Pesto

There are so many varieties to this gorgeous idea of herbs and olive oil blended and tossed over pasta. Parsley . . . Cilantro . . . Rosemary . . . I even whip up a batch of Balsamic-Lemon Spinach Pesto that’s really delightful! But truly, my favorite variety is the traditional one.
Basil.
The earthy sweetness. Crisp and almost acidic, but not quite. Green like fresh grass. It’s hard to find a meal I enjoy more than one that includes fresh pesto. And knowing this about myself, I planted ten basil plants in my garden this year. That’s right. Ten. And I might double that next year. I have no shame.

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My two oldest girls and I cut a bunch, washed them up, and whipped up a lovely batch of pesto this week. I spooned it generously over three-cheese ravioli and fresh grape tomatoes. Sprinkled with parmesan, only a loaf of crusty bread would have made it better. Next time.

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PESTO 
1 large bunch of basil—roughly 2 cups of leaves, washed, and stems removed
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 grated parmesan cheese
1 heaping teaspoon garlic
dash of lemon juice

Pine nuts are traditionally part of a solid pesto recipe, but I’m not a fan, so I left them out. If you like them, roast two tablespoons in a hot sauté pan with a splash of olive oil and salt until they brown. Set aside on paper toweling and allow to cool.

In a food processor, whirl basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and parmesan, scraping down sides of the bowl frequently for about a minute, or until a thick, smooth paste forms.

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Everyone has a different opinion about the thickness of a proper pesto. The beauty of making your own, means you get to decide what that looks like! Feel free to add more olive oil if you prefer your pesto a little thinner.
At this point you would also add the roasted pine nuts if you enjoy them.
Whirl again, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Serve over pasta of your choice, hot or cold.

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To store: divide between small jars and freeze what you intend keep beyond immediate use.
Enjoy!

 

Blueberry-Banana Yogurt Muffins

August is the season of Blueberries.
Well, so is July, but it’s still early August and blueberry season kind of runs over into August around here. It’s glorious. I have six little blueberry bushes in my garden and this is the first year they’ve produced fruit. It feels like a real victory. I so look forward to what future summers hold in the blueberry department. Good things ahead, people.

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This morning, it seemed like a wise idea to do more than just nom those fresh berries straight from the bushes, so I picked what I could and decided muffins would showcase their sweetness best. Throw in a couple of over-ripe bananas and yogurt for consistency, and presto—muffins.
Enjoy!

BLUEBERRY-BANANA YOGURT MUFFINS

1/2 cup butter (1 stick, softened)
2 eggs
1 soft banana
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup Greek Yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 pint fresh blueberries

In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, blend butter (softened), sliced banana, sugar, yogurt, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until will combined. Feel free to really work the batter so no banana or butter lumps remain. Then mix in the flour, but don’t overdo it or the muffins will fall when they bake. A little visible flour in the batter is okay.
Fold in fresh berries with a soft spatula until they are well-dispersed.

Scoop batter into a greased muffin tin (about 2/3 full in each), and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden-brown across the top.

Refrigerator Pickles

Look at this. It’s the last day in July. I can’t even.
This summer got away from me in a flurry of summer storms, and random illnesses, old house issues, and remodel projects. Blogging had to take a necessary backseat to survival for a little bit. But look! Here are some pickles. The world is feeling right again.

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Women have been preserving fruits and veggies and meats and all manner of foods for decades. They learned from their mothers who learned from their mothers, and as a result, some of us were lucky enough to have mothers who canned. But the rest of us have had to try and pick it up on our own here and there, throwing in heathy doses of apprehension along the way. What if I do it wrong? What if I poison my family? What if I break jars while boiling them and get glass in everything?
Enter Refrigerator Pickles.

Refrigerator pickles are one of those preserving miracles that feel a little like cheating. Canning without canning! It’s awesome. It’s also a great place to start if you’re new to preserving and nervous about the process. No boiling jars, no bacteria fears, and yet, boom. Preserving!

I have a crazy batch of cucumbers in my garden this year and they produce the most adorable little cucumbers. But they are very seedy. I hate seedy pickles. So instead of slicing my cucumbers or even chipping them, I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds, and sliced them up. Feel free to experiment a little when contriving pickling recipes. I like garlic dill with a hint of sweetness, but not sweet like bread-and-butter pickles. This recipe reflects my preferences. Try it and then adjust to your own likes and dislikes!

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I started with a dozen cucumbers, 6″ to 9″ inches in length. Once sliced, they filled five quart jars. The brine recipe is built for five jars of pickles, so adjust accordingly if you have more cucumbers.

 

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES

12 cucumbers, 6″ to 9″ inches in length.
4 cups of water
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
Garlic (enough for 2-3 cloves per jar, or a heaping teaspoon of diced garlic per jar)
Big bunch of dill
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds per jar
1/2 teaspoon Black Peppercorns per jar

In a saucepan, boil 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, salt and sugar until they dissolve. Remove from heat and add the remaining water and vinegar—preferably cold so as to cool the boiled mixture down to room temp. If the brine goes into the jars over the cucumbers hot, they will get soft instead of staying firm and crunchy in your fridge.

Fill each jar equally with cucumber spears, or chips, or slices—whichever cut you prefer. Don’t pack them too tightly as the breathing room will make the pickling process more effective. To each jar add garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and several heads of dill. Just cram them right down in the jar with the cucumbers. Don’t worry about looks here. It’s more about making everything fit. Fill the jar with the brine (cooled to room temp) until the cucumbers are just covered. Tightly cover with either a plastic lid or a metal canning jar lid and band, and gently shake to distribute the dill, mustard and peppercorns. Repeat with each jar and then refrigerate for at least 7 days before opening a jar to sample.
The pickles will keep in your refrigerator for four to five weeks.
Enjoy!

 

 

 

rhubarb cake

I have this patch of rhubarb in my garden—the grandchild of a plant that has been growing at my house for more than thirty years, and it’s fantastically huge. In the height of summer it takes up a full 8-foot by 12-foot raised garden bed.
I love it.
I call it Gertrude.

It’s only the middle of May in Minnesota but I’ve already harvested two batches of rhubarb from Gertrude, and yesterday’s harvest was a whopper. I had to use a laundry basket to bring it all inside. A batch of rhubarb sauce ensued. Also this cake.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that baking is not more forte. I’m better with main dishes and soup. There’s just so much chemistry in baking and I’ve never been great with chemistry. But.
But. But. But.
This cake.
—Custard-like, loaded with fruit, and finished with a crisp sugared crust. The almond flavor adds a hint of something magic, and topped with a fresh dollop of whipped cream, it’s basically perfection.
Enjoy!

RHUBARB CAKE

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar-in-the-raw
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
4 cups diced rhubarb

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. The larger grains of sugar give everything a different texture, but trust me, the end result is amazing. Add almond extract, salt, baking powder, and eggs. Mix well. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and add the flour. The batter should be thick, almost thicker than expected. No worries, the juice from the rhubarb will thin it out a bit. Add the rhubarb and mix again. It’s going to look like too much fruit for the cake. But not to worry. The eggs and flour will eventually hold everything together.

I have a deep 8x 12, casserole pan I use to bake this cake. It will overflow a standard 9 x 9 cake pan. If you have a 9 x 16 cake pan, that may work better. Grease the pan well and spread the batter evenly with a spatula.
Sprinkle sugar-in-the-raw generously over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then turn the heat down and bake for another hour and a half (yes, that’s correct) at 325 degrees. Keep an eye on it and cover the cake with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too darkly over the top. After it had been in the oven for a total of two hours, give the pan a light shake. If the center is still jiggly, continue baking at 325 until it sets. (The “insert knife until it comes out clean” trick won’t work on this one because the finished cake has an almost custard-like texture).
Allow the cake to cool once it has finished baking.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream!

oatmeal and flax breakfast muffins

Sometimes breakfast is about coffee.
Okay fine. Breakfast is mostly about coffee for me.
But once in a while, mornings call for something else.
Like muffins.
Sometimes they turn into cupcakes.
But other times they actually stay pretty darn healthy. And tasty. And if breakfast is going to be anything besides coffee (or cupcakes), then I guess this is a good option.
Enjoy!

OATMEAL AND FLAX BREAKFST MUFFINS

3 cups cooked oatmeal (steel cut is my favorite—great texture)
1/2 cup flax
1/2 cup applesauce
1 banana
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 1/2 cups flour

These little guys are heavy like whoa. But they are incredibly satisfying and stick with you the way a nice bowl of oatmeal does. They work great on-the-go because they aren’t super crumbly. Which means I can distribute them to my back-of-the-car clan on our way to school when we are running a little behind. Even better, the sugar content in these muffins is almost zero—maple syrup, applesauce and bananas provide all the sweetness needed.

Begin by cooking up three cups of oatmeal. Just as you would if you were serving it by the bowl-full. Allow to cool and then scoop into a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Add the flax, applesauce, chopped banana, cinnamon, and salt.Mix until incorporated. Then add the eggs, baking powder and yogurt. Mix again. Finally blend in the flour until the batter is smooth. It will seem quite wet and sticky. Not to worry, the oatmeal, flax and eggs hold everything together. Too much flour will dry these little muffins out.

scoop 1/3 cup batter into well-greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden across the top. Keep in mind they will not rise a great deal. Serve on their own or with a pat a butter and jam.

corn salsa with cilantro

Summer is about being outside. Because around here, winter lasts for like nine months. Not even kidding. So when it warms up, we go out. We cook outside, work outside, play outside, sleep outside, and eat outside. Grilling becomes second nature and any side dish that pairs with the dark earthy taste of charbroil, makes for happy tastebuds.
This corn salsa makes for especially emotive tastebuds. Because cilantro.
Cilantro, to me, takes like summer. Fresh, clean, bright. The more the merrier!
This salsa can be paired with a bowl of tortilla chips or served all on it’s own as a side salad.
Enjoy!

CORN SALSA WITH  CILANTRO

2 15oz cans of yellow corn, drained
1/2 red onion, diced
2 sweet red peppers, chopped
1 15 oz can black beans, drained
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, diced
1/4 cup lemon juice (or lime!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a large mixing bowl gently blend the corn, onions, peppers, black beans, and cilantro. A soft spatula works best—you don’t want to smash the beans and corn together. Set aside.
Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a small dish or dressing jar, and then drizzle over the corn mixture. Stir well to coat and then refrigerate before serving.

 

what I want for mother’s day—a list

Mother’s Day is a week away.
I know this because Target has a massive display of cards that says so. I probably would have forgotten otherwise. Also, Target has several end-caps full of whimsical gift ideas that are sure to delight every mom in your life. Like coffee mugs and sticky notes that say things like “Beautiful” “Lovely” and “Breathe.”
They’re nice. But they’re not on my list of things I want for Mother’s Day.
Do you have a list?
Mine is long. And it’s kind of unlikely that I’ll get anything on it. But just in case you’re looking for ideas— *cough* *cough*—well, here you go.

• The knowledge that I’m getting this Mom stuff right—the certainty of it.
• Freedom from the endless cycle of pants through my closet that fit and then don’t and then do and then don’t and then do and then don’t . . . .
• More sleep.
• Less fear over what could happen to my tiny Loves in the course of a day, week, month, lifetime . . . minute.
• A minute to pee. In privacy.
• The ability to articulate my thoughts without excessive quantities of emotion. Especially when talking about babies. The future. And food.
• More time to write, garden, sleep, read, tuck my babies in, eat, sleep, shower, watch my babies sleep, sleep, and clean the fridge.
• A clean fridge.
• Laundry that stays done.
• Landry that stays folded.
• Laundry that folds itself.
• No laundry.
• Strawberries that aren’t on “the dirty dozen” list.
• More kisses and hugs from my Littles.
• Fewer concerned looks when I forget to wear makeup.
• The ability to run without my backside slapping my legs.
• The promise that my Mom will live forever—because that’s how long I’m going to need her. Also my Dad.
• The ability to love perfectly. Courageously. Selflessly.
• The ability to walk down stairs silently. Also open doors silently.
• The eradication of the stomach flu from the face of the earth for all eternity future.
• All the coffee.
• Forest animals who clean my kitchen.
• A place for all the stuff.
• Elimination of the word “should.”
• Longer summers.
• Deeper stronger faith.
• Cashew carmel cluster ice-cream in my freezer right . . . now.
• More kissing practice. (You can always get better at that).
• No more bullying—of anyone. Anywhere. Ever.
• Groceries that put themselves away. In my clean fridge.
• The right words to explain how thankful I am, how blessed I feel, how emotional I get, how inadequate I feel to fill this honored, wonderful, holy, fearful, beautiful, messy, broken, ordinary position of being mama to my people. Every. Blessed. Day.

Happy Mother’s Day my fellow moms—you who love on children across the world whether they are yours by birth, by adoption, by association, by relation, or by the outpouring of love you so graciously extend. Thank you for doing your part, however great or small, to give the world these little people. There is no such thing as other people’s children—we are all moms.