Pesto crusted chicken served with pasta and mushroom balsamic marinara sauce


I am totally obsessed with Pesto Princess pesto lately, which has inspired me to not only cook with it all the time but also grow basil in my garden so that I can make my own pesto. Spring is here and I am ready for some, what I like to call, intentional gardening. Our little apartment is overflowing with vivacious indoor plants, but for some reason, I cannot get any veggies or herbs to survive longer than a few weeks in my garden. But this year is different! I am doing my research, laying down the heaps of compost that accumulated all winter, and am planting plants that are suitable for the conditions in my garden – all in determination to yield a small harvest, because it just tastes so much better if you’ve grown it with your own two hands.

To begin with, I sewed some rainbow swiss chard, marrow, and rocket seeds. I have been unable to locate basil seeds yet; however, I learned through the wonders of the internet that you can take a basil clipping, place it in water, and it will sprout roots. So, I will be sure to do this next time I buy fresh basil.

My seedlingsMy seedlingsAlso, youtube taught me that you can take the base of a spring onion (you know, the bottom of the stalk that you always throw away), plant it directly in soil, and new spring onions will sprout almost immediately. Thanks youtube!

Spring onionsI woo my little baby plants to grow – I love them, stare at them all day long, talk to them, water them, move them into the sun, take them inside on those really brisk nights so they don’t freeze… and I think it is working. Nothing brings me greater joy than spotting the first sign of life inching out of the soil and watching as it grows into something substantial to be planted in the ground.

This recipe is an original Kim creation, which I conjured up last weekend, and it was truly delicious – the flavors were so dynamic and complimentary. Hopefully in the next few months, I will be able to reproduce this meal using home grown ingredients!

Pesto crusted chicken with pasta and mushroom balsamic marinara sauce  (serves 2)

pesto crusted chickeningredients

for the chicken:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 scrambled egg
  • a handful of flour
  • about 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • about 4 heaped tsp pesto
  • salt & pepper to taste

for the pasta:

  • about 200g pasta
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp garlic
  • 250g chopped brown onions
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large handful halved cherry tomatoes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tbl balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground basil

Directions

  1. preheat the oven to 200C
  2. coat the chicken breasts in flour and then dip them into the scrambled egg mixture
  3. smear a tsp of pesto on the chicken breast and press the pesto side into bread crumbs
  4. turn the breast over and repeat on the other side
  5. place the chicken in a pan, sprinkle some salt & pepper, and bake for about 30-35 minutes
  6. while your chicken is baking, prepare the pasta and sauce
  7. In a pan, saute the onions and garlic until browned
  8. add the mushrooms, and when about half cooked, add the remaining ingredients
  9. bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes
  10. at this point, cook your pasta
  11. serve the chicken over the bed of pasta heaped with sauce
  12. enjoy!

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting


A few ladies at work planned a surprise baby shower for my colleague and friend, Nicky. I decided to bake something in the unknown cupcake genre territory, which I normally leave up to Jacquie, the cupcake queen. I didn’t want to make ordinary chocolate or vanilla cupcakes, but rather a flavor I had never attempted before. So, I perused Pink Parsley for one of Josie’s recipes, and found her carrot cupcakes, which she adapted from Annie’s eats who adapted her cream cheese frosting recipe from Confections of a Food Bride. Perfect! I absolutely love carrot cake but have never baked it myself, because for some reason it seems daunting, with its double layered carroty goodness in between thick layers of sweet, buttery, smooth cream cheese frosting. However, mini carrot cakes seemed more feasible and less scary, so I went for it. I decided not to deviate from the recipe at all this time and meticulously followed every measurement and every step.

The raw batter and freshly beaten frosting were so delicious that Ty and I couldn’t stop ourselves from taking spoonful after spoonful. And more importantly, I impressed the cupcake queen, who mmm’ed the entire time as she ate her cupcake and then licked every last bit of frosting from the tray I brought them to work on and nearly half the frosting off of Daren’s cupcake before it even got to him.

Good thing I made cupcakes, because I froze in the baby store and had absolutely no idea what to get Nicky. I was overwhelmed by the multi-coloured teething toys, pacifier clips, car clips, noise makers, squeaky giraffes (which Nicky later told me was totally the rage must-have), mobiles, and finger puppets gallore. I indecisively settled for African beats baby music and hoped that Nicky wouldn’t think it was cliche but rather a tribute to the little bit of Africa flowing through her soon-to-be British baby’s veins. I am not so sure I want to have little jingly, jangly, multi-coloured, squeaky creatures walking around my lounge…

Carrot cupcakes (makes 24 cupcakes)

Carrot cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups peeled, shredded carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
  • 24 cupcake liners

Cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frostingIngredients

  • 340g cold cream cheese
  • 7 1/2 tbl softened butter
  • 1 tbl vanilla extract
  • about 600g sifted confectioners sugar

Directions

  1. move the oven rack to the middle slot and preheat to 180F
  2. in a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt
  3. in a large bowl beat together the sugar and eggs until frothy, then add the oil and beat for another 20 seconds or so
  4. stir the carrots and dry ingredients into the wet ingredients
  5. add cupcake liners to a cupcake pan and pour the mixture into the cupcake liners until 3/4 full
  6. bake for 20-22 minutes or until you get a clean toothpick
  7. let the cupcakes cool before frosting
  1. for the frosting, in a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese until soft
  2. add the vanilla and continue to beat
  3. slowly add the confectioners sugar and beat until the frosting is the desired consistency. I ended up adding more than the recipe called for (3 3/4 cups) and I could have probably added even a bit more to get the frosting more stiff
  4. add the frosting to a sturdy ziploc bag (or else it will burst – I speak from experience) and cut the tip of the bag. squeeze out the frosting in the desired pattern. The more frosting the better!
  5. enjoy!