Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings, Vegetarian Recipes

How to Freeze Homemade Basil Pesto

How to freeze basil pesto

 

Are you reluctantly saying goodbye to summer?  Here’s my perception.

Whip up a large batch of homemade pesto.  Then freeze it.  IN ICE CUBE TRAYS!! (yes, that deserved the double exclamation point).  We all love the smell and taste of fresh basil pesto.  We need it during the non summer months.  That said, here’s my quick tutorial for an effortless process to preserve the freshness of basil:

  1. Make a double patch of homemade pesto.
  2. Fill an ice cube tray with pesto, about 2-3 tbsp per cube.
  3. Cover tray with plastic wrap, being sure to press the plastic wrap against the pesto so it is touching the top layer.  This reduces oxidation (dark green color).  Allow pesto cubes to freeze completely, at least 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Pop pesto cubes out of the tray and store in your freezer in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  5. Add the pesto cubes to dishes throughout the winter for a fresh pop of flavor, or simply toss with pasta for an easy weeknight meal.

How to freeze basil pesto

 

Preserving summer fresh ingredients helps me get through the extensively cold Midwestern winters.  Eating a bowl of pasta with fresh homemade pesto in the middle of January.  It’ll do good for for your soul.

Note:  If you are going to toss with pasta, add a small amount of starchy pasta water to your frozen pesto before adding the pasta.  The salty starchy water not only helps to thaw the frozen pesto, it helps glue the pasta and sauce together.  Don’t forget to top with fresh parmesan cheese!

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Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings

Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing

Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing

 

This post is gonna be short and sweet.  No need to elaborate on the “process” involved in making this dressing.  Just know that you should never be afraid to make your own.  

Tangy, herbaceous, and refreshing … after making this recipe, you will never go back to the store-bought stuff.  Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing tastes great on salads and works wonders as a dip.  Ranch lovers BEWARE!  You are going to want a jar of this stuff in your refrigerator at all times.

Spoiler alert!  Recipes using Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing coming soon:

Wedge SaladChicken Fingers

 

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used reduced fat)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped (or 1 spring onion, green parts only, chopped)
  • 1 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a medium bowl combine buttermilk, sour cream, and mayonnaise.  Mix well.

Add the remainder of the ingredients and stir to combine.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

Makes: 1 1/2 cups (Serving size: 1/4 cup)

Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings

Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki sauce is a beautiful combination of strained Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, spring onion, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  It is traditionally served alongside grilled meats, and makes a wonderful addition to pita and hummus, or a crudites platter.  It is cool, crisp, tangy, and refreshing.

If you have never made homemade tzatziki sauce before, give it a try.  This recipe is restaurant worthy.

Your pita is waiting!

photo 1photo 2photo 3Tzatziki Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeds discarded, and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 spring onion, cleaned and sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Strain yogurt in a fine metal strainer or coffee filter for a couple of hours.  This will remove some of the excess liquid and will thicken your yogurt.

Transfer yogurt to a small bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Makes: 2 cups

Note: Tzatziki sauce will stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Appetizers, Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings

Lamb Meatball Lettuce Cups with Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

Friends often ask me for appetizer recipes. Something new and out of the ordinary. Well, here ya go … make these, make these! Just make sure I make the invite list.

If you’re going to make lamb meatballs, this is the way to do it. Little flavor bombs packed with garlic, onion, parsley, oregano, mint, cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. A beautiful combo of warm and earthy spices. Take a look at the instant element of presentation these little hand-held beauties provide … a welcoming sight to any guest.

So simple, so delicious, so pretty, and so unique. Don’t forget the homemade tzatziki sauce!

Lamb Meatball Lettuce Cups with Tzatziki Saucephoto 4 (1)Tzatziki Sauce

 

Lamb Meatball Lettuce Wraps:

Ingredients:

4 tsp olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 cup whole grain breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 2 tbsp dried parsley)
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1/2 tbsp dried oregano)
1/2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (or 1 tsp dried mint)
2 tsp cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon, about 1 tsp
Kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste
2 heads of red leaf lettuce, washed, and inner leaves separated into cups
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium skillet, sweat onion and garlic in 2 tsp of olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about 4 minutes. Let cool and set aside.

Combine the rest of ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add cooled onion and garlic mixture and mix well. Form mixture into 20 meatballs. Add 2 tsp of olive oil to a saute pan and sear meatballs on all sides for 5 minutes, rotating them as they brown. Do not overcrowd your pan. You will most likely have to brown the meatballs in 2 batches.

Add browned meatballs to a sheet tray and bake for 8 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve in lettuce cups with tzatziki sauce and chopped tomatoes.

Servings: 20 appetizers

Note: I like to use fresh herbs whenever possible, but dried herbs work as well.

{Recipe for Tzatziki Sauce below … you must make this recipe … cool, crisp, refreshing, and it pairs perfectly with lamb.}

photo 1photo 2photo 3

 

Tzatziki Sauce:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups 2% Greek yogurt
1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeds discarded, and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 spring onion, cleaned and sliced
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Strain yogurt in a fine metal strainer or coffee filter for a couple of hours. This will remove some of the excess liquid and will thicken your yogurt.

Transfer yogurt to a small bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Makes: 2 cups

Salads, Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings

Homemade Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

 

Homemade salad dressing vs. store-bought salad dressing.  No comparison.  Homemade always wins. Every time.  C’mon…we all know it’s true.

What do I normally do on a weeknight when it comes to salad dressing, you ask?  I simply squeeze a little fresh lemon juice onto some baby greens, toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, and top with some shredded parm.  When I’m clamoring for a bit more, I’ll go with a  rich, cheesy, garlicy homemade Caesar.  Nothing complicated or time consuming in this recipe.  Just add ingredients to your blender or food processor and give it a whirl until emulsified.  I love the addition of anchovies in this recipe, (I think they add a great authenticity and depth of flavor) but you could easily leave them out.

Toss with romaine lettuce, shaved Parmesan cheese, and croutons, and you have yourself a restaurant quality salad in minutes.   You won’t find store bought dressing in my fridge.

Homemade is just the better pick.

Creamy Caesar Salad DressingCreamy Caesar Salad DressingLettuce

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet, chopped
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend until combined and emulsified.  Store in mason jar or air tight container in your refrigerator until ready to use.  This dressing is best used right away but will last in your refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Yields: 2 1/2 cups

Appetizers, Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

I could give you this recipe with no narrative.  Read the above title to yourself…yup…it’s as delicious as it sounds. (I’ll give a little narrative anyway, ’cause I know you love reading ’em…right?)

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

 

Whipped feta and I go together like milk and cookies, Jell-o and jiggle, coffee and donuts, a wink and a smile, peanut butter and jelly (insert your favorite combination here).  A match made in heaven!  I slather this stuff on anything and everything.  In this recipe, I pair it with a delicious herb oil.  Eat the whipped feta by itself, in a sandwich, on pizza, on a burger, with crudites as a dip, in these delicious cucumber canapes, or on top of a Greek salad.  You get the drift.  This can go with just about anything.

Last week I walked out of work and went straight to the grocery store.  Before I knew it, I was spooning this whipped gold straight from the bowl of the food processor into my mouth.

Normal behavior when dealing with whipped feta.

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

 

Ingredients for the Whipped Feta:

  • 8 oz block feta cheese, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • A pinch of salt, optional

Ingredients for Herb Oil:

  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

First, make the whipped feta.  Combine feta cheese and cream cheese in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until cheeses are well blended.  Add olive oil, lemon juice, and black pepper. Pulse again until whipped and smooth.  Adjust seasoning to your taste, add salt if necessary (I did not add salt to mine).  Transfer to serving bowl and reserve.  Note: Whipped feta will last up to 1 week in your refrigerator.

Next, make the herb oil.  Combine basil, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until ingredients are roughly chopped and combined.  With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil until herb oil comes together and is emulsified.  Note: Herb oil will last up to 3 days in your refrigerator (be sure to bring herb oil to room temperature before you use leftovers).  Leftover herb oil is wonderful tossed with warm pasta, and also makes a wonderful addition to a vinaigrette.

Drizzle the top of your whipped feta with the herb oil (as much or as little as you would like).

Serve immediately with fresh baguette toasts (I often times top mine with a slice of tomato, not pictured), or one of the many ways indicated above.

Crock Pot Recipes, Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings

Crock Pot Cinnamon Applesauce

Corckpot Cinnamon Applesauce

 

Cooking in the crock pot is ten times better than any potpourri you could ever use.  With that in mind, nothing beats filling your home with the aroma of apples, sugar, and warm fall spices.  Once you make homemade applesauce, you will never go back to the store-bought stuff.  I’m hooked.

This recipe is simple to prepare and incredibly delicious.  It’s high in flavor and low in sugar.  The entire recipe includes only 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Eat it on its own, add it to baked goods in lieu of oil, or spoon it over yogurt or ice cream.  This recipe is for both kids and adults alike.

apples1

IMG_20130930_145849IMG_20130930_150516IMG_20130930_142023

 

Smells delicious.  Tastes delicious.  It’s a win win.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-2 inch pieces (I used a combination of Empire, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, and McIntosh)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider (or water)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Lemon peel (1 long 4 inch piece, or several small 1 inch pieces like in the picture)

Directions:

Combine ingredients in crock pot.  Cook on low 7-8 hours.  Stir occasionally (if you are home).  Remove cinnamon stick and lemon peel.  Enjoy warm or chilled.

Note: The apples will really cook down, but if you like a very smooth applesauce, puree with an immersion blender.

Makes: 3 1/2 cups