Rosemary’s Banana Bread

I saw a meme on Facebook joking about how everyone is baking banana bread during Quarantine.  But you know what? It’s no joking matter… banana bread is a DELICIOUS way to start the day and a VERY practical way to use up those three sad-looking bananas that have been sitting on the counter all week!

(I really thought I was going to eat a banana as a snack but it turns out I prefer oreos.)

This recipe comes from my mother-in-law, Rosemary, who gave us a cute little box filled with copies of her favorite recipes several years ago. This box is also the source of Aunt Eileen’s Curry and many other delicious breads, sides and desserts that haven’t made their way onto the blog yet.

Rosemary’s Banana Bread comes together in about 10 minutes.  I’ll stop typing this intro now before it takes more time to read the recipe than it does to make it!

Rosemary’s Banana Bread

You will need…
3 overripe Bananas
2 Eggs
2 cups (240g) All-Purpose Flour
¾ cup (149g) Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoons Baking Soda

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add the eggs and beat. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine until a thick batter forms. Transfer batter to a greased loaf pan and bake for 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of loaf comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan on a rack until cool enough to handle, then remove from pan and allow the bread to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy banana bread for breakfast or in place of an oreo when you’re looking for a mid-afternoon snack.  😊

Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower

Matt first made Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower in February and we knew immediately that this would become one of our go-to dinners. Now, during Quarantine, we’ve made this at least six times and, guess what? It’s what’s for dinner TONIGHT!! Yum.

This dish is SO different from the average “baked pasta.” The panko-encrusted shells are flavored with lemon, garlic and Fontina cheese. The insides of the shells harbor pockets of creamy ricotta and the occasional salty zing of a caper. Tender cauliflower florets melt into the space between shells and make this meal feel lighter and healthier (or at least less unhealthy!). The entire dish is completed with a topping of panko, parsley and pecorino and baked in the oven until golden brown.

For the past 12 weeks Matt and I have been dependent on online grocery availability and we’ve had to get creative with some ingredient substitutions. Can’t find Fontina? Try Gruyère, Emmental or Gouda.  No shells available in the pasta aisle? Cavatappi and Pipe Rigate work well, too. And that time our online shopper delivered PURPLE cauliflower instead of the normal white stuff? No problem… the dish was just a little more colorful that time around!

We typically get one dinner plus three servings of lunch out of each recipe. This is great as a leftover and, according to Ina’s note in the original recipe, can also be made ahead by assembling the dish, refrigerating, and baking just before serving.

Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower

From Cooking for Jeffrey, adapted slightly

You will need…
Salt and Pepper
1 lb. Pasta Shells
Olive Oil
1 head Cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
3 tablespoons Sage, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons Capers, drained
3 cloves Garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Lemon Zest
¼ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
10 oz. Fontina Val d’Aosta Cheese, grated
1 cup Ricotta
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
6 tablespoons Pecorino Cheese, grated
2 tablespoons minced Parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and transfer it to a very large mixing bowl.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan, then add half the cauliflower in a single layer. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and starting to brown. Place the cooked cauliflower in the bowl with the pasta before sautéing the remaining cauliflower and adding to the pasta.

Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper to the bowl with the pasta and cauliflower. Stir gently, then add the grated Fontina cheese and stir again.

Transfer half the pasta mixture to a large casserole dish. Drop spoonfuls of ricotta over top of the pasta, then cover with the remaining pasta mixture.

Combine the panko, parsley, grated Pecorino and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle topping evenly over the pasta. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the topping is browned and the edges of the pasta are beginning to get crusty. Serve immediately and enjoy!

OMG BLT Pizza

Iron Hill Brewery has been one of my favorite restaurants ever since Matt and I moved within walking distance to the micro-brewery’s Media location twelve years ago.  I have happy memories of sitting in Iron Hill’s outdoor dining area in June 2008 and sipping fresh beer (a wheat beer at that time, I’m sure) while watching hundreds of runners pass by on State Street in the Media 5 Mile race.

Back then I felt sorry for the runners (why run when you can sit outside drinking at Iron Hill??), but in recent years I’ve become one of those runners! Now I always make a point of looking at the happy spectators in Iron Hill’s outdoor dining area when I race by and Matt and I always have dinner at Iron Hill when the race is over.

One of my go-to entrees is the OMG BLT sandwich, a flavorful, drippy, wonderful combination of bacon, pepperoni, balsamic-dressed arugula, tomato, mozzarella and pesto mayo on a warm and crusty ciabatta.  After I became pregnant last summer I was no longer able to partake in the OMG BLT (though I did consider ordering it without pepperoni on more than one occasion!) and it was one of the dinners I was most looking forward to after the baby was born.

It’s even on Iron Hill’s temporary takeout menu during the COVID-19 shutdown. But we’re super cautious and haven’t ordered any takeout. Good thing we can make our own!

Matt, baby K and I have still not visited Iron Hill since her birth in early March, but that hasn’t stopped me from craving an OMG BLT.  I contemplated trying to make a copycat version of the sandwich at home, but we’ve only been doing online grocery shopping and good ciabatta is hard to come by.  (With my luck our Whole Foods shopper would helpfully substitute in a rock-hard gluten free, vegan, fair trade dinner roll!) Matt and I make our own pizza all the time so I happily agreed when Matt suggested that we turn my craving into a pizza.

I bet Kenzie wishes she could eat this.

OMG BLT Pizza

Our pizza version of Iron Hill Brewery’s OMG BLT sandwich.

You will need…
6-8 oz. bacon, cut into small pieces
2.5 oz. pepperoni, quartered if it’s the big 3-4 in. diameter slices from Whole Foods
2 Roma Tomatoes
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese
2-3 spoonfuls Basil Pesto
1-2 tablespoon Mayonnaise
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
3-4 handfuls Arugula
1 lb. Pizza Dough

Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 550°F. Cook the bacon bits over medium heat until brown and crispy, then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Thinly slice the tomatoes and place them on a paper towel to remove the excess liquid. Shred the mozzarella cheese.

Make the pesto mayo by combining the pesto and mayo in a small bowl.  If you want to get fancy and use a squeeze bottle, add a little olive oil to the pesto mayo until it is thin enough to funnel into a squeeze bottle. (If you’re using the squeeze bottle, make sure your pesto is very well blended otherwise chunks of nuts and garlic will jam up the nozzle!)

Whisk together 1 teaspoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized bowl. Add the arugula and toss well to coat.

Stretch the pizza dough into a 14-16” disc (whatever size fits your stone). Remove the stone from the oven and place the dough on the hot stone. Working quickly, cover the dough with the mozzarella, then the bacon, pepperoni and tomato slices. Bake the pizza until the crust is starting to brown on the edges, approximately 8-12 minutes.

Remove the cooked pizza from the oven and transfer from the stone to a peel. (We do this outside the oven rather than trying to peel it off the stone IN the oven.)  Spoon or squeeze the pesto mayo over top of the pizza, then top with the dressed arugula.  Slice and serve!


I’m Still Here!

I haven’t been blogging but I’ve been busy! Here are some of the blog-worthy events of the past 6 months:

I ran a half marathon!!!!

I raced the Hallowed Half Marathon in Cape May, NJ on October 27th. Yup, after years of saying I was satisfied focusing on speeding up my 5K time, I finally did a 13.1 mile race. I had a fantastic time training last fall and learned that I love long runs. (Long runs being 9-11 miles. None of those crazy marathon-training runs for me, thankyouverymuch!) The weather on the day of the race was less than ideal (the Nor’Easter’s 50+ mph wind gusts caused another half in Wilmington, DE to be cancelled!) and I know I can run faster in different conditions. I am confident there will be another half marathon sometime in my future.

So windy. Also, pretzel. ❤️

Matt and I adventured in Las Vegas!

But actually the areas OUTSIDE of Sin City were the best part. We bookended our annual work trip with weekend sightseeing in the Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon.  This trip definitely warrants its own post, so I’ll stop writing about it here.

We’ve been eating so much good food.

Just before Thanksgiving we ran out of propane, which meant no stovetop cooking. For some reason it took 2+ weeks to get a refill, so we resorted to lots of slowcooker-ing and microwave-ing during that time.  When the miracle of boiling water finally returned to our home Matt and I rebounded by making a different pasta dish every night for a whole week. All recipes we’d never made before, like Rigatoni with Short Rib Ragu, Orecchiette with Escarole and White Beans, Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, and Rotini with Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Peas. Yes.

We’ve also made a slew of blog-worthy pizzas and other foods. I always make a point of taking a photo but have apparently lost the urge to type out the recipes here.  Which is too bad, because I love referring to my blogged recipes when it’s time to brainstorm for our weekly meals!

All the trails, all the mud.

On New Year’s Day I ran down my driveway in my trail shoes. Matt picked me up 9 miles away, muddy and happy. I was thrilled… I always knew there was a way to connect into Ridley Creek State Park from near my neighborhood but I’d never done it before.  I realized that if I took a more efficient route on my next run I could make it even further. That evening I consulted multiple maps and plotted out the following route:

Enter from RCSP Yellow Trail. Right on RED/WHITE (BLUE) Ignore Blue Stay RED when White splits to Right. Left on WHITE Cross Road, Left on PINK, Right at Split Follow Pink to White merge, Right on WHITE Continue to Rocky Run SHORT VERSION: Downhill RED/WHITE RED Left- WHITE Road- PINK Right at Pink Loop Split Left- PINK/WHITE Right- WHITE

It all made sense to me at the time, don’t worry! On January 6th I set out on an epic trail run (titled ALL THE TRAILS on Strava if anyone cares) that took me from my house through Ridley Creek State Park, Tyler Arboretum, and the Rocky Run and Darlington Trails of Middletown Township, Delaware County. I crossed streams, squished through ankle deep mud, scrambled up hills, and finally emerged at a trailhead on Darlington Road 10.2 miles later. I loved every mile!

So once again, I’m hooked on trail running! I solidified this by running (and going off course) the Pickle Trail Run as a warm up to February 24th’s 13K Ugly Mudder trail race in Reading, PA. The Ugly Mudder was muddy, snowy, and wet and involved going up and down a mountain multiple times. It was better than that last sentence makes it sound. 😜 Just typing this brief recap of my trail exploits makes me want to plot out my next off-road adventure.

Lots of races, no recaps!

I’ve run fourteen (fourteen!) races since last recapping one on this blog. Check out the list and links to results on my race recaps page. Most memorable, besides the half and Ugly Mudder, were my first-ever race in Florida on 11/3 and a new year’s resolution run at a local brewery with Matt on 12/30. (I won a growler of fresh, delicious Levante IPA. Happy New Year to me!) I also ran a 5K with Piper this morning. We bettered our January time from the same course by 6 seconds. Best moment was when a guy came up to us afterwards and, in the most friendly way possible, exclaimed “What kind of SPANIEL is that??!” A perfect little german shorthaired spanielpointer, of course. 😄

What’s Next?

Well, besides getting my act together to blog about our fabulous Vegas adventures, I’ve got the 10-mile Broad Street Run coming up on May 5th. Piper and I have a Nosework “level 2” (NW2) trial on April 6th that we’re practicing hard for (and praying we make it off the wait list for!), and I’m looking forward to visiting my mom and Piper’s best buddy, Hershey the Chocolate Lab, in Florida later this month. And right this moment I’m going to hit “publish” and then make Shrimp and Grits for dinner with Matt. Cheers!

Recap of 2017, in February (Why not?)

This is my blog and I do what I want. Recently that has meant that I haven’t posted much, but it’s not for lack of subject matter. Tonight I’m attempting to document some of the best things I saw, ate, and did last year. Without further ado, here are my un-blogged thoughts from 2017!

January

OK, I did actually blog about Zion, but no 2017 recap could possibly be complete without mentioning this epic trip. In January Matt and I spent three days exploring Zion canyon in Utah. It snowed and rained 90% of the time but we felt extremely fortunate to have this notoriously overcrowded national park nearly all to ourselves.

The best (yet sadly, unblogged) food that we made in January was a creamy, cheesy buffalo chicken panini. We assembled these rich sandwiches using buffalo chicken dip that we didn’t serve during our New Year’s Day brunch. (We made WAY too much food for brunch!)

February

Continuing on with the panini theme, in February we made insanely delicious short rib paninis with leftover braised short ribs from our Valentine’s Day dinner (recipe). Can you tell we got a panini press for Christmas in 2016?? ☺

February was unusually warm last year. (Actually, I’m typing this on February 15, 2018 after coming inside from running in a t-shirt… it was 64° today! These weird warm winter days are the best.) In February 2017 I sweated my way through the Pickle on the Road 5K in a 66° heatwave, finishing in 24 minutes even. Afterwards Piper, Matt and I relaxed outside and watched a thunderstorm roll in.

March

Piper and I kicked off the month of March with a busy weekend. Piper ran her fastest 5K (at the time) with me on a Saturday morning in 22:43 and then together we participated in a K9 Nosework seminar all day Sunday. We both slept well that night!!

The unblogged food of March was an absolute winner that I really need to make again (and share here!). Pasta e Ceci is an Italian stew of chick peas, pasta, and pancetta and this recipe marked the first time I ever cooked with anchovies. It wasn’t as hard as I imagined it would be and dinner was delicious.

April

In April I upped my running mileage and made it all the way to Sterling Pig Brewery in Media on one particularly epic outing. My 8 mile effort was rewarded with a fresh Snuffler IPA. Cheers! I also participated in four races in April, most notably the Haverford Twilight 5K, in which I bettered my non-downhill 5K personal best by more than 20 seconds (22:54).

In food news, Matt got a smoker in 2016 and he took advantage of April’s weather to smoke a pork shoulder. A BIG pork shoulder. We ate pulled pork sandwiches for a few days before getting more creative, with pork paninis (duh) and the delectable smoked pork and broccoli rabe stromboli pictured above.

May

Matt and I have long had plans to renovate our house’s old sunken living room into a clean, modern dining room and this project finally began in May. Over the course of a week contractors ripped up the dirty white-ish carpet, installed a wet bed, and laid huge tile “planks” that look like wood and match our kitchen floors. More on this project in July.

After a big PR in the Broad Street Run in early May (1:21:28), I was content to reduce my running mileage and relax a little. Matt and I spent our evenings outdoors under our awning, sipping wine and listening to Piper thundering around the yard (she actually sounds like a herd of horses). We cooked countless meals on the grill, including a totally blog-worth steak and provolone calzone with peppers and onions.

June

A busy month. We spent the evening watching jumpers at the Devon Horse Show, sampled wine in a summer rainstorm at our wedding venue on our fourth anniversary, and overhauled our home gym with new paint, switches and outlets, shelves, and a white board. I spend a lot of time in that room so it was a welcome change.

June was also the month that Piper bit a porcupine at the Hunting Camp (!!!!) and, in less exciting wildlife news, she found a tortoise in our yard. Piper’s nose also earned her a pass in the K9 Nosework Odor Recognition Test (ORT) for birch, despite the fact that she had nervous breakdown on the super slippery linoleum floor before the test even began.

Inspired by memories of our honeymoon in St. Lucia, I cooked Caribbean-style chicken roti and I actually made the roti flatbread! That was a lot of work. An easier but equally delicious June meal was Matt’s take on grilled patty melts, with swiss cheese, horseradish sauce and arugula.

July

Dawn at Promised Land State Park

This month marked my favorite sunrise of the year. We were spending July 4th weekend with Matt’s family in the Poconos and Piper woke up at the crack of dawn. Unable to get her to settle back down, I took Pipes for a walk with my GoPro in hand and we arrived at Promised Land lake just as the sun came up over the horizon. I will purposefully wake up this early next time we’re there in the hopes of experiencing this quiet beauty again.

This month I also made a patriotic blueberry pie, hurled very sharp axes into a plywood target in Philadelphia, and supervised while Matt and two delivery men struggled to maneuver our massive and ridiculously heavy new live edge dining table into our house. The new table was step 2 in Operation Dining Room.

Finally, Matt and I spent a relaxing week in Cape May, NJ with his family. We rented bicycles (beach cruisers, complete with baskets!) and had a blast pedaling 20+ miles around the cape. We visited two wineries, multiple breweries, a peanut butter shop, a lighthouse, beaches, and, naturally, a Wawa.

August

Eclipse month! I tried to buy solar glasses but the manufacturer cancelled my order a week before the big day due to supply issues. Boo! Unable to find alternate approved glasses on such short notice, we made pinhole cameras and watched the eclipse in the parking lot at work and then at home in our backyard.

Inspired by all of our Cape May biking, I borrowed my mom’s bike (it doesn’t have a basket but it actually has gears!) and enjoyed exploring the length of the Chester Valley Trail and local roads. My go-to workout was to run the 5 uphill miles to my mom’s house, stop in for a glass of ice water, then bike the 5 downhill miles back home. Speaking of running, in August I raced for the first time since May and earned a blazing new PR of 6:20 in the Downhill Mile.

In other news, the zucchini plant in my garden that hadn’t produced any fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) suddenly started pumping out monster zucchinis in August, Piper honed her underwater retrieving skills in my mom’s pool, and Matt helped me make a towering fruit trifle for the annual YPP. (That’s Young People’s Party, for those of you who’ve made it this far.)

September

Ah, September. We made tons of blog-worth food this month, including cajun shrimp and grits, Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chick Pea Stew that looked just like the magazine picture, and, for the first time ever, HOMEMADE PIZZA DOUGH! I had always been intimidated by any recipe that called for yeast, but I finally bought the correct ingredients, found a not-too-scary-looking dough recipe, and just went for it. Matt and I celebrated our newfound pizza-making prowess by becoming “chefs for a night” for my mom and stepfather. It was a really good meal, if I do say so myself. (Also, the ricotta cheese on that pizza in the background is homemade too! Just a little wetter than I intended.)

Also in September, Piper competed at a mock Nosework trial and I crashed into a car during the vehicle portion of the search. (Don’t worry, she still found the odor, eventually!)

And finally, this month can’t be recapped without mentioned two events that DID make it on the blog: our glorious hike up Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park and my huge new personal best at the Pints in the Square 5K (22:03). What a month!

October

October was defined by races – five of them! – and a work trip that actually took me to the Philadelphia Convention Center for a few days. Usually we exhibit in far away places like Vegas and San Diego, so it was cool to be so close to home. One day I commuted in on the train with my brother (who also works in the family business) and I thoroughly enjoyed watching out the window as we rumbled by the many towns that make up Philadelphia’s Main Line. (I wrote my college thesis on this area and love its history.)

Speaking of the Main Line, my mom’s horse competed at Dressage at Devon this month! She ‘danced’ to a musical freestyle program on October 1st and Piper got to come along and watch. (Piper totally thought that this horse was real and pointed at it for a good 30 seconds before bashfully realizing her mistake.)

October was not a big month for cooking, but we did use our newfound dough-making ability to craft homemade spinach, sausage and ricotta strombolis. We should really make those again sometime.

November

Matt and I traveled to Palm Beach for a long weekend in early November. We rented bikes (of course), ate tons of good food, and relaxed by the pool for hours on end. I get to return to Florida next month on a quick 3-day trip with my mom and I’m already looking forward to it!

In November I perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe and Matt and I kept making more pizza. You might even say that pizza is the new panini around here. I ran off the calories from all of that wonderful food with three races, including one 5K with Piper in a new Piper personal best time of 22:38.

December

Commence Dining Room Phase 3! We rented scaffolding from Home Depot and Matt and my brother spent an entire day running electrical wires and installing new light fixtures in the dining room and front hall. (Aren’t they cool!!??) In the week leading up the Christmas, Matt worked for hours repairing and painting the walls and installing our (still unfinished) floating credenzas on either side of the room. Eventually they will have wraparound wood tops that complement the table. I also need to design a gallery art wall for the huge empty wall that you can’t see in the above photo. So many details! Someday I’ll post the finished room and it will be awesome.

Piper spent several afternoons at work with me in December (she is well-behaved as long as she can look out her window) and I single-handedly made pan-roasted chicken with harissa chickpeas for Matt for dinner. We joke that usually I am just his sous-chef. We also binge-watched Star Wars movies (IV, V, VI, VII) in preparation for going out to the movies on New Year’s Eve to watch The Last Jedi. We later caught up on episodes I-III in early January.

December was a huge month for running, with two new personal bests in the same weekend. I finished the 2 mile Jingle Elf Run in 14:04 and the 5 mile Brian’s Run in 37:24. All in all, I ended 2017 with 1,314 miles and new PRs in the mile, 2 mile, 5K, 5 mile, and 10 mile. 😄

January

OK, January wasn’t part of 2017 but I’m on a roll. On New Year’s Day 2018 I slept in (Star Wars the night before and all) and ate waffles for breakfast before remembering that I had wanted to enter a 5K that started at 10AM. That wasn’t happening, but luckily there was another nearby race that didn’t start until noon. I bundled up in all of my new Christmas running gear and braved a “feels like” temperature of -1°F for the duration of Stanley’s Dream 5K. I finished first in my age group and won a pair of neon yellow gloves which I promptly layered over the two pairs I was already wearing.

Two weeks later I raced on a much nicer day, this time with Piper at the Pickle Run in Ridley Creek State Park. Pickle Runs are prediction runs where you state your time in advance, then race without a watch.  The winner is the runner who finished closest to his or her predicted time. To make a long story short, I predicted an aggressive 22:30, but then the course was cut slightly short due to ice and Piper and I finished in 22:05! We didn’t win any prediction prize, but even with the short course I’m pretty sure that was our new fastest time together.  Piper and I will run our second Pickle Run this Saturday.

Last but not least, Matt and I received a gigantic enameled cast iron skillet for Christmas (thanks Mom!) and we’ve been having a lot of fun trying new recipes with it. So far we’ve made breakfast strata, tamale pie, and, my favorite, skillet pizza with roast beef, gravy, horseradish and arugula.

In January we also had a work trip to Las Vegas, I ran a trail race in Utah, and we spent a long weekend in Moab, but that’s a story for a different post. Until then, thanks for reading and happy new year! 😄

Pumpkin Stew baked IN the Pumpkin!

A small pie pumpkin has been sitting in my kitchen awaiting its destiny for about a week. I purchased it at Giant with no plan or recipe in mind. I knew only that I wanted to cook or serve food IN the pumpkin. I pictured a stew of sorts, with sausage and white beans (two of my favorite foods), plus fresh sage and, of course, pumpkin. I scoured the internet in search of such a meal and came up empty. How has no one made this feast before??

Real recipe or not, I was determined to give my lonely little pumpkin a purpose. I found two separate recipes – one for a stew, another for how to bake a different dish in a pumpkin – and combined them into my own pumpkin creation. I sent a cell phone picture of the finished dish to my mom just before digging in and she texted back “You need to put this in your blog!!” so here ya go, Mom, this one’s for you. Continue reading

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta

SNOW DAY!!!! I am currently sitting in my cozy living room drinking a giant cup of tea while the winds of Winter Storm Stella (aka #blizzard2017) howl outside. Knowing that we would be home from work today, Matt and I decided in advance that we’d make a big dinner last night that could serve double-duty as an excellent lunch after shoveling today. We settled on a riff of Ina Garten’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel, a warm, stick-to-your-ribs pasta dish with a creamy, rich sauce.

Our riff originates from the first time we made this: we didn’t have the heavy cream that Ina called for but we DID have ricotta cheese so we subbed that in. The ricotta melted into the sausage and pasta and tasted amazing. So good, in fact, that we never even considered going back to heavy cream for last night’s meal.

A note about the pasta for this dish… we made it ourselves!! Matt and I got a pasta machine last winter and we make fresh pasta all the time. Like, multiple times a week. Good thing I’m a runner and need my carbs!!! Homemade pasta tastes fresher and has a chewier, more complex texture than the boxed stuff. For our pasta we combine semolina flour, AP flour, eggs, salt and water and the Philips machine does the rest. It’s really crazy to watch it pump fresh pasta right out the front of the machine. I really should have taken a video but here are some photos. I never knew fresh pasta could be so easy to make!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey; serves 4 Continue reading

When the weather outside is frightful, make peppermint patties!

I woke up last Saturday morning and looked outside to find every tree branch, pine needle, and berry encased in a layer of wet, glistening ice. The 5K I had planned to run had already been postponed until Sunday, so Matt and I decided that we didn’t need to brave the slick roads and instead would spend the entire day at home baking holiday goodies.

I kicked off the bake-a-thon at 10AM by making blueberry-lemon scones for breakfast.  Matt and I then baked a double batch of sugar cookies before launching into the day’s big project: homemade peppermint patties. The goal was to make enough patties to share with our neighbors and friends, and 12 dozen chocolate-dipped treats later I think we succeeded!

Peppermint patties are surprisingly easy to make. Just combine peppermint extract, softened butter, corn syrup, and lots of confectioners sugar. Form this “dough” into balls and press the balls into discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with melted chocolate and, voila! You now have homemade peppermint patties! If you’re feeling extra creative, add some green food coloring to the filling or sprinkle the freshly-coated patty with chocolate jimmies. (But a note of warning… don’t get so excited about your batch of green-filling-patties that you totally forget to put the peppermint extract in. I might have done that on my fourth and final batch. Sorry to any neighbor who bites into a green one and realizes that it just tastes like buttercream candy instead of peppermint!) 😁

1561-peppermint-patties

Homemade Peppermint Patties
(From Butter With a Side of Bread; makes about 3 dozen patties) Continue reading

Parsley, Arugula and Ricotta Pesto

1504-parsley-pesto-pasta

I love basil pesto, but last week when I needed to make a side dish to bring to a party I decided to try something different. I paged through my America’s Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook and found a recipe for a tasty-sounding pesto with parsley, arugula, and ricotta cheese. I’ve now made this recipe two times in a week and can officially declare it a winner!

Like it’s basil-based cousin, this parsley pesto comes together quickly. Just toast the pine nuts and garlic in a hot skillet, then blend with fresh arugula, parsley, grated Parm, salt and olive oil. Then the best part… stir several spoonfuls of ricotta cheese into the pesto until the sauce is creamy and smooth. Combine with a pound of cooked pasta and you’ll have a bright, fresh, flavorful side that you’ll be proud to share with friends and family.

This pesto tastes extra delicious if you eat it while watching the Eagles crush the Steelers. Go Birds!

This pesto tastes extra delicious if you eat it while watching the Eagles crush the Steelers. Go Birds!

Parsley, Arugula and Ricotta Pesto
(Serves 4-6; from Pasta Revolution)

You will need…
1/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
3 cloves Garlic, toasted
1 cup packed Parsley
1 cup packed Arugula
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
Salt and Pepper
7 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup Whole Milk Ricotta
1 pound Pasta

Directions:
Combine pine nuts, garlic, parsley, arugula, Parmesan, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender. Slowly pour in the olive oil as you blend the mixture for 30-60 seconds. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl and stir in the ricotta until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Before draining the pasta reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Mix several tablespoons of the reserved water into the pesto. Add the pasta and stir well until the pasta is evenly coated with pesto, adding more pasta water if desired. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and enjoy hot or cold.

1479-pesto-pasta

Pizza with Andouille, Kale and Cannellini Beans

Sometimes Matt and I spend hours making a fancy new recipe that seems like it will surely be “blog-worthy.” As we cook I painstakingly photograph each step and Matt waits patiently while I snap shot after shot of the finished dish before we eat. But guess what? Those elaborate, complicated meals don’t always live up to the hype. Sure, the food tastes good, but it’s just not special enough to warrant the time and energy to sort and edit all of those photos, especially if we know that we’d want to significantly tweak the recipe before ever attempting it again.

Other times a delicious recipe catches us totally by surprise. That was the case tonight when I spontaneously decided to combine Cannellini beans, kale and andouille sausage on a pizza. Matt isn’t a huge fan of white beans (or my tendency to try to work them into every meal possible), so he was rather suspicious about the whole idea from the start. I was more optimistic but still didn’t even bother to get my real camera out as I cooked… you’ll have to forgive the iPhone photos but after tasting it we both realized that this pizza was too good not to share!

Andouille Kale Cannellini Pizza

Hidden underneath those layers of spicy andouille sausage, melted mozzarella and wilted kale lies the secret ingredient of this pizza: a garlicky white bean puree.  I whipped up the puree using canned beans, minced garlic and a bit of thyme from my garden, then spread it like pizza sauce all over the uncooked dough. The beans imparted a thicker texture and heartiness to each bite of the finished pizza and complemented the bolder flavors of the kale and andouille perfectly.

Without further ado, here’s how I made tonight’s surprisingly blog-worthy pizza…

Pizza on the peel

Pizza with Andouille, Kale and Cannellini Bean Puree

You will need…
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 – 15 oz. can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves Garlic, minced
6 sprigs Thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped
Salt, to taste
4-5 tablespoons Cornmeal or Semonlina Flour
1 package uncooked Pizza Dough
Small bunch Kale, stems removed and leaves torn into 3-5 inch pieces
8 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
2 Andouille Sausages, fully cooked and sliced 1/8″ thick (we used Trader Joe’s Chicken Andouille tonight)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 490°F. Position the rack 6-8 inches from the top of the oven and place the pizza stone on the rack to warm up. Warm olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then add in the rinsed Cannellini beans. Saute beans for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gently stir in garlic and thyme and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes until garlic is very fragrant. Lightly salt, then transfer the bean mixture to a food processor. Blend until smooth, adding a little more olive oil if the mixture is too thick. Set aside.

Heap the kale leaves in the nonstick skillet you used for the beans. Saute the kale over medium-high heat until the kale is wilted.

Sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza peel then drop the pizza dough ball onto the cornmeal. Knead and spread the dough ball into a 15-17 inch pizza. Carefully remove the hot pizza stone from the oven and place it on a heat resistant surface. Transfer the dough to the stone and shape it into a nice circle the size of the stone.

Working quickly, spoon and spread the white bean puree onto the dough. Next, sprinkle a few handfuls of the shredded cheese over the pizza. Distribute the wilted kale evenly over the pie, leaving a 3/4 inch “margin” for the crust. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the kale and layer the andouille sausage slices over the cheese. Carefully slide the pizza stone back into the hot oven.

Bake the pizza for 8-9 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the edges of the crust are starting to turn golden brown. Keep an eye on the pizza as it cooks… if your oven heats unevenly (like ours does!) rotate the pie with a few minutes left on the cook time.

Remove the pizza from the oven, slice and enjoy!

Cutting the Pizza