She works with willing hands.

Roasted Golden Beet Salad

Golden beets don’t get enough press.  They are inherently delicious root vegetables, every bit as tasty as their garnet red siblings, but without all of the purple stain-y mess.  And although many of us are unfamiliar with roasting beets, they require very little in the way of preparation.  If you can scrub a beet and wrap it in tinfoil, you’re golden.  🙂

Here is what you need for this simple salad:

golden beet salad ingredients

Plus this (for the dressing):

beet salad dressing

Start with two beets.  These babies are locally grown and organic, gifted to me by my friend Julie who had an oversupply of them courtesy of her CSA share.

golden beets

Now scrub them well.  I use this bad boy.  He makes the job easy.

potato glove

Wrap them in tinfoil, place them on a baking sheet, and pop them into a 400 degree oven for 50-60 minutes (for medium to large beets – smaller beets will roast faster).  Check them for doneness near the end of the cooking time by piercing one with a small knife.  The beets are done when the knife slides easily into the center of the vegetable.  Return them to the oven to roast longer, if necessary.

When the beets are done, allow them to cool long enough to be handled.

Now recruit an eager little helper to peel your beets.  The skin is thin and tender and rubs off easily.  It’s a perfect job for little hands.

beet helper

Now those are some pretty beets.

pretty beets

Slice them into bite-sized chunks.

sliced beets

They taste sweet and delicious just like this.  You can store them in the fridge for up to a week and nosh on them as a snack.  But I’m going to use them on this yummy (and simple!) salad.

I save a ton of time by purchasing pre-washed greens and pomegranate seeds already removed from the fruit.  My friends at Wegmans and Trader Joe’s do the work for me.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling extra lazy, I just drizzle Trader Joe’s Olive Oil and Lemon Juice on my greens with sea salt and pepper, and toss.

lemon evoo

The golden beets make this salad so yummy that preparing salad dressing is optional.

But in case you’re feeling fancy and have a few minutes to spare, this simple dressing is delish and easy to prepare:

Grab Trader Joe’s Olive Oil and Lemon Juice and measure one-quarter of a cup.  Pour it into a small-ish bowl.  If you don’t have lemony olive oil, you can use regular extra virgin olive oil and add a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.  Now measure one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar and add it to the olive oil.  Measure one tablespoon of honey and add that, too.  Next measure one teaspoon of Dijon mustard and plop it in with your other ingredients.  Finally, add a small amount of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste.  Whisk to combine!

Toss your greens with the dressing, and make the salads individually, starting with the greens.  Top them with those sweet golden beets, some juicy pomegranate seeds, and crumbles of fresh goat cheese.

golden beet salad

This salad is yummy, healthy, and looks completely gourmet (even though it’s super simple).  It’s my kind of food.  Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

FOR SALAD:

2 firm golden beets

spinach, arugula and radicchio blend greens (or straight arugula is yummy, too)

pomegranate seeds

fresh goat cheese

FOR DRESSING:

1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. dijon mustard

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Simple Chili with Corn

Chili is as synonymous with autumn as college sweatshirts and cable knit sweaters.  It just makes you feel cozy.  So as soon as the air turned just mildly crisp, I cooked up a big batch.

This version is super simple.  And because I use mostly canned ingredients for this chili, it’s perfect to prepare on a day when you don’t feel like running to the market for fresh produce.  It’s also easy to make this chili from organic ingredients, if that’s your jam.  Today’s version is “mostly organic” which is good enough for this unbored housewife.

Here’s how I do it.

Grab this stuff:

chili ingredients

I use canned corn in this version.  I like the sweet little bite that it adds, plus I get a few extra veggies into my kiddos.  Oh, and the Goya Masarepa is yellow corn meal.  You can find it in the international section of most grocery stores.  It adds a nice richness to the chili.

Now grab your meat and spices.

chili ingredients2

That’s roughly 1.25 pounds of organic 90/10 ground beef.  For chili, I prefer to use beef with a lower fat content.  If you use 80/20 you must drain off the fat after browning the meat.  Your heart will say thank you.

Also, some people add a million spices to their chili.  No me.  Sometimes simple really is best.

Start by locating a nice big pot, and browning your ground beef on medium heat.

While the meat is cooking, dice one small onion, and throw it in when the beef is browned.

chili beef

Stir in the onion and let it cook until translucent.

Measure one half of a tablespoon of minced garlic,

chili garlic

and throw that in, too.  Give it a stir and let it cook for a few minutes.  You can also use fresh garlic, of course.  At this point I season the ground beef with salt and black pepper, to taste.  You can add more seasoning at the end of the cooking time, if necessary.  Now turn your heat down to medium low.

Pop open your cans of kidney beans, and toss them into a strainer.  Give them a good rinse and wash off the nasty slime in which they’re canned.

chili beans

Throw those nice, clean, goop-free beans into your chili and give it a stir.

Now drain your canned sweet corn and throw it into the pot.

chili corn

Stir in the corn.  Crack open your two cans of diced tomatoes and throw them in, juice and all.  (Do not drain them!)

Measure two teaspoons of ground cumin,

chili cumin

and add it to the chili.

Then measure two tablespoons of chili powder,

chili powder

and stir that in, too.  If you like a spicier chili, you can add an additional tablespoon of chili powder.  However, I prefer to keep things mild-ish around here for my littles.

Now turn the heat down to low and let the chili simmer for an hour.

After an hour, grab your masarepa and measure three tablespoons.

chili masa

Add six tablespoons of water to the masarepa and stir until combined.

chili masa stir

Now add the masarepa paste to the chili and stir.  Taste and adjust your seasonings, if necessary.  At this point I typically add more salt and a touch more black pepper.

Serve, topping each bowl with sour cream, shredded cheese and jalapenos (if you like things spicy).  You can also squeeze a lime on top and serve with tortilla chips or cornbread on the side.

My kids gobbled this chili down tonight.  Feels like fall to me.

chili final

INGREDIENTS

1.25 lb. ground beef (preferably 90/10)

1 small onion

1/2 tbsp. minced garlic

salt and black pepper, to taste

15.5 oz. can light red kidney beans

15.5 oz. can dark red kidney beans

15.25 oz. can sweet corn

2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes in juice

2 tsp. cumin

2 tbsp. chili powder

3 tbsp. masarepa

6 tbsp. water

White Beans and Ham

I just have to face the music…my sweet, sweet summer is slipping away.  Sigh.

Maybe I’m a bit blue because the end of summer marks a new stage of my littles’ lives.  With my oldest headed to kindergarten, I’m reminded of the speed with which time passes by…wasn’t he just a toddler?  Now he’s long, lean and lanky, with hair lightened by the summer sun.  He’s beautiful.  My heart bursts.

With the nights already turning brisk, my mind is shifting to cool weather food (of course).  And in my house, with cool weather comes white beans and ham.  Yum yum.

It’s a crazy simple dish, all prepared in a single pot – my kind of cooking.

Last winter I posted my recipe for White Beans with Ham Hocks.  And maybe it’s because ham hocks are foreign to many of my neighbors here in the northeast, but my recipe went over like a fart in church (sorry – we’re talking beans here, okay?).  I think that three kind souls liked it on Facebook.  (What can I say?  I’m big time like that.)  So today I’m posting a similar recipe, except this version uses ham instead of ham hocks.  So if the look of a ham hock makes you squirm, try this version instead.  It’s every bit as delicious.

This is what you’ll need:

white beans and ham ingredients

Plus these:

white beans soaked

Oh, and you need fresh garlic, too.  I was having a blonde moment and omitted my garlic cloves from the picture.

I used a brown sugar cured ham for this recipe because I like the slightly sweet taste it adds to the beans.  But you can also use a saltier ham, cured without sugar.

And these are the beans that I prefer,

white beans

although any high quality dried great northern beans will do.

Great northern beans are high in protein, dietary fiber, potassium and iron.  They are also low in fat, calories and cholesterol.

Like most dried beans, great northern beans are best prepared after soaking.  Soaking both (1) reduces the required cooking time; and (2) breaks down some of the gas-inducing compounds in the beans.

Start by throwing your bag of beans into a pot and sorting through them.  Remove any nasty looking beans, as well as any small rocks or bits of plant material.  (Sometimes this stuff accidentally ends up in the bag of beans.)  One of the reasons I prefer Goya brand is because they do a good job of removing all of the junk and packaging fairly clean beans.

Now cover your beans with a few inches of cool water and let them soak for eight hours or overnight.

If you don’t have eight hours to spare, you can instead use the quick soak method.  Using this method, sort your beans, discarding the nasty ones, and cover the beans with a few inches of water.  Bring the water to a rapid boil and boil on high heat for two minutes.  Now remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and let your beans sit for at least an hour.

Regardless of which method you use, drain the water in which the beans soaked.  This water contains those fart-inducing compounds that soaked out of the beans.

After draining that yuckiness down the sink, refill your pot with enough water to cover the beans by about three inches.

Now unwrap your ham.

unwrap ham

You’re not going to use the whole thing.  For this recipe, you want the meaty end with the bone.  My ham was spiral sliced, so I cut around the bone with my knife, and removed the spiral sliced layers of ham.  Retaining just a few of the ham slices, I wrapped the rest in tinfoil and stored them in the refrigerator to be eaten later in the week.

This is a perfect way to use up your leftover holiday ham.  Bookmark this recipe for the post-holiday season.  You’ll thank me later.

Now grab the ham bone with its meaty end and plop it into the pot, adding the three or four ham slices that you retained.  Then add two bay leaves.

bay leaves white beans

Dice two onions,

cut onion

and throw them in with the beans, ham and bay leaves.

Mince some fresh garlic (about four or five big cloves) and add that to the pot.  Finally, add one-half teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Put your pot on high heat until your ingredients reach a rapid boil.  Let your ingredients boil rapidly for a minute or two, and then reduce the heat to a medium-low simmer.  Cover your pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow a little steam to escape.

Cook your beans for two to two-and-a-half hours, stirring periodically.  They are done when the beans become a creamy consistency.

At the end, remove the bone and slice the ham into bite-sized pieces, adding it back into the pot.  Taste the beans and add salt if desired.  (The ham naturally salts the beans so I don’t typically add more at the end.)  Remove the bay leaves, stir and serve with fresh cornbread dripping with sweet butter.  I also splash green Tabasco sauce on top of my beans.  Yummmmm.

final white beans and ham

INGREDIENTS

16 oz. bag dried great northern beans

1 pre-cooked spiral sliced ham

2 bay leaves

2 medium onions, diced

4 – 5 large cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. black pepper

salt to taste

Freezing Herbs

Oh, I wish it could be summer forever.  While other people crave crunchy brown leaves, cable knit sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes, I could soak up the summer sun all year.  But, alas, in a few short weeks autumn will be upon us, and that has me thinking about how to preserve the bounty of my little garden for the cold weather months.

Over the weekend, Jersey Boy, EJ (my six-year-old son) and I got down to the business of preserving fresh herbs.  There are several different methods, but my preference is to freeze my heartier herbs (like rosemary and thyme) in extra virgin olive oil.  Freezing fresh herbs in oil, as opposed to water, largely prevents freezer burn.  Plus, I use both olive oil and herbs in most of my winter stews and braised dishes, making it easy-peasy to just pop a cube of this straight into my pot.

First I put my gardener to work.

gardener

He happily harvested some sweet little tomatoes and spicy jalapenos, and then I put him to work snipping the herbs.  My toe nails made friends with the tomatoes while he worked.

harvested vegs

We ended up with these fragrant little bouquets.

freezing herbs

Then Jersey Boy and EJ stripped the leaves off of the stems.

freezing herbs cover photo

I love those hands so much.

Next EJ filled BPA-free ice cube trays with the rosemary leaves.

ice cube tray

And then my boys did the same with the thyme leaves.

thyme leaves

Next it was time to add the extra virgin olive oil.

add evoo

Jersey Boy and his steady hands attended to this step.  I surely would have dribbled oil all over the place.  I’m patient and precise like that.

adding evoo

add evoo to rosemary

After pouring in the oil, we used our fingers to gently submerge most of the leaves.

Finally, I slapped the lids onto my ice cube trays.

fresh baby

And stacked ’em up.

stacked

Freeze your cubes overnight, and then pop them into a freezer bag for long-term storage.  Of course you can also do this with store bought fresh herbs, rather than letting them languish and go bad in your produce drawer.  These cubes will last you all winter and serve as a reminder of the sweetness of summer.  Sigh.

Hospitality (and Yummy Steak) with Lindsey

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9).

What do you think of when you hear the word “hospitality”?  Does it conjure images of mounds of perfectly prepared food, Pinterest-worthy tablescapes and spotless powder rooms?  Does hospitality necessitate pretty dishes and matching linens, a shiny sink and mad cooking skills?

True hospitality requires none of those things.

True hospitality simply requires the willingness to lovingly welcome people into your home – even when you don’t have time (or money) to plan a fancy meal, clean your toilet or clean up all the Legos.  True hospitality has nothing to do with projecting a perfect image, and everything to do with serving other people – and doing it without grumbling.

I have some friends who are really good at this.  One of them is my girl Lindsey.  She recently welcomed my family into her home for a casual summer dinner.  No, the kitchen wasn’t spotless and the living room was strewn with toys – but you know what – I liked it that way.  It felt real.  I appreciated her desire and willingness to add five people to her dinner table, even after a long week spent caring for her own brood of four young girls.

Lindsey’s husband owns his own business and works long hours.  She often does the heavy lifting at home from dawn until dusk, and has every excuse not to practice hospitality.  However, she joyfully welcomes people into her home – and she does it with a heart of service and the absence of grumbling.  She’s good people.  (And, in truth, she does boast mad cooking skills, making her invitations all the more appealing.)

First we headed to her home garden to harvest the vegetable portion of our meal.

e and b in garden

It’s nice to have friends who don’t take themselves too seriously.

l and squash

My middle child ate more tomatoes than he picked.  The orange ones were so darn sweet.

a and tomato

Quite the bounty.

bounty

Then we moved on to the steak portion of the meal.

Lindsey had a flank steak chillin’ in the fridge.  She whipped it out, and covered it in this:

steak rub

steak rub1

steak rub2

steak rub3

With coffee as the first ingredient, this interesting rub is a definite Trader Joe’s high.

Then Lindsey introduced me to the miracle of the Veggetti.

veggetti

I need to get myself one of these, stat.  Just look at those beautiful ribbons of squashy perfection.

squash ribbons

The squash ribbons went straight into a pan with vegetable oil, lemon zest, salt, and coarsely ground black pepper.

squash ribbons in pan

We coated the squash well with the oil mixture and sautéed it in onions and butter.

final squashThat is a pan full of flavor.

And look at this gorgeous assistant we had helping us.

gorgeous assistant

She helped us slice and dice,

slice kale

dice salad

And we ended up with this:

salads

All of it straight from the garden.

After a few minutes on the grill (no oil required), the steak was equal parts easy and delicious.

steak

In Lindsey’s home, showing hospitality does not mean inviting family and friends over for perfectly curated meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Rather, it means a constant attitude and practice of inviting folks over to dig around in the garden, roll up their sleeves and collectively prepare a meal.  It means a desire and willingness to serve the people around her.

Those of us who follow Christ are motivated to practice hospitality because we serve a God who is fundamentally hospitable.  Through Jesus’s sacrifice, God welcomes us into his kingdom with divine love.  We seek to mirror our maker by inviting friends – and strangers – into our homes with hearts of service, for Jesus “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Thank you, Lindsey, for welcoming my family into your home and serving us with willing hands.

An Interview With Unbored Housewife

Photo cred the talented Allie Skylar Photography.
Photo cred the wildly talented Allie Skylar Photography.

Isn’t it narcissistic to interview yourself?

Trust me, I considered this question several times before writing this post.  However, folks have asked me a bunch of these questions since I started this blog, and since you asked, I’ll answer.  🙂

When and where were you born?

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1979, making me one year shy of being a Millennial.  (I’m not sure whether that makes me want to groan or cheer.)

When and how did you learn to cook?

Before I quit my job as a lawyer to be a stay-at-home parent, I could scarcely cook a thing.  I worked late most nights, so I often ate take-out for dinner at the office, while Jersey Boy cooked and ate his own dinner at home.  Those days, Jersey Boy did 99% of the cooking in our home, and he never complained once.  His mama taught him well.

After I quit my big-money job and nightly take-out was no longer in the budget, I realized that I better teach myself to cook.  I learned mostly from reading cooking blogs, the Pioneer Woman being foremost among them.  Her detailed descriptions and large photos of each step were necessary for a beginner like me.  What the heck is the meat supposed to look like after you “brown it”? – I had not a clue.  So visuals of each step were a necessity.

Now I adore cooking and I enjoy writing detailed recipe posts with clear photos for beginners just like the former me.

You have three little kids.  Do you really “adore cooking”?  How do you find time to do it?

Trust me, there is not a gourmet situation going on here every night.  Last night we ate grilled hot dogs.  But most nights, I prepare balanced meals with real food.  Two of my littles still nap (thank heavens), so I do most of my dinner prep during naptime.  Jersey Boy gets home around 5:30 p.m., and I do much of my active cooking thereafter.

I adore the creativity that cooking permits.  I bore easily, and cooking is a healthy outlet for me to continually try new things – new spices, new cooking styles, new ingredients.  I also cook a lot of cultural food – Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Spanish, Italian – I pretty much love it all.  I want my kids to grow up loving the same Cajun dishes that I ate as a child, so I’ve mastered most of my mom’s classic Louisiana dishes.

What is your religion?

I am a Christian.

Why do you write so much about your faith?

My faith informs everything about my life.  It is not something that I compartmentalize and take out on Sunday morning.  My faith is interwoven in everything I do every day.  But that does not mean that I am always an excellent example of my faith.  I live in a fallen world, and I screw up all the time.  I am a perfectly imperfect Christian, striving to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called (Ephesians 4:1).

Do you miss practicing law?

I have to say, I don’t miss the hours.  But I did work with some truly wonderful and wickedly smart people, and I miss them.  I miss the people.  And the paycheck.  The paycheck was nice.  (Just keepin’ it real.)

Have you always enjoyed exercising?

Um, no.  I was formerly a ballerina and a college cheerleader, and those activities kept me in excellent shape.  However, when I started law school I had no desire to hit the gym, and I went many years without consistent physical activity.  Add to that all my evenings of take-out dinners, and I was in fairly poor shape.  I never gained much weight, but I completely lacked tone, definition, strength and endurance.

Now I love working out, and it’s for one reason – I found an exercise class that I thoroughly enjoy.  For nearly two years, I’ve attended Mojo Fitness classes two to three times a week, and I love it (so much so that I lead classes from time to time).  The founder and lead instructor of Mojo, Cindy Brauer, has become a personal friend.  With Mojo, Cindy created a unique exercise experience, and she works tirelessly to keep the class fresh and accessible to women of all body types and fitness levels.  Plus, it’s crazy fun.  It’s my happy place.

Now I count down the hours until Mojo.  And I have a good excuse to buy all of that cute and trendy exercise gear.

Where and how did you meet your Jersey Boy?

Jersey Boy and I met in a bar in Philadelphia.  After downing two cosmopolitans, I didn’t mind brazenly calling him over to chat with my friend and I.  I thought he was handsome, and I expected his ego to match his visage.  Much to my delight, however, he was shy and unassuming.  He asked for my phone number and we went on our first date a few days later.  When I got home from our evening at the Cheesecake Factory, I told my roommate, “I just went on a date with my husband,” and I haven’t looked back since.  (And he somehow remembers exactly what both of us ordered for dinner that night, including the specific type of cheesecake.)

Are you done having children?

I get a little weepy when I think about this question.  Jersey Boy and I are in agreement that our family is probably complete…but I can’t imagine never cradling my own little newborn again.  So the answer is probably.  But only the Lord knows what he has in store…

Did Jersey Boy mind when you posted your abortion story?

No.  He was fully on board and supportive.  He helped me edit my story, as he does with all of my posts.  We prayed about it together, and we thoughtfully considered a range of possible outcomes and responses to publishing such a personal story.  I would have never published my story without his full and complete involvement and support.

Why don’t you post more pictures of yourself?

I am completely camera shy, and I typically dislike the way I look in pictures.  The photo at the beginning of this post makes me totally uncomfortable.  But I also value documenting my life in pictures for the benefit of my children.  I want them to know what their mama looked like when they were little.  So there I am – silly pose and all.

How did you come up with the name for this blog?

I wanted to crush the cliché of the bored housewife eating bon bons.  (What the heck is a bon bon, anyway?)  I work pretty darn hard, and I do it with willing hands for the benefit of my family and the glory of my God.  Amen.  Halleluiah.

Peace out and lots of love,

Unbored Housewife

Trader Joe’s Highs and Lows

It’s a rainy day here in PA, so I decided to take my two smallest babes to Trader Joe’s while my oldest enjoyed soccer camp.

Little kids + rainy summer day = limited options.

Off we went.

Today I snatched up one of my all-time favorite TJ’s items.

Corn and Chile Tomato-Less Salsa.  It’s my Trader Joe’s high.

corn salsa

This stuff is good.

For a while I got out of the habit of purchasing it, in favor of making homemade salsas.  But then my good friend Lauren who blogs over at yellow label reminded me how yummy it is.  And now on those days when I don’t have time to slice and dice, I pull out this jar of sweetness and it is a satisfying topping for tacos, fish or grilled chicken.  It’s also delish with tortilla chips.  It’s perfect for summer.  Keep some in your pantry and pull it out when you’re short on time.

Now for my TJ’s low.

I tried to like these kale chips.

kale chips nacho

With easily identifiable ingredients – including kale, cashews, sunflower seeds, carrot powder, red bell pepper powder, onion powder, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, salt, garlic powder and chipotle powder – they seemed like a quick and healthy snack.  Plus, my kids love homemade kale chips, so I was certain that they would happily nosh on these.

But I was wrong.  After one bite and a little chewing, all three of my littles removed the kale from their mouths with wrinkled up noses.  And honestly, I don’t like them either.  I think it’s the nacho flavor that is off-putting.  I’ll take my kale chips lightly sprinkled with some seasoned salt, please and thank you – no nacho flavor necessary.

There you go.  Today’s Trader Joe’s Highs and Lows!  Happy hump day!

Nut-free Basil Pesto

Last Friday Nana came to visit, which is always a treat because Nana loves to cook.  And cook we did.

We started by making this fresh basil pesto, and I’m serious when I tell you that this simple recipe is redonkulously yummy.  You could schmear this stuff on cardboard and it would taste like a delicacy.

Plus this version is nut-free, making it friendly for folks with allergies.

Start by peeling and roughly chopping two cloves of garlic.  Nana handled this step.  As a trained chef, Nana has some legit knife skills.

rough chop garlicNow throw the garlic into a food processor.

garlic in food processorNext, pick two cups of fresh basil leaves.  Inhale deeply.

Sweet-basil

Or buy your basil from the grocery store!  Either way, your result will be delish.

Rinse your basil and throw it into the food processor.  My five-year-old was eager to assist.  Those are his willing little hands.

E and basil

Next, measure one-half of a cup of parmesan cheese.  We used the good stuff for this recipe – freshly shredded imported Italian parmigiano.

parm

The regular old grated stuff in the shakey container just doesn’t do the fresh basil justice.

Throw the cheese into the food processor and add salt and pepper to taste.  Don’t go crazy with the salt because the cheese is already salty.

pesto ingredients

Now put on the lid and give your ingredients some pulses.

E and pesto

Our little assistant delighted in the aroma of this step.

You want to blend it pretty well and get rid of all of the chunks.

Next measure one-third of a cup of olive oil.  We used extra virgin.

evoo in measuring cupWith the lid still on the food processor, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, continuing to process your ingredients as you drizzle.

drizzle evooWe added all of the olive oil to our pesto because we used this batch on pasta.

For a thicker pesto, add less oil.  Drizzle a little and check the consistency.  Then drizzle more if necessary.  It isn’t an exact science and the result will be delicioso no matter the consistency.

bowl of pesto

If you could smell pictures this one would smell amazing.

This recipe yields the perfect amount of pesto to pour over a pound of pasta for a yummy side dish.  I prefer to use penne or bow tie pasta – you want a pasta with crevices so that it will hold onto the pesto.  You can also incorporate a veggie by adding sweet peas or cherry tomatoes.

Now go make some with your kids!  And thanks to Nana for sharing her love of cooking with us!

INGREDIENTS

2 cloves garlic

2 cups sweet basil

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil

Ode to Basil

Basil, sweet basil, you are a true summer treat.

Straight from the plant is the only way to eat

your tender green leaves on caprese salad or penne,

the uses for you are vast – they are many.

In ice cream or cookies you’re an unexpected flavor,

you make me creative and cause me to savor

the warm summer air and my bare feet in the grass.

I’m pondering ways to store you when autumn comes to pass.

Garden Update

Now that it’s July, it’s time for a garden update!

As I shared with y’all back in the spring, Jersey Boy and I built a Simple Raised Garden Bed and we planted the following:

1.  Sweet basil

2.  Italian parsley

3.  Rosemary

4.  Thyme

5.  Cherry tomatoes

6.  Cucumbers

7.  Green bell peppers

8.  Yellow bell peppers

9.  Red bell peppers

10. Jalapeno peppers

Deer are plentiful in our area, so we covered our garden bed with Deer Block and crossed our fingers that those doe-eyed vandals wouldn’t come destroy it all.

So how does our garden grow?

Quite well, I’m happy to report!

And did the Deer Block work?

Yes!  Those rascals haven’t gained access yet.  (My fingers are still crossed.)

Here is how our plants are faring:

1.  Sweet basil – It’s growing well but not out of control.  I use a ton of basil in my summer cooking so I regularly pluck its fragrant little leaves.  Plucking basil regularly encourages the plant to grow all summer long.

2.  Italian parsley – Take a look.  My parsley is OUT OF CONTROL.

parsley plant

It is thoroughly happy and I have a ton of it.  Anyone want some?

3.  Rosemary – My plant is happy but not huge.  There is nothing quite like the aromatic pleasure of picking rosemary straight from the garden and chopping it up.  I could smell my fingers all day – but that would be weird, right?

4.  Thyme – Much like my rosemary, my thyme is happy but not huge.

5.  Cherry tomatoes – I am super excited about these little babies.  Just look at ’em.

cherry tomato plant

With two cherry tomato plants in our garden, we’ll soon be in tomato heaven.

6.  Cucumbers – This is the first time that I’ve ever grown a cucumber plant and let me tell you – cucumber is crazy.  From the weird curly-q tendrils that loop themselves around everything (including my other plants) to the fact that its vines crawl all over the garden and take up a ton of space – cucumber will not be ignored.  Nobody puts cucumber in a corner.

I bought this little wooden trellis to elevate my cucumber and give my other plants some breathing room.

crazy cucumber

7.  Green bell peppers – It’s not putting out yet.  What gives?

8.  Yellow bell peppers – Same.  Still not putting out.

9.  Red bell peppers – My red bell pepper plant has sprouted some nice-sized peppers, but none have turned red before my kids managed to swipe them off the plant.

red bell pepper plant

10. Jalapeno peppers – We love spicy food in my house so we’re eating our jalapenos faster than our plant is putting ’em out.  And they’re not crazy spicy.  My kids have been eating raw jalapeno slices without flinching.

So there’s the update.  We love our little garden.  It’s one of my favorite things about this summer.