Tag Archives: Quick Meals

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Wow, it’s been almost two months since I’ve posted. It’s been a busy summer! But it’s the great comments to this blog that made me realize I need to get back to it. Like Mr. Cialis, who had some nice things to say, as well as offering a helpful link to great deals on cheap generic prescription drugs that I’m sure would be hard to find anywhere else on the internet. And who could forget iqquagnsufpk, who memorably said and I quote,  “TSw4mS xwpxpjepzcux”. Not quite sure what he or she was getting at, but I’m sure it was well-intentioned and profound. Makes me almost want to turn commenting back on.

Anyway, it’s late July, and if you’re growing tomatoes and basil in the midwest like me, that means big beautiful basil bushes but probably just a couple ripe tomatoes so far. Especially with the late start we got this spring, with all the cold and the rain. So it’s a perfect time to make pesto. And with the hot humid 90+ weather we’ve had for like the entire month of July, who wants to cook. The only thing you need to heat up for this is water to boil the pasta.

Pesto is really good– for us it’s a real taste of summer. It works great by itself as a vegetarian meal, or you can thaw some pre-cooked cocktail-style shrimp and throw it in. Or serve it as a side dish with some barbecued chicken.

Usually you use pine nuts in pesto, but I had a big bag of shelled pistachios hanging around, and I knew from past experience pistachios work great in pesto. But traditional pine nuts are good too.


  • 2 Cups basil leaves
  • 1/4-1/2 Cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 2-3 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Cup pistachios (or pine nuts)
  • Coarse-ground pepper to taste

Special utensils:

  • Food processor

Serves 2-4

Wash basil leaves and separate the leaves that are in good condition from the stems and the damaged leaves. Chop the garlic coarsely and add all ingredients except tomato to the food processor. Set processor to chop, and chop the pesto ingredients in short pulses, stopping frequently to take a spatula to fold the unchopped stuff along the outside toward the bottom to get everything evenly chopped. Don’t overprocess it– Pesto should be coarsely chopped.

Mix the pesto into the boiled pasta of your choice. I usually use thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta. Chop up tomato and add it to the mix. Enjoy.


Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Shirmp Kebabs

Shrimply Delicious (sorry)

Memorial Day was blazin’ hot, 90+ degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Finally some real summer weather! We spent the afternoon at the beach, so we needed something quick and simple to grill when we got back. Shrimp kebabs are the ticket for quick and simple. The marinating takes a little prep, but it’s easy to get ready, throw the marinating ingredients in the refrigerator and spend the afternoon at the beach.


  • 40 jumbo shrimp
  • Any combination of red, yellow, orange, green bell peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 Finely diced Garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Juice from one lemon or lime

Special Utensils:

  • Some type of skewer

Serves 4

Marinating kebabs

Marinating kebabs

Mix up marinating ingredients. Chop peppers and onions into kebab-sized pieces. A tip on marinating kebabs: marinate before skewering- put the pieces in a plastic bag and pour the marinade in. Marinate for a few hours. Put the kebabs together after. It’s a lot easier that way.

After the shrimp and veggies marinate, assemble them on the skewer, 8 kebabs, 5 shrimp to a kebab, and throw them on a hot grill. Turn over after 3-4 minutes on each side, and they’re ready to eat! Serve with your favorite sides- I made some rice and grilled asparagus, Enjoy!


Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon

Medium Rare Filet Mignon

Seared outside, perfectly pink inside

Yeah, that’s right, you read the title correctly. This is serious stuff, so there’s no room for false modesty here. I’m going to show you how to grill filet mignon cuts of steak perfectly, every time.


  • 4 Filet Mignon cut steaks
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh coarse-ground pepper
  • Soaked Hickory Chips (optional)

Special Utensils:

  • Barbeque Grill
  • Meat thermometer

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Serves 4

Get the charcoal started if you’re using a charcoal grill. While the coals are getting ready, take the steaks out of the refrigerator and sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper. Filet mignon cuts of steak are so good I like to keep it real simple with the seasoning. The steaks should sit out at room temp for up to a half hour before they go on the grill (but meat shouldn’t be left at room temp for any more time than that).

Charcoal Grill

Coals on one side only!

If you want nice branded grill marks, make sure the grill has been well-heated over the coals. When the coals are ready spread them out in a one-coal deep layer one one side of the grill only- this is important. Using a gas grill? I highly recommend charcoal, but if you MUST use a gas grill you’ll just fire up and preheat the burners on one side then.

Filet Migons on the grill

Searing up nicely

Now put the steaks on directly over the coals (or the hot side if you’re using a gas grill). Cover but leave all the grill vents open. We want a lot of heat. Turn the steaks over after a few minutes. Turn twice each side on diagonals if you want that “steakhouse commercial” grill mark look.  We want to get a good sear on the outside of the steaks.  We don’t want to burn the outside, just give it a good dark-brown sear. Why is a good sear so important? It’s not to seal in the juices, as some people think. It creates flavor . . .

Science Alert: Searing the steaks causes a process called the “Maillard Reaction”, a chemical reaction between sugars and amino acids in the meat when exposed to high heat. This creates dozens, maybe hundreds of delicious flavor compounds. THAT’s why a good sear is so important.

Once the outside has a good sear, close the grill vents halfway. move the steaks to the cooler side of the grill, and cover up again. Cooking quickly on the hot side and letting the steak finish more slowly on the cooler side is what’s going to give you the perfect seared outside and pink medium-rare throughout inside. Insert a meat thermometer in one of the steaks. If these were thinner cuts we could just test the doneness by touch, but with thick filet cuts a meat thermometer will make sure they’re just right. And “just right” for me is medium rare. I used to say the rarer the better, but these days I think medium rare makes for the best flavor and texture. And as I said in the Steak Au Poivre post, anything more than medium rare is just a crime against the steak.  I like to throw a handful of hickory chips that I soaked in water for a half hour onto the coals at this point. Not necessary if you don’t want to, but it gives the steaks a nice added smoky flavor.

So when the meat thermometer is EXACTLY at 125 degrees (140-150 degrees for medium/medium well if you really have to) take the steaks off the heat and let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Resting the steak is important because it allows the meat juices to reabsorb back into the muscle fibers of the steak so it stays nice and juicy. If you start cutting the steak up too soon those juices will just run out onto your plate.

Serve with your favorite vegetable and side (I did grilled asparagus from the applewood smoked chicken post and simple baked potatoes). Enjoy your perfectly grilled steak!


Thai-Style Red Curry Stir-Fry

Thai Red Curry

Red Curry with Chicken and Shrimp

Thai food is Kristina’s favorite, and it’s right up there in my favorites as well. Unfortunately a few years ago we moved from an area that had great Thai restaurants on just about very corner to a place where the Thai places are few and far between. So I’ve tried to come up with a pretty good approximation, although I’m far from a real authentic Thai chef.

A couple ingredients that often go in an authentic Thai red curry, like kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass, you probably won’t find unless you visit an Asian grocery. So I use lime juice, which makes a good substitute for the citrus flavors of the lime leaf and lemongrass. If you have an Asian grocery nearby and want to get the special ingredients, great, but if that’s not an option, the ingredients I use here are all what can typically be found in your average grocery store.

I’m adding this one to the “Quick Meals” category, but with one caveat- this is a two-step process. The first step is making the coconut milk/chicken stock for the curry, which takes time, but can be frozen in portions for next time. When it’s next time and when you have some of that curry base, you can whip up a new batch of red curry fast.


For Curry Base (step 1)

  • Chicken pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Peanut oil
  • 2 Cans (about 28 oz.) low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can (14 oz.) Coconut milk
  • 1 can (14 oz.) Light coconut milk

Step 1 prep time: 5-10 minutes
Step 1 cook time: 2 hours

For Curry (step 2)

  • Cooked shredded chicken from step 1, or
  • Raw chicken cut into narrow strips
  • Shrimp (optional)
  • 1 Green and/or red pepper
  • 2-3 hot chiles, thai or jalapeno (optional)
  • 2 bunches Green onion
  • 1 Eggplant
  • 1 can bamboo shoots
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • Juice from 1-2 limes
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • Around 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Red chile powder (to taste)
  • Cilantro (optional)

Step 2 prep time: 15-20 minutes
Step 2 cook time: 10-15 minutes

Special Utensils:

  • Wok

Serves 4

Step 1

Here’s the part that eluded me when I first tried to make a red curry that tasted like what we’d get in our favorite Thai restaurant- the coconut milk flavor would be too obvious in the curry and drown the other flavors out, no matter how I adjusted the mix. The secret is to simmer the coconut/chicken stock mix for a long time. Take enough bone-in chicken pieces to cover the bottom of a large pot. Season with a little salt and pepper, leaving the skin on. Heat up a couple tablespoons of peanut oil in the pot and brown the chicken pieces on each side. Remove them when they’re nicely browned and pour off the leftover fat. Now add the chicken stock, a little at first, and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the chicken stock and coconut milk, mix it up good, and add the chicken pieces back in- they should be covered in the stock/coconut milk. Note: I use 1 can regular and 1 can light coconut milk because the regular is really high in saturated fat, but 2 cans of the light is too thin and doesn’t give the curry enough richness. One of each is a good compromise, I think. Simmer with the top on at low heat for about two hours. Take out the chicken pieces and separate the meat from the skin and bone- the meat should  fall right off the bone. Shred the chicken and save it for step 2. Reserve enough of the curry base- 1-2 cups worth- and freeze the rest into portions for next time after it cools.

Step 2

If you’re using frozen red curry base that you saved, cut raw chicken into strips. If you just did step one and you have shredded chicken, you just have the veggies to concern yourself with. Cut the green onion into 1/2 inch pieces. Dice up garlic and ginger. Cut pepper and eggplant into thin strips. We’re going to cook fast and hot, so we want the veggies to be very thin so the stir-fry only lasts a few minutes. Depending on how spicy you like your Thai food, add in some finely diced hot chile pepper too.

Now let’s get the red curry sauce ready. Take a cup or two of the chicken stock/coconut milk base we made in step one. Mix in the red curry paste, fish sauce, and lime juice. Add red chile powder, again depending on how spicy you like it.

Thai Red Curry Ingredients

Red Curry Ingredients Standing By

Now pour a tablespoon or two of peanut oil into the wok and let it heat up (peanut oil is best because it holds up well to high heat). Get the ingredients all ready by the wok, because things will happen fast now. When the wok is good and hot, throw the diced garlic and ginger into the oil and mix around just for a few seconds, long enough to flavor the oil but not long enough to brown the garlic/ginger. Throw the chicken in (if you don’t have cooked shredded chicken from step one) and constantly stir the chicken until it’s just browned on the outside. Throw in the peppers and eggplant and keep stirring.


Stirring, frying...stir-frying!

After a few minutes of cooking the first wave of veggies, throw in the green onions. They cook fast so you don’t want to add them the same time as the other veggies. Add the shrimp around the same time as the onion if you want to. I like a mix of shrimp and chicken in my Thai- it gives a nice mix of texture and flavor to the meal. toward the very end add the bamboo shoots (and the shredded cooked chicken from step one, if you’re going this route). Don’t overcook the vegetables– the peppers should still have a little crispiness.

Chop up some cilantro and garnish on top if you like.  Add onto cooked rice and enjoy!

Simple Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup

The Soup

Kristina pointed out that all my recipes so far took a long time to prepare, and people might want to see recipe ideas that were quick and simple to make. I thought this was a great idea, and so a new category for the site, “Quick Meals” is born. Here is a recipe that I put together quickly with what we had in the kitchen, and it’s quick, nutritious and delicious!


  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 celery stalks
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • Couple handfuls of mini-carrots
  • 1-2 cups broccoli florets (the flower-looking ends)
  • 1 Tbs. Olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 28-32 oz. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Cup rice
  • 1/2 Tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Serves 2-4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

First get 2 cups of water boiling in a small pot on the stove. Add the rice, reduce heat to low, and cover. White rice will take about 15-20 minutes to cook, brown rice about 30 minutes, so we want to start it now so it’ll be ready for the soup. Special soup tip: When I make soup I always make the rice or noodles separately and mix them only when serving the soup. The reason for this is if you have leftovers the rice or pasta will continue to absorb the liquid from the soup overnight like a sponge. The next day you won’t have soup, you’ll have slop.

Dice up the onions, garlic, and celery, and cut the mini-carrots in half or thirds. Add to a pan with the ground turkey and saute on medium to high heat, stirring, until the turkey is browned and the onions and celery are softened up. Use a spoon to remove the liquid fat in the pan from the turkey- it won’t be much.

Add the soup stock. Reduce to a simmer when it starts to boil and add oregano, thyme and pepper. Cut broccoli into bite-size florets and squeeze juice from one lemon.

When the soup’s been simmering for about 10 minutes, add the broccoli. After about 20 minutes see if soup is done by checking a carrot piece to see if it’s cooked through. When soup is done remove from heat, add the lemon juice and stir it in. Serve in bowls with rice added and enjoy!