Ways To Warm Your House Cooking Style

Since it’s been so cold outside lately, I’ve found myself really craving carbs, is that weird?  I crave carbs a lot, so maybe it has nothing to do with the temperature outside.  I’ve not had great success with yeast in the past but over the last year I’ve mastered my pizza dough, which is wonderful considering I now make pizza once a week, Eric’s obsessed!  I figured since I got one dough under my belt I could try other yeast recipes.  I’ll admit, it has not been full of great outcomes, until recently.  Obviously when working with yeast you have to be careful not to “kill” it with too hot water and even worry about not activating it with too cold water.  I also read that if you feed the yeast with sugar wait until it blooms before adding salt, because adding salt too early will stop the yeast activation process.  Crazy fascinating stuff yeast is.

A few weeks ago while on Pinterest I came across a pretty simple dinner roll recipe.  Of course I was hesitant about making it because I always end up with hockey pucks.  I forgot what we had for dinner that night, but I thought we needed rolls.  The end result of these rolls was absolutely amazing, I probably ate like 5 and could have finished the whole lot of them if I didn’t have anything else to eat.  I’d even go as far as to say these are pretty much the best rolls ever, and basically foolproof.   How perfect these would be on Thanksgiving…I’m just sayin’

Yeast Rolls (tasteofhome.com)

Ingredients

2 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water (120° to 130°)
2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons butter, melted, divided
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt

Directions

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add water and 2 tablespoons butter; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes or until smooth. Stir in cheese and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 13 pieces. Shape each into a ball. Place in a greased 9-in. round baking pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake 11-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Combine honey, garlic salt and remaining butter; brush over rolls. Remove from pan to wire rack. Yield: 13 rolls.

photo 1 (2)

Verdict: Perfect, fluffy, not hockey puck like at all.  Granted I need to work on my ball rolling skills, but I think they look more rustic.  My mom won’t let me make these for Thanksgiving, I’d be in her way too much (which is true) but one day soon these will be part of our dinner spread.  If you make them, I hope they come out as delicious as they did for me 🙂

Ok, so we’ve covered savory bread, now lets talk about the sweet stuff.  I don’t know about you, but I love sweet, sugary breakfast items.  My top two favorite breakfast items are chocolate chip pancakes and cinnamon rolls.  I used to cheat when I made cinnamon rolls and by pre-make dough loaves, thaw them out, roll them out, fill them, slice and bake them. They were always good, but I get more satisfaction in making everything myself.   Yesterday I tackled a new recipe from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (you probably have it, it’s the red and white plaid one).

Cinnamon Rolls (for a crowd, or really hungry people) – Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Ingredients

4 – 4 1/3 cups  all-purpose flour
1 package  active dry yeast
1 cup  milk
1/3 cup  sugar
1/3 cup  butter
1/2 teaspoon  salt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons  butter, melted
1/2 cup  sugar
2 teaspoons  ground cinnamon (I actually used Pumpkin Pie Spice)
1 recipe Powdered Sugar Icing (I used a basic cream cheese frosting, I’d use it again, it was amazing)

*I also added walnuts, I probably wouldn’t do that again, I realized I don’t like nuts in my cinnamon rolls

Directions

 In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour and yeast; set aside. In a medium saucepan heat and stir milk, the 1/3 cup sugar, the 1/3 cup butter, and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees F.) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture to dry mixture along with eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

Turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 hour).

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Lightly grease two 9×1-1/2-inch round baking pans.

Roll each portion of the dough into a 12×8-inch rectangle. Brush the 3 tablespoons melted butter over dough. Combine the 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough. Roll up into a spiral, starting from a long side. Seal seam. Slice each roll into 12 equal pieces. Place in prepared pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double (about 30 minutes).

Bake in 375 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly; remove from pans. Drizzle with Powdered Sugar Icing or cream cheese frosting. serve warm. Makes 24 rolls.photo 2 (1)

Verdict: I realized pretty quick that I probably needed at least 3 more people in the house to eat these, the two of us can only eat so many, but they were so good. I was hesitant about refrigerating them overnight, I didn’t want them to dry out, so I just covered them and left the out.  Today I warmed them up in the microwave, they were just as good.  I’d make this again for company for sure!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday Surprises and A Quick Fix Meal

I don’t know anyone that loves Monday’s, well unless it happens to be a three day weekend. I had a pretty bad case of the “Monday’s” yesterday, all stemming from feeling pretty crummy from a huge allergy flare up, so when I came home last night and noticed a huge package on my doorstep, I was instantly in a better mood, considering it was addressed to me. I opened it up and to my surprise there were three cookbooks and a letter stating that I had won a recipe contest through Tastebook.com and these cookbooks were part of the prize, another cookbook personalized by Felicity Hoffman (of Desperate Housewives fame) would be on its way.  Pretty sweet deal since I’m obsessed with cookbooks and two of the three were actually on my Christmas wish list.   An added bonus was that they all met my cookbook criteria for having at least five recipes I’d try out, this being said I will be keeping all three 🙂

For those who don’t know about TasteBook, I suggest you take a look sometime.  I discovered this site a few years ago while I was trying to sort through and organize my recipes.  I have horrible handwriting so anything that I can have printed is pretty much fine with me.  My first cookbook I made was for one of my best friends for her bridal shower, in fact because of the book I gave them I received one for my shower.   I liked the idea of creating a personalized book that can be added to over time.  Plus you can choose your own cover and add pictures of food as well.  I think I have over 200 recipes on this site and am always adding them to my different book projects.  The site is very user-friendly as well.  So if you’re stuck on figuring out a cool gift for someone now that the holiday’s are coming up, take a look at Tastebook, maybe make a cookbook full of you traditional family recipes for those you love.  BTW, Tastebook didn’t tell me to give them a shout out, they’re just that awesome that I want everyone to know.

Now it’s been a while since I’ve cooked dinner.  My mom was visiting us for a few weeks and I have to say having her cook every night was nice.  Last night the last thing I wanted to do was cook but we found this really fast and easy dinner on Hillshirefarm.com , of course I modified it a bit with things I had in the fridge already and didn’t want to go to waste.

Smoked Sausage Gnocchi with Sun Dried Tomatoes
(adapted from hillshirefarm.com-they have awesome looking recipes, take a look)

Ingredients

1 lb. gnocchi (surprisingly enough I found frozen gnocchi from a store brand, it was fab)

1 pkg. any flavor of sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices (I used Hillshire Farms low-fat turkey sausage)

1/4 cup julienne sun-dried tomatoes in oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup of caramelized onions (optional, my addition)

4 cups baby spinach (one bag is perfect)

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (I also added a handful of a 6 Italian cheese mix I had)

Directions

Prepare gnocchi according to directions; before draining, reserve about a cup of pasta water; drain and keep warm.

Heat oil a large skillet over medium-high, stir in sausage, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and onions, heat 5 minutes or until sausage is lightly browned.

Stir in spinach with sausage mixture, when it starts to wilt toss in gnocchi; heat through. If using additional cheese, stir in and add a few tablespoons of pasta water to create a sauce.  Stir to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; serve immediately.

photo

Verdict: I’m not sure if this meal took 15 mins, but it was pretty darn fast.  I’d definitely make this again, maybe even without the sausage.   Eric wanted to put red sauce on his, because he loves red sauce.  I’d think it was too many flavors going on, so I’d say use your own judgement.  It definitely was flavorful and delicious as is.   I had to put some aside for my lunch because I knew if I didn’t, there wouldn’t be any left!

Not sure what’s for dinner tonight, it’s Eric’s turn to cook…I’m pretty confident it will be yummy.

Fall is here….well almost…

This is my first post in months.  I’ve been a total slacker but I promise it’s because I’ve been super busy.  Lots of things have happened over the last five months, well a lot has happened this year in general, but I won’t go into all of that.  Our most exciting news is that we bought a house this past summer, which is the main reason I’ve not posted.  Instead of having my hands involved in creating delicious meals and treats, they’ve been covered in blue, red, yellow and green paint from my numerous room painting projects…which is not delicious or as fun as cooking.  I have to say I’ve learned a few things while I’ve tackled the huge painting project at home, 1. Eric is a great cook but a stinky painter. 2. I’m not the best painter, but I’m just enough of a perfectionist that I’d rather do it all myself than watch someone else paint the “wrong” way.  3. Don’t ever paint over wallpaper, stop being lazy and strip that crap off the wall, trust me, it will not only be better for you but if you ever sell the house it will be less of a headache for the new owners.  4. As much of a pain it is to move, re-paint and shell out $$ for a house, it really is all worth it in the end, especially if you have space for family to come visitJ.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in Western New York State, which is gorgeous this time of the year will all the fall foliage and of course all the apple orchards busting at the seams with all the apple products you could ever dream of.   Now that I live in the DC Metro area, I miss the fall season, it just isn’t the same here, the trees are still green and the thought of wearing a heavy sweater makes me sweat (I’m hoping it will cool down a bit, it is October after all).   This weekend my mom came to visit and brought a huge box of apples straight from the orchards of NYS.  I love the smell of apples, I love apple pie, apple cake, apple fritters,  pork with apples, applesauce (which I like in moderation after working at Mott’s during the summer in college), and baked apples, I’m sure I’d like apple butter, but I can’t remember if I’ve ever had it.  What may surprise people is that I’m not a fan of eating a whole apple.  I have one on my desk right now, staring me down, waiting for me take a bite.  I’ll definitely eat it with lunch, but I don’t think I can eat one every day, unless I cover it in peanut butter or caramel.

Just waiting....

Just waiting….

I have no doubt though that I will use all the apples I have that are sitting in my kitchen.  In fact I found a really great recipe for apple cake, it was the first time I’ve used this recipe and it’s a winner.  I brought it in to work today and my inbox has been flooded with how great this cake is.  So, if you want to win over your co-workers or family or friends with a fall recipe that can be either for breakfast or dessert (or even lunch, I don’t judge), you’ll want to make this ASAP.

 Mom’s Apple Cake

Ingredients
4-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced (I sliced and then chopped them roughly)
2 cups sugar
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1tsp. salt
1tsp. nutmeg

Directions

In a large bowl, add apples. Pour in sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix well.

Add all dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Mix in nuts.  Bake at 350 in a lightly greased13x9 pan for 40 mins.

Don't mind the upper right corner, we needed to taste test to make sure it was edible.

Don’t mind the upper right corner, we needed to taste test to make sure it was edible.

Verdict:  Everyone at worked raved about it.  I got comments that it was not too sweet and not too heavy.  I haven’t checked the pan yet, but I’m pretty sure if it’s not gone yet, it will be soon.  I did leave a slice for Eric for his breakfast/snack, he was sad that I brought the whole thing into work.

I think I failed to mention that my new kitchen is apple themed…somehow, recently I’ve been hit with the apple bug…I think it’s because when I see an apple I think of my dad…

No Grill, No Problem!

One thing I miss living in a high rise is that we’re not allowed to have grills on our balconies.  Now, I can’t say I blame them, there are a bunch of idiots that live in my building and even though the walls are concrete, I don’t want to take any chances of a fire, the Fire Department is here enough (for reasons I’m still trying to figure out).  So over the last few years I’ve come to experiment with my oven broiler, which chars up meat pretty good to give it the “grill flavor”, ribs work the best and come out perfect you don’t even need a grill (but if you have one, use it, don’t go half way when you can make awesome ribs even more awesome).

This recipe is from my mom, she makes the best ribs north of the Mason-Dixon line, and my dad grilled them to perfection.  They’re so good I had my parents make them for my pre-rehearsal wedding dinner (the dinner the night before the rehearsal for all the out of town guest who came in early).   Let’s just say it was a great success!

Here’s the recipe for those who want to enjoy bbq ribs, if you have a grill just skip the oven part and go straight to the grill.

Momma Welch’s Perfect BBQ Ribs (this recipe is for two, but just add more slabs of ribs for more people)

Ingredients

1 rack of baby back or pork ribs

1 bottle of BBQ Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays, but use your favorite)

Directions

Cut rack of ribs in half.  Place ribs in a large pot filled with water to just over the meat.  Partially cover the pot and heat over medium high heat for about an hour.  Drain water and add enough sauce to coat ribs in the pot.  You can put the meat in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.  When you’re ready to cook the ribs, pre heat oven to 350 and place ribs on a lined cookie sheet, baste with more sauce.   Cook for 15 mins basting with sauce every 5 mins.  Turn over and repeat the basting process so the ribs get all sticky with bbq goodness.  Turn on the broiler and place the oven rack 6 inches from the broiler, cook for 5 mins on each side, checking often so the sauce doesn’t burn, you want it to caramelize not catch fire.  Once you’ve reached the desired caramelization stage, you’re ready to eat!  Enjoy and make sure you have lots of napkins.

RibsOvenRibsDinner

Verdict: I think I posted this recipe before, but as Eric said tonight, “I think you’ve mastered the rib” .  We had one rack and only ate half of it, it was huge.  I also made corn on the cob and cole slaw (ok, so I went to KFC to get the slaw, they do make the best).  Pretty darn good for not having a grill if I may say so.

I thought it would be nice to make brownies today for dessert.  Since we were having a not so healthy meal, I thought I would experiment with making “healthy brownies”.  Let’s just say I’m not going to post the recipe until I’ve mastered it, it needs some work, but I’m pretty sure I’m almost there.  As of the brownies, I’m going to eat them, they’re not inedible  I’m just going to slap some cool whip on them and they’re good to go.

Hope you all had a nice long weekend.  It’s Memorial Day, I’m very thankful for all the men and women who have served and who are currently serving our country.

Lord Wellington

I feel like its been forever since I’ve posted a recipe.   Between traveling and being sick, our dinners have not been very exciting.  This week I decided to come up with a fun menu of new recipes to try from cookbooks that have made their way to the bottom shelf. Unfortunately, I was a little too ambitious in this as I forgot that I was traveling Tuesday and Wednesday, but since it’s a three day weekend I’m sure we’ll make it through the menu just fine.

Monday’s dinner was a blast from the past but kicked up a few notches.  Every Christmas my mom makes beef tenderloin, some years she makes it Wellington style, others just straight up, both are very delicious.  It’s been a few years since I’ve had beef Wellington, it’s probably not the healthiest, but it sure is the tastiest.  Come on, it’s beef wrapped in puff pastry, how can you go wrong with that?!   You can only imagine my delight when I came across the recipe for Mini Beef Wellingtons in Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen: Cookin’ for Trouble cookbook (as I’ve mentioned before, she’s awesome, the book is awesome, go buy it).

Mini Beef Wellington (Suzette Ballew-Nadia G’s Bitchin Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1 garlic head (I sautéed 6 cloves in a few tablespoons of olive oil for until lightly browned and soft-a time saver for sure, plus you get garlic oil out of it-win win)

2 tsp. olive oil

4 6-oz filet mignon (I used two)

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp + 1 tsp of unsalted butter

2 cups thinly sliced shitake mushroom caps

1 cup + 1 Tbsp Brandy (I substituted beef broth, it worked fine)

3/4 tsp brown sugar

2 cups heavy cream (I used light cream)

1 egg yolk

1 Tbsp. water

flour, for dusting surface

1 lb. puff pastry thawed (I used one sheet, I love me some puff pastry)

8 slices of pancetta (I actually used diced pancetta and added it when I added the mushrooms)

1/4 cup Gorgonzola Cheese, diced (I used about 2 Tbsp. of crumbled)

Directions:

Roasted Garlic

Preheat oven to $00.  Cut 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic, exposing the cloves.  Center the garlic on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and seal it.  Bake for 30 mins.  Cool, then squeeze out the roasted cloves, set aside.

Filets

Season each filet with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 Tbsp. of butter and 1 tsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Sear meat for 3 mins on each side.  Remove from pan and chill for 20 mins in the fridge.

Mushroom Sauce

Add 1 Tbsp. of butter to the large pan (the same one you seared the meat in).  Saute the mushrooms (if you want to add the pancetta, do it now)over medium high heat for 3 mins. stirring frequently until browned.  Remove mushrooms and a set aside.  Add 1 cup of Brandy (or beef broth) to deglaze the pan.  Add the roasted garlic and stir.  Reduce the brandy by half, about 2-3 mins.  Add another Tbsp. of butter and whisk in the brown butter.  Once sugar is dissolved, whisk in cream and add the mushrooms.  Reduce to medium and simmer for 7 mins or until sauce is thickened.  Remove sauce from heat, season with salt and pepper and whisk in 1 Tbsp. of brandy (if you’re using it).  Strain the mushrooms from the sauce and transfer the sauce to a small sauce pan.  Return the mushrooms to the large pan and saute until caramelized, about 3 mins.  Set them aside.

Assembly

In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk and water.  Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into 14 x 14 inches.  Cut 4 7×7 squares (if you have 4 filets of course). In the center of each square place 2 slices of pancetta, one-fourth of mushrooms, 1 Tbsp. of gorgonzola, and a filet. Brush the boarders of each pastry square with egg wash and fold it up like a package.  Once sealed turn them over seal side down and place on baking sheet.  Score each and brush with egg wash.  Bake for about 20 mins.  Let them rest for 5 mins.  Drizzle with sauce and Enjoy.

Filets

 

Verdict:  This was a pretty time-consuming meal, so I’d suggest making it on the weekend or for a special occasion.  Eric doesn’t like mushrooms so he basically picked those out and ate the rest.  I adore mushrooms so I was happy and even put extra in mine.  The little Wellingtons were very delicious, though I don’t think I’d make this again. well not this recipe, maybe I’d try a more simple Wellington recipe.

I’m pretty sure my stomach doesn’t realize that summer is right around the corner, I guess my brain doesn’t either since all we’ve eating is delicious, not so waist line friendly meals, but hey, it’s all been tasty.  Now that the veggies are looking awesome in the store I’m going to try to make more healthy dinners.  This being Memorial Weekend, I’m sure it will be difficult as I only want to eat burgers and hot dogs…chicken burgers are healthy, right?

Wish me luck!

Let Them Eat Cake

If I could eat cake everyday I totally would, that is if I could find a cake that had zero fat, zero calories and all the delicious flavor intact…not likely, so I guess I’ll have to settle for cake every once in awhile.  This is why whenever I’m invited over to someone’s house or have people over I always make cupcakes or brownies.  It is only recently I’ve been into cakes. Years ago I tried to make cake for a party and it was so dry and gross, I was so embarrassed that I haven’t made a cake since. Well, until this past weekend.  Last week I found a recipe for a chocolate peanut butter layer cake that look so delicious I was obsessing over it for days.  Thank goodness we were invited over to a friend’s house for a dinner party this weekend because I was going to make this cake either way, I’m just glad I didn’t have to eat the whole thing myself (which would not have been hard to do) and was able to share it with others.

I’ve only made a layer cake twice before, one was a disaster, the other looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but at least it was tasty.   I think the key to having a layer cake stay put is by not over filling the layers, which is hard especially if you don’t want the leftover filling to go to waste, I say it’s just more for you to snack on.  I probably could have filled this cake more, but I didn’t want to take the chance of any layers sliding off or oozing out, both of which are not pretty.

So here’s the recipe for the cake I made this last weekend.  If you like peanut butter and chocolate you’ll like this cake.  Be sure you have a big glass of milk to go with it, it’s pretty rich.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake (from Serious Eats )

Ingredients

 For the Cake:

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup hot coffee

1 1/2 cups  granulated sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

7 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups  all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

For the Peanut Butter Mousse:

8 oz cream cheese

3/4 cup  confectioners’ sugar

1 cup cream peanut butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1 cup heavy cream

For the Peanut Butter Ganache:

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used semi-sweet)

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream

2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter

Directions

 For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.

In medium bowl, stir chocolate into coffee and set aside. In large bowl, whisk sugar, buttermilk, egg, yolk, oil, salt, and vanilla until combined. In small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder until combined. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until combined. Whisk in the coffee mixture until smooth.

Pour 1/3 batter in one pan and the remaining 2/3 in the other pan. Bake until just firm, about 20 to 25 minutes, respectively. Let cake cool in pans for 15 minutes, then invert cakes onto wire rack to cool completely before assembling cake.

For the Peanut Butter Mousse: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese with sugar, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt on medium speed until creamy and light, about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Switch to whip attachment and beat cream on high-speed to stiff but not dry peaks. Fold cream into peanut butter mixture. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Slice the larger of the two cakes into two layers. Place on serving plate and stack cake layers with peanut butter mousse. Keep chilled until ganache is ready to use.

For the Peanut Butter Ganache: Using the microwave or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate and cream until melted and smooth. Gently whisk in peanut butter. Chill until just firm enough to frost, about 30 minutes. Frost cake and serve.

cake1cake2

Verdict: Definitely have a glass of milk handy.  I’d make this again for sure.  Everyone loved it, I probably could have eaten two slices if I wasn’t full from our delicious dinner.  I should have kept the leftovers instead of bringing them to work, I was jonesing for some last night.  I settled on a handful of chocolate chips…just not the same.

So next time you need to bring a dessert to a dinner party or just want to make a cake, I suggest this one (pending you’re not serving this to people with peanut allergies).  If three layers seems a bit too much to handle, you can always do two layers not a problem, you’ll just have more mousse to eat later….oh darn.

 

The Tale of Two Raviolis

I’m a huge fan of easy and fast dinners during the week, however on the weekends, all bets are off. If a complex recipe sounds good I’ll attempt to make it no matter how time-consuming, praying in the process that all my work pays off and it comes out as good as I hoped it would, if not, pizza delivery is only a phone call away.

We usually wouldn’t have ravioli twice in one week, unless it was leftovers, which as you know we hardly ever have.  This past week I made a super fast and easy skillet ravioli dish that was pretty awesome.  I found the recipe in this months Food Network, along with a million other recipes I can’t wait to try.

Skillet Chicken and Ravioli (Food Network Magazine)

Ingredients

Kosher salt
1 9-ounce package small cheese ravioli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes ( I used grape tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and cook as the label directs; drain, then drizzle with olive oil and toss.

Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken; cook, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring, 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet. Season with salt and continue to cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and vinegar and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet, then add the ravioli, broth and parmesan; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Top with the basil.

skilletravioli

Verdict:  So good.  Again, the best part is its super fast and great for a week night meal.  I only added one chicken breast since I’m still not able to chew too well since my crown.  Even though Eric ate two pieces of leftover pizza as an appetizer (he told me this after dinner)  he did end of eating most of it himself.   I’d say a pretty successful meal.

So that was the fast recipe, now for the more time-consuming project.  This weekend we actually made our own ravioli, from scratch.   A few months ago we took a ravioli making class, which was fueled by receiving a KitchenAid pasta attachment for Christmas.   In all actuality making  ravioli doesn’t take all that long, it’s not quick, I’d say it took maybe an hour and half, maybe two, definitely less than 5, but totally worth the end result.

Here is the dough recipe I used.  You can use this dough for any kind of pasta you’d like.  The key is to find “00” flour.  We found some at a local specialty cooking shop, but you can buy it online or use regular all-purpose flour.   I found that my dough was a little bit on the dry side, so I just added another egg.  Not sure if that is what you’re supposed to do, but it worked great.  I’ll probably half the recipe next time, unless we’re having a dinner guests.   Also, be sure to keep the dough you’re not using covered, it will dry out.

Basic Pasta Dough

Ingredients

2-1/2 cups (12 oz.) all-purpose or “00” flour, plus more for dusting

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

4 large eggs

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place four and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  Make a “well” in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs and oil.  Using your fingers, blend the eggs into the flour mixture, stirring the flour in from the sides of the well and working outward.  When the pasta dough is thoroughly mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured work surface.  Knead dough until it is smooth and flexible but not sticky, adding small amounts of flour as needed, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Cover in plastic wrap and allow dough to rest for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour at room temp.   You can keep dough for 24 hours in the fridge or freeze up to 1 month in an airtight container.

The process is pretty tedious to write out, but I found that the directions that come with your pasta machine (either the hand crank or KitchenAid) are the same, so just follow those.

I made a sausage and spinach filling.  I had a lot left over so I’m keeping that for this week’s round two recipe, sausage and spinach stuffed shells.

Sausage and Spinach Ravioli Filling

Ingredients

4 ounces bulk Italian sausage
3/4 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg

Directions

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat until brown, using a wooden spoon to break up sausage as it cooks. Stir in spinach; cook and stir until wilted. Drain off fat. If mixture is too coarse to stuff ravioli, transfer to a food processor or blender; cover and process or blend with several on/off pulses until chopped.

In a medium bowl, combine egg yolk, ricotta cheese, sage, and nutmeg. Stir in sausage mixture.  Fill the ravioli, I used a ravioli mold but feel free to freestyle it.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook ravioli in batches for about 3-4 minutes until al dente.  Serve with your favorite sauce.

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I think it took so long to make this dinner because I also made the sauce.  If you’re going to go to all the effort of making homemade pasta, might as well make the sauce yourself.  Though if you don’t make your own sauce and use a jar, I won’t judge you…maybe a little…

This would be a fun meal to make with kids, dough is just like Play-Doh, except tastes better (so I hear).

The only real problem with making your own pasta is when it’s all done you’ll never want to buy pasta again, guess what? You don’t have to!  I have a feeling that once I get more experience with the dough and machine I’ll be busting out different pastas left and right.   We take reservations, just give us 24 hour notice 🙂

Food Memories

Is there a certain food or meal that reminds you of someone?  I’m pretty sure it’s because all our family gatherings involve massive amounts of food (I’m not even talking parties, we have crazy amounts of food even if one person is visiting) that I tend to associate certain foods with the people I love.  For example, whenever McDonald’s brings back the McRib (I know, it’s gross, the smell alone makes me gag) I think of my Nanny.  I remember when she was in the hospital after her heart attack (go figure) that she begged us to bring her a McRib because she wanted to try it. Kraft macaroni and cheese  reminds me of my brother Jeff who refused to eat my mom’s homemade version (which is amazing) and insisted on smothering his noodles with ketchup (grosses me out to this day).  Cup o’Noodles takes me back to my college days when I would visit my Aunt Theresa and she would not only guilt me into eating the biggest Cup o’Noodle she could find but also included a sandwich followed by a waffle sundae and capped off with a pizza, can we say Freshman 40? (I’m actually glad she fed me so much, it was way better than anything in the dining hall).

There are many more food memories I could list, but I’ll end with the most recent one, Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto,  reminds me of my dad.  I think this food memory makes me smile the most because it’s not a meal that I would have ever thought my dad would like, but really it became one of his most favorites.  The day before he went into the hospital I called the house, as per usual, and Dad answered, as per not so usual, the first thing I asked (as it was Valentine’s Day) was what he had for dinner.  His response was “We had the best dinner”  which was the orecchiette.  Not to get all sentimental or anything, but I’m glad that the last real meal he ate was something that not only made with love but something that he truly enjoyed.

My mom found the pasta recipe in the newspaper months ago  and I remember the first time she told me she had made it that Dad loved it.  I tried for months to persuade Eric into trying it, but he just didn’t think it sounded good, I even had my Dad try to talk him into it, no luck there either.  While we were in NY last month, my mom made it for dinner.  Let me tell you, I’m not sure what happened but Eric must have eaten 1/2 of what she made (she even doubled the recipe), he is now hooked on the deliciousness that is Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto.

Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto

Ingredients

Kosher salt
3/4 pound dried orecchiette
6 ounces baby spinach leaves (1 bag)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (I’m not sure if it’s 1 container, but that’s what I used)
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
Zest of 1/4 of a lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
4 ounces prosciutto (about 3 or 4 slices), coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Two minutes before the pasta is done gently stir the spinach into the pasta and cook a few seconds until wilted. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Now drain the water from the pasta and spinach. While the pasta is cooking, chop the prosciutto and garlic.

While the pasta is draining in a colander, return the empty pot  to the stove over low heat.  Add a little olive oil, when the oil is hot add the garlic and prosciutto.  Cook for a few minutes, be sure to not burn the garlic. Add the mascarpone and Parmesan; zest the lemon right into the mixture. Cook until the mascarpone has melted, about 1 minute. Add  1/4 cup of reserved pasta water and stir, its the mixture is too thick still add a bit of water, be careful to not add too much. Return pasta and spinach to the pot, toss to coat. Taste; add freshly ground pepper to your liking. Serve immediately.

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Verdict:  We both loved it! My only disappointment was that my pasta was all broken when I opened the bag…next time I’ll get Wegmans brand, they don’t sell broken pasta 😉 Other than that it was soooo good. The best is that it’s basically a one pot meal, plus super easy and fast for a weeknight.  Next time I’m going to add sausage.  You can add all kinds of different ingredients, it’s really a blank recipe canvas with endless possibilities.  Truly one of the best dinners I’ve ever made.

I know I’m not the only one there out that has food memories, especially if your family is as food oriented as mine.    If you’ve never thought about it, try it, you’ll be surprised what food memories will being a smile to your face.

You’re Such a Ham

Since Christmas my brother Mike has been raving about the ham loaf dinner his fiancée’s mother made.  I now know why, it’s pretty awesome.  I can’t believe in my 30 years of eating I’ve never experienced this dish.  Well, it’s not completely surprising since my mom had no idea what it was either.  It was so delicious I ended up buying 4lbs of ham loaf mix (which is basically ground pork and ground ham)  to bring back to Virginia.  I’m still not sure if people down here know what it is, so I figured I’d stock up just in case.  Last night was the first time I’d made it, just as awesome as the first time I’d eaten it.

Now in case you still aren’t sure where to get ham loaf mix you have two options, 1. ask your butcher or meat department to mix ground pork and ground ham for you or 2. grind your own.  I’ve done some research on meat ratio and have found that it’s usually 1 1/2 lbs. of ground ham and 1 lb. of ground pork.  We have a meat grinder attachment for our KitchenAid Mixer, so grinding our own might be kind of fun, you know, after we eat the 3 lbs. that are in the freezer.  Just a reminder, because I was tempted at first thinking that ham loaf was just cooked ground ham, DON’T eat it before you cook it, there is ground pork in it that is raw.  I’m probably the only person who would have thought to eat it but just in case I thought I’d say something.

Ham Loaf 

Ingredients

1 lb. ham loaf
1 egg
1/2 to 1 cup of crushed cracker crumbs (I used 18 Ritz)
1/2 cup of milk
pepper to taste (the ham is a bit salty anyway so I didn’t add any but if you love salt, add it, more power to ya)
*if you’re feeding a crowd you may want to adjust the amounts a bit.

Glaze

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (or regular vinegar, whatever you have)
1/2 tsp. ground mustard powder
2 Tbsp. water

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the egg; add milk, bread crumbs and pepper. Add ham loaf mix; mix well. In a shallow baking pan, shape meat mixture into a loaf. Insert a meat thermometer. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil (be sure not to let it boil over). Pour half over loaf. Bake 15 minutes longer or until the thermometer reads 170°, basting occasionally with glaze.  If you want to brown up the glaze, which I did, turn on your broiler and let it broil for 5 minutes (you may need to adjust the oven rack), be sure to keep an eye on it, you don’t’ want it to burn.  I also reserved some glaze and poured it over after serving it…yum!

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Verdict:  We served the ham with wild rice and asparagus.  Eric pretty much ate most of it, not surprising.  I’m glad we have 3 more pounds of this.  It’s really a fast, easy and tasty week night meal.   I’m also thinking that ham balls with the glaze might be a great party finger food.

Eric suggested last night that I post a meal that came out gross, just because he feels that people won’t believe that everything I cook is delicious.  Sorry, I’m just that awesome I guess.  But seriously, I had to remind him that I only blog about the good recipes, the one or two recipe fails I’ve had just don’t go on the blog…duh.

Happy Eating!

Wait, You’re Telling Me You Can Cook??

In March spent two weeks in NY with my family.  Let me tell you, it’s amazing what you find out when you’re around the same people basically 24 hours a day.  The most interesting piece of information I learned that was my brother Mike does the majority of the cooking in his house.  Shocking because I didn’t even know he knew how to do anything besides boil water or make a sandwich.  It seems he and his fiancée have a pretty good system worked out, he cooks, she cleans up (which is basically how it is in my house), and apparently he is a pretty good cook.

Now, I probably shouldn’t say this, but yesterday mom told me the both of them had a banana bread throw down, Bobby Flay style.  My mom makes a pretty good banana bread, especially when she adds in fresh blueberries…so good, which she didn’t include in her throw down bread.  I’m pretty sure if she did, she would have won, however, my brother won.  I have a feeling that everyone who visits in the next few days will be subjected to a taste test, this may become a best out 5 throw down…you’ve been warned.  Next time we get together, I’m going to add my banana bread to the roster…I’m pretty sure I’ll win, it’s pretty awesome 🙂

Last night I tried Mike’s recipe for pork chops.  He claimed this was the best recipe for chops so I had to find out for myself.  I’ve made a few changes to his recipe but essentially it’s the same (I cut up a pork tenderloin instead of using chops).

Mike’s San Francisco Pork

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 boneless pork chops (or one pork tenderloin cut into pieces)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. water

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown chops (or tenderloin pieces) in hot oil, about 5 minutes per side; remove pork to a plate, reserving oil in skillet.

Cook and stir garlic in reserved drippings until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and red pepper flakes in a bowl, dissolving brown sugar. Return pork chops to skillet and pour soy sauce mixture over the chops. Bring sauce to a boil, cover skillet, and reduce heat to low. Simmer chops until tender, 30 to 35 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking.

Transfer pork to a serving platter. Whisk cornstarch and water in a small bowl until smooth; stir into pan juices and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour sauce over chops to serve.  I suggest if using the tenderloin pieces, coat the pieces before serving.

SanFranPorkVerdict:  This was so simple and easy, definitely going to add this to the rotation.  Eric loved it, not surprising.  We served this over egg noodles, but with rice it would be good too.   I think the next time I make this I’ll double the sauce, maybe add  more broth and reduce the soy sauce (it was a little on the salty side and I use low sodium soy).

Mike came through on this recipe, this is probably one of the top 5 best pork recipes I’ve made.  Just goes to show you never know where the next best recipe you make will come from.