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!
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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!

Rocket pesto pasta with salmon


Nothing uplifts me more than cooking. I spent Women’s day blowing my nose till rawness and working on my thesis instead of treating myself, so I decided to take a break and cook something special for Ty and I. Yesterday I received a delivery of Julie’s delicious fish, which motivated me to surf my favorite blog Pink Parsley for a salmon recipe.

I found a recipe for salmon pesto pasta, which was a perfect match for my latest Pesto princess addiction and the fresh Norwegian salmon in my fridge. I used the recipe as a guideline and added my own personal touch, which is my favorite part of cooking from recipes and also helps me experiment and grow as a cook.

Luckily, Ty came home with lots of medicine for me, so that by the time dinner was ready, my sinuses had clear and I could taste the flavors, which were light, fresh, and delicious. Unfortunately, my sinuses are clogging up again as I type, so I will have to unclog them tomorrow night before dinner.

Pesto pasta with salmon (serves 2 + leftovers)

Pesto pasta with salmonPesto pasta with salmonIngredients

  • 300g salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • about 2 cups cubed large cherry tomatoes
  • about 300g pasta
  • about 1/2 cup rocket pesto
  • a handful of fresh rocket
  • salt & pepper

Directions

  1. saute onions in oil on medium to low heat
  2. move the oven rack to the upper-middle rung and turn on the broiler
  3. place the salmon on a baking sheet covered with tinfoil
  4. rub olive oil on the fish, and season it with freshly squeezed lemon, salt, and cracked pepper
  5. broil the fish for 10-12 minutes until it begins to brown slightly around the edges
  6. while the fish is cooking, cook the pasta
  7. when the pasta is nearly done, add the tomatoes to the sauteeing onions and gently cook until warm and slightly softened
  8. strain the pasta, put it back in the pot, and mix in the onions, tomatoes, and pesto
  9. when the fish is done, remove it from the oven and flake it into bite sized pieces
  10. gently mix the salmon into the pasta
  11. serve with a garnish of fresh rocket on top

Seafood pasta


Margaret, Ty’s wonderful aunt, had thousands of RCI timeshare points that were going to expire by the end of last year and challenged us to find holiday accommodation for ourselves. We happily took that amazing challenge and sat determined to find the perfect getaway spot close to home. We ended up booking at Kagga Kamma, a gorgeous lodge in Swartruggens Nature Reserve about 250k from Cape Town, for a week in June to celebrate the end of the semester.

From our large chalet (it just sounds so fancy and posh!), you could see rock formations, boulders, desert shrubs, and sand, as far as the eye could see. And for allegedly being the most arid place in South Africa, it sure rained a lot! It was also very chilly and the electricity turned off at 11PM, so it was the perfect occasion for a continual fire, although the wood was so wet due to the rain, that we spent a large majority of the time fanning, blowing, and pouring copious amounts of cooking oil on the wood, begging it to catch. Nonetheless, we spent the entire week eating like gods, lounging around, watching all of the movies and series that we had, playing on the boulders, and faking work.

We invited our friends up for the weekend and our plan was to have a seafood braai feast the night that everyone arrived. However, unfortunately, due to the stormy weather in Cape Town the week before, all the fishies were scared away, but luckily Julie, my awesome fish monger, organized some frozen prawns, calamari, and salmon for me. So, on the Friday that we arrived, I made absolutely divine seafood pasta for my lovely guests, inspired by the Pioneer Woman.

seafood pasta (serves 8)

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 300g chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 250g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil (or a small handful of freshly chopped basil)

For the seafood

  • 500g salmon cut into bitesized cubes
  • 500g calamari tubes and tentacles
  • approximately 40 prawns deheaded and deveined
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1-2 chopped fresh chillis
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 500g pasta

Directions

  1. In a large deep pan, saute the onions and garlic in butter
  2. add the tomatoes, wine, cream, basil, a dash of salt and pepper, and stir
  3. bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes until thickened
  4. about 15 minutes into cooking the sauce, cook the pasta
  5. in another pan, saute the garlic and chili in butter, add the salmon and half the lemon juice, and let cook for a few minutes
  6. toss in the calamari and prawns, add the rest of the lemon juice, and add a dash of salt and pepper
  7. in a few minutes, when the prawns are just beginning to turn pink, remove the seafood from the pan
  8. add the seafood to the sauce and let simmer for another minute or so until the seafood is fully cooked (but be very careful not to overcook the seafood!)
  9. toss the pasta into the sauce and serve with warm, fresh bread

Beth’s perfect malva pudding


The first time I ever had malva pudding was in Colesberg, a tiny town in the Karoo, just about halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town. When Ty moved down to Cape Town, he began driving home to Nelspruit for the Christmas holidays, and it became a tradition of his to spend a night in Colesberg on his journey back to Cape Town. When Ty realized I was worthy, he brought me to Nelspruit to meet the parents and eventually let his tradition of stopping in Colesberg on his way home, become ours.

The first time Ty took me to Colesberg, many years ago, we stayed at Gordon’s Cottage and ate dinner at Die Plattelander, which was where I had my first and incredible malva pudding experience. I distinctly remember sitting in the back of the restaurant at a corner table, reading the dessert menu (because I always have room for dessert, especially while on holiday) and asked Ty what malva pudding was. He was shocked and appalled that I had never had this traditional Afrikaans delicacy and immediately ordered us a slice. A dark brown piece of cake arrived slathered in yellow custard. I took my first bite and instantly fell in love with the moist, spongy, cream-soaked cake, with a hint of apricot, and compulsory yellow custard. It was unlike any dessert I had ever had and soooo good!

Over the years, Beth has mentioned her infamous secret malva pudding recipe that I unfortunately have not had the pleasure of tasting (from her kitchen) for some crazy reason! However, a few weeks ago she decided to let me into her inner circle and emailed me the special recipe, which I have been saving for the perfect occasion. This occasion arose last weekend, when we were invited to what turned out to be an Afrikaans foody night which included waterblommetjie bredie (a traditional South African stew with lamb, edible water flows, and potatoes) served with sides of pickled beets, apricots, and gherkins, delicious fresh-herb garlic bread, salad, rice with black-eyed peas, and malva pudding.

When I arrived with my giant dish of malva pudding but not a drop of custard, I was met with looks of despair, which left me feeling worried. How could I have  forgotten such a crucial ingredient!? However, I had faith in Beth’s recipe and new she wouldn’t let me down! Despite their apprehension, everyone politely got a slice, took a bite, and was shocked that the malva pudding was so incredibly delicious even without the customary custard. The level of sweetness and moisture was to perfection and we all concluded that the custard was entirely unnecessary. It was certainly bittersweet to see it disappear before my eyes, as people went back for seconds and thirds, so I look forward to another special occasion that calls upon Beth’s perfect malva pudding.

Beth’s perfect malva pudding

Ingredients (serves 8-10 gigantic slices, perfect for a dinner party)

For the cake

  • 4 tbl margarine/butter
  • 2 cups browns sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 tbl apricot jam
  • 2 tsp brown vinegar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
For the sauce
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
Directions
  1. preheat the oven to 180C
  2. in a large bowl, cream together the sugar and margarine
  3. mix in the eggs, jam and vinegar
  4. add the milk
  5. in a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients
  6. pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth
  7. pour the mixture into a deep dish pan
  8. bake in the oven for 1 hour
  9. when there is about 10 minutes to go, in a small pot, bring the water, sugar, and vanilla to a boil, turn the heat down, and stir in the cream
  10. when the hour is up, remove the cake from the oven, pour the sauce on top, and allow it to soak into the hot cake
  11. serve warm on its own (it’s that good) or with custard

Here is the Waterblommetjie Bredie recipe that was used for our delicious feast, straight from chef Sybrand and Adina’s kitchen.  Unfortunately we were so busy devouring our food that we forgot to take pictures of the bredie, so I found these ones online to give you a glimpse of how cool (and beautiful) it is to cook with flowers!

Chef Sybrand and Adina’s recipe pick

The ultimate recipe


Hey foodies,

I am sorry that I have been so quiet with my posts lately!  Life has gotten hectic with work, school, and my new found love for climbing.  I promise to post a new recipe before the week is over, but in the meanwhile, here are some photos of what I’ve been up to outside of the kitchen…

Climbing

ingredients

  • beautiful scenery
  • good weather (anything except raining)
  • gear
  • awesome friends who bring the ropes and quick draws
  • screaming cheers of support
  • guts
  • adrenalin
  • lots of chalk for sweaty hands
  • sun screen
  • sun glasses
  • food in secure tupperware so that lizards don’t steal it
  • lots of water
  • arnica for excessive bruising (which my incredibly bruised legs need badly)
  • lotion for excessive hand scraping
Directions: mix all the ingredients together on a Saturday and have a rockin’ time!

Leading my first route in Silvermine

Paarl

Ty’s first bouldering problem…solved!

At the Taal monument

The view from Rocklands

Team Rocklands

My guru Fede

My Passover Seder


I am Jewish and my upbringing was very much influenced by Judaism and all its traditions.  I believe the best part about being Jewish is the delicious food but the worst part is being a hairy girl!  My favorite Jewish holiday has always been Passover because it entails lots of eating, really fascinating food symbolism, and singing.  “Passover” means the order and it is a celebration of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  We use a Haggadah, which means “telling”, to retell the story of Passover.  Check out this HILARIOUS rendition of the passover story.

Since moving to South Africa, I have not observed the Jewish holidays.  I think this is partly because I am unfamiliar with the Jewish community but also because I am searching for religious meaning in my life.  Ty and I were just accepted to the Birthright program, which is an awesome opportunity to travel to Israel with an organized group of young Jews to learn about our heritage, the history of Israel, and reconnect with Judaism.

This year, Ty’s parents came to visit, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to host our very first seder together.  It was really special to share something so much a part of my Jewish-American upbringing with my South African family.  All throughout our seder, memories came flooding in from all the previous years of passover seders – the huge Racow seders in Woodbridge, Grandma Jean’s mystery matzoballs, classic brisket, and enthusiasm, and me bashfully singing the four questions.

My four favorite Jewish foods are served on Passover: charoset, matzoball soup, noodle kugel, and matzo-brei.  This year, I was in charge of the Passover kitchen, which was a huge undertaking without my mom’s experience.  Luckily, Ty’s awesome mom, Beth, helped me cook and prepare for the seder. Unfortunately, I was so consumed by the cooking and preparing, that I did not take any mouth-watering, close-up foody photography, but believe me when I say it was all so so delicious!!!

My mom always made homemade chicken soup and then my sister and I made the matzoballs.  She would cook the soup and strain it in the morning before synagogue and I would burn my fingers and mouth while stealing stringy, delicious pieces of steaming hot soup chicken from the strainer.  When we got home, my sister and I would fight over who had to make the matzoballs, which usually ended up being me because I was the youngest.

I was a bit nervous to make my own matzoball soup, for fear of sinking matzoballs, but luckily Smitten Kitchen came to my rescue as usual with an insanely tasty matzoball soup recipe.  When it came time to make the matzoballs, I passed the honor on to Ty, as his rite of passage, and they floated. Success!

Matzoball Soup (serves 4 + leftovers)

Ingredients

For the chicken soup

  • Have a roast chicken for dinner the night before (I highly recommend my Chicken a la Queen recipe), then use the chicken carcass with pieces of meat still on it for the soup
  • 3-4 celery sticks cut into big chunks
  • 3-4 carrots cut into big bunks
  • 2 onions peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbl whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbl coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3-4 liters water
For the matzoballs
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 4 tbl oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 tbl chicken broth
Directions
  1. Add all the soup ingredients to a very large pot
  2. bring to a boil and simmer all morning before synagogue (for about 3-5 hours)
  3. As the broth boils off, add some more water to top it up every so often
  4. My mom used to strain the soup and leave only the broth, but since I’ve grown up I have realized that the soup veggies and chicken are the best part! So, instead of straining the broth, which not only gets rid of the lovely veggies but is also a big scary mission, carefully ladle out all the chicken bones and leave the rest in!
  5. Have your favorite person mix all the matzoball ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes
  6. Then have your least favorite person use their hands to roll the mix into small ping-pong sized balls
  7. Bring salted water to a bowl, reduce the heat to a simmer, and carefully drop the matzoballs in to the water to cook for about 20 minutes (Within minutes of dropping them into the water, the matzoballs should (hopefully) begin popping up and floating on the surface and puffing up as they cook)
  8. Carefully remove the matzoballs from the water, place them in the chicken soup, and let them cook for another 10-20 minutes
  9. Serve the matzoball soup with the chunky veggies, two matzoballs to start with (so as not to lose your appetite for the main course), and freshly ground coarse salt and pepper

The best part of the seder plate is the charoset, which symbolizes the mud that the Israelites used to make bricks when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. I had also never made charoset and found a great and super easy recipe on Epicurious.com.

Charoset (serves 4 + snacks)

Ingredients 

  • 2 peeled, cored, and shredded red apples
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbl brown sugar

Directions: Mix all the ingredients together and spoon heaping portions of charoset on matzo

Although I grew up eating Grandma Jean’s famous brisket on Passover, this year I decided to make a beef roast, so adapted a great pot roast recipe from the Pioneer Woman.

Beef Roast (serves 4 + leftovers)

Ingredients

  • beef roast
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • handful fresh rosemary
  • handful fresh thyme
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • oil
  • 4 potatoes cubed
  • half a small butternut peeled and cubed
  • 2 onion coarsely chopped
  • 4 peeled and chopped carrots
  • 2 tbl garlic diced
  • maizena (corn starch)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Lightly oil the beef and rub lots of salt, pepper, and garlic all over it
  3. In a deep dish pan add the beef and create a bed of veggies, starch, and herbs
  4. Pour the stock and wine into the pan
  5. Cook the roast in the oven for about 1.5 hours and baste periodically
  6. When the roast is slightly pink inside, remove it from the oven
  7. Remove everything from the pan and pour the gravy into a small pot
  8. Create a maizena paste using about 2 tbl maizena and a tiny amount of water
  9. Bring the gravy to a boil, reduce the heat, add the maizena paste and stir until thickened. If the gravy has not thickened to your liking, add a bit more maizena and let thicken more until you are satisifed.
  10. Serve the beef with veggies covered in delicious gravy

My dad used to make sweet and oh-so-amazing matzo-brei as a special Passover breakfast. He taught me how to make it and I assure you that the tradition will carry on.  Then, in college, a friend taught me how to make savory matzo-brei.  So now I like to make both!

Matzo-brei (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces of matzo
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • maple syrup or golden syrup if you live in South Africa and cannot find maple syrup

Directions

  1. Run the sheets of matzo under warm water until they soften
  2. In a bowl, break the soft matzo into small pieces
  3. In a pan, saute the onions and garlic with a bit of oil
  4. In another bowl, mix together half the soggy matzo, 3 beaten eggs, paprika, salt, and pepper
  5. In the original bowl, mix together the rest of the matzo with 3 beaten eggs, sugar, and cinnamon
  6. Leave the mixture to marinade for about 5 minutes
  7. In the same pan that you sauteed the onions and garlic, add the savory mixture and fry up for about 10 minutes
  8. In another pan, add the sweet mixture and also fry up for about 10 minutes
  9. Serve the sweet matzo-brei with syrup generously drizzled all over it