Making Fresh Pasta at Home

“This is so cool!” I remember saying this to my eldest sister while I was rolling the pasta dough through the machine. Making pasta from scratch has always been a fun and interesting experience for me even though it requires more effort compared to boiling raw, store-bought noodles. So, when I recently craved for pasta, I decided to hang out with my pasta machine again.

homemade fresh pasta
homemade fresh pasta
fresh pasta
fresh pasta
fresh pasta
fresh pasta

While I was combining the flour and eggs, I already imagined the long streaks of pasta dough smoothly making their way out of the machine. However, after cutting the first two pieces of dough, my sister and I noticed that parts of the dough got stuck in the machine. It created a mess because they were stuck in between the rollers and we had to poke and push them out using a pointed knife/chopstick. Also, it was very crucial for us to thoroughly clean the pasta machine because if we left parts of the pasta dough on it and they dried up overnight, the hardened dough may eventually cause damage to the machine when we try to use it again.

fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta
fresh pasta
fresh pasta

 

During that time, I was already starting to change my mind about cooking homemade pasta because I was afraid that I would end up wasting ingredients, my time, and effort. But somehow, with the help of my sister, we continued to remove the bits that got stuck, sprinkled more flour on the rollers and dough, and proceeded with the next pieces of pasta dough. After rolling each piece of dough, I made sure to sprinkle enough flour on the machine to help roll the dough more smoothly and it worked! By God’s grace, I was able to finish rolling and cutting the pasta dough and I boiled the noodles in time for dinner.

fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta dough

Making pasta from scratch reminded me of a struggle that I face every now and then. I noticed how I was easily discouraged when things didn’t go the way I expected them to. When I made a mistake of not putting enough flour on the roller, it became such a hassle for me to clean up my mess and to start over again. In the same way, I realized that whenever I focus on my weaknesses, my past failures, and the things that I’ve done wrong, I allow these things to rob me of the joy and hope that I have in God.

fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta dough

Lamentations 3:21-23 says “I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”

As mentioned in the verse above, we have hope in God knowing that his mercies are new every morning. Even if we fall or lose sight of Him every now and then, He is able to strengthen us and help us get back up again.

“We lose our way, we get back up again. It’s never too late to get back up again.
You may be knocked down but not out forever.”

-TobyMac

fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta dough
fresh pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil
fresh pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil
fresh pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil
fresh pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil

 

Pasta Dough = 2 cups of flour and 3 eggs.

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

 

 

Eggplant Parmigiana

It is quite a challenge for me to eat and enjoy bitter melons and eggplants. I guess it does take time for some to appreciate these vegetables. Maybe in a few months (or years), I might start to like them. :P

Interestingly, a couple close to our family (Thank you, tito Albert and tita Rosiel Noel) recently gave us a huge plastic filled with asian eggplants and okras from Palawan. As soon as I saw the bag, I immediately felt the urge to cook the eggplants first. I didn’t know why. Hahaha.

And so, I gathered some of my favorite ingredients and prepared this dish: Eggplant Parmigiana.

DSC09270 - Copy

Because I wanted to know more about the main ingredient before cooking the dish, I did a little research on the internet. After a few minutes, I learned from Alton Brown (Host of the show: “Good Eats”. Episode: Berry From Another Planet) that purging the eggplants help remove the bitterness and moisture from the eggplant, which allows them to absorb the liquid in the dish more.

DSC09199 - Copy

DSC09203 - Copy

I purged the sliced eggplants by salting them and letting them rest for a few minutes. When the eggplants started to ‘sweat’, I used a tissue to remove the moisture from them.

DSC09211 - Copy

After that, I prepared the tomato sauce and fried the breaded eggplants with a tablespoon of oil.

DSC09228 - Copy

Layering the eggplant parmigiana was fun and easy! I added the ff. ingredients to the bowl and repeated the process twice. :)

Tomato sauce > a few shrimps > Sliced Mozzarella cheese > Cooked eggplants

DSC09247 - Copy

DSC09251 - Copy

DSC09255 - Copy

Finally, it was time for us to taste the eggplant dish. I remember slightly cringing while I was getting my share because I didn’t really like eating eggplants. Haha. But, by God’s grace, He continues to change me for the better and help my taste buds cooperate and appreciate more food. Woohoo!

Also, by His grace, my family and officemates got to taste the dish and enjoyed it too! My dad even sent me a text message the next day: “Your eggplant dish is soooo good, anak! I just had a wonderful breakfast… Thanks!!!” Hahaha. Thanks for the encouragement, dad!

DSC09260 - Copy

It was a helpful experience for me because God encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things with Him. Even though the eggplant wasn’t (and still isn’t… haha!) my favorite vegetable, He still used it to speak to me and remind me of important principles in life.

Purging the eggplants reminded me of how God’s Word works in our hearts. The salt helped remove the bitterness (found in the moisture) in the eggplants which made them absorb the flavor of the oil and the tomato sauce more. In the same way, God uses the Bible to help us see and remove the unnecessary and unpleasant things that we keep in our hearts, so that we can absorb who He is and the promises and truth that He has for us, and grow into the person that He desires us to be.

DSC09261 - Copy

It says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Looking forward to learning more about God through His word this week! Hope this encourages you to do so too. :)

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time.

 

RECIPE for Eggplant Parmigiana

Estimated ingredients:

8 Asian eggplants

4 cloves of garlic (crushed or diced)

Half an onion (white, chopped)

2 tbsp. oil (1 tbsp. for sauteing sautéing the shrimp; the other for the breaded eggplants)

1 cup of Japanese bread crumbs. (Feel free to use other kinds of breading. We only had the Japanese crumbs at that time.)

4-5 cups (1000g) of crushed tomatoes (in a can). I used the brand: Doña Elena.

McCormick’s Italian seasoning and/or fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, and oregano)

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Mozzarella and Parmesean cheese

Optional: 1/3 kilo of your choice of meat (I used some of the shrimps that we had in the freezer).

 

Notes:

1. After cooking the tomato sauce and layering the ingredients, you may heat the dish in the oven or in the microwave. The melted mozzarella cheese is perfect for this dish. :)

2. You may also enjoy this dish with sliced plain baguettes.

Choose to Save

Early this year, I committed to save more money and budget more wisely. By God’s grace, He has been faithful in helping me manage my resources and lessen my expenses. However, I know that I can still improve more, especially when it comes to buying food, drinks, and ingredients.

DSC085400

Many times, I enjoy experimenting with food so much that I end up buying more than what I need. Sometimes, it’s advantageous since I get to use the ingredients for our family’s meals. But, on the other hand, it’s also costly since some ingredients end up getting expired before I find the time to use them.

DSC085480

Two days ago, I decided to make pesto pasta with roasted tomatoes and bacon for lunch. I chose this dish because I knew that making it wouldn’t cost me a lot since we still had tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil and oregano leaves, and leftover, raw penne noodles at home. The only ingredient that I added and paid for that day was the raw bacon from the grocery store.

DSC085540

While my sister and I were eating the pasta, we realized how nice and cost-efficient it was to make a dish out of the ingredients already available at home. I also love how it was so convenient for us to get fresh basil leaves from the garden and make pesto out of it.

Making this dish encouraged me to be wiser in budgeting and spending money for food and drinks. Just like my past struggle with shopping (http://encouragingtreats.com/year-shopping/), I’d find myself splurging on numerous and delicious yet unnecessary treats (comfort food) and I’d try to find satisfaction in them. But, I am reminded that the way we spend our money shows what’s in our hearts. And because God deserves the best, I want to honor Him with my heart and with how I budget my money.

DSC085690

This won’t be easy for me, since I am fond of certain expensive ingredients like shrimps, strawberries, and imported snacks. But, by God’s grace, I know that I can be faithful in setting limits and lessening unnecessary expenses this year.

DSC085900

Here are some of the action steps I’m currently doing to help me with my commitment:

  1. Continue to plant and grow own ingredients at home. (e.g. herbs, vegetables, fruits)
  2. Bring homemade food and/or food at home to the office. (e.g. sandwiches, rice meals, fruits, crackers)
  3. Plan meals ahead.
  4. Check the ingredients we have at home every now and then and do my best to maximize them before buying additional items.
  5. Set a budget for daily meals. Since mom graciously prepares food for us and we have the privilege of bringing it to work, eating out is really an added and, sometimes, unnecessary expense for me. Thus, I am challenging myself to spend only Php50/day for my food and drinks this year. (Of course, I have a different budget for events/dinner out with family and friends, and for the ingredients that I’ll be using when I cook or bake.)
  6. Spend time with God and His Word. I know that God will continue to speak to me and guide me in my commitment as I spend quality time with Him.

Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

How are our hearts lately?

DSC085830

 

RECIPE:

Ingredients:

2-3 garlic cloves (diced)

3-4 tbsp. of olive oil

1 cup of basil leaves

4-5 tomatoes

1 to 1 1/2 cups of raw penne noodles

salt & pepper

4 slices of bacon

Optional: parmesean cheese & chili flakes

 

Steps:

1. Boil noodles until al dente (cooked enough to be firm but not soft).

2. Pesto Sauce: Blend basil leaves, garlic, pinch of salt, pinch of ground pepper, and olive oil together.

3. Slice the tomatoes and roast in pan. Add chopped basil and oregano leaves (or you can use McCormick’s Italian seasoning), pinches of chili flakes and salt, and a dash of ground pepper. Stir and press the tomatoes every now and then, until some of its juice evaporates.

4. Cook the bacon in a separate pan (without oil).

5. Mix the cooked noodles with the pesto sauce and top the dish with roasted tomatoes, cooked bacon, and cheese.

 

Enjoy!

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

At the End of a Stressful Day

The last day of February was very stressful for me. I think I sat on my chair for only 20 minutes and spent the rest of the day going around the office… finishing urgent tasks. After a long day at work, I went inside the car, sighed, and said to myself “I really need to eat something good.” So, before I went home, I dropped by the mall near our place and bought myself a hot bowl of sinigang, a cup of rice, and a glass of cold, buko juice.

DSC08038

The next morning, I still had a hangover from the stress I experienced at work and I found myself craving for more “comfort food”. I decided to cook my favorite seafood (shrimps) and hoped that it would somehow help me relax.

After preparing the pasta with shrimps, my mom saw the dish and said: “Wow! It looks good! How did you make it? Did you use fresh tomatoes?” I replied, “Yup! I used the last few cherry tomatoes from the plant.”

DSC07821

I said “the last few” because my Cherry Tomato plant started to dry up a few weeks ago due to the extreme summer heat and lack of water in the afternoon. But thankfully, despite its condition, it was able to produce the finest and juiciest tomatoes since the first day it had fruit. Surprisingly, the last few tomatoes I was able to harvest were bigger compared to the previous batches.

DSC08061

It reminded me of how incredible our God is. Indeed, it was only by His grace that the plant grew its best fruits when it was already dry and weak. I also noticed a small green cherry tomato growing on the plant after weeks of not seeing new ones. It gave me hope to continue taking care of the plant and helping it bear more fruit because I know that God can make it grow.

DSC08066

In the same way, I realized that although we may experience heavy, tiring, and stressful days (just like what I experienced last February), God still remains to be in control and He knows exactly what we need — always. Because of this, we can continue to find hope in Him as we trust that He is able to help us get through each trying moment.

Last Friday, I wanted to tell God: “Please don’t let me go through difficult and stressful situations today.” But in the process, he changed my heart and encouraged me to ask Him to help me grow through my circumstances instead, whether or not they were difficult/stressful. He kept on assuring me that I just have to keep on doing my best and to continue finding my joy and strength in Him.

DSC08050

Before my February ended, my colleague (who was with me and who also experienced the same stress and challenges at work that day) told me this: “I was thankful to God that you were my partner in overcoming this because you were still positive even though you were stressed.” And I immediately replied that it was only by God’s grace.

I also shared to her a verse that I read that Friday morning before going to work. Psalm 28:7 says “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.” It was such a timely encouragement!

DSC08047

Sometimes, we may not always understand why God allows us to go through stressful moments in life. But there is comfort in knowing that He will always cause things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28). In my case, I thank God for the last day of February this year, because my colleague and I were able to experience his grace and were given the privilege of thanking Him together at the end of a stressful day. :)

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time!

DSC08057

RECIPE for the Creamy Marinara Pasta

Ingredients:

Spiral/Penne pasta noodles

Seafood (I just used shrimps, but you can use squid and clams too)

1/3 cup of Milk

Spices (Salt, Pepper, McCormick’s Italian Seasoning, fresh herbs, 1 green chili (with 1/3 of its seeds) )

5 diced/semi-blended regular tomatoes and 8 cherry tomatoes

3 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic head

Half an onion

Grated cheese

 

Steps:

  1. Clean your seafood. Slice, if necessary, and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the shrimp heads to get more flavor while adding a few tablespoons of milk.
  3. Slice onions and crush the garlic cloves.
  4. Heat the oil and butter in a sauce pan.
  5. Once the oil/butter is hot, sauté the onions, garlic, and chili.
  6. Add the tomatoes and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the spices and the milk with shrimp “extract”.
  8. Add the shrimps and cook for 2-3 minutes on both sides. Stir the sauce until well-combined.
  9. Add the rest of the milk, if necessary.
  10. Add 5 tablespoons of grated cheese (or more) while stirring.
  11. Serve with cooked noodles and enjoy!