Epic Ravioli

Scott was a pro at picking the best local food throughout our honeymoon. I picked whatever my carb-loving heart desired, but he consistently ordered the local specialty everywhere we went. Good job, husband!

Well, we decided to recreate one of those awesome local specialties–the Bologna pumpkin ravioli, to be exact. And I believe our collective thought process went like this: “It’s pasta. Fancy, pasta, but still. How hard can it be to make it from scratch?”

So the goal was pumpkin ravioli with pancetta mixed into the innards and a balsamic reduction on top. We started off without any real problems. Scott made the ravioli guts with just a little moment of kerfuffle that involved cooking while on the phone with a friend and realizing that two ingredients hadn’t been grated/chopped/added yet. No big deal.

I made the pasta dough with relative ease, then our friends/neighbors/cooking buddies arrived with cauliflower soup to eat with us. Nothing was assembled yet, so Theresa helped get the dough in the fridge for a half hour of resting, and we enjoyed soup. It was delicious, and the night was still bright and shiny.

Then things got interesting. All of a sudden, Theresa was rolling out dough like her life depended on it. (We don’t have a pasta maker, which would press the dough into sheets you can see through, but Theresa totally fixed that problem.)

I was giving the cut up pieces of dough an egg wash so they would stick together later, trying not to get them stuck together too early in the game. Scott stuffed ravioli guts like a boss, and Weber made sure the ravioli was closed securely enough to make it through some boiling action.

I know it sounds like we had a system, and we did. It felt a lot more chaotic in real life than it sounds in blog entry, however.

Oh, and there was balsamic vinegar with a bay leaf and some fresh rosemary reducing on the stove top. It smelled so so good (until it didn’t smell good at all). There was a moment in which the reduction turned from gooey goodness to charred sugary mess. Oops. We ended up remaking the mixture and using it in heated, not reduced form. It worked anyway.

Whoo. All of that to say that we made a delicious dinner on Monday. And on this non-Thanksgiving day, I’m grateful for a husband who likes to cook adventurous things and for friends who help us avoid insanity while cooking.

In case you want to try the complicated dish that is homemade pumpkin ravioli, here are the recipes we used:

  1. Emeril’s Pumpkin Ravioli Hats (we did make some changes on this one)
  2. Tyler Florence’s Pasta Dough for Ravioli
  3. Lidia’s Reduced Balsamic Vinegar

Dog Burglar

I’m not stealthy, so I will never be a cat burglar.

Nope, not me.  (photo from The Washington Post)

With that cleared up, I’ll tell you a story.  We have some friends nearby who are in that special friend category where you’ve lost count of who cooked dinner for whom the most (or brought drinks or took care of the other people’s dog, etc.).  It’s pretty nice when you get there with friends.  I don’t even have to tidy up before they come over.  Ooh, aah!

Long explanation short, we’re dog-sitting for Spot for a few days, which is always fun.  He and Peanut get along really well, and he’s generally a great dog to have around.

In addition to a lovely personality, Spot possesses a dog door.  Or his house possesses a dog door, so he didn’t need a dog-sitter until this morning.  I went over after hitting up the post office, as planned.  But the situation got a tad bit complicated when I saw a car in the driveway.  [Dramatic music starts playing in the background.]  That’s right, there’s a roommate home at the casa de friends.

I’ve met this roommate several times, and I know he would recognize my face if we ran into each other.  I’m not entirely sure he knows my name, however.  We’re definitely not the type of friends who can sneak into each other’s houses and steal each other’s dogs for a few days.

Despite the car situation, I try opening the front door to retrieve Spot.  No luck.  I try the other doors with the same result.  Then I take the next responsible step and ring the doorbell.  I feel sheepish about that option, because I know a few things about this guy’s sleep habits, and there’s a good chance that he’s still asleep.

No answer.  Well, no human answer.  Spot barks at the door a few times.  Too bad he doesn’t have opposable thumbs.

Spot is also sad that he doesn’t have opposable thumbs.

Then I resort to the awkward option.  I crawl through the doggie door in the laundry room.  I wouldn’t normally feel weird about that if I needed to get into this particular house, but the roommate thinks he’s on his own at the house for a few days.  I would never crawl through the doggie door of a random college student’s house.  Never.  So what if I get inside and he’s playing video games on the couch of his own house, wondering how I got into said locked house when he purposefully didn’t answer the door?!

Fortunately, there’s no sight of any variety of roommate–sleeping or awake.  Spot looks glad to see me, and we get out of there with a huge sigh of relief (Spot because he doesn’t like to be alone and prefers to be not alone with an awake person, me because I escaped the house unnoticed).

I have my fingers crossed that the roommate won’t wake up and freak out that the dog is missing.  I might have forgotten to leave a note in my rush to leave.  I did accomplish my goal, however, as evidenced by the two happy dogs napping in my living room.

Watercolor Step By Step

I’ve been working on an art project for a few days.  It was really a glorified excuse to think happy thoughts about a friend who recently had a baby, but that’s okay.  I figured that if the project went well, it could be customized for other folks and sold on my (someday soon to be opened) Etsy shop.

The original efforts for this project were flower-centric, but something about that didn’t feel right.  While Ellie’s mom loves nature and flowers and such, she’s more of an animal rehabilitation/hiking/kayaking/loves-taking-care-of-people kind of person than a fancy-floral-arrangements kind of person.  She spent lots of summers in Africa, too.  So what’s better than flowers and a baby’s name?  Animals and a baby’s name!

Unfortunately, I’m not in the habit of painting African animals.  That meant some practice with basic drawing and cursive E’s (not really in my repertoire, either).

Cool, I can write in cursive now.  Not sure how the squirrel snuck onto the next page.

And then it was time to get to the fun stuff.

After a magic time-lapse, this is where I arrived:

I like that Ellie’s name is an important part of the painting, but it’s a little bit subtle in the sky (more subtle across the room than in this picture).  Because I liked the painting a lot, I got nervous about doing the ink drawing layer that I had originally planned for it.  Enter painting number two, which is more or less the same as the one above, with the additional layer of ink drawing on top.

So the advantages of the second version seem to be that the animals have more personality, and the name stands out more.  Despite those advantages, I think I like the plain version better.  What do you think?

Cooking for Other Folks

My family goes out to eat with guests sometimes instead of cooking.  It saves prep time and dishes and stress, and I totally appreciate that.  Oddly enough, there’s also some sort of link between proximity to my house and going out instead of cooking.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever cooked dinner for my parents.

This weekend includes a visit from my parents, and I made up my mind about something in the last half hour.  Now I just have to convince them.  See, we’re meeting a few people for dinner on Saturday, and I really want to cook for these particular people.  I feel confident that I can prepare a meal without setting off fire alarms or ruining anyone’s day.  Neither of those statements was true a few years ago.  And I want to spend an evening in my cute dining room with my obnoxious dog and four people I like a lot.

Photo by Ree Drummond, a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman

There’s still the matter of getting the parents on board, however.  Like I said, their perspective is totally defensible.  They would rather hang out with me for an afternoon without dicing and groceries and making me work.  They want us to enjoy being relaxed together.

But let’s be realistic about how we usually spend our together time.  Sometimes when they visit, my parents help me with big projects like ripping out all of the dead shrubs in my front yard and totally redoing the garden.  Sometimes they repaint a few rooms or we go shopping together on Christmas Eve because we’re all really bad about getting ready for the holidays in a timely manner.  Sometimes we see the sights around town.  Once in a blue moon, we’re blissfully lazy together and we all fall asleep in the living room.

All of that history indicates that there’s a really good chance we’ll be productive on Saturday.  Why not direct some of that productivity towards the kitchen for a change?  Cooking dinner is a heck of a lot easier than totally redoing my front garden bed.

And now for the reason behind the sudden inspiration.  I recently came out of a food-induced coma that didn’t involve me eating a blessed thing.  The Pioneer Woman‘s recipes are powerful like that.  You don’t even have to consume any of the heavy cream and butter to know that as you read her recipes, you’re in the presence of greatness.

The menu options for Saturday currently consist of chicken pot pie and salad, steak salad and bread (plus homemade onion ring type things on top… um, yeah), or chicken parmesan with green beans and possibly a small salad.  All of those options would have pecan pie with ice cream and/or whipped cream for dessert, and all of them are from The Pioneer Woman.

So what do you guys think?  Dinner for five people.  Pre-Thanksgiving celebration with parents.  No need to do the traditional Thanksgiving menu (let’s not get carried away with this cooking thing).  Possibly the first meal I’ve ever cooked for my parents.

*Mom and Dad, when you read this, I’ve always appreciated your desire to treat me to a good meal and save us from washing a thousand dishes.  But hey, I’ve got a kitchen that I like just four steps from the guest bedroom.  You don’t have to make reservations, and you can’t beat the commute.  I say we give it a try.

Thermotaxic Thursday

It’s time to let one of my friends entertain you for a few minutes.  The friend of choice is one of my college roommates.  She’s an engineer who totally breaks the typical engineer mold.  One of those mold-breaking elements is that she loves to write miscellaneous poetry (almost always funny, not usually sappy or hard to interpret… much more to my liking than most poetry), she can paint up a storm, and she makes small, fuzzy creatures for her friends.  She’s pretty darn creative.  This is my most recently received creature:


Creature (L) and Argyle (R) hard at work

Since both of us spend lots and lots of time in front of computers, we’re email buddies these days.  We manage to cover a broad variety of topics by email… spiritual check-ups, rants about whatever happened five minutes ago, e-nudges to keep each other awake during hard days at work.  It’s a good buddy system.

One of the entertaining elements of our e-relationship is Julie’s subject line habit.  She started naming her days a while ago as a part of her to do list motivation.  For a while, the days were named according to goals (can’t remember any examples, but it’s true).  Then the names got funny, and now it’s a mix.  Today’s name, if you hadn’t guessed from the title of this post, is Thermotaxic Thursday.

I think that having thermotaxic issues is a side-effect of living in Texas, where there’s freezing cold air-conditioning inside and it’s almost always sweltering outside.  That’s just my opinion.  The official word on the street is that thermotaxic stuff is related to the regulation of body-temperature in animals.

In the fine city of Houston, you often find yourself hot outside, cold inside, hot outside, cold inside, and so on.  Just like Katy Perry’s man–hot then cold, up then down, very disconcerting in general.

So I hope you’re celebrating Thermotaxic Thursday in your own place of work.  I know I am.  That’s why all librarians look like old people.  It’s not because we’re nerds.  They just try to freeze us out all the time, so we’re forced to wear sweaters that are five sizes too big and don’t belong anywhere in the state of Virginia.  It’s true.

Moth Whisperer

I somehow forgot that my visiting friend is irresistible to all animals.  I guess I didn’t forget that general fact so much as I forgot how often it comes into play.  My dog is absolutely in love with her, which was expected, and she got a gorgeous moth to land on her last night as we were walking into the house from the airport.  The moth must have really liked her, because it then landed on the door and stayed until I left for work this morning.  I’m ignoring the possibility that it’s dead, what with a forty-eight-hour lifespan and all.

And someday I’ll start using my actual camera instead of my phone camera.  Until then, you get the general idea–bright red door, cool green moth.  I’m hoping that Bambi might have wandered into my yard by the time I get home.

Don’t Forget the Snacks

Random side note for the day is that a friend hypothesized after my hard day at work recently that food should be added to the equation and everything would be better.  Not that we don’t eat lunch here, but that we should bring each other food just because.  Twenty-four hours later, it’s spring party time in our break room, complete with lots and lots of food.  Guess what?  Everybody is in a good mood today.  Haven’t seen a single exception yet.  And I’ve been more productive as well (not counting this specific moment).  Behold, the healing powers of bringing food to co-workers for no particular reason.