A Ferry Ride, A San Juan Cottage and an Amazing Dinner: Day 1

When people think of the Pacific Northwest they often conjure images of rain, coffee, the Space Needle and salmon flying through the air at Pike Place Market. All thoroughly acceptable iconic images that we deserve here in Seattle. But the true gem of Washington State is our ferry system and the many beautiful islands that we have spread around the Puget Sound. We patiently wait out the constant deluge from the clouds and near constant dark skies from October to May to get to the holy grail of summer. From June to (if we are lucky) the end of September the clouds part, the sun beams down and anyone with a dingy or inflatable tube hits the water.  We PNWs live for the promise of summer and then we take full advantage of the precious time we have until we all are forced back into Starbucks to wait out the winter.

My hubby and I have our wedding anniversary at the end of July and last year we went to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. We had such a great time that we did it again this year, and me with my camera in hand this time. We set out early Sunday morning which was quite foggy as we made our way to Anacortes to catch the ferry.

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This ferry was running on a different route nearby. The camera saw more than my eye did!

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Then the fog started to lift about half way through the hour long boat ride.

As expected there were many boats out on the water despite the early hour and foggy conditions. And the views from the our ferry deck were spectacular.

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He is covering the logo on his jacket but it looks like he is saying the pledge of allegiance with the wrong hand!

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Another ferry docked at nearby Lopez Island

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I have  no idea why these boats are single file, looks like a parade

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I wold love one of these homes on the beach!

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The fog has cleared and you can see the mountains in the distance

 

We were approaching Friday Harbor on the big Island, San Juan.

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More beautiful homes along the waterfront

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Approaching the Friday Harbor Marina

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The ferry dock is on the left of the marina in this shot

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These homes and condos are to the left of the ferry dock, on the opposite side of the marina

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We have arrived!

We were too early to go to our cottage and check in so we decided to mill around the waterfront for awhile. We began at the small park near the marina.

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I love this tree

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Really love it!

 

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This is the Pacific Northwest after all, we do lots of totem poles here!

We made our way down onto the dock where the boats are tied up for the day and there are a few places to buy snacks.

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All boats are great, but I have a preference for these older wooden sailboats.

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One can not stop at the marina and not look for the harbor seal at the Seafood store. She has been coming to this exact spot for 30 years and recently brought her young pup by for a snack. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the baby this time.

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It really doesn’t get fresher than this! They sell amazing seafood and prepared meals as well

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This guy was staring me down!

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She showed up right on cue!

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Some kids bought her lunch!

By now, we were getting hungry too but dinner was not for awhile yet.

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There are many great places to get ice cream, but this is our favorite one. By the way, you rock climbers will love this shirt!

We wandered around a few more of our favorite stores, I do love this bookstore! And, marveled at the spectacular views until it was time to check in and get ready for our anniversary dinner.

This is the cottage that we have now stayed at twice. It is small, secluded and adorable. The view can’t be beat!

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I spent some time photographing the cottage and surrounding garden but I will save that for the day 2 post, as this one is long already! We got cleaned up and prepared to head to the other side of the island where the Duck Soup Inn is located.

Our dinner last year was delicious and this year did not disappoint! We had high expectations and were so happy we returned this year.

We started off with cocktails, I don’t remember what these are exactly but isn’t memory loss the sign of a good drink!

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We ordered two appetizers, the cured beef carpaccio with arugula pesto, parmesan, charred onion cream, toasted hazelnuts and berry gastrique

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And Wescott Bay smoked and baked oysters. Both were fantastic and I don’t like oysters! These were not raw, which helped me greatly, and were served with fig aioli, bread crumbs and parmesan.ds3

We both had the corn and spot prawn bisque, and loved it!

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My husband went with the Seared Weathervane Scallops-this was good! The shellfish was flavored by braising in pork belly and served with a summer succotash and red bell pepper sauce-yum!

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And I had the Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi-this was better! Really tasty! How can this be bad when it is served with cherry tomatoes, garlic, summer herbs, browned butter and Midnight Moon aged goat cheese?

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We finished off with more cocktails and a chocolate fudge sundae-yes, more ice cream! The dinner was outstanding and just the right amount of food. Their portions were perfect and we cleaned our plates.

It was a wonderful day and even better evening! Day 2 will have more pictures of the town and the property where we stayed! Thanks for reading this far.

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Strawberry Basil Shortbread

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A really good friend was recently in town for just a couple days. He lives in California and has never been to our current home (which we have been living in for 12 years!) Yes, he is a good friend but, like all of us, has a very busy life and just has not had the time to visit as much as we all would like. So, when he told us he was coming up for a business meeting, we had to have him over for dinner. I was planning the menu when I realized he would be here on one of the hottest days of the summer (so far). I wanted a light and easy meal but still wanted to make some effort in honor of our buddy. I settled on rosemary mustard roasted pork loin with bacon, roasted vegetables (carrots, cauliflower and asparagus), homemade ciabatta bread and limoncello ice cream. I got to thinking that it would be nice to have something to go with the ice cream, you know a little something crunchy that would complement the lemon flavor. Strawberry basil shortbread just popped into my head and I had to try to make it happen. And that is how this recipe was born!

The trick is getting all the strawberry flavor and not all the moisture that comes with fresh fruit. I used freeze died strawberries from Trader Joe’s. The same brand that I used when making strawberry frosting for one of Sally’s baking challenges (the roll cake).

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I decided to grind the dried strawberries with the granulated to sugar to incorporate the berry flavor into the shortbread dough. My recipe was 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 cup dried strawberries which I then combined with my food processor.

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I wanted a course texture so the dough would have specks of strawberry

From here on it was a pretty straightforward shortbread recipe. I creamed the butter and strawberry sugar and added lemon extract. The flour and salt were added and mixed until just combined. I then added the finely chopped basil and mixed until thoroughly incorporated. The dough was chilled for 30 minutes and then I rolled it into a square roughly 6 in. X 6 in. 1/2 inch-3/4 in thickness.

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You can see specks of basil and strawberry and the dough has a pinkish hue

I used a ruler (because I am anal and a control freak) and cut 3 inch bars.

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These went on a parchment lined pan and were sprinkled with Demerara sugar for sparkle and crunch. This shortbread is not overly sweet but I wanted it to pair with the limoncello ice cream, so I resisted the urge to add a glaze. If it was to be served solo then I would add a glaze that would boost the strawberry flavor.

 

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Into the oven at 350F for 20 – 25 minutes

And voila!

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ice cream

I am happy with how well these complemented the lemon in the ice cream. I would like to perhaps enhance the strawberry flavor in the future. Maybe more than 1 cup of dried berries? Is there a strawberry extract that could be used? I am happy with the basil and don’t want to alter that as I am worried it could overpower the cookie. If any of you try this recipe please give me your thoughts and critiques, I would love your input!

Strawberry Basil Shortbread

  • Servings: about 30, 3 inch bars
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This tender, savory shortbread pairs well with citrus notes or is delicious on its own. A unique item for your brunch guests!

Credit: Invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-1 cup granulated sugar

-1 cup dried strawberries (fresh will not work as they contain too much moisture)

-3/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

-1 teaspoon lemon extract

-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

-2 Tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Combine the sugar and dried strawberries in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a flat blade. Pulse until the berries are coarsely ground and well incorporated with the sugar, 1 to 2 minutes. Be aware that this will create some dust.
  2. Cream the sugar mixture and room temperature butter-it must be room temp. I leave my butter out the night before to make sure it is soft, if the butter is too cold the dough will not come together.  Add the lemon extract.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add to the butter mixture and combine on low speed, just until the dough come together. Add the basil and mix until well distributed. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and form into a disc. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for, at least, 30 minutes. You may chill for longer but allow the dough to warm a bit before rolling out as it may be crumbly if it is too cold.
  4. Work with 1/2 or 1/3 portion of the dough at a time. Roll or pat into a 6 in X 6 in square. Using a sharp knife, or cookie cutter, cut bars or desired shape. Place on paper lined pan, sprinkle with sugar if desired.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool completely on a baking rack. 

 

 

Is it a biscuit or a savory scone?

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I have been noticing recipes for savory scones for quite some time, and they are fantastic! I have made a few of those recipes and have really questioned the difference between biscuit baking and scone formulas. They have the same basic ingredients: flour, leavening agent, salt, butter and milk or buttermilk. Sugar seems to be a key difference in that biscuits have less than scones, yet savory scones have very little sugar as well. Then there is the similarities in the basic method. Both biscuits and scones have cold butter (some biscuits have cold shortening in some combination as well) which is a requirement if you wish to have light, flaky products. So, when do you call it a biscuit and when should it be referred to as a scone? Here is the rule at our house: if it’s dinner time then it is a biscuit, and if it is breakfast or brunch, then it is a scone. Either way, these are delicious!

These are made with roasted sweet potatoes. I word about this ingredient. I know that different areas of the country call these by various names. Whether they are called yams or golden sweet potatoes really doesn’t matter because they all taste great. I like to use the orange sweet potatoes from my local grocery store because of the color of the biscuit/scones.  Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong!

Begin by preheating an oven to 425°F and roasting your yam or sweet potato until it is soft to the touch. Allow it to cool completely.

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The vegetable is combined with fresh ground nutmeg and buttermilk and ground in a food processor until smooth.

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I also use the food processor to combine the flour, baking soda, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt. This mixture is quickly pulsed to mix.

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1 1/2 sticks of cold butter is added and pulsed until it is the size of small marbles, or peas.

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The two mixtures are combined until a soft, sticky dough forms.

The dough is turned out onto a floured board. Resist the urge to use a rolling pin as the dough is too soft and tacky to roll out. Using floured hands, pat the dough into a circle, approximately 3/4 of an inch thick and, using a 2 1/2 inch floured, fluted biscuit cutter, punch out the discs.

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Just to confuse the biscuit/scone controversy even further, I brushed the tops with melted butter (like a biscuit) and sprinkled them with vanilla sugar (like a scone).

These were baked at 425°F for 25 minutes.

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They are nice and light, just as a biscuit or scone should be, and they rose nicely with many layers.

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Whatever you choose to call them, you will be happy you gave them a try!

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Sweet Potato Savory Scones

  • Servings: about 12, 2 1/2 inch scones
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

These savory pastries are a flavorful addition to your dinner or as a slightly sweet treat at Sunday brunch

Credit: Invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-1 lb sweet potatoes, 2-3 small potatoes or 1 large one

-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

-2 to 4 Tablespoons buttermilk, cold

-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

-3 Tablespoons brown sugar

-1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1/4 teaspoon allspice

-3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

-1 1/2 sticks butter, cold

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Poke the potatoes with the tines of a fork and bake until tender, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. Allow the potato to cool and then peel and add to the bowl of a food processor. Add the nutmeg and 2 Tablespoons of the buttermilk. Process until smooth and add more buttermilk, 1 Tablespoon at a time, to thin the puree if needed. Set aside.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to briefly combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter is the size of small marbles or peas. Fold in the sweet potato mixture until just combined, do not over mix.
  3. Turn out the soft, sticky dough onto a well floured counter top. Pat the dough, with floured hands, into a disc 3/4 inch thick. Cut out scones with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  4. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake at 425°F until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.

ENJOY!

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Sally’s Baking Addiction, July Challenge: Cherry Pie, from scratch

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I have never made a cherry pie before, in fact, I have made very few pies in total. When I was in culinary school we made hundreds around the holidays. So, apple and pumpkin were the extent of my pie repertoire. I love fruit desserts and make many crisps, tarts and galettes, just not pies. The reason is that my family just doesn’t like pie. I think it has to do with the crust component which usually are soggy or too buttery for our liking. So when Sally’s Baking Addiction had a cherry pie as the July challenge I was not sure I would make one. Not because I was worried about the difficulty of making one but I did not have anyone to eat it! But I really wanted to take the challenge seriously and stretch myself as a baker so I forged ahead, and am so glad I did.

As usual, Sally provided wonderful directions as well as tasty recipes for both the crust and the filling. I began by making her pie crust recipe which is much like others I have seen and used as she mixes shortening and butter for the fats and stresses the importance of keeping all the components very cold for a flaky crust.

The flour and salt are combined, then the cold butter and shortening are cut in with a pastry cutter until the fats are the size of small marbles or peas.

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The cold water is added, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together into a ball.

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The dough is separated into two portions, discs are formed and wrapped in plastic. The dough is placed in the refrigerator for, at least, two hours.

While the dough rested the filling was prepared. No cans of pre made cherry pie filling allowed. I used my cherry pitter to remove the pits from 12 oz. of Bing and 12 oz. of Rainier Cherries.

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This yielded approximately 4 1/2 cups of halved, pitted cherries. I followed Sally’s recipe with the exception of using vanilla sugar instead of regular, granulated and I added the zest of the lemon used for juicing, just couldn’t help myself! The addition of the almond extract was really delicious! The cherries, flavorings, corn starch and sugar rested in the refrigerator while the oven preheated and I rolled out the pie dough.

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I made sure to roll the bottom crust thin since we don’t really like a thick crust and then filled the shell with the cherry mixture. Sally’s directions specified that the extra liquid from the cherries should not be added to the pie to prevent a soggy crust, but don’t throw the liquid away! It is delicious as a topping for ice cream or as a simple syrup for drinks!

The second disc of dough was rolled out and cut into strips which were woven together to form the lattice crust. The pie went into a 400°F for 20 minutes, then the temperature was reduced to 375°F and baked for an additional 30 minutes.

It came out smelling wonderful and looked pretty good too.

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Sally recommended waiting 3 hours before cutting, to let the pie set up.

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My husband and I were pleasantly surprised at how much we liked it! The fruit to crust ratio was perfect for us! I think I will try other fruit pies in the future and will be sure to keep Sally’s crust recipe on hand for next time! Another great result from Sally’s Baking Addiction!

Oh, and it was yummy with ice cream!

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His and Hers Ravioli

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A couple weeks ago I posted a picture on Instagram of a ravioli dinner my husband and I had before a training run. A short time later, my mother-in-law told me that they had seen the picture and my father-in-law was bugging her to make a ravioli dinner for them. Here’s the problem, my MIL doesn’t eat cheese! And, in a cruel twist of fate, neither does our daughter! Many a time food has gone back to the kitchen at restaurants because a shred of cheese dared to touch the plate! This is a big deal people.

As it turns out, it is near impossible to find a prepackaged ravioli from a grocery store that does not contain cheese-tortellini, yes-but not ravioli. Of course, in another cruel twist of fate, my FIL loves cheese, and since they have been married for 50+ years, they obviously have figured out how to deal with this issue! In an attempt to be helpful, I brilliantly said “I will make you some ravioli with and without cheese!”

And then my quest began. It has been, at least, 5 years since I attempted to make fresh pasta, and it wasn’t a huge success at that time. I did learn a few things however. For example, the pasta should be rolled as thin as possible, but not too thin that the filling will burst out. I also figured out that even fresh pasta noodles need time to dry before going into the water. Oh, and not vigorously boiling water either! I had the best results, all those years ago, when I brought the water to a heavy boil and then lowered the heat before adding the noodles. I finally settled on a plan of action: I would prepare the filling first then work on the pasta dough, that way I could split up the work into more manageable chunks and troubleshoot along the way.

The filling. I wanted to use a meat filling because half the ravioli batch would not have cheese and I felt it needed some heft to it. Perhaps in the future I can work on a vegetarian option, but for now I wanted to stick with what I know. I looked at a number of recipes and settled on a chicken and pork combination. I browned 3/4 pounds of ground chicken and 3/4 of a pound of ground pork in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Each batch of meat was drained and split between two bowls.

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I then sautéed 1/2 of a yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves, spinach and sage. This mixture was also divided.

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At this point the mixtures are identical

One bowl was selected for the addition of goat cheese and gruyere. Now is the time for salt and pepper. The cheese mixture received 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and I added 2 teaspoons of salt (since there was not addititonal salt from the cheese) and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper to the non cheese combo.

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I next passed both filling preparations through a food processor so that the filling could be placed into the ravioli. I was careful to process the non cheese filling first, so there would be no chance of “cheese contamination” to the non cheese mixture.

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The top bowl has no cheese, the bottom has both goat cheese and the gruyere.

The fillings were covered and stored in the refrigerator for later assembly with the pasta.

The pasta. I prefer the taste of pasta made with semolina flour, although all purpose and 00 flour work well too, if you can find it. Generally, pasta is made by creating a well in the flour and salt mixture followed by the addition of eggs, water and oil to the middle of the well. A fork is used to slowly bring the sides of the flour into the center. This is done to give the flour time to adsorb the moisture. Once a ragged dough forms you begin kneading the dough by hand until it is a soft, smooth ball.

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This works fine, but it does make a huge mess. I decided I would let my mixer do some of the work for me. I added the flour and salt into a the mixing bowl and used the dough hook attachment to stir on low speed. A well was naturally created, I poured the eggs, water and oil into the well and mixed on low speed until the flour was slowly incorporated into a loose ball. Then I placed the ball onto the counter, with the reserve flour and continued kneading by hand.

 

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The kneading incorporated an additional 1/2 cup of all purpose flour and took about 12 minutes. The result was a smooth and soft ball of dough that needs, at least 30 minutes of bench rest to allow the gluten to relax. I covered the dough and let it rest for 1 1/2 hours.

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I worked with 1/4 of the ball at a time, making sure to keep the rest of the dough covered. I have a very simple, hand crank system for pasta making.

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I think I bought this from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It clamps to the bench top and has 7 settings. I began on the widest setting (7 on my machine), taking care that both the pasta rollers and the dough were heavily floured. The dough was passed through the rollers, floured, folded into thirds and passed through again. This helps to further knead the dough and helps to form the rectangle shape. I then lowered the width of the rollers and passed the dough through several times. The dough no longer should be folded at this point. Just keep passing the dough through the thinner setting (to about settings 3 or 4) until the desired consistency is acheived.

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Thicker dough from widest settings

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Thinner dough sheet from setting 4

I used an inexpensive ravioli mold, small rolling pin and pasta cutter to form the ravioli.

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I laid one sheet over the mold, filled the depressions with ~1 teaspoon of either filling, covered with a second thin pasta sheet and rolled to cut the dough with the small rolling pin. I had to go over the mold several times with the rolling pin and make the final cuts with the pasta cutter. It took awhile to get this down, but once I had practiced with a couple dozen I figured out a system that worked for me.

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Brushing the pasta with an egg wash helps the second layer of dough adhere

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Then I just had to repeat this for a total of 10 dozen ravioli! I laid them in a single layer (or they will stick together!) on a parchment lined sheet pan to dry for an hour or so. After that you can cook them or freeze them. I put the single layer sheet pan in the freezer for an hour, after that they can go into a bag without sticking together.

The next day was the taste test! I decided to pair this with a simple tomato based sauce.

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I began by sautéing both red and yellow grape tomatoes in olive oil

 

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Then added corn and capers

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finally arugula, pine nuts, lemon juice, lemon zest, basil and the ravioli that had been added to lightly boiling water. A sprinkle of basil finished it off.

Now to taste it!

 

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It was actually pretty good! Could it be better? Always! I would suggest adding some red pepper flakes for some heat, or maybe some apple cider vinegar to brighten it up a bit. I will try that next time. The good news is that I have plenty in the freezer to continue experimenting and combining flavors. Do give this a try with your favorite fillings and let me know! I will be taking both versions to my in laws next week to see if they like them, I hope they do!

His and Hers Ravioli

  • Servings: about 10 dozen ravioli
  • Difficulty: moderate to advanced
  • Print

Fresh pasta from semolina flour provides the perfect canvas for your family's favorite flavors. This recipe is extremely versatile and the extra steps are well worth the effort!

Credit: Invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

For the Filling:

-2 Tablespoons olive oil

-3/4 pound ground chicken

-3/4 pound ground pork

-1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

-2 garlic cloves, minced

-2 cups fresh spinach

-2 teaspoons sage, chopped

-2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

-3 oz. gruyere, grated

For the Pasta:

-2 1/2 cups semolina flour

-1/2 cup all purpose flour plus more for dusting

-1 teaspoon kosher salt

-4 eggs

-4 Tablespoons water

-4 Tablespoons olive oil

-1egg, broken up for an egg wash

For the Sauce:

-1 pint each red and yellow grape tomatoes

-1 Tablespoon olive oil

-2 ears of cooked corn with corn removed from the cob

-4 oz. fresh arugula

-3 oz. pine nuts, toasted

-2 Tablespoons capers

-Zest of 1 lemon

-2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

-2 Tablespoons of basil, chopped

Directions

  1. Prepare filling. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron, or heavy bottom pan. Brown the chicken and the pork until no longer pink in the center. Break up large chunks as you stir. Drain and divide equally into two medium sized bowls.
  2. Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the spinach and sage and heat until wilted. Divide equally between the bowls.
  3. To one bowl add: goat cheese, gruyere, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. To the other add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
  4. Process the mixtures separately in a food processor until a finely ground consistency is achieved, cover and refrigerate. Make the ravioli.

Prepare the pasta:

  1. Place flour and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer and, using a dough hook, mix on low until a well appears in the flour. While this is happening, beat the eggs, water and oil in a liquid measuring cup with a pour spout.
  2. With the mixer on low, pour the liquid into the center of the well and allow the dough hook to slowly incorporate the flour into a ball.
  3. Turn the slightly sticky dough out onto a well floured counter and continued kneading by hand. Incorporate the additional 1/2 cup of flour as you knead to achieve a smooth and soft dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
  4. After the dough has relaxed, pass 1/4 of the dough through a pasta maker or roll out by hand. Continue rolling until a thin sheet of pasta has been achieved. You will need to move from the widest setting for the rollers to one of the lower settings (not the lowest). Do not make the pasta too thin or it will tear due to the filling.
  5. Lay one sheet over the ravioli mold pan, if using, and fill the pockets with ~1 teaspoon of filling. Lightly brush the pasta with the egg wash then lay another pasta sheet over the filled pockets. Press the two sheets together to remove any air bubbles.
  6. Place finished ravioli on a parchment lined pan, in a single layer for, at least 1 hour, to dry. Cook immediately or place in freezer for 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer bag for longer storage.

For the Sauce:

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottom sauce pan. Slice the tomatoes in half, lengthwise and heat in the oil. Add the corn and cook for a few minutes.
  2. At the same time, heat a large pot of water for the ravioli. Be sure to use enough water for the amount of pasta you are planning to cook, and salt the water heavily.
  3. Lower the heat on the tomatoes and add the pine nuts, and capers. When the water for the pasta begins to boil, lower the heat and add the frozen ravioli. They will take between 5 to 8 minutes to cook.
  4. When the ravioli are done add them to the sauce and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, pine nuts and fresh basil, toss gently to coat the ravioli.

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Sally’s Baking Addiction, June Challenge: The Classic Icebox Cake

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I have to confess, I have never made an icebox cake. I know that they are the quintessential summer dessert, and I understand why. They are extremely easy to make and the basic steps are: assemble, freeze and eat. So why have I been so resistant? It’s the whipped cream component that is off-putting for my family. Please don’t hate me! We just don’t like whipped cream, all four of us! I think it is a textural problem. We do, however, all love ice cream. So when I saw that Sally’s challenge for June was a blueberry lemon icebox cake, I decided it was time to confront this issue once and for all. After all, is that not the point of challenging oneself?

My first thought was that I needed to figure out how to make lemon ice cream. I did a lot of searching for ideas and decided I would create a limoncello- honey ice cream recipe.

 

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I really love the depth of flavor created by adding limoncello, lemon juice and lemon zest, and I wanted to sweeten the ice cream with a combination of honey and sugar.

This ice cream recipe is like many others in that it begins with the cooking of a custard, which must be cooled before adding to the ice cream machine. I combined heavy cream, milk and honey in a large sauce pan and brought it slowly to a simmer. While the dairy components were heating, I combined egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a medium bowl.

Once the honey had dissolved in the simmering milk, I tempered the egg mixture by slowly adding a portion of the warm liquid to the eggs and whisked continuously. The trick here is to add the hot liquid SLOWLY and to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. If you do this correctly you then can add the  tempered eggs back into the milk mixture without getting clumps (which are effectively scrambled eggs). Don’t worry, if you do have some cooked egg you can simply strain it out at the end of the cooking process. Continue to cook the custard until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Then strain if necessary and put into a container to cool. I always put my ice cream base in a measuring cup so it is easier to pour directly into the ice cream machine. This base needs at least an hour to cool completly.

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You may be thinking, “wait you forgot the limoncello”! I like to add liqueurs at the end of the cooling process. Flavors change when a mixture is hot or cold. If I add the limoncello now, the flavor will be less intense after cooling. So, I will add 1 Tablespoon/cup and check the flavor before it goes into the machine.

While the base cools, you can make the blueberry sauce, which also needs to spend some time in the refrigerator before assembling the final dessert.

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Begin by combining cornstarch, lemon juice and warm water. Mix thoroughly and set aside this will be your thickening agent.

 

 

Next combine the blueberries, sugar and lemon zest. Put over medium heat and cook until the juices begin to release. Add the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook until thick. Place the sauce in a container and chill.

It’s seriously that easy! I went rock climbing for a couple hours while everything cooled off. When I returned it was time to fire up the ice cream machine.

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I let this churn for 30 minutes because I wanted a soft consistency for spreading into the pan. While the machine did all the hard work, I prepared the 9 X 5 loaf pan which would be the mold. The key for getting the cake out of the pan is to line it with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic hangs over the sides as they will be the handles for lifting the frozen cake out the next day.

As I was working on this it occurred to me that the bottom would be the top, after the cake was inverted onto a serving dish. I thought it might be fun to attempt to have some sort of decoration on the top of the cake. But how to pull that off? I settled on placing a piece of parchment on the bottom of the pan.

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Then I took some thinly sliced lemon rounds and halved blueberries and “glued” them to the parchment with honey. I wanted the design to stay put when I spread the ice cream over them.

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After fixing the garnish to the paper, I put the pan into the freezer for 10-15 minutes

This was a huge gamble! I was not convinced it would work at all.

Now it is time to assemble the dessert! I gathered all the components: limoncello-honey ice cream, blueberry sauce, graham crackers and the prepared pan.

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Working with efficiency, so the ice cream doesn’t melt, begin the layering.

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Start by adding a thin layer of ice cream to the bottom of the pan. This will help the graham crackers adhere. Then a thicker layer of ice cream (or whip cream if using).

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Next add  half the blueberry sauce mixture and spread without mixing the two layers too much. You want layers, not a marbling affect in the end. Next is another layer of cream, then a layer of graham crackers. Then repeat: cream, the other half of the blueberry sauce, more cream.

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My final layer was composed of graham crackers, but you could add another layer of cream if you so desired.

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This was covered with foil and put into the freezer overnight.

 

 

The next day, it was time for the big reveal. Would this work with ice cream? Would the design I “glued” to the parchment paper be there? Would the limoncello ice cream be tasty?

Well, the design is (sort of) there. Perhaps if I had made the slices a little thicker? And, one of the blueberries moved, but overall I am happy with this first try! I will try this idea again! But how does is it taste? I am going in!

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Yes! delicious – love the lemon flavor in the ice cream and the blueberry sauce.

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This is also a really pretty dessert! It is quick, even faster if you just make it with the lemon whipped cream!

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Each of these individual components are quite tasty on their own. The ice cream would be great on a hot summer evening. And, the blueberry sauce would be wonderful over some vanilla ice cream, or as part of a dessert that requires a thick fruit compote. Since they are great as stand alone dishes, I have included the individual recipes as well as the formula for the icebox cake layering technique. I would encourage you to try any one of these, if you are not interested in the icebox cake itself.

Another great idea from Sally’s Baking Addiction! Give this one a try!

 

Limoncello-Honey Ice Cream

  • Servings: about 4 cups
  • Time: 30 minutes prep, 1 hour cooling + 30 minutes in the machine
  • Difficulty: easy
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Limoncello liqueur adds a depth of flavor to this lemony-citrus ice cream

Credit: Invisible-no-more

Ingredients

-1 1/2 cups milk

-1 cup heavy cream

-1/4 cup honey

-1/4 cup granulated sugar

-2 Tablespoons lemon zest

-1 Tablespoon lemon juice

-5 egg yolks

-3 Tablespoons limoncello liqueur, or to taste

Directions

  1. Add milk, cream and honey to a medium sauce pan and heat on low-medium until simmering. Small  bubbles will appear around the edge of the pan. Heat until the honey is completely dissolved.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yolks. Whisk to incorporate. Slowly add some of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks while whisking constantly. This is tempering the egg mixture. Combine the tempered egg mixture with the warm milk by adding the egg yolks back into pot of warm milk and continue to cook an additional 8-10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture continuously until it coats the back of the spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat, cover and chill in the refrigerator until cool (about 1 hour).
  4. Once the custard base is cool, add the limoncello liqueur. Transfer to an ice cream maker and follow the manufactures instructions. Process for 30 minutes for soft serve or freeze for an additional 2 hours for a firmer consistency.

 

Blueberry Sauce

  • Servings: about 2 cups
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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This lemony blueberry sauce is great for serving over ice cream or as a component to any baked item that requires a thickened fruit filling

Credit: Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients

-2 teaspoons cornstarch

-2 teaspoon lemon juice

-1 Tablespoon warm water

-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

-1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

  1. Whisk the cornstarch, lemon juice, and warm water together in a small bowl until the cornstarch has dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Warm the blueberries and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously for 3 minutes until the blueberry juices begin to release. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue to stir for another 2-3 minutes, smashing some blueberries as you go. The mixture will start to thicken.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled ~ 1 hour.

Limoncello Ice(cream)box Cake

  • Servings: 10 slices
  • Time: 50 minutes prep time, 1 hour + overnight cooling and freezing time
  • Difficulty: easy
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A twist on the icebox cake that uses limoncello-honey ice cream in place of the traditional whipped cream

Credit: Invisible-no-more

Ingredients

-Limoncello-Honey ice cream, recipe above

-Blueberry sauce, recipe above

-8-10 graham cracker, about 1 sleeve

Directions

  1. Prepare a 9 inch X 5 inch loaf pan by lining the entire inside with plastic wrap. Make sure there is enough plastic that will hang over the sides of the pan. This will be the “handles” that you will use to lift the frozen cake from the form.
  2. If desired, add a cut piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Secure a garnish of your choosing, with honey as the “glue”. Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to secure the garnish.
  3. Spread a thin layer of ice cream over the bottom of the pan (and garnish, if using) to help the graham cracker layer to adhere. Place the first layer of graham crackers in the bottom, add a layer of ice cream, then half the blueberry sauce, another layer of ice cream and then repeat: Crackers, ice cream, the other half of the blueberry sauce, ice cream. The final layer maybe the graham cracker layer or another layer of ice cream, if you have enough at that point.
  4. Cover with foil and place in the freezer for, at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  5. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes then unwrap and invert onto a serving dish. Slice with a sharp knife that has been run under hot water, and quickly dried, to make clean slices. Garnish with lemon slices, lemon zest and/or blueberries.

 

Pulled Pork with Lemon and Garlic on a Potato Herb Roll

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I have been making this pulled pork for quite some time. It is one of our favorite preparations and, if there is a healthier way to make a pork sandwich, then this is it. But, the real star of this dish is the potato herb rolls that I can customize with with any herbs that will complement whatever fillings will be in the sandwich. In this case the pork is made with garlic and lemon so I used thyme, rosemary, dried parsley and onion powder to flavor the rolls.

The pulled pork could not be easier, in fact I hesitate to call this a recipe. I take a 4-5 pound pork shoulder and trim off any excess fat. It goes into a slower cooker and I add several garlic cloves, 1 large lemon cut into quarters or two smaller lemons halved. To ensure the pork is not dry I add about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of low sodium chicken stock. Thats it! It cooks on low for 8 hours or until it falls apart.

Near the end of the cooking process, I remove the lemons and garlic and reserve the latter for the sandwich. The garlic is perfectly roasted and spreads easily on the roll if you are interested in doing so-and I always do!

Of course, rolls form scratch do take a little more time and effort but are so worth it.

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I use a 6 quart stand mixer with a dough hook attachment for these rolls. You can use a small mixer but note that the final dough will be about 4 1/2 pounds in weight. Most 4 quart mixers will be fine with that, but you could half the recipe if needed. I made 24, 3 oz sandwich rolls from that amount of dough, which would yield about 35, 2 oz dinner rolls. These rolls freeze very well and you could store the extra for several weeks and then refresh as needed.

You will begin by combining all the ingredients, minus the herbs into the mixing bowl and adding temperature controlled water (not shown). In my kitchen I use water at 100°F but anywhere from 80-100°F will work. Mix on low to incorporate then turn to medium to knead for 7-9 minutes. What you are looking for is what is called a “window pane”. This lets you know when the dough has reached its correct gluten development. There is no real mystery about this step. After ~about 7 minutes, turn off the mixer and pull out a small amount of the dough, it will be slightly sticky. Stretch the dough between your thumbs and forefingers into the shape of a rectangle. If the dough breaks it is not ready, the gluten strands are too short. Continue kneading. The dough temperature should be rising as well, and it will be near 77°F to 80°F when the dough is fully developed. Keep checking these two parameters. Eventually, your window pane will be strong, and transparent. Light should be able to show through the dough, without ripping or tearing, as it will be so thin it appears to be a “window”.IMG_1851

Add whatever freshly chopped or dried herbs you want and mix just until the additions are incorporated and evenly distributed.

Cover the dough and allow it to ferment until doubled (about an hour).

Now you can punch it down to degas and divide into the portion size you desire. Shape and place on a parchment lined sheet to proof until 70-80% larger in size.

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Once proofed they need an egg wash and a sprinkle of sea salt. Since I was not adding salt to the pork, I was generous with this!

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Bake, without steam, at 375°F for ~20 minutes or until golden brown.

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These are wonderful on their own or with any type of sandwich you wish to build. The smaller dinner roll version is great with soups and stews as well.

Of course, we had pulled pork in the slow cooker! I shredded the pork and we built our sandwiches. We went with arugula and a grilled pineapple relish with candied peppers! An outstanding combination!

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Let me know if you try either of these recipes!

Pulled Pork with Lemon and Garlic

  • Servings: 24, 3oz rolls
  • Time: 20 min prep, 8 hours cooking time
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This Pulled Pork has no added salt or sugar. The lemon and garlic add wonderful flavor

Credit: Invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-4 to 5 pound pork shoulder or pork butt, trimmed of excess fat

-5 to 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

-2 small lemons, halved

-low sodium chicken broth or water

-grilled pineapple salsa

-arugula

-potato herb rolls (recipe below)

Directions

  1. Place the pork shoulder, garlic and lemon halves into a slow cooker. Add broth or water to about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch on the bottom. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. Near the end of the cooking time, remove the lemons and reserve the garlic for the sandwich build. Continue cooking the pork until if falls apart easily. Shred the meat with two forks and keep the meat warm in the slow cooker.
  3. Build the sandwich with a potato herb roll spread with the reserved garlic (if using), add the grilled pineapple relish, pulled pork and arugula.

Potato Herb Rolls

  • Servings: 24, 3oz. rolls
  • Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
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These Potato herb rolls can be customized with any herbs you would like to use to complement your meal.

Credit: On Baking, Text book, 3rd edition

Ingredients

-2 lb 2 oz. Bread flour

-3 oz. Potato flour

-1 oz. Instant yeast

-21 fl. oz. Water, temperature controlled 80°F to 100°F

-2 Eggs

-1.5 oz. Dry milk powder

-2.5 oz. Granulated sugar

-3/4 oz. Salt

-3 fl. oz. Olive oil

Suggested Herbs:

-1 oz. Fresh Parsley, finely chopped or 1/2 oz. dried

-2 teaspoons Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

-2 teaspoons of Fresh Thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

-1 teaspoon onion powder

-1 teaspoon garlic powder

-1 teaspoon Black pepper

-Egg wash, as needed

-Kosher salt or fleur de sel, as needed

Directions

  1. Place flours, yeast, water, eggs, milk powder, sugar, salt, and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed to combine then knead on medium speed until a window pane is achieved and the dough is 77°F (about 7-9 min.). Add in the herbs and mix until the herbs are well distributed throughout the dough.
  2. Cover the dough and ferment until doubled in size (~1 hour).
  3. Punch down the dough and portion into 3 oz pieces. Shape and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.
  4. Proof until the rolls are 70-80% in volume.
  5. Carefully brush the proofed rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle with the salt.
  6. Bake without steam at 375°F for ~20 minutes until golden brown.

 

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