauce and make a quick fried rice.  See my 1/6/2015 post for Arancini (or click the link below)- using the leftover Butter Baked Rice – for an easy appetizer, side or vegetarian main dish! 

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/arrancini/

Olive Tapenade (for Bruschetta)

This is one of my favorite go-to recipes for appetizers. I had this years ago in a restaurant and it was so tasty I wrote down everything I could identify and have made it ever since.  I’ve even had numerous guests who at first said “oh I don’t care for olives” but trusting enough in my culinary skills to try it and viola! Everyone loves it – not a crumb left at the end of the party.  And this is actually better if you make it ahead – 24 hours minimum or even better a few days.  I serve this atop little slices of baguette, first drizzling a bit of extra virgin olive oil on the slices, giving them a few minutes in a 350 degree oven, then adding a spoon of the tapenade on each slice, then back for 5-10 minutes. I’m making this today for a party on Saturday so thought I’d share it with my followers.

Olive Tapenade 

Weight Watchers Smart Points 1 (serving size 1/2 tablespoon)

  • 1 5.75 oz jar green olives with pimento
  • 1 6 oz can black olives (any size)
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 t coarse black pepper
  • 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

Finely chop both kinds of olives and garlic cloves.  I use a hand-chopper (Pampered Chef) to achieve a very fine texture.  Stir olives and garlic together.  Add oregano and black pepper to olive mix, stir to blend.  Add the olive oil and give a final stir.  Place in a covered container to refrigerate for 24 hours or longer.

Note from Spence’s Girl:  If you have more tapenade than bread, this is excellent tossed into a pasta sauce or used as the olive salad component of a muffalletta sandwich!