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Posts Tagged ‘pesto’

I am always on a lookout for pesto. I love how you can use any type of a nut or seed along with any type of greens to whirl together amazing sauces. Check out a previous post about the different pesto that I have made… Pesto Galore.

While browsing the smitten kitchen site, I came across the pasta with roasted carrots and sunflower seed dressing. It sounded delicious and easy. I asked Julia if she wanted to help me make it and she enthusiastically said yes.

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The dish is easy to make… you add the roasted seeds, a handful of greens, some lemon zest, some garlic, salt, pepper, and some Parmesan cheese in a food processor and whirl it until it comes together. You then place the concoction into a bowl and then you add some olive oil and lemon juice and mix until it becomes a pesto/dressing.

For the carrots, you just trim, peel, and coat them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them until they are soft and somewhat charred. Once roasted, you cut the carrots any way that you wish (she mentions the size of the pasta that you are using).

Finally, you mix everything together into the boiled pasta.

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I have no idea why, but I did not pay close attention to the title and the actual ingredient list (hmm… distracted much!), but I thought that it required roasted pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds… same thing! I have made the dish 3 times already and not once did I use sunflower seeds. Ha! Nevertheless, I love the dish even with the pumpkin seeds. I will have to use sunflower seeds next time to see how it compares. But this is the beauty of a pesto… any seed/nut works!

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The dressing/pesto was a bit dry so I did add some pasta water to thin it, which made it easier to mix in with the pasta. I tend not use a lot of oil, so I always reserve some pasta water whenever I make pesto.

For the greens, I have used kale, lettuce (Boston, mixed greens, romaine), spinach… whatever I had on hand. All of them worked! Of course each probably added their own flavor, but not enough to not work in the dish.

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The end result after adding the olive oil and lemon juice.

The recipe requires some garlic, but I am not a big fan of raw garlic. On a recent trip to the market, I found some garlic scapes. I love garlic scapes, especially roasted or grilled. Adding the roasted scapes to the pesto was great!

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I have no idea (again!) why I have never roasted whole carrots. Aside from setting off my fire alarm each time I roasted them (my oven must be telling me that it needs a bath), they are so easy to make and no chopping required. They taste like candy! I am never chopping them ever again! I have not tried grilling whole carrots before… I am going to try that next time, in an effort to not set off my fire alarm.

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For the pasta, I have used ravioli (Julia’s favorite!), penne, and farfalle and all worked great! Deb mentions a few other possibilities in the recipe list, but I feel like any pasta that allows the pesto to coat works.

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If you are looking for a quick, easy, and delicious pasta, give this one a try! It even tastes good cold.

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It has been a while since I have written. I have been cooking a bunch, but I just have not had the time to write about it. Julia still has only 2 teeth so I still have to be conscious of it when cooking. Hence the roasting galore!

I have been on a roasting kick lately. I have roasted all sorts of veggies, mostly the ones that are in season… eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, sweet potatoes. Recently I have added squashes to the mix, mainly spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and butternut squash.

Julia loves roasted veggies. The first time I fed her roasted eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash, she just inhaled it. I was amazed! Her reaction has remained the same ever since. I have been adding it in pastas, couscous, quinoa, and my absolute favorite… gnocchi. It is now one of Julia’s favorite dishes too… of course! :)

Gnocchi with pesto, roasted veggies, and prosciutto.

Gnocchi with pesto, roasted veggies, and prosciutto.

My sister-in-law, Jeni, pinned a recipe on Pinterest that I was very excited about. It was for a Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans. Yum… right?? How can you go wrong with roasting butternut squash along with some curry and maple syrup. Heaven!! I have made it several times already.

The recipe is super simple… you simply add the butternut squash, cranberries, onion, and garlic to a roasting pan and then drizzle some olive oil and maple syrup and then sprinkle some salt, ginger, and curry on top. You then mix it a bit to coat the squash with all the goodness that you just added and then roast it for about 20 minutes or until the squash is soft.

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The first time I made it, I did not have fresh cranberries or onions in the house, so I used shallots, which I love roasting, and I added some currants once the dish was assembled. It was really nice.

My friend Kristin and I were talking about the dish and she reminded me about a similar recipe that she made, where she added dried cherries. I immediately thought about using fresh cherries. Wegmans sells frozen cherries, which I love, so I decided to give it a try. The combination of the roasted squash and roasted cherries is amazing! I will not go back to using any other dried or fresh fruit. I highly recommend it! The best part about this dish is that you can just eat the squash by itself or add it to a bed of greens, or to some quinoa, or to any other grain or pasta. It’s definitely a keeper!

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And Julia loves it too, which is even better! Last time I fed it to her, she asked for seconds three times. I love her! :)

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I recently started feeding Julia cheese, yogurt, and regular table food. At her 9 month appointment, her pediatrician advised us that we can start doing that. I was taken back a little since for the past 3 months I have only given her simple purées. “She has never had garlic, or onions, or any spices at all. Is it ok to feed her all those things now?”, I commented. “Go for it!”, she said. So I went for it.

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Dinner on the deck!

Her first real food was couscous. I love making it since it is so simple and can be served as a side dish or a main dish. I do not follow a particular recipe… I just make it up depending on the ingredients that I crave. This time I added some olive oil, lime juice, olives, spinach, roasted tomatoes, salt, black pepper, goat feta cheese, and alleppo pepper (I love this pepper! If you have a Penzeys near you, grab some and sprinkle it on anything that you desire. It’s delicious!). I was not sure what Julia was going to make of the dish. She just loved it!!

The next dish that I made was a potato salad. This is another simple side dish that I love to make and it is a little more interesting than your typical potato salad. I found the recipe in the Lucid Food cookbook. It includes potatoes, pesto, olives, and hard boiled eggs. I did not make my own pesto this time. Also, since Julia cannot have eggs, I did not include them in the entire dish. I also added some avocado on top for all of us. Julia loved it since I gave her pieces of potatoes and avocados to feed herself (she loves feeding herself!). Another success!

Next up was a pasta with a chicken broth and shallot based sauce, kale, peas, and goat cheese. Since the pasta was not too soft, I did not think that Julia would be able to eat it, so I chopped it a bit with the rest of the ingredients. She loved this too! I was so excited that she liked the kale! Good thing, since she will be eating plenty of that in her lifetime! :)

The next dish was a little different. I was not sure if I wanted to feed Julia meat just yet. Since I do not eat meat or hardly ever cook it, I could not bare the thought of boiling chicken for her. And there was no way that I was going to get her the chicken dishes in the jar. That sounded even more appalling. Also, I cannot roast a chicken for the life of me. So what to do? Then a few weeks ago I found a recipe that sounded somewhat promising. I decided to give it a try. (I know!! Can you believe it!?!?) The dish includes chicken thighs, a few shallots, a pint of cherry tomatoes, 1/2 a cup or so of olives, fresh thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh mint, and feta. You roast the chicken with all the ingredients, minus the mint and feta. Once the chicken is done roasting, you add the mint and feta. The dish was delicious!! Since we loved it so much and it was easy to make, I decided to make it again and give some to Julia. She loved it too!

I must say that since I started feeding Julia regular food, my thoughts about dinner have changed a bit. I feel like I now have to think even harder about what dishes to make, since she cannot eat everything that we eat. For example, I tend to use nuts a lot in my cooking… specifically for pesto. But at the same time, I am super excited that she can now eat more of the things that we eat. It will definitely make it easier to not have to make multiple dinners for us. I also feel super lucky that she is such a good eater. Still to this day, she has only disliked bananas, pears, and cauliflower. If that is the extent of it, I have nothing to complain about, no?

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Cooking has been a bit difficult lately, especially on a weeknight. I usually get home from work around 5:00, which means that I only have a few hours to play with Julia since her bedtime is 7:30. It also means that I do not want to spend very much time in the kitchen cooking. So I have been searching for quick recipes… I have found a few good ones.

Soup is a good weeknight meal. It usually makes a bunch, which means that you can have it a couple of times during the week. I have been loving this Leek Soup with Dill Oil, which I found on the 101 Cookbooks site. I have altered it a bit… I do not use any butter, I use an extra potato, I leave it chunky, and I do not add any of the items that she suggests (although they would probably be good to add). I have made it numerous times and it’s definitely a keeper. I usually serve it with a pressed sandwich, leftover pizza, or just a few slices of bread.

Gnocchi is one of my favorite foods. It’s comfort food for me, so it is another dish that I make all the time. I love it with pesto, prosciutto, spinach, goat cheese, and either pumpkin seeds or walnuts. I have also made it with a roasted tomato sauce. To roast the tomatoes, you simply slice a pint of tomatoes and add some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some of your favorite herbs (I use parsley and oregano), and some capers. The capers are key, so do not omit them. The sauce is delicious, especially on gnocchi! :)

Another recipe that is one of my cooking staples is the Matchstick Pasta recipe, which I also found on the 101 Cookbooks site. This is by far the easiest dish to make! During one of my shopping outings I could not find any pomegranate seeds. I was so upset since I was really craving the dish. I decided to try dried cranberries as a substitute… it worked great!

Pizza is another staple… I find myself making it every week. I usually use Bobolis for the crust, which makes it easy. My favorite toppings are pesto, prosciutto, spinach, and goat cheese. A while ago I found this really delicious pepperoni by Applegate Farms, so I decided to try a peperoni pizza. I used tomato sauce, mozzarella, green peppers, mushrooms, peperoni, and a few thinly sliced onion pieces. It was so good! It is now part of my pizza cycle.

In my recent issue of the Whole Living magazine, I discovered a nice quick dish. You simply sautée some garlic with a few sprinkles of pepper flakes, then you add some chopped kale, and sautée it until wilted and cooked through. Lastly, you add some peas and cook them for a bit. Once done, you serve it with some cooked rice and topped with an over-easy egg. It’s so quick and delicious!

Another dish that I would like to mention is the Peanut Sesame Noodles, which I found on the Smitten Kitchen site. I made this dish recently and I was surprised how easy it was to make. I wondered why I do not make it more often. I did modify it a bit. I do not make the sauce in a food processor. I simply whisk it and it works just as well. I do not use tofu… I have topped it with cooked chicken (usually the rotisserie chicken from Wegmans) and shrimp.

If I am really pressed for time, sandwiches with sweet potato fries are my to go dish. I usually keep a bag of sweet potato fries in the freezer… I love the Alexia sweet potato fries. I also keep veggie burgers and fake chicken patties by Quorn. Chicken patties on a bun are a favorite. :)

I hope that a few of these dishes will become some of your favorite weeknight meals!

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As I wandered around the downtown public market last Saturday, I stumbled upon the most beautiful bunch of basil. “Ooo… I can make pesto!”, I told my friend Kathy who joined me for the market outing. Pestos are some of my favorite dishes to make.

They are super simple, and the result is just delicious. Also, each batch usually makes a fair amount, so you can use it for multiple dishes. It also freezes really well.

My all time favorite pesto is an arugula pesto. My friend Bruce brought me an amazing cookbook from a restaurant that I hope to visit one day. It’s my dream. The restaurant is called Hell’s Backbone Grill and is located in Utah. The restaurant grows all of their vegetables onsite and seeks all of their meats and dairy from local farmers. How amazing is that!! And to add to that, the restaurant is owned by two women. Even more amazing!! :) The cookbook is called With a Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant. I never thought about making pesto with arugula, but it was just delicious! The pesto includes arugula, spinach, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, and salt and pepper. That’s it. It is definitely a favorite.

Toasting the pumpkin seeds.

Another favorite is the pistachio pesto, which is used in the Matchstick Pasta recipe from 101 Cookbooks. I have written about the recipe not too long ago (Matchstick Pasta post). That particular pesto does not require any greens, but it is just as delicious.

Throughout the years, I have experimented with different nuts and greens. The different nuts are what make the pesto more interesting, perhaps more so than the greens. You can use any nut, really. I have tried walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and pecans. The possibilities are endless! Also, due to my lactose intolerance, I no longer include cheese in my pestos. I really do not miss it at all. I think that they are just as good without it.

Back to the beautiful bunch of basil… For this particular pesto, I decided to use basil, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and of course olive oil and salt and pepper. I believe that a key enhancement to any pesto is to toast the nuts that you are using. It really brings out the flavors. I also do not like my pesto very oily, so I usually do not use the typical amount of oil. I use just enough to hold it all together. The pesto made a great sauce for a pasta that was topped with grilled chicken and goat cheese. We savored every bite!

I was lucky to find more basil and a bunch of arugula at the market this week. I foresee more pesto in the near future!

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Friday evening was a very sad evening. As I mentioned in a previous post, Café Cibon on Park Avenue is one of my favorite places to eat in Rochester. I have been going to Cibon for about 12 years now. Also, for the past 5 or 6 years, I have been going to Cibon strictly for the Michelangelo panini. Pesto, shrimp, and goat cheese sandwiched between perfectly toasted bread… need I say more?

Well, the Michelangelo panini is no more!!! I know… so sad!! :(

As we sat down, the server mentioned that they have changed their menu and that a bunch of the paninis have been removed from it. I had a bad feeling about it. As I was scanning the menu, I noticed that my favorite panini was no longer on the menu. Even worse, I noticed that none of the paninis included goat cheese. Actually, goat cheese is not listed anywhere on the menu. As I was expressing my disappointment about the menu change to our server, she admitted that they discontinued the goat cheese. “Discontinued the goat cheese?? How can that be??”

I truly am very disappointed with the menu change. Ok, so I am being a bit selfish. But being lactose intolerant adds some complexity to eating out. And I could always count on Cibon to be able to get a panini that is not only delicious but is also made with goat cheese. I admit that there are many wonderful items on the menu to select from, including a delicious tuna panini, which will now be my favorite item. The server did mention that she will add my request of bringing back goat cheese in the suggestion box. I sure hope that it did not escape her mind.

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I have not been cooking anything too elaborate lately. I have been sticking to my trusted simple dishes. One of my favorite dishes in the world (yes… I said in the world!) is the Matchstick Pasta. I found the dish a long time ago on the 101 Cookbooks site, and have been making it fairly regularly. It is super simple and amazingly delicious. I am not kidding! I have made it for a fair amount of people and all of them have fallen in love with it.

Matchstick Pasta

The recipe includes a pistachio pesto, kale, pomegranate seeds, and pasta. That’s it!

Pistachios for pesto

The pistachio pesto is very simple to make. Simply add a cup or so of pistachios, some olive oil, and a garlic clove in a food processor, whirl it around until it resembles pesto, and voilà… you have pistachio pesto!

Pistachio pesto

I know what you are saying… kale, really?!?! I promise that if you eat this dish, you will fall in love with it. I have never been a big fan of kale either. I have only seen it used as a plate-decorating piece. But then I cooked it in this dish, and ever since then, I cannot get enough of it. I use it fairly regularly now. It is supposed to be super good for you too, so that is always a plus. :)

I feel very lucky to be able to purchase pomegranate seeds. I am not a big fan of separating the seeds from a whole pomegranate. It is very messy, and the utensils as well as your hands turn red.

Whole-wheat fettucine

My favorite pasta for this dish is the fresh whole-wheat fettuccine. The pasta gives the dish a nutty flavor, which I love. Regular pasta, however, works just as well.

As I mentioned before, I truly love this dish. If I were stuck on a deserted island and this was the only dish available, I would be in heaven. :)

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