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!

Last month I started planting some lettuce and herbs around the outside of our house. I realize I don’t have much patience and would rather get trays of plants than start them from seed, because I seem to have forgotten what I planted in the trays. I think it was sweet and red rubin basil, but I’ll know for sure in a few weeks!

So far the lettuce has been untouched by insects and animals and the kale is taking a while to grow:

Mostly lettuce with cilantro up front, lemon grass, green onion & chives to the right and scrawny kale way in the back.

I also planted some easy-growing mint and sage in a planter by the patio, and this beautiful curry plant is doing great on its own:

The elegant curry plant: looks like rosemary, smells like chicken.

Now, both my parents were in the agriculture business, growing tomatoes and roses and a lot of other plants and produce. You would think that I inherited some of their talent, but I always found it a struggle to keep mint plants alive and can’t figure out why my basil won’t grow. This time it’s a little different, so I’m hoping my attempt at growing plants in the ground rather than black plastic buckets will break my streak of bad luck.

So while I wait for my plants to grow, I’d like to announce the winner of the Frito-Lay Gluten-Free Prize Pack! The winner was determined through an unbiased Canadian coin-toss. And now, the winner of this awesome giveaway is…..

Gabby from The Veggie Nook!

Congratulations on winning this awesome gluten-free prize pack! I’m sure you’ll enjoy munching on these tasty Tostitos and Lay’s chips while learning more about eating Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, woo hoo!

Now, earlier I mentioned those mystery seedlings possibly being basil plants (I really hope they are!) Here’s a good recipe to try with any type of basil pesto you may have. The walnuts (or pecans, if you prefer) give it a nice, hearty crunch and the addition of mushrooms give it a more meaty texture.

Walnut Pesto with Mushrooms – serves 2

1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and broken into pieces
1/4 – 1/3 cup cream
1/2 cup basil pesto
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
additional walnuts or pecans for garnish
Cooked noodles

Instructions:

In a blender, add walnuts and  pesto, blend until combined and nuts are chopped, but do not puree.

In a medium frying pan, sautee sliced mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add pesto and walnuts, stir for about a minute. Slowly add cream and stir to combine for about 2 minutes or until it just begins to simmer.

Serve over cooked noodles, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and extra walnuts or pecans.