Seeing as how the faculty and students are all on winter break from Le Cordon Bleu Chicago, I feel like this might be an appropriate time to write about another very important aspect of my life, and tie in a food related story while doing it. One of my wife's and my favorite things to do at home is to get our five-year-old daughter involved in whatever cooking or baking project is happening in the kitchen. Certain recipes are more kid friendly than others, and one I've found that's always a blast preparing with Delilah is gnocchi.

There are, of course, several different forms of gnocchi throughout the various regions of Italy, but the one that's most fun for five-year old hands to play with is most definitely potato gnocchi. Every form of gnocchi is basically just a dough- based dumpling, and the dough for potato gnocchi is nothing more than cooked, mashed potato, flour, and beaten egg all smooshed together. After Delilah got the basic dough ball formed, we tore off chunks of it and rolled them into long "snakes" about an inch in diameter.Next, we used plastic knives to cut the ropes into inch and a half long cylinders, and shaped them by rolling each one off the tines of a fork.

While the water for boiling our dumplings was heating up, I cut up some bacon which Delilah then sauteed until it was golden brown and crispy. Into the pan went some sliced onions, a few cloves of minced garlic, two or three handfuls of chopped spinach, and then some basic tomato sauce. After a bit of simmering, we tossed a couple dozen peeled shrimp into the sauce. The gnocchi then hit the boiling water, and cooked until they floated to the surface. By that time, the shrimp were perfectly cooked, so the gnocchi went from the boiling water right into the sauce to be tossed with all that goodness. We finished with a bit of fresh chopped rosemary, and sat down at the table with Mom and Little Brother to enjoy a great meal that all started out as an early life lesson in basic culinary technique.