Asparagus-Spinach Pesto Pasta with Blackened Shrimp

I probably should have poured a nice stiff drink recipe for you all on this loveliest of lovely tax days. Especially for my fellow small business owners who just gave half of their revenue back to the government. Good grief, I won’t even go there.

Instead though, I thought I’d offer my idea of a more comforting alternative.

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Green Detox Smoothie

Oh my goodness, it feels so good to be home.

My time in Europe these past few weeks was such a gift, and filled to the brim with so many wonderful memories with friends. But between the six-course meals each night on the Mediterranean cruise, paella in Spain, and pub food galore with friends all over England, I think it’s safe to say that I probably ate more carbs (and specifically, potatoes!) in the past month than ever before!

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Spinach Artichoke Chicken Pizza

Calling all of you spinach artichoke dip lovers!

Allow me to introduce you to one of my new favorites — Spinach Artichoke & Chicken Pizza! Actually, the chicken is optional, but the spinach and artichokes are a must. This one turned out to be fantastic!

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Minestrone Soup

When I was a kid, our extended family used to love meeting up for big dinners regularly at our neighborhood Italian restaurant, DeFazio’s. Everyone would order these huge steaming plates of delicious pastas, salads, sides and more. And Yours Truly would order…”plain spaghetti”. Oh yes. I was the token picky eater in the family. And no thank you, I did not want to “just try it”. ;)

Luckily, though, everyone at DeFazio’s always received a steaming bowl of minestrone soup as an appetizer. And over the years, I began to grow more and more fond of this yummy pasta soup, even though I would have had a small heart attack at age 10 if anyone had told me that there was zucchini snuck in there!

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White Bean, Spinach & Pesto Soup

Here it is, friends — the best 8-minute soup I’ve ever made! :)

Made this for the first time a few weeks ago on a night when I was randomly craving soup (yes, in the middle of July!). I happened to be in a hurry that evening, but was craving something different from my usual go-to favorite for a quick soup dinner. So since I always make it a point to have pesto in my freezer (always freeze multiple batches each summer!), I decided to experiment with a recipe I vaguely remembered having seen online for pesto white bean soup. Began with simple chicken broth, beans and pesto. Then also tossed in some fresh spinach I had in the fridge, some extra fresh Parmesan, and voila!

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Chicken, Spinach and Almond Pasta Bake

A few weeks ago, a friend and I signed up to provide the main dish for a neighborhood dinner through my church. And thanks to a little…um…procrastination, didn’t really get around to fully planning a recipe until about two hours beforehand. Oops! So when short on time and budget (cooking for ten), we turned to….pasta!!!

I’d remembered seeing this recipe from Heidi at 101 cookbooks awhile back, intrigued by the addition of toasted almonds on top. So we ended up improvising something similar – making a chicken version as well as a vegetarian option – and they were a hit! We had many recipe requests, and people even took the leftovers home. I’d say that’s a good sign!

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Pomegranate Salad With Honey-Cider Vinaigrette

Ok, so I wasn’t really planning to add this impromptu little salad to the blog. (And thus, my apologies for the lack of prep photos.) But holy cow — it was too delicious not to share!

So allow me to introduce to you my new favorite autumn salad. It’s simple, full of great texture and flavor, and super-quick to prepare (literally took me 5 minutes!). But the best part is that it features three of my absolute favorite fall ingredients — pomegranates, apple cider, and candied walnuts. YUM!!!

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Spinach, Feta & Pine Nut Pizza

This summer, I’ve had a ridiculously fun time experimenting with my, not one, but two fantastic new kitchen appliances! The first, being my new ice-cream machine (which is currently being rewired after my puppy, Henry, decided the cord looked like a yummy afternoon snack last week!). And the second — my new (hand-me-down) bread machine!! Yes, I realize I’m about a decade late entering the craze, and know that most of the world has probably now resigned theirs to the basement or (gasp!) a garage sale. But I don’t care — I’ve unabashedly joined the fan club and will brag any day on my little machine-that-could. :)

Of all its fantastic functions, I’d have to say one of my favorites is the “dough” setting. It’s truly remarkable! From recipes for breads, to cinnamon rolls, to (yes!) pizza crusts, I simply toss in the ingredients and press “start”, and 2 hours later a perfect ball of dough emerges mixed, kneaded, and turned to perfection. No need for bread-babysitting — love it!

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