Tag Archives: pesto

Dinner Party

19 Sep

Good morning! I’m still around and didn’t get washed away by the storm because, well, it didn’t really happen. There was a period in the late afternoon when it was raining quite hard, but the flash floods did not make an appearance, fortunately.

If you’re a regular blog reader (hi Mom!), then you’ll notice that I missed last night’s post – apologies! I had a good excuse, though: I was hosting a little dinner party! Less in the Martha Stewart, let’s put centerpieces on the table, kind of way and more in the ‘how many people can we fit around the coffee table?’ way. It was still delicious though, and I think people left with happy tummies.

The party was sort of a good-bye dinner of sorts for Stefano’s brother, who left to go back to Seattle this morning. Their cousin and his girlfriend also joined us, as did our friend, Jason.

On the menu:

  • Pesto and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breasts with a Tomato Lime Vinaigrette
  • Couscous with Roasted Zucchini and Sauteed Vegetables

For dessert, I made an apple spice cake, with maple syrup buttercream frosting.

I’m sorry the pictures aren’t as good as they should be (food blogger fail), but I was suuuuuper busy making sure everything came together in time for everybody to arrive. I skipped my usual Zumba workout and went straight to the grocery store, but only had two hours to get everything together! Talk about a race against time – dishes were flying, the sink was full, and counter space was minimal. It all came together in the end, though.

And it was delicious, if I do say so myself! Stay tuned for the recipe this weekend. We all ate ourselves silly and shared many laughs as Stef and I retold our Virginia Beach story which, judging by the reactions of our friends, has great entertainment value. It was such a nice treat to get out of the weekly grind and do something social on what I will probably always think of as “a school night”. This was the first time I had Stef during the week since he started his new job – not even exaggerating!

After I bid farewell to everybody, it was time to clean up the catastrophe, also known as my kitchen. Luckily, I got to chit-chat with my mom on the phone while I was cleaning up and then sang and danced my way around the kitchen while listening to the Bubblegum Oldies Pandora station.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I didn’t end up getting to bed until well after midnight so I am tired with a capital ‘T’. Since I missed my workout yesterday, I am going to double up today, with Body Pump and then a Zumba class. I am sure by the time I get home, I will be ready to face plant on my bed and be dead to the world until morning. Hopefully I will have the willpower to pop in the shower, just for the sake of my roommates and co-workers.

I’ll probably stay up just long enough to stick my face in what’s left of the apple spice cake, because it was just so delicious. For those of you who want to try this amazingness, it was adapted from a recipe I saw on Smitten Kitchen (LOVE this blog), so pop on over there and snag the recipe. The maple buttercream was my idea, just because I love maple and I had a big jar of it from Trader Joe’s. I basically just kept adding until I felt it was maple-y enough. Deb, the author of SK, recommends that you roast the apples before folding them into the batter, but I decided not to (read: I was going to and then completely forgot) and it turned out delicious, just the same. If you decide to make it, let me know what you think! I just love all the yummy fall flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg that permeate the kitchen while this is baking – it’s enough to make your neighbors wish they lived at your house.

After I staggered out of bed this morning, I was not interested in making breakfast a fanfare, so I kept it simple with an English muffin PB & J with chia seeds. On the side I munched on some pieces of fresh pineapple – the last taste of summer!

 

Super excited for lunch today – hello, leftovers!

Food For Thought: Do certain flavors and scents remind you of different seasons? What screams fall to you?

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Manic Monday

27 Aug

Holy cow, guys, how is it already 11:30??? I feel like I was go, go, go the whole day. Even breakfast was a quickie, with some Greek yogurt, topped with Kashi Go Lean and fresh fruit. I also sprinkled some chia seeds on the top.

When lunchtime rolled around, I kept going from one of my containers to the other, not really satisfied with anything I was eating. I started out with some quinoa with feta, tomato, and arugula.

About mid-way through my quinoa, I got bored and switched over to some carrots and hummus.

The whole time I was eating, I was craving something sweet, so luckily I had popped some trail mix into my lunchbox. I made it yesterday, with the Costco walnuts and almonds I had, plus a package of raisins I bought at Trader Joe’s over the weekend.

All that was missing were some M&Ms for some color and sweetness!

The rest of the day was busy going through the list of tasks my boss had left me while he’s out of town. Then it was time for Body Pump! My arms were feeling really good today, but I feel like I was struggling the whole way through squats and lunges. Maybe I should up the weight on my arms? It’s nice finishing a set without feeling like your muscles are about to peel away from your body, though. I will let you guys know what I end up doing after my next Body Pump class on Wednesday.

As soon as I got home, it was time to prep for dinner. My roommate is leaving for Sweden for a couple of weeks and I wanted to make him a goodbye dinner. I had some frozen chicken breasts and the big Tupperware of pesto from the weekend, just waiting to be used. I decided to improvise, so I chopped up the frozen chicken and put it in a saute pan where some garlic had been roasting in some hot olive oil.

Am I the only one who thinks chicken looks really strange when it’s raw?

After the chicken had been cooking for awhile and was almost done, I added the pesto, in a frozen chunk, to the pan and stirred it around to mix it. As it melted, it created a really nice, light coating for the chicken.

Meanwhile, my roommate had popped some rice into the rice maker and made a nice side salad for us to eat while we were waiting for the rice to cook. Salads are just so much better with avocado!

When the rice was finally ready, we were so ready to eat. Here it is in all its pesto-y goodness:

I usually associate pesto with a pasta topping, but the nice thing about it is its versatility. Pesto can be used as a marinade, a sauce, a spread, or a topping and its delicious every time.

Well, ladies and gents, it is sufficiently late and I need to get my butt to bed! Hope you had a great start to your week, have a wonderful night!

Pesto Party

26 Aug

Hello, hello! Is the weekend over already? I feel like Sunday rolls around and I always wonder where the time went…

Yesterday was all about food (more so than usual): I went to Trader Joe’s with Stefano after my morning workout and did a desperately needed grocery shop, which was evidenced by the fact that my receipt totaled almost $100!! Eeep. Guess that’s what happens when you wait two weeks to go grocery shopping. Get a load of this haul, though.

That’ll keep me going for probably another two weeks. If you get a glimpse of the basil containers on the right, you will see one of the main ingredients for the pesto party that Stefano and I had shortly after putting all the groceries away. Please also note the massive loaf of challah bread, which was the star attraction in some delicious French toast that we made for Sunday brunch.

Back to the pesto. Pesto has some of my favorite things in the world in it: basil, cheese, and olive oil. Everyone always seems to be so intimidated by it and always buy it pre-made at the store, but please read this post and know how easy it is to make at home. I promise, it tastes a million times better!!! All you need are these ingredients:

A proper pesto contains pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but if you are poor like me can’t find those, you can always substitute with walnuts and any other kind of hard, salty cheese (I picked up some Pecorino Romano from Costco). Some people use parsley or other greens instead of basil, but I personally don’t think pesto is worth eating unless it has basil. I usually make it and adjust the recipe according to how I’m feeling, but what I generally follow as a guideline is:

  • 2 cups, around 2-3 oz. fresh basil (don’t even both with dried basil, it’s useless)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (spring for extra-virgin)
  • 1/3 cup nuts (walnuts or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, and Pecorino Romano are all good)
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled

Stefano grating away

I always start by sticking the garlic in the food processor and giving it a few pulses, so it gets minced and then adding the nuts to get those chopped up, as well. I really don’t follow any particular order, but I usually liked to add the basil and get that mixed in before adding the olive oil. One thing I do suggest is to add the olive oil in a consistent stream as the food processor is going. This ensures that you get a nice, smooth product at the end. After that’s nice and mixed, I stick in the cheese at the end.

Go, little food processor, go!

Taste as you go and feel free to tweak the amount of ingredients, depending on your preferences. We stuck three cloves of garlic in our first batch and that ended up being a little too strong, and we really like garlic. If you’re not a huge garlic fan, one clove might be enough. Just adjust the ingredients proportionally if you’re planning on making a big batch.

You can make extra and freeze it in an ice cube tray and then you have individual portions of pesto!

Of course, we had to test out our batch, so we grabbed some tomato basil focaccia that we picked up from Trader Joe’s, spread a layer of pesto on the inside, and added some slices of fresh mozzarella, before popping them in the toaster oven for a few minutes, to melt the cheese and toast the bread.

After they came out, we drizzled a little olive oil and vinegar on top and scarfed them right down. Unbelievable.

It was a successful pesto party and both of us now have Tupperwares of pesto in our freezer, waiting to be eaten. Please try this at home, I promise you that you will never be able to eat store-bought pesto again!

Wow, the time flies! It is getting late over here and it’s bedtime for me! I spent most of the evening over at Stefano’s, making him lunches and dinners to keep in the refrigerator, so he doesn’t have to worry about meal preparation this week. Hopefully this means he won’t be getting home from school at 8:30 PM like last week!

I hope everybody had a really enjoyable weekend. I look forward to telling you about my delicious Sunday French toast in tomorrow morning’s post. For now, good night!

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