Sunday, January 31, 2010

nothing beats home made

Ok, have you ever had homemade pasta? It's not the same thing as the dried stuff--which I love. And it's really not like the fresh stuff you can buy in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, either, though that's a little closer. And it's actually really simple to make ... I wonder why I don't do it more often. I think I've talked about it before on this blog, but I have to talk about it again just because my dinner was divine tonight. We made papardelle and Bolognese sauce, and I wanted to cry. I am already feeling impatient and want to eat my leftovers that I'm saving for lunch tomorrow. So I recommend trying it sometime. The simplest way to make fresh pasta dough is with a food processor. If you don't have one, you can totally make it by hand the traditional way, but I'm lazy so I leave it to my machines to do the dirty work for me. Good luck!

p.s. We don't own one of those fancy pasta hanger things, so I just super cleaned off a plastic clothes hanger and hung the pasta on that, and it worked out really well

Fresh Pasta Dough
makes about 1 lb
2 C all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, beaten
  1. Pulse the flour in the food processor bowl a few times to aerate.
  2. Add the eggs, and process until combined. The dough should form a rough ball.
  3. If it looks like teeny pebbles, add 1 teaspoon at a time of water until it forms a rough ball shape. If it's sticking to the side, add flour, 1 T at a time until it looks right.
  4. Pull it out of the food processor bowl and knead together until the dough is smooth, about 2 minutes. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, up to 2 hours.
When you're ready to use it, pull out your handy dandy pasta machine and roll it out as you wish:) If you don't have a pasta machine, just make sure you flour it really well and roll it out as thin as possible. It'll be a lot more work, though, so someday think about getting a pasta machine.

no high fructose corn syrup

Just thought that title would get some people's attention. But really, I'm not all into 100% organic and natural foods, simply because it's not financially practical, but after watching the Martha show this week, I've been a little weary of over processed food. Well, I mean, I make most of my food from scratch anyway, but I'm talking about cereal and things like that. And my sister made me this amazing granola when I visited her last Summer, and I've basically been dreaming about it since. And granola especially is usually packed with high fructose corn syrup. Not a huge fan of that idea. Not super opposed to it, either, but still not a huge fan.

After my last depressing weight gain at the OB/GYN last week, I decided it was time to not let myself succumb to my serious pregnancy cravings (that seem to have suddenly appeared in the last trimester) too much. See, usually I'm a huge savory food person. Sure, I love my chocolates and sweet things, but in general I'd rather eat up the calories in pasta or rice or bread instead of cakes or pies or pastries. Not the case when I'm pregnant. I need my sweet food. NEED IT. So, for breakfast this morning I made us a nice low fat (sort of ... I'll explain), healthy granola. The thing about granola is, though, that no matter how "healthy" it is, you have to seriously watch portions. This one doesn't have any added fats, but is packed with nuts and other good things instead. Which is why it's "sort of" low in fat. But nuts are still fatty--no matter how much you try to justify it by saying it's "good fat". Good fat is still fat. So a portion size is about 1/2 C. Which I'm totally ok with. Plop on some fat free plain Greek yogurt and some fresh or frozen fruit, and you've got yourself a delicious and healthy way to start your day. And I'll admit, I was really satisfied. Which is hard to accomplish these days.

Healthy Nutty Granola
makes about 10 half cup portions
1.5~2 C various raw and unsalted nuts, chopped coarse (I used about 1/2 C each of pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts)
1/2 C puffed brown rice cereal ($1 for a HUGE bag at Walmart)
1/4~1/2 C ground or chopped flax seeds (optional. Another option would be wheat germ)
3 C old fashioned oats
1/3 C honey
1/3 C pure maple syrup
1/4 t coarse salt
1/4 t cinnamon
*optional: 1/2 C dried fruit. I don't add this because I think the chewy texture is distracting and I prefer fresh fruit, but by all means add it if you like it!
  1. In a small sauce pan, heat the maple syrup and honey on low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all of the other ingredients in a large bowl and preheat the oven to 300°F. Prepare a baking pan by giving it a quick pray with vegetable spray and set aside.
  3. Once the syrup and honey are warm and quite a bit thinner, pour it over the dry ingredients and stir quickly to get everything covered. Spread it out on the prepare baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30~35 minutes, tossing occasionally, until nuts are toasted and everything is evenly browned.
  4. Place on a cooling rack and let cool completely. Place in an airtight container and enjoy all week!
Here's a picture of my cutie enjoying her granola breakfast. And peanut butter toast, since I can't hide the smears on her cheek.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

at your request

First of all, if you want the recipes for the chocolate ganache tarts and lemon créme tarts, I have them here. But this time I used a traditional tart crust. Way better. But a little more time-consuming. Thankfully, I had some help that day. Thanks, Stacy!

Well, since my favorite person, my sister, asked for pictures of the mini quiches, I thought I'd at least show the pictures I got. Like I said, not the best photos, but oh well. But seriously, everyone needs to try this spinach and caramelized onion quiche. About killed me it was so good! I may have taken a few of the leftovers home and eaten them all in 2 days.
Spinach & Caramelized Onion Quiche

Broccoli, Cheddar, & Ham Quiche

My usual: Italian take on Quiche Lorraine

And another request I got was from my friend, Melissa Esplin, who wanted the recipe to the chocolate ganache frosting. Super simple, Melissa! You're going to LOVE it! (I over-whipped it a little, but in the end I liked the mountain-like texture. But when you make it, don't make that same mistake because it turns out a little dry and really hard to pipe. Not that YOU would do something like that.)

Chocolate ganache frosting
8 oz chocolate (semi-sweet or bittersweet. I used a combination of both. Don't go sweeter than that, though), chopped
1 C heavy cream
1 T pure vanilla extract, optional
  1. Place chocolate in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, bring heavy cream (and vanilla, if using) to a boil. Immediately take off the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for about a minute, then gently stir until combined and no chocolate chunks remain.
  2. Let cool, uncovered, in the fridge until set and thickened. Once completely cooled, using a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip the ganache until light and fluffy. Don't over whip or it'll get stiff and dry. You want it moist and soft. Now pile it on some cupcakes (or just eat it by the spoonful ...) and enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


One of my best friends here is having a baby just a few days before me (so they might be born right around the same time!), and another couple of friends and I threw her a shower. I insisted on being in charge of the food because Lori (momma-to-be) is a classy girl and deserves classy shower food, and because I like a challenge. Why do I take on these huge tasks--especially when I'm super huge pregnant myself? Really because I love the girl I'm doing it for and because I LOVE food. But seriously, what was I thinking? I was so proud of myself because I had a REALLY strict schedule for the week, which I actually stuck to. And if it wasn't for that and the other 2 girls in charge of the shower who both came at different times to help me roll out tart crust dough or fill mini quiches or bake mini cupcakes with me, I don't think I would have survived.

And even if it was a LOT of baking (we turned our furnace down because our oven was keeping our little apartment plenty warm, even with our awfully non-insulated windows and below freezing temperatures outside), the end result made it all worth it for me. And the best part was that Lori seemed really happy. And that was my main goal.
mini lemon créme tarts

mini chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting (my favorite, I think)

mini vanilla cupcakes with raspberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting (thanks for the idea, Lisa! They were Lori's #1 pick of the day)

mini chocolate ganache tarts

pb&j thumbprint cookies

chocolate caramel thumbprint cookies

and just a shot of some more mini vanilla cupcakes waiting to be served.

I also made my aunt Carolyn's amazing rolls, but mini sized (I love mini things for parties. perfect portion size and so cute!), with a roasted garlic&sage butter and cinnamon vanilla honey butter. Those were a hit, as usual, because Carolyn is a genius. And I also made my favorite baby/bridal shower food: mini quiche. I didn't get any good pictures of those, unfortunately, but I invented a couple of new flavors and it reminded me of how much I love quiche. They're so delicate and fancy and SO versatile. I served my usual Italian take on a quiche lorraine, and then a broccoli ham & cheddar, and my absolute favorite and now a staple quiche in my repertoire: spinach and caramelized onion. Seriously, you have to try it. Put some tangy hard Italian cheese like Pecorino Romano or Asiago or Parmiggiano Reggiano on top of the caramelized onion and finely chopped fresh spinach, and it's killer good. And really not that complicated.

Congratulations, Lori! Can't wait to meet your baby girl!

Friday, January 8, 2010

have you tried ...

I actually bought this out of pure desperation this week while I was preparing for my friend's shower and the store was out of fresh rosemary. I've eaten it before, but I've never cooked with it so I wasn't sure how it'd turn out, but it may be my new favorite Winter food herb now. Mmm. I cooked it in browned butter with garlic and sea salt on my linguine one night, and I can't wait to use the rest on a roasted chicken. Doesn't that sound delicious? Now go out and buy some sage!