Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Favorite Foodie Products - Ashley's Favorites of 2019

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Happy (belated) New year, everyone! I hope 2020 is off to a good start. After the madness that was 2019 for me, I am happy to report that the new year has been pretty good to me so far.

As you may have noticed, in recent months I've changed my content a bit. The reasoning? I just don't have much time for recipe development lately. Plus, I've found my little following is a bit more interested in my reviews. I don't ever want to give up on recipes, but I thought I'd try out more lists and longer content and see what sticks. It's definitely easier than having to develop, photograph, and edit a recipe each week!

Also, I do comedy in my spare time. Sooo maybe that should find its way into my blog? Who knows.

Anyway, I've been wanting to do a few 2019 roundup lists, and what better way to start than by sharing the products that made my kitchen even tastier!

Note: None of these lead to affiliate links (unless noted) and I don't make any money off sharing or you buying.

Ashley's Top 2019 Food Products


Truffle Zest
You know that slogan, "I put that shit on everything"? Well, I think it applies even MORE here. I impulse-bought this little jar of deliciousness at the behest of an internet list and I am so very glad I did. I'm not one of those beyond-snooty foodies who claim truffle is cheating. If it's tasty, it's tasty. Try it on veggies or roasted potatoes (my favorite is brussels sprouts!) for an out of this world flavor experience.



Dash Mini Waffle Maker
Man, I love dash. Such cool, inexpensive little gadgets! I won this little waffle maker in a white elephant gift exchange and it is now an integral part of my weekly brunch. I love that I don't have to lug out my whole huge waffle iron for a quick breakfast! Bonus, you can make hashbrowns or fun omelettes as well.



Dash Rapid Egg Cooker
Another Dash product! This has been a godsend for cooking quick, peel-able hard-boiled eggs and effortless poached eggs! The timer is based on how much water is in the cooker, and it sings you a little song when you're done. Pro tip: measure the liquid amount in the little cup they give you, so in case you lose it (like I did, d'oh!) you know how much water to use for each kind of egg.

Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
This isn't my favorite of 2019 per say, but it is my favorite seasoning of all time. I put it on veggies, meats, non-meats, basically anything I want to jazz up a bit. Not too spicy, just a bit of a zing and savory salt flavor to really enhance a side dish. It's also a great secret ingredient to chowders! I just discovered they have a salt free option, which is a great idea for those of us looking to make better health habits in 2020.


Imperfect Produce (this contains the only referral code of the post!)
I cannot reccommend this enough! I LOVE Imperfect Produce! I've done a ton of Farmshare and veggie boxes in the past and while I love the idea of supporting local farms, Imperfect definitely gives you the biggest bang for your buck in regards to vegetable quantity and variety of additional products. Plus it helps reduce food waste! Use my code to sign up (via that link) and we'll both get a lil discount on our next box.



Instant Pot
It took me a while to get on the Instant Pot train. And, to be honest, I don't really do a ton of full one-pot dinners in this thing. I like to taste my meals as I cook, add things throughout, and the IP doesn't really allow for much improvisation in that regard with it's "set it and forget it" method. What I've really enjoyed, though, is that it makes cooking time-consuming staples (rice, quinoa, potatoes, lentils) SO much quicker! I simply add the dry ingredients and the liquid, and in under 10 minutes I have as much as I want. Definitely a kitchen MVP!



Wundernuggets
A friend of mine in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance created Wundernuggets as a nutrient-rich upgrade to her kids' favorite food: chicken nuggets. Story time: this year was rough. When I'm depressed, it's hard to eat. I kept a bag of these in my freezer all year as a quick dinner where I could force the appropriate nutrients into my body when I didn't have it in me to put through the effort. So I am super grateful I knew about these veggie packed nuggets! On a happier note, picky eaters will also find these great. The flavors are all awesome and I can't wait to see what comes next with this company!

Beyond Meat and The Impossible Burger
As you may know, I've drastically cut down my meat intake over the past year. But every now and then... you just need a burger. I am happy to report, these fit the bill. While there are different environmental factors that come into play with all the "meatless meats" hitting the market, it's good to have these on hand for a treat when you want to stick to a plant-based diet. I prefer the Impossible Burger, but you can only purchase it in restaurants. For an at-home version, Beyond Meat is the best on the market.



Takeya Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker
I fell victim to another internet list BUT this is pretty awesome. Super easy--simply put the coffee grounds in the cyllander, fill with water, and let steep overnight. What results is a rich coffee that isn't bitter. I like it cold, but you can warm it up too. And after a week of forgetting to take out the grounds, it still hasn't leaked or changed the flavor.



Double Joy Select Coffee
I have a coffee maker. I have various French Presses. I don't always have the time to dedicate to brewing coffee. Nor do I have the budget for Starbucks Via, my usual go-to for instant coffee. I read the reviews on a number of instant options, and decided to try Double Joy. And thankfully, they lived up to the reviews! These are delicious, rich little coffee packets that are great to keep on hand for lazy days, travel, or in your desk in case the office coffee maker is on the fritz.


Mike's Mighty Good Ramen
Ramen is one of my favorite meals I never knew about until I moved to Austin. Since then, it's become super popular. With Mike's Mighty Good, I can get a restaurant-quality ramen base for only a few bucks that I can make at home! I love the vegetarian kimchi version, to which I add a pat of butter, corn, kimchi, scallions, lime, and a soft boiled egg. Sooo good!

That's all I have for now, but I'm sure I'll think of more. What was your favorite foodie discovery of 2019? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Decade in Review

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Note: This was originally posted on my personal Facebook, but I felt compelled to share it here as well.

You guys, 2018 and 2019 were rough. Y'all have said you appreciate my honesty, and that's the honest truth: I am ready to put those years behind me. So many struggles--money, relationship, death, body image--I keep hoping the fresh start of 2020 will be a clean slate and that things will start looking up, that all family members will be safe and healthy, that I'll start chipping away at this debt mountain, that marriage will be smoother sailing from here on out, and that I'll love my curves as much as they deserve to be loved. Something's gotta give, and a new year is a great place to start. I've been avoiding an end of year post because the year and the one prior weren't great, though of course not without their bright points--probably the best being all the travel I did and ending the year with my family's first Texan Christmas.


But looking at the decade as a whole, I accomplished a whole lot. I joke that I'm "more impressive on paper than in person" in my charming self-deprecating manner, but I think if I can learn anything from this decade it's that I need to stop belittling my accomplishments. So, for those who are into this kind of thing, here is some high points from the past 10 years, in no real order.


  • Graduated with a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College
  • Did a career change before I even started and got a solid job right out of college making a decent salary
  • Dove headfirst into Community Theater and kept my love of theater and musicals alive
  • Started two food blogs to moderate success
  • Moved into my first apartment
  • Came to terms with my sexuality (not straight, y'all) and stopped making excuses for it
  • Moved across the country MA > TX
  • Road tripped that drive at least 3 times
  • Started improv and sketch and a love of comedy
  • Played in at least 10 improv troupes, 3 sketch troupes, and too many shows to count
  • Wrote a sketch that won a little award and made people cry and laugh in the same breath
  • Became better friends with my mom
  • Lived with a partner for the first time
  • Got engaged
  • Got married
  • Attended weddings of so many wonderful friends
  • Was in a Netflix special (Mortified, I'm in two episodes as a street interview)
  • Read my childhood diaries onstage MULTIPLE TIMES
  • Accomplished a life goal of writing and publishing a book before I turned 30
  • OPRAH MAGAZINE MENTIONED MY BOOK, Y'ALL! (May 2017 "Cookbook of the Month") as well as The New York Times and various other publications
  • Came to terms with my mental health (anxiety and depression, woo!) and got treatment for it
  • Did yet another career change (writing > marketing > customer success)
  • Dyed my hair purple, pink, and purple and pink
  • Found a job that I adore in a company that is just amazing
  • Adopted 3 wonderful pets that I love with all my soul
  • Went abroad twice and traveled as much as I possibly could
  • Had my first solo trip
  • Took a dip in the Arctic Ocean
  • Ziplined through the rain forest
  • In the last year, cut down on eating meat by about 75%
  • Got 8 Tattoos, a few more piercings


Sending y'all positive vibes for this new year and new decade. I hope it's a great one for all of us 


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Musings on Meatless Monday - My Year of Experimenting with Going Meatless

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Disclaimer: This is a personal essay on my experiment over the past year with reducing the number of animal products I consume. I'm not a nutritionist, doctor, or expert of any kind. This is also my own opinions based on my own research. I haven't cited any sources, I'm not saying everyone can or should do this, it's simply my experience.

If you've been following either of my Instagram accounts (@ashleyeblom and @forking_up), you've probably noticed a pretty consistent hashtag over the past year: #MeatlessMonday.

Last New Years I made a silent resolution to myself to keep to Meatless Monday. This was a decision based on a number of things. Firstly, the pressing environmental concerns we're facing as a planet. Secondly, my long flirtation with vegetarianism. 

Roasted corn and black bean tacos with lime crema

I think as children we all have that moment of discovering where exactly our happy meal comes from and some of us determine in that moment that if we love our puppies and kitties, what makes them different than the moo cows and piggies we see at the farm? I definitely had that moment. My first brush with trying the diet didn't quite work out. My mom was a nurse and concerned I wouldn't get the proper nutrition, and also we didn't really have the budget for her to be making two separate dinners each night.

Spicy veggie stir fry and spicy edamame

The second time was in college, and was my longest stint with going meat free. Aided by dating a string of vegetarians (lol) and being able to make my own menu, I succeeded in staying vegetarian for two years. Then a bout of stomach issues persuaded me to go back to meat for health reasons. Turns out, it was a defective gallbladder, and the meat made it even worse.

Asparagus on whole grain toast with hollandais, side of sweet potato hash

By this time I'd dove headfirst into food blogging, so going meat free wasn't quite an option for where I wanted my life to go. Plus I married a man who was a self-proclaimed veggie hater, so options were limited.

But as I've gotten older I've realized a few things--for one, it's harder to be healthy. My father died at age 47 and over 300 pounds. The easiest way to get your proper vitamins? More veggies. By filling up on nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, there's less room for all the junk. And yes, as someone who worries about their weight the added benefit of consuming fewer calories while still feeling full is attractive. 

Vegan lazy golumkis and wild rice

I also took an honest look about my relationship to animals. I do think humans evolved to eat meat, but I think along the way we've lost all respect for the animals that nourish us. If they are making that sacrifice, the least we can do is treat them well. And factory farms are not it. If I could ensure all animal products I consume are from local family farms, that's one thing, but that's hard to do.

Health of the body is just one part though. The most impactful thing a person can do for the environment is to reduce their meat intake. Factory farms, where we get the majority of our meat, eggs, and dairy, are terrible. The animals live in fear. The pollution is insane. And an acre of vegetables or grain can feed hundreds more people than an acre of cattle.

Portobello sandwich and cheddar broccoli soup

This doesn't even mean cutting it out entirely. But by doing this experiment of reducing, I discovered a few things:

  • I didn't miss meat nearly as much as I thought I would. Subbing out a burger for a portobello mushroom was just as satisfying to me. A vegetarian lasagna tasted just as good as one with beef. Pasta and sauce is delicious, quick, and easy, and doesn't lack flavor at all. Tacos with refried beans instead of beef are still mighty tasty.
  • My passion for cooking returned. This blog hasn't been the most active this year, due to some life things and my other commitments keeping me busy, and I found myself eating out more and taking time to cook less. But Mondays were the exception.
  • Without my grocery budget being eaten up by pricey meat of unknown origin, I had more money to spend on higher quality, organic, and local ingredients. Do you know what you're missing by buying cheap grocery store eggs? Buy a local, farm-fresh dozen and get ready to have your mind blown.
  • It is easy to rely on processed food to fill the meat void, and it's definitely something I did in the beginning. With all the new brands popping up with plant-based meat, you can almost entirely replace your proteins with these and feel like you never even stopped. But then you're reducing the environmental good of cutting out meat. So as the experiment progressed I tried to limit these to treats when I had a craving--the Impossible Burger is SO good, y'all!--instead of always making them the star of my dish.
Crock pot mulligatawny soup


Will I go vegetarian full time? Probably not. I'm pretty entwined in the food community in Austin and still want to explore. I love traveling, and since food is so tied to culture I want to make sure everywhere I visit I can truly experience it. Holidays with family have so many food traditions I don't want to give up. For me, for my life, going 100% is not going to happen.

But can I make my own kitchen meat-free? Absolutely. Can I find new, meatless items at my tried and true favorite restaurants? Yes. Can I make better choices in what I buy? Yup. 

Homemade veggie tortellini soup

This blog isn't going full-veg, but if you see a higher number of meatless meals in the coming year, now you know why.

My new goal is to be a weekday vegetarian, with flexibility on the weekends. It's the right choice for me, and it's one I feel good about. And I promised myself if I were to become rich and famous I'd go vegan, because let's face it--it's much easier to accomplish with a bigger budget. And it'd be a nice thank you to the universe.

Roasted butternut squash pizza with ricotta, goat cheese, and veggies

If you're thinking of trying out a lifestyle with a reduced animal product intake, I definitely suggest trying out Meatless Mondays. Sticking to one day a week is a simple way to cut down, and makes a dramatic impact on your carbon footprint. Even if you don't expand it, there are studies that show just one day a week helps. 

Mushroom bolognaise

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Homemade Egg Nog and Holiday Recipes - Christmas Egg Nog

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Is there any Christmas treat as polarizing as egg nog?

I feel like you either love love love it, or HAAAATE it!

Myself, I fall into the love category. Maybe because my dad loved it, and as a kid I decided I loved most foods he did: Boston Baked Beans, Big Macs, black jelly beans...

Some of those are a bit weirder than others, I suppose.


Christmas is a time to remember those who are no longer with us. Sadly this year I'll be raising a glass not only to dad, but my uncle and Nana this year. Though I never did ask their thoughts on the beverage... so perhaps I'll just cheer on the Pats for my uncle and have a Toasted Almond cocktail for Nans.

This egg nog is pretty dang good... if you drink it immediately, anyway. After chilling, it got WAY too thick. This means I over-cooked it. I was so worried about making sure the egg was fully cooked, I let it get too thick on the stove. I forgot that it would thicken more as it cools. If this happens to you, simply add a bit more milk!


I also tried to make a dairy free, natural sugar version and that one tasted FANTASTIC... until I overcooked that one. Overcooked almond milk turns into a clumpy mess. So sad.

Homemade Egg Nog
(Adapted from Doughmesstic)

  • 6 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Bourbon

-In a large pot over medium-low heat, beat together the eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt. Slowly add the milk, and mix until well combined.

-Turn heat to low, stirring regularly, until liquid has thickened just enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla. Remove from heat.

-Before serving, add bourbon (or rum!) and mix well. Can be served hot or cold, but I prefer hot!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Where to Eat in Downtown Austin - Best Downtown Austin Food

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When most people visit Austin, they either end up downtown, or very close to it. In my personal opinion, that's not where you'll find the best food. However, if you don't have a car to bring you outside the city proper, there are still some hidden gems that are worth checking out.

The rule of thumb here is to try not to be too close to the touristy places--restaurants near the convention center or music halls aren't going to be great. After all, foot traffic alone means they don't have to be stellar to make a living.



Visiting Austin and staying downtown? Here are my suggestions for the best food you'll find within walking distance or a quick Uber/taxi!

BBQ


  • Cooper's Old Time Pit - the best BBQ in downtown proper. Meat by the pound, incredible sides (rare for a BBQ place!) and you can get it dipped in their BBQ sauce.
  • Terry Black's - Not quite downtown, but worth a scooter ride or quick rideshare. Pick your meat by the pound in this counter-service restaurant. Grab a cold beer from the cooler and try their beef rib, what they're known for.
  • Lambert's - Fancy BBQ. Full disclosure: I've never been, but it seems to be the go-to place to take visiting clients. I hear they also have a good happy hour!


Mexican & Tex-Mex



  • Chispas - My favorite new place in town to get tacos. The queso, which is a barometer for a Tex-Mex's quality, is decent, but the taco menu is so unique and all are tasty. I love the butternut squash taco and the pork belly.
  • Taco Deli - An Austin favorite, though it's only open until about lunch time. Skip the line by ordering ahead and sit on their patio to people watch.
  • Chuy's - It's a chain now, but the original spot is on Barton Springs Road. The quirky decor, extensive menu, and friendly service make it the perfect first stop when you're looking to try Tex-Mex cuisine for the first time.
  • Gabriela's Downtown - A hidden gem that really shouldn't be hidden considering it's right at the beginning of East 7th Street with full view from the highway. Incredible, homemade Mexican food by a brother and sister duo. Everything from the snacks to the dinners to the drinks is incredible


Burgers, Sandwiches, and More



  • Easy Tiger - a Beer garden AND bakery with incredible snack boards, sandwiches, sausages, and more. Their $3 Old Fashioned is a happy hour staple.
  • Fareground - Want a little taste of everything? This food court serves up food from some of my FAVORITE restaurants that you may not get to experience without a drive outside the city. Try Kome, Dai-Due, and Contigo.
  • Casino El Camino - It's in the back of a bar (with the best bloody marys, btw) but if you love burgers it's the best in town. Open late, it's the perfect place to get your drunchies on as you make your way down Dirty 6.
  • Banger's - Bangers is Austin in a nutshell: unique food concept (everything on the menu is a sausage), vegan/vegetarian options, the most craft beers you'll find on tap in one place, and a wide open space for both live music and mini dog park. It's probably one of my favorite places in the city!
  • Stube - Another unique sausage place that is generous in their portions and incredibly tasty. They just expanded their food truck behind Star Bar, so you can grab a fancy drink to pair with your brats.


Asian



  • Graj Ma'hal - Some of the best Indian food I've ever had, in a cool, quirky space. One of the few restaurants on Rainey Street that is worth your money.
  • Clay Pit - Another great option for Indian food if you happen to be closer to campus. Their lunch options are awesome and word is that the building is haunted!
  • Papadom - One of the best lunch deals in town! $13 for all-you-can-eat. I've never had a bad meal here, and it's my go-to when I want a filling, tasty lunch.
  • Swift's Attic - Asian fusion with Southern comfort cooking. Really unique and tasty dishes and a great happy hour. I especially love the ice ball cocktails!
  • House of the Rising Tanuki-San - I've only been here for lunch, but everything has been so flavorful! The dishes are unique, the atmosphere is fun, and everything is super tasty.
  • She's Not Here - The only sushi worth trying in downtown Austin. We're not known for seafood in this city, but the hand-crafted rolls taste a lot fresher and are more unique than other options. Bonus: awesome happy hour!
  • Koriente - Not quite sushi, but other great option for some fresh and tasty Japanese cuisine! The focus here is on healthy food, and during lunch salad and soup is never-ending. 


Southern Food



  • Moonshine Grill - Fancy Southern Comfort Food. Super tasty but a bit pricey. It's great for date night, as it's cozy and dark. I love their shrimp and grits!
  • Cannon & Belle - if you want fancy Southern food, this is a great option. It’s my new favorite in town and worth the price. Their bone in ribeye and pork chop rival steak houses in the area, for a much better price.
  • Fixe - This place is worth a stop for their biscuits alone. Holy wow these are little buttery bits of perfection. Pro tip: Get a side of biscuits with their excellent fried chicken and make a sandwich. you won't be sorry.


Sadly most of the best Mexican food in town has been priced out of the city. If you have a budget for an Uber, it might be worth it to check out Papalote, Veracruz All Natural, Matt's El Rancho, The original Polvo's, or one of the touristy favorites like Torchy's. If you really want a taste of something special, check out one of the independent food trucks you'll find scattered around the city.

Same with homestyle Southern food, as you'll notice most of my suggestions are of the "fancier" variety. Try Hoover's Home Cooking, Threadgills, Jack Allen's Kitchen.

Other restaurants worth the drive: Uchi, Odd Duck, Salty Sow, and La Barbecue. If you have a rental, definitely take a drive to The Salt Lick in Dripping Springs. It’s a Texas institution. Dripping Springs also has a bunch of breweries and distilleries, my favorites being Jester King and TreatyOak.



Where do you like to eat in Austin? Have you ever visited? Let me know!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Pimento Cheese Spread - Holiday Appetizers

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So, here's the recipe I wanted to get up here before the holidays, because it makes an excellent side dish or appetizer, and it's super easy to put together! Aside from the pimentos, I typically have all these things in the house, too.

Pimento cheese was something totally new to me, as a New Englander during her first year in Texas. When I first tested this recipe, I simply threw in the ingredients I found on the Wikipedia page (yes, pimento spread has it's own Wikipedia page) and hoped for the best. It was tasty... but did it pass the test? I brought in the results to my coworkers and my desk-mate, a true Texans , said it was the best Pimento cheese he's ever had!



So I guess I did it right the first time ;)

As I said, this is the perfect appetizer for any gathering. Add a bit more mayo and cream cheese to make a dip, or a bit more cheese to make a cheeseball, or leave as-is for a spreadable cracker snack. The possibilities are truly endless!


Pimento Cheese Spread
(Adapted loosely from Wikipedia)

  • 1 8oz bag sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 8oz bag colby jack cheese
  • 1 oz brick cream cheese (I used neufchantel)
  • 2/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 4oz jar pimento peppers, drained and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced small
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

*keep a bit extra cheddar cheese on hand in case cheese mixture gets too soft*

-In a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment, combine all ingredients. Stir until well combined, adding more cheese or mayo to desired consistency (I like mine with a bit more cheese). Taste, adding more seasonings as desired

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Meal Fit for a Goul - Halloween Black and Orange Gnocchi

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Hello? Is this thing on? It's been a month. I KNOW. And, admittedly, it's been even longer since I've put up an original recipe. So here you go, Homemade Halloween Gnocchi. Perfect for Halloween Dinner!

Lucky me, I had a food blog for five years that I closed up and can mine recipes from when I'm busy. It's my shameful secret, don't judge. But I haven't even had the energy to update my post drafts.

If you know me personally, you know 2019 has been an utter crapshoot and while we're barrelling towards the end of it, all I can say is GOOD RIDDANCE. Here's hoping 2020 starts looking up for your girl here. Send thoughts and prayers and maybe a whole lot of red wine.



But you know what actually makes me smile? October. It's my favorite month--not only because it contains my birthday, but also my favorite holiday--HALLOWEEN! I've always embraced this holiday with my whole being, and spooky food is just the icing on the bloody cake.


Though I'm in Texas and fall is just Slightly More Bearable Summer, I still love the fall themed everything, everywhere. So I'm embracing it. Spooky Season!!

She cooks! She writes! She... does Zombie Makeup? My birthday Zombie Pub Crawl this year!


This is a delicious Halloween dinner that is sure to impress--gnocchi gets a bad rap for being difficult, but so long as you pay attention to the texture (not sticky, not too thick, should feel like a squishy pillow) you'll be golden. Keep a bit of pumpkin on hand to add to the batter if it's too dry, and a bit of flour in case it's too sticky.

Happy Haunting, y'all!

Black and Orange Gnocchi with Slime Cream Sauce

(gnocchi recipe adapted from Taste of Home)
  • 1-1/2 cups flour (plus more for flouring surface)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup canned or pureed pumpkin
  • 1 heaping tablespoon activated Charcoal*

Slime Sauce
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup parmsean cheese


-In a small bowl combine the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in pumpkin until well mixed. Divide in half.  In one bowl, gently mix in the charcoal.

-On a lightly floured surface, knead each ball until a soft dough forms. Let rest for 10 minutes.

-While the gnocchi rests, make the slime sauce: create a roux by melting the butter and whisking in the flour until a paste forms. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking until thick. Stir in the pesto and cheese. Keep warm. Add more milk if the sauce is too thick.

-Divide dough into equal portions and roll into "snakes" (long dough rope of about 1/2 inch thick). Cut into equal pieces and shape into small ovals, pressing against a fork for the "gnocchi" pattern if desired.

-Bring salted water to a boil. Cook gnocchi in 3 batches until they float, remove with a slotted spoon. If desired (and I always do this!) heat butter over high heat in a skillet and fry the gnocchi until lightly crispy.

-Serve with sauce.


*Charcoal at your own risk! While I use this often as a coloring, it can and will absorb any medications you're taking if you consume enough. If you're concerned about this, black food coloring or squid ink will work just as well.