A Few Thoughts

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Okay… I’m finally back from what was about a month-long hiatus, during which I was mostly very busy but also doing a lot of thinking. About this blog. See, when I started it, my goal was mainly just to post recipes so that I could remember the things that I’ve made, and watch as my cooking skills improved. Over the last couple of months, as I started to include travel posts, I realized that I might want it to be a little bit more… DIY projects, wish lists, and home inspiration, among other things.

The problem is that even though I like blogging, it seems to lose in the priority race between work, cleaning, spending time with my friends/boyfriend, binging on Netflix, etc. This inevitably leads to me only posting once every week or so, which I don’t think it exactly fair to the blog or to my (lovely, but few) readers. So over the next couple of months, I’m going to try to spend more of the Netflix-binging/random-Buzzfeed-article-reading portion of my time sharing recipes, but also other exciting things, here.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback on these changes, and if you have any suggestions or requests for new posts, please let me know!

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Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers
Can you guys believe Christmas is only 9 days away?! This year, especially the past few months, have absolutely flown by for me. Moving to a new city, starting a new job, making new friends (and keeping in touch with old), fostering a puppy… I’ve been insanely busy (in the best way) and I honestly think it’s crazy that mid December has rolled around.
Do you guys still get stockings? I actually was kind of under the impression that everyone did, until I started asking some friends. It turns out that I might be a minority. My stocking has always been one of my favourite parts of Christmas – usually I have some idea of what presents my parents are going to get me, but my stocking is always full of so many fun surprises. I usually spend Christmas morning at my dad’s house, and my step mom (I mean Santa) always puts so much thought into my stocking, and it’s so fun to get to go through everything and compare stockings with my brothers and sisters. My roommate, Kelsea, and I also decided to do stockings for each other this year, which I am super excited about. I’ve never got to fill anyone else’s stocking before!
I thought I would put together a little gift guide, just in case you still have a bit of Christmas shopping to do (I know I do!) These are a combination of favourite little treats that I already own and love, and some things that I’ve been pining after. I hope you like it!

African Peanut Stew

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If you know me well, or if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that there are few things I love more than a good, hearty soup. Especially when it’s super easy to make, freezes well, is healthy, and has lovely, unique flavours. I actually have to force myself to make foods besides soup, because I remember that my freezer is still full from the last 3 times I made it. But seriously, hand me a big bowl of soup and a chunk of bread, and I’ll be the happiest person.

So it will come as no surprise that this peanut stew is one of the first things I chose to make from the OSG Cookbook. I’ve loved Angela’s blog for years now, and her cookbook does not disappoint. I might just have a few more things to share from it in the coming weeks…

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This delicious stew is insanely simple, doesn’t take forever to cook, and is so, so yummy. Perfect served with some thick, crusty bread on a cold winter day.

African Peanut Stew 

Serves 6 

Adapted from The Oh She Glows Cookbook 

1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium Sweet Onion, diced

3 cloves Garlic, minced

1 Red Bell Pepper, diced

1 Jalapeño, seeded and minced

1 medium Sweet Potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1 (28 oz/793 g) can diced tomatoes, with their juices

Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/3 cup Natural Peanut Butter

4 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth

1 1/2 tsp Chili Powder

1 (15 oz/425 g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 1 1/2 – 2 cups cooked Chickpeas

2 handfuls Baby Spinach or destemmed, torn Kale Leaves

Fresh Cilantro, for serving

Roasted Peanuts, for serving

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño, sweet potato, and tomatoes with their juices. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring as needed. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter and 1 cup of the broth until no clumps remain. Pour into the saucepan with the vegetables, along with the remaining 3 cups of broth, and the chill powder. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender.

3. Stir in the chickpeas and spinach/kale and cook until the greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with cilantro and roasted peanuts.

Dancing in Denmark

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It’s been a while since I’ve written a travel post. It takes me a while to really think about things, and they’re long posts, and I’ve been busy. But I realized that I was travelling in July and it is now December and that is way, way too long to save a post for, even for me. I have three more to write, including this one, and my goal is to have them done for Christmas, which sounds a lot easier than it will probably be in reality.

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My best friend, Carley, and I decided that while I was in Europe, we were going to choose one city to explore together, even if it was a little further and a little more expensive to get to than most of my other stops. It was between Prague, Budapest, and Copenhagen, and we chose the latter mainly because it was the most practical option for only 3 days. Hungary and the Czech Republic will have to wait for another trip.

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Copenhagen

We booked a bus on a Friday morning, leaving from Hamburg, which was where I was staying at that point. When we got to the bus station, it became apparent that our bus was overbooked, so after a couple of hours of waiting, we gave up our seats when they offered to pay for a taxi to drive us to Denmark. It seemed more comfortable and we for some reason found it quite funny, so we joined 4 other passengers (mostly people travelling for work, I think) in a van cab and headed to Copenhagen. Our route included a short and windy, but very beautiful, ferry ride across the Baltic Sea. We arrived in Denmark in the early afternoon and eventually found our hostel, despite having nearly dead phones and no map.

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Right away, we decided to go to the Tivoli Gardens. I know this might not have been the best way to explore the city, but we both really wanted to go on some crazy rides. We found out that our timing was perfect, because it turned out that Passenger was playing at the Tivoli that night, and our passes got us free access. We were SO excited. So we spent the day going on the craziest rides we could find, including this one. Ah! We ventured out of the park for dinner, eventually deciding on a cafe called Paludan. It was a lovely coffee shop/bar food kind of place that had walls lined with books, which you were invited to read. It was the kind of place you wanted to hang out at for a couple of hours, but we didn’t really have time. If I remember correctly, we shared nachos, a burger, and had some beers (I know, how lame of us) and headed back to our hostel to change before the concert.

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Passenger was honestly amazing. I hadn’t heard a lot from him before the concert, so didn’t really know what to expect. He was so captivating and honest and seemed ridiculously personable, and I was so impressed by him and his voice and his stage presence (he doesn’t even have a band!)

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The next morning, we rented bikes and then set out to find the most trendy brunch place, Kalaset. After about an hour of riding back and forth and a fair amount of navigational arguments, we found an adorable little restaurant tucked into a quiet corner and ate the most delicious pancakes I have possibly ever had. And if you’re a regular reader, you know the kind of standards I have for pancakes. Afterwards, we headed over to Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid statue for some photo ops, then checked out Christiania (we just looked!) and climbed to the top of the Church of Our Saviour with some amazing views of the city.

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If this sounds like a lot to do in one day, it was. But since we rented bikes, and Copenhagen is actually really easy to get around, we were able to see a lot more than I thought we would. After climbing the church, we rented kayaks and took a little self-guided canal tour. This might have been my favourite part of the weekend. I was very impressed by my ability to stay upright in a kayak, and it was a really great, different way to see the city. Just before it started to pour, we made it to Mother, a delicious pizza kitchen in the meatpacking district, where we sat under a covered patio wrapped in blankets next to heat lamps, eating pizza. It was lovely. If I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure it was “hygge”; the danish word for “coziness” or “creating intimacy”. Later that night, we headed back to the meatpacking district to hit some warehouse clubs and dance the night away.

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Unfortunately, it poured for most of our last day. We checked out some stores around Strøget and then went to an indoor food market called Torvehallerne, where we ate amazing fish tacos and I bought black liquorice for family back home. We ended up catching a ride back to Hamburg in the late afternoon with a guy in a Mini Cooper who we found on a carpooling website, because we forgot to book return tickets and then couldn’t find any so almost got stuck in Copenhagen. He actually ended up being very nice and uncreepy, which was a nice bonus. Back in Hamburg, we went to the World Cup Final viewing, but couldn’t stay because I had to catch a bus to Brussels and Carley had to head back to Bremen. So even though I can say I was in Germany when they won the World Cup, I actually didn’t see the end of the game… I’m kind of sad about that.

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Bolognese Sauce and Sweet Potato Noodles

Tomorrow is my twenty-second birthday. At this point, I still feel excited about getting a little older; I think because all of the people who I work with and many of my friends are actually older than me, and I sometimes feel a little immature telling people that I’m only 21. I’m a little scared though, that this might be the last birthday that I feel this way. It’s not necessarily that I’m afraid of getting older.  I’m done school, I have a job that I love, amazing friends, a good apartment, and I’m optimistic about my dating life. It’s just that I think I might miss the feeling of unlimited time. Of thinking that I can travel to a hundred new places, all before I have to settle down and have babies, or that I can date a bunch of different guys before I feel like I have to get married to one of them, or that it’s acceptable to make irrational decisions like drinking a bottle of wine to myself or buying a dress that costs more than I should be spending, before I have to start acting responsible.

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Obviously, none of this has anything to do with bolognese sauce. Or sweet potato noodles. I’m pretty sure that in regards to the things that I cook, I act more like I’m 40 with house full of kids.

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But I am on a bit of a health kick lately, and even though I love pasta and carbs more than a lot of things, these sweet potato noodles are a pretty delicious option if you’re in the mood for something a little different. And seriously, what is more comforting and impressive than a good bolognese sauce?

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Bolognese Sauce

Serves 6 – 8 (or use in a 10 x 12 inch baking dish for lasagna) 

Adapted from Calgary Cooks – Ronaldo Coladon from Cucina in Calgary, Alberta 

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1 stalk Celery, sliced

1/2 Carrot, sliced

1 Onion, diced small

2 lbs Ground Beef

2 tbsp Minced Garlic

1 Bay Leaf

1 tsp finely chopped Fresh Oregano (or 1/2 tsp Dried)

2 tsp finely chopped Fresh Basil (or 1/2 tsp Dried)

1 1/2 cups Red Wine

4 cups Canned Tomatoes

Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium-high. Add celery, carrots, and onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beef, garlic, and fresh or dried herbs and sauté for 2 minutes.

2. When the meat is browned, add the red wine and reduce until the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, add freshly ground pepper to taste, and serve.

Sweet Potato Noodles 

Makes 2 Servings (depending on size of potato) 

Adapted from Against All Grain 

1 Sweet Potato, peeled & spiralized

Olive Oil to coat pan

Sea Salt, to taste

1. Once sweet potatoes are spiralized into noodles (using either a vegetable spiralizer or a julienne peeler), heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the noodles, in batches if necessary, and cook over medium heat for about 6 – 7 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft, tossing throughout cooking time. Top with sea salt to taste and serve with desired sauce.

Una’s Kale Caesar Salad

If you live in Calgary, chances are you’ve been to Una. For those of you who don’t, its an amazing restaurant on a trendy street selling mostly thin-crust, California-style pizzas. It’s one of those places where you can’t make reservations, and if you’d like to get a table anywhere around dinner time between Wednesday and Saturday, you’re going to expect a wait. But the wait will be worth it. Because not only are their pizzas seriously to die for, but they’ve also got amazing appetizers/salads/everything else. In particular, they have managed to make a killer Kale Caesar Salad – something that is great in theory, but in my experience, is hard to do well.

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I picked up a cookbook from my favourite doughnut shop, Jelly Modern, a few months ago that features recipes from some of Calgary’s best restaurants – it’s called Calgary Cooks. In it, I found the recipe for Una’s Kale Caesar Salad. I made it. And it was actually just as good as it is in the restaurant. And it was really simple to make! The dressing is the star of the show here, but I think that the thinly sliced kale really helps, and I mean, the toppings certainly don’t hurt it. This is definitely going to be a recipe that I make fairly often.

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Una’s Kale Caesar Salad 

Adapted from: Calgary Cooks

Serves 4

Caesar Dressing

1 clove Garlic

4 Anchovy Fillets

1 tbsp Dijon Mustard

Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon

1/2 cup Olive Oil

1. Throw garlic, anchovies, dijon mustard, and lemon juice and zest into a small food processor or blender, puree until combined. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until mixture is smooth.

Kale Salad

2 tbsp Olive Oil, plus more, if needed

4 thin slices Prosciutto, julienned

1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

Sea Salt & Black Pepper

2 bunches Kale, leaves only, julienned

1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated

2 soft boiled Eggs, peeled & halved

1. Line a plate with paper towels. Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add strips of prosciutto and pan-fry until crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to towel-lined plate and set aside.

2. Reduce heat to low. Add panko crumbs to pan, adding a little more oil if required, and toast, stirring frequently, until golden, about 2 minutes. Scrape the panko into a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

3. Place kale in a large bowl, pour in the dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. At this point, either transfer the kale to smaller serving bowls, or if you would rather serve from a big bowl, leave it in there. Top kale with pecorino romano, toasted panko, and crispy prosciutto. Serve with the boiled eggs.

Gifts for Girls – DIY Christmas Picks

Can you believe that Christmas is only one month away? I’ve been seeing all kinds of adorable DIY gifts that would be perfect to make for a few of my girlfriends, and thought I’d share a few of my favourites. Sidenote – I didn’t realize how obsessed I was with gold painted things until I put this post together… so cute, though! Sidenote #2 – If you’re friends with me in real life, stop reading here.

Etched Glass Votives from Stripes & Sequins 

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Marbled Clay Ring Dish from A Beautiful Mess 

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Hand Painted Gold Mugs from Lauren Conrad

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Stamped Holiday Cards (with Emoji’s) from A Beautiful Mess 

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Gold Leaf Headband from P.S. – I Made This

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White Bean & Rosemary Dip with Spicy Zucchini Chips

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I’m on a bit of a cookbook binge. I’ve bought a bunch of new ones lately, and I’ve been using them at least a few times a week for new ideas. Most of my recipe inspiration in the past has been from other blogs, but there is something to be said for flipping through an actual book and making the dishes that catch your interest. What are some of your favourite cookbooks?

I’m particularly obsessed with the Thug Kitchen cookbook, and have made quite a few things from it over the past few weeks. I’m on a bit of a healthy food kick, and this book has so many unique, un-boring options (I know that isn’t a word) for delicious foods that are also super good for you.

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Like this chips – and – dip combo. Different, healthy, super yummy, and really simple to throw together. I love the idea of making a few different healthy dips with a variety of veggie chips to share with friends for a movie night – so much better than your standard loaded nachos or bags of chips from the gas station down the street.

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White Bean & Rosemary Dip 

Makes about 4 cups 

Adapted from Eat Like You Give a F*ck 

3 cups Cannellini or other White Beans

1/4 cup Tahini

1/4 cup Vegetable Broth or Water

3 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

2 cloves Garlic, minced

1 tbsp Fresh Rosemary, minced

1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth.

2. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

Spicy Zucchini Chips 

Makes 30 – 50 chips, depending on the size of the zucchini

Adapted from Eat Like You Give a F*ck 

1 Medium Zucchini

2 tbsp All Purpose Flour

1/2 tsp Paprika

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

Pinch of Salt

1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or by lightly coating with cooking spray.

2. Cut the zucchini into thin slices (a little thicker than a coin). Dry pieces with some paper towel.

3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, paprika, garlic powder, and salt. Add the zucchini to the bowl and toss to coat the pieces.

4. Lay the zucchini on the baking sheet and spray on a thin layer of cooking spray. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes, until golden and crispy. Make sure you’re paying attention for the last 10 minutes, because they can get burnt pretty quickly. Serve immediately.

Carrot Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I know that it’s been pretty quiet around here lately, and I wanted to make it up to you. With cupcakes. Well, actually, I made these cupcakes for my mom’s birthday a few weeks ago, but they’re super yummy so they deserve to have two celebrations. Plus it was my one-year blogiversary a couple weeks ago, and I forgot to celebrate that too! I’ve still been cooking a lot, so I promise that I’ve got lots of recipes coming for you in the next few weeks. And they’re mostly a lot more healthy (but still almost as delicious!) than cupcakes and pizza.

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I’ve made a few carrot cakes before, but didn’t have a solid “go-to” recipe yet. I think it’s hard to do carrot cake badly, but it’s also kind of difficult to make an amazing one. So of course, I headed over to Smitten Kitchen, knowing that Deb would have something perfect for the occasion. And, unsurprisingly, she did. And with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, no less.

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I made these at home before bringing them to Red Deer for the party, and I waited to frost the cupcakes so that they wouldn’t get ruined during transport. And then I forgot to take pictures of them with frosting (oops!) These cupcakes were seriously so, so good. It makes me so happy to see everyone truly loving something that I’ve made, and everyone at the party raved about these. I left out the raisins and walnuts, since some people aren’t fond of them and I was making them for a group, but I know they would be really good, if you wanted to add in some extra texture.

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Carrot Spice Cupcakes 

Makes 24 Cupcakes 

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 Cups All Purpose Flour

2 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Table Salt

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg

2 cups Granulated Sugar

1 1/4 cups Canola Oil

4 large Eggs

3 cups peeled & finely grated Carrots

1 cup coarsely chopped Walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup Raisins (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 cupcake molds with paper cups or butter and flour them.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. In a large bowl, whisk sugar and oil until well blended. Whisk eggs into oil/sugar mixture 1 at a time. Add flour mixture to oil mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

3. Bake cupcakes 16 to 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the centre of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for about five minutes, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes or 1 layer cake (+ a little extra)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 8 oz. packages of Cream Cheese, softened

1 stick (1/2 cup) Unsalted Butter, room temperature

2 cups Confectioners’ Sugar

1/2 cup Maple Syrup

1. In a stand mixer (or a hand mixer, or with a fork if you need to buy a mixer but haven’t yet) beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly

Chorizo Chèvre Skillet Pizza

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I make-a da pizza! (What I’ve been saying in my head for the last 24 hours every time I think about this delicious number – and now you will too.) This isn’t the typically italian pizza that I’m usually so partial to. In general, I prefer thin crust za (I also like to shorten words and za sounds cooler than pizza?) because in my opinion toppings > crust and if you have thinner crust the toppings shine more.

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Buut I had seen these skillet pizzas a few times around the internet and was very intrigued and decided that I must finally try. So I whipped up some tasty dough, bought some yummy toppings (I’m slightly obsessed with chorizo and chèvre right now), and voila! A delightful little deep dish pizza.

This crust ended up being super thick, but rather than being dry, it was soft and chewy and just crisp enough on the edges. It ended up being perfect with the spicy chorizo and tomato sauce. My friend Caitlin came over for dinner and we enjoyed it with my favourite kale salad (this one was store bought, but I’m obsessed with Kale Salad lately and have some amazing recipes coming your way!) and some white wine – it was perfect!

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Chorizo Chèvre Skillet Pizza 

Makes 1 small pizza 

Adapted from Minimalist Baker

1/2 Pizza Dough Recipe (or 1 store bought pizza crust)

1/2 cup Pizza Sauce

2 Raw Chorizo Sausages

5-6 Mushrooms, sliced (I used Crimini)

1/4 cup Chèvre, crumbled (Goat Cheese)

1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese

Fresh Basil – optional 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Coat a cast iron pan with olive oil, then cut a garlic clove in half and run around the dish to add flavour. Put  your dough into the pan and use your hands to spread it to the edges and push it up around the sides (about 1 inch).

3. Remove the sausage from it’s casing and heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage to the frying pan, breaking it into small chunks, frying until fully cooked. Remove the chorizo from the pan and set aside. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and cook for 2-4 minutes until beginning to soften. Set aside.

4. Spoon sauce onto prepared dough and spread around. Add chorizo and mushrooms, spreading evenly. Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese, and then top with the crumbled chèvre.

5. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese and sauce are bubbly. Top with fresh basil if using. Let rest for 5 – 10 minutes before slicing and serving.