shaved parmesan salad, homemade cheese-free pesto over fresh whole wheat angel hair with sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives, vanilla lemon poppyseed mini bundt cake with melted chocolate and strawberries

I had sworn to not be one of those women who fell apart when they were about to turn forty. Who would sit and marinate in all her faults or failures: the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I said for yeeeears I wouldn’t be one of those women because, and this is true, I don’t believe in the theory of “age”. My husband is older than I am, I had best friends younger than I was in high school and I don’t “feel” my age. Whatever age should feel like.

With that all being true, I still have to admit that I have some fessing up to do. I have been spending time taking inventory of my life and while for the most part I am elated, I also do feel some holes… here and there. The joy I have found in my everyday life has been on purpose. I mean everything I wrote in my “bio” on here: that you have to be intentional in your happiness. It does not come without work. And why should it.

Cooking, table-setting, hosting, decorating… these have all been what have brought me the most happiness. I love cooking for and taking care of my husband and my friends. It has been a way for me to show my love and my creativity. But is it “enough” of an accomplishment to carry me into my forties, not kicking and screaming?

Well, I guess we’ll see in January.

This blog will not be included in my journey in the meantime, however. I have some ideas for where I will be taking this little diary / blog and, it will take some additional efforts and attention away from tending to it every week. So, this is my last post until my birthday. Which will be hard, with holidays coming up and my desire to decorate and cook (this time of year is my favorite!). I will do all of that, I just will not be posting anything until January. I hope everyone understands… I have entered over thirty submissions and I have some additional surprises in the works.

This last post includes a few layers, all served to Joe before he headed off to Vegas for a work trip. In the very least, you’ll see my pesto recipe which includes no cheese and has been told to me by several people, to be the best pesto they’ve ever had.

It’s been a true pleasure posting my home, my tables, my recipes, my inner thoughts… I have made friends along the way and have seen other posts which have been an inspiration to me and made me feel like I have found a quaint creative community which I am proud to be part of.

You will need:

* Baby lettuce leaves (bagged lettuce)

* Shaved parmesan

* Olive oil (in this case, we used a pesto infused olive oil which I found at Fresh Market)

* Whole wheat angel hair (I made our pasta fresh using the Philips Pasta Maker – you will just need whole wheat flour and one egg)

* Spinach leaves

* Cashews

* Fresh basil

* Bundt cake pan (I used the mini bundt cake pans from William Sonoma)

* Butter

* Whole milk

* A lemon

* Poppyseeds

* Non-stick cooking spray

* Melting / cooking chocolate

* Strawberries

* Bundt cake mix (I used the vanilla mix from Williams Sonoma)

(OPTIONAL)

* Pine nuts

* Sun-dried tomatoes

* Kalamata olives

To make the pesto, you will need to gather up the spinach leaves, cashews, olive oil and fresh basil.

Throw two handfuls of spinach into the food processor, one handful of (washed and dried) fresh basil, a handful of cashews and a few glugs of olive oil (add more if necessary). You might be wondering why I am using twice as much spinach as basil and cashews instead of pine nuts… And where’s the cheese? This was a concoction I made by mistake last year and it was perfection. I don’t know why… I don’t know if the spinach makes it that more gorgeous green, the cashews creamier… Something just works. This pesto is fantastic even cold. I have it listed with shrimp in another post on here (see under: Seafood). It was also served at my dinner party I have posted on here as well. Both times it was room-temperature.

Blend everything and set aside.

The bundt cake will take around an hour to cook in the oven. Mine took a shorter length of time because I used only a portion of the mix as I liked the mini pans… (portion control!) And I use a convection oven, the: Breville Mini Smart Oven. If you’d like, you can cook the bundt cake ahead of time and have it out cooking while you make the pasta, which is what I did.

I used the Williams Sonoma Vanilla Bundt Cake Mix because it was just easier; I was already in the store buying the pan.

Zest your lemon and place the zest aside.

Start preparing the ingredients as it reads on the back of the box. Right as you’re mixing everything, add the juice of one lemon and as many poppyseeds as you’d like. Try not to make a mess!

Spray your pan(s) and then place the mixture in, leaving at least an inch on all sides for the mixture to rise. Some say an inch and a quarter just to be safe. Smooth it out and slam them a bit on the counter to release any of the air bubbles.

Cook on 325 for 50 minutes, checking the cakes at around the 30 min mark with a toothpick for doneness. If they come out clean, they’re done. Mine were. You will have some leftover mixture if you use the mini pans, so go ahead make muffins! I made some and gave them out to my family the next day. Wrap everything securely in plastic wrap before leaving out or placing in the fridge. The cake you plan on using, leave to cool completely before decorating.

I had some leftover chocolate frosting from the chocolate peanut butter cake I made Joe a week or two earlier so, I left that out to get to room temperature and spooned some into the middle hole and down the sides. If you purchased the cooking chocolate pieces from the store, just melt them and drizzle as much as you want, filling the inside of the cakes as well. Make sure you rinse and let your strawberries dry. Slice them in half and place them over the cake and leave out to serve, not forgetting your lemon zest from earlier.

I purchased the Philips Pasta Maker for Joe for Father’s Day one year. The man is so particular about his pasta I had to get serious about it. While it’s the perfect size for just the two of us (capable of making upwards of two pounds of pasta), it is slightly limited in which types of noodles it can make. It comes with three: spaghetti, fettuccine and ziti. I found on Amazon, additional pasta attachments and voila! The angel hair, which is his favorite, is now available in 10 minutes. Just add egg, water and flour.

I have to say, I’m particularly excited about the lasagna and pappardelle… He’s not a thick pasta fan but, I have some ideas on how to change his mind.

Okay so, if you decided to get this machine you’ll see the ingredients needed are flour, water and egg. The whole thing is measured for you – you just dump it all in the back and press one button.

If you decided to just get whole wheat angel hair that’s fine too. If fresh, you will want to wait till you’re just about to serve this meal because they will only take three minutes to cook.

When you’re done with the noodles, however you decided to procure them, make sure to place them on low in a pot, stirring in your pesto (adding more olive oil in the end as needed), some shaved parmesan (unless you’re not having cheese at all) and some pine nuts.

The salad will take no time at all, just place some leaves from the baby spring mix bag (or any lettuce you prefer) on a small plate and place some shaved parm on top. Leave the dressing till the very end.

I decided I wanted everything to be on the table so neither Joe nor I had to get up to get more wine, the pasta or dessert so, I used one of my china vegetable dishes to hold the pasta. It also kept it warm which was an extra bonus.

Using a small serving dish like this also keeps the servings small. Instead of having a big pot on the table (which we’ve done and is fine), if you’re just serving one person or two, this is a nice way to monitor how much food there will be.

The small delicate dishes to the side are from an Etsy store I love: skinnygirldesigns. They held sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives to be placed over the salad and / or pasta.

I love that in the end, the rest of the pasta went into the vegetable dish with the sides – lid on, in fridge – and was had again the next day where I didn’t have to do a thing… Gotta love leftovers. The bundt cake was devoured over the course of the evening with wine, dunking the strawberries into gooey chocolate.

This was a wonderful meal to send Joe off with. Little to no cleanup, leftovers which make life so easy and some strawberries with champagne for brunch in the morning (well… that was for just me, lets be honest).

I will see you all in January. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years! I’ll be looking throughout the next couple weeks at everyone’s blogs to see what people are making.

Cheers!

Below you will find the table-setting for this meal: Bone china is Johnson Brothers, Etsy account and Lenox. Silverware is heirloom. Glass is Riedel. Crystal is Waterford. Williams Sonoma: Bundt cake pans, mix and lemon juicer. Pasta Maker is Viva by Phillips. Extra attachments found through Williams Sonoma or Amazon.

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