Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables, probably because they are slightly sweet and I have a huge sweet tooth. But they are so good for you which is a bonus.

My kids can be extremely picky eaters and always changing their minds if they like something or not, making it tricky to plan meals that they will eat. I remember preparing sweet potato pancakes for my son once and he actually like them but continues to give me push back on sweet potatoes prepared in other ways.

Last week as I was planning meals for the week, I was remembering how I used to help my Italian grandmother make potato gnocchi when I was a little girl. We’d be in her second kitchen in the basement and she showed me how to roll the dough into long strips on a flour dusted table. Then she cut the strips into small bite size pieces. She would prepare the gnocchi for dinner and they would just melt in your mouth. So delicious! She was an amazing cook and nothing ever written down, all from memory…amazing!

Unfortunately, I’m not like her and need a recipe to follow or I’ll forget something. Even when following a recipe I have forgotten things! I once forgot to add flour to blueberry pie and it was like eating blueberry soup in a pie crust. Not my best work.

So, as I was thinking of my grandmother’s gnocchi, I was also thinking how could I make it in a way that my kids might actually eat this too. Sweet potatoes! I searched for recipes for that I felt would appeal to the whole family and found one that I tweaked slightly from epicurious.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients:

  • 2, 1 lb red skinned sweet potatoes
  • 1 12oz container ricotta cheese, drained for 2 hours in sieve
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 cups all purpose flour (may need more/less)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbs chopped fresh sage

Directions:

  • Wash, pat dry, and pierce all over the sweet potatoes. Place on microwaveable plate and microwave on high until tender, approx. 10 minutes (my microwave has a potato setting so timing could vary).
  • Once potatoes are done, cut in half lengthwise and cool. Once cooled, scrape flesh into medium bowl and mash.
  • Add ricotta and parmesan cheese and blend well.
  • Add brown sugar, salt and nutmeg and blend well.
  • Mix in flour 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Don’t be shy and get your hands in there!
  • Divide dough into 8 equal parts.
  • Flour your counter. Roll each dough section in your hands first and then on your floured counter into a long rope that is about 1″ thick.
  • Cut the rope into 1″ pieces and score lightly with a fork to create the ribbed impression on the dough.
  • Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • Do this for each section of dough, adding more flour as necessary to your counter to prevent sticking.
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil and add about a tablespoon salt. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Cook until butter browns approx. 5 minutes.
  • Add chopped sage to butter (please note that this will bubble up). Turn off the heat and season with a little salt and pepper.
  • Add cooked gnocchi to the skillet with the sage butter and toss to coat.
  • Divide gnocchi and sauce among plates and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

I love this dish. It is a comfort food that just warms you and is so delicious. The sweet potatoes are a nice change from regular gnocchi. They are soft and light and slightly sweet. The sage butter sauce pairs nicely and doesn’t feel heavy.

I held my breath when I called my kids to dinner. Fingers crossed and hoped for the best. They looked curiously at the dish but gave it a try. Moment of truth…they like it! My son even asked for seconds, I could not believe it.

Well, this passed the test for my picky eaters and will definitely make it again. Especially on a cool night when you want to curl up with a cozy blanket this meal will begin to warm you from the inside.

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Halloween Party Ideas

This is one of my favorite times of year.  The air is crisp and the leaves are turning all these beautiful oranges, yellows, and reds.  I’m changing out of my shorts and tanks and getting all cozy in my pants and long sleeves.  Everything is pumpkin and spice and it’s oh so nice.

It’s also Halloween time and it’s the perfect time to get my creative juices flowing.  I was so excited when my kids wanted to have a Halloween party this year.  I couldn’t wait to turn our basement into something fun and a little on the spooky side.  It couldn’t be full out gore and mayhem but a hint to the dark side and all kid appropriate.

Since I didn’t have enough party supplies to decorate the entire basement, I shopped at Spirit Halloween, Dollar Tree, Five Below, BJ’s and Amazon to get what I needed.  Dollar Tree and Five Below were the perfect places to get a lot of supplies and it was really inexpensive.

I created different scenes in the rooms of our basement.  Some of which were a crime scene, an evil surgery, a coffin, and chained skeletons all lit with black lights to create an eerie feeling.  We had different activities throughout the basement to keep the kids moving and entertained.

Once I had the party rooms planned out and decorated, it was time to focus on the food.  The food had to be fun, creepy, and delicious.  I made chocolate spiders, witch’s fingers, mummy donuts, eyeball cookies, monster mix, bone breadsticks, and two Halloween punches to go along with other snacks.

Monster Punch

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz package frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 2 1/2 cups cranberry juice
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 liters ginger ale
  • 2 liters sparkling apple cider
  • gummy or rubber snakes, plastic eyeballs, or any other creepy items you wish to add
  • rubber glove, cleaned inside and out

Directions:

  1. To make the frozen hand:
    1. In a 4 cup measuring cup, combine thawed raspberries and cranberry juice.  Pour 2 cups of mixture into small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it.  Let sit 2 minutes.
    2. Over low heat, stirring constantly, heat mixture just until gelatin dissolves.  Pour mixture back into the reserved measuring cup.
    3. Pour raspberry mixture into glove.  Tie the end securely and freeze until solid or several days.
  2. To serve:
    1. Carefully cut glove away from frozen hand.  Pour ginger ale and sparkling cider into punch bowl.  Place hand leaning on side of punch bowl or float in center of punch.  Add gummy or rubber snakes, plastic eyeballs, or whatever you wish.

Bug Juice Punch

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon rainbow sherbet
  • 2 liter bottle ginger ale
  • gummy worms, bugs, frozen brain, etc.

Directions:

  1. Place sherbet in punch bowl.
  2. Slowly pour in ginger ale.
  3. Float frozen brain (freeze water in brain mold) and add gummy worms and bugs.

Bone Breadsticks

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough
  • 2 Tbs. butter, melted
  • 1 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups marinara sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
  2. Unroll dough and cut into 14 even rectangles.  Tie ends into a knot to look like bones.
  3. Place bones on cookie sheets.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake 12 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Serve with warmed marinara sauce.

Mummy donuts

Ingredients:

  • Premade donut holes
  • 48 Mini chocolate chips
  • 5oz white chocolate chips or candy melts

Directions:

  1. Melt white chocolate chips per package directions.
  2. Dip a fork into the melted white chocolate and drizzle over donut holes to create mummy bandages, leaving a space for the eyes.
  3. Insert two mini chocolate chips peeking out through the bandages.
  4. Cool completely before serving.

Monster Munch Mix

Ingredients:

  • Chex Mix, original
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Fall color Plain M&Ms
  • White Candy Corn M&Ms
  • Brach’s Candy Corn and Candy Harvest mix
  • Caramel, cheddar, butter popcorn mix

Directions:

  1. Mix the all ingredients in a large bowl.  Use as much as you like of each ingredient to create the mix just right for you.  This is so simple and you can easily add other ingredients to your liking.

To keep the kids entertained, I created some Halloween games and the kids played ping pong with eyeballs and watched Halloween movies.

Some of the games were the Coffin (which I’ve actually brought to past classroom parties and blogged about before), Dive or Dare, Creepy Clown Bowling, and Balloon Pop.


Balloon Pop

This is so ridiculously easy and fun.  Just take regular latex balloons and stuff them with a prize.  Then blow them up, not with helium as you want them to stay on the ground, and tie them.  You can decorate them if you like.  Couple of ideas: Make spiders by using black balloons and glue black streamers on for legs and paint or draw on eyes; Make ghosts by using white balloons and draw on black eyes and mouth.  Next, put them in large plastic bags until you are ready to bring them out.  When you are ready, cover the floor with balloons and tell your guests to start popping or stomping the spiders/ghosts.  They will love it and will be excited to get their prizes.  Unfortunately I didn’t a good picture of this activity as the kids went a little wild popping the balloons, but you get the idea.


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The Coffin

This is really fun.  I used a shipping box from something I had ordered and spray painted it black.  Then I cut holes, large enough for your hand, along the top where body parts would be.  I had the body parts in Tupperware container bottoms spaced with the holes for a head (cauliflower), eyes (peeled grapes), ears (dried apricots), tongue (cut banana peel), teeth (sunflower seeds or popcorn kernels),  heart (peeled bell pepper left whole stem removed), intestines (noodles sprayed with oil), toes (cut mini hot dogs).  I also created a little story to go along with the coffin and body parts.

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Creepy Clown Bowling

This is real simple.  I used an outdoor blow up bowling set and glued on faces of creepy clowns that I printed and cut out.  Then I used a foam pumpkin for the bowling ball.


 

Dive or Dare

This is super fun for all the senses.  Have your guests dive for creepy items or dare them to eat it.  I used cauldrons filled with red orbeez type balls and hid witch fingers, spiders, snakes, and eyeballs in them.  Then I placed edible versions of the same items next to the cauldrons.  Snakes are just gummy snakes I bought in the store.  The spiders are chocolates that I created using a candy mold.  The eyeballs and witch fingers recipes are below.


Eyeball Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup softened cream cheese
  • 22 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed into fine crumbs
  • Lifesaver gummies
  • Chocolate chips
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips or candy melts

Directions:

  1. Combine cookie crumbs and softened cream cheese until well combined.
  2. Roll 1/2 tablespoonfuls of mixture into about 1-1/4″ balls and place on waxed paper.  Use your thumb to make shallow depression on the top of each ball.
  3. Chill cookie balls until firm, about 1 hour.
  4. Stretch Lifesaver gummy over chocolate chip with the tip side down.  Set aside.
  5. Melt white chocolate per package directions in microwave or double boiler.
  6. Dip cookie balls in chocolate and set on tray.  Immediately set the “irises” (Lifesaver & chocolate chip) on top and slightly press into the depression.
  7. Repeat with remaining balls.
  8. Allow chocolate to cool and harden before serving.  Chilling them on the tray in the refrigerator will speed up the process.  Store leftovers in refrigerator.

 

Witch Finger Cookies, by Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. fine salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 28 large sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam or other red jam that you prefer

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.  Spray baking sheet with vegetable oil or line with silpat.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture until a dough forms.
  5. Use about 1 tablespoonful of dough and roll into 5″ long fingers and about 1/2″ thick.  Firmly press a sliced almond into the end of the finger for fingernails.  Then make several horizontal cuts to create the knuckles.  Arrange the fingers on prepared baking sheets and bake until lightly golden, about 16 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  6. In small saucepan, heat jam over low heat until warm.  Dip the blunt end of the fingers into the jam and arrange on platter.
  7. One variation you could do is add a couple of drops of food color to color the cookies.  Maybe use green for witch fingers or possibly blue for monster fingers.

I hope you liked some of these ideas.  I’d love to hear how it went if you try any of them or if you’ve made your own variations.  Hope you all have a very Happy Halloween!


April Fools

April Fools Day is one of my sister’s favorite days.  I can remember countless times growing up, where she would play the best and worst tricks on us.  Every year on this day, I’d anxiously wait not knowing what or when her master plan would unfold.  Her tricks ranged from when we were little to “you have something crawling on you”  to when we got older she had a terrible accident.  Just playing with our emotions.  We were all just little pawns in her master world of trickery.  When all was done she would be laughing, well, we’d all be laughing and we fall for it each and every year.  I honestly don’t know how she can keep such a straight face and keep the gag going.  Well, I guess that’s why she’s the master.  Now, she’s passing down this fun and tormenting ritual to her daughter and I am as well to my kids. Read More