Asparagus and Garlic Pasta

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On one of our weekly shopping expeditions my friend and I discovered the most awesome pasta made in Grand Rapids Michigan by the Local Epicurean. The box says it is “hand made pasta by passionate artisans.”  I believe them. There are numerous combinations including lemon dill, asiago oregano, portobello Parmesan, red beet, asparagus garlic and several others. I’ve purchased and cooked many different pastas that purport to contain various vegetables but they seem to only be colored pastas. The Local Epicurean pastas actually taste like the ingredients they are infused with. Each package has cooking instructions and a recipe. This is the recipe, slightly modified, for the asparagus garlic pasta.

Ingredients:

4 T olive oil

1 cup asparagus cut into approximately 1″ pieces

1 cup grape tomatoes halved

1 cup of sweet yellow peppers rough chopped

1 cup mini portobellos

4-5 cloves of garlic minced

1/4 cup shallots sliced

1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 package asparagus garlic pasta

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Put up a large kettle of salted water for the pasta and bring it to a boil. This pasta cooks very quickly, 4-6 minutes.

Prep all of the vegetables.

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Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add all of the vegetables stirring occasionally. Cook 5-6 minutes until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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While the vegetables are cooking grate a generous cup of parmigiana reggiano.

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Once the pasta is cooked drain but do not rinse.

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Add the pasta, cheese, and about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to the vegetables.

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Toss until well combined and serve.  Enjoy every bite.

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You can add shrimp, scallops, or thinly sliced chicken breast but I served it as a vegetarian meal. It could also be garnished with some fresh parsley or basil. Serve with a nice salad and some good bread and you have a meal that you’d be proud to serve any guest. And how easy was that!  If you cannot find this particular pasta the recipe would still make a very tasty dish.

I was recently at Eataly in Chicago with my daughter and was inspired to make my own pasta. I haven’t made pasta in a very long time. Years and years. I just think it would be great fun especially if I can talk someone into doing it with me. Maybe that will be one of my next blogs. We’ll see.

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Baby Shoes

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I love making these little felted baby shoes!

1. They are adorable.

2. Everyone who has received a pair says they stay on baby’s feet amazingly well.

3.  They are a wonderful use for odds and ends of 100% wool yarn.

4. They are an extremely portable knitting project.

and

5.  They make up quickly providing nearly instant gratification.

 

 

Liver-Palooza

Liver-Palooza…..not for the faint of heart or lily-livered.

The urban dictionary defines palooza as “an all out crazy party.”  One of the tweets referred to palooza as “a big Norwegian festival.”  Not sure either of those are entirely appropriate but this week was a Liver-Palooza for me after a long liver hiatus. I do have a lifetime of liver memories. When I was a child one of my mother’s requirements was that we cleaned our plates. That was not a bad thing if you liked what was on your plate. But that wasn’t always the case. Like when she decided to serve liver and onions for supper. My dad will not eat liver and I know for a fact my mother never required him to clean his plate on liver nights. I remember her putting strawberry jam on our liver to help it go down. I’m probably correct in assuming that I am the only remaining person in my family that actually voluntarily eats liver.

Anyone who was on Weight Watchers in the early 70s like I was will remember Jean Nidetch decided that, to lose weight successfully and to get the body’s requirement of vitamins and iron, one meal a week had to include a serving of liver the size of a deck of cards. By then I was able to eat it without the strawberry jam.

My husband frequently tells people about one of our first dinner dates in Chicago when he took me to the Italian Village, a favorite place of his, and I order liver and onions.  As I recall, the Italian Village did a great job on the liver!

This most recent liver palooza came about as a thank you to a good friend for a huge favor he did for me. I typically don’t cook liver because it is one of the very few foods my husband won’t eat. Liver and Lima beans. (I don’t cook Lima beans either.) I invited our friends to dinner Saturday night and cooked liver and onions and bacon for him and for me and I made some pretty awesome chef salads for his wife and my husband. The liver tasted great. The trick is to not cook it for so long that it looks and cuts like a piece of shoe leather. It should be a little pink in the center and tender. I soak it in milk for about a hour, dry it off, dredge it in seasoned flour and fry it in my cast iron pan in some of the bacon drippings.

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Lots of onion and good quality liver.

Tuesdays are grocery shopping days and we stopped at a little Amish market for organic milk. My friend and I both spied Koegel’s Braunschweiger in the cooler and we both purchased a piece. It’s been a couple decades I think since I had Braunschweiger. Which brings me to today’s lunch.

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Braunschweiger is a German word that, in America, refers to liver wurst. I started to read how liver wurst is made and then I stopped. You might not want to read about it either.

Today for lunch I made myself a sandwich.

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Sour dough bread, Hellmans mayo, red onion, tomato, lettuce, and, of course, my liver wurst. Some assembly required.

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I ate my sandwich along with a nice hot cup of coffee on the back porch. A solo picnic. In honor of Jean Nidetch I substituted lettuce for the top of my sandwich.

After this week I will probably have another long liver hiatus. Except perhaps for the occasional crackers and pate.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pound Cake

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It has been a couple weeks since my last post. We’ve been doing some traveling and most recently I spent a week in Chicago with my daughter. A perfectly wonderful celebration of Mother’s Day and my birthday. As they age a lot of people stop celebrating birthdays or lie a little about their age. My theory is, the older we get the longer we should celebrate. This year the two middle weeks of May are my birthday and next year it may be the entire month!  Birthday lunches and dinners with family and friends, toasts, presents, cards, FB greetings…embrace your age, embrace the attention, wear a tiara, eat cake. If no one bakes you a cake, bake your own. That’s what I did!  While I was in Chicago my daughter and I made this cake. A new experiment. And a successful one. I decided to replicate this delicious cake for my birthday.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

3 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

2 cups blueberries

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Preheat your oven to 325 and grease a bundt pan.

In a mixing bowl cream the butter until light and fluffy.

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Gradually add the sugar and beat until well blended. Add the eggs, beating after each addition.

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Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.

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Stir in the extracts. Stir in the blueberries.

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Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. Allow the cake to cool for 10-15 minutes, invert the pan and plate the cake.

Now sometimes the things I bake are works of art and sometimes they’re not. Today this cake was not a work of art!!

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This is the cake I baked last week with my daughter.

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This was the birthday cake I baked myself. Oh my. I really should be embarrassed to post this picture. I’ve had problems with things sticking in this pan before but this was ridiculous. We are eating the cake and it tastes SO much better than it looks. But the pan is in the trash!  I need to buy myself a new bundt pan. Maybe a birthday gift to myself.

This cake is great with a scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream or a generous dollop of whipped cream. Happy birthday to me!

 

Shepherd’s Pie

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Shepherd’s Pie is a dish that works well with countless variations. I, in fact, just sent a recipe for a Pizza Shepherd’s Pie to my brother who is a pizza aficionado.

I’m leaving to spend a week with our daughter soon and I’ve been making dishes that result in leftovers so my husband will have good eats while I’m away. Last night it was Mac and Cheese. Tonight Shepherd’s Pie.

Ingredients for base:

1 lb ground beef

1 medium onion rough chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic

1 T beef Better than Bouillon

2 T flour

1 pint stewed tomatoes

2 cups vegetables (I used corn and asparagus)

1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped

1 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

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Ingredients for Potato topping:

2 lbs of potatoes peeled and cut up

5-6 carriers peeled and cut up

3-4 cloves of garlic

cream or half-n-half

3 T butter

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

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Peel the potatoes and carrots, rinse well, add the whole garlic cloves and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender. While the potatoes cook begin preparing the base.

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In a heavy Dutch oven cook the ground beef until it’s no longer pink.

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Remove the cooked beef to a bowl and leave approximately 2 T of the drippings in the Dutch oven. (My meat was very lean and I had to add a little olive oil to the pan.)  Add the onions and garlic to the drippings and cook over medium heat until the onions are tender.

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Stir the flour into the onion garlic mix and cook for a couple minutes stirring constantly. Stir in the tomatoes, thyme, and the Better than Bouillon. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until mixture begins to thicken.

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Stir in the ground beef and the chopped parsley.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Thoroughly combine and pour into a casserole dish.  Preheat oven to 400.

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Distribute the vegetables over the meat.

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Once the potatoes and carrots are tender drain the water and whip or mash adding butter, cream and cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste. I usually mash the potatoes, always mash them for my daughter who likes a lump here or there, but for this casserole I like to whip them.

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Evenly distribute the potato mixture over the casserole.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until the meat mixture starts to bubble around the edges. Scoop onto your plate and enjoy. Serve with a salad and some good crusty bread.  We both had second helpings and there is still plenty left for two good meals while I’m away.

NOTE:  Lamb or a combo beef/pork mix would be good substitutes for the beef.  Fresh mushrooms are a good add to the onion/garlic mixture. Peas, green beans, spinach are some of the vegetables that can be substituted for the corn and asparagus. A little horseradish or another type of cheese change up the potato icing.   Anyway you mix it up, it’s an easy, hearty meal.  A little bit classy, a little bit trashy.