back to basics: strawberry sauce

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I know it’s not strawberry season, but for some reason when I walked through Whole Foods this weekend and saw the cartons of strawberries, I couldn’t help but grab one right away.  It’s probably the fact that the weather has been so spectacular lately.  Today is March 1st, a time of the year when it is often still frigid and snowing, yet for the past couple weeks, the northeast has been blessed with beautiful sunny days in the 50s and up.  I even turned my A/C on in the car this weekend!  And walked outside with a long sleeve shirt on!  So when I saw those bright red strawberries, I immediately started thinking about what I could do with them.  I knew that I had to bake a cake during the weekend, so a lightbulb went off instantly – I would make a vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberry filling.

I love being able to make a basic sauce like this strawberry sauce because the possibilities with it are endless.  And we all know how much I love a versatile ingredient.  Sure, I used this sauce as a cake filling.  But this sauce also works great as a filling in a cupcake, as a sauce to incorporate into (or top) your vanilla ice cream, or even as a filling in doughnuts!  Mmmmmm.  Now excuse me while I go wipe the drool off my face!

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you use it for in the comments below.

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Strawberry Sauce
(Makes 2 cups)

2 1/2 cups cubed fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add the cornstarch and continue to stir.  Let boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.  The sauce will thicken and go from translucent to opaque.  Allow to cool completely before using.

– sauce on,
Sharon

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Back to Basics: Home Made Pasta

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Guys. I discovered something last weekend.  Homemade pasta.  It’s easy. It’s fresh.  It’s quick.  And sooo worth it.  Just trust me and give it a try.  With the exception of the pasta maker, you even have all the ingredients on hand at home. Unless its groceries day.  Maybe.

I decided I was going to make pasta a few days beforehand, no recipe or pasta maker on hand.  Enter Amazon Free 2 day shipping, and I had a cheap and functional pasta maker in no time.  If you are looking for a pasta maker, my advice is to read some reviews on the internet, don’t be afraid to spend a few extra dollars, and remember that you can always go higher end as your skills require.  I have a KitchenAid mixer and opted to buy a separate pasta maker at first, I may upgrade in the future.  I didn’t go with the cheapest option, but definitely didn’t spend too much money and am very happy with what I got.

I made the dough in my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook, not a necessity but definitely made the process easier.

pasta dough

After the dough is formed, there are soooo many possibilities!  I had my eyes set on some ravioli, so I made that first.  With the extra dough I made pasta sheets for lasagna a couple days later!  Next, I am planning on making some linguini since it’s my favorite.  Sharon has already challenged me to add some dye to the pasta to step it up a notch – imagine spinach or tomato colored/flavored pasta!

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Homemade Pasta Dough
(makes 3-4 servings of pasta)

1/4 cup semolina flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a KitchenAid using the dough hook on a medium setting.  One by one, add the eggs and then the olive oil.  Mix until a uniform dough is formed.  Add flour, if needed if the dough is too sticky.

Remove dough from bowl and place on a dusted flat service.  Knead the dough for approximately 5-10 minutes, adding flour if necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow dough to rest for approximately 30 minutes.  If you want to store for longer, up to 2-3 days, place in the refrigerator.

When ready to use dough, cut dough into 4 equal sized pieces so it is easier to pass through the pasta machine.  Roll the dough until it is thin enough for the largest setting on the pasta maker.  Be cognoscente of how wide you roll the dough – try to keep it thinner than the width of your pasta maker – it will make rolling through the machine easier.  Sprinkle both sides of the dough and carefully pass it through the machine.  Continue to increase the settings on the machine, 1 or 2 notches at a time and sprinkle the dough with flour every 2-3 passes.  Work until the dough is at a setting of 6 or 7 –  go thinner than you think as the dough will expand when cooking.

Home made pasta can then be cut into any shape, filled with filling, etc.  Once it is ready to cook, boil a pot of water, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt to the water.  Once the water has come to a rolling boil, add the pasta, stirring to ensure it is not sticking to each other, and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes.

Food on
-shirley

back to basics: pesto

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Curious about how to grow and harvest your own basil?  Check out our previous post on that.

We will always hold a special place in my heart for Pesto.  Our parents have been making their own pesto for as long as I can remember.  Even when we moved to massachusetts and had our mini 3’x2′ patio, they still made room for a couple planters full of basil so that we could make pesto.  We always had stockpiles in the freezer, so we always had a pesto supply year round.  Other than this nostalgic love for pesto, we love its versatility.  Pesto pasta.  Pesto pizza.  Pesto garlic bread.  Pesto-stuffed chicken.  There are so many meals where pesto can shine.

The first time I had store-bought pesto was when I went off to college and had my own apartment.  No deck = no pesto = sad Sharon.  So, as soon as we both became grown up and had our own apartments, we were anxious for spring to come around and we could grow some basil.

Making pesto is unbelievably easy.  All you need are the ingredients below, and a food processor.  Plus, pesto holds great in the freezer.  And because basil grows like a weed (seriously, it’s nuts), you will easily have enough pesto to last you a whole year.

Pesto
(Makes 2-3 cups)

3 cups basil leaves, cleaned from flowers and branches
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely cut
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water

To help maintain the deep green color, blanche the basil.  This is done by submerging the basil leaves in boiling water for a few seconds, then shocking right away in ice water to stop the cooking process.  Squeeze out the liquid.

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients.  Process until smooth.

Store the pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for as long as 2-3 weeks.  You can also store the pesto in the freezer for up to 6 months.  When you’re ready to use the frozen portions, simply let them thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

– food on,
Sharon & Shirley

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