My sweet girlfriends celebrating my birthday this last year.

I love food and the combination of cooking and watching The Bachelor with my girlfriends on Monday nights simply makes my week. In describing this weekly occurence to Mother-In-Law (MIL) she commented that many of my cooking tricks were new to her and maybe I should lead a class like this for some of my family members. So until that happens I thought this would be a fun place to share some of our experiments.

The idea started as a part of a Christmas gift to my dear friend who wanted to master some tricks on the cooking side. Already an amazing baker, something I struggle with, she asked if we could cook every Monday. So we are making a list (which I will post) and will work our way through some of the essentials of cooking that tend to be more frightening than is necessary.

This week's challenge was Pesto, a delectable treat but many times far to high in calories and spendy for my taste. Over the years I have experimented at great length to cut calories, improve taste and in general make something I love more accessible. So here are a few tips and tricks I have learned and used over the years:

* Use what you have on hand. I make pesto with almost any leafy green, harder cheese and nuts in the pantry.  I have used spinach with frozen basil cubes. Spring greens and dried basil (just let it sit overnight). Walnuts, pecans and cashews in the place of pine nuts.  Asiago and fontina (freeze it for about 10 minutes before using) in the place of Parmesan. Improvise and taste as you go.

* There is no need for the excessive amount of olive oil. I have made pesto many times only using water and a quick bit of cooking spray to help it all come together. This past Monday we made 3 different types of pesto, used water in each and at most 1 TBS of Olive Oil. The water lets it freeze well and interestingly the comment I get most often is how creamy my pesto tastes. The best part is you can have it twice in one week without feeling guilty!

* Don't add garlic unless its going to be heated. This is mainly a personal rule after many nights of smelling garlic on everyones breath to an excessive degree. Don't get me wrong I LOVE garlic, but not everyone appreciates its residual affect. The other part of this is not feeling like you can't make pesto because you are out of garlic. It tastes great without it and doesn't dominate the scent of the room.

* Just give it a try. Tonight. When I embarked on my cooking journey 7 years ago I would keep a delicious container of pasta sauce always on hand and then embark boldly on one of my hair-brained cooking experiments. This took the pressure off and made the process more enjoyable. If it doesn't turn out the way you like it the noddles are hot so add the sauce and tell yourself that next time it will be sensational!

Our pestos for the night used pine nuts and basil with one option having garlic and the other without. The third was basil with walnuts and Asiago cheese, sans garlic. While more basic than my experiments of the past, these three ideas are great for showing the differences and for giving a base for your taste palate. If your palate is sound then your experiments will be as well.

As for the other half of our night, well there wasn't a shortage of drama. And that is all I will say about that at this moment.<wink>
Taken a few days later so the color is distorted. Pine nuts on left, Walnut on right.

Recreated days later with for left-overs with mushrooms and tomatoes.

4 Responses
  1. Sophie Says:

    I made pesto this summer with 1/2 spinach, 1/2 basil, toasted pecans. I don't remember if I added garlic or cheese (which I often forget is in pesto) but either way it was incredible! What a fun idea to do something different once a week xxoo

  2. aaaaah...I especially like the girl in the middle...haha!

  3. Sophie, love the addition of pecans. And for a little variety those salad herbs from Trader Joes are amazing with a nut like the pecan.

    Carrie, she is very pretty isn't she? : )

  4. J and A Says:

    Hey! Yes Cuba was beautiful. We stayed in Varadero but traveled into the city and it was beautiful!

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