A pasta warning

I’m going to warn you about something. Don’t, I mean don’t, ever try homemade pasta. If you do, you will never want to go back to the pitiful dried up stuff in the box. It’s a sad dilemma, but one we now face in my household.

My husband Morgan was given the pasta maker attachment for our Kitchen Aid mixer as a birthday gift. He teases me about how he always seems to get gifts that I benefit from too. It’s not my fault he likes kitchen gadgets! He said he wanted the pasta attachment and so that’s what my dad chose to give him for his birthday. I may or may not have been the one to suggest this to my dad.

img_2488As I may have mentioned, I am not good with dough. Well, other than spending it. Morgan, however, has mastered this skill. On his first run with the pasta maker, he made homemade spaghetti. Once the dough is made, it runs through the roller attachment several times which smooths and flattens it to the desired thickness. A second attachment is then used to cut the noodles. One important thing to remember when making homemade pasta is that it doesn’t take nearly as long to cook.

Since acquiring this magical new device, Morgan has made us homemade spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken Alfredo with fettuccine and Italian sausage and mozzarella stuffed ravioli. I have a hard time deciding which of these dishes has been my favorite. For the ravioli he made last week, he also made a homemade tomato cream sauce that was good enough I could have eaten the entire pot, with or without any noodles.

If you have a pasta attachment and want to try making homemade noodles, Morgan’s recipe is below. Even if you do use store-bought noodles, I recommend trying this homemade tomato cream sauce, it is divine!

Morgan’s Pasta Dough (makes half a pound)

Ingredients:

• 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

• 2/3 cup of whole wheat flour

• 2 eggs

Instructions:

Whisk flours together to combine. In a separate bowl whisk eggs. Make a well in center of flour and pour in whisked eggs. Use a fork to slowly stir flour into the egg. If dough is not combining properly, add a teaspoon or less of water till dough combines. Once dough is combined to the right consistency dump it onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. Knead dough for at least 10 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 to 40 minutes to rest. Follow pasta maker instructions to roll dough and cut into desired pasta shape. Reminder: fresh pasta takes less time to cook than store bought.

Morgan’s Tomato Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1/2 tablespoon basil

•1/2 tablespoon oregano

• 2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

• pinch of crushed red pepper

• 1 medium onion, diced

• 3 ounces (or half a small can) of tomato paste

• 1 large can diced tomatoes

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Half a carton of heavy cream

Instructions:

Add olive oil to saucepan on medium heat. Add in herbs and garlic and saute for less than a minute. Add in diced onions and cook until lightly brown in color. Add in tomato paste and cook for a minute or less to awaken flavors. Add diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Slowly stir in half a carton of heavy cream. Using an immersion blender, blend sauce until smooth. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Happy Fat Tuesday!

A holiday that involves the phrase “Fat Tuesday” is definitely something I can get down with! Though far from the parades routes in the famed Crescent City, I have been lucky to experience my own local version of Mardi Gras thanks to my dear friend Judy. Judy lived for many years in New Orleans and brought the wonderful Mardi Gras traditions back home with her. She has graciously shared these traditions with us!

Aside from the flamboyant masks, costumes and sparkly beads that accompany Mardi Gras, my favorite part is the food. The dessert in particular is a favorite thing of mine. King cake is a traditional dessert associated with Mardi Gras. In light of the elaborate nature of Mardi Gras, king cake is actually a very simple dough-based dessert usually with a filing of some sort. The cake is in honor of the three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus. In New Orleans king cakes are typically served from Epiphany (twelve days after Christmas) on through Mardi Gras. Baked inside the cake is a tiny plastic baby representing the baby Jesus. The tradition is that the party guest who receives the lucky piece of cake containing the baby is then responsible for hosting the next party or providing the next king cake.

I have been the recipient of this lucky piece of cake on several occasions but have never followed through with the tradition as I did not know how to make a king cake. Now I will no longer be able to use that as an excuse. A few weeks ago Judy came over and taught me step by step how to make this delicious confection.

While simple in nature, the baking of a king cake is quite time consuming as it requires time to make dough and allow it to rise. Working the dough is quite a process as well. I have a tendency to be fearful of dough recipes as I’m always afraid of overworking the dough and making it tough. Judy had to instruct me to be a little more forceful in my kneading in order to get the dough to the right consistency. Once you really get going with the dough has this very sensuous silken feel to it that is quite delightful.

Once the dough has been thoroughly kneaded and allowed to rise, it is then rolled flat to be filled. For our king cake making day, Judy and I made a cream cheese filled king cake and a cinnamon filled. Judy said that fruit filling is also an option. Once the dough is filled and rolled into an oval shape, it must then be allowed to rise again before placing the plastic baby under one edge of the dough and baking it. Once cooled, the cake is then covered in a simple powdered sugar based icing and decorated with purple, green and gold sprinkles, the traditional colors associated with Mardi Gras. The colors are said to represent justice, faith and power. I admit putting on the sprinkles was my favorite part of the process, well aside from eating it that is!

As we were making the cakes I thought the cream cheese filled would be my favorite, but I actually like the cinnamon filled just as much. My recommendation is to make both and have a slice of each, alternating bites between the cream cheese and the cinnamon. The thought also crossed my mind to try combining the fillings the next time I make them. The question remains, will I be brave enough to attempt making king cake without Judy’s assistance? The recipes is below if you want to give it a try!

Judy’s New Orleans King Cake

(Makes two medium sized king cakes)

Ingredients:

Dough:

• 1/4 cup butter

• 1 16 oz container sour cream

• 1/2 or less cup sugar

• 1 tsp salt

• 2 envelopes active dry yeast

• 1 tsp sugar

• 1/2 cup warm water (100 – 110 degrees)

• 2 eggs

• 6 cups all purpose or bread flour

• 1 tsp ground nutmeg

• 1 tsp. dried lemon peel

Cream Cheese Filling:

• 1 or 2 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened (If making both king cakes cream cheese filled use two packs cream cheese, if doing the other as cinnamon filled, just one cream cheese will suffice.)

• 1 egg

• 3/4 cup sugar

• 1/8 tsp salt

• 2 tsp vanilla

Cinnamon Filling:

• 1/4 cup softened butter

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 11/2 tsp cinnamon

Icing/topping

• 1 to 11/2 cups powdered sugar

• milk

• 1/2 tsp almond flavoring

• purple, green, gold sugar sprinkles

Instructions:

1. Cook first four ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Cool mixture to 100 to 110 degrees.

2. Dissolve yeast and one teaspoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand five minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine yeast, butter mixture, eggs, nut meg, lemon peel and two cups flour. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for two minutes or until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic; about 10 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, for one hour or until doubled in bulk.

4. Using an electric mixture, mix cream cheese until smooth. Add egg and blend well. Add sugar, salt and vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

5. Punch dough down; divide in half. Turn one portion out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to 28 x10 inch rectangle.

For the cream cheese filled cake, spread half of cream cheese mixture on dough, leaving a small 1/2 to 1 inch margin all around.

For the cinnamon filled, brush dough with softened butter, leaving 1/2 to 1 inch margin, then sprinkle surface with sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Roll dough, jellyroll fashion, starting at long side. Place dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and cream cheese or cinnamon mixture.

6. Place a small plastic king cake baby underneath the king cake. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

7. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden.

8. In a small bowl gradually add small amounts of milk to powdered sugar and stir until icing is the desired consistency. Add almond flavoring if desired.

9. When cool, decorate with thick white icing glaze and bands of purple, green and gold sugar sprinkles in alternating colors using a N-S-E-W fashion or as other desired pattern.

Snow day baking

We got our first winter snow here in North Carolina over the weekend. As protocol dictates here in the south, we all rushed out and bought bread and milk. Actually, truth be told, I bought neither of those things as we already had them. I did buy some other items so I could bake while we were “snowed in.”

My Dad got us a Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas and we’ve been so excited to try it out!

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Great Aunt Grace’s Lemon Pound Cake

On Saturday I made my Great Aunt Grace’s Lemon Pound Cake. It’s one of my favorite all-time recipes. It’s so simple to make and tastes so good. The tangy lemon flavor was perfect for brightening up a cold winter day.

For some reason I’ve also been craving scones lately. I usually chalk that up to all the British crime shows I like to watch. I found a great recipe for Parmesan Rosemary Scones on the Tea Time Magazine website. I highly recommend trying these! They were divine. We served ours with butter and homemade strawberry preserves.

Just a couple of teensy notes on the recipe. I did not have fresh rosemary so I used dried which I ran through a small electric chopper first. Also, I found the dough to be very dry and unmanageable at first so I added maybe two more tablespoons of cream to get it to the consistency to be able to roll. Also, they were wonderful warm from the oven, but I ate one cold this morning with no butter or jam and it was still delicious! The sprinkle of salt on the top is really delightful.

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Parmesan Rosemary Scones

 

Give me the peanut butter!

img_0553The holiday season is upon us and that means it’s time to make lots of yummy goodies to share, or to eat all by yourself while you binge watch holiday movies on Netflix. I don’t judge. What you do with you holiday goodies is your business!

Last Christmas, my husband and I both were in holiday shows. Different holiday shows. We had a very hectic schedule and only saw each other for a short time each evening when we both returned home from our respective rehearsals.

We opted not to audition for any holiday shows this year so we could spend more time together at home. It has been delightful!

I spent a little time last week making a few of our favorite holiday treats.

One of the simplest, but most adored treats, that has long been a family tradition of mine, is white chocolate dipped peanut butter crackers. Gently spread peanut butter on a Ritz cracker, top with another a Ritz cracker and dip in melted white chocolate. Use a spoon to coat the peanut butter cracker fully in chocolate, then gently remove with a fork and shake gently to remove excess white chocolate. Put dipped crackers on a wax  paper lined baking sheet and pop in the freezer a few minutes just to set the chocolate. These things go like hotcakes! I don’t even have a picture of them to show you because the first batch I made is almost gone!

I must have had peanut butter on the brain because two of the other delights I whipped up the other day also involved peanut butter.

At the holidays, or any time you’re in the mood for a little sweet treat, just whip up these three-ingredient peanut butter cookies.

Super Simple Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

Literally, that’s all! Can you believe it? Mix the three ingredients together with a hand-mixer. Roll dough into about half-inch size balls, roll in additional sugar if desired, and place on a greased baking sheet. Press gently with a fork to make a criss-cross design. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes at 350 degrees.

My husband just adores these cookies. They don’t last long in our house!

The final peanut butter treat I made was Peanut Butter Pinwheels. This was a first time for me, though my Mamma made this every year at Christmas. I used the recipe here.

What goodies are you making this holiday season?

Southwestern Kale & Sausage Soup

Life has gotten busy and thus the blog has been neglected. Morgan and I had a wonderful anniversary celebration in Asheville, which I have been remiss in posting about. I’ve also participated in one of my favorite events, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in Atlanta. Just this past weekend, Morgan and I were in a community theatre production of “The Bad Seed.”

It’s been a fun fall so far, but sadly all the activities have left me run down and battling a bit of a cold.

Lucky for me I have a wonderful husband to swoop in and save the day with the most wonderful soup to help me get over my cold!

Morgan’s Southwestern Kale & Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

• 1 large or 2 small links chorizo sausage

• 1 small onion, diced

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• half pound of kale, chopped

• 1 carton beef stock

• 1 large can diced tomatoes

• 1 can pinto beans, drained

• 1 Chipotle pepper, chopped

• dash of crushed red pepper flakes

• 1/2 teaspoon cumin

• teaspoon oregano

• salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Brown chorizo in a large soup pot. Once sausage is browned, added in diced onions and saute until translucent. Add in minced garlic and kale and saute a few minutes more. Add tomatoes, broth, beans and seasoning and bring to a boil. Boil for five to 10 minutes then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

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Quiche: It’s what’s for breakfast

Asparagus and cherry tomato quiche | The Lush's Blush blog
Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Quiche
I bought a really big bag of asparagus at Trader Joes the other day. You ever notice that asparagus is one of those things typically served in smaller portions? We’d eaten it sauteed and in a pasta dish and I was in the market for some other venue for the last of the asparagus. I also had some lovely cherry tomatoes my neighbor Zehra gave me.

Sunday mornings are pretty much the only time my husband and I get to enjoy breakfast together and he is usually in charge of the menu. I typically request cheesy eggs and biscuits and gravy. That’s pretty hard to beat, in my mind, but I thought I would give quiche a try as a way to use up some of my fresh produce.

Though Morgan deemed it “not a very manly breakfast” he did eat two servings. I ate three. Needless to say, we enjoyed it. So here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try!

Kitsey’s Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Quiche

Ingredients

  • 10 – 12 asparagus spears, chopped into bite sized pieces (don’t forget to snap off the ends first.)
  • 10 – 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil, chiffonade (I used about 5 large leaves)
  • 1 frozen pie crust

Directions

If you’re going to get fancy and make your own pie crust, feel free. Otherwise, lay one out of the freezer so it can thaw while you turn on the oven at 350 degrees to preheat. Cook chopped bacon until fat is rendered and it’s just beginning to get crisp then remove from pan. Drain off most of the grease, but leave about a tablespoon in the pan. Saute chopped onion until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and saute just for a minute then remove from pan. Toss chopped asparagus into hot pan and saute for about a minute then remove. Place pie crust into pan and top with halved cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Put cooked bacon on top of the tomatoes. Whisk together eggs and milk, season liberally with salt, cracked black pepper and basil. Add in cooked onions, garlic and asparagus. Pour egg mixture into piecrust. Top with shredded parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini!

zucchini bread | The Lush's Blush blog
Homemade zucchini bread

Garden season is here at last and we’ve got tons of zucchini and yellow squash coming in. I’m on a mission to incorporate these fresh veggies into as many meals as possible.

So far, we’ve had zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, chicken stir fry with zucchini and squash, fried squash, pasta Primavera, zucchini risotto and a concoction I put together with the left over stir fry rice which included sauteed zucchini, squash and onions, a can of black beans, diced tomatoes, green chilies and cheddar cheese. It was very tasty.

The zucchini fritters were Morgan’s creation and they were delicious. We served them with a London Broil we coated in a dry rub and seared on the grill.

Morgan’s Zucchini Fritters

Ingredients:

• One large zucchini, grated

• 1/4 of an onion, finely minced

• 2 eggs, beaten

• about 2/3 cup flour

• salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Grate zucchini into a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let sit for about 10-15 min. Then put the grated zucchini in cheese cloth or a kitchen towel that you don’t mind turning green, and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Place grated and drained zucchini into a large mixing bowl. Add to the bowl two eggs beaten, onion, flour, salt and pepper. You may need more or less flour depending on how loose the mixture is. Mix every thing together then spoon into a preheated nonstick pan with a couple table spoons of butter melted in it. Cook until golden brown on first side then flip and flatten with a spatula. Once they are brown on both sides they are done. Season with a little extra salt and pepper immediately after removing from the pan.

London broil and zucchini fritters | The Lush's Blush blog
London broil and zucchini fritters