Monday, April 27, 2009

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Brown Butter Parsley Sauce

One night last week, Number One and I were up late watching television. We're talking late, late, like 10:00pm! Both of the boys had thankfully fallen asleep, and it was just us. And a trespasser! A car drove down the ranch road, like it knew where it was going. It stopped in front of our old house, as if it had stopped there before. Number One grabbed a flashlight and went out to see what was up.

"FedEx!" yelled Tom, our dutiful FedEx Express driver. He told Number One about his FedEx truck breaking down, so he had to rent a little car. He wasn't too happy about it, but man oh man is he dedicated. You may recall how much we hate FedEx, but Tom is an exception to the rule. Tom handed Number One a box we had not been expecting, and was on his way.

In the box, with some ice packs and styrofoam, was a little present. A package of Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti, from my friends at! How surprising! How wonderful! Thank you, foodbuzz!

It took me a while to decide how to serve it up, but tonight I did. Not only does the fresh pasta cook fast (4 to 6 minutes!), it is "generously filled with fresh portobello and crimini mushrooms, imported Grana Padano & Parmesan cheeses and fresh roasted garlic." I served the agnolotti (similar to ravioli, but shaped differently) with Giada De Laurentiis' Brown Butter Sauce, from her Everyday Italian cookbook. I used Italian flat parsley in my dish instead of the sage or basil she suggested.

If I could say delicious in Italian, this would certainly be the occasion! The sauce complemented the savory pasta beautifully, with crispy parsley leaves and a sprinkling of Parmesan on top. The pasta smells divine, and is so tasty, bursting with flavorful mushrooms. We all loved it, and H-Bomb asked for seconds, of sauce too!

So if you can find this pasta in your local store, or in any store to which you're willing to drive (go here for the store locator), and buy some now. Buy two 9-ounce packages if you have more than two people to serve, and whip up this lovely Brown Butter Sauce. If you love mushrooms, you'll love it too.

Brown Butter Sauce
This is the easiest sauce you will ever make and a very tasty one, but then what doesn't taste good when it's drenched in butter? This is the perfect topping for stuffed pastas like ravioli, tortellini, and agnolotti.

Makes 1/ cup, serves 4 with a pound of pasta as a first course

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 fresh sage leaves (torn into pieces) or 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves or 1/4 cup fresh flat parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large, heavy frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat until pale golden about 4 minutes. Add the sage, basil or parsley and cook until crisp, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and the nutmeg. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste (I didn't need any more of either). Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Taste & Create: Alessandra's Meatballs

My partner for this month's Taste & Create was Susan of Life at Quail Hollow. Taste & Create is a monthly food blog event hosted by my friend Nicole of For the Love of Food. Participants are randomly paired off and asked to prepare a recipe from their partner's blog. It is very fun, and I encourage each and every one of you to sign up!

So Life at Quail Hollow certainly seems idyllic, and Susan seems to always be hosting gatherings of friends and family in her lovely home. I enjoyed perusing her blog, and it didn't take me long to decide on Polpettine d'Oliva, AKA Alessandra's Meatballs. I am a sucker for an "authentic" recipe for anything, and after reading that Alessandra's kitchen is IN Italy, Tuscany to be exact, and that Susan learned to prepare this meal AT Alessandra's house in Tuscany, I was hooked.

I will admit that cooking the meat prior to forming the meatballs seemed counter intuitive to me, but I did it. I even doubled the recipe from the start because they just sound so delicious.

Although the recipe calls for green olives, I decided to use a mix of Paesana stuffed olives we had in the refrigerator, and just chopped them up. We simply had to have a taste before chilling the meat mixture, and it is amazing! We were thinking of other dishes we could use this meat mixture in, and trying not to eat the whole pan with a spoon. We were greatly anticipating the meatballs.

After the meat was chilled, we pulled it out of the fridge and were dismayed to find it difficult to form into balls. We debated adding a couple more eggs, but first we simply stirred up the meat. Some of the binding egg mixture had settled at the bottom, so to our relief just mixing the meat again corrected the problem, no added ingredients necessary.

Number One formed the meatballs (more than 80 of them!) and I dipped the ones we ate tonight in flour, egg and bread crumbs. Just regular bread crumbs, of course, because the store doesn't carry panko. You're not surprised, are you? I wasn't. We fried them in olive oil until golden brown, then served them up an a bed of spinach with some of the dipping sauce as described below.

The rest of the meatballs went onto a cookie sheet and into the freezer. When they are individually frozen, I will put them in a ziploc bag to store them for future use.

These are the best meatballs we have ever had. I'm so glad we have about 80 of them in the freezer!!

Alessandra's Meatballs

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup carrots, chopped
3/4 cups celery, chopped
1/2 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound bulk sausage
1 1/4 pound ground beef
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
Panko bread crumbs

Saute the vegetables in the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the meats and cook until done, stirring to break the meat into small pieces. Drain, if needed.

Return to the skillet and add the wine. Cook until the wine is absorbed.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add the Parmesan, 1egg, olives and the seasonings. Mix well and chill.

Once chilled, form into 1-inch balls. At this point the meatballs can be chilled or frozen.

Roll the meatballs in flour, egg and bread crumbs and fry in olive oil until brown. Serve with mayonnaise seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, basil and oregano. Makes 40 meatballs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Apricot Mixed Berry Spritzer

I believe this recipe came from an Everyday Food magazine, circa 2004, although I've been unable to find it online. I first used it in the Spring that year, when some good friends of mine joined us on the ranch for my birthday dinner.

This spritzer was such a delicious hit that I remember my friend Serena and I mixing up batch after batch all weekend long. Serena still makes and serves this fabulous drink. In fact, I had to ask her for the recipe again when I couldn't find my copy!

White grape juice is a key ingredient, otherwise the spritzer turns out brown. I know this because the teeny tiny grocery store doesn't stock white grape juice, and this time I had to use regular grape juice. The artist in me knew that the purple grape juice mixed with the orange apricot nectar would result in brown spritzer, but my desire for another batch of spritzer was too great to wait for white grape juice. I hope your spritzer is a lovely shade of apricot.

It is important that all the ingredients are chilled, and the berries are frozen. (you can either freeze your own berries separately on a cookie sheet, or buy a bag of frozen berries) This time I used a mixture of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Unless you are concerned about presentation, such as for a party, you can simply garnish each glass with fruits separately, instead of measuring the entire amount. If serving for a party, use your best punch bowl or a lovely pitcher, and measure out the berries.

Also, I couldn't find seltzer water, so I used club soda instead.

Apricot Mixed Berry Spritzer
Makes 8 cups

2 cups apricot nectar, chilled
2 cups seltzer, chilled
2 cups ginger ale, chilled
2 cups white grape juice
2 cups mixed berries

Freeze berries.

Gently mix liquids together in desired container, punch bowl or pitcher (overzealous mixing will cause the carbonation to go crazy).

Add berries just before serving.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Greek Lamb with Spinach and Artichokes

This is a recipe I pulled out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I can't remember which month. I've had it in the back of my mind since then, trying to remember to pick up all the ingredients at the store (and waiting to go to a real grocery store to get some orzo since our grocery store doesn't carry it. of course.)

I finally remembered to grab some lamb out of the freezer in town. Of course, when I set out to actually put the recipe in the crock pot this morning, I realized I needed a roast but had grabbed stew meat instead. So our lamb will have some bones in it. I went ahead with the recipe.

The recipe is a "Prize Tested Recipe" and is attributed to Marie Rizzio of Interlochen, MI (very close to my home town! imagine that).

This dish is excellent! It smelled so good cooking all day long, and it was wonderful to come home to dinner that was basically ready. I cooked mine for 8 hours, and it was perfect. I had a problem with the orzo~it's too small to use any of my colanders. I strained it with the lid from the pot, which is always awkward. Oh well. It was a nice accompaniment. At the last minute, I forgot the feta cheese, but I suppose there is always next time, because there will definitely be a next time with this one. Yum!

Greek Lamb with Spinach and Artichokes
Makes 6 servings

2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder roast
1 19-ounce can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
3 cups fresh baby spinach
3 cups hot cooked orzo (6 ounces uncooked)
Crumbled feta cheese (optional)

1. Trim fat from meat. Cut meat in 1-inch pieces. In a 3 1/2 or 4-quart slow cooker stir together meat, beans, undrained tomatoes, garlic, salt, and oregano.

2. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Stir in drained artichoke hearts and spinach.

3. To serve, spoon lamb mixture over hot cooked orzo. Sprinkle with feta cheese.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


We had our Easter brunch today, and we decided to serve crepes. We love crepes! They are easy to make, and so delicious. This recipe makes quite a lot of them. I took the pictures after we had all eaten, of the leftovers!

We served ours with several different toppings: sliced strawberries, peaches, cottage cheese, Mexican crema (table cream), maple syrup, and bananas sauteed in butter, brown sugar and a splash of rum.


1 cup milk
6 eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup flour

In blender, mix milk and eggs, mix in flour, then blend in melted butter. Cook on greased medium hot crepe pan. Pour about 1/3 cup batter quickly onto hot crepe pan, quickly tilting pan to cover the entire surface. Cook on one side until beginning to brown, then quickly flip and cook for a few more seconds. This is a fast process that you will need to practice to get the hang of, and the first few crepes never turn out quite right. Just keep after it, and they'll start to turn out.

Friday, April 10, 2009

H-Bomb's Bagel Faces

This is another cute recipe from H-Bomb's new cookbook: Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up. I let him look through the book on his own, helping him figure out what the recipes are, and then he picks one. Each recipe has a pictorial version so young kids can follow the recipe themselves.

This is a very healthy snack, or even a yummy dinner. H-Bomb was excited to help me at the grocery store, picking out different vegetables he loves, to use for his Bagel Faces.

Bagel Faces
* marks the ingredients H-Bomb chose at the store

*1 medium-long, thin carrot, sliced into thin rounds (H-Bomb also wanted a mini carrot for a nose)
*tiny cherry tomatoes, whole or sliced in half
black olives, sliced
*1 small bell pepper, any color, thinly sliced
*alfalfa sprouts
*1 very small cucumber, sliced into thin rounds

1 small container whipped cream cheese, room temperature (easier for kids to spread)
1 or 2 bagels, cut in half

Other possibilities:
grated carrot (rather than sliced)
grated beets
*toasted sunflower seeds
minced chives

1. Arrange the vegetables in small bowls on a table.
2. Spread cream cheese on the bagel halves.
3. Decorate and eat!

Sawed Off ate half of his bagel with cream cheese, and then decided to make a face on his with cucumbers and green peppers. I believe he was inspired by Picasso:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homemade Egg Noodles

This is the recipe I found from, because I didn't have the Semolina Flour for Emily's pasta recipe, and I really wanted to make Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup!

Honestly, I went to the store to get celery for the soup and flour for the pasta. I was going to look for frozen noodles, but I forgot, and on the way home I considered using plain old dried egg noodles for the soup. But ultimately I decided to make these noodles, and I'm glad I did.

This is only the second time I have made homemade pasta, and both times were in the same day! I am by no means an expert in this area, but I did it and it was fun, so you should try it too!

Homemade Egg Noodles
Note: for more fussy and exact directions (except for cooking time?), please visit This is what I did, and they turned out great!

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
water (I used about 1/2 cup, which may have been too much)

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. I used a fork, and then my hands. Knead on a floured surface for 15 minutes. (I had to add a lot of flour, which is why I suspect I added too much water initially).

Place dough in a plastic baggie and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half (if making the soup), return unused half to plastic bag and roll out other half as thin as you can get it. My dough was quite stretchy, and I was missing Emily's marble rolling pin, so we had some thicker noodles. Cut noodles with a pizza cutter or a knife.

Add to soup or boiling salted water, cook about 10 minutes or until noodles are done.

Emily's Bread Machine Noodles

Today was my first time ever to make fresh pasta. I know it's not difficult or even very time-consuming, but I've just never done it until today. And today, I ended up making two different kinds of pasta noodles!

At Emily's, we made her noodles that are mixed in the bread machine (recipe below). I didn't have the right kind of flour, and didn't want to drag out my neglected bread machine, so I found a different Egg Noodle recipe.

Here's Emily's. It's from the Oster Breadmaker Cookbook (you know, the one that comes in the box with the machine).

Picture soon, right Em?

Bread Machine Noodles

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Semolina Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
7/8 cup water (7 ounces)

Measure ingredients into the breadmaker. Select the "Dough" setting, press "Start" and let mix for 8 to 10 minutes. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/8" thick, and cut. We used a pizza cutter.

Add noodles to boiling, salted water, or Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup, and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, or until done.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Emily's Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Today I called my friend Emily and told her I had no kids. H-Bomb was in school and Sawed Off was helping his daddy on the ranch. She had her kids plus an extra, so she couldn't accompany me to the new thrift store in town. (Excitement-ville, I know). She said something to the effect of, "Do you want to cook dinner for me?" I immediately said no, but I did offer to come over and give her some ideas if she let me peruse her freezer.

When I got there, she had some ideas of her own. She had everything for this yummy soup that someone had made for her after the birth of one of her children. Everything, that is, except noodles. She did, however, have all the ingredients for homemade noodles mixed in the bread machine, a recipe she had never tried. "Let's do it," I said.

We had such a nice afternoon, making fresh pasta, cooking, talking. I did change the technique from her recipe, which called for boiling the chicken and then the vegetables (and then I changed it more when I got home). By the time the noodles and soup were put together, it was time for me to go pick up H-Bomb from school. And I had a fresh loaf of Emily's bread (she put 4 loaves in the oven when I got there) AND inspiration for my own dinner!

After a quick trip to the store for some celery, I came home and made this again! I had to find a different noodle recipe because of course our grocery store doesn't have the Semolina Flour Emily had picked up on a trip to the Big City. I decided on a recipe for Homemade Egg Noodles from, mostly because I love egg noodles and the recipe didn't require any special ingredients.

This soup IS creamy and delicious, and I like it a lot. Thanks for a fun afternoon, Em!

I meant to put some fresh flat-leaf parsley in the soup tonight, but I forgot. Also forgot the garlic salt...Next time!

Emily's Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

1 stick butter
1 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken, cubed
1 large onion (about 1 cup diced)
2 large carrots (about 1 cup diced)
2 large celery stalks (about 1 cup diced)
1/2 cup flour
6 cups water
6 chicken bouillon cubes (or appropriate amount of granules for 6 cups water)
homemade noodles (or substitute 1 pkg frozen noodles or a few handfuls dried egg noodles)
1 cup milk

Melt butter in soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions and chicken, stirring and cooking until chicken is done and onions are translucent. Season with garlic salt if desired. Add carrots and celery, saute for a few minutes until bright and beginning to soften, add flour. Cook and stir until flour is incorporated (no longer white), about 2 minutes.

Add water and bouillon cubes, stir and bring to boiling. Add noodles, boil for recommended noodle cooking time, stirring in milk during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
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