I made that!

Strawberry Ice Cream

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, The Creamery by brandi on April 30, 2009

Strawberry Season is in full swing, so obviously some ice cream is in order.

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What more can I say? It was creamy and yummy and tasted like strawberries. Store bought will never be the same.

RECIPE:

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and quartered

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

2 cups milk

2 cups cream

1 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped

6 egg yolks

- Mix the strawberries with ½ cup sugar. Let macerate for 10 minutes.

- Place in pot and cook on medium heat for 6 -7 minutes, until soft and fragrant.

- Puree in a food processor or blender, then strain through a fine sieve.

- In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean. Bring just under a boil and let sit.

- Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl.

- Slowly ladle in hot cream mixture, whisking constantly.

- Once mixed pour back into pot and heat on medium, scraping with a spatula. Keep heating until custard begins to thicken, coating the spatula.

- Remove from the heat and stir in the strawberry puree. Whisk until smooth.

- Pour the mixture into a bowl and cool on an ice bath. Once cool place in fridge and let chill for several hours.

- Pour into an ice cream machine and spin away!

- Once spun, let rest in freezer for 4 hours before serving.

Lemon Bars!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on April 28, 2009

Time for some lemony sweetness. I made some lemon bars at work last week, but they were gone before I had time to dig in. I did get a taste, but it wasn’t enough…so I made a batch that I could hog all to myself. And John can have a few. I guess.

First I needed a crust for my lemon curd to sit on. Super easy, I just creamed together butter, powdered sugar and flour.

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Then I pressed it into a sheet pan. It was a sticky dough, so I had the best luck by layering it between 2 sheets of parchment and rolling it out. I brought the edges up the sides of the pan a bit, to help hold in my filling.

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Then I baked it to a golden brown while I made the filling.

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The filling was a mix of lemon juice, zest, sugar, flour and eggs. I have a thing for meyer lemons, so I used those.

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I poured the filling onto the crust as soon as it came out of the oven, while it was still hot.

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Then I baked it until it was just set.

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I let it sit on the fridge overnight to get nice and chilled. Then I sliced them up into not so neat little squares. What can I say, I was hungry. o time for straight lines.

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Then I gave them a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

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And dug in. Delicious.

RECIPE:


Yield: one 9 x 13 sheet pan

Crust:

6.75 oz soft butter

2.25 oz powdered sugar

8 oz AP flour

Filling:

1 lb 1/2 oz sugar

2 oz flour

4.5 oz lemon juice (meyers if you got ‘em!)

2 TBSP lemon zest

5 eggs

- Preheat oven to 350°F.

- Cream butter and sugar. Add flour.

- Press into parchment lined sheet pan.

- Bake until golden. Do not cool crust.

- Combine sugar and flour. Whisk in lemon juice. Whisk in peel. Whisk in eggs.

- Pour filling into hot pre-baked crust.

- Bake until set in the middle.

- Let chill for 8 hours before cutting.

- Dust generously with powdered sugar.

A Glorious San Francisco Spring

Posted in I Like Salt Too by brandi on April 21, 2009

San Francisco just keeps finding ways to amaze me. For the first time since moving here 13 years ago, I have a yard. A beautiful, big (well, by our standards, anyways) backyard. When spring finally hit, it exploded. Cherry blossoms on the cherry tree. Arugula, chard, fennel and parsley everywhere. Little sprigs of future peas and radishes poking up from the ground. And my little kitten, Bean, terrorizing the bees. It’s just glorious.

If you live here, you’re probably as enamored with the current weather as me. Yesterday the heat was so intense there was only one option: cook. and eat. in my warm and overflowing yard. I sent out a text, and before I could make up a grocery list I had 10 friends confirming attendance. With me and John that made dinner for 12, which meant a lot of cooking. Just the way I like it. John, not so much, he managed to sneak out early while I was still laying out brick pavers for the dinner table in my pajamas.

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I wanted a meal that celebrated the season, made of all in-season veggies, with a few from our garden. It was my first time yanking a fennel out of the ground. I found it quite satisfying. Those suckers are big!

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As I might have mentioned, it was HOT. So not a day for braising or stewing. My landlord recommended an orange fennel salad, tossed with some red onions and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, heavily sprinkled with black pepper.

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I had another salad in mind to go alongside. The arugula in the yard is fabulously spicy, so I tossed some with baby spinach, some barely blanched asparagus and radishes. I dressed it with a lemony vinaigrette. A big bowl of parmesan shavings was passed around for sprinkling.

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And soup. As is probably obvious in past posts, I have a thing for peas. But I had NEVER made a fresh pea soup before. Since the season is short, the time was now. Just a simple soup with onion, leek, carrots, stock, a bit of spinach and a whole lotta fresh English peas. I made some parmesan croutons, and finished the soup off with some creme fraiche.

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And my favorite part. I do like to work pie dough into a meal whenever possible. I saw an artichoke ricotta galette posted on “The Wednesday Chef” and knew I had to give it a spin. As she promised, it was a tasty one.

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It was a beautiful night. Nothing quite like a dinner under the stars (were there stars?) with close friends and simple, home grown and homemade food. And of course there were strawberry rhubarb crepes for dessert…

Strawberry Rhubarb Crepes

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on April 20, 2009

Crepes. I love them. Tonight, I made some. Strawberry rhubarb to be exact.

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I wasn’t always a rhubarb fan. But then I was shown the light. It’s so simple. You just dice the rhubarb really fine. Then let it macerate with some sugar, cornstarch and the seeds from a vanilla bean.

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You cover it and roast it, and then mix in some chopped up strawberries while it’s still hot. The heat cooks down the strawberries, and you’re left with an absolutely fabulous strawberry rhubarb compote.

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After I made my compote I got to work on some crepes. I was serving a crowd tonight, so it was quite a frying session. About 40 crepes in, I had a nice little stack.

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They were so yummy stuffed with the strawberry rhubarb compote and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

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So easy, and so deliciously spring!

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB COMPOTE RECIPE:

2 lb rhubarb

1 cup sugar

2 ½ tsp cornstarch

1 vanilla bean

3-4 pints strawberries

- chop rhubarb into 1/4″ dice.

- scrape seeds from vanilla bean into sugar and rub together to incorporate.

- toss rhubarb with vanilla sugar and cornstarch.

- let macerate for 20 minutes.

- cover and bake at 325 for 40 minutes.

- slice strawberries and mix into cooked rhubarb while still hot.

A bit redundant but…Strawberry Cream Pie: Take 2

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on April 15, 2009

I am stubborn. While my chocolate strawberry pie soup was certainly delicious, I want a pie. A pretty pie that slices and everything. It can be gooey and messy, I just want a piece of it to be lifted out of its comfy circular mother pie and onto a plate. For me. And my friends. Is that asking so much? So I’m trying again. Retaliation for Sunday’s failures. But I’m changing it up a bit. No more chocolate pudding, instead a nice pink strawberry pastry cream. I’m not too tough to go pink. Pink pie. There, I said it. I like pink pie.

It pretty much started the same as the other pie. First up, I needed to make my crust. I tend to make a lot of pie dough each time, and then portion it into chunks that I keep in the freezer. This makes it much harder to make up reasons for NOT making a pie on a whim. So today all I had to do was thaw my dough out and bake it.

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Then I brushed it with melted chocolate, so that once cooled,  it would protect my crispy crust from the ooey gooey pinkness coming it’s way.

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Then, the pinkness. My plan was to blend some pureed strawberries into a thick pastry cream, so I needed to get my berries ready. I made a compote by cooking chopped strawberries with some sugar for 7-8 minutes.

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I let that cool down, then pureed it and strained out the seeds and chunky bits.

Then I made a pastry cream, a really thick one (I said I want a slice…).

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And then I swirled in my pureed strawberries.

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And poured it into my pie shell!

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Man, that is pink. I popped the pie into the fridge to firm up a bit before tossing on some sliced strawberries.

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And now I wait. Tonight I will devour you and all your pinkness!

RECIPE:

1 pie shell

2 oz good dark chocolate

2 ¼ cups milk

1 vanilla bean

7 egg yolks

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

3 TBSP flour

3 TBSP cornstarch

12 oz strawberries, hulled and chopped

¼ cup sugar

2-3 pints strawberries, hulled and chopped

2-3 TBSP sugar

1 cup cream

1 TBSP cream

- Blind bake pie shell. Cool.

- Melt chocolate. Brush onto inside of baked pie shell.

- Put milk in pot. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into milk and bring to an almost boil. Let steep for 20 minutes.

- In another pot cook 12 oz strawberries with ¼ cup sugar for 6-8 minutes. Cool and puree.

- Mix sugar, salt, flour and cornstarch, Whisk in egg yolks.

- Temper milk into egg yolk mixture.

- Pour back into pot and cook, stirring constantly until thick and bubbly. Taste to make sure cornstarch is cooked.

- Blend strawberry puree into pastry cream.

- Pour into cooked pie shell.

- Let sit in fridge for an hour to set.

- Macerate 2-3 pints strawberries with 2-3 TBSP sugar. Pour over filled pie.

- Let sit in fridge for a few hours.

- When ready to serve, whip cream with 1 TBSP sugar and spread onto pie.

Cranky Day Leftovers (a.k.a Chicken and Dumplings)

Posted in I Like Salt Too, Southernness by brandi on April 13, 2009

I’m in a bit of a cranky mood. Long day with some…annoying news…all I wanted was a hot dinner, preferably one already cooked. And then I remembered the chicken and dumplings leftovers in the fridge. While last night’s pie wasn’t exactly a “success” (at least visually), my chicken and dumplings were deeeelish!

I started by pan frying some chicken thighs in olive oil until it was all brown and crispy.

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Then I sauteed leeks, onions and carrots in the juices.

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Then I added some flour. I toasted that for a bit and added some white wine. I let that cook down a bit and then added some chicken stock, my chicken thighs and some salt and pepper.

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I threw on the lid and let it all cook down for about 45 minutes. Then I made some dumpling batter and dropped globs of it in to boil into perfect little dumplings. Some fresh tarragon and a bowl of fresh shelled English peas later and we were in business!

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The great thing about chicken and dumplings (besides the obvious tasty fabulousness) is that you can make a giant pot and eat the leftovers for days. And today that’s about all I could ask for. Well, maybe a little leftover pie soup for dessert.

RECIPE (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated):

Note: Start the dumpling dough only when you’re ready to top the stew with the dumplings.

Stew
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium leek, cut into ½” pieces
1 medium onion, minced
6 TBSP AP flour
1/4 cup white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup green peas
3 TBSP minced fresh tarragon leaves

Dumplings
2 cups AP flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
3 TBSP butter

- For the Stew: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken.

- Add the leeks, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the pot and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the wine, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves. Nestle the chicken into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 45 – 60 minutes.

- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, then return it to the stew.

- For the Dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

- Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and tarragon, and season with salt and pepper.

- Drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart.

- Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes.

Ooops.

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on April 12, 2009

Are you ready to get messy? This post is a reminder that we all make mistakes. And as long as those mistakes still taste good, who really cares? I do, because I’m a perfectionist, but I don’t think anyone else at dinner tonight did.

This pie is a spin on a family tradition. In the south, chocolate pudding pie is king. Every family has their recipe, and of course, everyone thinks theirs is the best.  I’ve made this one for years, and I’m pretty confident it’s a winner. Traditionally, in my family, it’s just a crust, some chocolate pudding and some meringue. I like to wait for strawberry season so I can throw some strawberries on top. Today I traded out the meringue for some whipped cream.

It all started out like any other pie: with a perfectly baked flaky pie crust. Crust so flaky I could see the butter boiling in the translucent flakes when I pulled it out of the oven.

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Then I smeared in some melted dark chocolate. The melted chocolate forms a shell to protect the crust from the wet filling. I’m a bit of a crust Nazi, you won’t find any soggy crusts in my kitchen!

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Once the chocolate covered crust spent a enough time in the fridge for the chocolate to firm back up, I poured in some chocolate pudding. This is where I started getting nervous. I had made the chocolate pudding an hour earlier, so it should have firmed up by then. But it didn’t. Ouch. I thought “maybe it just needs a little more time in the fridge…” I had my suspicions. I was pretty sure I had gone a little light on the flour that thickens the pudding. But denial is a powerful thing.

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So I let that hang out in the fridge for a few hours, to get nice and firm. Except it didn’t get nice and firm.It’s possible that it was a tad thicker than earlier, but firm it was most definitely not. But what was I supposed to do? I had dinner guests and those dinner guests wanted PIE. John’s mom was in town and I was hoping to throw down with some mad skills. I don’t just make pudding pies EVERY DAY. And this ain’t no JELLO pie either! So there was no turning back, so I just went with it. I dumped the strawberries on and watched them sink like titanic wreckage into the depths of my beautifully, glossy chocolate goo.

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I figured I might as well own it, so I whipped up some cream to throw on top as well.

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I was prepared for a structural failure. When it’s time to be presented came, I placed it ever so gently into a baking pan. We all ooohed and aaahed at it’s beauty. And then I crushed it with one quick slice of the pie trowel. We ate in bowls, and eventually ended up just digging into the pan with our spoons. It wasn’t pretty, but I have to admit, it was mighty tasty. And even submerged in a sea of chocolate soup, my crust was fantastic.

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Paella!

Posted in I Like Salt Too by brandi on April 10, 2009

The sun’s been shining (intermittently at least) and dammit I want paella! I’ve never made one (well, except for this one time 8 years ago, but all has been forgotten), so some research was needed. I went to my source of all things paella related, my architecture boss (and self declared paella aficionado) Joe. He hooked me up with the basic steps and traditional spices. I scribbled it all down like a mad woman, went shopping for a paella pan (because sometimes you just need a new toy), and promptly lost the notes. So I was mostly working from memory, but I think I got the gist of it right.

I wanted to keep it simple, since I was entering uncharted waters. Plus my dinner guests were pescatarian, so no crazy chicken/chorizo/every other meat you can think of combination for this little paella {insert sad face emoticon}. I decided to go with shrimp, along with a bunch of spring veggies.

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First I fried up my sofrito, which is just the mirepoix (which is the soffritto (which is the sofrito of Italy) of France) of Spain: onions, garlic and red peppers. Basically the holy trinity of Western European/Mediterranean/Caribbean cooking. I cooked those down with some olive oil, paprika, cumin and cayenne.

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Then I threw in my rice and let it toast for a while before adding some white wine. I let that cook for a few minutes and then added some saffron, veggie stock and clam juice.

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Once it looked like the rice had about 15-20 minutes left, I piled it high with shrimp, English peas, artichoke hearts and asparagus.

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I put a lid on it and let it keep going until everything looked all yummy and my shrimp were all pink. It was tasty! Most importantly, I got a delicious layer of crust on the bottom, pretty much what makes paella fabulous. Not bad at all for a first (though technically second) paella!

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Strawberry Shortcakes

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on April 8, 2009

Aaaaaaahhhh…strawberry season. Time for some strawberry shortcakes to make an appearance.

First the shortcakes: I started my shortcake dough the same way I would a pie dough, just barely mixing the butter chunks into the flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Once all mixed, I started drizzling in cream, mixing until it just began to come together.

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I rolled the dough flat, until it was about 1/2″ thick.

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Then I cut little circles out!

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I let the circles hang out in the fridge while I started slicing my strawberries. I let the strawberries macerate in some sugar for a bit, and then baked my shortcakes and whipped some cream. And then I put them all together!

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RECIPE (adapted from Alice Waters):

3 pints strawberries

3 tbsp sugar

2 cups flour

4 tablespoons sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

4 oz butter (very cold)

1 cup heavy cream (for shortcakes)

1 1/2 cups whipping cream (for whipped cream)

- Wash, dry and slice the (you can crush some of them if you like) berries. Toss with sugar to taste, about 1 tablespoon per pint. The strawberry mixture should be very juicy.

- Mix the flour, baking powder, 4 tbsp sugar & salt in a kitchen aid bowl. Use the paddle to blend in half the butter for1 minute. Then add rest of butter and continue mixing until butter is in ½ – 1 inch chunks (should take less than 30 seconds). With the mixer running, quickly add in ¾ cup cream, just until most of the dry mixture has been moistened. Turn off mixer and add a bit more cream, mix with your hands just until it holds together. Turn out on a board and knead just a few times, until the dough just comes together into a ball. It might still be a little crumbly at the edges. Roll into1/2 inch thick slab and cut out circles. You can re-roll scraps once.

- Put the shortcakes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned and the dough is set. Cool on a rack and serve while warm. Make the whipped cream while the biscuits cool.

- To serve: Split the shortcakes and spoon berries liberally over the bottom halves. Spoon whipped cream over strawberries and set the tops back on. There should be lots of berries and lots of cream.

Pasta! Pasta!

Posted in Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of, I Like Salt Too by brandi on April 7, 2009

Another Tuesday and here I am making pasta again. It’s spring (and I woke up to rain, sad) and I was just feeling it, you know? I’m more confident of my pasta making after my excellent raviolis, so I’m ready to add flavored pastas to my repertoire. Since right now everything in my backyard is bright green, I was thinking spinach pasta was in order. It’s basically the same as making regular pasta, just with a few more steps at the beginning to get all that spinach flavor (and color) into the dough.

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First I tore all the stems off of my spinach leaves. Then I boiled them for about 45 seconds.  I threw the boiled spinach into an ice bath to cool down.

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Once cooled, started trying to get all of that water out. There are probably many methods for that, but mine consisted of layering the leaves in paper towels and then rolling the stack into a log. And then doing it again with new paper towels. After they seemed dry enough (whatever that is) I pureed them in the food processor.

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The food processor didn’t seem to understand the severity of my need to get minuscule little bits of green (too large chunks will get caught up in the machine, I learned this the hard way, with some failed beet pasta – I’ll tackle that one again someday), so I threw the spinach in with my eggs and pulled out the (little) big guns, the immersion blender. Have I mentioned yet that immersion blenders rock my kitchen world? I can’t believe there was ever a time when I didn’t have one. I think tony gave me this one years and years ago, thanks tony!

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After finally getting a smoother puree, I starting mixing my dough. Typical pasta method: I put the flour in a shallow bowl and made a well in the middle. Then I poured in the egg/spinach mixture and started stirring, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. I did that until it came together into a mass to dense to stir, and then I started kneading. I kept kneading in more flour until it stopped feeling wet (I never use all the flour). Then I plopped my dough onto a floured surface and kept kneading for about 8 minutes.

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The dough needed to hang out for an hour, to relax all that gluten. The sun was out again (!) so it was just enough time for me to do a quick bike ride up twin peaks (the hill, not the TV show), take in the view, ride back down and start a-rolling!

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I decided to make a fettucine out of my pasta sheets. Since my machine already has a setting for slicing into perfect little strips, it was easy peasy!

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And we’ve got fresh spinach fettucine for our 90210 dinner tonight!

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I probably won’t take any pics of it sauced, but we’re freestyling a lemon chicken artichoke cheesy creamy sauce. With capers, I believe there are some capers in there somewhere. Yes!

But I did take a picture!

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