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During the summer, I ate more Pico de Gallo than one would think is humanly possible.

I love to dip chips into the pico, I put it on a sandwich, and I used it instead of salad dressing. I ate the pico like it was my job. And it was a job that brought me serious joy.

I found myself in a bit of a dilemma as the fresh summer tomatoes and cilantro dwindle down. I felt a yearning for a new condiment to light my world on fire.

So, I looked to an unusual source for my inspiration.

My Uncle Doug.

Uncle Doug is a man’s man… he can build anything, he hunts, he can tear up a dance floor, and he can make a mean hot pepper relish that we look forward to receiving every Christmas.

Now, I don’t know what recipe he follows but I found myself with a LOT of peppers, and my only reasonable idea was a hot pepper relish.

So, I searched for a good recipe and I found one on allrecipes.com.

This is super dee duper easy.

I will insist that you purchase some disposable kitchen gloves for this recipe. You are going to be chopping up lots and lots of hot peppers, and if you refuse the gloves you will have burning hands and eyes for the rest of your life.

Or at least for a day or so.

The kitchen gloves are found in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store. You can buy 10 pairs for about $1.50… well worth it!

So, don a glove and chop your peppers. Remove the majority of the seeds from the peppers. The seeds contain most of the heat, so unless you want to burn your mouth I recommend ditching the seeds!

Drop the chopped peppers into a sauce pan- there should not be any heat underneath the pan at this point.

Then add about 1 T. of salt (1 T. salt to about 3 cups of peppers).

And stir it up.

Now boil some water. My teapot was already full of water and sitting on the stove, so I just turned on the burner.

You’ll need enough water to fully cover all of the peppers.

Once it is boiling, pour it over the chopped peppers.

After the peppers have soaked in the hot water for 10 minutes, drain them.

Drop the drained peppers back into their pan. There is still no heat underneath the pepper pan.

Now take equal parts (I used 1 c. of each) of apple cider vinegar and sugar and add them to the peppers.

Finally, it is time to turn on your burner under the peppers. Bring it all to a boil then reduce the heat to low for the peppers to simmer. Allow the peppers to simmer for 20 minutes.

Then get out your clean canning jars.

Pour in the peppers with their sugary vinegary sauce.

Put a lid on it.

And you are done!

I am telling you.

These make EVERYTHING better.

They are a great dip, they are amazing on a sandwich, I included them in a taco dip… I’m certain you are only limited by your imagination on this one.

These are spicy, but the cooking of the peppers and the use of vinegar and sugar takes a lot of the heat and the intensity out of the peppers.

They are the perfect combination of sweet, salty, sour and spicy.

My favorite fall condiment!

Enjoy.

XO,

Leah

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Do you eat kale?

This is an ingredient that I discovered way too late in life.

I know now that kale makes my life.

Happier.

Greener.

Healthier.

Delicious-er.

If you like cooked spinach, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you’ll like kale.

It is a little heartier, and I think it actually has a little more flavor.

This recipe is delicious, hearty, and perfect for a simple lunch, a healthy snack, or a great side dish for dinner.

Here is what you’ll need:

A bunch of Kale- this kind is called Lacinato Kale, but any type of kale will do

6 mini portobellos or 3 large portobellos

A handful of cherry or grape tomatoes

4 garlic cloves

1 box of couscous

Vegetable or chicken stock

Put a little of the extra virgin goodness in the pan.

It is essential that you put the oil in the pan in a very fancy pattern like a spiral.

The dish just won’t taste right if you don’t create a super special olive oil design in your pan.

It is a proven fact.

Now, chop 4 cloves of garlic to add into that pan (should be over medium-low heat).

If you don’t want to chop, you can use your handy-dandy garlic press.

This one is fromĀ Pampered Chef, and it really is quite delightful.

It saves my hands from smelling like a hoagie.

Get your bellos ready.

Use a damp cloth to wipe them off.

Pull off the stem.

Then, give ’em a rough chop.

Portobellos like it rough.

Or so I hear.

Kale.

We must remove the woody stalk.

Grab the stalk.

And pull the leaves off.

Easy Peasy.

If you don’t get the whole stalk, don’t sweat it.

Take off all of the stalks and make a big old pile of kale.

Give it a rough chop.

Did you know kale is anti-inflammatory?

Kale contains sulforaphane which (especially when chopped) is a chemical believed to have anti-cancer properties.

Or at least thats what Wikipedia tells me.

Add the chopped kale to the pan o’ mushrooms and garlic.

Add in a little stock.

Probably about a half cup.

Mix it around.

Fairly quickly, the kale will start to wilt down.

Add in a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes.

Isn’t that so pretty?

How about a sprinkle of salt and pepper?

Yes, please!

Now, we shall prepare our couscous.

These are the directions from the box.

Put 1 1/4 cups of water in a small pot.

Add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

And dump in the included spice packet.

I used the Wild Mushroom and Herb variety, but you can use whatever suits your fancy.

Once that mixture comes to a boil, add in your couscous.

Stir it up, put a lid on the pot, and turn off the burner.

After 5 minutes, take the lid off and fluff it up with a fork.

That is what the directions say to do.

And quite frankly, I’m not so sure that I know what that means.

I almost always start by “fluffing” with a fork.

That quickly turns to stirring with a spoon.

Toss the couscous into the vegetables.

And combine it.

I also decided about halfway through the recipe that some pine nuts would be delicious all toasted up.

So, I did that.

Put a big ole’ heaping pile on your plate.

I put some pine nuts on top.

I was feeling kinda crazy, so I threw on a few raisins and some goat cheese.

What?

Yes, raisins and goat cheese.

I like the contrast of the hearty, savory, salty couscous with the sweetness of the raisins and the sharpness of the goat cheese.

Try it.

It tastes like fall.

And for goodness sake, if you’ve never had kale… what the heck are you waiting for?

Happy Monday my dearly beloved friends.

XO,

Leah

Can I just tell you?

I love pizza. I love the greasy, cheesy, salty deliciousness. However, when I make pizza at home I do try to lower the calorie count, and I like to add in a serving of vegetables or two. It makes me feel better about myself.

However, I will not sacrifice flavor.

And with this recipe I believe I have obtained the keys to flavor town.

And it all starts here:

Garlic.

Oh, garlic. How I love thee.

I love thee so much that some days I walk around smelling like a giant meatball from cooking with garlic the night before. Gross, I know. But so worth it.

Raw garlic is potent and very strong in flavor.

BUT. ROASTED GARLIC. Roasted garlic will change your life. I’m not even kidding.

You need it for this pizza (only 3-4 cloves), but I strongly suggest you do a couple of heads because you can put it on AN-Y-THING (think crusty bread, vegetables, on a sandwich).

Preheat your oven to 350. I just used my toaster oven because it is still too hot to have the whole giant oven on for 45 minutes.

Chop the top off of the whole head of garlic.

Put each head on their own little foil pan. Edges folded up so garlic juice doesn’t drip and burn all over the bottom of your oven thus stinking up your entire house.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle on a little salt.

Now, into the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

The garlic should be lightly browned and softened.

Oh. My. Garlic.

Yes.

Yes.

Forever Yes.

Ok, set that aside and lets start our pizza. Oven at 400 degrees.

Throw some cornmeal on the counter.

Roll out your pizza dough. I’m not insane, so I buy my pizza dough. Trader Joes has a good version for $.99. That seems WAY easier than making my own.

I like lots ‘o cornmeal on both sides. However, if you don’t groove on the cornmeal, you do need some at least on the side that goes on the pan. Well, I guess you only need it if you desire to get your cooked pizza off of the pan.

I use the Pampered Chef pizza stone because it keeps the pizza hot forever after it comes out of the oven.

Put your crust on the stone or on your pan (or if you are feeling crazy, on the grill!). Drizzle on some olive oil and spread it around.

This step is critical for delicious crust. I highly encourage you to generously cover the whole crust.

Sprinkle on salt (go lighter here), pepper, red pepper flake, and some parmesan cheese.

I find a crispy crust a necessity for a good pizza. So, I throw this in the oven for 10 minutes or so. After a minute or two it starts to smell really good, and I start to get a little drooley.

Now, for our veggie topping. I would like to state that for this pizza I opened the fridge and just pulled out what looked good to me that night (and what needed to be used before it went bad).

In a skillet, toss in a little extra virgin olive oil. I cooked up one half of a HUGE zucchini and one portobello mushroom.

After they were browned up a bit (and some of their moisture released), I threw in a few handfuls of chopped fresh spinach.

Let it cook down a bit. Put a little salt on the veggies. And turn off the heat.

So, about now, we should pull out the crust.

I would like to note that my main man never eats the pizza crust. However, he told me after this pizza that the crust made his life.

Ok, he didn’t use that exact phrase, but you get the idea.

Now, guess what time it is?

Lets take a few cloves of this roasted garlic deliciousness and spread them right on the crust.

I could eat the crust plain. Just like this. Forever and ever.

For the sake of the recipe, however, I will not.

Now pile on your cooked veggies.

I will warn you that the zucchini is pretty earthy. If you don’t like zucchini, I wouldn’t put it on the pizza. I happen to rather love it, so for me it works.

Obviously, put whatever YOU love on the pizza. This is simply what I love. This recipe can be whatever you want it to be. Don’t let the recipe be The Man, and don’t let The Man hold you down.

So, on top of the cooked veggies I added chopped green olives (LOVE), 1/2 chopped green pepper, 2 very small chopped white onions, and a ripe chopped (and de-seeded) summer tomato.

Ok, so roasted garlic was Key to Delicious Pizza tip #1.

Here is Key to Delicious Pizza tip #2: Fontina Cheese.

You know I love cheese. And fontina is perfect on a veggie pizza. I used a mild one from Trader Joes. Fontina can be a stinkier cheese, but I highly recommend you seek out a milder version. It may just change your life. If you can’t find it, you can use mozzarella. I guess.

Now, into the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is ooey gooey.

Ok, I have to go.

I must eat this. Now.

Sweet Mother of Pearl.

Happy eating,

Leah

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