Summer. New food. New friend.

I find trying out new recipes over summer break to be extremely difficult.  There’s the “do I really want to turn on the oven on a hot day like this?” thing.  And the “can’t I just sit in the lounge chair and have another glass of wine instead of cooking?” thing.  And the “FOR THE [censored] 7th TIME! I AM JUST TRYING TO FINISH THIS [censored] RECIPE WITHOUT BEING INTERRUPTED EVERY 30 [censored] SECONDS!” thing.

Maybe that is unique to my house.

Regardless, not a lot of experimenting occurred. But here are a few of the new things that worked:

PESTO

I know, kind of a boring, no-brainer for summertime.  But I’ve had pesto-issues in the past. I finally rocked it this summer because of two factors:

1) the recipe from my pal, Gwyneth Paltrow’s, It’s All Good cookbook

2) the tip from my not-imaginary-pal, Kim, about how to freeze it for future use

Pesto a la Gwyneth

Here’s my slightly modified (and doubled) recipe from Gwyneth’s book:

6 T pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan

2 garlic cloves, roasted*

2 packed C of basil leaves

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1 t coarse sea salt

  • Let pinenuts and garlic cool — squeeze the roasted cloves out of their “wrappers” (what is that papery thing around each clove called? no idea)
  • Pulse nuts and garlic in food processor until they are finely ground
  •  Add basil and pulse a few times until it’s roughly chopped
  • Add the olive oil and salt and pulse a few times until it’s combined but still has a rough texture

Straight from the Cuisinart, I thought it tasted too salty; but once it’s on pasta or a crostini — perfetto!  When serving, you can top it with grated parm and some grates of fresh black pepper to give it even more oomph.

*Roasting garlic: I do this because, as much as I love it cooked, I can’t stand the taste of raw garlic.  (A first pregnancy food aversion that never went away.  Though I can thank my 2nd pregnancy for a love of beets that continues today. Sort of a tradeoff, I guess.)  If you don’t mind raw garlic, use it.  To roast it: don’t peel the cloves, wrap them in a bit of aluminum foil with a spot of olive oil, stick in a 425 oven (I use my toaster oven) for 20 mins or so.  You can do a bunch of cloves (or a whole head) at once this same way, just leave it in longer.

Now the cool storage method!  It’s easiest to make lot of pesto at once, right? I used to make it, then keep the container in the fridge until I got tired of it, then throw half of it away.  I tried the icecube freezing method but I  thought it was a pain to get the frozen cubes out and the amount was too small.  So I almost never made pesto. (I am, apparently, the type of person who gets frustrated easily. Then quickly gives up.)

So, I had cried “uncle” to pesto making and storing years ago.  Then my not-imaginary-friend Kim mentions how she freezes pesto in muffin tins, pops them out, and stores them in a large freezer bag.  And I was like “O my god, that is the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard!  Why did it never occur to me to use a larger sized container for freezing!”  (Did I mention I give up easily?).

Anyway. So handy and aren’t they cute.

frozen pesto

frozen pesto in freezer bag

One of these servings is perfect for a family-sized bowl of whole wheat spaghetti topped with sauteed shrimp, fyi.

Crockpot Refried Beans

Another recent fun find.  This is easy, CHEAP, and so much yummier than canned.  I got the recipe from 100daysofrealfood — the only change I would suggest is that mine didn’t need to cook for 8 hours (6 was good, and I added an extra cup of water around hour 5 because they were looking pretty dry).

Crockpot refried beansHere they are topped with local cheddar, Greek yogurt, and homemade pickled peppers from our garden.  I’ve been into these Pepperidge Farm Baked Naturals tortilla chips lately.  (Pepperidge Farm claims it is “getting real” with this line of snacks…. but from the labels, it looks to me like the only item made with whole grain — in this case whole grain corn masa — and that doesn’t have any sugar or weird preservatives added are these plain tortilla chips.  I realize that a REAL real fooder would just make corn chips from scratch, but these are good enough for me.)

The Pickled Peppers recipe I thank my BFF Gwyneth for (and my BHF Bill for growing the peppers).

Pickled jalapeños and other red pepper that we don't know the name of

My buddy G. says: “Makes 1 Vegenaise jar worth of pickles”  We don’t tend to have empty Vegenaise jars sitting around so used a standard sized Mason canning jar.

3/4 C white wine vinegar

3/4 C water

1 T coarse sea salt

pinch of celery seed

1 t coriander seeds

1 t black peppercorns

8 large jalapenos (we used 6, plus some random hot red peppers that are  growing in our herb garden)

1 bay leaf

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

Combine everything except the peppers, bay leaf, and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  While mixture heats, pack the jar with the peppers, bay leaf, and garlic slices.  Pour the vinegar mixture in to cover the peppers.  Let the jar cool to room temp, tightly screw on lid and store in the fridge for one week.  They keep for up to a year, claims Gwyneth. They are delish, so I doubt they’ll be around that long.

Since I know you can’t get enough of my gal-pal Gwyneth’s recipes, here’s another one that was tasty. Though next time, I’m going to try this as either a couple of small loaves or as mini-muffins.  These are really filling — the boys liked them but could barely finish a whole one.  These are vegan and gluten-free, by the way —  not usually concerns of mine —  I just thought the flavors sounded super yummy.  And they were!

sweet potato and five spice muffin IMG_2911

Sweet Potato + Five-Spice Muffins

1 lg sweet potato

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1/2 C unsweetend almond milk

3/4 C real maple syrup

1 t vanilla extract

2 C gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Mill)

1 t xanthan gum, if your flour doesn’t already include it

2 t baking powder

2 t baking soda

1 1/2 T Chinese five-spice powder

1/2 fine sea salt

  • Bake the sweet potato (whole, unpeeled, pricked a couple of times) in a 400 degree oven for 45 mins or until soft
  • Once it cools, peel it and mash in in a large mixing bowl
  • Whisk in the other liquids
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients
  • Fold the dry ingredients into the wet
  • Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and distribute the batter evenly
  • Bake for 20-25 mins. (note: brush the tops with maple syrup during the last 5 mins of baking)
  • Remove when a toothpick comes out clean
  • Let cool before serving

Raw Shaved Zucchini Salad

Hey!  This recipe I actually thought up on my own!  Without Gwyneth’s help!

(I don’t have exact measurements for this — it’s super easy, you can figure it out.)

  • Using a vegetable peeler, shave one large zucchini (or a few small-med. ones — enough to make your salad bowl as full as you want it to be)
  • Add in a T or so of toasted pinenuts (cooled) and a hearty amount of shaved parm (use the veggie peeler)
  • Season with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Throw in a bit of chiffonade of fresh basil leaves, if you have them raw shaves zucchini salad

Last but NOT least, a new twist on my favorite snack that I call

Crabby Corn!

Popcorn is a great “real” snack — whole grain goodness plus butter (local, pastured preferably) and sea salt.  Occasionally, we add other touches like garlic, parmesan and black pepper; or a couple of handfuls of shredded sharp cheese like aged cheddar or asiago.

The other day I was inspired* to try Old Bay Seasoning sprinkled on top.  To my surprise, loved it.  Even the 5 y.o. said “I like it best with that brown salt on it”.

* Full disclosure: once again, I guess I have to thank my friend and mentor, Gwyneth.  I bought Old Bay Seasoning because I wanted to try her crispy fish fingers recipe for the kids.  Meijer only sells an enormous tin of Old Bay.  Which is weird because Old Bay is famously used for steaming Maryland crabs from the Chesapeake Bay.  Fort Wayne is pretty far from the Chesapeake Bay.

Anyway, I was trying to find room for this monstrosity in my spice cabinet and wondered “what the heck ELSE can you do with Old Bay??”.  And right there on the back of the tin, it reads “Sprinkle Old Bay generously on French fries, corn on the cob, steamed veggies and even popcorn!”  All righty then!  Yummy new snack option.

Thanks, Old Bay.  Thanks [sigh] Gwyneth.

I’m kinda starting to hate her….

popcorn with butter and Old Bay

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