Monday, January 23, 2012

Tortellini with Nutty Cream Sauce

{Meatless Monday}

This was the very first recipe I tried out of my new cookbook and it was a keeper!  It was very simple (with frozen Tortellini) and pretty quick to put together.  The thing that took the longest was to shell the walnuts! ; )  We were given a box of walnuts about a year ago and every time I need some, we hurry and shell just enough...but we really should just have a shelling party and get them all done! ; )

I couldn't find a small package of pine nuts at my grocery store, so I just used almonds and walnuts since that is what I had.  It would be even more delicious with the pine nuts, I am sure!  Just more expensive.
 ; )  We really love nuts in our family and we loved it with walnuts and almonds.

 Here's what you'll need for this super simple meal...

1 lb. cheese tortellini or ravioli (I used frozen)
3 T butter
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 T chopped fresh parsley
2 T chopped fresh thyme
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
3 T cream

Cook the tortellini according to directions. I always love the colored tortellini.

 Heat the butter in a large pan until foaming.  Add all nuts and stir for 5 minutes, until golden brown.  Add the parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Beat the ricotta with the cream.  Toss the sauce and pasta together and top with ricotta cream.

I actually just mixed it all in and we really liked it that way.  Serve immediately.  I topped ours with a little more thyme and some shaved Parmesan cheese...because Parmesan cheese makes everything yummier!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homemade Bread Bowls

I love making homemade bread bowls to serve with soups.  I've made them a lot for my family and a couple of times for the teachers at our elementary school for their dinner during Parent/Teacher Conferences.

EVERYONE loves them!  Call me old-fashioned, but I think there is something special about homemade bread.  I grew up with a mother and grandmother that made bread all the time.  I remember coming home to fresh bread and jam.  I remember LOVING my grandmother's WHITE homemade bread...she always offered us a slice when we visited her.  And NOTHING compares to the smell of bread baking in the oven.  I love it and I wish I took the time to do it more often!

I make these bread bowls out of my regular bread recipe that I've always used in my Betty Crocker Cookbook.

I always start my breads by warming the water in a bowl in the microwave.  Then I test it to make sure it is just between warm and hot.  Then I stir in the yeast and sprinkle the sugar over the top and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  This is called "sponging".  It just lets you know that the yeast is working.  That way, if nothing happens (like if your water was too hot and kills the yeast) you can just start over and you've only wasted a little yeast.

Start with:

2 1/4 cup very warm water    ( Heat in pan or microwave.)
2 packages regular or quick acting dry yeast  (I just use 2 T)
3 T sugar

Let sit for 10 minutes.

In large mixing bowl:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 T salt
2 T shortening

Stir and then add yeast mixture.  Add more flour one cup at a time (about 3-3 1/2 cups more) until the dough is SOFT but not terribly sticky.  It has become my opinion (especially when working with whole wheat dough) that softer is always better.  You can always add more flour in the kneading or rolling process...but you cannot take it out!

This is what my dough looks like just after I've mixed it:

Grease a large bowl and place dough in it. Cover with towel or saran wrap and place in a warm area for 40-60 minutes.  And if you are in a rush...30 minutes.

It should look something like this when it is ready:

Now you will form the bread bowls.  I don't bother making huge bread bowls like you get at a restaurant because all that means is a lot of wasted bread!  If you gently cup your hands and then touch your fingertips together--that is the size of dough that I use to make a bread bowl.  (Hope that makes sense! ; )
I do slightly smaller if it is going to be for young children.

I also make them smaller with the understanding that we will re-fill the bowl with a second serving.  So it doesn't have to be huge.

I like to sprinkle cornmeal on my cookie sheet and then place the balls evenly spread out so they have room to rise without touching.

Now, cover these with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 40-45 minutes.  Sometimes, if I am in a rush, they only get about 30 minutes...and it turns out fine too.

They should look like this when they are ready to be cooked:

I bake them at 375* for 20-25 minutes, just until they are golden brown.

Let them cool slightly after you take them out of the oven and then take a small knife and cut a hole in the center of the bowl.

Gently pull out the "lid" with your fingers and pull out as much bread as you want.  (When I do this for company, I pre-cut the holes, but let each guest dig out their own top.)  Fill with whatever delicious soup you desire!  Cream soups work the best since they don't make the bread all soggy with broth.  Cream of Broccoli is the most common one that I serve this way.

So the next time you are making soup, plan a little extra time and make it extra special with some homemade bread bowls.  Your family will love it!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mushroom Risotto

  {Meatless Monday}

This is the first recipe to be posted out of my new cookbook.  It is definitely a keeper.  We loved it.  The recipe called for white wine and though I am not against buying cooking wine, I just didn't want to bother. So I "googled" to find a substitute and one suggestion was Ginger that's what I did!

I have actually never made a risotto before.  It did require a little time standing at the oven stirring in all the liquid...but it was well worth it!

This was the first time I have bought leeks and I really liked them.  The guy at the store told me they are just expensive onions and he thought that regular onions or green onions would be just the same.  So you can try either one of those too.

I couldn't find arborio rice at my grocery store, so I just used my long-grain white rice.  I have since been to Win-Co and bought arborio from their bulk bins, so I will be ready the next time I make this!

Here's what you need:
6 cups (48 oz) vegetable stock
2 cups white wine (I used Ginger Ale)
2 T olive oil
3 T butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used less than one pound of Crimini mushrooms and it was great!)
1 lb. (2 cups) arborio rice
3/4 cup grated parmesan
3 T fresh parsley, chopped
balsamic vinegar and parsley, for garnish (I actually totally forgot this step ; )

Place the stock and wine (ginger ale) in a large saucepan and keep at simmering point on stovetop.

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan.  Add the leek and cook over medium for 5 minutes, until soft and golden.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir for 1-2 minutes until translucent.

1/2 cup hot stock, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding the stock, a little at a time, stirring constantly over medium heat for 20-25 minutes...until the rice is tender and creamy.

So it is up to your preference if you use all the stock or if you need more water at the end.  Just keep adding about 1/2 cup at a time and stir until you like the consistency.  I used all of my stock and probably cooked it about 30 total minutes.  I really liked the sweet aftertaste that the ginger ale created.  It was just yummy!

Stir in the Parmesan and chopped parsley and heat for 1 minute.  Serve immediately, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and topped with more parmesan and parsley, if desired.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Cookbook!

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and has already made a week's worth of progress on all those resolutions! ; )

We had a wonderful Christmas with my parents, my sister and her family, and a long-time family friend. It was very peaceful and relaxing.  And most of was wonderful to have family around and feel like it was a "vacation" without going anywhere!  Seriously. Loved. It.

I was at Barnes and Nobles returning a calendar the other day and I saw this Vegetarian Cookbook.  The thing that really appealed to me was that a HUGE majority of the recipes seemed normal.  They just used normal ingredients.  AND there are multiple pictures per recipe!  I am horrible at trying a new recipe without a picture.  I just don't have any motivation to try anything new without a picture to make it seem delicious or interesting.

There are so many I can't wait to try:

Tortellini with Nutty Herb Sauce
Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
Sweet Potato Ravioli
Potato, Leek, and Spinach Quiche
Vegetable Samosas
Mushroom Risotto
and many, many more!!

I love getting new inspiration and feeling motivated to try new things!  In fact, I think I'm just going to make the list above my menu for this week.  Strap on your seat belts, family...we're going for a ride! ; )  That way, if I can just remember to take pictures every night, I will have six weeks of Meatless Mondays to post!