Garlicky Pesto

Truth be told, I’ve only ever made pesto myself twice: once about 5 years ago and tonight. Five years ago I followed a recipe probably from Food Network and I thought it tasted like grass. I was grossed out and decided it was worth it to me to purchase my own from here on out. Here’s the thing, though. Store-bought pesto is kind of expensive. At least I think it is. But buying basil in those cello packages also seems expensive so either way it was costly. But then! Then came the summer of owning a basil plant. This basil plant has grown like nobody’s business. I seriously gave thought to getting a tomato cage for it because the stalks were getting tall and quite leafy. What do you do when you have a ton of basil? Well, you suck it up and make pesto again! So I did. Aside from quite the garlicky punch that might could catch you off guard, I think this one is a winner. Now – as with all cooking, sometimes things don’t quite go as planned so one has to regroup and come back for round two. I’m going to give you the original recipe I used, tell you how I’d modify the next time, and then tell you what I had to do to tone down that garlic. I do love me some garlic, but raw garlic has quite the kick, yes?

Garlicky Pesto

Ingredients – Round 1
2.5 cups of basil leaves – not packed
.5 cup of grated Parmesan cheese – the powdery kind – and feel free to add more, you can never have too much cheese
.5 cup (2 oz) of pine nuts
3 med-lg cloves of garlic – smashed (yes, I know that’s a LOT of raw garlic!)
.5 cup of olive oil

Steps – Round 1
1. Wash and dry basil leaves. Toss into your Robot Culinaire.
2. Add cheese, nuts, and garlic.
3. Start the Robot Culinaire and drizzle in the oil while it processes and blends.
4. Turn off the Robot Culinaire and taste. Watch the edge of the blade, now.

It was at this junction that I realized I’d gotten carried away with the garlic. It was quite pungent and not particularly good eats, to be honest. So I would recommend 2 small to medium or 1 large clove of garlic to start. You can always add more. It is far more difficult to work in the other direction. However – when one has a prolific basil plant it is a little easier.

Ingredients – Round 2 (in addition to above)
1 cup of basil leaves – again, not packed
.5 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
.5 cup walnut pieces
medium pinch of salt

Steps – Round 2
1. Wash and dry basil.
2. Put everything in the Robot Culinaire.
3. Whiz away until it’s all incorporated. Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides and check for chunks.
4. Taste again. Be relieved that the flavors are more balanced.

Cooking for One Caveat
Now – this is kind of a lot of pesto for this single gal – even if I do dearly love it. (It made 22 tbsp!!) So I have portioned it out into an ice cube tray so it can freeze into little tablespoon portions for easy usage at a later date. This is one of those ways that I make the food work for me. If I left the bowl of it in the fridge, it would likely go bad before I used it all. I don’t care for wasting food as it feels a bit like throwing money away. So now I can snag a cube or two to add to salads, pastas, seafood, bread, etc.

The 3 larger cubes are 2 tbsp each. The rest are just 1 tbsp.

Tonight, I mixed two tbsp of the pesto with a diced roma tomato and diced fresh mozzarella, then put it all on top of half a ciabatta roll and put it in the oven to broil while I cooked my salmon patty. Hello! It was so good. Warm, melty a bit, and so many delicious flavors. Plus, when there are other ingredients, that also helps to balance out the garlic quite well. I was quite pleased with it, in the end. I hope you are too! Happy eating!

Nutritional Information – Per 1 tbsp
Calories: 93
Fat: 9 g
Carbs: 1 g
Protein: 2.6 g
Calcium: 7.5%

Deliciously tasty!

Carne Guisada (& Packaging Meat for One)

Mmmm…I love Mexican food. Love.it. Any item that does not contain mushrooms or squash is delicious and makes my mouth happy. As such, Mexican themed/inspired dishes make frequent appearances in my kitchen. Mexican food is a comfort food genre for me and it combines so many of my favorite individual ingredients. Typically when I go out to eat, I will order dishes that I can’t/don’t make at home. I feel better about paying the cost for something that I know is difficult for me to make. For the longest time, carne guisada was in that category of “too difficult to make.” Well, ladies and gents, that era may be coming to an end. Oh happy carne guisada day. 🙂

All done and so tasty!

Cooking for One Caveat: I told you that I’ll talk about how I manage cooking for one in a world that is not structured for single cooking. One such example are that multi-pound package of meat at the grocery store. Perhaps a family of 4 – 6 needs 2.33 lbs of chicken breast tenders…This single gal can’t even fathom using that much chicken in one dish. So here’s what I do. I buy the 2.33 lb package of chicken, or say, the 1.45 lb package of beef chunks, bring it home and within 24 hrs repackage the whole lot of it into single serve units. I’ll clean the chicken tenders, rinse the meat, and portion it out amongst (usually) 3 or 4 sheets of saran wrap. I try to portion equitably – but I just eyeball it. Then I wrap it up tiiiight, weigh it, write it on the saran wrap in permanent marker, and toss the single serve units into a freezer zip-top bag. Into the freezer they go and then I have a bag of meat, perfectly portioned for one. I will put roughly 3 chicken tenders per unit. Eyeball even beef chunk distribution. A package of four steaks gets broken down and individually wrapped. Weighing it helps me with recipes so maybe sometimes I need two portions or if a friend is coming over, I just thaw two instead of one. Plus, single serve units thaw faster than a mamajama package. Just because it comes packaged to feed a small army doesn’t mean you have to leave it that way.

So this is how I came to have a 6.5 ounce package of beef chunks…you know, the kind you make stew out of? Yep. Those. As they were already conveniently cut into small chunks, I thought they would be good to give carne guisada another try. A while back, I made a recipe that was good – but didn’t really fit the mental picture I had and so was kind of disappointing, actually. So I loosely followed the structure of the recipe while also making it up as I went along. The final results… freaking amazing good eats. I can see myself playing around with it a little more, but it was so good. I’m excited to tell you how to make the deliciousness for yourself. So without further ado…

What 6.5 oz of beef chunks looks like

Carne Guisada
(waaaaaay adapted from The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Rob Walsh)

Ingredients

6.5 oz beef chunks
generous 1/2 cup chopped up onion – I had a pretty small dice.
1/4 cup chopped peppers – I used jalapeño and anaheim because that’s what I had.
1 lg garlic clove – minced
2 tbsp canola oil (What the recipe suggested…I’m certain 1 tbsp would have been just fine.)
3/4 cup liquid – I used beef broth
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes with some juice
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder – I’m certain regular chili powder would be just fine.
1/2 tsp adobo seasoning
1 tbsp flour/masa harina – I actually have masa…
1 tbsp water

Steps
1. Heat a skillet (that has a lid) and canola oil over med-high heat.
2. Add meat and let brown for a good bit. Don’t drain the juices. (The recipe suggests 10 min. I did not need that long.)
3. Add the onion and let cook for 2 -3 minutes until softened.
4. Add the peppers. Wait 1 – 2 minutes. Add the garlic clove. Wait 1 minute and add tomatoes. Give a stir and let it hang out for a few.
5. Add spices and mix all up.
6. Add the beef broth and tomato paste. Make sure the tomato paste gets mashed up/dissolves into the liquid. Stir.
7. Cover, turn down the heat to low, and let simmer for probably an hour or so. Yes, it is best to start this recipe BEFORE you are actually hungry. Stir it a few times during the hour.
8. Taste your meat after 45 minutes to see if it’s tender enough. Mine needed another 15 minutes, plus the recipe suggests an hour.
9. When your meat is done, mix the flour/masa with the water until there are no lumps left. Add to the pan and stir to combine. This will change the color and consistency of your dish. This is good news.
10. Let it simmer for a few minutes more while you do final meal prep. Serve and enjoy!

For me, this made 3 servings of 1/2 cup each. For dinner, I used it as a nacho topping. The following two days for lunch, I put it with refried beans and cheese in corn tortillas for two tacos. Sooo.good. When I make it again, I will likely use less oil. I think 2 tbsp turned out to be a bit excessive – at least for me. Please feel free to add things like potatoes or different peppers if it suits your fancy. You know best what you like to eat. Truthfully, the next time I buy a 1.45 lbs of beef chunks, I may just make the whole lot of it into carne guisada to freeze into individual servings (another good single eats tip!) for lunches or days when I don’t feel like cooking or waiting an hour to eat it. Yes, it is that good. I hope you enjoy! Happy eating!

These are tiny peppers from my balcony garden! It took all five to make 1/4 cup.

Nutritional Content for 1/2 cup
Calories – 167 (a significant portion came from the oil – another reason it’s going to get cut)
Fat – 9.1 g
Carbs – 6.3 g
Fiber – 1.5 g
Protein – 15.1 g
Iron – 10%