Swamp Pasta

She ain't the purdy-est pasta, but hot damn she's delicious. Sometimes the best meals are the ones you just sorta swoosh together out of a bare-bones pantry.

I'm a visual kid, and all about colour. But not today! Today is all about a health-conscious light meal in a pretty mundane shade of sage. I know I'm selling it here, but you do trust, right?

Swamp Pasta
8 ounces Lemon Parsley Mafaldine
(you can use any sort of pasta you like - spinach, lemon pepper, or plain - but we are going for green, can substitute gluten-free)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
can of lima beans, drained
few glugs olive oil/ pats of butter
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup milk (i was going for brothy, as opposed to real rich and creamy - if you want a creamier sauce, go on and use heavy cream)
dash of red pepper flakes
zest of one orange
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus a good dusting for the tops

Set a large pot to boil and toss in a decent palm-full of salt. Meanwhile sauté minced garlic in olive oil until soft, add lima beans, broth and milk. Put 2/3 of the orange zest in as well as the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and red pepper flakes, stir. Once pasta is cooked (I enjoy pasta al dente) toss it into the sauce pan and mix thoroughly. Plate pasta, and sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano Reggiano and orange zest. Couple turns of the pepper grinder and Bon Appetit!



A Bourbon Spiked Thanksgiving

Yesterday we hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. We had a lot of reasons to celebrate. We got married this year! And, my parents are getting married after 29 years of being together! (I like to think we inspired them.) We finished our new dining room!!! And it is beautiful, Thanks Brian. It was a good time to take a break and celebrate the upswings of this so-called life.

So, I super-geeked out, eyes glued to cookbooks – real life and virtual – to nail down the perfect recipes. I had a lot of people to please, ya know. Most of all my Dad. He's the picky one and well, I am a Daddy's girl, I aim to please. I always have to encourage him to try things he so quickly dismisses based on previous experiences. And when I do, he gulps it down very appreciatively. But I also have to appeal to my foodie-friends who appreciate an unexpected and new spin on the typical Thanksgiving meal. I love a good challenge. Joy!

The Menu
Roasted Turkey & Gravy - Thanks Beth!
Ham with Bourbon, Molasses and Pecan Glaze
Smashed Cream & Butter Potatoes
Cooks Illustrated Green Bean Casserole
Apple-Chestnut Stuffing
Nikki's Sweet Potatoes
Homemade Rolls - Thanks Cheryl!
Cranberry & Orange Relish
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

There is a lot to be thankful for. Everyone raved about the food and dining room. We ate together. We cleaned up together. And then we played Rock Band. That's right. My parents are pretty sweet and both rocked multiple instruments. We ended the night with Sara & Steve playing Scene It. I got my ass handed to me. It was a great day.

A few things I am thankful for this year:
My Dad's stable health.
A clean basement.
Pulling off an over ambitious wedding.
Taking my first motorcycle ride with Brian.
Reconnecting with old close friends.
Opening my heart to new friends.
A new phone.
Two fat cats to cuddle me.
My parents are getting married after almost 30 years together!!!


What I'm Cooking This Coming Week

I have to admit that I spend way too much time nose deep in cookbooks figuring out recipes to cook each week. From the chosen recipes, I create a grocery list - by the layout of our local store. I KNOW! It's sick, but extremely efficient. Here's this week's menu.

What I'm Cooking This Week:

Wild Rice & Dried Cherry Soup
Red Bean Kiev
Asparagus & Lemon Cream Spaghetti
Rustic Minestrone
Chickpea Salad
Orange & Almond Dessert Cakes

On deck for this weekend: African Red Pepper Peanut Soup
Since B. will be spending boy time in the woods, I will make one of my favorites.

UPDATE: 10.25, 7:44 pm: African Red Pepper Peanut Soup is in my belly. Delicious.
10.28 asparagus & lemon cream farfalle consumed.


A Few Favorites This Fall

It's Fall, and I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite things this season.

My Sontuko Knife
The oversized bamboo cutting board B picked up
French Rolling Pin
This really helps with rolling out the pastry dough for my Palmiers

Garam Masala
Great spice that's sweet and savory. I love it sprinkled on top of rice and beans.
Northwoods Fire
We love this on our breakfast potatoes and in our chili.

Aged Gouda
Brie Meritage

Great spread on a warm baguette.

Tropicana Orange Juice (it really is the best)
Get the good bacteria in ya!
Chai Americaine Tea with raw sugar and milk
What I drink before bed these days.

Arborio Rice (for risotto)

I also adore this beautiful bouquet of fall flowers. Aren't they gorgeous?


Perogies / Varenyky

The perogie is amongst one of my family's favorite recipes. it was presented by a friend of the family as an alternative to fried potatoes as a sidecar to eggs. Soft pasta dough pillows a variety of fillings - our favourite? Onions, potatoes and sharp cheddar. Boiled gently, and fried up with butter onions. fantastic.

Later on i ended up befriending a Ukrainian who signed me up as a volunteer for cooking a big dinner at the ukrainian center he danced for. I would be working with the skilled and nimble hands of the female elders in the ukrainian community over in nordeast, no pressure or anything. I loved the whole process and was eager to try a real homemade perogie.

It was decadent... smooth silky potatoes with an sharp cheesey onion flavour. They didn't fry them, just a soil boil. I noticed how the dough was more durable than i had experienced and therefore no need for a firm-up in the pan. I was hooked.

There are multiple ways to serve the varenyky but my favorite is pan fried with mounds of caramelized onions and a dollop of sour cream and snipped chives.

Let me know what you think!

Perogies or Varenyky
For dough:
3 eggs yolks
3-5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
cool tap water
pinch of salt
boiling water

3 white potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed with a little milk
1/2 large onion, diced small (save other 1/2 to fry up along side them)
1/2 cup cheddar

To make the dough:
Beat 3 egg yolks together with a fork, add two cups of cool tap water, mix thoroughly. Add salt and then flour, one cup at a time, until you have a firm dough. . Mix and knead on a floured surface, adding a little flour at a time, until you have a dough that looks smooth and shiny. Don’t overknead! Oil the dough ball, and put it into a bowl, cover with a moistened cloth, and refrigerate for a half-an-hour. *To freeze: Put ball in plastic bag at this point. When you want to use it, just pop it in the fridge to defrost.

To make the potato filling:
Mash cooked potatoes with a couple tablespoons milk.. Dice 1 onion fine, fry in cooking oil or butter, and add to the potato, let cool, mix together with potatoes.

Roll out pieces of dough on a pre-floured surface. Roll out (with floured pin) to about an 1/8-1/16 inch thick. Cut with a 3" cookie cutter (the top of a glass will work just fine). Place a tablespoon or so of the filling on half of the circle, fold over and crimp the edges shut. Take our time doing this part, it's important that they are sealed. Once you've your half-moon, place it on a floured cookie-sheet with space around it. They are sticky as hell. Cover with a floured dish cloth.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop the pierogies in very gently. They are done when they float. Drain and transfer to a bowl and mix lightly with butter.

Meanwhile, saute the onion diced onion. Serve with buttered perogies.

Top with sour cream and snipped chives.

To freeze cooked pierogies, place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight, then transfer to a plastic freezer bag.


Eating October

Fall is by far my most favorite time of the year. It feels like all the energy around me is rushing to take rest for the Winter. I get lost in the transformation. So today I took a walk over lunch – to the river – to drift my many thoughts down the river.

I just wandered, with no plan. Something that doesn't happen very often anymore. And something I plan to start doing more of. It really helps one stop to notice life moving around you. At the beginning of my walk to the river, I walked with a young woman who complimented me on my hat for two blocks just chatting about the day. I studied up close, the marble enveloping a building I drive by on my way home everyday, admiring the reflected patterns. I hopped up on a fountain to watch the water pour giddily into a pool. I approached the grain belt sign with intention. And when I got to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge I climbed up too high and dangled myself till I felt alive with danger. Then I hopped down in eager anticipation of a 5 minute walk further to Surdyks which houses my favorite cheese shop.

Passing by Nicollet Island, I caught a glimpse of the hugest driftwood ever, I might go back there just to take a picture. When I approached Nye's, I was welcomed with some polka which put a swing in my step. In and out of the cheese shop, wine store and butcher shop, I was back on Hennepin moving back across the bridge. Late for a creative pow-wow & fingers creased from Smith's Nut Brown carrier - I caught glimpse of a bride and groom walking for their wedding photos. It really was a quite beautiful day for photography. I felt grateful for that.

When I got home tonight, all I wanted was something hearty and light at the same time. My B. had run out to pick up some pasta and greens, so I started on an acorn squash. I know what you're thinking, ew, squash! But I'm telling you, I never once liked squash until I lived with a Greek girl who knew how to prepare it!

Here's what happened next

Penne with Roasted Acorn Squash

1 bag of penne, gluten free or regular
1 medium acorn squash
4 Tbsp butter (or olive oil if you desire)
1 onion, diced small
4 smashed garlic cloves, minced
10 sage leaves, minced
shaved fresh parm
fresh ground pepper & sea salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Split your acorn squash from stem to bottom, and scoop out the insides. (You can clean the seeds up and make roasted squash seeds...yum) Fill the pocket in each half with a tablespoon of butter. Cover the top of each with foil and place in a oven at 400 for 30 minutes or until a fork slides in easy. When cool, cut into cubes and set aside to cool.

Take your minced onions, garlic and butter and cook over a medium heat until onions achieve a brilliant caramel tone. Add minced sage, continue to fry up the herbs a bit. Set aside.

Add noodles to your salted water, boil until al dente. Drain and slide into the onion pan and continue to cook while adding a nob of butter or olive oil (your choice). You want to get a good crust on these noodles.

When you're satisfied, pull from heat and shave parm all over the top. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Be grateful for the delicious transition of Fall.


I made these French cookies which resemble tiny elephant ears to bring in this morning for my colleagues. The cookies are much more like pastries, their edges crunchy from caramelizing; the insides flaky and rich.

2 sheets of puff pastry
2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of crushed cardamom

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Grind cardamom pods in a mortar pestle until you've a fine dust. Mix the sugar, salt and cardamom dust well. On a large cutting board or counter, spread about a cup of the sugary mixture. Lay a defrosted sheet of puff pastry out. Sprinkle the pastry evenly with the sugar. Roll out the pastry to somewhere around 13x13 inches. Take one edge and roll up to the center. Do the same with the other side, you should have sort of a pretzel shape. Slice 1/2 slices and arrange on a light-coloured cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies for 6 minutes until caramelized and lightly browned on the bottom, then turn with a spatula and bake another 3 minutes, until caramelized on the other side. Transfer to a baking rack to cool. Wrap in wax paper to keep fresh.

Judging from one colleagues intake of 10 alone, I'd say they liked them.


© 2007 All writing and photography is owned by Lollya.