In The Chef's Kitchen with Hari Cameron Pt 2

As you may recall, Hari taught me how to make ricotta cheese two ways.... and once the cheese is made, you ask, what happens? Well, I am glad you asked! That particular day, Hari taught me how to make a version of one of my favorite foods: gnocchi!

As he explained to me, there are basically three types of gnocchi, potato (which most are familiar with), Parisian (made with eclair dough), and ricotta. I have made gnocchi at home several times at home, and so I was excited to learn a few tips to make my gnocchi making that much better.

This recipe comes with a bonus--the sage brown butter sauce recipe, which is extremely yummy and adds just the right flavors to the gnocchi.

You will need: 

For the gnocchi:
2 cups (or one pound) whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup of flour, plus some more for dusting
1 pastry bag

For the sage brown butter:

several leaves fresh sage
3 tablespoons butter
roasted baby squash
balsamic reduction
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

For the gnocchi, mix together your ingredients. The mixture will be wet, which is why the pastry bag becomes an important piece of the puzzle. As anyone who has made gnocchi at home likely knows, handling the little suckers can be a point of contention...but the pastry bag eliminated that.

Flour your surface well. Using the pastry bag, lay out your row of dough, and then using a knife, cut the strip into more uniform pieces, using the tip of the knife to gently turn them into the flour.

And there they are: perfect little gnocchi! 

To cook the gnocchi, you want to boil them in salted water until they float to the top. They don't take long, as they are fresh. (It should take about 3 minutes). Once they are cooked through, you want to throw them in a pan to get a light fry on the outside. This will make them extra yummy!

For the sage brown butter sauce, add the butter and sage to a hot pan and allow them to cook slowly. The butter will brown, but you don't want it to burn, so don't cook it over scorching heat.

Add in some fresh baby squash, balsamic reduction, salt and pepper. Put your gnocchi on a plate and drizzle with brown butter sauce, veggies, and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Top with freshly grated parmesan, and it will taste like perfection! 

I practically gobbled this down right there in the kitchen!
What a dish! 

Hold Up, Weight A Minute!

Since it was just Thanksgiving, I thought that we should take a minute to discuss how Christina Aguilera is getting fat, and so is Jessica Simpson--oh wait, scratch that, she’s pregnant instead. We all want to look like Heidi Klum don’t we? I mean, she is ripped as hell. But some of us weren’t born with such good looks... or great bodies. Really, no matter who you are, you likely struggle with at least one aspect of your appearance.

Lately these societal assumptions about our appearances have been really grinding my gears. It seems like everyone is talking about everyone else's weight. I hear off the cuff comments roll of the tongues of the people I love, and I can’t help but think it’s all so conditioned. We have been taught to respond in this way to insult people... or merely make for conversation in our boredom.  Christina Aguilera ISN’T fat....but when the media is hyper-focused on people’s bodies, well, America’s gossip-loving citizens seem to follow suit.

I recall the first time I really felt effected by the words of another with regard to weight. A friend of mine had gone off to college. Several months later she came back to visit and my friends and I were excited to see her. She stepped out of the car and was several pound heavier than when she left, but to be honest, she wasn’t fat. It was the usual freshman 15, if you ask me. But my girlfriend promptly turned and whispered in my ear as our friend turned her back, “Oh my god, she got fat!”

Later that same year, my theater director, for whom I had the utmost respect, pulled me into her office for a "chat." She told me that if I wanted to get into a good acting program and college, that I would need to lose this... and she actually patted my stomach! I was horrified and for the first time in my life, I wondered what people thought of my body. It made me self conscious, but being the awesomely resilient person I am, instead of wallowing in some sort of haze surrounding my body, I just gave up theater instead. If I was going to have to be skinny all the time, watch what I ate, etc, then that career wasn't going to be for me, anyway.

The truth is that there is an way too much of an emphasis on being super skinny and it's just unrealistic for most women. I am 4’ 11” and a size 6. I consider myself to be thin. I look damn good. I work out at least 3 days a week, and I eat a sensible diet full of veggies. I barely drink. I stopped weighing myself several months ago because I was positively fed up with obsessing over some number--I just want to feel good. And I want to stop receiving messages from my society that I should look or be a certain way.

Maybe as I get older, I get more and more sick of the homogenous expectations the media imposes on people. Even trying to avoid the subject, it just keeps popping up. Look, no one wants to be overweight, but it happens. Some people are just bigger than others--it doesn’t make them ugly or undesirable. It just makes us all different from one another.

Diversity is beautiful. All the shapes, sizes, and colors that separate us from one another also unite us. Because we are all different, it sort of makes us the same. There is certainly nothing wrong with being a size zero. In teh same vein, there is nothing wrong with being a size 6, or 12, or whatever size you happen to be. The real test of whether or not a person is healthy has to do with their physical fitness and their attitude about themselves.

I see the women around me obsess about the things that they eat. I see them put their bodies down or say that they don’t feel good. Just how often might you be uttering the expression, “I feel fat”? I know I am guilty of doing it... You should love yourself no matter what size you are. This is something I strive for each and every day. Some days I do better than others.

But part of the mission of breaking this cycle of poor body image and the perpetuation of the “ideal” body type, is to help change the minds of others. So many people think that it’s acceptable to make fun of people for the way they look. We must recognize this as weak behavior, and point it out to others when they engage in it. this is my pledge, as a friend, as a community member, and as a woman.

I hope you will take it too!

I'm The Boss, Applesauce!

Many people enjoy applesauce, especially if that applesauce is homemade. As you might know, I am really into canning. Canning allows me to capture seasonal tastes and preserve them for later enjoyment. Last year, my mother-in-law and I were just warming up, and this year, we took it to a whole new level!

The last stop on our canning extravaganza was the applesauce. We weren't entirely sure how the process would go... would it be difficult? Surprisingly, the applesauce was one of the easiest things we canned all season! The only special equipment you need is a Victorio Strainer, which is what grinds the pulp of the apples into the sauce we so love, and separates it from anything you don't want (like leftover skin, rough patches, or seeds you may have missed.)

As for the apples themselves, we used Jonagold apples, which are a cross between a Jonathan apple and a golden delicious apple--great for applesauce. Another tip for when you are buying apples is to try and get the "seconds." These would be the apples that are less uniform, and perhaps a little smaller, but it'll save you money!

Of course, you don't have to make a huge batch of applesauce to can; you can always make on an "as needed" basis, too!

All you need to make applesauce:

20-22 pounds of apples- washed, cored, sliced and boiled until soft
2 tablespoons of special cinnamon

Canning supplies
14 Jars
14 Bands
14 Lids
Canning Pot  (to process jars) filled with water

Having an apple corer saves a ton of time! 

The Victorio Strainer is available in most kitchen stores, or
online. I picked mine up on

Put your peeled apples in the pot and boil them for several
minutes, or until they are getting soft. 

Put the cooked apples through the strainer and it gives you
a beautiful, uniform applesauce! 

Add some special cinnamon

Place them in your cans, and then process in water bath
for about 15 minutes! YUM! 

My First Thanksgiving!

I always knew that there was something different about the way my family did Thanksgiving. At the age of 10, I had never had a Thanksgiving turkey--I’m not even sure that I knew what it was in the real sense of the holiday. Sure, I had the “Thanksgiving dinner” at school lunch, you know the one, with the little pie and the pile of instant mashed potatoes slathered in questionable turkey and loaded with sodium. A whole turkey had never crossed my table.

I distinctly remember the first holiday I saw a turkey on my family’s table. My mother had remarried to a wonderful man, and we were about to spend our very first holiday as a newly blended family. I was in for the shock of my life.

A girl of 10 or 11 doesn’t think to ask if tradition would change as a result of the new union, of course, and so I just assumed that we would be having the traditional Italian-American spread I had become accustomed to over the years. I expected meatballs, lasagna, perhaps some asparagus, and certainly the “kitchen sink salad” (named such because my mom puts in everything but the kitchen sink!)

Enter the big holiday and the even bigger bird that was sitting, beautifully cooked, on the kitchen table. This was supposed to be our very first “normal” Thanksgiving holiday, but when I beheld this site, I believe I cried. Why was this happening to me? I couldn’t comprehend what in the world had happened to my Italian-American holiday staples!

My stepfather stood agape at the musings of an 11-year-old who had never had a Thanksgiving turkey. I am sure he, with his very classic American upbringing, couldn’t comprehend what in the world I was experiencing. This is much the same reaction he had when he learned that my brother and I had never had a donut and promptly took us out to Dunkin’ Donuts to sample the sugary, moist cakes topped with even more sugar.

Nonetheless, there I was, practically traumatized by the turkey on the table in place of the traditional lasagna. Instead of meatballs and gravy boats of homemade marinara sauce, there was mashed potatoes and brown gravy. This, my mother informed me while she simultaneously tried to hide her own amusement, was an American Thanksgiving dinner. I was incredulous, but I sat down to give it a try, sucking up whatever disappointment I was feeling.

To my surprise, I loved the traditional turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes. They tasted great--and nothing like that gook I had eaten in school lunch. The flavors were homey and altogether different than they type of comfort derived from Italian-American food. From that moment on, mashed potatoes and I were practically inseparable. I would ask my mother repeatedly to make mashed potatoes and gravy. I just couldn’t get enough of the stuff, preferably with tons of butter, pepper, and salt.

All of that fuss seemed over a lot of “nothing” when it came to a change in tradition and taste. Though we didn’t always have turkey on Thanksgiving (sometimes we had ham, and sometimes we had a revival of the old days of lasagna and meatballs) I will never quite forget that feeling of my first traditional Thanksgiving. I suddenly felt like I had a double food life. There was the Italian-American food that I had grown up with, and then there was the rest of America that had traditions unique to that identity. I still crave the pasta that I grew up with; perhaps even a little too much. But now my palette has extended beyond the basics.

Venison Tenderloin & Marinade

It's hunting season and that can only mean one thing: I am sitting at home hoping and praying that our friend gets us a deer for the year. I have emptied my freezer in preparation for the incoming deer and I am imagining all the lovely things that I will make with my venison.

I don't know what it is with meat and me. At the risk of angering every human organization out there, I'm just "into" meat lately. I love the unusual cuts and the less traveled meats. I love game and that earthy flavor it boasts. I recently cracked out when I found a whole duck at the grocery (which they rarely have) and told just about everyone I know about this event. My love of meat is palpable.

Arguably the best cut on the deer is the tenderloin. It's small, it's juicy and it's perfect for marinating and eating medium rare. I thought I would share my marinade in case you, like me, are a fan of the deer. Sorry Bambi, but I just think you taste amazing.

Venison Tenderlion Marinade:

Makes 8 small tenderloin steaks

3 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons Olive oil
several dashes of peppers
about 1 teaspoon of salt
three dashes cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon wostershire sauce


Marinate the venison steaks in the marinade, turing at least once. Marinate as long as possible, up to 6 hours.

Cook the venison on a skillet or grill until desired doneness is reached. I like medium rare, [but some people will enjoy a more well-done piece of meat when it comes to game.]

Serve with grilled corn and salad caprese in the summer months, and roasted potatoes and kale in the winter months.

Me-Oh-My : PIE!

Holiday is a time when people bust out their pies. It is probably one of the major reasons that I love the holidays so much. Never much a cake fan, I love pie with proportions that as we speak, I have four--yes, four, no judgments!--pies frozen in my freezer.

I just love everything about pie. It's flaky crust, it's gooey center. The fact that pie is such a moist and juicy food. I love that pie is so versatile and that you can make a pie sweet or savory. So, when the summer ended, I started making pies. Well, that is, my mother in law and I made some pies.

It was her idea to start the freezing in the first place, which, I have to say, was a stroke of brilliance. Now all my holiday pie baking is done and I can just grab a pie from the freezer and I've got my dessert. Here's some pictures of us making apple pie which, instead of baking, we froze. I also did three pumpkin pies on my own.

There was some debate about the pumpkin pies freezing properly, but I want to assure everyone: the taste was totally intact. Did the filling pull away from the crust as they said it would if I froze it? Well, yes, just a little... but I can tell you this: I wasn't focusing on the crust pie stick factor as I was eating. {no one will ever notice}

Here's pictures! Enjoy, and happy pie-making!

Pumpkin Pies! 

Get your surface floured! 

Roll out your crust!
(I like Jiffy Crust, but you can do whatever you like!) 

In the pan! 

Pumpkin pie is easy!
I like my Better Homes & Garden's recipe, but you can go
with the one on the package, too. 


Enjoy! Or freeze, whatever you fancy!

Apple Pie!!! 

Slice your apples
Then remove the skin

Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a touch of sugar as well
as some tapioca and let it sit for 15 minutes  

Pour it in a pie shell 

Cover with another pie shell 

And you've got apple pie!
Seal them at the seams with a fork, and you are ready to freeze.
Boy! I'd say that was easy as pie! :) 

Chef's Kitchen With Hari Cameron - Part 1

I love to cook, and I think I'm pretty great at it. But as great as I think I am, I know that I have a lot to learn. After a week of furiously looking at cooking schools online and determining that was not plausible for me at this moment, I knew I needed to find a way to learn more. So, I started with my friends who are chefs, and have asked some of them to help me learn.

Among the very first to give me a big, fat "yes" was Hari Cameron, executive chef at Nage. He's a fabulous chef who loves to give back to community, and thank goodness, he decided to donate an afternoon to me! Hari taught me how to make ricotta cheese, and then he also gave me a gnocchi recipe (more on that in part 2!) I learned a TON and now I am excited to share it with you guys!

First, the ricotta cheese. This is an item that I use constantly in my Italian cooking. Whether it is for a cheesecake, casserole, or or spaghetti dish, I love me some ricotta. Ricotta is made by taking a lot of milk and incorporating in an acid. We did this two ways, one with vinegar and one with lemon, and then we compared the two.

I was surprised to learn that making ricotta cheese was easier than I thought it would be. The ingredients are simple, but they also must be precise, so if you make this at home, please keep this in mind. Here are the two recipes, so you can see them side by side. The method, as you will see, is the same.

Recipe One:

1 cup buttermilk
9 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons distilled vinegar

Recipe Two: 

8 cups (or 2 quarts) whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice

You will also need: a big old bowl and in that you place a strainer with 4 layers of cheesecloth over top.

Place the milk and cream in a pan and heat slowly. This is called "scalding" the milk. You want to heat the milk to 180-185 degrees. Unless you are a pro, like Hari, it's best to use a thermometer to make sure you have the temperature correct.

When it's heated, it's time to add the acid and salt. Continue to cook until you start to really see the separation of the curds.

side note: remember the nursery rhyme about curds and whey? Well, yea, that is basically what you get when you separate the milk with the acid. Pretty coolio, huh? 

Then you pour it into the prepared cheesecloth bowl. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Hari was careful to tell me that the longer you let it sit, the more moisture you will lose. You want to lose moisture, of course, but keep in mind that you don't want to lose too much!

When it's done sitting, pull the cheesecloth up, and form it into a tight ball, squeezing out the excess moisture. Then, lay it out on a plate and taste away!
The finished product!! YUM! 

Which one did I like the best? I was a huge fan of the lemon; it had a fabulous taste and even a hint of sweetness. But to be sure, they were both amazing.

Use within a few days!

Oh and part two will coming just after the Thanksgiving holiday where Hari shows me how to make a gnocchi that will impress your family and friends. He even threw in a brown butter recipe that had me saying "YUM!"

Thank you, Tide, Thank you

I am a television junkie, so it's no surprise that I have fallen in love with a commercial. Nonetheless, if you have missed this commercial, you should definitely check it out. It's your basic laundry detergent commercial with one distinct difference: the spokes person... or should I say, spokes MAN.

We women have long been known to be the home makers of America. It's not a secret, in fact, it's the very thing that we have been fighting since women's liberation was a concept. This commercial shows the distinct signs of shifting attitudes in America about our roles as men and women and how they are being redefined in the midst of our present economic recession.

Over the years, I have talked about how the recession may actually be a man-cession... you know, where the men lost their jobs but suddenly women were the new men. It may not really have much to do with the fact we women are awesome by nature, but more about the fact that women now earn more degrees than men do. None of this, of course, really matters as long as we are a happy, healthy nation, and I think that is the most beautiful part of all.

The thing is that men no longer have to be ashamed if their aspiration is to be a stay at home dad. I think that the stay at home dad phenomenon is brilliant... if more young boys and girls have dads in their home perhaps it will change the way our society thinks about gender roles. There really are no rules outside of the ones that we create for ourselves.

That is why, as a woman--nay, feminist--I absolutely LOVE this commercial. It shows me how far feminism has come, and how much we have broken the mold as a people. It makes me happy to see men proud to know how to french braid, get out a stain, and just generally being a great dad. Here's to you, fathers of America! Aspiring to be a great parent isn't exclusive to women, and neither is staying at home. We should all know what we're good at and where we want to go... and I want to go to work while my hubby stays at home with the kids.

Can I just say: thank you, Tide, thank you! 

What's Cooking?

Well it's been a little while since I've done a "what's cooking?" So needless to say, I have cooked quite a bit since the last one. But here are some of the things I have cooked in the last few weeks! Enjoy a little food porn for your Friday!

Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake 

This dessert was delicious and very rich--the perfect
combination if you ask me! 

Savory Cheesecake Appetizer 

This savory cheesecake incorporates goat cheese, ricotta, and
cream cheese with roasted red peppers.
It's finished with a apricot jam. 


Cauliflower Au Gratin 

It was going, going, gone! This was creamy goodness of
epic proportion! 

Forever Lazy [Like I needed an excuse]

Just when you thought the snuggie was bad, here comes a product that professes in the title just what they expect from it's users: forever lazy. As if winter isn't bad enough on the lazy factor, now we can take it to a whole new level. For those of you who are thinking that these are a pair of pajamas, think again. The people in the commercials are wearing these things over their regular clothes!! 

Best of all? Zipper hatches in the front and back so you can piss and shit your brains out without having to ever take your clothes off. Awesome. But it's really selling you on other points, too... like the fact that blankets are a hassle and that turning up the heat is too much money. 

I feel them on the heat issue, but really, I would rather pay for the heat than have someone catch me wearing this monstrosity. Maybe it's the fact that I was always getting pinched by the zippers on the footie pajamas, and I feared the zip up more and more each night, but I am not so into this product. 

Forever lazy? I'm not sure people put too much into the name department of this product. But really, fleece pajamas I can pee out of or not, I am not sure I need any more incentive in this American life to be "lazy." That and I don't really see blankets as the enemy, but more of an ally. I love blankets. 

Either way, I predict a lot of people getting this product for Christmas [thank you Walmart]. And you know what? They are probably going to find themselves unable to get off their couches. In addition, they will start to forget to remove their pants when going to use the bathroom. So what was worse.... the snuggie or the forever lazy? You decide [after you shit through the zipper of a fleece product.] 

The Eye Rolling Queen

Right after we got married last year, I was doing some web surfing when I came across an article about signs that you and yours would get a divorce. I probably shouldn’t have opened the link, but open the link I did. I was relieved to see that each and every one of the problems that were a sign of divorce did not apply to me--except one. Apparently a big, bad sign in a marriage is eye rolling. Of this offense, I am guilty with a capital G.

Hi everyone, my name is Billie and I am a big, fat eye roller.

One would think that seeing such a thing in black and white would curb my bad behavior, but, alas, it did not. In fact, in the last year, I would probably say that my eye rolling has reached more epic proportions than ever. Why? I don’t have a good answer for that. I guess I am just addicted to rolling my eyes. Maybe seeing it print ignited an eye-rolling fury within me!

It all started sometime between conception and birth, which is when, I am pretty sure, I developed this bad habit. What I am trying to say is that it’s pretty much like being a nail biter or something... it was so ingrained that I hardly knew I was doing it! And I did it so much that I found my husband constantly offended with me which, in turn, was making me roll my eyes even MORE!

Well, things finally came to a head one afternoon when my husband expressed that it was literally driving him crazy. All joking aside, I had to break my habit of eye rolling if I was going to be a more respectful wife (and probably just more mature human being, in general.) Of course, the only thing I could think to do at the time was to roll my eyes, which clearly wasn’t helping anything.

At the time my thought process went something almost identical to this: seriously, how in the world am I supposed to break myself of a habit when I don’t even know that I am doing it sometimes? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had to break the habit because I was just not willing to let eye rolling destroy my union; I mean, how utterly ridiculous would that be? And I guess it really is offensive to people--not just “cheeky” as I formerly believed [or tried to convince myself of.]

So just how did I break my bad habit... or was it all futile, causing my marriage to crash and burn in a ball of eye rolling flames? I started by trying to make myself more aware of the behavior itself. And then came the hard part: not giving in. Maybe it had more to do with my attitude than the behavior itself... like when I would get all “huffy” then I would naturally roll my eyes in response to anything I didn’t want to listen to.

Nonetheless, by being more aware and really trying to listen with an open heart seemed to really do a lot of good for my annoying habit. That, and I like to think that my husband also tried to be his very best and not give me reasons to “get rolling.” But the point is that it could be eye rolling, picking your crack, or spitting in the kitchen sink--if it’s offensive to your spouse, or to anyone who is important to you for that matter, shouldn’t you at least try to do it less?

That is not to say that I don’t have moments when I slip up and find my eyes going in a circle--there certainly are those. But it sure happens a lot less now, and I think the household is more harmonious for it. Was it the worst habit in the world? Of course not... but it’s generally the straw that breaks that camel’s back, and I wasn’t about to prove that stupid marriage article right!

Stuffed Pork Roast Recipe

Want to take your ordinary pork roast to extraordinary? This recipe looks impressive, but is really very simple. Served on top of kale and white beans in a flavorful, light sauce, this dish is not only gorgeous, but it's also on the healthier side of the spectrum!

Serves 4

You Will Need: 

For the Roast:

2 pound pork roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced thin
5 slices thin-sliced prosciutto
Several slices of mozzarella cheese
2 mushrooms, sliced
Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
salt & pepper

For the veggies:

1 bunch (about 14 cups) fresh kale
1 16 ounce can cannelinni beans
1/2 stick butter
1 shallot, sliced
zest & juice of 1 lemon
3/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth


Take your pork roast and butterfly it (which basically means to cut it in half, but leave the center portion intact so you come out with a flat roast:

Next, place a piece of plastic wrap overtop the pork and pound it out to make it nice and flat and uniform. Now you are ready to dress your roast! Start by dosing it up with some salt and pepper. Next, put your prosciutto on the roast: 

Then put on your mozzarella, mushrooms, parsley, and garlic:

Then roll up your roast, nice and tight, and then secure it with kitchen twine.

Place the roast in a cast iron skillet and drizzle it with the olive oil. Place in a 375 degree oven and cook until finished, about 1 hour, but up to 1 and 1/2 hours. (When it's done, the juices will run clear.) 

As for the veggies, you want to wait until your roast is nearly done to prepare them.  When you're ready, place the 1/2 stick of butter into a skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it becomes translucent. Add the zest and juice of the lemon, the chicken broth, and white wine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Allow the mixture to simmer a few moments, and then add the kale. 

You may have to add your kale in stages, as it fills the pan but then wilts. Add all the kale, bit by bit, until you have incorporated it all. When all the kale is nicely wilted, add the cannelinni beans. Heat through. 

When the roast is cooked, slice it and serve it over the kale and white bean mixture. The flavors combine beautifully!