August 31, 2011

Homemade Italian Meatballs

I often dream of taking a trip to Tuscany, or Rome, or anywhere in Italy.  I think it would be so fantastic to sit at a street side cafe sipping red wine, eating cheese, warm crunchy bread and fresh pasta made by some wonderful little old Italian woman, or handsome Italian man, I'm not picky.  It doesn't help that my friend Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow has been posting incredible photos of her recent adventure in Roma.  Tanna is obviously very talented in so many ways and her photography skills will not disappoint. 

August 29, 2011

No. 35 - Pear Crumb Pie

After a week that included an earthquake and a hurricane, I'm happy to report we're still here and have no major problems. Do you think we should move further away from Washington, D.C.?  It has been interesting but I'm glad to get back to normal and my normal weekend includes making a pie! 
I'm getting into the mood for fall and found a bunch of wonderful ripe pears. I've always loved pears but had never made a pear pie.  Fresh fruit and flaky crust were made for each other.  This pie was sweet, juicy and yum!  If you find yourself with extra pears this year, give this easy pie a try!

August 26, 2011

Garden to Table - Our summer garden in pictures

We're very happy with the success of our garden this year.  Each year it gets a little better and we try a few new things.  I didn't get in the garden as much to do the digging, weeding and planting this year, but I did pick and cook a lot!  So to change things up a little on this Friday in late August, I have posted photos we both (traveling husband and I) took throughout the summer.  If hurricane Irene comes close to the DC area, we may not have much left after the weekend.  So before it's gone ... enjoy the colors!

August 24, 2011

Chocolate Birthday Cake

You know yesterday was a strange day.  I had several things happen for the first time ever.  One event you may have heard of was the earthquake.  The epicenter is about 15 miles from my office in Spotsylvania County Virginia, a few miles from Fredericksburg.  I was standing in the front office talking to a co-worker when the building started to shake.  When it didn't stop shaking, and started to shake harder, we knew it wasn't the air conditioner or someone moving furniture.  It takes a few seconds to realize what is really happening.  It was very dramatic and intense and for a brief moment I wondered if someone had bombed our little town.  My boss ran into the front office telling everyone to evacuate the building that we were having an earthquake.  We knew it must have been an earthquake, but it's almost like it wasn't real.  It was shocking in a way. 

August 22, 2011

No. 34 - Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

This wasn't the only pie I made this weekend.  But it is by far the best.  I tried to develop a recipe for an orange cream pie but it ended up almost tasteless so abandoned that particular pursuit.  I've had this recipe for Sugar Cream Pie in the pile for a long time.  I knew I'd need a quick, simple, delicious, heirloom recipe to pull out one day.  Yesterday was that day.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, the simple pies of often better than those that take all day to make.

August 19, 2011

Zucchini Bread

Happy Friday my friends!  It's time for another episode of our 'garden-to-table' feature!  You know zucchini had to make more than one appearance on SRFD.  We love zucchini at our house.  We grill it, saute it with tomatoes and onions, we put it in salads and we put it in our quick bread.  I'm looking at recipes for zucchini lasagna too so you may see it again!  The garden is still putting out plenty of fresh vegetables so we'll keep using them any way we can.

August 17, 2011

Homemade Marinara & Cheese Ravioli

I've been in a saucy mood lately.  You know, in the mood to make sauce!  Since our garden is bursting with tomatoes it only made sense to make a fresh marinara.  This means it's time for another installment of our 'garden-to-table' feature! 

I gathered Roma tomatoes for a few days and ended up with somewhere between 35 and 40 fruits.  I picked some fresh basil, set aside a big onion, fresh garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oregano.  At the end I also add some red wine and tomato paste (not pictured).

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Add the whole tomatoes and cook for 1 minute (parboil a/k/a partially boiled).  Drain in a colander and allow tomatoes to cool for a minute while preparing the other ingredients.

Chop the onion, garlic and fresh basil.

Peel the drained parboiled tomatoes and discard skins.
Place the peeled tomatoes in a blender and blend until smooth.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent.

Add the blended tomatoes to the pot with the onions.
Add the sugar ...

... throw in the oregano...

... add the chopped fresh basil ...

... and the salt and pepper.  Stir until combined and simmer for about 2 hours.  Then add a 6-ounce can of tomato paste and about 1/2 cup red wine as needed to thin the sauce. 
In blog world, I jumped right from making the sauce to making homemade ravioli.  But in real time, I made the sauce the day before and refrigerated it until ready to use.  Just pretend it all happened seamlessly :)

I did however, really make homemade ravioli which was a first for me.  It was much easier than I thought and just as delicious as I hoped.  For the filling you will need salt, pepper, cinnamon, eggs, grated Romano cheese, fresh Italian parsley and ricotta cheese.
First stir the filling ingredients together.  Mix the ricotta cheese, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
Lightly whisk the eggs.
And add them to the ricotta.

Chop the parsley.
Add the Romano and mix it all together.  Cover and refrigerate while preparing the pasta.

You'll use salt, eggs, warm water and white unbleached flour for the pasta dough.
Sift the flour and salt together on a large board or counter top.

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs.  Using your hands break the yolks and beat eggs slightly.  Combine the eggs and flour together adding enough warm water to make a stiff dough.

Knead the dough until smooth.  Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Cut the dough in half and roll out one piece on a floured surface until thin as possible. 
Drop spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart all over the rolled out dough.
Roll out the other half of the dough and cover the other sheet with the ricotta dollops.

Using your fingers, gently press the dough between each dab of filling to seal.  Cut ravioli into squares with a zig-zag pastry cutter or sharp knife.  Allow the ravioli to dry for one hour before cooking.

Drop ravioli into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until dough is tender.

Remove cooked ravioli from pot with a slotted spoon and drain well.

Serve ravioli with your favorite sauce or this delicious homemade marinara!

Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving.

Something about making it totally from scratch is magical.  I appreciate every single bite and am amazed that it actually tastes great!  Go figure :)

Homemade Marinara Sauce
35-40 fresh Roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
fresh ground pepper
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine

Parboil or blanch and peel the tomatoes.  Mix the tomatoes in a blender until pureed.  Set aside.  In a large sauce pot heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until limp.  Add the tomato puree, basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper.  Simmer uncovered for about two hours.  Add the tomato paste and wine and stir until well blended.  Bring to a simmer and serve with your favorite pasta or freeze for later use.

Homemade Ravioli
(adapted from a recipe on
1 lb. ricotta cheese (drained if needed)
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat left parsley, minced
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper

Mix together all filling ingredients, cover and refrigerate while preparing the pasta dough.

3 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup warm water

Sift the flour and salt together.  Place flour mixture on a board or counter top, making a well in the center of the flour.  Add the eggs to the flour well and using your hands, beat eggs slightly.  Combine the eggs and flour together.  Gradually add enough warm water to make a stiff dough.  Knead dough until smooth.  Cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Cut the dough in half and roll each half on a floured board until very thin.  Drop teaspoonfuls of filling about 1 1/2 inches apart all over the rolled dough.  Place the other half of the rolled dough over the dabs of filling mixtures.  Using your fingers, gently press between each dab of filling to seal.  Cut ravioli into squares with a zig-zag pastry cutter or a very sharp knife.  Allow the ravioli to dry one hour before cooking.  Drop ravioli into boiling salted water and cook for about 10-15 minutes.  I cooked mine in three batches so the ravioli was not over crowded.  Remove cooked ravioli from the pot carefully with a large slotted spoon and drain well.  Serve with your favorite sauce and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.


Now wasn't that fun! 
I think I would like to get a pasta attachment for my new Kitchen Aid Mixer.  Cooking is a creative blast!  Hope you have some fun in the kitchen this week. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!


August 15, 2011

No. 33 - Marbled Cream Cheese Pie

Sweet, creamy, smooth cream cheese with a little tang and a rich chocolate ribbon.  Yum.  If you like cheesecake you're going to like pie number 33 on our list. 
Can you believe the weekend is gone already?  I can't.  I look forward to Monday only because I know I'm going to post a pie - not because I get to go back to work.   I'm sure you understand.

August 12, 2011

Cuban Sandwich

It's Friday!  Yeah!  I'm ready for a weekend.  We hope to do some kayaking now that the temperatures are under control.  I also plan to spend some time in the kitchen dishing up some more recipes for the 'garden to table' feature.  We're still covered up with tomatoes and have begun to carry bags with us everywhere we go.  I take them to work, my husband carries them to work, I took some when I got a hair cut and if you lived next door, I'd give you some too! 

August 10, 2011

Secret's in the BBQ sauce

Have you ever seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes? It's one of my favorites and I never seem to get tired of the tale of Idgie, Ruth, Evelyn and Tawanda.  Tawanda especially speaks to me :) Idgie and Ruth own a restaurant named The Whistlestop Cafe and serve fantastic barbecue to their neighbors, hired hands and travelers alike. One of the scenes describes why the BBQ is so delicious when Sipsey declares "the secret's in the sauce!"

August 8, 2011

No. 32 - German Chocolate Pie

For more than 20 years my husband worked in radio and TV news. He was blessed to work with some of the most dedicated, fun and talented people in the industry. He still enjoys many lasting friendships from those early days and one such favorite 'radio star' is Beth Green. Beth is a lovely person inside and out, and she's also a talented entertainer, seamstress, blogger, singer (she sang at our wedding almost 26th years ago), and apparently she's a pretty good cook! Beth also reads SRFD and was kind enough to share this German Chocolate Pie recipe with me.

August 5, 2011

Saving room for Ice Cream

Peach Ice Cream

Today I have the answer to one of life's most important questions.  Should I, or should I not, eat ice cream?  The answer is yes - you should eat ice cream!  If someone offers you a bowl of ice cream, say yes!  If you've had 'one of those days' and nothing seems to be going right, eat ice cream.  Ice cream really can  make everything right in the world again.  You know I'm exaggerating and generalizing a bit but some things were created just to be enjoyed.  Ice cream is one of those creamy delights that almost everyone loves.  Name one person that doesn't like ice cream!  I thought so ... I don't know any either.

August 3, 2011

Grilled Corn, Roasted Pepper & Black Bean Salsa

 I love a versatile recipe.  There are so many uses for a dish like this and who would have thought it was packed with so much flavor!  We weren't prepared for this salsa to be that good.  Really good.  Tasty.  Really, really delish.  Yum!  I think you got it - this salsa rocks.  This is another one of those recipes I'll make again and again and can't wait to have people over so I can try it out at a party.  We would also be happy to bring this to a party if someone wants to invite us over.  Hint hint.

August 1, 2011

No. 31 - Key Lime Pie

Key lime pie is a summer classic.  We usually sample a little Key Lime pie each year while on vacation at Sanibel Island.  We didn't go to Florida this year and we didn't want to miss our annual tart treat.  My son called and asked if I would make a pie for his friend's birthday.  Being a nice mom I said yes, what's one more pie!  He requested Key Lime pie and I am so glad he did.  I knew I couldn't give him the pie I made to blog because I wouldn't give him one already sliced ... with a slice or two missing.  So I made two!  Problem solved, everybody gets pie at our house!

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