Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cheesecake Trifle

♥ Beginner

My dad believes that you're never prepared to attend a party until a trifle has been made. He right too. They not only hit the spot for flavor, combining all of our favorite things in one, but they also look really beautiful and professional. Let's be honest, it's hard to screw up a trifle.

This one just happens to include all of my children's favorite things. A spin on the traditional red, white, and blue trifle that you see around the fourth of July... this one was gone in a matter of two days. Enjoy!

What you'll need: 
1 Angel Food Cake
1 Box of blueberries
1 Box of Strawberries
1 Box of Raspberries
1 Instant Jell-O Packet, Cheesecake Flavor
2 Cups of Milk
1 Cool Whip, 12 oz.
2 Butterfingers Candy Bars, crushed

How it's done: 

1. Start by preparing your pudding. Make the pudding using the Jell-O packet and the milk. Set in the fridge for 10 minutes.

2.Cut the angel food cake into bite size pieces. Cut off the tops of the strawberries and quarter them. Rinse all of the fruit, and set aside.

3. Once pudding has set, remove from fridge and gently fold in the cool whip. Once combined, it's time to assemble the trifle!

4. Layer in the following order - Angel Food Cake, Fruit, Pudding mixture, Crushed butterfingers bar. Two layers, and whalah! Enjoy!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Creamy Vodka Sauce

♥♥ Intermediate

If you've made the homemade Lobster Ravioli then I can only imagined you've made your way on over here looking for a great sauce to top them with. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, and you just wanted a great new pasta sauce in your catalog then you've come to the right place. (You should still check out the Lobster Ravioli here though, because they are so good.) This sauce can be used with any pasta, and tastes terrific!

What you'll need: 
1 Oz. Vodka
1 Cup Marinara Sauce
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, Quartered
2 Tbsp. Butter

Alternative (I suggest this with the Lobster Ravioli) Add: 
1/2 Cup Seafood Broth
1 Cup Peeled & Deveined Shrimp, Cooked and Quartered

How it's done: 

1. In Saute Pan, add Vodka and burn off the alcohol. Add Marinara, Heavy Cream, and grape tomatoes. Stir and heat through. Add Butter and stir to incorporate. Simmer for 3-5 minutes.

If you're making the variation - In saute pan, cook shrimp until warm, add vodka and burn off alcohol. Add remaining ingredients including the seafood broth, and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Lobster Ravioli, Homemade

♥♥♥ Advanced

I don't know about your family, but mine is part Italian and we're serious about our Pasta. I mean, my maiden name is Vivona for heaven-sake. We don't let a week go by without having SOMETHING made of semolina flour. And last week was no exception.

My mom and I were at work last week, working our tails off (anyone need a Realtor? Anyone? Bueller?) and we stopped to grab some brain food before we collapsed. Occasionally we'll get gift cards from vendors in a hope that we'll send them more business, and we had one for a local restaurant that we needed to use. After going through their menu online we settled on a Lobster Ravioli in a Creamy Vodka Sauce. It was delicious. Blow your mind good. But at the same time, seemed so simple and refined.

That's when it hit me. I have to make this. Now. Right now.

Okay, not right that minute because I was waist deep in work, but it definitely made its way onto my menu for the following week.

If you've been following the blog or very long, then you know that I usually like to try and find meals that don't take more than 30 minutes in the kitchen (because who has the time?), so if you're looking for another quick recipe you'll want to skip this one. It doesn't take a lot of hard work, just time... I found that it was perfect for a Sunday afternoon when everyone was napping after church. The house was quiet, and I didn't have anyone on my heels yelling, "hold me!"

FYI - You can't buy Lobster Ravioli in the frozen food section. Trust me, I looked. So you'll have to make it (or order out) if you get a hankering.  I suggest making a double batch and freezing the extras for later.

What you'll need:

For the Filling - 
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
2 Cups Lobster Meat, Cooked - Chopped roughly (I used the pre-packaged Lobster Meat from my local grocery store)
2 Pinches of Parsley
1/2 Lb. Ricotta Cheese
3-4 Tbs. Parmesan Cheese (You know I went crazy overboard with this one.)
Pinch of Salt & Pepper

For the Pasta Sheets- 
1 Cup Semolina Flour
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour (You can use a wheat flour if you would like)
2 Large Eggs
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil, Extra Virgin

How it's done: 

1. Start by making your pasta dough. Sift the flours together, and add them to your kitchen-aid mixing bowl. Add in the eggs and oil, and a Tbsp. of water. Using the dough hook or paddle attachment, mix on 2 for several minutes. Dough should look crumbly. Turn off mixer, and squeeze dough together with your hands. If dough forms a soft ball, turn it out onto the counter and kneed for 10 minutes. *If dough feels to dry, add 1 Tbsp. of water and mix for another minute. Repeat as necessary.

2. After kneading, wrap dough ball tightly in plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.

3. For the filling - Add Olive Oil, Lobster Meat, and Parsley to a skillet on Medium Heat. Once warmed, remove from the heat and add the Ricotta and Parmesan Cheeses. Combine well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set Aside.

4. After dough has chilled, remove from refrigerator and knead for another 5-10 minutes. Pasta should feel silky and all of the graininess of the flour should be gone. Cut in half and roll into a large rectangle. Get the dough as thin as you can without tearing - as it sits on the counter it will tighten back up. Cut into ravioli squares or circles.

5. Take half of your ravioli squares and add 1 Tbsp. of filling to them. Brush the edges with egg wash, and then seal with another pasta sheet. Press edges firmly, and press with fork if needed. (If they aren't well sealed, they will open back up in the water while boiling.)

6. Lay all of your finished ravioli on a cookie sheet (do not let them touch each other) and place them in the freezer. I layered wax paper between them so that I could get more in the freezer. Freeze them for 1 hour, then put them in a large freezer bag, label and freeze.

7. To cook immediately: Cook the ravioli in a pot of boiling water for 7-8 minutes, until they float up.

If you're interested in making the Creamy Vodka Sauce that goes with them, check it out here!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Peanut Butter S'mores Cookies

♥ Beginner

I've been posting so much "real food" lately, and have been neglecting the sweets. The baking side of me has felt neglected. When my daughter came into my room this morning and said, "mommy, why don't we ever do anything fun in the kitchen anymore?" it pushed me over the edge. So off the babies went to bed, and into the kitchen we went.

I had one last cup of marshmallow fluff left (it doesn't
conform to the No-Preservatives & No-Dye program that we're on), but I needed to use it up. We just happened to have these items on hand, so we got to work creating a new cookie that tastes awesoooommmmme. If you don't like s'mores, or peanut butter, we can't be friends anymore. :)

What you'll need:
1 Box of Ritz Crackers (or similar)
1 Jar of Peanut Butter
1 Jar of Marshmallow Cream
1 Package of Chocolate chips OR Chocolate Bark

How it's done: 
1. Lay your crackers flat on the counter, bottom side up. Put Peanut Butter on half of them (not too much!), and put marshmallow fluff on the other half. Careful to go very light on the marshmallow fluff because when it comes in contact with the warm chocolate it will try to leak out the sides!
2. Push each half together to form sandwiches!
3. Melt your chocolate! (According to package instructions.) And dip your sandwiches in them. Place on baking rack to cool.

(This is where the old me would have covered them in sprinkles or drizzled them with an alternating color candy melt, but since we've given up dyes I restrained myself. :))


Monday, March 3, 2014

Easy Chicken Parmesan

♥♥ Intermediate

At our house, we eat a lot of different types of food. But there's one thing that never changes. If I make something with a marinara sauce, there won't be leftovers. That's just a fact. So when I venture into an easy chicken Parmesan, the kids go crazy. ...and I love it. A lot.

This recipe is easy, and doesn't take a ton of preparation. It's relatively quick if you're needing dinner in a timely manner. I'm going to list a jar of marinara sauce in the ingredients, but I tend to make my own (sorry, secret family recipe), which you have time to do while the chicken is cooking, if you want.

What you'll need:
1 lb. Chicken Breast, sliced in half length-wise (thinner)
1 12oz Jar Marinara Sauce
3 C. Shredded Parmesan
1 C. Italian Breadcrumbs

How it's done:
1. Preheat oven to 400*F and prepare a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
2. In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese. Dredge chicken in mixture, patting chicken so that it's thoroughly covered. Place on baking sheet and cook for 30 Minutes, flipping once.
3. While chicken is cooking, prepare a 9X13 baking dish by coating bottom with a thin layer of marinara sauce.
4. Once chicken is done cooking, lay it in your baking dish, cover with remaining marinara, and top with cheese. Bake in oven for 15 more minutes.Or until cheese starts to brown.

Serve over whole wheat spaghetti, with a side salad and garlic bread. Enjoy!