Our adventures in cooking (& ravioli recipe!)

What a week it’s been! I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday weekend, like we did.

It’s time to get back to blogging about one of my most favorite adventures: cooking.

2013-6-donutsI grew up watching my parents cook and sneaking tastes here and there but never really had much opportunity to cook for myself. During college I lived in a sorority and when my meals weren’t cooked by our chef, they were provided by Pizza Ragazzi. Everyone was so worried about me cooking for myself that my college boyfriend even got me a cookbook when I graduated: “Help! My apartment has a kitchen!”  Thankfully I was able to soak up a lot more than everyone thought while I was watching cooking happen and fared pretty well for myself. Since then I’ve become quite the chef and married quite the chef, making dinner at our house a delicious production.

Over the years I’ve had some fun with my cooking. In 2011, I took a photo of my dinner each night and posted it to Facebook. This was two-fold. My day job deals with social media and this helped me familiarize myself with their ongoing changes, and it helped me eat more well-balanced dinners. I was amazed how critical my friends are of my meals and by how much pizza we ate over the year.

In 2012, we chose an ingredient each week to ‘feature’ in our meals. It was surprisingly fun and challenging and I discovered some great recipe databases. What is my most favorite database? Williams-Sonoma, hands down. We had at least one Williams-Sonoma-inspired meal each week and only came across two so-so recipes. I highly recommend you check it out! Our other favorites include: Cooking Light, Smitten Kitchen, Whole Foods and PCC.

Our most adventurous meals seem to involve pasta. We received the Kitchen Aid pasta attachments for the wedding and we love making pasta from scratch. (We recently even made some gluten free pasta that I’ll share soon…) We’ve made black-pepper fettuccine, beet lasagna (with pink noodles!) and our most favorite: pear, prosciutto and pecorino ravioli.  Since it is our favorite, here are instructions on how to make it.  If this is your first time making ravioli, be sure to give yourself all afternoon to complete.

2013-6-ravioli

Here is our Pear, Prosciutto and Pecorino ravioli recipe: (adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

Filling

  • 1 lb. Bartlett pears chunks (slightly under-ripe, we kept the skins on)
  • 8 oz. Pecorino Toscano cheese
  • 10 slices of prosciutto
  • 1/2 c. rosemary pecorino
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend into small chopped chunks. Strain this mix to remove any excess water.

Pasta (also from Williams-Sonoma! Who would’ve guessed!?)

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbs. water, plus more as needed

Follow the Williams-Sonoma recipe. We simplify it a bit: mix them all together and then let them sit for 20 minutes. Add extra water if necessary. Then run it through the Kitchen Aid roller attachment, getting it down to 4 or 5, thin, but not too thin.

Raviolis

Take the rolled out pasta and plunk down a spoonful of the filling. Each ravioli will be about two inches across. We put down about four plunks of filling across the pasta sheet and then folded the other side over on to the filling (example in above photo). We then wetted the edges (like glue) and used a fork to crimp them together. Continue until all of the filling and pasta are used up.

Put on a pot of water to boil. Also brown 3 tablespoons of butter in a little fry pan. Simmer this until while the raviolis cook.

Once the raviolis are done, throw them in a pot of boiling water for three minutes — just long enough to melt the cheese and cook the pasta. Coat the raviolis in the browned butter and serve! Keep doing this in batches until the raviolis are complete. Add delicious optional toppings of toasted hazelnuts or parsley to add to it! And enjoy!!

Check back here often for more recipes!

2012 Ingredient Challenge

Pitted cherries

Cherry week looked like a scene out of Dexter…

It’s already the end of 2012! How did that happen!? While only occasionally annoying, our 2012 food challenge was a big success. Each week we chose a new ingredient – not always new to us – but tried it in many different recipes. We averaged three recipes each week.

Our favorite thing about the challenge? Discovering Williams-Sonoma’s recipe database. We used at least one recipe each week and loved all but two. We highly recommend you checking out the database!

Here’s a rundown of the ingredients we enjoyed in 2012:

  1. Parsnips – Who knew they were like white potato-carrots!?
  2. Kale – Our new favorite, go to recipe. We especially love this one.
  3. Delicata squash – Turns out I’m not so into squash.
  4. Mint – So refreshing! We should’ve made mojitos J
  5. Plantain – At least we tried them, although the chips were quite tasty.
  6. Prosciutto – Always a favorite and still a favorite
  7. Bok choy – Very good, but haven’t gone back since.
  8. Carrot – We made a soup! So good. And roasted a chicken upside down. Oops.
  9. Asparagus – Smelly pee. But worth it.
  10. Strawberries – Strawberry shortcake is one of my favorite desserts
  11. Tofu – Fried, sautéed and in a salad. Voila.
  12. Girl Scout Cookies – Oh yes we did! These recipes were so decadent and so good.
  13. Quinoa – Had to do something healthy after Girl Scout Cookies!
  14. Grapes – Did you know you could substitute frozen grapes for ice to make a light and “healthy” margarita? Neither did we. But we do now!
  15. Potatoes – Purple potatoes! We made gluten and lactose-free scalloped potatoes for Easter – they will not be made again—and homemade potato chips – also not to be re-made – and potato leek soup.
  16. Arugula – As a salad, and wilted several ways.

    Pear, prosciutto and pecorino ravioli in browned butter. Our favorite meal of the year!

    Pear, prosciutto and pecorino ravioli in browned butter. Our favorite meal of the year!

  17. Honey – As a marinade, in a homemade BBQ sauce and to sweeten brussel sprouts.
  18. Avocado – Celebrating Cinco de Mayo and spring in style! My favorite dish was the strawberry, mango, avocado salad Brandon made, served in the avocado shell. So good.
  19. Oranges – We added it to a salad, brined some pork in it and made a spicy orange beef.
  20. Sage – It’s a good thing the sage plant in our garden is flourishing—we loved these recipes! Our favorite? A white bean dip with sage and rosemary. So easy and delicious.
  21. Pineapples – Maui Golds to be exact. We were on Oahu and Maui and enjoyed fresh pineapple so many ways: in wine, grilled, fresh, in sausage… So deliciously fresh!
  22. Leeks – We made soup, pasta and pot pie. Delicious.
  23. Salmon – It was Copper River Salmon time – how could we not?! My favorite was the “salmon candy” Brandon smoked. So good! (Especially over a salad!)
  24. Chard – A new ingredient for us. We used it as a side and wilted in several dishes.
  25. Cauliflower – We roasted it, curried it and mashed it, like potatoes.
  26. Cherries – Our pit bowl looked a bit like a murder scene, but the final products were great! We made a chutney, a dessert and a salad.
  27. Garlic spears – A new favorite ingredient. We’ll definitely stock up when they’re in season again. They’re amazing sautéed in anything you would put garlic in.
  28. Beets – We made beet pasta – it was pink! And a very good béchamel lasagna.
  29. Zucchini – Our favorite was the chicken and veggie enchilada. Very tasty.
  30. Raspberries – We went raspberry picking and found the most delicious raspberries ever.
  31. Corn – We discovered polenta! And had a delicious corn salsa over scallops.
  32. Blueberries – We picked our own and loved the French toast bites with blueberry sauce.
  33. Lemons – As a sauce, as a marinade and with pasta.  It was very summery.
  34. It's PINK! It's lasagna! It's made from beets!! And it's quite tasty.

    It’s PINK! It’s lasagna! It’s made from beets!! And it’s quite tasty.

    Peaches – Peach-o-rama! Grilled peaches. Delicious.  It would have been hard to go wrong with these peaches.

  35. Spinach – Added as some extra veggies in spaghetti, eggs and of course as a salad.
  36. Figs – Roasted figs with pork nearly beat out my personal favorite of prosciutto-wrapped fresh figs with goat cheese. A cheese plate favorite! It is easy to see why figs were a favorite of Roman emperors.
  37. Chocolate – We did it. As a rub, as a sauce and as a dessert. Yum.
  38. Tomatoes – Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, in several salads. Eh. Standard.
  39. Pears – Probably our most favorite meal of this challenge came during pear week. We made pear, prosciutto and pecorino raviolis from scratch. Then we coated them in browned butter. Devine.
  40. Apples – Another favorite: Apple cinnamon ebelskivers (Danish pancake balls).These were the best Brandon had ever made, and he’s been making them for over 15 years – amazing.
  41. Green beans – Lots of green bean sides, nothing too out of this world.
  42. Hazelnuts – A close runner up for favorite meal: Individual turkey and butternut squash lasagna roll-ups.
  43. Brussel sprouts – Always a favorite of mine, we roasted them and made my famous brussel sprout pizza.
  44. Pumpkin – Halloween! We enjoyed roasted pumpkin seeds, puree in cookies and in ravioli.
  45. Cardamom – Added to a salad, a rub on salmon (our favorite) and cardamom snickerdoodle (don’t add too much to your sweets). So good.
  46. Mushrooms – We had five mushroom meals (a record!), all delicious.
  47. Turkey – Thanksgiving! We had turkey brined and smoked by themselves and in tacos and pot pie.  Brandon loved the pot pie that I made.  It was one of his favorites and he insists it is a new left over regular.
  48. Cucumber – Delicious Greek cucumber cup bites as a Thanksgiving appetizer. So easy and tasty!
  49. Cranberries – A salt and pepper pork tenderloin with cranberry apricot sauce.
  50. Chia – Cha-cha-cha-chia! We made cookies and meatloaf. Individually, of course.
  51. Marshmallows – We made them from scratch and made the fanciest rice krispie treats ever.
  52. Booze – What type of meal can you put booze in? All of them! We made penne with vodka sauce, white wine scallops and corned beef in Guinness.

Phew. Thank you for following along on our food challenge journey and I’ll be better about posting next year and I’ll follow up on the special ingredient meals we made!  Tell me in the comments if there is anything you’d like to hear more about!

Quinoa Meal 2: Blackened chicken with cilantro quinoa

Our second quinoa meal used quinoa in the more traditional sense: as a side dish in its true seed-like form.

Blackened chicken and cilantro quinoa

Blackened chicken and cilantro quinoa

We discovered the recipe combo from Sarcastic Cooking and followed it for the most part. A friend of ours went to Jamaica recently and brought back some jerk seasoning. Brandon loves it (it’s a little spicy for me, but I can handle it once in a while) so he jumped at the chance to use it during Quinoa Week. He handled the grill and I took care of the cilantro quinoa and the kale. I opted against the avocado cream, but made the quinoa as the recipe suggested and voila! It was fantastic!

Quinoa Meal 1: Quinoa pasta with red sauce

Our first special meal of the week included quinoa pasta in a homemade red meat sauce with my favorite vegetable, brussel sprouts.

The quinoa pasta is available at most healthy food stores, we got this box at Whole Foods. I have several friends who are gluten intolerant and quinoa pasta is one of their favorite alternatives to semolina pastas.

Yum... Quinoa pasta.  Tastes like semolina pasta...

For the tomato sauce, I stuck with my typical recipe which includes: diced tomatoes, onions, Italian seasonings, lots of garlic, salt and pepper, and Italian sausage flavored ground turkey.  Want the secret ingredient? I also throw in some balsamic vinegar.

Here is the outcome:

Quinoa pasta, red sauce and brussel sprouts

Week 13: Quinoa

Up this week: quinoa!

A little information about quinoa from Wikipedia:

Raw quinoa

Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to white rice or couscous.

Most boxed/pre-packaged quinoa has already been pre-rinsed for convenience, and cooking instructions therefore suggest only a brief rinse before cooking, if at all. If quinoa has not been pre-rinsed, the first step is to remove the saponins, a process that requires either soaking the grain in water for a few hours, then changing the water and resoaking, or rinsing the quinoa in ample running water for several minutes in either a fine strainer or a cheesecloth. Removal of the saponin helps with digestion; the soapy nature of the compound makes it act as a laxative.

One cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups (or less) of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 10–15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). As an alternative, one can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa, treating it just like white rice (for both cooking cycle and water amounts).

Vegetables and seasonings can also be added to make a wide range of dishes. Chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted for water during cooking, adding flavor. It is also suited to vegetable pilafs, complementing bitter greens like kale.

Quinoa can serve as a high-protein breakfast food mixed with honey, almonds, or berries; it is also sold as a dry product, much like corn flakes. Quinoa flour can be used in wheat-free and gluten-free baking.

Quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content.[22] In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 2–4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g., 12 hours with wheat.[citation needed] This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the grains, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.

We have some great recipes planned! Check back soon!

Girl Scout Cookie “Meal” 3: Do-Si-Do Peanut Thai Chicken

We did it. We found a recipe that incorporated cookies into dinner.  (Brandon was in heaven!)

First, we bought a box of Do-Si-Do peanut butter creme cookies.  I wasn’t familiar with Do-Si-Dos, but they were very good. (Typically I don’t deviate from Thin Mints and Tagalongs.)

First you take the cookies…

Next, we smashed the whole box of cookies into little pieces to make them reminiscent of crushed peanuts:

Is that peanuts? Nope! It’s cookies!!

We cooked the chicken per the recipe along with some rice noodles and broccoli.  All in all, very delicious and the perfect excuse for eating cookies with your dinner!

For the full recipe, visit here. Little Brownie Bakers have lots of great Girl Scout Cookie recipes here. Enjoy and get ready for next year’s Girl Scout cookies!

Finished product

Girl Scout Cookie “Meal” 2: Thin Mint Cupcakes

Our second “meal” was an original and very basic concoction.  I just love pre-made cake mix, so I bought another box and made some delicious cupcakes.

Thin Mint Cupcakes

I made the mix per the instructions, BUT, I added nearly the whole box of crushed Thin Mint cookies and baked some over-sized cupcakes.  (My new favorite size of cupcake.)

Mallet + Box of Thin Mints =

= Lots of Thin Mint bits!

The frosting was pretty basic– I was lazy and bought a pre-made container of vanilla frosting.  To pretend like I’m not as lazy as I really am, I added some green gel frosting (I love gel frosting) and my easy frosting suddenly looked “mint” and so well-planned. (I could have added a mint extract, but again with the laziness.)

Jug of frosting + amazing gel frosting = pretend mint frosting

Once the cupcakes cooled, I frosted them with the “mint” frosting and then sprinkled the remaining Thin Mint bits on top.

My friend Krissie taught me the perfect way to "sprinkle" toppings on cupcakes.

The end result: Amazing!  Enjoy.

Thin Mint Cupcakes