Pesto Turkey Pasta

I need to start by saying I try to keep my online media presence pretty low key, well actually I do the same in my day to day “real” life as well. I think I share just enough information about me and also about my family. I try to not “offend” or “overshare” too much and I don’t normally talk about the 3 hot topics; money, religion and politics. At least that was the top three while I was growing up.  Today it seems there is nothing off limits; more and more things are coming out of the shadows everyday.

I was very saddened to hear about the tragedy of Kate Spade and now Anthony Bourdain. I initially wrote the word suicides but I took it out and replaced it with tragedy because it sounded too harsh to me. I was brought up to not talk about anything too personal and I really don’t. Thankfully my daughter does not follow the same rules as I do. She needs help she asks, maybe someday I’ll be more like her.
IMG_2852.JPGI am a firm believer and have said it many many times that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. My heart breaks for their families and I hope that something positive can come out of these tragic losses. I felt I needed to say this as I have been thinking about it constantly. Depression is real if you need help please ask
US National suicide prevention line: 1-800-273-8255.

IMG_2848I don’t really know how to lead into the recipe I want to share with you so here it goes. My daughter made some delicious Basil Pistachio Pesto last weekend and what we didn’t eat with crackers I thought about using the rest for dinner. I also had some turkey cutlets that I needed to cook up and so it screamed pasta night. This would also be great if you had any leftover turkey though most people I know only eat turkey around Thanksgiving which is kind of a shame.  Who knows maybe you’ll want to try this and make a turkey leg or breast.
IMG_2849Pesto Turkey Pasta

2 large eggs
½ cup pesto – make fresh or buy your favorite brand (my “norm” recipe below) 
Box of pasta – farfalle, egg noodles, gemelli or similar
1 Tbs olive oil
1 lemon zested
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 cups chopped cooked turkey meat (cutlets or leftovers)
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Boil water for the pasta and cook according to the package, drain reserving some of the liquid.
IMG_2851.JPGIn a medium bowl add the pesto along with the eggs and the lemon zest.

Saute the onions along with the garlic, add the chopped turkey cook through, or add the already cooked turkey.  
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Add the pasta to the onions and turkey. Pour the egg pesto mixture over the pasta turkey. The heat will cook the egg – similar to carbonara.  


Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If needed add some of the reserved pasta water to lighten up if needed.

Basil Pesto
6 Ounces of washed and dried basil leaves, stems removed
4 Ounces of pine nut
6-8 Cloves of Garlic
2 Ounces of grated parmesan cheese
Olive oil – Salt and Pepper
Combine first 3 ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse to combine. Add olive oil until you get the consistency you like, finish by adding the Parmesan cheese a little salt and pepper pulsing until combined.  Enjoy with and/or on just about anything.

 

Pasta with Shrimp, Shallots, and Cherry Tomatoes in Madeira sauce

Perusing through one of my favorite magazines; Fine Cooking; which is also one of the only magazines I will not rip out any of the recipes, I keep the whole magazine. I do however use little post it tabs and mark out everything that looks and sounds like something we would enjoy. If I have a few of the ingredients on hand, I will add the balance of what the recipe asks for to my next grocery shopping list. There has been a few; OK a little more than a few occasions that after work I would run up town to the store and grab a couple of things needed to make one of the recipes for dinner that very night.

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A couple of weeks ago I came across this recipe, I had everything except the Madeira wine part; which I can only guess since it is in the title; was pretty a pretty important part of the recipe. I will also admit; I have heard of Madeira wine but it was not something I have used before. Straight from Wikipedia -”Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands See I didn’t know that, I wonder if my friend SF; who I know reads my blog knew this? I’m sure he did…Now that I have a whole bottle of it, I will be looking for some recipes to use it up with. I hate wasting any and ingredients; especially wine.

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5 medium shallots, 2 sliced crosswise into rings; 3 sliced lengthwise into strips
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
7 Tbsp olive oil; more as needed
Kosher salt
1½ pound jumbo shrimp (16-20 per lb) shelled and deveined, shells reserved.
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise
½ cup Madeira – they asked for rainwater, my liquor store didn’t have it
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes
¾ cup heavy cream
10 oz. campanelle pasta or similar
2 Tbsp capers, drained but not rinsed
2 Tbsp thinly sliced chives

In a small bowl, toss the shallot rings in the flour until coated. In a 10-inch skillet, heat 3 Tbsp od the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches, cook the shallot rings until golden brown, adding more oil if necessary, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt

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In a 2 quart saucepan, boil the shrimp shells in 2 cups of well-salted water until the water is reduced to 1 ½ cups, about 5-8 minutes. Strain and set aside the broth.

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Season shrimp with salt and pepper. In a 12 inch or larger skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil and butter over medium heat. Add half of the shrimp and cook until just cooked through, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining shrimp.

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Add the remaining 2 Tbsp oil, the garlic, and the shallot strips to the skillet and cook, stirring, until golden brown in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the Madeira and cook until almost fully evaporated, about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until most have burst and their liquid is reduced by half.  Add the cream and ½ cup of the shrimp broth; cook until the sauce thickens. 4-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Cook pasta according to the packages directions until al dente. Drain the pasta and add the pasta and capers to the sauce and toss. Adding shrimp broth if needed to loosen the sauce. Divide among 4 shallow bowls and garnish with chives and the fried shallots.

Italian Night – Tagliatelle Pasta and Ragu Bolognese

I had wanted to make a few Italian recipes that we had made in our Tuscan cooking class since coming back home a couple of weeks ago. Everything just came together this for past Friday night’s dinner.  We were trying to get together with some of our local friends, our VT friends contacted me to come and stay the night and the final piece de resistance was the red wine I sent home from Italy arrived Friday morning oh and I had the day off.  Italian night was just meant to be!

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I love my new pasta dryer!

I made my shopping list out in the morning, I had planned on making it a little easier on me since I was cooking for 9+ people and I don’t have staff to help me with prep or clean up per say; my son and friends helped with clean up. I was going with Bruschetta, homemade; handmade pasta with a Bolognese sauce and tiramisu for dessert.  I know that was not going to be a truly “authentic” Tuscan meal but I live in NH and I am not Italian nor can I get the same ingredients locally, trust me I tried, I thought I would make it as close as possible. I had to find a substitute for Italian 00 flour; 1 part pastry flour to 3 parts AP flour was the answer.

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Homemade Tagliatelle Pasta – Flat cut pasta

1 cup pastry flour

3 cups all-purpose flour

4-5 large eggs

extra virgin olive oil

Combine flours in a bowl, on a clean work surface make a pile of the flour; make a well in the middle large enough for the eggs but make sure the edges are big enough to hold in the eggs. With a fork; start to scramble the eggs being careful not to break the sides of the flour ring. Once scrambled you can start to incorporate a little flour at a time; again being careful not to let the eggs escape. This process can take just a couple of minutes. Once you are able to use your hands; get in there and make your dough ball, scrape up the bits on your work area and re-flour lightly so you have a place to knead the dough. Before you start put a small amount of evoo on both sides of your dough ball; if the dough starts getting too yellow add a little more flour. Knead until the dough is soft and pliable but not sticky. Cut into 2 or 4 equal parts and work with 1 at a time.

Roll the dough on a clean lightly floured surface, this will probably take you the longest part of the process, you need to get the dough very thin and into a rectangle of sorts. Once thin enough fold into thirds or even fourths; depending on how long your dough is. Cut off the uneven ends and then decide what kind (size) pasta you want for dinner. I tried to make mine the same width as my pinkie. slice folded pasta and unfold once cut and either hang or lay out on a lightly floured surface till ready to cook.

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Ragu Bolognese

5 tbs extra virgin olive oil

3 tbs butter

1-2 carrots finely diced

1 onion finely diced

1 stalk celery finely diced

1-2 garlic pressed

1 lb ground veal or pork

1 lb ground beef

¼ lb pancetta or slab bacon

28 oz. can San Marzano tomato – crushed

1 cup milk

1 cup of red or white wine – I use what I have left over – if there is such a thing!

Kosher salt, freshly crack black pepper

Parmigiano-Reggiano grated

In a 6-8 quart heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter till melted. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned. Add all the meat and combine with the vegetables on high heat stir continuously till the meat is browned. Add the tomatoes, milk and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 1-2 hours. Season with salt and pepper; to taste; and remove from the heat.

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Cook pasta in cold salted water until al dente and the pasta has risen to the top. Add cooked pasta to warmed Bolognese sauce toss till all pasta is coated and serve. Sorry I don’t have a picture of the final dish, we ate it immediately as it should be

Mangia Mangia!

Easy Pasta Salad – Montreal Farmers Market

A couple of weekends ago my husband and I met up with friends of ours in Montreal for a nice long weekend. It had been many years since we have been to Canada and now that we went; I’m not sure why it has been so long, what a great city. Always something going on; so I was told; they have the most festivals. Well I couldn’t remember what my buddy SF said exactly but I just google Montreal Festivals and it said “Montreal is a city of festivals” and since the internet can’t lie it must be true.

Cosmopolitan at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel

Cosmopolitan at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel with dirty ice – YUM!!!

Since our friends have been there many times; they live closer than we do. They booked where we stayed; SF wanted to stay somewhere that we could cook in one night if we wanted to. At first I thought why we would cook in, we are in city with numerous places to eat and explore and on a mini vacation. Well it all became VERY clear to me after visiting Atwater Farmers Market.

Sangria

Sangria

I have been fortunate enough to have been to some pretty amazing places over the years, I mean I absolutely love the Caribbean and Paris was incredibly amazing but I can count on one hand how many times I have had a true “Moment” just to be in awe of something around you. The Venus de Milo in the Louvre in Paris took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. And I honestly never in a million years would have thought a Farmers Market could make me want to move and totally change the way I live my life. I totally understand how and why Europeans pick up dinner on the way home versus having a fridge and freezer fully stocked just to make dinner for the week.

Gorgeous berries

Gorgeous berries

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Vegetables displayed perfectly

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Amazing smelling artisan breads – the man behind me in line asked if I was from out of town LOL I guess not a lot of people take pictures of their bread

I also NOW understood why SF wanted a place where we could make dinner in if we wanted to. I totally wanted to cook in but sadly we didn’t, we just couldn’t pull it together in time to get back to the market before it closed; it would have been very forced and not as enjoyable for us to make it happen. I did google what I could bring back over the border though which as long as it is for personal consumption you can bring almost anything. We picked up some homemade pork sausages and kielbasa as well as some fresh pasta’s and a loaf of bread. For dinner I made up the gnocchi we bought along with some Cilantro Lime Sausages.

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The Herbs were incredible

The Herbs looked incredible

French Macaroons - they were not the famous Laduree's but damn tasty

French Macaroons – they were not the famous Laduree’s but damn tasty

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gnocchi w/butter garlic and thyme

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Dinner made at home with Atwater Farmers Market products

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Simple Delicious Pasta Salad

1 box of pasta such as campanelle, cavatappi or similar; cooked as directed – I use Tri-Colored Rotini

1 Can of small Black Olives drained

Container of cherry tomatoes – cleaned and sliced in half

Container of Feta Cheese

1 Carrot – grated

2 Red roasted peppers sliced olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh cracked black pepper – Roast for 20-25 minutes at 350’ – or use your favorite jarred variety

I like adding sliced salami or pepperoni – but this can be omitted

Ken’s Zesty Italian dressing

Toss pasta with some Ken’s extra zesty, while this marinates the pasta, gather all the other ingredients, add all together and toss, if needed add a bit more dressing.

Eggplant Parmesan – that will convert you

All through high school I worked at a local Pizza place, there were a few items that I swore that I would never try; they looked and smelled WAY too funky for me.  Here is yet another example of never say never.  Feta cheese came in a metal vat filled with what I believe was oil or a vinegar maybe.  We had to take a chunk out at a time and crumble it; the smell was horrid. Another was breaded eggplant, it just looked and felt wrong on all levels and then there was the dreaded anchovy the smell and look was just plain rancid; we used to flip to see who had to make the anchovy pizza when someone ordered it.

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Now as an adult I love feta cheese, it adds so much tart briny flavor to anything you put it on.  I love adding it to pasta salad it makes it pop. I still would not order an anchovy pizza but I do appreciate a true Caesar salad made with them and I understand why and when they are needed; I even have a can of them in my pantry as I write this.  The recipe I am going to share now for Eggplant Parmesan has completely changed my mind about the veggie and I am now open to and have used eggplant so much so, that I am thinking of planting it in next year’s garden. With age comes wisdom – or as I explain it; you have to try new food as you get older your taste buds change.

I have also used the sauce for a quick pasta sauce during the week; it has a great taste and a little kick. My mother and a friend were here visiting the last few weeks and I made this; they both loved it and wanted the recipe. My mom even said and I quote “I thought mine was really good but this one I want the recipe” I hope she is reading this and smiling…

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Sauce

2 tbs. good olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 ½ tsp sugar

2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano plum tomatoes

Kosher salt

Eggplant

2 medium eggplants sliced ½ inch thick rounds

½ cup flour

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

3 large eggs

1½ tbs milk

2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs

1½ tsp dried oregano

1½ tsp thyme

Vegetable oil for frying – about 1 inch in the pan you are using

12-16 ounces fresh mozzarella thinly sliced

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups sliced provolone

Slice the eggplant and sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and let sit while you make the sauce.  Place on paper towels on a sheet pan.

In a large skillet add the olive oil heat over medium. Add the onions saute for 1-2 minutes; add the garlic and season with salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes.  Saute till the onion are translucent about 6-7 minutes.  Add the sugar and tomatoes, while you are pouring them out of the can squeeze to break them up a bit. Reduce heat to medium low and cook stirring occasionally about 15-20 minutes.

Rinse the eggplant under water and dry off thoroughly with some paper towels. The reason we do this step draws out some of the liquid and removes some of the bitterness.

Get out 3 pie plates or whatever you use when you batter and fry.  Flour goes in one, eggs and milk in another and the third combine the breadcrumbs, oregano and thyme.  Make sure to salt and pepper each pie plate. Dredge each eggplant round in the flour, shake off excess. Dip in the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Lay each round on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly (between 380’ and 400’) Use tongs to add and flip the eggplant, making sure to each piece is golden brown, I like them a little extra crispy so they are not mushy.  Transfer to a sheet pan covered with paper towels.  Repeat until all pieces are fried.

Preheat oven to 350’ using an 11 x 13 baking dish

Spoon some sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer eggplant over sauce slightly overlapping, top with some mozzarella and the some provolone; repeat with remaining sauce, eggplant and cheeses.  Press the layers firmly into the dish. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly. About 35-40 minutes.

Cooking Class – My sous chef sucks – she doesn’t but it made for a funny story

So far so good!  I have had 4 cooking classes in my home and I have had a lot of fun sharing how I cook with others.  My first class was a trial run to see if I could have that many cooks in the kitchen, you know how that saying goes “Too many cooks in the kitchen…” I feel that 4 students plus me and my sous chef, I will come back to the sucks part… it is a term of endearment; trust me.  3 students worked well and since this initial class was with my friend that urged; more like made me start pursuing this adventure, we talked a lot about what we could do, shouldn’t do and fine tuning the class for moving forward.  I have only put the word out via Facebook I am not entirely sure how or if I should branch out into other media.  I have had good luck so far, yes I know it is still early but I am going to stick with this for a bit.

Buzz on the street is this is a great idea, some wish they lived closer to attend, another friend wants me to take it on the road; she lives several states away.  I had a girlfriend stop over yesterday morning and thinks “I have something here”.  The people who have attended have so far have really enjoyed what I have shown them and loved the food we make together and that we all sit down in the dining room and eat together.  I have had several return customers, which I think is one of the biggest compliments I can get.

What has amazed me is some of the simplest things that I have been cooking for years; some people have never tried.  The first class was Chicken with Honey Beer Sauce, Smashed Potatoes, and roasted Asparagus and then we took it over the top and made Crème Brulee.  The food was all excellent; the class did exactly as I had shown them.  The surprising part to me is they love asparagus but never buy it because they didn’t know how to cook it properly. I hadn’t even typed up the “recipe” for roasted asparagus; I take it for granted that everyone does this.  I think the BEST part of this first class was making the Crème Brulee and 2 students while making it were thinking to themselves, I am NOT eating that.  I  practiced my voila moment; I pre-made the recipe so they could brulee and try it”  My punch line was ruined by my sous chef LOL I wanted to say “and with the magic of television” and bring out the already made dessert  blah blah blah!  The joke was spoiled almost within the first hour of class.  We all had a good laugh though.

My second class was One Pot Pasta; I think everyone needs this simple delicious recipe in their back pocket.  It comes together quick and you can pretty much use up what you have in your fridge/pantry.  We first threw it together while hanging out on the patio, Abbi (my daughter) came in and threw everything into the pot and we cooked it on the side burner of our grill.  PERFECT!!!

Mexican was my third class, this I felt was more chopping than actual cooking; I felt a little bad about that afterwards. This is all new to me so I hope the ‘students’ give me another chance. While what we made was excellent, we chopped a lot!!!  We made fresh garden salsa, avocado mango salsa, guacamole, black bean tostada and churros.  If you have never made churros at home – YOU HAVE TO!  They are just plain yummy – that is only if you like warm Mexican doughnuts covered with cinnamon and sugar…

Churros Recipe:

1 Cup water

2 TBS brown sugar

½ tsp Salt

1/3 Cup unsalted butter

1 Cup flour

2 Eggs

¼ Cup white sugar

1 tsp Cinnamon

Preheat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a frying pan.  In a paper bag mix white sugar and cinnamon and put aside.

In a 3 quart sauce pan add water, brown sugar, salt and butter heat to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour. Mix until well blended.  In a separate bowl mix the eggs and vanilla together and add to the flour mixture. Stir well blended and completely mixed in.  Fill a pastry bag already fitted with #1 large star tip.  Add dough to the bag  you will want to test your oil by squeezing a little dough in, if it doesn’t bubble up immediately, wait until your oil gets a little hotter.  Once hot enough; squeeze about a 4 inch doughnut into the oil.  Depending on what pan you are using; you should be able to get about 3-5 donuts into the pan.  Cook for about 2 minutes or so per side.  They should be brown on all sides and cooked through but just until cooked, let them drain on a rack for a bit  before adding them to the sugar, cinnamon mixture.  Enjoy!!!

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My last class, just this last Thursday night was homemade pasta, bolognese, alfredo and ravioli.  First off I had 5 people for this class.  A very good male friend of mine put up a stink that the class was full before he knew about it, he is not on FB so I let him in; why not try to see if I could handle more cooks in the kitchen.  Plus he had been to 2 of the 3 classes I had previously.  Side bar – He enjoys cooking and is a good cook, so when our families were hanging out one night, I mentioned to him I was starting a cooking class; he was very interested.  When he said he was coming to my second ever class – I was very nervous for him to come, I mean he knows how to cook and well, what could I possibly “teach” him.  Apparently something; as he had signed up for the next 2 classes.

While I was really excited for this class, there is nothing like homemade pasta.  We made a wheat pasta dough and a white pasta dough.  Everyone was skeptical of the wheat; only because they have tried several of the ones on the market; never overly impressed.  They loved this one; so much so that I received an email from an attendee around 8:45 am the next morning that she had bought the roller and pasta cutter set for her Kitchen Aid that she has never used.  I love it!!! Then I received a message on my class FB page that one of the ladies not only purchased the roller/cutter set, she purchased a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, I think Kitchen Aid should give me a little kick back for having this class.  I think I was a little over ambitious taking on so much in the allotted 3 hour class I set up.  The star of the show, I feel did not get its just dessert.  The Ravioli Al’ Uovo was saved for last and there was so much going on and my house was full and oh my messy; picture flour EVERYWHERE; I missed an important step by boiling the ravioli before putting it in the sauce, don’t fret I just ended up cooking it in the sauce, but that meant that it did not get the sauce poured over it at the time of serving.  SO I will definitely do a homemade pasta class again, and soon, I will have to break it up though. I will make sure that the ravioli gets its own class and we will make a couple of different fillings.

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Raviolo Al’Uovo Recipe: this is Ann Burrell’s recipe from her cookbook

2 Cups Ricotta Cheese

1 Cup freshly grated  Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plus more for garnish

¼ Cup fresh Italian Parsley

2 Large eggs plus 8 egg yolks

Kosher Salt

Flour as needed

Your favorite pasta dough recipe – if you don’t have one I can post mine

8 Tbs unsalted butter

2 Cups chicken stock

¼ Cup fresh sage leaves – Chopped

Crumpled Prosciutto – optional / not really

In a bowl combine Ricotta, Parm, Parsley and 2 whole eggs, mix well and season and salt.

On a clean floured work surface, lay out two sheets of pasta about 12 inches long, Brush lightly with water.

Equally space 4 dollops of the ricotta mixture; using a spoon make a nest or small hole in the center of each dollop.

Carefully separate the remaining eggs and put a yolk in each nest.  If you break one scoop it out with a spoon.  You want to be careful not to break the yolk.

Cover the ricotta nests and egg yolk with another sheet of pasta.  Use your index fingers to press around each ricotta nest to seal the edges, then use a large cookie cutter or fluted ring cutter or if you can, use a roller cutter, I am not that good.   Repeat – placing the completed raviolis on a well-floured cookie sheet.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.  In a large saute pan, melt half the butter and add half the chicken stock. Season with salt and toss half the Sage in.

Add 4 of the ravioli into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the ravioli from the water to the chicken stock pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer to serving plates and spoon a little extra of the sauce on each and garnish with crumbled prosciutto if desired.

Now for my Sous Chef Sucks comment!  She totally doesn’t!  She is one of my dearest friends and we always have a great time when we get together, which is fairly often and I love it!  She stopped over one night; we were going to go out and grab something to eat locally.  Had a glass of wine – too many so we stayed in.  Now we needed to eat something so I looked around the house to see what I could throw together.  We decided to make roasted butternut squash risotto.  That might sound a little ambitious being pretty late by now and a couple of glasses of wine later but that is how my house rolls!  We do crazy meals at a whim at times.  KP as some of you following this will know; was cutting up the butternut squash and me being me, her cuts were not very consistent LOL. Yes sometimes I am a little neurotic about my cuts.  Not that I have had any formal training I just know that the more consistent your pieces are they will cook at the same time and be the same throughout.  So I proclaimed that my sous chef sucks – jokingly.  Try saying that 3 times fast.  Then add some wine – Not an easy thing to do!  We laughed SO hard and have been laughing about it ever since.  This was before I started my blog and my classes.  We really wanted to use it somewhere, but when Abbi googled it – a lot of unpleasant things came up and she thought it best that we not be affiliated with the like.  I am still laughing about it now!

BTW – KP told me I was too wordy last post – let’s see how she likes this one!

Thanks for all the support – I am having a blast!

My Daughter’s last week in America for a year

My beautiful little girl is moving to Japan for a year to teach English as a second language in a private Buddhist High School.  I guess she isn’t little anymore.  She is very bright, has an awesome personality and is beautiful inside and out.  She has been my motivation to start this blog, instrumental in getting my cooking classes off the ground and keeping me motivated;  she has also started gathering all my recipes and cataloging them, to hopefully someday write a cookbook.  Mind you I have always wanted to write a cookbook but only to give to my kids when they finally go out on their own.  Who knows this might actually get done.

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I am on vacation this week to spend some quality girly time with her.  Monday was a massage, lunch out and mani/pedi’s. I will let her pick out all of our menus this week since she will be missing many of her favorites while away.  I must admit I have never thought about Japan as a travel destination; I have never researched anything about their culture, their cuisine, or their interests.  I have since googled where she will be teaching and the city on the coast where she will be living.  She will be 4 hours from Tokyo by bus; it is only about an hour by how the crow flies calculations.  I had NO idea Japan was so well known for their mountains and skiing!  Who knew; I mean I watched the winter Olympics when they were in Nagano; but I guess I never really thought too much about it after that.  Now we are thinking of planning a ski trip to Japan this winter.   Here is an interesting fact I read about Japan and skiing; there are more than 500 ski resorts to choose from in Japan — that’s as many as the United States, in a country a fraction of its size; again who knew!!!

Last night she wanted mashed potatoes and gravy.  Something so simple in our world yet not a lot of potatoes in Japan; I will be an expert on Japan by the time she is ready to come home.  Unless they decide to keep her; I don’t want to think about that!!!  She is sitting across from me right now and chimed in she wants mac and cheese.  Again something so simple but cheese is not readily available.  Mind you she could probably locate a place to purchase these simple staples here at home; but she is going to be on a budget and might have to do without a few of her fav’s.  BUT just think of what she gets to explore culinary wise.  Sushi galore; rice in every fashion; fresh fish – though she is a bit nervous to have it delivered to her on a plate with the head still attached.  Guess she will be on a foodie adventure of her own!  I can’t wait to Skype with her about her likes and dislikes.

Classic Mac & Cheese

6 Tbs unsalted butter

1 medium onion diced fine

6 Tbs flour

1 Tbs Dijon mustard

1 Quart milk

1 Large sprig of fresh thyme plus 1 tsp chopped thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese – grated

1 cup Monterey jack – grated

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1.2 tsp Tabasco sauce

Kosher Salt & Freshly ground black pepper

1 Lb elbow or other small pasta

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano – grated

I like the mac and cheese baked with the crust on top, for some strange bizarre reason my family does not.  I have covered half the shells with the topping leaving the other half naked just to keep the peace.

Large pot of water to boil over high heat, generously salted – add pasta once bubbling and cook per package directions.

In a dutch over or heavy duty pot, melt the butter, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook stirring with a wooden spoon until softened 4 to 5 minutes, Ass the flour and cook 1 to 2 minutes until slightly darker. Stir in the mustard. using a whisk gradually add the milk whisking constantly. using the wooden spoon again, add the thyme sprig and bay leaf pinch of salt, come to a simmer, turn to low and stirring frequently let the flavors meld about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the sprig and bay leaf. Add the cheese till melted, add Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain cooked pasta – add drained pasta to the cheese sauce stir till combined.

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish, pour pasta mixture into dish.  Meanwhile in a separate bowl add the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, chopped thyme and olive oil and mix well.  Cover the cheesy pasta and bake in a 400′ oven for about 15 minutes.  Let set 5-10 before digging in.

Tuesday she is finishing up any outstanding projects she has going on, then off to Nashua for the final purchases for her trip. We plan to go to Kennebunkport Wednesday – I love the scallops from The Clam Shack on the bridge.

clark old family photo

My husband is originally from California and moved here when he was a freshman in high school. One of 6 kids most well-traveled; as their mother; originally from MA drove 5 of the kids in the family station wagon across country every summer; stopping at every monument, cemetery and camping ground along the way. When my husband met me, NH my whole life and had only driven to FL though numerous times in the back of our family camper.  After dating for several months, planned a trip to Maine; a cute bed and breakfast in Kennebunkport for the weekend!  I loving sea scallops and being from New England had to stop at The Clam Shack for some.  We ordered, they called our number and Rich went up to get them; the guy pushed the tray towards him and Rich looked at them, then me, then pushed them back towards the guy and said “I’m sorry we ordered scallops” I could not stop laughing.  They were huge OMG delicious and exactly what we ordered.  Rich had never seen a scallop so big; being from CA and a large family, it was his first time having a REAL fried scallops.  He was hooked!!!   We have been back a few times; but I have been craving them for too many years now. So excited to be going tomorrow and sharing them with Abbi.  Oh and Rich and Alex our son is going to take the day off to go with, I told you he was hooked.

Thursday is day of rest, Friday Abbi has a mandatory orientation meeting. so I am going to tag along and run to IKEA while she is there.  I am also re-doing her room; I know it sounds insane to be re-doing her bedroom when she is not going to use it for an entire year, but I wanted a project to do, in my spare time mind you, where I can use my passion for decorating.  If I had an unlimited budget I would do my whole house over, so for now I am settling for the only “empty” room in the house.  Plus she picked out everything in it when she was 12, It needs to turn into an “adult” bedroom. I picked up some drapes that I fell in love with, they are neutral in color but have a silky textured polka dot – they are SO cool, I cannot wait to hang them.

Saturday we dropped her off at the airport.  She was super nervous for this trip, it was a combination of being SO far away, for SO long and she is actually going to be in her very first apartment all by herself.  I know she will be awesome over there, actually wherever she goes she will be awesome.  But I can totally understand her emotions.  I held it in for as long as I could but when I was hugging her goodbye; we both broke down and I didn’t want to let her go.  I put my big girl panties on and I did.  I am SO VERY happy for her and could not be more proud, but I will be looking into tickets to go see her as soon as I can – UPDATE: Received confirmation she landed safely in Tokyo…

Earlier I mentioned the cooking class I am doing; there have been 3 classes so far and the next one that is already full is my homemade pasta three-ways.  fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti ragu bolognese and ravioli al uovo.  It has been requested and I am excited to report that when Abbi gets back we will be planning a sushi class or two.  How much fun will that be? However I must confess I am not a lover of sushi; actually I am a little afraid of it.  BUT as my quest to like wine has worked out very well; I vow here and now to make an effort to try to like sushi.  THIS is HUGE for me!!!  I hope I can report back that I have concurred my fear.  Keep your fingers crossed!