Homemade Pesto

I have a love affair with basil – and since it was once considered to be the world’s most noble and sacred plant, and the Italians claimed it was an aphrodisiac, I’d say my love of basil is well placed.
Give me a bouquet of fresh basil and I will drink in the aroma all day. I love it. It makes me happy!

Needless to say, my husband and I love pesto. The simple combination of basil, olive oil, garlic, cheeses (and sometimes pine nuts) gives any dish a powerful punch. It’s amazing what a few ingredients can do for a dish, right?

For the longest time, I’d just go to the store and buy a jar of pesto to toss in with our pasta or use to marinate our chicken. No biggie – or so I thought! Have you looked at the ingredients of store-bought pesto??

Basil, Soybean Oil, Garlic, Romano Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Olive Oil, Spice, Salt, Lactic Acid, Torula Yeast, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors

Soybean oil? Torula yeast? Citric Acid? Natural Flavors? Shouldn’t the “natural flavors” be coming from the basil, garlic, and cheese?
I knew I could do better, so I combed through a lot of recipes and they seemed pretty simple. A few tweaks here, a few tweaks there, and we had ourselves some yummy, fresh from the garden pesto!

You'll never believe how quick and easy this is! Just a few simple ingredients is all you need.
To begin, you will need:
2 cups (packed) basil leaves
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup olive oil
“splash” of lemon juice (I just did a quick squeeze of one half lemon)
salt and pepper to taste

(How simple is that? No weird-sounding yeast. No citric acid (the lemon takes care of that). And most definitely, no nasty soybean oil. That stuff is bad for you!)

To make it, place the first 5 ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. (I used my Magic Bullet and it worked just fine.) Add in salt and pepper  to taste, then give it a few spins to incorporate into the pesto.
So easy and the taste is well worth the bit of time it takes to make!

I will note that my first batch was pretty bitter. I was sure I had messed up somewhere along the way. However upon digging, I discovered that it could be 1) your basil or 2) your olive oil. Since I had just used some of this basil for another dish, I knew it wasn’t bitter. That meant my culprit was the olive oil – granted, it was somewhat cheap, but it was brand new. So it had not gone rancid. That’s when I discovered this interesting tidbit from Cooks Illustrated:
“Extra-virgin olive oil contains bitter tasting polyphenols coated by fatty acids, which prevent them from dispersing. If the oil is emulsified in a food processor, these polyphenols get squeezed out and the liquid mix turns bitter.”

They say that with the extra ingredients in the pesto, that this shouldn’t matter, but I disagree. The bitterness was overpowering for me. So, how do you avoid bitter pesto?  One way you can combat this is to put a small amount (1/4 cup or less) of water in with the ingredients (minus the olive oil), just enough to make a paste. Then, after processing, transfer the paste to a bowl and gently mix in the olive oil. The original way was with a mortar and pestle and a bowl, so it’s not too far off from the original process!

If however, you decide to mix it all in a food processor or blender and the pesto becomes bitter, it’s a pretty easy fix. Add a bit more salt and a bit of sugar until the bitterness goes away. I just added the salt and sugar until my first version was delightful again – and all was right with the world!

If you feel the need to use your pesto for more than dipping your bread in (and I admit, sometimes that’s ALL I want to do), try marinating your chicken or creating Pesto Rotini Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes.

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Creamy Country Chicken with Biscuits

Creamy Country Chicken with Biscuits @Gluten Free with Southern Charm

I love chicken pot pie – as evidenced by this being the second “almost a pot pie” recipe on this site!! But, with working a full time job, chasing a toddler, keeping house, and working on my two blogs, I don’t always have the luxury of spending the better part of the day whipping up a double crust, making the filling from scratch, etc.
The other day, I was craving pot pie and I remembered that when I used to nanny, I would make this Homestyle Bake by Banquet for the kids quite often. Super easy, super fast…and full of gluten, preservatives, and other unhealthy stuff.

Enter my own version of Chicken Pot Pie, inspired by the Banquet meal.

Creamy Country Chicken with Biscuits

Filling Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts cooked and diced (I used my George Foreman grill and seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic)
1 onion, chopped
2Tbsp cornstarch (for thickening)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp stick butter
1 8oz can gluten-free broth
1/2 cup milk
1 10oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables
2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper, to taste

Biscuit Ingredients:
(found on the back of the Bisquick box)
2 1/2 Cups Bisquick
2/3 c milk
1/3 c shortening

Instructions:
1) Saute onion and garlic in melted butter.
2) Whisk in cornstarch to make a rue.
3) Add broth and milk. Mix with rue, break up any clumps.
4) Add vegetables, diced chicken, thyme, salt and pepper.
5) Simmer until vegetables are warmed through.
6) While the chicken filling is simmering, mix up the biscuits according to the directions on the package.
7) Transfer filling to a 9×13 pan. Drop equal amounts of biscuit mix onto the filling. (I had 4 rows of 3 biscuits).
8) Bake at 350 for 20 minutes – or until the tops of the biscuits are golden.

This delicious recipe is linking up with Living Well, Spending Less: Thrifty Thursday

French Onion Soup – From Scratch

French Onion Soup @glutenfreemakeover.com

**Originally posted at Joy in These Moments

I bought a 3lb bag of yellow onions the other day. (I price matched it for $0.98!!)
Unfortunately, I forgot that I already had a bag of onions at home. So, I had to find something to do with them.

Enter my friend, Aprille. She blogs over at Beautiful in His Time. We were talking recipes and Pinterest when she directed me to her French Onion Soup.

I’ve never made this soup before and honestly had only had it once or twice – at a restaurant where it was super salty. But, I decided to go ahead and try it out since I had all the ingredients on hand.  I also added a few tweaks of my own as I was cooking.

Oh my word. When it was done….whew. It was so good it made me cry. (Well, really, the crying began when I was slicing the onions, but it still counts, right?

French Onion Soup

Ingredients:
4 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 stick butter
5 gluten-free beef broth
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup white wine

Instructions:
1) Slice the onions in half, then slice thinly. Peel and mince garlic.
2) Melt the butter in a large pan, then add the onions and garlic.
3) Over medium heat, caramelize the onions, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching – about 15 minutes.
4) Add broth, bay leaves, thyme, and white wine.
5) Allow to simmer for approximately 1 hour.
6) Serve with your favorite white cheese melted over the top. Tradition dictates Gruyere, but we had Mozzarella on hand and it worked just fine.