Sauces

Recipe—Basil Pesto Sauce

If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably seen my backyard pride and joy, my little garden. One of the first springs in our home I had my dad and husband build me this big, beautiful redwood garden box. It has been a couple of years of figuring out what grows good and what doesn’t. Tomatoes, zucchini and pesto thrive during the hot California summer months.  

Well, this year by spry little basil plants turned into full on basil bushes in a matter of a couple of weeks. They were thick, tall, and bushy and I knew they had to be harvested before they went to flower and became bitter and tough. Homemade pesto coming right up!

While I absolutely love store bought pesto nothing beats the freshness of making your own. It can be a little pricey with the cost of pine nuts, quality parmesan, and extra virgin olive oil but it is absolutely worth it! Plus, it is so easy to make. Load all the ingredients in the blender, and blend!

With how much basil I harvested I actually made a massive batch but you certainly don’t need to make that much at a time unless you are sitting on a big basil harvest yourself. The recipe below is written for a single batch.

One thing that is really great about pesto is that it freezes great! I proportion it out into larger containers for pasta dinners and then smaller containers that work great for pizza sauce like when I make my Shrimp Pesto Pizza

What makes my pesto unique is I like to add some fresh lemon juice to the mix. I find it helps serve as a natural preservative, gives it a great flavor, and also helps to keep the vibrant green color.

INGREDIENTS
2 c basil leaves, packed
3/4 c parmesan cheese, shredded
1 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
juice from one lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 pepper

STEPS

  • Combine all the ingredients in the blender and blend string periodically if needed.
  • Add additional olive oil if you need more liquid to blend.
Dinners, Salads

Recipe—Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

During the hot summer months my body craves lighter refreshing meals and I just hate running the oven when it is 105º outside. We eat a lot of salads and tacos to keep it quick and simple, but it is always fun to mix it up with some new flavors. 

I just absolutely LOVE this peanut sauce with all the other ingredients coming together. You have this flavor medley of peanuts, garlic, and ginger which are so good together and then you get this nice sweetness from the mangos and a little kick from the jalapeño, and that is all just in the sauce and toppings! Don’t forget about all those flavor packed veggies and shrimp in the layered in the lettuce cup too.

This recipe is incredibly versatile. While I myself enjoyed these as lettuce wraps, my husband and son had theirs in a flour tortilla as more of a fusion style taco (they like their carbs) but this would make an amazing entrée salad too if you just wanted to chop up the lettuce and use the sauce as a dressings. Either way, you will not be disappointed!

Note: These take less than 15 minutes to cook and assemble but there is a little bit of prep time needed to slice and dice all the veggies. If you have a busy week ahead, you can absolutely prep ahead of time by chopping up all the veggies and storing them in some sealed containers or bags.

PEANUT SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp rice vinegar 
2 tsp coconut milk  
3 tbsp soy sauce 
2 tbsp honey 
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic, minced

SHRIMP LETTUCE WRAP INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil  
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, julienned
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 zucchini, julienned
1/4 c soy sauce
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp crushed red pepper  
1/2 tsp cumin 
1 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1 mango, diced
1 head butter leaf lettuce, leaves separated 

STEPS

  • In a small bowl whisk together all the peanut sauce ingredients until smooth and set aside.
  • In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
  • Add the onion, carrots, and bell pepper to the skillet and cook until they begin to soften, about 3–4 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp, zucchini, and soy sauce to the skillet and cook until the shrimp are golden and almost cooked through, about 3–4 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic, ginger paste, crushed red pepper, and cumin and cook for another 1–2 minutes.
  • Remove the skillet from the stove top and set aside.
  • To prepare, scoop some of the vegetables into the lettuce cups and top with a few of the shrimp. 
  • Garnish with a couple of jalapeño slices, some green onions, and diced mangos and then drizzle with the peanut sauce.
  • Grab a napkin or three and enjoy!
Beverages

Recipe—Peach Margarita

When we bought our house 7 years ago, the backyard was a bare lot. I told my husband right off the bat that if we plant any trees in the backyard, they have to produce fruit. I don’t want to water something unless it provides more than shade. So over the years we have planted a lemon tree, lime tree, apricot tree, and a peach tree. This year the peach tree has produced more than ever before so I have been enjoying coming up with new recipes to try.

Now if you know me, you know I love a margarita and something I have found through the years is that you can make a margarita with pretty much any fruit. I’ve posted recipes for Grapefruit Margaritas, Mango Margaritas, and more recently a Watermelon Margarita. So why not a peach margarita!

The peach schnapps in this recipe replace the typical triple sec in a margarita and really gives it that peachy flavor. Perfect for a warm summer day!

Notes: This recipe makes two margaritas. I doubled the recipe and put the margaritas in a carafe so I could enjoy a couple poolside. If you like a frozen blended margarita, use two cups frozen peaches instead of fresh and then also add in about a cup of ice. 

INGREDIENTS
2 peaches, peeled and pit removed
4 oz silver tequila
2 oz peach schnapps
2 oz lime juice
lime wedges (optional)
tajin or salt for the rim (optional)

STEPS

  • Add the prepared peach to a blender or food processor and blend fully, you want it nice and smooth.
  • Pour some tajin or salt on a small plate. 
  • Rub a lime wedge around the rim of two glasses and dip the glasses into the tajin or salt to coat.  
  • In a drink shaker, combine the peach puree, tequila, schnapps, lime juice, and ice and shake well.
  • Pour the margarita into the prepared glasses over ice. 
  • Garnish with a lime.
  • Put your feet up, sit back, and enjoy!
Beverages

Recipe—Watermelon Margaritas

It never fails, anytime I serve watermelon at a BBQ or party I end up with a ton leftover. Not that it’s a bad thing, especially when you can make some amazing watermelon margaritas! This cocktail is the perfect summer drink, it’s light and so refreshing. I just love the combination of the sweet watermelon with lime and if you put a little Tajin around the rim, it just takes it up a notch with a nice little kick of spice. Nothing says summer like a fresh and fruity cocktail!

Notes: This recipe makes two margaritas which is great because cocktails always taste better when shared with a friend! Since the juice content varies from watermelon to watermelon you may have extra juice after blending. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of the strained juice.

INGREDIENTS
4–5 c seedless watermelon, cut into chunks (you will need 1 1/2 cups juice)
1/2 c silver tequila
1/4 c lime juice, fresh squeezed
1 tbsp agave or simple syrup
lime wedges (optional)
tajin or salt for the rim (optional)

STEPS

  • Add the chopped watermelon to a blender or food processor and blend fully.
  • Pour the blended watermelon through a sieve or fine strainer into a large measuring cup to separate out the pulp.
  • Pour some tajin or salt on a small plate. (optional)
  • Rub a lime wedge around the rim of two glasses and dip the glasses into the tajin or salt to coat.  
  • In a drink shaker, combine 1 1/2 cups of the strained watermelon juice, tequila, lime juice, agave, and ice and shake well.
  • Pour the margarita into the prepared glasses. 
  • Put your feet up, sit back, and enjoy!
Beverages

Recipe— Greyhound Cocktails

Recipe—Pitcher of Greyhound Cocktails

This recipe is a must for your next dinner party or a day of poolside lounging. It makes a nice sized pitcher, perfect to share with friends. When I had a little party back in August, this was the signature cocktail served and it was a huge hit! We served it in some cute pitchers along with grapefruit wedges and sprigs of rosemary.

Grapefruit juice has always been one of my favorite cocktail mixers. It is just the right amount of sweet and tart and is so refreshing. I am pretty sure this cocktail is what sunshine would taste like, if sunshine had a flavor. 

There are all sorts of variations of greyhound recipes, and this is one of my faves. The vanilla gives you this nice little bit of sweetness that cuts the tartness of the grapefruit and the soda water really lightens it up. I like the subtle flavor the rosemary garnish adds but if you like a stronger rosemary flavor you can infuse the vodka with it

Note: If you want to prepare this ahead of time, mix together all the ingredients EXCEPT the soda water. Don’t add the soda water until right before serving or it will go flat. overnight. 

INGREDIENTS
2 c vodka
3 1/2 c grapefruit juice
2 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 c soda water
rosemary sprigs for garnish

STEPS

  • Mix vodka, grapefruit juice, vanilla, and soda water in a large pitcher and stir well. 
  • Pour over a glass filled with ice.
  • Add a sprig of fresh rosemary for garnish.
Appetizers, Sauces

Recipe—Salsa Fresca

Last year in my garden we were harvesting more tomatoes than we knew what to do with! We were having Panzanella Salad and Marinated Tomatoes almost every week. Once my jalapenos came in, I was all about that fresh salsa! Who doesn’t love that fresh salsa flavor!? Store bought salsa just does not compare.

This recipe is pretty much goof proof. You just add all the ingredients to the blender and blend. Yes, it really is that simple!

Just serve up with a side of some crispy salty tortilla chips or along with your favorite tacos or burritos. 

Note: If you over blend your salsa, it can become sort of frothy. If this happens, just cover and store in the fridge for a couple of hours and it should settle. Fresh salsa can last in the fridge covered for up to two weeks. The flavors get better and better with time.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 white onion 
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 jalapeno 
4–6 medium sized tomatoes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves
juice from 1 lime
pinch of sugar (optional, to balance the acidity of the tomatoes)

STEPS

  • Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno to a food processor or blender and pulse a few times to chop.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients to the blender and blend to desired consistency. 
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to really come together. (Optional)

This salsa goes great with the following recipes:

Sweet Treats

Recipe—Old Fashioned Strawberry Ice Cream

The other day as we were driving into our subdivision, we spotted a little pop-up fruit stand with the most vibrant red strawberries on the side of the road. They were so fresh and ripe that you could smell the sweet strawberry aroma from over 10 feet away. It literally just drew me in. 

It was the first really warm weekend of the year so making some homemade strawberry ice cream just seemed obvious. Fresh churned old fashioned strawberry ice cream is just an iconic summer treat and the key is ripe fresh strawberries. The kind that you can only find in the warmer months and that are a deep red throughout.

Now the trick to getting a really good creamy strawberry ice cream, is to make it with an egg/custard base. Strawberries have so much juice in them that your ice cream can take on an icy texture if you just use milk and cream. So, this recipe may be a bit more work than others, but it is so worth it. The final product will be so creamy and decadent. Absolutely worth it!

So as the weather really starts to warm up as summer creeps in, and you start seeing your market and fruit stands flooded with ripe strawberries, make sure to keep this recipe in mind. It is the perfect dessert to make this summer.

Note: This recipe requires that you make a custard egg mixture over the stove that needs to be completely chilled before being placed in the ice cream maker. The steps below guide you to put the custard in the fridge for 4–5 hours. However, if you don’t have the time, you can place the bowl of warm custard in a second large bowl filled with ice water and stir frequently. This will allow your mixture to cool within 30–40 minutes. Just make sure to keep it well stocked with ice.

INGREDIENTS
4 large egg yolks
3/4 c sugar, divided
1/4 c  brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 c heavy cream
1 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 c strawberries, sliced 
1 tbsp lemon juice 

STEPS

  • In large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar, brown sugar, and salt until it is nice and smooth and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan combine the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla and heat over medium heat until it begins to simmer. 
  • Remove the pot from heat and VERY slowly add the egg mixture to the pot while whisking the entire time. (By slowly mixing in the egg mixture and whisking continuously you are tempering the eggs but not cooking them.) 
  • Return the saucepan with the creamy egg mixture to the stove and heat through over medium heat.
  • Stir the mixture frequently until it just starts the slightly thicken. You do not want to overdo it or the eggs will begin to cook/scramble.
  • Once the custard mixture is done, transfer it to a large metal or glass bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a lid, and place it in the fridge for 4­–5 hours until it is well chilled. 
  • When you are ready to start making the ice cream, combine the strawberries, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large bowl.
  • Using a metal masher, break up the strawberries until they are really saturated in their juices.
  • Add the mashed strawberries to the custard mixture, stirring to combine.
  • Pour the final ice cream mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to your device’s directions. 
  • Transfer the finished ice cream to an airtight container and store in the freezer. 
  • If you like this recipe, make sure to also check out my recipe for Blackberry Ice Cream, another favorite in our house. 
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Creamy Dill Red Potato Salad

Summer is upon us! Well not quite, but we are so close! I can literally smell it! The smell of grilled meat has infiltrated the warm evening air in my subdivision and I am itching for a good ol’ fashioned cookout.

One thing I absolutely love about summer BBQs are all the cold salads. Macaroni salads, potato salads, mmmmmmm… mmmm… mmmm! (I really should not write these posts when I am hungry because right now, I am salivating just thinking back to this potato salad.)

I have a go to potato salad that is loaded with bacon, olives, bell peppers, onions, and so much more and it is amazing, but sometimes I am looking to mix it up with something a little more simple and lighter. 

The red potatoes really come out fluffy and then the super creamy dressing is a little tangy from the vinegar and sour cream and then you have this delicious dill flavor. So simple and so lite. Perfect for these warm summer days!

INGREDIENTS
8 large red potatoes, diced
1 c sour cream
1 c mayonnaise
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp dill
salt and pepper
4 green onions, chopped

STEPS

  • Add 1–2 tablespoon of salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
  • Add the diced potatoes and boil for 10–14 minutes or until fork tender.
  • While the potatoes are boiling whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • When the potatoes are done cooking drain them in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add most of the green onions (saving a handful for garnish) and dressing and toss to coat. 
  • Garnish with the leftover green onions and a little bit of the dill.
  • Cover with a lid or saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. The longer it rests, the better the flavors.

If you like this recipe, then I highly recommend you check out these other awesome salads that make for great additions to your BBQ menu!

Italian Pasta Salad

Italian Pasta Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad

Orzo Pesto Pasta

Orzo Pesto Pasta

Sweet Treats

Recipe—Lemon Italian Ice

If you think a cold glass of lemonade is refreshing on a hot summer day, wait until you try this frozen treat, Lemon Italian Ice! There is no comparison. This is better, hands down. Your kiddos will think so too.

My son and I make this during the summer and it is the most refreshing thing I have probably ever had. The lemon mixture with fresh zest is just the perfect amount of tart and sweet and it is crazy how light and fluffy it is! Absolute heaven! 

I absolutely love how easy this recipe is to make. So easy that my 11-year-old does most of the work. I pretty much just zest the lemons and he does the rest. Plus, it is basically 4 ingredients. Fresh lemons, sugar, salt, and water. So simple and relatively healthy compared to other frozen treats.

So as the weather warms up and you are looking for creative ways to cool off, give this a try. It is sure to do the trick!

Notes: 

  • The trick to making this is to work quickly when you are processing the frozen cubes and keep the fluffy ice from melting. We had a container ready to go in the freezer and as soon as I emptied each batch from the blender to the container, it went back into the freezer. This really kept it light and fluffy and it never froze together. 
  • To get 1 1/2 cups of fresh lemon juice, you will probably need between 8–10 lemons.
  • This makes a pretty decent sized batch so you can easily get 6–8 servings out of it. 

INGREDIENTS
grated zest from 2 lemons
1 1/2 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 c water

GARNISHES (optional)
fresh raspberries
fresh mint leaves

STEPS

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the lemon zest, juice, sugar, salt, and water.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar is dissolved. 
  • Allow the mixture to cool for about 30 minutes.
  • Pour the liquid into ice cube trays and freeze overnight.
  • Put 6–8 ice cubes at a time into a food processor or blender and pulse until all the cubes are broken up and you have a fluffy mixture.
  • Immediately transfer the “fluffy ice” to serving dishes OR a freezer safe container to be enjoyed later.
  • Repeat this process with the remaining cubes.
  • Garnish your Italian ice with some fresh raspberries and mint sprigs.
  • Store the leftover Italian ice in the freezer in a tightly covered container. 
  • To serve later, remove the Italian ice from the freezer and allow it to sit for 5–10 minutes to help soften it up for scooping. 
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Cauliflower Tabbouleh

To me, spring means transitioning those hearty comfort foods to lighter more refreshing dishes. Gotta start getting this body bikini ready! Just kidding, this mom bod hasn’t rocked a bikini in over 11 years. A good ol’ tankini is more my style. LOL In reality, I just crave lighter foods as the weather warms up, and the produce section of the grocery store transitions with the season. Everything just seems more vibrant and robust.

This cauliflower tabbouleh is perfect for warmer weather as it requires no cooking, so you can leave that hot stove off. The flavors in this dish are so refreshing as it is PACKED with herbs! You have lemon zest, mint, garlic, and red pepper. Freaking delish!

This dish is one of those that actually gets better as it sits. I like to make it the day before I plan on eating it so the cauliflower bits really take on all those yummy flavors. It is one of those perfect dishes to make on Sunday to have for lunches throughout the week. You know I am all about that meal prep! (Just beware, you may have some garlic breath so pack some gum too.)

While traditional tabbouleh is made from bulgar wheat, I actually use a bag of riced cauliflower in this recipe making it keto friendly and low calorie. It goes fantastic with some grilled Greek chicken and tzatziki!

INGREDIENTS
10 oz bag frozen riced cauliflower, thawed
cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 cup small tomatoes, cut in half
1 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c mint leaves, chopped 
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt

STEPS

  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. (Yes, it really is that easy.)