Easter

For Easter Sunday we went to my husband’s side of the family for lunch and then to my parents house for dinner.  This meant that I had to make two dishes to share.  My Mother-in-law requested a decorated cake and I decided to make a pasta salad for the meal with my family.

After work on Saturday, I had my work cut our for me!  I got home from work at 4:00 and was busy until 9:30!  I started by baking the cake.  While it baked and cooled, I made the pasta salad as well as our supper for that night which was spaghetti and meat sauce.  I’m not going to blog that meal because it was very basic and I’m pretty sure everyone already knows how to make it.  I’ll blog my homemade sauce recipe some other time.

Pasta Salad (adapted from Allrecipes.com)  This makes a ton, feel free to cut in half!

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Ingredients:

16 oz. dry pasta {I like the tri-color rotini}

6-8 ounces hard salami, diced  {or 1 package mini pepperoni}

1 red onion, chopped

1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced

3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 (6 ounce) can pitted black olives, sliced

2 or 3 medium carrots, chopped small

2 small heads of broccoli, chopped

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons sugar or to taste

I needed more dressing, but it was at the last minute so I added about 1/2 cup of bottled Italian salad dressing.  You will probably want to go ahead and double the dressing especially if you make this salad in advance.  As it sets it absorbs the dressing and more is needed before serving.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add rotini pasta, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain, and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a very large bowl, mix the cooled pasta, salami, and veggies.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, ground mustard, salt, and pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing mixture over the pasta salad, and toss to coat. Cover, and chill 8 hours in the refrigerator.

My brother-in-law can’t eat dairy, so this recipe doesn’t contain cheese.  Normally, I would add 1/4-1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, mozzarella, or provolone cheese right before serving.

CAKE

I took the Wilton cake decorating courses a few months ago, so now I get the pleasure of baking and decorating a cake for just about every family function that we have.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to do it, but with working 6 days a week now, I don’t have the time that I wish I could devote to doing it!

For this Easter cake, I used a boxed cake mix.  I normally would not do this but I didn’t really have a choice due to time restrictions.

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I borrowed a cross shaped pan from my mother in law.  And decorated it with some roses, the only flower I’m good at making…

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Here’s a close up:

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Medium Consistency Buttercream frosting: (recipe adapted from my Wilton instructor)

1 Crisco stick {=1 cup}

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp clear vanilla extract

1/2 tsp butter flavoring

2 lbs powdered sugar, sifted

1 Tbsp meringue powder

1 tiny pinch of salt

Directions

Cream Crisco, water, vanilla, flavoring and salt in bowl of stand mixer until smooth.  Slowly add sugar and meringue powder, scraping side of bowl 2 or 3 times.  Once all of the sugar is incorporated, turn mixer to medium high and mix until fluffy.

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Garden Plan 2009

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It is time to start planning our garden this year and I thought I would share the experience with you.  We hope to plant our seeds in the next week or two.  Last year, we had great success with our first garden and we plan to do even better this year!

Last year we grew:  potatoes, two varieties of lettuce, sweet banana peppers, pepperoncini peppers, jalapeno peppers, yellow and green bell peppers, carrots, peas, green onions, white onions, green beans, broccoli, and two varieties of sweet corn. 

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Please pardon the weeds!

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I also tried growing some herbs in pots and only had success with basil.  I hope to have basil, parsley, chives, and cilantro this year. 

Baby Basil

Baby Basil

Everything produced an amazing yield for our first attempt except the white onions and broccoli.  This year we plan to change a few things including planting fewer peppers.  I would like to plant some new things too such as:  garlic, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, melons, and a tomato plant.

Wish us luck!

Mixed Berry Pie

Last week I realized I hadn’t made a pie recently and decided we were due for one since Tim loves pie so much!  I had some frozen mixed berries in the freezer, so I got to work using Martha Stewart’s recipe (which I can no longer find on her website).

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Mixed Berry Pie

Ingredients

4 cups fruit (I used a combo of blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries), fresh or thawed if frozen

2 T lemon juice

1 cup sugar or Splenda plus more for sprinkling on crust

1/4 cup instant tapioca

zest of one lemon

2 T butter

double crust pie dough (recipe below)

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 Pie Dough (source: Pioneer Woman)

3 cups AP flour

1-1/2 cups Crisco (I use butter flavored)

1 egg, beaten

5 T. cold water

1 T white vinegar

1 tsp salt

 

Directions

One day in advance, prepare pie dough and place in refrigerator  (or make even further in advance and store in the freezer) and place frozen berries in fridge to thaw.

Prepare the dough by  placing the flour in a large bowl and cutting in the Crisco until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  I use a fork to do this and it takes some time so be patient.  Add in the egg, water, vinegar, and salt and gently stir it all together to incorporate the ingredients.  Do not over mix.

Divide the dough into thirds*.  Place each third into a separate Ziploc bag and shape each one into a flat round shape so that it is easy to roll out later.  Freeze or refrigerate the dough.

When ready to make the pie, take the dough out of the fridge or freezer to allow it to become pliable, but still cold and mostly firm.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

While the dough sits out for about 15 minutes, mix up the filling.  Combine the fruit, lemon zest and juice, sugar, and tapioca together in a large bowl and set aside.  

Roll out the bottom layer of dough on a well floured surface and place in pie plate.  Roll out top layer of dough and leave on work surface.  Pour fruit filling into pie plate and dot with butter.  Place top layer of dough over fruit.  Trim excess dough and pinch/seal edges.  Slice vents in top, sprinkle with sugar, and bake pie at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 35-45 more minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Let cool completely before serving.

*Note that you only need two dough balls (2/3 of dough recipe).  Keep the other 1/3 in the freezer for a recipe that that only needs a single crust such as a chocolate cream pie.

I roll out pastry dough on a floured silpat or silicone mat, then I can lift the mat and flip it over into the dish.  Then I gently pull the mat away. For me, this reduces tears from handling the dough with my bare hands when trying to move it from the rolling surface into the pie dish.

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