About Laura Zolnoski

Laura grew up and currently resides on the Central Coast of California, but considers herself to be “bicoastal,” as she spent her childhood in New England and attended college in New Jersey. Laura received her B.A. in Sociology (with minors in Latin American Studies and Anthropology) from Drew University, located in Madison, NJ. After graduating, Laura moved home to the Central Coast, where she quickly became immersed in the local wine culture. In her spare time, Laura enjoys wine tasting, cooking, travel, and spending time with her family, including her Shetland Sheepdog, Dolan.

I’ve Moved!

You may have noticed mention of my new blog, Sweet Life a la Carte, in a few of my previous posts. I started a la carte as a companion blog back in September, but it has quickly grown into a place where I am able to share all my passions – and it felt wrong to not include cooking in the same place as everything else! Please continue to follow my recipes in their new home – I hope you love reading it as much as I love writing it every day.

Ginger Cookies

These are my very favorite holiday cookies! This recipe came in the Food Network’s 12 Days of Cookie annual email series in 2008, I believe, and I made them as soon as I got home from college that winter break. I love that they are crackly on the outside and soft on the inside — they were a big hit at our holiday party last weekend.

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Butternut Squash Gnocchi

I recently found the cooking blog Alexandra’s Kitchen through Pinterest, and instantly became obsessed with the gorgeous images and mostly vegetarian recipes. I was inspired to make this Butternut Squash Gnocchi right away, and had the best afternoon roasting the squash, milling the potatoes, shaping the gnocchi, and waiting for everything to come together.

If you make these, take Alexandra’s advice and read the recipe all the way through. I thought I had done this, only to have dinnertime be upon us and realize that the gnocchi needed to be chilled for an hour. Although it is a time-consuming process, it is actually very easy and so worth it to make. The butternut squash, brown butter, and sage are perfect flavors for this time of year, and this recipe is sure to impress your guests!

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Stracciatella with Chard and Stelline

Don’t judge me, but I made this soup for a late breakfast on a particularly chilly morning, and it was perfection. I’ve been really into Swiss Chard since I got it in my first CSA basket, and I’ve been putting it into everything I can think of (especially pizza, pasta, and soup), and as we all know I am obsessed with both eggs and soup, so this was really a winning combination for me.

A quick vocabulary recap: Stracciatella means “little ribbons” in Italian. That’s what the “wisps” of eggs   in this dish are (also seen in its cousin, Egg Drop Soup), and it’s also what the inside of burrata is called, expect those are mozzarella ribbons. Stelline is one of Barilla’s newest pasta shapes – little stars for soup! I love them! If you can’t find them, the O’s that look like Spaghetti O’s, Orzo, or any small Italian soup pasta would be a great substitute.

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Eggs Florentine

About one weekend a month, Tim and I (possibly under the influence of a glass of wine or two) spend an evening planning an elaborate brunch. We decide what to make, and in the morning he gets up early, takes the dogs out, and goes to the grocery store to get all the ingredients we need (I’m a pretty lucky girl). Sometimes we have bubbles or Bloody Marys while we cook together, and sometimes we have friends over, but we always end up with a fabulous meal and satisfied tummies on our day of rest.

These Eggs Florentine have been the brunch dish I have been most proud of. It involves a “fancy” French sauce along with my trick of the year – poaching four eggs at once (ta-da!).

P.S. Tim and I got engaged this weekend!!!

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Pasta with Eggplant, Caramelized Onion, and Tomato

While in Greece this summer, I learned to love a few “new” foods, including olives, octopus, and eggplant. These are all things that I had tried before and not had much of an opinion of – in fact, a few weeks before we left I silently judged a stranger at the grocery store for loading up on eggplant (I know, I am really friendly).

Greek inspiration

The game-changer for me was a delicious dish of eggplant, red pepper, and potatoes baked in a tomato sauce. The vegetables were tender and had all absorbed the flavor of the sauce and seasonings – I was smitten.

This pasta is a take on the baked vegetable dish that I enjoyed so much while abroad. Eggplant and tomato sauce, I have discovered, is a winning combination and perfect for this time of year when you want a cozy (yet healthy) meal.

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Rosemary Roasted Halibut

Over the course of the two-plus years that I have been writing this blog, I have had many people tell me that they are nervous to cook fish. One of the no-fail ways to cook fish is to keep it as moist as possible, which makes it very hard to overcook — and the best way to keep fish moist is by baking it in a packet (otherwise known as a papillote if you want to be fancy).

This recipe would be perfect for a newbie fish cooker. It is quick, simple (only three ingredients!), delicious, and really hard to overcook. When you open the packets, the fish will have cooked in its own juices (and the butter, of course), keeping it moist and delectable. The rosemary fragrance and flavor is just right. I served this with heirloom tomatoes with a splash of olive oil, and Camembert Mashed Potatoes.

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Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

My Butternut Squash Bisque, which I revisited for lunch the other day.

My family’s Thanksgiving is very traditional – we pretty much eat the same thing every year. For the past few years, I have been doing one “different” side dish to mix things up a little bit. If you’re looking to do the same, here is a list of my favorite recipes that would be a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving Table.

Rustic Herb Stuffing

P.S. If you cook something off Sweet Life Laur on Thanksgiving or any other time, I would LOVE to see photos! You can upload them to my Facebook Page, or email them to sweetlifelaur (at) gmail (dot) com.

Happy Thanksgiving preparation week!

Camembert Mashed Potatoes

If you’re on the hunt for a new, exciting mashed potato recipe for Thanksgiving this year, look no further. Every bite of these mashed potatoes is infused with the special tang of Camembert cheese, and it’s a noticeable (yet mild) surprise for the taste buds. This recipe is unique because the Camembert (with its high fat content) adds all the creaminess that butter and cream would add – so all the mashers need is the cheese and a little milk and you’re set.

I just used a simple Camembert from the grocery store for this recipe, and while it turned out very well, I know a higher-quality cheese would have been even more amazing. A triple-cream cheese, such as Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam, would be lovely, and a fresh chevre would add a lot of extra tang if your family is more on the adventurous side.

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