Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Homemade Filled Pasta

Tonight I used my new Ravioli maker that Abby gave me for Christmas (obviously it was something I bought for myself-it was filler to get the super saver discount on Amazon...;) to make homemade pasta. It was easier than I expected. I had hardly ever thought about making my own noodles until Halloween when a friend invited a bunch of people to come by her house for homemade chicken noodle soup that was actually homemade! Amazing gal. Then I saw this ravioli maker and a few blogs that I follow posted about homemade pasta and it was done. I was doing it! I had everything except for the semolina flour already in my kitchen and I found that in the bulk section at our local Winco and it's cheap!
Recipe from here. She has a great tutorial on how to make the dough if my directions are confusing. Elizabeth (my almost nine year old) took most of the pictures.

Pasta Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups Flour (and more to roll)
1 1/2 cups Semolina Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
4 Large Eggs
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Water (this was just the right amount, but you may need to add a tiny bit more.)

To mix the dough you can use the counter or a bowl. I chose a big bowl. I mixed the two flours with the salt and then added four eggs. I mixed it all together with my hands until the egg was combined with the dry stuff and then added 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil and 2 Tablespoons Water and mixed it until it looked like this:
Divide the dough into four sections and cover with a wet smooth towel for 20 minutes. You can make the filling then and put it in the fridge until you need it.
After 20 minutes, roll out one section of pasta dough with your rolling pin (or a pasta roller if you are fancy.) Use a little flour so it doesn't stick to the pin. (I think this picture has a little too much...)
And then roll, baby, roll! Flip the dough over and go both directions until it is thin enough. I like thick pasta (and my wrists were starting to hurt a little. And yes, you can see my poor wintery hands in these pictures. I'm keeping it real.)
I stopped when the pasta was about this thin. Can you tell how thin it is? It's thicker than tissue paper and thinner than cardboard. I hope that helps.
You could slice this pasta up to make regular pasta or continue on to make ravioli.
This is where I used the ravioli press. I made my pasta twice as large as the press so I could flip it over when they are filled. You just lay the pasta over it, use the plastic egg carton type thing that came with it that I didn't get a picture of and then the little indents are ready for filling.Here they are all full of the filling. The filling I used was from this site.
Filling ingredients:
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese (I used the real shredded stuff this time and it was great.)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (I added that in.)
Optional: Spinach, shredded carrots, meat, etc.

Here is the pasta all filled up. (If you aren't using the fancy ravioli maker, just spread them out and seal them with a little brush of water around the edges and then cut them apart.)
And then you flip the extra dough over to cover it. I didn't make it quite big enough on the corners here, but I borrowed some extra that was hanging over the top and rolled it into this when it was still on my big cutting board. (Do you see the scraggly edge on the bottom left?)
Then with this ravioli maker, just use your rolling pin to seal the edges and cut the excess. I did have to use my fingers here to divide the dough a little. I think my rolling pin might be getting worn out or warped. I did use the extra dough on the edges to make another ball and put it under the towel with the other balls.
Then carefully peel the edge of the ravioli out of the metal tray and place to the side. They aren't super delicate, but be careful.
I put all 56 raviolis on my cutting boards (still raw) and covered them with a wet towel (just like the dough) until I was ready to cook them. (I needed to wait just a little while until Andy was home from work and with the snow and ice I wasn't sure exactly when that would be.)
When it was time, I put them into boiling water 14 at a time for 4-5 minutes. They sink to the bottom first like this.
And when they are all at the top, scoop them out with a slotted spoon onto plates.
We enjoyed ours with some meaty spaghetti sauce. (Andy's mom made sloppy joe's a few Sundays ago and had extra of the sloppy, so she gave it to me and I mixed it with four little cans of tomato sauce and froze it in two gallon ziplocks.)
Abby ate her ravioli like this:
I now wonder why and how I ever bought frozen raviolis filled with the stuff it says on the side of the bag for $2-3. These are so easy to make (although a little time-consuming) and worth it! You should have seen and heard how impressed my kids (and husband) were with this dinner!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cake Pops

I know, I know. I've been missing for a little while (okay, a long while)...BUT, I'm back.

I got a great new toy to play with for Christmas and I've been using it nearly everyday to test it and to try it out.

WARNING: When you see how easy and cool it is, you might want one.
Kohl's (my favorite store) sells this Baby Cakes Cake Pop Maker and right now it's about $25. I think some other stores (Bed, Bath, and Beyond) may also carry it.It cooks cake batter (made from scratch-which I prefer-or from a mix) into 12 round balls in about 4 minutes! I know some people really like the cake balls with cooked cake mixed with frosting (and I'll eat those too-I like any sweets!), but these are so much easier and cleaner (and WAY more sanitary than someone's hands in your food. Eww...)

I have tried several different kinds of cake pops over this last week and every one of them have turned out great!
So far I've made the recipe for chocolate cake balls from the instruction book it came with (substituting hot cocoa for the coffee and I even made the next two batches with just hot water).
I was trying out some different coatings with these and didn't have any candy melts, so I made some up. The ones with shortening (I remembered the next time I went to make cookies that the ones I labeled as 'with shortening' are actually chocolate chips with a little shortening) worked the best, but they all tasted delicious! I covered some fresh out of the cooker in powdered sugar (put the sugar in a brown paper bag, add 4-6 cake balls, and shake) and they were great too.
I made donut holes next with a recipe I found here. The middle part that sticks out is there because I put a little too much batter in the cooker. It looks like a planet.And I found a recipe for pizza balls here. The only thing I changed in this recipe was doubling the pepperoni and not adding sausage. We dipped these in pizza sauce and that was dinner!This blog gave me great tips on how to use the machine and a few tricks. I bought some chocolate candy melts at the store and tried them out. I cut the cake pop sticks that came with the machine in half because I knew they were mostly staying at home. The machine also comes with a plastic tray that the cooked cake balls can cool in and keep their shape and the stick fits into a hole at the bottom too.I'm getting better and better (I think) and I think they will be a HUGE hit at our bake sale (that I'm in charge of) at the school carnival this spring!

Most of the recipes I tested made between 3-4 dozen cake balls, which means at 4 minutes to bake a dozen, you are done baking them in about 15 minutes.
I think the ones I covered with powdered sugar this last time without sticks took me 20 minutes, including the time it took to mix the batter, bake the cake balls, shake the powdered sugar on while the next batch was cooking, and to put the plastic wrap on top before taking them to our friend's house to share. They might have even still been warm!

*I decided that I needed to have this fun toy because the health inspector told us last year that we needed to wrap each cupcake individually to sell them the next time we had a bake sale. The cupcakes were in large boxes or plates that were covered.

I was trying to think of how I could package cupcakes without the frosting being a giant disaster and thought cake pops would be much easier (cover with a plastic bag and twist tie) to package and sell. Some people put decorated cupcakes into cups to package or on a plate, but it still seems messy, especially with the hundreds of cupcakes we had to sell last year.