Presto and you have Pesto

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Pesto is one of those sauces that has such versatility.  It is super easy to make and almost completely foolproof.  Once you get the hang of making pesto there are endless possibilities.  The hardest part of making pesto is cleaning the equipment, or at least until last year when it got a whole lot easier.

I love kitchen gadgets and I have had a lot over the years and will attest some are completely worth it, others are a waste, and others though necessary are a pain.  The food processor is one of those.  I have it because I need it though I cringe at times when I have to use it due to how cumbersome it is to clean.  There are so many parts and amazingly what I need to use it for knows exactly how to stick to evey little hole and crevice.

So how did it get easier?

You guessed it that amazing machine that many of us have invested in or wish we could have if it were on the NYSE, the vitamix can make a beautiful pesto.  The even more beautiful part it is one piece of equipment and easy to clean.

Classic Pesto

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

3 medium garlic cloves

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 cups fresh basil leaves

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.

Pesto   This link will allow you to print the recipe for Classic Pesto

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Note:  The pictured pesto is a variation of this classic pesto recipe.  I used 1 1/2 cups fresh basil, 1/2 cup baby spinach for a milder and slightly more nutritious pesto.

Now you have a beautiful pesto sauce that can be used in a variety of ways – garnish meat, tossed with pasta, spread as a condiment, or as we used it last week the base to a pizza.

Be sure to check out how to use this fresh pesto to create a fabulous Shrimp Pesto Pizza

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Save the Salt for the Margarita Glass

Mexican food is always a go to in our house.  With Cinco de Mayo just over a week away, I thought I would share our favorite taco recipe.  Tacos are a great meal since everyone can adapt them to their own taste and they provide a good serving of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants depending on your chosen toppings.

Armed with the following ingredients you can have a healthy made from scratch taco dinner ready in under 30 minutes.  I am not a salt person and though every recipe calls for it the only time I tend to use salt is when baking and even then I may not use the entire amount.  I have never had a problem with salt except I see no reason to add the extra sodium to your diet and so many recipes and foods can be enjoyed just as well by adjusting the seasonings and omitting the salt.  I save the salt for where it is enjoyed on the rim of a margarita glass to accompany my mexican dinner.

In order to make these tacos you need to take a minute to get your taco seasoning ready.  Here is my basic recipe.  It is perfect for seasoning about one pound of meat.

Taco Seasoning

1 Tbsp chili powder                                                  1/4 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp garlic powder                                               1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp onion powder                                               1 1/2 tsp cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, ground                            1/2 tsp black pepper, ground*

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients and set aside.  

* I use rainbow pepper since that is my standard black pepper mix in the house

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Tacos

1 lb. ground meat ( beef, chicken, or turkey)

Taco Seasoning Mix

2/3 cup water

1 Tbsp olive oil

In a medium size skillet pour the olive oil and heat over medium to medium high temperature.  Add your meat and brown, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.  Meanwhile you can begin preparing your toppings.  Once the meat is brown you add the taco seasoning mix, 2/3 cup water and stir to coat the meat.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low to simmer for about 5 minutes or until the rest of your dinner is ready.

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In several small bowls place your toppings on the table or a designated area in the kitchen so everyone can build their own taco.

 

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Toppings:

Spinach or other dark green, torn or cut into small strips or pieces

Diced pepper – any color or combination of colors

Diced onion

Cheese – I am lazy so it is not shredded in our house, but rather cut into small pieces about 1/4-1/2″ in size

Diced Tomatoes

Guacamole or chopped avocado

Salsas, and Sour Cream – as far as salsa we use a store bought generally.  It is great when made fresh, but we use salsa on a lot of items and finding ripe tomatoes to make it can be difficult certain times of the year.  There are a lot on the market many of which have very few preservatives or none at all.  We also enjoy corn salsa, a product from Trader Joe’s that is a staple in our refrigerator.

You can use whatever type of taco shell you prefer though the soft Whole Wheat/Whole Grain are the healthier option.

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Everything is ready and set out, so call the troops to dinner and have everyone build their own and enjoy.  Kids love this because they get to help make their dinner.

 

National Spinach Day

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Spinach is typically a staple in our house.

As a kid I remember my parents serving spinach steamed and possibly done in the pressure cooker. Remember I grew up in the South yet there are a number of southern foods that I never tried or was never introduced to until I was an adult. Spinach; however, I had eaten but only on occasion and rarely without chopped onions and vinegar atop.

Sometime in the last 20 years spinach has been revolutionized in my household and my parents. We eat it in, atop, or as the bed in a variety of dishes. I like spinach because it is more versatile than lettuce. If we end up having less salads than I planned that week, we’ll just toss it in a smoothie or sauté it and toss it in pasta, quesadillas, or anything else we may be eating before it wilts in the refrigerator. If I have spinach in the house then I may add a little extra green to just about anything, as it seems to be one of the greens that does not overpower other flavors.

A couple of weeks ago a friend dropped off a bunch of whole wheat lasagna noodles. Oddly enough this is an item that I have found difficulty finding on occasions and had just found it myself, but she was cleaning out gluten from her kitchen and I happily took her trash. So with the chill still in the air, I decided we would have lasagna this week.

My family does not have anyone particular diet/ food pattern that we keep, but luckily Mr. Mixture is agreeable to non meat focused meals. The last batch of lasagna I made was meat based, so in honor of National Spinach Day, I made a spinach based casserole.

I got a little creative and rather than sticking to my planned spinach and mushrooms, I tossed in some carrots and onions as well. I sautéed all the veggies lightly and then layered homemade tomato sauce, whole wheat noodles, my veggie mixture combined with ricotta, and topped with some mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

I will try and combine the different recipes I used and post this National Spinach Day creation.