Monday, July 26, 2010

Don't 'trifle' with me

I set out on a mission to make a "simple & summery" dessert to take to a Sunday BBQ. Apparently I made a trifle. I wasn't sure what to christen my creation but my friend assured me given the creamy layers it was a trifle. She lived in France for a while and is an expert in all things pastry, so I trust her judgment.

The trifle was a big hit. I was a little surprised when I had an empty bowl to take home because it was pretty big and not the only dessert at the BBQ of 10 odd people. I'm taking it as a compliment, though I would not minded having some for lunch today.

Strawberry Summer Trifle

1 3.4 oz box chocolate instant pudding (small box)
1 3.4 oz box vanilla instant pudding (small box)
4 cups of milk, divided
1 container of whipped topping, divided
8 oz cream cheese, divided
1 quart of strawberries, hulled & sliced
12-14 graham crackers

Equipment: Large glass bowl/serving dish, rolling pin

Using 2 cups of milk, mix chocolate pudding according to package directions in a medium sized container (allow space for additional ingredients to be added). Following the same directions mix the vanilla pudding in a separate container. Allow both puddings set. Mix 4 oz of cream cheese and 1/3 of the container of whipped cream into each pudding flavor until well blended (you can use a whisk but a hand mixer works better).

Place graham crackers in a zip-lock bag. Close the bag tightly, removing all the air. Crush the graham crackers into roughly dime-sized pieces using a rolling pin.

Layer the ingredients in a glass container until it's either full or you run out. The straw berries should be pushed up against the glass so you can see them clearly from the outside. The layers should be in the following order:

graham cracker
chocolate filling
vanilla filling
repeat until container is full or ingredients are exhasted. Top with remaining whipped topping and sprinkle with small amount of graham crackers and garnish with strawberry.

You can make this a day in advance, but it should be prepared at least 2-3 hours ahead of time to make sure it's properly chilled.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sensational Summer Sangria

Sangria is amazing on a hot summer day - fruity, refreshing and sinful. It'll also get you schnokered.

This isn't exactly your classic sangria but it's a delicious flavor blend that I dare you not to love. It was a big hit at my last BBQ at least, even the more "macho" attendees were forgoing the iced beer in favor of this fruity fare.

Sensational Summer Sangria
1 bottle red wine (something not too dry and not too pricey)
32 oz citrus flavored sparkling water (I used tangerine-lime flavor)
4-6 shots of tequila (or a little more or a little less)
1 lemon
2 orange

Pour the wine, sparkling water and tequila in a punch bowl. Slice lemon and oranges, squeeze their juice into the bowl and toss them in.

After I made the first batch and had a sample glass, I immediately left for the liquor store to buy more tequila because I knew there would a second batch needed. Typically sangria would be a rum drink but I feel that tequila is in the "tropical family" and therefore acceptable. The flavored water replaces the juice some recipes call for but adds a nice fizz, which is remarkably refreshing on a hot day.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marinara sauce - SGG 2010 goal!

When I made my ravioli last week, I also tried my own sauce. I looked at a multitude of recipes online and I was a little disappointed that all of them called for canned tomatoes! Not a single one asked for fresh! However, it makes the process that much easier, no chopping. So after my customary poking around in a few different recipes, what I came up with is below.

Simple Marinara Sauce

1 can Italian tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
2Tb mince garlic
2Tb olive oil
1Tb sugar
1Tb Italian seasoning
2tsp black pepper
2tsp sea salt

Sauté the garlic in the olive oil in a large sauce pan for 2-3 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, water, sugar and spices to sauce pan and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency. Serve with hot pasta.

The sauce I made (even with canned tomatoes) was better than most that you get from a jar but not mind blowing. I'll probably continue to use jar sauce most of the time and only pull out this version for special occasions but at least I have one cooking goal under my belt - only took 7 months!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Won ton ravioli!

I finally got to make my ravioli this weekend. I had complications this week because of a 3-day power outage. Yes, three days without electricity during a DC summer heat advisory no less. Sigh. So after throwing out just about everything that was in my refrigerator, I went to the store and bought new ingredients to make my ravioli. Frankly, I'm surprised I was that motivated to make anything.

But my perseverance paid off, using won tons to make your own ravioli might just be genius. I concocted my own basic recipe for the stuffing and read numerous posts online about people's experiences with the technique. Some complained that the won tons don't taste exactly like pasta leading to a slightly "off" flavor, but I personally found them to be an excellent substitute. I know the picture I took makes them look less than fantastic, but I was pretty impressed with them.

Many people also said they freeze very well, I don't have any to freeze to test this because I had a very hungry dinner guest but maybe next time I can give it a whirl and let you know how it turns out.

Spinach & Artichoke Ravioli

12oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 egg yoke
2 cups chopped frozen spinach (thawed)
1 jar marinated artichokes
1Tb Italian seasoning
1 package of won ton wrappers

Chop marinated artichokes into small pieces. Mix ricotta cheese, whole egg, spinach, chopped artichokes and Italian seasoning in medium sized bowl to make stuffing. Boil a large pot of water. Prepare a work surface (I used a large cutting board) and lay out 6 won ton wraps. Place a small mound of stuffing (circa 1.5Tb) in the center of each wrapper, spreading it out slightly but leaving about a quarter inch border around the edge. Using a pastry brush, smear a small amount of the egg yoke around each side of each won ton. Lay another won ton on top of each one on your work surface taking care to line up the edges and not to let the stuffing leak out. Press around the edges with your finger and then again with a fork to ensure that it is sealed. Boil for approximately 3 minutes. Repeat until all the ingredients are used.

I had two that kind of "blew up" in the water when I was trying to remove them, I think they were filled a little too full and boiled a little too long. Try to keep the water at a soft boil to prevent the ravioli from being pushed around too much while cooking. Some people online suggest steaming them to get them to stay together better, but it wasn't really a big challenge, easier than I was expecting based on my past experience with won ton wraps at least, boiling worked pretty well over all.

The recipe above makes about 24 ravioli, perfect for two hungry people or to put some in the freezer for later.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mini Taco Bites

So the weekend ran away from me and I haven't yet had a chance to make my ravioli (could still use steaming tips if anyone has any) but I threw together some taco bites using some of my wontons for my last-minute BBQ on the 4th.

When I was looking for steaming help, I happened upon a photo of some taco bites using wonton wraps for the shells. Genius? Uh, sort of. I think they offer a great presentation (ie they look cute!) and everyone was excited to try them but I also noticed no one was as excited for seconds. A little blah on the taste front.

I've considered they could be tasty shells to hold an avocado-crab mixture of some sort but I'm not sure that I'll try them again. If anyone has stray wontons, crab and avocado and wants to try it let me know how it turns out.

Wonton wraps
Prepared taco meat
Taco stuffin's (cheese, lettuce, salsa or whatever you normally put on your tacos)

Equipment: Muffin pan

Put wontons into compartments of lightly greased muffin tin, cupping them to form small bowls. Bake for 7 minutes at 350 degrees or until lightly browned. Fill cooled shells with taco meat and toppings. Serve.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Won ton ravioli - how to?

I found some local cooking program last weekend while flipping through the channels and the chef, whoever she was, mentioned that uses won tons to make quick homemade ravioli. Sounds like genius to me. Everything I see online suggests steaming them instead of boiling (so they stay together) but I can't find a thing from someone who has actually already tried it and how long they steamed. Can anyone help? I want to make them this weekend!