Monthly Archives: December 2011

Greek Pie Crust

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Part of the Zucchini and Herb Pie recipe requires a greek pie crust. The recipe for said crust is also in the Mediterranean Harvest cookbook. It’s fairly simple and straight-forward… and pretty tasty!

Ingredients:
2.25 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 cup water

Pie Dough Ingredients

Steps:
1. In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil, vinegar, and water. Mix with a fork just until the dough comes together.

2. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead just until smooth, no longer than a minute. Divide the dough in half. Press each half into a circle about 4 inches in diameter. Dust with flour if the dough is sticky.

Pie Crust Dough Sitting

3. Wrap tightly in plastic and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature. If you aren’t using it right away, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 3 hours.

Enjoy!

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Zucchini and Herb Pie

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Along with making some fresh pasta from scratch, we also made a zucchini and herb pie. Again, this recipe came from the Mediterranean Harvest cookbook (it’s a winner)! Per usual, we changed up some of the ingredients and made our own pie combination. It looks awesome- haven’t tried it yet but I bet it’s a good one!!!

Ingredients:
3 pounds zucchini (we used a combo of zucchini and yellow squash- about 6 squashes total)
3 tablespoons olive oil (we only used 2)
2 large onions, finely chopped (we used 1/3 medium onion and 1 large red pepper)
5 to 6 squash blossoms, chopped or 1 medium carrot, shredded (we used about 6 baby carrots, shredded)
1 cup finely shopped wild fennel or dill, or a combination
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Leaves from 5-6 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped (optional)
7 ounces crumbled feta (we used 6 ounces)
2 large eggs, beaten
Salt/Pepper
Greek Pie Crust

Steps:
1. Grate the zucchini and squash in a food processor or on the large holes of a box grater. Place in a large colander, salt generously, and let drain for 1 hour, pressing down occasionally to squeeze out liquid.

2. After an hour, wrap shredded squash in a towel and twist to remove the excess water.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions (we added the onion and red pepper). If you want you can add an additional tablespoon of olive oil at this stage. Add in the carrots, herbs, feta, eggs, pepper, and salt to taste.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 12-inch pie pan. Place 1/2 the pie dough in the bottom of the pan. The easiest way to do this to roll out the dough so that it is about 2 inches wider than the pie pan so that when you place it into the pan you can spread it up the sides.

5. Scoop the veggie mix into the pie crust.

6. Roll out the other 1/2 of the pasta dough and place on top of the pie/veggie combo. Score the top of the pie in a few places, brush with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, until it is golden-brown.

7. Cool on a rack to room temperature.

Enjoy!

Homemade Pasta from Scratch!

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Andrew with Some Freshly Smoothed Pasta Dough

Last night we made a simple vegetable broth and a phenomenal winter squash risotto. Both recipes came from the cookbook, Mediterranean Harvest. The recipes were so good that we decided to dive in again and try some more tonight. The first was a recipe for pasta dough. For Christmas, my parents gave us a pasta maker which is awesome! We have been really interested in making our own pasta for a while, so this made it even more possible. When I saw the recipe for pasta dough in the cookbook we received from Andrew’s parents, it was as if the starts aligned :0). Below is the recipe we used for the pasta dough. We altered it slightly from the recipe in the cookbook, but the results were fantastic. As we “speak” the fettuccine is drying on the pasta drying rack in our kitchen. I can’t wait to try this batch out and start making some more unique recipes!

 

Pasta Dough Ingredients

Ingredients:
3 scant cups unbleached all-purpose flour (we used 1.5 cups of flour and 1.5 cups of semolina flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt (We used freshly ground sea salt from my brother!)
3 large eggs
2-3 tablespoons water (We used 3)

Steps:
1. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and pulse a few times to combine. Although we have a food processor, we didn’t use one. We simply mixed the flours and salt in a large bowl.

2. Add the eggs and 2 tablespoons and process until dough comes together in a ball. If it seems dry, add another tablespoon of after. Again, we stirred by hand and ended up needing to add 1 additional tablespoon of water.

Part I of Step 2

Part II Step 2

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for a few minutes, until you have a smooth ball. Wrap in plasatic and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour. We let our dough sit for about 35 minutes.

Pasta Dough in a Ball

4. After the allotted sitting time, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. While working with one piece, keep the other 3 pieces covered with the plastic wrap. Set the rollers at the widest opening, flatten the piece of dough so that its width will fit inside the pasta machine roller. Run the piece of dough through the machine at the widest opening.

One Quarter of Pasta Dough

5. If the pasta is too sticky, dust with flour. Change the pasta machine opening to a smaller opening and run the flattened pasta dough through the machine.

Running Pasta Dough Through Machine

6. Continue to run the pasta through the pasta machine at a decreasing width rate until desired thickness.

Threading Pasta Dough Through the Machine

7. Choose your desired pasta cut (a standard machine does regular pasta and fettuccine). Place the handle into the appropriate cutter slot and run your thinned and smoothed piece of pasta dough (from Step #6) through the cutter. If it doesn’t cut, the dough is too sticky and needs to have some flour added to it. It’s important to note that having two people to work the pasta machine seemed to be extremely helpful.

Fettuccine Coming Out of the Machine

8. Immediately hang your pasta on the drying rack and make sure to separate each noodle so that the dough does not stick together. Repeat Steps 4-8 for the remaining three pieces of pasta dough.

Fettucine Hanging on a Drying Rack

9. Let noodles dry for at least 30 minutes. Pasta can be stored for up to two weeks in a closed jar.

Pasta Drying

Enjoy!

Simple Vegetable Broth

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As my previous post covered, we’re working on trying out some new recipes and our first was a Winter Squash Risotto. The risotto calls for 7 cups of a broth, be it vegetable or chicken or what not. We opted to make our own vegetable broth from scratch. We roughly used a recipe provided by Mediterranean Harvest, but re-wrote it to meet the demands of our refrigerator. In other words, we wanted to use up some of the aging veggies in our produce drawers. Below is the recipe which we used- it was flavorful and just down-right perfect! I can’t wait to try it out in a minestrone soup!

Ingredients:
30 Baby carrots, thickly chopped (this equates roughly to 4 regular sized carrots)
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 head of garlic, each clove crushed
1 leek, all parts washed and chopped
2 radishes, quartered
1 small bok choy, chopped
Oregano stems
Parsley stems
1 bay leaf
8 cups of water
Salt/Pepper

 

Steps:
1. Combine all the ingredients (except the salt and pepper) in a large soup pot. Add salt and pepper to taste (I hate when books say this because at this point in the recipe, there’s nothing to taste). Basically, I twisted the salt and pepper grinders about 5 times. You can always add more after the broth cooks. Bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat (low-medium) and cover partially. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Longer will make the broth stronger.

2. Strain out the vegetables and set aside for another use or discard. Your broth is ready to go. If you aren’t going to use it right away, be sure to freeze it to best preserve it!

Enjoy!

 

Winter Squash Risotto

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Two of the gifts which received for Christmas included a wonderful Vegetarian Cookbook entitled, Mediterranean Harvest (Author: Martha Rose Shulman) and a beautiful knife set. Naturally, we have been anxious to both of these to use. So, on Christmas, we randomly turned to three pages and wrote down three meals that we would try to make this week. Tonight we made the first of these, the Winter Squash Risotto. I had been wanting to try risotto for a while, having never done it, and we figured this would be an excellent recipe because winter squash is in season! Below is the recipe  along with our changes/additions to the recipe in the cookbook. I must say, it turned out wonderfully and was so delicious. I’d definitely recommend it; it is hardy with just the right amount of sweetness.

Ingredients:
7 cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth (We made vegetable broth from  
     scratch. The recipe can be found here.)
2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter (We used olive oil)
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped (We used about 1/3 of a medium
    onion)
1 pound winter squash, any kind (We used part butternut and part
    acorn)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups arborio or carnaroli rice (We used arborio)
1/2 cup dry white wine (We used a sustainably farmed chardonnay- it
     cost $6 for the bottle)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, optional (We used this and I highly recommend it. It was 4 leaves)
1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (We used 1/2 cup)
Freshly grated nutmeg (We didn’t put this in- didn’t have it in the pantry at the time)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (We basically pulled about 10 leaves off and chopped them)
Salt and pepper

Steps:

1. Place your broth into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer on the stove. You’re going to leave it simmering throughout the whole process. You will need a ladle nearby (we used a 1 cup measure). Make sure you like the flavor of the broth- if you make your own, ensure that it is well salted.

2. Heat the oil or butter/oil combination in a large nonstick skillet. We used a large frying pan, as that’s about all we had besides a wok. This recipe makes a large portion of risotto so be sure your pan is large! Add the onion to the oil and and cook it, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to soften. This takes 3 minutes on medium (1 notch away from being straight down for our stove- or a number 4).

Olive oil and onion

3. After the 3 minutes in step#2, add the squash, garlic, and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until the squash begins to soften, about 3 minutes (our squash took more like 5 minutes).

Squash and garlic

4. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains of rice separate. Now, what exactly this means, I am not sure. We basically stirred and cooked until it appeared as though the rice grains were not sticking as much to the squash (about 10 minutes).

Squash mix and rice

5. Stir in the wine and cook stirring constantly. The wine should bubble but not to quickly (we found that we had to turn our heat down a pinch for here on out). When the wine has evaporated (aka there is no liquid in the pan), stir in a cup or two of broth so that it covers the rice and squash (our pan used two).

Broth added to the risotto

6. The broth should have a light boil (by this I mean not a rapid intense over the top of the pan boil, but a slow, won’t overflow, just beginning to boil, boil). Basically you cook the risotto and stir often until the liquid is absorbed. Then, you add the sage and another cup of broth. Again you stir and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

7. Continue to follow this process of adding broth and stirring/cooking until absorbed, then adding broth again until the rice is al dente or cooked to your taste. While the cookbook calls for 20 to 25 minutes, I probably cooked, added broth, and stirred for more like 35 minutes. You can taste and adjust seasonings- it was at this point that I added fresh ground pepper and salt.

Cooking and stirring the risotto

8. When the rice is cooked to your liking, add 1/3 cup of the broth along with the Parmesan cheese and the parsley. You would also add the nutmeg at this point. Immediately remove the pan from the burner. Mix the risotto well, taste it, and adjust salt/pepper/other seasonings as you deem necessary. The rice should be creamy and you should serve immediately.

Finished risotto

Again, this dish was absolutely delicious and I would recommend it to anyone who has a little bit of time to put into creating a delicious meal. Easily, removing the cooking your own broth would save about 45 minutes from chopping to boiling to simmering, but the homemade broth was worth the effort as well!

Fa-La-La

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Merry Christmas, everyone! It’s hard to believe that yesterday was Christmas. Where does the time go? I hope you all had a wonderful wonderful holiday and got a chance to spend some time with family. Andrew, Franklin and I were lucky enough to spend 3 whole days and part of two days at my parent’s house in Pennsylvania.  We were overwhelmed by all of the awesome gifts that we received from our two families and having the chance to spend time with my grandmother, mom, dad, and brother (and Andrew and Franklin of course) was just wonderful. Now we’re back in DC, settling in and trying to get ready for work this week (YUCK!). This weekend we’ll be heading off to OCMD to ring in the new year and a whole host of new resolutions… to be shared (perhaps?) at a later date. For now we’ll focus on putting our pasta maker to use!

I wanted to follow up on my last post (wow 1/2 month ago, I’m sorry!) In my last post about the implications of a tick on autoimmune diseases, I mentioned that my regular doctor told me that my lyme’s disease test came back positive. I then went off to visit an infectious disease doctor. The appointment went well- I spoke with both a doctor and an assistance who took my vitals, chatted with me about my history and told me where we were going from there. Basically they wanted to re-run blood work to confirm lyme’s and test for mono, toxy something or other which is caused by eating undercooked meat or soil, and a host of other things. I begrudgingly agreed. What’s another 3 or 4 tubes of blood… so off I went with a chat from the infectious doctor that he’d call me back in a week.

About a week later I received a call from the assistant I had met with- she was really nice and she calmly explained to me that my lyme’s disease test came back positive again as did the mono test. Thus, she said, I’m really sorry- you have lyme’s and mono. Umm what? Where did that come from? At least it explains the tiredness and the neck stiffness and the headaches and what not. They prescribed another 2 weeks of doxycicline (so I have a month prescription now) and told me to take it easy and that the mono would go away on its own.

The upside of this is that I have a diagnosis and I’m on medication. The downside of this is that for the whole time that I am on doxy, I can’t take enbrel… so my back and my SI joints have been acting up A LOT. I’m just hoping that now that it’s been a little over two weeks, my Rheumy will give me the go-ahead to go back on Enbrel so I can get back to feeling 100%. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s been a rough Fall/Winter of 2011, but we are happy and ready for 2012- we both feel as though there are good things to come!!!!

The Implications of a Tick on an Auto Immune Disease

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If you read my last post, Implications of an Autoimmune Disease, then you are aware of some of the risks that come along with Enbrel; mostly a weakened immune system. In addition, you know that I’ve been dealing with some swollen glands, sore throat, stiff neck, headaches, fatigue, and more recently… despite the Enbrel helping my back, I did not like these other symptoms. So, after a visit to the minute clinic, another visit to a regular doctor to get tested for Mono, the flu, and a whole slew of other illnesses, I finally got my answer.

On Thursday afternoon, I called my doctor to cancel the appointment we had scheduled for Monday because it overlapped with Andrew’s staple removal. The doctor came on the phone and said, “well I’m looking at your bloodwork… everything looks normal except well, you tested positive for Lyme’s disease.” And thus, I had an answer to my symptoms. Albeit, perhaps not that answer I had hoped or wanted (if you can possibly hope for some type of illness), but, at least it was an answer. She said she would send me antibiotics that I should take for two weeks and she would refer me to an infectious disease doctor who I needed to follow up with.

I’m sorry what? The last time we went hiking was 6 MONTHS AGO! Such is life. On Thursday and Friday, I checked my email and mail for either a prescription or medicine; I found neither. I called my doctor’s office to ask if I could just come pick it up and the woman told me that it was the doctor’s day off and she would just call me back on Monday. This kind of upset me because even though Lyme’s is very treatable, 1) I feel like SH*T and 2) you’re supposed to start taking antibiotics the second you find out. Luckily, on Saturday, the medication showed up in the mail . The medication is doxycycline (pictured below). You take it twice a day either 1 hour before eating or 2-3 hours after eating. It causes nausea and headaches and fatigue. Here I pause- wasn’t I supposed to be on this medication to stop the headaches and fatigue? Oh, life! In the meantime, I had to call my Rheumy and explain that I had been diagnosed; he told me to immediately stop taking Enbrel. Which is just fantastic, considering that I just started to feel immensely better on Enbrel.

I called the infectious disease doctor Monday morning and the woman said that the next available appointment was January 23rd. Wait, what? 1.5 months from now? There’s no way I can make it 1.5 months without Enbrel. So, I called my doctor back. She said, yes you can wait until January 23rd and you should keep the appointment because you may need a longer course of antibiotics. I mentioned that I had to stop taking Enbrel until my clearance from the infectious disease doctor. She replied that this infectious disease doctor was the only one in the area and that I should call back and say if there are any cancellations to let me know. Let me pause here– does it make any sense to go on antibiotics for two weeks, only to go off them for a month, only to possibly find out at the end of January that I should be on a longer course of antibiotics? But, i digress.

Andrew then did a search of infectious disease doctors in the area and found one up near my Rheumy. I immediately called and they were super friendly and got my an appointment.. wait for it… TOMORROW MORNING! Amazing! So, I am off tomorrow morning to figure out the next course of action. Needless to say it has been a whirlwind tour of diseases and illnesses! By now I am sure that Andrew is sick of my complaining, but, he is being a great sport and I continue to appreciate his support as I have my mini emotional breakdowns!

I will see that although the past few months have been trying, finding out that Andrew’s tumor was benign, seeing the drain and now the staples/stitches removed makes me sooooo completely happy! On top of that, I just found out that I got an A in one of my courses and an A+ (the first he’s given to a student at JHU) in my other course. So really, it’s hard to say that this past week has been anything but AMAZING.