10 Minute Homemade Salted Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

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Being a mom of a new little one + my rowdy 4 year old, I appreciate recipes that are quick and delicious – this Salted Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup recipe is beyond amazing, full of protein & low in fat, and takes literally 10 minutes or less to throw together!

I’m amazed at how fast this was… and how beautiful the results are – these are perfect Valentine’s Day treats to give to a love or to friends or family.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter (use any you like – regular, organic, crunchy even if you want that nut texture in your cups)
  • Kosher Salt for sprinkling

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Instructions:

Set up your muffin tins with liners and lightly spray them with oil or Pam spray

Pour the chocolate chips into a microwavable bowl, heat for 1 minute, stop and stir, then heat for another minute, stir until creamy, melted down, and blended

Drop about a tablespoon of melted chocolate into each cupcake liner – don’t bother to spread it out, the hot peanut butter will take care of it

Heat up the peanut butter in a microwavable mug or bowl for 1 minute, stir to make sure the oil doesn’t separate afterwards

Drop about a tablespoon of melted peanut butter (it should be almost liquidy but not quite), into each cupcake liner directly onto the chocolate

Repeat the process with the remainder of the chocolate – you don’t need to completely cover the peanut butter, it gives it a beautiful swirl if you delicately just spread it a little with the end of the spoon

Refridgerate for about 15 minutes, sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt onto each peanut butter cup, then return to refrigerator for at least another 15 minutes.

Enjoy a delicious & healthy chocolate treat!

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Simple, Warm, Delicious Refried Beans

 

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Refried beans are the simplest dish to cook if you’re wanting an incredible, homemade taste of Mexican-American style beans.¬† My oldest son (4), is crazy about the warm bean & cheese breakfast tacos we eat here (at any time of day) in Texas… and it’s great to be able to whip up a big easy batch of refried beans to sate his cravings ūüôā

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I found a great recipe here, at slate.com, follow the directions to create this dish.

You can use dry or canned beans Рonly use dry if you have 4-5 hours to spare while they cook in the crock pot, canned is fine and is faster overall.  Make sure to add enough salt and pepper to taste Рwith their warm, gentle flavor, these beans just hit the spot!

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Half Chinese, Half French, Mimi Thorisson is an Amazing Woman : A Kitchen In France – A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse

france2I love finding new inspiring and artistic cookbooks, the kind that draw you into the person writing it, the books where you can clearly hear their beautiful voice coming through – letting you inside the inner workings of their life, hearing their unique opinions, experiences, and consequently, being taken into part of their heart.

Mimi Thorisson does this exactly, in her cookbook titled, A Kitchen in France, released recently on October 28, 2014.  She is an amazing woman, wife to Icelandic photographer Oddur Thorisson, mother to 6 children (with one on the way), and master creator of a wealth of recipes!

Speaking of recipes, if you love really good food, you need to visit her recipe page of her personal blog – it is mind-blowing and will transform your view on cooking!

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Mimi and her family moved from a small apartment in Paris, to a bigger ch√Ęteau¬†out in the¬†serene & breathtaking French countryside and to slow pace of Medoc, France. ¬†She was amazed to find how much she loved just enjoying her children – being there watching them grow up, all the little things like hearing a bird chirping, the slowness of life¬†– and having the time to actually cook.¬† As a woman who’s worked in the research field while my son was a toddler, it was a constant struggle to find a balance… and part of why I started this blog (other than to vent creatively) was to document my food journey with my son & family.¬† Things like the decadent Traditional Chocolate Tart – something I couldn’t believe I was able to accomplish – or the homemade (completely from scratch) Eclairs… these things never would’ve happened when I was so busy balancing the working life, deadlines, and goals as well as trying to be a base mom… making sure my son got the basics covered.¬† I never had to time to relax in a bookstore with my son playing¬†in the children’s section while I read amazing cookbooks or looked at beautiful magazines.

Hearing her voice come out in reading her cookbook (where she talks about things like this) was like giving words to my own, and more than likely many other mothers’, who’d gone from working full time to working from home/stay at home parents.¬†¬†Hearing her appreciate the simple things was to me, a stark¬†reminder of how Americans parent so differently than the French.

Her life that she reveals in her cookbook was just so interesting.¬† Growing up with a Chinese father and French mother (and grandmother who cooked for all their holidays spent in France)¬†she lived a life full of gustatory delights from Hong Kong to the bistros of Paris.¬† Her father and her had a tender, special relationship, much centered around appreciating good food.¬† She writes about his particular¬†love of food affecting her¬†– being a very picky eater… how he was so patient, and would spend a lot of time trying to get her to try new things or buy very special delights just for her.

I get almost sentimental thinking about their relationship – my father is what I’d consider, a “foodie.”¬† Ever since I was little he’d take me to the supermarket with him (and he would go to special, out of the way whole foods and organic stores that were 40 miles away from our house¬†at times) and always¬†try to get me to try new foods.¬† I remember being 4 or 5 and trying my first ever cherry tomato at his urging – I was completely taken, and ever since then I’ve loved a fresh tomato slice on many different things.¬† He would also buy me special little foods or delights – things that my mother did in her own way, but his was just a different taste than hers.

Some of our favorite times now that I’m a cook and a wife/mother, is when he comes over to our house for dinner, or I bring over baked goodies to my parents house, and we just enjoy the home-cooked/baked food together.

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I love Mimi’s love of¬†the kitchen – I love how she shows that it brings people together… nothing is as important as bringing children and their parents together, and the table (and very good food) provides a wonderful opportunity.

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She has such style.

She has such style.

 

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She has an entire section on Winter foods in her cookbook, it is so inspiring and such a gift to us – check it out at the bookstore, you won’t be sorry!

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Her adorable take on the importance of butter…

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Loving chocolate like I do, I found a recipe in her cookbook on the Chocolate Tart with a special Salted Caramel Sauce!!  Adding it to my list to make this week for Thanksgiving.

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Thank you Mimi, you are incredible.

All pictures taken by Oddur Thorisson

Mimi Thorisson Blog & Website

Mouthwatering Chicken Tortilla Soup

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There’s nothing quite like really great homemade food – food that tastes so good, you feel like you’re eating¬†from a¬†wonderful restaurant.¬† This soup falls into that category – definitely a keeper in our family!¬† It was so amazing that we almost couldn’t stop getting refills!

I had made plans a couple of weeks ago to figure out how to make a¬†really great¬†tortilla soup, I bought the chicken broth, made sure we had copious amounts of frozen chicken ready to go in the freezer, and cheese for the topping…¬†but being pregnant, the thought of de-thawing chicken and the work to put it altogether was too overwhelming.¬† But this soup was so much easier than I thought!¬† And it’s amazing how delicious it is with nearly anything you’ve got to throw in – let me give you the guidelines of what I did (loosely following the instructions from this great cook, The Pioneer Woman).

 

I decided to make this sporadically tonight, simply because I couldn’t stand not having it when I’ve been craving it for so long.¬† But because of my impatience, I made this without doing the proper prep before hand, but if you prep well or take some short cuts along the way, you will be able to make this extremely fast.

 

First, season some chicken breasts (I used three big ones, but you can use less or more depending on how much soup you want to make).¬† Season with garlic, cumin, chili powder (I’m out of chili powder so I used a spice called Six Peppers – really great), and Spanish Paprika.¬† Bake, boil, poach, or pan fry your chicken… I pan fried so that it would be a little faster, and it came out a little blackened which actually added to the flavor wonderfully.¬† If you want to do this even faster, used left over chicken breasts already cooked ahead, or Rotisserie chicken makes it incredibly easy!

While your chicken is cooking, use a big soup pot to saut√© any veggies you want to include in your soup, onions, bell peppers, are great – I left them out so that my 4 year old, who’s recently joined Picky Eaters Anonymous (they should seriously have parental consent for those kinds of things), would still eat it.

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Before the chicken was really cooked all the way through I decided to cut it up into smaller pieces and add a cup or two of water that made it easier for them to continue to cook without burning anymore (I’m really great at burning things when I’m impatient & starving).¬† The water turned into a spicy seasoned broth to add into the soup.

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Once the chicken is cooked, shred it with a fork and transfer it to the¬†pot to create the soup.¬† If you cooked the chicken with a little water, add that “sauce” in as well.

Pour in the chicken broth (or create it from about 32 oz or 2 lbs of boiling water with chicken bouillon cubes to taste/instruction).  If you want to make a really big pot, use 2 containers of 32 oz chicken broth.  This soup tastes so good, you might want to use 2 containers just to make sure you have literally tons.

Pour in 2 cans or a large amount of frozen corn, and 2 cans or a decent amount of pre-made black beans.

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Add in diced tomatoes if you have any (Rotel is great)- we didn’t, so I just used about two cups of tomato-based salsa (mild or medium – unless you love spicy soup).¬† I worried that it would taste so obvious that I used salsa, but it didn’t at all… and the tomato base really gives the soup a better texture once it cooks into it.¬† It turns it from “chicken noodle thin” to “chicken tortilla thick.”

I also added in a couple of spoonfuls of jarred cilantro.¬† Freshly chopped would be better, but you don’t need to include this step at all, just if you want to add a little more to the taste.

To make up for the lack of veggies, I added in some carrot puree I made to supplement for my Picky Eater… about 1 cup.¬† It’s amazing how many things you can add carrot puree into without it ever being noticed – and it packs Beta-Carotine, which converts to Vitamin A in your body, and much needed Potassium & fiber.¬† So if you’re like me (and my son) and don’t particularly like eating your carrots unless they’re drenched in Ranch, puree some in a blender with a little water to create a great addition.

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Cut up some tortilla strips and either add them directly into the soup for a nice soft filling, or bake/fry them to throw them on top (whichever is your preference).  I actually just threw them into the soup, and it was great having that added soft texture with the chicken.

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Bring the pot to a roaring boil and then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.¬† About ten minutes in to the cook time, taste your soup to make sure it’s the correct amount of seasoning for you – add more garlic or cumin if needed, or add a cup or two of water if you¬†want it a little thinner.

Top with cheese, avocado, tomatoes, tortilla chips, or sour cream.

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Ahhh-maz-ing Soup!  You must give it a try!

 

Delicious Eclairs Homemade!

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Best Homemade Pastry Ever!

Our family loves to eat… and cook, but I’ve honestly never been strong at baking anything, I don’t know why, but baking has always seemed more of a mystery to me.¬† When we were at the bookstore about a month ago, I saw this cookbook cover and was immediately taken in by the eclairs.¬† They are hands-down my favorite pastry, and I couldn’t resist looking at the recipe to see how exactly they are made from scratch.¬† Pretty easy… I thought.

 

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The recipe was done by a woman who had worked in a professional French bakery… she clearly knew her way around pastries.¬† I thought I’d let you readers in on our adventure through making √©clairs… it took longer than I imagined it would, but it wasn’t really hard at all!¬† They make for an impressive dessert for a party, and you can always make them into Cream Puffs if you’d rather serve them that way (it is the same recipe).

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The Cook

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The Ingredient List (You can print it!)

So… you make the eclairs in the order that is on this page: the Pate a Choux (crisp breading), the Cream Filling (the St. Tropez cream was her own version of the perfect pastry cream… I absolutely LOVED it… much lighter than the traditional version), and then the Chocolate Ganache (which is much much tastier than just melted chocolate… it is only 2 ingredients, but you’d be surprised how hard it is¬†not to eat before using on the pastries).

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To make the dough, you first have to cook it on the stove and then bake it – so it’s really cooked twice… which creates the hollowed out inside, and crispy texture of the pastry – perfect for easy filling.¬† Below is how it should progress:¬†add flour & salt to the melted down butter, mix until it pulls away from pan and forms dough, and¬†the 3rd step is mixing in the eggs one at a time until the dough is nice and shiny:

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Then you pipe the dough into a bag with the tip cut off (or pastry bag), and make the eclairs a little bigger than a hot-dog size onto a greased or foil-covered pan

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Bake at 425’F for 10 minutes then lower it to 350’F for another 25 to 30 minutes until the pastries are dry inside and not still wet (they should visibly turn light golden).¬† You then leave them in the oven (with it turned off of course) with the door propped open so that they can dry out longer

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You can use a knife to gently poke a hole into the tip, or like the chef in the cookbook did, slice through the éclair completely to make almost like a sandwich.  Since some of mine came out not as wide, it was easier to slice them through.

The St. Tropez cream really is unique, it is basically traditional vanilla pastry cream mixed with a whipped cream.  We had a lot left over Рwhich was great!  We used it over our coffee for the next few mornings Рit was quite a lot!  (Use the directions in the video attached if you want to know exactly how to make it Рit is not hard, but it is easier to watch)

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You have to cook the Vanilla Cream first & also chill it in the freezer, Vanilla Extract works just as well as Vanilla Bean

 

 

After the vanilla cream is chilled for at least 30 minutes, you can literally just whip up heavy cream in a bowl to create a beautiful, light, fluffy whipped cream that you then add into the thicker and heavier vanilla cream – once mixed it is a divine combination!

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Chocolate ganache can be quickly made by microwaving your chocolate chunks or chips, then adding the heavy cream and mixing with a fork.  Dip the filled eclairs and allow to dry thoroughly on a cool table or counter.

Enjoy your heavenly homemade Eclairs!

Video used in making our pastries (perfect instructions… and she makes the St. Tropez cream):

Rainy Days, Spring, & Blueberry Muffins!

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I’m so happy that Spring is here, more flowers, more color, more sun!¬† We’ve been enjoying the weather and a little gardening recently… along with playing in the rain.¬† I’m eating¬† delicious, warm, sweet & tart blueberry muffin right now as I write this… it makes me think of Spring.¬† Spring is here in Texas.

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Blueberry Muffins are ridiculously easy to make, however, this recipe was doubled so it made over 24 muffins – if you want less just halve it.¬† Also, if you’re using fresh berries, that’s fine, but if you’re using frozen, don’t de-thaw them before adding them in.¬† See?¬† Super ridiculously easy.

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Ingredients:¬† Set Oven to 350’F

  • 2 cups blueberries frozen or fresh
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar + 1 tsp for each muffin top
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 tsps. baking powder
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tsps. vanilla extract

Mix all dry ingredients together first.¬† Whisk eggs in a cup or bowl then pour into flour mixture along with the oil, vanilla extract, and milk.¬† Only mix enough so that it’s all incorporated!¬† If you over mix, the muffins will be hard and distasteful.¬† Once just blended, add the blueberries and gently fold in to the mixture.

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Use cupcake/muffin liners (paper is fine) and fill each cup 3/4 full.  Add about 1 tsp (or less) sugar to each top to create a wonderful first bite impression.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until a fork inserted comes out clean.  Recipe should make about 26 muffins.

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So Spring!  So delicious!

Sneaky Mommy (St. Patrick’s Day Pasta)

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Spinach & Kale Fettucine

I’m a sneaky Mommy, and I don’t play by the rules.¬† Always one to look for ways to sneak vegetables into dishes so that my son will unknowingly devour something tasty and yet get some vitamins in him at the same time.¬† This last week I wrote the post on how to make your own pasta from scratch, with a promise to provide my journey through making Spinach or Kale pasta.¬†¬†I’m so proud of how it turned out – it was so temptingly good that the moment I snapped the last pictures and mixed it in with the Alfredo Sauce, I ate some!

This recipe makes about 3 lbs of cooked pasta!¬† It called for 10 oz of spinach, but I didn’t want to use all the spinach we had (which was conveniently, 10 ounces… ), so I did about 3 to 5 oz spinach with some left over frozen kale I had from a couple of weeks ago that we never used up.

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Part of the Kale (this is not representative of the total amount)

 

The recipe is the same as when you make normal Fresh Pasta except for the addition of the spinach/kale.  Things you’ll need:

  • Rolling pin or Pasta Machine (you really do need one of these, otherwise the dough won‚Äôt get that satiny texture)
  • Large pot
  • 2 cups Flour (you can use All-Purpose or use other non-gluten mixes & flours *see bottom of post)
  • 3 eggs
  • Sea Salt or Kosher salt for the water
  • 10 oz of either Spinach or Kale or a mix of both

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For specific directions on how to make the dough for the noodles, click here (videos available that I used also in the post).  The only difference is that you mix the spinach & kale in with the eggs during the volcano phase of the recipe.

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You swirl from the middle-outward, constantly drawing in more flour

Tips I learned this time around making pasta:

  • Cut the pasta noodles with a pizza cutter that rolls!¬† It saves so much time, and is dramatically easier to use.
  • You do have to chop the kale and spinach pretty thin, but don’t stress over it.¬† Some cookbooks say it needs to be super fine, mine obviously wasn’t, and it still was chopped enough to incorporate easily.
  • This pasta tastes amazing!¬† You really can’t taste the kale or spinach too strongly, but somehow, it’s still there making a great overall flavor.¬† It was INCREDIBLE with the Alfredo Sauce, and made me so glad it was healthy and had a load of Vitamin A!

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Alfredo Sauce Recipe:

  • 6 tbs butter (3/4 stick or 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water is fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or half & half (to make it richer/creamier, add 1/2 heavy cream with 1 cup milk)
  • 5 oz Parmesan cheese (or to taste)

Cook butter until softened into a liquid. Stir in until well blended the flour (it will make a sticky doughy mess).  Remove from heat.

Add the chicken broth (or water) and milk/cream, put the pan back on heat and WHISK it thoroughly to incorporate the flour mixture into the sauce.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook until the sauce is thickened and beautiful smooth and white, about 5 minutes.  Add the parmesan at the end, tasting to make sure the sauce has enough.

 

Enjoy your healthy St. Patrick’s Day-Green fettucine!!!¬† I know we will. ūüôā

Homemade Pasta w/ Springtime Asparagus & Ham

When I told my son that we were going to try to make our own spaghetti he got super excited!  We already make pizza dough, cookies, cupcakes together Рso he is going to know how to bake Рbut homemade pasta is something amazing. 

I used to¬†wonder why would anyone make their own pasta?¬† You can easily buy it at the store….¬† I love trying to figure out how we can save money by having fun making things at home, I just didn’t know if homemade pasta was really even worth it.¬†

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My son’s little helping hand

It is.¬† Pasta that you make yourself is “sublime.”¬† It’s hard to even describe how differently it tasted, the pasta had flavor!¬† It actually absorbed the salt from the boiling water that it cooked in – it actually tasted like “egg noodles.”

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He loved making the “Volcano!”

 

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The dough hydrates for 1 hour

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Should feel thin & satiny

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It is super easy to make pasta yourself – you don’t even need to buy a pasta machine to roll & flatten your noodles, you can use an old-fashioned rolling-pin.¬† Even using my rolling-pin, it was still incredibly easy to get it to the desired texture and thinness.

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Most Delicious Noodles Ever!

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Ready for Springtime Greens!

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So here is the low-down on what I did, the videos I picked to watch on youtube, and some tips from an AMAZING cookbook on the basics of understanding pasta making (and ingredients) from an Italian-ethnic perspective.

Things you’ll need:

  • Rolling pin or Pasta Machine (you really do need one of these, otherwise the dough won’t get that satiny texture)
  • Large pot
  • 2 cups Flour (you can use All-Purpose or use other non-gluten mixes & flours *see bottom of post)
  • 3 eggs
  • Sea Salt or Kosher salt for the water

I used a combination of my Joy of Cooking instructions & the youtube videos below:

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*Note: I didn’t include the oil or salt into the pasta, it still tasted incredible.

A video of a chef (good for beginners & shows also how to use a pasta machine)

A video of a woman showing her method & how to use a rolling pin to make the pasta

Tips from Pasta the Italian Way: Sauces & Shapes:

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  • Kosher salt is the closest thing to Italy’s sale grosso, Italian coarse salt.¬† You should salt the boiling water so that it is very salty – tasting like sea water.
  • Italian women really were not particular about ingredients in their pasta flour – don’t be afraid to try different nut flours if you need gluten-free.¬† The mountains and hills of Liguria were covered in chestnuts and¬†even today they still use¬†chestnut flour in their breads & pasta.
  • Although Italy is known for Polenta (from cornmeal), it is also Italian to use corn flour in pasta, which is another great gluten-free alternative.
  • Don’t obsess over the methods and quantity of ingredients, watch the videos and use your own intuition as to how the pasta feels to decide what’s working or not.
  • Do obsess over quality ingredients, skip an ingredient rather than add a poor imitation

Have fun making your own pasta!¬† I’ll have another post more than likely on making Spinach or Kale pasta, which gives it a beautiful green color and supposedly a great flavor… I believe it!¬† ‚̧