Double meat pizza with mushrooms and onion

Homemade pizza is one of my husband’s favourite meals.  On our honeymoon in Italy we had the most amazing pizza in Sorrento at a small restaurant called Da Gigino (http://www.dagigino.com/en/).  Their pizza was so incredibly delicious that we went back two more times before leaving for Rome!  Mine sadly does not compare to that perfection, but it’s quite delicious despite my lack of wood burning oven.  I tend to customize the thickness of my pizza crust based on the toppings I use.  My favourite pizzas have a thin crust (using half the dough made in this recipe) but that will only work with a small number of light toppings.  For this pizza, given the heaviness of the sauce and the number of toppings, I decided to use a thicker (but still delicious) crust.

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (I buy Fleishman’s)
2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
Tsp dried basil
Tsp garlic powder
2 1/2 cups flour (I use AP for a lighter dough, but you can certainly substitute bread flour-the consistency will change but it will still taste lovely)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp onion powder
Measuring cup
Mixing bowl

First, dissolve the yeast in warm water until creamy, about 10 minutes.

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In a large bowl, combine your flour, seasoning, olive oil, salt, white sugar and yeast mixture.  Stir well to combine, then beat until a stiff dough has formed and your dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl.  If you do not have a mixer, simply kneed your dough until it has pulled together and is elastic to the touch.

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Cover and leave to rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

3 mushrooms
1/4 onion (I like using Vidalia)
1/2 ball of mozzarella (this type of mozzarella is usually found in the deli section with the fancier cheeses)
Fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
Parmesan cheese, grated
Olive oil for drizzling
1/2 cup bolognese sauce (See my previous recipe for Penne with bolognese sauce-you could also use marinara)
Pizza tray

Roll out your dough (or use your hands to pull it) into a round pizza form.

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Evenly distribute your sauce (keep it thin or your pizza will turn out soggy) and add your cheese and toppings.  I like baking my pizza on a perforated tray lined with parchment paper, this allows it to bake thoroughly without sticking.

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Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

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Enjoy piping hot with a large salad!

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Sweet and spicy slooow cooker ribs

I love ribs; something about tender, fall off the bone meat saturated with a rich savoury barbeque sauce is just irresistible.  I used to think that there was no way to make truly delicious ribs without a smoker and barbeque, but that all changed when I came up with this recipe.  Obviously, these ribs are missing the flavour you get from a real smoker (I didn’t like the idea of adding ‘liquid smoke’ chemicals to my sauce) but the flipside is they can be made in the comfort of your own home whenever a craving hits.  Although it contains a lot of ingredients, the sauce is extremely easy to make and the spicy Sriracha pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the brown sugar and honey.  You will need some time to cook these ribs so make sure you have an hour for prep before putting them in the slow cooker over night.  Don’t skip any steps, roasting the ribs before putting them in the slow cooker is the only chance the meat gets to caramelize which adds to the overall deliciousness.  I paired our ribs with spicy sweet potatoes, but you could just as easily make fries or regular roasted potatoes.

2 pounds pork spareribs
1 ½ cups tomato paste
1 ½ cups water
⅓  cup brown sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Worcestershire
2 tbsp Sriracha
2 tbsp steak sauce, (e.g. club house)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
Baking sheet
Slow cooker
Bowl
Fork

Preheat your oven to 400 F.  Generously season your ribs with salt and pepper then place on a lined baking pan.  Brown your uncovered ribs in the oven for 30 minutes (for fresh ribs) to 45 minutes (for frozen ribs), flipping once.  Remove from the oven and cut into 4 rib chunks.

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In a medium bowl, mix together the tomato paste and water until they are the consistency of ketchup.  Next, add your Sriracha, brown sugar, lemon juice, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, fresh garlic and garlic powder.  Mix until all your seasonings are fully incorporated into the sauce.

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Place the ribs in slow cooker then pour your sauce over them and turn to coat.  Cover, and cook on Low for 10 hours.

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When you remove your ribs from the slow cooker you will see the sauce has become much darker and caramelized on the ribs.

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2 large sweet potatoes
Olive oil
Tsp chilli powder
3-5 cloves of garlic
Tbsp sea salt
Tbsp chilli flakes
Tsp onion powder
Baking sheet

Peel and cube your sweet potatoes into 1 inch chunks and arrange them on a lined pan.  Peel your garlic and spread among the sweet potatoes.  I leave my cloves whole because sliced garlic would burn before the sweet potatoes are finished cooking (plus, caramelized garlic cloves are delicious!).  Drizzle your olive oil and sprinkle the seasoning onto your potatoes then cover them with aluminum foil.  Bake for 45 minutes at 400 F until their edges are browned and they are fork tender.

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Finally, remove your ribs from the slow cooker and place them on lined baking sheet.  Pour their sauce over them and bake for 10-15 min until the sauce begins bubbling.

Delicious sweet and spicy fall off the bone ribs!

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Spicy pancetta beef burgers

My husband loves red meat and one of his favourite dinners is my homemade burgers.  My philosophy with burgers (and everything really) is that all elements of a dish should have flavour.  Instead of a simple burger with lots of condiments and add ons, this burger has loads of seasoning and flavour inside the patty.  Professional chefs will likely tell you not to put Worcestershire in a burger, that it belongs in meatloaf.  However, since I was little my mom has put Worcestershire in her homemade burgers so I follow that tradition.  If you dislike Worcestershire or simply want to try something different, I’ve also used soya sauce (Kikkoman) and garlic spare rib sauce (VH) in its place.  As with any recipe, this can be adapted to your personal taste with more/less seasoning being used.

1 egg
1 tsp Worstershire Sauce
1 lb extra lean ground beef (try and get your beef from the butcher’s counter if possible, that way you know it was recently ground)
Sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp chili flakes
1 tbsp Sriracha
¼ cup minced pancetta, chopped very fine (this adds some fat to the burger, you could also use a more fatty beef and omit it)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp onion powder
Large bowl
Stainless steel skillet

Smoosh your ground beef into a bowl, leaving a well at the bottom.  Add the egg and Worcestershire sauce, pancetta and spices (except for the salt).  Use your hands to blend your burger until everything is mixed and pulled together: you can use a spoon but the ingredients won’t be as evenly distributed.

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Divide your meat into 3 or 4 balls (my husband likes me to make 3 for slightly larger patties).  Flatten the ball in your hands and press into a circle until it’s approximately an inch thick: try not to overwork your meat.

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Heat some olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet on medium high heat.  Grind some sea salt onto your patties then add them to the pan.  Resist the urge to flip the burgers prematurely.  You will know the patties are ready to flip when they easily release from the pan; if they stick, wait a bit longer.  The result should be delicious burgers with a lovely, caramelized crust.  If you are adding cheese, put it on before your burgers are completely cooked; this way your cheese will melt but your patty won’t dry out.

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Top with your favourite condiments on a soft bakery bun and enjoy!

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Spaghetti with spicy panchetta and eggplant marinara

It was a cold rainy day and my husband and I were on our way home from work.  All I could think about was getting warm and cooking something hearty and satisfying for dinner: to me, pasta is the ultimate comfort food.  Marinara sauce takes about 30 minutes to make from scratch so there’s no excuse for not making it at home (especially since it freezes so well!).  For this dish, I thought I’d dress up a simple spaghetti and marinara by adding one of my husband’s favourite things, panchetta, and one of mine, eggplant.  This dinner came together very well and was just what we needed on a blustery night.  The only change I would likely make next time is smaller pieces of panchetta to ensure better distribution of its flavour in the pasta.

For the marinara recipe, see my previous post: “Ricotta gnocchi and marinara sauce”.

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2 italian eggplants, halved lengthwise then sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of pancetta, sliced (I used spicy pancetta)
1/4 cup of vidalia onion, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Spaghetti (I like Barilla for a perfect al dente)
Sea salt
2 frying pans (if possible, it’s helpful to saute your veggies while your sauce is simmering)
Large pasta pot

While your marinara is simmering, slice your eggplant and pancetta.  In a pan on medium heat, sautee your pancetta, onion and garlic in some olive oil.  Once your pancetta is starting to brown, add your sliced eggplant and salt.  Reduce the heat to medium low and cover for about 10 minutes.

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Cook your pasta in salted water while you add your prepared sauce to the eggplant mixture.  Your pasta and sauce should be ready in 8-10 minutes.  Drain and add the cooked pasta to your sauce.  Serve with grated parmesan.

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Enjoy!

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