1
Braised Lettuce
2
Preserving Strawberries, Kale and Basil
3
Banana, Strawberry, Pineapple Smoothie
4
Green Bean and Broccoli Casserole
5
Fresh Spinach Cupcakes
6
Frozen Pesto Cubes
7
Kale Turkey Meatballs

Braised Lettuce

You’ll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe!   Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!

I love this braised lettuce.  Love, Love, Love.

As we have been harvesting our lettuce plants, I have been requesting this almost every single night.  Most people use lettuce in salads or as a topping, but  in this recipe you can use it as a entire side dish.   When I first learned about braised lettuce I didn’t think twice about making it because just lettuce as a side, really?   Then I tried it and my opinion changed immediately.  Just like my lettuce soup recipe, this one is a life changer too!

 It’s such a easy recipe consisting of just a few ingredients, but it packs such a hit in taste.   Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew.  Just as you would expect in the greens family, lettuce wilts much, so  as it simmers,  it gets tender.  As it simmers, the lettuce will pick up the garlic and broth.  Your lettuce will be full of flavor.  It’s so great.

Please, please see this past recipe as “just lettuce” and give it a try.

 You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!

Braised Lettuce

Ingredients

  • 1 head of lettuce cut up into quarters - washed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • salt + pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Take your washed lettuce head and cut it up into quarters.
  2. Head olive oil and minced garlic in pan over medium heat. Add your quarters of lettuce, cut side down.
  3. Saute until the side is lightly brown. This takes about 10 minutes.
  4. Turn over, add your chicken broth and bring to a slight boil.
  5. Turn down to low, cover and heat for 15 minutes.
  6. Add salt + pepper to taste.
  7. Serve as desired.

Recipe Notes

Bibb or Romaine lettuce works well.
You can substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
First, let’s take a minute and admire this gorgeous lettuce we grew.   Sigh.   

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
This recipe calls for one head, so cut it into quarters so you have 4 pieces.

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
Lettuce, you are so pretty.  For this recipe I used buttercrunch because that’s what we grow.  You can use Bibb variety, or Romaine – it’s up to you.  

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
Take your lettuce and put it in a pan with olive oil and garlic.  Make sure you put it cut side down in the pan.

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
Once it’s slightly golden brown, you’re going to flip it over to the other side.  

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
Then add your chicken broth.  Alternatively, you can use vegetable broth if you’d like.    Bring to a boil, then put your heat on low and cover for 15 minutes.

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
When the 15 minutes is up, you will notice how much your lettuce has wilted.  Then you will smell that aroma and smile.  Then you will taste the lettuce and faint.

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
Who knew, lettuce could be this good? I’m a lettuce believer now. 

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!
You can use this in many ways, feel free to even think outside the box, like putting it on pasta or rice… or a sandwich!

You'll start to love lettuce once you make this Braised Lettuce recipe! Braising consists of lightly frying, and then simmering like a stew for full flavor!

Preserving Strawberries, Kale and Basil

Instructions on How to Preserve Strawberries

As the garden season takes off, I will be doing a series of posts on how to preserve everything you grow so you can enjoy them now and many months later.   We won’t let any of our hard work that went into planting and caring for these plants go to waste here!

I often say “I garden because I cook”.    My love for being in the kitchen goes hand in hand with getting my nails dirty pushing down seeds.    

Here are other reasons why I love bringing these worlds of gardening and cooking together:

-You learn where everything comes from.  Did you know Brussels Sprouts grow the way they do? I didn’t either!    By gardening you see the process from seed to harvest, it often surprises you!
-You respect everything you grow.   Those pumpkins that I grew? They came from me pollinating them for a week straight at 5:30AM in the morning.   Those tomatoes that are beautiful red and perfect?   They stayed alive because you ran out into the pouring rain to make sure their windblocker fabric was up and everything was secure.    Those sugar snap peas?  Do you know how long they take to pick? Oh my!
-You try new vegetables.   I hated lettuce before we had our garden, now I’m like a rabbit where Matthew has to shoo me away.    I never tried radishes before, now I eat them whole.  
-This results into trying new dishes in the kitchen.  Pesto? Never made before, except now I have about 10 different recipes for it with every different plant.   I scour websites and cookbooks looking for new ways to use tomatoes, broccoli, carrots.  Dinner, Lunch, Desserts – I try it all!    The most important part is starting with a base you love.  So grow what you like!  
-Preserve! Preserve! Preserve!   This is the big one for me.  There are a few weeks in July and August that I am spending many hours every single day preserving our tomatoes to last us (forever).  So you just grew those kale plants – but did you have any idea how much kale grows on a plant? Or those edamame plants that I grew last year – did I know that I would get 20 pounds of edamame, all at once?  What are you going to do?  Well you just spent so much time and energy and love on these plants to grow great vegetables so now we’re not going to let it go to waste! Oh no we aren’t!  We are going to preserve it!    Did you know I had to buy my first can of diced tomatoes earlier this month because I had enough saved from last summer’s harvest?  Do you know how awesome of a feeling that is to have fresh vegetables you grew in your freezer all winter long?  Oh it’s snowing out and 3 degrees, let me just grab a extra fresh pack of frozen green beans that I grew a few months back.  *High 5’s*

 I spend quite a bit of time preserving everything we grow, and figuring out new ways to try.  One year I went as crazy as literally not wasting any of the broccoli plants, by finding ways to use the leaves and chop up the stems.    I blanch, I freeze whole, I puree,  I turn into sauces, I chop, I husk, I dry.  I do whatever it takes to preserve everything.   This post will be dedicated to strawberries, kale and basil.    Sometimes in future posts, I will give you another idea for the same vegetable.  There are many ways to preserve each plant, so I want to share some options for whatever is best for you in your kitchen. 🙂

Strawberries
Who doesn’t love strawberries?  And is there anything better than a sweet strawberry picked right off the vine and plopped straight into your mouth?  Oh yum!  But what happens when you are are harvesting pounds of strawberries?  Or what happens when you go the grocery store and find out that they are selling pints of strawberries for 89 cents.  Buy a bunch, we can keep your strawberry love stocked up for months!

We are going to freeze strawberries.   Strawberries keep in a freezer for a long time, I’m talking  a year.  Amazing, right?

What can we do with frozen strawberries? Well I’m glad you asked.
Smoothies!  My favorite.  Throw frozen strawberries in your blender and continue as usual in creating your favorite smoothie.
-Throw them into pies.
-Strawberry jelly!
-Strawberry sauce! Blend them up and pour over ice cream, cakes and waffles.
-Strawberry butter.  Yup,  you heard me right!
-Make strawberry bread.
-Strawberry salad.

Here are your beautiful strawberries.  
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Seriously, aren’t they the most loveliest things in the world?   I hope one day I can be at least 1% cool and classy as strawberries.
Now you want to wash them, wash them real good.
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Then once they are washed, you want to hull them.  Basically you want to rip off their green tops and cores.  You can do this a variety of ways with special tools, or just a knife.  Personally I just use my finger nails to get in there.   Then lay them on a cookie sheet and let freeze.    Once they are frozen, put them into freezer bags.  
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Then when you need some strawberries, take them out of your freezer and bask in the glory of them!  Use them however you want.  I will be making myself one happy strawberry smoothie. 🙂
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Kale
Kale, the winner of everything cool in 2013. Do you hear all the buzz about kale?  What a popular guy.    It seems to be the king of greens!  One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K.  It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.  Can we say it’s healthy?  


So what to do with kale?  When you’ve eaten your share of fresh raw kale, let’s figure out ways to preserve it, so you can be eating this vegetable powerhouse for months to come!
I like to make kale cubes, which is basically kale all chopped up, frozen into cubes.  It’s all kale, nothing else added in. 

What you can do with those frozen kale cubes?
-Smoothies! Again!  Want a real pick me up?  Throw a kale cube into your next smoothie.  
-Defrost and mix into pasta.  Warm through.  
-Throw a cube or two into any soup or stew.   Just a little bit of frozen kale goes a long way in getting your vitamins in!
-Defrost and mix with meats to make delicious ravioli.
-Defrost and mix with meats to make delicious meatballs!

Kale!  You hearty animal you (not really a animal). 
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I destem it.  I do this with my hands too, I just rip it off.  Maybe I’m the animal here.  Then I rip it into pieces to fit it into my food processor.preserveIMG_2401
A few pulses later and your once entire food process cup hardly has any kale in it.  Kale likes to shrink.  preserveIMG_2403
Then spoon it out and throw in some ice cube trays.
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Fill them up to the top.    A entire bushel of kale filled up one ice cube tray, so pack it down.  Now put into the freezer.
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Once they’re frozen, poke them out with a fork.    I find it works best to let them sit on your counter for a few minutes, then poke them out.  They defrost pretty quickly for you to grab one out of the tray.  From here you can keep them in the tray and use as you want, or throw them in freezer bags.
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Because you packed them in, they stay in cube form nicely.preserveIMG_2475

 

Basil
Who else loves the smell of basil?  I love picking fresh basil and putting it in pasta, and especially on pizza! A slice of margarita pizza with basil is the key to my pizza loving heart.   But what do you do when you have pounds of basil and you can’t eat 8 pizzas a nights (don’t try this, just believe me).  You can dry it!
I love dried herbs.  Almost 80% of the time if a recipe calls for fresh herbs, I will ignore it and use dried herbs.  Why? Because I know the dried herbs are ones I grew, loved and they will taste just as good in the dish!  
What can you do with dried basil?
-Any dish call for fresh basil? You can substitute with dried basil.
-Use in any tomato pasta.
-Sprinkle over each lasagna layer.
-Sprinkle over pizza.
-Use in rices.
-Use in a varieties of stews and soups for extra seasoning.
-Use in pasta salad.
-Sprinkle on garlic bread.

So let’s pick your basil!  What you want to do is wash it, then let dry.  I do this by putting it on paper towel sheets and then help blotting excess water on top.  Let dry completely.
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Then find a space of your home that you want to smell like basil for the next few weeks.  Grab a rubber band and hang on something.  We have screws in the top of our loft that we drilled in just for drying herbs.  This is at the very front entrance of our loft, so as soon as you walk in… it’s fresh city USA.preserveIMG_2412
Then just let dry until they are completely brittle.  If the basil seems “fresh” and flexible they aren’t dry enough.  You basically want them to the point of if you touched a leaf, it would crack.  You can see in the top right of this picture I have some dried oregano ready to go.  
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Then pick the leaves off the plant (do this over a bowl, the leaves are going to fall apart beautifully).  Throw in your food processor and you’re done.  If you don’t have a food processor, just crumble with your fingers.  Now you have dried basil ready for whenever you want!preserveIMG_2467

 

Banana, Strawberry, Pineapple Smoothie

The last few afternoons I have been craving a smoothie.  We’ve been hard at work gardening and all I want is a cold “pick me up” when I’m exhausted.  This does the trick!  The best thing about this recipe is that you can match fruit to your liking and create your own. Other examples:  banana, orange, pear watermelon, kiwi banana, orange, strawberries banana, blueberries watermelon, orange, pineapple banana, apple, orange pineapple, kiwi orange, strawberries banana, peach strawberry, banana blueberries, apple, banana banana, cherries pineapple, blueberries blueberry, pomegranate, banana There are so many more variations.  Isn’t it amazing?   I also love this recipe because it gets rid of any fruit where you aren’t sure what to do with.  Many times I’m left with a few random strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, a banana that is very ripe, half an orange, etc.    Put all the soon to go bad fruits in your blender and you’ll quickly have a delicious drink.

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Green Bean and Broccoli Casserole

You’re about to become everyone’s favorite at any gathering!

I love green bean casserole.  It reminds me of holidays, friends, smiles.  I also love it because it’s green and beautiful.  A few days ago around midnight, Matthew came into the bedroom where I was reading and asked if we could have green bean casserole “tomorrow”.  I told him we would gather the ingredients the next day.  Then I came to thinking how I made broccoli casserole last year and I loved it so much, so why don’t we mix these beans and brocs and make a delicious green bean and broccoli casserole?  I can’t be happier about how it came out!  In the recipe below I am using frozen vegetables which adds simplicity in the time saving department.

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Green Bean and Broccoli Casserole

Ingredients

  • 11 oz frozen green beans
  • 11 oz frozen broccoli florets
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups French's fried onions

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Mix soup, milk and pepper in a baking dish.
  3. Stir in frozen beans, frozen broccoli and 1 cup fried onions. Stir good.
  4. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes. (Make sure it's hot inside)
  5. Stir it, then top your remaining 1/2 cup onions on top.
  6. Bake 5 more minutes until your onions are golden brown.
  7. Enjoy!

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We are getting down to the nitty gritty with saved frozen vegetables from the garden last year.  I found these guys hiding in the back of the freezer, they are the last bag.  

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Here are all your ingredients.

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Cream of mushroom soup – I love you.

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Does anyone eat cream of mushroom soup by itself? I don’t but I can imagine how good it would be as I always lick the spoon clean after scooping it out.

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Then add your milk.

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Mix it! Arm workout!

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Add pepper and stir again!

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Add your frozen beans..

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Then your frozen broccoli…

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Here are your fried onions.  Truth: I don’t like onions.  I’m really picky about them.  But for some reason I’m 100% fine with these fried onions – how that makes sense, I have no idea.

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Sprinkle your onions in..

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Then more arm power and keep mixing..

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Until you have a creamy beautiful  mixture that looks like that. Into the oven it goes..

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Then 40 minutes later, this lovely smelling dish comes out.

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We want to add some more onions to crisp the top. This will really make the casserole extra special!

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5 more minutes until they’re slightly browned on top.

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Oh man, about this time Matthew just happily showed up in the kitchen.  I slapped his hands away.

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Many people serve bean/broccoli casserole as a side, but we had it for a man dish with some toasted garlic bread/bread rolls.  There is creaminess residing in the casserole so you want to have some bread to dip in..

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Serve away! Just wait for the “ooohs” and “aahhs” and “iloveyous”. 

 

Fresh Spinach Cupcakes

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won’t believe how good these are!

Now before you go reading the title and thinking I’m crazy, I just want to make it clear that I’m a genuine cupcake lover.  I’ve been known to go to Crumbs, get the biggest cupcake in the display with vanilla frosting, rainbow sprinkles and eat it up in a couple bites.  I’ve been known to go  back for seconds.  I love sweets, I love cupcakes.  So when I found a recipe a few months ago saying  I could make cupcakes with fresh spinach and it would taste amazing, I didn’t quite believe it.  Even while making these and mixing the spinach in, I still was worried.  Really, I could make cupcakes full of spinach and it was going to be good? Really? Well folks.. I have the verdict..

YES YOU CAN.

THESE CUPCAKES ARE AMAZING.

WE ARE TALKING  “OMG THESE ARE MADE WITH SPINACH?! WHAT? ARE YOU LYING TO ME? NO IM NOT. “

They will probably change your life.

I have had a post-it note on my desk since June to post the recipe and finally today, I am!

Rejoice! Bake these cupcakes.  They will change your life.  I’m totally serious
These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!

Fresh Spinach Cupcakes

These cupcakes will change your life.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of applesauce
  • 4-5 cups fresh raw spinach
  • box of store bought yellow cake mix
  • icing and sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line your cupcake tins with baking cups.
  3. Puree the applesauce and spinach in a food processor.
  4. Put cake mix in a bowl, then add your spinach puree to it.
  5. Beat with mixer until it’s combined evenly.
  6. Fill up your cupcake baking cups.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, put a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean.
  8. Let cool, decorate with icing and sprinkles.
  9. EAT THEM. ALL OF THEM.

Recipe Notes

I used spinach picked from our garden - if you can pick it fresh, please do!

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
These are all your ingredients for the cupcakes.  Can it get simpler?

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
Puree spinach and apple sauce.

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
It will look like this.  Very green.

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
Add your puree with your cake mix.

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
Mix it up.  It will look light green now.

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
Add to your baking cups… into the oven it goes.  Can you believe we’re making spinach cupcakes?

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
Out it comes, exactly how you imagined!

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
Aren’t they beautiful plain?

 

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
I put my icing in a plastic bag so I can pretend I’m a pro cake decorator when I put the icing on them.



Look at these beautiful cupcakes.

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
Now add your sprinkles..

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
There you go, you just made spinach cupcakes.  I know, it’s amazing.

These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!
Now try one. I KNOW, IT’S AMAZING.  Life changed, right?
These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet.  You won't believe how good these are!

 

Frozen Pesto Cubes

DIY frozen pesto cubes! Perfect to use for easy dinner recipes!

If you are growing herbs in  your garden then right now you might have alot and not sure what to do with them. Do you dry them? Do you use them as is? How about we make delicious pesto and freeze them? Yes, let’s do that!  Here we will use our fresh parsley and basil.  Just think about in December when it’s freezing out and you’re in a bad mood because your boot has a hole in it and you stepped in a big slush pile.  You come home, cranky, boil some pasta.  What to put on top.. pesto… from your garden.. oh the summer time  memories.. everything feels better now. 🙂

What can you do with pesto besides put in pasta? Use it as a pizza sauce.  Marinade chicken or steak or shrimp in it.  Use it as a vegetable dip.  Make soup.  So many options!

frozen pesto cubes

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Let’s make some pesto and freeze it!

Directions: Blend all ingredients together. Put in ice cube trays, freeze for a few hours.  Take out and then package in freezer bags.  Can it get more simpler?

From the recipe/ingredients above I made 2.5 batches of it which equaled 6 cups of fresh parsley and 1.5 cups of basil. I also made a quick batch of just basil pesto.

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Gather your supplies.

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I have 2 bags of walnuts just in case.  I totally didn’t need all those but I’m overly prepared (in life).  I have so many bottles of soy sauce in the pantry.. just in case.

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Beautiful fresh parsley and basil, picked minutes before.  MMMM. Smell it!

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Parsley, I love you.

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Basil, I love you.

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Put your herbs and your garlic in your blender/processor.

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Add your cheese.

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Add your nuts. I like to use walnuts,  some people use pine nuts.  Whatever.

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Put your olive oil in.  Look at this.

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Blend, blend, blend.

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Take it out and put it in a plastic bag.  Seal it shut.

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Get your ice cube trays and some scissors.  Cut the bottom corner of your plastic bag, you’re basically going to make it into a cake icing bag.

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Start to fill them up…

DIY frozen pesto cubes! Perfect to use for easy dinner recipes!

All done? Yay! Cover them up with wrap and put them in the freezer.

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Magic, they are frozen now!

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Now you need to work quick when you take them out of the freezer because they like to melt pretty quickly.  Work them out of the trays.

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Put in bags. Label them if you must.

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Enjoy these frozen pesto cubes!

Frozen Pesto Cubes

DIY frozen pesto cubes! Perfect to use for easy dinner recipes!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh parsley
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Directions: Blend all ingredients together. Put in ice cube trays, freeze for a few hours. Take out and then package in freezer bags. 

Recipe Notes

What you’ll need to freeze:
Ice Cube Trays, Clear Wrap, Freezer Bags

 

Kale Turkey Meatballs

Our kale in the garden is out of hand, it’s basically taking over. So last night I decided to pick some to make kale meatballs!  Not only are the ingredients easy, but the directions are as well.  While eating dinner Matthew proclaimed “This is the best spaghetti meal I ever had in my life”.   Good job kale! 🙂

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Update: 

We put these meatballs on the grill and boy were they delicious! So if you are grilling this summer, try this recipe. I like adding sticks inside them once they’re  done, makes eating fun!
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Kale Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked chopped fresh kale
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • Pinch of dried rosemary parsley, oregano
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium high heat. Add kale and spices. Cook until your kale is wilted.
  2. Put kale mixture and garlic into a food processor and chop it up. Add your turkey and egg and pulse until it’s all combined.
  3. Form this mixture into 1 inch balls.
  4. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil into your previous pan, turn to medium-high heat and then add your meatballs. Cook until browned on both sides (make sure to flip them).
  5. Serve with some spaghetti, sauce, cheese on top..and some bread on the side!

Recipe Notes

These work great on the grill too.

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