Pesto alla Genovese

I don’t think I have ever purchased a jar of pesto from the grocery store. My mother and grandmother have always grown basil plants. Throughout the summer they harvest their basil and makes large batches of pesto to freeze for the winter months. That’s the awesome thing about pesto, you can freeze it! Your basil plant will never go to waste. I typically freeze it in baby food freezer containers, ice-cube trays, or cupcake liners. Pesto is delicious on more than just pasta or chicken… it can be used on bread, sandwiches, pizza, lasagna, dips, appetizers, vinaigrettes, vegetable marinade, etc. It is a great sauce to have on hand to add flavor to any dish.

As I was making this batch of pesto with my grandma we were discussing its origin. While it is definitely an Italian sauce, my grandmother whose parents were from Italy, said she can’t remember her mother ever making it. She said her mom always had a basil plant and chopped it up to put in dishes, but never the smooth consistency of a sauce.

My curiosity got the best of me and I did some research on the history of pesto. It was born in Liguria, Italy which is northern Italy. The recipe today calls for parmigiano-reggiano (parmesan cheese), but it is interesting to note that some versions of original recipe call for formaggio d’olinda (gouda cheese). The maritime commerce with northern Europe made gouda almost more readily available. Also, seasonal shortages of basil sometimes required marjoram or parsley to be substituted. Obviously they did not have food processors back then to make it like we do today. The traditional way of making pesto is chopping the basil by knife and mashing all the ingredients together.

Maybe pesto was not a traditional Italian dish for my great-grandmother who was from southern Italy. Or maybe her form of pesto was a chopped, more rustic look. Anyway, sorry for getting sidetracked, there’s your history lesson for today! For the sake of time, I make my pesto in a food processor, but more power to you if you chop and mash it by hand.

PESTO ALLA GENOVESE RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons graded parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic

Add all ingredients except parmesan to food processor. Blend until smooth. Add cheese and process again until blended. (Feel free to add more parmesan if you like your pesto more cheesy.) Serve on pasta, chicken, flatbread, pizza, etc.

Make sure to keep pesto refrigerated or frozen.

 

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Homemade Croutons

I love to cook, but firing up the oven on these 100 degree summer days make me cringe. I opt for creating more salads for summertime dinners.  The great thing about salads is you can change up your ingredients and it is basically always going to turn out good.  You can’t go wrong with salad ingredients. To spice up my barbecue chicken salad, I like to add in yummy cheeses like feta or goat cheese, make homemade ranch dressing and homemade croutons. Very simple things that add an extra touch. Today I am sharing with you my crouton recipe. Enjoy!

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HOMEMADE CROUTONS

Servings: 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 slices of artisan bread

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

salt & pepper to taste

 

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut bread into chunks. Melt butter in microwave for around 15 seconds. Stir in garlic powder, parsley and a dash of salt & pepper to melted butter. Dredge bread pieces in butter melted until thoroughly soaked. Place bread on foil lined baking sheet. Bake for around 20 minutes or until crispy.

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First Birthday Pow-Wow

My little man turned one and I just cannot believe it. They always tell you time flies with children, but man, it really does. Our son is the only grandchild, great-grandchild, nephew, etc. between both my husband and I’s family. Since we have such a BIG family, I knew they would all be there to celebrate our wild little man!

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When trying to decide on a theme, I wanted to do something that incorporated his interests. When he was around 6 months old, we taught him how to make an “indian sound” by holding our hand up to his mouth. Now at 12 months he can make the “indian sound” all by himself. That’s how I came up with a tribal themed pow-wow.

The party planning commenced with these invitations that one of my good friends Cassandra designed. How adorable are they?! She is so creative! Highly recommend for any of your customized designing needs!

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I created the burlap, feather, and fur banners. I had so much fun making banners for each room. (I’m even repurposing the fur banner for his nursery!)

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I also created his high chair banner. I stuck with the feather theme and added a variety of colors.

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Since we had so many people attending and luckily his birthday is in the summer, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and host the party outdoors. I found these beautiful dreamcatchers on clearance. I hung them on our birch tree in the backyard which served as a festive backdrop during his cake smash. (Sidenote: highly recommend doing cake smash outside if possible! There was cake everywhere!)

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Being a hot July day, I knew we would need plenty of drinks. I ordered Avery water bottle labels off Amazon, used their free online template with colorful arrows, and created these “Wigwam Water” bottle labels. I think they turned out great and added a nice little touch to the party.

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We served tribal tea (sweet tea) and raspberry lemonade out of these fun mason jar cups. I used twine and feathers to tie around the top for a festive look. I ordered the birch paper straws off Etsy.

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I found these adorable plates, napkins and cups on Etsy from SteshaParty. They were so cute!

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I originally wanted to do a trail mix bar where guests could assemble their own bag of trail mix, but my husband nixed that idea and encouraged me to just buy the bag of pre-made trail mix to make my life easier. So that is what I {begrudgingly} did. I wanted something fun to serve them in and hand stamped these paper bags for both the trail mix and jerky. They turned out much better than I expected. I am also a big fan of single serving size items at parties. I think some guests are more apt to pick up a single serving to snack on than make themselves a whole plate.
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For food we served the jerky and trail mix along with teepee sandwiches, teepee pinwheels, spring mix salad, quinoa salad with jalapeno vinaigrette, watermelon feta blackberry skewers, multi-grain tortilla chips, roasted red pepper hummus, and pita chips. I tried to stick with the tribal theme and chose “natural” foods.

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I have to give a huge shout out to Ali’s Little Cake Shop for the delicious cupcakes and smash cake! I decided to go with a variety of flavors for the cupcakes. I ordered these adorable cupcake toppers from Eventprint and used the chalkboard as a key to let guests know which topper symbolized which flavor.  And how cute did his smash cake turn out?! Ali did such an amazing job!!

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The party was a great success. My little man had a ball and we did too. How should a one-year old birthday and cake smash end? With a dip in the baby pool! This guy was just living the high life on his birthday!

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SOURCES:

Wild One T-Shirt: Moodz Online

Feather Headband: Graham & Brooks

Invitations: @brownberrydesigns // brownberrydesigns@gmail.com

Burlap Banner: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Feather Banner: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Feather High Chair Banner: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Dreamcatchers: Earthbound Trading Co.

Water Bottle Labels: Amazon

Wild One Burlap Banner: The Gathering Host

Mason Jar Cups: The Gathering Host

Birch Paper Straws: The Party Gnome

Plates, Cups, Napkins: Stesha Party

Jerky Bags: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Trail Mix Bags: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Teepee Cookie Cutter: Chocolate Supplies

Arrow Skewers: Eventprint

Fur Banner: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Cupcake Toppers: Eventprint

“Wild One” Cake Topper: Eventprint

Cupcakes: Ali’s Little Cake Shop

Smash Cake: Ali’s Little Cake shop

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Chicken, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Pizza

There’s something about fancy restaurant pizzas that just always hit the spot. Maybe because it’s typically a pizza you know you could never recreate at home. You know the ones I’m talking about…the ones with fancy ingredients like “caramelized onions” and “figs” and “goat cheese” with some type of special sauce. Well I am so excited to let y’all know that the code has been broken! The code aka fancy pizza recipe. Tonight I created a fancy pizza in my own kitchen! It was not hard at all…nor did it use any ingredients I didn’t already have on hand – another big plus. I paired it with a simple spring mix salad and glass of wine for an upscale take on good ol’ pizza night!

CHICKEN BACON AND CARMELIZED ONION PIZZA RECIPE

  • 1 pre-made pizza crust
  • 1 piece of chicken
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 slices of cooked bacon torn into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 medium red onion sliced thinly
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Cut into cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. Throw in diced chicken. Turn until cooked thoroughly, set aside. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Throw in spinach. Cook until slightly wilted, set aside on paper towels. Squeeze out any excess water from spinach. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in same skillet on medium heat. Add thinly sliced onions. Allow onions to cook down for around 10 minutes, stirring as necessary. Add in sugar and toss to coat evenly. Let onions cook down for another 10 minutes. After they have cooked, add balsamic vinegar to onions and toss to coat. Set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add minced garlic and flour while stirring. Continue to stir as you add in the warm milk. Add parmesan cheese and nutmeg while you are still whisking. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the sauce starts to bubble, remove from heat. Brush edges of pizza crust with olive oil. Spread the sauce over pizza, leaving a 1/2″ lip around edge. Sprinkle on 3/4 of the mozzarella cheese. Then add spinach, caramelized onions, and cooked chicken. Finish topping with remaining mozzarella, feta, and bacon. Bake pizza for 10-15 minutes.

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Watermelon Feta Blackberry Skewers

I love these simple, 3-ingredient skewers. A perfect cool, sweet bite on a hot summer day. They make a great appetizer, side dish, or dessert to take to a party and are pretty easy to transport. Bonus: they look pretty!

WATERMELON FETA BLACKBERRY SKEWERS RECIPE

Servings: 9

INGREDIENTS:

  • 9 watermelon pieces cut into squares
  • 1 block of feta cheese
  • 9 fresh blackberries
  • 9 toothpicks or skewers

Cut block of feta into 9 square pieces. Assemble skewer with one piece of watermelon, one piece of feta, and top with one blackberry. Pierce with toothpick or skewer. Repeat.

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Nashville Hot Chicken

If you have ever been to Nashville, then you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t, then trust me when I say you WANT to know about these. Nashville is famous for it’s “hot chicken.” It’s a fried piece of chicken with a spicy kick. Served on a bun with pickles. Do not make this recipe unless you have the pickles. Seriously. The pickles make the sandwich and add the perfect bite of sweetness with the hot chicken.

There are two levels of spiciness you can choose between. If you like REALLY spicy foods, use paprika. If you prefer a milder kick, use chili powder. I personally prefer the chili powder.

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NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN RECIPE

Servings: 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups vegetable oil (give or take based on size of skillet)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika OR chili powder (see comment above)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 sandwich buns
  • shredded cabbage
  • 12 bread & butter pickle chips

Cut chicken breasts in half to make 4 smaller pieces. Set up a dredging station by mixing milk and apple cider vinegar together in one bowl. Place flour in another bowl. Place panko crumbs in another bowl. Start by dredging each piece of chicken in the milk, then flour, back in milk, then panko crumbs until completely covered. Repeat with each piece of chicken and set aside. Pour vegetable oil in cast iron skillet until it is around halfway full. Heat oil on medium heat. Once oil is heated, add chicken to skillet. Let chicken cook, turning every 4-5 minutes. Cook for around 20-25 minutes or until chicken is crispy, brown and a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove chicken from skillet and drain on paper towels.

Place butter in a bowl and microwave until melted, around 30 seconds. Mix in salt, paprika OR chili powder, garlic powder, and sugar with melted butter. Brush mixture onto fried chicken making sure to cover all sides. Shred cabbage into little strips. Place cabbage, fried chicken, and 3 pickles on sandwich bun to serve. Enjoy with an ice cold beer!

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