Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce

With all of this holiday eating and cooking, making a big meal may not be your biggest priority right now. And you’re probably out of leftovers….. so, here’s a solution to still having a quick, easy, home cooked meal. It would take longer for you to call and order a pizza and wait for it to be delivered, than it would take to make this. This is a dinner we’ve had on our “Meatless Monday” nights. Yes, I’m aware it’s now Tuesday. But it’s great any time you need something fast.

Just be warned, I took pictures of this dish MONTHS and MONTHS ago. Like, almost a year. And I’ve just never posted it before. And the food was taken with my old phone. At night, when it was totally dark. So it’s really not the best¬†picture you’ve ever seen. But make the food anyways, and you’ll see in person it’s much tastier looking than my crappy photography makes it out to be! ūüôā

 

pasta ingredients

Don’t be alarmed by the date on the half & half. This is an old picture!

Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce

  • 1 lb. pasta, noodle type is your choice
  • 1/2 c. half & half
  • 1/3 c. prepared pesto sauce
  • 1 tomato, chopped

Cook pasta according to directions on box. In a small saucepan, add the prepared pesto and the half and half. Heat on medium low, until warm, and stir together. When pasta is cooked, drain and add to a bowl. Pour creamy pesto sauce over the top and add chopped tomato. Stir and serve.

It’s seriously that easy AND only 4 ingredients. Feel free to add some cracked black pepper or a little bit of grated parmesan but really, it has a ton of flavor already.pasta

Kitchen Essentials (Last Minute Gift Ideas)

This is for you procrastinators out there who still haven’t finished up your Christmas shopping. If¬†you’re buying for someone who likes to cook, or just so happens to be lacking in the kitchen department, here’s a list of my top 5 kitchen essentials. These are items I use on a daily basis or very often and I’m pretty sure anyone would be happy to receive them. Well, they may be a little thrown off by receiving a Dutch oven but once that puppy is in their kitchen and in use, they’ll be glad you gifted it to them!

To make your shopping easier, I’ve added links to each item of the exact brand/model that I own.

dutch oven1. Dutch oven– I didn’t receive one of these until a few years ago. And my dad gave it to me as a gift. But, I absolutely love it! I wish I’d had this many years ago. This is probably my most used cooking vessel. I only make soups in this thing and it’s also great for any type of pulled meat, pork, beef, chicken. What’s convenient about this is that you can cook on the stovetop and then transfer it to the oven.

cast iron2. Cast iron skillet– This is a kitchen staple. Everyone needs a cast iron skillet. They are so versatile. Frying, cooking, baking. They pretty much do it all. We took ours all the way to Colorado when we went tent camping on a river and it was the ONLY pan I took. These things are heavy duty, incredibly resilient and a must in every kitchen.

kitchen 23. A good blender– After our old glass blender fell out of the top cabinet and onto my head, I was really in need of a new one. Not a new head, but a new blender. Impact with my hard head caused a crack on the base of the blender but surprisingly didn’t shatter or break the glass at all. Anyhow, my dad once again gifted me with an amazing blender. Yes, my dad gives me a lot of kitchen supplies. One, he encourages my cooking. Two, I think he had a kitchen shopping addiction there for awhile. Well, a good blender is also a must. Most people keep theirs in the cabinet (like I used to) but this newer one sits on my counter because I use it so often. Smoothies, shakes, salsa, dressings, etc.

knife4. Kitchen knives– These are so important! Adam got me a great set of knives a couple of years ago and I love them. They are lightweight, but sharp and also¬†comfortable to hold. Mine don’t have a block which I was hesitant about because who doesn’t have a block of knives sitting on their counter? Well, I don’t. At least not anymore. These stay in their velvest-esque holders in a drawer and it actually is pretty convenient. If you’re looking for a less expensive and more introductory set, click here. Same brand that I use, but just a smaller set.

kitchen5. Flat whisk– I finally got this last year. Where has it been all my life?!?! I use it daily! It’s not cumbersome like a round whisk can be, and I like the smaller size. If you’re looking for something small and inexpensive, you’ve found it.

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!

Monster Hens in the Hen House

Over the summer, our backyard chickens really slowed down on their egg production. I figured it was the heat. But lo and behold, they started molting. This is when they lose a lot of feathers and egg laying slows down because it takes a lot of energy to grow new feathers. Well, at first I thought they were dying. They looked awful and well, they had lost a lot of feathers so they were looking skinny and unhealthy. And I guess they’d molted before because we’d noticed loss of feathers in the past, but not to this degree. A little research (Google answers all my questions!) and I discovered this was completely normal for the time of year.

Well, we patiently waited for them to start laying again. And then we impatiently waited. Adam wanted to cook them up for Thanksgiving. Seriously, if I’d allowed it, he would’ve made it happen. But no way! We’ve had these chickens for a few years now and they’re more pets than anything. Unless a zombie apocalypse happens and I run out of food. Then it’s winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Anyways, they finally stopped losing feathers and grew back their new ones and now they basically look like hens on steroids. They are huge and healthy looking and complete monsters now. They bock incredibly loud. So loud that I’m afraid my neighbors will call the police on my confused hens who seem to think they’re roosters. And they’ve been bocking early. Like 6:30 am early, and then bock off and on for like an hour. It’s pretty annoying. I’ve discovered that means they want to be let out of their coop to roam. And eat. They eat incessantly. And they started laying eggs again. And their eggs are enormous. And the shells are strong. I read that after molting, the quality of the eggs is much better. And it’s so true! Before, their shells were getting thin but now, it’s such a difference. They’re like whole new hens! It makes me wonder if someone experimented on them while I wasn’t looking because these hens are vocal, hungry and huge.

hens

Our flock of New Hampshire Reds

This is Large Marge. She lives up to her name and is our biggest hen and lays the BIGGEST eggs. She's pretty. Pretty freakin huge.

This is Large Marge. She lives up to her name and is our biggest hen and lays the BIGGEST eggs. She’s pretty. Pretty freakin huge.

Now that I have an abundance of eggs again, it’s time to make more egg dishes. Here are some of my favorite recipes to use eggs in:

Chilaquiles

Breakfast Quesadillas

Vanilla Bean Croissant French Toast

Chicken Apple Hash with Fried Eggs

eggs

This is the first egg they laid after molting was over. And that white one is a store bought large egg.

eggs 2

Monster eggs

eggs 3

This is only half of what I currently have. Eggs for days!

And for those of you who’ve thought about trying out the backyard chicken thing, I recommend it! If you have cool neighbors. And if you don’t, a carton of eggs will usually put a smile on their face. But seriously, they’re an easy, manageable pet, and their poop makes great fertilizer!

Traditions

cookie time 3We have a tradition in our house. Close to Christmas, I bake a batch of sugar cookies and my girls decorate them. We’ve been doing this for the past few years and it’s just me and the three of them. They asked this year if daddy was going to help and I told them “It’s a girl thing”. And I’ll admit, it can be trying at times during the process because I happen to be a bit neurotic when it comes to my kitchen, i.e. I don’t like messes. But luckily, they’re pretty good about keeping it fairly clean. Plus, they like being able to do it on their own and it’s something they look forward to. And, they get to eat the fruits of their labor. So it’s a win/win for them.

I always let each kid pick out what cookie cutter they want and this year they chose a Christmas tree, a snowman and a gingerbread man. And although they really like decorating the cookies, I think their favorite part is actually when I roll out the dough, and they get to cut out the cookies.

cookie timecookie time 2cookie time 4I think they turned out pretty cute. And they taste really good too!

If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect sugar cookie recipe, click here. I’ve tried a few different ones and this one is a definite keeper. I haven’t altered or changed a thing about it. I follow it to a T and they turn out perfect every time!

Cheese Danish

danishOne of my weaknesses¬†are¬†canned biscuit products. Yep, you read that right. The sometimes scary pop of that can goes far back into my childhood. And I still love them. In particular, the buttermilk biscuits. I don’t want to know what’s in them! I’ve never even looked at the ingredients because there’s no way I’m giving them up. They’re a quick breakfast that I love drizzling honey on and although I usually stop myself after inhaling two, I could easily eat three no problem!

I also really like crescent rolls. Uh-huh. I do. I really, really do. My kids like ’em too. Sometimes I¬†put some chocolate chips on them, roll them up and voila, chocolate “croissants”! But I recently made cheese danishes out of them and Hallelujah! They’re easy, cheesy (cream cheesy) and a nice little breakfast treat.

Cheese Danish (makes 8)

  • 2 tubes crescent rolls, separated and rolled to 8 rectangles
  • 1/2 of an 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Just under 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a stand mixer or if you don’t have one, a large bowl and use a hand mixer, add all the ingredients, except obviously the crescent rolls. Whip until combined. Add a large spoonful of the cheese mixture to each rectangle and fold the sides up toward the center, pinching together. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the danishes because the dough tends to burn on the bottom. When done cooking, remove from oven and let cool. Delish with a cup of coffee!!danish 2danish 3

What’s Old Is New

It’s take many years to build up your kitchen inventory. One thing that was lacking for me for¬†a long time¬†was serving dishes/platters. I mean I had plates and stuff, but very few platters that I felt were really worthy of serving to company. Well, this year, I was gifted with the most beautiful platters and serving pieces, EVER. These things are old. And used. Maybe you’re turning your nose up at this, but I’m not. They may be old and used, but really, that’s code for vintage and well loved. And these awesome pieces are made of milk glass! It’s become my little obsession.

If you’re interested in having some gorgeous milk glass of your own, check out some local antique shops or as I’m fond of, shopping on a local exchange on Facebook. I think these pieces make great gifts also! So with Christmas right around the corner, milk glass may be that perfect, unique gift you’re looking for. Plus, it’s classic and timeless and will never go out of style. And the history of having an old piece is just an added bonus!

These two bowls are actually a punch bowl and base that function as smaller bowls as well.

These two bowls are actually a punch bowl and base that function as smaller bowls as well.

Now if this isn't the most beautiful punch bowl....

Now if this isn’t the most beautiful punch bowl….

My 9 year old arranged those flowers for me!

My 9 year old arranged those flowers for me!

And this is my most favorite platter, EVER. Love the scalloped edging.

And this is my most favorite platter, EVER. Love the scalloped edging.

DIY Christmas Decor

As far as Christmas decorating goes, that pretty much falls¬†on the man of the house. At least, the outside of the house.¬†He’s very into the lights being just so and all that. Tight and straight, no sagging lights. For a couple years, he even decorated the street light in front of our house. The whole entire thing! Yes, the enormous concrete pole. It took a huge ladder propped against the pole and laying¬†halfway into the street, with our neighbor watching and making sure a car wouldn’t run right into it. Last year I insisted he NOT do that again, since I’m pretty sure I lost a few years of my life watching him do that.

This year, I decided to change things up a little bit from the standard indoor decorations we usually have. But decorations are expensive (unless you get them AFTER Christmas) so I went the semi-homemade route. And I’m very simple about holiday decorating. Kudos to you people out there that switch out everything! The bathroom, the kitchen, EVERY ENTIRE THING¬†IN YOUR HOUSE! I’m not up for that kind of work, nor do I have room to store everything. So simple it is! Here’s some mason jars that I filled with sand (from my very own backyard) and holly that I got on sale at Michaels. The ribbon was leftover from Christmas last year.

decor 3I also saw this Christmas card holder on a boutique website that they were originally selling for $12.99 but was marked down to $5.99, not including shipping. And all you got was twine and clothespins. Well, that stuff was sitting in my garage for $0.00, so it got strung up across the mantle. Now I need some more Christmas cards to hang up there!

decorI got these pinecones at the park on my street a few years ago. I brought them home and Adam spray painted them for me.

decor 2So there you go! Simple, rustic, inexpensive Christmas d√©cor made mostly out of things laying around my house. And I love it all!! But if you don’t happen to have this type of stuff laying around, any kind of dollar store will most likely have some things to get you started. P.S. Dollar Tree is my favorite!

And this Christmas tree is planted in my front yard. We bought it three years ago because we wanted a live, uncut tree that we could plant and watch grow over the years. When we got it, it was only about a foot and a half tall. Now, it stands about 7 feet tall!!! If I had a bigger yard, I’d buy a live tree and plant it every year.

tree