A Rant on Kindness

kindness

kindness

I was on goodreads last night updating my reading status.

I am reading a book and hopped on to read a few reviews about it.  I frequently do this to get a feel for what I may or may not want to read. I like to get a broader spectrum overall about a book before I invest precious time in reading it.

I may need to stop doing so. I found myself getting a little upset.

I saw many good, but also many negative comments about the book, all the time thinking, how could so many people have such an opposing expanse of thoughts?!!

I continued to read, getting a little upset over how people spit out hatred at each other over opinions,  and then, I continued to ponder….

We are VASTLY different, this world of people. Two of my best friends detest seafood while it is my go-to choice at restaurants.  I love a get-a-way at a cabin on a lake and a cup of early morning coffee sitting in the midst of mountains and pine trees,  while my daughter prefers a high-end hotel with lots of city buzz.

But here is the thing.

We are a diverse set of people. That means what works for me may be repulsive to you. And what you may thrive on, I may be completely disinterested in. And throw in beliefs and opinions and morals, and, have mercy, people can get downright disrespectful and hurtfully mercenary. I have seen people literally tear someone down on a Facebook post for misspelling a word or forgetting a comma in a sentence.  Sharp darts thrown to wound and belittle over nothing.

Why?

I mean, just toss the words Republican or Democrat out in a conversation, and watch people bristle. Oh, and please, for all that’s good and righteous, don’t post these two words on Facebook. People will come out of the woodwork with their teeth and claws extracted to tear…

So what is it that makes the nature of people turn to disrespect so ferociously, especially on social media forums?

Is it the ease of the written word with no expression or tones to caution the pain inflicted?

I read the reviews of the book I was reading and was astounded at the arrogance, the meanness and the fight that ensued on and on. Those I could literally imagine through my iPad screen shouting, pounding their first, or worse – looking disdainfully down on another with the air that they didn’t even matter.  Horrible fights happening over beliefs, opinions and morals in a comment to a complete stranger from perhaps another country…

I see this all the time on restaurant review sites. Remember that your word on a site could be the straw that breaks a restaurateur’s back…or their career or means of living.

And I loved the book.

Negative comments were about style and prose and poetry and that’s fine, if done respectfully. But this just wasn’t the case.  If you don’t like poetic writing, for gosh sakes, don’t read those kinds of books, and don’t accuse the author of being a Satanist. I mean, seriously…fight nicely kids.

I watched a video the other night about a man who blind folded himself and put up a sign asking for a hug. And I was touched when, particularly men, stopped and offered a hug to a complete stranger. It warmed my heart and I wish I could say it is warmed like this from witnessing life on a daily basis.

I think there should be a required course in high school where everyone has to learn about how to be nice.

Because when you are rude, disdainful, condemning and mean, you are really just saying someone else’s life doesn’t matter.  You aren’t operating out of love, and gratefulness and honor for someone else whose story you don’t even know.

And I’ve found out stories about people. And I’ve repented for my initial uneducated judgements. And I am trying to become a better person at living life with other humans. I am not completely innocent of this in life.

Because believe me, I have strong beliefs, and opinions and moral judgments of my own.

I get it.

I just don’t get people not being kind.

Am I alone?

Kindness is free.  And you and I may need it from someone soon.

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Gardening …and Snow

Photo Feb 14, 5 26 53 PM

 

Welcome again to unpredictable Oklahoma weather.

Two weekends ago, Mr. Wonderful and I spent all Saturday in the yard. He made a pretty need DIY composter for us.

DIY Compost bin

The trash can has a hole cut in the lid and bottom and a cut off old broomstick is stuck through it and into the side posts to where it twirls, thus solving the problem of “turning” the compost. He also drilled about fifty 1/4 inch holes around the trash can for ventilation.

Photo Feb 15, 5 21 32 PM

The hinged door, he cut and mounted the hinges and fastener by screwing them into a small piece of wood inside.

I have been planting cool weather plants in the greenhouse mostly but did get over ambitious and started tomato plants and a few flowers like my beloved zinnias.

Photo Feb 25, 12 40 38 PM

Mr. Wonderful also built these awesome raised beds for us. I am very excited about these, as our soil (purchased at Minick Materials here in Oklahoma City) HAS to be an major improvement on our ground garden area with its red clay base.

Photo Feb 14, 5 26 53 PM

It took two TONS of dirt to fill these 4 x 8 foot beds. Can you believe that? Mr. Wonderful can’t either as he trucked them all from front to back yard with a measly wheelbarrow.

And then – within a day.

Photo Feb 25, 12 28 51 PM (1)

We went from 75º to 21º or something….

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I spent some time carrying all my greenhouse trays up a flight of stair to place them on a tarp in our upstairs living room.

Today it’s 48º and sunny. And by Friday, we’re supposed to get another round of snow.

You just never know around here.

 

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Omelet Muffins

Mini Quiche Crustless

Mini Quiche Crustless

I am not a huge breakfast bar, processed-food person, so I am always looking for things I can make ahead and take with me on the fly. These little Omelet Muffins (sometimes called mini frittatas or mini quiche)  are perfect for that and give you a huge punch of protein in the morning along with some veggies added in for an extra plus. And, they are so simple to make!

Photo Jan 30, 10 54 17 PM

I made 2 pans of these this weekend. One I left in the refrigerator, and the other dozen I flash-froze by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. I put them in the freezer for about four hours and then popped them into a gallon baggie so I could remove them easily one at a time and microwave them when I wanted one at a later date.

If you’re watching your waistline, you can actually use a refrigerator egg white product like Egg Beaters (I recommend the Southwest ones!) or if you’re into whole food, just buy organic eggs and whip them up with a bit of milk or almond milk.  Add a sprinkle of cheese on top or leave it off, the possibilities are endless with these!

For the first pan, I sauteed 1/2 pound of turkey breakfast sausage and mixed it in with the eggs along with 1/2 cup of chopped green onions and 1/2 cup of chopped red peppers. The beauty of these little darlings is that you can add anything you want to the mix. Options could include switching the meat for ham or  adding chopped mushrooms, jalapenos for a kick, chopped asparagus or you even bump up the flavor with chopped fresh herbs like thyme, basil or rosemary- anything goes!

For the second pan, I microwaved 4 slices of turkey bacon until crisp, then chopped it into bits and added it along with chopped tomatoes and green onions.  This one was delicious and became my favorite.

Spray a muffin tin and fill each tin half full because when you bake them, they puff up and rise over the top like a souffle.

Let them cook for a minute or two then remove them quickly so they don’t stick to the pan.

mini quiche

My microwave is pretty strong so I only have to remove them from the refrigerator and microwave them for 30 seconds (for two).  From the freezer, I extend that time to one minute. These are great to have on hand for a quick breakfast, or even a late night snack!

Omelet Muffins
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 12 eggs
  • ¼ c. milk or almond milk
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. pepper
TURKEY BACON MUFFINS:
  • 4 slices cooked turkey bacon, chopped
  • ½ c. chopped tomatoes
  • ¼ c. chopped green onions
  • ½ c. shredded swiss cheese (optional)
TURKEY SAUSAGE MUFFINS:
  • ½ pound turkey sausage, browned
  • ½ c. red pepper, chopped
  • ¼ c. green onion, chopped
  • ½ c. shredded swiss cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350º
  2. Beat eggs and milk together with whisk
  3. Add remaining ingredients (pick one of the two options - if making both, double the number of eggs to 24).
  4. Mix well with large spoon then pour into sprayed or lined muffin pan cups filling only half full (i'm not crazy about using the liners)
  5. If using cheese, sprinkle some over each muffin evenly
  6. Bake for 18 minutes or until middles are no longer wet when you stick a fork in the largest one.
  7. Let cook 2 minutes then remove to a platter
  8. Allow to fully cool then store in air tight container in refrigerator

 

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As You Walk Away

Photo Feb 17, 3 36 04 AM

Photo Feb 17, 3 36 04 AM

I watched you walk to your car, a bounce in your step, that cap on your head.

Photo Feb 17, 3 37 00 AM (1)

Don’t you know you’re walking out of my world? A thousand long miles away.

Photo Feb 17, 3 35 59 AM

You go, into your new world, a world of adventure and learning and sweat and possible danger.

And I am bursting with pride, but also a slow sad grief burns its way up from my belly….until it floods my eyes and, my throat hurting, I slowly turn and walk inside to dry my face.

Earlier today I watched as you stood straight with your arms at your side, and raised that snappy salute to that perfect stranger, and pledged to honor and defend your country, and I felt the same pride and pain while all the while knowing it was the right thing for you to do.

Photo Feb 18, 9 40 02 AM

I’d spent a wonderful two full days with you, watching movies, eating your favorite foods and all the things a mother offers in those last days together that mean so much to her and might mean a little bit to you.

Will you miss these things? The bright, brick-red hue of the achiote-spiced chicken you beg me to make, the steam of the crab boil as it is poured onto the newspaper on the kitchen table we’ve dined at so often together, or the comfort of a quilt on a leather chair kicked back while we watch all three Hobbit movies?.

My eyes flicker over my grandma’s Bible on the fireplace hearth as I walk heavily into the living room. Will you make God your own, now that you’re far away from the confines of parental authority?  I am comforted knowing that the one possession you were allowed to take besides your cell phone was that small pocket Bible I saw in your backpack at the swearing-in ceremony.  I saw your fingers caressing the cover as you kept it out and handed us the rest of your modern gadgets to bring home, and my heart soars now remembering it.

I walk slowly up the carpeted stairs and through the upstairs living room where your X-box sits blankly looking up at me, as if it knows it’s finally been bypassed for adulthood, and into your room with its un-made bed.

I think about how early tomorrow morning you will learn how to make crisply-tucked hospital corners on the cold metal bunk that will be your new home and I smile through the wetness of my eyes at what I know will change you for the better. I make the bed and feel the emptiness of the now-neat room. I would give one thousand un-made beds to have you here again.

So do you know as you walk away…

Just how much I love you?

Photo Feb 18, 9 41 46 AM

 

 

 

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The Best Homemade Ravioli Ever

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Ravioli

A few months back, I traveled to Michigan to stay with my Mom for a week who had just had surgery and help cook and clean and generally help Dad with whatever we needed to do to keep her planted on the couch all week.

While I was there, Mr. Wonderful made homemade ravioli.

Without me.

Seriously? I cook all week, every week for the man and he chooses the week that I’m away to make homemade ravioli?

Hmph.

Well, ever since he sent me those gloriously wonderful cell phone messages with photos of his homemade ravioli, I’ve wanted to make them again.

Ravioli_with_pesto_and_tomatoes.JPG
You know, as in, make them again since I would be AROUND to taste them?

So yesterday after church we knocked out a TON of them and they were SO good.

I have been wanting to play around with a ratio of semolina flour to regular flour since we first made pasta. I really like more of a “bite” to my pasta than the regular flour recipes offered and I believe I found the perfect ratio yesterday. Since we were making ravioli, we added in some olive oil to help it be pliable for filling and sealing and I played around with the filling recipe as well which turned out fabulous!

This brand of semolina flour is widely available at most stores and it is what I used.

red Mill Semolina flour

I made a double recipe as well, because if you’re going to go to all that trouble, why not freeze some for later? We laid them out on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and froze them solid then popped them into freezer bags for an easy but delicious meal another night!

I also tried out a new toy I’d ordered, and I can’t tell you how convenient this Ravioli mold turned out to be.
Norpro ravioli mold

It is the perfect width for the noodles that rolled out of our KitchenAid pasta rollers. You can absolutely positively make ravioli without one of these but it’ll be a bit more work.

I just used a large bowl to make my dough in but you can start it on the counter.

Flour eggs pasta dough

I used one cup of semolina flour and two cups of all-purpose flour and whisked them together then cracked in two eggs (I doubled the recipe this time). Using a fork, mix the eggs together in the well they are sitting in, then add in 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1/2 cup of water right into the same well.

Pull the flour into the egg mixture with the fork a little at a time while mixing.

Continue to mix with the fork until it becomes workable for your hands then roll the dough around to get any loosed flour. If you need a tad more water, add it one tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky.Turn it out onto a floured cutting board or clean counter top and knead it several times until it becomes smooth. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit for thirty minutes to let the glutens relax.

Follow this post for rolling out the dough.

 

We used our KitchenAid pasta roller attachment, but you could use a countertop roller or even a rolling pin, if you’re feeling ambitious. We first cut our disk into 4 equal sizes pieces and rolled out each one. The width of our pasta roller was absolutely perfect for the ravioli mold, and we only had to cut square corners (work the cut off sections back into the next piece of dough you use.

Ravioli makers

Roll the dough thin but not too thin. On our KitchenAid pasta rollers, we stopped on the #4 setting (On KitchenAid #1 is the thickest and #8 is the smallest).

We laid our ravioli mold (we have this one) next to the dough and leaving about ½ inch extra on the ends, we cut two pieces to fit.

Ravioli molds come in different sizes. The one we have makes the smaller ravioli (1 ½ inches each) but you can also buy them in larger sizes. I prefer the smaller ones for nite-size purposes, but I may have to buy the larger size as well!

Here is how a ravioli mold works. You lay your first layer of dough over top of the metal side.

The metal side has teeth outlining each ravioli square and all the way around the entire thing.

After the first layer of dough is on the metal piece, you gently place the plastic mold (with the round bubbles on the bottom) right on top of the dough and again, gently press down.

 

The plastic bubbles press the dough through the holes in the metal piece to form indentions in your dough for you to uniformly fill your ravioli.

I also put my herbed ricotta and spinach filling into a pastry bag to pipe it into the ravioli dimples I created with the plastic mold to help make the filling uniform in volume on each square. You could use a baggie with the corner cut off or even a spoon though.

To make the filling, dump a 15 ounce container of whole milk ricotta into a mixing bowl. Take about 6 cups of fresh spinach leaves and chop them up. Also, chop up about 8 basil leaves.Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet and bring it up to medium heat. Add the spinach for only about a minute or two until it begins to wilt but is still bright green.

Remove it to the mixing bowl with the ricotta and add in the basil along with one cup of grated parmesan cheese, one beaten egg , a clove of chopped garlic and some salt and pepper.Mix it up really well and then spoon it into your baggie or piping bag.

Pipe it into the indentions on the bottom layer of pasta.

Take a pastry brush (or just use one finger) and brush water in between each line of ravioli, or anyplace that will be sealed for each ravioli.

Lay the top layer of dough over top.

Use a rolling pin to go over the entire thing, pressing down firmly.

This will cause the teeth to cut the ravioli through the dough. Don’t worry about flattening out the filling because the top that you are rolling over is going to be the BOTTOM of the ravioli and it should be flat.

Once you can clearly see the teeth all the way through the dough, Pull off the excess dough from the edges.

And then flip the metal piece upside down and give it a good shake a couple of times to dislodge the ravioli from the mold

A few of ours had to be helped by gently pressing them out but it left a little dent in the top of the ravioli.

Ugly ravioli makes me upset!

Not really. It still tastes fine.

To cook these, bring a large pot of water to boil. They only need about 3-4 minutes tops. I used a spider to gently stir them to make sure they didn’t stick to each other and then to lift them out into a bowl afterward. I also only boiled about a dozen at a time because you don’t want to overcrowd the pot.

We tossed them with homemade pesto I had in the freezer due to the enormous amounts of basil I grew last year. While the ravioli was in process, I added about 20 cherry tomatoes into my small iron skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and cooked them until they were soft and the skin was blistering in places. It leant just the perfect amount of acidity to the richly filled ravioli and the pesto.


I am so excited to start experimenting with new fillings now like mushrooms, butternut squash, roasted vegetables and seafood.

Homemade pasta is so unbelievably delicious.

 

The Best Homemade Ravioli Ever
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1 c. semolina flour
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • ½ c. water
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 (15 oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 6 c. fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 8 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 c. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. pepper
TO SERVE:
  • 1 c. basil pesto
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, blistered or ½ c. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Instructions
FOR THE PASTA DOUGH:
  1. Using a fork, mix the eggs together in the well they are sitting in, then add in ¼ cup olive oil, and ½ cup of water right into the same well.
  2. Pull the flour into the egg mixture with the fork a little at a time while mixing.
  3. Continue to mix with the fork until it becomes workable for your hands then roll the dough around to get any loosed flour. If you need a tad more water, add it one tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky.
  4. Turn it out onto a floured cutting board or clean counter top and knead it several times until it becomes smooth.
  5. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit for thirty minutes to let the glutens relax.
  6. Unwrap your dough and cut it into 4 equal pieces
  7. Cover three of these with a bowl to prevent them from drying out. Then take the fourth one and kind of pull it out into a sort of rectangle. Sprinkle it with flour.
  8. Put your pasta attachment on or use your pasta roller set to the widest setting
  9. Run pasta through
  10. Take it out and fold it in half lengthwise and run it through again. (Fold the two short ends together).
  11. Take it out and fold it in half lengthwise and run it through again. (Fold the two short ends together).
  12. After your fourth time (on that setting), change the pasta roller to the next size smaller (setting 2 on the KitchenAid wheel). Run it through the first time just as it is, then three times more after that folding it in half again long ways after each run. Then change your roller setting one size smaller to 3.
  13. Continue on to number 8 setting.
  14. Cut dough into one foot sections
  15. Place dough over ravioli press and use metal insert to press indentions into bottom sheet of dough.
  16. When filling is done - pipe or spoon into each indention.
  17. Place top sheet of pasta over top and roll a rolling pin over top to cut.
  18. Empty onto cookie sheets lined with cornmeal
FOR THE FILLING:
  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet and saute spinach until just bright green and wilted
  2. Add all other ingredients to large bowl and mix well.
  3. Use piping bag or teaspoon to fill indentions in ravioli
TO COOK THE RAVIOLI:
  1. Bring large pot of generously salted water to boil.
  2. Add ravioli (about 12-18 at a time)
  3. Let cook 3½-4 minutes
  4. Lift out with spider or slotted spoon
  5. Continue cooking until all are cooked
TO MAKE THE BLISTERED TOMATOES
  1. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to hot skillet,
  2. Add about 20 cherry tomatoes and continue to stir until they collapse and begin to burst and brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. Mix pasta with pesto and tomatoes and toss.

If you like this, check out what other wonderful food bloggers are making for Food Network’s Comfort Food Fest below!

Feed Me Phoebe: Sesame Soba Noodle Salad with Cabbage Slaw
The Mom 100: Creamy Goat Cheese and Spinach Linguine
The Cultural Dish: Homemade Pasta and Top 3 Light and Easy Pasta Recipes
Taste with the Eyes: A Unique Pasta Made of Black Beans – Gluten-Free, Lower-Carb
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Ravioli with Asparagus, Green Pea Sauce & Sauteed Scallops
Red or Green: Pasta Cacio e Pepe (pasta with pecorino & black pepper)
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Spaghetti Limone
Dishin & Dishes: The Best Homemade Ravioli Ever
FN Dish: 5 Back-Pocket Pastas That Always Have Your Back

How to make ravioli

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The Paleo Chef – A Cookbook Review

The Paleo Chef Cookbook

The Paleo Chef Cookbook

The first few words of the book The Paleo Chef are promising…

“I love food!”

Pete Evans take on Paleo cooking is flavorful, ethnically diverse and delicious. His previous cookbooks are pretty popular and his traveling to various cultures to learn their cooking secrets is a plus that he continues to use in this book, although several of the recipes are merely adapted from his other books to the Paleo art form.

It’s always a plus that Evans is a certified chef and health coach, so we can trust that those of us who are looking to make gastronomic creations that feed our body well will receive good instruction from his book.

Oh yes, and the man is a walking billboard for health, cuteness and so something must be truth in this reading right? I mean come on! A barefoot all-American guy in distressed rolled-up jeans and a chef jacketon the cover! Who wouldn’t want to eat and look like him?

Aside from that photo, the food photos (always a plus for me) are vibrant and mouth watering looking and pull you right in.

I appreciate, as a Paleo novice, the instruction Evans gives us in the opening chapters about the Paleo way of eating and from these chapters, I came away with the hope that while I am a major food lover, I can still eat well as well as please my palate.

That said, the recipes look wonderful. Especially appealing to my ethnically diverse-loving taste buds are dishes like Nasi Goreng, (substituting cauliflower rice for rice), Shrimp Laksa, Chorizo & Seafood Paella, Jerk Chicken and Vietnamese Chicken Wings. There is even a dessert section with recipes for Key Lime Tart, and Apple Berry Crumble and oh my – Pumpkin Pie with Bacon Bark!

The only drawback to this book, as I’ve said before in other reviews, would be the search for exotic ingredients (which never deters me), for items like lemongrass, galangal, squid and dried chiles.  However, with the various ethnic markets that are present in my home town and for anyone with an internet connection, they can be found if truly desired.

I look forward to trying the recipes in The Paleo Chef. Most seem simple enough for an intermediate cook….and that Shrimp Laksa is calling my name this weekend!

The Paleo Chef Cookbook

*** Added at a later date – unfortunately, I have now made a few of the recipes out this book. We made the Stir Fried Beef with Basil and it called for WAY too much fish sauce which really made us unable to eat it. We ended up throwing away some pricey grass fed beef.

Also made the Chopped Salad and it was OK but the dressing lacked something.

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Espresso Truffles

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IMG_0014-500x333
Recently I visited one of my favorite baking shops (Sweet Cherry’s Bakery ) and picked up some supplies to make truffles.  Valentine’s Day is approaching so I thought I’d knock some chocolates out ahead of time!

Now, you can use your imagination here – make milk chocolate or dark chocolate truffles.  Add in a flavored liquor or some orange zest to kick things up a notch.  Add in some ground cayenne for a Mexican chocolate kick.  Roll in a variety of ingredients or just dip them in some more melted chocolate (my personal favorite) then sprinkle with colored sugar or (swoon) -sea salt.

Today I decided to make Espresso Truffles, because I’m a big fan of adding anything coffee to anything chocolate.  Coffee brings out the flavors in the chocolate oh-so-well.

Truffles really aren’t that hard to make.  You could actually make them using ordinary stuff you can get at your local grocer. Let me show you how.

Measure out 3/4 cup of heavy cream into a pot.

Now, don’t turn this on high.  You need to heat cream gently, so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pot.  Turn your burner on low to medium-low and just barely bring this to a simmer.

While, that’s heating, dump one bag of dark chocolate chips into a bowl.  I used Ghirardelli.

Now, let me just say – I am NOT a professional candy maker!  You can get as fancy as you want with your chocolate.  I just wanted to use one that everyone could get a hold of locally.

Anyway, dump these into a bowl and when your cream is heated, pour it right over top of these.

Add in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.

Use a whisk and gently begin to stir this all together until it gets nice and glossy and smooth.

Add in one teaspoon of good vanilla extract.

And also add in 2 tablespoons of expresso powder. If you can’t find any, put some coffee into a coffee grinder, and grind it into powder.  Or you can order some at any one of these places.

Stir it up again with your whisk, really mixing well.

Then pour it into a 9 X 9 baking dish or pan and pop it into the freezer for about 30 minutes.  Or you could put it in the refrigerator for several hours.

Or you could put it out on my porch for 5 minutes.  Cuz it’s stinkin’ frigid here this week!

I kind of shake it with my hands just to level it out real nice.

What we’ve just made is chocolate ganache.  You could pour this warm over a cake or brownies and it would be fabulous! But we’re making truffles, so let’s get on with it!

Now, there are a few ways to make your truffles – the clean way, or the messy way.

The clean way (which is highly unlike me) is what I did today.  I used a small cookie dough scoop to scoop mine.  But you could just use a teaspoon and roll the truffles in your hands, letting them melt all over your palms and making a huge gooey, but fun mess.

It’s all about what type of personality you are I suppose.

Mr. Wonderful would never, ever want to roll them in his hands.  It goes against the grain of all that’s good and right in his world.  When we eat any finger food, like chicken wings? He only uses one hand so the other can be clean all the time. Not me of course, I tend to grab those babies with both hands and eat away!

Anyway, scoop out a bit of the now-fudgy-like chilled ganache.

Place your truffle on some wax or parchment paper or a Silpat mat lining a baking sheet.

Continue to scoop out balls until you’ve emptied the entire pan.

Then it’s time to be artful (not one of my strong points).

I decided to melt two different bowls of chocolate to dip my truffles in – one white chocolate, and the other milk chocolate.  Melt about one cup of the chips in a microwave safe glass bowl,  starting at 30 seconds, then stir, and if needed, continue to microwave for additional periods of 20 seconds, stirring after each time.

Once they’re melted, let them cool down for a couple of minutes.  You don’t want super hot chocolate melting your truffles when you dip them.

I have this little dipping thing I got from Pampered Chef that works well.

But a fork works just as well, if not better.

 

Now, while the chocolate coating is still wet, you can sprinkle on some sea salt or colored sugar.

You can also put a couple of tablespoons of your melted chocolate into small baggies that zip shut.

Snip off just a small sliver off the corner.

And use this to pipe some pretty lines across the milk chocolate dipped truffle (once it’s cooled from the dipping).

For something different, try using cocoa powder or powdered sugar to roll them in instead of dipping in chocolate.

 

Another option is using colored sugars to roll the un-dipped chocolate in.

Just drop the scoop of ganache right onto the colored sugar and roll to coat.

I used pink and red for a Valentine’s Day effect.

I love having the varieties to display.

Get some different colored little candy liners to display them in to really show off your Valentine spirit.

And for just a quarter or so, you can buy boxes at Sweet Cherry (or your local candy store) to box them up and tie with a red bow for all the people you love.

Your family and friends will think you’re so special.

Try making truffles before Valentines for someone you love.  Bring your kids in for the rolling fun.

And above all else…

Eat chocolate!

Katie

Espresso Truffles
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (12 oz) package Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ c. heavy cream
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 T. expresso coffee (or fine ground coffee granules
Instructions
  1. Bring heavy cream to very low simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and pour over dark chocolate in glass bowl. Add butter and whisk until all is melted and glossy. Add in vanilla and espresso. Mix well and pour into 9 x 9 square dish (ungreased). Place in freezer for 30 minutes or until consistency of fudge. Scoop out in round balls with cookie dough scoop or use teaspoon and roll in hands to make balls. Roll in cocoa powder, powdered sugar or colored sugar.
  2. To dip - melt 1 cup of desired chips for 30 seconds in microwave, stir, and keep microwaving for 20 second increments, stirring after each time. Let cool 1-2 minutes before dipping. Dip ganache ball into melted chocolate with fork and let cool on parchment or wax paper or Silpat mat placed on cookie sheet.
  3. To roll: Roll separately in cocoa powder (don't dip in chocolate at all), powdered sugar, or colored sugars to coat.
  4. Sprinkle: dipped truffles with sea salt or colored sugar
  5. Place finished truffles in freezer for 10 minutes to set. Best served at room temperature

Would you just LOOK at what other great food bloggers are making for Food Network’s Comfort Food Feast featuring chocolate?

The Lemon Bowl: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Creamy Cheese Frosting
Feed Me Phoebe: Dark Chocolate Beauty Bark with Chia Seeds, Pepitas and Goji Berries
The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Black & White Brownies with Orange Glaze
Virtually Homemade: Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Coconut
Creative Culinary: Raspberry Boccone Dolce (Pavlova with Chocolate and Raspberries)
Daisy at Home: Mocha Mousse Marshmallow Cake
The Mom 100: Molten Chocolate Peanut Butter Cakes
Dishin & Dishes: Espresso Truffles
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
The Cultural Dish: Moroccan Pots de Creme
Red or Green: Dark Chocolate Truffles- 4 Flavors
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Chocolate-Coconut-Cashew Bark with Sea Salt
The Wimpy Vegetarian: Chocolate and Pretzel Bark with Sea Salt
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Fudgy, Chewy Brownies {dairy free}
Haute Apple Pie: Mississippi Mud Pie
Taste with the Eyes: Chocolate Mint Parfaits with Chocolate Hearts
Food for 7 Stages of Life: Everyday Chocolate Granola
FN Dish: Melt Hearts with Handmade Chocolate Sweets — Comfort Food Feast

 

How do you make truffles

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Valentine’s Day- Don’t Go Out!

V Day

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Can I just suggest to you one thing?

Don’t go out on Valentine’s Day!

Now, I know ladies, that you’re ready to smack me. I know you’re thinking, “GIRL, you are ruining my chances of a nice meal out and HEY, I don’t want to cook for once!”

Let me toss in a disclaimer real quick and say, if you’ve got little ones and a babysitter, by ALL means go OUT. I mean, I am not stranger to having three small children years ago. I’d go out too. I get that.

But if you’re like us and have the ability to have the house to yourself, I’d like to present a case for staying in.  Okay? Here we go…

#1 – Service just might not be up to par based on the overcrowding of restaurants on Lover’s Day.  Add to that that everyone probably is trying to get the night off with their sweetheart, and the odds aren’t in your favor.

#2 – The choice of ordering off a regular menu might be out.  Prix Fixe (set multiple) menus are offered everywhere and your choices might just be limited. Also you might not want all that Prix Fixe stuff.

#3 – The restaurant might be crowded and/or noisy. I don’t know about you, but standing in line to wait (even though you made a reservation) is not my idea of a romantic night, and then being seated at tables too close together and rushed out so the next table can be seated? Nope, not mine!

Instead, I implore you to try something.

Stay at home and cook with your spouse. Don’t make something takes hours – grill seafood or steaks or whip up a beautiful plate of pasta that will cost a fraction of what you’ll pay to dine out. Chill a nice bottle of wine that you buy for 1/3 less than you’ll pay at a restaurant.  Set a beautiful table, maybe even in your bedroom, light the candles, put on the playlist…and voila.

Happy Valentines!

Here are some suggestions for main courses…from the tedious to the easy to the delicious (and even breakfast)!

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My Little Greenhouse – Learning

greenhouse

greenhouse

And so it begins….

It’s time for planting! Last weekend, I spent some time planting some (mostly) cool weather plants in the greenhouse. It caused me to reflect on what I’ve learned this year.

#1  I didn’t plant early enough last year.  Since we put the greenhouse in in April, I didn’t get my cool weather plants planted early enough. Thus my peas never produced and my Nasturtiums were sickly from the heat in June, and my tomatoes ending producing LOADS of large pretty green tomatoes right when…yes, you guessed it..the first frost hit.  The good news is, I learned what to cook with green tomatoes.  The bad news is I missed out on juicy red beautiful tomatoes, which I totally prefer.

#2 –  Having a thermometer is crucial.  For cold days – it let me know when my lemon trees could get below 45º and on hot days, it let me know when to open the door and keep the plants from smothering. We ended up buying one that showed heat and humidity and it was fairly inexpensive.

Photo Feb 08, 6 08 34 PM

#3 – The watering hose and wand being inside was invaluableHad I had to lug a hose in and out each day, it would have been a pain. Just turning on the water and using the wand from inside was a breeze.

sprayer-collage-537x600  #4 – I planted WAY too many of each plant.  I ended up with something like 12 or 15 of each herb. I mean, if I lived in the country that would be great, but I only had room for one or two thyme plants, etc.  I had people come over and gifted them with the extras, which was actually pretty neat.

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#5  – I asked my friends to save their larger pots. Once my seedlings grew large enough, I needed to transplant them into something bigger. With 1000+ plants, that could be costly to buy, so I asked my friends and family to save their pots instead of discarding them from the plants they bought at their local nurseries.

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#6 – Perhaps the GREATEST challenge was the wind. Because we live in the tornado capital of the world, my poor husband was always worried about the panels blowing off or them getting hailed on. One evening, he blew up some pool rafts and laid them on top of the roof and wrapped the entire thing in a tarp.  The panels are simply held on with some clips, so we are still researching this problem. Any ideas? I’d love to hear.

I have decided gardening is like many things in life. You try and sometimes you succeed. You try and sometimes you BOMB out. But one day, when you do succeed, it is so rewarding.

There is nothing like pushing a tiny seed into some fresh dirt and sometimes, mere days later, seeing that little sprout pop up.

Except maybe plucking that first juicy ripe tomato, taking it inside, rinsing it, slicing it, sprinkling a little salt on it, and then, with the juice running down your forearms to your elbows, tasting your first savory and sweet bite.

It’s what keeps me trying year after year.

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What is Achiote Paste?

Recado rojo

Recado rojo

Recently you may have read my review of the Tacolicious, Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails, and More cookbook I raved about.  I love cooking out of this book and am trying each and every recipe with their spicy authentic Mexican flavors.

One revelation upon cooking out of Tacolicious is that I have a new-found love for some formerly unknown ingredients like the dried chiles I see hanging around our stores down here in the southwest.

Dried-chile-arbol

These chiles can be toasted in a dry pan, then soaked in hot water and blended into marinades and sauces and hello….salsas to give you some never-known-before tastes of wonder that will have you craving them again and again. Never fear, if you’re in the north and these aren’t readily available to you, there is this wonderful thing called the world-wide web now and you can get them too!

One ingredient I had no earthly clue about was something called achiato paste. So let me save you the trouble and tell you about it.

Sometimes called by a few other names like Annato paste, recado rojo, or roucou, achiota paste has a brick-red vibrant hue that comes from one of its prime ingredients – crushed annato seeds.  Once crushed they are called annato powder.

Annatto Seed

Annato seeds are the seeds from, well, the Achiote tree and are found within its fruit.

achiote fruit with annato seeds

The flavor in these seeds is somewhat earthy, nutty and peppery with a slight nutmeg-spiced quality as well. Because of their bright coloring, annato seeds have been used over time to color things like foods and lipstick and is responsible for the red-hued color you’ll see on Tacos Al Pastor meat.

When these seeds are ground into a powder, they can be mixed with other ingredients like salt, garlic, Mexican oregano, cumin, and allspice berries along with either vinegar or lime juice to form achiote paste.  The paste is then often added to liquid marinades to marinate meat or used as a meat rub. It is popularly used in recipes like Tacos Al Pasto or Cochinita Pibil (the next dish I plan on making with it!)

I buy achiote paste in a Latino grocery store here in a large 2 pound box, as we make Tacos Al Pastor on a regular basis out of the Tacolicious cookbook.

Recado rojo

My family begs me to make them often (we substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the pork).

Tacos Al Pastor

The achiote paste does not need to be refrigerated but will keep longer if you do. The shelf life is about 6-8 months, so you may want to refrigerate it if you won’t be using it often.

If you can’t find achiote paste, here is a link to lots of places to order it on the net:

Achiote Paste on Amazon

Achiote Paste on mexgrocers.com

Oklahoma City residents – purchase it here locally at the Buy-For-Less on MacAarthur (about 36th Street) or at Savory Spice Shop (4400 N. Western Avenue).

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Winner! Emile Henry Giveaway!

emile-henry-heart-ruffled-framboise

emile-henry-heart-ruffled-framboise

And the winner of the Emile Henry Ruffled Heart Dish Framboise Giveaway is:

Jenny Hartin:  You took my post on FB (The Cookbook Junkies lol)

Congratulations!  Email me at katie@dishinanddishes.com to claim your prize!

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Changes

mom and conner

mom and conner

I received this picture through a text message one afternoon last week from my son Conner.

Conner Swearing In1
My heart jumped so hard it felt like it would burst from my chest and I sat speechless staring at my phone.

He’d done it.

He’d signed up, and sworn in with the Navy.

My baby boy (who’s truly 21) had been talking for a year about his passion to join the service. He had started with the Marines.  He’d gone all the way through the application process and I’d worried.  He tested very high and talked about officer school. When his recent knee surgery flagged him to not pass the physical, I’d been relieved and then…

He kept researching, reading about other military branches and began talking a month or so ago about the Navy.

And on January 28th, I got that text message.

I am processing.

I am reading about the Navy. I have even watched Youtube videos on what to expect.

But more than that I am remembering.

Remembering how his hair had little blonde ringlets when he was a toddler.

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Remembering how much trouble he and sister Kayla got into. And remembering those adorable little squishy cheeks.

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Baseball games.

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And Jr. High football games.

football

And Sr. High football games.

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Zoro in the midst of his sister’s Spice Girls party.

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Teenage years and the struggles of having all girls in the house!

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The Thunder’s first season when he got to be a Thunder boy (or whatever they’re called).

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Christmases.

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Vacations like this trip to Estes where he turned into a wilderness man.

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Little Cousins.

cousins

And grown cousins.

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Did I  mention what it was like to live with two sisters?

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That wasn’t bad all the time.

I am so proud of this boy.

conner 1

And while I run through this gamut of emotions, there are no words for what I’m feeling or thinking right now.  But it ranges from worry to pride. From thoughts of not seeing him for a year or more on end to thoughts of him going to the middle east or being on a giant ship all over the world.

But mostly I’m just remembering….

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