Basil Pesto and Artichoke Pasta Salad

One of my favorite things in the world is pasta. It’s versatile, it can stretch, you can eat it hot or cold. Give me a noodle and some cheese and I’ll be a happy girl.

 

I decided to whip up a quick pasta salad for my guests. This is a very fresh, light salad. It calls for a homemade basil pesto as the dressing. It is so easy but it seems super fancy. It’s a dump and go recipe; it does not require a lot of labor or preparation. You can make it in advance and whip it out before your guests arrive.

This can be eaten alone or as a side.

 

 

Ingredients:

One box of farfalle, rotini or cavatappi

1 can of artichoke quarter, rinsed and drained

1 bunch of basil

1-2 tsp of lemon zest

5-6 cloves of garlic

1 cup of grape tomatoes

3 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½ c romano cheese

¼ c parmesan cheese

Optional: 1 cup of fresh mozzarella, cubed


  1. Cook pasta according to box directions, drain.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine basil (reserve 4-5 leaves for garnish), lemon zest, garlic and olive oil. Pulse until smooth. Add more oil if needed.pesto
  3. Roughly chop the artichokepesto2
  4. In a large bowl, combine the basil mixture, the pasta, the artichoke and the cheese.pesto3pesto4pesto5
  5. Top with parm and julienned basil.

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Super yummy warm, room temperature or cold.

 

© 2016 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Homemade Mini-Monkey Bread

Tis the season for coming together and eating everything that you really shouldn’t. And that includes yummy, homemade baked goods. This weekend we hosted a holiday gathering and I decided to whip up some yummy mini-monkey bread! This is not a last-minute recipe; you have to plan accordingly to allow for enough time for the dough to proof. Be mindful that you want to allow the dough to proof a minimum of eight hours.

 

Little hands really enjoy rolling out the balls so call them in to be sous chefs!

 

Ingredients

 

Dough

1 package of yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 and 1/4 cups warm milk

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup white sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

5 cups all-purpose flour

 

Sauce

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup white sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Glaze

1 Cup powdered sugar

3 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. In the bottom of your bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir and allow it to rest for a few minutes. It will be fragrant and a bit frothy.
  2. Slowly add the milk, cooled melted butter, sugar, salt, and eggs one at a time. Slowly incorporate 3 cups of flour.
  3. Using the dough hook, beat on medium for a few minutes. Slowly add remaining dough until the dough forms a firm bowl.monkeymonkey2
  4. Put the dough onto a floured surface. You want to knead until it just smooth and elastic. Be careful not to over knead the dough. The dough is ready for proofing when you poke it and it springs back to you.
  5. Turn the dough out into a greased bowl, toss to coat and cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Refrigerate the dough for at least 8 hours or overnight.monkey3monkey13
  7. Remove your dough from the fridge, punch it down carefully. Allow the dough to rest.
  8. Set up your coating station. Melt ½ c of the butter in a small bowl and in another bowl you want to combine sugar and cinnamon.
  9. Spray your muffin pan with cooking spray (alternatively, you can do this in a bundt pan, but this recipe is generally for mini monkey breads).
  10. Pull apart pieces and roll into balls about the size of a peppermint ball. You’ll want to fit 3-4 balls in the muffin wells.monkey4
  11. Dip each ball into the butter, gently shake off excess butter. Then roll in the cinnamon sugar, shake off excess. Then pop your balls into the muffin well.monkey5
  12. After filling the wells, allow the muffins to rest while you make the sauce.
  13. Preheat oven to 350F.
  14. On the stove, melt 1/4 cup of butter and whisk in the brown sugar and vanilla until it is well combined.
  15. Pour the mixture over the dough balls.monkey7monkey6
  16. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden. (Cover loosely with foil if the top browns too quickly)monkey8monkey11monkey9monkey10
  17. Allow to cool before carefully removing and placing onto a large serving plate.
  18. Optional: Whisk all of the glaze ingredients together and pour it over the bread.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Will keep for a few days.

© 2016 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Chunky Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

For the last several days I have been randomly tweeting about wanting to bake something. Last night I had a dream that I made the most decadent, three-layer cake. Clearly, baking needed to happen on this chilly Sunday. So, I recruited my sidekick, Mason.

I stood and looked in our pantry and racked my brain. I considered oatmeal cookies but I do oatmeal cookies so often, I couldn’t bare it today. We have a massive jar of chunky peanut butter and my mind started working.

Chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven. These cookies are crisp to bite but chewy on the inside. The sweetness of the sugars combined with the salty crunch of the peanuts, man! These are so delicious; you have to try them.

These are low-carb and because we used coconut oil instead of butter, we added some healthy fats too. You can cut the sugar for a more modestly sweet cookie or amp up the recipe with additional nuts or dark chocolate morsels. This recipe is very simple and it can definitely serve as a building block for a more complex cookie.


Ingredients

1 heaping of cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup coconut oil

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

¼ heaping cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda


Directions

Preheat oven to 350

In one large bowl: mix flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa.

In the bowl of a mixture: mix sugar, peanut butter and oil.

When combined, add eggs one at a time.

Slowly incorporate the cocoa-flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture.

This dough will be sticky and very thick.

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Using a small ice cream scoop or a tbsp measuring spoon, scoop out some dough and shape them into balls.

Using a fork or the palm of your hand, slightly flatten the dough mounds.

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Note: This recipe will yield roughly 2 dozen cookies. If you have more than you need, bake what you want and freeze the rest!

Leave about 1 ½ to 2” of space between your cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will be cracked and highly fragrant. The tops should be set.

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Allow them to cool on the pan for at least one minute before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Optional: Lightly dust with confectioner’s sugar

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© 2016 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved