Tag Archives: pesto

Pignolia. A Love Story.

29 Dec

Pignolia. Pine nuts. Whatever the name oh how I love ’em! This more than just a passing crush or a fanciful flirtation. J’adore! Flexibility with this seed means that they can go into so many dishes! Are you living a keto, vegan, paleo, or gluten free lifestyle? No problem. Bring on the pignolia. Not only that, with a busy lifestyle, the grab and go ease of pine nuts just add to their fabulousness!

Pine nuts often get overlooked. If you have eaten them in the past and gotten away from them, this is a little nudge to add them back into the mix. If you have never tried them, well, there is no time like the present.

These buttery textured delights can be a perfect addition to a granola snack mix, tossed on a salad, or blended into your favorite pesto and home made hummus. The flavor packed pine nut shouldn’t be saved for the special occasions-add them into the regular rotation of goodies!

Pine nuts are literally the seeds from pine cones. There are many species of pine nuts but don’t let that intimidate you. Don’t let the cost sway you away from these delicious little nuggets either. A little can go a long way.

Why add them into your diet? Pine nuts are rich in many nutrients that boost metabolism and bolster immune system health. So they not only taste delicious, they can help your body resist disease. Also, they are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which can naturally lower bad cholesterol.

And if you still need convincing, look no further than your mirror. Pine nuts are rich in vitamin E. What does that have to do with your beauty regime? Vitamin E is excellent for cells-which helps maintain beautiful skin. Toss that makeup aside and start eating more of these flavor packed kernels.

They are delicious right out of the bag, but toasting pine nuts kicks my love affair with them into overdrive. Why go through the extra step to toast pine nuts? It intensifies their unique nuttiness and adds a slightly firmer bite. Adding them to a recipe, a salad, or even a creamy slice of cheesecake lends a wonderful toasty flavor layer.

And it is easy peasy to do. First simply toss the pine nuts into a dry heated pan. No oil is needed here.  Put them on a medium heat and spread in an even layer.

 

Put the pine nuts in a dry pan.

Keep your eye on them, stirring every few minutes while they heat up. They will become deliciously fragrant as they toast.

As these seeds toast they begin to emit a lovely warm fragrance.

Don’t leave the kitchen-nuts can burn quickly. While they toast, the enticing scents wafting through your kitchen will get your mouth watering!

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When they are perfectly golden brown, remove them from the heat and place them on a plate. It is hard to resist the temptation to pop those delectable nuts into your mouth by the handful while they cool.

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Now you can add them to your favorite recipe or simply sprinkle on anything! Put them on a salad. Add them as a cheesecake garnish. Make a big batch of pesto-some for now and some for later. Create some one of a kind home made hummus. Add them to a granola and nut snack mix. Let your creativity abound! One taste and you will fall in love with toasty pine nuts too!

Basic Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic finely minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Use as a sauce for pesto or vegetables, or brush on fish or chicken. 1/2 cup cream may be added for a creamy pesto sauce which is lovely on tortellini.

Hummus:

  • I 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, plus more for garnish
  • 2 T. Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T. Tahini (may substitute 1-2 T. peanut butter or omit
  • 1 t. paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place all items in blender and blend until smooth. May add more olive oil if necessary for desired consistency. Garnish by sprinkling more toasted pine nuts before serving.

 

 

Grilled Salsa. Yum.

3 Sep

I stopped at a farm stand to take advantage of the (boohoo!) ending peach season.  Luckily they still had some yummy peaches left, but they had to be eaten quickly.  They were ripe and ready!  There were more peaches than we could eat, and I was not able to can the peaches and put them up.  I had to get creative. Time to dig thru the pantry and the fridge for more inspiration.

Ah yes, onions.  Sweet summer Vidalia onions were in a basket in my pantry.  And chicken was in the fridge ready to grill.  What could be better. Luckily, there was also leftover pesto pasta in the fridge too.  So here we go.

I fired up the grill.  But the chicken would go on second.  What to grill first?  Why, the peaches and the onions, of course!  I sliced the 2 onions about 1/4 inch thick.  I sliced the peaches in half and removed the pit.  Next, I laid them on a cutting board and sprayed them with a bit of vegetable oil.

 

Sliced onions and peaches getting ready to grill.

Sliced onions and peaches getting ready to grill.

Onto the grill they went.  The heat was good and high to get a quick char and that desired carmelization that only the grill can provide.  I wanted those sugars in the peaches to get to work!  And they did not disappoint!

The onion slices and peaches went onto that hot grill.

The onion slices and peaches went onto that hot grill.  The beginning of some great grill marks!

The scent that wafted from the grill was absolutely mouth watering!  It certainly produced one of those culinary “moanable moments”.  When that happens, your eyes close, your head falls back a bit, and a deep breath in is amazingly delightful.  Those sizzled on the grill for about 3 minutes per side, then they came off the heat.

The peaches and onions grilled up beautifully!

The peaches and onions grilled up beautifully!

Next, I let the onions and peaches sit.  While the peaches and onions were cooling, I grilled the chicken.  I went light on the seasoning because I wanted the flavor of the salsa to stand out.

When they were cool to the touch, I coarsely chopped the onions.  They were soft and sweetly  fragrant.  On to the peaches.  The fuzzy outside jacket of the peaches slipped right off.  I chopped up that sweet peachy flesh and mixed the two together in a bowl.  I added about a 1/2 of a chopped jalapeño (I should have grilled that too…Rats!).  I also stirred in a little bit of cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and just a dash of vinegar.  A little salt and pepper completed the fresh salsa.  The resulting salsa was fantastic! It was not my “prettiest” salsa ever, but it was really tasty!

This was fantastic piled on top of grilled chicken.  It was a healthy low fat option packed with nutrients and flavor!

This was fantastic piled on top of grilled chicken. It was a healthy low fat option packed with nutrients and flavor!

Dinner consisted of a crisp salad, leftover pesto pasta, and flavor packed grilled chicken slathered in peach onion salsa.  It was a hit.  So delicious and a fun way to use fresh ripe reaches.  Cleanup was a breeze because I grilled most of dinner.  Gotta love that!

I am certainly going to try some more grilled salsa recipes.  Tomatoes are at the end of the season, but there is surely enough time to get creative  and grill those up next!  Grilled tomatoes with perhaps some creamy diced avocados.  Maybe roasted garlic too.  Oh yeah, can’t wait for that one!

 

Next…

25 Aug

I am a single mother that is short on time.  When I cook, I have to make it count for more than one meal.  Time is my most precious commodity at the moment, so cooking bigger sure helps in a time crunch.  If I have a little wiggle room during the weekend to cook, I try to fill the fridge for the upcoming week.

Okay, it’s no secret that I love leftovers.  They can be easy to eat as is for a second meal, or used as inspiration for a new dish.  I use my leftovers both ways.  If I cook a couple of extra pieces of chicken, that goes either in school lunches or to work with me for a second meal.  Using that chicken as inspiration for another meal might mean a nice chicken casserole or chicken salad sandwich.  Need some ideas?  Let me outline my leftovers from the past few days.

Night #1.  Leftover: Quinoa.  Used the next morning as an addition to breakfast oatmeal.  Quinoa powered up morning oatmeal following an 8 mile bike ride.  It was a solid “recovery” breakfast.

Leftover quinoa added a nice nutritionally punch to morning oatmeal.

Leftover quinoa added a nice nutritionally punch to morning oatmeal.

Night #2.  Leftover:  Goat cheese.  It was leftover from a beet salad.  My high schooler used it to spread on his “gourmet” sandwich, adding delicious creamy flavor to a weekday lunch.

Leftover goat cheese not used for this salad added flavor to a sandwich.

Leftover goat cheese not used for this salad added flavor to a sandwich.

Night #3.  Leftover:  Home made vinaigrette.  I used this drizzled over roasted veggies going into the oven.  Homemade vinaigrette is super easy to customize ingredients and flavors to make even picky eaters happy.

Leftover vinaigrette.  This isn't just salad dressing.  It has a zillion uses.

Leftover vinaigrette. This isn’t just salad dressing. It has a zillion uses.

Night #4.  Leftover: Roasted veggies.  These leftover roasted veggies made the most amazing sandwich to take to work.  I wish I also had some of that leftover goat cheese too, but it was quite tasty as is.

Roasted veggies made an awesome sandwich, panini style!

Roasted veggies made an awesome sandwich, panini style!

Night #5.  Leftover:  Pesto, shredded chicken. (Nonleftover freezer item: frozen cauliflower). I actually pulled this from the freezer to make a quick pasta dinner.  Dinner was ready in the time it took for a pot of water to boil and pasta to cook.  The cauliflower was microwaved.  Everything was tossed together for a quick and easy one dish dinner for a busy night.

By now I am sure you get the picture.  Be creative.  When cooking, cook a larger portion than you need.  Toss leftovers in both the fridge and the freezer.  And start embracing the ease of the next meal using leftovers.  Let me know what you make with your leftovers!

Passionate for Pesto

30 Apr

Our winter was cold, snowy, and the weather was, well, dreary.  Spring has sprung, and it was a bit of a whimper, not a big bold leaping launch.  Rats.  I love spring, but our spring this year has limped in. Not with tulips and daffodils, but with gray skies and cold rain.  I am not complaining, mind you, just missing the beauty and newness of spring this year.  But darn glad that it is finally here.

With gray skies above, imagine my excitement when I zipped down to the back yard for something and realized that my parsley was absolutely bursting out of the garden!  I instantly forgot my purpose for having gone to the back yard and leaned over my garden.  I blinked and blinked again.  Yes!  Not only was the parsley happily standing up to greet me, but so was the mint, the rosemary, and rocket arugula!  Yum!  I could not resist bending over, pinching off some leaves even though there was no imminent culinary purpose, and putting the herbs up to me face.  I breathed in, my head went back, and it was a moanable moment.

I try to have pots of herbs growing in my kitchen all year long (once in a while one of my foodie friends may sneak one out of my kitchen, so I have to keep more than one plant around!). My favorite thing to make with herbs is fresh pesto. It takes moments to prepare and can be used in many different ways.  Flexible foods are my favorite, and pesto is super flexible.  How flexible?

Pesto can be liberally poured over pasta making a delicious side dish. It can be brushed onto fish, adding beautiful color and flavor to either delicate or hearty fish. I have doused chicken with pesto, adding flair to an otherwise bland weeknight dinner. Pesto can also be spread onto a sandwich as a savory condiment. I love the freedom to use my flavor packed pesto in or on most everything! It is simple and makes me look like a rock star in the kitchen at times. Who wouldn’t love that?

Pesto is very forgiving too. I have adjusted or substituted ingredients without having to sacrifice flavor. I will pass along my pesto recipe and let you have some fun with it too! It is a crowd pleaser, so make plenty. Bon appetite!

Basic Pesto:

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup parsley leaves

1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1-2 cloves fresh garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

FYI- I have tried using toasted pine nuts as well as roasted garlic and it did not make a notable difference in taste. I have also substituted walnuts for pine nuts, and the flavor was great. I have used both the parmesan cheese in the green can as well as fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh makes a difference. Use it if you can, but if you only have the green can on hand, go for it! I usually add a little more olive oil if I am putting this on pasta. If you are using dried herbs in a pinch, you also may want to increase the olive oil. Go ahead! Play with this recipe! Have fun and enjoy the amazing flavors!  And don’t forget to make a big batch and freeze some for another night when time is short.

 

Double up!

26 Jan

When I cook, when I really roll my sleeves up and dig into the kitchen and my recipes for the long haul, I cook big.  There is simply no reason to cook only one meal at time.  When cooking chicken, it is easy to toss a couple of extra pieces in the oven or on the grill to freeze and use later.  When making a sauce, it gets doubled  so the extra sauce can be used later.  Even when a small amount of food is left over from a meal, I save it for inspiration for another dish to prepare later.

Crazy days and intense schedules can be the norm for all parents at some point.  Those are the days when pulling home cooked leftovers out of the freezer pays off.    Recently, my teen aged daughter asked me what was for dinner.  I gently informed her that I was taking the night off.  To my credit, I said this with conviction and not even a tiny bit of guilt!  Hey, if we aren’t teaching our kids how to take care of themselves, we aren’t doing our job right!

After the look of horror and accompanying eye roll passed over her face, she resigned herself to the fact that I was, indeed, not moving off the couch and away from the novel I had started to read.  So she looked in the freezer for something easy to eat.  She found about a 1/4 cup of home made pesto-a favorite of hers!

That was all the inspiration that she needed…well, that and the hunger pangs of a teenager that hasn’t eaten for a little bit.  She heated that pesto up in the microwave.  Meanwhile, she put a pot of water on the stove to boil and pulled out the George Foreman grill and turned it on.  Back to the freezer while the water and grill were heating, she found a boneless skinless chicken breast.  Onto the grill that went.

If it doesn’t bite them on the hand, a teenager won’t fix it.  So I make it easy on them, and on myself.  I try to make time to cook up some staples during the week.  Sometimes during the evening when the children are tackling some homework, I can cook up some chicken or brown some ground beef, season it up, and put it in the freezer.  It is easy to pull out some chicken meat that has some taco seasoning on it, put it on a tortilla, add some cheese and peppers, and make a quesadilla.  Easy food and easy clean up!  It is important to me that “scratch made” food, which is healthier than grocery store prepared or fast food, is available for my family.  And believe me, when I get in the kitchen and start cooking, and those amazing smells waft about, I become the most popular mom around!  Nothing like being Queen in the kitchen!