Basil Pesto Without Nuts

Basil Pesto– without nuts
1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed, completely dried and base stems removed.
1 large clove garlic, cut in half
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

In a food processor, add in basil, garlic and s&p.

Basil, salt, pepper and garlic in the food processor.
Basil, salt, pepper and garlic in the food processor.

Pulse until coarsely chopped.

Then drizzle in the oil, as the food processor is on, until fully incorporated and smooth.

While the food processor is on, drizzle in olive oil
While the food processor is on, drizzle in olive oil

* If using immediately, mix in the cheese.

Done!
Done!

*If freezing, do not add cheese. Store in an air-tight container, add a layer of olive oil over the top. Cover. Freeze. When you want to use some, thaw and stir in cheese.

Advertisements

Ground Pork Tacos

This is a super quick dish to make after work, one of my favorites; and there is no way to screw it up!
Also, it is a great way to enjoy tacos without using the packet of sodium that comes in a taco meal kit. Those packets bother me so much; have you ever read the sodium content on them? YIKES! I can never drink enough tequila to wash the salt away. ūüėČ

Pork Tacos
1 lb ground pork
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tspn cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of tepid water

You’ll need a taco shell/tortilla kit, just the shells; either crunchy, soft, or both. My kids like the shell kits with both. Heat the shells/tortillas per instructions on the package.

Spices
Spices

Brown pork in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  As it heats, break up the pork with a spatula/spoon into smaller pieces.

Brown the Pork Meat
Brown the Pork Meat

Drain fat if there is any.

Add in the garlic, spices and water.  Stir together. Cover skillet.

Let simmer, stirring occassionally, until the liquid reduces; about 10 minutes. Add in S&P to taste.

Done!
Done!

Spoon mixture into tortillas or taco shells; top with Colby Jack cheese, guacamole, tomatoes, shredded lettuce or anything you like.. and enjoy!

How I like my taco. Guacamole and lettuce on top .. yup!
This night I made guacamole and topped it on my taco. YUM!

Flower Cupcakes

As my oldest daughter turned two, in 2007, I was fresh out of the hospital after having her baby sister. With the help, and gracious offer from my parents to host her birthday at their house, my husband and I were able to throw her a great party; and we were able to make the sweetest cupcakes for her, too.

The theme to her party was simple, a butterfly garden. We had purchased everything in pink and green; the balloons, streamers, napkins, tablecloths, plates, utensils, servingware..everything! Hmm, now that I am posting these recent birthday blogs, I see I have an obsession with green and pink!

The cupcake idea was a brainstorm of my husband and mine after seeing candy butterflies in a cupcake book I bought for this occasion. But as we started to cut and place them on top, the flowers were naturally appearing and were prettier. Our oldest daughter loved them!

Cupcakes with Marshmallow flowers and green maraschino cherry centers
Cupcakes with Marshmallow flowers and green maraschino cherry centers

Here is what you’ll need:
A bag of regular sized marshmallows- cut into pieces
Colored sugar
1 Jar of green maraschino cherries, 1 half cherry per cupcake
1 Glass of water
1 Pair of kitchen scissors
Frosted cupcakes

As we all know, marshmallows are sticky, and we found to keep the scissors from sticking while cutting you should dip them in the water between cuts. This helps th scissors glide when cutting the marshmallows and keeps the surface moist to adhere the sugar.

Each marshmallow can be cut into 4 even pieces. 5 pieces are needed to make a flower.

Lay parchment paper over your work surface, so then marshmallows don’t adhere. Lightly coat with sugar over the top side of the 5 cut pieces*. Then lay atop the frosted cupcake in a circle, with the points in the middle touching and slightly overlapping making a flower.

Then place a halved maraschino cherry in the center.

DONE!

*Cut and sugar one set of marshmallows per cupcake at a time so the marshmallow doesn’t dry out and becomes less tacky to hold the sugar. If by chance you waited to long to sugar coat, dab some water on them.

Cupcakes with Marshmallow Flowers
Pink flowers for the girls and blue for the boys!
The Birthday Girl on her favorite toy!
The Birthday Girl on her favorite toy since she was 1yr old!
My parents dining room all set up
My parents dining room all set up for the party guests
Their Kitchen all set up.
Their Kitchen all set up and waiting for food.
The birthday girl so happy.
The birthday girl so happy.

Polenta Fries

This is a fun dish to make when you have polenta left over.

Polenta Fries
1 serving of instant polenta*
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano Cheese (then an extra tablespoon or so to sprinkle on cooked fries)
Salt to taste
1 tspn dried rosemary

Prepare the polenta according to instructions on the package. *Usually the instructions are to bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, salt, then add 2 cups of the instant polenta. Stir continously; till you see the polenta thickening and pulling away from the sides of the pot.

At this point, add in the cheese. Mix well.

Spread out 1-1.5 inch(es) thick into a pan. Lightly dust the top with the rosemary. (I like to take the herbs in the palm of my hand, then rub both hands together to crush the herbs, releasing their oils, as they fall from my grasp onto the polenta -or any food. Also, it leaves my hands with an amazing scent.)

You can let set and cool for 3 hours, or, overnight in the fridge.

Cooled polenta in a pan, cut to show thickness.
Cooled polenta in a pan.  Cut to show thickness.

Cut into 1/2 inch strips about 3 inches long, and lay them in a non-stick pan that has been heated on medium heat. Brown on all sides.
There isn’t really a need for oil because the polenta itself has a high water content and browns easily. But if you find that it needs some oil, add a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil.

In a dry non-stick pan, place cut pieces of polenta to brown.
In a dry non-stick pan, place cut pieces of polenta to brown.

Once the fries are browned on each side, place to cool on a rack and immediately sprinkle with the extra grated cheese.  Some of the cheese will melt quickly, and you can always add more if you see it needs it.

Once browned on all FOUR sides, sprinkle with cheese and let cool on a rack
Once browned on all FOUR sides, sprinkle with cheese and let cool on a rack

Let cool and serve!

DONE! Polenta Fries
DONE! Polenta Fries

Braised Lamb Osso Buco

Osso Buco
5 pieces lamb shank- we were lucky to find them from Australia!
1 cup flour
1 yellow onion- chopped
2 celery stalks- washed and chopped
4 carrots- washed, peeled and chopped
1 zest of lemon- using a vegetable peeler for large strips
4 cloves garlic- chopped
2 bay leaves
2 leeks- washed and chopped
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups low sodium beef broth
2 sprigs of thyme- remove from stem (I also added in a dash of lavender)
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Just some of what you'll need
Just some of what you’ll need

This recipe should be made entirely in a French oven/braiser. Mine isn’t graded for stove top, so I had to use a stock pot for the first part of the dish, then finished in the braiser.

Preheat oven 375.

Wash the lamb in cool water, then pat dry on paper towels.

Rinse the lamb shanks with cool water and pat dry .
Rinse the lamb shanks with cool water and pat dry .

In a large bowl, put the flour and season it generously with a pinch or two of salt and pepper.
Coat the shanks in the seasoned flour, tapping off the excess flour. If you over flour then the flour will burn when you brown them. You don’t want burnt lamb or burnt bits in the pan.

Dredge the shanks in the seasoned flour
Dredge the shanks in the seasoned flour

On medium-high heat, heat up the olive oil in a large stock pot, then add the butter and swirl it around till melted. Using tongs, place the shanks in the pan and begin to brown all four sides. Carefully turning them. Once browned, place them on a plate and set aside.

Brown the shanks on all four sides
Brown the shanks on all four sides

In the same pan, if needed add in a touch of oil, place the onion, garlic, leeks, carrot, celery, bay leaves, thyme, and lemon zest. Cook down until they are colorful.

Remove the lamb and then add in the vegetables, herbs and zest
Remove the lamb and then add in the vegetables, herbs and zest

Season with salt and pepper, then add in the shanks.

Once vegetables are aromatic and colorful add in the browned osso buco
Once vegetables are aromatic and colorful add in the browned osso buco

Pour in the wine, and cook down till the wine has reduced, about 15-20 minutes.

Here I transfer everything to the French oven, if you are cooking in one from start, follow normally. Place the lamb and vegetables in pan, then add the tomatoes and broth.

Gently mix together.

All the ingredients together and ready for braising
All the ingredients together and ready for braising

Cover and set into oven. Braise for 1.5 hours.

Remove the cover and finish cooking for another 30 minutes, until the sauce is thick and the lamb is tender, falling off the bone.

After 1.5, uncover and continue cooking for another 30 minutes
After 1.5hr, uncover. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes

Done!

Done! Shown here over polenta
Done! Lamb Osso Buco. Shown here over creamy polenta