Friday, January 30, 2009

Olive Garden Style Chicken Gnocchi Soup - UPDATE

I made the Chicken Gnocchi Soup on Wednesday which was one of the (many) days D had off from school due to snow/ice. I didn't use whole milk, heavy cream or the chicken bouillon. Instead, I used skim milk, fat free half & half and homemade chicken broth. The soup was probably not as thick as it would have been had I used the original ingredients but I'm quite sure I reduced the amount of cholesterol and sodium by a lot. I also used quite a bit more fresh spinach than called for in the recipe. The only thing that I would do next time I make the soup is use olive oil rather than butter to cook the chicken. You could use more flour if you like your soup thicker or even use a smaller amount of cream to get the right consistency. I'm sure the soup would still be much healthier and easier on your arteries!

In my opinion, and both B and D agreed with me, the soup was yummy. B and two bowls and D declared it the best soup he had ever eaten (of course he is only 10 years old). Still, that was quite a high compliment coming from him.

Please try this soup, it is easy and scrumptious. If you take out the heavy cream and whole milk, it is somewhat healthy, too! Especially, if you increase the spinach, carrots and celery.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sloppy Turkey Joes

We made another meal out of our Cooking Rocks! Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids cookbook. Last Friday night, D had a friend over and we all decided it was a good night for Sloppy Turkey Joes. Apparently, one of the few things that D's friend will eat is Sloppy Joes! I was glad I had picked up all the ingredients the previous day. The boys seemed to really enjoy this meal. I served it with carrot and celery sticks and ranch dressing to dip 'em in. B and I also liked the sloppy joes. It was a nice treat.

Sloppy Turkey Joes
Makes 4 Servings

1-1/3 pounds ground turkey or ground turkey breast
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) (2 turns of the pan)
1/2 red onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1 tablespoon grill seasoning blend (a palmful), such as Montreal Seasonings by McCormick or Mrs. Dash grill seasoning for poultry
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup tomato sauce (8 ounces)
4 crusty sandwich rolls, split
12 celery sticks (available in produce department, or GH can chop)
12 carrot sticks (available in produce department, or GH can chop)

Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut open the package of ground turkey and hand it off to your GH (grown-up helper).

Have your GH place a big skillet over medium-high heat for you. Add the evoo. Have the GH add the ground turkey to the pan, in case it splatters. Break the turkey up with a wooden spoon as it starts to cook. If anyone touches the raw turkey, they should go wash their hands.

If you are a really good chopper, using a small, sharp knife chop up some red onions. Remember when you are chopping to keep the fingers that are not holding the knife all tucked in and curled under. Have a GH help you. You need half a red onion chopped up small. Pull the seeds and white membrane and the top out of a half red bell pepper and chop that up small too. Add the veggies to the cooking meat and stir it all together.

Next, mix in a small bowl: grill seasoning blend, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and the tomato sauce. This will make your special sauce. When all the ingredients are combined, pour the sauce evenly over the meat and stir everything together really well. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook the sloppy mixture for 10 minutes. Blow on a spoonful until cool and taste it to see if you need to adjust the seasonings.

Have the GH help you serve. Place bun bottoms on plates. Use a big ice cream scoop to get a pile of sloppy meat onto each bun. Put bun tops in place and serve with vegetable sticks on the side and cheese fries (recipe on page 72 of Cooking Rocks!).

This recipe should satisfy even your pickiest eaters.


The Creative Cook & Son

Monday, January 26, 2009

Honeyed French Toast Sandwich

Yes, we are doing another French Toast recipe. Obviously, we are big French Toast fans around here. D and I both had today off so he wanted to make something out of a cookbook. He decided on using the Breakfast All Day by Edon Waycott cookbook. He found two more french toast recipes. We tried one today with a few substitutions for items that I didn't have in the house. We both loved these "sammies" as Rachel Ray would call them. But that is for another day.

We substituted marscapone cheese for the ricotta cheese. You may be wondering why we had marscapone cheese in our house. That is a valid question. D has been on a marscapone cheese kick since he found out it is a good substitute for cream cheese. It has less calories and fat in it. I have to agree that it tastes great. Try it some time.

Honeyed French Toast Sandwich

3 large eggs

1/2 cup low fat milk

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

4 slices firm-textured white or egg bread

1 tablespoon safflower oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup thinly sliced strawberries

powdered sugar

maple syrup (optional)

In a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs, milk, honey, flour, and baking powder. Press each piece of bread into the mixture and allow to soak for several minutes. Using a spatula, turn, and allow the other side to soak.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. Using a spatula, lift the bread from the batter into the pan and brown on both sides. Spread the yogurt cheese on 2 of the slices and distribute the strawberries evenly over the cheese. Top with the remaining slices, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve. Pass maple syrup, if desired. Makes 2 sandwiches.

There is a variation to make ham sandwiches:

After browning, spread one side of each of the 2 slices with Dijon mustard, add thinly sliced ham, and top with the remaining slice of toast. Serve hot. This sounds really yummy, too!

The Creative Cook & Son

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Olive Garden Style Chicken Gnocchi Soup

I went to lunch today with a friend. We ate at Olive Garden. We had their soup, bread sticks and salad lunch special. It was a wonderful treat. We both got the new Chicken Gnocchi Soup. My friend was so enamored with the soup that she thought about buying three more servings to take home for her hubby and kids but I convinced her to try making it herself at home. I had high hopes of finding a "copycat" recipe inspired by this wonderful Olive Garden soup. I was very successful and I plan to make this soup very soon for my family. Please try it. I will most likely substitute chicken broth for the bullion cubes because of the MSG in most (if not all) bullion cubes that I have ever seen. If you know about any chicken bullion cubes sold that do not contain any form of MSG, please please please email me or send me some feedback about them. Here is the recipe that I found:

Olive Garden Style Chicken Gnocchi Soup Recipe
Post By Heather (Guest Post) (11/09/2008)

I used this recipe and I absolutely loved the soup. It seems to be the closest to the Olive Garden Chicken Gnocchi Cream Soup. From beginning to end it takes about 10 min. of prep and 30 min. cook time.

1/3 cup olive oil or butter
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 lb. chicken
1/3 cup flour
1/2 carrot shredded
1 stick of celery
1/2 cup fresh chopped spinach
2-1/2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 cup heavy cream
3 chicken bullion cubes
Cracked pepper to taste
17.6 oz. of Gnocchi from Target

On medium heat. Melt butter in a soup pot, add in the garlic and saute, add your chicken and cook through out. Add flour and stir in flour and mix well until the flour is cooked into the chicken. Next add your milk and heavy cream, then add the veggies (carrots, celery, spinach). Add three bullion cubes. Add your Gnocchi last it, takes 3-4 min. to cook through. Mix ingredients well until soup thickens and stir occasionally. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.


The Creative Cook

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes!

Lately, D has been watching the Food Network non-stop. Apparently, he saw an episode of "Chopped" one night while he was home with his dad. Ever since, we have seen just about every Food Network Show. I don't mind except it gets D thinking about food constantly and eating more. He has been going on the treadmill more frequently, thank goodness.

On a lighter note, D decided that he wanted to make something out of Rachael Ray's Cooking Rocks! 30-Minute Meals for Kids cookbook. Probably because we were watching her show when he got home this afternoon. He picked the recipe for Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes. They were very tasty even with my substitutions. We didn't have any corn flakes so I had him use corn meal instead.

Crunchy Oven-Baked

Makes 4 Servings

1 cup corn flakes cereal, any brand
1 cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice (the SECRET ingredient)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 pounds chicken breast tenders (2 packages),
cut into two inch pieces by GH (Grown-up Helper)
1/4 cup honey mustard, any brand
1/4 cup barbecue sauce, any brand

Have your GH turn on the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make the breading: pour the corn flakes into a pie pan or other large, shallow dish. Crush the cereal up with your hands. Mix in bread crumbs, brown sugar, salt, pepper, andn allspice (your SECRET ingredient; do not tell anybody what your secret ingredient is -- ever!).

Drizzle the vegetable oil evenly over the breading. Have the GH pour the oil out slowly. A vegetable oil bottle has a big opening, so 3 tablespoons will pour out pretty quickly, probably by the time you can count to 5, so watch the GH closely and count really loudly! Toss and turn it to mix the oil all through the bread crumbs and crushed-up corn flakes.

Pour the flour into another shallow dish, and the beaten eggs into a third. Turn the chicken in flour, then eggs, and then in the special crunchy breading. Arrange the chicken toes on a nonstick baking sheet. You and your GH should go and wash your hands now. Place the chicken toes in the oven and cook until crisp and brown all over, about 15 minutes.

When the toes come out of the oven, it's time to stir up the sauce for dipping them. Mix together honey mustard and barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Dip your hot chicken toes into your honey mustard barbecue sauce.

We ate these chicken toes with broccoli and mashed potatoes but Rachael Ray suggests Creamy Salsa Dip and Veggies and Fuji Apples and Peanutbuttery Caramel Dip. Both recipes can be found in her Cooking Rocks! cookbook.


The Creative Cook

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Asian Dinner

Yesterday, D was watching Sandra Lee on the Food Network and she was doing an "easy" Japanese dinner. Of course, D wanted to make something similar right then and there but I couldn't because either I didn't have the ingredients or they were frozen. I pulled some beef and string beans out of the fridge to thaw. Today, I was able to make a meal that I have had on the back burner. D loves teriyaki sauce so I made Teriyaki Beef Stir-Fry and I also made something called Dry Fried String Beans which are quintessential Chinese dish. This was a mixed-up Asian meal but it sure was tasty! We combined these two Asian dishes with my favorite Jasmine Rice. The results were great even though I'm sure that these two dishes would never be paired together in any restaurant.


1 lb. top round steak
6 tbsp. teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp. oil
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 c. broccoli
1 can baby corn
1 can straw mushrooms

Cut 1 pound top round steak into thin strips. Marinate in 6 tablespoons teriyaki sauce, 2 tablespoons oil and 4 teaspoons cornstarch for 30 minutes.

Stir-fry 1 cup broccoli, 1 can baby corn, 1 can straw mushrooms and onions in 1 tablespoon oil for 3 minutes; remove. Stir-fry beef (1/2 at a time) 2-3 minutes . Return all ingredients. Cook until hot. Makes 4 servings.

I did not make this dish with any of the vegetables. I would definitely try it that way if I wasn't already planning to make the dry fried string beans. I also added chopped fresh ginger to both dishes.

Dry-Fried String Beans

Active Time: 15 minutes
Yield: Makes 4 servings

1-1/2 lbs. string beans
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon Szechuan chili paste or hot sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce, low-sodium if possible
1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
1 tablespoon sugar


Wash the beans under running water. Drain the beans well on paper towels.

In a wok or skillet, heat the oil until just before it smokes. Add the beans, standing back to avoid being splattered with oil. Cook the beans over high heat, stirring and turning frequently, until they are wrinkled and lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain. Set aside.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the skillet. Over high heat, reheat the remaining oil. Add the scallions, garlic, and Szechuan paste and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the soy sauce and stir.

Put the string beans back into the skillet. Add the wine and sugar and stir well until mixed, about 1 minute. Remove from skillet and serve.

I also finally made the rum balls and imitation rum balls. I didn't use any nuts in either of them. I just added extra cookie crumbs. I think that I added too much liquid to the non-alcoholic ones because they were somewhat gummy. D and his friend said they were good but really sweet. The real rum balls were also a bit too gummy but not as bad as the others. They are pretty potent. I tried one but because I have never eaten a rum ball before in my life I don't know if they are good or not. I have to ask B to try one for a real taste-test.


The Creative Cook

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rum Balls

I may have mentioned (in fact, I'm sure I did) that I attended a cookie exchange last year right before Christmas at a friend's house. I was actually invited to two exchanges but I couldn't do both. I made the Chocolate Ribbon Cookies and brought 3 dozen of them with me. I received in return a bunch of awesome cookies. We ate them all at our December 26 get together. The ones that everyone made a particularly big fuss over were the Rum Balls. I asked my friend to give me the recipe. I am planning to make them this week to take to a Wining Women event on Friday night. I also promised D that I would make half of them non-alcoholic so he could try them. I doubt that there is very much of a chance he will like them but I will try. I also have to leave out the walnuts because of his nut allergy. I don't think he is going to have a reaction to the walnuts but he really doesn't like them and I don't want to take a chance.


2-1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup rum (any type is fine)
2-3 tablespoons dark corn syrup

Mix all ingredients, roll or scoop into balls about 1/2 inch, roll balls in more confectioners' sugar. Let set for 4 to 5 hours. I am not sure how many Rum Balls this recipe will make but I'll find out soon enough. I guess it really depends on how big I make them. Enjoy!

For the non-alcoholic ones I am either going to use a tablespoon or two of rum flavoring and the rest water to make up the 1/3 cup rum or orange juice and orange zest. I saw recipes using both to make rum balls non-alcoholic. I have been told that if I use orange juice I should keep the "Rum Balls" in the refrigerator; otherwise they can stay out of the fridge in an airtight container. I will also need to increase the amount of vanilla wafers to make up for the missing walnuts in the non-alcoholic portion. I am thinking about using almonds instead of walnuts in the other half. I will post something later in the week to let you know how this works out.

The Creative Cook

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Maui Chili

I am still on the luau wave!! A few months ago I was surfing the web and found a recipe for something called Maui Chili. It is a recipe created by a Maui native named Mickey Steinborn. He has a Hawaiian shirt website as well as a website for this chili. Check out his website at I read through the 3-1/4 page recipe (it is very entertaining) and decided that I HAD to try making this chili. I was thinking about the January 30 luau for the teachers at Winfield Elementary but I didn't want to make it for them without trying it myself first. I went shopping and bought most of the ingredients over the weekend. I did have some of the items in my pantry. I didn't use all the Hawaiian items he suggests because they weren't available at my local market. It would have been nice to be able to buy a Hawaiian pineapple or a Maui onion but I didn't have that option. I reduced the amounts of everything by 1/3 because I wasn't making 20 quarts of the stuff. I will give you the portions that I used so you don't have to take the time to do it yourself. I reduced the amount of all the spices because I couldn't bring myself to use 1/3 or 2/3 of a cup of chili powder or cayenne pepper. If you have the "guts" to do it, then please do and let me know how it turns out. In Mickey's recipe, he indicates that we should chop the whole jalapeno pepper and include the seeds but I didn't do that. He is right about the seeds adding the heat. I was afraid to add them but at the end when the sauce was a bit too mild, I added several dashes of Tabasco sauce to spice it up. I guess I should have gone ahead and added the seeds or more of the cayenne pepper. I'll work on adjusting the spices next time I try making this chili. Please go ahead and add the seeds if you like your chili hot. I really did buy and cut up a whole pineapple although it was from Costa Rica not Hawaii. I also bought, peeled and chopped fresh ginger root. I guess you could use the powdered stuff but it was a good excuse for me to try using the fresh kind. I put everything into a slow cooker on high for about 2 hours and switched it to low for another 4 hours. I cooked this chili for a total of about 6 hours in my slow cooker.

I had plenty of doubts that this chili would be any good. I almost decided not to make it but I forged ahead anyway. I didn't find any reviews from people who had actually tried the recipe and that made me even more nervous but believe me this chili is really amazing.

Maui Chili Recipe (reduced by 1/3)

2 lbs chicken breast
6 oz. beer
4 oz. water
2 large organic bell peppers (red, green, yellow or orange)
6 to 8 cloves garlic (crushed)
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh shredded ginger root
1 sweet onion
1/3 of a fresh pineapple (about 1 cup)
2 shredded organic carrots
2 green jalapeno peppers (chopped)
2 stalks of organic celery (chopped)
1 tablespoon basil
2 tablespoons oregano
1/2 tablespoon thyme
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon soy sauce (light)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 14-1/2 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 15 oz can stewed tomatoes (chopped)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 tablespoons honey
2 Bay leaves
2-4 tablespoons yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Put the olive oil into the slow cooker and let it heat up.
2. Add onions and other vegetables and pineapple.
3. Add all liquids.
4. Add chicken.
5. Add all spices.
6. Add all tomato ingredients.
7. Add honey.
8. Add yellow corn meal slowly throughout the cooking process to thicken the chili.

Don't be afraid to try this chili because of the ginger and pineapple. It has a really nice taste. The combination of ingredients sounds like it would be terrible but it blends well in the end and tastes fantastic. We especially enjoyed this chili over jasmine rice. B and I both thought that if we could have added peanuts it would have been a nice touch to give the chili a bit of crunch. It isn't recommended in the recipe or on the Maui Chili website but we thought it would be a nice addition. Of course, we can't because of D's allergy to peanuts. Too bad.


The Creative Cook

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cuban Chicken

I am starting to think about the next teacher appreciation luncheon that I am hosting at my son's school on January 30. The theme of the luncheon is tropical and it is going to be a pseudo luau. I have a few leis to use as decorations and one of the teachers is lending me a coconut tree that she painted. It is amazing and almost life size "tree" that will serve as my decoration for the luncheon. I am trying to be economical in these times of job losses and housing market crashes but I have to be upbeat and fun, too. I decided that the theme was going to be a luau because it is so cold and wintry that I thought it would be fun to start looking ahead to summer. I am going to request a few fruit trays and definitely some tropical desserts. I am also going to offer this recipe to anyone who can't think of something to make but wants to make something tropical and fairly easy and inexpensive. The chicken is delicious. If you serve it over rice with some peas and carrots it is a very pretty dish also. I am sure the teachers will love it as much as my family did. The recipe comes from the June 17, 2008 issue of Woman's Day Magazine. I used only chicken drumsticks because I don't care for the thighs but go ahead and use both if you prefer.

Cuban Chicken
Serves 8

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 tsp chopped garlic (4 cloves)
8 each chicken drumsticks and thighs, skin removed (about 4-1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup each lime juice and orange juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
Chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Place onion and garlic in a 6-quart slow cooker. Arrange chicken on top.

2. Stir juices, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper in measuring cup; pour over chicken. Cook on low 5 to 8 hours until chicken is cooked through.

3. Serve chicken over rice; spoon juices with onions on top. Sprinkle with cilantro, if using.

This is a really good quick dish to liven up any cold winter's day.

The Creative Cook

Sunday, January 4, 2009


After making this oatmeal, I found out that my husband isn't particularly fond of oatmeal. Am I the only person who likes oatmeal? I don't know but I doubt it. This oatmeal is easy and really tasty. It is pretty healthy. I'm going to try to eat healthier in the new year. I am also going to try exercising regularly, too. My only New Year's Resolution for 2009 is to get a check up from my doctor. I always go for my annual gyn exam but rarely get a full check up from the internist. It is about time that I do it. I always want to lose weight but if I try to resolve to do it I never will. Last year, I lost about 10 pounds with all my illnesses. That is a really bad way to lose weight. Usually, when I lose weight that way I gain it right back. This time I have managed to keep a few pounds off. Anyway, try this oatmeal because it is tasty.


MAKES 8 Servings
Prep: 15 Minutes


4 cups water
1-1/2 cups apple juice
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup regular barley (not quick cooking)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup coursely chopped pecans, toasted
2 medium apples, coursely chopped
Honey (optional)
fat-free milk


1. Line a 3-1/2 or 4-Quart slow cooker with a disposable slow-cooker liner. In slow cooker, combine water, apple juice, oats, barley, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.

2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours. Before serving, stir in brown sugar. Top with pecans and apples. Serve with honey and milk. Makes 8 servings.

I didn't use any pecans in the hopes that D would try the oatmeal. It didn't work so next time I'll try this recipe with the pecans.


The Creative Cook