Vegan Walnut Pesto

A couple of bucks got me a huge bundle of basil at the Farmer’s Market last week. (hi-five on that alliteration)

I made caprese salads three days in a row, but as the week went on, and I wasn’t making a dent in my herbal bouquet, I figured I better make a pesto before all the glorious greens started to brown.

Caprese salad

It seems so trendy to call things “vegan” these days, and I hate being trendy; but I didn’t know a more concise way to convey that there is no cheese in this pesto. “Cheese-less pesto” or “pesto sans cheese” just sound weird.

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I made this pesto in the morning and then used it later that day for a Walnut Pesto Chicken Pasta with Broccoli for dinner.

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The pasta was easy … I roasted chicken a la Ina Garten, chopped up a fresh ball of mozzarella, and roasted broccoli with a little olive oil. Sure I could have simply blanched or sautéed the broccoli, but there’s something about roasted broccoli that I just can’t get enough of these days. The edges become toasty and buttery and it really transforms into something special. Scatter parmigiano over top with a heavy hand and you’ve got a meal on its own. But I digress …

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We had fresh pesto pasta from “our pasta lady” at the Farmer’s Market so that didn’t take but 3 minutes to boil. Then it was just assembly. Drain pasta and place back in pot. Pour in some pesto and a little reserved starchy water and stir. Then dump in chicken, broccoli, mozzarella and more pesto, as needed.

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This pasta was SOOooo good! A delicious and healthy dinner for me and my best gal pals.

We were all eatin’ pasta like this …

But it was really like this …

This pesto is nice to have on-hand when you need a good meal quick. It could be used in all kinds of pasta dishes, over chicken, burgers or veggies … it would be great for a homemade pizza base too!

Pesto

Vegan Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 2-3 fresh garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, could toast for extra nutty flavor
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 large or 2 small)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, amount depends on preferred consistency
  • 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Preparation:

Place basil, garlic, walnuts, and lemon juice into your blender or food processor. Pour a little olive oil in just to get things going and then blend until nuts and basil are finely pureed. Add in red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and begin pouring in olive oil through a top in a steady stream while you blend. You could also just dump all of the olive oil in and blend it all up, it works fine either way.

Note: these ingredient amounts can and should be adapted to suit your preferences. I rarely measure ingredients for pesto, but rather test out the flavor as I go. It all depends on how garlicky, lemony, nutty, or spicy you like your pesto. Also, how thick or thin you like the consistency. Just play around with it and it will be easier and more natural every time.

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Peach and Plum Galette

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You might recall from my recent Farmer’s Market post that I came back with quite a few peaches and plums; and since stone fruit is basically born to be made into desserts, specifically pies … I brought their destiny to fruition.

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Galettes (or crostadas) are like free-form pies. They’re so pretty and reeeally hard to mess up.

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Since I have been pretty busy lately, my plan was to just buy pie dough at the store. But when I got there and read the ingredients on the label, I made other plans. I dramatically threw down the “hydrogenated lard” in my hand and marched towards the natural butter while whispering under my breath, “Screw it, I’m doing this thing the right way.”

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Note: In the picture above you will see that it sort of looks like the dessert is not coming together, but like magic, it will!

With a food processor, a crust is about the easiest thing to make anyway, so I really had no excuse in the first place. The recipe I used for the pie dough is pretty foolproof. It’s from the book, The Pastry Queen. I almost made a pate sablee, but didn’t have any ground almonds, or almonds in general, and they’re a little expensive. So I stuck to the basics.

Peach plum galette

This pie is so good it’s unreal. The peaches and plums are sweet and juicy, and the crust is the perfect flakiness. Guaranteed crowd (or single person) pleaser. 

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Peach & Plum Galette

Pie Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 11 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 4-6 tbsp cold water

Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 small plums, skins on and sliced
  • 2 peaches, skins on and sliced
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • Extra sugar for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp apricot or peach jam

Preparation:

To make crust …

Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. If you’re using a food processor just put all the dry ingredients in together and give it a quick whirl to mix. Cut butter in by hand or toss all into the processor, until the mixture is crumbly and about the size of small peas. Add 4 tbsp very cold water and mix. Only add the rest of the water 1 tbsp at a time if needed, just until the mixture holds together easily.* Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk shape. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To make the filling …

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon flour, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. In a large bowl gently toss together the plums, lemon juice and zest. Sprinkle the flour mixture over plums; gently toss until evenly coated.

To finish galette …

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take dough out of the fridge and roll out to about 10 inches in diameter on a floured surface. Place dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Transfer the plum mixture on top of dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Fold border over plum mixture, overlapping where necessary and gently pressing to adhere the folds.

Beat together the egg and teaspoon and water and brush over the edges of the dough, then sprinkle a little sugar over the crust. Place galette on the bottom rack of oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on a baking rack. While pie is cooling, carefully brush jam over the fruit. It will give it a little extra sweetness and beautiful shine.

Can be served warm or at room temperature. Also, would be delicious with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

*Note: I only needed 4 tbsp of water.

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Healthy Banana Bread with Walnuts and Dark Chocolate

This is a great recipe that you can feel good about. It’s perfect for breakfast, a snack, dessert, late-night craving …

If I don’t have healthy treats around that I can nosh on when I get the urge, things can get preeeetty dicey. Like, late night chocolate cake making or cheesy pasta dicey. If I have something like this delicious bread sitting around, I have nothing to worry about because it’s easy, tasty, and full of good things!

This bread is one of the best healthy banana bread recipes I have tried. The recipe I used as inspiration had unsweetened applesauce instead of Greek yogurt and olive oil, but I improvised and used what I had. I am a big fan of using applesauce in baked goods though – it’s perfect for adding natural sweetness and moisture. If you omit the chocolate chips in my recipe (which I clearly could not do), this is pretty much guilt-free. I don’t even feel guilty for the chocolate though, because it’s good for the soul. #truth. 

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Healthy Banana Bread with Walnuts and Dark Chocolate 

Recipe adapted from Ambitious Kitchen 

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 mashed banana (overripe is best)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt (Fage)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (more or less to your liking)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (more or less to your liking)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

In large bowl combine mashed banana, yogurt, olive oil, honey, egg, almond milk and vanilla until well combined and creamy. In separate medium bowl whisk together whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.

Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely. Keep bread tightly wrapped to maintain moisture.

Enjoy!

Farmer’s Market Saturdays

I’m that girl at the Farmer’s Market who takes awkwardly up-close-and-personal pics of each stand and then dashes away before someone can stop me …

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We stopped first at the coffee stand and then got a pastry from our favorite cute German baker lady before we began shopping in earnest, because, how could we possibly function before we’ve had iced coffee and pastries?

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In addition to the usual folk band, there was a harpist. Our Market is very fancy.

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There is so much beautiful produce in season this time of year, so we came away with quite a haul …

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Acorn squash, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, plums, apples, basil, fresh pasta, and the most flavorful Concord grapes I have ever had. 

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Until next weekend …

Garlic Dill Pickles

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When you see Kirby cucumbers at the farmer’s market, the only sensible thing to do is to buy them and make pickles immediately. Which is exactly what I did.

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Pickles are something that are so nostalgically summer to me, and to be honest I don’t know exactly why … my grandmother had a great pickle recipe, which unfortunately was lost when she passed away. I used to love when she would make pickles though. They were just perfect, but I can’t remember why. I’m guessing she made them in the summer time.

Now I’m on a quest to find my own perfect pickle recipe. Pickles are also something that top American summer favorites like burgers and hot dogs. So perhaps that’s where my feelings of nostalgia arise from. These pickles turned out so well, that I think I will make it a personal tradition for me to make pickles in July from now on.  

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I really like when cucumbers are kept whole for pickles, but I didn’t have a jar big enough to accommodate. You think that stopped me? Nope. Instead I found a sun tea container buried deep in the back of the pantry and used that. It was WAY too big for the pickles, but still did the job. 

I used a recipe I found on Serious Eats. It recommended letting the pickles mellow out for a week, but I actually let them sit for 3 weeks. I tried one after a week and it just wasn’t done. After 3, they were perfection. Spicy, tangy, garlicky … just what I like in a pickle. I can’t stand sweet pickles, so if that’s your thing, this recipe is not for you. Also, we probably can’t be friends. 

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Garlic Dill Pickles 

Recipe from Serious Eats 

Ingredients:

  • 2 quart kirby cucumbers (approximately 3 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 teaspoons dill seed
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes

Preparation:

Wash jars thoroughly in warm, soapy water. If you plan on making shelf stable pickles, prepare a boiling water bath canner. Put fresh canning jar lids into a small saucepan with 3 inches of water and set to the barest simmer.

Wash and dry kirby cucumbers. Remove blossom end. Cut into chips, spears or leave whole, depending on your preference.

Combine vinegar, water and salt in sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lean forward if you would like to clear out your nasal passage … 

Equally divide garlic cloves, dill seed, black peppercorns and red chili flakes between jars. Pack prepared cucumbers into jars as tightly as you can without crushing them.

Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace (that’s the amount of space between the surface of the brine and the rim of the jar).

Remove any air bubbles from jars by gently tapping them. You can also use a wooden chopstick or plastic utensil to help remove stubborn bubbles.

Wipe rims and apply lids and bands (don’t screw them on too tightly).

If processing jars for shelf stability, lower jars into your processing pot. When water returns to a boil, set a timer for 10 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars from canning pot and allow them to cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, check seals.

If you choose not to process your jars, let them cool before putting them into the refrigerator. Do note that your jars may seal during the cooling process. However, without the boiling water bath process, that doesn’t mean they’re shelf stable. Still refrigerate.

Let pickles rest for at least one week before eating. I recommend 3 weeks. 

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At the start of pickling … 

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After 3 weeks of pickling …                                          

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Credit to my brother Scottie for taking the great pics. 

Road Trip Granola Bars

Homemade Granola

Along with the Spiced Nuts from my last post, I also made some homemade granola bars for my road trip. They’re easy to make, really delicious, and a healthy snack to have on hand.

Granola bars are great because you can “make it your own,” as Simon Cowell would say an infinite amount of times on American Idol circa 2003. You can change the nuts and fruit to suit your preferences, and also make them super healthy or less healthy by playing around with the sweeteners and binders. For example, the recipe I based mine off of used butter and brown sugar, but I swapped in honey, pure maple syrup and olive oil instead. I used pecans in place of almonds, and I also added in natural peanut butter because I apparently cannot live a single day without peanut butter. I aaaaallmost drizzled some dark chocolate over top, but thought it might make a mess if they’re left in a hot car. One thing to note, is that these granola bars don’t hold together quite as well as others when you cut them, I’ll have to investigate that issue further once I’m off the road. Otherwise, they’re cute little bundles of delicious joy!

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Road Trip Granola Bars

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the olive oil, honey, maple syrup, peanut butter, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute. Add in vanilla, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the apricots and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

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Indian Spiced Nuts with Coconut

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My family is about to embark on a summer road trip, which means I am preparing myself for lots of Cracker Barrel and Chick-fil-A pit stops. Ugh.

I need to be ready with lots of reasonable snacks so I’m not forced to choke down gross fast food fare. I’ve got tons of fruit, Pecan nut thins (because, duh), homemade granola bars, and spiced nuts. These nuts … omg. (That’s what she said?)

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I love how flavorful this nut mix is, and the addition of shredded coconut adds an interesting element, but I actually think it needs a little less spice. As in, there was more dry spice than there was nuts to cover, and I even added extra cashews in the mix. I omitted the 2 tsp of salt this time because the peanuts and cashews I used were already salted. Plus, I don’t like super salty snacks on a road trip. They make me feel puffy and bad about myself and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Next time I make this I will probably cut down on the amount of spices, maybe even in half. I might also try sweetened coconut for an added dimension of flavor. Otherwise, this is a tasty little snack that you can feel good about!

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Indian Spiced Nuts with Coconut

Recipe adapted from Food Network’s, Aarti Sequeira 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup roasted cashews
  • 4 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a big bowl mix together the peanuts, pecans, cashews, coconut, oil, coriander, cumin, garam masala and salt together and pour onto the baking sheet. Toast for 1 hour, rotating the sheet a couple of times for even baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

 

 

Mint Pesto Pasta with Ground Turkey and Arugula

Mint pesto is such a pensive condiment …

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I had a bunch of mint that was on its last leg, so before the whole thing went bad I impulsively dumped it all into my food processor and then scrambled around the kitchen looking for additional items to make a pesto. I didn’t have any more greens at the time, so this pesto is admittedly more parmesan and pecans than anything else (no problem as far as I’m concerned).

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I can’t say that I have an official recipe for this, because I made it up as I went, but basically it’s: fresh mint, pecans, parmesan, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and extra virgin olive oil. Blend it all up until it’s your preferred consistency. Then put it in a cute jar and admire it from afar.

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I decided to use my pesto right away, so that night I made a huge batch of pasta for the family. I also made this up as I went, but I’ll give you a basic rundown.

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Mint Pesto Pasta with Ground Turkey and Arugula

Yield: this makes quite a lot of pasta, so halving it would be plenty for 4. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Small white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 boxes of whole wheat penne pasta (12 oz. each)
  • Pint of grape tomatoes, halved
  • Couple of handfuls of arugula (i.e. rocket)
  • Mint-pesto pasta (loose recipe above)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

Bring large sauté pan to medium heat and pour olive oil in. Drop chopped onion in and cook until nice and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Place turkey in pan and carefully break up into small pieces as you cook the meat. Stir frequently until cooked all the way through. Carefully placed lid on pan and drain any excess liquid from the turkey into the sink by making a tiny crack between the lid and pan. Place pan back on burner and add minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat down to low and add grape tomatoes and arugula. Let cook just until tomatoes start to break down slightly and arugula begins to wilt.

Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add a good handful of salt. Then dump pasta in and cook according to box directions (usually 10 minutes or so for al dente). Stir frequently to ensure pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Before draining, scoop out about a cup of the starchy cooking water and set aside. Drain pasta and then place back in pot on the burner. Turn heat down to low.

Add meat mixture and 1/2 cup of pesto to the pot of pasta. Add in about half of the starchy cooking liquid and stir over low heat so everything can meld together. Add more liquid and pesto, as needed, until the pasta is creamy looking and the noodles are well saturated.

Serve pasta in a big bowl with fresh arugula scattered over the top.

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Chocolate Coca Cola Cake

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My Mom had a very specific request for her birthday. She wanted this cake and nothing else.

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Best decision she’s ever made.

This cake is very similar to a Texas Sheet cake and is apparently a Southern tradition. I had never heard of it before, but now I’m quite certain I will never forget it. It is THE most rich and decadent, fudgey and succulent dessert I’ve ever had. Make this for any occasion and wait for the compliments and recipe requests to pour in.

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Chocolate Coca Cola Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Coca Cola 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Frosting:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 6 tbsp Coca Cola
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Preparation:

In a saucepan, mix Coca Cola, oil, butter and cocoa and bring to a boil. In another bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Pour the boiling Cola mixture over the flour mixture and beat well. Add the eggs, buttermilk, soda and vanilla and beat well. Pour mixture into a greased and floured 13 x 9 inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees or 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pan. Cool for about 10 minutes before frosting.

Frosting: In a saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa, and Coca Cola. Heat until the butter melts. Beat in the remaining ingredients and spread on the cake while it’s still warm. Enjoy! 

Note: Add walnuts/pecans to the icing like I did for an extra dimension of flavor!

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Healthy Mocha

Healthy Mocha

For when you need some sweet comfort but don’t want to undo your whole healthy day. This is warm, rich, and yummy. It comes in at under 100 cals. You’re welcome.

Healthy Mocha

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1-2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (based on chocolately preference)
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup (based on sweetness preference)
  • Tiiiiny splash of pure vanilla
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

Preparation:

Heat almond milk either in microwave or on stove top. Once hot, add cocoa, coffee, maple, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir until smooth and frothy. Enjoy this 90 calorie sweet treat!