Friday, February 25, 2011

Food For Friday: Baked Potato Soup

I have been craving potato soup for weeks and finally put it on the menu for last week.  I didn't have a favorite recipe already, so I combed a few websites and browsed for ideas, then created my own version of Baked Potato Soup.  It was a success and we'll definitely have to make it once more this winter before "soup weather" is over and spring comes to stay!
Potato Soup 2
4 large or 5 medium organic potatoes, peeled & cubed
2 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
4.5 cups lowfat organic milk
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 + 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 + 1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we used triple cheddar with sharp, mild & white cheddar)
1/2 cup organic light sour cream
cooked, crumbled turkey bacon
extra cheddar cheese for garnish
sliced green onions (scallions) for garnish
Potato Soup 1
Scrub and peel the organic potatoes.  You can peel roughly leaving some skin on for texture if you'd like.  Dice the potatoes into similar sized 1 inch cubes, which will help them to cook evenly.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil the cubed potatoes until they are fork tender.  Drain them in a colander.

While the potatoes are cooking, chop 1/2 a package of bacon (we used turkey bacon) into small pieces.  Saute them over medium heat until crispy, them remove them to a paper towel covered plate.  Wash the green onions and chop the dark green ends into thin scallions.  Put aside.  

Dump the cooked potatoes into a large bowl and mash them until they are mostly smooth but with some chunks left throughout.  I use a potato masher, which makes the job easy.  You could also remove some chunks with a fork and puree the rest in a blender or food processor.

In the large pot that you cooked the potatoes in, you are going to create a roux to start the soup.  Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat and add in a few tablespoons of milk.  Slowly add the whole wheat flour and whisk it in to create a thick paste.  If it is getting too thick or lumpy, add more milk until it is the right pasty consistency.  After all of the flour has been whisked it, slowly begin the whisking in the milk to make a sauce.  The trick is to add a little milk at a time, whisking it in and letting it simmer to keep the sauce from getting too thin as you add the milk.

Add in the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and mix well.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Mix in the cheddar cheese and sour cream until it has melted into the sauce.

Add in the potatoes and stir together until combined.  Heat through.  You can adjust the consistency now, adding more milk if the soup is too thick, or simmering for longer if you need it to thicken.

Ladle into the serving bowls and top with a handful of shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon & scallions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Food For Friday: Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli in Sage Butter Sauce

Ever since our trip to Italy this past summer, we have been wanting the pasta attachment for our KitchenAid Mixer.  We knew within days of arriving in Italy that we wanted to be able to make fresh pasta at home.  We even purchased a ravioli press in the medieval city of Sienna in anticipation of making our own homemade ravioli once we returned home.

Once you've had fresh pasta, I promise you will be ruined for dried pasta!  It just doesn't even compare.  For Christmas, we decided that we would get the pasta attachment as a joint gift to each other.  We tried it out for the first time a few weeks ago and the flavors took us back to warm summer nights dining al fresco in Italy.  This dish will definitely be a new regular in our dinner rotation!
Ravioli Served
There are several parts to this recipe:  the dough, the filling, and the sauce.  The first step is to make the dough so it can rest while you prepare the filling. But before you start the dough, you will want to bake the butternut squash so it is ready when it is time to make the ravioli filling.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds.  (I used a melon baller to scoop out the seeds.)  Spray a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray.  Put the cut side down on the greased baking sheet.  Roast the squash in the oven until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork. For a smaller squash it could take 30-40 minutes. For a larger squash it could take up to an hour.
Squash Baked
While the squash is baking, prepare the pasta dough.  We used the Kitchenaid Basic Egg Pasta recipe.

Ingredients for the Pasta:
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
3 1/2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sifting Flour
Sift the flour.  I like to place my measuring cup over a shallow bowl and sift right into it.  Place your measured, sifted flour into the bowl of your KitchenAid.  Add the eggs, water, and salt into the mixer bowl. 
Pasta Ingredients Bowl
Attach the bowl and the flat beater.  Mix at speed 2 for 30 seconds.

Exchange the flat beater for the dough hook.  Turn to speed 2 and knead for 2 minutes.  Turn off the mixer and remove the dough from the bowl.  Place the dough on the counter and knead it by hand for 1-2 minutes.  Let it rest for 20 minutes.

*Note:  The consistency of the pasta dough is important to successful pasta.  Good dough is firm and leathery, but also pliable.  It should not stick to your fingers or crumble & fall apart.  If your dough feels too dry at this point, you can pat some water onto it and knead it in.  You can also knead in a dusting of flour if it is too sticky.  To test the consistency, before you rest the dough, pinch a small amount of dough together after you put it on the counter.  If the dough stays together without sticking to your fingers, it should work well.
Pasta Mixer
While the dough is resting, it is time to prepare the butternut squash ravioli filling.  I used a recipe from the blog 100 Days of Real Food.  You can find it here.

Ingredients for Filling:
2 lbs butternut squash
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Zest of 1 large orange
½ cup mascarpone cheese (if you can’t find mascarpone use cream cheese as an alternative)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly found pepper, to taste
Filling Ingredients
Scoop the pulp out of the baked butternut squash into a large mixing bowl and discard the skin. Add all of the other filling ingredients from the butter down to the salt and pepper and stir together thoroughly.
Filling Ingredients Bowl
After the dough has rested for 20 minutes and the filling is prepared, return to your pasta dough.

You will need a ravioli press and the Kitchenaid pasta sheet roller attachment (or another pasta roller.)
Pasta Tools
Divide the ball of dough into 4 pieces.
Dough Divided
Flatten each piece with the heel of your hand before feeding it into the pasta roller.  Attach the pasta roller to the mixer following the manufacturer's instructions.  Set the adjustment knob on the end of the pasta sheet roller to 1 by pulling the knob out and turning it to setting 1, then release the knob.  Turn the mixer speed to 2 or 4.

Feed one flattened piece of dough into the rollers. 
Pasta 1
After it feeds through, fold the dough in half over on it itself, and feed it through the roller again.  Repeat the folding and rolling process 2-3 times until the dough is smooth and pliable and covers the width of the roller.
Pasta Folded Over
Move the adjustment knob to setting 2.  Feed the dough through the rollers to further flatten it.  After feeding it through the rollers on setting 2 a couple of times, increase the adjustment knob to setting 3.  (Note, you only fold the dough on setting 1.  Do not fold the dough on any of the higher settings.  Just feed it through the rollers, then feed it through the rollers again.)
Pasta 2
Continue to increase the roller adjustment setting, feeding the dough through, until you reach adjustment setting 5.
Pasta 3
Dust the counter with flour and lay the thin sheets of pasta dough out on the counter.  Repeat with the other 3 balls of dough until you have 4 thin sheets of pasta dough.
Pasta sheets
I used the ravioli press to gently make impressions on one sheet of dough to help me know where to place my dollops of filling.  Be sure not to cut through the dough!  You want to barely leave a mark visible to your eye.

Using a teaspoon, spoon dollops of filling into the center of each impression.  You do not want to overfill the ravioli or the filling will squeeze out of the seal!
You will need an egg wash to seal the ravioli.  Place one egg with a touch of water in a small bowl and whisk together. 
Egg Wash
Using a pastry brush, paint a small amount of egg wash around each dollop of filling to help the 2 sheets of pasta stick together when you seal the ravioli.
Applying Egg
After you have applied the egg wash, lay a 2nd sheet of pasta on top of the sheet with the filling.
2nd pasta sheet
You will be able to make out the dollops of filling as bumps underneath the top sheet of pasta.  Center the ravioli press around the filling and press down until you cut through both sheets of dough, sealing the ravioli.
Ravioli Stamped One
Repeat for each ravioli on the sheet.
Action Stamping
Sheet Stamped
Using a thin spatula, slide the ravioli off the counter and place on a cookie sheet on a piece of parchment paper while you prepare the rest of the ravioli.  Repeat the filling and ravioli cutting with the 3rd and 4th sheets of pasta.  You can feed the leftover dough scraps back through the pasta sheet roller following the steps above to make additional sheets of pasta.  (When we got near the end of the dough, we switched to the linguini cutter and cut some linguini with the last of the dough to store in the fridge for another night.)  We had extra filling leftover, so I stuck it in the freezer to use in the future.

Put a large pot of water on to boil.  Add about a teaspoon of Kosher salt into the water as it comes to a boil.  Once it is boiling rapidly, add a couple quick pours (maybe 2 tsp) of olive oil into the water before adding the ravioli.  This helps the fresh pasta to not stick together as it cooks.  Add the ravioli to the water and boil it for about 5 minutes, or until your desired tenderness, stirring it periodically.
Ravioli Cooking
While the ravioli are boiling, you can begin melting the butter for the sauce.

Ingredients for the Sage Butter Sauce:
5 tablespoons butter
2 handfuls of fresh sage leaves, torn
White truffle oil (optional)
Melted Butter
Add the butter to a sautee pan over medium heat and melt, stirring constantly. 
Adding Sage
Add in the ripped sage leaves.  Stir into the melted butter and simmer until the butter just begins to turn brown and the sage leaves become crispy.  Remove from the heat.
Drain the cooked ravioli in a colander.  Spoon the ravioli into your serving dishes, then spoon some of the Sage Butter Sauce on top.  Spritz with white truffle oil if desired, and top with a little bit of fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Florence is known for white truffles and white truffle oil, and they are plentiful in dishes.  I absolutely fell in love with the flavor of white truffles!  My best friend sent us some white truffle oil for Christmas and it was the perfect finish for our butternut squash ravioli.  That flavor really transported me back to Italy!
Ravioli Served
This recipe made 60-70 ravioli!  Since we were only cooking dinner for the two of us, I froze a whole bag of ravioli for later meals.  I layered them between pieces of wax paper in a ziploc freezer bag.  You can place the frozen ravioli into the boiling pot of water frozen, they will just need an additional few minutes of cooking if you are making them from frozen.

The many steps in this recipe truly makes it seem more complicated than it really is!  It is honestly quite simple, and the taste makes the little bit of extra preparation time well worth it.  This dish is just delicious!

We are looking forward to many more date nights of making pasta together and entertaining friends with some of our favorite fresh pasta dishes! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nursery Canvas Gift

Yes, I am still here!  I had some posts in progress a couple of weeks ago, only to reach my blogger storage limit for uploaded photos!  I have had to look into alternatives for storing and uploading photos to my posts.  I have a temporary solution for now, but it isn't the easiest process.  I am very open to suggestions if you have found a good place to upload your photos that allows you to easily insert them into your blog posts.  Please share!

Bunny Nursery Art
A good friend of mine recently gave birth to her first child.  She and her husband wanted the gender to be a surprise, so they didn't know until her arrival that they would parents to a beautiful daughter!  My friend has always wanted a neutral nursery that could be passed down from child to child, so they decided to choose calm creams, tans & browns.  She lived in Boston briefly and liked The Tortoise & The Hare sculptures in Copley Square, which inspired the new parents to incorporate a few details from The Tortoise & The Hare into their nursery.

As my gift for the baby and parents-to-be, I painted a canvas for the nursery.  I chose to paint a silhouette of a rabbit filled with letters and numbers in their colors. 
Close Up Bunny
I traced the outline of the rabbit from an image I found online, re-sized it in photoshop with the help of my hubby, printed the image, and cut it out.  I used a stencil to trace the letters and numbers, then filled them in by hand with a tiny paintbrush.  I was really happy with how it turned out and hope the momma & daddy like it as much as I do.  It has already been hung in its new home above their sweet little girl's crib.

Welcome to the world, Baby Meeks!

P.S.  Food for Friday will be back this week with one of our favorite recent new recipes for Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli.