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I’ve decided that eating fresh pesto is like eating summer.  If you grow your own basil, then what’s the difference between basil and summer, really?  To me, they’re fairly synonymous.  Cooking with home-grown fresh herbs is one of the treats of the season, and I look forward to it all winter long.

 Making Pesto

My basil plants were overflowing with great-sized leaves the other night, and I decided it was time for some pesto.  Every year at the end of the season I make a few batches of pesto, and freeze them to use throughout the winter.  This batch, though, did not last past dinner.  In a food processor, combine 2 c. well-packed basil leaves and 1/4 c. chopped nuts (pine nuts or walnuts).  Pulse till shredded, then add 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 c. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. ground pepper, and pulse again.  Add 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese, and pulse until smooth, pushing down as needed.  If you’d like to freeze this in a jar for later use, don’t add the cheese until it’s been thawed and you’re ready to serve it.

A Pesto Pasta Salad

Once the pesto was ready, I poured it over a lb. of cooked pasta, then stirred in 8 oz. of cubed fresh mozzarella and a handful of grape tomatoes.  Served with some fresh fruit, it was the perfect savory, gooey dinner that satisfied the whole family.

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We do lots of hiking and picnics during the summer, and sometimes it’s nice to stray away from the cooler full of sandwiches.  Recently, I made a quick pasta salad before we headed out on a hike for the day, and by mid-afternoon it was a welcomed meal.  As with so many other things I love to make, it is easy customizable to what’s in the fridge, what your family does and doesn’t like, and what strikes your fancy.

A portable pasta salad

To make, start by poaching two trimmed chicken breasts in chicken broth.  When cooked through, remove, cool, and shred.  While the chicken is cooking, boil half a pound of pasta- any whole grain variety of shells, elbows, fusilli, or rotini would do.  Combine cooked pasta and chicken, and mix in two cups of lightly-steamed veggies.  Here I used baby spinach and corn, but broccoli and red peppers, or carrots and green beans would be nice too.  Finally, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Whip out your cooler, and your picnic lunch is ready to go.  We brought along grapes and cheese sticks, and this kept us satisfied for the day.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Orzo is one of my favorite quick, universal pastas that is good warm or cold; as a light meal or side dish; and almost always a kid-pleaser.  This particular recipe comes together in just minutes, and can be shaped to meet the likes (and dislikes) of your family.

A simple orzo salad

To make orzo salad, first cook according to package directions.  Drain and rinse under cool water, as this is one pasta that tends to stick together if not handled properly.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil, stir in coarsely chopped fresh basil and diced sun-dried tomatoes, and sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese.  Other options for this salad are goat or feta cheese, fresh spinach instead of basil, and fresh tomatoes instead of sun-dried.  Many kids think this is rice and will eat it without question, and it’s a dish that is delicious as leftovers.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

All the rage are “five ingredient cookbooks,” and I can see why.  A meal consisting of five ingredients or less is likely to be quick and uncomplicated to assemble, and inexpensive.  Who can resist the allure?

Fresh basil is peeking out of our garden (if you aren’t growing any, you must get yourself a pot- it’s the easiest and most rewarding plant!), and I couldn’t resist using some the other night for one of my favorite simple meals- a summer pasta salad.  This one has five ingredients simply because it requires nothing more. 

A Simple Supper

Boil a pound to a pound and a half of tortellini.  Once cooked to your liking, drain and transfer to a bowl.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil, and toss with halved grape or cherry tomatoes, chunks of fresh mozzarella, and chopped fresh basil.  Season with salt or pepper, if desired, and serve warm or cooled.  It’s a light meal, but the mozzarella and the cheese in the tortellini provide decent protein, and if paired with some steamed vegetables and fruit, dinner is served.  Leftovers work excellently as a lunch for school, and the pasta salad is perfect for a potluck meal or picnic.

To find out what’s cooking in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy growing!

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