New-School Banana Pudding

One of the best things about getting married (aside from all the great wedding gifts), is the constant surprises that come with it. My husband and I are most often surprised when it comes to food, and the way the same meal is made. Often times we each think the other’s recipe is so unfamiliar that dish is not even recognizable, and to blend them together would create something that is inedible.  However, there are other times that we blend two great recipes, to create a recipe that uniquely our own. Normally my husband knows how things are supposed to taste, but no idea how to make them (which is simultaneously both hilarious, and incredibly frustrating), but fortunately I recently had the pleasure of making my mother-in-law’s banana pudding with her, and therefore saw her recipe first hand. My family is very traditional, and makes the recipe directly from the Nilla Wafers box, whereas my mother-in-law ignores the box, and adds all kinds of awesomeness in its place. Below is a beautiful blend of our two family’s banana pudding recipes that is simultaneously both traditional and awesome at the same time. And since, banana pudding never takes too much time, it’s quick from the time you start to when you have an empty bowl.

***Our glass dish, was nine-inches in diameter, and approximately four-inches tall, just fyi. If your dish is bigger, just double everything, so you’ll have more***

**OH! Because of all the layers I found it easier to make individual pastry bags for each layer, this way each layer was added evenly. Making pastry bags from ziploc bags is super easy, just put all the layer in a bag, and cut off the tip of a corner, and squeeze. See this link for more how-to information and pictues!***

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  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • 1/2 box Nilla Wafers (buying this brand is really non-negotionable)
  • 1 block cream cheese, 8 oz, room temperature
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c evaporated milk
  • 1/3 c all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 c milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 container of Cool Whip
  1. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in a  small pot. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla. (This is directly from the Nilla Wafers box, why mess with classic?). Set aside.
  2. Mix the cream cheese, sugar and evaporated milk in a small bowl. Stir until well blended, and add 1/2 tsp vanilla. (My mother-in-law uses condensed milk instead of the evaporated milk and sugar combo, and then adds milk to thin out the mixture, making  it is nice and spreadable. Both options taste amazing.)
  3. Add a small amount of custard on the bottom of the dish, until evenly coated. Then add a layer of vanilla wafers. Next add an even layer of the cream cheese mixture. Next add a layer of bananas, followed by a layer of Cool Whip, followed by a layer of wafers. Repeat the layers. The best part is that you can mix the layers any way you like!
  4. Place in the fridge for a few hours, or until chilled.

Enjoy!!

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Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Empanada

One beautiful Sunday afternoon, me and one of my best friends ate the most amazing empanada from a food truck, and as is the story of my culinary life, I couldn’t wait to replicate it at home. I created all the filling first, and then my husband and I as a team built our empanadas.

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This recipe makes only six empanadas, so again please double it if you want more. Also, after make it the first time, there are a few things I would change the next time I make it (and there will be a next time!). For one, I would make the empanadas bigger, and maybe added a little more spice to the chicken mixture, and possibly some grilled red onions. This is why food never taste the same twice in our house…

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  • 2 boneless-skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 c buffalo sauce (we used Frank’s Redhot Buffalo Wing Sauce)
  • 1/4 c blue cheese crumbles (add more or less, depending on how you feel)
  • 2 oz cream cheese, preferably at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg white
  • salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder
  • already rolled, pre-made pie crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Season the chicken thighs with the salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder mixture. Melt the butter in a heated skillet, with 1 tbsp olive oil, and place the seasoned chicken thighs in the pan. Cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side, aiming to flip the chicken only once.
  3. Remove the chicken from the pan, and place on a cutting board, making sure to reserve the juices from the pan. Chop the chicken into small pieces, and place in a bowl. To the same bowl add the buffalo sauce, and the remaining butter chicken juice.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the blue cheese and cream cheese, and using the back of a spoon smash the blue cheese to better mix it with the cream cheese. (Add some more blue cheese or cream cheese if you want, just remember you don’t want to make too much)
  5. On a flour-ed surface, unroll the dough and using a bowl (approximately 4 inches in diameter), use the bowl like a cookie cutter and cut stencils in the dough.
  6. Take each section of the dough and brush the edges with egg white. Place approximately two spoonfulls of the chicken mixture, and one  spoonful of the cheese mixture on half of the dough. Then fold the dough in half, and close the edges using a fork to close the empanada. For additional assistance, please follow this link.
  7. Place a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet, and spray with cooking spray (you really don’t want them to stick, because there is nothing worse then an empanada thats split in two). Lay each empanada on the cookie sheet, and bake for approximately 20-30 minutes. Because it depends on the size of the empanadas, and the thickness of the dough, the time may vary a little. Just make sure to remove them when they are brown and flaky.

 

Browned Gnocchi in a Wine, Vegetable, Cream Sauce

I went to a restaurant in DC and had this amazing gnocchi dish…I didn’t even think i liked gnocchi, but this was amazing. Needless to say, I came home and attempted the replicate the dish. I’ll be honest, this was my second try, but as with everything, practice makes perfect right? So here is my second try, and I must say, it is very yummy. My husband had never had gnocchi before (he kept calling it ‘nookie’ but thats a completely different story), but he thought it was great, and even asked for seconds! Success!

As with everything, there is always room for your own interpretation, feel free to add a little more of all the vegetables, deepening on what you like. Also, I found that browning the gnocchi ensures that its not gummy in the final product, and instead like a nice morsel of heaven.

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  • 3 c of pre-made gnocchi
  • 1 square inch of parmesan, rind on
  • 1/2 c of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 c of reserved gnocchi water (don’t worry, I’ll explain this later)
  • 20 spears of asparagus, follow these instructions on how to correctly buy and break asparagus
  • 3 c raw spinach
  • 4 slices of pancetta, chopped  (I would have added more, but thats all I had)
  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, (I used baby bella and shitake)
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 of chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 tbsp flour mixed thoroughly into 1/2 c of water
  • 2 cups worth of concentrated bouillon (I like this one from Trader Joe’s, unfortunately you can’t buy it online though)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a small sauce pot boil 5 c of salted water, once the water begins to boil add the gnocchi. Continue to cook the gnocchi until they begin to float and rise to the top of the water.  Approximately five minutes or so. Reserve two cups of the gnocchi water, and once they all rise, remove from the water and place in a strainer to drain.
  2. In a separate sauté pan place 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1/3 of the cooked gnocchi. Cook for five minutes until browned, and then flip each individual gnocchi over, to allow to brown on other side (I used chopsticks to flip them over because I felt it was much easier that way.)  Repeat with the remaining gnocchi until it is all cooked. Set aside.
  3. In a small pot boil5 cups of salted water, once boiling add the asparagus. Cook for 7-10 minutes, or until asparagus turns bright green. Remove from pot, and let cool. Once cooled, cut at an angle into 1 inch sections. Set aside.
  4. In a separate sauce pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and the chopped pancetta. Stir periodically until browned, and then remove from pan. Set aside.
  5. In the same pan add the chopped onion, cook for three minutes, then add the chopped garlic. Continue to stir periodically, after five minutes add the chopped mushrooms. Continue to stir until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Add 1 tbsp butter to the onion/mushroom mixture and stir until butter is all melted.
  7. Add the wine, and gnocchi water and cook until reduced by half. (Watch the water lines on the inside of the pot, you’ll be able to tell when its reduced.)
  8. Once reduced, add the cream and flour/water mixture to the pan, stirring quickly until evenly mixed and not clumpy.
  9. Taste the sauce, and add salt and pepper as apporpriate.
  10. Return the pancetta to the pan, making sure to stir in completely. Add the spinach to the sauce, and stir until it begins to wilt. Add the chopped asparagus to the sauce, and stir.
  11. Add the gnocchi, toss again, and enjoy!