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Restaurant Review: Gianmarco’s

Gianmarco’s Restaurant

721 Broadway St, Homewood, AL 35209

As soon as I walked in, I knew this place would be great.  It smelled fantastic.  The food was delicious and our waiter was attentive and knowledgeable.  They have a fantastic wine selection.  I highly recommend the tomato and fresh mozzarella appetizer.  The eggplant parmesan and cheese ravioli were great vegetarian options.  If you can’t decide on a side, go with the mac and cheese.

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Tofu Chicken Nuggets



There are plenty of reasons to make your own tofu chicken nuggets:

  • You have recently become vegetarian/vegan
  • You keep kosher and don’t have easy access to kosher chicken OR you don’t want to wait six hours to eat dairy
  • You don’t know what else to do with the tofu in your refrigerator

It’s very easy, but does require some forethought.  Tofu is spongy and tastes like nothing if you don’t marinate it, so you have to plan ahead for any tofu recipe you try, but otherwise, it is very easy.

What You’ll Need (makes enough nuggets for 2-3 people)

  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups vegetarian/parve chicken broth
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon safflower or vegetable oil

Let’s Get Started!

  1. Open tofu, drain water, and press tofu until most of the moisture is gone from the block.  This will allow the tofu to absorb your marinade.
  2. Cut tofu into nugget-size squares
  3. Put 2 cups of vegetarian/parve chicken broth in a bowl (Whole Foods carries vegetarian no-chicken broth OR you can make your own using parve chicken-style consomme)
  4. Dump your tofu squares in the broth, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours (you can marinate it for less time, but try to leave it for at least 2 hours)
  5. Drain broth
  6. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat
  7. Put corn starch in a small bowl
  8. Coat tofu squares in corn starch and fry on both sides until browned
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Homemade Banana Pudding



So you bought too many bananas and a few of them have gotten kind of mushy before you had a chance to eat them?  Use them for banana pudding!

What You’ll Need (makes 2 puddings in 4.5 inch ramekins)

  • 30 vanilla wafers
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar

Let’s Get Started!

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Line the bottom of your ramekins with 5 crushed wafers per ramekin
  3. Cut one banana into 1/4 inch slices.  Layer the banana slices on top of the wafer crumbs in the ramekins.
  4. Line the sides of the ramekins with 8 wafers per ramekin
  5. Drizzle agave or honey over bananas in the ramekins
  6. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and 1/4 cup milk
  7. Whisk egg yolk into sugar mixture
  8. Add remaining milk and butter
  9. Slice second banana and add to saucepan
  10. Cook sugar-banana mixture over medium heat, stirring regularly about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens
  11. While still hot, pour 1/4 of pudding into each ramekin, leaving half of the pudding in the saucepan
  12. Sprinkle 1 crushed vanilla wafer per ramekin on top of the pudding
  13. Pour remaining 1/4’s of the pudding into the ramekins
  14. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar over each ramekin
  15. Sprinkle 1 crushed vanilla wafer per ramekin on top of the pudding
  16. Bake for 15 minutes and chill before serving
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Seitan-Chicken Pot Pie

I love chicken pot pie!  It’s delicious.  But now that I keep kosher, I can only get chicken pot pie in a kosher restaurant (and there aren’t a lot of those in Birmingham, AL).  In fact, I have only had chicken pot pie once in the 3.5 years that I have been keeping kosher and that was a few months ago in Chicago.  Since then, I have been learning how to cook and I am now skilled enough to make vegetarian chicken pot pie.  Hurray!


Kosher Seitan-Chicken Pot Pie for Shabbat!

I based my pot pie off of this recipe from Food.com.  I made 2 pot pies in 4.5 inch diameter ramekins, but Marc and I each only ate half before we were full.  A 3.5 inch diameter ramekin would have been enough to feed one person.

What You’ll Need (makes 4 pot pies in a 3.5 diameter ramekin)

Crust (This will give you a top and bottom crust. Cut it in half if you don’t want a bottom crust.)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup milk (I used 2%, but I don’t think skim or whole would change it significantly)


  • 1 package of seitan (if you don’t keep kosher and/or you aren’t vegetarian, feel free to replace this with chicken)
  • 2 cups water + 2 teaspoons parve chicken-style consomme (you can find Osem brand in most kosher aisles of the grocery store) OR 2 cups of vegetarian no-chicken broth (available at Whole Foods)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup milk (again, I used 2%, but go ahead and use what you’ve got)
  • 1/2 (16 oz) bag frozen peas and carrots
  • 1/2 (16 oz) bag frozen broccoli

Let’s get started!


1. If you have vegetarian no-chicken broth, put 1 cup each into two separate bowls and skip to step 5.
2. If you are making your own parve chicken broth, put 2 cup of water in small sauce pan or in microwave safe bowl and bring to boil.
3. Add 2 tsp parve chicken-style consomme to boiling water and stir to create a parve chicken broth.
4. Divide the broth, so that you have two bowls with 1-cup of broth each.  Put one bowl away to use later.
5. Cut up seitan into bite-size pieces and add to parve chicken broth.  Cover with plastic wrap and put bowl in fridge.  You’ll come back to it later.


6. Combine flour, baking powder and salt
7. Cut up butter and mix with dry ingredients
8. Add milk and stir until the mixture is wet
9. In stand mixer or by hand – knead for 8 minutes or until dough is smooth and loses most of its stickiness
10. Cut dough into 8 pieces (4 bottoms, 4 tops)
11. Place the “bottoms” in the ramekins and flatten them against the sides of the dish to form a crust.  It can be easier to partially flatten the dough before putting it in the dish.


12. Put vegetable oil or safflower oil in a frying pan and cook the seitan
13. Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Make sure not to burn it.
14. Stir in flour, chopped onions, salt, and pepper.
15. Cook until bubbly.  Be sure to stir frequently.
16. Remember that 1 cup of broth that you set aside at the very beginning (in step 1 or 5)?  Get it out now.  Remove your saucepan from heat and whisk in milk and the 1 cup of broth.
17. Bring the entire mixture to boil and stir until it thickens
18. Add cooked seitan, frozen broccoli, peas, and carrots and stir



19. Preheat oven to 425° F
20. Spoon the filling into ramekins as shown above
21. With a rolling pin or by hand, flatten the remaining 4 pieces of dough into a thin, circular shape to cover the pie.  These are the “tops”
22. Place the tops over the pie and pinch together the edges with the bottom crust.  Cut an x into the middle of the dough.
23. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown



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Baking: Bagels

I have been testing different bagel recipes over the past couple of months.  I will get into the different recipes I have tried below, but before that, I have a few general observations about making bagels:

  • Most recipes I have come across suggest rolling the dough into a rope and then creating a circle by pinching together the ends.  Whenever I try to do this, the ends come apart during the boiling process.  I have found that it is much easier to roll the dough into a ball and make a hole in the middle with your thumb.
  • Boiling the bagels makes them plump up a bit, so if they seem a little small after you’ve formed them, don’t worry.
  • Put bagels in a large zip lock bag and freeze them to make them last longer!  Slice the bagels before freezing them to save yourself some time later.

Boiling a bagel

The first recipe I tried was from the Food Network.  The bagels came out a little thin, because I had formed them into balls and then pressed them down.  I tried the recipe again without squashing them a couple weeks later.  The bagels flatten a little in the boiling and baking process, so the shape comes out ok in the end.  Unfortunately, the bagels didn’t have much flavor, so I moved on to a different recipe.

For my second attempt, I tried New York-Style bagels from the Sophisticated Gourmet blog, but the dough came out so sticky and unmanageable that I had to dump it (what a waste).

Finally, I used a bagel recipe from AllRecipes.com, which has never steered me wrong before.  I think that using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour adds the flavor that was missing from the Food Network recipe.   The All Recipes batch made six very large and somewhat doughy bagels on my first try and eight slightly-too-small bagels on my second try.  I have found that I can make eight good-sized bagels from this recipe if, after I shape them into bagels, I let them rise again before boiling them.

All Recipes Bagels

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Easiest Dinner Ever


1. Cook egg noodles
2. Slice grape tomatoes
3. Mix together
4. Top with olive oil, salt, and pepper

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Baking: Nutella Cookies

My adventures in baking continue!  Thankfully, I am able to send most of my concoctions to work with Marc, so we don’t have to eat all of this stuff by ourselves.  This week, I decided to modify this recipe for Nutella cookies that I found last week.  They turned out great!

Nutella Cookies

Nutella Cookies

What You’ll Need (Makes about 48 large cookies)

  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter.  If you’re allergic to peanut butter, just add more Nutella instead.
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • OPTIONAL 1/3 cups shredded coconut.  I like the taste and texture of coconut and it went well with this recipe.  I also considered adding butterscotch chips, but thought it would be too many chips.  In the future, I might use half the amount of chocolate chips and add 1/4 cup of butterscotch too.

Let’s get started!

  1. Combine brown sugar, Nutella, peanut butter, chocolate chips, agave, egg, baking soda and coconut and mix well.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F
  3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet.  They will flatten out while baking, so be sure to space them out accordingly.
  4. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.  When I took them out of the oven, they were gooey, but they became crunchier as they cooled.  If you like your cookies a little softer, bake for a few minutes less.