Thursday, February 25, 2010

Basil Pesto

When it comes to hosting parties, we like to keep it simple these days. With Myra being so little, things may not go exactly the way we plan them. But that absolutely does not keep us from not having friends over for dinner at home.

This past weekend we hosted a fun pizza party at our house. While the kitchen was left in the hands of the men, we girls enjoyed chit chatting over a few drinks. The kids of course had a gala time with Myra crawling all over the place.

I'll write another post showcasing all the pizzas we prepared. For now, let me share this simple basil pesto recipe which we used as a topping for one of the pizzas.

I love pestos, and particularly this one for its versatility. It can be used as a spread on crostinis, tossed in with pastas, used as a marinade for grilling and even as a substitute for the regular tomato sauce on pizzas. The possibilities are endless. The only secret in making a good pesto, I think, is using fresh ingredients.

Basil Pesto
Yields about 1 1/2 cups


2 cups fresh basil, packed
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup good olive oil
Salt & Pepper


Add the basil, garlic, walnuts and salt and pepper in to the food processor. Process until the mixture looks minced, but not completely pureed. Then with the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until the entire mixture is pureed. Add the cheese and process again for a minute.

You can use the pesto right away. It can also be stored for up to 6 weeks in air tight containers with a thin layer of olive oil on the top. This prevents the pesto from coming in contact with air and keeps the pesto fresh and green looking.


Serve the pesto as a spread on crostinis, use it as a sauce for pizzas or as a marinade for grilling. Toss it on pastas or use it as a dressing for salads. You won't be wrong!

Note: This recipe yields a slightly thicker pesto. Use extra olive oil if you prefer a thinner consistency.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cranberry & Pistachio Muffins with Orange zest

Boy, did I ever think it would be so much fun to play with kids? Not until this past Sunday! Myra had her first play date at home with some of our friends' kids that day. It wasn't anything formally arranged. A few of us friends had got together at a community function. As it ended and everyone was waving their final good byes, I just happened to ask if the kids wanted to come home to play with Myra. With approval from their respective parents, the kids, ranging in age from three to ten, headed home with us.

And the next thing we knew, Myra was having the time of her life. Our eight month old was laughing her heart out watching a seven year old do cart wheels. The kids enjoyed crawling in and out from the see through tunnel, playing peek a boo with Myra (absolutely her favorite!), reading her favorite stories and singing some classic rhymes for her. The added fun factor was that they were allowed to hold Myra, pick her up, sit her on their laps and drive her in her mini car. And while Myra took her afternoon nap, all the kids enjoyed making sugar cookies and watching their favorite movie. We did not want the fun to end.

We went to bed happy and dreamed of all the fun things we did during the evening. We woke up the next morning to these scrumptious cranberry pistachio muffins and coffee. The sweetness of the cranberries and the nuttiness from the pistachios go along very well. The orange zest gives the perfect tang in every bite of this muffin. Additionally they are easy to make and can be put together in no time.

Cranberry & Pistachio Muffins with Orange Zest

Makes 12 standard sized muffins


Dry Ingredients-
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
3/4 cup cranberries, sweetened
1/3 cup pistachios, unsalted & unroasted
Pinch of salt

Wet Ingredients-
2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), melted
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tbs orange zest


Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Line a standard muffin tin with muffin cups.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Mix all the wet ingredients in a 2 cup measuring bowl and whisk until well combined (Mixing in a measuring bowl just makes it easy to pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients. You can mix the wet ingredients in any bowl).

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula fold the ingredients using minimal strokes. Do not over mix.

Using an ice cream scoop fill the muffin cups about 1/2 to 3/4 way up leaving room for the muffins to rise as they bake.

Bake for about 13-15 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Allow them to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then transfer to the cooling racks.


Enjoy with a cup of hot coffee for breakfast or as a snack.