Fixer Upper Fantasies

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Struggling to keep my head above water here in Boulder, CO, which is colder than my memory of it, and much more challenging than expected, it is hard to imagine that life might be easier.  And although I am so incredibly grateful to be living in a beautiful and special place that has always felt like home, my heart and soul are crying out for something way more expansive, fun, joyous and delicious than what my current life circumstances offer.

Having been steeped in the spiritual belief that the only limitations in life are those which we impose (mostly unwittingly) upon ourselves, and steadfastly clinging to my opulent and celebratory nature, I am still holding out for my dreams to become my reality.

So now I am truly committed to managing my attitude and emotions, noticing when I dip into negative thinking, and consciously releasing those thoughts and beliefs moment by moment.  And I am committed to dreaming.  I am actually looking at fantasy kitchens, both indoor and outdoor, beautiful and unique home decor, exotic destinations and Michelin-starred restaurants.  I imagine skiing in the Italian Alps, learning to make pasta with an Italian nonna living in an ancient hill town, riding horses with my beloved (still to come), sailing the Greek Isles on my honeymoon, riding bikes and tasting wine through Burgundy or Bordeaux, creating a cooking school, preparing elaborate al fresco dinners, and hosting impromptu jam sessions in the gorgeous, warm and inviting home that my future husband and I have made together.  Anything is possible, and I am hoping that the more I focus on my dreams, the more likely they are to manifest.

Recently, my dear friend, Christina Thomas, posted images on FaceBook of renovated kitchens and bathrooms amazingly transformed by Chip and Joanna Gaines of the wildly popular HGTV show, “Fixer Upper.”  I first was exposed to the show a few years ago when visiting my mother in Florida, and she and I binge-watched the first two seasons.  It was breathtaking to see how the couple turned ruins of houses into unbelievably beautiful, state of the art homes, often on a limited budget.  I rewatched those first two seasons on Netflix this past year, and, since I don’t have cable, I have been impatiently waiting for the next season to be available.

So when I saw Christina’s FaceBook post and then clicked on the links, the images on Joanna’s blog lit up my heart and soul, and reminded me how fun and delicious it is to fantasize about one’s ideal kitchen, or home space.  I immediately signed up with Joanna’s blog, putting myself on her email list, so I can really immerse myself in imagining the life I am destined for.

In case you happen to be like me, in the dreaming stage, or if you actually have the means to design the home of your dreams right now, I recommend that you dive in and enjoy perusing the beautiful offerings that this talented couple is making available.

Here is the link to Joanna’s blog, “At Home”: https://magnoliamarket.com/blog/.  I hope that it inspires you to imagine what your dream home might look like, and to reinforce the belief that magic is real, and that it is fully available to you!

And that’s Love On The Table!

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Warming Winter Comfort Food: Spaghetti with Spicy Vodka Sauce

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When there is a chill in the air, there is nothing like pasta with a creamy, decadent vodka sauce to warm your bones and satisfy your cravings.  This recipe for vodka sauce, perhaps the most flavorful version I have tasted, is accented with delicious pancetta, Italian salt-cured bacon, which adds both texture and tremendous flavor.  But, don’t worry, vegetarians–it will still be delicious if you omit the pancetta.  And if you really want to bring this dish to stellar heights of gastronomic pleasure, add pan-seared jumbo shrimp to the pasta before serving.  Any way you make it, this dish is true comfort food, and is likely to be a big hit with your special friends and family.  Enjoy the pasta with a small baby arugula and fennel salad, and a glass or two of Chianti or Nebbiolo.

And that’s Love On The Table!

 

Spaghetti with Spicy Vodka Sauce

serves 6 to 8

 

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2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/3” cubes

1 yellow onion, chopped finely

4 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped finely

2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes (this amount makes the sauce medium-hot, which I think works well with the balance of flavors, but if you like, adjust the amount according to your taste)

1 cup vodka

two 28 oz. cans peeled whole tomatoes, like San Marzano or Muir Glen

 

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

freshly cracked black pepper

1 1/4 teaspoon sugar

 

3 sprigs fresh oregano

3 sprigs fresh basil

3 sprigs fresh Italian parsley

cotton twine

 

2/3 to 1 cup heavy cream

 

1 1/2 lbs. dried spaghetti

 

1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, cut into small ribbons

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves

 

for garnishing:

grated Pecorino Romano

fresh oregano sprigs

 

Pulse canned tomatoes, one can at a time, in a blender for a few seconds until pureed. Set aside.

Place a large pot over medium-high heat. After about a minute, add olive oil, and when it begins to shimmer, add the pancetta cubes, stirring them to coat. Lower heat to medium, allowing pancetta to render most of its fat and begin to brown, stirring frequently to cook it evenly.

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When pancetta is mostly crispy and brown, add the onion, stirring to coat. Let onion cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and beginning to get tender and lightly golden.

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Add the garlic, stirring to coat, and allow it to cook for about a minute. Add chile flakes, stirring, and allow them to cook for about 30 seconds.

Deglaze pot with vodka. Raise heat to high, and let vodka reduce by about half, around three or four minutes.

Add pureed tomatoes, salt, black pepper and sugar.  Tie herb sprigs together with the cotton twine, and drop it into the sauce.  Stir to combine, and submerge herb bundle.

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When sauce comes to the boil, lower it to a simmer, partially cover it, and allow it to cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching, until flavors are well incorporated, and sauce is thickened.

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After about 25 minutes, while the sauce is still simmering, put up a large pot 3/4 filled with salted water (about 6 quarts water with 2 1/2 tablespoons fine salt or 4 tablespoons kosher salt) to boil over high heat. When pasta water has come to a full boil, add the spaghetti, separating strands, and allow it to boil, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente.

While pasta is cooking, remove herb bundle from the sauce and discard it. Add heavy cream to the vodka sauce, stir, and allow sauce to simmer for a few more minutes. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Transfer sauce to a very large sauté pan (or do it in two batches) over medium-high heat.

 

Using tongs to remove al dente pasta from the water, toss the pasta into the sauce in the pan, and sauté it over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, until pasta has absorbed the sauce. Add the fresh chopped herbs, and heap it onto individual plates, or serve family style in a large bowl, or on a large platter. Sprinkle generously with grated Pecorino Romano. Serve.

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How did yours turn out?  Any questions??