Three Cheese Rustic Herb Ravioli with Cream Sauce and Tomatoes

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I tweeted earlier “Food blogger problem – realizing halfway through making something that you haven’t written any of it down.” That may have related to part of this recipe. The parts I’m unsure of are marked accordingly. Oh, and remember how I said before not to ask me about my pasta recipe because I have no idea about any of the proportions? I took note when I made the ravioli! Problem solved. Now let’s hope I can remember to keep writing these things down.

Ingredients

For Ravioli Filling

  • 1 container ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup smoked gouda, shredded
  • ¼ cup asiago, grated
  • 1 tbsp rustic herb seasoning (from Tastefully Simple)

For Pasta

  • 2½ cups flour + more for dusting
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt

For Sauce

  • 2 tsp butter
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¾ to 1 cup heavy cream (This is where I didn’t take note of measurements. Start with
  • ¾ cup and increase from there if it seems too little)
  • ¼ to ½ cup milk (Same as above. Start with ¼ and increase as needed)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 2+ tsp of the pasta water
  • Parsley (optional)

Instructions 

Ravioli Filling. Combine all ingredients. If you have the spice grinder for your Tastefully Simple seasoning container, use it. If not, crush up your seasoning a bit before you add it. Cover with film and set aside.

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He wanted to monitor the situation.

Pasta dough. Scoop flour onto work surface. Make a well in the center. Add salt. Add one egg and start to incorporate with a fork. Be careful not to kill the walls of your well or it’ll get unnecessarily messy fast! Continue to add eggs one at a time, incorporating more of the flour after each one. Add the olive oil, continue to incorporate everything until it becomes doughy. You will get your hands dirty. You will reach a point where it’s clear you can’t do any more with the fork and you just need to use your hands. Once you have a dough ball, knead, knead, knead for several minutes.

  • Tip: I recommend adding the eggs one at a time because I always end up breaking the walls of the well or sloshing them everywhere when I put them all in at the same time. Also, I always crack my eggs into a small prep bowl before adding them to the flour. There’s nothing worse than trying to fish a piece of egg shell out of the middle of pasta dough (or cake, or whatever you’re making)!
  • Troubleshooting: If your dough is way too dry, add more olive oil or some water. If it’s too wet, add more flour.

Roll out the pasta dough and put it through the pasta machine. Start on the widest setting and work your way thinner. I went to #6 (out of 8) on the KitchenAid. Lay out sheets on a lightly floured surface.

img_4445Assemble Ravioli. Depending on the size of the ravioli you want to make, add 1tsp to 1tbsp filling at even intervals down one piece of dough. Press to flatten the filling a little. My ravioli were big ones, so I used 1tbsp. Lay another piece of dough over the top. Press to seal all around the filling. Cut out the shapes using a pastry wheel or ravioli stamp. Set them aside on a lightly floured surface.

  • Make Ahead & Freeze: You can put the ravioli on a lightly floured sheet pan and put into the freezer. I did this for my entire batch, then stored in an air tight container. I used lightly floured wax paper to separate the layers of ravioli.

Get the pasta water boiling while you start the sauce. Don’t forget to salt your pasta water!

Sauce. Melt butter over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add flour to make a roux. Just a basic blond roux is good. Once your roux is done, stir in the cream, milk, and parmesan. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. It should be thickening. Stir often enough so it doesn’t burn on the bottom (I’ve made this mistake before – the broccoli cheddar soup incident).

  • Troubleshooting: Sauce too thick? Add a bit of pasta water.

The ravioli should only take a few minutes to cook. Test an edge since this is the thickest part that takes longest to cook. Use a spider spoon to transfer the ravioli to the pan with the sauce. Let them cook together for a few minutes. Serve and garnish with parsley and some extra parmesan if desired.

Super Fudgy Brownies

fullsizeoutput_bedThese brownies are one of my favorites, and they’re not even super homemade. If you need to throw together a baked something-or-other for a bake sale, birthday, office party, or whatever – these are very easy and fast. And everyone loves them!

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix + everything the box says you need
  • 1 bag dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 box chocolate instant pudding mix

You can also use 1/2 bag of chocolate chips and 1/2 bag of M&Ms instead of the whole bag of chocolate chips.

Instructions

Combine brownie mix and pudding mix. Add the other ingredients indicated on the brownie box and mix until combined. The batter will be a lot thicker than other brownie batter you might be used to. Mix in chocolate chips. Bake according to the instructions on the box.

If you really want a great brownie (using this recipe or otherwise), make sure you cook them until they are just done. Over-baked brownies start to become dry, and that’s no good. I normally set the timer for 1-2 minutes short of what the box says. I test them, and if they need more time, I usually keep bumping the timer for 2 minutes and testing until they’re done. If they seem very un-done the first time I test, I add 5 minutes, then do increments of 2 minutes thereafter if needed. If they seem like they should be finished, but the knife isn’t quite clean, test another spot in case you hit a chocolate chip.

Homemade Pasta (Spaghetti)

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My wife bought me the pasta roller and cutter attachments for my KitchenAid mixer for my birthday earlier this month. I have been begging for these for so long! I’ve always liked fresh pasta better than boxed (who doesn’t?!), and this gives me an easy way to make it at home. The KitchenAid attachments are really handy because you don’t have to turn a handle. Because I’m no Iron Chef, I need to use two hands to actually hold the dough when I’m rolling or curling pasta. Well, that’s not really possible with a pasta roller with the handle you have to turn. Anyway, so yes, if you’ve ever considered buying these, I definitely recommend them.

Please don’t ask for my recipe. It’s a combination of trial and error until the dough feels right. I start with some flour, eggs, and olive oil and work from there. But, have no fear. Anne Burrell will save the day. I’ve made her all purpose pasta dough recipe, and of course it’s amazing. If you need a recipe, use that one. You won’t be disappointed. There is a reason the pasta dough and gnocchi pages of my Cook Like a Rock Star book have a crusty floury texture! Yeah, things get messy when I’m cooking.

I’ve always made the well of flour for the eggs, etc. and kneaded by hand. You can also mix the ingredients in your stand mixer and switch to the dough hook for kneading. I’ve never done it that way, but one of these days I will try.

A few pointers about fresh pasta

  • You will her people tell you to let your dough rest, not rest, whatever. Sometimes I let it rest, sometimes I don’t. I’ve never had it turn out horrible either way. People can have some strong opinions on this. Google if you want to hear both sides of the story.
  • SALT YOUR COOKING WATER. If watching a ton of Food Network has taught me anything, it’s this.
  • Fresh pasta doesn’t take long to cook at all. 90 seconds to 2 minutes is all I usually do.
  • Do not rinse your noodles! Please, just don’t. Drain it, add it to your sauce, and let them cook together for a few minutes. Toss toss toss, and you’re good to go.

Troubleshooting 

img_4368Dough is too crumbly/dry or keeps falling apart – add some olive oil or water, but exercise some caution here. At first it will be dry. If it’s to the point where it seems like it’s just going to stay dry, this is when you should add some water or olive oil.

Dough is too wet (more like a dumpling dough) – add more flour. Just add a little at a time until it gets to the right texture. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a vicious cycle of too wet – too dry – too wet – too dry… etc.

Keeps getting stuck in the pasta roller – make sure you start it on the widest/most open setting, which should be 1. If you’re already there and it keeps getting stuck, roll it out flatter with the side of your hand or rolling pin and try again.

Pasta falls apart when it goes through the roller – This one depends on how badly it’s falling apart. Sometimes I have ends that get a little weird. Just fold the dough in half and run it through again. If it’s seriously crumbly, see bullet point on crumbly dough.

Nana’s Carrot Cake

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I can’t take credit for this gorgeous carrot cake that occasionally appears on my header image. My wife made that using her grandmother’s recipe. This recipe is on the thinnest piece of paper ever. It was clearly typed on a typewriter, but I have no idea how the paper didn’t disintegrate when moving through the typewriter! I always handle it like I’m handling something from a museum archive. I have no idea why I’ve never imported it into Paprika.

You can do this recipe in a tube pan or two 9-inch rounds. We do the rounds.

Ingredients (Cake)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 large carrots)
  • 4 eggs

Ingredients (Frosting)

  • 2½ sticks butter*
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese*
  • 1 box powdered sugar (if you make your own like I do, use 16 oz by weight or about 3½ cups measured)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

* The wife and I are having a debate on these two ingredients. It doesn’t say softened on Nana’s typed recipe, and my wife says don’t soften it because the recipe doesn’t say so. I say that won’t work and you need to soften it. Use my wife’s approach at your own risk.

Instructions (Cake)

Preheat oven to 350° if using a tube pan or 325° if using rounds.

Grate carrots, and let them drain.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. (You can sift directly into your mixer bowl) Set aside.

Combine oil and sugar. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after each addition.

Add the carrots and nuts.

Pour batter into greased pans. Nana’s tip: Don’t grease the sides! How would you like to climb a greased pole?

Bake for 55-60 minutes (tube pan) or 40 minutes (9-inch rounds).

Instructions (Frosting)

Combine butter and cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the powdered sugar while beating.

Add vanilla and the nuts. Nana’s recipe says to add the nuts into the frosting, but we prefer to cover the icing with the nuts.

Baking 101: Let the cake cool before you frost it, or your frosting will melt and you’ll be sad!

Frost the cake and sprinkle the reserved nuts on top.

Nana’s tip: Use a wet knife to cut a fresh cake.

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Mom’s Fruitcake Cookies

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We used to make fruitcake cookies every Christmas when I was little. My mom has come to visit the last several years for Christmas, and we’ve made them again every time. They’re just so good! If you hate fruitcake, don’t assume you’ll hate these. They really don’t taste like an actual fruitcake. The main similarity with actual fruitcake is the candied fruit. And I have no idea how the front and center one in the photo ended up with so much less fruit than the others. It must’ve come from the last bit of dough. Oh well!

As you’ll see below, the recipe calls for various candied fruits. I highly recommend buying the individual packages of each one and cutting them yourself instead of getting the one with chopped mixed fruit. There is usually too much citron in the mixed container. We made that mistake one year and it completely ruined the taste. If you want some citrus, add a small amount of citron or some lemon zest.

I think this recipe yields about 5 dozen, but give me a margin of error of +/- 2 dozen. Next time I make them I’ll update.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 package chopped dates (or you can get whole ones and chop them)
  • 1 package candied pineapple
  • 1 package candied red cherries
  • 1 package candied green cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional, I don’t usually add them)

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut candied cherries into quarters. (If you’re feeling lazy like I am sometimes, a rough chop is ok. Just make sure the pieces are 1/4 size or smaller.) If the pineapple pieces are larger than the quartered cherry pieces, chop into pieces similar in size to the chopped cherries. If your dates aren’t chopped, give them a rough chop. I like the dates a smaller than the cherry pieces, but that’s personal preference.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and set aside.

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and beat well until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Gradually add flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Make sure the flour from each addition is incorporated before adding the next.

Stir in fruit and optional nuts.

Drop dough by the teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. (Or use a cookie scoop. I seriously love this thing.)

Bake for about 12-14 minutes until lightly browned.

Cucumber Salad

cucumber-saladThis is a super simple cucumber salad. It’s quick to make, and a good opportunity to practice knife skills.

Ingredients

6 cucumbers
2 pints grape tomatoes
Half of a medium red onion
2 packets Good Seasons Italian salad dressing & recipe mix
Red wine vinegar

Instructions

Cut cucumbers in half vertically and remove seeds. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon or melon baller and cut into slices (half moon shaped).

Thinly slice onion (almost like a julienne size).

Halve the grape tomatoes.

Combine the veggies. Add seasoning packets, stir. Add red wine vinegar to taste (start with a few shakes, and increase a few shakes at a time).

Red Wine Onion Soup

Red Wine Onion Soup
Whenever I eat a dish I love at a restaurant, I love the challenge of trying to make it home. There’s a local restaurant near us that has this amazing red wine onion soup. This soup is so good that my wife, who used to be a french onion soup hater, orders it every time we go to this place. So naturally I needed to try to replicate it. I got close to the real deal. I want to try it with a higher ratio of wine to beef stock, but I haven’t had a chance yet.

Ingredients
1 large vidalia onion, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
1 bottle red wine
3 cups beef stock
4 tsp worcestershire
3 tbsp Maggi liquid seasoning (This can be hard to find. Just use a little more Worcestershire if you can’t find it.)
¾ tsp thyme, or 4 sprigs fresh
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt
Stale French bread
Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
Asiago cheese, thinly sliced

Makes 4-6+ servings, depending on the size of your soup crocks.

Instructions

Heat butter in dutch oven. Add garlic, onions, & thyme. Add some salt (cuple of pinches). Cover to cook, stir occasionally. Cook until onions are soft. When the onions are soft, uncover and cook until golden.

Deglaze with wine. After you’ve deglazed, just pour the rest in. Add beef stock, more salt, bay leaves, worcestershire, and Maggi.

Bring to boil. Reduce and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste a few times and salt until it tates salty enough.

Preheat broiler.

Cut bread into cubes. Put 4 cubes into each bowl (or more, depending on size of soup crocks. I used Le Creuset mini cocottes. The bread in these filled about 1/2 of each.)

Ladle soup into bowls. Let the bread absorb broth for a few seconds and add more soup if needed.

Top with alternating layers of gruyere and asiago. (2 layers of each)

Place the bowls onto a sheet pan. Broil until it’s melty and a little golden.

Fried Pickles

fried-picklesI don’t make fried food at home often because my kitchen will smell like fried food for about 24 hours afterward. But I really love fried pickles, so sometimes I just have to make them. These are really good with ranch dressing or chipotle mayo.

Be very careful when working with hot oil! Keep an eye on the temperature, place food in carefully, and be careful removing food from the oil. Basically, work with hot oil and deep fry stuff at your own risk.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½+ cups flour
  • ¾+ cups milk
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 4 cups canola oil (or more depending on the size of your pot)
  • Dill pickle chips

Instructions 

Begin heating oil (it needs to reach 375°) in a pot (or deep fryer, if you have one). I started mine on medium-high heat. Make sure there is enough oil in the pot for your pickles to do some swimming. It should be a couple of inches deep.

Thoroughly dry all of the pickles with paper towels. This is really important because pickles are so wet! If they’re too wet, the batter will fall off, or the water will cause a lot of splattering when you fry them.

Divide four into two dishes. Season each with cayenne. Put a bowl of milk between the two. You may also want a clean plate to put the battered pickles on. I find it easiest to put the plate next to the stove and work in that direction. In my kitchen, the order (left to right) is: stove, plate, flour, milk, flour, pickles. Coat in flour, shake off excess, drop in milk, remove, coat in flour in the other dish, then set onto plate. (Tip: Designate a wet hand and a dry hand. Use your dry hand for the initial four coating and dropping it into the milk. Use the wet hand to remove from the milk, coat, and place onto the plate.) Add additional flour and milk to your dishes as needed. Keep an eye on your oil temperature while you’re doing this! 

Carefully place pickles into the oil (assuming it’s 375° by now). Don’t crowd the pot! They should be able to move around freely without sticking together. Turn a couple of times during frying, until golden on both sides. I use a spider spoon to turn and remove them. Remove and place on a paper towel. Repeat!

Dill pickles are salty enough that they shouldn’t need to be seasoned after you remove them. I made this mistake once and they were super salty!

Lazy Pizza Sauce

pizza-sauceI call this pizza sauce “lazy” because it’s super easy, plus it uses canned tomatoes and a couple of already-mixed seasoning blends. This one is great for weeknight cooking and picky eaters. One of my friends who is one of the pickiest eaters on the planet loves this sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 large can diced tomatoes (28oz)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • A few (3ish) cloves garlic, minced
  • About 1/4 to 1/3 medium onion, minced
  • 1 packet Good Seasons zesty Italian salad dressing & recipe mix
  • 1 tbsp McCormick salt free all purpose seasoning
  • Kosher Salt – start with 1tsp and add more as needed.  

Instructions
Toss everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste it and adjust the seasonings as needed. Transfer to a pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t skip the simmering, it makes a difference!

Blender Note: I have the Vitamix 750 and I used the “frozen” setting for about 20 seconds. Nothing was frozen, but I knew 20 seconds of that would give me what I needed. You could also use an immersion blender instead.

Troubleshooting
Too salty or garlicky? Add a little bit of sugar to rebalance it.