Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Basil Pesto

One of the ingredients that can really spice up a dull recipe is the use of fresh herbs. One of my favorites is basil. Traditional pesto incorporates the use of pine nuts. Have you ever bought pine nuts? Well, neither have I...they are too expensive! So unless you just really want to be super authentic, my recipe for pesto incorporates a more economical nut.

You will need:
Mini Chopper or food processor (you may also use a mortar and pestle, just takes more work)

Yield: 1 Cup
Servings: Will vary depending on use. This will be enough to cover about 2-1/2 cups of pasta.

2 Cups of fresh basil
1/2 cup-3/4 cup Olive Oil-Extra Virgin, or Light
1/4-1/3 cup walnuts (preferred) or pecans
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated is easier to work with
Salt to taste (1/2 tsp or so)

Combine basil, oil, walnuts, garlic in mini chopper or food processor. Grind until somewhat smooth (about 1 minute). Gradually add olive oil and pulse until smooth. Add Parmesan and pulse until combined. Add more oil if needed then salt to taste. Store in jar and refrigerate remainder up to a week.

Pesto is so universal and can be used for many things. Here are some ideas what I can use it for:

Pasta: Toss pesto over hot pasta. Whole wheat pasta we hear is better for you, so toss with penne pasta. The heartiness of the whole wheat pasta isn't as apparent as when used in other dishes. Which is a great thing!

Spread: Use as a spread on grilled or toasted bread with a grilled chicken or turkey breast to spice up a sandwich. Top chicken/turkey with a swiss or provolone cheese (melt) and finish with tomato, avocado slices, and spinach or (green of choice). If you're not counting calories, add a couple of bacon slices.
Also, spread on store bought french bread and toast in oven 425 Degrees for about 7-10 mins or until toasted. Top with more Parmesan and put it in oven for an additional minute or two until cheese is melted. A new kick on garlic/french bread!

Marinade: Cover chicken breast or boneless pork (tenderloin or boneless chop) in pesto, drizzle with olive oil. House meat inside covered baking dish and bake at 350 Degrees for 45 mins to 1 hour, or until cooked (depending on oven).

Please share your ideas with me if you find other uses for this pesto. I'd love to hear what you did!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Chocolate Mousse with Strawberries
Just in time for Valentine's Day, treat yourself to a luxurious dessert, with simple ingredients and very few steps.
Don't stress yourself out with dessert! Use what's accessible. This dessert can be made more complicated by making your own whipped cream, but to make it simple, use Cool Whip! It has great consistency. You may also make this dessert a little more figure friendly by incorporating sugar free whipped topping and using the bittersweet instead of semi-sweet chocolate.
Serving Size: 6-1/2 cup servings
4 Squares Bakers Bittersweet Chocolate (recommended if using sugar free whipped cream),
*Variations-Bakers Semi-Sweet Chocolate for a sweeter chocolate taste
1 8oz container of Cool Whip or whipped topping of choice (Regular or Sugar Free)
1/2 cup of fresh strawberries
Heat chocolate until melted, either over double boiler or in microwave in 30-45 second increments. Stir frequently until melted, which ever method you use. Once chocolate has melted, allow to cool for 3-5 minutes. Fold whipped topping into chocolate until all white streaks are gone and all is blended. Remember to fold do not stir; otherwise you will remove the air from the cream and you won't have that mousse like consistency. Chill for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Top with whipped topping and fresh sliced strawberries.