Sunday, January 27, 2013

Homemade Pumpkin Ravioli

I ordered this once at a restaurant in Montclair, NJ and I loved it so much I decided I had to make it myself. It turned out even better than I thought it would, but honestly it was no walk in the park. I made the pasta from scratch using my KitchenAid mixer and pasta roller attachment. If you are going to attempt this recipe, I suggest giving yourself a couple of hours to get everything done without having to rush. But in the end, all the hard work is worth it!

I found a pumpkin ravioli recipe on the Food Network website ( and modified it to better suit what I had in mind, but it is a great base recipe to start with. This meal cost about $15 to make, depending on which ingredients you already have in your pantry.

Here is the recipe that I ended up using. It includes a recipe and directions for egg pasta dough, the ravioli filling and then a white cream sauce to serve over the pasta.

Have your KitchenAid mixer and pasta roller attachment nearby.
Have the flat beater and dough hook attachments for the mixer ready.
Clear counter space and place a sheet or two of parchment or wax paper down.
Have flour for easy access.

Ingredients for filling and sauce
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
½ can (400mL) of pumpkin puree
2 cups of heavy cream
2 eggs, beaten
½ bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
2 cups chicken stock
About 1 cup of all purpose flour

Preparing the filling
Place the pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons of butter, ½ tablespoon sage, ½ teaspoon thyme, ½ bay leaf and 1 cup of cream in a saucepan and simmer over low/medium heat for approximately 30 minutes stirring occasionally. When the puree is thick and most of the liquid has evaporated, lower the heat and whisk in 2 more tablespoons of butter and the eggs a little at a time. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes then add salt and pepper to taste. It was rather bland at first so I ended up adding quite a bit of salt here. I stored the filling in the fridge over night and made my ravioli the next day, otherwise, set the filling aside to cool.

Note: the amount of filling that I ended up with was a little excessive, but can be frozen for future use.

Making the basic egg pasta dough
I got this recipe from the book that came with my pasta attachments.

4 large eggs
1 tablespoon of water
3 ½ cups of all purpose flour
½ teaspoon of salt

Add all of the ingredients into the mixer bowl and mix on a low level with the flat beater attachment for about 30 seconds. Remove the flat beater and replace with the dough hook attachment and knead the dough for 2 minutes on level 2. My dough was pretty sad looking, it actually didn’t even look like dough, but chunky flour so I slowly started adding tablespoons of water until it started to look like dough. When I finally got my desired dough texture by adding small amounts of water and flour, I kneaded it in the mixer for about a minute or so. In the pasta attachment book, it says that if the dough stays together without sticking to your fingers when you pinch it, it should work well. Mine slightly stuck to my fingers, but I continued on anyways. Sprinkle flour onto a clean countertop and hand knead the dough for 1 to 2 minutes then cover with a dish towel and let sit for 20 minutes. You are now ready to start your ravioli adventure.

Making the ravioli
After preparing the dough, cut it into 4 equal parts and set aside. Take one of the pieces of dough and with your hands, lightly stretch it into a somewhat flat sheet to pass through the pasta roller attachment. Make sure to lightly dust each side of the dough with flour to prevent sticking. Starting at level 1 on the roller, guide the pasta through while supporting each end. Turn you dial to 2 and repeat, then level 3 and repeat. I found that I got the best shape when I alternated which end I fed through the roller first.

After passing the dough through the roller on level 3, take the sheet of pasta and place it on your parchment paper. I found that the ravioli was a bit thick when eating so you could run the pasta through at level 4 once if you would like. Take the cooled filling and place spoonfuls equal distances along the sheet, I was able to have 2 wide.

Take the next ball of dough and repeat the roller process. Place the second sheet on top of the first and press down around each mound of filling to create pockets and then cut the dough to create your ravioli.

This step was a lot of fun and so satisfying to see the creation start to come to life. Repeat the whole ravioli process for the last two balls of dough and this should make enough for 4-5 servings.

Preparing the sauce

Before making the sauce, fill a large pot with water and place on high heat to boil.

Place the 2 cups of chicken stock in a saucepan and boil down to about half. Add 1 cup of cream and boil down half again. On low/medium heat, whisk in 4 tablespoons of butter and add the remaining herbs. I wanted my sauce to be thick and creamy so I slowly whisked in some flour while the sauce was simmering to thicken it. I found that the sauce did not need any salt, but you can season to your preference with salt and pepper.

While preparing the sauce, add the ravioli into the boiling water and cook for about 8 minutes. Do not overcook the ravioli or it will fall apart. Remove the ravioli from the water with a slotted spoon and set aside until the sauce is done, then serve!

If you are really on your game, you could throw some garlic bread with cheese in the oven to broil and serve with the pasta.

Have you tried pumpkin ravioli? Comment below to tell us what you think of this recipe.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Antique finish dry brushing

I just finished this project and ran to the computer because I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone. I wasn’t really sure how it would turn out, but I think it looks great!
I found this item in the basement of my friend’s apartment building and immediately my mind starting racing. I had no idea what the previous owner had used it for or why they threw it away, but I knew that it was a nice wrought iron piece and that I could make something great out of it. I decided to make it into a jewelry stand, but first I had to “pretty it up” by spray painting it and using a technique called dry brushing to give it an old antique look. This paint technique can be used in a variety of ways from sprucing up an old piece of furniture or dressing up an ordinary picture frame.

Items that I used include flat spray paint in “Antique”, a 1” paint brush and craft paint in “Bronze” from the Martha Stewart Living metallic paint line. I also purchased a little heart shaped glass jewelry holder from the dollar store. Total purchases came to about $15.00.

Here are some tips to help you along on your journey of antique brushing.

Before starting, ensure your item is clean and dust free by wiping it down with a cloth and if the surface is rough or rusting like mine was, give it a quick sanding down to make the surface is as smooth as possible.
Next you can start spray painting your item, following the directions on the back of the spray can. Because my wrought iron stand was black to begin with and I was covering it with a lighter color, it took about 3 coats of the paint. You should wait a few minutes in between coats for the paint to become tacky, the recommended time should be in the directions, but I waited 5-10 minutes between coats.

For the final coat, I waited for it to dry overnight so I could pick it up and see if there were any spots that needed to be touched up. Conveniently, my dad has a ventilated paint booth in the basement, but if you do not have this luxury, I recommend spray painting outside or in a well ventilated area and protect the surroundings with newspaper or old cloths.

When your item is completely painted and dry, you can start with the dry brushing. As the name states, you want your paint brush to be almost dry, dabbing most of the paint off after dipping the brush. This will create dark streaks over the surface to give it the antique look. Use quick brush strokes along with longer ones, whatever works best and gives you your desired texture. Start off with a light layer and slowly increase the amount of paint until you find your happy medium. It is super easy to do and creates something super unique and beautiful.

Have you used this technique before? Comment below describing your dry brushing experience.

Currently Crazy For

1. Kate Spade Cobble Hill Fabric Clark in deep pink $258.00

2. MAC Cosmetics VIVA Glam Nicki Lipglass in hot pink $15.00

3. Tory Burch Python Print Reva Ballet Flat $235.00

4. Bed Bath & Beyond Goldengate Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge toss pillows $24.99 each 

Comment below to spill what you are currently crazy for.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tips from a frequent flyer

I won’t deny that for a good portion of my life I was absolutely terrified of flying, to the point that I was set on never leaving the ground again. But after much soul searching along with not having any other choice, I decided to start traveling again and I have now been on 18 flights in the last 2 years. I wouldn’t say I’m a professional jet-setter, but as my Aeroplan says, I am a “frequent flyer” and I do have some advice for making your next airport trip easier.

Things to do before heading to the airport

1.   Download the app on your phone for the airline if available. This will allow you to add your booking reference and keep you updated on flight info.
2.   Check your flight for delays. I would say that my flights are delayed about 50% of the time especially in the winter. Rarely, a flight can be cancelled and if it is due to mechanical problems with the plane, most airlines will provide you with accommodations if needed.
3.   Check-in online and print your boarding pass. This will save you time at the desk and allow you to go directly to security if you are not checking bags. Some airlines have additional charges for checked bags which can be paid for ahead of time when checking in online.
4.   Choose your seat. Most airlines will allow you to do this as soon as you book your flight and personally I like to sit near the front of the plane because you get to board last and get off first. Sometimes finding room in the overhead compartments can be frustrating because of the first-come-first-served mentality, but being at the front of the boarding line means you will be more likely to find space. If you are not able to find room or your bag won’t fit (oops, packed one pair of heels too many), you may be forced to check your carry-on bag.
5.   Wear comfortable shoes. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but airports are huge! Sometimes you have to walk pretty far to get to your terminal/gate and you’re not going to be too concerned with fashion after walking (or running) that far in heels.
6.   Have a plan. Know where you are going or give yourself lots of time to figure it out. If you are parking, figure out which parking lot is least expensive and how to get to the correct terminal from the parking lot. Some airports have buses and trains.
7.   Give yourself lots of time! This tip deserves the exclamation point because airlines are very strict about their check-in times.They usually require to have your bags checked a minimum of 1 hour before the flight and sometimes more. Showing up 15 minutes late and then pleading with the lady at the counter won’t work…trust me.
8.   Pack your purse with must-have items, which leads me to my next topic…


There are obviously many different scenarios that affect what and how much you need to pack. When traveling, If I am only going away for up to 5 days and it is much easier (and occasionally less expensive) to just bring carry-on luggage. Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on size bag and one personal item, such as a purse. Make sure your luggage sizes meet the criteria and make sure to take full advantage of it, for example my daily purse is on the smaller side so I put my purse inside a bigger bag along with items to use on the plane. Do some online reading on the airline website to make sure you are informed on what items you can or cannot bring on the plane, required luggage sizes/weights and additional charges that may apply.

How to pack your purse for your flight

Whether you’re a Michael Kors or Marc Jacobs kinda girl, here are some essential items that I recommend stuffing in your purse before hitting the airport. Some of these items can be purchased at the terminal, but sometimes they have less selection and higher pricing.
1.   Earbuds. Some airlines do supply these and others will make you pay for them.
2.   Magazines/books. Although many North American airlines have individual TVs, that is not always the case and in some instances they are not working or you must pay to continue watching.
3.   Gum. This is obvious for most people because it helps with ear-popping, but is also great to have if you plan on having a conversation with the person you are sitting next to.
4.   Cash. You may want to purchase wine or alcoholic drinks and some airlines only accept cash for these purchases.
5.   Passport. Double and triple check this step!
6.   A pen. Usually when traveling out of the country, you will have to fill out a customs and border protection card. Fill this out ahead of time if possible. Also, when returning from a trip you may have to fill out a declaration card that is usually handed out on the plane.
7.   Make sure to check on the airline website for which items are not allowed in your carry-on luggage. If bringing a laptop, ensure that it is easily accessed because during the security check you will have to take it out and separate it from the rest of your luggage. For liquids, usually a maximum of 50ml is allowed for each bottle and I suggest buying special travel containers that you can fill with your own liquids such as moisturizer and shampoo. Do not attempt to bring anything on the plane that can be mistaken for a weapon, this may sound obvious, but I once had my tweezers confiscated.
8.   Important medications. In the unthinkable circumstance that your luggage is lost, you will be glad to have this in your purse. If you plan on being gone for a while, make sure to have enough medication for the entire duration of your trip.
9.   Bring stuff to take care of biz while sitting on the plane. Make a to-do list of tasks that can be done especially on a long flight such as replying to emails, finishing paperwork or studying. If your the type that values structure and organization, you can also use this time to make an itinerary. If your trip is for business rather than pleasure, make sure you have any extremely important documents with you.

10. Relax and enjoy the down time!

Travelling can be very stressful and can cause you to be an anxiety ridden nail-biter, or maybe that’s just me. Either way, planning ahead and being well informed can only make your next trip more enjoyable. There’s no better feeling than arriving at the airport and knowing exactly what you’re doing and you may even be able to give some advice to a frazzled acquaintance on the art of traveling.

Do you have any helpful tips on airports or flying? Tell us about it in a comment!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tips for visiting Brooklyn, NYC

So after taking the train into New York City from New Jersey several times over the last couple years, we finally decided to visit the Brooklyn area and it was AWESOME. After strolling along the Brooklyn Bridge for a bit, we had to have the ultimate NYC pizza experience at Grimaldi's Pizzeria and my mouth is watering just thinking about pizza of my life. Jumping into a cab, we drove north about 10 minutes to the Brooklyn Brewery where we caught the tail end of the brewery tour and then purchased 5 pints for $20. The atmosphere was super laid back and comfortable and we had a great time.

Along with some great pics that I took, I have a few tips to make your much needed trip to Brooklyn a great one.


Firstly, we used the "HOPSTOP" App on iPhone (also on android and free to download) and it was very helpful. Just type in where you want to go and it tells you how to get to the subway, which trains to take, what times the trains are running and how long it should take you.

Check out the app here:

To save on cash, I recommend public transit (a mixture of train, subway and taxi). To get to Brooklyn from Penn Station, NYC we took the subway "A" train to High Street which was a 10 minute ride and dropped us off about a 5 minute walk from the bridge. To use the subway, you must purchase a swipe card (Metrocard) either from the cashier or the automated machine and costs $2.25 to enter. From the Bridge to Grimaldi's Pizzeria (1 Front St, NYC) is about another 5 minute walk and from there to the Brooklyn brewery (79 North 11th Street, NYC) was about a 10 minute cab ride (coming to about $15.50).  To get to the subway again from the brewery, it was probably about a 5 minute walk and we took the "Q" and "L" trains to get to Times Square, NYC. You could also return to Penn Station, depending on how sore your feet are.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is an ideal location to take some beautiful, frame worthy shots. Get your deep down photographer on and play around with angles and try black and white photos for something that looks straight out of a magazine. Make sure to pay attention to the walking and bike lanes while on the bridge or you might get yelled at by a biker who refuses to slow down for pedestrians.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is very famous in the area and all over the country for their undeniably delicious pies and the line ups to get into the restaurant are proof. The restaurant opens at 11:30am Mon-Fri and 12:00pm noon on weekends and there is usually a line up forming before the doors even open. We decided to call and find out when the best time of the day to stop by was and were told to come at 4pm or 8pm to avoid the rush. We arrived just after 4pm and went right in, only waiting a couple of minutes to be seated. Soon after, we started to see a line forming along the front of the building and by the time we left I would guess that the wait outside could have been up to an hour to get a table. We ordered a large pizza between the two of us and finished the entire thing! Our bill was only about $18.00.

Brooklyn Brewery

The Brooklyn Brewery is a hot spot for the locals and tourists alike. The last tour of the day was at 5pm and takes you through the small brewery, being led by a young guy who has a good sense of humor and what I only assume is every other guys dream job. The tour was probably only about 20 minutes, ending with a mad dash to the bar area where you must purchase tokens for pints of beer ranging from very light to very dark. As it was Saturday, the line ups were fairly big and seating was limited, but don’t be too shy to ask to share a table with the people already there (which may be your only option anyways). Everyone there seemed to be having a great time and definitely enjoying the decently priced beer of $20 for 5 glasses.

Ladies, the only downfall of this awesome day was the lack of good shopping that I came across in Brooklyn. If you’re looking for that to-die-for shopping experience, I suggest sticking to Fifth Ave.

Find more information at the following links:

Visit Brooklyn

Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Brooklyn Brewery

New York City Transit

Have you ever been to Brooklyn? Leave a comment describing your trip.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Try this! Calligraphy

Girls! If you aren’t getting married soon, chances are that you know someone who is. Handmade wedding invitations (not to mention engagement party, bridal shower, save the date and thank you notes) are a great way to save a bunch of cash. According to The Bridal Association of America the average couple spends $659 on their wedding invitations (gasp!). With a bit of practice and the right tools, you can be on your way to writing like a renaissance princess in no time.

To get started, you will need a calligraphy pen, ink and blank paper. I suggest getting the fountain calligraphy pens because they are easier to use and come in line thicknesses such as XF (extra fine), M (medium) and XB (extra bold) in a bunch of different colors. Buying a calligraphy kit is a good idea because most of them will come with pens and ink along with a how-to book.

Once you are all practiced up and ready for bigger and better things, you can get some nice paper or cards to start making your own invitations, labels and art. Don’t forget to fancy-up your creations with ribbon and water color. Be creative! It could save you hundreds.

For supplies and ideas check out these links:
Pen sets at Barnes and Noble online
Calligraphy supplies on Amazon
Martha Stewart Calligraphy How-to

Leave a comment below describing your experiences with calligraphy.