Hello, I'm glad you're here, and hope you enjoy your visit. It has been said that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." This blog is about me, my adventures, silly moments, and keeping in touch with you. Life is exciting and so full of possibilities, so let's enjoy the journey together.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pasta. . . Homemade is the only way to have it!

 
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Around these parts we make most of our own pasta

. . . that’s a statement, a fact, reality. 


Some question our motivation and logic, but I am here to tell you, once you have had fresh homemade pasta going back to the dehydrated version from the grocery store seems . . .

                                                                well 


um. . . not so great
 

Pasta is EASY to make, you just need to plan a little time and invest in a couple of tools to help simplify the process which will help it come together MUCH faster 

 
Here I only discuss the basics of basics of how I make our pasta. . . 


shaping pasta could easily become 


                                                           an obsession,


                                                                               it is an art, 


                                                                                                        a science,


a love. . . 


one that could easily pull you in and open your taste buds to a whole new delectable experience!
 
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There are other brands of pasta makers out there, but the Atlas Marcato is the one I decided to go with. . . I have NO regrets about my decision, and it works flawlessly!  I have had it for over 20 years.

As you ask, why on earth would I want to make my own pasta?


your arguments are valid:

I can buy it easily, and readily, there are a huge variety of shapes to choose from . . .


and it’s relatively inexpensive. . . 


so what’s the point?


Let me tell you why we have chosen to in most cases make our own pasta . . . 


I also readily admit that the first pasta I made was Lasagna, easy, easy, easy!


I am here to say, I’m not going back!
 

Ask yourself. . .  what is one of the biggest frustrations of store packaged lasagna noodles?
  • Lasagna noodles rarely, if ever fit in YOUR pan quite right.
  • Those said noodles are kind of a pain to cook. . . mine usually tend to stick together, they stick to the pan, they boil over. . .
  • purchased noodles are thick and ChEwY. . . gross . . . even when they are cooked to a “perfect” al-dente
did I miss anything here?
                       oh, yes

                                             . . . see above list


With making your own lasagna noodles, you eliminate literally ALL of these problems,

  • fresh
  • tender
  • cut to size 
  • and you determine the thickness

. . . and the best part. . . NO Pre-cooking, 

simply put them in your pan and assemble!
                   

Delectable, 

tasty Homemade noodles . . .
the only way to go! 



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I have concluded that my favorite blend is equal parts flour and semolina flour.  when we made pasta for a Relief Society function we made our lasagna noodles for about 1/2 the cost of the no-bake variety and for about the same as the thick chewy variety out of a box, and that is using the Red Mill brand flour that tends to be much more expensive than purchasing flour in bulk.

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begin by combining the flours and pinch of salt, creating a volcano type mound directly on your countertop.

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inside the “well” or “depression” in the mound add egg and olive oil

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with your fingers begin kneading and mixing it all together.  

The dough will probably be crumbly and you will need to add a little water to make it come together into a stiff but pliable dough that holds together.  After some time and experience you will intuitively know when the dough is “just right”.

I NEVER measure my water as the amount will be determined by the amount of humidity in the air on any particular day.

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Wrap the disk of dough in plastic wrap and let rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.


set up your pasta machine, or if you do not have a pasta machine, you can easily use a rolling pin. . . but trust me, the pasta machine is honestly the best way to tackle this project, easy fast, and produces a perfectly even thickness sheet of dough.

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begin with the widest setting. . . on mine that would be setting #1

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tear off a chunk of dough and flatten.  Think about a thin slice of bread for comparison

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roll it through the pasta machine.  plan on 4-6 passes on the first setting.
Another advantage to having a pasta maker like this one is that the attachment is ready for pasta that will cut them into narrow strips that you would use in soup or for spaghetti.

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The first round often produces a less than desirable sheet. the goal is one flat sheet without rips or tears.  Fold the dough in half and roll through again until you have something that
resembles this.

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Then as you increase the setting the dough begins to flatten and grow
this is after rolling it through setting #3
and this is what we have after setting #5.  yes, this is the same ball of dough

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Then with a pizza cutter, cut your pasta to the desired size.  

whether it be for tortellini, Farfalle (bowtie), lasagna, chicken noodle soup, garganelli (otherwise known as penne), linguine or spaghetti. . . this is all there is to it.

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I used to have a pasta drying rack.  It was presumably packed in a box, but I have yet been unable to find all of the pieces since moving.  but in this tragedy, I have discovered that drying pasta on a “flour sack towel” works great!

I have pretty much adopted this new method.  A pasta drying rack is nice if doing long strips of linguine or spaghetti, or soup noodles (before cutting them) but most of the time especially the smaller or hand-shaped pasta the flour sack towels work perfectly.

From this point I have launched into different shapes and styles of noodles.  Again, I admit that shaping your own pasta like penne is not difficult, after investing in a couple of additional tools, but it is time consuming.

For me, in a warped sort of way, I find it relaxing and enjoyable.


Again, I want to emphasize that making your own pasta is well worth the time and effort, because, in all honesty, there isn’t much effort involved. . . besides, it undoubtedly beats anything you can purchase from the store . . . hands down. 

To keep with my goal of posts that are not too long I will spare you my tutorials for handmade/hand crafted pasta and provide you a couple of links that are EXCELLENT tutorials that you may begin exploring for yourself. . .

Garganelli







Home crafted/made tortellini is especially tasty!  tortellini from thekitchn.com



 from a you-tube presentation


There are so many types of pasta shapes you can create!

 

and just in case you want to make your own pasta here is the recipe we use at our house


If you would like to learn more about shaping different pastas, as you can see there are multiple on-line tutorials both from blogs and you-tube that give wonderful instructions and ideas that you can access, much better tutorials, with much more experienced chefs than myself. 

With that statement, be forewarned that you may run into some you-tube tutorials that are done completely in ITALIAN!  I found it amazing how much I was still able to learn by just watching.


Hints and Notes about cooking and Eating Fresh Pasta
  • Toss the pasta into a large saucepan of boiling, salted water. (You will need about 4 quarts water and 3 tablespoons of salt for every pound of fresh pasta).
  • It is the large volume of water that will prevent the pasta from sticking together.
  • Stir the pasta only once or twice—if you have enough water in the pan and you stir the pasta as it goes in, it shouldn’t stick together.
  • DO NOT COVER the pot or the water WILL boil over.
  • Quickly bring the pasta back to a rolling boil, stir, and boil until al dente, or firm to the bite, about 2 minutes.
  • The pasta should not have a hard center or be soggy and floppy when done.
  • Drain the pasta, holding back 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan (the dissolved starch in the water helps the sauce cling to the pasta).
  • Add sauce directly the pasta (or the other way around works too) in the pan (The Italian way is ALWAYS to toss the cooked, hot pasta with the sauce before serving.)
  • Serve the hot pasta immediately with your favorite sauce.
Try a drizzle of olive oil or melted butter—cooked just to the point of taking on a slightly nutty, toasty brown tinge—and a smattering of fresh herbs constitutes a sauce when the pasta is as tender and tasty as this.


I challenge you to have fun exploring the world of handmade pasta! 



As always thanks for stopping, feel free to come and stay awhile
we will cook up a fresh batch of pasta and enjoy it together




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Friday, March 21, 2014

Spinach Chicken Lasagna. . . YUM!


This recipe is from one of my favorite blogs. . .

melskitchencafe.com and it has turned into one our family favorites too.


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We had this for a Relief Society Dinner,

and it so happens that it turned out to be a hit there as well.

 
for those who have been WAITING


WAITNG Patiently


Patiently Waiting . . .

and WANTING this recipe for your own kitchen, 


well, your wait has finally ended. . . YAY!


I apologize for taking so long to this posted, but as most of you have realized I have been struggling getting regular posts up this past year.  I am honestly trying to figure a new routine that works with my life but obviously haven’t quite gotten there yet.


One requirement in my kitchen is if at all possible to eliminate all processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, along with ANY hydrogenated anything, including artificial sweeteners from our nutrition plan.


It is part of our healthy eating that has been helping us to loose weight. . . This mindset along with a keen awareness of

portion control


                                   portion control


                                                                 portion control 


has worked supremely!


Superman has been doing awesome shedding over 35 pounds since we began this in November 2013.  I was doing great until mid-January when I noticed a frustrating slow-down in progress and then in February a complete halt to ANY progress.


. . . My nemesis?


A thyroid that has all but shut down. . . BOO!


But now that we have that figured out and are taking pro-active methods to get on top of that too, and again, as natural, non-chemical/processed as possible, these methods appear to be working and I am happy to say that once again I am loosing the excess packaging that I have added to my pants in the past year.


. . . now back to the Spinach Chicken Lasagna!

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TONS of fresh spinach!  


Ironically enough RAW spinach has been eliminated from my diet along with broccoli, cauliflower, kale, or any food that is part of the Brassica family. . . cooked is fine, but the fresh raw stuff is not.


We have discovered that these wonderful foods in their RAW form keep the thyroid gland from absorbing Iodine which causes it to sort of shut down. . . thus causing what is known as a dysfunctional, inactive thyroid. . . go figure.


so I just make sure I lightly cook or steam these foods, and all is happy again!

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I have always found it easier to do ALL my prep for any meal first.  It makes it easier to not miss anything while putting it together.


cut. grate. shred. measure. . . you get the idea. . . 


it makes assembly fun, fast, and easy.  


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I especially make sure to pull out the “set this aside portions” that are so easy to forget about until you need it for that last little step.

in this case it is 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, that is part parmesan, part mozzarella.

I mix the two cheeses after they are grated for a good even blend in preparation.

Also, if you have a busy day, these steps can all be done in the morning or even the day ahead to make dinner prep easier.


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this is the sauce, mix in a large skillet or sauce pan. . . real ingredients, whole foods!
it has also been our discovery through a ton of research that the body inherently KNOWS how to process real food (see list above for a partial list of no-no, not so good for you foods) and so it doesn’t hang around causing all kinds of problems that we hear an abundance about now days.

such as heart disease, diabetes, being overweight, many types of cancer. . . not to say it will eliminate these entirely, but we are convinced and believe it will make a HUGE difference!


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cover the bottom of your casserole dish with a small amount of sauce,


. . . I usually use about 1 to 1 1/2 cups


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dollop with ricatta. . .


you don’t need to spread it around, just smash it a little with the back of a spoon


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layer with 1/2 of the pre-cooked shredded chicken

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PILE on the roughly chopped spinach

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cover the spinach with 1/2 the grated cheese. . .

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place 3 lasagna noodles on top of that. . .


Gently press the mixture down into the pan and. . .


repeat the entire process again.

. . . yes, I generally make my pasta


but that is an entirely different post, which is coming next. . . (the plan is next week) it will tell you how I make my pasta noodles. . . trust me, it is so incredibly easy!


If you have never had the privilege of eating homemade pasta, you are truly missing out on the incredible journey of a tender, delectable experience.


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the final step, on the third and last layer of noodles, pour the remaining sauce, the grated cheese that was set aside, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

I use a slightly smaller pan (7X10) so our lasagna is overflowing, but I am okay with that.  If you use the 10x13 size it will be still by VERY full but it won’t be quite as overflowing as mine, but it will cook down as the spinach wilts.


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. . . this is the final product

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We serve this with a tossed salad. . . Absolutely DELICIOUS!


and here is the button to click for the recipe for your kitchen and family to enjoy!




Thanks for stopping in to join us for dinner!
 feel free to visit anytime


As always, if you have questions e-mail me using the link at the top of the blog, or if you have my number, you are always welcome to callSmile





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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cupcakes in a Cone!


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                       Sounds like a fun idea. . .


what a great idea. . .
creative. . .

ingenious!


seriously, no more wrappers to wonder what to do with, especially for the kiddos.

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They sound simple enough, the tutorials I found on line made them sound easy enough
Line the top of a standard muffin pan with foil. . . I recommend a heavy duty foil for added support, but the light weight should work.


using a basic knife stab the foil in the center of each muffin hole


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then with your finger make the hole slightly smaller than the bottom of the ice-cream cone


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carefully place the cone inside the hole you just created and they will stand up nicely for baking and decorating. . .


easy. . . always a bonus in my book!

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My first experience was. . . well,


lets just call it one of those epic FAIL moments Sad smile 



As they were baking they melted the side of the cone and overflowed. . . we ended up using these anyway, but. . .

well, they were, 


for lack of a better description. . .


UGLY                     



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but the crowning FAIL was when I tried to “cheat” and make it easy by using ReddiWip for the topping. . . 

I was being lazy and didn’t want to take the time to make a batch of buttercream icing. . . 


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Even with the melted cone overflow,


complete with sprinkles they turned out pretty okay. . .

for about. . .


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10 minutes. . . 



just as I was finishing the last cupcakes with sprinkles, the topping. . .


Well. . .


. . . My grandmother used to tell me. . . “haste makes waste”

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. . .the Rediwip began to melt

It’s sort of frustrating when the wisdom of grandma is correct . . . AGAIN. . .
let it be known, that I miss my grandmother, Very Much!

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every 10 minutes it became more problematic!


This stuff was turning everything to an absolutely gooey mess . . .


Ugh, my brilliant time saving effort was a total and complete disaster!


I kept asking myself:  why, oh why, didn’t I listen to grandma’s wisdom. . .


well, because I didn’t know this stuff turned to disaster. . . in a
   
                                   VERY SHORT TIME


. . . that’s why        

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In the end (after approx 30 minutes) this is what we ended up with. . . 


a horrible unusable mess!


I definitely didn’t have time to redo these as regular cupcakes as the party these were intended was beginning in less than 30 minutes. . .

so in the last moments as we were leaving I removed as much of this mess as I could and replaced it with buttercream.  We arrived with not so great looking cupcakes only about 5 min late.


but now, for those of you who choose to take the easy way out have been forewarned and if you choose to try the path of “Rediwip” not such a bright idea. . . the results lay entirely on your shoulders


These little critters looked so dreadful. . . (but they still tasted super yummy) . . . . that I just sort of snuck them in and placed them on the table and came in another door never “claiming” the disastrous handiwork. . .


Not one of my better projects for sure.



ahh, I feel better now that I have given sufficient warning about using “REAL” whipped cream as a tasty fun topping on your cupcakes!


. . . Did I mention that using “Rediwip” is a BAD, a VERY BAD plan?


cuz it is!  . . .  Just trust me on this one . . . 

Just use a simple good quality homemade buttercream icing. . . no regrets, I promise Smile


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I have no idea what is in this "Rediwip" stuff, it say’s “real whipped cream”  but it is NOT like the stuff I whip up when I make “Real Whipped Cream”!

Let it be noted: 
I will only use the “Real” whipped cream from this point forth!










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the second time I attempted these, I tried a couple of different things 
and I would recommend both.

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use a small muffin liner and cut the bottom out like this

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. . . you will end up with a circle like this


Be careful not to stretch them out too much, if they are too big they don’t work as well.

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the other piece of advice that I would offer is

DO NOT FILL the cups past the little ridges in the cone.

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after you fill the cone with batter, place the liner in the cone to protect the cone from “melting” during the baking process.

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If you stretch the pleats in your liners too much they don’t go around and “join” at the ends as well and they are more difficult to remove in the end.

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. . . these were slightly overfilled which is what caused my problem.
While there is still a small amount of overflow on a couple of these, but it is MUCH better than without the liners

(note picture below).

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Moral of the story. . . DO NOT
over fill your cups!  Meaning, don’t fill the cups past the ridges in the top, even with the liners. 





Without liners this is the guaranteed results.     
 

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When you remove the shields after baking, you will decapitate the cupcakes . . . 


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I used an éclair tip (Wilton tip# 230) to fill the centers with a super yummy raspberry icing and simply reattached the tops back on. . . it worked fabulously and gave the cones a tasty surprise inside. . .



you could use any flavor icing filling that suits your fancy. . . 


they key is. . . Yummy!



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Without the liners you are guaranteed to have this happen which is not appealing at all!
The cones literally melt in the baking process!


I did find that the Keebler cones did better than the Western Family or Generic brands did, but they still had a tendency to melt and leak cupcake batter out, overflowing down the sides.

they are still edible, just not “pretty”. . . 

                                                                           I think you get the idea here.

but now that I have the process figured out,
these little guys are cute and adorable as they should be . . .


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                                                           . . . like these


I wouldn’t hesitate to make these again, overall they were pretty simple, they are different and fun, and the kids LOVED them!

Ideally in the end this is what you will have to serve the kiddos at your party

The report from the ballerina was that these were a hit, 
they were the first ones off of the table. . .


. . . Always a happy day when a project turns out great!



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