Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Italian and Greek Pasta Salads ~ Hold the Sapphire

Normally I make my Pasta Salad ~ Italian style.  I don’t have a true recipe as I just kinda throw it together but I’m listing my ingredients below with approximate measurements.  Years ago I would use an Italian store bought dressing to hold it together eeeew … now I make up my own … and it’s healthier.  And I use imported pasta as its much better and fresher tasting then the big brands.

Italian Pasta Salad

3 cups uncooked Tri Color Pasta
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Red, Yellow or Orange Pepper, chopped
1 Onion, chopped (Red Onions are best but I’ve used Vidalia)
1 can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
Black Olives, sliced
1/2 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan
The Following Spices, to taste:
Garlic Powder
Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red Wine, a spash or two

Cook the Pasta as directed on package and run under cold water to stop cooking process.  Add remaining ingredients and stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine.  NOTE: Using Fresh Basil and Oregano (chopped, of course) makes a huge difference in flavor … Mmmm mmmm mmm!!!

I’ll add a picture for this one next time I make it!

A couple weeks ago, I decided to make a Greek Pasta Salad cause I wanted to use feta cheese so I came up with this recipe and it was awesome.  I made it to take as my side dish contribution to our neighborhood cook out BUT …

Just after I made it I noticed my blue sapphire ring was missing a stone so I decided it was best NOT to take it to the cookout.  Scott and I ate on it all week, taking slow and meticulous bites … looking for my sapphire but we never found it.

Greek Pasta Salad

3 cups uncooked Tri Color Pasta
1/2 Yellow Pepper, chopped
Handful Pitted Kalamata Olives
1 sm cont Grape Tomatoes, left whole
½ English Cucumber, chopped
1 cup Feta Cheese (I used crumbled but whole cut into cubes would be prettier)
1/2 large Onion, chopped
1 can Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans), rinsed and drained
Half a small bag of Baby Spinach
To Taste Add:
Garlic Powder (tad)
Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cook the Pasta as directed on package and run under cold water to stop cooking process.  Add remaining ingredients and stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine.  NOTE: Fresh Oregano and Thyme would have been much better but I was lazy and used the dried.  If you’ve never had fresh herbs as opposed to dried … honey you do not know what you’re missing.  Fresh is always BEST!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mama's German Chocolate Cake


Getting started ...

Mama loved to bake and was known for her delicious cakes.  With her German Chocolate Cake she always used the recipe from the back of the Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate … below is a photo of the original package that she saved … I copied and pasted it into the family cookbook I made several years ago because this cake was such a part of our lives growing up.  Though now the packaging looks much different, it’s still the same chocolate I use today.  I changed up the recipe just slightly but it doesn’t change the taste … this is an awesome cake and well worth the effort it takes to make it.  This time making it though I used Organic Sugar, Organic Flour, Organic Eggs and Organic Butter … making it a cleaner version but still fattening and delectable.

Mama’s German Chocolate Cake

1 pkg (4 oz) Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate
½ cup Water
2 cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
¼ tsp Salt
1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, softened
2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs, separated
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cover bottoms of 4 (9 inch) round cake pans with parchment paper, grease sides of pans. 

Microwave Chocolate and Water in large microwavable bowl on HIGH for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until Chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 minute.  Stir until Chocolate is completely melted.  Set aside.

Mix Flour, Baking Soda and Salt; set aside. 

Beat Butter and Sugar in large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add Egg Yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in melted Chocolate and the Vanilla. 

Add Flour mixture alternately with the Buttermilk, beating until well blended after each addition. 

Beat Egg Whites in small bowl on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Gently stir (or fold) into batter. 

Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.  Immediately run small metal spatula around cake layers.  Cool in pans 15 minutes; remove layers from pans to wire racks.  NOTE: I do not have wire racks so I place them on parchment paper to cool.  Discard wax paper.  Cool cake layers completely. 

Beating the Egg Whites
Folding the beaten Egg Whites into the batter
While layers are cooling ... on to the Frosting
Mama always used her mother’s Coconut Pecan Frosting ~ my Nanny. To cover a four layer cake you really need to make 1 and a half recipes of the Frosting … I failed to do that this time … forgetting … but have since made a notation in my cookbook so I do not forget next time; however, the cake is pretty dang awesome even with just using 1 recipe of the Frosting.  But to make a seriously pretty cake and be able to cover it completely with Frosting you really need to make at least 1.5 recipes.

Coconut Pecan Frosting

1 cup Evaporated Milk
1 cup Sugar
3 Egg Yolks
½ cup Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Chopped Pecans
1 pkg Baker’s Coconut

Combine Milk, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Butter and Vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 12 minutes. 

Remove from heat, add Pecans and Coconut.  Cool.  Makes enough for tops of three layers.  NOTE: Make 1.5 to 2 recipes of Frosting to cover entire cake.

NOTE: For reference “1 Package Baker’s Coconut” is the smaller package as it comes in two sizes.
First step of Frosting prep

Completed Frosting
Completed Cake
Doesn't this close up just make your mouth water?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Quilt Fix ~ How To

I have a couple hand made old quilts.  One that my Nanny made me when I was just a baby, twin size, and another I inherited when I lost my Mama, it’s a double size.  Both need small repairs.  I even had to patch up a couple places on both.  The main problem with them both though was the edging … so worn from lots of loving that the batting was showing. 

I confess … I am not an expert seamstress/tailor or someone who sews a lot … soooo I did some research online trying to find out HOW to fix them but found nothing.  Found one blog where a lady repairs some (patches) quilts but no real fix or ideas of how to repair the edging.  I tried to find blanket binding or even bias tape to fix my pink quilt to no avail. 

So here’s what I did (for the pink one):

I bought pink cotton fabric in a shade that most closely matched the pink on the backside of the quilt.

Measured the edging on the quilt.

Cut out strips of this measurement and sewed them together.

Next I folded the strips in half lengthwise and ironed them.

Then I folded in the raw edges to meet in the middle using the first ironed down ‘seam’ as a guide.  Then ironed them down.

Finally, I folded the strips in half one more time and re-ironed.

AND there you have it … blanket binding!

The hardest part was hand sewing it on.  I thought about sewing it on with my machine but since the quilt was handmade and hand sewn I thought it best to hand sew it on … staying true to its origins.

I think it turned out pretty good!  It may not be done the proper way but it worked for me and it will be good for another generation!

Next up … rebinding the second hand me down quilt … soon and pictures to follow.  This one I did find a binding that I thought mostly closely matched the style of the quilt, since it is a multi-colored pattern … I really wanted to find a sea green fabric and do it as I did the pink quilt above but I’ve looked and looked and never found one so I’ll be using a beigy/cream colored binding.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

italio ~ Winter Park, Florida

Anthony and I ate at italio recently while I was in Orlando … this place seems to be one of those in a growing trend to redefine fast food.  It’s very similar to Chipotle in their set up … as Anthony put it “it’s an Italian Chipotle” LOL

You order either a Pasta Bowl, Piadina (an Italian wrap made with traditional Italian flatbread) or a Salad Bowl then you are given options to add to it … meats (or veggies), sauces and fresh toppings. 

I had a Pasta Bowl and believe me it is a whole lotta food!  Mine started with Traditional Pasta (you have a choice of traditional or whole wheat), with grilled Chicken and Basil Pomodoro (crushed tomatoes, garlic and basil) for my sauce.  Then I had them add Fresh Baby Spinach, Sliced Red Onion, Fresh Basil and Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese.  Anthony and I shared a Basil Pesto Italio Stick (made from Piadina) and served with Basil Pomodoro Sauce.  
My glass of water dwarfed by my straw!

The food was very good … not sure how healthy but I guess that depends on the choices you make when you have your dish custom made.  I definitely want to eat here again when I’m back down that way … not only was the food really good but the atmosphere and d├ęcor are pretty cool.  According to their website they only have 3 restaurants, thus far, but have 3 more coming soon … all in Florida (so far).
Loved the outdoor seating area too!

A great place to eat if you love Italian and are looking for something fresh and fast!  Check out their website and menu here: italio