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Thursday, August 4, 2011

My black thumb strikes again!

I was lucky enough to inherit a lot of great qualities from both of my parents, but their green thumb was definitely not one of them. It’s pretty much a give in that I will eventually kill any plant I’m put in charge of. I can’t even keep those little “lucky bamboo” plants alive longer than a month or so. I have no idea why I seem to have such a honker of a black thumb, but I figure I can’t excel at everything in life and accept it as a small flaw and then go eat some ice cream.

Still, every year I am so jealous of people who can plant a little garden and get beautiful veggies and herbs by summer’s end. This year I decided to give herbs a try and I was met with some success. I planted basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, dill, and oregano. What I ended up with is a lot of weeds, a sprout of dill, a little tiny bit of cilantro, the start of some parsley and more basil than I know what to do with at this point. The basil has pretty much become a monster plant.

Surprisingly Brent knows more about growing herbs than I knew he did, and has helped me out a wee bit. But then he keeps saying we should give some of the basil away and I’m thinking not. I grew something! From a seed. It’s like my baby and there is no way someone else is going to reap the benefits of my diligent watering everyday. Especially since everything else was pretty much a bust.

This picture was about two weeks ago and it has gotten even bigger!

So I’ve been dreaming up as many ways to use the basil as possible. One dish I knew without a doubt I was going to make once I could pillage some leaves was a caprese salad. For me the caprese salad screams summertime with fresh ripe tomatoes, sweet mozzarella, and bright basil. It’s an absolutely perfect salad and I could probably eat it everyday if given the chance.

While the last thing the world needs is another recipe for such a simple salad, I figured I’d share the basic idea here because just posting my failed attempt at growing herbs isn’t all that exciting. And I’ve come realize that I do one thing that most people do not… I add some red onion. Is that weird? I just like the contrast of flavor it has against the other ingredients. Don’t use too much though or it will overpower everything else.

On the day I went to pick up the tomatoes, the larger vine-ripened and beefsteaks weren’t looking so hot. They were kinda pale and not a juicy red color, so I went with roma that day. Use any kind you prefer.

Caprese Salad
*Serves how ever many you want!
(printable recipe)

- fresh, beautifully ripe tomatoes
- fresh mozzarella
- red onion
- basil
- balsamic vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper

Fast and Loose Directions:

- Evenly slice your tomatoes and mozzarella to be about the same size. Generally I use about 25% less mozzarella than I will tomato. Layer on a plate.

- If doing larger slices of tomato and mozzarella, thinly slice red onion, or mince red onion if using smaller, bite-sized portions. As a general rule, I will only use about the same amount of red onion as I will basil. Layer in or on top of salad.

- Tear or mince basil. You can leave it whole as well and layer in-between the mozzarella and tomatoes.

- Season with salt and pepper, than lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pesto Chicken Salad

If you were to ask me to list my top three most hated foods, the list would most certainly include mayonnaise. I just can’t stomach it and therefore I steer clear of a lot of summer favorites such as potato salad, macaroni salad, and chicken salad. This recipe is my solution to that problem and is probably one of my favorite new recipes I’ve come up with in the last couple of months. It’s very satisfying but not overly heavy, and if you buy a rotisserie chicken to use, you won’t even need to turn the oven on. An added bonus is that it’s a little healthier given that mayo has a good amount of calories in it.

The “hardest” part of making this salad is the prep work, other than that it comes together in a snap and is a great make ahead lunch or light summer supper. When we had this for dinner a couple of weeks ago we served it with a lightly toasted flatbread and some mixed greens but you can certainly enjoy it alone, either warm or cold.

Pesto Chicken Salad

*Serves 4- 6
(printable recipe)

- 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1 cup baby swiss cheese, cubed
- ½ cup chopped prosciutto
- ¾ cup artichokes, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup red onion, minced
- 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon prepared pesto
- Salt and pepper

Optional: flatbreads, pita bread, fresh spinach, arugula, or mesclun greens


1. Prep and chop the chicken, tomatoes, cheese, prosciutto, artichokes, and red onion. Add to a large mixing bowl.
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