Monday, February 25, 2013

Homemade Basil Pesto

I'm not sure there is anything better than homemade pesto. It's flavor is unreal. I mean, take a look at that color, it's bright green. I fell in love with homemade pesto when I lived in Italy. You could buy it fresh in the grocery stores, and it did not look like fresh pesto from the grocery stores here in the United States. Since then, my love affair with pesto has only grown into a full-blow obsession. I usually make a big portion of it and freeze half of it in a mason jar for later use--or ever just to keep on hand. I also prefer to toast my pine nuts even more, that is, if you buy them already toasted. Using fresh parmesan cheese and a good, full-flavored olive oil is also important. Once you have the fresh stuff, I swear you'll never go back to pre-made again.



 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup (roughly) olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

 In a blender or food processor add basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of olive oil and turn on machine. Add in leftover 1/4 cup olive oil as needed, as all the ingredients are being blended into a paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use on pizza, sandwiches, or pasta.

Weekly Meal Planning

I have a secret obsession with meal planning and grocery shopping. Each week I literally have to stop myself from going to the grocery store too often. I can't help it, I love it. I often find myself stopping by Trader Joe's just to "look around". Similarly, I find myself doing this with Target as well, but that's a story for another day.

Each week I grab a piece of lined paper and I write down each day of the week we plan on eating at home. Then I glance at my Pinterest food pinboard, browse around, and adamantly question my husband about what he would like to eat for dinners, lunches, etc. each week. I'm not sure why I obsess over it, or even why I take so much joy in it. It's quite boring actually. "In my free time I enjoy writing lists of foods and which days I'm going to make them...and then I dream about what ingredients to add and how to prepare the meals so I'm not rushing around trying to get dinner ready...and then I walk around Trader Joe's looking for new products I can try". I sincerely hope there are other people out there like me. My husband hates the grocery store. He gets anxiety from all the people and looks at my like a scared child who can't find his parents.

With that said, since my weekly meal planning obsession started a year or two ago, so did my obsession with not wasting food. It's a good habit to have, I'd say, but at times it's problematic. Trying to somehow put broccoli (that's about to go bad) into muffins or oatmeal isn't always a good idea. It's probably not ever a good idea--I dunno, you tell me?

Anyways, each week I write our dinner meals on a chalk board for Brett to choose from. He's a picky eater, and we can also both be indecisive, so it helps to have structure but also give us the freedom to be 'spontaneous'. I've had friends mention that they think it's a great idea to plan out meals, and that they want to start doing it--so here's my take on meal planning:

Each week, think of several meals you could make. When you're planning for just two people, there are often leftovers, so I try to plan around that. For instance, when I make chicken schnitzel, I save half of the raw chicken and freeze it or use it the next night for chicken tacos. I'll make a big pot of homemade black beans and throw some in turkey chili and some in black bean burritos (that I make ahead for Brett to take as lunch for work). I'll buy six bananas for the week and we'll only eat three, so I'll make banana bread for Brett to have for breakfasts. Right before any of my fruits go bad, I cut them up and stick them in a freezer bag to have smoothie ingredients on hand at all times. I'll make turkey meatballs with spaghetti and save half of the meatballs to put on homemade pizza the next night--just to name a few. This not only saves you a lot of money, but it also prevents eating out too much and helps you to eat healthier choices. It also allows controlling planners, like me, to feel good about themselves. By the way, I might be an obsessive planner, but you should see my car, desk drawers, or closets. Disasters. I am not organized when it comes to being neat.

So once I make my lists of meals I want to make, I then move onto creating the grocery list. Being an obsessive grocery shopper also gives me the opportunity to know which stores have the best deals. Trader Joe's is great for certain things, but Sprouts often has cheaper produce. So I make my lists according to grocery stores and where I can get what the cheapest. Then I usually knock it out in one day, or sometimes two when I'm short on time.

So there it is ladies and gentlemen, a guide to meal planning.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lasagna Soup

I made this soup after seeing it on Pinterest. Like most of my recipes, I looked around at several recipes to get the gist of what's in it. Then I came up with my own version. This soup is gluten free, however you can use whichever type of pasta you please. I happen to only have quinoa pasta in my house, so that's what I used. This soup is like a little bowl of heaven, if you love lasagna. Usually lasagna is too tomato-y for me (I'm not a huge fan of red sauce) so this soup was perfect. I threw in some fresh spinach for color and added nutrients, and with some crusty bread, this soup will not disappoint.


1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 box of chicken broth
1 cup quinoa pasta shells
1 cup of water
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups raw spinach
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
olive oil

chopped basil (for garnish)
ricotta (for garnish)
shredded mozzarella (for garnish)
parmesan cheese (again, garnish)

In a pot cook ground turkey with garlic, salt, and pepper, and about a tablespoon of olive oil. Once turkey is cooked, add tomato paste and remaining seasonings, then carefully add 1 cup of water and half of the box of chicken broth. Add in pasta and allow to gently boil, 6-10 minutes, stirring ever so often. Once pasta is al dente, throw in can of tomatoes, remaining chicken broth and spinach. Bring heat up just enough for the spinach to wilt. Ladle soup into bowls with ricotta (important if you really want it to taste like lasagna), mozzarella, and parmesan.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sweet Potato Brownies

Sweet potato brownies?! Yes, you heard correctly. I came up with this recipe when I was craving brownies but didn't want to feel too guilty about possibly eating the entire batch in one sitting. I had some sweet potatoes that I needed to get rid of, and I decided they would make a good partial-flour substitute in a brownies. I adapted two different recipes--Gwenyth Paltrow's Spelt Flour Brownies, and Sprouted Kitchen's Brownies. I LOVED these brownies, and I'm not really a fan of chocolate. They were super moist, almost fudge-like, and at around 150 calories a slice (if you cut into 20 pieces), you honestly cannot go wrong.
You can make these gluten-free by substituting gf oat flour, however these are just wheat-free with spelt flour.
*I added a drizzle of Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Sauce in the middle of the batter, feel free to do so, or not. However, I HIGHLY recommend it!


1 cup mashed/pureed (baked) sweet potatoes
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (plus extra for topping)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp agave

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a pot melt butter and half of the chocolate chips until just melted and set aside. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl mix sweet potatoes, coffee, vanilla, eggs, and agave. Once chocolate-butter mixture has cooled, add to sweet potato mixture and mix well. Whisk in dry ingredients well. Transfer to a buttered 8 x 8 baking dish, sprinkle with chocolate chips, and bake 35-40 minutes. (Mine took a bit longer because of my oven so pay close attention to yours). Insert toothpick to make sure they're done (I like underdone brownies). Make sure to completely cool brownies before you cut them, I refrigerated mine to ensure clean cutting.

All this talk of brownies is making me want them again. Too bad I'm out of sweet potatoes.

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