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December 30, 2011

Homemade Pasta with White Truffle Butter Cream Sauce | Pasta with Truffle Cream

Homemade Pasta is not nearly as daunting as it might seem.  As a person that uses store-bought pie crust and boxed cakes mixes, I'm definitely not an 'everything from scratch' purist - by any stretch.  But when Mike and I went to Italy on our honeymoon, we discovered fresh pasta.  When we came back home, the only way we could get the authentic pappardelle and tagliatelle pasta we had had was to make it ourselves. 

For most of our special occasions, instead of heading out to a restaurant we spend the evening with a bottle of wine and our pasta rolling machine.  This year for our 1st Anniversary I was 8 months pregnant and we had a snow storm headed our way in New England.  Going out was not an option... not a fun sounding one, anyway.  We stayed in, started a fire, Mike opened a bottle of wine (for himself) and I got out the pasta roller.

This is our pasta roller machine - it was around $60 from Williams-Sonoma.  It is very simple to use!

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Homemade Pasta Recipe
easier than you think!

2 cups of flour
3 eggs

Start with a KitchenAid mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Dump in the flour, then top with the eggs.  Put the mixer on medium and let the ingredients roll together until they form a ball.

*You may need to add a little bit (1-3 tablespoons?) of water or flour if the dough is too wet or too dry.  After a ball is formed, let the dough 'knead' on low-medium  in the mixer for 5-7 minutes until the dough is elastic.  Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.

When it is finished kneading, turn the dough out onto a floured board and kneed it by hand a couple of times.

From this stage, you can roll it out by hand with a rolling pin (or bottle of wine!), or put it through a pasta rolling machine.  Either way is pretty simple.  I've recently invested in this pasta machine that was very inexpensive.  If you plan to make a lot of pasta in the future it can make things a little easier.

Separate the dough into 6 pieces.  Flour the machine and dough well to keep it from sticking.  Feed it through the rolling/flattening part of the machine starting on the largest setting and progressing to a smaller setting each time you feed the dough through.  I find that flouring it each time helps to keep it from sticking.  After it has gone through the smallest (or 2nd to the smallest) setting, lay it flat.

Attach the tagliatelle (small square cut long pasta, pictured above) cutting attachment.  Feed the long flat sheets through, creating long strands of spaghetti type pasta.  Set aside in a dry area until ready to cook in boiling water.

Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water for 30 seconds, until the pasta is light in color and floating.

Truffle Cream Sauce
easy indulgence, serves 6

2 cups of heavy cream
6 ounces of white truffle butter (or 3 oz. truffle oil)
black pepper

Prepare a large pot of water to cook pasta.  Add salt.  

In a saucepan, heat cream for 5 minutes on medium - until slightly bubbling.  When the cream is bubbling, reduce heat to low.  Add truffle butter, stir to melt.

Add pasta to the boiling water.  After 30 seconds, remove the pasta from the water (with tongs) and place it immediately into the truffle cream sauce.  Toss and stir to coat.  Add a small amount of black pepper.  Serve immediately!

We love a simple, seared steak along side our truffle pasta.  For the step-by-step directions for how to perfectly sear a steak in a skillet, click here.

December 29, 2011

Filet Mignon | Filet of Beef | Seared Filets at Home

When I was catering, seared Filets were one of my favorite entrees to serve.  Why?  Because almost everyone loves a good steak (well everyone except vegetarians... sorry!) and they are so easy to prepare.  My clients and their guests would be so amazed that I was able to cook all of them perfectly - at the same time, in the kitchen!

For some reason, most people (men especially...) think you have to cook steaks outside on the grill.  Nope.  I actually prefer a steak crusted in sea salt and cracked pepper, seared in a pan and finished in the oven*.  The searing of the steaks with the salt and pepper creates a brown crust that seals in all of the juices that a grill just can't match.

After learning how to prepare seared steaks at home, I rarely order a steak at restaurant (or fix them outside on the grill...) because I'm always disappointed!    I walk you thru the directions below, but for the Printable Recipe (New!), click here.

I buy the thickest filets I can find - 6 to 8 oz. is a good size.

Coat all sides of the steaks with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper - you can't put on too much!  It is important to be generous with the seasoning because it is what creates the outside crust.

Heat the skillet on high until very hot before adding the steaks - about 2-3 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add steaks immediately.  

Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes until the steak easily pulls off the pan - this means that they are properly seared.  

After doing the top and the bottom, sear the sides for 2-3 minutes.

The steaks will be perfectly medium rare.  If you prefer a more well done steak, put them in a 500 degree oven for 3-5 minutes until they are done how you'd like them.

Get the Printable Recipe here.

*If you are preparing them for a crowd, I sear the tops and bottoms ahead of time (earlier in the day), then put them on a sheet pan and refrigerate them.  About 10 minutes before dinner, I put them in a 500 degree oven for 5-8 minutes until they are medium rare.  The cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of the steaks. 

This photo was from our Anniversary Dinner - I've sliced the steak along side Homemade Tagliatelle Pasta with a Truffle Cream Sauce.

Here is the easy to pin snapshot for pinterest!

Get the Printable Recipe here.

My Spring Home Collection  
Our home is officially freshened for spring.  This season, I am embracing blues and fresh greens with plenty of pots full of lush plants.  I have vases full of daffodils and pitchers with tulips, buckets of blooming branches and planters planted with topiary.  Most importantly, the windows are open, the sprinklers are running (we need some rain!), the mornings and evenings are chilly, but the afternoons are warm.  We are ready for time in the garden, hosting friends for casual dinners and family for spring holidays.  Welcome, Spring!
Shop the Spring Home Collection > 

Shop the Spring Home Collection > 

December 28, 2011

Tiramisu for Two | Simple Tiramisu Recipe

Mike LOVES Tiramisu.  If it is on the menu, we're ordering it.  If we're fixing an Italian dinner at home, it is a must.  Some recipes require a cooked custard that needs to chill for hours, then assembled, only to be chilled for more time until it is ready.  Well, I'm just not that organized - especially for dinners that are just for the two of us.

Here is my solution to an easy, no cook Tiramisu that you can fix in a hurry just for the two... of you.  (rhyme = yikes)

Tiramisu for Two
makes two parfait glass servings

1/2 cup of whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla
4 ounces of mascarpone cheese

8 lady fingers
1/3 cup of strong coffee or espresso
1 tablespoon of sugar

1 small chocolate bar

To make the cream filling, whip the whipping cream until thickened - about 3 minutes.  Add sugar and vanilla and whip together until stiff.  Incorporate in mascarpone cheese slowly until well combined.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together coffee and sugar.  In two parfait glasses or other sort of individual serving bowls, put two lady fingers in the bottom of each.  Pour 1/4 of the coffee mixture on top of the lady fingers in each glass.  Spoon in 1/4 of mascarpone cheese and whipped cream mixture into each.  Top with two more lady fingers and coffee mixture.  Top with the remaining cream mixture.

To finish, make chocolate shavings with a vegetable peeler on a bar of chocolate.  Refrigerate up to 2 days.

Creamy, coffee goodness!

Tiramisu for Two goes great with my Intimate Dinner for Two Menu... a great option for New Years Eve if you are staying in, like us!

New Years Eve Dinner for Two | Dinner at Home for New Years

You might be thinking that this doesn't look like a New Years Eve photo.  Nope.  This photo is from Our Wedding 1 year and 2 months ago.  I've been saving this post for a couple of months - I knew I would need some posts during the first few weeks of Emma's life until we get the hang of everything.

This post about an Intimate Dinner for Two was actually our 1st anniversary dinner back in October, but I think it is a great menu for New Years Eve.  If you're like us, you'll be staying in this year - maybe you're having a small intimate dinner party, or maybe it will be just the two of you.  Either way, this menu is simple and special - it is our favorite meal to prepare at home.  Wait... I mean, it is our favorite meal at home or anywhere else!

Mike is so thoughtful - he had a florist in Concord (Winston Flowers) create a bouquet in our wedding colors... pale powder blue, white and cream.  Smelling the garden roses brought me right back to that day in Seaside.    

Seared Filet of Beef
Homemade Tagliatelle Pasta with White Truffle Cream Sauce

I served our dinner on our powder blue Anna Weatherly wedding china - I wanted to stick with the wedding color scheme that Mike started.

As I've said time and time again, homemade pasta is so simple.  If you've never had it - there is really nothing like fresh pasta.  We made homemade tagliatelle pasta in a light cream sauce with truffle butter. 

Some folks are scared to prepare steaks at home - especially indoors.  Searing steaks in a pan is my favorite way to prepare them.  In fact, I've stopped ordering steaks at restaurants because I'm always disappointed... they're never as good as the ones we fix at home.  It is so simple.  If you can make a grilled cheese, then you can make a perfectly seared steak.

Here is the recipe and my tips for searing steaks at home!

Tiramisu for Two

Tiramisu is Mike's favorite dessert - right up there with chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake (from a box....).  I make a really simple and quick version for us - all you need to be able to do is make whipped cream.  No cooking involved!

Tiramisu Recipe, click here!

Stay tuned in the next couple of days for the recipes and step-by-step instructions for this menu!

December 23, 2011

Emma Elizabeth | Santa Came Early!

Christmas came early to our house this year...  Emma was born on December 15th!  She is most definitely the center of our world. 

Big yawn from a little girl!

Cute pouty lips...

Big curious eyes and her Dad's dark hair!

Sweet little cries...

And a new best friend!  Welcome to our world!

3 Ways to Help this Holiday | Giving & Helping | Charities to Support this Holiday

Over the years, I have tried to do give back in unique ways during the holidays.  I like to give in ways that bring surprise and delight to those that I'm helping - to somehow bring the magic of Christmas to someone that may have never experienced the wonderment and joy Christmas can bring.

Each year I think of a new way to share the spirit of giving, but I always follow a couple of rules:

- It must be anonymous.  I always give without attachment of my name - if I'm looking for credit, then it is not giving in the Christmas Spirit. 
- I must do it without reward.  This means that I don't even get to watch them experience the joy and surprise.  I know this might sound a little strange, but I believe that if I'm giving from a pure heart, the motivation should not be myself relishing in the reaction of the person receiving.  If I am giving to receive (in the form of joy), then it is a selfish act.  Also, if their reaction is not what I would've hoped, then I might be discouraged.
- I have to give up something, too.  It can be easy around Christmas time to spend, spend, spend and add up the damage in January.  When I donate, I consciously go without something I was planning to buy for myself of for someone else. 

It can be easy to write a check, but I encourage you to think about the act and method of your giving more creatively this holiday season.  Be sure to give in a way that honors the Christmas Spirit of good will and wonderment!

1. Shelter Santa

Mike and I usually set a spending limit for our gifts - about $100 or so.  We do this because we don't 'need' anything and it forces us to be creative rather than go buy something luxurious.  Last year, I decided to spend the $100 for his gift on toys, books and clothes to give to a shelter.  On Christmas Eve morning (when we exchange), I surprised him with a huge "Santa" bag (you'd be surprised how far $100 goes in the toy department at Target) filled with wrapped gifts.  We dropped them off at a shelter for families on Christmas Eve on our way to church.  He loved that I gave him the gift of giving - I'm lucky to have a husband that "gets it."

2. Surprise Santa

A couple of years ago, I had set aside my $100 to donate or give at my whim during the holiday season.  I kept it in my wallet and waited for the perfect moment to bestow it somewhere or somehow.  Before I knew it it was Christmas Eve and I still had that $100 bill.  I thought, who would really need this tonight?  I went to a Dollar General Store at 5pm and walked the aisles until I saw the perfect candidate - she was dressed in a uniform from work and she was looking at books for children.  I had been watching her before and saw which car that she had arrived in.  So, I went outside and put an envelope with the $100 on her windshield and I left.  I didn't want to hand it to her in person, because I didn't want to embarrass her.  I didn't wait around to watch her find it.  I just wanted her to have it.  I love this method because she didn't find the money until after she had checked out so I knew that she had purchased whatever she could afford and the money would be an extra cushion for her - however she needed to use it.

3. Holiday Baking Drop Off

We all get joy from eating a beautiful Christmas sugar cookie or a festive cupcake.  There is something special about treating yourself to something beautiful that was handmade just for you.  While they might not be one of the basic food groups or at the top of the food pyramid, baked goods that are made with love can definitely have a huge impact on someone without much delight or love in their life.  One year Mike and I delivered 2 dozen beautiful cupcakes to a homeless man on the side of the road.   I know it seemed like a random gift to give someone without a home or proper clothing, but when he opened the box his face lit up.  As we drove away he yelled to us, "I LOVE CUPCAKES!" in the happiest tone.  Maybe those cupcakes brightened his day just a little.

December 20, 2011

Concord Christmas Tree Lighting | My Life | Concord, Ma | Holidays

Sometimes I have to pinch myself... do we really live in this perfect little idyllic town?  Does this quaint town really exist?  My latest 'pinch me' moment was when we walked downtown on a Sunday night for the Concord Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting. 

The little town center was filled with area families and children anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa to flip the switch and light the huge tree in the middle of town.

Mr. Darcy (and Mike) were very excited.  D had to be carried most of the way... all of the kids running around and the general splendor was a little too much for him to handle at times.  The problem is that he thinks he is a kid, and when a group of them run by he likes to run after them... which is sometimes scary for the children.   

The Toy Shop in Concord is amazing.  It is filled with classic toys and play things - a huge collection of wooden toys, baby dolls, instruments, infant toys, animals, train sets, etc.   

The main street was bustling before the parade began... everyone was looking for a great spot and getting hot cocoa.

Many of the local churches had groups of carolers singing Christmas songs - might have been my favorite part.  For those of you that know my family, we love a good sing-a-long... especially during the holidays.

Mr. enjoying the carols. 

Kids all lined up for Santa.  Look at the little girls in the elf hats!

More groups singing.

A vintage car started off the parade.

Santa brought up the tail end on the back of a fire truck.


The big moment... lights!

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