Appetizers

Recipe—Steak & Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Steak and Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Last weekend I hosted a wine tasting party, which is so much fun by the way! Each person brought an appetizer and a bottle of wine so it was minimal preparation required on my part and didn’t break the bank. Thanks to all my amazing friends that came if you are reading this! It was such a blast! We had a total of 13 bottles of wine and an amazing spread of food.

Since I was holding the party around dinner time I knew I needed an appetizer that was hearty and filling. Steak came to mind since it would pair so nicely with a good hearty red blend. These appetizers may look very simple but the flavors were so amazing. The goat cheese is whipped together with cream cheese, olive oil, and red pepper so it is creamy and smooth with a mild kick. I was able to prepare everything earlier in the day and then assemble right before anyone arrived. And let me tell you, they were pretty darn popular among the ladies.

Steak and Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Note: These can be served hot or cold. I served them cold for the sake of convenience. I was able to do all the prep in the morning, stored the cooked steak and goat cheese spread in the fridge, and put the toasted crostini in an unsealed Ziploc bag. I then assembled them right before the party.

INGREDIENTS
1 baguette, cut into 1/4 slices
10–12 ounce New York strip steak
4 oz goat cheese, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt & pepper
chili powder
garlic powder
1/2 c pesto

STEPS

  • Preheat the oven to 425º.
  • Place the baguette slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheets.
  • Brush each slice with olive oil and season with a light sprinkle of salt. Flip each slice over and repeat.
  • Toast the baguette slices for 12–15 minutes or until they are a nice golden brown.
  • While the baguette slices are toasting, season both sides of the steak with salt, pepper, a sprinkle of chili powder, and garlic powder.
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the steak.
  • Cook the steak for 4–6 minutes, flip, and continue to cook for an additional 4–6 minutes.
  • Remove the steak from the pan and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  • While the steak is resting, use a hand mixer to whip together the goat cheese, cream cheese, red pepper flakes, and two tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Thinly slice the steak and set aside.
  • To assemble, spread about one teaspoon of the whipped goat cheese on a slice of toasted bread, top with a slice of steak, and a dollop of pesto.
  • Enjoy!

 

Recipe adapted from Domesticate Me.

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Dinners

Recipe—Pesto Chicken Kabobs

Over the past year or so I have been using pesto more and more. Last summer we got a massive amount of basil from our garden, which yielded lots and lots of tasty homemade pesto. I was able to freeze tons and use it throughout the whole year. Awesome! I have found that pesto actually makes a really great marinade. Recently I am totally hooked on pesto chicken kabobs. Not only are they super fun to eat but they cook in a fraction of the time. Perfect meal for this coming summer.

Tip From the Diva: When using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about 10 minutes before putting all your goodies on them. It keeps them from catching fire and are much easier to handle. Genius right?

INGREDIENTS
3–4 chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces/cubes
salt and pepper
1/2 c pesto
half of a red onion, cut into 1” squares
red bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces
yellow bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces

STEPS

  • Season the cubed chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Place in a container and toss with the pesto.
  • Allow chicken to marinade for at least 30 minutes. (I like to let mine soak up all the flavors for 7–8 hours.)
  • Thread the meat and the veggies onto the skewers making sure to alternate and discard the leftover marinade.
  • Grill skewers for 10 minutes, turning as needed, or until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Orzo Pesto Pasta

In my office we all have a habit of bringing in various treats to share with each other throughout the year. (I know rough environment to be working in right?) Several years back we had an awesome (student assistant named Sarah. One day Sarah brought in this incredible orzo pesto pasta salad. I was in love! (With both Sarah and her pasta. Sarah was awesome.) She made her own pesto from scratch and I will not lie, I was impressed. This is the perfect summer salad. You have the seasonally fresh tomatoes and zucchini mixed with tangy vinegar and pesto giving it a wonderfully light and refreshing flavor. I make it several times of year and whenever I am generous enough to share with my friends I am asked for the recipe. It is definitely a favorite in our household. My son was even eating it by the bowlful when he was 1 1/2 years old. If you are looking for a tasty recipe for any summer cookouts or BBQs then search no further. This is perfect. While that little box of orzo may not look like much, it expands a great deal so this makes a very decent sized bowl of the tasty pasta salad.

Note: I save a couple of tablespoons of the feta and pine nuts to garnish the top of the salad with.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb box of orzo pasta, uncooked
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium zucchini, cut into quarters lengthwise and then sliced
salt and pepper
4 oz feta cheese crumbles (see above note)
2 c pesto (make your own or get some from the market to save time)
3/4 c white vinegar
2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 c pine nuts

STEPS

  • Cook orzo pasta per package instructions.
  • While the orzo is cooking, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add zucchini and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the zucchini for 3–4 minutes just slightly cooking it and then remove from heat.
  • Drain the orzo and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the feta and pesto stirring to combine.
  • Drizzle the vinegar while stirring.
  • Stir in the cooked zucchini, tomatoes, and pine nuts.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with extra feta and pine nuts if you saved any.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2–3 hours before serving.
Dinners, Sandwiches

Recipe—Chicken Pesto Panini

I am on a total pesto kick after making my own. Just love the stuff! Especially when I can use it on one of my favorite paninis made with chicken, mozzarella, tomatoes, and of course some delicious pesto. The flavors of this sandwich all go together so perfectly! It’s crunchy, melty, flavorful goodness all in one simple sandwich. Make it for lunch or dinner and serve with an Italian green salad for one heck of an awesome meal.

Note: The recipe calls for grilled chicken breasts but you can also just go pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store to save some time.

INGREDIENTS
4 large slices sourdough bread
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 c pesto
1 tomato, sliced
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise
6–8 slices fresh mozzarella (I recommend getting the good stuff from the deli)

STEPS

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Spread one side of each piece of the bread with butter and spread the opposite sides with pesto.
  • Place two of the slices of bread butter side down in the skillet.
  • Top the bread in the pan with the tomatoes, chicken, and mozzarella.
  • Add the last two slices of bread to the top of the sandwiches, butter side out.
  • Cook for approximately 3 minutes or until the bread is a toasty brown.
  • Flip and cook for another 3 minutes until cheese is melted and the other side is a nice toasty brown.
Dinners

Recipe—Shrimp and Pesto Pizza

The other day I made some homemade pesto for the first time ever. I really wanted to create an awesome pizza combination to use my pesto on and this is what I came up with, a delicious shrimp and pesto pizza. Yes it is a complete departure from your typical pizza and yet it was ahhh-mazing! It was really light and refreshing. The shrimp were cooked to perfection and went so well with the pesto. I didn’t go too crazy with the toppings. I just wanted to keep it pretty simple and it really allowed all the flavors to come through. We love making homemade pizzas during the week because they are incredibly quick and easy and usually cheaper than ordering one from your local pizza parlor. This may have just been my best homemade pizza to date!

Note: If you don’t have the time to make my homemade pesto recipe, I recommend getting the store bought kind and stirring in a splash of lemon juice. The hint of lemon really sets off the shrimp.

INGREDIENTS
1 tube Pillsbury refrigerated pizza crust
12 large raw shrimp, cleaned and peeled
salt
lemon pepper
1/2 c pesto (see my recipe here for homemade pesto)
2 c mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 thin slices red onion, cut into quarters
1 tomato, chopped
Italian seasoning

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Slice your shrimp in half lengthwise. This will help them to cook quicker and will be easier to eat.
  • Season the shrimp with slat and lemon pepper and set aside.
  • Unroll the pizza dough onto a greased cookie sheet.
  • Starting at the center press, the dough out until it is your desired thickness.
  • Spread an even layer of the pesto onto your dough.
  • Top with cheese, onions, shrimp, and tomatoes.
  • Dust your pizza with Italian seasoning.
  • Bake in the oven for 12–14 minutes or until crust is a golden brown.
  • Turn on the broiler for an additional 2 minutes to given the cheese some nice golden brown spots.
  • Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before slicing.
Sauces

Recipe—Basil Pesto

I use pesto on a fairly regular basis but I have yet to ever make it on my own. I usually just buy the little tubs in the fresh pasta section at the grocery store because let’s face it, it is so much easier than making your own! Making it from scratch has certainly been on my “to do” list and since my basil plant just reached about 3 feet tall I decided to give it a try. Boy am I glad I did! No store bought pesto can ever compare and it really ended up being much easier than I ever anticipated. This pesto was so good my son and I were licking the rubber spatula! I kid you not. It was quite the site. This pesto is great with your favorite pasta, as a pizza sauce, or even as a sandwich spread. Give it a try, you will find it is completely worth it!

Note: While the pesto is best fresh you can also store it in the fridge or freezer. If you decide to do this put the pesto in an airtight container and pour a 1/2” of olive oil on the top to preserve it. It helps keep it from becoming discolored.

INGREDIENTS
6 c fresh basil leaves
4 garlic cloves
1/2 c pine nuts
1 c olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 c fresh parmesan, shredded (use the good stuff!)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

STEPS

  • Combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice in a blender.
  • Blend until a nice thick paste is formed. You may need to stop and stir periodically. Add more olive oil if needed.
  • Add in the parmesan, salt, and pepper and blend until nice and smooth.