Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Adventures in Pasta - Spinach Manicotti

When I was at the grocery store a few days ago, I was struck with the idea to make manicotti for dinner this week, so I bought the manicotti shells, ricotta cheese, and sauce. When manicotti night came, though, I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to try out making homemade pasta for the first time. I found a very simple recipe for spinach pasta and set out on my experiment. It was a complete success! The pasta was so simple to make, with just a few ingredients. It was a little time consuming, but I feel like it was completely worth the effort. I think in all, dinner took about an hour and a half to prepare (and another hour to cook), but that was factoring in my complete unpreparedness, having to clean off a spot to make the pasta, and not completing steps in a time saving order. I am so excited with the possibilities of what I can create. I already have a recipe in my head, using leftover split pea soup from the weekend. I didn't thin the soup enough and it turned out more like split pea pasta (tasty, but thick) so it should make a super yummy ravioli filling.

Here is the recipe I (loosely) followed for the spinach pasta. To prepare this for manicotti,I boiled a large pot of water (salted) and dropped each rectangular slice into the boiling water. I had to boil in two batches. Be careful not to overcook it, 2 minutes should be plenty of time. I removed it from the water, spooned filling down the middle and rolled them up.

Ingredients:
1 & 1/2 cup frozen spinach
2 tablespoons water
1 egg
1. Combine spinach and water in a saucepan. Cover, and cook till spinach is very tender. Cool slightly. Carefully remove as much water as you can from the spinach. I press it against the side of the pan with a spatula to squeeze / drain the water out, and do a little blotting with a paper towel.
2. Place spinach and water in blender container. Add egg and salt. Cover, and blend till smooth. Transfer to a bowl. I used my KitchenAid, rather than mix / knead by hand. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. I started off with 1 1/4 cup flour, but ended up adding almost another cup before the dough wasn't sticky. I think this will vary depending on how much water you remove from your cooked spinach.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 1 minute. Roll very thin on a floured surface, as thin as possible without tearing (I was aiming for the thickness of a dime).Slice as desired. I sliced mine into rectangles. Take care not to allow the pasta to stick together after you cut it. I carefully laid mine out while I boiled by water.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Monday, October 11, 2010

Easy Cottage Pie (Shepherd's Pie)

At the last minute we invited a friend over for a late night dinner, so I needed to cook something fairly simple, and fairly fast! I had a pound of ground beef in the fridge, and no real plan, but as soon as the beef was browning in a frying pan, dinner fell into place very quickly! I have made an almost shepherds pie before (same idea, slightly different ingredients than traditional shepherds pie) and LOVE the crispy crust of the oven baked mashed potatoes, but didn't have time for that. If I had more time, I would have put these ingredients in a dish and baked them at the end, but as it was, it still turned out fantastic!

I began the beef browning and quickly chopped an onion, throwing it in with the meat to cook. While that was going, I started a large pot of water boiling and peeled and chopped potatoes. Into the water to cook, as a I also started a pot of white rice.

I put a lid on the beef pan and left it alone for ten minutes, gave it a quick stir then another ten minutes. I turned the heat off on the rice when it was cooked. When the potatoes are done, I drain them and toss in some milk and butter, and season them to taste (salt and garlic pepper). As soon as I feel the ground beef and onion are cooked to my liking, I drain the oil from the pan and season the beef (also salt and garlic pepper, lots of garlic pepper). I mix in the rice and add a small can of tomato sauce. I put the lid back on to cook this all together for a few minutes. In the microwave I heat up a can of creamed corn.

I serve this in a bowl, first a layer of the meat mixture, then a heap of potatoes on top. I hollow out the center of the potatoes and spoon in creamed corn. This recipe is so simple and SO delicious! The men gave it their seal of approval :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Delicious Vegetable Soup

Use this recipe as a loose guide, add whatever sorts of vegetables and seasonings you want. Serve with fresh bread. Delicious!

Delicious Vegetable Soup

4 tbs butter
1/2 c water
1/2 cup frozen celery (leaves and stalks)
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cup frozen yellow squash
1 cup frozen spinach
1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes
3 c chicken broth
3 tbs flour
2 c milk (I used milk because I didn't have any heavy cream)
1/4 cup sour cream
1-2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked white rice

In a saucepan melt 2 tbs butter and begin to sautee the onion on low - medium heat. After ten or so minutes, add the frozen celery to the onion and cook for a few more minutes, then add the 1/2 cup water. Cook for 30 minutes until tender. Remove from saucepan, place them in your soup pot for later.

In a small saucepan, toss all of your frozen veggies together and add a small amount of water (1/4 cup). Turn heat to medium so your veggies can begin to thaw and some of the water will leave them. Be sure not to let them burn / dry out.

In the saucepan, melt 2 tbs butter, whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes while whisking. If too thick to whisk, add some of the chicken broth until you reach the two minute mark. Gradually add the rest of the broth and milk. Whisk smooth, increase heat and just as it wants to boil, reduce heat immediately. Add this mixture to your soup pot with the onions. Stir in your mashed potato flakes. Add in your cooked rice, cheese and vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a dash (or two, or three) of cayenne pepper.

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Do not allow to boil. Soup will probably be thin at this stage, but after 10 - 20 minutes over medium heat will begin to thicken.

Enjoy :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

I love him!

I have been sitting here watching my handsome man nap on the couch, and just looking at him makes my heart swell with love. It is so nice, just to sit near him. We don't have to be talking, or doing anything together, just being in the same room with him can be satisfying. He is so good, I never knew I could feel so happy with life.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ciabatta

I have been making all of the bread for us to eat rather than buying it. Bread for lunch sandwiches, hamburger buns, dinner rolls, bagels. It has all been delicious, but I am ready to take it to the next level; Artisan Bread. Artisan bread is crafted. It is more time intensive to make, and also more complex and flavorful.

Artisan bread begins with a starter or sponge. You make the sponge ahead of time and let it develop to give it that sourdough, yeasty type flavor. You can have a large sponge created and keep it going, using portions of it and feeding it so that you will always have sponge ready to make bread.

Yesterday began with mixing up the ingredients to make a sponge for homemade ciabatta bread. When I peeked in on my sponge this morning it had filled the entire bowl and was bubbled. It smelled very yeasty, almost like beer.

The next step is to mix together all of the ingredients, including the sponge, to form your bread dough. After the ingredients are mixed together the dough ball is left to rise for a couple hours. Here is a picture of my dough,on the left is before its first rise, and on the right is after its first rise.

After it rises for about an hour and a half and is doubled in size, I will divide it into two pieces and form those into loaves. I put them on wax paper on a pan and covered them with a wet towel.

After two hours of rising and twenty minutes in the oven, finally, homemade Ciabatta Bread! Delicious!

Ciabatta Bread

Ingredients

Sponge:

  • 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 cup bread flour
-------------------------------------------------------
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. To Make Sponge: In a small bowl stir together 1/8 teaspoon of the yeast and the warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. In a bowl stir together yeast mixture, 1/3 cup of the water, and 1 cup of the bread flour. Stir 4 minutes, then over bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at cool room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.
  2. To Make Bread: In a small bowl stir together yeast and milk and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook blend together milk mixture, sponge, water, oil, and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened; add salt and mix until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough will be sticky and full of air bubbles.) Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface and cut in half. Transfer each half to a parchment sheet and form into an irregular oval about 9 inches long. Dimple loaves with floured fingers and dust tops with flour. Cover loaves with a dampened kitchen towel. Let loaves rise at room temperature until almost doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. At least 45 minutes before baking ciabatta, put a baking stone on oven rack in lowest position in oven and preheat oven to 425 F (220 degrees C).
  5. Transfer 1 loaf on its parchment to a rimless baking sheet with a long side of loaf parallel to far edge of baking sheet. Line up far edge of baking sheet with far edge of stone or tiles, and tilt baking sheet to slide loaf with parchment onto back half of stone or tiles. Transfer remaining loaf to front half of stone in a similar manner. Bake ciabatta loaves 20 minutes, or until pale golden. Cool loaves on a wire rack.

Easy cheaters salsa

I decided that I wanted to make some salsa. I am calling this cheaters salsa because it's not made from fresh ingredients, but it was still really yummy! I had all of the necessary ingredients in one form or another on hand, so I threw some stuff together.

Easy cheaters salsa

1 can diced tomatoes
A couple spoonfulls of pickled jalepenos (more or less depending on how hot you want it!)
A handful of sliced onions (I used onions that I had previously sliced and had in a baggie in the freezer)
A couple spoonfulls of cilantro (I used cilantro that I had previously chopped and frozen in some oil)
Five or six shakes of garlic powder (as much or as little as you'd like)
A shake of red pepper flakes
A couple shakes of salt
A squirt of lime or lemon juice

I threw all of this together in my little food processor and long pulsed four or five times. I like my salsa smooth, pulse it less if you like it chunkier.

This salsa is GOOD!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tomatoes!

I had been doing the lazy watering of my tomato plants (standing on the back porch and dumping water over the railing) so yesterday when I actually walked around the house to water them / examine them, I was SUPER excited to see that there are tomatoes growing!! Multiple tomatoes, on each plant! Hooray for homegrown veggies!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yep, it's Spring!

I am sitting in my office looking out the window at the pollen covered parking lot, and I am so happy that it's Spring! Last night I stood outside in the late afternoon and was amazed at how fantastic it felt. I was a busy girl yesterday, planting two tomato plants, a lemon thyme, and some flowers. I was hot and sweaty but so happy to be!

Barry brought home our new BOAT last night! That's right bitches, we're boat people! I am so excited and ready to take it out. I am envisioning the hours we will spend floating around on peaceful water, enjoying each others company and relaxing.

Life is so good!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring!

Spring is almost here and I'm so excited to plant some things this year! The couple of things I planted last year are still alive and well; a pretty little groundcover plant on each side of the porch is blooming now, and a thriving rosemary bush.

I would love to plant some more herbs and maybe vegetables as well as some flowers or more decorative plants. We also have big plans to create a new walkway out of pieces of granite we  have been collecting.

I love Spring!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Apple Pie

Apple pie (from scratch) for my sweetheart. It tasted as good as it looked :)