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.

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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.

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.

rollingpasta

fillingraviolis

rollingraviolis

poppinRavioli

raviolidinner

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 🙂

Hurricane Sandy+Cabin Fever=Delicious

hurricane Sandy rolled into town this week and caused probably the worst destruction the east coast has ever seen.  My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this horrible storm.  I’m very thankful that my friends and family in New York and New Jersey are all ok.  I’m also very thankful that we didn’t lose power and being on the 10th floor, we didn’t experience any flooding.  My office notified all staff that we would be closed Monday and Tuesday, I’d rather have a mini vacation under different circumstances, but I rolled with it.

Eric and I did all our grocery shopping on Sunday, braving the masses who were stock piling bread, milk and water.  Probably a good thing we don’t really buy bread, we have gallons of water already and I drink Lactaid (which wasn’t flying off the shelves at record speed, go figure).  People must have hoarded Halloween candy too, because all that was left was Reese’s and Crunch Bars (lame).  Of course when we got home, Eric realized we have way too much food and I bought doubles of things, subconsciously I was thinking we’d be trapped in our apartment for days.  I think next week will be an experiment to see how many meals we can create just by using what we already have, should be fun, I’ll keep you posted as to how it turns out (that is, if by our shopping day,Sunday, I don’t just say “forget it! We’re going to the store”).

The weather by us wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, don’t get me wrong, it was nasty, but it could have been 10 times worse.  It’s strange, I don’t like snow, I can tolerate it, but I absolutely hate rain.  I hate driving in it, I hate walking in it, I just hate it.  Even Quincy, my dog, hates the rain, though he hates pretty much anything that causes him to get wet.  I have to say, the last few days, Q has been a trooper, he even wore his raincoat outside!

Quincy “Storm Chaser” Peterson

We both were very content staying indoors the last two days, any longer though, I would be totally bored and probably would have run out of ingredients for baking.

Monday was sort of a free for all.  We just hung out and noshed on snacks all day.  I did make sugar cookie cut outs for Halloween, that kept me busy for a while.  After the cookies were done I found a box of brownie mix that I figured I’d get rid of, so I made Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Brownies for work.  It’s Halloween today, so I figured brining in two treats was totally warranted, I hope my co-workers agree.  Though I promise that I won’t bring in any more treats for at least two weeks, maybe three…maybe.

Tuesday was full of decorating the sugar cookies.  I can’t imagine being a cookie decorator, I probably already have carpal tunnel syndrome from doing just 24.   They did come out cute and judging from how many Eric ate while my back was turned, they must have been pretty good too. 

You know how I love my Pinterest. Last nights dinner is compliments of Pinterest.  I’ve been slacking on the whole “I’m trying new recipes” thing, so last night I decided to try a recipe from the blog Southern Girl Cooking, Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Creme Penne.   Here’s the recipe, you should try it, like this week.

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Creme Penne

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

1/2 bottle of Lawrys Herb and Garlic Marinade

2 large spoonfuls of Pesto 2 boneless chicken breasts.

Cut chicken into one inch strips. Using same knife make slits into chicken. Pour Lawrys marinade and pesto over chicken. Marinate over night (I did mine in the morning and had it that same night)

For the Sauce:

8 ounces of your choice of pasta

2 tablespoons of olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

2 spoonfuls of pesto (I like Classico brand, if you don’t have homemade)

1/2 cup of chicken broth

8 ounces of tomato sauce

1 cup of half and half (I used good ole Lactaid, it was fine)

Directions:

Boil water and start on noodles.

Pour entire batch of chicken, marinade and all, into skillet and cook chicken fully (the marinade will evaporate/cook down)

Heat olive oil, cook garlic. Add pesto. Simmer in chicken broth until half has cooked down. Add tomato sauce. Then add milk. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss pasta in. Add flour if it needs to be thickened (I actually added a little cornstarch to my milk, but after I did, I thought of adding tomato paste to thicken it a bit) Place chicken on top of pasta when serving.

Verdict:  It was really good, definitely one to put in rotation.  The best part about it is that its super easy and fast.  Eric said he could have kept eating, but wanted to save some for leftovers.  Another good thing about this recipe is that the chicken could be served on its own, I’d suggest maybe grilling it, that would be really yum.

I hope everyone has a very spooktacular Halloween!  I hope we get some Trick or Treaters, we’ll have a lot of candy if we don’t.