Saturday, January 24, 2009

Simple Yet Satisfying

I've been seeing a certain 4 letter word splattered all over the blog world the last few weeks. Have you noticed it? Do you know the one I mean?

D-I-E-T! Yes. This is the word to which I refer. Heaven knows that I should take heed and follow some of your leads and go on one of these. I know there are others that feel the same. But the truth is... I have always been very BAD at diets. Do you notice that whatever you are bad at, you seem to do poorly at and you just DO NOT like?

Okay. So let's drop the dreaded 4 letters and just say we need to modify or adjust some habits. Mostly I need and should exercise but frankly as a practically single mom with very small kids and a little business, not to mention some house work, when do you propose I do that? You see, I can type this in 5-10 minute increments. Or while the kids are watching a show or in between little things. But exercise is not so easy to fit in. And as some older and wiser women tell me, "the kids are only really little for such a short period of time."

Okay so let's just work on the food thing. I know I can do better in that department as well. One problem is that though I LOVE to cook, I often say I HATE to make dinner. By this I mean that making dinner is trying to decide what to make for dinner that is at least somewhat kid friendly, healthy, doesn't take too much time out of a busy day and isn't a fortune. COOKING is creating, playing, and fiddling around. Loving the ingredients and letting them help mold the meal. It is an act of love and passion. Making dinner is a way to nourish myself and my family in a healthy, efficient and sensible way. This is not always pure joy. Do you know what I mean?

Well here is one version of a dish I make that is quick, easy, affordable, luxurious and what I consider fairly light or dietetic at the same time.

I don't really know what to call it... Egg on spinach??? Spinach salad with poached egg? What I do is put a good handful of fresh, raw baby spinach on a plate. Meanwhile I caramelize onions and or shallots (in this instance, both) and poach an egg. I drizzle olive oil and possibly a tiny splash of vinegar and fresh ground pepper on the spinach, then top with the onions and egg. The heat from the warm onions and egg will slightly wilt the spinach making it just the perfect texture.

Look how appealing and colorful this is when the egg is cut open. This dish is rich and flavorful and more than filling and satisfying. It comes together in minutes. Spinach is packed with vitamins and minerals. The eggs have such great protein and the onions not only taste like candy but help burn calories to a degree. Now beat that!

The other night I paired it with a small slice of the Trader Joe's Tarte Alsace. I wanted just a little bit of crunch and feeling of bread and the crust is very very thin so I don't feel too too guilty about it. For a frozen food that is ready in minutes, this is amazing. It is probably my all time favorite frozen food of all time (aside from ice cream etc...). If you have a Trader Joe's near you, I highly recommend picking this up and keeping it stocked in the freezer for those night you just can't cook.

Stay tuned for my own homemade versions of the Alsatian Tart. I am still playing around some but have made a few. They are a crowd pleaser to say the least!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

And the WINNER is...

Don't you just love this gorgeous hand painted bowl and serving pieces? I got it as a wedding gift and am afraid to use it for food because it could ruin it. Also... I think it was purchased at an art gallery so I am not sure how safe it would be. I have served fresh bread in it from time to time but that is it. Usually it sits in the kitchen looking pretty. A piece of art as it truly is.


Oh.... You don't care about the bowl? You want me to announce the winner? Okay okay. I will. But first a big THANK YOU to all who commented and continue to visit my site.

It looks as if I will be serving up some personalized wine and cupcake stationery to.....

Congratulations Carla! I am so happy to get your cards out to you. I will be contacting you with the email you provided in order to get your address and find out what you would like me to print on the cards. If you don't receive an email or if you want to contact me, you can do so at

I wish I could personalize cards for everyone. But as a sort of consolation prize I am offering up the below recipe to all the participants and all who frequent my blog.

I have been meaning to share this recipe with you since Christmas. Aside from the fact that I haven't had time, I didn't get any great photos. I made them on Christmas Eve and there was just so much to do. The photo above is a shot of the process. I never did get a shot of the finished cookie. Not only have I wanted to share the cookies with you because they are so good but my recipe is on the saddest piece of crumpled, faded, old and jam stained paper you can imagine. It feels slightly like fine fine sand paper from the traces of flour left on it. Having typed out nicely will be a treat for me.

These Jam Crescents are my mother's all time favorite cookie. I make them nearly every year but for some reason usually only at Christmas. I don't know why. They are so good and with a cup of coffee in the morning... Well that is the perfect breakfast! Okay so it's not the most nutritious breakfast but it is damn tasty and just the amount I want in the morning. It is like a little baby pie.

Here is my recipe for JAM CRESCENTS:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
8 ounces of cream cheese (cold) (this is what makes it sooooooo good)
1 cup of butter (2 sticks of cold butter)
2 Tbls. sour cream

Jam or Preserves of your choice (I prefer preserves)

In a large bow mix the flour, sugar and salt until blended. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives cut the cream cheese and butter into the dry ingredients as you would for pie crust. Do this until the consitency is something like cornmeal. Stir in the sour cream until the dough comes together and you can make a ball. (I tend to use my hands toward the end to get it nice and moist. Do not overwork it though.) When you have a ball of dough, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat your oven to 325°.

Divide the dough into quarters keeping the unused portions in the refrigerator and covered in plastic. Roll out the dough and using a 3" round cookie cutter or a glass, cut out circles of dough. Place 1 teaspoon of preserves or jam in the center of each circle. (Be sure not to put too much as it will seep out when baking... I am classic at this mistake). Moisten the edge of the dough by dipping your finger in a small bowl of water. Fold one edge over to create the crescent shape and seal it by pressing down the edges with a fork. Prick the top with the fork.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Popular preserve flavors for these cookies in my family are apricot and boysenberry or raspberry. I prefer the latter two. Also note that I tried jelly one time and I don't know what it was but it seemed to melt or dissolve. and REALLY seep all over the place. Somehow the jam or preserves are thicker and hold up better to heat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Did You Know About This?

Here is just a little tidbit of information for you. It is an email I received a couple months ago. The crazy thing is it is from a friend that is close to my mother's age. She was unaware of this. I didn't know about it. I forwarded to my mother and aunt and others. THEY didn't know about it. Do YOU???

The email states:
"I had to go into the kitchen and check this out for myself. Whoever looks at the end of your aluminum foil box? You know when you try to pull some foil out and the roll comes out of the box. Then you have to put the roll back in the box and start over. The darn roll always comes out at the wrong time.

Well, I would like to share this with you. Yesterday I went to throw out an empty Reynolds foil box and for some reason I turned it and looked at the end of the box. And written on the end it said, Press here to lock end. Right there on the end of the box is a tab to lock the roll in place. How long has this little locking tab been there? I then looked at a generic brand of aluminum foil and it had one, too. I then looked at a box of Saran wrap and it had one too! I can't count the number of times the Saran wrap roll has jumped out when I was trying to cover something up.

I'm sharing this with my friends. I hope I'm not the only person that didn't know about this.

Go figure! Now tell me... Did you know? I am so curious as to how many people actually ARE aware of it because so far, I haven't met anyone who is. Please let me know.

Reminder: You have until midnight tonight 1/21/09 to make a comment on this post for the giveaway!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

100th Post! Back to Cooking and a Giveaway for YOU!

Let me start by saying "HAPPY NEW YEAR" to all of you. Hopefully you missed me in my absence. I do apologize for being MIA for so long. To keep it short and simple... let's just say life got in the way. I have missed blogging and sharing with all of you. And I hope to devote more time to cooking, blogging, recipes and expanding my menus in 2009. But family will always come first.

Now I find it fitting that this very first post of 2009 coincide with my 100th post! So in that honor, I am sharing with you my first attempt at homemade raviolis and a giveaway as well.

The dish I am sharing is from a cookbook I really enjoy as the meals always come out great and it has the most beautiful photos. The book is "Great Recipes for Great Weekends" published by Food & Wine Magazine in 1989, the year I graduated from college. I think it was a graduation gift. I have always admired the photo of their Potato, Onion and Cheese Ravioli in Cheese Béchamel but had not tried it to date. I have always wanted to try my hand at homemade pasta as well. So it was perfect.

Making the pasta dough was a snap. Very easy. Very quick. Turning it into the little raviolis? Well that was not so easy. The main problem is I do not have a pasta machine and could not roll the dough out thin enough. So my raviolis were VERY thick! I also do not have a pasta cutter or ravioli mold so it was all done by hand and some of the raviolis opened a bit in the cooking process. But it did not do too badly.

You can see my raw raviolis here. I cut the edge scraps of dough into pasta ribbons instead of creating more raviolis and in case my kids would prefer the simpler pasta as opposed to the filled pasta.

The filling was with potato, onion and cheese and was so simple, easy, slightly different and delicious! I also think the mixture could be used in lasagna or other Italian dishes. The only substitutions I made in the dish was substituting ricotta for the farmer's cheese as I could not find the latter at the market. The sauce... Well how can you go wrong with Béchamel and cheese???? YUUUUMMMMYYY! This is definitely one I would try again.

Potato, Onion and Cheese Ravioli in Cheese Béchamel

Egg Pasta:
About 2 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
3 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. olive oil
pinch of salt

Potato, Onion and Cheese Filling:
2 medium baking potatoes (about 8 ounces each) peeled and quartered
1 Tbls. olive oil
2 medium onions chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces farmer's cheese (I used ricotta)
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Béchamel Sauce with Cheese:
2 cups milk
Bouquet Garni: 5 sprigs parsley, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme and 1/2 bay leaf tied in a double thickness of cheesecloth
2 Tbls. unsalted butter
3 Tbls. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Additional freshly grated Parmesan, for broiling (optional)

Make the egg pasta: Place 2 1/2 cups of flour in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the whole eggs, egg yolk, oil and salt. Using your fingers or a fork, mix the wet ingredients, gradually incorporating the flour, until the mixture is blended and begins to mass together. The dough should be soft, pliable and sticky. If the dough is too dry and stiff or will not absorb the flour, add up to 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon at a time. If it is too wet and sticky, add extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball, dust lightly with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for at least 1 hour before rolling out.

Meanwhile, make the Potato, Onion and Cheese Filling: In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain; put through a ricer or the medium disk of a food mill.

While the potatoes cook, heat the oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Puree the onions in a food processor.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, Parmesan, farmer's cheese, egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix until well blended.

Make and fill the ravioli: Divide the disk of dough into sixths. Pat out each piece of dough into a rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds. Pass the dough through a pasta machine with the rollers set at the widest setting. Continue rolling the pasta into a sheet, reducing the space between the rollers by one number each time, until the pasta has run through at the thinnest setting. Roll out the remaining pieces of dough in the same fashion.

Cut each long sheet of dough into 2 shorter lengths (each one will be at least 12 inches long).

To make free-form ravioli without a mold, place a sheet of dough on a flat surface. Spoon or pipe mounds of filling onto the dough, leaving space between the mounds. Paint the exposed areas with water. Drape a second sheet of pasta over the first. Press down around the mounds of filling to remove the air and to shape the ravioli with your fingers. Press well to seal the edges. Cut out the ravioli with a pastry wheel or ravioli stamp.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

Cook the ravioli, 12 at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water for 6 to 7 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. The filling will be hot and cooked through. Do not overcrowd or the ravioli might stick together. Drain well.

Make the Béchamel Sauce: In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the milk and bouquet garni and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in another heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes without browning to make a roux.

Whisking constantly, strain the boiling milk into the roux. Return to a boil and cook, whisking, until the sauce is thickened and smooth, 3-4 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the cheese.

To serve: coat each portion of ravioli with some of the sauce. Sprinkle on additional Parmesan, if desired. Run under the broiler for 30 seconds, or until lightly browned and bubbly. Serve at once.

Try it. You'll like it!

NOW.... Onto the giveaway.

To celebrate my 100th post, the new year and new starts, I am giving away two boxes of note cards from my stationery line. For those of you who are not familiar with it, I own, design and illustrate invitations and note cards for my own line of stationery entitled: Miss 'N Nick Designs. You can see the entire collection at

Since this is a food blog, I am popping the cork and pouring you a glass of the good stuff. Wine is the perfect accompaniment to the raviolis above. The winner will receive my wine note cards. After the selection is completed, I will personalize the cards with your name, monogram or a short message of your choice.
AND I will give you the ever-so-popular cupcake note cards with pearl embellishments. These too can be personalized with your name, monogram or a very short message (ex: Thank You).

You have until Midnight (PST) on Wednesday January 21st to leave a comment on this post. Anything will do. Just say hello if you wish. Of course anything rude or disrespectful WILL be thrown out. The winner will be drawn at random and announced sometime by Friday the 23 (I hope).

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I truly appreciate all of you who have not lost hope in my return and continue to visit and share food and recipes. Happy 2009! May it be a year in which we can all find great satisfaction and joy.