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July was a big trial.  Much has happened.  Between this month’s camping trip, a broken arm, a rush to the emergency room, six follow-up doctor’s appointments, a 3 year old’s birthday party, a cake mishap, a finger that was SLICED open (and should have been another trip to the emergency room, but the Hubs refused) a black eye, aphid wars, three corsets, and two sock monkeys… well now that I typed it all out, I’m surprised I had time to shower.  Did I mention the bee stings???

I am thankful. Everyone is healthy even after all the wounds. Every outing was pulled off, even with all the small hurdles it took to get there. It was a good July, even though it flew by. The phrase, “Like lightening” comes to mind.

And now, my oldest is on her way to her first day of school.  It’s a countdown in my head. Less than a week to go. Some of my thoughts are so excited for her, and of course weepy for myself.  I’m going to miss her… my baby. My big girl. Ahhh, here comes the tears again.  I hope I was able to provide her all that she needed to start this next step successfully.  I hope she makes a ton of friends, but is an individual.  I hope she excels, but is humble. I hope she’s happy or at least the sad stuff doesn’t keep her down too long. And most of all I hope she realizes how wonderfully spectacularly special she is. Because she is.

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Yes, I am a cookie monster.  They are another one of my weaknesses. Needless to say, I do have many. Don’t rub it in. These cookies are fast, easy, and my family loves them. Coconut, pecans, and chocolate… what’s not to love????

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of German chocolate cake mix
  • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of flaked coconut (sweetened is fine)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs brown sugar,vanilla and milk.

It won’t look pretty.

But don’t worry. It all comes together!  With a spoon or spatula, stir in the cake mix, coconut and pecans

until just blended.

Drop spoonfuls (2 tablespoons each will equal 24 cookies) into the powdered sugar and flip to coat.

Arrange on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Be careful! The dough is sticky but the powdered sugar will make it easier to handle.

Bake for 10-14 minutes, until the centers are cooked, but the cookies will still be soft.

YUM!

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Feels like it has been a really long time since my last post. Between the sick kiddos and then myself and the Hubs getting sick (Isn’t that how it always works), oh and then my internet service being unreliable for the past week meaning it only seems to work from 10 o’clock at night to 5 am in the morning, I haven’t got anything done. I was happy today to be able to vacuum my house, and dabble a bit in the backyard.  The kids still have snotty noses, but I pushed them out in the sunshine anyway since it was such a BEEEEAAUTIFUL day! And no Mom, I didn’t forget to put sunscreen on them…  Where was this concern when my sister, brother, and I were kids?? I’m pretty sure you neglected to put the sunscreen on us and we sunburnt ourselves to blisters on quite a few occasions. That’s second degree people. And I’m also pretty sure we were still told to go outside and play, blisters and all.

Humph.

Grandkids are soooo spoiled.

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Basil “Pesto”

The reason I don’t like calling this sauce a true basil pesto is that it’s missing a main ingredient.  I don’t add pine nuts.  I’ve tried pesto with toasted pine nuts, with a small amount of pine nuts, with walnuts even (which is good!) but was still not happy.  The nuts seem to take away the from the flavor of the basil, which is the showcase of this sauce.  So I just stay away from them. I use this to make creamy pesto dressing, pesto bread, pesto lasagna, pizza…  so I figure I better post this recipes as the base to many!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of basil leaves
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup of olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan or Italian cheese blend
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter

Pick all the basil leaves from the stems. Inspect your basil to make sure there aren’t any critters living on there. I had a bad experience with aphids on basil once. Gently rinse of the leaves and dry on a paper towel.  You don’t want to bruise the leaves.

Stuff all your basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil into a blender or food processor.

Blend for 20-30 seconds or until he garlic is completely chopped up and you have a bright green slurry.  It may take longer than 30 second depending on the blender you’re using, and it may need more olive oil. Drizzle oil in as needed up to 2/3 cup of olive oil.

Once your garlic and basil are all chopped up, add in cheese and melted butter.

And pulse 5-6 times to blend the cheese.  Store refrigerated in a mason jar (the glass isn’t porous and

doesn’t stain) but make sure the top is completely covered by a thin layer of olive oil to prevent spoiling.

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Nothing celebrates spring like a bright plate of pasta chock full of veggies.  I find myself craving this every year as the fields turn bright green with new foliage. It always makes me think of my friend Trina, and trips to Alexander Valley for wine tasting. Oh, the days when I didn’t have kids…    OK,  enough with the daydreaming.  At least there’s still the primavera. PS:  T- I miss your little water-tower house!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pasta of your choice (Fettuccine is the norm, but I didn’t have any so I used farfalle in this recipe)
  • 16 stems of asparagus, woody end snapped off
  • 2 small zucchini (6-7 inches long)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 tbsp butter, separated into tbsp sized pats
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 4 tomatoes, preferably Roma or Plum but whatever is on hand will work
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a garlic press (which is my personal favorite way!)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, or Italian cheese blend
  • 1/2 cup of loosely packed basil, chopped
  • the juice from half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 large bowl of ice water

This will make enough for 6-8 entrée sized servings, so beware! You can always cut the recipe in half.

Put two pots on the stove with 3-4 quarts of water and 1 tbsp of salt in each. Start prep work while bringing the water to a boil.

I cut up the vegetables in a specific way to speed up the cooking process. Be sure to keep them separated since they are initially cooked separately. Start with the asparagus. I cut two inches of the tips off, then slice in half lengthwise along the remaining stalk, and in half again as shown in the picture below.

As for the zucchini and carrots, take a peeler and press down a little while making your peeling motion in order to get a slightly thicker peel.

Then stack up the peeled strips and cut them in half lengthwise.

If you buy whole mushrooms, slice them!!!

Once your water is boiling, drop in the asparagus and boil for 45-60 seconds.

Then remove using a slotted spoon and plunge immediately into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

Ta-dow. Once it’s cooled down (about a minute) remove from the cold water with a slotted spoon (you’ll need the water for cooling down the other cooked veggies) and put into a colander to finish draining.

Next cook the zucchini for 30-40 seconds

then plunge into the ice water, repeating the cooling down and then draining process. Next are the peas for 30 seconds, remove, cool-down and drain, and then the carrots for  1-1/2 to 2 minutes. I bet you can guess how you cool these down.  Once all veggies are cooled and drained, you should end up with a big and beautiful bowl of color. Take a look!

Purty!

Cut an “x” into the tips of your tomatoes like so –

and put into the boiling water.  Cook until the “x” on the end just starts to peel back or split, then plunge into your ice bath to stop the cooking process.  They should look something like this –

The skins should slide off pretty easily. Use the peeler on any stubborn pieces of tomato skin.  Now cut out the stem and chop them up.

Now is the time to cook your pasta. Pour it into the second pot of boiling water and stir to prevent sticking.

You can finally dump out that boiling veggie water from your first pot, and rinse it out since we’re going to use it to make the sauce while the pasta is boiling. Yep, we’re only using two pots to make primavera. How great is that!

Put 3 tbsp of butter into the dry pan and saute your mushrooms until lightly browned. Add in the chopped tomatoes.

Cook until the tomatoes start to break up about 8-10 minutes.

Check you pasta. If it’s done, drain and set it aside. If not quite done, continue to boil.

Add in the last tbsp of butter and your garlic to the mushroom mixture.

Cook until the garlic has mellowed, approximately 3 minutes. Turn down the heat to low, then add in the cream and half of the parmesan cheese (Save the rest of your cheese for sprinkling on top!) and stir until the cheese has melted and blended in with the sauce.  Simmer for an additional 3 minutes stirring until the sauce has slightly thickened. Set aside off of the heat until your pasta is done.

Pour drained pasta and veggies into the sauce and stir until completely combined.

Stir in basil and lemon juice and serve! Of course I sprinkle mine with more cheese due to my dairy addiction.

Join me.

I’m a dairy pusher.

Cut to 3 minutes later.

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I love the creepy feeling I get from an old, chipped, squeeky carousel.   Insert evil laugh here.

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Not that sweet generic taste, not watered down, not just blue cheese and mayonnaise. This is so easy to make and so much better than what pre-made dressing you can buy in a store. I’m always asked to make this for family gatherings. Or thickened as a dip for functions. If you’re a blue cheese dressing fanatic, TRY THIS!!!

Ingredients:

  • 4-6oz block of blue cheese (you can use crumbles, but the block tends to have more flavor)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot or minced onion
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp hot sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put buttermilk and 3/4 of the blue cheese in a blender or food processor

and blend until smooth, or you can put the buttermilk and blue cheese into a bowl and mash with a fork until it’s mixed well. It will still be chunky.

Pour blended cheese into a bowl, then add in the sour cream and mayonnaise.

and then whisk until smooth.   Pour in the worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, shallot, garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper and whisk thoroughly again.

Mash the remaining blue cheese with a fork,

and stir.

Now all you need to do is enjoy!

You can use this dressing immediately, although it gets better as the flavors meld. Overnight in the fridge makes a huge difference.  To make it a dip, use only 1/2 cup of buttermilk.

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