Monday, August 31, 2015

40th Surprise Birthday Party and Italian Pasta Night - 2015

Our Annual Italian Pasta Night dinner was held this past Saturday, it was also a combined 40th surprise birthday party for my oldest daughter.  And what a surprise it was, she made all the pasta!  It was a cucina pazzo (crazy kitchen) for a couple of days, but was so worth the time and effort to see 34 people sit down and enjoy a meal that was all homemade.  I had a lot of help from my daughters, nieces and my sister making all this food, without them I could never have done it on my own.

So here it is, Benvenuto! (Welcome), to our Italian Pasta Night Dinner/Birthday Party.
 We were very busy making braciole, meatballs and sauce.
 The birthday girl and my niece Kristin made the Lasagna noodles.
Here comes the 3 pans of lasagna, cheese and sauce.
 The appetizers - Two very large platters of anti pasta, mussels cooked in a white wine and garlic broth with tomatoes done on the grill, and homemade artisan pizzas on the grill. 
Homemade bruschetta, gotta have that on the appetizer table.
 Table set up for the drink bar.
 Next up were the salads - Panzanella, which got eaten before I could take a picture, and a deconstructed Caprese salad with balsamic glaze and a little olive oil.
 The sauces - red for lasagna, vodka and alfredo for the fettuccine - all homemade!
And the birthday girl concocted quite a few bottles of homemade Limoncello.  We also had a huge variety of Italian wines on hand to go with our meal.  Me on the other hand, stayed with the Italian Cream Soda's.  They were delicious by the way, like dessert in a glass, refreshing and not too sweet.
  So the theme I picked was white, blue and yellow for the party.  We couldn't really decorate for a surprise party, because my daughter was here the whole time making pasta and other food.  I tried to keep it simple with a little bit of a Tuscan feel. I used blue delphinium, baby's breath and fresh herbs from my garden for small vases of flowers to use on the tables.  I also had black lanterns, votive cups with white candles, and ran lemon leaves and lemons, all the way down the center of 7 tables that were covered with white tablecloths.  The picture frames have Italian sayings with the English meanings that I set up going down the tables.  Italian torrone candies were also scattered throughout the tables.  I used white china plates and paper lemon decorated napkins with my everyday flatware.
 This is a photo from one end of the table to the other.  Lots of mixed up chairs, but that is all I had to use, so my goal is to have all matching chairs by next year.  Fortunately for me the weather cooperated, it was a beautiful day and a lovely evening.
 San Pellegrino Sparkling Water, plain and flavored.  I also used plunger type canning bottles with chalkboard labels for lemon water.  For dessert I purchased blue, white and lemon decorated paper plates and used yellow plastic forks.
 Oh No, The Big 40!  On the dessert menu for the birthday girl - Italian Rum Birthday Cake.....
Ricotta Cookies, made by my niece Tara, they were so good there are none left!  There were seven dozen, you can't eat just one.....
 and of course a delicious Tiramisu, it was fantastico!
So there is our party, hope you enjoyed all the pictures.  It was such a fun night and everyone had a wonderful time.  There is nothing better than sitting down to a meal with family and friends.  I am already planning for next year!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Herb and Mustard Roasted Potatoes

I have a lot of herbs growing in the garden, I love fresh herbs. There is nothing like the fragrance they throw off just touching them when you walk by.  I mix them in with flowers when I plant them, for that little something you don't expect.  I use many of these in cooking everyday, or clipping and mixing them in floral bouquets, just some ideas for you.

Today I used some of my herbs to make Herb Mustard Roasted Potatoes for dinner, and let me tell you they were fabulous!
  Recipe below.
To print recipe, click on it, highlight and print.
To view photos larger click on them. 

I used gold potatoes instead of white they are a little creamier and not dry.
 Tossed with olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs.
Roast them in the oven at 400 degrees, turn once during cooking.
And they taste even better than they look!
Herb and Mustard Roasted Potatoes

4 large gold potatoes
1/2 large sweet onion
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons course ground mustard (I used Grey Poupon)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash potatoes and pat dry.  Cut the potatoes and onion into bite size pieces and put on a baking sheet. Drizzle on the olive oil, and add the mustard, toss to coat.  Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, minced garlic, parsley and rosemary, toss until all is combined.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, then toss the potatoes, bake for another 25 minutes.  As always, all ovens are different and cooking time may vary, potatoes are done when they are lightly brown on the outside and tender on the inside.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

No Eggs For You! Eggless Pasta

So, I am getting ready for our Annual Italian Pasta Night dinner, in this last week of Summer, and thought I would try some eggless pasta for my son who is vegan.  I have made pasta before, just not eggless pasta.  I played around with a few ingredients and came up with this recipe.  It is a lot of work, but is so worth the time to make it.  I stood for two hours in the kitchen, kneading, rolling and cranking the dough out, then drying it and making little individual bird nests out of them for portion control.  But really, who portion sizes pasta!, only him.  It was pretty easy, except for the standing part, ooohhh, my aching back!
Recipe below.
To print recipe, click on it, highlight and print.
To view pictures in a larger format, click on them.

So I started with a few ingredients and olive oil.  
Here is a neat little trick - I use shelf liner under my cutting board so it stays in place when kneading.  I cut a piece the same size as the board.
 The shelf liner keeps the board steady.
 My hand cranked pasta machine and my wood pasta drying rack.
 I used Bob's Red Mill Semolina flour and Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour.
 The semolina looks like fine ground cornmeal, but it's not.  Dump both flours in a bowl....
 and I whisk them together to combine them.
 When they are combined pour onto the cutting board in a mound.
 Make a well in the center, and start adding little bits of water and fold it in, follow the directions in the recipe carefully.
 It will start to get stringy, just keep adding the water.....
 Until you get this nice smooth ball.  
 Now, I made fettuccine with my dough.  I started out at No. 1 on the pasta machine, and I only went to No. 6 and stopped, 7 is the last number on my knob.  I didn't want my fettuccine paper thin.
  Dust with flour as you roll, so the dough doesn't stick together  You will have a long thin piece of dough when you roll it through on No 6.  I cut mine in half, to make it easier to work with, when rolling it through to cut into shape.
 Cranking it through the machine, and nice perfect strands of fettuccine.
 Drying on the rack.
I made bird nests for portion sizes.  All in all, homemade is always the best!
Homemade Eggless Pasta Dough

2 cups Semolina flour
2 cups Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (may or may not use all of the water)
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a medium bowl, combine the semolina flour and white whole wheat flour together with a whisk. Mound the flour in the center of a large cutting board (or flat surface).  Make a well in the center, start adding water, about a tablespoon at a time, stirring the flour in with your index finger as you go.  The dough will start to become stringy and messy, but try to maintain the shape of the mound and keep mixing in water and pulling the flour up into it.  You may or may not use all the water. Once it starts to form a ball, add the olive oil in and start kneading with the palms of your hands. Take the dough off the board and clean off any scraps of dough. Put the dough back on the board and knead (about 2-3 minutes) until it is smooth and flexible, but not sticky, add small amounts of flour if you need to. Gather into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the dough into 6 pieces.  Keep the extra dough you are not working with, covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the piece of dough you will be working with into a rectangle shape, so it fits in the machine. Dust dough with flour, as well as the pasta machine rollers.  Start out at the widest setting (usually #1 on the machine knob) roll the dough through with one hand and catch it with the other.  Fold the dough in thirds and send it through two more times, folding in thirds each time. Continue to roll the pasta through the machine without folding, adjusting the rollers to the next setting, each time you pass it through to reach your desired thickness.  If the sheets become too big, you can cut them in half, before passing them through the pasta cutting side of the machine, to form your favorite pasta shape.  Drape the pasta strands over the drying rack to dry out a little bit, before you fold it to store it (see NOTE).  If you do not have a rack, dust a baking sheet with flour and lay it out on the baking sheet. This pasta can also be hand cut for lasagna sheets or made into ravioli.  Cook as desired, and top with your favorite sauce or sauces.  This makes 8-10 servings of fresh pasta.

NOTE:  I fold single servings of the pasta around my hand to make bird nests. Line a reseable plastic bag with parchment paper and lay the nests out in a single row, put another piece of parchment on top of the row and make another single row of pasta on top of the paper. Lightly squeeze out any air as you seal the bag.  Put in the refrigerator if you are going to use right away or freeze.  This pasta does freeze well.