Thursday, August 29, 2013

Real Italian Pesto

What better than a simple Italian traditional Pesto?

"Ligurian Pesto is the second most popular sauce for pasta after the tomato based one and, certainly, the most popular one when it comes to cold sauces.  The name Pesto derives from the Italian verb to crush, "pestare", because for a real Ligurian Pesto, the ingredients have to be crushed using a wooden pestle and marble mortar.  The classic ingredients for Pesto alla Genovese are basil grown in Liguria (Ocimum Basilicum) hence the name, coarse sea salt, pine nuts, garlic, Ligurian extra virgin olive oil and grated Pecorino Romano cheese of the best quality."

Traditionally, Pesto was made using a Mortar and Pestle (some still make it this way) ~ thank goodness for the invention of Cuisinarts or better known as food processors or even blenders (yes, you can make it in a blender as well because Pine Nuts are very soft nuts).

Photo courtesy of

I have made fresh "Real" Italian Pesto many times over the last 15 years ...that's when I first started growing my own fresh Genovese (or Sweet) Basil ... never following a recipe as Pesto is one of those things that isn't an exact science ... well at least fresh pesto isn't ... a recipe calling for 2-3 small cloves of garlic, for instance, heck cloves really vary in size from bulb to bulb, so its basically about taste.  I've used the pre-minced Garlic that you can buy versus the freshly minced and in my opinion, freshly minced Garlic is BEST!

However, I've never frozen it so I checked out a few websites and found, on the secret to keeping it bright green after freezing ~ blanching the Basil prior to preparing!!!  Here's my version ... its delicious!

Let's get started ...

Real Italian Pesto

2 lrg bunches of Organic Genovese (or Sweet) Basil (about 2 cups tightly packed) Leaves ONLY

2 heaping Tblsps Pine Nuts, lightly toasted*

2-3 Garlic Cloves, minced just before adding

4-6 Tblsps  Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pinch (or two) Sea Salt

About 3 Tblsps Pecorino Romano/Parmigiano Cheese

* To toast Pine Nuts, place a drizzle of EVOO in a skillet and heat on medium heat.  Toss in Pine Nuts and toss around ... they toast up quickly so do not take your eyes off them.  You want them to be just lightly browned (tanned).

The amounts of Sea Salt, Pine Nuts, Garlic and Cheese are approximate ... Best way to get it just like you like it is to start out adding half of recommended amounts and taste test ... add more ... taste test add more ... you may find you use more or less then recommended.  Sometimes too, I have found, that the Basil can be the taste factor in adding the other ingredients ... as some years it just tastes better than others ... which is true for growing anything (herbs, fruits or veggies).

Boil a pot of salted water.  Prepare a large ice bath while water is heating (ice and cold water).  Once water is boiling, add the Basil for 8-10 seconds ONLY.  Remove and immediately plunge into the ice bath, swirling leaves around for a couple seconds.  This stops cooking process.  I use tongs for this.  Remove and drain of excess water.  I use a Salad Spinner (love my spinner).  If you do not have a Salad Spinner you can use either a Fine Mesh Strainer or lay on paper towels.  

In a Cuisinart (or blender), lightly process some of the Pine Nuts, Garlic and a tablespoon (or two) of the EVOO.  Add all the damp, blanched Basil and blend again on high-speed, slowly adding more Pine Nuts, Garlic, EVOO and Sea Salt, to taste.  

Makes 2 (4 oz) jars.  Leave about 1/4 inch between jar seal and Pesto as once it is frozen it will expand (like most things) and you DO NOT want broken jars.  Also, make sure you top off the Pesto with a thin layer of EVOO before sealing and freezing ~ keeps Pesto from browning on top.

Yum ~ doesn't that look delicious?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oven Roasted Okra

Ain't nothing quite as Southern as Okra but growing up as a Southern girl eating plenty of good ol' Southern cookin' and even spending many summers on my Granddaddy's farm ... I refused to try Okra ... no matter how it was cooked: Fried, Stewed with Tomatoes, Tossed into a Gumbo or Brunswick Stew and most definitely NEVER boiled ... eeeew that slimy looking mess ... no way it was going near my mouth.  AND then after once trying to help pick fresh Okra outta the field and having to wear gloves to do it cause the plants have these sticky things that sting and cut your fingers ... I swore I would never eat this stuff ... "if you have to wear gloves to pick it, it's not supposed to be eaten" I said.  LOL

But flash forward to my 30's ... yep it wasn't until I was in my 30's that I let Okra near my mouth.  How that came about was at the time I was working for THE BEST BOSS EVER and he would bring me a plate at lunch (he had a cook that prepared lunch for him) and when it would have Fried Okra on it, I'd turn my nose up at it, wouldn't touch it.  A Co-Worker said "Girl I'll eat it if you won't" and then proceeded to convince me to at least give it a try "it tastes sorta like popcorn, only better".  Well me loving popcorn ... that was the magic word ... I tried it and my love affair with Fried Okra began.  Thanks Kel!!  From then on I loved Okra anyway I had it except boiled LOL  AND to this day, anytime I'm in a restaurant that serves Fried Okra, I have got to try theirs ... course not everybody knows how to cook it, I've learned.  

Okay now about this recipe ...ya'll it is the BEST way I have ever had Okra believeyoume ...definitely a way better tasting (and healthwise) way to eat it instead of fried.  Ya'll have got to give this recipe a try!  AND best yet ... its easy easy easy!!!

Oven Roasted Okra
(2-3 Servings)

1 lb Fresh Okra (you could probably use frozen too)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash the Okra and dry good with a paper towel.  Now, I sliced some of mine and left some of the baby sized ones intact so it doesn't really matter if you slice it or leave it whole.

Place Okra in a bowl and toss with enough EVOO to cover it good (just til it glistens) ... don't over do it cause you don't want it to turn out mushy ... and Sea Salt and Black Pepper, to taste.  I actually did taste mine raw to make sure I had enough Sea Salt on it ... and dang if it wasn't good raw too!

*The recipe I sorta followed called for a Tablespoon, I do not think I used that much but I really wasn't measuring ... just do not over do it ... you do not want it sitting in oil!!!

Spread Okra onto a baking sheet (even a baking stone would work ...probably make it turn out crispier) in a single layer and cook for 15 minutes BUT every 5 mins take it out shake the Okra around and put it back in.  Now your oven make take a bit longer ... you know how ovens can vary!

Ya'll this is so good I could eat it for a snack!  And a healthy snack it would make too!!!!

I'll say it again ... better than fried ...  ya'll will thank me for sharing this recipe, I promise you that!!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rosemary's Sage Natural Hair Colorant

Some of my beautiful Sage in my Kitchen Herb Garden
I found this natural 'remedy' on Facebook when a friend posted the link ... so being its all natural and made with herbs, things I am into and which I just happen to grow in my Kitchen Herb Garden ... it sounded like something worth giving a try.

Yea, I'm a little skeptical BUT definitely hopeful that it works ... at least to some degree.  Along with my lupus comes crazy bouts with psoriasis, which, right now, among other places, is in my scalp (one side).  Though I've had it before ... this time I'm having trouble getting it to clear up completely, even with the chemical drugs the doctor has given me for both internal and external use ... its being stubborn and will not completely clear up ... which leads to a problem ... I CANNOT have my hair colored ... at least, not until it is cleared.  Sure don't want my hair falling out (heck I've had that too but that's another story).  So TODAY ~ August 14, 2013 ... I started using this 'Tea' to see if it really works! Oh and I like to call it Rosemary's Sage Tea ... cause I like the sound of it!

This was my first batch of harvesting Sage ... I thought for sure this
would easily make 1/4th cup of Rubbed Sage ... NOT!
Here it is AFTER its been dried ... not much huh?
Here's my second batch of harvesting Sage ... this along
with the first batch made EXACTLY 1/4th cup Rubbed Sage!!!
This is how I hung it to dry in my Laundry Room.
Basically, this is what the article I read stated:

"This recipe is for a natural hair rinse to gradually conceal graying hair. This homeopathic natural hair rinse will brighten and color grey hair naturally."

What you will need:

1/4 cup Rubbed Sage
1/4 cup Rosemary Leaves
(Organic, if possible)
1 cup Distilled Water

My ingredients for the 'Tea'
Lucky for me I grow my own herbs so harvesting was relatively easy ... at least the Rosemary was ... I just cut off a branch from one of my many Rosemary plants and stripped off the leaves.  Now the Sage, which I normally use by harvesting the leaves and using them directly in recipes, took a little more effort.  I've never gone to the trouble to make Rubbed Sage, though the flavor is much stronger then just using the leaves fresh from the garden.  You can find instructions on making Rubbed Sage here:  To buy this much Rubbed Sage in the grocery store would be costly as I'm pretty sure a bottle or tin of it doesn't contain 1/4th cup and it took me quite a bit of leaves to get 1/4 cup Rubbed Sage!!!  So here's another link if you'd like to buy some in bulk:

Here's where I was getting ready to 'rub' the Sage.
Here's what Rubbed Sage looks like.

Put Distilled Water into a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a gentle rolling boil.  Add the Herbs, cover the pan, and remove from heat.  Let mixture steep for at least 30 minutes.

Place a coffee filter into a colander, and place the colander on top of a bowl. Pour the Rosemary's Sage 'Tea' slowly into the coffee filter.  Some herbs may fall into the filter but don't worry if they do.  Set the pan aside.   Take a large spoon and gently press on top of any solids to extract all of the liquid.  Don't want to miss a drop after all the work getting to this point!

Getting all the liquid out!
Discard filter and any solids.  Pour Rosemary's Sage 'Tea' into a clean, sterilized glass jar or bottle and allow liquid to cool.
Final product ~ Rosemary's Sage Tea
Discard after 7 days and make fresh.  Store in a cool place ... I chose to refrigerate mine.  Tea can be warmed by placing bottle in warm water.


There is 2 ways you can use this on your hair ... I chose the second one since my hair is not gray all over ...only at the roots.

* After shampooing and rinsing as normal: Position head over a large bowl; pour a small amount of the Rosemary's Sage Tea over hair.  Massage in thoroughly.  Repeat, letting any excess run into the bowl.  Do this 5-10 times.  Dry hair as normal.  Pour any remaining Tea back into your glass bottle, and store in the refrigerator for next use.

** In between shampoos, put a small amount of Tea on a cotton ball and dab onto any visible gray areas.  I dabbed it by parting every few inches, dabbed along part and repeated all across my head ~ just like the colorist does when she touches up the roots.  

Supposedly ... most people see a noticeable difference in hair color after only one month. The Tea helps soften and minimize the gray color. Gradually gray color fades and hair returns to its natural color.  Also ... "This is not an overnight solution or a quick fix like commercial hair dyes.  It is a tried and tested formula that works."

We shall see!  I'm not posting any BEFORE pics yet ... if this works even just a tiny bit ... I will update this post with BEFORE and AFTER pics, I promise.  Stay tuned!

Here's the link of the original article:

UPDATE ~ October 3, 2013

Ya'll I gave this a legitimate try using it for just over a month. It DID NOT work for me and I had high hopes that I would have SOME change or at very least toning down of the gray. So I am not uploading any before and after pics as I had NO difference whatsoever!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato

This is a side dish recipe that my hubby likes to make in the summer months.  He found it in one of our authentic Italian cookbooks and it’s a winner … everyone loves it.  He didn’t change anything about it nor did we change its name so its safe to say it's authentic.  It's also very easy to prepare.

Spaghetti Al Pomodoro Crudo
(Spaghetti with Raw Tomato)

1 lb Vine Ripe Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
4 Tblsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves
12 oz Spaghetti (Scott uses Angel Hair)
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

Put the Tomatoes into a salad bowl, add the Olive Oil, Basil and Garlic and season with Sea Salt and Pepper.  Mix well, cover and set aside in a cool place for 30 minutes (sometimes Scott puts it in the fridge overnight) to allow the flavors to mingle, then remove and discard the garlic.  Cook the Spaghetti in a large pan of salted boiling water until al dente, then drain and toss with the raw tomato sauce and serve.

It’s a deliciously flavorful Summer Side Dish!

Broccoli Salad

This is a recipe of my sister-in-law's and it’s a great salad that everyone is always requesting.  You could probably make it a little healthier by using Greek Yogurt instead of the mayo but I personally haven’t tried that … yet!  I do use naturally cured bacon without nitrates, a good brand cheddar cheese and shred it myself and organic sugar.

Broccoli Salad

1 bunch Fresh Broccoli (I buy the Broccoli Crowns and use 2)
1 Red Onion, sliced thin
½ lb Bacon, crumbled
½ cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
½ cup Sunflower Seeds

½ cup Mayonnaise
¼ cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

Cut broccoli into bite size pieces.  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Mix dressing and add to salad mixture.  Easy and delicious!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thai Diner, Cobb Parkway, Atlanta, GA

 Whether you live in Atlanta or visit here and you love Thai food, then this is an awesome restaurant to try!  I give it 5 stars as I have yet to have a bad experience there whether dining in or take out!!!

First off, Scott discovered this place through some co-workers years ago … dang, at least 10 … I can’t believe it’s been that long!!  He had never had Thai food before and was hooked!  He tried several others in the area but always went back to Thai Diner.

My oldest brother spent several years living and working in Thailand and once when he was visiting us, along with a Thai friend who was visiting the USA for the first time, we took them to the Thai dinner for a huge family dinner.  We all ordered something different and shared family style!!!  We were curious as to whether or not it was authentic Thai cuisine and our Thai friend assured us it was the real deal!!!  Course they don’t serve chicken feet like they do in Thailand but hey that’s fine by me LOL

Lunch entrees come with an order of the Tom Kha Gai,
Thailand's famous 'Creamy Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup'
Delicious (though a little rich)!
I was there again just a couple days ago and took a few photos of what I had to eat … just as yummy as it looks and I cannot go without having their Basil Rolls.  Thai Basil is very similar in taste to Italian Basil but still not quite the same but I’m certain if you love basil, you will love them too!

Basil Rolls (Steamed Shrimp, Basil Leaves, Rice Noodles, Carrots and Lettuce
wrapped in Fresh Rice Paper and served with a Tamarind Sauce)
Basil Roll up close ~ Its more about the Thai Basil flavor
than the other ingredients ... my absolute fav!!!
Pad Prik Beef ~ this time I got it Medium but it was
a little too hot and spicy but still delish!

A definite 'must try'!!!  Here's their website so you can check out their menu Thai Diner Vinings

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pinterest Fail #1 (Quinoa Puddin’)

This isn’t my first Pinterest fail mind you but I decided I should probably post them from now on … not to bash the blog that a particular idea or recipe came from but to let ya’ll know which recipes/ideas I have tried that just DID NOT work out … and at no fault of my own.
I love quinoa so I had high hopes for this recipe that I found on Pinterest.  It was for Quinoa Puddin’ so I pinned it right away and tried it very soon thereafter.  It did state at the beginning of the recipe that it was “adapted heavily from” such and such website AND when I read the original recipe it was the same EXCEPT for the fruit added to the top at serving … hmmm.  Also, the original recipe did state at the very end that the puddin’ isn’t the consistency of puddin’ but “more like a soup” … sure wish I’d paid attention to that BEFORE I wasted all those ingredients. 
See how Quinoa is just sitting at the bottom?

Here’s the failed recipe (just not sharing where it came from):

¾ cups Quinoa
2-1/2 cups Whole Milk
½ cup Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Sugar
2 tsps Vanilla
Pomegranate Seeds …

In a large saucepan, whisk together the Milk, Heavy Cream, Sugar and Vanilla.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add Quinoa.  Turn heat down to low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.  Cooking for the full 45 minutes will result in a thick pudding.  For a thinner consistency, cook the pudding until desired consistency is achieved.  Stir every few minutes to prevent a film from forming on the top of the pudding or bottom of the pan.  Serve chilled topped with fresh Pomegranate Seeds …

So soupy you could literally drink it!
As you can see from my photos … it did not turn out.  It wasn’t anywhere near the consistency of puddin’ … more like a sweet soup … a very very soupy soup!  Taste was very good but quinoa DOES NOT cook in milk like it does in water AT ALL!  Not only did it NOT cook … it DIDN’T absorb any of the liquid either, well duh!!!  I even cooked it a good 10 minutes longer than suggested … I’m pretty sure if I had slow cooked it all day the quinoa still wouldn’t have cooked nor the puddin’ thickened!  I wish I could figure out the solution to this recipe as it would be very good IF the quinoa cooked and the puddin’ actually thickened up to the consistency of … well puddin’. 

I’m pretty sure this Quinoa Puddin’ is supposed to be similar to a Tapioca or Rice Puddin’ so I researched websites from to to and found that every single Tapioca and Rice Puddin’ recipe called for EGGS!  Well eggs would definitely have thickened up this recipe but now to figure out the problem with the Quinoa not cooking … hmmm maybe cook it as directed on the package FIRST and then add it to the puddin’ mixture?  Could be the problem as I researched for more Quinoa Puddin’ recipes and their recipes called for cooking the quinoa first … one added bananas and another added … you guessed it … eggs!  Of course, if you’re a Vegan … using eggs will not work for you so maybe try adding Chia seeds which Vegans use as a thickener. 

I don’t know the answer for sure … BUT I’m gonna try the method of precooking the quinoa and adding eggs to the puddin’ mixture!  I am hopeful that this works cause like I said the taste was very good!

Sorry ya’ll but I cannot, with good conscience, share the names of these two blogs because my blog is NOT about bashing other blogs but believe-you-me, I will not be trying any more recipes from these particular blogs.  Seems to me that they maybe ‘make up’ their recipes without ever really trying them … sad too because they have so many followers.  You will never find any recipes on my blog that I have not personally made myself!!!  And let me add this statement … I have found some wonderful recipes on other blogs and when I share those recipes I always give credit to the original blog where I found it … unless I totally change it up, of course.

Happy Pinning and just remember this … not every blogger who posts (or Pins) recipes are great cooks … just like not every restaurant that opens its doors are serving great food … but don’t be afraid to try new recipes and once you’ve found a blog with great recipes … stick to it.  That’s my advice for the day.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

How To Redo ~ Another Dresser

My oldest son and his wife found this piece at an estate sale for just $5 … yep … you read that right … just FIVE DOLLARS!!!  Ugly yes but look how a little sanding, painting, light distressing and new drawer pulls made it look like a hundred bucks!!!  It had that laminate look to it but it wasn’t … it was solid WOOD!!!

I went to their home to help my son prepare the baby’s room before their new baby came home and this was one of the things I did.

So here’s how I refinished the dresser:

Sanded it using both a palm sander and a detail sander.  A detail sander is small and gets into all the tiny spots.  I sanded until all the ‘shiny’ was gone (a big thanks here to their very good friend Lyndsay who helped me big time).  You want to get off all and any shine so the paint will adher properly … it’s not necessary to sand down to bare wood, even if you plan to stain a wooden piece … UNLESS you are going with a lighter stain, then I would suggest it. 

It actually looked kinda cool after sanding!

Next I used Behr Premium Plus Ultra which has primer built in … wonderful stuff!!  It took two coats to get the coverage I wanted.  Then I let it dry overnight.

Next day, I sanded off lightly everywhere wear and tear would occur … a light distressing. 

Lastly, we added drawer knobs to match the room’s theme (thanks again to Lyndsay).

Turned out pretty dang pretty … a long way from looking like a $5 piece!!!