{A Meal to Kick Off a New Year}

Pasta

Last night, Jeff and I got a little ambitious. You see, we had gotten new Kitchen Aid meat grinder and pasta roller/cutter attachments for Christmas and in our excitement, we decided to make one epic meal: homemade pork sausage in a red sauce and fresh angel hair pasta. And to top it all off, fresh homemade french bread. I mean, why not right? Jeff got home about 4:30 and said he was already pretty hungry, so we decided to begin all of this at 5 with the thought of eating about 6 or so. And what time did we eat dinner? 8. It was one darn delicious meal, I must say, but lesson learned: when you’re making new things for the first time, maybe focus on learning how to make one new item instead of all new items.

That being said, if you’re up for it, I’d love to take you with me on the epic culinary adventure we had last night. It wasn’t perfect, and it was definitely messy (who needs more counter space?? Raising my hand for sure…), but the labor of love was totally worth it.

Let’s begin with the heart of the meal: the pasta. You may want a glass of wine for this (or maybe a few!) to help prepare you.

Ready? Okay, first things first, we used the Kitchen Aid dough hook, pasta roller, and angel hair pasta cutter attachments to assist with making the pasta. After making and kneading the dough (see recipe below), you have to roll it out through the attachment to get it to the right consistency before cutting. This seemed simple enough: place the dough through the roller on low a few times then gradually make it thinner. Except the dough kept folding on itself, causing us to start over from scratch a few times. It was really helpful to have two people during this step to help hold the stretched out dough, especially if you have a teensy kitchen like we do.

Rolling Pasta

Rolled Pasta

While you change the attachments, you need to set the dough on a really really well floured surface. Or, like us, you’ll have to scrap the first batch when all of the dough sticks to the counter…. When we had finally mastered the process (but hey, it was the first time after all!), it was time to cut the dough. Our dough must have still been a bit too thick because it didn’t quite cut through the pasta completely, but it was good enough to throw in the boiling water. And at this point, a lump of pasta would have been fine!

Cut Pasta

Since the pasta is so fresh, it only needs to cook for about 2-3 minutes. Then, just strain like you would normally and serve.

Pasta

Easy, right? Ha. Despite being a bit lumpy and labor intensive, the pasta noodles were freaking amazing. The flavor wasn’t that much different from regular pasta, but the softness and freshness of the noodles was just unparalleled. Practice makes perfect, right?

Basic Egg Pasta Recipe

Makes 1 1/4 lbs dough

Recipe from Kitchen Aid

Print recipe!

Ingredients:

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon water

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Steps:

Place eggs, water, flour, and salt in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater. Turn to speed 2 and mix 30 seconds.

Exchange flat beater for dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and knead for 2 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Let dough rest for 20 minutes. Divide dough into 4 pieces before processing with Pasta Sheet attachment.

Set adjustment knob on pasta sheet rollet at 1. Turn mixer speed to 2 and feed flattened piece of dough into rollers to knead. Fold dough in half and repeat. Repeat process several times, until dough is smooth and pliable and covers the width of the roller.

Change feed setting to 3 and feed dough through rollers again. Continue to increase roller setting until desired dough thickness is reached.

Exchange pasta sheet roller for pasta cutter attachment. Feed flattened sheets of dough through cutter.

Add 2 teaspoons of salt to 6 quarts boiling water. Gradually add pasta and continue to book at a boil until pasta is al dente. Stir occasionally to prevent uneven cooking. Cook for about 2-5 minutes, depending on thickness.

Stay tuned for Part II of the dinner tomorrow: the homemade sausage. 

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{Vegetable Pasta}

Vegetable Pasta

After a long, fun weekend of overeating, I decided I needed something a bit healthier to get me back on track for the start of a new week. Plus, I didn’t do quite as well as I had hoped eating all of my vegetables this week, so this was my last attempt to use as much as possible before my new box came. I think I managed to use a portion of almost every vegetable in either the pasta or the salad I made to go along with it–hopefully this is a trend I can keep up with the rest of the week!

In case you’re interested, here’s what we got in this week’s box: Broccoli, Carrots, Vine Ripened Organic Heirloom Tomatoes, Organic Romaine Lettuce, Blue Lake Green Beans, Spinach, Fresno Chile’s, Jalapeno Peppers, Red Beets, Vine Ripened Strawberries, Fuji Apples, Joi Choi- Red Bok Choy, and Bilko Cabbage. Looks like I’m making some stir fry this week!

Like pretty much everything I make, this pasta was simple to make and can easily be altered to fit whatever you have on hand. All you really need to do is boil some pasta, sauté some vegetables in olive oil, combine the two together, and you’re done! I made sure I made extras for to take for lunch the next day too which worked out well.

Vegetables

Here’s the recipe:

Vegetable Pasta
Serves 2

Print recipe!

Ingredients:

4oz your choice pasta (I mixed whole wheat penne and spaghetti noodles cause I’m cool like that)
1 squash, sliced
1 cup green beans, halved
2 cups chard, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 marinated artichoke hearts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Steps:

Cook pasta according to directions.

While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a medium sized pan. Add green beans, squash, and garlic and cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring often.

Add chard, artichoke hearts, salt, and pepper, and cook for about another 5 minutes.

Combine with pasta and enjoy!

{Easy Make Ahead Lasagna}

Lasagna

Jeff and I are still adjusting to our new hectic schedules, so we’ve probably been eating out much more than I’d like to admit (Why are there so many good places to eat in this town?) So this week, I was trying to think of an easy meal that I could make ahead and freeze single portions for an easy “take-out” lunch and dinner. The answer? Spinach Lasagna!

For Christmas last year, my mom gave me a really nice cookbook called “Get Cooking” by Mollie Katzen with “150 simple recipes to get you started in the kitchen,” perfect for beginning cooks or just anyone with limited time needing quick and easy recipes. Katzen’s lasagna recipe was just what I was looking for:

“Nothing needs to be precooked in this easy vegetarian lasagna. So it’s more like a DIY project, quickly assembled by stacking uncooked lasagna noodles, store-bought sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and fresh baby spinach. Magically, all this raw stuff bakes itself into good, honest lasagna.”

Now that’s my kind of recipe! Truth be told, I followed exactly zero of the measurements in this recipe in true “DIY” style, and it was pretty easy to eyeball. I used an 8×8 baking pan and when all was said and done, it made about 6 good sized servings of lasagna. After letting it cool, I placed each lasagna slice into a freezer baggie and froze to eat another time.

Here’s what you need:

1 jar tomato sauce

1 package lasagna noodles (I ended up using about a 1/3 of the package)

1 small container ricotta cheese

A few good handfuls of fresh baby spinach

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated  parmesan cheese.

And here’s the steps:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spread a generous amount of tomato sauce into the bottom of the baking pan and spread it around. Cover the sauce with a single layer of noodles, edges touching (you can break some, if necessary).

3. Drop sp0onfuls of ricotta cheese (about 1.2 the container) over the noodles. Spoon, and lightly spread, more tomato sauce over the cheese. Layer a handful or two of spinach, pressing it into the sauce. Finally, sprinkle half of the mozzarella on top of the spinach.

4. Place another single layer of noodles on top of the mozzarella then cover with the rest of the ricotta. Spoon more sauce over the cheese, spreading it around. Layer on another handful or two of spinach, pressing it down, and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top.

5. Make a final layer of noodles on top of the spinach, and spread more tomato sauce on top.

6. Cover your pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.

7. Remove (but save) the foil and then sprinkle the top of the lasagna with the parmesan, and return pan to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 15-29 minutes, or until golden brown.

8. Remove the pan from the oven and cover it with the foil again. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving (or freezing).

Enjoy!

What dishes do you make ahead to stop you from eating out?

{Back to Work Lunches Part V}

Pesto Pasta

Welcome to the last day of our back to work lunches feature!

Thanks for letting me indulge this week–hopefully you’ve gotten some useful ideas about how to make simple yet creative lunches to take to work/school. Our last lunch this week is pesto pasta and a spinach salad, an easy way to kick off the weekend in a somewhat healthy fashion. I’m heading home to visit family this weekend and I know a lot of eating will definitely be involved!

I love making homemade pesto, but the ingredients are a bit pricey for me to make too often (why are pine nuts so gosh darn expensive?), so this recipe features store bought pesto. In my opinion, most pestos vary quite a bit in taste, so you have to play around with different store bought brands till you find one that suits your own tastes. I just cooked a bit of the pasta I had left over from the pasta salad, added the pesto and a bit of feta cheese, and I was done!

One of my favorite things about bringing salad for lunch is taking my salad dressing along with me in this jar. It’s the perfect size and completely spill proof. I often bring almond butter or ketchup or mustard in it as well.

Dressing Jar

Plus, it contains my favorite salad dressing: peach vinegar from Whole Foods and fresh olive oil from SLO!

This spinach salad contains only 5 ingredients: spinach (bet you could’ve figured that out!), cherry tomatoes, red onion, walnuts, and feta cheese.

Spinach Salad

So there you have it, a whole week’s worth of lunches. Do you think we can keep it up?