♦ Counting the Hours

Dear Shaina,

This will be a short letter since we will be seeing you very soon and I have a few things to do to get ready…laundry, packing and pesto harvesting.

It rained all day and night and I swear the basil grew an extra crop of leaves overnight.  It is prime for picking and I am afraid if I wait until we return, it will be past the point of perfection. Image

Armed with my kitchen scissors and grocery bag, I chopped all the Basil down and am settling into the kitchen for a morning of trimming, washing and prepping to the background of TED talks and CNN news.  Image

The kitchen smells like fresh cut basil and garlic (my favorite odors)… and I am so happy…mostly because I will be seeing you in a few days!  I will be bringing plenty of fresh pesto in case you want to sample some and there will be even more in the freezer waiting for you when you return from your travels…ready to be taken wherever you decide to call home thereafter.

I am cleaning out the fridge before we leave, so this letter, as far as food goes, is about using up stuff that is about to go bad or just can’t be finished by the time you go on a trip. I took the Campari tomatoes that were getting a little wrinkly and roasted them (with a little salt) in the oven for a batch of tomato pesto.

Roasted Tomato & Garlic

My excessive stash of garlic also needed to be used up pronto so I left some raw…perfect for my pesto and my newest favorite home-made half sour pickles…and roasted the rest for roasted garlic (with a little olive oil and salt) paste/pesto.


I used the mini cucumbers that I love so much,but just couldn’t finish, for the pickles which are simple to make.

Just for fun, I made a batch of one bowl brownies with chocolate and peanut butter chips (Dad’s favorites) to bring to New Jersey.  There is nothing like a classic brownie to bring you back to the reality of being back in America.

Dad and I have been playing a lot of mahjong with another couple.
It just goes to show that there is no end to the fun you can have with the person you marry…even after all these years! I won a super hard hand the other night..all pairs.  I know that doesn’t mean anything to you, but it’s a big deal in the mahjong world.  Maybe we’ll teach you while we’re in New Jersey…and make it a family game!


I really am counting the hours until I see you. The sporadic emails and calls and brief conversations just aren’t enough for me to get the real feel for what is going on in your life and your heart. So if I stare at you and sit real close and want to be near you for an annoyingly long time…just put up with it!

It’s the least I deserve for all that packing and schlepping …and letting you go so far away from home…with my blessings.




Pesto Tips

Although I have already posted my pesto recipe, here it is again with a few variations.  It is very forgiving and the amounts of basil and garlic vary every time I make it.

Basic Basil Pesto

  • 4 packed cups of washed and dried fresh pesto leaves
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until chopped finely and well blended. This Basic Basil Pesto may be frozen, as is, in airtight containers for future use.

If you like to add nuts to your pesto, roast 1/3 -1/2 cup of pine nuts or walnuts and add them to the processor with the other ingredients and process.

Parmesan cheese can also be added if desired.  I leave the cheese out and add it later if my recipe calls for it.  Pesto made with nuts or cheese can also be frozen for later use.

I also added the roasted tomatoes to a small batch of my pesto in the processor for a Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto. Sun dried tomatoes can be substituted if you don’t have any fresh tomatoes that you need to use.


My freezer now contains three variations of the Basic Basil Pesto. For  a dairy-free, nut-free option to use in any recipe calling for basil and garlic, I have plenty of Basic Basil Pesto. I also have some Basic Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts for pastas and sauces.  I always add more pine nuts when preparing those dishes.  I made a small batch of Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto just for a little variety.  All can be used for sauces and soups and to make dips and cheese spreads.  Any variety of Basil Pesto makes a delicious savory topping for Brie as an alternative to some of the sweet toppings on baked Brie.  This basic Basil Pesto can be diluted with olive oil and flavorful vinegars for pastas and salads.

Roasted Garlic saladDon’t forget the roasted garlic.  It is delicious as a spread for garlic bread mixed with a little butter, as a dip for fresh bread mixed with olive oil and a little basil pesto.  Squeeze fresh from the clove onto an arugula salad with pine nuts and parmesan cheeses and a little oil and balsamic vinaigrette dressing for a sweet garlicky treat.

One Bowl Brownies (with a little extra)


Yield: About 3 dozen

  • ½ cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
  • 2 cups (12 oz package) Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips, divided
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or 1 cup peanut butter chips

Heat oven to 350 F.  Grease 13” x 9” x 2” baking pan.

Place butter and 1 cup chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 to 1 ½ minutes or until chips are melted when stirred.

Add sugar, flour, vanilla, baking powder, salt and eggs and stir until batter is smooth.

Stir in remaining 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.

Spread batter into prepared baking pan.

Sprinkle walnuts or peanut butter chips over top. If you would like to use both, cut the amount of each by ⅓ and sprinkle evenly over the top.

Bake 30 minutes or until center is set.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

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