Friday, November 29, 2013

November Daring Bakers Challenge: Sfogliatelle

Who knew that making ricotta was so easy??? Well, know I do! This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was to make Sfogliatelle and one of the required elements was making the ricotta from scratch. Easy and SOOOOO good! Unfortunately, the picture of my ricotta is currently missing. Just use your imagination to visualize a lovely blob of white ricotta. :)

The sfogliatelle is a pastry wrapped around a ricotta/candied orange filling. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but was thinking it would be sort of like a filled doughnut. Boy, I was wrong. The ricotta was absorbed into the pastry, creating a lovely flavor without any goo. Can't complain!!

Sandie of the lovely blog, Crumbs of Love, was our November hostess. Sandie challenged us to make a traditional Italian dessert, along with its American version – Sfogliatelle (or better known in the US – lobster tails!) The flakey, 1000 layers of super thin dough, shaped into a horn and filled with a scrumptious filling. Così buono!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Catching Up

I've been a bit behind in my blogging... greatest apologies... unfortunately illness has decided to take up residence in our house. So, a quick catch up on what we've been doing lately.

Pumpkin Patch Trip:

On my birthday (before I had to leave for my business trip to Las Vegas), we bundled ourselves up and made our annual trek to the Fairbank Animal Farm pumpkin patch. After a few "I have to go potty" stops on the way there (including a stop at a closed used car lot's parking lot), we made it to our destination. We fed the birds (ducks, chickens, peacocks), played with goats, saw newborn piglets, and meandered through the pumpkin patches until we found THE pumpkins for us. It was a foggy fall day, but luckily, we didn't get rained on. The only downfall of the outing was someone hijacked our wheelbarrow while we were in the pumpkin patch (we'd parked it by the fence), so we had to muscle our pumpkins back to the main farm (aka the cash register). Oh well... it turned out pumpkin patch trip into a wee bit of a workout, too. Bonus!

Halloween recap:
We were invited to Annika's classmate's house for a Halloween party. Their house was brimming with kids and parents... unfortunately, I was brimming with cold germs and didn't have much staying power (or much of a voice by half an hour into the party). So, we bailed early and instead of doing the group trick-or-treating, we meandered home on our own and let the kids trick or treat as we worked our way back to the house. The kiddos had a great time and were much saddened the next morning when we broke the news that they didn't get to go trick-or-treating that day, too. (We are such mean parents!)

November has zipped by us at lightning speed! On Friday, Eric's mom and my mom joined the kids at school for Grandparents Day. Looking back, I wish I'd asked someone to snap a pic of Annika and the grandmothers together... dang, hindsight really is 20/20. The reports I heard were that the day was a great success! After the various events at school (mass, refreshments, sung entertainment, book fair), the grandmothers and Annika had lunch together at the 125th Street Grill. What a great way to top off a fun morning!!

Last night, we gathered to at my brother and sister-in-law's house to celebrate our niece Kat's 16th birthday. We had a low-key evening (mostly ... really, what is a family gathering without at least a little drama here and there?) that included college football, a yummy dinner of homemade fries and burgers, and red velvet cake for dessert. After getting home, we watched the UW Dawgs tromp on the Oregon State Beavers (GO DAWGS!!!). (OK, full disclosure: We didn't stay up to watch the whole game... we're old and go to bed early, but we did watch 1/2 of the game and then watched the rest when we got up this morning... God bless the inventors of DVR technology!)

Next stop.... Thanksgiving! All aboard!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween Festivities Wrap-up

How October flew by so darned fast is beyond me! Actually, when I stop and think about how much we crammed into those 31 days, it makes sense. Even with a very full schedule, we didn't let our Halloween festivities go by the way side.

On my birthday, we bundled up and headed to the pumpkin patch that we've been going to since before Eric and I got married. It is a great little family farm that opens to the public during the weekends in October. The kids had a great time with the various farm animals... they petted goats, fed chickens and ducks, looked at a calf and sheep, and much more! After spending time with the animals, we trekked out to the pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect pumpkins for our porch. Conor had a tricky time deciding on a pumpkin... each one that was perfect for him was only perfect until he saw the next perfect pumpkin. We really lucked out in terms of the weather... it was cool and foggy, but we avoided getting rained on, which is always a plus.

The Saturday before Halloween, we whipped out the newspaper and carving tools so we could convert our pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. Earlier in the day, Annika and I had gone to the store and discovered a new (at least, new to us) way to decorate pumpkins. When I was a kid, the Light Bright toy was quite popular; the same idea was applied to create this pumpkin decorating kit. The kit includes a little wooden mallet, some templates, and colored plastic pegs (very similar to golf tees) that get pounded into a pumpkin. The kids both chose to use the light-up pegs instead of going with the traditional carving method. In fact, Eric is the only one who did a traditional face in his pumpkin. I scraped "BOO" into my pumpkin and outlined the letters with the light-up pegs. The kids had a great time ... as did their mommy and daddy. :)

On Halloween proper, we went to the home of one of Annika's classmates for a Halloween dinner party. After work/school, the kids donned their costumes and we packed up our contribution to the party: ghost and bat cookies. (I didn't get a picture of the bats... but trust me, I made 'em!)  Unfortunately, I was also coming down with a nasty cold, so we didn't stick around at the party long enough for the group's trick-or-treating. We meandered with the kids as we walked home so they could do some trick-or-treating and fill up their candy bags. After visiting a couple of houses, Annika decided that her ghost costume was more of a hindrance than intended, so Eric ran home to get the dinosaur costume she wore to school. Presto chango!! Fortunately, both costumes allowed her to wear street clothes and a warm coat. For weeks, Conor told us that he wanted to dress up as Spiderman for Halloween.... fortunately, we have a hand-me-down costume from our nephew Ian and Conor received a Spiderman mask from some family friends for his birthday last year. Talk about perfect!

Just like at the pumpkin patch, we lucked out with the weather. Last year, we got poured on when we were out trick-or-treating... this year, we had a dry and somewhat warm night. The kids had a great time and really got swept up in the fun of Halloween.

Friday, November 1, 2013

October Daring Bakers Challenge: Savory Pie

While at a Halloween party last night, I had an "OH CRUD" moment when I realized I neglected to post the October Daring Bakers Challenge on time. My trip to Vegas sure messed with my sense of time!

SO, without further ado.... my savory pie!

This challenge was PERFECT for me this month. October is proving to be an insanely busy month and I had pot roast leftovers that needed to be spruced up a bit. So, I sauteed some onions, potato, carrots, and celery, added the pot roast leftovers and gravy, threw in a bit of this and a little of that (aka seasonings and spices), scooped it all into my go-to homemade pie crust, added vents with a small cookie cutter, splashed it with an egg wash, and popped it into the oven. Fast, easy, tasty! Ta da!

Perfect dinner on a wet and chilly autumn evening.

Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.