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    I had forgotten how good pesto can be. That is, until I had more basil in my garden than I knew what to do with. Then, it was tortelloni with pesto, pesto chicken pizza, pesto on bread, pesto in everything! It all starts with a great pesto.

Ingredients:
3 c basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c pine nuts (toast 'em if you  like)
1 c grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c olive oil

Directions:

    Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until they form a paste. 

    If you're not going to use all of it at once, make sure you pour a little olive oil on the top before you put it in the refrigerator, because the basil will turn brown when it's exposed to air. 

    For a fantastic Pesto Chicken Pizza, top your favorite pizza dough with pesto, a cut up cooked chicken breast, some artichoke hearts, and some shredded mozzarella.

 
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    Fried rice is so fantastic because it's a delicious way to use up a bunch of leftovers. It tastes too good to be this convenient. It's a pretty complete meal, all by itself, and you can make it all in one pan. It can also be a great side dish to go along with broccoli beef, chicken chow mein, and some spring rolls, if you want a feast!

Ingredients:
2 T oil (peanut, vegetable, olive... anything except motor oil)
3 c cooked rice (it's better if you use rice cooked the day before)
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces (raw or cooked)
4 green onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
8 oz peas and carrots (fresh, frozen, or canned- whatever you've got)
2 eggs
1 t ginger powder
1 T sesame oil
3 T soy sauce

Directions:
    In a wok or large pan, heat oil over medium heat. If you're using raw chicken, add that first, and cook it thoroughly. Then, add the green onions and garlic, and let them cook for a minute or so, throw the rice in, and mix it all up. Add the ginger powder and let it cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. When it's nice and fried, push everything to one side of the pan, and scramble and cook both eggs on the other side.
     When the eggs are cooked, stir everything to combine, and add the peas and carrots, sesame oil, and soy sauce. If you're using previously cooked chicken, add that, too. Mix everything together, and let it cook for about 2 more minutes and serve.
    Now taste it


 
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    One of my greatest friends used to make these spring rolls when we shared an apartment, and I couldn't get enough of them. She gave me the recipe, and now my kids and husband can't get enough of them, either.  I like to make the spring rolls early in the day, so that I have a great appetizer or side dish that I don't have to worry about at dinner time. I like to serve them cold, but you can fry them in peanut oil if you like the crunchy skin. 


Ingredients:
rice wonton/ spring roll wrappers
1 T vegetable oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T grated ginger
1 block of tofu, cubed (I use extra firm, because I like the texture)
1 c shredded carrots
1 c bean sprouts
1/2 c shredded cabbage, or coleslaw mix without dressing
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 T sesame oil
4 T soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
Peanut oil for frying (optional)

Directions:

    Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat in a large wok or pan. Add green onions, garlic, ginger and tofu, and saute for a couple of minutes. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, carrots, bean sprouts and cabbage, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots and sprouts are tender. Stir in the cilantro, and then remove from heat. 

    To wrap spring rolls, soak one wrapper in warm water for about 20 seconds to soften it a little. Then lay it flat on the counter, and spoon the filling into the wrapper. Fold the sides in, and roll it up. Continue until you run out of filling or wrappers. 

    You can either refrigerate them, and serve as-is, or you can fry them in peanut oil just before you serve them. Either way, they're delicious. I like to dip spring rolls in Soy Vey teriyaki sauce, and serve with broccoli beef or chicken chow mein.











    Image courtesy of John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
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    Chili is one of those great things that you can make on the stove when you're hungry, or in a crock pot way ahead of time, if you know you're going to be busy. It's inexpensive, easy, and delicious. There are so many variations, that everybody makes it a little bit differently. This is how I make basic chili.






Ingredients:
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground turkey or beef
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans black beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
3 T chili seasoning
1/2 c chicken stock (optional)

Chili Seasoning:
2 t chili powder (more if you're trying to clear out your sinuses)
1 t red pepper (more if you're spicy. My kids eat it this way.)
1 T onion powder
1 T garlic powder
2 t sugar
2 t cumin
2 t parsley
2 t season salt
1 t basil
1/2 t pepper

Directions:
    Saute onions in olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, until they are translucent. Add garlic and meat, and cook until all the meat has browned. Add chili seasoning, and mix well. Then, add beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. If you want to drain the beans before adding them to remove some of the sodium, or if you're using cooked dry beans, add the chicken stock. If you use the liquid from the beans, do not add chicken stock. Turn heat down to low and cover.
    
    Let the chili simmer for half an hour. The longer you let the flavors mingle, the better it will be. 
    
    This chili is a little bit spicy for the kids, so I top it with shredded cheddar cheese and avocado, and mix in sour cream to tone it down. 

    Serve with corn bread. Always.

 
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    Everybody needs a go-to salsa recipe, and this is mine. I got it from a very good friend a while ago, and tweaked it to make it my own. I always make it when we have company, and everyone always loves it. It's a good thing the recipe makes a lot, because everybody always wants some to take home.





Ingredients:
1 large can of Rotel, drained
1 small can of tomatoes, drained
1 onion, peeled and quartered (since the Rotel is kind of spicy, I use sweet onion to balance it out, but white onion is also great)
1 bunch of cilantro
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lime, juice only
1 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/4 t sugar

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a food processor. If you put the cilantro in first, it blends together better. Then, pulse everything in the food processor until it reaches your desired consistency. Pour into a bowl, and refrigerate for a few hours, until everything is nice and cold. It tastes best after the flavors have had time to mingle, but I don't blame you if you can't wait that long.

 
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    I just sort of happened upon this coleslaw recipe when I was making fried chicken one day, and everybody loved it. I usually make it with green cabbage, but red is fun, too. If you  slice everything on a mandolin slicer (watch your fingers!) it only takes a few minutes. And, if you get too much cabbage, you can always save some for fish tacos! 








Ingredients:

For the coleslaw:
1 small head of cabbage, red or green, shredded
1/4 c finely sliced red onion
1 apple, finely sliced
1/2 c finely sliced carrots

For the dressing:
1/2 c mayonnaise
2 T honey
2 T red wine vinegar
1 t dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

    Mix the cabbage, onion, apple, and carrots in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the dressing, and combine just before serving. Store any leftovers seperately, and they will keep better.  

    When I was out of red wine vinegar, I used white vinegar, and nobody complained. 

 
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    For me, the most important part of a pizza is the dough. If you don't get the dough right, the whole thing just doesn't work. Here is a quick and easy pizza dough that you can throw together, and top it with whatever your family likes.






Ingredients:
3 c flour
1 packet fast rize yeast
1 T Sugar
1 t salt
1 t dried Italian seasoning (herbs)
1 c warm water
2 T olive oil

Directions:
In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and Italian Seasoning. Then, add water and oil, and knead together until smooth. It's better if you let it sit, covered, for up to an hour, but if the troops are hungry, go ahead and roll it out on your baking pan and top as desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

For BBQ Chicken Pizza- top with BBQ sauce, cooked chicken, sliced red onion, and mozzarella. After it bakes, garnish with cilantro.

For White Chicken Pizza- top with minced garlic, Alfredo sauce, parmesan cheese, cooked chicken, and mozzarella. I also like to add chopped spinach and artichoke hearts before I put on the mozzarella, but then it wouldn't technically be "white."