Dave’s Fresh Pasta: Part II

After we ate our amazing risotto, we learned how to make gnocchi. Most people know that gnocchi can be made with potatoes, but apparently its very hard to make a nice light gnocchi because it can be easily over mixed, but a great alternative is the ricotta gnocchi!

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We only used four ingredients in our gnocchi — ricotta, pecorino, sautéed spinach, and flour. I definitely want to try this again soon, but I will leave out the pecorino.

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Everything got mixed together in the bowl, but we were careful not to over mix it. We don’t have the “starchy” problem that can happen when mixing a potato gnocchi, but Jason told us it wasn’t necessary to over mix this kind either.

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We each took turns making the gnocchi. We would pull off a small ball of dough, roll it out, and then use the knife to cut it up into small bite sized pieces.

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It was important to make sure the gnocchi was all the same size so that they would cook evenly. I also really liked how they looked with the spinach mixed in– I’m thinking that a sun-dried tomato gnocchi might be in my future!

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Since there were so many of us we made all of the gnocchi pretty quickly! It might take a bit longer for just one or two people, but it was pretty easy to roll it out and cut it.

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Jason suggested we use a simple butter and sage sauce for our gnocchi, as a heavier marinara or alfredo sauce might overpower our delicate pasta!

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Our 2nd finished product! Even though I don’t really like pecorino cheese I did try a few pieces, mostly to try out the texture. It was actually pretty good (I didn’t really notice the pecorino), and the texture was definitely light and fluffy, not heavy at all!

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All of us with our chef instructor, Jason, at the end of the night! If you’re in the Boston area and want to learn how to make some incredible pasta I would definitely recommend taking a class at Dave’s Fresh Pasta! In addition to gnocchi and risotto they also do classes for Asian dumplings, pasta sauces, Vietnamese cuisine, and even fresh mozzarella! Bon appetit!

Dave’s Fresh Pasta: Part I

Last week Doug and I went to a gnocchi and risotto cooking class at Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis Square. Organized by my friend Kimiko, we met after work with a few other couples and rolled up our sleeves for a hands on cooking lesson!

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We made three types of risotto — a tomato and fontina cheese risotto, a mushroom and truffle risotto, and a fire roasted eggplant risotto.

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While we listened to our instructor, Jason, talk about the different risotto techniques and tricks we sipped on some wine and nibbled on cheese and crackers.

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All of the risottos started the same — some onions, Arborio rice, and white wine. From there each started to differ as we added into the mixtures different broths (mushroom, chicken, and vegetable) cup by cup.

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Taking my turn stirring the risotto!  Its definitely one dish you have to watch closely and stir very carefully. You can’t walk away for a minute!

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Taking a little photo break!

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Fire roasted eggplant!  We literally just put the entire eggplant on top of a gas burner on high, and then flipped it over once it was nice and charred.

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Adding in all of our ingredients. I was really surprised that we put them in after cooking the rice, and not while the pot was still on the stove.

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The finished products!! My favorite risotto was the mushroom and truffle, but I also really liked the fire roasted eggplant. I didn’t try the other one since I don’t like fontina cheese, but everyone said it was great!

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Some of the boys trying out the final product!! Stay tuned for Part II where we make a super easy ricotta spinach gnocchi!

French Macarons with Sur La Table

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Last weekend Doug and I went into Boston for a French Macaron cooking class at Sur la Table.  One of my friends was going and invited us to come along and I jumped at the chance. Making my own macarons? If I could do that I could probably die happy. I took copious notes and listened more intently to our instructor than some of my college professors! In the end we all left with rather decent looking macarons, but the real test will be when we try to make them at home on our own!!

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We had to whip our egg whites and sugar until the mixture created “foamed peaks”. This often required us to stop and test the batter several times throughout the mixing process to determine if it was ready for the next step.

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Doug and I were on the team assigned to make the lemon macarons so we added a gel food coloring and lemon essence to the mix. The other groups were creating Earl Grey and Chocolate macarons.

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We used pastry bags to pipe the macarons onto the baking sheets. They were really smart and gave us templates to help us create cookies that were the same shape and size. You don’t want a lopsided macaron!!

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I thought the Earl Grey macarons were so pretty. When they made them they used actual tea leaves from Earl Grey teabags which gave the batter this really fun speckled look.

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Doug is normally better than me at all things in the kitchen, but I was actually a pro at piping the macaron batter! However, filling the piping bag is not easy! We definitely made a little bit of a mess trying to fill it up!

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Can’t have a macaron without the filling! Doug and I were making butter salted caramel. It wasn’t too hard to make so I might keep the recipe handy for the next time we decide to make crepes! Doug is stirring the pot (so it doesn’t overflow) while I slowly poured in the heavy cream. The recipe wasn’t difficult, but you have to be very precise!

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Some of our cookies right out of the oven! Sometimes the cookies can get stuck, and they recommended to put some wet paper towels underneath them to help steam them off, but since we were a bit pressed for time we just pulled them. Oops!

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We experimented with different mixtures and Doug even used the raspberry butter cream with one chocolate cookie and another lemon cookie. They weren’t the prettiest macarons, but they certainly tasted good! If you have the chance to take a Sur La Table class I’d highly recommend it! Definitely worth the money and a ton of fun!!

Organize!

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Sometimes, I just don’t know how we all manage our lives. I have work, my house, a husband, the blog, bills, freelance work, and so much more! My yard desperately needs some post-winter TLC, both bedrooms need ceiling paint, my car’s roof rack is still in a box, and the list continues. I feel like the only way to make it through the day is to be super, super organized.

I have more store discount rewards cards than I know what to do with, so I put them all in a J.Crew magic wallet. This definitely helps when I am at the Panera drive through, searching frantically for my rewards card! I have a jewelry cabinet, but I keep some of my most-loved and most-worn jewelry in a case for easy access and quick travels. I love this mint green Ted Baker case, especially with the bow!

When we moved I overhauled my closet with all new hangers, including these Laura Ashley padded hangers for delicate items. And now, I ask for all of our dry clean items to be folded so I can avoid those horrible wire hangers! Although I keep most of my scarves in a Tupperware bin under my bed, I found this neat scarf hanger to hold some of my most “popular” scarves of the week.

I hate coats draped over the side of a chair, so I promptly installed some coat hooks when we moved into our house. I love everything French/France, so my mom got me these adorable kitchen canisters for tea and sugar. I do own an iPhone, but theres something about a paper planner that just makes me feel so organized. I love Graphic Image planners the best. And finally, my husband seems to take a few days to go through his mail, so I used this fancy wire basket to store his letters and magazines in, until I can convince him to sort it!

How do you stay organized?

Spring Cleaning for the Modern Girl

They don’t say “spring cleaning” for nothing! Spring really is the best time to clean out our closets — I recently just overhauled mine and sorted through of my clothes, shoes, and accessories. Some items I sent off to Fashion Project, and others I consigned at a local shop. Doing a closet overhaul is not a task to be taken lightly. Here are some tips for closet-cleaning success:

1) Clear a few hours on your schedule
Cleaning out your closet takes more than just 10 minutes.  I probably spent over 5 hours on a Saturday going through all my clothes and accessories, trying things on, re-hanging and folding the keepers, and packing up the rejected items.

2) Dress the part
Trying on 15 pairs of pants and 10 dresses in a row can be kind of annoying, but make it easier on yourself by pulling back your hair, not wearing any makeup, and wearing the proper undergarments. Usually a nude bra and thong set will work for any item you’re trying on. You’ll be able to try on all the items quickly without  getting makeup on your clothes or seeing distracting VPLs!

3) Actually try everything on
Sure you may love those white pants, but if they don’t fit anymore, why are they still in your closet? Your body is always changing — whether you’re eating too many Oreos or working out hardcore with your Crossfit group. So do yourself a favor and try on everything!  You will be surprised that some of your favorite items from last season may no longer be flattering.

4) Have a plan
I set up my full length mirror in our guest bedroom and slowly worked my way through each type of clothing item. I did the bathing suits first (eek! day-glow pale skin!) and then moved on to pants, shorts, skirts, dresses, sweaters, shirts, workout clothes, and finally pajamas, sweatshirts, and lounge clothes. I tried on items by group, so I could also assess whether or not I had too many of the same type of item.

4) Be honest
So, perhaps an item from yesteryear still fits. But do you still like it? Does it still look good on you? Just because you can zip it up doesn’t mean you should keep it. Enlist the help of a friend and text pictures of some of the items you’re not sure about. They may see something you don’t!

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5) Put everything back into its place
Likely a clothing explosion will happen during this process, but as you move through the items, be sure to put everything back in its place. I set up 4 piles as I tried things on: Fashion Project donations, Consignment, Keep, and Other. The “Other” items were things that either weren’t consignment worthy, or needed some TLC before they were consigned. After I finished each group of clothes, I took the “Keep” pile and put them away. By the time I reached the pajama and sweatshirt group, everything else had been put away or folded!

6) Donate and consign
Now that you’ve cleaned out your closet, its time to actually do something with all of your “rejected” clothes! Fashion Project is a great place to send some of your designer items in exchange for Nordstrom gift cards. Other items that may not qualify, but are still in great shape, can be consigned at a local shop or sold on Ebay, Poshmark, etc.

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Remember that consignment shops only take in-season items, so don’t bring them your wool sweaters and corduroys in April. A good tip is to pack your fall/winter items in a vacuum sealed space bag and store them with your off-season coats. When fall rolls around and you’re looking for a jacket, you’ll see the stored clothes and can make an appointment to consign them!

Happy spring cleaning!!!!

PS – Please vote for me on Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List! You can see all of my looks and vote for me here.  Thanks!