Playing with the Queen of Tarts

I’ve lamented here before about my “black thumb.” I have an inability to grow most things (with the exception of a few hardy herbs). Miss A, however, inherited a green thumb from someone, somewhere along the line. She can grow most things, and more importantly keep them alive! Continue reading

Staying Warm and Toasty

As many of you know, the Midwest has been experiencing a very cold and snowy winter. As of today we’ve had 20 days with below O degree (F) temperatures. Six more days and we’ll beat a record from sometime in the 1800’s. Frankly, that’s a record I’m not interested in beating. I don’t mind the snow, but honestly, it’s hard to enjoy it when it’s minus nine outside. Fortunately, we have managed to get our fair share of sledding in this winter which always makes us happy.

So let’s talk about something warm and toasty. Even if it’s summer in your neck of the woods, this dish would make a fun appetizer. It’s our Toasted Bacon and Apple Tortellini from Super Sunday’s Chopped Challenge. I’m going to get right down to business, as I hope to post all the winning recipes from the challenge in a timely manner.Then we can get back to cooking around the world. Thanks again to everyone that followed along that day. We had a lot of fun and have finally recovered (we didn’t want to be in the kitchen for a few days after that marathon!). So now on to the winning appetizer.

This basket came to us from our very own little sous chefs, Mr. N and Miss A. They very much thank you for their votes. They were quite excited! Mike and I on the other hand were a bit puzzled what to do with tortellini for an appetizer, but the kids had some fabulous ideas. Miss A instantly had a pasta salad in mind. Mr. N knew we had to stuff the tortellini with bacon. So that’s how we began. Appetizer Basket Ingredients 2014

For our homemade tortellini we referred to Chicago John’s tutorial on using won ton wrappers for the dough. (Glad I remembered that one!) stuffing tortellini

For the filling we added ricotta, basil, apple, bacon, an egg, Romano and salt and pepper to the food processor. We filled each won ton before carefully shaping them into tortellini. making tortellini

Mr. N really enjoyed making the tortellini. Even Miss A asked if she could make a few, which concerned Mr. N for a moment as he was suspicious of sabotage from the other team. Ultimately he let her try her hand at pasta making as well. won ton tortellini

Now came the fun part. I reminded Mr. N of the Toasted Ravioli we made a long, long time ago to represent Missouri and St. Louis. I suggested we deep fry our little tortellini to make them feel more appetizer-like. Well, one mention of the words “deep fry” and he was in complete agreement. So after cooking the tortellini we dredged them in flour, egg and panko before deep frying them to a crisp, golden brown. toasted tortellini

The only thing left was to come up with a sauce. Since we used a filling with apple and bacon, we thought a sweeter cream sauce was in order. We combined mascarpone, cashew cream and white wine in a small sauce pot before heating it over a low flame until it was blended, nice and creamy. You could easily use heavy whipping cream in place of the cashew cream, but if you’re so inspired, it was delicious. There are an abundance of cashew cream recipes out there, but we used a simple blend of raw, unsalted cashews (soaked in water), lemon juice, vegetable stock and a little bit of almond milk. Just toss it into a food processor and run until smooth and creamy. mascarpone and cashew cream sauce

So there you have it, team Cleaver’s Toasted Bacon & Apple Tortellini. It was 4 spoons for both Mr. N and Miss A, and 3 spoons from the grown-ups. While these were quite tasty, I’m not sure we’ll make them again. They are rather involved and frankly I prefer my tortellini as a main course with a nice light creamy mushroom sauce (fortunately we have a bunch saved in the freezer that didn’t make it to the frying stage). Not to mention if we’re going to deep fry, there are quite a number of foods I’d rather splurge on before these; but a winner is a winner. It was definitely a lot of fun to make and great to have both kids so active in the kitchen this year. This has become quite the “sporting event” around here this time of year!

Print this recipe: Toasted Apple and Bacon Tortellini

Now before I sign-off, I’ll give you a brief run down on the competition’s dish. After all it was completely the brainchild of our little Miss A (who recently got all dolled up for the annual daddy daughter dance). daddy daughter dance

The salad started with a bed of Romain lettuce which was topped with the cooked four-cheese tortellini, apple slices, pear slices, bacon crumbles, fresh basil and peanuts. The salad was dressed with an Asian-inspired dressing of sesame oil and ume plum vinegar. The sauce and peanuts weren’t the biggest hit, so we recommend a different choice of nut – walnut or pecan perhaps – and going with either less sesame oil, or another more subtle oil. The salad was served cold and was pretty good (but take our recommendations for adjustments into account).Tortellini Salad

Have a great week everyone! We’ll be back soon with our winning main course recipe. In the meantime, aren’t they just too cute?! If someone figures out how to stop time and keep these little ones from growing up so fast – please let me know. 😉 dance night


My goodness! It’s already been almost two months since our trip to Banff. Time seems to be flying lately – between my work, Mike’s work, PTA, the kids’ schedules, the holidays, travel and did I mention work – I’m exhausted! So we’ve been a little neglectful in our cooking and posting (certainly not our eating though!). But not to fear – we will keep on with our international and state night cooking adventures (even if just a bit more infrequently than we used to). We enjoy cooking, learning, eating and of course all of you too much to let it fall to the wayside!

So long story short, the avalanche that has consumed our spare time is why we’re delinquent in posting our favorite Alberta recipe and visiting many of your wonderful sites. Fortunately there were no avalanches on our Banff vacation. Just good food, great views and a spectacular time. Continue reading

Date Night

Remember back around our wedding anniversary post, we mentioned our date night to a local bistro and the amazing stuffed date appetizer we enjoyed? Well, we finally recreated our own version and, spoiler alert, we’ve made it several times over the past few weeks. It’s that good.

The restaurant version featured dates stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped with bacon and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Our version is Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates with a Balsamic Reduction. It made for a great light dinner one evening, a side dish to another meal and most recently an appetizer for a backyard dinner party with friends. It has fast become a staple – easy and delicious, and those types of meals are always going to win big here. Continue reading

Sweet and Spice and All Things Nice

Before we close up the computers for one last holiday (and birthday) fling this weekend, we wanted to share a new appetizer recipe we whipped up for our Christmas parties, a Cranberry Bruschetta.

We started by whipping up our traditional cranberry sauce recipe with a little twist. This time we tossed in some Cointreau with the fresh orange juice and zest. We also substituted agave nectar for some of the sugar and added some crushed red pepper flakes to the mix. I also used this as a chance to try out my new immersion blender –  I never knew making cranberry sauce could be so quick and easy (and with a ton less dishes!). While the cranberry sauce cooled down, we prepared the bread  by slicing it on a bias and brushing it with olive oil.  Continue reading

Always be Prepared

While this is the motto of the Boy Scouts, it’s also something my parents instilled in me as I was growing up. For instance, my mom always had everything you could possibly need in her purse from band aids and tissues to breath mints and stain remover. No matter what the need, you could be sure an answer was in her purse.

We also had a “safety” plan for every possible emergency from fires to strangers, and as I got older we had an escape plan for parties should they get “out of hand” or make me “uncomfortable.”  Then when I went away to college mom gave me a stash of what she called, “mad money,” to be reserved for emergencies. Of course we disagreed on what constituted an emergency – I thought bar money and a train ticket to see Mike were certainly valid situations.

My dad also imparted his preparedness wisdom too – make sure to get regular oil changes, keep a safety kit in the car, remember teenage boys have hormones (My response to dad – “So do teenage girls.” I’m amazed he ever let me out of the house after that.), never walk alone at night…the list goes on. Continue reading