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Asiago Basil Pesto

July 23, 2013


Hello, friends! I’ve really been behind on the blogging front, haven’t I? Truth be told, I’ve been in a bit of a rut when it comes to matters of blogging and sharing on the internet. Since I create recipes for a living and spend a lot of time in the kitchen during my work day, I tend to gravitate to simple cooking at home. When work gets busy (aka I’m doing a lot of cooking) I don’t really care to spend a long time in the kitchen cooking yet another meal. Instead, I throw together easy dishes that aren’t exactly blog-worthy. Unless you want to see endless yogurt bowls and large salads made up of whatever is found in my fridge.

Our garden has been growing like crazy! Well, our tomatoes, zucchini and basil have been growing like crazy. In fact, our zucchini is taking over our garden at an alarmingly rapid pace.

Since we have so much basil, I figured it was high time to make pesto. During the winter months I crave pesto like crazy, but since basil is pricey in the winter, I try to take advantage of pesto during the warmer months when its incredibly cheap to make. Especially when you grow your own herbs.

Joe is semi-allergic to walnuts so I kept this pesto super simple with just basil, Asiago cheese, plenty of lemon juice and a little salt. It made an amazing addition to a bowl of whole wheat pasta and would be a great dressing for grilled veggies or a grain salad.


Asiago Basil Pesto
*3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
*1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
*1/3 cup olive oil
*Juice from 1/2 a lemon
*Pinch of salt (optional)

*Place all the above ingredients together in a food processor and blend until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Happy Cooking!

Crunchy Pesto Chicken with Caramelized Onions

October 30, 2011

Last week I came home with a bunch of great ingredients after a photo shoot at work. Any time I come home with food from a shoot it’s inspiration for me to do a little cooking so food doesn’t go to waste. And since we almost always have meat at the shoot, I make sure to snag some to take home so I can make a special meal for Joe.

I didn’t really have a plan for the meal. Instead, I decided to just go with the flow and see what happened. Cooking without a plan or a deadline was so relaxing and so much fun, and I realized I don’t do it nearly as often as I should.

Joey was blown away with the results. He kept raving about how this was the best meal I’ve ever made, and that the recipe was worthy enough to be on a restaurant menu. It’s not as healthy as the recipes that I typically make, but for a fun, impressive dinner dish, this chicken totally comes through.

Crunchy Pesto Chicken with Caramelized Onions
*1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
*3 tablespoons unsalted butter
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut in half widthwise (to make four thin chicken breasts)
*1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
*1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese with Italian herbs
*1/2 cup olive oil
*1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
*Additional olive oil for frying
*1 cup shredded cheese (I used a mozzarella-cheddar mix)

*In a large skillet over medium heat, melted the butter. Add in the onions, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until onions are caramelized and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
*Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13×9-inch baking pan or line with aluminum foil. Set aside.
*With a small food processor, blend together the basil, feta cheese and 1/2 cup olive oil and process until mixture is nearly smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Place panko in a second shallow bowl.
*Dip chicken breasts in the basil mixture to coat both sides, followed by the panko.
*In a large nonstick stillet, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Place chicken breasts, two at a time, in the hot oil, cooking for 2 minutes per side. Chicken does not need to be cooked through. Transfer seared chicken breasts to the prepared baking pan. Top with some of the caramelized onions, followed by some of the shredded cheese.
*Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked through and no pink remains.

Happy Cooking!

Spinach-Basil Pesto

March 28, 2011

What a weekend! One of Joey’s groomsmen drove down from Minneapolis to Des Moines for the weekend to spend time with us before the wedding. He travels quite a bit for work and is one hard guy to get a hold of so we were lucky to have a whole weekend with him. Most weekends when Joey and I are together, we tend to go to the same restaurants because we know what we love. But having a guest here this weekend we managed to try three new restaurants in one weekend!

Big thumbs up to Gusto Pizza and Drake Diner. Thumbs down to India Star: delicious Naan but terrible service and average grub aside from the bread. Moving on…

At the end of last week, I found myself with an unusually full fridge. Typically, my fridge looks a little bare, and a messy fridge full of leftovers that won’t get eaten drive me crazy. However, I also hate letting food go to waste, so when I found a carton of fresh basil and a bag of spinach on its last leg in my fridge, making pesto was the only thing to do.

My earliest memories of pesto revolved around pricey clam shell containers of herbs in dubious amounts. However, along the way I realized that pesto is pretty much the most economical things you can make. Leftover herbs, leafy greens, nuts and cheese can easily be blended into a pesto paste that is incredibly versatile.

Spinach-Basil Pesto

*2 cups spinach
*1 cup fresh basil
*1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*1/3 cup chopped walnuts
*1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
*2 cloves garlic
*Olive oil
*Salt and pepper to taste

*In the bowl of a food processor, combine spinach, basil, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, lemon juice and garlic cloves. Process with on-off turns, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until ingredients are starting to combine.
*With food processor running, drizzle olive oil until desired consistency is reached (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil).
*Serve tossed into pasta, spread onto bread, as a sandwich spread or dip for veggies.

Happy cooking!


Green Goddess Pasta

December 12, 2009

There’s something undeniably sexy about pasta of any and every sort. In my opinion, it’s the sexiest of all foods, far surpassing the usual suspects: oysters, caviar, champagne. Maybe it’s because for me pasta has always been a bit of a ‘forbidden’ food. But truly, pasta can be delicious and healthy. Case in point? Green Goddess Pasta.

The base of this dish is 100% whole wheat spinach pasta, but any pasta would work just fine. One of my favorite tricks for stretching pasta is adding a bit of zucchini to the mix. Long, thin strips of zucchini made with a vegetable peeler, then sauteed in a bit of olive oil and tossed in with the pasta adds a mix of textures and tastes, and is a great trick for getting picky eaters to consume some extra veggies.

But the real star of this dish is the sauce. I’ve posted before on pesto made with a broccoli base. Growing up in a small town where fresh herbs cost an arm and a leg meant pesto was more a luxury than a staple, so using broccoli as the base makes it affordable for everyone. This version of broccoli pesto is adapted for pasta with a creamier texture and a bit more milk added in, serving as a luxurious sauce disguising how truly healthy it is. The amount given in this recipe is enough to serve 4-6 plus leftovers – meaning I have a lot of broccoli pesto sitting in my fridge.

*2 heads broccoli florets, steamed
*2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
*1 tsp. salt
*1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
*2 cloves garlic, chopped
*1/4 cup slivered almonds
*1/2 tsp. black pepper
*2 Tbsp. olive oil
*1/2 cup milk (I used skim)

*Combine all the above ingredients in a food processor 2-3 minutes, scraping sides twice. Pesto will be almost smooth, with slight texture.
*Toss pesto with 1 lb. of spinach pasta or other pasta of choice. Add additional milk of a creamier texture is desired.

Happy Cooking!


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