Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Much-needed Day at the Park

He didn't want to swing, but he enjoyed pushing me.

We enjoyed a wonderful day at our favorite park, Hayes Nature Preserve, last Sunday. After a several weeks filled with snow and ice days, followed by lots of rain, we finally had a day that we could enjoy the outdoors.

Hayes has an amazing playground, a stream, creek, pond, swamps, trails, and a greenway for walking/biking. We took advantage of them all that day.

It feels like Spring is finally here. Today, the sun was streaming down (I'll save "beating down" for the late July/early August sun), the birds were chirping (and courting from what I could surmise of two robins in our front yard), we saw some bugs, and some flowery weeds had popped up in the yard. It felt and sounded wonderful. I will love all of this until I have to loathe Spring when the pollen arrives.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Related to my last post, there is a great post over at 52 Kitchen Adventures with ways to use up leftover canned pumpkin puree:

50 Ways to Use up Leftover Pumpkin Puree

This is where I found the pasta recipe that inspired last night's dinner.

Gnocchi with Pumpkin, Parmesan and Bacon

So, it is officially summer here in North Alabama, and it is hot. Actually, today wasn't so bad, because we had some light storms coming through to give us some cloudiness and nice breezes.

Anything pumpkin makes me think of Fall and hearty meals, but tonight I just needed to find something to fix for dinner in a pinch, and it was slim pickins' in my kitchen. So, a hearty, fall meal in the heat of summer it was.

I had three quarters of a can of pureed pumpkin (I keep it on hand now to mix with yogurt and cinnamon for my to get some veggies in that kid somehow) and a few slices of bacon that needed to be used, so I headed to the computer to see if those things went together in any kind of way and hopefully with pasta or gnocchi (the gnocchi needed to be eaten soon too). I found this pasta dish, and it set my mind a whirl, so I headed into the kitchen to start whipping up some food.

When I told my husband what I was planning to make, he made a horrible face. I guess pumpkin isn't his thing.  Now, if you aren't a pumpkin lover, never fear. Honestly, I don't like the taste of pumpkin straight up either. I usually only eat it as a pie or mixed with cheesecake around Thanksgiving. Except for the color of the sauce to give it away, you wouldn't know this was a pumpkin-based sauce. Great, comforting meal complete with a veggie, but even better because you can't really taste the vegetable.

Thanks to Tastefully Simple's Garlic Garlic and Onion Onion seasonings, I didn't have to chop a thing!

Pumpkin sauce before adding the cream and cheese
 (adding some more broth to this would make a yummy soup)

Gnocchi with Pumpkin, Parmesan and Bacon

Bacon, 4- 6 slices
Butter (just a pat)
Tastefully Simple's Onion Onion, about 1/2 tbs (or you could use about a 1/4-1/2 of an onion of your choice, chopped)
Tastefully Simple's Garlic Garlic, 1-2 tsp (or feel free to use some fresh garlic)
Smoked Paprika, just a pinch
Ground and dried chipotle pepper, just a pinch
Dried sage, 1/2-1 tsp
Dried thyme, 1/8-1/4 tsp
Dried basil, just a wee pinch
Sherry cooking wine, just a splash (um, I guess about a tbs or so)
Water, about 1/4-1/2 cup
Better than Bouillon Chicken Base, 1-2 tbs (feel free to use chicken stock or broth instead)
Water, about 1/2 cup (to mix with chicken base)
Pureed pumpkin, about a cup or so (I used 3/4 of a standard can)
Package of gnocchi (found on the pasta aisle)
Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)
Heavy cream, about a tbs
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cook the bacon in a large pan until crispy and set aside. You will leave some of the bacon grease in the pan to cook with, but if you think there is too much, just use some paper towels to blot some of it up out of the pan.

Turn down the heat to medium-low and add a pat of butter to the bacon grease.  Add the Onion Onion through the dried basil and stir.  Let the seasonings heat up gently in the pan for a few minutes (mine took on a nice, golden color).

Add a splash of sherry cooking wine to deglaze the pan; I used a silicon whisk to get all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat a little and add the water and Better than Bouillon Chicken Base. Stir well.  Add the pumpkin and stir again. I let mine simmer for 20-30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering and getting very yummy, cook the gnocchi according to the package directions.

Add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce and stir thoroughly until the cheese melts. Add the cream and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve warm, adding the crumbled bacon on top with each serving and a little more freshly-grated Parmesan. Enjoy.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fun at Luke's Great Aunt's House

My husband's aunt lives out in the country and is about an hour and a half away from us. Luke loves to visit her and so do I. She is like a grandmother to Luke and me. All of my grandparents passed away before Lee and  I were married, and spending time with my husband's aunt brings back memories of my grandmothers.  Her cooking isn't too shabby either. Good, wholesome, country cooking.  Yum, yum.  

Andy, our cousin's kitten
Luke loves our cousin's two kittens. Our cat is older and has never liked children, so Luke doesn't get to interact with her.