Homemade Italian – Pasta & Garlic Bread

I’ve already written other blog posts on a homemade pasta with infused tomato puree and one about my first experience making (french) bread. This time, I experimented with a couple of new recipes I found on Pinterest. Since I’m new to the pasta and bread making game, I think I’ll have to keep trying and tweaking recipes before I get those “signature” dishes!

The French Bread

I tried a french bread recipe that only requires one rise instead of two. Since I had decided to make it last minute and I happened to have rapid rising yeast on hand, I thought it was worth a try. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

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The recipe was for two loaves, but I only wanted one, so I cut all the ingredient amounts in half. This was easy to do because a lot of the amounts look like they had probably originally been doubled. For example, it calls for two packages of fast rising yeast, so instead, I simply used one.

This was way better than the last french bread I made. The outside got crustier and the inside was fluffier and less dense. Plus, it took a fraction of the time to prepare. I actually used bread flour instead of regular all purpose flour and let the mixer knead the dough a little longer than the last time. These things may have contributed to the better bread. However, although the inside of the bread was fluffier, I felt it still had a tiny bit of toughness to it when pulling it apart. I don’t think this has anything to do with the recipe. Just some alterations I need to make to what I’m doing.

So, I prepared the dough, let is rest covered for 10 minutes. I then made it into a loaf shape, only sort of using the jelly roll method. I did it roughly because I didn’t want that spirally inside that I got last time. I let the loaf sit covered on a oiled baking sheet for about 35 minutes. I took this opportunity to prep a couple other things and take a shower! I also timed it so that the pasta noodles were drying at this time.

Also, I decided to bake it half way without a wash or butter brushed over it. Then once it was a little bit browned, I took it out, brushed some butter over the top and let it cook the rest of the way. This helped give it that nice golden brown. Similar to last time, I also only cooked the loaf part-way through before I took it directly off the baking sheet and put it on a baking rack because the bottom browned before the rest of the loaf.

I let the bread cool a little. I used half of it to make garlic bread. The garlic bread was just melted butter, minced garlic, salt, pepper, dried basil, freeze-dried chives, and parmesan sprinkled on top. I let those pieces broil in the oven just so they got brown on top and little toasty. This was just a quick solution for making garlic bread. If I hadn’t already been making a bunch of other stuff and had fresh herbs, I’d make this delicious herb garlic bread recipe I found years ago. (I’ll save that for another time :))

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Bonus, I sliced up a couple of pieces of leftover bread this morning to make toast. I topped them with some smashed avocado, tomato, and sprinkled with pink Hawaiian salt. YUM!

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The Pasta

The pasta recipe was a very basic one and had 5 stars with 46 reviews at the time. I spiced it up a little but sprinkling in a little dried parsley and dried basil. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

The verdict: The pasta was fine and is probably a good traditional recipe if that’s what you want. My noodles ended up being too thick, so they were a bit dense and chewy. I think it’s because I didn’t spend enough time rolling the pasta out before using the fettucine cutter. I’d like to give this recipe another try because I really think this was my own fault and I’d like an easy go-to pasta recipe.

The Sauce

I had a can of san marzano tomatoes in the pantry, so I dumped the contents into a large pot and used my mashed potato smasher to break up the tomatoes. I added quite a few seasonings, but I was just experimenting with the flavor. If you’re looking for a simple sauce, you don’t even need to add anything. Here’s what I used to add some depth to the sauce flavor:

  • sliced garlic
  • dashes of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper
  • one bay leaf
  • a little bit of chopped onion
  • a little water and chicken bouillon powder
  • a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • dash of parmesan
  • tomato cooking wine
    • We had just gone on a winery tour last week and purchased this tomato cooking wine. It has a subtle flavor and perhaps it drowned in the sauce. I think this would be really nice to use in other dishes, perhaps to deglaze a pan of mushrooms or something!

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I also wanted to add some protein to the dish, so I pressure cooked some chicken we had in the freezer and shredded it. (Since I didn’t season it, the other chicken breast was cut up and saved for the pups!) I put the shredded chicken directly into the sauce. I also air fried some frozen shrimp and peas and put those into the sauce last minute, just before serving.


I won’t lie; this was overall a lot of work. But since I like cooking and it was a leisurely Saturday night, I enjoyed it. This would also be great for a date night if you and your significant other ever like to cook together.

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I hope you give some of those recipes a try and share some of your lessons learned, as well!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Tofu In A Honey Soy Sauce

I’ve had a container of tofu in my fridge for a few weeks now and we finally decided to use it last night. If you don’t normally like tofu, this might change your mind.

We were staying in for a cozy Friday night and didn’t want to binge out with totally unhealthy food. (Although, I cant lie, we really wanted pizza or Chinese takeout.) We usually don’t do much with the tofu – either stir fry it with other vegetables, use it in a fried rice, or we’ve also made tofu fries a couple times. This time I found a recipe for a honey soy tofu. The recipe had directions for making a really simple sticky sauce with soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, pepper, and Chinese five spice. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

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I had forgotten, but the tofu that I bought was already cubed. That was a win in terms of effort, but I think when I make this again, I’d prefer to buy the block of tofu and cut it myself. The only reason is that the already-cubed tofu is a little small. Bigger cubes would make it a bit easier to eat and probably make for a better ratio of sauce to each piece of tofu. (Sounds so scientific, doesn’t it?)

The recipe calls for crisping up the tofu on the stove. I have never found cooking it on the stove or baking it in the oven to be easy or effective to get that “fried” look or consistency. The only thing that works for me is the air fryer. So, that’s what I used. I didn’t bother using any seasoning at all because I knew I’d already have plenty of flavor from the sauce it was going to be tossed in.

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In the meantime, I prepped the sauce per the recipe. The only difference is since I wasn’t cooking the tofu on the stove, I prepared and mixed the sauce right into the sauce pan (versus a separate container). Once the tofu was done, I put it in the sauce and turned the stove on to medium. Cooking down the sauce didn’t take long at all – really only five minutes or so until it became a more sticky consistency.

On the side, I made a few things:

First, I made kale chips. So simple. Just tear the kale leaves into smaller pieces, place on a baking sheet so they don’t overlap with each other, spray with some olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt. I baked these in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about ten minutes.

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Second, I was also really excited because I can never usually find already-cooked polenta that is in the tube shape. Jake and I stumbled into a new store yesterday while picking up Whiskey (one of our dogs) from the vet. There it was! So, I grabbed the polenta, sliced up about half of the tube into 1/2″ rounds and air fried until there was a little golden color on top. I think next time I’ll try lightly frying these on the stove so I can get the golden brown color without overcooking the insides and drying it out.

Third, I air fried some mushrooms, just seasoned with some salt, pepper, and paprika. Lastly,  I cut up some ripe avocado that we had on hand.

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Can you tell which one below is mine? Hint: Did I mention that I eat everything with either Sriracha or Frank’s Red Hot? (Haha – I love the spiciness!)

Overall, this was a great weeknight dinner that keeps it healthy and interesting! You could certainly mix up the grain and use farro, brown rice, or quinoa. The vegetables could be spinach, broccoli, etc. These “buddha” bowls are so versatile!

Happy weekend!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Vegetarian Cottage Pie – Set It & Forget It

I really love cottage and shepherd’s pie. I can practically eat an entire casserole dish of it on my own, and all in one sitting. If you’re wondering what the difference is between cottage and shepherd’s pie, you’re not alone. Before someone recently brought it to my attention, I thought I had been making shepherd’s pie all these years. However, shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb and cottage pie includes other meats, typically beef.

The way I made this a couple days ago is seriously the new way to cook one of these pies. In this case, I used a vegetarian ground beef. Because of this, I was able to eliminate pre-cooking the meat and I cooked everything in one step in my InstaPot pressure cooker. However, given the many talents of the pressure cooker, I imagine you could get away without pre-cooking real ground meat, too. (I just haven’t tried it. If you do try it, make sure the pressure cooker is set to cook long enough to fully cook the ground meat.)

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Here are the ingredients I used for the “meat” mixture:

  • 1 carrot (medium diced)
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • A couple of sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • Corn kernels from one ear of corn
  • 12 oz package of vegetarian ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp cup water
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Here are the ingredients I used for the mashed potatoes. Increase the amounts if you like or want more mashed potatoes on top than a thin layer.

  • 5 small potatoes (cubed)
  • 1 pat butter
  • 2 Tbsp almond milk (any kind of milk you prefer for mashed potatoes is fine)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, freeze dried chives (to taste)

I stirred all the “meat” mixture ingredients (except the water) together in the InstaPot. I decided to add a tiny bit of salt and pepper. The vegetarian beef I got seemed to already be seasoned, so I didn’t want to be too heavy handed. I sprinkled the water over the top. The water was to add some moisture to the pressure cooker while everything cooked. I patted the mixture down at the bottom to compact it a bit. I left it relatively flat on top, but made a little divot in the center. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Next, I got a piece of tin foil and made it into a semi-bowl. I placed this in that divot. This was so the sides of the bowl would stay somewhat in tact during cooking and not allow any of the liquid for the mashed potatoes drip out the sides. In the tin foil bowl, I added all the mashed potato ingredients. I didn’t even bother mixing it up.

I put the lid on the pressure cooker and set it to “Bean/Chili” at normal pressure for 25 minutes. If you’re using a veggie beef like me, you could probably get away with 15-20 minutes. If anything, the potatoes would take the longest to cook and that should still be plenty of time.

Once the cooking was done, I did a quick release of the pressure and opened the lid. At this point, the potatoes should be fully cooked through. I dumped the potatoes from the tin foil directly on top of the “meat” mixture. I smashed it right on top and flattened/spread it across. I opted sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top.

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I also found that the amounts of liquid I originally used made it a little more watery than I’d like, so I set the InstaPot to saute and let some of the extra liquid boil away. This made some of the juice boil up to the top, which I didn’t mind. It gave it a nice rustic/hearty look and brings some of that flavor to the top. Plus, it only took a few minutes and it was literally zero effort.

Finally, the cottage pie was served. We had extra avocado we needed to use, so we added that and a dollop of sour cream.

This is the first time I’ve made this dish in this way, so there is surely some room for improvement. At the very least, I hope this gives you some ideas on how to make your dinner prep and cooking more efficient and still delicious!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Spicy Asian Soup

Usually during the day, I think about what I’m going to make for dinner that night. Yesterday, I kept thinking about how I was going to make a shepherds pie with the vegetarian ground beef we had bought the previous week. Last minute, Jake texted me before heading home from work asking if we could have soup. Argh! He wanted to have a spicy asian broth with fish, shrimp, and bok choy. I gave in and so he stopped by the grocery store on the way home to get the ingredients. Turns out Jake thinks that this particular soup was one of the best things I’ve ever made!

Here’s what you’ll need to make the soup base:

  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable or Canola Oil
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1.5″ Fresh Ginger Root (sliced)
  • 1 Green Onion (sliced)
  • 1 Small Onion (chopped)
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 1/3 cup Hot Bean Paste
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 7 cups Beef Broth
  • Dash of Chinese 5 Spice (optional)

Here’s what I used for the fixings, but feel free to mix it up and experiment with whatever you like.

  • 1 lb. Haddock
  • 10 Extra Jumbo Frozen Shrimp (remove the skin and chunk)
  • 1 Small Head/Bundle of Bok Choy (Baby bok choy is better. Otherwise, cut into smaller pieces.)
  • 1 Big Handful of Bean Sprouts
  • A couple of handfuls of Kale (torn into pieces)
  • 6 oz. Shiitaki Mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1/4 lb. Angel Hair Pasta (Any noodle should be fine. Udon would be great.)

To make the broth, start with oil in a large pot. (I used a 5 quart pot.) Add in the garlic, ginger, onion, green onion, and star anise. Cook on medium until fragrant and the onions start to become translucent.

Then, add in the hot bean sauce. I happened to find this particular one at the Asian market, but I think any sort of hot bean sauce will work. Start with approximately 1/4 cup. Reserve the rest in case you want to add more later based on the taste. Mix and cook with the aromatics for a few minutes. Because I have the copper pan, I don’t get a lot of stuck bits at the bottom, but if you do, don’t worry. That will add some extra flavor and you’ll have an opportunity to scrape it all up in the next step when adding the broth.

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Then, add the beef broth, a splash of the soy sauce, and squirt of the sriracha. This is when you should add the optional dash of the Chinese 5-piece powder. Taste test and increase the amounts of soy sauce and sriracha based on your liking. 20180924_191908.jpgBring the broth to a boil. When boiling, add the angel hair pasta.  Bring the boil down to a dull roar. I suggest letting that cook for about five minutes. Then, add the bok choy, bean sprouts, kale, and shiitake mushrooms. Let that cook for another five minutes or so.As a last step, I add the haddock chunks and shrimp. I cooked that for five more minutes. At this point, the soup is ready to serve, but feel free to continue simmering it for a bit longer to let all the flavors meld together. Finally, serve and garnish with more green onion if you’d like!20180925_173522.jpgYou’ll find a million Asian soup recipes out there. I’ve made a few of them and that’s where I’ve gotten some of these ideas. This is the easiest that I’ve tried so far, yet the most flavorful. I hope you give it a try!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

 

 

 

A Versatile Red Onion Marmalade

We went to BJ’s Wholesale Club Labor Day weekend to pick up a rack of ribs for smoking. While we were there, I decided to pick up some red onion to add to a quinoa salad. Of course, we were forced to buy the 3 lb bag of red onions, when all I really needed was one. So, we used a few red onions here and there the past few weeks, but we still had quite a bit left. I originally thought I would make pickled red onions with the left overs because I love anything pickled. But as I was searching Pinterest, I came across a red onion marmalade recipe. (Here’s the link to the recipe.) I decided to make this because it looked more versatile – I could potentially use the marmalade to complement more types of dishes.

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At first, I thought it look very much like caramelized onion, but it truly is more like a marmalade – much sweeter and stickier than caramelized onion. That threw me off at first; I thought maybe I used too much brown sugar or butter, but it’s meant to be that way. In the end, I think I may have still reduced the sugar and butter by just a little bit or added more red onion to suit my taste buds.

Overall, this was really simple and I followed the recipe pretty closely. I sliced the onion, melted the butter, mixed in the onion, and then mixed in the brown sugar.

 

I left the stove on medium/low heat just so the mixture was constantly on a “low bubble”.  It took about 30 minutes for me to cook this down until the onions were tender and dark and the mixture was super sticky (not a lot left to reduce down). I then added the red wine vinegar a little bit at a time, cooked it down, then added more, etc. until the red wine vinegar was used up. This took about another 10 minutes.

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Approximately 5 minutes into cooking
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Near the end of cooking

We had some steak in the refrigerator that needed to be eaten that night, so Jake fired up the grill and we enjoyed the marmalade as a topping. Jake really liked it, I think particularly because he has a sweet tooth. I have to admit, it did pair nicely with the savory steak. On the side, we had air fried kale and mushrooms. I also made roasted potatoes with garlic and green onion.

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I think this might also go really well with the traditional piece of toast or can even be used as part of a marinade, incorporated into salad dressing, or used as a puff pastry appetizer topping! Yum!

I hope to see some comments about successful marmalades you’ve made and what you like to eat them with!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Leftover Lo Mein Pseudo-Arancini

Yep, you read that right. This was a total experiment. Jake and I had leftover shrimp lo mein from our favorite local Chinese food joint. We had about three quarters of the large container left and I didn’t want it to go to waste.

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Leftover lo mein

The problem was that I didn’t feel right eating lo mein on a Monday night. To me, it seems like a pig out junk food. And since my diets always start on a Monday ;), I felt like I needed to mask it somehow. I decided to pulse it in the food processor, which essentially riced it, and then make it into an air-fried ball. I call it pseudo-arancini because arancini is traditionally made with rice. I’ve actually never made arancini before, but I figured this might be unique and potentially yummy.

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After pulsing the lo mein in a food processor

I mixed in two eggs and and about 1/3 cup panko breadcrums. I chose panko because I didn’t want to add in too many other flavors to the already-flavored lo mein. I initially started with one egg and approx. 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs. I then added the second egg and additional breadcrumbs because the consistency wasn’t sticky enough for a ball to hold together.

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Mixing the riced lo mein with egg and panko
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Egg and panko incorporated to make a sticky mixture

I was trying to decide what should go in the middle of the lo mein ball. From what I’ve read, traditional arancini usually has some sort of cheese, meat, and/or peas. I didnt think that cheese fit in this case and I wasnt feeling the meat or peas. I decided to go with mini frozen chicken and vegetable dumplings I had in the freezer. They are only about 1.5 inches wide, so the size worked out well. I microwaved them first so they weren’t frozen and used one in the center of each ball.

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Mini dumplings from BJ’s Wholesale Club, used as the filling for the balls

I then simply formed a ball of lo mein around the dumpling. (Be prepared to get messy hands.) I started first by taking a bit, compacting it and flattening it. I then placed the dumpling in the middle and started to cup my hand so the lo mein would begin to wrap around the edges. I took another scoop of lo mein with my other hand, put it on top of the dumpling and just began shaping it. I kept compressing it and rolling it with both cupped hands until a ball shape was formed.

When satisifed with the shape, I rolled the ball in some more panko bread crumbs. Finally, I refrigerated the balls for about 30-45 minutes so they would firm up a bit.

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Rolling the shaped balls in panko

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I think deep frying them would’ve been delicious, but I wasn’t ready to put that much effort into it. So, I went with the healthier and easier option – my air fryer. I set it to 400 degrees Farenheit and turned them every so often until they were a golden brown all around. This took a total of about 20 minutes.

The end result was a fun, new dish. I was surprised that the very flavorful lo mein didn’t seem to present itself much when cooked in the ball. Maybe the breadcrumbs and egg dulled a bit of the flavor. If I make this again, I would incorporate some extra seasoning – perhaps some sriracha, a splash of soy sauce, scallion, or something that might make the flavors pop a little more. I made a mayo/ketchup/sriracha dipping sauce and served it with a side of air fried broccoli.

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Out of the air fryer and onto the broccoli
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Ball cut in half, showing the mini dumpling

Jake thought the dish was very heavy, so if you’re looking for something light, this probably isn’t it. On the other hand, if you are looking for something to do with your leftovers and don’t mind a little experimentation, I’d say give it a try! I would love to see you try this and comment with your experience!

Hope this inspires you to try something new!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Oui Oui, French Bread & Shrimp Scampi

Jake’s dad makes a lot of really scrumptious seafood dishes. One of those dishes is his famous shrimp scampi that I have only heard whispers about, but had not actually witnessed or tried myself. Last night put an end to all those rumors! Jake’s parents came over and not only made that famous shrimp scampi for us, but also taught us how to make it. Warning: I’m not at liberty to divulge all the details, but I will talk about some of its ingredients and leave you drooling with some photos. In honor of the shrimp scampi, I also put my new stand mixer to use again and made a fresh loaf of french bread.

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The surprising and not-so-surprising thing about the shrimp scampi recipe is that it is very simple – not a lot of ingredients. It is primarily comprised of clam juice, butter, clams, and garlic. Seasonings and other flavorings seem like they could be up to you. You could even add a little at a time, taste test, adjust, and repeat until you’re happy with the flavors. In my opinion, any of the following could add some nice flavors: salt, pepper, scallions, shallots, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, a squirt of lemon, or splash of white wine or white cooking wine. You’ll obviously need shrimp to make it shrimp scampi, but you can feel free to add whatever other seafood you like. In this case, we had shrimp, scallops, and lobster – the trifecta. A flaky white fish or muscles would also complement this dish well.

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Lobster is prepped and ready to add into the sauce
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Sauce being cooked on the stove

We enjoyed the sauce with some linguini. I almost offered to make fresh pasta with my new stand mixer pasta attachments. But since I’m still a novice at that, I didn’t want to mess up the dish or the cooking lesson. Next time, it will definitely be worth a try.

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Whenever you have a pasta dish in front of you, it is a requirement that you have some bread to sop up that extra sauce. So, here comes the french bread. As usual, I used handy dandy Pinterest to find an easy recipe. (Here’s the link to the recipe.) The actual work to make the bread isn’t difficult, but I had no idea how time consuming the entire process is. If I ever make bread again, I would not make a single loaf. If I’m going to spend an entire day waiting for the dough to rise, I would probably make a few loaves.

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In this recipe (and I think most bread recipes like this), you need to let the dough rise for an hour, then punch it down, let it rise for another 30 min, then shape the loaf, and let it rise for another 30-60 minutes. I chose to brush the loaf with an egg white wash before baking. However, it seemed a bit dry, so I decided to additionally brush it with butter and some dried rosemary near the end of the baking time and after it was done and out of the oven. Wow, the aroma from the butter and rosemary was SO good. Also, about halfway through the baking, the bottom of the bread was browning a lot faster than the rest. Since the bread was firm enough at that time, I put it on a baking rack, which sat on top of the baking sheet.

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The bread had a nice flavor, but it was a bit dense. I had to do a little research afterward to see what it would take to get a fluffier inside. I suspect I didn’t knead the dough for long enough. Also, I might experiment with the different flours that I use. Also, the “jelly roll” method that was used to make the loaf left noticeable spirals inside when slicing the bread. I wonder if I just need to either roll it tighter or maybe next time I’ll just shape the loaf without flattening first and rolling.

To finish it off, Jake’s mom had brought cupcakes for us to enjoy for dessert. We were already so full from the pasta that having an individual-sized dessert hit the spot.

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All in all, it was a great dish to mark the end of summer. Even Whiskey and Brody (our pups) wanted to try some. I can’t wait to try the recipe and hopefully perfect it!

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Sincerely
Fu’d