52 To Do – Top 10

January 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

When I tell people about my blog they always ask what my favorite week has been. It’s always hard to pick a favorite but I can name my top 10. If you’re looking for some fun, interesting things to try out for 2012, here were my favorites from this past year in no particular order:

1. Learning to roast coffee – If you claim to love or live on coffee, this is something you have to try. Unfortunately for those who live in apartments where it’s hard to get outside this may not be ideal for you (there’s smoke). Sweet Maria’s has a great starter kit for $45.

It will seriously become your favorite cup of coffee. Ever.

2. Ice fishing (or something that seems completely out of your range of possibility) – We spent the day with friends trying something none of us had ever tried before. While we didn’t catch any fish, we did arguably have the best laugh of 2011.

Getting out and doing things I’d never done before to embrace winter made a huge difference living here in Boulder.

3. Researching my ancestry – I definitely looked at my life differently after understanding more about where I came from. Plus it is a great thing to do with your family. I spent the week with my family going through old pictures and hearing old stories, many I had not heard before. It was a nice way to spend time together.

It was good to get my parents to talk about what they remember. I only wish my grandparents were still around. I have so many questions for them.

4. Churn homemade ice cream with friends – I bought a hand churn ice cream maker (White Mountain 4 qt. hand crank) and this proved to be a fun summer activity with friends. If you do get the hand churn one, you pretty much need the extra help since it isn’t easy!

My friend Jess (who also accompanied me on lots of blog adventures) gave me a great ice cream recipe book that did us right. It was a toss up between the goat cheese ice cream and the roasted coffee ice cream (we of course used fresh home roasted coffee for that) as to which was the best.

5. Learning about wine – I owe a huge thanks to my friends at Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder. James Beard award winner, Bobby Stuckey, welcomed my project early on letting me shadow his amazing crew of sommeliers on what it’s like to live for wine. I’ve made lots of new wine buddies through Frasca and the Boulder Wine Merchant. With more Master Sommeliers per capita than any city in the U.S. Boulder is a good place to be to learn about wine.

6. Hike a 14er – In 2011 I officially became a Coloradan by climbing my first 14,000 foot mountain with my friend Alicia (another partner in crime with many blog projects).

You likely won’t have mountains like that around but maybe there’s another physical feat to try that makes you equally feel a part of where you’re living. Boston marathon? Rowing the Thames? Surfing in Santa Monica?

7. Learning how to knit – This was a favorite for multiple reasons. I gained a new skill that is incredibly relaxing. I made some beautiful cowls that served as well-received holiday presents and to top it off I made a new friend in the process.

I also found a gem of a local store (Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins) where I will continue going for yarn and pearls of wisdom from the fantastic crew of ladies that work there.

8. Shooting a gun – I will likely never own a gun but I am glad I learned how to shoot one this year (target range only). It is an experience you could never understand without actually doing it. I now know just how powerful and dangerous they are.

It was something totally foreign to me and outside of my comfort zone, but I felt like it was something I should try once in my lifetime. Plus it was a great way to spend the afternoon with my husband and his twin brothers in Portland.

9. Pasta making – Pasta is one of those staples around the house and making it yourself is not only easy but worth the little bit of effort. The difference in taste is amazing.

I’ve continued along with it and for New Year’s Day dinner tonight I’ll be making some homemade orchiette I learned to make from Brian, another Frasca friend.

10. Reading about philosophy and religion – One of the best outcomes of the year was learning to think for myself again. It was a great exercise to dust off some books on philosophy and religion and to challenge my thinking in that regard a bit again.

It’s easy to get caught up in day to day issues and worries and can be enlightening to realize we’re just a blip on the radar when it comes to humanity. We are trying to answer many of the same questions people have been trying to answer for centuries.

Ravioli!

October 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

My husband has turned out to be the pasta making master of the family. He was inspired to try out a few ravioli recipes tonight from the Il Viaggio Di Vetri cookbook. One was a butternut squash with goat cheese and walnuts in a brown butter sauce. Another was an eggplant ravioli with goat cheese and tomato fondue and the last was a mushroom and sausage ravioli. They were all amazing.

I served as the pasta roller which I am getting pretty good at.

Not bad, huh?
I think the longest time went into making all the fillings. The ravioli themselves came together pretty quickly.
 I don’t know if it was beginners luck or what, but they all turned out great. I was partial to the butternut squash since it’s like a little pillow of autumn.

Pappardelle!

October 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

Pappardelle is one of my favorite types of pasta. There was a place I used to go to in LA all the time that had an amazing pappardelle dish with smoked duck and porcini. Last night my husband made a delicious pork ragu. It definitely made up for my first attempt; not bad but needs some work.

This was my first time making pasta dough with egg. My well of flour didn’t quite hold up but it didn’t run all over the place at least.

After kneading the dough for about 5 minutes I let it rest for a half hour. Then it was time to break out the new pasta roller, the Marcato Atlas 150 for about $70. This was the tricky part for me. It’s hard to know what size and shape of dough to put in. You then fold it in thirds and add flour passing it through multiple times. It’s hard to manage the shape of it. I think this just takes some practice. By the end I had slightly more uniform sheets.

My dad pitched in on the cranking after awhile. It seems like when you’re making pasta everyone either wants to watch or do some small task. It’s definitely a good group activity.

My sheets all came out in different sizes, so my husband cut each one individually. He also did a test run boiling them. Some thought they were a little too thick while others thought they were pretty close to the right thickness. I was just glad they were not only edible, but pretty delicious. I think when it comes to making and eating pasta everyone has their own preferences on things like that. For my first time I was pretty happy but I need a lot of practice.

Tonight we take on ravioli.

Spaghetti!

October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Last night was a fun night of pasta making with friends. We had a little Monday night football and spaghetti production. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make my own pasta and it was surprisingly easy to make (spaghetti at least). It was just two simple ingredients to make the pasta dough: semolina and water.

You take 2 1/2 cups of semolina and add 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup lukewarm water. All purpose flour is good to have on hand for dusting. You start by mixing the dough and water until it is crumbly and then transfer to an un-floured surface to knead the dough for about 9 minutes until is is smooth and elastic. The dough then sits in a dusted glass container for 30 min covered. Now the past fun begins.

Somehow we found ourselves pushed out of the way by our husbands in terms of the spaghetti production. I guess it had the right amount of gadgetry to it. We were using my friend Jess’s KitchenAid attachment which makes it pretty easy. You just take small segments of dough, drop them in and the machine does the rest. You just cut it off when it gets long enough and set it aside on a dusted surface to dry a bit.

It just took about 4 minutes in boiling water with a little oil & salt and it was done. What better accompaniment to homemade spaghetti than homemade meatballs & sauce? Jess made her mom, Deborah’s favorite meatball recipe along with her San Marzano tomato sauce. Between the pasta and the meatballs it was an amazing meal. Homemade pasta really does taste so much fresher.

Making pasta was a lot of fun. I would say the men were even more interested in pasta making than football there for a little while. Some were having more fun than others:

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