Monday, November 30, 2009
Today was the first day of my gut busting Holiday Boot Camp.
It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, except for the running part. Me and running just do not go well together. Somebody needs to be chasing me for me to really get into it. That being said, I did sign up for this so I ran most of the time and huffed and puffed my way around the park. Boot camp is out in the park and it's nice to see loads of other people up and at 'em first thing in the morning, even dogs. The morning was crisp but soon I was sweating up a storm. I have never been much of a morning person but getting up and exercising first thing in the morning is truly energizing. I feel like I could conquer the world and tick off my to-do list after class. However, come late afternoon my eyelids were very heavy and so was my body.
Going to bed early tonight and then doing it all again tomorrow.
Fab photo by kevindooley
and no I am not running around the park in my blue leotard.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
First up, the hubs and resident dough-maker made a triple batch of pasta. After the dough rested we were ready to roll.
Jean, Joe's mom, made the ricotta filling. She's a pro and everything she makes is delicious. My favorite of her dishes is her lasagna, chicken cutlets and peach pie. Mmmmmm. Earlier in the morning I made the butternut filling.
For making the ravioli we used the assembly line method and employed Andre and Tyler, our nephews.
The hubby was at the pasta maker and impressed us with his work.
Tyler and Andre took turns either cutting out the pasta or filling the pasta. My job as the line supervisor was to help in maximizing cutting and filling. The boys were very excited about making pasta and were excellent sous chefs. They took their job very seriously and were a tremendous help. We were making ravioli for two and a half hours. Yeah, seriously. We were having fourteen people for dinner.
After the ravioli were filled the boys had a turn at the pasta machine making fettuccine.
It was a blur of activity in the kitchen for hours. After the pasta was finished I put Brussels sprouts with Pancetta in the oven to roast. Then it was time to make sauce and get some water boiling.
This is the butter getting brown and infused with fresh sage.
The hubby was in charge of the cherry tomato sauce.
Here's the whole menu:
Ricotta Ravioli with Cherry Tomato Sauce
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Chestnut Cream Sauce
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Escarole with Pinenuts
Cannoli & Brownies
The hubby and I started with the ricotta ravioli. Everything was made in small batches so two or three people were served at a time. Eventually everyone was served and we started the butternut ravioli. We were able to taste everything too, but while standing up and manning the stove. The ricotta filling was light and fresh with bright parsley inside the pasta. The cherry tomato sauce was simple and sweet. Delish! My first bite of the butternut squash ravioli just stopped me in my tracks. It was outta sight. The sweetness of the squash was beautiful against the silky cream sauce that had a hint of sage and the bite of chestnut. Against all this creaminess you would taste a high note of the orange zest. Really it may be one of the best concoctions I have ever made, if I do say so myself. The bitterness of the escarole and the smokiness of the Brussels sprouts made them the perfect vegetables to balance out the meal.
For dessert, my mom baked yummy brownies with chocolate chips and walnuts. Earlier in the afternoon Jean filled cannoli shells with her homemade filling and they were a not too sweet way to end an incredible meal. I wish I had more pictures of the finished products, but to be honest it's hard to be a maker and a picture taker at the same time. This applies doubly when there is eating involved, but I did my best for a person who was cooking all day long.
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Chestnut Cream
1 butternut squash
¼ cup marscapone
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut squash in half and scrape out seeds. Place cut side down in roasting pan. Cook in oven until soft, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Scoop out flesh into the food processor. Puree squash until smooth, then spread on baking sheet and return to 400 degree oven to dry, about 8 minutes. The consistency will be like mashed potatoes.
Scrape squash into large mixing bowl. Mix in marscapone, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and refrigerate for four hours or up to 2 days.
To fill Ravioli: Lay out a sheet of pasta dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut into circles with a 3 ½-inch cookie cutter. Put 1 tablespoon squash filling in the center of half the rounds using a small spoon. Leave a 1/2-inch border all around the filling. Moisten borders with water and top with remaining rounds of dough. Press all the air out and seal firmly by pressing all around with fingertips. Lay raviolis out to dry on a lightly floured board or baking sheet and lightly flour the tops. Repeat until you run out of dough and/or filling. To cook, boil in lightly salted water until tender, about 3 minutes.
Uncooked, filled raviolis may be used immediately or frozen for 2 months. Lay them out on sheet pans and place in freezer until frozen. Transfer to plastic bag.
Brown Butter Chestnut Cream Sauce
2 sticks butter
8 sage leaves
¼ cup chestnuts, crumbled
¼ cup heavy cream
Over medium-high heat cook butter with sage leaves. When butter browns remove sage leaves. Add chestnuts and heavy cream. Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer. Whisk sauce together while simmering about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve over pasta.
Is this what it looked like at your house this weekend?
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Yams with Apples
Caramel Apple & Sweet Potato
Sadie *hearts* sweet potato pie
Love in the kitchen
The real deal in the kitchen
Stove top happenings
The remains of the day
That's pretty much how it went down at my cousin's house. Today we are going to the hubby's sister's house and cooking up homemade ravioli and enlisting the family's help in the making. Yes, another day with full on feasting, ma nel modo d'Italiano. Tis the season! The butternut squash has cooled and I am about to make one of the fillings for the ravioli. How does this sound, butternut squash ravioli with brown butter chestnut sauce? Yeah, that's what I think too!
Enjoy your day.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Maybe you will have time to knit a scarf up too.
The deadline is December 15, 2009 and is fast approaching.
Send scarves to:
Orphan Foundation of America
The Red Scarf Project
21351 Gentry Drive
Sterling, VA 20166
I hope everyone is doing well post-food frenzy. We had a delicious dinner although it was not without some hiccups in the kitchen for me. My fool proof pie dough recipe proved too much for this fool. The overworked wet ball of dough went straight into the trash and I hopped into the car to buy pie crust. Thank you, Mrs. Smith for helping me out. Then I overcooked the Brussels sprouts a bit but nobody seemed to notice and complimented me on them. My biggest fan of the evening was Cameron, my cousin's 11-year old son, who ate three slices of my sweet potato pie! Love that kid. That's the kind of appreciation a cook craves.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
(photo by Old Shoe Woman)
Already there is a bustle in the kitchen. A dance of pot and pans. The hum of the oven. The heavenly smell of baking bread fills the house. A couple of arguments. Pie crusts to be made. Sweet potatoes to be boiled. Brussels sprouts to be scrubbed, chopped, and cooked.
Later there will be the coming together of family. Embracing loved ones. Catching up. A well deserved glass of wine. Football in the background. A dog named Sadie trying to eat the appetizers or anything else she can get a nibble of. A beautiful meal with everyone around the table. Seconds. Buttons bursting.
Much later, the drive home. Changing out of uncomfortable pants. Putting on comfy pajamas. Settling down for the night. Watching a bit of television. Knitting a few rows. Reflections of the day and many thanks for all of it.
Much love to you all on this day of Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Somehow along the way, I deviated completely from said pattern. The deviation started with adding eyelets to the shawl. The original pattern was all garter stitch rows. Boring. Plus, I thought the shawl would be too stiff and heavy in garter stitch. The yarn is Dream in Color Classy, which is a super wash and I knit rather tightly so I thought the eyelets would add some lightness to the shawl.
The original pattern is also more like a shawlette but I went big. In going bigger I was definitely in danger of running out of yarn in the main color. Also, the Mara pattern has a ribbed edging at the bottom and again I thought it might be too stiff with a ribbed edge so I went for a ruffle.
I definitely did not have enough yarn in the main color, called cinnamon girl, so I added in another color called Chinese apple, which was also Dream in Color Classy. The ruffled edge became striped and I had just enough of the main color to complete the shawl.
In blocking I lost a bit of the frill of ruffle. The shawl blocked out huge. It's 78-inches across. Unfortunately I did not measure before blocking, so I do not know what the size was before blocking. It was knit on size 8 needles. I love everything about this shawl - the color, the yarn, the striping in the ruffle. Next summer, when the Hollywood Bowl starts I will wear my fabulous shawl to keep out the evening chill and bring it full circle.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Two weeks ago I started exercising after a long period of inactivity (sitting on my arse for hours, days and then months while finishing my dissertation). After finishing there were some fits and starts of activity. Finally, it was the discomfort of wearing my pants that spurred me into action. Un-com-fort-able! They were squeezing me to death like a boa constrictor. So in a moment of desperation I signed up for a gut busting Holiday boot camp. The boot camp will be for the first three weeks of December in the hopes to combat the dreaded and inevitable Holiday weight gain. So now I find myself having to get in shape for boot camp and I have been dragging myself almost everyday to workout. It is really sad when you have to workout for your workouts. What is even sadder is looking in the mirror and not recognizing your own body. The long months of stress eating and sitting at the computer have turned me into a marshmallow. There is no tone or muscle definition, just the soft sugary goodness that matches what I put in my mouth.
So I have started exercising. It's a good thing.
Next up is to get the eating habits in order. Boy is this the wrong time of the year. The holidays for me start at Halloween. We had no trick or treaters this year so you know I ate the three bags of candy I bought almost single handed. I ain't proud but it's true. Then some friends came over for cocktails and I cooked up some nibbles, and noshes, and threw down a cheese plate. My Italian teacher came to town and I made some Italian cookies with chocolate and hazelnuts for class. This past weekend was a book club meeting (The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - best book I have read this year - loved it) and I made salted brown butter rice krispie treats and they were crazy good. You can find the recipe at Smitten Kitchen.
For Thanksgiving I am making sweet potato pie and Brussels sprouts. Also I have been dying to make Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. Doesn't that sound delicious? The hubby just got a new bread baking book (My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey). A boule is cooling as I write.
Obviously, I am not sure I will win the battle of the bulge but keeping it at bay seems like the best strategy for now. I will do my best to just indulge on Thursday, but who knows what other fabulous temptations will come to bear over the weekend. Many I am sure. I guess a workout here and there won't hurt either before boot camp comes early next Monday morning. Maybe tomorrow I will get up early and get to spin class. It's been months since I have clipped in. Oh and the hubby just informed me today that we may have to go to a formal party in Miami in three weeks. A formal dress?! The pressure just makes me hungry. Does anyone else have this problem? Any other strategies for negotiating the holiday goodies you would like to impart? I am taking any and all suggestions and reminding myself everything in moderation, including moderation.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic & Pancetta
Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 35 minutes
1 pound Brussel sprouts, trimmed & halved (or quartered, if large)
2 ounces slices pancetta, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup water
1. Put rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Toss together all ingredients except water in an 11 x 7-inch baking pan, then spread out in one layer. Roast, stirring once halfway through roasting, until sprouts are brown on edges and tender, about 25 minutes.
3. Stir in water to deglaze pan, over moderately high heat, scraping up brown bits. Serve warm.
Roasting the Brussels sprouts really brings out the sweetness. I have done something similar to this recipe before. I left out the third step in the recipe and did not deglaze the pan. It didn't really seem necessary and kind of a pain to do on the stove, which it does not explicitly state. I wouldn't recommend deglazing in the 450 degree oven unless you want a serious Brussels sprout facial with you dinner. Also for the duo of Brussels sprouts I halved the recipe. For the pancetta instead of mincing it, I cubed it. Maybe you got all kinds of ninja knife skills and can mince the heck out of something, but it seemed easier to cube the pancetta. Plus that gives you a nice bite of pancetta with the Brussels sprouts.
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
Active time: 25 minutes
Start to Finish: 35 minutes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups water
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed & halved lengthwise
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup (4 ounce) bottled peeled cooked chestnuts, coarsely crumbled
Combine butter, salt, pepper, and 1 cup water in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Add Brussels sprouts, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove lid and boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and sprouts are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add cream and remaining 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil, stirring. Add chestnuts, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Again, I roughly halved this recipe and instead of a skillet I used a dutch oven. My thought is if you make this recipe with two pounds of Brussels sprouts there is no way they are all going to fit in a skillet.
Both recipes were delicious. The roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta had a great smoky flavor. Pancetta is Italian unsmoked bacon and we all know everything is better with bacon. You just can't go wrong with roasting the Brussels sprouts. The second recipe created the same caramelized sweetness in pan roasting the Brussels sprouts but the cream and chestnuts really made into something luxurious.
Chestnuts...yum. The first time I ever tried a chestnut was on the streets in Chiang Mai during Loi Kratong, which is the most amazing festival with floating offerings on the river and floating lights into the sky. *sigh* Chestnuts, yes, the chestnuts add a nice sweetness with the Brussels sprouts and cream.
For Thanksgiving I will be making the recipe with chestnuts. Nothing says it's the holidays like chestnuts. They add a festive and dressy touch to the Brussels sprouts.
Last night with my leftover Brussels sprouts with chestnuts I made an Alfredo sauce, added the leftovers, and served over pasta. OMG! It was outstanding.
Here's what I did...
In a skillet I added about 2 tablespoons butter and got it melting.
Then I added 1 tablespoon of flour and mixed it in with the butter. Cooking it so the butter and flour got some color.
Next I added the little bit of cream I had in the fridge. It was the smallest container of cream that you can buy, which I think is a half pint. It was maybe at most a half cup.
To that I added some grated parmesan...or maybe it was pecorino. I didn't measure, just sprinkled straight from the container. Maybe about a quarter to a third cup of cheese. Oh yeah, and salt and pepper. Not too much salt, the cheese adds to the saltiness.
Once it was all stirred up and thickened I added my leftover Brussels Sprouts with chestnuts.
Meanwhile in another pot. Water is boiling and pasta is added. In fact, I started the pasta first because I knew the sauce would come together quickly. I used orecchiette, which takes approximately 15 minutes to cook. So when I had about ten minutes left on the pasta I started the sauce.
I drained the pasta, but didn't drain it dry, so that a little of the pasta water would thin the sauce. The pasta went quickly back into the pot, the sauce went on top, stirred them up together, and dinner was done. It was soooooo good.
The hubby has been traveling way too much and he is out of town again. Usually when he is gone I subsist on grilled cheese sandwiches and the like. I never cook anything too fancy, but this was so good that I am thinking that maybe I shouldn't be so lazy about cooking for one. Part of my problem is I am not really a fan of leftovers, but I ate my leftover pasta for lunch today and it was good. Not as good as last night good, but still yummy.
Guess what? I had never eaten a Brussels sprout until last year. Can you believe it? They are amazing and I cannot wait to get our garden going so we can grow our own for next year. Have you ever seen what they look like in the garden? They grow on the craziest stalk.
Aren't they amazing looking?
And so danged tasty!
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Yesterday, the hubby and I went to Surfas to check out the canning demonstration put on by Saving the Season. We got there just as it started and it was standing room only. The demonstration was scheduled for three hours. Unfortunately the audio was terrible and the speaker wasn't very charismatic in her presentation to hold us in the standing position for said three hours. Instead, we shopped for flour, a new pizza stone (the old one broke in half) and other kitchen doodads, like a 2 in 1 lemon/lime squeezer.
After shopping at Surfas we decided to go to Father's Office for lunch. It didn't open until noon, so we wandered through H.D. Buttercup, sitting on different sofas and imagining what would be the next couch when the time came. The former Helms Bakery houses the giant space where different vendors showcase their furniture. It is a fantastic place to get decorating ideas and to dream about your future estates, each one with a different theme...a castle (France), an art deco palace (Miami), the log cabin/ski lodge (Colorado). We love our little house, but sometimes we have big house (really walk-in closet) envy. Plus, some of the furnishings at H.D. Buttercup are rather extravagant and extreme in size, so you have to dream big.
As we wandered around, plopping our bottoms from couch to couch, we turned a corner smack dab into Copenhagen and our preferred aesthetic...mid-century modern. We loved every piece they had, but it was the dining room tables (and the sale that started that day) that caught our attention. They had the most simply beautiful teak and rosewood tables, but our eyes fell to one particular table, which also had the best price. Due to the ingenuity of Danish design, the table has the leaves within it and at full extension sits ten people, which is good for big family dinners. It was love at first sight for me.
It really is not advisable to make big purchases on an empty stomach so off we went to the Father's Office to split a hamburger and talk tables. The Father's Office makes a very good hamburger with crisp little shoes string fries that comes with garlic mayo. Leaning more towards ketchup, as is the American way, I found their garlic mayo to be a delightful alternative and didn't miss the red stuff at all...not that they offered any. They also have loads of beer on tap. The hubs ordered a beer with his meal. Secretly I was hoping they had Sparky's Root Beer on tap. On our recent trip to Big Sur we tasted Sparky's Root Beer at the Big Sur River Inn and it is the best root beer I have ever tasted and I have been craving it ever since. Sparky's is a family run root beer business from Pacific Grove and they brew it right. But I digress (and yes it's that good). Needless to say, the Father's Office did not have Sparky's or any other root beer on tap. Bah! I had water.
Time to talk tables. The hubs is a man who like numbers. He is my personal Rain Man, who can magically tell you the number of matches that has accidentally fallen on the floor by looking at them. It's like a super power. So his hamster (which I affectionately call his brain) was wildly calculating every possible permutation in accounts known and unknown. I do the actual accounting and I already knew my answer. After his hamster went through fantastic mental arithmetic adventures, the hubs said he thought we should get the table. I agreed.
After lunch, we went back in and talked to Linnea (beautiful name) at Floor-Model. We sat at the table. We tried different chairs. We checked out other chairs online. We met Linnea's 9-week old min-pin puppy Penny. It was truly Penny that cinched the deal and we bought the table. The chairs will have to wait for another day and a trip to the warehouse. We didn't fall in love with any on the floor. Plus we only want 4 as opposed to 6 chairs. They wrapped the table up and we took it home.
It fits perfectly in our dining room. It is smaller than our former dining room table and more appropriate for our space. The former table was an acquisition with the purchase of our house in North Carolina and it is very nice but it was never what we would have bought for ourselves. We recently reupholstered the chairs, as you may recall. They work with the new table for now. Really and truly I LOVE my new dining room table. It seems silly that the table brings me so much happiness, but I am absolutely smitten by the table. It makes me smile when I look at it and when I think about it. I am competely happy and silly about it.
Our inaugural dining table dinner:
Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops
& a duo of Brussel Sprouts
(Roasted with garlic and pancetta & with chestnuts and cream)
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Four Vines Zinfindel Port (directions on bottle: Serve with Chocolate, candlelight and a willing companion)
and the rest they say, is history.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Look at the Beekeeper & his busy bees & the Queen Bee too.
The whole family took first place in the neighborhood Halloween Party in the park. Next year I have got to go to Texas for Halloween...costumes, a party, and the discovery of candy are just too much to miss. Little Miss Kiss' reply to hearing "just one" is "two". HA! I love it. She's just a kid learning to work the system.
Yes, we are a week into November. I guess it's time to throw the moldy jack-o-lantern out and put my Skelly Flamingos away. Honestly, I am kind of sad about it. Now I will plan out what's cooking for the holidays. There will definitely be sweet potato pie and maybe something with brussel sprouts for Thanksgiving.
What are you cooking up for Thanksgiving?
Friday, November 06, 2009
The totally unnatural blue stuff I buy at the pharmacy knocks my socks off and makes me feel like I am walking through jello. It does make me drool the night away but it's a groggy price to pay in the morning. I also love that I will have add some Pastis to the liquor cabinet and some Southern Comfort too. Wikipedia just informed me that Southern Comfort is known as the Redneck's Nyquil. Sweet.
Anyone else have any other interesting home remedies to share?
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Where is your mobile phone? here
2. Your hair? flat
3. Your mother? happy
4. Your father? awol
5. Your favourite food? Ice cream
6. Your dream last night? Weird
7. Your favourite drink? martini
8. Your dream/goal? Italy
9. What room are you in? living room
10. Your hobby? yarn
11. Your fear? failure
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Fulfilled
13. Where were you last night? bed
14. Something that you aren’t? organized
15. Muffins? Pass
16. Wish list item? Drum carder
17. Where did you grow up? Valley
18. Last thing you did? Green tea
19. What are you wearing? pajamas
20. Your TV? necessary
21. Your pet? LOVES
22. Friends? scattered
23. Your life? transitioning
24. Your mood? anxious
25. Missing someone? Carla
26. Vehicle? Miata
27. Something you’re not wearing? bra
28. Your favorite store? stash
29. Your favorite color? Orange
30. When was the last time you laughed? yesterday
31. Last time you cried? yesterday
32. Your best friend? hubs
33. One place that I go to over and over? market
34. One person who emails me regularly? Ellen
And I'd like to add:
35. Ears? Pierced
36. Which soup? Lentil
37. Why do you blog? share
38. Skill you wish you had? organization
39. Favorite trait in others? openness
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Now it is totally wearable. See that beautiful California sky above the fence. It's still hot here. It's been in the 80s all week and bone dry. I blocked the shawl outside and it is so danged dry out that it was dry by twilight time.
Now the shawl is wearable but the weather only permits it to be worn at night.
Now Ellen is a crochet master and she is my mentor when it comes to the hook. She is always whipping up the most fantastic shawls, so I asked her to help me out with getting one started. She recently made one with Noro Sock Yarn and I happily picked some Noro Silk Garden Sock Yarn in color 292 at Unwind in Burbank before spinning class one night.
The shawl is basically half a granny square and we all know what Ellen says about granny squares..."they are the build blocks of fashion". She is soooo right. This shawl crocheted up super quick and the Noro colors are always amazing. I think this one is perfect for wearing with jeans and adding some color to an outfit and around the face.
It was such a great project I started up another one right away. This has got to be the most subtle colorway (269) from Noro ever!
Creams, grays, and beiges
For the Shawl, I use an H hook and two balls of Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn. Just like Ellen taught me, I start with double crochets and after 10-12 rows I move to trebles so the shawl will have more drape. So much fun and so fast to make. This is a very satisfying project all the way around.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
This is a coopworth sheep. What a cutey!
On my last night of spinning class last week I did my first plying. This is my double ply on and off the bobbin. The plying is the easier than the actual spinning.
We also did a chain ply, which is also called Navajo ply, and is similar to crocheting a chain.
As my spinning adventures continue I will share what I have spun up.