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Barbecue Bacon Mango Pizza

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The sun is barely risen. I’m lying in bed and I can feel sweet warm breath rhythmically hitting my face. I slowly open my eyes and find myself nose to nose with Lucas, my three-year-old, who climbs into bed with me each morning. I put my arms around him, then close my eyes and pretend to be asleep. He plays with one of my earrings, trying to remove the small silver leaf from my ear. After a moment, he abandons the earring and begins running his tiny fingers over my eyebrows. Behind me, I can feel my five-year-old, Liam, trying to braid my excessively long hair. Lucas becomes bored with my eyebrows and begins trying to forcefully push my eyelids open. I roll over to face my Liam. Liam pushes his nose closer to mine and whispers, I love you, Mommy. I kiss his nose. The baby begins to peep through the monitor, wordlessly begging to join the family snuggle time. My husband rolls out of bed to grab the baby. Once in our bedroom, our sweet baby James crawls over his brothers to get on top of me. He puts his wide open mouth onto my cheek. I think it’s a kiss. A very sloppy kiss. Then he tries to jam his finger into my mouth to touch my teeth. I rouse myself then, to bring the boys downstairs for breakfast before my little amateur dentist gets too aggressive.

I’ve come to realize that I belong to my children as much as they belong to me. We belong to each other. It’s a thoroughly symbiotic relationship.

More than anything, I want my family to feel loved in the same way they so generously give their love to me. And one of the ways that I show my love is through fresh and delicious food, carefully crafted into delicious meals we can enjoy as a family, like this barbecue bacon mango pizza. This pizza is inspired by one of the recipes provided by The National Mango Board in a booklet they sent along with a shipment of beautiful ripe mangos. It instantly reminded me of a sweet and savory Hawaiian pizza, only substituting the ham for bacon and the pineapple for mango. Genius. Only I took that idea a little further by coming up with a homemade mango barbecue sauce, rather than slathering on something store-bought.

Though unplanned, the preparation of this pizza became a family affair. Small noses came running at the scent of bacon. Small hands stole said bacon. Small mouths gobbled up an entire mango before I had a moment to protest. We dubbed the afternoon Mangofest. There were tears when the last of the mango had been devoured, but smiles returned once this pizza was presented. Definitely a family pleaser! Best yet, the recipe for the barbecue sauce will make more than you need for the pizza…perfect for grilled mango barbecue chicken breasts the next day!!

Barbecue Bacon Mango Pizza

Ingredients

For the mango barbecue sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh mango puree (2 medium mangos should do the trick)
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (plus more, if desired)
  • Salt (optional), as desired

For the pizza

  • 1 12″ pizza crust
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 mango, chopped*
  • 6-8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

* Click HERE to see my photo guide on how to chop a mango.

Directions

To prepare the mango barbecue sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium/medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add all other barbecue sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a very gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Allow the sauce to cool, then use a food processor or blender to puree until smooth. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as desired. Refrigerate until using.*

To prepare the pizza: Heat the oil in a small pan over medium/medium-low heat. Add the onion. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the onions are tender, sweet, and lightly golden. Spread a thin layer of the sauce (approximately 1/2 cup) over the pizza crust. Scatter most of the bacon, mango, and onions over the sauce. Top with the shredded cheese. Scatter the remaining bacon, mango, onions, and parsley on top. Bake in a 400 degrees oven for about 12-15 minutes, until hot and melty.

*The barbecue sauce recipe will produce more sauce than is necessary for the pizza. You can use the sauce as you might use any barbecue sauce on grilled chicken, ribs, shrimp… It would also freeze nicely for later use.

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Chickpea Fries with Green Athena Sauce

Many years ago, I made a friend for life during my college orientation weekend. I don’t recall how we first met. We may have been seated next to each other during some presentation to incoming freshmen. However it happened, it was kismet, as they say. We became instant friends that weekend, as we explored our new school and the town which would be our home for the next four years.

We spent the rest of the summer sending handwritten letters to each other. Yes, this was before the time of facebook, widespread email, and texting. Freshman year we grew closer. And as roommates during our sophomore year, we were practically inseparable. In fact, the vast majority of my college memories in some way involve this particular friend; memories involving mermaids (and mermen), dance routines with a big finish, a glowing Red Dog clock, flooded suites, and self-directed midnight evacuation drills from our second floor dorm building. Note to self: Scaling the side of a brick building with your sheets tied together will result in holey sheets. And laughter. Lots of laughter.

College Memories

In the years after college, we moved in different directions, geographically. Separated by distance, our opportunities to share drinks, laughter, and miscellaneous mischief have become fewer and farther between. But we will always share a part in each other’s celebrations, successes, and challenges. She stood as my bridesmaid during my wedding and wore a pin I gave her in her hair as she celebrated her own. Though we now live, quite literally, on opposite sides of the globe, my dear friend will always remain close in my heart. I feel fortunate that our lives crossed paths.

Recently, my globe-trotting pal sent me a link to a Mark Bittman article, which describes a process for making a sort of chickpea fries; crisp on the outside with a smooth, custardy center. Yum! Only, the article is a bit vague on the exact procedure. My friend’s first attempt never made it to the taste-testing phase. Dying to love these little goodies, she sent a plea for help. I told you we’d always be there for each other’s challenges!

Vegetarians and gluten-free eaters rejoice! This recipe is right up your alley. In fact, this protein-rich alternative to French fries should make just about everyone happy! I based my recipe on Bittman’s description and a bit of trial and error. Your biggest challenge may be getting your hands on the chickpea flour necessary for this recipe. But if you’ve got a well-stocked grocery store nearby, you may be in luck. I was able to find the flour in the organic and natural foods section of my Wegmans. If you don’t see it in your grocery store, try asking at the customer service desk.

The sauce is a cross between a cucumber-yogurt tzatziki and a green goddess dressing, so I’m calling it my Green Athena Sauce. It’s works perfectly with these tasty chickpea fries and will probably leave you looking for other things to dip in it. Try pita, fresh vegetables, chips, bread, skewered lamb…

Chickpea Fries

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/8 cups chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

Line a 13×9 inch baking dish or baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper. Lightly rub the paper with vegetable oil to help prevent sticking. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and gradually whisk in the chickpea flour. The mixture will thicken quickly. Add the other ingredients. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add additional water if the mixtures seems too dry or additional flour if the mixture seems too runny. Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish or baking sheet. Use a piece of wax paper to help press the mixture into an even layer. Cover with the wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Once cool, cut the mixture into the shape of fries or any other shape you desire.Heat a shallow (less than 1/4″) layer of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-medium high heat. Place the fries into the hot oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Green Athena Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and grated
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Bg handful of fresh parsley
  • Pepper, to taste
Directions
Squeeze the grated cucumber in your hands or in a piece of cheesecloth to remove as much liquid as you can. (Skipping this step will result in an overly runny sauce.) Combine the cucumber with all other ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until well combined. Add as much parsley as you desire, until the sauce has a nice green color. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste. Refrigerate until serving.

Broiled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

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Broiled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

I’d like to begin this post with some interesting background on chimichurri sauce or perhaps some funny anecdote explaining the creation of this dish. I’d like to tell you about my love for skirt steak or how I adore the horseradish and cheddar I added to my smashed potatoes. I’d even like to explain how fast cooking at high heat produces the most tender, juicy steak. But, I can’t do any of that right now, since the only thing ringing through my head is…

Chim chiminey, Chim chiminey, Chim, chim cher-ee, A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be… Chim chiminey, Chim chiminey, Chim, chim cher-oo, Good luck will rub off when I shake hands with you. Or blow me a kiss and that’s lucky too…

So, I’m going to skip the background and the stories and get right to the recipes. Then, I’m going to close my computer, load Mary Poppins into the Blu-Ray player, and spend the rest of my day singing about chimneys and spoonfuls of sugar.

Today’s meal consists of a fast broiled skirt steak served over smashed red potatoes, loaded with cheddar and horseradish. Topping it off is a vibrant chimichurri sauce, oozing with the flavors of fresh parsley and garlic.

It’s a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious kind of meal!

Broiled Skirt Steak

Ingredients

  • 1 pound skirt steak (hanger steak would make a great substitute)
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat broiler. Trim any excess fat from the exterior of the steak. Season with salt and pepper. Place the steak on a baking sheet. Cook several inches under the broiler for about 10-15 minutes, to your desired doneness. Allow the steak to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice diagonally against the grain.

Chimichurri Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more if desired
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more if desired

Directions

Combine parsley, garlic, shallot and white wine vinegar in a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, until well blended. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil until a sauce forms. Season with salt and crushed red pepper, as desired.

Cheddar and Horseradish Smashed Red Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, cut into large, even chunks
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Place the potatoes in a large pot and fill with enough water until the potatoes are just covered. Bring to a boil, then cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Strain. Add the butter to the hot potatoes and smash to your desired consistency. Add the milk, cheese, and horseradish. Stir until combined. Add additional milk, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.

Spaghetti and Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce

My husband can’t sit down at an Italian restaurant without ordering Spaghetti and Meatballs. It could be the finest Italian restaurant with a menu dripping in tempting options and all he wants is Spaghetti and Meatballs, preferably with garlic bread. It’s truly one of his favorite meals and he craves it the way that I crave a good piece of dark chocolate or wedge of brie with baguette. So, when I decided to make this simple, classic dish for dinner yesterday, I knew he’d be thrilled.

My timing was impeccable. By the time my husband walked through the door, the sauce had been simmering away on the stove for three hours. The meatballs had been baked and added to the sauce. The garlic bread had been prepared. Our house was bursting with the warm, delicious aromas of tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Upon stepping into the house, out of the chilly autumn air, my husband took one breath before his eyes lit with joy. What are you cooking? I told him to take a guess. Spaghetti and Meatballs??? His reply was dripping with eager anticipation. I nodded. And garlic bread?? Yes, of course. And I could see him physically buzzing with excitement. Such joy from such a simple meal.

And in that moment, as he stood there, still removing his jacket and shoes, with a child-like grin on his face, it occurred to me that I could profit from this glee. Maybe I should ask for something. Perhaps those fuzzy winter boots I’ve had my eye on. Or a Mercedes E320! No, no! A pony! I’ve always wanted a pony. Yes, that’s what I would ask for.

Then, as fast as it arrived, the moment was gone. The kids began climbing his legs while the dog anxiously communicated his desire for a walk in his typical brutish manner. So, no pony for me. Though, my husband’s evident joy was sufficient reward.

During the hot summer months, when tomatoes have reached their glorious peak of flavor perfection, it would be a pity to use canned tomatoes in your sauce. (Click here for my Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce recipe.) But, right about now, when tomatoes have become mealy and bland, you’d be silly to use anything other than canned tomatoes. Most canned veggies have a justifiably bad rep for being loaded with salt and drained of their nutrition. But, tomatoes may be one of the rare exceptions. I actually read an article once, which claimed that tomatoes may actually benefit in both flavor and nutrition (lycopene content) from the canning process. Just look for tomatoes which don’t contain extra sodium.

Both my sauce and meatball recipes are simple, classic preparations. No fancy ingredients or interesting twists. Just basic, delicious spaghetti and meatballs, cooked the way I remember from my childhood. The sauce is slow cooked for about 3 hours to allow a rich tomato flavor to develop. Onions, garlic, basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper provide just the right amount of seasoning. The meatballs are basic beef meatballs, blended with a bit of cheese and a few seasonings, then bound together with an egg and a touch of bread crumbs. You can use any type of ground beef or other ground meats in your meatballs, but as with hamburgers, the higher the fat content of the meat, the juicier and moister the resulting meatball will be.

Classic Slow-Cooked Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic, smashed
  • 3-4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 28-ounce cans Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can Tomato Paste
  • 1 6-ounce can Water
  • 5-6 sprigs Fresh Parsley, leaves only
  • 6-8 Basil Leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Salt and Crushed Red Pepper, as desired

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and smashed garlic cloves. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are tender and translucent. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Fill the tomato paste can with water and add to the saucepan. Stir in the fresh parsley leaves, basil, and bay leaves. Cook over low heat, partially covered, for about three hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with crushed red pepper and salt, as desired.

*This recipe makes a great big batch of sauce, perfect for leftovers or freezing!

Classic Baked Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all ingredients in a bowl. Use your hands to blend, until all ingredients are evenly combined. Using your hands, roll 12-15 meatballs with about 1 1/2″ diameter each. Place the meatballs in a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until fully cooked. Set aside or add to the sauce as it cooks.

Makes 12-15 Meatballs

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