Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Why buy pesto when it's so easy to make and about 1/3 the cost of a store-bought jar that's loaded with salt? Okay, besides hasty convenience. Today's food prices, however, get me thinking twice about paying for convenience. So, here's a super easy, super tasty topping, condiment, pasta sauce, and an ingredient for my Pesto Appetizer. Fresh is best!


2 cups fresh basil, dry and packed a bit
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 TBSP pine nuts
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil

Put all ingredients into a food processor; mix on high speed, stopping to scrape if needed, until all ingredients are well blended and a uniform consistency. Presto!

There are all sorts of variations on this pesto theme depending on your taste and what you have peeping out of your fridge. For example, if you don't have quite enough basil, you can make up the difference with flat-leaf parsley. Add whatever you like...try adding pumpkin seed kernels (they're very healthy) instead of pine nuts, add some sun-dried tomatoes, olives, etc. Check here for a variety of pesto recipes. Go for it! All you need is a food processor and you can get to pesto heaven!

Here's my estimated cost, full retail, for what I used:
Pine nuts, $.75
Parmesan cheese, $.75
Olive Oil, $.50
Garlic, $.10
Fresh homegrown sweet basil, nearly free
($1.00 packet of seeds to grow enough basil to last you for years!)

In case you're thinking, 'Yes, but I don't have home-grown basil. How long does that take anyway?'...
We planted our seeds 2 months ago and have 6 plants. Yesterday, I just pinched off the top 1/4 of all the plants and had enough for the pesto. The bottoms of the plants will continue to grow so I can harvest again! An herb that keeps on giving.

Even if you haven't graduated to real plants yet since you can't even keep your fake plants dusted, you can still grow basil...and zucchini for that matter! Believe me on this one! Basil is not a real plant...it's a mercifully generous volunteer!

Now excuse me while I go make a little Insalata Caprese...
using pesto instead of plain basil and olive oil. That's the way my kids like it best!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Banana Pudding

If you live in the South, you've gotta know a good banana pudding recipe. If you live in the South and are a busy mom, you need to have a really good recipe...but it better be easy! So, here's a very creamy, easy banana pudding recipe that will win you over.

2 – 3.4 oz. boxes of instant vanilla pudding
4 cups cold milk
1 – 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups whipping cream, whipped
12-oz box of vanilla wafers
4 bananas

In a large bowl, combine instant vanilla pudding with milk. Whisk to blend. Add sweetened condensed milk and 3/4 of the whipped cream and whisk to blend again.

In a large bowl or 9” x 13” pan, arrange one layer of vanilla wafers, then top with a layer of sliced bananas. Then top with half of the pudding mixture. (Drizzle some chocolate sauce if desired.) Repeat the layers, beginning with the vanilla wafers and ending with the pudding mix. Then add the last 1/4 of the whipped cream and crumble a few vanilla wafers on top, if you wish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Country Breakfast Casserole

My mother-in-law introduced me to this recipe she found at Byerly’s in the Twin Cities area (where I also buy my Minnesota wild rice when I have the opportunity!). I’ve learned to really trust Byerly’s recipes since they are straight forward, use good ingredients…and always taste delicious! Since this breakfast dish is made with potatoes instead of bread, Joe can even eat it...with a little Lactaid!

2-12 oz. pkg. pork sausage, or 2-1/2 cups diced ham
1 (2 lb.) pkg. Frozen southern-style (small cubed) hash brown potatoes
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. Shredded Colby-jack cheese (4 cups), divided
1 medium onion, minced (1 cup)
2 cups milk
½ tsp. Salt (I don't use)
6 eggs, slightly beaten
1 (12 oz.) jar salsa, optional

In large skillet, brown sausage; drain. In large bowl, combine sausage, hash browns, 3 cups cheese, onion, milk, salt and eggs. Pour mixture into greased 9” x 13” glass baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Refrigerate, covered, several hours or overnight. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until knife comes out fairly clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve with salsa.

Serves 8-10

Serve with fruit and/or a green salad.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chocolate Chippers--The $250 Recipe

With ground oatmeal to give a nice texture and sweeter flavor, we think this recipe is the best for the all-time favorite cookie. They are flavorful and moist yet hold their shape. I just got done making them today for our three older kids to bring to their last day of religious education at church!

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups oatmeal
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
12 oz. chocolate chips
4 oz. Hershey bar (optional)
1-1/2 cups chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together butter and both sugars. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Grind oatmeal fine (in a blender, processor or coffee grinder) and add, with flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Grate Hershey bar in a processor and add, with chocolate chips and nuts. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough with hands, place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly. Bake for 10 minutes until there's just a hint of them turning brown. Allow a minute or two to cool before removing from sheet to cooling rack (the cookies will hold together better). Yield: About 55 cookies.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Kathleen's Mini S'mores

Using some of our staple ingredients, Kathleen assembled mini s'mores that don't require a campfire...and the kids don't need my help at all! They sure didn't seem to mind that the marshmallows weren't laboriously toasted over a camp fire (or our stove burners)! I was happy she also helped get rid of some of our leftover large marshmallows from our Easter Resurrection Rolls. Here's the assembly.

1/4 graham cracker, broken into 2 even pieces
1 large marshmallow
3 chocolate chips

Stick 3 chips into top of marshmallow, place marshmallow between crackers, set on parchment or waxed paper, and microwave for only 5 seconds. WATCH IT: The marshmallow starts to puff up immediately.