Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Pesto is that fancy friend that you wish you could invite to every single party you throw just to class things up a bit. It makes you look like you’re a pro in the kitchen and like you know what you’re doing, because when people hear pesto they’re all like, “Ooooooh, aaaaaawww! Pesto?!?!?!” Yeah, just like that. It’s packed with so much flavor and can be used a million different ways. Okay, so I might be exaggerating a bit…it can be used a hundred different ways. Pesto is versatile. It lends itself to many dishes. You can use it for sandwiches or use it as a marinade for meats and poultry or as a dressing for pasta or green salads or eat it by the spoonful all by itself. I’m not one to judge. P.S. FYI BTW it’s also super delicious and irresistible as a dipping sauce for soft fresh homemade bread, right out of the oven, like focaccia. If you don’t have the time to make your own freshly baked bread (I’ll be judging you slightly this time) then you can definitely use store bought bread. Pick up a loaf at the grocery store and use it for all of your pesto dipping needs. You’ll love it. I promise. Just don’t get too full on bread and pesto because you’ll need to save room for this dish in particular. 

There was a time when I was younger when I’d make pesto all of the time. Literally at least once a week. My family really likes pesto and every time I asked them, “What do you guys want for dinner tonight? What should I make?” They’d always say pesto pasta with such enthusiasm that I’d give in and make it for them because why not? Also, I’m a sucker for my mom and sisters. They can literally get me to do anything, but I digress. I made pesto for dinner and lunch so often that the recipe was engraved in my mind. I was seeing it in my sleep. Making it with my eyes closed. Because of this, I got bored of it rather quickly, as you can imagine. I learned a very valuable lesson; even though it’s fancy and even though it’s tasty and delicious, I just couldn’t keep making it the same way over and over again. Now as an adult, I still love pesto but I’m definitely on the look out for new and exciting pesto recipes because the same simple, yet delicious, pesto recipes just aren’t fitting the bill anymore.. The broccoli in this recipe is just about the right amount of “out there” but still delicious and simple enough to make it all the time. 

I came across a recipe online with a chunkier version of this broccoli pesto and I figured I definitely had to try it on my own with a few changes. It was just what I needed because it felt like something new and exciting. Fancy but not stuck up. So if you’re part of the pesto fan club, well you should join my family, but also you should try this pasta dish because it’ll knock your socks off. It’s that weeknight dinner you didn’t realize you needed. Now that you have it, watch out…you’re ready to conquer the world. Just remember who helped you get there. 

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Beer Cheddar Bratwurst Pizza: An Ode to Madison

I’ve slowly been trying out this new segment on the blog, and by slowly I mean once in a blue moon when the opportunity presents itself. It’s this segment right here. The ode to certain places I’ve recently traveled to and have fallen in love with a certain food item segment. It’s a bit long. I’m still working out the title, but I feel like it’s a fun post to continue exploring. Here’s the deal, I take a dish or certain ingredients from a city I’ve traveled to and I convert it into a pizza, because we all know that pizza is the way to go. Pizza is life and we can never have too much of it. Let’s print that on t-shirts and sell them, I’m sure we’d make a fortune. I’m always up for any excuse that involves bread topped with cheese and other delicious ingredients. I’m also always up for exploring new flavor profiles and food combinations that I wouldn’t normally have thought to put on top of pizza. It’s like we’re exploring the city together through food and photographs, and that makes me really happy. 

The first post was inspired by a trip to San Fransisco. Pickled JalapeƱo and Sausage Pizza is my go to pizza topping from now on. I can never get tired of it. For the longest time I only ate pizza with pepperoni on it. That’s it. Nothing else. It wasn’t until just recently that I started exploring other toppings. Don’t get me wrong, a slice of pepperoni pizza is still a guilty pleasure of mine. The second post was a tribute to one of the greatest cities in this country, New Orleans. Jambalaya Pizza might sound a bit out there (and it totally is) but I promise it’s bomb dot com. Sausage, chicken and shrimp on pizza will change your life forever. 

This time around it’s all about the wonderful city of Madison, Wisconsin. Which I just recently had the pleasure to visit and actually fell in love with the people, the food and the cheese. (I’m not being paid at all to say this to you, I promise. I just really love that city). I’d honestly live there if it wasn’t for the whole freezing cold snowing winter part. I wouldn’t survive the first winter, but the food and laid back coolness of the city have me seriously contemplating a move….later in life…in the distant future….like really distant. I always say this whenever I go somewhere that pleasantly surprises me, but then I come back home and I realize Los Angeles is kind of hard to beat. Except for the traffic. And the high prices on pretty much everything. And the pollution. And the traffic (let’s not talk about it). 

In these segments, if you’ve been following along and have noticed, I’ve also been including a few non-food photos that I captured with my phone while out and about. Just random photos of things and places around the city. I know it’s not what normally goes down on this blog, but I think it’s a nice, hopefully welcomed, change. Again, I want you to experience these cities like I did. Plus, my mamma always complains that I never show her any of the photos I take whenever I go on a trip. So I put them on here so she can look at them when she reads my posts. (You’re welcome, mamma). 

Aside from the amazing cheese Wisconsin has to offer, it is considered to be America’s Dairyland aka Disneyland for cheese enthusiasts such as myself, there is some pretty stellar architecture around Madison. The Capital building was my favorite thing to gawk at. I felt like Lesley Knope as I walked through the building. The inside looked like something right out of Parks and Recreation, I kid you not. I kept my eye out for Lil’ Sebastian but frankly, no luck. I did eat some waffles afterwards though, so it sort of evened out the whole experience. 

Of course, there are also fields and farms and corn for days, as far as the eye can see. I’ve also never seen so much sky in my entire life. I looked up and I felt like there was more sky than land which I don’t even think is possible but some how Wisconsin makes it possible because that’s what it does. Wisconsin is a magical miracle maker. 

If you want to read more about my first trip to America’s Dairyland (and why wouldn’t you?!) check out this article I wrote for Wisconsin Cheese10 Things I Learned On My First Trip To Wisconsin.” It’s real, it’s raw and you’ll be glad you read it. Might even be the highlight of your day/week. Maybe. 

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Stove Top Ratatouille Mac and Cheese

It’s National Mac and Cheese Day today (Tuesday July 14th) and I’m celebrating this momentous occasion the only way I know how, by making a giant pot of the creamiest macaroni and cheese you ever did see. If that isn’t the perfect way to celebrate this beautiful holiday, then I don’t know what is. I couldn’t just give you some boring every day pasta recipe in a cheese sauce though, what kind of person would I be if I did? Don’t answer that. Nothing makes me happier than when two classic recipes come together in a delicious food explosion to make one unbelievable dish. It’s fun and exciting. Such is the case this time around because I’ve gone ahead and thrown ratatouille and mac and cheese together into the same pot. Blasphemous? I’m sure, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and I don’t think you should either.

I’ve teamed up with Wisconsin Cheese, once again, to bring you yet another out of this world macaroni and cheese recipe for their All Things Mac and Cheese site. If you’ll recall, earlier in the year, I made an Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese that taught us a very valuable lesson; cabbage, potatoes and bacon in mac and cheese is always a good idea. Much like with that post, you’ll notice that the recipe won’t be included at the bottom of this page, like it normally is. You’ll have to click on over to their site to get the full recipe! I’m evil, I know, but it’s worth it! (I just want to keep you guys on your toes and make sure you’re paying attention). I’ll include a link at the bottom of the post so you can easily find the recipe and make it at home in honor of your new favorite holiday. Of course, you don’t only have to make it on this day. Do yourself a favor and be sure to make it all summer long because it’s everything you never knew you wanted. You owe it to yourself.

I’ve made and eaten ratatouille only a handful of times here and there, so I’m no expert in the matter. But I am an expert in cheesy sauces tossed around with noodles. I’m a pro at that. I wanted this recipe to be easy enough to whip up in a hurry, but still have all of the sophisticated flavors and tastes that the classic French dish has. It’s the best of both worlds, comfort food meets healthy. Quick side not though, am I the only one that thinks of a rat cooking in Paris, whenever ratatouille is mentioned? I blame Pixar and Disney for that. Although a tiny blue rat in a chef’s apron didn’t make this dish, I can guarantee you that it’ll still knock your socks off. Just blow them clear off your feet. That’s the power of mac and cheese and that’s why it has it’s own national holiday. That’s all I’m saying. 

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Breaded Steak Tortas

I grew up eating breaded steak, or bistec empanizado which just means breaded steak, on a regular basis. My mom would make it for dinner pretty regularly. She’d also make this same cut of meat without breading it and would cook it in a tomato sauce with lots of fresh tomatoes and sliced onions. I liked that one too, but let’s be honest, I’d pick fried breaded steak over anything anytime. I’d be crazy not to. Anyhow, with either dish she would make and serve it with some out of this world white rice, that even now I can’t replicate to save my life, along with freshly boiled black beans. She’d also serve the whole thing with fried green plantains (the starchy kind) and the sweet ones as well, which are just plantains that have ripened. I never liked the sweet ones like my sisters do, so she’d make us both. One of my favorite things she would do (and still does whenever I beg her for it) is take her amazingly delicious fluffy white rice that no one else can make quite like hers and mix it with the black beans that took hours to boil on the stove top. She’s against having them soak the night before so she just boils them on the stove with lots of water, garlic, and bay leaves. It’s amazing. I don’t always have time to cook dry beans so I’m forced to go with canned. Don’t judge me. I’m sure someone out there is slowly shaking their head. It’s not that bad. 

As I was saying though, this white rice and black bean mixture is my entire childhood wrapped in one incredibly easy dish. A lot of Central American countries (even Cuba) have this dish, although everyone calls it something else. My grandparents were from Nicaragua and there they call it gallo pinto. I think in Costa Rica it’s called the same thing. Don’t ask me to translate it because I have no clue what it means or what it refers to. All I know is that it’s delicious and addicting and can be eaten with anything. Next time you have some black beans and white rice leftover, mix the two together. This long rant about my childhood meals was to state that I could get down with breaded steak any day of the week. Especially when bread, cotija cheese and avocado are involved. That’s where this sandwich comes into the picture. Breaded Steak Tortas should be your new go-to sandwich. Torta just means sandwich, although it could also refer to a sweet cake of some sort. Isn’t it funny how one word can refer to different things? I find that funny for some reason. Anyhow, this isn’t cake though, this is a sandwich, and it’s the only way you should be eating your sandwiches, from now on. Don’t deprive yourself, your family or your friends of this glorious meal. You’d be cruel not to make it. 

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Fried Shrimp Po’boy Sliders

I’m currently spending a few weeks in New Orleans, so in honor of such an occasion, I thought I’d share one of my favorites from the city. Fried Shrimp Po’boys…in slider form. Because we all know that sliders are always 100 times better than their original counterparts. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. In a city that is so rich with delicious cuisine, though, it seemed only right that I should mark the occasion with food. I find myself making food be the solution to everything. I think this is the only way to go. I’ve eaten at a few po’boy places in Nola while I’ve been down there, and although I’ve had some great sandwiches in each, the best to me is still Johnny’s in the French Quarter (I’m sure some people will yell at me and tell me I’m wrong). I’m no New Orleans expert and perhaps it’s a tourist trap, but to me (and my taste buds), it’s one of the best. I also think it’s partly because I first tried it with Julian. He got a catfish po’boy and I ordered the crawfish. We took it to go and then walked to the WWII museum eating our sandwiches along the way, and wishing we had ordered another one to share. Now we can eat as many po’boy sliders as we’d like and not feel guilty about it, because ten of these sliders count as one normal sized sandwich. It’s true. 

I’m no stranger to sliders. Someone even referred to me as “The Slider King” of the world (that someone might’ve been me, but that’s okay). Sliders and I go way back. It’s a love affair that I don’t think will ever go away. And I don’t want it to. Some of my favorites from the site are Pot Roast Sliders, Fried Green Tomato and Shrimp Sliders, and Loaded Baked Potato Sliders, just to name a few. Here’s a hint, if you search for “Sliders” on the site you’ll be able to find many more. That’s free of charge for you because I like you guys so much. Maybe not as much as sliders, but still, you’re up there on my list. 

If you’ve never visited New Orleans before and have always wanted to go, I highly recommend it. I can’t give you guys a trip (I’m not Santa Claus, or Oprah) but I will do the next best thing. I’ll give you the recipe for these po’boy sliders! Whaaat?! Say it ain’t so!! My generosity knows no bounds. Now you can feel like you’re right here with me. That’s pretty awesome. If you really think about it, I’m doing you a favor. You don’t have to pack and travel to the airport and get through security and fly on a plane and then have the best time ever, but all the while knowing you have to go back home inevitably and so you get depressed about it. You don’t have to go through all of that. I’m saving you from it. Instead, you can make a batch of these sliders and bring New Orleans to you. TO YOU! Isn’t that so much better?! I think it is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some more food while I’m here. 

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The Classics: Chili Cheese Dogs

Perhaps you guys can help me settle a long time debate I’ve had with everyone in my family. Actually, with all the strangers I’ve ever come across in my life. I won’t say that I always ask the same question to every single stranger I encounter, because that would make me a weirdo freak, but I also won’t say that I don’t ask the same question. I insist that the hot dog links themselves are called weenies. That’s what I’ve always called them, even when I was a kid. Somehow though, everyone always laughs at me and tells me that they’re actually called hot dogs. We end up getting into a big debate because how else are you supposed to distinguish the weenie and the weenie and bun combination from each other? Weenie is the proper name. I know it. You know it. And it’s about time everyone else knows it. I think you all should leave a comment down below and tell my family how wrong they are. Jonathan knows best. Weenies for life! (End rant).  

Let’s really get down to business now. It’s time for another installment of The Classics. It’s been a while since we’ve talked about classic recipes on here and I think that now is a good time as any. The last time around I was tempting you with a Yellow Cake covered in chocolate buttercream frosting. A real childhood favorite of mine. I’ve been doing this classic series for a while now and just in case you don’t remember some of the other recipes, I’ll happy to refresh your memory. That’s what I’m here for. We kicked things off in the first installment with Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The fried chicken of your dreams. We then moved on to some of America’s favorites like Cinnamon Rolls, Apple Pie, and Bacon Cheeseburgers. Click on the links and experience them for yourself.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you at this very moment is that you really need to be putting chili and cheese on top of everything this summer. Everything. Don’t you dare let the season end without making a big pot of chili at least once. If you make it more than once, you’ll be my new best friend, though.  I know what you must be thinking, “Jonathan, it’s so hot during the summer! Why should we make a big pot of steaming hot chili, slaving away in the kitchen over a hot stove stirring chili all day long?! That’s madness!” Well, when you put it that way it does sound a little kooky, but come on people…it’s chili! Chili never needs an explanation. I shouldn’t have to force you to make chili. That’s blasphemous. Just in case you weren’t convinced enough though, I decided that hot dogs topped with chili and lots of shredded cheese needed to be involved. They’re invited to the party and they want you to celebrate with them. Are you going to leave them hanging? These chili cheese dogs are calling out your name. I think you better answer. It’s the only way to celebrate the summer. Trust me. 

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