Yummy pesto pasta salad-hot or cold

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This is a really easy thing to make for a party, quick dinner or have unexpected guests.  This can be served hot or cold.

Pesto Recipe:

Big bunch of basil

Extra Virgin Olive oil– about 3/4 cups

1 cup pine nuts

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 garlic clove

Directions: in a mixer put basil and pine nuts and mix, then add the parmesan cheese and garlic clove.  While it’s spinning stream in the olive oil.  You will have a lot of pesto and can divide up into little containers that you can freeze for later use.

 

Different uses for Pesto:  On little toast for a quick hors d’oeuvres- add a sliced cherry tomato and a few pine nuts, it can be added on grilled chicken, fish or steak… it just adds a bit of flavor… you can even toss a spoon in soup.  The ideas go on and on-even a dollop on a caprese salad adds color and taste! I am using it as a simple pasta salad.

 

For the pasta salad:  Use a box of shapely noodles… it grips the pesto better.  Halve a bunch of cherry tomatoes, add cut basil leaves with your fingers or sissors, salt and pepper to taste and add a bunch of soup spoons of pesto—toss it all together.  You want the pasta to be really green and not too dry-so add in as many spoons of pesto as you think-depending on the amount of pasta you use.  You can also add olive oil for moisture. Serve hot or cold.  Add protein to this salad:  shrimp, chicken or scallops have worked well, but I prefer to add protein when I serve the dish hot, but if you serve it cold, chicken is always a good option.  You can make this a day in advance for your party, picnic or buffet if you are serving it cold!  YUM

 

49th Birthday party appetizers

I decided to host a birthday party for my friend.  At first I wanted it to be a surprise… well, I apparently can’t keep a secret.  I had asked Jill if she wanted to celebrate her birthday with me and Latifa at my place.  In the end she said it would be great but she’d love to have Wendy and Penny join.  I burst out laughing because I had spent the whole day spying on her facebook page to get contact names.  I basically told her I’d already invited them.  Later that evening I then blurted out more people I invited.  I decided not to cook as much for this party as I was busy working on other projects and didn’t have much time.  I ended up serving way too much food!  What you don’t see here are Jill’s favorite hot appetizers.  Olive balls.

 

Olive ball recipe:

40 green pimento olives drained

4 tablespoons of European style butter

3 cups of cheddar cheese

1/2 cup flour

Directions:  Drain the olives and set aside.  Mix with your hands or in the cuisinart all the ingredients until you get it shaped into a big ball.  Take a bit off each time and make a little pancake like shape.  Place an olive in it and then wrap it with the dough.  The best part about this appetizer is you can freeze them and always have them on hand for last minute get togethers.  The keep in the freezer for about 2 months.  Just bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so.  YUM

 

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I also made chocolate covered strawberries.  It’s super easy and a nice treat.  I usually buy a big bar of chocolate and use my make shift bain marie- a  steel bowl on top of a pot with boiling water.  You need to constantly stir the chocolate until it fully melts.  I used about 250 grams of chocolate for 12 huge strawberries.  I wasn’t in the mood to make a cake, so I cheated and bought the cheese cake.

Next I bought a great spinach dip that I placed in the red pepper cut out.

 

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A very easy and pretty appetizer is blue cheese, walnuts and endive…. this is so simple, break apart the endive, sprinkle a good blue cheese and little pieces of walnuts and voila!!!!!

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The evening was nice with lots of food to eat… I got every type of Italian cured meat at Perozzi’s Italian deli, in San Pedro! YUM

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Simple Avocado citrus salad

My friend dropped off 10 avocados from her father-in-laws avocado farm-lucky!  I love avocado but I simply had too much and was gaucamoled out.  I made a really “light” dressing of lime and a teaspoon of honey on top of a bed of sliced tomatoes and avocados and some chopped cilantro. This is a refreshing and filling side dish or perfect for  lunch.  I now am the proud owner of an avocado tree, but it will take years to yield many avocados.

For two servings:

2 Haas avocados sliced or cubed, depending on your preference

2 tomatoes sliced.

handful of cilantro chopped or cut with scissors

1 lime squeezed into small bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon or more of honey and 2 tablespoons oil of your preference.  Mix and drizzle over avocado and tomatoes!

Add salt ( sel de cali- citrus blend, cilantro red pepper, or chardonnay) Voila, ready to eat.

simple avocado salad

Cauliflower Au Gratin

A great side dish or even a meal if you add hard-boiled eggs.  This specific photo is without the eggs.

cauwlflower au gratin

The first step is to cut up one whole cauliflower and blanch the florets or steam for just a bit, don’t cook entirely.  Put the semi cooked cauliflower in a nice pan or casserole dish to bake.  Turn the oven on to 350 F.

Next make a home-made bechamel sauce.  This requires a lot of attention and stirring.  Once your bechamel sauce is done, pour it into the pan with the cauliflower.  Top off the dish with some grated Gruyère cheese and a bit of grated parmesan.  Bake for 30 mins and turn the heat up to 400 bake for 10 more minutes so the cheese gets browned.  If you want to turn this into a meal you can place 4 hard-boiled eggs cut in half on top of the cauliflower mixture and then add cheese.

 

Cauliflower
Cauliflower (Photo credit: Indiana Public Media)

Ingredients:  1 head of cauliflower

1 cup grated Gruyère Cheese

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Parmesan Cheese (or more accurately, Parmigian...
Parmesan Cheese (or more accurately, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

For the béchamel: 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons fresh grated nutmeg, 3 cups whole milk, 4 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons flour.

To make the béchamel.  Put the 3 cups of milk to heat in a pot keep warm and don’t let it boil, turn as heat as low as possible.  In a pot melt the butter and add the 3 tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly until you form a nice colored roux.  approximately 3 mins of stirring.  Add little by little the warm milk by constantly stirring. Once all the milk is mixed in, continue to stir and get the bechamel bubbling.  If it’s thin at first, don’t worry, it will eventually thicken.  Once it’s the consistency of heavy cream you can remove from heat.  Stir in the salt, Nutmeg and mix in about 1/2 cup of the grated Gruyère cheese ( or a good swiss cheese).  Poor it over your cauliflower.  Make sure all the florets  are covered.  Then add the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyère and sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese.  Bake!  It’s a great dish to bring to  pot luck, to have as a side with meat, fish, poultry, great for Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners.  And again, you can make this the main dish by added hard-boiled eggs cut in half.  Enjoy-yum

 

 

Shrimp and Scallop medley

The nightly quest of  satisfying the question “what’s for dinner,” was especially difficult due to a missed shopping trip… kids homework and other things that just get in the way of a Betty Crocker moment.  I found myself staring at a very bare fridge.  Most would order in or get take out but this wasn’t an option.  You can use things in an imaginary way, just pretend your fridge is the mystery basket on the show  Chopped

I found enough to make a nice meal:  a few frozen scallops and shrimp.  A lemon grass and some spinach.  It took less time than ordering food and having it delivered.  I sautéed the shrimp in a bit of butter and garlic for about 2 mins.   I added the scallops and then tossed in my lemon grass and spinach.  I didn’t over cook the scallops.  I didn’t get a lovely

seer on them, either, but it was better than overcooked rubber!!!!! I finished the dish off with Sel de Cali– the Meyers lemon sea salt.  It was delicious and only took about 10 minutes to prepare.   I served this  medley over rice and called it my own.

1 garlic clove chopped

1-2 tablespoons of butter, depending on your health 🙂

around 6 scallops

around 6 shrimp

One bag of baby spinach

1 lemon grass

Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf
Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf (Photo credit: Ahmad Fuad Morad)

2 teaspoons finishing salt- Sel de Cali-meyers lemon sea salt

Steam some rice
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Dill pickles

Cucumbers (specifically, Gherkins) gathered fo...
Cucumbers (specifically, Gherkins) gathered for pickling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

Pickled Cucumbers - Li Li's Imperial Cuisine
Pickled Cucumbers – Li Li’s Imperial Cuisine (Photo credit: avlxyz)

 

 

 

 

 

Cucumbers Español: Pepinos Português: Pepinos
Cucumbers Español: Pepinos Português: Pepinos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love pickles but have never made them.  I’m not one to can, preserve etc.  It all seems too complicated and I would fear poisoning myself somehow for not respecting the perfect canning rules.  I don’t follow directions well.  I succeeded in making delicious dill pickles with a hint of heat.  The good thing about these pickles is they could just be stored in the fridge for up to two months.  The trick was to get them to last more than two weeks in our pickle loving household.

 

You need about 6-8 pounds pickling cucumbers

a big bunch of fresh dill

2 large onions, thinly sliced

4-5 garlic cloves sliced and whole-depending on your preference.

1 quart water

1 quart white vinegar

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup sugar

One hot pepper sliced in circles.  Keep the seeds if you want it extra spicy.  Note:  When cutting hot peppers wear gloves, unless you want to do what I did and have hot pepper on everything, including my coffee cup.

 

  1. Cut each cucumber lengthwise into four spears or as I did in rounds. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, dill, onions and garlic; set aside. In a pot, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir just until salt is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture; cool.
  2. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Yum!

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Luscious Lasagne Bolognese

Pastasorten Lasagne
Pastasorten Lasagne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was one of the best meals I made and also froze.  One lasagna has lasted our small family of 3 over a month.  I decided to make a Bolognese sauce and a summer sauce a week prior.  I now have any pasta lovers freezer, with different pasta sauces as well as delicious lasagna.  After living in Italy 2.5 years I realized that the real way to make lasagna is to use Bechamel instead of Ricotta Cheese between the layers.

The Bolognese was already made, I just defrosted a giant tub, about 8 cups worth.  Meanwhile, I started on the Bechamel.   I usually just wing the recipe as I know what the consistency is supposed to be and the outcome always more or less is what I want.  However, for you to follow I’ve tried to get the ingredients down.  Mario Batalli’s Recipe is also a great one to follow if you want something more comprehensive.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/bechamel-sauce-recipe/index.html

My recipe is very similar.

4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

2 teaspoons salt

1teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 4-5 minutes.

I add milk about 1 cup at a time while whisking continuously until very smooth. What differs from my recipe is I don’t heat the milk separately and add heated milk.  I think I will try this technique next time.  I also didn’t cook it to a boil…. either way, it needs to be a thick, smooth consistency.  I do love to add tons of freshly grated nutmeg.  Invest in a nutmeg mill and you will be thrilled with the results.  The flavor from freshly ground nutmeg is amazing.  So much I felt like eating the bechamel with a spoon, like a nice soup.

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https://karinemeals.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/bolognese-sauce/

Recipe for the lasagna:

1 package of nice lasagna noodles

3 fresh tomatoes

1 big bunch of fresh basil

1 big ball of burrata-this was a splurge and is not necessary

1 pack of fresh mozzarella cheese

5-6 cups of Bolognese sauce. Vegetarians can use another sauce if they like, such as my Summer Sauce.

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I then just started with a big lasagna pan.  Make sure at this point you pre-heat the oven to 325 F.  I first put a healthy layer of bolognaise sauce, I then added uncooked pasta, another layer of bechamel and bolognaise mixed, then pasta, then I tour apart the burrata and added chopped basil, the whole bunch.  I then added more pasta, another layer of sauce, another layer of pasta, then more bechamel, sauce, pasta and then I ran out of everything.  I sliced 3 fresh tomatoes, cut up some fresh mozzarella cheese and then layered the top of the last layer of pasta.  I covered the lasagna with tin foil and let cook at 325 F for about 45 minutes.  I uncovered it and turned up the oven to 350 F and let the rest cook and bubble.  It was delicious and will be again tonight.  I suggest you serve with a side salad.  I used a mix of greens, romaine lettuce and arugula with a simple Dijon vinaigrette.

Dijon vinaigrette Recipe:

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

Mix the mustard and olive oil to a nice thick consistency, slowly add the vinegar while constantly whisking… and voila, a great dressing.