IMG_6239

Food Friday: White Bean, Bacon, Kale, Butternut Squash Soup

I should really come up with a shorter name for this one, but nothing really does it justice.  It’s essentially my pasta-less take on a minestrone.

IMG_6239

Back in August when that super cute I-could-squeeze-those-cheeks-for-days nephew of ours was born, we offered to make some freezable meals for my sister and brother-in-law.  Any one who’s been on the receiving end of that offer is often met with lasagna or a casserole.  And not saying those are awesome and equally appreciated, but there’s only so much of that you can take!

We brainstormed and figured instead of making one ginormous dish that they’d eat about 1/3 of before the rest went bad, we’d make a couple of smaller portions of some other things.  One of which was this soup which turned out to be a big hit.  So last week, when we were coming up with what to make for our next door neighbors who just had a baby, we decided to make it again.  It’s easy, simple, super healthy, and…. well let’s just share it with you shall we?

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • chicken stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 slices of thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Kale, 3-4 leaves, washed, de-stemed, and broken into salad-size mouth-manageable pieces
  • 3 tbsp olive oil or just use the bacon fat because bacon people
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. white wine, optional (not recommended if cooking for someone who is pregnant or nursing since alcohol doesn’t cook off as much as people think)

IMG_6234

Directions:

  1. Heat bacon pieces over low-medium heat in a large stock pot until desired crunchiness.  Pour off the fat or… use to cook the veggies in Step 2.
  2. Add the onions, celery, and squash and saute until onions are translucent and the squash is starting to soften.
  3. Add the garlic and continue to cook just for another minute.  I do this at the end of the saute time since garlic burns so quickly.
  4. If you’re adding wine, now’s the time to add that and let that cook down a minute.
  5. Add broth, and turn up heat to bring to boil.
  6. Once boiling, lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.
  7. Add kale and beans. Cover for 1 minute to wilt.  Then stir down into the soup and continue to simmer covered for about 5 minutes.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

IMG_3991

Food Friday: Fancy Mac and Cheese

Back this Winter, when we were bundled up taking shelter from Snowmageddon Pt. 2, we came across an episode of Simply Baking on the Food Network.  Never heard of it? Neither had we.  It took all of 5 minutes for me to be officially hooked on her show.  By the end of the episode, I was practically drooling over some of the dishes she’d been making.  One of which she called her “Glam Mac and Cheese.”  And for anyone who’s ever met me, you know how much I love Mac and Cheese. Blue Box, Velveeta, something gourmet like this, or even deep fried… I love it all, so of course we had to make it. Here’s our slightly modified version:

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz Rigatoni
  • 1 pkg pre-chopped pancetta (~1/3 c.)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh Thyme
  • 1/4 c. chopped green onion
  • 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • a pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 c. shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded Gruyere
  • grated Parmesan (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions.  Aim for al dente as it’ll cook a little more in the oven.  Drain and set aside. Note: Toss in a little olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together while you cook the rest of the ingredients.
  3. In a pan, cook pancetta over medium heat until lightly browned.  Toss in thyme and most of the green onion (save a little for sprinkling on top later).  Cook down for another minute or two.
  4. Remove from heat and add to drained pasta.
  5. In medium saucepan, heat butter until melted over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk together to make a rue.  Cook for a minute or two, but do not brown.
  6. Add cream and milk a little at a time, whisking well and allowing mixture to thicken before adding more liquid.
  7. Once all the milk and cream is incorporated and the sauce has thickened, add the cheddar and Gruyere.  Stir in until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth.
  8. Add mustard powder, salt and pepper, and nutmeg.
  9. Add noodle / pancetta mixture. Stir well to make sure noodles are thoroughly coated in the cheese sauce.
  10. Pour into a greased casserole dish.  Sprinkle with panko and Parmesan.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese on top has melted.
  12. Sprinkle with the remaining fresh green onion.  Serve hot!  With wine. :)

 

Kabocha Squash Ravioli w/ Proscuitto Sage and Walnuts | www.nicolelitton.com

Food Friday: Kabocha Ravioli w/ Pancetta, Sage, and Walnuts

Note to self: Come up with a shorter title for this post.

One of the many benefits of our C.S.A. is the fact that it forces us to experiment with different flavors.  Last week, we were given a Kabocha squash among the many other veggies in our loot.  Wondering what the heck that is? We were too. Having since consumed one, I can say it’s a lot like pumpkin.

Anyway, in the spirit of Fall, the mister has been in the mood for a pumpkin or squash ravioli to try.  What more perfect moment than when you’re handed a pumpkin-like squash?  The inspiration for the recipe came mostly from this recipe from Zen Can Cook.  Here’s the Mister’s version:

Kabocha Squash Ravioli w/ Proscuitto Sage and Walnuts | www.nicolelitton.com

Ingredients

  • Pasta Dough – rolled out into sheets for ravioli

*Note: We make a classic egg and flour pasta dough.  We’ve figured out that 1 egg per person ratio is the perfect amount (slightly more than enough) of pasta.

  • A Kabocha squash
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 egg, beaten (sorry… it’s a 1 egg for 4 people recipe, so we halved it for 2)
  • 1/4 C. grated Parmesan, plus some for sprinkling at the end :)
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream
  • fresh Sage leaves
  • walnuts
  • Prosciutto, julienned

 

Directions:

  1. Divide the squash in half and remove the seeds.  Place them open side up on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast in oven at 375 degrees for about an hour and a half until the flesh is soft enough to easily pierce with a dull fork (think baked potato consistency).
  2. Allow the squash to cool and then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh of the squash.  Puree in blender or food processor.  We used our immersion blender after Step 3.
  3. In a medium-sized pot, add 2 Tbsp. butter and brown over medium heat.  When browned, add squash, egg, heavy cream, and grated Parmesan.  Stirring until combined.  Remove from heat.
  4. Now to make your ravioli.  If you have a press or ravioli maker, this part will be easy.  If not (we don’t), we just scooped Tbsp sized amounts of filling onto our dough sheet making sure to evenly space them.  Then we covered them with another sheet of dough, pressed out the air and used our finger to seal the dough around each blob of filling.  Then we used a knife to divide the individual ravioli and used a fork to make the fancy crimped edges.
  5. Pop your ravioli in the freezer for a bit.  You’re supposed to actually freeze them so they don’t fall apart when cooking.  Instead, we kind of just showed them the inside of the freezer as a scare tactic and they held together just fine. Must have been my expert fork crimping skills.
  6. While your ravioli are freezing.  Boil a big pot of water.  Don’t forget to salt your water.
  7. In a pan, brown about 4 Tbsp of butter over medium-low heat.  It sounds like a lot, but this is your sauce.  Toss in some julienned Prosciutto, a couple of Sage leaves, and a handful of walnuts.  Let it sizzle, but don’t let the butter burn.
  8. Toss your ravioli into the pot when the water’s boiling.  It should take about 4 minutes to cook.  You can nibble on the corner of one to make sure they’re done.
  9. Strain and toss into the pan with the butter, sage, and prosciutto.

 

Serve hot covered with an unhealthy amount of Parmesan.

Note: We had a TON of leftover filling, so the next night we just reheated it with a little olive oil and used it as a sauce for some other pasta.  DELICIOUS.

 

Lavender Honey Ice Cream | www.nicolelitton.com

Food Friday: Lavender Honey Ice Cream

One of the many great benefits of having a big wedding are all of the really great gifts your family and friends buy you.  Conveniently, my sister got married last year and until they have a house of their own to store all of their many cool things, I get them. :)  One such item I’ve temporarily borrowed was their ice cream maker.  I’ve always wanted one, but for some reason just never got around to buying one of my own.

It sat in our basement for a couple of months, but I finally broke it out last weekend to try a recipe I’ve been dying to make ever since I saw Its Complicated – Lavender Honey Ice Cream.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c. dried lavender
  • 2/3 c. honey
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Directions:

Combine milk, cream, lavender, salt, and honey in a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until boiling stirring constantly to keep the milk from curdling.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes.  Pour the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove the lavender and return to the saucepan.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they turn a lighter shade of yellow.  Slowly pour in about 1 cup of the hot cream into the egg yolks while whisking constantly.  This tempers the eggs so they don’t just scramble when you combine them with the remainder of the cream mixture.  Now pour the tempered eggs into the remainder of the cream mixture in the saucepan. Heat the saucepan over low-medium heat until the mixture thickens enough to cover the back of a wooden spoon (it’ll be like pudding before it sets).  DO NOT BOIL.  Once the custard has thickened, pour into a bowl set in an ice bath.  Cover and put in the fridge until cooled through (at least 3 hours).

Freeze custard in an ice cream maker.  Flavor should last 1-2 weeks in an air tight container in the freezer.

Guinness and Oysters

Food Friday: What We Ate (Galway Edition)

Galway is a little fishing village located on the West Coast of Ireland and happens to be one of my favorite Irish cities.  For anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dublin for a day, I highly recommend hopping a bus and heading out to the west coast.  We made a day trip out of it considering there’s not a ton to do there apart from pub-hopping and shopping.

One of the things I really missed out on the last time I was there was the food. I honestly don’t even remember a meal there from any of my visits until now.  So this time, we were going to do it right.  Dinner at The King’s Head.  One of (if not THE) oldest pubs in the area dating back over 800 years.  And what is Galway known for?

Guinness and Oysters

Fresh oysters.  Of course Steven couldn’t resist the Guinness and Oysters deal on the menu.  While the pairing doesn’t exactly enhance the flavors, pretty much everything in Ireland is served with a Guinness.

As for me? Yeah I don’t do oysters.  It’s a texture thing.  I stuck with the seemingly safe choice of some authentic Irish lamb stew.

IMG_1328A mistake I wouldn’t make twice if we ever dine again at the King’s Head.  I dumped a ton of salt and pepper into this thing and it still lacked any flavor.  It was like vegetables and lambed served in water.  Terrible.  But this time the Guinness did help.  That and a substantial serving of tradition brown bread.  I really need to learn how to make some myself.