Garden Fresh Basil Pesto

Do you remember when I planted my 1st garden?  I doubted my green thumb, big Basil Planttime.  However, thanks to the Miracle Grow Soil and some good sun and rain, my 1st garden is thriving.  In fact, I have fresh basil coming out of my ears!  I’ve been making 1 million caprese salads but wasn’t sure what else to do with it.  In comes the pesto.

I haven’t been a huge fan of pesto in the past but I love basil so I wasn’t sure why.  I think it is likely because a traditional basil is made with pine nuts.  I’m not a huge fan.  So, I figured I would substitute almonds for the pine nuts and see how I liked it.

I started with a small batch and loved it!  I plan to make a boat load more and freeze the sauce in small enough portions (ice-cube trays perhaps?) that I can take one out at a time and use them for dinners during the week.

This time around I served it over a store-bought (gasp) gnocchi along side salmon and a caprese salad.  It was divine!

Salmon dinner

What you need:

  • 1 cup basil leaves (loose)
  • ½ cup Toasted Almonds (I used slivers)
  • ¾ cup EVOO (you can use more or less depending on how thick you want the pesto)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice (do this to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

What you do:

  • Lightly toast the almonds in a pan or oven
    Toasted Almonds
  • Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add more oil if you want the pesto thinner.

  • Serve over any sort of pasta you like or even over fish!
    PestoGnocchi with Pesto

Park City, Utah – snowboarding in a little slice of heaven

Experts say that Utah has the best snow in the world and I think they are right.  But what do I know…I live in the bitter cold state of Minnesota where our snow resembles some sort of ridiculous ice rink on a hill. Snowboarding in MN is like bobsledding down an ice shoot on your feet.  I guess if they ever have that in the Olympics I might be good at it.  Utah snow is light, fluffy, glittery white and there are mass quantities of it.  Amazing and much safer!

I have snowboarded in Utah several times before and we recently went back with my family.  Outside of the amazing snow, I would hands down choose Utah over other ski destinations.  My choice does factor in the amazing snow, but mostly it is because the resorts are only 25 minutes from the airport and it’s a direct flight.  I mean, is there anything worse than flying all day, jumping into a rental car and driving another 2-3 hours to get to…say…Vail?  Nope.  I want to fly in and be where I am going in under 1 hour, or in this case 30 minutes.

Town Lift

Town Lift

We spent 4 days going all out the entire time they were open, 9:00 – 4:30.  It’s a truly amazing experience with wide-open spaces, breathtaking views, tons of snow and no lift lines.  Sadly, I realized I am not 21 anymore.  Snowboarding 4 full days in a row is SO exhausting.  By the time we ended the day, changed, and went out to eat, I was ready for bed…at 9pm. Embarrassing.

Park City Restaurant Review:

When I travel, food is a very important part for me.  I use travel as an excuse to eat what I want, where I want, when I want and treat myself to things I might not otherwise have due to cost, etc.  The restaurant scene in Park City is unreal.  Since they recently hosted the Olympics and they are widely known for the Sundance film festival, they have everything you might want as it relates to food.  (And yes, despite their Mormon ways, they do serve alcohol!)  The majority of the restaurants are a little more ‘fine dining’ than what I might typically prefer, but there are a wide range of options.  Since there are so many people visiting Utah, the Main Street dining area of town is packed!  I would recommend either making reservations well in advance, or going to eat very early or very late.  We tried making a reservation the same day at a couple of places, and they were booked between 5:30 and 9:00pm!  Regardless, we found some great options and really enjoyed our food.

Bandits Grill & Bar: They serve some serious BBQ in a super warm, cozy and relaxed atmosphere.  Perfect after a long, cold day of snowboarding.  Try the Salmon Salad with mango dressing if you want something lighter.  It was fabulous with generous portions of mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, wonton noodles and salmon just to name a few ingredients.  What’s not to like!?

Bangkok Thai on Main: From the outside, this restaurant looked a little fancier than what I like on a ski vacation, but there were people eating here wearing snow pants and flannels.  I know…seriously.  So I didn’t feel so bad in my jeans and Burton hoodie. All I have to say about this place is Lobster and Mango Spring Rolls, Thai Dumplings and Pad Thai.  Mmmmmm.  Five star!!!

Easy Street Steak and Seafood: Really tasty, but this wanna be foodie thinks it is over-rated.  Don’t get me wrong, it was fun going to an extra fancy place and the food was

Easy Street

good, but this really isn’t our family’s style.  It would be great for a romantic date night though.  I had the seared grouper with Flash Fried Tomato and Corn Salsa, Pork Belly, Jumbo Lump Crab and Black Eye Peas. The grouper was great!  But, the pork belly I didn’t really get.  Chefs on the food network rave about this.  But I found it to be an oversized piece of fatty bacon.  I bet it’s great to cook with, but not so great to just eat like a piece of meat.

Wasatch Brew Pub: We waited over an hour to get into this super cute pub and it was worth it.  The rock cod tacos were delicious!  Perfect for the low-key, sporty, beer drinking crowd.  All beers on the menu were brewed in-house so my hubby especially enjoyed this place.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory:  I know they have these all over the place, but I must point it out.  We stopped in and I bought 2 cashew, 2 macadamia and 2 pecan turtles.  AAAhhhhh!  I also had a caramel covered marshmallow for the first time and it was surprisingly good.

Shopping Review:

Super quaint, unique and fun stores! Sure, they have a few cheesy gift shoppes but we all love those don’t we?  Who doesn’t want to buy cheap crap they don’t need.  They also have some insanely cool art galleries, but those were far outside this chicks price range. Chris and I did manage to pick up a couple unique pieces for our home though.  Love them!!

Utah’s Best kept secret:

If you fly into Utah, you can download a voucher for a free lift ticket just by showing your boarding pass at the resort ticket offices!  This is the best deal in Utah as far as I am concerned.  Especially since a full day lift ticket for 1 person is $90 for 1 day!

Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

What’s the inspiration?

Photo Credit: Buca di Beppo

My husband and I love going out to eat.  What’s not to love when you have good company, a fun atmosphere and the excitement of trying a new food adventure, or an old favorite standby?  Additionally, one of my new hobbies is attempting to re-create portions of the meal from our restaurant adventures. I am defiantly not a trained chef, and I don’t claim to have a great pallet. However, you can pick up clues from the menu and even ask the waitress who may give you ingredients in the dish!  These will help you re-create a dish at home!

This particular evening, we were in the mood for a comforting meal in a warm cozy atmosphere.  We ended up at Buca de Beppo in St. Paul, which is an amazing Itialian restaurant that serves family style portions.  We have been to Buca’s for several family occasions and even grooms’ dinners.  Each time as good as the last.  Believe it or not, despite being a family style restaurant, you can go here with 2 people!  You just don’t get to order as many items off the menu, which is half the fun. CA (aka my husband) and I split an amazing Prosciutto Stuffed Mushroom appetizer followed by Prosciutto stuffed chicken breast with spaghetti.  Both just fantastic.  The mushrooms melted in your mouth and left you wanting more.  The Prosciutto stuffed chicken was tender & juicy with the crunch of baked breading on the outside.  In the middle was the salty taste of the Prosciutto combined with mozzarella.  Very yummy when paired with a great glass of wine.

I left the restaurant that night inspired by this meal and did re-create it in my own kitchen.  I left out a few things when I re-created it.  Buca’s stuffed chicken was on a bed of pesto cream sauce.  I’m not one who is totally in love with pesto, so I choose to leave that portion out.  I was left with a perfectly acceptable Prosciutto stuffed chicken that we can enjoy at home, any night of the week.

What you need:

  • 4 Large Chicken Breasts
  • 4 Pieces Prosciutto
  • 1 bag shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 cup Breadcrumbs (See my homemade breadcrumb recipe, Simple Tip #1)
  • 1 Egg
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper

What you do:

  • Heat oven to 350
  • Pound chicken out & season with salt & pepper.
  • Place 1 piece Prosciutto & some mozzarella cheese on chicken
  • Roll up chicken and secure with toothpicks.
  • Bread chicken by coating in flour, egg then bread crumbs
  • Lightly grease baking dish and cook chicken for 20-30 minutes until done in the middle
  • Serve with Spaghetti & Sauce

Stale bread makes awesome breadcrumbs!

If you are anything like me, at the end of the week you have a few slices of bread left in the bottom of the bag.  I simply throw what is left into the freezer and when I have enough, or a need for bread crumbs in a recipe, I just whip up a batch!

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 350
  • Slice or tear bread into 1” x 1” squares
  • Spread out on cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes or until crouton like in texture
  • Let Cool
  • Place baked bread chunks into a food processor & pulse until crumbs!
  • Put in airtight container or ziplock bag

*I keep & use all bread, buns, flatbread, rolls, etc.
**Use breadcrumbs on chicken, fish, and shrimp or as a binder in crab cakes!

 

 

 

 

Breadcrumbs 1

Breadcrumbs 2

Breadcrumbs 3