Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ravioli with Truffle Cream Sauce

Artichoke Ravioli with Truffle Cream Sauce 

This is a great sauce recipe I came up with for artichoke ravioli last Friday. The sauce could be used on any type of pasta noodle, or ravioli. My inspiration came from one of the best pastas I have ever eaten in my life in Florence, Italy in July, which was a truffle mushroom and ricotta ravioli with a truffle cream sauce ( I know, it was absolutely to die for!) This is the slightly lightened up, but still amazing, at home version. I served this with seared scallops (recipe in post below).

Artichoke Ravioli with Truffle Cream Sauce

1 package frozen, fresh prepared ravioli of choice. Good options might be vegetable, traditional ricotta or something similar.

2 c sliced mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus cut into 1 1/2'' pieces
1 bulb garlic, chopped
1/2 shallot diced
2 T olive oil
2 T truffle butter*
1 1/2 T truffle oil
1/4 cup light cream
1/4 white wine
1/2 lemon juiced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

* If you can't find truffle butter, substitute 2T butter and add 1/2 tablespoon more truffle oil. I found the truffle butter at an Italian grocery store.

Sauté garlic and shallots in olive oil, cook 4 min., add asparagus, cook 5 min. Add white wine, mushrooms and lemon juice. Sautee on low until nearly ready to serve, stirring occasionally. Finally, add truffle butter, truffle oil and cream and combine well. Cook on low for a few minutes until warm. Salt and pepper to taste. Top ravioli with sauce and serve.

Perfect Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops

Searing scallops perfectly is quite the challenge, until you master it, that is! These were the best seared scallops I've ever made, so I wanted to share the success. I will follow this method forever more! My husband and I have certainly tried searing scallops dozens of times, but they have never turned out this good. I finally decided to go about it slightly differently, and making sure everything was just right. I guarantee if you follow these steps your scallops will turn out beautifully, as well.

Lightly rinse scallops and then place on a kitchen towel and paper towels, cover with paper towels. I found the two layer towels did the trick to soak up all the excess water from the scallops. Let scallops dry for 5-10 min. Once dry, salt and pepper the scallops.

2 T Butter
2 T Olive Oil
Sea Scallops
Salt & Pepper

You will need to use a skillet suitable for searing. Add butter and olive oil and heat on high. To sear the scallops properly, the oil and butter must be very hot, and you should actually see the tiniest, tiniest amount of smoke. Your pan is now ready. Add scallops one at a time, and place flat side down on the skillet. The scallops will begin to sizzle and cook immediately. Cook approximately 90 seconds before flipping. When searing, the food will "release" itself when ready to flip. Your scallops should do this around 90 seconds. If you try to flip too early the scallops will feel stuck, that is ok. Wait slightly longer until the scallop releases, and then flip. Keep an eye on the heat, if it begins to get too hot, just adjust accordingly. Also, keep in mind if using an electric stove the response time to cool is longer than if using gas. I have a gas stove, so the heat can be controlled quicker.

Enjoy your amazing seared scallops!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fall Door Bling

Putting my treasure chest of crystals to good use, I made this fall door hanging to jazz up my front door before Halloween stuff goes up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicken & Rice Tetrazzini

A take on the traditional pasta tetrazzini, this is a great way to use leftovers, and make a slightly different type of casserole. One of the best things about tetrazzini recipes, is that you can easily add or sub vegetables for what you have on hand. I have made similar dishes subbing in broccoli, other bell peppers, etc. and have also omitted the black beans for a more traditional Italian type of casserole. Also, for a less spicy version stick with plain canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes.

2 large chicken breasts, cut into bit sized pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes + 1 can diced green chilies OR 1 can Ro*Tel
1 zucchini, bite sized pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 medium green pepper, chopped
Sliced mushrooms
1 to 1 1/4 cup left over Ninfa's Queso or 1 cup Velveeta cubed, plus 3T milk
2 T garlic powder or 6 cloves fresh chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Panko, Japanese style breadcrumbs
Pam cooking spray
2 T olive oil, to cook chicken

Makes 1 large casserole, or 1 small and 1 medium casserole. Can be frozen.

Preheat oven to 375. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Heat olive oil in skillet and add chicken, saute until cooked through. Prep all vegetables. Spray casserole dish(es) with Pam. In a large bowl, begin combining ingredients, and mix well. Add chicken once cooking is complete. Mix again. Spoon into dish(es). Top with a layer of Panko, and spray lightly with Pam. Place in oven, uncovered for 30 minutes. Browning of Panko varies by oven, you may need to turn it up to 400 for the last 5-10 min. Casserole should be lightly bubbling inside when it is done. If Panko browns quickly, cover with foil.  I have really seen this vary oven to oven, so just use your best judgement ; )

Chevron - A smarter, faster & more effective way!

Hello All!
After lots of searching on Pinterest for a "how to" on Chevron, I realized it could be done a lot easier than all the tutorials I found. I am certainly not saying any method doesn't take time and patience, but I think you'll see this way makes far more sense. I have included lots of pictures of my project to help illustrate the steps. Keep in mind, for any chevron project, measuring and being accurate are key to a great final product. Prepping correctly will save you time later. By using this method, you will also have a chevron template to use for any future projects, or to let a friend borrow for their project (You might want to barter something else from them for your time!)

Ready to make this?!

1 - 24''x36'' blank canvas, or canvas size of your choice
1 Roll of Scotch Blue Painters Tape . Buy the width of tape you want your stripes to be. I used 1 1/2''.
Choice of main paint color
1 small container of touch up paint color (white)
1 foam paint brush
1 small detail paint brush, for touch ups
Xacto Knife
Cutting mat
Metal ruler(s)
1 metal "L" square if you have it (this really helps with accuracy)
Triangular ruler
1 standard poster board (28''x22")
Mechanical Pencil
Covered painting surface, such as cardboard or newsprint

Creating the Template:

1)-Begin by cutting poster board in half horizontally. Tape edges together, board should now be 56'' wide x 11" high. This will become your chevron template.
-Using the triangular ruler, begin outlining the "bottom" of your first chevron. Align the bottom edge of the poster board (factory cut edge) with the bottom edge of the triangle, placing the center of the triangular ruler in the center of the poster board. (Where you taped the two pieces together).
-Trace the inside two lines of the triangle onto the poster board. Moving to either side, continue tracing the inside of the triangle. Always align the ruler with the bottom edge, this will assure your lines are at the exact same spot vertically as you create the design. Your pattern should like like the below picture.
- Continue this process across the whole bottom of the poster board.

Creating the "bottom" edge of the chevron on the template

2) Getting ready to create the "top" of the chevron: The width of the chevron should be the exact same width as your painters tape. ex: 1 1/2''. Assuming your ruler is less than 1 1/2'', and too make the marking simple, and perfectly accurate cut 1 strip of tape and place it on your ruler. Use another ruler to measure how wide 1 1/2'' is. Keep one free edge of the ruler, and the other edge should have a slight overlap of tape. (I used my triangle ruler for this and had about 1/4'' overlap.) Now, when you align your ruler with the "bottom" edges you will have the exact width you need! Align the tape edge of the ruler with the lines your just created and begin marking the "top" edge of the chevron. Erase any lines that extend "into" the chevron. Your design should begin looking like the below two image.

Creating the "top" edge of the chevron. Starting in the center of the poster board.

Beginning of the chevron design.

3) Checking alignment: Using an "L" square draw vertical lines straight up through the points in the chevron (see picture). Your line should go perfectly through both the "top" and "bottom" of the chevron. If it doesn't make slight adjustments to your line. I only had to adjust 1 or 2 of mine, and it was only by 1/8'' or so. The more accurate you can get this to be, the better your final design will be.

Cutting out the design

4) After you have adjusted any lines as necessary, being cutting out the chevron.

5) Your template is now created!

A Chevron template

6) Marking the board: Place template onto the canvas and align in the vertical center and horizontal center. Tape the template to the canvas using painters tape. Check the height is exactly the same in 3 spots (both sides and the center).  Mine was placed 22 cm up from the bottom (Sorry, patternmaking rulers use cm!) Adjust tape placement until all 3 spots have the exact same measurement.

Taping right side of template at 22 cm

Taping right side of template at 22 cm

Taping center of template at 22 cm

7) Ready to trace: Lightly trace along all edges of your placed chevron. (Sorry this one is a little hard to see, the lines are faint.)

A fully traced design

8) Keep tracing: move the template up and align all poster edges to the drawn edges of the first chevron (first picture below). Tape template in place. Trace outer edge.

Two things to note: 
1) Using this method you will not trace this design on the entire board all at once. By tracing, then taping it eliminates lots of pencil lines, which equates for less mess you will need to fix later!!!

2) Canvas edges - I choose to wrap my design to the sides, top and bottom. If you choose to do this, don't forget to trace the template onto those small side areas, also.

Placing the template above the first traced design

Again, sorry it is hard to see! Two traced chevrons

9) Getting ready to tape...After some brief trial and error on the best way to get the tape pieces the exact length I need, I came up with this highly effective method. By the way, scissors will not cut it for this part of the project, no pun intended. Get out the Xacto! The picture below shows how I effectively cut each piece of tape to the correct length. I first taped my "L" square to my cutting mat, aligning it with one of the top lines. Then I placed each piece of tape parallel to the "L" square. Next, square your other ruler to the "L" square to create a perfect 90 degree angle. Slice the tape on the line. My measure was 11 1/4 cm as you can see below. The tape is cut at perfect 90 degree angels on both sides.

Tape cutting assembly process

10) Determine your tape measurement: Depending on the width of the tape you selected, and that you are more than likely using an inches ruler, your number will be different. Measure the inside of one side of the chevron, this will be your new magic number.

11) Start cutting and taping away your first chevron. When placing the tape, place to the outside of the pencil line, this is really only like 1/36''... The pencil line will be covered up by paint. Keep this concept in mind as you tape out the rest of the board. Your tape pieces will overlap in the corners of each chevron.

First taped design 

12) After you have taped out the first chevron design, place your stencil above it. Align all edges, and center points, tape in place. Trace top edge.

Moving the template up to trace the next design

13) Continue with this method as you cover the entire canvas. Note how many less pencil lines you have than other methods :  )

Fully taped canvas

14) Seal edges: Press all tape edges down very firmly by hand. Repeat using a credit card. This is a very important step!

 15) Start Painting, Finally!! Use straight, even strokes to cover up the canvas. It works best if you work horizontally across the canvas. In each horizontal design I did up/ down/ up/ down (left to right) to create even paint lines.

Painting the canvas

16) Let first coat dry completely. Repeat with second, and third coats. I did 4 coats on mine because I wanted a very dark gold color. The coat number will depend on the type of paint and color you are using. Be sure paint dries between coats.

17) WAIT...Hardest part!! Wait 24 hours (or close to it) before removing the tape. The first one was scary, and then after I saw how cool it looked, really, really exciting!! Keep taking them off and have fun.

18) I saved my tape in "v" form, in hopes I can reuse them for another chevron. Stay tuned on that one... (my husband laughed, too).

19) Voila!!!

Finished canvas before touch ups

20) You will notice above if you look closely a few spots where the paint got through. No biggie, this may happen. Simply take a fine paintbrush and touch up the necessary spots.

21) Enjoy your artwork!!

Finished Project!!! YEAH!

Hopefully you find this method to be effective, and my tutorial helps you create a masterpiece of your own! Aren't you glad you don't have to go back and erase or cover up tons more pencil lines in the white area?! Me, too!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ninfa's Chile Con Queso

"Copy Cat" recipe for the Chile Con Queso served at Mama Ninfa's in Houston, Texas. It is hands down, the best cheese dip I've ever had!

1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk OR 1 Cup Whole Milk + 1/2 cup Half and Half
2 lbs Velveeta Cheese
1/3 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
3 T Diced Bell Pepper
1 T Fresh Diced Jalapeno
3 T Diced Onions
2 T Sliced Green Onions
1 Cup Diced Tomatoes
2 T Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1 T Butter

Create double boiler pot; add 1'' water to the bottom of a large pot. Place glass bowl on top of pot, careful that the bowl doesn't touch the water. Add Velveeta and milk, cook on medium low heat until melted, stir as necessary. Add Cheddar Cheese and stir until melted. In a small pan saute bell peppers, onions and fresh jalapenos in butter until tender.

Add tomatoes, cilantro and sauteed vegetables to the cheese. Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with warm tortilla chips and enjoy.

Cajun Jambalaya

Cajun Jambalaya with a small Ford twist. We omit sausage from ours and use brown rice to make it slightly healthier.


3 yellow onions, diced
2 green peppers, diced
2 red peppers, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped. Small amount reserved for garnishing
6-8 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
2 cups sliced okra, caps and ends removed
3 bulbs of garlic, chopped or pressed
4 cups cooked brown rice
4 chicken breasts cut into1/2'' cubes
2 lbs fresh shrimp, cut into halves or thirds depending on size
2 sticks butter
6T Olive Oil
1/2 cup flour
3 cups shrimp stock*
4T Smoked Paprika
Sea salt
3T Worcestershire sauce
2T Red pepper flakes
2 tsp cayenne pepper
Sliced jalapenos (optional garnish)

* We have made our own seafood stock each time we've made this recipe, but purchasing store stock would also work. To make your own shrimp stock, this is a great recipe, which I used: Shrimp Stock

Makes 12 dinner sized servings. Batch can easily be cut in half, but also freezes well. Total prep time - approximately 45 min. Total cooking time, about 45 min - 1 hour.

If making your own shrimp stock, start stock in a large pot. Prep shrimp and cut chicken, refrigerate until ready to use. Chop all vegetables and set aside in bowls.  Heat 1 stick butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over low-medium heat. Sauté onions, peppers, celery and garlic until tender. Meanwhile, cook brown rice in a separate pan. After onions and peppers are tender, add tomatoes to large stock pot and continue to sauté. Add shrimp stock, then chicken, and cook a few minutes before adding the shrimp. Keep heat at medium, and continue to cook. Melt 1 stick of butter, whisk in flour to make a roux. Add roux into large pot and blend well.  Add rice, okra, parsley and seasonings. Additional salt, pepper and spice to taste depending on your preference. Once seasoned well, continue to cook 10 more minutes on low until flavors are well incorporated.

Serve and enjoy!!!