Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Denver Botanic Garden and a Mini Blog Break


It was Iris season at the Denver Botanic Gardens last weekend. We were visiting with a niece who was visiting us for a few days. (Click on each photo to enlarge it) 


There were so many beautiful varieties of Iris colors!  


I've visited the Denver Botanic Garden many times in the past.  If you missed those posts you can visit the Chihuly Glass Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Garden post here,  The Nature of Horses Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Garden here, or see the Denver Botanic Garden in Autumn here.  It is always wonderful to experience the garden at different times of the year and for special exhibits. 


"Human | Nature: Figures from the Craig Ponzio Sculpture Collection" is the current collection on display. The Human | Nature Exhibit presents sculptures that explore the human form in both classical and abstract styles, from the early 20th century to today. Featured artists hail from around the world and include Eric Fischl, Jacques Lipchitz, Sassona Norton, Beverly Pepper, Auguste Rodin, and Manolo Vald├ęs.  The exhibition is on view at the Gardens’ York St. location April 19 – September 15, 2019, included with general admission.


The exhibit consists of 17 different sculptures but due to time constraints, we saw only a few, although all were interesting.



A sundial in the Denver Botanic Garden.

Time seems to be an issue right now for me.  June is a month of many birthday celebrations in our household and our grandson's lacrosse team is in the state championship, so there have been many games with us rooting for him on the sidelines. We had two surprise visits this past week from relatives, which were wonderful, and we had fun sightseeing with them. All of this has kept me very busy and away from my computer lately.



Japanese Garden in the Denver Botanic Garden

Now that summer is approaching I realize I have a lot to catch up on.  Our garden needs weeding. our shrubs need to be trimmed, and we want to finally plant some annuals and some new herbs to replace a few which died from the last frost we had in late May.  We also want to take our grandchildren on some local trips before they go to summer camp. Summer in Colorado is a short season and I've learned that is good to take advantage of these early summer days to get everything in order before July so we can enjoy the warm weather and all the local festivals and summer fun!



Beautiful orchids and tropical flowers and ferns in the Denver Botanic Conservatory
  
So, in order to catch up on life, I am taking a blog break until the beginning of July.  Hopefully, by then all I need to accomplish will be done, and I can resume a regular blog schedule and blog visits to your blogs again.   

Enjoy the last days of 2019's spring and welcome the first days of summer.  I'll see you in July!  

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Monday, June 3, 2019

Potato Gnocchi




Potato Gnocchi are soft and delicate dumplings made from a mixture of cooked potatoes, flour, egg, and seasonings.  They have always been among my husband's favorite pasta, but, truthfully I  don't make them that often.  I usually make ricotta gnocchi--see my recipe for them on this link--as they are equally delicious and slightly easier to prepare.  

However, since my husband was celebrating a milestone birthday this past weekend, I wanted to treat him to his absolute favorite.  We had a busy Saturday of attending our grandson's lacrosse tournament games, so I began the process early in the day.



Potato Gnocchi Recipe:

This will make about 150 gnocchi depending on the size of your potatoes and the size you make the gnocchi. I froze half to use for later.

Ingredients:

3 lb. russet potatoes (about 6 medium), scrubbed
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more for kneading and rolling if needed
2  large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp white pepper -- optional
1/4 cup parmesan cheese -- optional


Preparation:

Potato gnocchi is simple to make, just a little time-consuming in that there are multiple steps to do to prepare them.  When I make them I try to make a double batch so I can freeze half of them for another time.  The important part of the process is choosing the right potato. An older, more starchy potato is best.  A russet or Idaho brand is great.  Many recipes say to boil the potatoes first, but I found baking them is better. The less moisture the cooked potato retains, the less flour is needed in the preparation and the lighter and better tasting the gnocchi will be.   I bake them in a hot oven until fork tender. Then I place them on a metal sheet and cut slashes in them so any steam can escape. I then allow them to cool and peel them. My husband usually will rice the whole potatoes for me as it takes a little hand power--see the photo in the collage above.  You could also use a food mill. The important step is to make the cooked potato light and fluffy. Then add the beaten egg,  the flour, and the seasonings. Lightly mix with your hands until the dough comes together.  Do not over mix.  I place the dough on a floured surface and lightly fold over and over--do not use pressure as you would when making bread.  You want to make the dough smooth but not hard.  I break off a handful portion and cover the rest of the dough with a towel while I work.  Roll a handful of dough into a one-inch thick ribbon shape and cut about one-inch pieces.  I roll those pieces on a gnocchi paddle so that they get grooves which helps to hold the sauce. You can use a fork to lightly press grooves into the dough or leave them smooth. I lay the gnocchi on trays covered with lightly floured parchment paper.



I worked fast, and my gnocchi are not perfect in size or shape, but perfection is not that important as they will still taste delicious! With 6 medium russet potatoes I made 150 gnocchi, so I divided them and froze one tray.  After the gnocchis were frozen I placed them in a freezer bag for future use.  

Hint: If you cook frozen gnocchi it is best to use two pots of boiling water to cook them, adding half to each pot, so they won't cool the water and break apart with longer cooking time.

We had to now attend our grandson's game, so I covered the other tray with plastic and placed them in the refrigerator until we returned home.



When we returned I boiled 6 quarts of water and added two tablespoons of salt. When the water returned to a full boil I began adding the gnocchi dumplings one by one until about half of the gnocchi from the tray was in the pot to avoid overcrowding.



As you can see, as the gnocchi cook they begin to rise up to the top of the water.  It takes about 3 to 4 minutes depending on the size of your gnocchi.  When they rise to the top you can begin to scoop them out to a bowl, using a strainer or a slotted spoon.  As I remove the cooked gnocchi I keep adding more from the tray until they are all cooked. 


I then gently mix in my cooked sauce over the gnocchi.  I added a heated tomato sauce that I previously made, that had fresh basil, roasted garlic, and some ground dried Calabrian red pepper added to it, which is my husband's favorite way to eat them.  Gnocchi is also good served with a meaty tomato sauce, a creamy tomato sauce, or a butter and sage type sauce. Each sauce adds an entirely different taste experience to them, which makes them very versatile.



I serve the prepared gnocchi with grated parmesan cheese on top--delicious!  



My husband really enjoyed them, and we were happy our grandson played well in his lacrosse games making great passes from the defense which resulted in goals for his team, a happy day for all!


The next day we celebrated with the entire family at a local Italian restaurant. To be gifted with a new decade of life is a blessing! In Italian, we cheer a birthday with the saying "Cent'anni!" which means "may you live for 100 years," which is what I wish for my husband.


This sign hanging in the restaurant caught my eye, and  I could not agree more.  Family means so much to us and we feel blessed to be able to enjoy these special occasions together.



This collage shows what else has been happening in Colorado this week.  We have had more than the normal snowpack and rain this winter and spring. For the first time in nineteen years, there are no areas of drought in our state. Sadly, though, there are concerns about flooding in certain areas of the state when warmer temperatures bring snowmelt. We are hoping for the best and hoping all the moisture we received will cut down on forest fires this summer. 
Happily, the local deer are now giving birth to their fawns.  This lucky Mother had triplets!  It is always a joy to see new life.


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