Pesto Trapenese

Spring is officially here, and being on the Central Coast, that means it is almost summer! All the signs are here: the garden is taking off, sundresses and sandals have made their way back into the daily rotation, and I’ve been craving soft serve every evening.

Although this is certainly more a late-summer meal and would have been infinitely better had the tomatoes been from our own garden instead of the grocery store, it was still just fine as it didn’t involve standing over a hot stove and was quick and fresh and just what we were craving on one of our first long summer nights of the year.

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Soupe au Pistou

soupe au pistou

I love soup.  Come wintertime, the majority of recipes I post will probably be soup – I could probably live off of it.  Understandably, hot, hearty soups aren’t really a summer thing – why on Earth would you heat up your entire kitchen when it’s 100 degrees out?!  Well…maybe because you really felt like some soup.  Call me crazy, but as soon as I saw this recipe, I had to make it.  And I did, one warm central coast evening…..

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Pesto Pasta with Peas and Ricotta Salata

Pesto pasta with peas and ricotta salata

I recently bought a bit of ricotta salata cheese at Di Raimondo’s Italian Market, a great local cheese shop located in Paso Robles, California.  Ricotta salata has the same basis as the ricotta you are probably thinking of – the delicious soft cheese that is used in lasagna – but ricotta salata is salted and aged, and it has a texture similar to feta.  Personally, ricotta salata doesn’t do anything for me on its own…BUT. In pastas and salads, it is amazing.  Inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn, I knew just what to do with it.

Pasta is something that can get very unhealthy, very easily.  In the past few years I have come to master the art of keeping pasta low-cal and healthy.

How to Keep Pasta Healthy:

1. What you get in a restaurant is not – I repeat not! – a normal serving size. Most pasta dishes probably should feed like six people.  A good tip for dining out is to eat half and get the rest to go.  This is better for the waistline and the bank account, because a large entree can make a couple more meals!  Yess.

2. When cooking pasta at home, a typical serving size is two ounces, which is more than it sounds like!  Pay attention to nutrition labels to make sure you aren’t overdoing it.

3. Add veggies! This is a very low-cal way to eat a lot more, bulk-wise, and it gets some healthy nutrients and fiber in there, too, so your body will thank you and you’ll stay fuller longer.

4. Fat isn’t bad if it is healthy fat.  A tablespoon of olive oil adds flavor, good-for-you fat, and (bonus!) fat helps you stay fuller, longer!  You can sautee garlic in olive oil, use it in pesto, add it to flavor tomato or other sauce, and even just have plain pasta and olive oil with a bit of Parmesan.  Yum!

5. Not all pasta is created equal. For a non-special occasions, I use Barilla Plus Pasta – it is made with legumes, egg whites, and whole grains, so it has more protein and fiber than regular pasta…so it’s not as carb-y and the taste isn’t much different.  I wish it came in a larger variety of shapes, but I’ll take what I can get.

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Grilled Gruyère-and-Zucchini Sandwiches with Homemade Pesto

zucchini_gruyere

Confession: I’m a vegetarian.  I eat eggs, cheese, chicken broth, and ahi tuna, but no actual meat (besides the raw tuna).  My family grills out a lot, especially in the summer, and sometimes I get sick of the old veggie burger routine (although I’ll never say no to a Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Burger…so delish).  Tonight was one of those nights, so while the kids I nanny for were at swimming lessons, I looked up some good grilling recipes and found this gem.  Swiss Gruyere, Grilled Zucchini, Pesto, and an English muffin – sounded like perfection to me, and then I saw the wine pairing.  Robert Mondavi’s Fume Blanc!! My favorite wine!!  Just let me tell you, it was amazing, and so easy to throw together.  ENJOY!  You definitely will!!

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