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Dinner For Friends: BLT Pizza & Four-Herb Pesto Pasta

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It’s finally beginning to warm up again! The snow is melting (slowly) and I am ready for Spring. I’ve been ready. You know when you buy a new article of clothing but it’s not time to wear it yet so all you think about is wearing it? That’s me right now with these blue and yellow shorts I bought a few months ago. I am DYING to wear either pair. I need a 75 degree day like nobody’s business. 

The past few nights have been very laid back. Last night we had a friend over for dinner and I made BLT pizza. I actually made this pizza for just Luke and I last Friday but forgot to take a photo. I know, I’m super lame. Good thing it was one of the best things I’ve made since I’ve started this experience because I cooked it again for the picture. With center-cut turkey bacon, fresh romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes, this is one of my new favorite pizzas. The sauce is a spicy caesar dressing and the mozzarella cheese folds everything together perfectly. I was not expecting this to taste as good as it did when I first found the idea. And seriously, how simple is this? Add this on your list of “must makes”.

Tonight is “beer night” in the apartment. Luke has started brewing his own beer and tonight is some really big super important step in that process. I have no idea what they’re doing with it, but it smells really good in the kitchen right now. My brother came over and joined us for a four-herb pesto pasta. Again, this was incredibly easy to make and so fresh. Luke’s friend used the word “herbacious”. Yes, I know it’s not a real word, but it sounded perfect. Using all fresh ingredients, this truly made me want summer. It’s like I could taste it in every bite. I served this with a french roll! Tomorrow night is shrimp night; I’m already excited.

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

BLT Pizza

slightly adapted from Bev Cooks

 

yields 2 small pizzas

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pieces of naan bread
  • 1/2 cup creamy caesar dressing (of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 slices center cut turkey bacon
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups roughly chopped romaine lettuce

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place turkey bacon on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet. Place in cold oven and turn oven on to 450 degree. Cook bacon for 20-25 minutes; slice into small chunks once cooked. (If you prefer to fry your bacon, please do!)
  2. Mix red pepper flakes with caesar dressing and spread over the naan bread, followed by 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Add bacon and tomatoes, then the other 1/2 cup of cheese.
  3. Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bread. Once finished, remove and add chopped lettuce. Then devour it.

 

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Four-Herb Pesto Pasta

slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma

yields 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbs. fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2 Tbs. fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. spaghetti

DIRECTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot three-fourths full of lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Finely chop the basil, parsley, tarragon and sage and place in a bowl. Sprinkle in the lemon juice and stir to coat the herbs with the juice.
  3. Combine the garlic, Parmesan and pine nuts in a blender or food processor. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and process until the mixture is creamy and blended. Pour the oil mixture into the bowl with the herbs and stir to combine.
  4. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes or according to package directions. Drain the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss with the pesto, add a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of pepper. 
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A Day In The Life: Beef Tenderloin with Pepper Salsa and Roasted Tomatoes

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For those of you who may not know, I am currently a nanny for three boys (ages 6, 5 and 16 months). I started working for this family in August and have completely fallen in love with all three boys. Sam is the baby, well he’s more like a toddler now, and has brought so much joy to my life. I love I didn’t think was possible. While he’s obviously not my child, I do care for him for 11 of the 13-14 hours he’s awake every day. Which is actually a lot. A few months ago he would only call me ‘mommy’. I hated it. It felt weird and made me feel really old. Not that being a young mom is unheard of…just creeped me out. I work really hard to give these boys everything they need to be successful years down the road. They may not realize it now, but the care they receive from both the parents and myself are the tools they’ll use in life later. 

Usually it’s just Sam and I during the day. We hang out, read books, play with cars (his favorite thing in the whole world) and all kinds of other cool stuff. We’re basically best buds. But for the past week I had the wonderful pleasure of having all three of them for Spring Break. I’ve done it before, nothing too difficult. Or so I thought. This is a basic run down of how my day went yesterday (snow-day prolonged Spring Break…I was not a fan).

Arrive at 7:30am.

Make breakfast (cheerios for Sam, oatmeal for Chris, bagel for Will…never changes).

Watch Phenias and Ferb. This is their new addiction. We don’t watch TV a lot but on a snow day, there isn’t much else to do.

Do a load of laundry.

Clean kitchen.

Change laundry.

Change diaper.

Feed Sam.

Sam naps.

Feed Will and Chris.

Another load of laundry.

Sweep kitchen floor from lunch. Chris likes to eat his Triscuits like a squirrel. You can imagine the mess this creates. 

More Phineas and Ferb.

Get Sam from nap.

Change diaper.

Feed Sam.

Eat myself.

Change laundry.

Put all laundry away.

Change diaper trash.

Put boys in snow gear.

Deal with Sam’s meltdown from not being able to play in the snow. 

Clean up melted snow boys tracked in from outside. 

Feed Sam. 

Feed Will and Chris.

Sweep kitchen floor.

Unload dishwasher.

Load dishwasher.

Breathe.

Change diaper.

Deal with more meltdowns over who didn’t share what.

Drive home.

It might not sound like much, but a day like this kicks my butt. It is a constant whirlwind, non-stop, always something happening. It’s only Tuesday and I’m already exhausted. Thankfully, today marks the end of Spring Break and the boys are back at school. Sam and I are going to have a lay-low kind of day. There’s still so much snow on the ground and the temperature isn’t warm enough for little man to be outside. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up here soon so we can start walking to the park again. That’s our favorite activity!

The best part about working a long day? Coming home and cooking a good meal. I actually don’t mind coming home and still cooking dinner. Especially when company is involved. Luke’s friend was over most of the day and decided to stay for dinner. On the menu was beef tenderloin with a roasted pepper salsa and some roasted cherry tomatoes. Delicious. Amazing. Wonderful. Luke’s friend, who works at a very well-known restaurant here in St. Louis, told me it was excellent. He even said that was a big compliment coming from him. 

Baked in the oven for 25 minutes, the beef tenderloin is rubbed in a mixture of olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic and herbs de provence. After sitting in the oven, I pulled it out and covered it with foil allowing it to continue cooking a little bit longer while I popped in the cherry tomatoes for a few minutes. I tossed those in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them on a pan with garlic cloves. The pepper salsa consisted of roasted red and yellow peppers (pre-roasted from a jar), fresh parsley, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The flavors of this dish came together so perfectly. There was a little sweetness, a little tang, a little kick and tons of juices running from the tender beef. And it was so easy to make. Do yourselves a favor and save a night to make this meal. I can almost guarantee you’ll turn a few heads.

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Pepper Salsa and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

slightly adapted from Sugar and Spice and Katie’s Cucina

yields 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

Beef:

  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 tbso extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried herbs de provence
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb beef tenderloin

Pepper salsa:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 oz each roasted red and yellow bell peppers, jarred, drained and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips

Roasted Tomatoes:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a heavy baking sheet with cooking spray. Mix olive oil, herbs de provence, garlic, salt and pepper into a small bowl. Rub mixture over beef and place on prepared baking sheet.
  2. Roast beef, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until internal temperature registers 130 degrees. 
  3. Meanwhile, slice cherry tomatoes in half. Mix in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic and toss to combine. Lay tomatoes on a parchment paper covered baking sheet and roast in oven with beef. 
  4. Remove beef from oven when finished and loosely tent with foil for 10 minutes. Leave tomatoes in the oven until fully roasted (they will shrivel up when ready).
  5. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper until combined. Add peppers, toss until coated. 
  6. Slice beef into 1/2 inch thick slices and arrange on platter. Serve with salsa and roasted tomatoes.