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.

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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.