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The Misadventures of Mrs. B

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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2011-01-23

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Using My Noodle, or, Homemade Pasta is Delicious

Several days ago, I told you all about Lidia Bastianich's bolognese recipe.  Her delicious, decadent (can a pasta sauce BE decadent? Uh, yes it can), rich and satisfying bolognese.  It should be against the law but happily, it is not.

I knew that such a special sauce deserved a special accompaniment, aka homemade pasta.  

Would store-bought dried pasta be just as good? Yes.  I am 150% certain that it would (even if I hadn't eaten leftovers with dried pasta I'd still be certain of this).  I just figured at the time that if I was diving in, I might as well go off the deep end.  It's how I roll, in case you didn't already know.

I had tried in the past to make my own pasta but it was never much fun.  As much as I adore the idea of my Kitchenaid pasta attachment...we've never been good friends.  I think this comes from the fact that I can never seem to keep the noodles from sticking together without drenching them with flour as they're being extruded and basically making a big fat floury mess.  I don't know.  It just never worked well for me.

But then. Oh, then.  Santa brought me a shiny pasta machine for Christmas!

Seriously.  No one should ever be as excited about something without diamonds in it as I was about this pasta machine.  Although it is kinda shiny...

Anyway, I figured that if I was making Lidia's bolgonese, I might as well use Lidia's recipe for homemade pasta as well! So I took her recipe for homemade tagliatelle...

3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
3 large, cold eggs
3 large, cold egg yolks
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs ice water (plus more as needed)

...and followed her instructions.  The flour went into my food processor and was pulsed a few times to aerate.  My wet ingredients were then mixed in a separate measuring cup and, with the processor running, I poured them through the feed tube and processed until the dough came together and just about cleared the sides of the bowl.

The dough was a bit too wet, though, so when I emptied it onto my (clean!) counter, I added a bit more flour and kneaded it in for a few minutes until the dough was smooth.

Pretty.  Then the dough was wrapped in plastic and allowed to rest for 30 minutes (a little more, actually - remember I had that sauce taking up all of my attention, too!).  At this point the dough can be left in the fridge for a day or frozen for "a month or more", according to Lidia - just defrost in the fridge and allow to return to room temp before rolling.

And speaking of rolling...I divided the dough into 6 pieces and floured each piece generously before starting the rolling process.

Rolling the dough is my favorite part, and I'm well aware of how dorky I sound when I say that.  

You start with the machine on its highest setting - in this case, level 7.  

Roll the dough through a few times to get it ready to be rolled more thinly.  Then just turn the knob down one number and re-roll.  Repeat this step until you're at your desired thinness.  I usually stop at 3 - I like a little bite to my pasta.  But that's up to you - experiment as you will.

As each sheet is finished rolling I lay it out over a dish towel and allow it to dry a little bit in order to make the cutting process easier.  Now, I have both spaghetti and fettuccine cutters on my machine and in this case I used the fettuccine cutters.  But you could just as easily fold the pasta sheets into thirds or fourths, then cut into strips and shake them out when finished.  Either way, when pasta is cut it's important to toss the noodles with a bit of flour to ensure that they don't stick together.  Just give them a shake to remove excess flour before putting them in your boiling water.

Fresh pasta doesn't require much cooking time - a few minutes should do.  I test frequently to make sure I don't cook it into mush.

So, in case you didn't already know this: Making fresh pasta takes time.  But anyone who has ever had the chance to eat fresh pasta will tell you, the difference is mind-blowing.  The texture and flavor exists in a world of its own.  Is it as perfectly uniform as store-bought fresh or dried pasta? No.  But that's part of the fun.  Plus there's the knowledge that your finished product contains good, fresh ingredients and isn't concealing any secrets - which of course is the point of all home cooking, right?


Have you ever made fresh pasta by hand? How did it turn out? If not, do you think you'd be interested in trying this yourself?

Sharing with The Girl Creative, A Southern Fairytale, Blessed With Grace, 33 Shades of Green, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Somewhat Simple, It's a Keeper, House of Hepworths, Life as Mom, Miz Helen's Country Cottage, Prairie Story, Simple Lives Thursday & A Glimpse Inside - come on over and see what everyone else has been creating!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writer's Workshop: Left Out

Mama's Losin' It
Mama Kat's prompt #3: Describe a time when you felt left out.

I'm 6 years old and in 1st grade.  The girl who was my best friend through kindergarten didn't invite me to her birthday party.  I just found out that all the other girls got an invitation but me.  I sit down in the schoolyard one morning and cry, asking her why I wasn't invited.  Why we're not friends anymore.  I need to know - because in my head, we're still friends.  I need to know when she decided that things were different, why she didn't like me anymore.  But she walks away.  I call her name, tears clouding my vision.  She keeps walking.

I'm 10 and already the girls are talking about who has and who hasn't kissed a boy yet.  They already know all sorts of words I've never heard before.  The terminology alludes me, as much as I try to keep up.  They act unaffected, comparing numbers of kissing conquests as easily as they used to compare the number of Barbies or She-Ra dolls they owned.  Either way, I know I've never kissed a boy and what's worse, they know it too.

I'm 12 and the only reason any boys hang out with me is because they want to hang out with my best friend (the crazy one).  Don't they know me? Don't they know all of the cool things about me? How, one day, they may actually want to hang out with a smart (if slightly awkward) girl? I hate these boys, I really do.  They're not nice to me.  But I want to be cool, so much so that I swallow my pride again and again just to hang out with the cool kids.

I'm 16 and the only girl I know not going to the Junior Prom.  I go to the movies and Olive Garden with my Mom instead.  I sit in school the following Monday, listening to the stories, eventually oohing and aahing over the pictures as they get developed (ahh, the days before digital photography).  I try to be a good sport and take a genuine interest in my friends' experiences, but envy eats my heart.

I'm 20-going-on-21 and I still haven't been kissed.  I try not to tell anyone.  It's too embarrassing.  I feel ashamed for reasons I can't even describe to this day.

I'm 25 and I've only been on a few dates in my life.  Everyone I know is seeing someone, is living with someone, is married, has years of experience to fall back on.  I've never had a boyfriend.  The kissing thing has been rectified, though.  But that's it.  A well-meaning friend of a friend gently asks me when I'm going to start dating.  As if it's that easy.  I feel left out of life.

Of course, things changed.  It may have taken me a little longer than some, but things did get better.  And now here I am, 31 years old, looking back over all these years of pain and awkwardness.  Of feeling left out.

Have I learned anything from that feeling? Well, I'd like to think that it's taught me a deeper level of compassion.  It has taught me to include others, especially those who appear to be hanging around on the fringe, waiting for someone to be friendly towards them.  People who have a whole world of thoughts and experiences inside them, just waiting to be shared if only someone would give them a chance.

So do I always live up to these high ideals for myself? Am I, like, the Mother Theresa of inclusiveness?  No, not always - sometimes feeling included is so wonderful, I forget how it feels on the other side of things.  It's very easy to forget when you're in the moment.  All I can do is work on being more mindful.  It doesn't hurt to make sure that someone isn't going through the same stuff we've all gone through at one point or another - feeling left out or left behind.  And maybe one day they'll pay it forward by remembering that kindness and extending the same courtesy to someone else. 

After all, like they say, a candle doesn't lose anything by lighting another candle.  Or something like that.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bliss at Home '11

Welcome, lovers of bliss! It's a bummer that we weren't able to travel to Blissdom '11, isn't it? But all is not lost - we can network and have a good time from the comfort of our own home, in our jammies if we feel like it.  Hence my excitement over  Bliss at Home '11!

Because let me tell you...I big puffy pink heart my jammies.  To the point where I rarely wear anything else around the house. 

My name is Jen, and this is my corner of Bloggyland.  Take off your shoes, put on your stretchy pants and get comfy.  I love to write about cooking food, eating food, and then feeling bad about eating so much food.  Oh, and other stuff, too.  Like my family, my home and my horribly embarrassing tendency to do embarrassing things. 

What are some of my favorite posts, you ask? Well, I'm happy to share them with you!
The Greatest Chocolate Cake Ever - Seriously, visit at your own risk.  And the risk of your pants suddenly tightening.  Which is why I recommended the stretchy pants earlier.

A Toddler Without A Tiara - Please, come revel in one of the most painful memories of my life.  I beg you.
The Worst Day of My Life - Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  It was epic.  My mom still pees her pants laughing over it.
Chicken Tikka Masala and Grilled Naan - They go so well together.  Like peanut butter and jelly or chocolate and just about anything else.

Lots of exciting things are going to be happening soon, like the launching of my new site and a new series entitled Cooking Basics, where I'll be going step-by-step through basic cooking techniques and then building recipes using them.  I really hope you'll be joining me for all the fun there.

I can't wait to meet all you fabulous home Blissers! If you stop by for a visit, be sure to leave me a comment and let me know you were here so I can swing by and say hi!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bolognese, Lidia Style

Bolognese.  The very name conjures up all sorts of happy thoughts for me.  For years now I've been making this version, and have been totally happy with it.  It's stupid delicious, after all.  

However, I received a copy of Lidia Bastianich's Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy for my birthday and have been dying to cook my way through it ever since.  This bolognese is one of the basic recipes at the back of the book and it looked too good to not try.

There's no denying that the creation of a good, full-bodied bolognese takes time.  Because it does.  It's a real labor of love.  But this recipe makes more than enough for one or even two meals, so you can cook your little heart out one day and have yummy bolognese for another night.  It's perfect for freezer cooking!

The flavors in this sauce are so complex and well-developed.   It's rich and satisfying, and worth every minute of prep and cooking time.

2 lbs ground beef
2 lbs ground pork
2 cups dry white wine
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
6 oz bacon or pancetta
5 garlic cloves
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
2 large celery stalks, finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups red wine
2 tbs tomato paste
2 cups crushed tomatoes
8-10 cups hot vegetable stock or water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, pour 2 cups white wine over ground meats and, using your fingers (or a potato masher, as I did), mix so meat is moistened with wine. Set aside.

In food processor, process bacon or pancetta and garlic into a smooth paste.  Heat olive oil over medium heat and add this paste.  Break apart and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered and paste begins to brown slightly.  Add onions and sweat for several minutes.  Add carrots and celery and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until vegetables soften and turn a golden color.  

Turn heat up to medium high.  Push vegetables to one side of pot (or pour into a separate bowl, which I did) and add meat to pot, then sprinkle with salt.  Allow meat to brown on bottom, then mix in vegetables.  Liquids will totally cover the meat/vegetables, so allow to cook down for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning and lowering heat if necessary.

Pour in red wine and cook until wine evaporates.  Stir in tomato paste and allow to brown for a few minutes.  Pour in crushed tomatoes, then swish can out with one cup of vegetable stock and pour that in as well.  Simmer until liquid no longer covers meat.  At this point, add vegetable stock in batches - pour in enough to cover meat, around two cups at a time, and simmer until meat is no longer covered.  This entire process will probably take between one and two hours. I said...a labor of love.  But good golly, is it worth it.  You'll want to dive right in a bathe in this sauce, I promise you.  We decided out of the two bolognese sauces I've made (three, actually, if you count Alton Brown's which I only made one time), Lidia's bolognese is superior.  This is the sauce I'll be making from here on out.  And as frequently as possible.

And for the record...the fettucine in the picture is homemade.  But that's another post...

Sharing with A Southern Fairytale,  Skip To My Lou, From Mess Hall to Bistro33 Shades of Green, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Blessed with Grace, All the Small Stuff, Designs by Gollum, 504 Main, Simply Sweet Home & Tidy Mom  - drop by and pick up some great recipe ideas!