With all of the recent tragic events it’s really made me sit back and count my blessings. America is supposed to be a nation of nations, where people come to be free and thrive and build better lives. What is happening lately? Too many public shootings, then Newtown and now the Boston Marathon. As one of my friends put it, it’s like the pendulum has swung and we’ve all become vulnerable. I can’t imagine what all of the victim’s families must be going through. I feel so helpless. America needs to unify again and make a come back. Anywho my heart goes out to everyone in Boston this morning.
Moving from my darker rant to something that always lightens my mood: Fresh Pesto.
Pesto is one of my favorite sauces to add to a dish of steaming pasta. I wanted to add some more nutrition to my bowl and thought it might be fun to incorporate broccoli into the mix too. As it turned out, many other foodies and bloggers alike have had this same idea of pureeing broccoli into a pesto. However, most of them omit the basil completely. I decided to make a hybrid.
We have also added whole wheat pasta to our regiment. Although I don’t use it 100% of the time, I try to at least incorporate at half and half mixture to our pasta dishes. I’ve found that some wheat pastas are a bit “wheatier” than others and may take a bit of adjusting to if you are used to all white, smooth flour pastas. Mixing wheat and white pastas are a great way to start.
I really loved the texture of this sauce. If I were going to add anything to this recipe, it would be a bit of fat from either heavy cream or greek yogurt. Either would work great.
2 tablespoons pine nuts (or your favorite nuts to use in pesto)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped, for garnish
grated parmesan, for serving (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, chop the broccoli into florets. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the tough outer skins of the broccoli stem and chop the stem into 1/2-inch discs. When the water is boiling, add the broccoli florets and stem to the water to boil until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove broccoli to a bowl, leaving the water in the pot.
Maintain the water at a boil. Add the pasta to the pot and cook according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta well. Set aside.
Return the pot to the heat. Add the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and cook 1 minute more. Return the cooked broccoli to the pan and cook 1-2 minutes to heat through. Season with pepper to taste.
Transfer the broccoli mixture, fresh basil, lemon juice, black pepper and nuts to a food processor. Pulse in short bursts, scraping down the sides as needed, until the mixture is finely chopped. Add a bit of pasta water to thin out the sauce until it is smooth and creamy. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. In a large bowl (or in the pot), toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve with chopped tomatoes and freshly grated Parmesan if using.
Being unemployed has left me with a lot of free time. At first it was great – like a stay at home vacation. I got to sleep in, chill out, do whatever I wanted to do. But that got old really fast, once I realized that the things I wanted to do with my free time cost money and I could only watch the movies I already owned for so long. Netflix has become my new cheap best friend.
I reunited myself with old Nickelodeon cartoons for a few weeks. That was nostalgic. I blew through a few documentaries, movies, and then moved onto tv series. Now I am hooked, heck, I am completely addicted to Breaking Bad. Have you watched this show? It’s about a chemistry teacher who begins cooking meth. This show has everything – great characters, memorable lines, awesome music, and it’s packed with drama, action and bits of comedic relief too. Anywho, I will be sad when I get to the end of this series, but I am excited to indulge in another, just as addicting show. I was thinking about watching Mad Men next. Any other suggestions out there?
Anywho, I hate to admit it, but I’ve been more of a couch potato than anything recently. Mister made some beautiful pesto this week so I thought it might be a good opportunity to try this Skinny Taste Chicken Pesto Bake. This dish is light, easy and so flavorful – perfect for those days when I just don’t feel like exercising. 🙂 I added mushrooms to my dish, but you obviously do not have to if you don’t like fungus. I also added more pesto than Gina, because it’s delicious.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment for easy clean up. Wash and dry chicken with a paper towel. Slice chicken breast horizontally to create 4 thin cutlets. You can skip this step if you are using chicken breast tenders. Season both sides of each cutlet with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center.
While the chicken is baking, heat a small pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes, tossing occasionally. Set aside.
Remove the chicken from the oven and spread a tablespoon of pesto on each cutlet. Line each cutlet with the sauteed mushrooms, a layer of tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted. You could also place the chicken under a broiler on high for 1-3 minutes until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
In November, the company I worked for was purchased by a competitor. The employees weren’t given any information on whether or not the changes would be positive or negative for us. The rumors flew but without any solid information, all we could do was prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Yesterday we finally got our answer and the new company held their first round of layoffs. I was a part of the first round of cuts.
I’ve never been unemployed or qualified for unemployment before. I really enjoyed this job until the buyout. My manager was great, the people I worked with were friendly and competent and I really enjoyed my work. Plus I felt like the work I did was appreciated, until recently at least. It was nice to make a difference. Change can be a scary thing but nothing good ever happens until you take a risk, right? I’m taking this opportunity to find another great job where the work I do makes a difference again.
Throughout the last few days I have received so much support from friends and family. Thank you for your kind words, and offering a helping hand, and even asking around if anyone knows if there is a job available. I never expected this much support. It’s absolutely wonderful and makes this transition that much easier. I can’t thank you guys enough. I love you all very much.
Okay, back to the food portion of this post. My fiscal cleanse couldn’t have come at a better time now that I’m unemployed. I went through my pantry and found a ranch packet and some leftover pesto. I tossed those into a slow cooker with chicken thighs as an experiment (why not?). The chicken turned out full-flavored and fall-apart tender. Definitely a new favorite crock pot recipe.
I didn’t have potatoes on hand, but I bet that you can toss them in with everything else and they would turn out just as tender as the carrots did. I also thought the dish was salty enough because of the ranch packet.
About a pound of potatoes, cut into inch-thick chunks
6 ounce jar of pesto
1 package Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cup baby carrots
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra
1/4 cup white wine
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon paprika
pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients except for the chicken into your slow cooker. Place the chicken on top of the veggies (there should be enough liquid to mostly cover the chicken, add more stock if necessary) and cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Reduce heat to LOW for 6 to 7 hours until the chicken is cooked and the veggies are tender.
I haven’t met a homemade pizza I didn’t like. Well… that isn’t 100% true. I do have a few favorites (with the burning and the dough rising too much or not rising at all…) but there is something completely satisfying about working the pizza dough with your own hands and using fresh ingredients from your own garden (or your friends’ gardens in my case).
Mister and I first tried these specific pizza ingredients at a local chain. I don’t know what they do, but Proto’s Pizza has a one of the best Napoleon-style pizza crusts ever to exist. Their crust is thin but not too thin and it’s crisp but not too crisp. I must learn their secret!
Pesto Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers and Fresh Tomatoes
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yields: One medium-sized pizza, enough for 2-4 people
Pizza dough (if you buy your dough at the grocer, I recommend grabbing one of their pre-made pizza dough balls in the freezer section. These are usually a lot tastier than dough a pressurized can or dry mix)
Prep your dough. Make sure your dough sits at room temperature for about twenty minutes or so before you work with it. While your dough is warming, roast your red pepper. Preheat your oven to it's highest broil setting, place your pepper in a pan and put the pan toward the top of your oven. Roast for about 2 minutes, until the top is almost black. Turn your pepper over and repeat. Let your pepper cool a bit, then cut it into strips.
Heat a small saute pan and add your butter and a little oil. Saute your onions until they sweat (only a few minutes). Remove the pan from the heat.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. You want your oven very hot to imitate a stone pizza oven (sort of). Place your pizza stone at the bottom most part of your oven or on the oven floor if possible.
Sprinkle a thin layer of flour on your countertop. Work the dough until you have your desired thickness. Keep your crust as evenly distributed as possible to help ensure even cooking time. Move your dough to a flat floured surface so that you can easily place your pizza on your pizza stone (I like using a pizza peel).
Add your toppings. (Mister did most of the beautiful handy work here. Mad pizza cred!) Spread pesto and onion all over the pizza, add sliced fresh mozzarella, and sprinkle grated parmesan everywhere (and I mean everywhere). Then meticulously added the tomato and roasted red pepper slices. Delicately slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone and turn the oven light on. Watch in anticipation. You want your dough to rise but not too much. If bubbles begin to form open your oven door and pop them with a fork. Some bubbles are okay (heck, I think they're really tasty!!) but sometimes if the bubbles are too big, they will start to move your topping around and your beautiful handy work will be lost to gravity. Your pizza is cooked when both the top and bottom of your crust are golden brown and your cheese is melted.
Folks, you are in for a very special treat today. You are witnessing a part of Foodie McBooty history — a huge milestone in the cooking life of Foodie McBooty: I just bought my first basil plant! Before this, I have never attempted growing an herb garden — in fear of my cat eating more of the plant than I actually would.
(*Jaws Theme Plays* AHHHHHH!!!!)
But I couldn’t resist the sweet smell of fresh basil and gave in.
So what’s a girl to do now that she has her own basil plant? I ripped off as many leaves as possible and made fresh basil pesto! I think I left enough plant for the little guy to survive. I think…
1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts, almonds, etc... *see note)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine the basil and garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the nuts and pulse a couple more times. Add part of the olive oil and process for a few seconds. Repeat this step until all of the olive oil is used and your ingredients are smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add the cheeses. Pulse until just combined.
Pesto freezes really nicely. Pop any extra you may have into a freezer bag or small container for future use.
Also, experiment with using different nuts in your pesto. Each provide a slightly different flavor and you might find a new favorite. I've heard toasted macadamia nuts are pretty good. Haven't tried it myself yet.