Perfect Pesto

BasilPlantI love basil. I love basil so much that I have tried and tried over the years to grow it. However, much to my culinary chagrin, I have failed. Until. This. Year.

I don’t know what I did right, but I finally managed to successfully grow basil, and it’s beautiful.

What comes next? Well, making homemade pesto, of course.

There are tons of pesto recipes out there. I used one from the Two Peas & Their Pod blog.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

PestoInFoodProcessor1Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the cheese and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

You’re done.

Next time, I’ll share with you what wonderful  dinner I made with my pesto. He Who Must Be Fed was delighted.

Shrimp Scampi Casserole

Quick, easy and delicious. During the week, those are the kinds of meals I want to prepare. I found the perfect recipe for a work-week dinner from the Gimme Some Oven blog. Blogger Ali called it Garlicky Baked Shrimp, but I thought Shrimp Scampi Casserole was a better way to describe it.

This tastes like a fancy weekend dinner without having to put all the extra work into it. The most time-consuming part was peeling the shrimp. The rest was easy-peasy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) melted butter
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh Italian-leaf parsley, chopped
  • half of a lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°. In a bowl, combine the shrimp, garlic, and white wine. Stir to combine, then pour into a baking dish. Spread out evenly, and then season with salt and pepper.GarlicandShrimp

In another bowl, use a fork to mix melted butter, Panko, and parsley until well combined. With your fingers, sprinkle the mixture evenly in the baking dish over the shrimp.MakingTopping

Transfer dish to oven and bake until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 11-14 minutes.InTheOven

Full-recipe disclosure. I added more breading by increasing the ingredients by half. I served it with a baked potato, which was the perfect accompaniment.FinishedShrimp

 

The Best Peanut Butter Cookies

IzzieGuestBloggerHi. I’m Izzie. Actually, my full name is Henry Tudor’s Daughter Elizabeth, but that’s just too long, and I don’t know who the heck that is anyway. For the past three years, I’ve been watching my human mom cook. Now, she’s blogging about her cooking and sharing recipes with you.

I think it’s my turn now. Why should she have all the fun? I’ve tasted most of what she’s made, so I’m qualified to tell you what is and isn’t good, right? The only challenge was getting up on her chair (my legs are kinda stubby) and using her keyboard (my arms are pretty stubby, too.) But it was worth the effort. I hope you think so, too.

She loves making cookies, and I love eating them. Her latest cookie is this recipe for the best chewy peanut butter cookies that she got from the Novice Chef blog.

They were delicious. Really, really yummy.  I didn’t get to have too many because my human dad ate them all pretty fast. But, the bits he dropped to me were great.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sparkling sugar, for sprinkling, optional

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If you have extra, crinkle a piece in your hands. Your canine friends will go crazy. :-)

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the peanut butter, butter and both sugars, until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla.

Gradually add in the flour mixture on low speed. Stir until dough forms.

Use a large cookie scoop or a heaping tablespoon of dough and drop rounded balls of dough onto prepared cookie sheet. Make sure you leave room for spreading. My human mom added sparkling sugar on top, which added a nice crust and a lovely sweetness. You don’t have to, but I would.

Bake for 12 minutes or until edges are slightly browned.  Let cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

When they’re cool, give one or two or 10 to your furry friend, who is probably waiting patiently for one or two or 10.

And, you can store them in an airtight container for up to 5 days, but they won’t last that long.PeanutButterCookies

 

Antipasto Pasta Salad

Have you ever noticed that side dishes at most cookouts are pretty – well, boring? I won’t cry if I never eat another spoonful of blah macaroni or potato salad again. A little while ago, I shared a recipe for Fresh Corn Salad, which is a delicious alternative to blah cookout side dishes.

Today, it’s Antipasto Pasta Salad. I got this recipe from my friend, Glenn, who made this wonderful pasta salad for some function I attended. I remembered tasting it and saying, “Holy cow, that’s pretty darn good.” OK. I cleaned up the language pretty significantly, but you get the idea.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound seashell or rotini pasta
  • ¼ pound Genoa salami, chopped
  • ¼ pound pepperoni, chopped
  • ½ pound mozzarella, chopped into cubes
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 package dry Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and cool under cold water.In a large bowl, combine the pasta, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, peppers and tomatoes. Stir in the envelope of Good Seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. DressingForPastaSalad

Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.PouringDressing

This makes a lot, so if you’re not planning on having a big crew at your next cookout, you may want to half this recipe. However, we didn’t have a ton of people at our last event, but they pretty much chowed through all of this.FinishedPastaSalad

Luscious Lemon Cake

The dog days of summer may not be the ideal time to bake – or even eat – a cake. But this light, luscious, lick-your-lips lemon cake (I love alliteration, don’t you?) is worth turning on the oven for 25 minutes or so and sweating a bit because it’s the perfect summer cake. Not only is it light, but it’s served cold, so it will help you beat the heat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 baked round white cake layers, cooled
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 packages (4-serving size) of Jell-O lemon flavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 package (4-serving size) Jell-O lemon flavored instant pudding and pie filling
  • 3 cups thawed Cool Whip

Bake your cake according to the instructions on the box. Once your cake layers are cooled – you can put them in the refrigerator to speed up the process, especially if it’s hot in your kitchen – pierce holes at ½-inch intervals in each layer. I use the bottom of a beater.PokingLemonCake

In a small bowl, stir the boiling water into the gelatin mix and whisk until completely dissolved, about two minutes. Carefully pour (I spoon it because I’m a cooking control freak) evenly over the two layers. Refrigerate the layers for at least three hours.JelloOnCake

Pour the milk into a large bowl and add the pudding mix. Whisk until well blended, again about two minutes.PuddingForCake

Fold in the Cool Whip and set aside.FoldingCoolWhip

Fill a pie pan with hot water and dip each cake pan in for about 10 seconds to loosen the bottom.Turn the layer onto a serving plate. Spread the top of the layer with about 1 cup of the pudding mixture. Loosen the second layer and carefully place atop the first. Frost with the rest of the pudding mixture. Put the cake back in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.LemonCakeDone

If you want it to look gorgeous, top it with a few candied lemon slices or strips of lemon peel just before serving. But He Who Must Be Fed and his spawn don’t want to wait for me to make it pretty. They just want to devour it, and I’m not going to get in their way.

PieceOfLemonCake

Blueberry Cake

BlueberriesOh, the delightful, plump, beautiful, sweet blueberry. How I love thee for all of those reasons and more. The other day, I mentioned my annual trek to Bozberry Farms in Turtlepoint and how I turned the gorgeous, rotund berries I got there into delicious muffins.

Today, it’s blueberry cake.  And I must tell you, this cake got a double “Wow!” from He Who Must Be Fed. I’d equate that to a five-star rating on Amazon.

This recipe came from Ali at the Gimme Some Oven blog.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 pints (4 cups) fresh blueberries

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 325°. Grease and flour a Bundt pan, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined.

Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for about three minutes, or until light and fluffy.MixingCakeBatter

Reduce speed to medium-low. Add vanilla, almond extract, and eggs one at a time. Continue beating for an extra two minutes, scraping down the pan once or twice so that everything is well mixed.

Add in half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add in half of the Greek yogurt and beat on low speed until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and Greek yogurt, beating until just combined. Be careful. You don’t want to overbeat this. Fold in the blueberries, reserving a dozen or so extra berries on the side.BatterInCakePan

Sprinkle the reserved blueberries evenly around the bottom of your Bundt pan. Pour the batter evenly into the pan on top and spread the top of the batter with a spoon until it is smooth.. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, or until the metal pan is lukewarm to the touch. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack or serving dish, and let it cool completely. Drizzle with the glaze.BlueberryCakeDone

Serve immediately or store covered for up to 5 days.

To Make The Glaze:

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. If the glaze is too thick, add more milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.

BlueberryCakeAllGoneOf course, rarely do we observe the “cool completely” instructions in our house. I sliced You Know Who a piece after it cooled in the pan for the requisite 30 minutes and drizzled some glaze on it. After one bite, he gave it the coveted double “Wow!” Let me know if you enjoy it as much as he did.

 

Blueberry Muffins

There are several advantages to living in a rural area. One of them is being able to pick berries in the summertime. For the last several years, we’ve gone to Bozberry Farms in Turtlepoint, Pa., to pick the plumpest, biggest, sweetest blueberries I’ve ever eaten. You gotta trust me on this one because I’ve eaten a lot of blueberries in the past half century. These are amazing.

I always end up picking way too many, in part because picking blueberries is so much easier than picking other fruit. There aren’t any briers to fight with, and there is no bending, unless you really want to get the berries near the bottom.

Once I get back from my annual trip, with my buckets sagging with the weight of these blue beauties and my stomach full of them, I have to get baking. Given the choice, He Who Must Be Fed wanted blueberry muffins first.Blueberries

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups Bisquick mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • Cinnamon, for dusting
  • Sparkling sugar, for sprinkling

Heat your oven to 400°. Line your muffin tins with paper or foil cups. Beat the eggs slightly in a medium bowl. Stir in Bisquick mix, milk, oil and sugar until just moistened. Gently fold in your blueberries.MixingMuffinBatter

Divide your batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sparkling sugar.

MuffinsBeforeOven

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until light brown and wonderful. Remove from the pan and enjoy. He Who Must Be Fed slathers butter on them, but these are so good you don’t really need the butter. (Wait, what did I just say? Butter is always a welcome addition, at least in my home.  Store in an air-tight container.

MuffinsWithButter

 

If you happen to make it to Bozberry Farm, tell Brenda I said “hi.”

Fresh Corn Salad

This summer I wanted to break away from the typical summer side dishes – macaroni salad and potato salad – and make something different, something delicious, something my eaters will remember for summers to come.

Enter this Fresh Corn Salad from Ina Garten. This salad met my try-a-new-recipe criteria:

  • It was delicious.
  • It was easy and didn’t take long to make.
  • It was pretty.

Ingredients:

  • 5 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

CornInIceBathIn a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.

Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.ChoppingCorn

The sweetness of the corn was a perfect match for the tartness of the vinegar. And it was such a delightful change from the typical summer salads. Try it. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

Full recipe disclosure: I didn’t add the fresh basil even though I have a flourishing pot of it growing on my windowsill. I couldn’t quite imagine basil in this time. Next time.

FinishedCornSalad

Fabulous French Onion Dip

On the list of delicious snacks, potato chips and French onion dip are at or definitely near the top. If you’re like most people, when you have a hankerin’ for chips and dip, you head to the store to get both. However, I found a recipe for French onion dip that is so delicious and easy that you won’t buy a tub of dip at the store ever again. All you need is a little time.

This recipe comes from Guy Fieri from the Food Network.

Ingredients:   

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 Vidalia onions, sliced into 1/4-inch rings (about 4 cups)
  • 2 large shallots, sliced into 1/8-inch rings (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

RawOnionsIn a large sauté pan over low heat, add oil and butter. When butter is melted, add onions and sauté stirring occasionally until golden brown and caramelized, about 35 minutes.

Add shallots and sauté for 15 minutes more until onions and shallots are dark brown. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 to 6 minutes, then chop into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside to cool to room temperature.CookedOnion

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, celery salt, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Fold in onion mixture. Chill at least 1 hour or overnight, prior to serving.

DipAndChip

 

Trust me on this. You’re going to want to try this out and share with others. The sweetness of the caramelized onions blend so perfectly with the creaminess of the sour cream and the bite of the Worcestershire sauce. Just be careful you don’t eat too much because that will be easy to do.

 

Pizza with grilled Italian sausage, peppers and onions

Pizza? Who doesn’t love pizza? One of the wondrous things about pizza is how versatile it is. You can have it with tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni. Olive oil, fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. Spicy shrimp, pepper jack and cheddar cheeses with sauteed onions and peppers. Pesto, mozzarella, hot peppers and sausage.

Well, I tried a new combination the other day that was out of this world. It was so beloved that He Who Must Be Fed and two of his offspring ate it all up. (They let me have a couple of pieces.) I mean all of it. No leftovers. The recipe  is from Crisco.

Ingredients:

  • Two ready-made pizza crusts
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 large red onion, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Heat your oven to 375°. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and rosemary. Pour half of the marinade in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate. Spray your grill grate with no-stick cooking spray and heat your grill. Brush your sausage, red pepper and onion with remaining marinade; sprinkle with salt and pepper.BrushingSausage

Grill until sausage is cooked through and peppers and onion are slightly charred and crisp-tender, turning and basting occasionally with marinade to within 5 minutes of being done, about 12 minutes for sausages and 8 minutes for vegetables. Discard any remaining marinade.

Transfer to cutting board and cut sausages into 1/2-inch pieces and peppers into thin strips.

Sprinkle each pizza crust with 1/2 of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Top each with 1/2 of sausage, peppers and onion, then with 1/2 of the goat cheese, tomatoes and green onions. Remove bowl of marinade from refrigerator; drizzle over the pizzas.PizzaBeforeOven

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until cheeses are melted and crusts are golden brown.

PizzaAfterOvenWhat made this so incredibly delicious was the mix of different flavors that came together so perfectly: the sweetness of the red peppers and onions, the spice of the sausage, the creaminess of the mozzarella, and the tang of the balsamic vinegar.

If you try it, let me know if you loved it, too. I’m betting on it.

Full-recipe disclosure: My man isn’t a fan of goat cheese, so I skipped it and doubled up on the mozzarella.