Monday, March 30, 2009

Petition for Better Food Regulations

Hi everyone!

My friend Alex just launched an online petition to defeat House Bill HR875. I want all my friends to sign it! Go to to learn more and sign the petition. House Bill HR875 will change our food laws to hinder the local farmer and make it harder to produce and buy organic foods and buy fresh, local produce at farmers markets.

Here is a link to his blog for more information -

Please let your friends know about this House Bill and pass this petition on!! This is such an important issue so please post the petition in your blogs.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wow. Just wow!

I was reading Cooking with Rosie when I came across a recipe that made me drool. It is a recipe for Capellini con Prosciutto e Mascarpone. I knew I had to make it for dinner this week. Well, I couldn't wait until later this week...I made it tonight. Oh. My. God. It was a bowl of perfection. Sean gave it a 4 out of 4 stars. Miss Agnes ate a HUGE bowl full.

The recipe includes on a few simple ingredients but the outcome is perfection. I added a couple of things to the recipe. I threw in about 1/2 clove minced garlic and a couple handfuls of fresh spring peas. YUM!!

Capellini con Prosciutto e Mascarpone
160 g capellini or angel hair pasta (about 4 bunches)
3.5 tbsp butter
1 small or medium onion, finely chopped
100 g prosciutto cotto or cooked ham, finely chopped
250 g (2 3/4 cup) mascarpone

salt to taste

1. Bring to boil a medium pot of salted water but don't add the capellini yet (they cook quickly).
2. In another medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat and add the chopped prosciutto and onion. Let gently simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Place a medium heat-proof bowl over the cooking prosciutto-onion mixture and add the mascarpone. Using a spoon, gently stir the cheese until it is melted. (I put my bowl over a separate small pot of simmering water).

4. The mascarpone will take a few minutes to melt, but it will still be cool to touch. Don't be tempted to heat in the microwave because it will be heated through once the hot, drained pasta is added.
5. Once the mascarpone has melted, cook the capellini pasta for a few minutes and then drain well. I threw the peas in with the pasta.
Miss Agnes stirring the peas. She loves to help me cook!
6. Add the pasta and prosciutto-onion mixture to the mascarpone and stir until well blended.
7. SERVE IMMEDIATELY before it starts to cool down. Garnish with parmesan (if desired) and fresh chopped herbs.

Thanks Rosie!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Daring Bakers - March ~ Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I followed the recipe for the pasta and Béchamel sauce. We were given the option to use whatever fillings we wanted so I made an artichoke & sausage lasagna that my family loves. I don't make it very often so I thought this was the perfect time! Plus, as you can see in the pasta pictures it was a cold and rainy Pacific NW day, which is perfect for lasagna.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches. Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick. The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm).

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

It was SO hard but I am really glad I made the pasta. I'm not sure I would do it again but it was really fun!


Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

My lasagna recipe I used.

Lasagne coi Carciofi
(Lasagne with Artichokes and Béchamel Sauce)

1-pound whole milk mozzarella cheese (preferably fresh) or 4 cups pre-shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh spinach pasta sheets
1-pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups stemmed and sliced white mushrooms
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar (12 ounces) roasted red peppers, well drained, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 can (13 ¾ ounces) artichoke bottom or heats, drained and cut into ½ inch pieces.
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 recipe béchamel sauce
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 350°

1. In a large skillet, crumble the sausage and cook over medium-high heat, for about 8 minutes, until browned. Drain well. Transfer the sausage to a double layer of paper towels and press out the excess fat. Wipe out the skillet.
2. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the roasted peppers, artichokes, sausage, and basil; season with salt and pepper. Remover from the heat. Transfer the mixture to a colander and drain off all the excess liquid. Cover and set aside.
3. Prepare the béchamel sauce.
4. Lightly oil a 13x9x2 inch rectangular baking dish.
5. Spread ½ cup of the béchamel sauce over the bottom of the dish. Arrange one-third of the noodles over the sauce, spreading evenly to cover. Top with half the sausage and vegetable mixture; sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella and 1/3 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Arrange another layer of noodles over the cheese, and then top with the remaining sausage mixture, 1-cup mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Arrange remaining noodles on top. Spread with the remaining béchamel sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups mozzarella and 1/3 Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the top. Sprinkle with parsley.
6. Place baking dish on a sturdy rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips. Back for 45-50 minutes, until the top is browned and the filling is bubbly.
7. To serve, let the lasagne rest, covered (I loosely put foil over it so the top doesn’t get soggy), for 5 minutes before cutting.

Serves 9-12

This lasagna is so freaking good. The artichokes, Béchamel, all works so well together! YUM!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Kitchen, My World - Ireland

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Well, it is a few days late but better late than never! Guess what we had for dinner? That's right we had corned beef and cabbage. Now, let me stop you before you say "But corned beef and cabbage isn't even Irish!". Guess What? You're wrong! It is an Irish dish. It may not be a very popular dish in Ireland but it is most certainly an Irish dish. I did some research on this because I was tired of people informing me it wasn't Irish. I figured the tradition had to start somewhere so I decided to find out the answer. I found a great article written by Megan O. Steintrager. The entire article can be found at Epicurious.

Here are some highlights from her article~

Americans still think we live on corned beef and cabbage over here," says Irish cookbook author and teacher Darina Allen.

In fact, the dish that's synonymous with St. Patrick's Day and all things Irish in the U.S. is so rarely eaten in Ireland—for the holiday or otherwise—that some people wonder if it's actually Irish. In Irish Country Cooking, Malachi McCormick says he likes corned beef, but then adds: "But our national dish? No, it's a New World dish!" Furthermore, thanks to the many awful versions served in bars in the U.S.—and washed down with plastic cups of green beer—this one-pot meal is often reviled by Irish Americans and Irish-for-a-Day Americans or, at the very least, relegated to a sloshy once-a-year tradition.

So let's set a few things straight: First, corned beef and cabbage is most definitely Irish. Second, when properly made it's "delicious," says Allen Third, with the current multicontinent trend of chefs looking to the past for inspiration coupled with a craze among food-lovers for all things cured, this briny classic is poised for a comeback.
Although corned beef is "almost a forgotten flavor in Ireland," according to Allen it was once an extremely popular and important food for all classes. To "corn" something is simply to preserve it in a salty brine (the term corn refers to the coarse grains of salt used for curing). In the days before refrigeration, corning was essential for storing meat, especially from large animals like cows. Historically, beef that was slaughtered and corned before the winter was served with the first fresh spring cabbage to break the Lenten fast on Easter.

Corned beef has always been associated with Cork City, because, Allen explains, "that was the provisioning port for boats before they crossed the Atlantic." In fact, between the 1680s and 1825, corning beef was Cork City's most important industry. The meat was exported to Britain, continental Europe, and as far away as Newfoundland and the West Indies.

These days in Ireland, corned beef is still most associated with County Cork, where Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery School and the Ballymaloe House and restaurant started by Allen's mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen, are based. Corned beef is sold at the English Market, a huge covered market in Cork City, and is also available at the Farmgate Café within the market—Allen says Ballymaloe House also serves it occasionally for lunch. "So there are people who eat it all the time."

But even in Cork, Allen says, corned beef "seems to be a flavor that a lot of older people enjoy more than younger people." Why, then, has corned beef dwindled in popularity? "The Irish economy is very, very strong, and with that comes changes in people's diets," she says. Yet for Irish immigrants, many of whom fled their famine-stricken homeland during the heyday of corned beef, the dish remained important. "The immigrants brought it with them and it became sort of like a cult food," says Allen. "I think what happens sometimes when people immigrate is life stands still. Their memories of a country, and of the traditions, stay as it was when they left."

But with so many chefs looking to the past for inspiration, corned beef could be poised for a comeback in its country of origin. "[Irish] chefs are serving a lot of peasant foods and highlighting them again," says Allen. D.I.Y. fever could also play a role in corned beef's return to the Irish table. "Over here, just as over on your side [of the Atlantic], a lot of younger people are getting involved in curing their own bacons and hams and things again, making sausages and salamis," says Allen, who runs a series of "forgotten skills" courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School, teaching students how to keep chickens, make homemade sausages, build a smokehouse, and so forth.

So there you have it. If you are Irish, Irish-America, or just wish you were Irish enjoy your corned beef and cabbage! Here is our St. Patrick's Day dinner!

Now, if I could only go to Ballymaloe Cooking School!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans” ~ John Lennon

I have been so busy the past couple of months I haven't been able to post a proper entry. When I am this swamped it really feels like life is just passing me by and I don't get to enjoy it. I need to learn how to slow down.

In the past couple of months I have been diagnosed with lumbar spinal canal stenosis with scoliosis (my best friend has promised me a blnged out Hoveround should I need one), I accepted a job as a cake decorating instructor, I have been having cake demos to get people signed up for my classes, I have made a bunch of cakes for clients, I have been worrying about the different baking and cooking groups I belong to, and then Monday was told I have strep! Nice.

My doctor told me on Monday that I need to take it easy this week. She wants me lounging on the couch, watching bad tv, and taking naps. Sounds perfect except I haven't been able to do it. I just can't relax. It's like if I relax and take a nap I may miss something. I don't know what I would miss but I don't want to miss it...okay!

I am on some serious pain meds right now because of my back (and the strep throat. OUCH!) so I am not sure if this post is going to make much sense. I hope I don't come back to read it and I am discussing all of my deepest, darkest secrets...or worse I am discussing all of my friends deepest. darkest secrets! ***insert evil laugh***

What are your favorite ways to relax and take it easy? Do you have a way of slowing things down?

P.S. If you live in the Portland metro area and want to learn cake decorating let me know. I would love to give you all the info for the classes.

P.S.S. See P.S. above. I can't even write a blog post without working! ☺

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Daring Bakers - February ~ Chocolate Valentino & Vanilla Ice Cream

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This months challenge was really a challenge! We had decided to go to the coast for St. Valentine's Day to stay at a friends groovy beach house so I decided to bake the cake there. It is always harder to bake in a kitchen you aren't used to but this was just silly! The oven cooked at a much higher temperature, I couldn't find an electric mixer, and there was a storm moving in...yep, I using the weather as an excuse! But even with all my excuses this was a yummy dessert. At one point Agnes was licking her plate!

We love this beach house so much. We would be there every weekend if we could. Here are a couple shots of the cute little kitchen ~

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Dharm's Ice Cream Recipe
Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Recipe comes from the Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)

1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.
4 large egg yolks
75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}
5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat)
{you can easily increase your cream's fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted - cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed. Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.

1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthways. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse
Lift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.
2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy. 3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time
4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.
5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container. Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)
By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker)

My cake was more like a giant brownie but that is okay with me. I LOVE brownies. I served it with the vanilla ice cream and a homemade raspberry hot fudge sauce.

Even though I had a few troubles with putting this cake together I would bake in this kitchen everyday if I could! The beach house is a truly magical place