Main Dish

Lately

We’ve been blessed by family and friends bringing us meals in this postpartum season. If you are reading this, and that is you, thank you, thank you, thank you! Bijou is now 3 1/2 weeks old and life is starting to get real. Meaning, I am completely perplexed how anyone can cook dinner with TWO children. I know it will get easier and so I am trying to remember that no season is forever. Snuggling with my ladies is far more important than eating good food right now. However, on the nights when I’ve had help from my mom and mother in law, we’ve managed to make some pretty yummy grub over here. The nights they haven’t been here?  Complete and utter chaos, crying babes and burned frittatas that are so inedible that your husband opts for another bowl of granola.  But, here are some of things we have enjoyed lately…

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1. Pork dumplings, recipe HERE//

2. Mango Avocado Salsa: 2 ripe avocados, 1 ripe mango, handful of chopped cilantro, a few glugs of olive oil, juice from 1/2 lime, a few pinches of sea salt. 

3. Maple Balsamic Roasted Carrots:  Cut in half  and drizzle with equal parts olive oil and maple syrup (I probably used 4 tbsp each for a small bunch of carrots.)  Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until roasted to your liking. 

4.  The long anticipated Margarita!!  One of my favorite recipes HERE

5.  Some of the Best Burgers I’ve had in a long time (inspired by Crumbums) 1 1/2 lb. ground beef, 1 tsp. sea salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/4 tsp. white pepper, 1 egg, 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese. Mix together, form into patties and grill.

6.  Iced Americano’s, an absolute daily necessity for a tired new mama.  Espresso in my bialetti is my absolute favorite!

 

Mediterranean Pasta

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10 days and counting. 10 DAYS!!!  After 6 moves and 3 states in 4 years I am dreaming of this being our last, at least for a while.  I am exhausted just thinking about all those moves and all those emotions as I tried to be positive and adventurous as my heart cried for home.  I am giddy just visualizing our brand new life as we pack away our old one.  I am packing up our life in boxes of booze, gifted to us from our local liquor store.  Liquor boxes are the best moving boxes!  If only I could be sipping a margarita while I pack.  I am purging the items that clutter my mind and our space.  I am organizing the things I have put off for years.  I am realizing how little we own, and feeling how much peace that brings me.  I finally feel as though I can breathe.

In the midst of organizing I found old papers, journal entries, and book lists that I was saving.  Some things I decided were not worth saving and made no lasting impression when I re read them.  However, I found a handful of photo copied pages about the life of Gustav Vigeland, a Norwegian sculptor.  These papers must have been given to me from my dance director in New York.  Years after learning about this artist I got to visit Oslo and see Vigelands sculptures.  I took beautiful photographs with my film camera that was stolen a week later.  Those pictures are gone but reading these words that I underlined years ago, stirred emotions in me that I have not felt or contemplated in a very long time.

“I have never had a choice.  I was a sculptor before I was born.  I have been driven and propelled forward by enormous powers outside myself.  No matter how much I would have wished it, there was no other path, I would have been driven to it again.”

” Instead of lengthening the distance between the work and one’s feelings, making the path long, twisted and difficult from the heart and out into the hand, looking to the right and left, and thinking this one does it, that has done it, one should keep shortening this distance, making it as short as possible.  It cannot be short enough.” 

“At last I was gone and carved blindly 

a figure in stone

The hammer grew heavy, it hit my knuckle several times,

Was I carving the figure or was it carving me?”

-Gustav Vigeland

Mediterranean Pasta

This pasta seems rather symbolic because I created it when we were newlyweds living in Denver.  The first time I made it Christopher told me it was his favorite dish I made, and 3 1/2 years later he is still saying the same thing!  It has gone with us everywhere we have been and we will enjoy it for years to come.  I love pasta, I really do.  I will never jump on the no eating pasta train.  It’s just too delicious and makes my heart feel home.  Besides, I like to pretend I am Italian most of the time, and I have never met an Italian who does not worship their pasta.

Serves 4

16 oz. linguine or spaghetti

4 tbsp. butter

4 tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves of minced garlic

Large pinch of salt

1/2 cup packed, sun-dried tomatoes in oil

1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

3 tbsp. capers

1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese + more for serving

Squeeze of lemon

A few large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of water with a generous amount of sea salt and a splash of oil to a boil.  While water is heating, melt butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat.  Chop sun-dried tomatoes into bite sized pieces and add to the butter and oil.  Roughly chop olives and add to pan along with the capers and garlic.  Once it starts to sizzle, reduce heat to low.  Add pasta to water and cook as instructed on package.  Toast pine nuts in a small pan and set aside.  Finely grate parmesan and set aside.  Chop basil and set aside.

When pasta is finished cooking, drain water and place noodles back into the large pot.  Pour sun-dried tomato sauce over pasta.  Sprinkle parmesan, basil, toasted pine nuts, a squeeze of lemon and large pinch of salt on top.  Mix together thoroughly, until cheese has melted.  Serve with few more pieces of fresh basil and parmesan cheese.

Little Bowl of Big Love

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Octave slips into a slumber and I am left with myself.  This humble table that seats four, is my place and this afternoon is my time.  This feels good.  I don’t battle the should(s) but rather the equally competing fires inside my chest.  Even the simplest of decisions, whether to lie in bed for a rest, to sweep my floors, to write or to read, or to call a good friend, quarrel inside me.  All bring joy and all want to be pursued.  Time is fleeting and so I ask myself daily, in the hours after noon, and the hour(s) before she wakes, just how do I want to spend my personal time.

Today I decide to put my phone in its favorite place, tucked away and out of my presence.  I decide I want my presence on social media be more selective and intentional.  I want to be less to many and more to a very few.  I want to document my life for the 4 us and for that to be enough.  I want to chase the tangible and make the disappearing present, my forever.  I decide the kitchen might suit my time best today.  Our dinner needs quality time and love too.  It’s been awhile since I’ve taken my time with our meals and let pinches of salt, whisks of oils and spices, and the chopping of vegetables consume me.  My personal time feels so limited and yet today I know this is what it is for.  Time, it is so small and yet I am so full, bursting with new life.  It seems these days before we depart simply cannot hold me.  So I let this new energy flow over into our cracked and chipped bowls that bare the emotional burdens we’ve been wrestling.  There really are even physical symbols filled with great meaning that weave in and around us.  I am awake to it all.  We will not move with these bowls, we will not eat of these burdens any longer.  It is time to for new bowls.  Before we lay them to rest we will fill them back, coming full circle, coming back to our roots, remembering our sweet love.

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Little Bowl of Big Love

This is probably the most eaten meal enjoyed in our bowls last year.  The vegetables often changed depending on what we have around, but the sauce that came from my sprouted kitchen cookbook is perfect and has always stayed the same.  While it is nothing fancy, it is tasty, full of vegetables and prepared in under 30 minutes.  And it’s a dream for all you one pot wonder type of people…(Jasmine!) Very easy clean up.  It serves 4 and tastes great hot or cold.

Noodles

1 package (8 oz.) of soba noodles

2 large carrots

2 small zucchini

1 large head of broccoli

Handful of fresh cilantro

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Dressing

3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

3 tbsp. tamari sauce

2 tbsp. tahini

2 tbsp. agave nectar

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

2-inch piece of ginger peeled and finely grated

Wash and cut broccoli into bite size pieces. Set aside.  Wash and peel carrots and zucchini into long ribbons with a Julienne peeler.  Set aside.  Toast sesame seeds over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Set aside.  Bring a very large pot of water to a boil.  Add noodles and cook as instructed on the package. While noodles are cooking, whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.  1-2 minutes before noodles are fully cooked, add vegetables in the same large pot, and cook for 2-3 more minutes.  This just depends on how crisp or soft you prefer your vegetables.  Drain into a large colander, and place noodles and vegetables pack into the same large pot.  Pour over dressing, cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.  Gently toss until everything is drenched in the lovely sauce.  Serve into bowls and garnish with thinly sliced green onions.

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Kimchi Noodle Bowl

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When I was pregnant with Octave I craved anything and everything fermented.  With this mystery baby I am having the exact same cravings…kombucha, kimchi, miso, vinegar(sea salt + vinegar chips,) and anything tart and sour, mainly tart frozen yogurt which does not exist in Casper.  A town without frozen yogurt is just so wrong.  Especially if you are me right now.  In any case, it’s really fun to see Octave love the same foods I loved and ate when she was in my belly.  The girl asks for kombucha every single day.  Which reminds me, I need to share a homemade kombucha recipe soon, but even more I need to get back to actually making it again.  I’ve been pretty darn tired and buying kombucha has just been easier, although definitely not cheaper.

Back to the dish.  The moment I saw this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, my mouth started watering.  So much so that I immediately bundled us all up to pedal to the store.  I opened the front door and very quickly remembered it was -12, and then with the crazy casper winds, my phone told me it “felt like,” -22.  I felt like less of a wimp when even the locals were complaining.  So, I was a hermit for an entire week and this bowl had to wait until this weekend, but I can tell you it was worth the wait.  We all three loved this kimchi bowl, and I am pretty sure it’s going to become another weekly favorite.  Sometimes it’s hard to branch out from my normal go-to flavors, but this bowl is not intimidating, fairly easy, delicious, and full of everything I have been craving.  You can make your own kimchi here, or you can just buy some like I did.

Kimchi Noodles

Recipe from Happy Yolks

Serves 4

1 package of soba noodles

2 cups kimchi, or more to taste

1 bunch of green onions

4 poached eggs

Broth-

8 cups filtered water

1 lemon, sliced

2 onions, peeled and sliced

1 apple, sliced

8 cloves of crushed garlic

2-3 inch chunk of ginger root

6 tbsp. miso paste

Place all broth ingredients, minus miso paste,  in a large pot or dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, and immediately cover and reduce to lowest heat.  Let simmer for 30 minutes.  Add miso, stir well, cover and set aside.  Bring medium pot of water to a boil and cook noodles as directed on package.  While noodles are cooking, poach your eggs to your liking.  Set eggs aside in cold water to prevent them from continuing to cook.  Drain water from noodles.

For each bowl potion out…

2 cups noodles

1/2 cup kimchi, or more to taste

2 cups broth

Poached egg

Green onions thinly sliced

Thai Peanut Sauce With Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Wild Rice

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We have already eaten this meal twice this week.  It is simple, economical, and super tasty.  It has the budget of a beans and rice, but seems like a treat being both nourishing, and satisfying.  With moving houses, feeling low on energy, and more dance classes scheduled than normal, this quick meal has been a life savor, as well as our local Thai restaurant, (now just blocks from us!)  We have not eaten out in MONTHS, maybe since January or more accurately, when family came to visit last month.  The point is, I’ve been cooking dinner every single night, without a break, for a very long time.  It is not a chore, it is a joy, but recently I’ve felt a little burnt out.  Getting a break in the kitchen has been very necessary.  With the cold weather already here, and time feeling more precious, meals like this will become more regular.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Peppers, Over Wild Rice, With A Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

Adapted from Cookie+Kate

Serves 2-3

3 cups water

1 ½ cups wild rice, or rice of choice

***

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite size pieces

1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite size pieces

½ tsp. sea salt

¼ tsp. cumin

1 tbsp. coconut oil

Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Green onions, thinly sliced

***

Thai Peanut Sauce

½ cup creamy peanut butter

¼ cup low sodium tamari sauce

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb size chunk of fresh ginger

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. honey

3 tbsp. water

¼ tsp. red chili flakes

Start by cooking your rice, as this will take the longest.  Cook as directed by the rice package.  Cooking time will vary depending on which rice you choose to use.

Preheat your oven to 425 while you prep your vegetables.  Cut sweet potato, and pepper, and toss in coconut oil, sea salt, and cumin.  Place vegetables on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until caramelized, and tender.  Turn vegetables once or twice while they are roasting.

While rice is cooking, and vegetables are roasting, make the peanut sauce.  Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.  You can also do this by hand, but if you choose to do it this way, you will need to mince the garlic, and finely grate the ginger. Whisk everything until smooth.  Both work great, it is just preference.  This recipe probably makes more sauce than you need for two, but because it is so good you might want to just keep pouring.  It can also be used with these spring rolls to go with the meal or be creative with the leftovers the next day.

Serve rice under sweet potatoes, and peppers.  Generously pour over peanut sauce, and garnish with cilantro and green onions.

Beef Chili, For Michelle.

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Dancers are their own unique tribe.  I have yet to find out if others do the quirky things we do, but I all I know is that when I am not in the presence of such eccentric individuals, I find myself a little more clothed, and a little more manicured.  When dancers are together we play silly little games, like connecting personalities to food, while writing poetry in our underwear, hoodies, and wool socks (maybe that’s just me.)  Or we act out random news articles, and text from dance wear catalogs, in leo’s and high heels.  We even dream up, and talk about creating elaborate dance videos with swedish meatballs.  That sounds bad, and I probably should not advertise that, but it is the truth.  I love the truth. I am 27 years old, and I still consider this a good time, because as goofy as our games, the substance that weaves in and around our conversations is enough to fill me up until the next reunion, even if it is months, or in the instance of this last weekend, years later.

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Motherhood and Wyoming cannot take the dancer out of me, although sometimes I feel them both trying, begging me to conform and become just a little more “normal.”  When I start to wonder if it is possible to remain true to myself, bold and rooted,  growing more fearless, during the ups and downs of motherhood, I think about my friend Michelle.  I am quickly filled with comfort, colors, and hope that fills the space between my boots, and my brains.

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Now, I know everyone has a friend they can probably say this about, but really I assure you, there is NO ONE in the world like Michelle!  If you know her, you are smiling ear to ear, and you know exactly what I mean.  For starters, she has three incredible children named Cinnamon Harry, Rhapsody Godiva, and Cherry Blue.  Yep.  She also has her own language, and luckily for me, I can speak the exact same one.  The woman is bold, and she leaves an impression on you that you just can’t shake.  Her children are already following in her footsteps.  I am fortunate to have been shaped and pruned as a young dancer, and impressionable young adult by this woman.  I am even more fortunate to years later work for, and with her, as we grow a deep friendship that will no doubt last a lifetime.

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Many years ago, while playing my favorite personality food game, I named Michelle, “a hearty beef stew.”  While my intentions were pure, as soon as it left my mouth I wasn’t so sure this sounded like a compliment.  But I was so proud of myself, in fact I thought it was genius.  Michelle is warm, nurturing, comforting, robust, bold, earthy, spicy, honest, and full of substance.  I could not think of another meal more fitting.  Unfortunately, she understood it to be “thick, heavy and fatty.”  I spent the rest of the night, and many years trying to explain why such a dish worked so well for her.  Years later I still stand behind it.  Whether Michelle wants to be or not, she is a rich, fall, stew, or maybe even this beef chili.  Raw cacao, dark beer, espresso, and hot sauce are ingredients that are without question, the epitome of this dear friend.  I can’t say for sure, but with those four ingredients I think I may have just redeemed that hearty beef stew.

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Michelle,

I love you.

xo,

mE

Beef Chili

Serves 6-8

1 lb. ground beef

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/4 cup tomato paste (2 small cans)

28 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

2 1/4 cups cooked black beans or 28 oz can

2 1/4 cups cooked pinto beans, or 28 oz can

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup dark beer

1/4 cup espresso or strong brewed coffee

2 tbsp. raw cacao

2 tbsp. packed brown sugar

2 tbsp. oregano

1 tbsp. cumin

1 tbsp. paprika

2 1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. coriander

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

Hot sauce to taste, I used 2 tbsp.

Toppings

Cheddar Cheese, scallions, fresh parslely, sour cream, or avocado,

Serve with my favorite brown butter orange rosemary cornbread!

In a dutch oven or large pot sautee onions and garlic in olive oil, on medium heat.  Once onions are slightly tender, add in beef,  and break into small chunks, stirring occasionally until it is cooked.  Add tomato paste and diced tomato.  Stir until combined.  Add beans and stir until combined.  Add broth, coffee, and beer, once again, stirring until combined.  Bring to a boil.  Add in spices, mix well, cover with lid and reduce heat to low.  Let simmer for at least 30 minutes, but I usually start during the early afternoon and let is simmer until dinner.  Taste and adjust salt if needed.  (Salts can be so different that it is hard to make consistent when sharing recipes.) Garnish with your favorite toppings and eat up.

Ps. Leftovers just get better!

Ashley’s Sweet & Spicy Apricot Pulled Pork, 3 Ways!

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I first had this pulled pork at my friend Ashely’s house.  We met through our husbands, whose jobs brought us to Casper.  We immediately bonded over living in a place we didn’t choose, and new babies who don’t sleep well.  Finding people who are at a similar place in life and are willing to be transparent with the ups and downs of motherhood is refreshing and necessary. I have found a lot of comfort in Ashley and am so grateful for her hospitality and transparency.  She never pretends to have it all together, and I find this one of her most endearing qualities.  For lack of better words, from an exhausted Mama whose toddler is waking at 5am and taking one sad 45 minute nap throughout the day, Ashley is refreshingly real.  No walls, no drama, no ulterior motives, she is just real, and I love her for that.  Plus, everything she makes is super yummy, especially this apricot pulled pork!

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This pork lasted us all week, and we ate it three different ways.  These flavors don’t put you in a box, and I can’t stop thinking about all the ways it can be eaten.  I get excited about how easy it is, and and how few dishes need to be washed.  Crockpot, I love you!  While I love leftovers for the convenience, sometimes when they last all week they can get boring.  So this week we enjoyed it with corn tortillas, in bow tie pasta, toasted hamburger buns, and still we have a little left over.  Pizza with grilled pineapple? In a cast iron skillet? Maybe this will be the last way to eat up the pork tonight.

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I am really happy that we have a recipe from a friend in Casper!  This means that years from now, when we hopefully live back near our families and fulfill our longing to be a little more rooted, I can make this pulled pork and think of Ashley, and all the memories of Wyoming.

Sweet & Spicy Apricot Pulled Pork

Slightly adapted from Ashley

2 1/2 lb pork butt

2 1/4 cups dried apricots cut in half

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

16 oz jar of salsa verde

1 red onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp. coarse sea salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbsp. hot sauce, or to taste

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.  If you are in a hurry you can play with the time by starting out on high for 2-3 hours and lowering heat for a few more hours.  You will know the pork is done when it starts melting into all the other ingredients and is easy to pull apart.  Use two forks and shred the pork.

Serve on top of corn tortilla’s, inside toasted buns with greens, or with bow tie pasta and freshly grated parmesan.

Linguine Carbonara

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These days I have sun-kissed shoulders, and sore legs upon waking.  I have an increase in energy, and a deeper appreciation for my body, with a deeper knowledge of what it can or can’t do.  I have a newfound love for every human I meet and greet on my bike.  Maybe I haven’t understood what it really means to love my neighbor until now.  Or maybe I just had low expectations for such a simple command, in a society that has low expectations for community.

Outside of a car it is easy to see outside of my experience and to see a new reality.  It is easy to see things how they really are, not just how I want them to be.  Suddenly the entire way we live doesn’t make any sense, and I feel the weight of it.  We transport ourselves in boxes, only to go to and from more boxes.  There are boxes and barriers everywhere, disguised in the newest technology and common conveniences.  In these boxes, specifically the car, it is easy to lose the ability to see each other as humans.  As sons and daughters, mothers and brothers, with emotions just like ours.

I see now that the car wasn’t giving me permission and freedom to be the neighbor, friend, mother and wife I desire to be.  I am not saying you can’t be a good person behind the wheel, I am just saying that a lifestyle dependent on a car was working against the relationships we desire.    When I ride my bike or walk I can’t hide from anyone or anything, and my instinct and desire to engage and connect is only encouraged.  This makes me really happy, even if I arrive to every destination sore and sweating.  I can’t live beyond my means in more ways than one.

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When I ride my bike people yell out friendly things, honk, and wave.   “It’s a beautiful day to ride,” everyone keeps saying.  I tell them that everyday is a beautiful day to ride.  They smile and laugh, and then I wonder if they will say the same thing when they see me 6 months from now, knee deep in snow.  I wonder if I will say the same thing too.  I’ve been stopped on the road and asked if my name is Erin.  I was caught so off guard, I froze.  Then I figured there is only one woman riding a bike that look like a boat in this town, so I answered, yes, but really I wanted to say ” Look, I am biking with bacon and wine!”  I just love the novelty of that.

These slow and full car free days we have acquired an appetite that asks for savory, indulgent pasta, without any hesitation.  It’s summer and we don’t have air conditioning , but hearty meals like this are a little more necessary around here.  If I can cook while enjoying a chilled glass of white, somehow I don’t mind the heat.  Chris was so in love with this pasta that he willingly, and enthusiastically washed the dishes, without thinking twice.  So, I made a mental note and made it again a few days later, after I biked to the store, and biked back home with more bacon and wine!  Maybe we look like crazies, but I am telling you, this is the good life! A really really good life.

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Linguine Carbonara

Serves 4-6

1 lb. of linguine pasta

10 oz. pancetta or bacon

2 tbsp. olive oil

5 cloves of garlic chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)

2/3 cup white wine

1 heaping cup of finely grated parmesan

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup of chopped basil

Salt & pepper to taste

Disclaimer:  I am not claiming this to be a traditional carbonara pasta, it may or may not be.  I researched lots of recipes and then tried and tested a few times until I came up with something that Chris and I both love.  We enjoyed this pasta on a killer date night in Portland a few months ago.  It was probably some of the best pasta we have ever had.  Until I made it at home I never knew that this pasta doesn’t have any cream, despite its creaminess.  It is the eggs, parmesan, and hot pasta water, while whisking the noodles in very quickly, that cooks the eggs and results in a very creamy sauce.  Authentic or not, it is damn good and is now on our list of favorites!

Directions:

In a large pan saute cut up pieces of bacon or pancetta with olive oil.  Stir occasionally. Cook until the bacon is almost crisp, and then add the garlic and white wine.  Continue to cook until it is slightly reduced and thickened.   This will take about 5-7 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water with a generous amount of sea salt and a splash of olive oil, to a boil.  Cook pasta as directed on package.

While pasta is cooking, In a large bowl whisk egg yolks, finely grated parmesan, salt and pepper, and bacon/wine sauce.  You want to whisk this together moments before the pasta is done, so that the hot bacon sauce does not scramble your eggs.  Before draining pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water, and whisk that into the rest of your sauce mixture.  Immediately pour pasta in the large pot you cooked it in.  Add the sauce, and fresh basil and whisk vigorously.   I used tongs that were locked together and then I opened them up to mix vertically as well.  Keep mixing, until the pasta starts to thicken and looks creamy.  This will take at least 5 minutes.  Serve with a little more salt and pepper if necessary.  And of course, drink the rest of the white wine that you didn’t use in the recipe.:)

Homemade Pizza Dough

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I never liked pizza growing up.  I know that sounds crazy, but cheap grease and highly processed ingredients never set well with my tummy or my taste buds, even before I was old enough to know what really went in those pizzas.  It wasn’t until I visited Naples, and I ate my very first authentic pizza, a classic Margarita, that I started to warm up to the idea.  I ate so much pizza that first trip that I returned home fluent in pizza and in love with everything Neapolitan.  In fact, I may have cried, heartbroken that I was not born Neapolitan.  I was sixteen, intrigued with Buddhism and convinced that I had to have been a Neapolitan in a past life.  I have always been a seeker, and in Naples I found a piece of myself that I never want to let go.  While my world view has changed dramatically, my love for pizza has not.  Now one of my favorite things in the whole wide world to eat is a good pizza, not too saucy, not too complicated and the kind that is not intended to be shared.  I want a pizza all to my lonesome.

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It has become a weekly dinner, and is usually enjoyed at the end of the week when I am trying to use random vegetables that didn’t get used earlier in the week.  With the right dough, quality olive oil and some roasted garlic, every vegetable tastes fantastic.  There is really nothing you can’t put on pizza.  Lately, little miss Octave has been requesting pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every. Single. Day!  Although she probably won’t be eating pizza as much as she would like, it is really sweet to watch and learn her preferences.

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I found this recipe a few years ago at 101 cookbooks.  I have adapted it slightly, using coarse sea salt and a little more water.  In my experience, the wetter the dough, the better result.  Spelt flour and whole wheat flour work fine here too, however I wouldn’t substitute more than half, otherwise it is pretty heavy.  While those flours work, and I usually just use whatever we have around, I prefer unbleached white bread flour because it creates the perfect consistency for traditional pizza dough.  This recipe makes enough for 3-4  pizzas, depending on the size you prefer, so I usually make 2 at a time and freeze the rest.  If the dough is made ahead of time, a pizza from scratch only takes a few minutes to prepare and 15-20 minutes to bake.  Or on a lazy day, if you have those, you can prepare the entire pizza, toppings and all, place it on a baking sheet with parchment paper and put in the freezer until it is solid.  About 45 minutes.  Transfer to a large ziploc bag, put it back in the freezer, and bake whenever you need a quick meal.

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Last night we ate this pizza with cherry and roma tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced red onions, a killer 25-year-old aged balsamic my mom just sent me, and a healthy amount of mozzarella and basil.  The only thing missing was the pistachio pesto I posted last week.  That smeared underneath all these lovely ingredients is absolutely delicious.  Tonight Octave will be happy to find we are having pizza again.  With the left over dough from last night, it is just too easy not to use again tonight.  Tonight’s pizza is balsamic roasted potatoes, beets, carrots and onions with a lot of feta, and a fried egg or two.  The good news is I have tried absolutely everything you can imagine and ingredients you probably cannot imagine, on top of this dough, and while I have combinations I prefer, I am rarely disappointed.  I cannot compare this dough to the beautiful pizzas that come out of Naples, because every single ingredient down to the city water and cigarette smoke lingering in the pizzeria, plays a crucial role in the taste and experience.  BUT, it is my favorite go-to recipe that I have used thus far.  So, go traditional or get adventurous, and make some homemade pizza!

Pizza Dough

Makes 2 medium-large pizzas

4 ½ cups unbleached bread flour

1 ¾ tsp. coarse sea salt

1 tsp. instant yeast

2 cups scant filtered water, warm to the touch

¼ cup olive oil

Handful of cornmeal

Directions

In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Add water and olive oil and mix on medium speed until the dough starts to come together.  Knead for 5-7 minutes.  If you are mixing by hand use a large wooden spoon to mix together and once the dough starts together, wet your hands and start to knead. Keep wetting your hands so they don’t stick to the dough.  It will take a little longer by hand, maybe 10-12 minutes.  Keep working with the dough until it is smooth and slightly tacky.  It should not almost look silky, and you want your dough to be more on the wet side.  When I use my mixer, this is easier to attain, because you don’t have to worry about the dough sticking to your hands.  Form dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl.  Cover with a towel, and place in warm place to let rise for at least 2 hours, The original recipe does not call for the dough to rise, but I have noticed a big difference when I let it.  I have even let it rise for 4 hours and the results get better.  Split dough into 2 equals portions.

Preheat your oven to 425.  On a well floured surface, roll out your dough as thick or as think as you like.  I change-up the thickness depending on what ingredients I am using.  The less ingredients, the thinner I roll out my dough.  Dust a pizza stone or baking sheet with parchment paper with a generous handful of cornmeal.  Place your dough on top and drizzle 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil before you garnish with your favorite ingredients.  Bake for 18-22 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cutting board.  Slice and serve.

My Favorite Pesto-Basil & Pistachio

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If I could smell one thing for the rest of my life, it would be basil.  When I smell it, impressionable moments in Italy come flooding back, leaving me weak at the knees, homesick for a place that is not my home.  This pretty green herb keeps sweet stories inside my belly.  They brew while I sleep, and come alive when I wake.

Pistachio pesto is this memory keepers soliloquy.  It is a fragrant jar of the things I claim lovely in life.  I make it with intention, and remember with abandon.

Pistachio Pesto

This makes a big batch to be used throughout the week with more than one dish

4 oz Basil leaves

3/4 cup raw pistachios

1 cup grated parmesan

1 head of roasted garlic

1 small shallot

1 roasted jalapeno pepper

1/2-3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lime juice (2-3  limes)

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Splash of filtered water

Cut off top of garlic head and drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt.  Place in a small piece of foil and bake for 45 minutes at 425.  The last fifteen minutes the garlic is roasting, place the jalapeno in the oven right on the rack or in a small piece of foil.  Once the jalapeno is charred and roasted, remove from oven along with the garlic.  Garlic cloves should easily come out once they are roasted.  Remove stem from jalapeno and  place all other  ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Serve with traditional pasta or spread eggs or toast.  My favorite is to use it as a base on homemade pizza, but it is delicious on everything!