Dried wildflower garland

We made this dried wildflower garland for our big redecorating project we've been working on all summer (tour soon!).

I picked these flowers around our house and hung them to dry on the porch for a few weeks.

Branches were scavanged from tree trimming in the backyard.

We trimmed the branch and picked the sections we liked best for the project - ones that were straighter and heftier.

We used wire to bunch the flowers together and to connect the branches.  About 2 inches of wire was left on each bunch to attach it to a branch.

Special thanks to our awesome friend Theresa for helping!


Easy Homemade Pasta without a pasta maker

When we were in Italy, we learned how to make fresh pasta by hand.  This shape is called strascinati, and is a wonderful shape that picks up a thinner sauce.

Here's how to do it:
What you need: Unbleached all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and salt.  And water.  That's it! 

By the way - do you like our new kitchen? More on that later.

This is an easy easy recipe:  Equal parts of each type of flour and a pinch of salt. 

We had 9 people to feed, so we ended up doing 2 1/2 cups of each flour and about 2 tsp salt. We had a decent amount leftover though.  For a standard dinner for 4, 1 cup of each flour and 1/2 tsp salt should be enough.

With your hands, mix the two flours and salt together on a large flat surface.  We used a large wooden chopping board.  You will be adding water in a moment, so keep that in mind when choosing a surface. 


Create a well in the middle of your flour.  Then add water, about a tablespoon at a time, and start working it in with your hands.

This is a "by feel" thing - add water until it becomes a cohesive dough. 


Work the dough a little.  Knead it for a few minutes before leaving it to rest. 

Let your dough rest, covered, for a half hour.  We put ours in the turned-off oven to get it out of the way and to keep it away from drafts.

When it's done resting, you're ready to roll. Grab a fist-sized section.

 Roll the section of dough into a long rope, about 1/2 inch in diameter.

Try to keep the dough even when you roll it, so that you will end up with even sized pieces as you continue. 

Cut the long rope-shaped dough into segments about 1-inch in length. 

An roll! Take a segment, put your fingers at the top (the side farthest away from you), and with some force, pull them towards you.  This will cause the dough to curl up around your finger tips.

We made a lot of dough, so we called in the troops to help roll! Making this pasta turned out to be a great family activity.  Our mom and aunts joined us, helping us to make it through the whole batch.

Keep your rolled out pasta on parchment paper lined baking sheets, plates, any flat surface will do.  Be sure to dust them generously with flour! This is important- if they do not have enough flour, they will stick together and you will end up with a huge hunk of pasta instead of pretty little curls.

This pasta goes great with a simple tomato sauce: saute chopped onions in a healthy dose of olive oil with a dash of salt.  Add in a whole garlic clove (don't forget to take it out before adding in the pasta!).  Dump in some chopped cherry tomatoes, maybe a dash of white wine, and salt.  Let it do it's thing for about 10-15 minutes.  Et voila! Homemade fresh tomato sauce!

While your sauce is cooking, boil the pasta.  Dump pasta in batches into salted, gently boiling water.  Let them boil about 5 minutes, or until they float.  Give a gentle stir every so often to make sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Strain out the cooked pasta, and continue to cook remaining batches.  

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce in the pan, and finish cooking them together.  Let the pasta and sauce mingle over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  We added some basil right before serving for added color and flavor, and it was great.  Arugula would make an even better addition if you have it!

And just like that, you've made your own homemade pasta an homemade tomato sauce, all without a can, jar, or box.  No pasta maker or fancy utensils needed! Give this dish a dry- it makes for a great summer evening dinner, and a fun afternoon of prep. 

Here's the handy dandy recipe...

Homemade Strascinati
2.5 cups semolina
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt

Blend together flours and salt on a flat surface, like a cutting board.  Make a well in the center of the mixture.  Add water 1 tbsp at a time, blending it together by hand.  Add enough water for the dough to be cohesive and easy to work. 

Knead for a few minutes, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Grab a fist-full of dough, roll into a long thin rope about 1/2 inch in diameter.  Cut into 1 inch segments.  With your index fingertips, pull segment toward you creating a curled shape.  Repeat with all dough, dusting generously with flour as you go.

Bring water to a boil, salt water generously.  Add pasta, and cook until it floats or about 5 minutes.  Drain. 

Add cooked pasta to sauce (see below), and continue to cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Serve, with grated parmigiano cheese if desired.

Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove
2 pints cherry tomatoes, diced
A few basil leaves, torn

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add onion and saute for 10 minutes or until soft and translucent.  Add garlic clove (whole).  Add tomatoes, maybe a bit of white wine if desired.  Stirring occasionally, cook until tomatoes start to soften.  Add basil right before serving.  Season to taste.  

Have you made fresh pasta before? If you try this recipe, let us know how it works for you!


Taking some time

Please pardon our delay... we have been taking some time up at the family cottage in northern Michigan.  There has been plenty of fun- and we can't wait to share the latest adventures with you! We will see you this week with some photos, recipes, and fun.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Do You Fondue?

Summer is one of the best times for spontaneous parties, visits that turn into lingering dinners, and easy no-fuss gatherings.  Last night I enjoyed the company of a few great friends for a fondue party! It was fun and easy to put together, and kept us at the table drinking, dipping, and chatting for hours.

Here are some tips for a great fondue party:
  • Try prepping the ingredients together! We did everything as a team, and as a result all felt like we helped in the delicious success of the night.
  • It's important to have a great fondue, but...
  • It's really all about the dippables! Classics are great- broccoli, bread (we used sourdough), tart apples.
  • Don't be afraid to take some risks with the dippers you choose.  We roasted some corn and cauliflower for dipping, and loved them both! You can't go wrong with melted cheese.
  • Wine. Have it.
  • Music to set the mood is a great asset.  We chose the Carla Bruni pandora station, and found it to be just right.

Here's a recipe for the fondue we made.  Fondue is a personal preference sort of meal, so change it up as you like.

Classic Fondue

1 clove of garlic
1.5 cups dry, tart white wine (we chose a souvignon blanc)
Juice of half of 1 lemon
8 oz. gruyere 
6 oz. emmentaler 
2 tbsp cornstarch
Dash of mustard powder
Dash of nutmeg

Special equipment: crock pot or fondue pot

Rub the inside of bowl of the fondue pot or crock pot with crushed garlic.  Pour in white wine and lemon juice.  Let heat for 10 minutes.

Shred the cheeses into a large bowl.  Add the cornstarch and toss to combine thoroughly.
Add the shredded cheese mixture to the pot with the wine and lemon juice.  Stir to combine.  Allow cheese to melt, about 20 minutes.  Once cheese is to the desired consistency, add mustard powder and nutmeg.  Dip and enjoy!