Family Favorite Recipe: Pesto

Pesto makes everything better.

I have a black thumb.

It is a truth I have to face.  How do I know this?  Well, I sprouted two different basil plants and then watched them die as I frantically tried to water them more, water them less, give them more sunlight, give them less sunlight, etc.

It wasn’t pretty.

Then I thought, “I’ll buy adult basil plants so they have a fighting chance in this world!”

Big. Fat. Chance.

Three adult basil plants have quickly gone by the wayside.  So, I’ve given up entirely.

I have resorted to buying the adult basil plants from Trader Joe’s for $3 and using leaves for a month or two until the plant dies.  It’s still cheaper than buying teeny packets of pre-cut basil and it lasts a bit longer.  How pathetic!

I bought a new plant this weekend and knew it would be PERFECT for a big batch of pesto.

You will need:

  • 3 cups fresh basil (or about 2 heaping handfuls)
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese 
  • 1 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Blend in a food processor until smooth.

Some fun variations:
-Use celery leaves, arugula, peas, broccoli, or kale instead of basil
-Use walnuts, almonds, or cashews instead of pine nuts
-Use asiago, romano, or pecorino instead of parmesan
-Add lemon zest if you are feeling spunky

One of the best things about pesto is that the combinations are endless.

I put mine in a mason jar in the fridge.  I plan on putting it on pasta, fish, bread, a spoon…you know…whatever suits my fancy.

Bowtie pasta, homemade pesto, mini heirloom tomatoes, and crumbled goat cheese.


Dad’s Badass Chili

Well folks, it’s half-past time I posted another family favorite recipe.  This recipe is a huge crowd pleaser and doesn’t take too much effort on your part.  But it does involve some beer drinking, so make sure your party hat is on before you start the cooking.

I frequently get asked for the recipe, so here it is for all my lovely readers.

This chili always gives me warm fuzzies of snowy weekends in Minneapolis, breaking up the monotony of Thanksgiving leftovers, and helping my dad taste test in the kitchen.  The recipe pulls on my heartstrings.

It will pull on yours too.  I mean, it’s called “Dad’s Badass Chili” for goodness sakes!

As a note, I have never actually measured any of these ingredients.  Make sure you do many taste tests throughout to make sure it isn’t too sweet or salty or spicy.  In fact, my batch last night was too sweet, so I added salt, garlic powder, and a little more chili powder.

Do what tastes right.

You will need:
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
4 oz. tomato paste
14 oz. tomato sauce
1 can light red kidney beans (drained)
1 can dark red kidney beans (drained)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 lb. chorizo or hot Italian sausage
1 lb. ground beef
2 cans beer (1 for the chili and 1 for you!) — I used Heineken, but you can get creative.  I would steer clear from overly hoppy beers, but that might just be my personal preference.
1-2 cups diced carrots
1-2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced onions
1/2 cup brown sugar to taste
1/4 cup ketchup (or a few big squirts)
1 tsp brown gravy base (I used the packet of dried mix from the store.  You can also substitute this for liquid smoke, but I have no idea where my dad finds that.)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
3-4-8 Tbsp chili powder (This is the most important ingredient, but each batch seems to widely vary on how much it needs.  Again, taste testing along the way is key here.)
Optional sides:
-sharp cheddar cheese
-sour cream or nonfat plain Greek yogurt
-hot dogs

This is where a sous-chef comes in handy…force them to open the billion canned ingredients 🙂

-Brown the sausage and beef in a big pot.  Drain and set meat aside on paper towels to soak up any remaining grease.

-Saute the onions and celery in the olive oil and butter until slightly opaque.

-Then add the carrots to the mix until the whole batch is sizzling.

-Return the meat to the big pot and add all of the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Stir regularly to prevent burning on bottom.

Don’t forget the main ingredient:

Or the secret ingredient:

-At this point you might want to add some water to get the chili to your preferred consistency.

You can try Ancho chili powder for a different taste, but don’t use “hot chili powder”.  You will be sad with the results and your friends will disown you.  Things like cayenne pepper and hot red pepper will make this too spicy!  Maybe it’s just ’cause we’re from Minnesota, but it has not gone over well in the past.

-Get your sides ready.

And enjoy!


p.s. Eating leftovers on top of hot dogs is a really good idea.  This stuff also freezes very well.

p.p.s. When referring to this recipe in the future, feel free to call it “Mads’ Dad’s Badass Chili”

The REAL Banana Bread

Ok folks. Here’s what you’ve been waiting for! This recipe is so good, I don’t need to jazz it up with pictures (I also don’t want to make you jealous or have you drool on your keyboard).

This is actually a recipe for zucchini bread, and that’s just not my thang. So here’s my family’s favorite banana bread recipe:

2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2-3 smooshed bananas
3 tsp. vanilla

3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon

Mix the 1st half, then the 2nd half. Then slowly combine. Bake in 2 greased loaf pans at 325 degrees.  Check on the bread after 30 minutes and cover with tin foil.  Bake an additional 10-15 minutes.

This recipe doesn’t work with chocolate chips because the batter is rather thin.