Oct 142014
 

Some people may be getting a little tired of the pumpkin spice EVERYTHING that is popping up everywhere, but let me tell you, I am NOT one of them. It’s finally fall–arguably the best season of all–so bring on the scarves, booties, brussel sprouts, apples and pumpkins. In the fall nothing is safe from being pumpkinized, and that’s exactly how it should be. Because I love pumpkin spice as much as the next 20-something female in New York City, I made this amazing and super healthy Maple Pumpkin “Pie” Parfait with Greek Yogurt, Granola, and Chia Seeds.
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If I could eat a slice of pumpkin pie covered in whipped cream every day of October and November, I would. Unfortunately I was not blessed with a metabolism that allows me to do this, so I have to get creative. As a disclaimer, this is certainly less decadent than a traditional pumpkin pie and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend serving it to your guests on Thanksgiving, but I do think it’s the perfect every-day snack, breakfast, or dessert for you to enjoy all fall. It was also incredibly easy to prepare–simply whisk pumpkin puree with spices, vanilla, and a little maple syrup, and layer it with greek yogurt and your favorite toppings (like granola, nuts, dried cranberries, chia or toasted coconut).
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Nutritional Highlights: Let’s talk about pumpkin, pumpkin. I know we don’t usually think that the healthiest foods come out of cans, but this is an exception. Canned pumpkin puree is really great for you, and way way way less labor intensive than roasting and pureeing your own pumpkins (although if you do that, more power to ya). First of all, it only has about 90 calories in a whole cup (and for each serving of this recipe you’ll only be eating about 1/2 a cup). Additionally, it’s high in fiber (7g per cup) which means a lot of great things for your body–keeps you full, helps keep things moving (if you know what I mean), and may also reduce your risk for heart disease by controlling your cholesterol. It has a ton of vitamin A which is important for vision as well as normal cellular functioning in the whole body. In this recipe, we up the nutrition even more by adding greek yogurt, which is high in protein and calcium, and chia seeds which are high in fiber. This is truly a guilt-free dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth, keep you full and energized, and help you cozy up to fall.
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Maple Pumpkin “Pie” Parfait with Greek Yogurt, Granola, and Chia Seeds
makes 4 servings
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What’s in it:
1 15-oz can of pure pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons good quality maple syrup (less if you are watching sugar intake)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups non-fat greek yogurt (recommend plain but if you need extra sweetness vanilla would work)
Toppings: Low fat granola, chia seeds, dried cranberries, chopped nuts, toasted coconut

How to make it:
1. In a bowl, whisk the first 6 ingredients. For a chilled parfait, refrigerate mixture for at least 30 minutes or keep your can of pumpkin in the fridge before you begin.
2. Prepare your toppings. You can use any combination you like, but I mixed about 1/2 cup plain low fat granola with 1-2 tablespoons each of chopped pecans, chia seeds, dried cranberries, and toasted coconut. You can also just choose a granola that already has some of those ingredients.
3. Prepare your parfaits: Start with a scoop of the pumpkin mixture (about 1/4 cup), top with a layer of greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup), sprinkle with some of your toppings, top with another 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, and additional toppings. Repeat for the remaining parfaits, or if you’re just making one serving at a time, store the components separately until you whip up your next one.
4. Serve chilled and enjoy!!
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Yum. Enough said.
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Oct 052014
 

Spaghetti squash is one of those foods that I literally did not know existed until a few years ago. Odds are that I probably had seen it, and thought, what is this hard round thing doing in the produce aisle, as it is certainly not edible. Well, let me tell you, that me from a few years ago was very wrong and she has many regrets, because spaghetti squash is one of coolest veggies out there. So I’m making up for lost time by using it as much as possible–as the “pad” in a healthier pad thai I made last year, as the base for baked chicken parm and now in this Swiss-Chard and Parmesan Baked Spaghetti Squash.
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Part of the beauty of the spaghetti squash is how deceptively easy it is to make. The quickest option is to stab it a bunch of times and microwave for about 10 minutes, or you can halve it and roast it (I like the flavor and texture a little better with this method). Once it’s cooked, you can just scrape out the flesh and it turns into thin, noodle-like pieces. One spaghetti squash gives you TONS of “spaghetti” and you can use it in any recipe instead of traditional noodles. For this recipe, while my squash was roasting, I sauteed some garlic, shallots, and rainbow swiss chard, added lemon, parmesan, and salt/pepper, mixed in the cooked squash and then baked it for a few more minutes in the squash with some
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Nutrition Highlights: If you’re anything like me, when the weather starts to get cooler, you start to crave warm and comforting dishes. This recipe is a great alternative to your typical cheesey-noodley casserole. Spaghetti squash only has 30 calories per cup, where as spaghetti has 220. I’m not saying it’s the same as pasta, but it cuts a HUGE amount of calories and might be worth trying once in a while. It’s also high in fiber and Vitamin C. Swiss chard is an amazing green to incorporate into your diet when you’re getting a little bored of Kale and Spinach. It has a ton of different vitamins, but most notably, Vitamin K, which is important to help you clot blood properly in your body. It’s also one of only a few non-animal sources of calcium in the diet. I used just a hint of parmesan cheese which can be omitted if you’re trying to keep the recipe vegan (although the cheesey crust on the top is crucial in my opinion!).
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Baked Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard & Parmesan
serves 4 as a side
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What’s in it:
Ingredients:
1 large spaghetti squash (cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch chard (rinsed and cut or torn into pieces)
4 green onions (chopped)
1/2 cup good parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray or drizzle the cut side of the squash with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and lay the spaghetti squash halves, cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until flesh is easily pierced with a fork. (Alternatively, you can microwave it to cut the time to only about 10 minutes).
2. While squash is cooking, work on the rest of the filling. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add about tablespoon of olive oil. Add the shallots and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for another minute. Add the swiss chard (you may need to add it in batches so there’s enough space, but don’t worry, it cooks down very quickly).
4. Once swiss chard has wilted, squeeze in the juice from 1/2 a lemon and season with salt and pepper. Set mixture aside.
5. Once squash is done, use a fork to scrape out all of the “noodles”. Mix it into the swiss chard, and stir in half of the parmesan cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
6. Turn the oven to broil. Fill the empty spaghetti squash halves with the mixture and top with the remaining parmesan cheese. Whole wheat bread crumbs and/or any type of nut would be delicious in the topping as well for more texture.
7. Broil for a few minutes until the parmesan has melted and the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Notes: In my photos, I have some toasted squash seeds as part of the topping. I didn’t recommend this because they got pretty soggy and tough to eat in the left overs. But a different toasted nut (pine nuts or hazelnuts perhaps) would be amazing!

*Feel free to get creative with this and add any ingredients you like! To make this a main course, add some chicken, quinoa, or chickpeas to add a little protein. I added some sundried tomatoes in when I ate the leftovers and that was delicious too!

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This is the perfect dish to welcome back fall!
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May 272014
 

If you’re a regular tush cook reader (hi, mom), you have probably noticed that I don’t make a whole lot of Indian food. It’s not that I have anything against it, but more that I find it a bit daunting. With other types of food, I feel like I understand the flavors enough to whip something up without a recipe, but I just don’t know where to begin with Indian spices. So why, you might wonder, was I inspired to make this dish? Well, a month ago my fiance left for India (am I that much of a bridezilla already?). Really it’s just for work, and thankfully he’s back in just a few days, but I still wanted to make something to feel a little closer to him while he’s halfway across the world. Without the food poisoning.
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One thing that I do love about Indian food is that most of it is vegetarian. Another big plus is that most of it is spicy and has bold flavors. This recipe was all of those things and more–loaded with veggies, just spicy enough, and incredibly comforting. The kind of comforting you need when your fiance leaves for a month!
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Nutritional Highlights: This recipe is both healthy and filling. It’s vegan and gluten free too! The lentils provide protein and fiber, and the greens (spinach or kale) and cauliflower give tons of vitamins. Garlic and onions are associated with heart health and ginger a happy GI tract (which I’m sure comes in handy when you’re traveling in India). There’s not a single unhealthy thing about this dish…well, aside from the quantity of naan I dipped in it while eating it.
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Coconut Red Lentil Dal with Roasted Cauliflower
serves 4-6
adapted from Gourmet
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What’s in it:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, finely chopped, including seeds (Note: if I made this again I would up it to 2 jalapenos)
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils (10 oz)
1 (13- to 14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 14 oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
3 cups packed dark green leafy greens, like kale or spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs
Juice from 1-2 limes
Roasted cauliflower (see recipe below)
Optional Accompaniments: brown rice or whole wheat naan

How to make it:

1. Cover red lentils with water and allow to sit for about 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Strain before use.
2. In a large pot, heat 1 T oil and cook onion, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden, about 6 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, and chile and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. Stir in vegetable broth, drained lentils, diced tomatoes and coconut milk, then simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Stir in the kale and simmer, covered, until tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Squeeze in juice from one lime and taste. Season with additional salt or add more lime juice as desired.
5. Serve with roasted cauliflower and cilantro sprigs scattered on top. Enjoy!

For the Roasted Cauliflower:


Preheat oven to 450. Cut 1 small head cauliflower into floretes (or about 3 cups prepared floretes). Drizzle floretes with 1 T olive oil and season with salt and pepper (feel free to add any other spices as well). Roast for about 20 minutes or until tender and brown.
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Mar 092014
 

There are certain junk foods I’m OK with giving up, but mac and cheese is just never going to be one of those. Mac and cheese was a staple of my childhood–a special treat we got when we had a babysitter (along with grape soda). I’ve grown up a bit since then, and no longer frequent noodles from boxes or flourescently colored sodas, but I still do love some cheesy noodles. So I decided to make a version that was both more grown up and a little healthier. Perfect for adults, kids, and adult kids like me.
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Homemade mac and cheese is definitely an undertaking and does take some time and effort commitment, but the result is so much better. Plus, you can make a big batch that will feed a crowd and have leftovers to spare.
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Nutritional highlights: This recipe has some amazing swaps that majorly cuts down the calories and ups the nutritional factor. The easiest swap- whole wheat noodles to add fiber. The second, more sneaky, swap- some of the cheese and cream that would usually be in a mac and cheese sauce is replaced by pureed butternut squash, which maintains the creaminess without all the fat. While we’re talking sauce, this one only uses low fat milk instead of cream or whole milk in typical recipes. Finally, who said mac and cheese had to just be mac and cheese. Why not throw in some veggies. This one has roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, and kale to increase the nutrients a ton and fill you up with a lower noodle ratio.

And here’s a picture of the mac at my “grown-up comfort food” dinner party. Was definitely the highlight!
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Grown-up Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Mushrooms
Makes about 10 servings
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Ingredients
4 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (either from 1 large squash or save yourself a lot of time with the pre peeled and cut kinds that a lot of stores have these days!)
16 oz Cremini (baby portobello) mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch kale, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 cups fat-free or low fat milk (can also sub unsweetened non-dairy milks)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheese, plus and extra handful for the topping (I chose Trader Joe’s Shredded Swiss and Gruyère blend)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound whole wheat macaroni or other small noodle
Olive oil, salt, pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
Optional: red pepper flakes, dried thyme, and garlic powder for the topping

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Dice squash into small cubes (1/4-1/2 inch) and slice the mushrooms. Spread the veggies onto two baking sheets, toss with olive oil or oil spray, salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven, tossing vegetables half way through, for about 20 minutes or until squash is soft and mushrooms are brown. The mushrooms may be done a bit sooner than the squash.

2. Boil the macaroni in a large pot according to directions, but for one less minute than the directions indicate. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, begin making your sauce. In a large pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high and add the minced garlic and shallots. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until onions begin to brown. Add the broth and milk, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When squash is done roasting, add all but 1 cup to the sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

3. To blend the sauce, you can either transfer to a blender or use and immersion blender. I wanted mine a little chunky so I just mashed it in the pot with a potato masher. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the shredded cheese and half of the Parmesan. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

4. Add cooked macaroni, roasted mushrooms, remaining 1 cup squash, and chopped kale into the sauce. Mix until evenly coated and transfer it to a sprayed baking dish.

5. Combine the bread crumbs, remaining parmesan, a small handful of the shredded cheese, and any seasonings you like (I threw in a little thyme, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes along with plenty of salt and pepper). Sprinkle the mixture evenly over your mac and cheese.

6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately and enjoy!
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I’m not going to lie this is a a lot of work, but SO good.
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And while we’re doing recipe throw backs…here’s the little girl I was telling you about that loved her mac and cheese. And here’s that moment when you realize you might have peaked at age 3…oh well. Happy Throw Back Sunday!
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Dec 172013
 

Tis the season…for potlucks. I’ve had three potluck events already this year, and I was getting a little tired of the kitchen (yep, even I feel that way sometimes). So here’s a simple and festive appetizer that looks a lot fancier than it is. This crostini is a twist on my favorite baked brie recipe and uses my favorite winter fruit: pears.

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Nutritional Highlights: Baked brie can be a pretty deadly holiday appetizer, because it’s really tough to keep track of how much you’ve actually had. This recipe makes individual portioned bites. Plus, whole wheat baguette, pear slices, pomegranate seeds, and arugula add some vitamins and fiber. Vegetarian friendly.

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Brie, Pear, & Honey Crostini
makes about 20 crostini
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What’s in it:
Whole grain or multigrain baguette
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon herbs of your choosing (I used a mix of dried thyme and fresh rosemary since that’s what I had)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 large triangle of brie
2 ripe bartlett pears
Honey for drizzling
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Handful of arugula leaves

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Slice baguette on an angle into 1/4 inch slices.
3. Mix garlic, oil, herbs, and salt and pepper. Brush both sides of the baguette slices with the oil mixture.
4. Spread crostini on baking sheet and cook until lightly browned, about 15 minutes (turning once).
5. Meanwhile, remove brie rind and cut into 20 slices that will fit on the crostini. Slice the pear thinly.
6. Now you have two choices. If you want to serve these warm (recommended), top the warm toast with a slice of brie and return to the oven until the cheese melts. If serving cold, allow toast to cool and top with the brie slices.
7. Before serving, top each brie with a pear slice and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds (they will stick to the honey) and top with a few arugula leaves. Enjoy!

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Nov 262013
 

48 hours until my favorite day of the year! Yep, no other holiday even begins to come close to Thanksgiving in my book. No gifts, no stress, just good time with friends and family and lots and lots of food. Some people get stressed thinking of ways to make Thanksgiving diet friendly, but one day of indulgence really won’t set you back that far, so I say just enjoy. But if you do want to keep it under control, here are a few tips and recipes.
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1. Focus on fruits and veggies. Luckily a lot of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes are focused on seasonal produce. Roasted brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, and a salad with pears, cranberries, and pecans are always part of our spread. Also try a fruit focused dessert like this gluten free pear crisp. Maybe you’ll eat less of the heavy pie if you have this too. Or maybe not.
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2. PORTIONS! I’m not the best representative for portion control to be honest, but none the less, I know it’s super important. Only take a few bites of the decadent stuff and load up on the veggies (see #1). My favorite trick…try making stuffing into individual muffin portions. Not only is the size limited, but you get a nice crispy crust on each stuffin muffin. Also, instead of adding pork sausage and butter to your stuffing, try chicken sausage, broth, and lots of celery and onion.
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Bonus, they actually look a lot more appealing than a big mushy bowl of stuffing anyway.
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3. Now, what NOT to do: make these sweet potatoes. My friends and I have started calling these “death potatoes” because they are probably slowly killing us but it’s a pretty good way to go. You take a great ingredient like sweet potatoes and then add gruyere, pancetta, and, wait for it, heavy cream. Very un-cook-tush. So let me repeat myself: Do not make these. (But here’s the recipe because they’re amazing).
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Also, definitely DON’T make these delicious pumpkin whoopie pies with cream cheese frosting. But if you do, please bring me one since I’ve already eaten all the ones that my friend Susan brought over.
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I hope everyone has a happy and healthy (but not too healthy) Thanksgiving!

xoxo,
CookTush

Nov 172013
 

Gnocchi has been on my things-to-make list for a while now but I’ve always been a little intimidated. Well, I’m pretty glad I finally gave it a shot, because this is by far one of the best things I’ve made in a while. This fall-inspired sweet potato version is both healthier and way cooler than your standard potato gnocchi. This is guaranteed to blow your thanksgiving guest’s minds.
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Not only was I seriously impressed with the gnocchi quality on my first ever attempt, I was also really impressed with the simplicity. The gnocchi only has 6 ingredients (sweet potato, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and whole wheat flour) and it came together pretty quickly. You roll out the dough, cut it into little dumplings, add some fork indentations if you want to get fancy, and boil them for 4 minutes or so. And then you are left with the most delicious, tender, sweet potato gnocchi–I’m actually getting sad writing this because there are not leftovers.
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Nutritional Highlights: By swapping regular potato and white flour for sweet potato and whole wheat flour, you up the fiber and nutrients in a big way. Sure, there is parmesan and ricotta all up in there, but they are necessary. The key is also keeping the sauce light–I just used a simple mix of olive oil, garlic, and a tiny tiny bit of butter. I also added baby spinach, toasted pecans, and pomegranate seeds to add a little extra color, texture, and nutrients.
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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pomegranate, Pecans, and Spinach
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What’s in it:

For the Gnocchi:
– 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (from about 2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes)
– 8-ounces fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve or wrapped in paper towel to remove liquid
– 2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 tablespoon brown sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water
– 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1 1/2 – 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

For the sauce:
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon butter (it’s OK, I swear)
– 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
– 3 cups baby spinach
– 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
– 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

How to make it:

1. Cook sweet potatoes. You can use any method you like, but I punctured them several times with a fork and microwaved for about 10 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Baked potatoes work fine as well. Scoop out the flesh of the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl and mash.
2. To drain the ricotta, I wrapped it in several paper towels and squeezed out as much liquid as possible. Add the ricotta to the mashed sweet potato and mix well.
3. Add the Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg and mash to blend.
4. Mix in the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms. I ended up using 1 1/2 cups.
5. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and cut into 6 pieces. Roll the dough in your hands to form long thin ropes that are about 1 inch in diameter. If it gets too sticky, sprinkle with additional flour or coat your hands in flour. Cut the ropes into about 1 inch pieces and indent each one with a fork. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. (You can stop at this point and refrigerate the gnocchi until you’re ready to cook them.)
6. When ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to boil and add about a tablespoon of salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
7. When ready to serve, heat a large saute pan over medium-high and add the olive oil and butter. Once melted, add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the gnocchi and toss occasionally for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 more minutes. Season with an extra pinch of salt.
8. Transfer to serving dish and top with pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans, and a little extra shaved parmesan for garnish. Enjoy!!
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