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    Ravioli di Ricotta

    Insane. I am telling you I am insane. Perhaps certifiably insane.

    Those of you who know me well are reading this and nodding your heads in agreement. I know. I have come to terms (mostly) with my insanity and am beginning to embrace it – as a southern woman would, gardening in big ugly hats, drinking see tea and having many cats. Being in Maine ones insanity eccentricity comes in a slightly different form – Bean boots, Allen’s Coffee Brandy (honestly, I have never had it and never will) and making maple syrup.

    When I gear up for the winter, I fill our house with wonderful ingredients, the Dear One fills it with firewood, I hang the window quilts I made, and I scour recipes for projects. Recipes I might not have as much time on my hands to try when the sun is shining and we’re puttering in the garden or working way too hard.

    This particular project started with a birthday gift from my dear husband – a pasta maker. We made fettuccine and spinach fettuccine – a dessert pasta may be on my list.

    And while this kept us occupied for a while, we wanted more. I have been making ravioli with my Mama for most of my life. She will undoubtedly say you only started helping in your 20s, but at this point in time, and at my age, that IS most of my life.

    I have ravioli forms that my mother gave me and they’re great, but I thought … we have this machine there must be an attachment to make ravioli. And there was! When my in-laws asked what we’d like for Christmas, without hesitation, we both said – a ravioli attachment for our pasta machine!

    It’s obviously taken some time for us to get to this point. I would look at it. It frightened me. I walked away. It sat staring at me, taunting me, daring me to try making ravioli with this machine.

    It snowed. I was bored. HEY! Let’s make ravioli!

    First the filling:

    • 1 pound fresh ricotta, drained if wet
    • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 t freshly grated lemon zest (from about 1/2 a lemon)
    • 1 C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
    • 1 large egg
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    In a large bowl combine the ricotta, nutmeg, lemon zest, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and 1 egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir well, and set aside.

    Now the difficult part, the ravioli dough:

    • 3 2/3 C all-purpose flour
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1 T olive oil (optional)

    Mound the flour on a clean work surface and create a well in the center. Place the eggs, egg yolks, and oil (if using) in the center. Using a fork, whisk the eggs and oil together and slowly start dragging the flour into the egg mixture. Knead by hand until all the ingredients are well combined and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

    (Alternatively, place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the mixer on medium speed, knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.)

    NOTE: I was seriously lazy. I used the stand mixer. THIS SUCKED. No, really. It was terrible. I finally got it to the right consistency, but it took forever. More flour, more water, more oil. No more lazy.

    Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or place it in a covered bowl and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

    Set up a pasta machine and turn it to the largest opening. Cut off pieces of dough about the size of an egg. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into sheets about 1/8-inch thick.

    NOTE: You start at zero, and with each pass through you raise the number. We went to #6

    Lay 1 pasta sheet flat on a lightly floured work surface and determine approximately where the halfway point is lengthwise.

    Lay the pasta dough in the machine, folded edge on the roller, with the dough lying on either side of the machine. Turn crank 1/4 turn to start dough feeding.

    Put the filling shoot into the machine and crank slowly. Keep adding filling as you crank the dough through the machine. Repeat and repeat.

    Let dry for 10-15 minutes and pull the ravioli apart and boil right away or let dry completely and freeze.

    The easiest way to do this is roll a sheet and fill – roll a sheet and fill – roll a sheet and fill.

    NOTE: Okay. These are the prettiest photos. The beginning part of this process was hell. Rolling the pasta sheets was difficult. Filling? Can’t even talk about it yet. But I keep finding filling in my hair. I used a ravioli/pasta/pastry cutter to help separate the ravioli.

    I’ve gone through all the trouble to make this ravioli, I need the perfect sauce. I scoured the internet and came across this sauce from Giada De Laurentiis. Her dish and ravioli was different, but I found the sauce intriguing.

    • 6 T unsalted butter
    • 2 T balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/3 C toasted, chopped walnuts
    • 1/4 C grated Parmesan

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook, uncovered, at a gentle boil, 2 to 3 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli.

    While the ravioli is cooking, in a medium sauté pan melt the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides, and the butter begins to turn a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

    Transfer the ravioli to the pan sauté pan with the balsamic brown butter. Gently toss. Sprinkle walnuts and cheese over the top. Serve immediately.

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    Baked Buffalo Chicken Taquitos

    Baked

    All the back and forth in my life, coupled with the Dear One’s travels, make my ability to blog … well, hampered, to say the least.

    This recipe was one I made with my brother, Nick, for a Super Bowl party he was attending. You may remember the other recipe we made together, Buffalo Chicken Bites. Snarky comments aside, the chicken bites were fab.

    These were good, but I think if they were to be made again, I would change these slightly.

    First, canned chicken? It was okay, but if you’re going to cheat, you may as well buy a rotisserie chicken. A poached chicken breast would be best.

    Smaller tortillas, more blue cheese, more hot sauce, maybe some chopped celery.

    But, changes aside, these were easy, taste great, and are good for a Super Bowl party when grab and go food is called for!

    • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
    • 1/8 C buffalo sauce
    • 1 C shredded Monterey jack cheese
    • 1/8 C blue cheese crumbles
    • 1 can (12.5-ounce) Swanson® Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained
    • 8 8-inch flour tortillas
    • coarse Kosher salt

    Preheat the oven to 350°F.

    Filling

    In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and buffalo sauce. Mix well. Stir in the Monterey jack cheese, blue cheese crumbles and chicken; mix well.

    Stuffed

    Place 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture down the center of each tortilla and roll up. If needed, microwave the tortillas for about 30 seconds to make them soft and pliable enough to roll. Place on a baking sheet. Spray the taquitos with cooking spray, then sprinkle with coarse salt.

    Rolling

    Bake in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with blue cheese dressing for dipping, if desired.

    Ready to Bake

    NOTE: These definitely needed more of a kick. Maybe a little more buffalo sauce. Perhaps a few dashes of hot sauce. Maybe a bit more blue cheese. And while I like the 8″ tortilla, I really think the smaller ones would be better.  They would be crisper. And as my pal Sandra would say … I like crunchy!

    Hummus

    Done 2

    There’s been a lot of dust. There’s been a lot of noise. Beautiful work done, but filthy, dirty, hungry people are standing around and wondering if I have lost my senses by not feeding us soon enough. You know, that look the polar bears give the zoo keepers when they enter their habitats – ‘I hope you brought me food. If you didn’t, I think I may just eat you instead.’

    Dinner is still a while off. You wanted help AND you want dinner? Hmmm … I am good, even magical perhaps, but being drafted as a dust and noise making assistant AND making dinner at the same time is a feat even I cannot achieve!

    I need something to be munched on while I shower and degrunge myself. Please, sit, relax, munch, have a drink, munch, a smoke, munch …

    Fortunately for me, I had the wherewithal to whip up a batch of hummus and pita chips in the morning while tea kettles were whistling and coffee makers were dripping.

    So simple! Everything goes into the bowl of a food processor. Whirl. Pulse. Whirl. Pulse. Scrape. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Done.

    So, dear polar bear, munch away, you don’t get to eat the zoo keeper! At least not today!

    • 1 15.5 oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained well
    • 1 6 oz. container Greek plain yogurt
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • juice of 1/2 a lemon
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/4 t pepper
    • 1/4 C olive oil
    • sprinkle of sweet paprika

    NOTE: You can use regular, plain yogurt, but then you should drain it. I use a coffee filter in a strainer and let the liquid leach out.

    Chick peas draining

    Everything goes into the bowl of a food processor, except the olive oil. Pulse until smooth.

    Drizzle in olive oil. Pulse until combined and smooth. Adjust lemon, salt and pepper to your liking.

    Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika, some pita bread or pita chips, maybe olives, a big glass of wine and you’re ready to forget the day!

    NOTE: Start with the above measurements and adjust the salt, pepper and lemon to your liking.

    Homemade Cheez-It Crackers

    Ready to serve

    This post is pretty much part two of … So You Had a Bad Day …

    When the chips are down, the loves in my life reach for chocolatey things. Me? I reach for Cheez-Its. And I reach for them. And I reach for them. And I reach for them. And suddenly the box is empty. My mood is not necessarily better, still have the stink of a bad day, but now I have Cheez-It guilt in the mix. I have simply filled myself with faux cheesey goodness. however, if you pair those Cheez-Its with a big ole glass of bourbon on the rocks, whatever bad day I have had melts away, even with the Cheez-It guilt. Either that or I am in a cheesy, bourbon fog and it doesn’t seem to matter.

    But, let’s face it, as delicious as store-bought Cheez-Its are, they can’t possibly be good for you, and really, isn’t that practically the point? So, an entire BOX of them has to be super bad for you. And after having lost 70 pounds, I simply cannot justify the caloric intake. Not that I have ever dared to look at the nutrition label on the box. I shudder at the mere thought of that.

    Now, in comes my love of making homemade versions of things so easily purchased in a supermarket … ketchup,  tater tots, magic shell, to name a few. I’m not quite sure if it’s my childlike (notice I said childLIKE and not childISH) sense of curiosity, the fits of giggles this seems to bring to my lovies, or getting Ernie to lower and shake her head in disbelief.

    Actually, her reaction when I told her about the Cheez-It project was … “Why? Why? Why? I’ll buy you a big box of Cheez-Its! Why are you doing this to yourself AGAIN?” My response was, and always is, “Oh, come on, it will be a snap. What could go wrong?” “Did you learn nothing from the jellies disaster?” So I had one, maybe two of these homemade adventures that went pear-shaped. Most of them were great, certainly I would do most of them again and again.

    Whichever of those reasons it is, when America’s Test Kitchen made Cheez-Its, I knew this was a recipe whose time had come to my kitchen. I expected this to be a gigantic project and a gigantic pain in my tushy, and perhaps a gigantic flop, but surprisingly it came together quite nicely and easily. The hardest part was not eating EVERY.SINGLE.ONE before they could be shared over a Drink, watching the sun set! Share-schmare! let’s be honest here, the hardest part was not eating them all as they were cooling on the baking sheets!

    • 3 T boiling water
    • 1 T annatto seeds, coarsely ground
    • 6 oz (1 1/2 C) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
    • 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 1/2 t salt
    • 1/2 t black pepper
    • 1/2 C plus 2 T all-purpose flour
    • 2 T cornstarch

    NOTE: The first go round I grated the cheese myself. this was fine. But the second time, I had a lot of baking to do in a very short period of time and went with grated cheese in a bag. Stop booing out there, I can hear you, ya know. I ran a knife trough it to make it finer and this actually worked out better than my grating it.

    Annato seeds

    In a heatproof bowl, stir together the water and annatto seeds. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, then pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the seeds and save the (now orange) liquid. Let the liquid cool to room temperature.

    Seeds draining

    NOTE: I had to make these twice. SIGH. The first time, 3 tablespoons of water did not produce 2 tablespoons of annatto water. The second time, I used 4 tablespoons of water and ended up with enough for 2 tablespoons.

    NOTE: The annatto seeds are what make the crackers orange. If you cannot find annatto seeds in your local market, Amazon carries them.

    In mixer

    Add the cheese, butter, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture comes together and starts to stick to the sides of the bowl, about 30 seconds.

    Add the flour and cornstarch, beating until incorporated – the mixture should look like coarse sand. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved liquid the annatto seeds steeped in and mix just until the dough starts to come together. (If the dough seems too dry, you can add up to 1 tablespoon of additional plain water to bring it together.)

    Dough

    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

    Heat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

    rolling

     

    On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle with a thickness of 1/16-inch.

    NOTE: I am not a very good dough roller outer type person. I’m sure it’s just fear and loathing in New York, but this was easy to roll out, although how you get to 1/16″ is beyond me. No tape measures, just guess. Though I did look at a ruler to get an idea, so the guessing was a bit easier.

    Cutting

    Using a pastry cutter (or if you don’t have one, a pizza cutter or sharp knife will work) cut the dough into 1-inch wide strips, then cut 1-inch squares from those strips.

    NOTE: The pastry cutter will give you the ruffled edge Cheez-It’s have.

    Cut

    Transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheets – you can pack them in pretty tightly, they don’t spread very much at all.

    Poking holes

    Now for the most boring and tedious part, using a wooden skewer, and using the flat end, poke a hole in the center of each dough square. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

    NOTE: I used a fine sea salt, and probably a wee bit more than 1/2 a teaspoon.

    Bake the crackers until the edges just begin to turn gold brown, about 18-20 minutes. Allow the crackers to cool completely on the baking sheets. I thought these were best on the day I made them and 1 day later, but they’ll keep in an airtight container for 3 days (like they’ll last that long!).

    NOTE: And now for the reason they had to be done twice. 18-20 minutes was far too long. I set the timer for 18 and one tray was cinders, the other WAY too dark and un-Cheez-It looking. Might have been the size I cut them, might have been the thickness I rolled them out to, whatever it was I had to do them again. So watch! The second batch took les time. I started watching at 13 minutes, and they probably took about 15 or 16 minutes.

    Mini New York Cheesecakes

    Done 3

    Okay. I want to make dessert. I want to make a yummy dessert. No, strike that, I want to make a really great, turn someone into putty in your hands, yummy dessert. Wait, but it has to travel well and be easy to make. (Not asking for too much, am I?) The downside? There’s just two of us and how much dessert does anyone really want left over. And throwing away dessert is not an option.

    Enter small batch baking and the genius of Christina over at Dessert for Two. She is my go-to site for this sort of thing. These Mini New York Style Cheesecakes were not just good … they were delicious … they were phenomenal. They were so simple to make, they can be thrown together at any short notice.

    You know a recipe is successful when someone looks across the table at you, grinning from ear to ear, and the only word that could be mustered is ‘WOW’. And, yes, after that reaction, I will make these for you again and again.

    I may experiment a little and instead of the sauce Christina made, cherries, or blueberries, or … well, the possibilities are endless!

    This recipe makes 4 mini cheesecakes, using a regular cupcake pan.

    • 6 ozs cream cheese, softened
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/4 C + 2 T sugar
    • 1/2 t vanilla
    • 1/2 t lemon juice
    • 4 Nilla wafers (or other small cookies)

    For the sauce:

    • ¼ C sour cream
    • 2 T brown sugar

    Preheat oven to 375.

    Add 4 paper cupcake liners to a cupcake/muffin pan.

    Cookie

    Drop a cookie in each liner, flat side down.

    NOTE: I used a cookie and a half. The Nilla wafer doesn’t quite fill the entire bottom, and I’m a crusty kind of gal (no comments). I also thought that a few smashed graham crackers with butter might work.

    Ingredients

    In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat very well until combined.

    NOTE: You are going to look at this batter and think it’s just not going to be enough or too much, but it’s the perfect amount!

    Ready to Bake

    Divide the mixture between the cups and bake for 15 minutes.

    Baked

    Let cakes cool completely, then refrigerate at least 4 hours.

    NOTE: They’re a bit puffy when they come out, but as they cool they fall a bit.

    Topping

    When ready to serve, stir together the sour cream and brown sugar and pour on top of each cake.

    NOTE: I zested a bit of lemon on top of each just to make them look pretty – not that they lasted long enough to be seen as pretty. Also, I removed them from the paper liners before serving. Good thing too! Can’t have anyone sitting at the table LICKING paper cupcake liners!

    Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Tart

    I saw this somewhere, I know not where, so if I have slighted you, mea culpa.

    This is great with cocktails – oh, it would be so lovely with a glass of bourbon, sitting outside, watching the sunset. It was quite good, huddled against the rain with a glass of wine.

    It’s really easy to put together. I imagine it would be great with apples as well. Oh, or cherries! I used a Kyocera handheld mandoline to slice the pears. I think they may have been a touch bit too thin, so I overlapped them to make them seem thicker. You don’t want to use more than one pear or make the slices to thick or the puff pastry will become soggy.

    • 1 x 220g sheet of ready-made all butter puff pastry
    • 1 large sweet pear, peeled and very thinly sliced
    • 1/4 C blue cheese, cut or crumbled into pieces about the size of a hazelnut
    • 1/4 C (scant) walnut halves
    • 3 T salted butter

    NOTE: I used a Bosc pear. I used a sweeter blue cheese as opposed to a more savory one. Use your judgment with the walnuts. You’d like one in every bite! Same with the blue cheese. I used slightly more than the 1/4 cup. Can’t help myself.

    Preheat oven to 375

    Using a sharp knife, score a line around the edge of the pastry sheet about 1 inch from the edge, be careful not to cut all the way through the dough.

    Keeping inside the scoring line you just made, arrange the pear slices in one layer on top of the pastry. It may seem as though there isn’t enough pear there and you may want to add a lot more – DON’T. Hold your ground! Noting worse than soggy puff pastry!

    Scatter the bits of blue cheese evenly over the pears, followed by the walnut halves. Dot the pieces the tart with bits of the salted butter.

    Place in the oven and bake for 12 – 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked through and the cheese melted. Serve hot or warm.

    NOTE: Is wonderful alone with drinks or with a salad for lunch. Either way, this will be making many appearances in my kitchen!

    Vidalia Onion & Bacon Pie

    One of my favorite features of the Sunday New York Daily News is Relish Magazine. The cooking sections in the New York area papers have become seriously lacking, so when Relish came along a number of years ago, it was a welcome addition.

    I don’t remember if I saw this recipe on their website or in the magazine, but I knew instantly that this was something that needed to be made.

    It’s a little preparation bogged down, but the end result is certainly worth the time. A friend of mine made this as well, but the bacon on only half as there is a vegetarian in the house. Though my non-red meat eating sister will tell you bacon doesn’t count. It is its own food group.

    I have already been thinking of different twists on this and know I will come back to it again and again.

    Crust:

    • Cooking spray
    • 1/2  C cornmeal
    • 1/2  C all-purpose flour
    • 1  t baking powder
    • 1/2  t salt
    • 1 egg
    • 2  T butter
    • 2 to 4  T ice water

    NOTE: The crust needed something more. Maybe a little more salt. Maybe a little sugar. Oh, maybe a kick of cayenne. But the cornmeal crust was wonderful. Perfect for filling with tomatoes and mozzarella and basil.

    Filling:

    • 1  T butter
    • 3  medium Vidalia or sweet onions, slivered
    • 2  eggs
    • 1/2  C half-and-half
    • 1/2  t salt
    • 1/4  t freshly ground black pepper, plus more for top
    • 1  C (4-ounces) shredded white Cheddar cheese
    • 1/2  C corn kernels, fresh or frozen
    • 4  slices thick, smoky-style bacon, cooked and chopped

    NOTE: FOUR? Only FOUR? Now, you know that would never do! I cheated, I used a a couple more.  I silvered the onions by cutting each in half and the thinly slicing them. Cutting through the pie, the slivers are too long and difficult to cut while slicing and eating. Next time maybe the slivers need to be cut a bit – most likely AFTER caramelizing them.

    To prepare crust, coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with cooking spray

    Place cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a pastry cutter blade; pulse to combine. Add egg and butter; pulse until mixed. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a dough ball forms. This will form a sticky mass of dough. Press into pan. If the dough is too sticky, add a little cornmeal.

    NOTE:  I used nearly 2 tablespoons of water to form a ball. But when I took it out of the food processor it was really sticky. Instead of putting the blade back in and getting the sticky mess back into the bowl, I sprinkled cornmeal over the top and that kept the dough from sticking to my hands.

    Preheat oven to 350F.

    To prepare filling, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Drain if necessary.

    NOTE: And – purely with an eye toward waste not want not  – I cooked the onions in the bacon fat.  I did still add the butter in – can you have enough butter or bacon? I don’t think so either!

    Combine eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk well. On bottom of pie, sprinkle half the shredded cheese. Top with corn kernels,  onions and bacon.

    Pour egg mixture over top. Top with remaining cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

    Bake 40 minutes, until top is set and browned.

    NOTES: Before baking, I sprinkled the top with chopped scallions. Be careful not to over bake. The cheese gets a little too dense if it gets too brown. I think this would be nice with leeks as well.

    This is great as a side dish for grilled chicken, alone with a big salad … or just by itself because you cannot stop eating it and are VERY impressed with your own creation!