Make Your Own: Pesto

IMG_2552

Why yes, that is home-made pesto. And, yes, it is delicious. I love pesto. I am not sure I can get enough pesto. It is so versatile, and light, and tasty.

IMG_2596My original plan for this pesto was this delicious tilapia recipe, partly because it is really tasty and partly because I am home dog-sitting (see adorable dog photo) and my mom always has tilapia fillets in her freezer. I was all set, I had the green, I had the nuts, the garlic. Only problem is that I am a really scatter-brained cook (the flexibility in cooking makes me forgetful in ways I just don’t encounter in baking). I had the rice side practically finished when I realized I hadn’t made the pesto and decided to just skip it in favor of something faster.

But, I had all the ingredients, so I was going to make the pesto, just a little later than intended. Every time I make pesto, I make it a little differently and I have tried a few different recipes. This one was pretty delicious though, so I thought I would share.

Pesto

Based loosely on this recipe from The Complete Kitchen Garden.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup pine nuts
  • 2 Cloves garlic
  • 2 1/2 Cups of spinach and arugula mix
  • 1 Tbs dried basil (if you have fresh, fresh is always better, I add to taste. You could also skip it if you aren’t a fan.)
  • 1/4 Cup grated parmesean cheese (I am pretty generous with this and it tends to be heaping)
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil (plus more if needed)

IMG_2539Directions:

Mince garlic (I never feel this is adequately done in the food processor because I feel like the bowl is too big, but you could, theoretically, mince in the food processor). Add pine nuts and garlic to food processor and pulse until finely grated. Add spinach and pulse until incorporated. Add basil, parmesan and olive oil and pulse until it is the right consistency. It should be combined and sort of liquidy, but it will sort of hold together if you pick it up with a spoon.

Add to whatever dish you want: pasta with chicken and pesto, tilapia or other fish fillet, add when sautéing veggies. Do you have a good pesto recipe or a favorite something to put it on? I am always looking for a reason to eat pesto.

IMG_2585IMG_2568

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_2537All I want is summer. I want summer like a fat kid wants cake (as the saying goes, sort of). I want to wear cute dresses and wander about outside. I want the wind to be a pleasant occurrence, rather than the the thing I curse as it whips through me. I just want to be warm without needing to be inside wrapped in layers.

There is a small possibility that I might regret these statement mid-August when I am melting in the humidity; but I never want winter the same way I want the summer to arrive. These cookies are my attempt at bringing a little bit of summer early. What says summer better than coconut?

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Modified from Jan Thompson of Fairfax, Virgina (The 47 Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World, 1983)

Ingredients:IMG_2434

  • 1 1/3 Cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanillaIMG_2448
  • 1/2 Cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 Cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.

In small to medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

IMG_2470In a large bowl (or stand mixer), cream butter and sugars together. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, and salt and beat until just combined. Add coconut and chocolate chips and beat to combine.

Roll tablespoon size balls and place on baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper to ensure they slide off easily) about an inch apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until they appear slightly golden on top. Cool and eat!

IMG_2485Coconut Choc Chip Cookies

Quinoa Salad

IMG_2317I started making this recipe this summer when a friend of mine introduced it to me. All sorts of tasty (and healthy) dishes come out of her/her mother’s kitchen and this is no exception.

It was perfect for the summer because, after cooking, it was a high-protein salad that I enjoyed making and eating, and it tasted great chilled. Problem was, it had become such a big part of my weekly meal planning (I would make some to bring into work a couple times per week for lunch) that it was hard to give up when winter came and all I wanted was warm, comfort food to keep me going until spring.

Some foods that are meant to be cold, just don’t work as a hot dish; this is not one of them. It was perfect for winter, or for your overly-air conditioned office, because it tastes just as great warmed up! And that makes me happy because I can eat it all year long.IMG_2268

So, whether your winter is hanging on or melting away, here is a salad for you.

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 Cup cashews
  • 1/4 Cup almond slices
  • 1/2 Cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4- 1 Cup broth
  • 1 apple (I use Granny Smith because I like how tart it is and the acid keeps it browns slower than other varieties)
  • 1/2 lemon or about 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 Cup Crasins
  • Olive oil (about a Tbs)
  • Salt and PepperIMG_2228

Quinoa Salad

Preheat oven to 325º. Spread cashews and almond slices (you could really use any nuts you like, I just happen to enjoy these two) on a baking sheet and toast 10-15 minutes, rotating them every 3-5 minutes, until golden brown. When done, set aside.

While nuts are toasting, take your rinsed quinoa and put it into a medium sized sauce pot. Turn heat to medium-high and toast slightly (you can skip this step, a lot of recipes say you should toast quinoa to bring out flavor, I just think it helps it cook faster), about 3 minutes. Add 3/4 of your cup of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until all water has evaporated. If, when the water is mostly gone, the tendril-like ring has not detached from the quinoa, add the extra 1/4 cup of broth (or more if necessary) until quinoa is tender and tendrils have detached. When done, set aside to cool slightly.

IMG_2244

Chop your apple into 1/2 inch (or whatever size you think is bite appropriate) chunks and place in baggie with lemon juice, shake to coat. This will help your apple from browning as well as providing a nice, fresh flavor.

In medium to large size bowl, combine nuts, quinoa, apple, crasins and a drizzle of olive oil (this is just to keep everything moist and help it stay together, less is more), salt and pepper to taste.

Variations on a theme: try a handful of spinach sauteed with a dash of ground nutmeg or 1/2 cup sweet corn.

This is by far my favorite way to eat quinoa, although I have had some very tasty recipes try to take its place. How do you like your quinoa?

IMG_2304

Supreme Chocolate Cookies (with chocolate chips and macadamia nuts)

IMG_2192

Everyone always talks about putting on winter weight. I am unconvinced that this is because I eat heavier or richer foods, (let’s be honest, I eat them year round). I think a lot of it is that I don’t want to be outside in the cold, so I choose to turn on the oven and make something delicious. It is really the only solution — I heat up the apartment a little more and I get something delicious.

These cookies are 1 part I didn’t want to go out and 1 part I wanted to mail Alex some cookies. I made three different types: Pistachio, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and the Supreme Chocolate Cookies. The oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are a standby, and Alex’s favorites, and I will post the recipe at some point; they are super easy! The other two were new experiments. The pistachio still need a lot of work, but the chocolate cookies were a wonderful surprise.

These cookies are sweet and salty, soft and textured, and extremely rich. They are perfect for the afternoon slump snack or an evening stuck in the house watching it snow. These are a modified version of this recipe; it made about 18 cookies.IMG_2172

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts (chopped)

Preheat oven to 350º. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In mixer, or with electric beaters, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla and beat.

IMG_2185Add sifted dry ingredients and mix until just combined (this will be very wet, I almost thought I needed more flour, but I was very glad I didn’t add it). Add dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and chopped macadamia nuts (I used a blender and it came out a little finer than I originally anticipated (no less delicious, though).

Bake for 12 minutes. They will come out of the oven soft, but not gooey. Cool on wire rack and eat! They stay soft for several days in an airtight container.

Blackberry Spice Cupcakes

2013-03-05 07_2IMG_1946

I am an epicurious girl. When I want to make something but am not quite sure what, epicuious is my go-to. Every now and then, I just browse through cakes or cookies and if I find something I think I might want to make at somepoint, I putit in my “Recipe Box” (it is my favorite feature). That is how I found/re-found this recipe.

This cake recipe looks delicious. I wanted cupcakes, so it took some conversion, and

IMG_1932

Adding sour cream.

it is certainly far from perfect. The first time I made it I used the whole recipe and it made 22. The second time I made it, I halved the recipe and got 18. I don’t think I did anything differently, but I was in someone else’s kitchen the first time, so who knows, maybe there was something different…

For Cake

  • 2 cups cake flour (sift before measuring)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoonground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

    IMG_1940

    Fill cups 2/3 of the way full.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sour cream

For Filling:

  • 1 1/2 1/2-pint baskets blackberries
  • 2 tbs  sugar

For Frosting:

  • 1 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

    IMG_1939

    Egg whites, stiff but not dry.

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Plus blackberries for garnish.

Preheat oven to 350° and line two muffin tin with cupcake liners . Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolks. Beat in dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with sour cream. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in medium bowl until stiff but not dry; fold into batter in 2additions. Fill each cup about 2/3 of the way full (about a quarter cup or an ice cream scoop, if you have one).

Bake for 18-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

IMG_1953 IMG_1954

To fill cupcakes cut small circle, fairly deep but not all the way through, to make cutout. Cut off about half of the cutout top so that there is room for the filling. Use a teaspoon and fill in hole about 3/4 to 7/8 of the way. Put the top back on and push down a little, careful not to overfill.

For Frosting, cream butter and cream cheese together. Beat in sugar then sour cream and vanilla. To frost, I used a large star tip to make rosettes and topped them with a blackberry.

2013-03-05 07.30.13

The Beginning.

As someone with a day-job in publishing (even if it is just textbooks and not anything with a true plot line), I feel like no story can start without a beginning…

2012-08-24 10.42.132012-10-20 20.38.502012-08-27 20.45.24

There once was a girl named Michelle who lived in a small town in Massachusetts. She grew up in this small town and, as many young girls do, tried many different hobbies and interests, trying to figure out what she liked. She drew, wrote stories, designed dresses, played soccer, played basketball, ran around with friends, danced, participated in theater and tried stage crew. She refused to learn how to sail because she was convinced she would smell fishy; she later regretted this refusal. Growing up in a family of many chefs (both of the at-home and professional variety), Michelle had a basic understanding of cooking but often made nothing more than the quick snack or dinner and the occasional baked good (the kind with a recipe on the side of the box).

It was not until she met a wise, wonderful woman (I guess girl would be the proper term, since they were both in high school when they met, but hopefully she gets the reference) that she realized how wonderful it was to make something from scratch. This lovely person introduced Michelle to a whole new world of exciting possibilities. And so, for the last year of high school, they spent many an afternoon or weekend making delicious things, when they weren’t doing homework or after school activities, or watching their favorite show, Gilmore Girls.

Throughout college these two remained fast friends, despite hundreds of miles between them and vacation schedules that never quite lined up. Every trip home when the two of them were there together, there would be an afternoon or evening of Gilmore Girls and baked goods.

While Michelle missed her friend when she was away, college was a wonderful time where she met many fantastic people and made new friends, several of whom enjoyed cooking and baking, and, even, Gilmore Girls. Michelle tried out more cakes and cookies, she tried souffles and tarts, she learned the wonders of puff pastry, and got very excited about time spent in her kitchen. It was during college when a lovely boy gave her the best gift anyone could give, a KitchenAid stand mixer. Michelle named her Molly and the two of them concocted even more delicious things.

After college, Michelle returned to Massachusetts and found a job at a small textbook publisher. While she likes her job, she wishes she could spend more time in her kitchen. Then, one day, she decided she should start a blog.

IMG_2113IMG_2325IMG_1816

This is where the story begins (and I promise, the third person narrative ends here).