Dinner, Quick & Delicious

Weather.com says it’s 15 degrees F in Central Pennsylvania, but feels like 4 degrees F.  So it’s the perfect day to work on snowflake cookies for a winter-themed baby shower.  The theme is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and it sure is!

It’s the kind of day that “stick to your ribs” ooey, gooey comfort food sounds great.  But, ooey gooey comfort food doesn’t just stick to your ribs, it also sticks to your rear end and thighs!  So what’s a girl to do when she’s home alone for dinner, wants something that tastes delicious, but doesn’t want to break the fat-gram/calorie bank?

The answer is simple – soup.  I’m not talking canned, condensed soup – no offense to Campbell’s.  I’m talking soup that warms your hands, your insides and your soul!  For that, I turned to the freezer.

If you’ve taken any of my classes and/or read previous blog posts you know I’m a fan of making extra when I cook and freezing it for later AND a fan of making home-made chicken broth with all the leftover ends of veggies and parts of chickens.  In fact, there are those who know me that would say I border on weird when it comes to the “stock bags” in my freezer.

These “stock bags” are zip-top freezer bags in which I store bits and pieces of veggies I’ve cut for other meals, chicken bones and scraps, and rinds of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  I add to the bags when I cook and then, when I have enough parts saved (or as Jeff would tell you, sometimes LONG after I have enough saved) I let a HUGE pot of stock simmer for a whole day.  Then, I strain it and package it for the freezer to use in future meals.  It’s great for making soups, risottos, homemade mac and cheese, or in this case a wonderfully warm bowl of soup for a solo dinner.

And, not only did I have some recently made chicken stock in the freezer, I also had some homemade cheese tortellini.  I have a hands-on pasta class coming up on January 21st and have been working on the recipe for cheese tortellini, which means my freezer is well stocked in the tortellini department!

So my dinner this evening was a quick one to make.  I took a pint of chicken stock out of the freezer and popped it in the microwave to defrost while I continued decorating snowflake cookies.  When the stock was nearly defrosted, I put it into a saucepan and brought it to a boil.  Then I added some tortellini straight from the freezer and let them cook for about 3 minutes. (Cooking them in the stock – rather than cooking them in water – gives them great flavor).

While the tortellini were cooking, I grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano on the coarse side of a box grater.  When the tortellini were tender, I ladled the soup into a pretty bowl, topped it with some grated cheese and a grind of black pepper and sank into my favorite chair to enjoy my dinner.

Tortellini en Brodo

The homemade chicken stock and hand-rolled tortellini were a wonderful partnership.  And the sprinkling of freshly grated, salty parm was a perfect finish.  The stock was rich and flavorful, the tortellini were like little pillows of cheesy goodness and the parm melted a bit in the hot stock to give a satisfying stringiness that only cheese can give.

So yes, it’s cold outside.  But my quick and delicious dinner warmed me up and fortified me to finish the cookies for the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” baby shower.  I’m so glad I had on-hand everything I needed to make a quick and tasty dinner.  I strongly recommend cooking ahead when you can. You won’t be sorry you did on nights when you’re on your own for dinner and don’t want to fuss, BUT you want something really yummy!

 

Just for fun, the following are a few snaps of the snowflake cookies!

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Shaping Tortellini

The First One

I’ve been making a lot of pasta of late in preparation for an upcoming class and I thought I’d give you a glimpse at what I worked on yesterday afternoon.

I was shaping tortellini, which is an interesting process.  I made the pasta dough on Sunday and put it in the refrigerator.  Just before I left for work late yesterday morning I took the dough out of the fridge so it would come to room temperature by the time I arrived home in the afternoon.  My timing was just right – by the time I got home the pasta was perfectly pliable.

I started by dividing the ball of dough into 6 pieces and, working with one piece at a time, I began rolling the sheets of pasta that would be cut into pieces for tortellini.  I rolled each piece of dough two times on each of the settings 1 through 6 on the pasta machine, for a total of 12 passes through the pasta machine.  This resulted in a very thin, very pliable dough.

Pasta Maker

Ready for Action

 

The First Pass

The Second Time on Number 6

Next, using a pizza cutter, I cut each of the sheets into 2.5″ strips (one was wide enough to cut into two 2.5″ strips, but the others allowed for only one strip).

Cut to 2.5 Inches Wide

Then I cut the strips into squares.

Cut into Squares

Cutting into Squares

For the next step, using clean fingers instead of a small brush (one less thing to wash), I “painted” two of the edges with water, which acts like glue to hold the filling inside the tortellini.  Then I placed a small dollop of filling in the center of each pasta square.

Water to Glue Edges

With a Dollop of Filling

Tortellini FillingFolding was next.  First, I folded the “dry edges” over the “wet edges” and I used my pastry scraper to gently press the edges together to seal them. The next fold was to take the point of the triangle and fold it so that it slightly overlapped the longest edge of the triangle.

Folded Into a Triangle

Pressing the Edges to Seal

Point Folded into Center of Triangle

The final fold required the pointer finger to act as a spacer.  The way I did it was to hold the pasta between my thumb and pointer finger of my left hand with the point closest to my pointer finger.  Then I used my right hand to shape the pasta around my finger. I took one end around to the nail side of my pointer finger and then did the same with other side so the points overlapped.  Then I pressed the ends together and tucked them under, doing a final press to make sure they were sealed.

Pinching the Ends

Tucking & Pinching the Edge

After each tortellini was formed, I put it onto a sheet tray that ultimately went into the freezer until the tortellini were firm, after which I put them into a zip top bag and stored them in the freezer.

Note: I ended up with a lot of “scrap” dough (not unusual), which I never scrap.  I cut it into pieces and will cook it when I’m looking for a fast dinner.  Yesterday, I played a little with the scraps and made some farfalle or bow-tie pasta.

Farfalle

 

The Finished Product

Mmm mmm mmm!  Happy tortellini’ing!

Have you ever made homemade tortellini?  How’d they turn out?  What did you fill them with?

TBTIAAW – The Best Thing I Ate All Week: A Salad?

I have quite a bit of fun testing and tweaking recipes for my classes and I’ve been doing just that for the last week.  The class I’m working on now is entitled Pasta Perfection, so I have to make sure my recipes are as close to perfect as possible.  That can be a good news/bad news thing for Jeff….when recipes turn out well it’s great to be the taster; but when they flop (which thankfully doesn’t happen that often, but it DOES happen) being the taster can be a real drag!

Fortunately, this week has been chock full of homemade pasta.  And how can that be bad?

On Sunday, when the rest of the world was glued to the Super Bowl – which I understand wasn’t all that super – I was hand forming tortellini for a tortellini salad.  And I can assure you I enjoyed being in the kitchen much more than I would have enjoyed watching the Super Bowl.

I made lemon pepper pasta for the tortellini wrappers and let it rest while I worked on the filling.  After it rested, I rolled out the pasta as thin as I could and cut, filled and formed each tortellini by hand.  I have to admit, as much as I dread routine, there is something about getting the assembly line process rolling smoothly that is comforting to me.  Perhaps because I know I don’t have to do it forever!

The tortellini salad I’m working on is not your typical pasta salad.  It’s more like a green salad with tortellini in it.  I thought about the individual ingredients and flavors I wanted in the salad; then I decided which ones would work best in the filling and which would work best in the salad itself.

The next test was to decide which ingredients to cook and which to leave raw.  In order to do that, I made two different salads for us to try – one on Sunday and one on Wednesday.  Incidentally, one of the great things about testing recipes is that you don’t have to think of several different dishes to make during the week – you just keep eating different versions of the same thing, which makes meal planning quite easy! But, as usual, I digress.

Featured Image TortelliniSomething unusual happened as a result of trying both salads, we discovered that both were really good and we’re still having trouble deciding which was better!  Since I will be serving my pasta dishes with Italian wines, I’ll do at least one more test with wine so I can make the final tweaks. [A special thanks to Kirt from the State Store in Lemoyne for helping me with my wine pairings!]

I’ll keep you posted on the salad’s progress and may share the recipe on the blog someday, but for now you can be sure to get the recipe by coming to the Pasta Perfection class!  Oh, and not only will you get the recipe for this salad, you’ll get the recipes for all the dishes AND you’ll sample some really good Italian wines!

The best thing I ate all week (TBTIAAW): Lemon Goat Cheese Tortellini Salad with Roasted Vegetables. Mmm mmm mmm!!!