Roasted Tomato Basil Pizza

I know what you're thinking: Mandy is blogging on a Saturday night. The girl needs to get off the computer, and get outside!

I promise I'm just killing time waiting for the sun to go down so I can go running in less-than-97-degree-weather. It's H.O.T. out there. 

Originally I wanted to make this pizza earlier this week. Then I realized I only had a couple cups of flour left in my stash... certainly not enough to prepare my homemade pizza dough. Unfortunately, this meant we had to wait until our next trip to the grocery store (Fridays) to make this crazy-delicious pizza. It was thankfully worth the wait.

I have never roasted my own tomatoes. I have now learned what a huge mistake it was avoiding it!

Roasting tomatoes in the oven smells incredible, and it makes such a delicious base for pizza! Who needs sauce when you can just roast tomatoes, and smash them all over pizza dough? With the addition of thick mozzarella slices and basil, this pizza is complete. .

"another caprese style dish?" you might ask. (minus the basalmic). The answer is: absolutely! And I'll keep 'em comin' until my basil and tomato plants die in protest. Until then, we're going to make some pretty bad-A pizzas, sandwiches, and traditional Caprese salads to use up every bit of those lovely plants of mine.

Roasted Tomato Basil Pizza

1 batch homemade pizza dough (about 12 oz)
2 lbs small/medium-sized fresh tomatoes, slices in half, de-stemmed.
4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped (pieces not too big, but not minced)
1 T thyme
1 t bay leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 bunch of fresh basil
Parmesan cheese

Prepare pizza dough. While it's rising, prepare roasted tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Roasting tomatoes: Line a non-stick baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, toss together tomatoes, garlic, EVOO, thyme, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture in center of pan, and arrange in a single layer (doesn't matter if they're facing up or down). Roast in oven for 1 hour, checking midway to make sure the garlic isn't burning. After the hour, turn off oven and leave tomatoes in oven until oven cools completely. Drain tomatoes of excess juices.

Making Pizza: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll and stretch pizza dough on large (greased and coated with a little corn meal if desired) pizza pan. Prick dough with fork, and pre-cook about 8 minutes (depending on what pizza dough recipe you're using).

Once pre-cooked, spread tomatoes over dough, and top with sliced mozzarella. Bake pizza for 10-20 minutes until the pizza is baked to your liking (the top should be slightly browned and bubbling). Remove from oven and top with fresh basil leaves and grated Parmesan Cheese.

*We served this pizza with a salad and fresh peach slices.

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Turkey-Pepperoni Burgers

It was time to try out another recipe from my trusty Food Network magazine. They always have so many fantastic burgers to choose from, and I always mark the burger pages for later, but never really have come back to them. How lame. I could have missed out on this crazy-delicious burger, and I finally understand now what all the hype is for with this whole "turkey pepperoni" burger thing.

At first it sounded kind of weird - probably because I've never had the combination before, let alone think about those two ingredients together. Thankfully, I decided it didn't matter, and made the burgers anyway.

What a ridiculously juicy and delicious burger! The turkey was surprisingly light, and every few bites the zing of pepperoni shot through. I loved the herb mayo - I snipped both fresh basil and parsley from our window-box herb garden, and they played along perfectly with the juicy tomato (tomato and basil are just meant for each other) and melty provolone slices. It screams summertime, and was a perfect dinner after a long pool day with the manchild.

Also, let's just say I got Ryan to eat a Turkey burger (he's all about the manly man meat/steak burger), and he LOVED these. He said they could easily be served at a restaurant, and he'd gladly pay mucho for them. 


Turkey Pepperoni Burgers

1 1/4 lbs ground turkey
1/4 lb sliced pepperoni (we just used mini pepperoni)
1 large sprig rosemary, leaves only, chopped
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 C mayo
1/2 C chopped fresh parsley/basil mix
1/2 t finely grated lemon zest
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t garlic powder 
8 slices provolone cheese
4 ciabatta rolls, split
4 slices large tomato
fresh spinach leaves

In a large bowl, mix ground turkey, pepperoni, rosemary, garlic and 1/2 t salt and pepper (use clean hands to mix). Form 1/2 inch thick patties. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook, undisturbed, until browned (about 5 minutes). Turn and cook until golden brown on bottom.

Meanwhile, whisk the mayonnaise, parsley, lemon zest and juice, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Top each patty with 2 slices provolone and cover until cheese melts (about a minute). Transfer patties to a plate.

Toast the buns cut-side down on the skillet, then remove from the pan and spread with herb mayo. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper. Sandwich the spinach leaves, burger patties, and tomatoes on the buns.

*This burger would go well with some oven-baked potato wedges or homemade sweet potato fries.

Recipe from Food Network Magazine, June-August 2012 issue, pg. 124


Hawaiian Pizza Muffins

Some days, I'm all about makin' it as easy as possible. Today is certainly one of those days. This weekend wore me out physically/mentally/cookinly (Great. Now I'm not even using real words). I felt like I spent most of my time in the kitchen. Why?

Baby Shower - Peach Cobbler Muffins
Dad's Birthday - His Favorite Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Almond Crumbs
Progressive Dinner - Fresh Tomato Bruschetta, Strawberry Short Cakes

Lemonade Social - 10 gallons of Roasted Peach Lemonade

I feel like I have a cooking/baking hangover! It was just one of those weekends where everything I volunteered for turned out to be on the same weekend. So I fully take the blame. Thankfully, everything went smoothly, and we had a wonderful time at each event (except for the baby shower... she was in labor at the hospital, so they cancelled. It happens.)

This afternoon I knew two things: I wanted something easy for dinner, and I had a severe craving for pizza. Thankfully, our favorite pizza muffins are super-easy to make. However, I didn't want just our typical brew. I wanted some tasty Canadian bacon slices, thick mozzarella cheese, fresh pineapple, and zesty marinara sauce.... Hawaiian Pizza Muffins! Kid-friendly, and husband-friendly :)

The cool thing about this recipe is that you can substitute in any toppings that your family loves - make them your own! 


Hawaiian Pizza Muffins

1 small package Canadian bacon
1/2 C chopped green pepper
3/4 C chopped fresh pineapple (or canned)
1 package refrigerator pizza dough (you can do homemade, but again, I was going for easy today.)
1/2 jar marinara sauce (or homemade :)
2 C thickly shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Spray muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray, set aside.

On a very clean surface, lay out pizza dough (it usually ends up in a rectangle shape if you're using refrigerator dough - perfect for rolling it up like cinnamon-roll dough). Spread marinara sauce over dough, sprinkle cheese, lay down Canadian bacon, sprinkle green pepper and pineapple.

Roll up dough in a large log, pinch the ends and seal the dough flap so there's no openings. With a sharp knife (or some people I've heard use a thin string), slice about 1/2 inch slices in the dough, and carefully put the pizza spirals in the muffin tin.

Cook for about 20 minutes until pizza muffins are cooked through, and cheese on top is bubbly. (I sometimes broil them for a minute or two after to get a little crunch on the Canadian bacon). Dip pizza muffins in extra marinara sauce.

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Coconut Milk Infused French Toast with Coconut Buttermilk Syrup

Friday. Thank heavens. This weekend is jam-packed full of all kinds of busy, but wonderful, things to do... and lots of baking...

I love breakfast-for-dinner. It reminds me of the times when my Dad would be out-of-country for business - my Mom would always always serve pancakes, waffles, or french toast for dinner one or two nights when he was gone. It was such a fun treat when we were little ones, and even continued into our high-school years. Heck, I think my Mom will still make a pancake or two for dinner when my Dad is out of town. 

I'll never forget the very best French Toast I've ever had. Ryan and I were invited to breakfast by one of the other law clerks. We were blown away by Founding Farmers in DC, and whenever I have french toast these days, I can't help but reminisce about the incredible stuffed french toast I ordered. I've never eaten such amazing stuffed french toast in my entire life - it transcended all other french toast. I loved the thick slices of french bread, and what the warm made-from-scratch syrup did for the overall taste. Ryan and I vowed that we visit our beloved Founding Farmers if we ever hit up DC again. 

To my surprise, this french toast recipe was certainly up there with the stars aforementioned. The original recipe called for regular milk.... I kicked up the coconut flavor a few notches by substituting in coconut milk instead. I also used a fresh loaf of french bread for the bread slices (instead of just using a regular loaf of bread) - made all the difference. Also, after making my own buttermilk syrup, it'll be hard to use store-bought value-buy syrup from now on. It's more time-consuming (still easy), but would always be worth it. This syrup has changed my world, man.


Coconut Milk Infused French Toast

French Toast:
4 eggs
1 C coconut milk
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla
1/4 C + 2 T flour
1 loaf fresh french bread, sliced thick

To prepare the french toast, turn on your griddle to about 325 degrees. Blend together all ingredients (except bread, of course) until mixture is lump-free. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Quickly dip both sides of bread in mixture and place on greased, hot skillet. Flip over when browned. Serve with hot Coconut Syrup. 

Coconut Buttermilk Syrup

Coconut Syrup
1/2 C butter
3/4 C buttermilk  
1 C sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1 t coconut extract

Place butter, buttermilk, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves into the melted butter. Bring to a boil for about a minute, and remove from heat. Add baking soda and coconut extract, stirring constantly. The mixture will bubble up a bunch, so hold over the sink in case it spills over. Let rest a few minutes before serving. 

 *recipes adapted from Cooking A La Mode, Alyssa Griffeth
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Peach Almond Cake with Peach Soaking Syrup

I thought I'd finally gone crazy. Whenever the I walked past the bowl of fresh peaches in my kitchen, I could almost hear them calling to me. Their smell was pleasantly intoxicating and were just ripe enough for a tasty dessert I had in store.

I've only really made a bundt cake once before, and the Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake was certainly one of our favorites. I was almost too scared to make another one... we loved the strawberry cake so much - I knew this poor bundt would naturally be measured up to it. All I can say, is that it's a good thing it was bangarang.

Ryan liked it even more than the coveted strawberry cake.

I switched up one of the ingredients, and I think it made all the difference: we didn't have any vanilla beans lying around ($15 for two beans at the supermarket... no thanks), and I didn't want to use just plain 'ol vanilla extract. So I used Almond Extract: heaven in a bottle. For me, that stuff automatically takes a dessert up a few notches, and yesterday afternoon it didn't disappoint. It was perfectly moist (thanks to the peaches and sour cream), and the syrup makes the outside of the cake develop an almost hard crusty shell (like what honey does to the bread in PB & Honey sandwiches). If you're making this in advance, heat it up a little before you serve it, it tastes divine when it has a little warmth to it.

This cake is the official beginning of 'Peach Season' in the blondie household. I LOVE peaches. Beyond reason, sometimes. I accidentally bought too many peaches for this recipe, though. I think I might try out these Peach Cobbler Muffins by Life {Made} Simple with the extra peaches (for a baby shower on Saturday morning) I have leftover. They look heavenly!

Also, to continue peach season, on Sunday we're hosting a Lemonade Social in our area. I'll give you one guess what kind of lemonade we'll be making almost 10 gallons worth... :) Lots and LOTS of peaches...


Peach Almond Cake with Peach Soaking Syrup

3 C all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 C unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 3/4 C granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 t almond extract
1 C sour cream
1 1/2 C diced fresh peaches

1/3 C fresh peach puree
2/3 C granulated sugar
1 T orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place oven rack in center of oven. Grease and slightly flour inside of 10 inch bundt pan (I usually use shortening and a combination of flour/powdered sugar). 

Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt) in large bowl and set aside. 

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and beat at medium-high speed until mixture is light in texture and color, about 3 minutes. One at a time, beat in eggs one at a time, beating about 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in almond extract. At low speed, add in flour mixture a little bit, then a little bit of the sour cream (alternating until both are all mixed in). 

Scoop half the batter into pan and spread flat with spatula. Sprinkle with peaches. Scoop remaining half of batter on top of peaches. Smooth over with spatula. 

Bake cake for 50 minutes (mine was done at 45, so check it towards the end). Combine peach puree, sugar, and orange juice in a small pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, 3 minutes or so. Remove pan from heat. Using a spoon, drizzle syrup over warm cake, letting it soak into the cake before applying more. Let cake cool complete. Store in the fridge.

*recipe adapted from Week of Menus 
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Italian Sausage Lasagna Roll Ups

I know what you're thinking: Mandy, this is your 5th Italian recipe in a row. What's the deal!?  

It's true, but I cook by craving. Whatever I'm craving when I make that dang grocery list is what I'm feeding my family that week. Plus, Italian food is by far my favorite (Mexican food being a close second). 

You've probably seen this recipe flying all over Pinterest like the dang monkeys on Wizard of Oz. It's everywhere. But has anyone actually tried it yet? I wanted to put it to the test. 

I had this meal planned for Sunday, but Ryan insisted on something simple for Father's Day. I didn't mind one bit. 

Originally, this recipe was "Spinach Lasagna Roll Up." We've given spinach more than enough chances at our house, and quite frankly... we just don't like the taste. Sure, I'll have it in the raw on a sandwich or burger. But cooked? We honestly tried, but it just never stuck. So what did I do to make this a blondie dish? I axed the spinach and added some delicious, spicy Italian sausage. (I saved about a half cup for tonight's omelets - we have waaay too many eggs lying around).

Now, I just want to come clean. These pictures are of the lasagna roll-ups before they made their journey in the oven. They just looked prettier, alright? However, this doesn't mean that they didn't look/taste like a beast when they came out of the oven. It was insane, people. Ryan wants me to make lasagna like this from now on, and wouldn't mind if I ditched using the "canned" or "packaged" marinara sauce as well. *Sigh*... if time would only allow such kitchen glamor on a daily basis. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ricotta mixture is very VERY similar to my own. I made a few tweaks, and the recipe below is with my additions/subtractions. What a crazy-fun way to change up lasagna! I can't believe I hadn't tried this before. Plus, it helps with portions - instead of cutting giant lasagna squares, we just had a roll or two each, and that was just enough (hello yummy leftovers).


Italian Sausage Lasagna Roll Ups

1 lb mild/medium Italian Sausage (I do mild, then add in pepper flakes to my heat preference)
1 lb lasagna noodles 
15 oz ricotta
1 C shredded mozzarella
1/4 C grated Parmesan
3 T fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
1 t garlic powder
1 large egg
2.5 C marinara sauce (my homemade recipe here, if needed)
salt and pepper, to taste  
bit of EVOO 

Bring a large pot of water with a dash of salt to a boil (I always add in a teeny bit of olive oil). Add lasagna noodles and cool until al dente (not soggy, still a bit firm, but can bend easily) about 15 minutes. When they're finished, drain. Don't rinse. Ever. 

In a frying pan, thoroughly cook Italian Sausage, and drain from juices. Simmer on low until filling and noodles are ready to assemble.

While the noodles are boiling, prepare the filling. Mix together the ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan (reserving a little for sprinkling), egg, salt and pepper, fresh parsley and garlic powder.

Get out your 9x13 dish, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use a little non-stick spray, or anything else you use to keep things from sticking (butter, EVOO) on your pan. 

On a clean surface (I just used my giant clean cutting board), lay out a few noodles at a time. With your clean hands (much easier than with a spoon, trust me. Paula Deen would be so proud) spread out a few tablespoons of filling on each noodle to the edges, and sprinkle on a bit of Italian sausage. Not too thick, though. Roll the noodles up and place in prepared dish. Repeat until all the filling is gone. Pour maranara sauce over rolled noodles, making sure to cover all surfaces. The sauce will hydrate the noodles, and continue cooking them in the oven. Sprinkle with reserved cheeses.

Cover, and bake for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

*This recipe would go well with a beautiful side salad and bread sticks.

recipe adapted from Budget Bytes
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Homemade Marinara Sauce

I found the most wonderful recipe last week for marinara sauce. Now, I don't always have time to make mine from scratch (the store-bought-jar does it's duty just fine), but occasionally there are some "slow-days-around-the-house" and I have a bit more time to spend on dinner. Tomorrow, I'll be sharing the recipe I prepared this sauce for, but today I wanted the marinara sauce to have it's own spotlight.

I couldn't believe what incredible vapors this beautiful sauce filled my house with. The fresh herbs slowly simmered away in a pool of fragrant garlic and onion, smothered in fresh sweet tomatoes. This recipe actually calls for 2 cans of crushed tomatoes, but I only had 1 28oz can on hand. Thankfully, I had 4 ripe tomatoes lying around... I threw them in the food processor in a flash, and added them right into the heavenly mixture.

This sauce would be absolutely perfect on your lasagna, spaghetti, manicotti, pizza, dipping sauce for crusty bread ... heck, anything.


Homemade Marinara Sauce

two 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes (or 8 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped and slightly pureed)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz can tomato paste (I added a teeny bit of sugar to counterbalance the acidity)
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1/2 T dried oregano
2 medium bay leaves, chopped
1 T brown sugar
2 T balsamic vinegar (thanks to Ruth, mine was straight from Italy!)
salt and pepper 

In a large pot, heat EVOO over medium heat and add onions and garlic. Cook until slightly golden brown (don't burn the garlic). Add the rest of the ingredients (crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, bay leaves, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar) to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on medium/low for one hour - covered (leave the lid on pot, but slightly ajar to allow steam to escape).

After about a half hour, do a little taste test, and adjust seasonings to your liking. Use sauce with your lasagne, manicotti, spaghetti, or anything that requires a red sauce.

*recipe adapted from Budget Bytes 

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Fresh Strawberry Gelato

As we all know, Father's Day was yesterday. I knew for a long time that I wanted to find Ryan an ice-cream machine. That way we could make fresh ice cream, in any flavor we wanted, as often as we wanted. At first I felt kind of bad, because it was kind of a "gift for me" (I'd be the one using it), but then I remembered how Ryan probably wouldn't mind getting ice-cream more often. I found the ice-cream machine, wrapped it up in bright green wrapping paper, and set it next to his Sunday morning breakfast. 

I had to be a little sneaky about the ingredients - we don't usually buy a pound or so of strawberries with groceries. Ryan was wondering what they were for, and I had to divert the question. Strawberry ice-cream is one of his favorites! I couldn't wait to make it for him at home. 

A while ago, my mother-in-law let me borrow a wonderful book of beautiful Italian desserts: The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto (F. W. Pearce & Danilo Zecchin). Every page is loaded with the most mouth-watering gelato recipes you've ever seen. Now that we have an ice-cream maker, I jumped at the opportunity to try one of them out. 

Gelato, to me, tastes a thousand times better than ice-cream. Don't get me wrong, ice-cream is the bomb. But gelato is sure something else... it's velvety, creamy, but not too creamy, and has the perfect texture.

I had a little trouble making my first batch of gelato. I was too anxious to make it, and didn't let the ice-cream tube thing freeze all the way in the freezer before starting the gelato. I've now learned that I need to put the tube in the freezer a day or two early. 

However, the gelato came out perfectly! And Ryan loved it so much, he ate some for breakfast this morning. It was a win-win, and I can't wait to try some other flavors as the summer continues on.  

First you make the plain base, then you can add whatever flavors you want to it! 

Fresh Strawberry Gelato

Plain Base
2 C whole milk
1 C heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 C sugar

In a saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring so skin doesn't form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches 170 degrees. 

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper the egg yolks very slowly, and whisk continually. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, and reaches a temperature of 185 degrees. Do not boil. 

Pour the mixture through a mine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl, let cool to room temperature, stir every 5 minutes or so. To cool quickly, put bowl in an ice bath. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. 

Strawberry Addition
Plain Base (see recipe above)
1 lb strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1/4 C sugar
2 T fresh lemon juice

Make the Plain Base and chill as directed. 

Place the strawberries in a medium saucepan, sprinkle with sugar, add lemon juice, toss until the sugar is dissolved (and strawberries are well coated). Let sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Place the pan of strawberries over medium-low heat and cook until strawberries soften completely and the syrup begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. 

Reserve a quarter of the strawberries and syrup. Place the remaining strawberries in a blender, add half the base, and blend until fully incorporated. Whisk into remaining base. 

Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Add reserved strawberries about 5 minutes before churning is completed. Freeze for at least 2 hours before serving. 

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Three Cheese White Pizza

When Ryan and I lived in DC last summer for his internship, I discovered the beauty and wonder of the "white pizza". It was completely by accident. 

Ryan had driven across the country to DC a couple weeks before with our car, while I stayed home for my concert, and flew out with the manchild later. The flight into Baltimore was much cheaper than flying right into Ronald Regan in DC, and thankfully the manchild slept the entire time. I knew he would conk out if I caught a flight later in the day.

Unfortunately, this made quite the little drive to our apartment, and we ended up getting into DC pretty late. I was starving, and would have eaten anything at that point. But lucky for us, a couple streets away from our new apartment, there was a small hole-in-the wall pizzeria (still open!) Without thinking much of it, we ordered just two slices of random pizza and headed outta there. Little did I know what beauty we ordered until I opened the box...

The slices were HUGE - practically 1/4 a pizza each. Ryan had ordered pepperoni and I crankily ordered "that white pizza over there" (I was still breastfeeding and just wanted to get out of there to do my business with the manchild). I thought it was some kind of chicken Alfredo pizza with random ricotta all over it (one of my usual favorites, the ricotta was new), but it was something pleasantly different. Something perfectly and surprisingly exciting: the mighty white pizza. The salty Parmesan cut through the creamy mild ricotta, the mozzarella cheese was bubbling and toasted and the sauce was practically heaven spread over fresh made-from-scratch pizza dough (I think it was rosemary dough). It was ridiculous, and I've honestly craved it ever since.

That is, until yesterday afternoon when I made this. All three of us inhaled this stuff like filthy heathens.


Three Cheese White Pizza

1 batch of Simple No-Knead Pizza Dough

1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced 
1 C heavy cream
salt & pepper

Ricotta Topping Mixture:
1 1/2 C Ricotta Cheese (we used low fat skim)
1 t chopped fresh thyme (it's worth it to use fresh)
salt & pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1/3 C Parmesan cheese, shredded

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 T fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Prepare your pizza dough and pre-bake according to it's directions.

If you're making my pizza dough, prepare the dough 2 hours ahead of time. When properly risen,  preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll your pizza dough out on a slightly greased and dusted pizza pan (ours is huge, so if you have a smaller pan, use only half the dough in my recipe, or else your dough will be way too thick). Attack the dough with a fork (except for the crust edges), and throw into the oven for about 8 minutes (I usually sprinkle mine with a little EVOO and garlic powder after pricking the dough with a fork).

Prepare your sauce. In a pan, over medium, heat olive oil and add in onions. Cook until almost translucent, and add in your garlic (careful to not let garlic burn at all). When garlic is wonderfully fragrant, stir in heavy cream and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While your dough is cooking, and the sauce is simmering, prepare your topping mixture. Mix together all ingredients. Add salt & pepper to taste. Set aside.

The dough should be done by now. Spread white sauce all over dough, and sprinkle on mozzarella cheese. With about a tablespoon-full at a time, dollop and slightly spread your ricotta cheese mixture in blotches over mozzarella. Throw into oven for 20 minutes (checking pizza often). After 20 minutes (and my dough was pretty thick), I turned the broiler on low to get that beautiful toasted color.

Remove from oven and sprinkle Italian parsley.

*recipe loosely based on Serious Eats

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Bucatini All'Amatriciana (Pancetta & Tomatoes in Thick Noodles)

Bored of your usual weeknight spaghetti? I've found a solution guaranteed to ruin any hope of you making packet/jar spaghetti ever again.  I've discovered two ingredients that have changed my life. (okay, not changed, but certainly made my afternoon perfectly giddie yesterday) - with these ingredients, you can conquer the universe.

Bucatini and Pancetta.... HOLY MOLEY.

First of all, Bucatini pasta is heavenly. If you've never had it, it's not your typical pasta. To me, it looks like really really thick spaghetti, but when you hold it up, you can see a little whole going all the way through the long pasta stem. I have no idea how they do that, but it's wonderfully unique.
Pic Source
I couldn't find it at my local supermarkets - I even tried the fancy-schmacy places where I usually can't afford to even walk in the door. Couldn't find that dang bucatini. So, of course, I asked Facebook land, and my friend reminded me of such a fantastic place: Gloria's Little Italy! There's no way I could forget about their amazing food, but I never really had purchased pasta there (in packaged form, that is). Long story short, the manchild and I took a short pilgrimage, and came back with our spoils. It was about $2.50 for a pound. Not bad. This pasta also fills you up fast, so a pound goes a long way in this recipe.

Secondly, pan-FREAKING-cetta. I can't even get started without saying this: it is beyond amazing.  Bacon lovers: I have found you something that will change the way you feel about bacon. I thought bacon was the ultimate. I stand corrected. Pancetta is like the best bacon you've ever tasted... but a thousand times better. It's nuts, people. The flavors of pancetta are beyond ridiculous, and I seriously did a happy dance in the kitchen when I tasted my first little crunchy bite. It tastes like salty bacon, with rich flavorful pork undertones. How have I not had this stuff before?! Oh, that's right.... it's a whopping $5.59 for 5 thin slices. The splurge was more than worth it.

Not sure what it is? It's pork belly meat that is salt cured, then they season it with nutmeg, fennel, peppercorn, dried hot peppers, and garlic. Then they dry for at least three months - stick it in a moist little package, and sell it at the market.

 So the combination of these two ingredients, plus onions, garlic, tomatoes, fresh Italian parsley and a little oil complete the dish. It was SO easy, and the flavors were unforgettable. The manchild loved it (what other kid is eating pancetta and bucatini on the block, eh? Such a spoiled little guy), and Ryan loved it, too (leftovers for lunch today).

I tried to do a little research on what "all-amatriciana" means. Let's just say, my hard-core Italian mother-in-law was sitting at work with an Italian native, and even they didn't know. So I'm callin' it on Rachael Ray. Google says it's just "pasta with bacon and tomatoes". Fair enough.

Speaking of bacon, apparently you can use it as a substitute for the pancetta (it will come out a bit more smokey flavored). Also, you can use just regular spaghetti instead of bucatini. But after what I just told you about both those original ingredients... how dare you.


Bucatini all-Amatriciana

1 lb bucatini (tube pasta that looks like spaghetti with a hole down the center of it)
1/4 lb, 4 or 5 slices, pancetta,  chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano or Romano. (I used parmesan)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water.

Heat a large deep skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and pancetta. Cook pancetta 2 or 3 minutes then add onions and garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook 7 or 8 minutes more, until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and parsley. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Simmer sauce over low heat until ready to serve.

Cook bucatini pasta to al dente or, with a bite to it. Drain pasta well. Do not rinse. Starchy pasta holds more sauce. Toss hot pasta with sauce and serve. Pass grated cheese at the table to top pasta.

*recipe adapted from Rachel Day, Classic 30 Minute Meals 

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Easy Homemade Tortilla Bowls

On Sunday, we had some friends over for an early dinner. This usually means it's time to bust out the crock pot. My house smelled like a Mexican restaurant by the time we returned home from church - and it was heaven! For dinner, we had warm soft tortillas stocked with:

Fluffy Mexican Rice
Freshly Made Guacamole
Homemade Pico De Gallo
Thick Grated Cheddar Cheese
Sliced Green Onions
Chopped Crispy Lettuce
and Fresh Cilantro from my little herb garden

Served with homemade taco chips, freshly cut watermelon, and gooey brownies. 

.... so you can imagine we had a bit of leftovers ready for dinner yesterday evening.

Unfortunately, we only had two burrito-sized tortillas left. I didn't want to just have the same thing again for dinner as we had on Sunday. If we have leftovers, I usually make them into a new meal (versus just attacking the Tupperware with a couple of forks... which was the case when we were both finishing up our undergrads). So I did a mini-transformation in my little kitchen, and turned those floppy-boring tortillas into beautiful, crispy taco shells/bowls for taco salad! It was super-easy, and added a little fun to eating our leftovers. And did someone say healthy? :) No frying needed!


Easy Homemade Taco/Tortilla Bowls

Burrito-Sized wheat/white tortillas
EVOO (or regular vegetable oil)

medium-sized mason jars
cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Give each tortilla a 15-20 second nuke in the microwave (makes it easier to fold them over the mason jars). 

Turn mason jars upside down (so mouth is facing down) on a cookie sheet. With a pastry brush, coat each tortilla (front and back) with EVOO, and drape over mason jars (creating a bowl - you might have to press down the sides a bit, to get the shape). 

Put in the oven for about 9 minutes (watch them...).

Let sit for about 5 minutes to cool, and set. 

Fill with your favorite taco salad fixings such as: seasoned chicken, seasoned ground beef, mexican rice, cilantro lime rice, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, avocado, green onion, olives, cilantro, tomatoes, refried beans, black beans, pinto beans, sour cream.... heck, anything. Go nuts. 


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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

 Oh my goodness. 

Whenever I eat a mini-Reese's cup, it's always a small blast from the past for me. It didn't matter if it was from my Easter basket, Halloween candy bag, or Christmas stocking - I always went for the Reese's cups first when I was young. I guess that last part is a lie. It wasn't only when I was young - I still do the same thing! The Reese's cups are just a must for me sometimes. 

I couldn't wait to make these cookies. I'm a huge fan of peanut butter chocolate cookies - but basically smashing one of my favorite candy all over each one? Shut the front door! (I've always wanted to say that phrase aloud at the appropriate moment... these cookies were well-worth it in this context, I assure you). They've probably entered my top 3 favorite cookie list... of all time. I'm dead serious. There's something deeply wonderful about these gooey peanut butter packages of chocolate nirvana.

My absolute favorite part of this cookie was eating them right out of the oven. I've scalded my mouth more times than I can count on one hand doing this. (Same with pizza... I burn my mouth with the first bite, only to take another one right after). The peanut butter was so warm, it was oozing off of the cookies, and the warm chocolate melded perfectly with it's counterpart. Not only are the cookies covered in melty peanut butter cups, they are filled with peanut butter cups. Heaven help us. 


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
makes about 2 dozen medium sized cookies

1 1/2 C + 2 T Flour
6 T cocoa
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 stick (6 T) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 C + 2 T creamy peanut butter
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 large egg
1 T vanilla extract
2 T milk
2 C coarsely chopped peanut butter cups - if you freeze the peanut butter cups for about 30 minutes, it will make them easier to chop and manage. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with a bit of cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. With your electric stand mixer, combine the butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add in the vanilla, egg, and milk. Blend until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients by 1/2 cup full at a time until incorporated. Add in 1 1/2 C of the chopped peanut butter cups (saving about 1/2 cup for later), and fold in gently. 

Roll about 3 T of dough into balls, gently roll one side of the ball into the chopped peanut butter cups (just so some of them stick), and then space the dough balls about 2 inches apart.  Bake about 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Let cool on baking sheet about 10 minutes to set (they might look soft, but don't worry, they'll settle). Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container. 

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats.

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Shabby Apple Giveaway


Alrighty, lovelies. Here's the deal. 

I've never really steered in the direction of "giveaways" before on my blog - just food. But Shabby Apple contacted me recently and said I could gift one of my readers a $50 gift certificate. I thought: why the heck not? Shabby Apple is the bee's knees, people.

Plus, y'all have been absolutely splendid in welcoming me into blog-land, and are so supportive in spreading the "Blondie" love. I seriously had no idea I'd have more than my maybe my Mom and a couple friends reading this blog on a weekly (let alone 'daily') basis. So here's my way of saying "thank-you": free awesomeness from a lovely store. Who wouldn't want a little shopping spree on some new clothes? And if you're one of my manly man readers, your woman will thank me... and thank you. It's a win-win. Trust me.

Shabby Apple has such beautiful clothes. Very often, if I've fallen in love with a dress someone is wearing, they tell me it's from Shabby Apple. Their clothes are fantastic all around, but my favorites have been the dresses and high-waisted skirts.

How to I get that $50 gift certificate, you ask? It's simple. 
I'm giving you 7 ways to enter (and all seven count as separate entries, btw):

1. "Like" Shabby Apple on Facebook (if you haven't already), and tell me about it. 
2. "Like" Baking with Blondie (if you haven't already). I mean, good heavens. And tell me about it.
3. Tell me what dress is your favorite from their website.  
4.  Tell me your favorite "Baking with Blondie" recipe. 
5. Vote for my blog on "On the Fence" (see sidebar button "VOTE") and tell me about it.
6. "Follow" me on G+ (if you haven't already) and comment about it on this post.
7. Share this giveaway post on fb.  

("tell me about it" in the comments. Aight? Aight.)

It ends in three weeks: on JULY 1ST. So get your Shabby Apple/Blondie love on.

Still not convinced? Take a look at my favorite picks below, give in, and good luck on the giveaway!
Trade Winds Dress
Ming Skirt
Lighthouse Dress
Francine Skirt

If you want to get some discount awesomeness at Shabby Apple, use this code: blondie10off
 *you must live in the US for this giveaway. Sorry to my devoted European followers - you know I still love you. 
**winner will be chosen by random. 


Zesty Lemon Shortbread Cookies

What a crazy-windy afternoon it was today! I love this weather. 

While the manchild was out for his nap, I whipped these little lovers up for an after-dinner treat. I've only made shortbread cookies once before, and really enjoyed them. I couldn't wait to try shortbread in a different flavor. 

Much to my delight, these tasted just like lemon bars! (but without the sticky gooey fingers that come after). The lemon was definitely stronger than I thought it would be, and at first I was nervous while tasting the dough. The cookie's little tanning session in the oven mellowed out that crazy-zingy lemon flavor, and transformed it into a beautifully lemon-kissed cookie - perfect flavors for summertime. Plus, they're little. It only takes a couple small bites to take care of these guys. 

Next time I'll double/triple the recipe. It made almost two dozen.... so I'm guessing they'll only last a couple hours when Ryan gets home.


Zesty Lemon Shortbread Cookies 
recipe from Donna Hay Magazine

2/3 C unsalted butter, softened
1/3 C + 1 T powdered sugar
1/4 C lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
1 T vanilla extract
1 3/4 C + 1 t flour, sifted
2 T corn starch
2/3 C powdered sugar (again, for dusting after cooking)

Cream together butter and powdered sugar (the 1/3 C + 1 T) in an stand mixer Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour and corn starch and beat until a smooth dough forms. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Place each half into a large piece of wax paper in a log. Roll paper around log, and twist the ends. Place in fridge for about an hour, or until firm. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray/(or line with baking paper) your cookie sheet. Slice your log into about 1/3 inch cookie discs. Place onto prepared baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on sheet for 5 minutes. Lightly toss the warm shortbread cookies in the extra powdered sugar and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

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Carrot Cake Waffles with Maple Nut Cream Cheese Spread

I know I've already posted a breakfast recipe this week, but there's just something so comforting and filling about breakfast food... especially waffles.

I love mixing different food concepts together. In this case, we have moist carrot cake and fluffy light waffles! Sounds delicious, right? But then we sealed together each carrot cake waffle with creamy maple nut spread, then smothered it all in syrup, and topped with chopped walnuts. I mean, what more could there be? (besides bacon). I fell in love with the familiar carrot cake spices. And we all know that cream cheese is the only way to go with carrot cake frosting, so it was perfectly fitting as a spread. The flavors in this dish are incredible.

While I prepared the spiced butter and waffle batter, Ryan peeled and grated the carrots and made the spread. It was a perfect way to spend Sunday afternoon together while the manchild slept off his adventures after church. Our little guy LOVED the waffle pieces (and I was happy he was getting in a little more veggies without even knowing it). We were stuffed, and pleasantly full the rest of the night. 


Carrot Cake Waffles with Maple Nut Cream Cheese Spread
 recipe from Willow Bird Baking

2 cups flour
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t allspice
1 3/4 C buttermilk
2 eggs, separated
4 T butter
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 t almond extract (optional)
1 C walnuts, chopped
1/2 C grated carrots
Cooking Spray for Waffle Iron

Maple Nut Cream Cheese Spread  
8 oz cream cheese, softened (I used low fat)
3-4 T maple syrup
1/8 C chopped walnuts

Heat 4 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly until butter is barely light brown, about another 3 minutes. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly for about 15 seconds. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Combine dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.

Mix together the buttermilk and egg yolks. Stir in the spiced butter and vanilla. Spray waffle iron and preheat it. Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Beat egg whites with a whisk in a separate bowl until they hold soft peaks. Stir hem gently into the batter. Add carrots and walnuts, stirring gently to combine.

Spread about a 1/2 cup of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until the waffle is done, depending on your iron. Spray iron with cooking spray between waffles as needed.

To make spread, combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve waffles immediately with a spread of maple cream cheese- it's yummy this way, because it gets all melty and delicious.

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Baked Eggs Napoleon

Ryan said "If Napoleon's military strategy at Waterloo was as successful as this dish, we'd probably all be speaking French."

We LOVED these! After gobbling them right up, we wanted to make another batch (even though they were surprisingly filling). The jalapeno isn't overpowering at all, and gave it a little extra flavor to take the "fried" egg and tater tot bed to the next level.

Jokingly, we talked about how fun it would be someday to start a bed and breakfast. We'd have these Baked Eggs Napoleon on the top of the breakfast menu. Who knows? By the time we retire (if I'm still food blogging), we'll have a massive repertoire of dishes to choose from. Dare to dream, right?

Either way, these rocked our socks. Enjoy!


Baked Eggs Napoleon

1/2 bag tater tots, cooked and crumbled (or you could use homemade hash browns)
2 T butter
1 T jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1/2 C yellow/white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and add onion,  jalapenos. Cook 3-5 minutes until onions are clear. Add in garlic, and cook about a minute.

Spray four white ramekin dishes with non-stick spray. Divide the crumbled tots between the two dishes, pushing the tots down hard to create a mold (helps them come out easier after baking).

Divide the onion mixture over the four ramekins. Top each one with mozzarella. With your finger, make a little indent in the mozzarella so the egg can stay in one place - Crack and egg into each ramekin, season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 5 minutes. Broil on high for 5-6 minutes, or until eggs are set. Rest for 5 minutes before serving. Ramekins are super hot, so we just used a fork and removed them from the ramekins in their own little cups (serving them without the ramekins).


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