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!

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

Chicken a la Queen


Every year, my stepmom makes turkey tetrazzini with the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner, which is my absolute favorite meal not only because of its creamy, chicken-y, pasta goodness but also because it is special, in that I have to wait an entire year to enjoy it! When I first moved to South Africa in 2009, I cooked a giant Thanksgiving feast and of course made turkey tetrazzini with the leftovers to continue the tradition all the way in South Africa.

Salford Road Thanksgiving 2009

Ty absolutely loved it and from that moment on, I was determined to incorporate the comforting taste of home into our South African diet and embarked on a journey to create the perfect rendition of turkey tetrazzini.

As I was writing this post, it became evident that my experimentation occurred in phases:

  • Phase 1 – substituted chicken for turkey because it is much more convenient but just as delicious
  • Phase 2 – refined my sauce recipe to perfection
  • Phase 3 – mixed the sauce and pasta together and served immediately as opposed to baking it in the oven because it is quicker and dirties less dishes but is just as delicious
  • Phase 4 – experimented with vegetables to give a healthy flare
  • Phase 5 – learned (kind of) how to exhibit self-control in order to prevent oneself from going back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths
  • the most delicious Chicken alla Queen recipe for any and all occasions – not just the day after Thanksgiving!

Chicken alla Queen

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers (incase you haven’t realized by now, we love our leftovers))

  • 1 heaped tbl butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp diced garlic
  • 500g shredded rotisserie chicken or homemade boneless skinless herbed chicken breasts
  • 250g sliced brown mushrooms
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbl maizena (corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your liking (Ty’s favorite is gouda (on everything))
  • 250-300g pasta with ridges (I prefer penne)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. melt the butter in the pan and saute the onions and garlic until lightly brown
  2. add the chicken (raw or cooked) and mushrooms and stir in the spices
  3. when the mushrooms have softened, add the stock, milk, and cheese
  4. at this point, cook the pasta
  5. once the sauce starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium
  6. create a maizena paste and slowly mix it into the sauce
  7. let simmer for 5 minutes while stirring periodically
  8. if the sauce is not thick enough to your liking, add a bit more maizena paste
  9. once the pasta is done, mix the pasta into the sauce and serve
  10. top with a dash of salt and pepper to taste

Ty’s Worms and Mince


From a very young age, Ty absolutely loved eating worms and his favorite type of worms were those slathered with mince and tomato sauce.  His second love was Portuguese Chicken Spice, a spicy blend of chilies, lemon, garlic, and paprika, which his dad taught him to put on everything.  So, when Ty became a teenager and started cooking dinner for his family, he inevitably made his famous Worms and Mince with Portuguese Chicken Spice every time.

Over the years, Ty became a Worms and Mince Masterchef and when he moved down to Cape Town, he effectively sustained himself by eating this ultimate comfort food for days on end.  On Sunday evenings he would pull out the largest pot in his kitchen, prepare 1200g of Worms and Mince, eat some for dinner, and store the rest in in as many tupperware containers as he could find. For the remainder of the week he would dig into his reserve and prepare solo Worms and Mince or carb-on-carb Worm Sandwiches for lunch and dinner.

When I met Ty he wooed me with his Worms and Mince, which no doubt worked because the only way to my heart is through my stomach.  He shared his Worms-cooking secrets with me but no matter how many times I cook it, I am never able to re-create the perfect blend of mince, tomatoes, and spices that Ty accomplishes with ease every single time.

As a food-venturist, I am always experimenting and changing up recipes with new ingredients, but If I ever attempt to deviate from Ty’s original recipe, he protests vehemently because “A Classic’s a Classic”.  However, over the years I have worn him down and sometimes he allows me to incorporate mushrooms, green peppers, or cabbage.

Ty’s Worms and Mince

A Ty Classic

Ingredients

  • 3 chopped garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 500g minced beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 heaped tsp portuguese chicken spice
  • 1 can of tomatoes and onion mix
  • 300g pasta of your choice
Instructions
In a large pan, saute the garlic and onions in oil until lightly browned.  Add the mince and at this time you can also add any veggies you would like (although Ty would be disappointed by this). Next mix in the basil, portuguese chicken spice, salt, and pepper.  Once the meat is nearly finished cooking, add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.  At this point cook your pasta of choice, which is spaghetti for Ty because they resemble worms of course and penne for me because I enjoy spiking it with my fork and am convinced that the flavors are better retained due to its ridginess.  Once the pasta is ready, you can either do the Ty method which is to mix the pasta into your sauce or the Kim method which is to spoon large amounts of sauce directly over your pasta. And sometimes we even grate lots of cheese on top.  No matter which pasta you use or how you serve it up, nothin’ is better than coming home, falling on the couch, and not lifting a finger as your man cooks you Worms and Mince after a long day at work…