Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spinach ravioli with butternut squash filling

For Christmas this past year, my future sister-in-law got me a ravioli plaque for our Secret Santa exchange. I loved making pasta before and I enjoyed making ravioli, but it was always so time consuming to fold and crimp each individual ravioli by hand. It wasn't worth it. But this place sped up the process so much. I can make ravioli in less than half the time it took me before, and with a lot less aggravation. 

I decided to make this ravioli because we had all the things in our house. We had a butternut squash that needed to be used as well as some spinach that was looking a little tired. It seemed like the perfect use of both items.

This was a delicious pasta and great ravioli. It made an excellent dinner with salmon and arugula salad that evening. Best of all, we have leftovers in the freezer for several nights in the future.

Spinach ravioli with butternut squash filling

  • 1 recipe spinach pasta dough
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 cups of meat)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bread crumbs
  • fresh parsley
  1. Cut the butternut squash in half and remove seeds. Roast squash for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool
  2. Remove meat from the squash and place in a food processor or mash with a fork. Use the neck only if you can, as it will be less stringy than the bulb.
  3. Mix squash with ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs and spices. Season appropriately. You can use more or less cheese depending on your preference. 
  4. Roll out your pasta dough until desired thickness (I use setting 6 of 9 on my pasta roller) and cut to the desired size. 
  5. Fill ravioli and crimp the edges either by hand or with a ravioli plaque
  6. Boil ravioli in well salted water until done. Freeze any unused ravioli by by freezing them on a baking sheet and then moving them to a plastic bag.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spinach pasta dough

Thanks for all the love with Secret Recipe Club everyone! I loved joining the community, seeing so many great posts and getting so many great comments on my own. I can't wait until next month.

Until then, I have so many other wonderful things to show you!

Making fresh pasta has become one of my favorite activities on my days off. You'd think that when I'm not working in the kitchen, the last thing I would want to do is cook more at home; however, I find certain things very relaxing on my day off. I love making pasta and I love making gyoza. It's a mindless task I can do in the living room while watching a movie, and it gives me plenty of leftovers I can store in the pantry or the freezer. 

This spinach pasta is a wonderful color before cooking and it retains its color after cooking. It looks beautiful and tastes delicious with just olive oil, Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper and black pepper. It's a very easy second course for dinner. In this case, it was an afternoon snack with the leftover scrap pasta after making ravioli (recipe to be posted later)

Spinach Pasta dough 
  • 5 ounces all purpose flour
  • 5 ounces semolina flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 160 grams fresh baby spinach, stems remove
  1. Bring a pot of liberally salted water to a boil. Blanch spinach in water until just wilted and shock in cold water to preserve the color
  2. Squeeze water out and chop in both directions so the final product will not be stringy. Place spinach and eggs in a food processor and blend until smooth. It will not be uniform, but the spinach pieces will be very very small.
  3. Pour egg mixture into the flour and form pasta dough. You can use volcano method or stand mixer. If too wet, add more flour mixture as needed
  4. Let rest for 30 minutes for the gluten to relax
  5. Roll pasta to desired thickness through your pasta roller. Boil until done and serve as desired.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Lentil, Sweet Potato and Sausage Stew

After almost a year, I've finally been accepted to the Secret Recipe Club. I've tried cooking or baking challenge blogs before and they've rarely worked out, mostly because we are forced to make a particular thing. This club really caught my eye because it was a way to recognize something great a member created and it didn't require us to make anything in particular. They said to pick anything off their blog.

This month, I was assigned Feast on the Cheap, a blog hosted my mother-daughter team Mary Ann and Mariel. My recipe choice for this month comes from Mary Ann, the mother of the team. She's been an O. R.  nurse, caterer and blogger. Not sure how she has the time for everything and maintaining as beautiful a blog as she does, but she does an excellent job of showcasing great recipes that won't break the bank.

When looking for a recipe, I had every intention of making her Mom's Cranberry Nut bread because I knew it would be a big hit with the man for breakfast. But then we had another unexpected cold snap and the winter I thought was gone came rushing right back. This is the first real winter I've had since moving to Virginia from California. It has been difficult at times, but I find myself getting used to it.

Seeing Mary Ann's recipe for Lentil, Sweet Potato and Sausage stew was quite fortunate because it was an exceptionally cold evening and we had everything for this recipe in our house. We had just made a Costco run the night before and we literally had everything. That never happens with a recipe. It was destiny, and it was delicious. My future husband doesn't even like lentils or beans much, but he ate a bowl of this for dinner and even had one for lunch the next day. If you can make a lentil dish (which I love) and the man like it, then I think it's a winner.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I did. I cut the recipe in half since we are only two people, but I will include the large recipe in my blog. It's suitable for a family of 4 with leftovers. I also didn't have cilantro (and really didn't want to go to the store for just one thing) but it would have been awesome. I will make sure to have it next time. Because of that, I added peas to the recipe (because green is good!)

Lentil, Sweet Potato and Sausage Stew

  • 1 sweet onion (Maui or Vidallia) diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced into half inch pieces
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 lb dry green lentils, rinsed
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 lb mixed mushooms (I used crimini and shiitake)
  • 3/4 lb chicken sausage (I too used the chicken apple sausage)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • brandy or sherry
  • yogurt and fresh cilantro for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  1. Sautee onions, celery ad carrots in olive oil until they begin to soften
  2. Add the garlic and sautee until aromatic, being sure not to burn. add the lentils and chicken stock. Bring it to a boil
  3. Simmer soup for 30-45 minutes until lentils are cooked. Season as needed
  4. Simultaneously, slice chicken sausages and mushrooms. Cook chicken sausages in a separate pan until well browned.
  5. Remove sausages and cook mushrooms in the pan with a little extra olive oil. Cook mushrooms until they are soft and nicely browned
  6. Deglaze pan with a little sherry or brandy (I had brandy in the house). Cook off the alcohol, scraping the delicious crusty bits as you do.
  7. Stir the mushrooms, sausages and peas into the lentils before serving. Let it continue to simmer for 5 minutes or until peas are heated through but still vibrant green.
  8. Garnish with plain yogurt, cilantro and a twist of lime. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy immediately.

Secret Recipe Club

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sourdough Surprises: Sourdough Irish Soda Bread

I've been encouraged for quite some time to submit to the blog Sourdough Surprises, a monthly blog collective that attempts to use sourdough starter in interesting ways. I normally use my extra unfed starter to make waffles or danishes but I've never used it to make Irish soda bread before. I thought it was worth a shot.

I adapted the recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. I remember this being a mediocre at best recipe. It was too dry and crumbly even though I added raisins originally not called for in the original recipe. I don't remember exactly if that's what went wrong and I don't know if it was my fault. I only know that King Arthur Flour normally has great recipes for sourdough and this wasn't one of them. It could also be that whole wheat quickbreads usually suck, but maybe that's just me.

I probably won't make this again, but you might like it. I much prefer my future husband's family recipe for Irish Soda Bread


  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp and a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup unfed sourdough starter
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp milk
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Mix all ingredients together until they form a ball. Add more milk if necessary so it holds together.
  3. Form into a slightly flattened round and mark with a large cross across the entire loaf
  4. Bake for half and hour until loaf is golden and tester is clean

This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day readers.

Today I wanted to give you a recipe for Irish Soda Bread that I got form my future husband's grandmother. It's not traditional Irish soda bread. It has added sugar and it's more cake-like than bread-like; however, it is really much better than most other recipes. Everyone likes it  and it's perfect for breakfast or tea time.

We made this for breakfast on Sunday morning and had the leftovers today. It was a perfect mid morning snack for a snowed in, work closed kind of day.

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp caraway
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup melted unsalted butter


  1. Combine flour, soda, salt, sugar, caraway and raisins, making sure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  2. Make a well in the center for egg, buttermilk and butter. Stir until blended.
  3. Grease 8 inch round cake pan and spoon in filling, leveling out the top. Brush the top with milk
  4. Bake 35-40 minutes at 375 degrees or until golden.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Enchilada Bake

I love enchiladas because they are such a rich, cheesy, spicy, delicious comfort food. But one of the things I hate most about enchiladas is the tedious act of rolling them and fitting them into an appropriately sized pan without them coming unrolled. It takes a long time and they're difficult to cut up accurately when you try to serve them. When I was younger, my father would make an enchilada casserole from the same laziness.

For some reason, the store was out of red enchilada sauce. I had never made enchilada sauce before but I gave it a shot and I must say, it was pretty tasty.

Enchilada Sauce 

  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • salt, pepper, cumin and oregano to taste
  • chicken stock as needed
  1. Sautee onions and celery in until they soften
  2. Add tomato paste and cook another 30 seconds. Stir in flour as well
  3. Pour in crushed tomatoes, chipotle peppers and bay leaves. Add chicken stock if needed to get the right consistency. Cook down for 10 minutes
  4. Pour entire pot in blender and blend until smooth. Pour sauce back into pan and adjust seasoning/stock. Cook down until correct consistency is reached.
That's the basic enchilada sauce. If they hadn't been out of sauce at the story I would not have done this. But it's good to know for future reference. The next day, I discovered my sauce was really super spicy so I added some greek yogurt to the sauce to mellow the flavors. It also made it rich and creamy for the enchiladas. You can also use heavy cream/sour cream/ cream of chicken soup or whatever you prefer.

Beef Enchiladas
  • 1 pack corn tortillas
  • enchilada sauce
  • 1 pound ground beef or shredded chicken
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • plenty of mixed jack and cheddar cheese
  • hot sauce or hot pickled peppers for serving
  1. Cook beef completely and drain off the fat. Season appropriate with salt/pepper/cumin
  2. Heat enchilada sauce (homemade or canned) and add yogurt or sour cream as needed to mellow flavors.  I added corn as well. Heat thoroughly
  3. Sautee onions and mushroom until soft. You can use bell peppers too- whatever you want to put in your casserole is fine.
  4. Layer tortillas, sauce, meat, vegetables and cheese in alternating layers as you would lasagna
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until heated through. Remove and bake another 10 minutes until cheese bubbles
  6. Serve with hot peppers, fresh cilantro, rice and black beans. Top with extra sauce if desired

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hot Pickled Peppers

Over the summer, we started subscribing to our local CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture). It's probably the best thing we've ever done in terms of saving money and eating healthy food. Boxes of fresh produce are delivered once a week to a restaurant near our house all summer long. It's like going to the farmers market, but more of a surprise.

We ended up getting a lot of peppers one week and we were going on vacation a week later. I knew I would never use them all, so I cut up all 5 different kinds and pickled them. No problems.

Well, there was one problem. Some of these peppers were sweet peppers, some hot peppers, and some were so burn your face off hot it was insane. When I cut them all up and packed them all together, they ALL became hot peppers. Now the sweet peppers are a little hot and the burn your face off hot peppers are still burn-your-face-off hot. It's like a horrible game of Russian roulette.

This was still a good recipe. They're still great alongside normal pickles when eating a tuna sandwich. But for future reference, make sure you know your peppers next time.

Hot Pickled Peppers (makes about 3 or 4 pint jars)

  • 3 pounds assorted hot peppers, sliced
  • 6 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp dry juniper berries
  1. Prepare canner lids and jars according the directions listed in my other recipe.
  2.  Bring vinegar, water, sugar, salt, juniper, mustard and garlic to a boil.
  3. Pack peppers into hot jars. Place a clove of garlic in each jar and ladle hot pickling liquid over the peppers. 
  4. Place canning lid over the top and screw the band down until fingertip tight. 
  5. Carefully lower cans into boiling water. Cover with lid and process for 10 minutes. Turn off the stove and remove lid. Allow to rest for 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove cans from water and allow to rest undisturbed. Check that the cans have sealed correctly. If the button is down then it's fine in the pantry. If it is not correctly sealed, then you must reprocess the cans or keep them in the refrigerator.

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