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Monday, September 28, 2015

Recipe: Homemade Gnocchi

Both sides of my family have European roots. My dad's side of the family is Slovak and my mom's side of the family is Italian. I love making dishes that hail from each side but tend to lean more toward the Italian side. One dish I've always wanted to make from scratch were gnocchi but I was just too intimidated. It seemed they were so delicate and I just wasn't convinced I could do it. Until a friend of mine posted that she had made some and they were really easy. "Okay" I thought "I can do this". 

I'm a part of a group called the Secret Recipe Club. We are assigned blogs and make recipes from those blogs to reveal on a given day. Anyways, for my September assignment I decided to make Chicken and gnocchi soup (see previous post). I decided this would be my opportunity to make my own gnocchi. I looked up a few recipes and really, it's just a matter of ratios. I found one recipe that used ricotta cheese which sounded great, but I didn't have any of that handy. 

I discovered that every recipe called for the use of a ricer, which of course is the one kitchen tool I don't own. Thank the Lord for Google, because I hunted around and it is possible to make them without a ricer. My friend who made them actually put everything into a food processor and just mixed it. Another recipe used a cheese grater to grate the potatoes. I opted for the grater method because I like to stick to being as close to a recipe as possible. I do think next time I will try the food processor just because it seems so easy.

Would I make these from scratch again? Totally. They really weren't hard. I'd love to try several different recipes adding flavors, etc.


3 potatoes

1 1/2 c. flour
1 egg
1 tsp. salt


1. Bake potatoes. Allow to cool enough to handle then peel. If you have a ricer, use that, but if not, grate potatoes on the large side of a grater. 

2. Make a well in the middle and add egg and salt. Gradually sprinkle in flour and begin working with your hands. Add enough flour so that the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Continue incorporating and knead with your hands for 3-4 minutes once all the flour is added. 

3. Form dough in to ball and then cut in to smaller pieces. Roll each individual piece into a rope with your fingers, about 3/4" thick. Cut off 1" pieces (or smaller).

4. Traditional gnocchi has ridges but I just couldn't get them using the fork when I tried...you might want to just google this..lol.

5. When ready, boil and lightly salt some water. Drop gnocchi in to water, don't overcrowd. When they rise to the top, cook for one minute more and remove. At this point you can add to soup, cook on the stove top in butter or do whatever you please. 

6. You can also freeze these for use later. DO NOT boil, but place on a lightly floured cookie sheet, freeze, then place in a ziploc bag. When ready to use, just drop in boiling water. 

Mine went into this Chicken and Gnocchi Soup. A perfect Olive Garden knock off. 

Ta-Da! Not too hard!

With Joy UNquenchable,

Monday, September 21, 2015

SRC Reveal Day: Chicken and Gnocchi Soup (better than Olive Garden)

I used to LOVE the Olive Garden Restaurant. Now, I like it okay, but really probably won't go unless someone else suggests it, there aren't many other options, or my daughter has soccer games and needs carbs. I remember one time I was so excited to order their Chicken and Gnocchi soup because I absolutely LOVE gnocchi. I was so, so disappointed when I received my bowl and tried my first bite. It is advertised at Creamy soup with roasted chicken, gnocchi and spinach. My creamy soup tasted like they opened a can of cream of chicken soup and dumped it in the pan...roasted chicken? I couldn't find any (It looked kind of like the chicken from the can). I might have had a few gnocchi, but nothing to get excited about. In a nutshell it was a big letdown. I remember thinking to myself, "I could totally make this at home". 

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I received my Secret Recipe Club assignment, and I was assigned It's Yummy to My Tummy, I knew exactly what I was going to make the minute I saw her recipe for Chicken and Gnocchi Soup...it was hands down a given. I did peruse more of her recipes, but just knew that was the one. 

The author of this blog, Heather, loves to bake and cook, for her family and for others. Her blog is her way of organizing her thoughts and experiments, de-stressing and sharing her many recipes with the many people who love them and always ask her for her recipes. You need to head over and check out her recipe index. I'm pretty sure there's something for everyone. 

You can totally buy store bought gnocchi, but I have always wanted to try making my own, so I did. I will post that recipe soon, but it was worth it and not that hard. I think I could have made them smaller, but they were the perfect texture and flavor. I was quite pleased. Heather gives instructions for using homemade gnocchi. I placed my gnocchi dough in boiling water first. As soon as they rose to the top I scooped them out and added them to the soup, this way they could finish off cooking but not get overdone (I wasn't sure if that was possible so I didn't want to take any chances). If you choose to use store bought gnocchi, this soup is a really quick meal to throw together. 

*Be sure to go to her recipe as well because she gives some great time saving tips.

Let's get on to the recipe.


1 c. cooked chicken, diced
4 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. flour
1 Qt. half and half
14 oz. chicken broth
1/2 c. celery, finely diced
1 c. carrots, shredded
 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. onion, finely diced (I used less just because we don't like a lot)
1 c. spinach, chopped
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. parsley
1 lb. gnocchi
salt and pepper to taste


1. Saute onion, celery and garlic in butter and olive oil until onion becomes translucent. 

2. Add in flour and stir (this will be like a roux). Cook and stir constantly for about a minute.

3. Add your half and half, seasonings, carrots and chicken. Let mixture begin to simmer and thicken up.

4. In another pot, cook your gnocchi according to package directions.

5. Once your soup is thickened, add your chicken broth. When gnocchi are done cooking, add them to your soup, along with the spinach. Cook a few minutes until spinach is wilted.

Such a simple and satisfying soup. I love the flavor of the thyme in this and I love the vegetables. It's just a great fall soup.

With Joy UNquenchable,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Going Natural......Hair color that is!

I have been coloring my hair for years. Not because I hated my hair color, but because I started getting gray hair at a young age and as the years have passed I seem to get more and more. At 46 I am pretty sure that if I let my hair grow out I would be completely gray, at least the top and front of my head. I am not quite convinced that I am ready for this, even though the gray in my hair is a beautiful color. The dilemma is that I am #1 tired of coloring it, but moreso, #2 I have been wanting to avoid all the nasty chemicals in commercial hair color. I color it myself because my hair grows so fast I would need to get a 4th job just to pay for my vanity...haha. Not really but I really cannot afford to get this mane professionally colored. 

I had been tossing around the idea of the natural hair colors that I had seen in Whole Foods or other "healthy stores" but at $13-$18 a box that wasn't very practical either since I'd probably need two boxes (I have a lot of hair). On a recent trip to New Seasons I was walking down the hair aisle and came across some containers of Henna Haircolor. I thought "hmmm...I wonder if this would work". It was only $7.99. A worker happened to be in the aisle and said it was a great product so I bought it. It sat on my bathroom counter for a few weeks before I got brave enough to try it. 

I had posted a picture of it on Instagram and Facebook which was great because I received several valuable tips, but one that had me a little worried was that it is hard to color over with a chemical hair color. Uh oh! What if it didn't work, what if I didn't like it, then what? I have a wedding coming up in December, I can't trash my hair now. So I consulted my hair dresser who consulted another hair dresser who said it would be fine, they could fix it if I didn't like it...okay, that made me feel a little better. Several friends had used the same brand and had great results...that made me feel better. I found some great instructions online...that made me feel better too. Now I had to find a day with a LARGE chunk of free time because this process apparently takes hours! Yep, you heard me right...HOURS..no more done in 35 minutes coloring. But to me, if it worked, it was worth it. 

So, on September 3rd I took the plunge (how's that for drama). I set aside the afternoon, told my daughter she had to find a way home from soccer practice and dove in. Dinner may or may not have happened...I really can't remember at this point. Here's how it went down:

Items needed:

1. Rainbow Henna (read, and re-read the instructions)
2. Plastic or glass container
3. A few pairs of hair coloring type gloves
4. Hair coloring brushes
5. Old clothes
6. Lotion or coconut oil
7. Saran wrap, or hair cap (a heated one would be great)
8. optional: cotton band (like hair dressers use)
9. An old towel


  • I started out with dry, product-free hair. Here are the instructions I followed. The brand I used was Rainbow Henna in Persian Medium Brown. Place a line of lotion or coconut oil around your hairline and ears (this prevents color from staining your skin...if you're messy like me you might want to coat all exposed areas of skin).
  • I used the combination of black coffee and apple cider vinegar because I wanted to tone down the potential red (my end result showed NO red). I did end up adding more liquid (boiling water) because it was a little too thick and was hard to use. You are looking for a creamy soup texture. 
  • It doesn't smell good at all...lol...more on that later.
  • I found it a little difficult to work with a brush (hair color brush), but used that on the very front of my hair where the most gray is, and the roots...NOTE: I would put it on the gray/roots first and leave on for about 30 minutes, at least that is what I'm going to try next time. My roots were noticeably lighter than the rest of my hair.
  • For the remainder of my hair, I literally scooped it out with my glove covered hands and spread it through my hair. I went outside to do this to avoid splashing color all over my bathroom and causing a disaster. I did cover my bathroom counter and sink with a large garbage bag...I'm that messy.
  • It was hard for me to tell if it was all covered because this is not nice and liquid-y like regular color, it got kind of thick and just had a weird texture to it, kind of like working with loose cement (that doesn't harden), but I eventually felt like I got it all or at least enough of it in there...you just can't really work it through your hair. I used the entire container. As I coated a section I would try to move it out of the way or pile it on my head, though I spent most of the time upside down just rubbing it in. 
  • Once I was satisfied I had it completely covered I wrapped my hair in plastic wrap as tightly as I could and covered with a towel. I did try running a hot blow dryer on it before putting on the towel just to "heat it up" a bit but that was tedious. Maybe next time I will heat the towel in the dryer first and then add it to my head.
  • The instructions said 60-90 minutes without heat. I left it on for 2 hours. I feel like it was adequate for most of my hair, but I do think that I should leave it on the gray a little longer before applying the rest. I might need to look in to that a little more. The instructions say it's not recommended to leave on longer, but we'll see.
  • Once the time was up I rinsed with warm water, then with cool water. I didn't shampoo it but did use a bit of conditioner. It is really hard to rinse out and I kept feeling "particles" in my hair. I jumped in the shower to get an even better rinse.
While completely time consuming, I think it was totally worth it knowing I'm putting something on my hair that is healthier and overall better for me and my body. It is probably not for everyone, and I still Don't like coloring my hair, BUT I will stick with this option until I decide I'm ready to go gray. 

My encouragement to you is to give it a shot if you are really trying to get away from chemical based hair color. The before and after's aren't the best, but it might give you an idea.

With Joy UNquenchable,

Monday, September 14, 2015

Recipe: Blackberry Balsamic Salmon

We love fish, but unfortunately do not fish. I grew up fishing with my dad but my hubby is not in to it so much and we just really don't have time, which usually means we don't eat fish often. Over the last few years I've tried to steer away from farmed fish and eat only wild caught. However, that can be spendy and with four of us, it doesn't happen as often as I like. 

Recently, one of my hubby's co-workers gave him a beautiful slab of steelhead. Or was it salmon? I can't remember and they look and taste similar, but it doesn't matter, I love it all. To say I was excited was an understatement. I have many ways I like to prepare it, but wanted to try something a little different. 

This recipe is easy, adaptable and worthy of the President..hee hee! All you need are a few simple ingredients. I know, I know...I don't have measurements. Some things just have to go by taste. 


balsamic vinegar
blackberry jam
onion powder
garlic powder


1. Place salmon on a foil lined pan and preheat oven to 400

2. Sprinkle salmon with onion powder, garlic powder and pepper. 

3. In a bowl add blackberry jam. Gradually add balsamic vinegar, tasting as you go until you are satisfied. You want a slightly sweet, slightly vinegary flavor. 

4. Bake salmon in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Spread vinegar/jam mixture over salmon and continue baking until desired doneness. Some people like their salmon a little pink, my hubby likes it completely done so cooking time will vary but typically between 15-30 minutes also depending on thickness of fillets.

With Joy UNquenchable,

Friday, August 28, 2015

Home Sweet Home

"We all live somewhere....some kind of a spot in the world is the place we each call 'home', no matter how temporary that place might be. This place should be expressing something of yourself. It should be communicating something of you to your visitors, but it should also satisfy something within you. You should feel 'at home' here, because you have mead it home with something of yourself. 
~Edith Schaeffer~
The Hidden Art of Homemaking

Don't you just love that? Does that speak something to your very being?

I remember taking a particular class in Bible College and while I can't remember what it was called, I think it had to do with being a "godly woman" or something like that. This book was on the reading list. As a young 18/19 year old college student I remember reading it and really embracing the concept of making my dorm room a "home". I was raised in a home where my mom loved to cook, decorate and garden and make her house a home, so while I was exposed to Homemaking, I honestly didn't think a whole lot about it at the time. By my moms example, however, when I went to college and lived in a dorm room for 2 years, then had a place of my own for a short time after graduating college (above the garage of a friends home) then my own bedroom when I moved back to my parents house to plan and save for a wedding and eventually a home after I got married (actually 2 apartments, a single wide trailer, and two other houses including the one we live in now, and living in someone elses home for 2 1/2 years while we built our current home), I learned to create my own space, to make each one a home even if I knew I/we wouldn't be there forever. 

There wasn't technology, Pinterest, or FB around in the early years to influence me, inspire me or intimidate me. Now, there is. Not to mention pressure we might feel when we visit other people's homes. Sometimes I'm inspired, sometimes I'm influenced, and sometimes I'm downright intimidated. We have been in our current home for 7 years and I was recently reflecting on the simple fact that I have allowed myself to become lost in knowing and creating a home that reflects me and my family. It doesn't help that I have a husband who actually has an opinion and a taste (that isn't always the same as mine) when it comes to home decor...say WHAT! I remember telling him when we first got married, "um...you aren't supposed to care, are you an alien or something"?  Because my dad never cared. My mom could do whatever she wanted. Hmmmm....how was that going to work out. This isn't a bad thing, but it definitely makes it a bit trickier and my passive personality usually just doesn't bother, thus not really expressing myself or my personal taste throughout the home or finding the happy medium. Which is a bad thing. Lol. I am getting better though. Then there are the finances...do I really want to spend money to buy new or used things...not always. I always get overwhelmed not knowing where to put things, or buying a piece here and there to put together later. I would love to give someone money and say here, come with me and help me out. 

A week ago I was commenting on a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Reluctant Entertainer, and I remembered some thoughts from the above mentioned book. I immediately went to Amazon and purchased a used copy. I cannot wait to re-visit it and gain some new inspiration. The other book I can't wait to get in to reading is Love the Home you Have by Melissa Michaels. 

It is easy with today's technology to lose sight of our own personal expression. I encourage you to look deeper and discover your own style, passion, joy when it comes to your home. Maybe you really don't care about decorating with a particular style or decorating at all. That's fine. Maybe you like having as little as possible so you don't have to clean as many trinkets. Awesome! What brings you joy? When you walk in a room, do you walk in and think "I love this place, I feel peace in this place, I feel joy in this place". Do you know that those feelings have more to do with what is coming from inside you, than what is decorating the room?  Express yourself in your home, but let what's in you be what causes you and others to love being in your home.

I've shared a few pictures here that I could find quickly of other places we've lived. I can honestly say I loved something about every home, even the apartment that had weird worm like bugs that came up from somewhere...eeww..we didn't stay there long. But it was our first home. I wish I could find more pictures of our homes..maybe at some point I'll look harder. You can check out these posts on our home building project
 Our second apartment. We lived here for 2 years. The curtains were there already but something whimsical about them.
After the first apartment we lived in a single wide trailer on our church property (I can't find pics of it right now). This was the first "stick built" home we bought. Our oldest was 1 when we bought it. 

After that home, we purchased property for a great deal and began building. It took us 2 1/2 years and in that time we lived with an older gal from our church. We had two bedrooms we lived in. Crazy. I was happy to have my own home again. 

No matter where you find yourself living, make it your home! 

With Joy UNquenchable,


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