Violet, Sienna and Gray: 2012-12-02

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cocooning. Verb. I did not know that!

As I write this, I am stubbornly refusing to give way to Mother Nature. I just can't start my day without time on my screened porch. The mild weather lately has spoiled me, and I have been able to read and work on my porch for most of November. I thought this morning was supposed to be mild again, so here I sit. Only to find the temperature dropping and the rain and wind moving in.

I am hoping the faux fur coat, two blankets and two dogs I have wrapped up with will keep me warm......insulated.

The need to feel insulated, and cocooned reaches deep at this time. My goal has been to write inspirational, upbeat and artistic blogs, taking you along with me on my journey. So today, I have had to make a hard decision, do I fake a "happy" blog when I'm not feeling it?

We have all had so many difficult "curve balls" thrown at us lately, and I don't want my audience to become worn out with this melancholia! But, as those of you here in Louisville know, there has been some very sad news. This was more like a "wrecking ball" than a curve ball, as it involved the loss of a friends' son.

So, I am writing today about cocooning, comfort, safety, warmth and settling in for the winter! Let's make the best of it. Here's my advice:
#1-Build those fires, #2-cook up that comfort food, #3-adopt a puppy, #4-have a dinner party with your dearest friends, #5-get in a warm bath, #6-listen to a soothing song and #7-wrap up with a warm blanket! 

Ready?? Here we go!!!
#1- Seriously, is there anything better than a big fire to warm your soul? We have ours going just about every winter night, and plenty of winter mornings.

#2- OK, So, some of you think the answer to my question above is: "Yes, comfort food is better than a warm fire!" Today, I am sharing, with permission, a fabulous recipe created by my friend and neighbor, Anne West Butler, master chef extraordinaire! This recipe was introduced to me at one of Anne's Winter cooking classes. We were all delighted to taste this one, delicious!
Anne at work!

                 Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter
1 Small winter squash such as Butternut or Hubbard or pumpkin, 1 1/2 lb.
1 Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 Cup fine dried bread crumbs
1/4 Cup crushed amaretti (about 8 cookies) (Secret Ingredient!)
1 Egg
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Salt to taste

PASTA DOUGH (about 1 1/4 lb.)
About 3 cups Unbleached Flour
5 Eggs

1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
4 Fresh Sage Leaves
1/2 Cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large baking pan. To make filling, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Place the halves cut sides down, in the prepared baking pan. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 Hour. Remove from the oven, let cook, and scoop the flesh out of the shell. Puree the flesh in a food processor or by passing through a food mill placed over a bowl. Stir in the cheese, bread crumbs, amaretti, egg, nutmeg, and salt until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To make the pasta dough, recipe as follows: Roll out the pasta by hand or machine, cut into long strips about 4 inches wide. OR (!) Go to your local Italian deli (Lotsa Pasta) and get their pre-made pasta sheets!

Line 3 baking sheets with kitchen towels and dust the towels with flour. Keeping the remaining strips covered with another kitchen towel, lay out 1 strip on a lightly floured work surface. Fold it in half lengthwise to mark center, then unfold. Place small spoonfuls of the filling in a straight row the length of one half of the strip, about 1" from the edges and spaced about two inches apart. 

Using a pastry brush, lightly paint cool water around each mound of squash. Fold the other half strip over the strip with the filling, pressing firmly to eliminate air bubbles. Using a pastry wheel, or a sharp knife, cut between the mounds to form the ravioli. To be sure they are well sealed press firmly around all edges with a fork.  As the ravioli are cut, arrange them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Cover with another towel and refrigerate until ready to cook. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. (The ravioli can be made up to 3 hours in advance. Refrigerate, and turn them often so they do not stick to the towels.)

Bring a large pot of water, three-fourths full, to a boil. Add salt to taste, then gently slip in half of the ravioli and cook until dente, 2-3 min. Using a slotted spoon, lift the ravioli from the pot, draining them well.

Meanwhile, make the suace. In a small frying pan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the sage leaves and gently saute, swirling them around in the pan, until fragrant and lightly browned on the edges, about 3 min. Spoon about half of the sage butter into a warmed shallow serving bowl, add the ravioli, and turn gently to coat. Cook the remainin ravioli in the same way and add to the bowl with the remaining sage butter, again turning gently to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.

Great served with roasted chicken or sausage and a sauteed tomato, veggie mix. (Or Anne's Carrots in Marsala recipe, yum!)

#3- OH, YES, I, DID!  Adopt a needy little shih tzu baby. Her name is Sienna, and her first "Mom" was very sad to give her away; but, I assured her this is  the perfect place for her!
We love our new little girl. (Well, Tucker isn't really concurring at this time.) 

Seriously, isn't she cute??

Lucy, Tucker & Sienna
#4 - Having a dinner party with your dearest friends is always comforting! I guess I won't be having my annual New Year's Eve party, as the gang is off to New Orleans to watch some football. :(

#5- Take a "Bubble Bath"!  I have to show off the work of one of my students, Debbie G. She is a very hard worker, tackles the hardest projects and never gives up!! Bravo, Debbie! She came into the studio wanting to paint this decades old picture of her oldest daughter taking a bath. I sighed deeply, oh jeez I thought, how am I going to teach some one to paint bubbles, when I have no idea how to myself! Not to mention, everyone knows painting babies is always a challenge (think Winston Churchill look a-likes; yikes, it's so hard to get those babies looking---well---babyish.)
Is this FABULOUS or what??? And Debbie has only been painting for a year! If this doesn't warm your heart just a little, you should probably seek therapy! :+)

#6-- Listen to a soothing song! 

"Keep Us" by Peter Bradley Adams
Well, this one is really a prayer. I scanned it with my Sound Hound app, and here are the lyrics for you.

When the rain set in we had nowhere left  to go
so we just stayed in bed while the thunder rolled
there's a comfort in the rain, one that lovers only know
so we lay hand in hand while the water rose...

Every season will turn til the world is upside down
rivers overflow then go underground
but in the eye of the storm, in the safety of this house
we lay hand in hand while the whole world turns wrong.

So keep us and keep us, keep us from the storm.

There's a lesson in the rain that change will always come
let us ride this wave and then greet the sun
and though the ground may shake and we'll think
we've had enough
we must raise our flags for the ones we love.

So keep us and keep us, keep us from the storm. 
Keep us and keep us and keep us from the storm.

(In memory of Taylor, and dedicated to his Family.)

#7- Finally, about that warm blanket! Two of my friends here in Louisville have opened an online Bedding Company, AMERICAN MADE DORM & HOME.

Beautiful patterns, great colors and designs, take a look! I think they even have a few more of their Christmas special, monogram-able throw blankets, for those of you here in Louisville (not on the website, as only a dozen or so are left, they make a great gift!).

Well that's my advice. We cannot deny the hard times, or the cold winter. But, perhaps we can have a plan to stay warm, be in the moment, and be grateful!
Remember: Where ever you are, BE there! :)