Happy Monday! Busy weekend again with more home improvements.  But before I start showing those pictures, I want to share a recipe featuring our Flavor of the Week: basil!

This is one of those herbs that’s supposed to be really easy to grow, but I’ve always had trouble growing them in pots. Either the soil was filled with bugs, slugs destroyed them, or it was just too hot for their roots. I used to always buy huge bunches for $2 in Chinatown and they had both Thai and sweet basil varieties. The Thai basil has darker, thicker leaves and a more “peppery” taste. I made pesto with both varieties, and couldn’t taste much of a difference.

Here is a quick n’ easy no-cook topping for your pasta that can be kept in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t have enough basil, cut it with some baby spinach (they’re milder than the grown-up kind!) Add some cream and warm up before adding cooked pasta, or serve over chicken. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious!


Add more or less basil, if you like (less here.) The lemony creaminess of the pine nuts can shine on its own.

Lemony Pine Nut Pesto
The lemon combines perfectly with pine nuts, but feel free to use pecans, walnuts or cashews. Inspired by Pine Nut Cream recipe from Going Raw by Judita Wignall.

3/4 cups raw soaked pine nuts or other raw soaked nuts
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup baby spinach leaves, torn

Add nuts to a food processor or blender and pulse or blend on medium-low until pasty but coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, and oil. Blend for a few seconds until combined. Blend in basil and spinach, turning off machine and scraping down sides when necessary. Enjoy on pasta, as a veggie dip, or sandwich spread.

On to home renovations!

KITCHEN: I primed more of the kitchen, as well as the cat’s litter box:

Primed cabinets on the right and wall on the left. And there’s our new fridge!

The cabinet doors went from red to white on the cats’ litter box, Trixie was the first to try it out.

Put a new pattern on the display cabinet:

The original burlap looked dull against a white wall so I replaced it with some fun polka-dots!

Primed the formerly red plant stand and covered the glass top with the same fabric used in the cabinet.

YARD WORK:

The other morning Trixie and I noticed this beautiful purple hibiscus in the back yard:

Looks healthy, but I think it would like more sun.

I’ve seen tons of these plants in red, white, and yellow at Lowe’s but didn’t think anyone would buy one to plant outside…won’t the freezing temperatures kill it? Apparently not!

Purple hibiscus

There were some other trees crowding it out and blocking the sun so I asked my husband to clear the area around it. Now there’s plenty of sunlight to reach the hibiscus, and looking at the newly cleared space is giving me some outdoor ideas…

The whole area behind the hibiscus is now cleared. It would make a lovely sitting area.

I am not much of a flower-planting person but after seeing this hibiscus, I think I’d want to add more color to this part of the back yard…and maybe add an herb garden!

The previous owners of our home planted some fruit trees and berry bushes around the backyard. I sampled one of the blackberries black raspberries but it wasn’t ready yet…sour!

They looked ripe, but I’m told to wait until they are soft enough to practically fall off on their own.

Volunteer maples had taken root  around the blueberry bushes and grape vines, keeping them in constant shade and making them a bit scraggly. Although we felt a twinge of guilt for wanting them “removed,” some trees had to be cleared away to bring in more sunlight for the berries.

A tree was cut down on the left. You can see the amount of light that can now shine on the grape vines and blueberry bushes, far right.

The beginnings of a blueberry

Morning dew collected in a grape vine.

an abandoned birdhouse under the thornapple tree

little blue birdhouse

Have you ever seen happier clothespins? Good day to do laundry!

It’s been a great morning so far, and I’d like to continue this good feeling by passing on some awards to my fellow bloggers.

First, I’d like to give Richard@ REM Cooks  both the Sunshine Award and Versatile Blogger Award, and here’s why. Richard’s professional experience in the kitchen and love for food is evident in all his recipes, whether it’s a simple dish or something extravagant from luxurious crab meat to some lean green beans (okay, haricot vert, but it’s the same thing, right? ;)) He’s inspired me to try out some of his recipes, experiment with new flavors and be more fancy-yet-simple in the kitchen. He’s incredibly helpful and friendly if you have any questions, I suggest you read his blog immediately! Richard, your blog is awesome and your recipes are outstanding. Thank you very much for sharing.

I just recently got to know Cinnamon@eat PRAY tri after several WIAWs, and she’s got good recipes mixed in with family stuff, work stuff, her faith, and a lot of good laughs. She just started her first 23 Paws party for us pet-loving food bloggers, and I think that alone deserves a Sunshine Award! Be sure to check out her 23 Paws Intro Page on how to link up, it’ll be fun!

Gabby over at The Veggie Nook deserves a ton of Sunshine Awards, if you ask me. The recipes she posts are healthy, simple, and delicious—what more could you want? Sometimes I read her posts in the morning and she may have an easy-to-make snack or breakfast item that I would immediately try (I’m in the kitchen already, so why not?) She also is constantly on the lookout for healthy challenges (she’s on a no-sugar challenge right now!) so hop on over if you need some motivation or inspiration for a healthier lifestyle.

My rendition of Gabby’s amazing “Lemon Coconut Hemp Seed Bites”


Mama’s Gotta Bake has one of the most beautiful collections of food photos I’ve seen. Desserts are her specialty, and once you look at her delicious cakes, you’ll see why! She definitely gets a Versatile Blogger Award for making the word “dessert” inadequate for the gourmet gallery of goodies she has to offer.

Anneke from notsoskinnycook gets a Versatile Blogger Award for creating a wide variety of delicious home-cooked meals and lovely photos of her food as well as her family enjoying her food! From broccoli soup to beef schawarma, Anneke has a nice collection of recipes with international flavors and universal appeal.

Beef Shawarma

Anneke’s Beef Shawarma with Peanut Butter Sauce (source: http://notsoskinnycook.wordpress.com)

Thanks again to my fellow bloggers for making food fun! :D

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Award:

This prize is awarded to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”As an award winner, there are a few rules to follow:

  • Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
  • Answer the questions below.
  • Pass on the award to 10 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.
1.  favorite color?
2. favorite animal?
3. favorite number?
4. favorite color?
5. favorite drink?
6. Facebook or Twitter?
7. what is your passion?
8. giving or getting presents?
9. favorite day of the week?
10. favorite flower?
 Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:

– Thank the award giver(s) and link back to them in your post
– Share 7 things about yourself
– Pass this award along to 15 or 20 bloggers you read and admire
– Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award

Whew, this was a long one! Be sure to visit their blogs for some great food, beautiful photos and maybe an interesting story or two. Have a great weekend, and eat well! :)