Homemade Pesto.

The weather is crisper.  The leaves have carpeted our backyard.  Fall is definitely in the air.  As much as I love wanting to smush pumpkin into everything I eat and wearing boots and sweaters, it is going to be too cold for my plants to survive.  While I can move some of my basil and tomato plants into my basement, my summer of fresh veggies and herbs is coming to a close.  To mourn the loss, I decided to make recipes that call for lots of fresh herbs that I won’t be able to make this winter without a high grocery trip bill.  It was time to make pesto!

Despite having a food blog for over half a year, I don’t have fancy tools for the kitchen.  No food processor.  No sharp knives.  No Kitchen-Aid.  I rely on hand mixing and hand chopping (with awfully dull knives).  And that’s ok.  Because when I finish a recipe, I love saying I made this without any fancy kitchen utilities and it still tastes awesome. And I kick ass.

The best part about this pesto recipe is that while most people rely on a food processor to make pesto, this recipe doesn’t need one.  In fact, rumor has it, the best pesto is made when you chop the ingredients by hand.  And that made my day.  Who needs fancy, expensive kitchen machines when you got your hands : )

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Eggplant Parmigiana

Fall is finally here!!  It is my favorite season–cool, crisp weather, sweaters, scarves, boots, pumpkin lattes.  Usually fall marks new beginnings for me since a new year of school starts–but this year is the first year in 20 years that I didn’t start school.  Luckily, the great feeling of a fresh start didn’t fade this fall because I started my first, real job as a lawyer a couple weeks ago.  Still, it’s odd not working on homework or spending time on OneNote.

Fall also means more heartier meals.  Something to stick to your ribs.  And this makes me think of eggplants.  I always avoid recipes that require deep frying so making eggplant parmesan has never been something on my to-do list.   Thank God I found this recipe! I still get to enjoy eggplant parmesan without all the deep fried hassle and high calories.

 

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Layered Feta and Eggplant Zucchini Dish

So many new things have been happening in my house.  I got a job!!  Only after a couple months after graduating law school, I got a position as an associate attorney at a law firm that specializes in banking and business law.  I started last week and so far I am loving it!  The firm has been so welcoming.  It feels like I hit the jackpot.

Waving Matt good-bye on my first day of work.

And the day after starting work, Matt and I decided it was time to paint our kitchen cabinets.  We’ve only had our house for a little over a year, and it definitely falls under the category of a “fixer-uper.”  The kitchen had cheap, dark, wood cabinets.  They added nothing to our kitchen.  My mother-in-law suggested we paint them, and it was time for us to take her advice.

before.

Still putting last minute touches on the newly, painted cabinets.  So no “after” picture yet.  With the new job and a diy project turning my kitchen upside down, cooking fell to the back burner. But after a week hiatus, it was time for a new recipe.

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Cheesy Zucchini Bake

While I was studying for the bar, I wanted fast and easy homemade meals.  Our freezer was full of ground turkey so I decided to cook it up, mix it together with pasta, cheese, and herbs and turn it into a bake.  Matt feel in love with the meal, begging me to remake it.  So after making various versions of the pasta bake, I decided it was time for a vegetarian bake.

Our fridge is becoming increasingly more full of fresh veggies from our garden every day so I cut up our multi-colored zucchinis, some basil, green onions, and jalapenos, mix them with some cheese, spinach, and dried herbs. and the cheesy zucchini bake was born!

isn’t this tomato cool! it’s a striped tomato.
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Orange Bell Pepper and Basil Bruschetta

Today was harvest day at the Cremona house.  With my handy shears, I plopped tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, serranos, green beans, and an orange pepper into my basket.  When I was done, I looked like I raided a farmer’s market.

I am so proud of my orange bell pepper.  Last year only my green peppers grew so I was thrilled when this year turned out to be different.  I didn’t want my miracle pepper to go to waste.  This pepper needed to be used in a truly fun recipe.  Something unique where the flavors of the pepper stood out.

my orange pepper in its natural habitat.
Matt arrange them like this, claiming they were on a cucumber sled.

This twist on the traditional, tomato-based bruschetta was excellent.  The orange pepper makes the bruschetta sweeter and crunchier.  Next time I make this I think I’ll use different color bell peppers to see how that mixes up the taste.

 

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Beet Chips

My friend Krystal is a member of this vegetable co-op where every Thursday she gets a box full of fresh veggies from a local farm.  I am the lucky person who gets extra veggies when her crisper is already filled from the week before.  In her box this week were some beets which she gifted to me.

 

I’ve honestly never had beets before.   I certainly had no idea how to prepare them.  In fact, my only interaction with the vegetable was through the cartoon Doug.  Matt has been craving snack foods a lot lately.  Every night he is rummaging through the kitchen looking for something to nibble on.  He has always been a fan of chips, and his stash of ketchup chips is running thin.

And that’s how beet chips were born.  The creation in this dish caused possibly the most “damage” my hands have ever had to go through in the kitchen.  My hands were stained red, and I cut my fingers on the slicer 4 times.  There was a real labor of love.  While the recipe I followed recommend slicing the beets as thin as possible, Matt and I both liked the thicker pieces.  So try some thicker and thinner slices to see where your taste buds land.

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Spicy Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

Our garden has really started to take off. My orange peppers are slowly turning colors, tomatoes are becoming plump, and I have more hot peppers than I know what to do with! As expected, the cucumbers have taken the lead as the highest producer. And that is ok with me.

apparently growing at massive speeds isn’t enough for my plants. they now are showing off their contortionist skills.

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE cucumbers.  I can thank my father for this obsession.  Growing up, my father had a small vegetable garden.  Every summer, he harvested his cucumbers to make a dill cucumber salad.  It has always been one of my favorite dishes.  This year, we have so many cucumbers that we’d be eating this salad every day for every meal if we wanted to use up all our cuc’s.  So I’ve been making modifications to his salad to spice up our veggie side dishes.

freshly picked cucumber from the garden.

The spicy peppers rival the cucumbers in multiplicity so I added a pepper to our salad.  It was a bit too spicy for poor Matt (he’s a bit of a wimp when it comes to heat) so I added less red pepper flakes.  I recommend opting for less heat at first and add more to taste.

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Greek Avocado Quinoa

I bought quinoa almost a two years ago. I tried to make it and completely failed.  Either I cooked it too long, not long enough, or I did it right and couldn’t even recognize it. Either way, I gave up.  Put the bag in my cupboard and forgot that I even had it at all.  Until earlier this month.  People kept pinning all these recipes with quinoa as the staple.  It was time to bring my cupboard quinoa out of retirement and try to make something.  So I picked some herbs from my garden, threw all the veggies we had in the crisper together, and tossed a dressing.  It was delicious.  Now I can see what all the fuss was about.

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Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Today was rainy.  On my way home from my bar class, hail the size of golf balls started to impale my car.  Cars huddled under the closest bridge seeking refuge.  I was lucky enough to have Sally (my car) completely under the bridge.  But the whole experience was mildly scary.  When the hail first started, it sounded like my car was being shot at.  I was honestly worried that they were going to break my windshield.  While I am far more susceptible to being frightened, I knew I wasn’t the only person concerned when all the cars under the bridge created a barricade, stopping all traffic.  But by the time the song on the radio was over, the storm had lifted and so did the barricade.

This cold, rainy weather meant a warm dinner was in order.  One thing I often have trouble with is portion control when it comes to those warm casseroles.  And while the weather outside mirrors autumn more than summer, next week (or maybe even tomorrow) will be swimsuit weather again.  Thankfully these spinach lasagna rolls realize this and come with built-in portion control.  Instead of having to eyeball how many inches your slice should be, you roll the lasagna–making each roll a serving size.  Much easier to stay on track and still enjoy a warm slice of lasagna.

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Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

I may have an unhealthy love of basil.   I use it almost daily, and my herb garden can’t grow it fast enough.  To me, it’s what healthy eating is-fresh, bold, and poignant.  My insides feel cleansed whenever it’s in my food.  Might be all in my head.

As a lover of sandwiches, I’ve been trying to find great sandwich recipes that include basil and travel well.  Like many students, my lunch is made at 7:00 a.m.  No one wants a sandwich that is all soggy by noon.  If that unsoggy sandwich includes basil, even better.  This sandwich has only four ingredients that travel well so you can bring all the ingredients with you and easily assemble it when you are ready to eat.  No need to live solely on pb&j’s anymore!

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