Cilantro Serrano Pesto Pasta

CilantroIMG_3302

This is an herb that I am not sure I realized how much I liked it until about ten or so years ago.  It was around that time that I realized how nice the flavor was and what cilantro could do to a recipe.  Fresh herbs are great, but the problem I find with so many fresh herbs is you purchase them in bunches.  Rarely does a recipe call for that much.  Now if you are able to plan really well you can ensure that several foods you prepare that week will include the same fresh herb and then none is wasted.  But hello reality that does not work every time and some times just because you bought cilantro or another herb you may not want the same meals each time. Thus if you have the space or the energy growing you own herbs helps this dilemma considerably.  However I have tried growing cilantro and it is not easy.  You see I do not have a green thumb in fact I kill most house plants, but when it comes to garden herbs and plants I seem to manage usually, but cilantro is tough in the south.

The one good thing that came of my brief stint of trying to grow cilantro was some more recipes that utilized the herb.  When cilantro flourishes it does really well, but it has a short growing season and does not do well in heat.  Unlike basil and mint which as you snip them they grow more, my cilantro plants did not do that.  Rather they began to brown.  So in an effort to use all my nice cilantro I started cooking.  If you have been following my blog for anytime you know I love pesto.  So when I ran across this recipe that is a pasta dish but can just as easily be served as a pasta salad, I had to try it.

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Cilantro Serrano Pasta with Chicken 

Ingredients
1 1/2 Cups fresh cilantro
1/2 Cup fresh mint
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp toasted pecan halves
2 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
2 Tbsp extravirgin olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast**
Cooking spray
3 Cups hot cooked penne pasta
2 Cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes)

Directions
Place cilantro and next 5 ingredients (through chile) in a food processor; process until well blended. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well blended. Place pesto in a large bowl; stir in vinegar and black pepper.
** Chicken can be prepared one of two ways.    1)Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat chicken with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. 2) Poach or boil chicken until cooked.IMG_3851IMG_3853

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Add chicken, pasta, and tomatoes to pesto; toss to combine.  Serve and Enjoy.

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* adapted from Cilantro Serrano Pesto with Grilled Chicken and Penne that appeared in Cooking Light Magazine

If you like pesto, be sure to check out these recipes that use different pesto sauces in a variety of ways.

IMG_2637Arugula Pesto

IMG_2644Shrimp Pesto Pizza

Arugula Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Fontina

Arugula Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Fontina

Fancy Grilled Cheese

IMG_2833Snap Pea Tortellini & Pesto

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Arugula Pesto

Pesto is such a versatile sauce.  You can pretty much make it with most greens and herbs.  You can substitute different nuts to alter the flavor, and you can use it in so many ways.  Add it to pasta, use it as a spread on a sandwich, as a pizza sauce, or top a grilled meat or seafood with it.

ARUGULA PESTO

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Arugula, packed
  • 1/2 Cup freshly grated Parmesan – Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 Medium sized garlic cloves, minced

Directions

All above ingredients needs to be combined.

When using the vitamin to make pesto, you simple add all ingredients in the order listed.  Turn on the vitamin and slowly increase up to variable 6 or 7.  Careful not to over process as a nice pesto takes on a slightly bumpy consistency and it is easy to over process and end up with a puree.  Though great tasting not a true pesto.

If using a food processor, you want to add all ingredients except the olive oil.  Combine and then slowly add the oil to mix in.

 

 

 

 

Monday Mixture

Things have been a whirlwind for the past few weeks and though it is summer and things are suppose to slow down.  Hence the lazy days of summer, it does not appear I am coming up for air quite yet.  Rather I am trying to catch my breath between last minute trips, dance recitals, swim meets and practices, and getting some work done around the house.

Regardless of how busy things get one thing remains constant, we eat.

1. What we ate this week June 8 – June 14

SaturdayFancy Grilled Cheese w/ basil pesto & Fruit Salad

Sunday – BLT Burgers and Creamed Corn

Monday – Red, White, & Greens Pasta

Tuesday – Taco Salad

Wednesday – Pretzel Chicken, Fried Potatoes, and Spinach, Raspberry & Goat Cheese Salad

Thursday – Packed Dinner of PB & J, Fruit, Chips (Swim Meet)

Friday – Leftovers

2. I had a small get together to attend this past week.  When you have a food blog and you tend to bake and cook quite a bit, I think you feel the pressure more than you should as to what to take.  The host requested a light appetizer, dessert, or bottle of wine.  It is the summer season and S’mores just speak summer taste, so I decided to make S’mores bites.  I made this recipe first last fall when I threw a 40th Party for Mr. Mixture.  They were simple, quick and easy to make and a perfect one bite.

Well things did not go as planned this week as they were an epic fail and with everything else going on I just did not have the time to put something else together.  So what does a mixture lover decide on, you guessed it my mom says ” it is your signature.”  Perfect I decided.  A simple yet satisfying mix of flavors sweet and salty.

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3. Pistachios – Last week I published Crack open some Goodness because as you know we like all varieties of nuts around here.  Funny thing happened as my parents recently returned from a cross country trip and brought us flavored pistachios.  Now we are all familiar with roasted nuts and different candied or coconut coated nuts, but these are unique.  The pistachios are from New Mexico and the flavors we received were Garlic & green chile, two levels of Red Chili – hot and XX hot.  I enjoy making my own nuts, but this is something I am not sure I can duplicate without altering.  The nuts are not roasted and they are still shelled.  This is an east coast southern girl has never seen before.

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4. Meatless Monday – Meatless Monday is a movement that was relaunched in 2003 as a public awareness program.  It actually began with President Woodrow Wilson during war times to encourage people to decrease their meat consumption, a staple food.  Today’s movement has been gaining momentum since it started appearing more routinely in the media since 2009 encouraging a meatless meal to improve health and help the environment.

Just like all groups and websites you must meet some criteria to be recognized as part of their movement.  Well take a look at my sidebar Let’s Have Mixture has new bling.  A meatless monday badge. You can also find my blog listed here.

Can you pledge to have a meatless meal every monday?  Start with trying it for one month, or throughout the summer.  You can browse recipes on this site and many others by the #meatlessmonday

5. Coming Soon

       What do you do with a recipe that fails?  

Toss it?  Eat it?  

Recipes for your Vitamix or Blender 

My all time favorite lunch

 

 

Monday Mixture: Surviving Food Shopping, Meal Planning & Prep with the kids home for Summer, Meatless Monday

3 school days left

While I am counting the days until we can sleep in and have some less structured days, I know it can be hard to get things done with the kids around.  As much as we like summer vacation, the job of primary cook and meal planner gets even harder.  Here are some ways to involve the kids with these tasks.  While it may take a little longer to get some things done, you will be teaching some great life skills while keeping their academic skills sharp.

Grocery List / Errand List – Excellent handwriting, spelling practice, reading practice.  Have your child help write the list for what you need to get at the store.  Not only is this great in teaching them how to organize a list, but they will be able to visualize how much you need and understand how long it may take when you are at the store.  Don’t stop there though.  In the store have your child remind you of the items and cross them off as you pick them up.

Shopping – I have found that I am able to quickly pick up my needed items and breeze through a store if I know where things are.  So start teaching your kids early.  Assign each child a few items to pick up at the store.  Let them know when you are in the aisle or area they can be found and let them find it.  Skills such as knowing how to shop are lifelong and a valuable asset in being organized.  This is also great reading practice for the younger set.

Don’t forget Farmer’s Markets are a great place for kids to learn about new foods, talk to the farmers, and pick a new food to try.

Meal Planning –  I introduced my Recipe Must Make List Page in last Monday’s Mixture.  In this blog I have mentioned that I love to pin recipes on Pinterest, book mark websites, and tear recipes out of magazine.  Over the years I have made lists of what I want to try and certain types of recipes I want to make.  Recently I came across a list I had in 2011.  Apparently I was into baking at the time.  I decided now that I have started blogging I needed to revisit my list, make some updates and add some of the recipes.

Little Miss Mixture like many children is not quite as discerning as myself when it comes to recipes she wants on my to try list.  She pretty much wants me to make any food that looks good in a picture.  Thus my “to try” list multiplied after she looked through a recent Cooking Light magazine.  This got me thinking what a great way to  have your children try new foods.  Give them a magazine, a food website, or a cookbook and have them write down or point out at least 5 recipes they want you to make or that they can help make with you.  The more you involve kids in the kitchen the more apt they are to be interested in healthy eating and expand their variety of foods consumed.  Be sure to let them pick at least one dessert as they all look good in pictures.  Remind them when you serve the food that this is something they picked.  They may not love everything you make, but explain to them that is okay at least we tried.

Cooking – Getting kids in the kitchen is another great way to expand their interest in food and work on new skills.  There are a lot of cookbooks that have kid recipes in them.  We have one that provides great step by step pictures for children.

There are websites and companies that have great tools for helping kids in the kitchen, such as kid stir, Williams Sonoma Kids, Whole Foods Cooking Classes for kids.  However you are their best resource.  They watch you and they want to be like you.  Allow your child to help by washing fruits and vegetables, cutting foods, making a salad, mixing, cracking eggs, rolling pizza dough.  Here is a great list of kitchen skills broken down by age.

A great summer classic is kabobs.  Recently I realized this is also a great fine motor skill activity for children.  You can make fruit kabobs, dessert kabobs, ham & cheese kabobs for their lunch, or help prep kabobs for the grill.

So instead of dreading getting things done this summer, enjoy your time together and build a confident kid in the kitchen by instilling some lifelong skills.

 What we ate this week – 

SaturdayPesto Pasta

Sunday – BBQ Chicken Pizza

Monday – Black Bean & Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Tuesday – Shrimp Fried Rice

Wednesday – Leftovers

Thursday – Pesto pasta redo

Friday– Tuna Melt, Edamame Salad

 

 

 

 

 

Tortellini with Snap Peas & Pesto

IMG_2833Looking for a quick and easy light summer meal, well look no further.  I took this recipe from my Recipe Must Make list, as it was one of the Cooking Light recipes that Little Miss Mixture picked.  I am a fan of Trader Joe’s refrigerated ravioli and tortellini.  Yes I would prefer if they were whole wheat like the dried pasta I use, but for a weeknight meal they are perfect.  I find they cook quickly whether you store them in your refrigerator or freezer and with some added vegetables, meats, or sauces they can quickly be transformed into a satisfying dinner.

Here is a great recipe to pair with refrigerated tortellini as you can prepare the sauce ahead of time and then you can get dinner ready in less than 10 minutes.

Tortellini with Snap Peas & Pesto

Ingredients
1 pkg Refrigerated Cheese Tortellini
8 oz sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Cup fresh mint leaves
1 Cup fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions
1. Cook tortellini according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add snap peas to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking; cook 3 minutes. Drain.
2. Place mint and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor or Vitamix; process until finely chopped, scraping sides of bowl once. Combine oil and juice in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. With processor on, slowly pour oil mixture through food chute; process until well blended. If using Vitamix simply add oil before other ingredients and process to combine (to get more detailed instructions on making pesto in the Vitamix refer here.  Combine tortellini mixture and mint mixture; toss gently to coat.

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* this recipe first appeared in Cooking Light

As I mentioned this recipe is on our must make list and we decided it deserved 4 out of 5 stars.  What does 4 out of 5 mean?  It means we will definitely use our fresh mint and basil plants again this summer to enjoy this fresh pesto dish.