Happy Easter!

Tags

, , , ,

Just a quick howdy to wish you a Happy Easter and to check on how everybody is coming along after a couple of nights of hard-partying. Is anybody still standing?

For those of you who decided to stick around, there’s Easter bread on the dining table. Please help yourself!

easter bread

Italian Easter bread the novice gardener

Oh, by the way, did you see the table I set up for you, complete with candles all lit? I thought maybe fire would further fuel excitement for the party.

easter table setting

And what do you think of this cute centerpiece idea, using eggshells, I borrowed from Martha Stewart?

flower arrangements in eggshells

Someone aka Sir Johnny had noticed and liked that I used Muscari to decorate the table with, so here is another shot of the pretty flowers.

muscari armeniacum grape hyacinth

If you are thinking of planting them, however, The Frustrated Gardener (Who isn’t?) suggests you go with Muscari Aucheri instead of Muscari Armeniacum. The latter is what I have all over my garden. And I mean, all over! They romp and spread too freely for my liking. I will have to dig out the ones in the lawn one at a time, by hand. There’s no other way of getting rid of them.

The few that had migrated to the neighbor’s lawn, I’m not doing anything about. He gives me bamboo, so I return the favor. Trust me, I’m being much kinder with my Muscari than he is with his bamboo.

Recipe for the bread coming soon. Like tomorrow. Maybe. Promise it’ll be here, though. Eventually.

Fiesta Friday #12

Tags

, , , , , , ,

We are co-hosted, this week, by the dynamic duo of N ‘n’ N, Nancy@Feasting With Friends and Ngan@ngan made it. You’ll be in good hands with them being in charge. They are always calm and collected, kind, helpful, and generally responsible. The key word being generally. Hahaha…

Oh, calm down! There’s no need to panic, I have absolute trust in Ngan and Nancy. Why, you can tell from their blogs that everything they do is always done skillfully and with style. They put out extraordinary work each time. And they happen to be cool people to pal around with. I have no doubt they’ll go down as great and wonderful as other duos in history. Cagney ‘n’ Lacey, Laverne ‘n’ Shirley, Itchy ‘n’ Scratchy, Fish ‘n’ Chips…

I will be monitoring from far again. My family and I are taking a mini Spring break. But I’m always connected to this blog, you know, everywhere, all the time (Hehe… That’s like our school’s motto, repeated daily, so it keeps playing in my head. Not about the blogging part, just the everywhere, all the time part). And as always, I never leave without preparing something for all of you. This time I made something pretty, look!

no-bake strawberry cheesecake

strawberry cheesecake for fiesta friday

{No-bake} StrawberryCheesecake w/ Nutella Graham Crust

  • Difficulty: multiple steps, but all of them are easy
  • Print

Makes: one 8 or 9-inch cheesecake
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Refrigerator Time: 2 ½ hours

Recipe is from Cooking Channel

The crust
7 whole graham crackers
4 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp Nutella
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt

1. In a food processor, grind graham crackers until they are broken into a fine powder.
2. Add melted butter, nutella, brown sugar, salt and cocoa powder and process until all ingredients are well-combined. Mixture will still appear crumbly, but should stick together when pressed. bowl a few times.
3. Press crust evenly onto the bottom of a spring-form pan. It should come up the sides slightly.

The topping
1 lb fresh or frozen strawberries, washed and stemmed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1. In a sauce pot add the strawberries, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook over medium heat until the strawberries are quite soft. Use an immersion blender to purée the fruit. (You can also do this by pouring the strawberries into a regular blender, then return to the pot to finish cooking.)
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Allow it to sit for about 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Transfer the gelatin to the strawberries and gently cook over low heat.
4. Whisking just until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Reserve ¾ cup of the strawberry mixture for the top layer of the cake.

I was pressed for time, so I didn’t make the topping. Instead I added 3 tbsp of strawberry jam + 2 tsp of grated lemon zest, in the cheesecake mix, and called it a day. :-)

The cheesecake
I simplified the original recipe by adding strawberry jam and grated lemon zest. The final result was still amazing.

1 lb cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups strawberry topping (see above)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fresh strawberries for garnish

1. In a stand mixer beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-low speed, using the paddle attachment, until smooth. Add the vanilla extract. Add the strawberry topping, except the ¾ cup you have reserved for the top layer.
2. In a separate bowl whip the heavy cream until medium peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the strawberry cheesecake batter. Gently folding just until it is all combined.
3. Pour the cheesecake into the prepared pan. Tap the pan gently on the counter to bring any air bubbles to the surface. Let it sit, uncovered, in the refrigerator for about 2 hours or until it is set to the touch.
4. Once the cheesecake is set, pour the remaining ¾ cup strawberry topping over it. If the topping has set up in the pot, gently heat it for a minute, just until it is pourable.
5. Place the cheesecake back into the refrigerator and allow to set, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, or until the topping is set. At this point it is ready to serve or you can cover the cheesecake with plastic and it can sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Before unlocking the spring form pan, run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake to loosen it. Top with the fresh strawberries.

The pretty cheesecakes, one more time.

no-bake strawberry cheesecake dessert

thenovicegardener strawberry flower cheesecake

***

Now, onto features. I had the painful task of having to select features all by myself again this week, due to lack of planning and organization on my part. I constantly fail at multi-tasking and time-management, and I’m paying for it. Selecting features is always the hardest part of Fiesta Friday hosting duties, because there are just so many excellent entries. Anybody else would like to volunteer for next time?


Johnny@Flours n Dainty Buns didn’t try once or twice to bring us his incredibly beautiful Hot Cross Buns. He made them three times to make sure they turned out the best they could be. Well, Johnny, thank you for that! Looks like third time’s a charm. The buns look spectacular. I haven’t seen any prettier. Bravo!


Three is the number of the day. Naina@Spice in the City showed up with a #3 Birthday Cake. Isn’t it the most adorable birthday cake you’ve ever seen? I wish my little ones were turning 3 again after I saw that cake. Well, it’s true that I don’t ever want them to grow up, but I wanted them to specifically turn 3 again, so I’d have the excuse to make the cake.


Juju@Cookingwithauntjuju shared a wonderfully informative post, where she showed us her love of gardening and how rewarding it is to become a Master Gardener Volunteer. Her post is the complete package, with breathtaking scenery taken just right outside her home and adorable pictures of children and animals. Just lovely, Juju!


Weebirdie@Weebirdie’s Cafe has truly outdone herself with her Rhubarb and White Chocolate Gateau. I can’t even begin to think how in the world she made that chocolate flower. It looks out of this world! Surely, all kinds of special tools are needed to churn out such delicately beautiful work of edible art? Hello, Weebirdie, you will have to show us! Recipes and instructions, please…

***

Okey-dokey, Ngan and Nancy, our dynamic duo co-hosts, take it away! FF12 starts now! If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, please read the guidelines.

Patty

Margherita

Lori

Catherine

Tracy

Nell

Jhuls

Sue

Sabine

Laura

Julianna

Justine

Jess/Becky

Linda

Simi

Nick

Juju

Victoria

Kirsten

Kirsten

Kirsten

Meghan

Nancy

Mr Fitz

Too Zesty

Alex

Lauzan

Lisa

Ngan

Weebirdie

Laura

Mr Fitz

Selma

Naina

Erika

Lina

Cteavin

Arlene

NancyCreative

Anjana

Sujatha

Indira

Timethief

DetoxMama

Angenette

Kloe

Shelly

Frankie’s Feast

Aditi & Nikhil

Saucy

Prudy

Stacey

Juju

Sylvia

Janine

SSP

Saucy

Indu

Petra

Elaine

CDibbs

You’re next!

You’re next!

Fiesta Friday #11

Tags

, , , , , , ,

First, let’s thank Hilda and Julianna for co-hosting the fiesta last week. They did such an outstanding job. They were welcoming, gracious, kind, fun, funny, and most of all, they kept replenishing everybody’s Latin Lover as soon as the glass was emptied. That’s how perfect hosts should be like. Take note future co-hosts, they showed us the way. Boozing up your guests is key to a great party, LOL. So, bravo, Hilda and Julianna. Give them a big round of applause!

Now would be the perfect opportunity to introduce to you this week’s co-hosts, if I had asked for any early enough to give them time to prepare. I didn’t. And I’m even going away this weekend. In other words, you’re completely on your own, party animals! I think I’ve given everyone a copy of my house key, so gaining entrance to the party shouldn’t be a problem.

I did prepare a pot of étouffée for all of you. Ay-too-fay, yup, that’s it! The New Orleans staple, usually made with crawfish. In lieu of crawfish, you can use shrimps instead. Either way, it’s delicious and perfect for no-meat Friday if you’re observing Lent, or any day.

étouffée for fiesta friday

shrimp étouffée the novice gardener

Étouffée

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Seasoning Mix
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tbsp cooking oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped green peppers
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups chicken or seafood stock
1/2 lb fresh shrimps
2 cups cooked rice

For the roux
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp flour

1. Combine seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Make the roux by heating 1 tbsp oil in a small sauce pan, on medium heat. Add flour and stir to form a paste. Keep stirring until mixture turns brown, slightly darker than peanut butter, and smells nutty, about 7-8 minutes. Be careful once you reach the 5-minute mark. Mixture will start turning brown rapidly then. Don’t burn the flour. Set aside.
3. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil on medium-high heat and add the onion, green pepper, and celery. Cook, scraping the bottom of the skillet often, until vegetables are browned and fully cooked, about 7-8 minutes. Add seasoning mix, stir and cook for another minute, then add tomatoes and thyme. Continue cooking until tomatoes are cooked.
4. Add the roux, scraping to get most of it. You can deglaze the sauce pan to get all of the roux.
5. Add stock and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook until sauce is thickened and bubbly.
6. Add the shrimps and continue cooking until shrimps are fully cooked, about 4-5 minutes.
7. Serve over rice. Garnish with chopped green onions or parsley.

Now comes the most exciting moment of all, FEATURES! (Saying this Oprah-style.) Thank you, Julianna and Hilda, for helping me make the selections.


The Triumph of Gluttony cake from Saucy@Saucy Gander. In Hilda’s words, “This cake is a masterpiece. It inspires conversations about history, art, and sin. If we can’t bring ourselves to repeat this production, we [can at least] try to duplicate some of the tasty elements in our baking.”


Unagi and Avocado Rolls with Carrot Sushi Rice from Kirsten@Farm Fresh Feasts. We are impressed by Kirsten’s talent in mixing flavors and fun in this creative, colorful, and nutritious sushi roll. Adding shredded carrots in the rice is a brilliant idea!


Mesquite flour sourdough bread w/figs and pecans from Gerard@Bread and Tortillas. Who is not at least slightly intrigued by mesquite flour and slightly obsessed with figs? This bread combines them in a unique way. Who wouldn’t want to try at least a slice of it?


Lemon Birthday Cake, filled with ice-cream and frosted with meringue, from Margherita@La Petite Casserole, was made in honor of her husband’s birthday. How thoughtful of you, Margherita, to share it with us, too, at Fiesta Friday. You know how everybody always wants to have a scoop of ice cream with their slice of cake? Well, there’s no need to be scooping ice cream with this cake. It gives you both cake and ice cream at every single slice. How clever!

***

Have fun y’all! I’ll be checking in every now and then via blog-o-vision. Dancing, by the way, is allowed and in fact encouraged. Just not break dancing! I’m not too fond of returning to a house full of broken furnitures. Oh, that’s not what break dancing means?

Click on the button below to join the party. If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, please read the guidelines.

Josette

Juju

Sonal

Ngan

Meghan

Jhuls

Apsara

Lisa

Shelly

Nick

Nancy

Victoria

Kirsten

Laura

Indira

Jess/Becky

Simi

Sujatha

Ivy

Alex

Hilda

Melissa

Lori

Anjana

Tracy

Dimple

Julianna

Arlene

Aditi & Nikhil

Tammi

DetoxMama

Justine

Sue

Angenette

Lina

Too Zesty

Patty

Weebirdie

Prudy

Saucy

Johnny

Nell

Noony

SSP

MB

MB

Linda

Stacey

Fae

Janine

Naina

Sylvia

Indu

Frankie’s Feast

Erika

Petra

Martine

Catherine

You’re next!

You’re next!

Having Fun with Homemade Pasta

Tags

, , , , , , ,

stained-glass pasta using herbs

striped pasta

Is there any reason to make homemade pasta when you live in Italian land aka Philly suburbs and 99% of your friends are Italian and when you go over, they feed you Italian and when you go out, you eat, what else, Italian, since the best restaurants in town offer Italian food and frankly, who can get tired of Italian food? No, there isn’t. Wait, what was the question again?

Anyway, I had absolutely no reason to be making homemade pasta when there’s an abundance of the excellent and high-quality kind of it, easily procured, either on the cheap or just for the asking, here where I’m located, except that we were Spring cleaning and down there in the dungeon we call the basement were multiple kitchen appliances and gadgets unused and gathering dust and someone threatened to give them away to the Salvation Army, so I was forced to make pasta. Follow?

Long story short, I had to make true of my word that my pasta maker was still very much-needed so I made homemade pasta to prove it. I will be going through the gadgetry one at a time. I’m looking at you takoyaki pan. You’re up next.

stained glass ravioli pasta

Homemade pasta is not hard to make, just labor-intensive and time-consuming. Since you have to go through all that trouble, why make just plain noodles? You might as well have fun with it. That’s what we did, my daughter and I. Mommy and baby, playing with play-doh, that was what it felt like. So. Much. Fun.

We made stained glass pasta. Aren’t they beautiful? I can’t wait for my flowers to bloom, so I can make this with edible flowers. Nasturtium, pansy, or violet comes to mind. I think that would be even more beautiful.

stained glass pasta

stained glass pasta with parsley leaves

We made striped and polka-dot pasta. How cute are they?

fun pasta designs

polka dot pasta

My favorite, but unfortunately the hardest to make, is the striped.

striped pasta striped dumplings

So, if you have a free afternoon and want to have some fun and feel like a 6-year-old again, make pasta. It’s a highly recommended activity to de-stress, and to bond with your 11-year-old.

To my baby, if you happen to read this, presently or in the future, I just want to tell you how much fun it was giggling over the silly pasta shapes we made together. And when you said,

“You’re so cool, Mom! You always make cool stuff!”

It totally made my day. I think you’re pretty cool yourself!

Homemade Egg Pasta

  • Servings: 4-6 main-course servings
  • Difficulty: fairly easy, but time-consuming
  • Print

4 large eggs
5 to 7 tbsp water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Mound the flour on a work surface or in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Break the eggs into well. With a fork, beat eggs lightly and stir in water, 1-2 tbsp at a time.
2. Gradually start incorporating flour from the sides of the bowl. Add more water as needed and continue mixing until flour is moistened.
3. When dough becomes stiff, use your hands to finish mixing. Form dough into a ball and knead for 3-4 minutes until dough is elastic. If you plan to use rolling pin, continue kneading until dough becomes smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 20 minutes to help it relax.
4. Lightly flour a large working area. Divide dough into fourths. Using a pasta machine or a rolling pin, roll out a portion of the dough at a time to desired thinness. Keep unrolled portion covered. Cut into desired shapes.

To make stained-glass pasta
Roll 2 pieces of dough, of equal size, as thin as you can. Press herbs or flowers onto one of the pieces. You may need to wet leaves/flowers slightly so they adhere to the dough better. Cover with the other piece and using a rolling pin, press and flatten the dough so that the two pieces are completely bonded.

To make striped or polka-dot pasta
On a piece of egg pasta, press either dots or stripes of colored pasta, then roll flat with a rolling pin or pasta machine. I used puréed kale and red peppers, in place of the water, to make green and orange pasta. You can use different vegetables to create different colors.

Fiesta Friday #10

Tags

, , , , ,

latin lover cocktail¡Ay, caramba! Latin Lover is @Fiesta Friday!

Introducing Fiesta Friday #10 co-hosts – Julianna@Foodie On Board and Hilda@Along The Grapevine, two Canadian bloggers and two of my very best blogger friends. Let’s thank them for being so gracious as to let us intrude into their space. Julianna and Hilda, are you ready? Tables set up, floors scrubbed and shined, furniture dusted, etc., and most importantly, red carpet laid out?

No, no, just kidding! You don’t have to do anything of the sort. We’re all old friends by now. We’ll help you set up. But as far as dealing with the rowdy bunch, you’re on your own. I’ll give you a few pointers so you know what to expect.

Watch out especially for Queen Sassy Pants Victoria and Eclectic Justine. Don’t let them get their hands on the Latin Lover or you may have mayhem on your hands. And keep your eyes on Jhuls, Saucy, and possibly Indira. Indira just recently swore off coffee, so I’m not sure how long she’ll be able to last before she snaps.

Jhuls and Saucy? Jhuls just downed way too many cupcakes before she showed up, so she’s very likely hyper. And Saucy might bring along several gatecrashers with her, something she is apt to do, although in our case, the more the merrier. Just make sure food and beverage is fully stocked to accommodate the extra guests, okay?

All right, it’s time now for features, the most exciting part of Fiesta Friday, and the most nerve-wracking at the same time. It’s getting more and more difficult to select features. All the linked posts are top-notch and if I could, I would pick all of them, but it won’t be feasible. I must choose among the best! So, I’m so glad I don’t have to do it alone anymore. My co-hosts will have to help decide from now on. I am so grateful for this.

One last time, however, I’m doing it solo. These are my picks:


Ngan@ngan made it took us to the San Francisco Farmers Market, where we spent pretty much the entire day getting a load of oh, so many fabulous finds. From female date blossoms and arugula blossoms (spicy) to cardoons (grew them once, not successfully) and colorful tulips. From fresh breads and bombolini to sunchokes and a ginormous 4-pound porcini – How many meals would that one mushroom make, I wonder? – we saw them all. Thank you, Ngan, for such a delightful day!


Shari@Cook AZ I Do came with a Fiesta Friday favorite, Spicy Pork Carnitas, and let us take a peek into her childhood scrapbook of how she spent her Fridays. Shari loves Fridays as much as we do. She was born on a Friday. Shari, you just got yourself a lifetime membership to the Fiesta Friday Club!


Prudy@BB&B (No, not Bed, Bath & Beyond! Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs!) tried so hard to make for us strawberry shortcake cupcakes, but it was not to be. Well, Prudy, we love you for trying and it’s true what they say. It’s the thought that counts. Besides, you came with your Open Face Steak and Radish Sliders. Oh, they are marvelous! So haute cuisine, Prudy!


Noony@Noony Tales created and brought this thingy. No really, she called it Protein energy bites-cum-cake-thingy. It’s one-of-a-kind, je ne sais quoi, no-bake tart with an even harder to describe glaze. Yet, when you read about it, you know it’s all going to work somehow, and that it would make a delicious, healthy and fruity treat. Noony, I’m going to make that thingy. I swear!

***

Alrighty then, Fiesta Friday #10 is now officially open, for all to come and join. I’m bringing my Latin Lover with me. Who wants a little taste?

latin lover @ fiesta friday

Latin Lover Cocktail

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

4 tbsp frozen pineapple juice concentrate
2 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate
4 tbsp frozen cranberry juice concentrate
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 oz rum
2 cups crushed ice

Combine all the juices, rum, and ice in a blender. Process until smooth. Pour into 2 glasses.

Link your post to join Fiesta Friday #10. If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, please read the guidelines.

Apsara

Sonal

Lori

Hilda

Elaine

Julianna

Dimple

Shelly

Mr. Fitz

Melissa

Weebirdie

Vanessa

Josette

Mila

Meghan

Nick

Margherita

Lisa

Kirsten

Kirsten

Kirsten

Nancy

Sabine

Melanie and Jim

Simi

Arlene

Jess/Becky

Laura

Tracy

Victoria

Laura

Patty

Indira

Jhuls

Alex

Justine

Sujatha

Sue

Miyuki

Working Mom

Saucy

Naina

Sylvia

Nell

Stacey

Linda

Anna

Stephanie

Selma

Juju

Noony

Fae

Janine

Prudy

Tammi

Aditi & Nikhil

DetoxMama

Ngan

Erika

Petra

Indu

Lina

Gerard

Katie

Angenette

Frankie’s Feast

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,325 other followers