two easy summer staples

GUESS WHAT?

Yesterday was my 4 year Spill the Beans Blog-iversary. Can you believe it? That means you must have wasted hours of your life reading my words over the last four years.

It’s been a really fun thing for me to do, and I definitely think it has forced me to get a little creative in the kitchen. I still have days (yesterday) where I go to the grocery store and feel completely uninspired and end up making buffalo chicken salad for dinner. Crowd pleaser, 100% of the time.

But other days I get all excited about creating something new, taking mediocre photos with my iPhone, and sharing it with you along with some anecdote about my largely unexciting life. It’s all very glamorous.

Speaking of glamorous, tomorrow I get to go to Tulsa. The Paris of Oklahoma! (Name that reference.) (Hint: I only ever reference one TV show).

I’m only going for two days, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’m also really tempted right now to make some sort of segue between going to the panhandle state and using a pan in the kitchen…

But I won’t.

What I will tell you is that Kelly and Aaron and I have had family dinner for the last 5 nights in a row! This is a record. We invited Ethan for the last 3 of them, too. This was night 1. Kelly actually cooked on night 2 and may be making an appearance as a guest blogger with that recipe. Stay tuned.

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I came up with this random collection of spices and used it as a dry rub for salmon (above) and pork chops for another night. It’s got a good smoky flavor that works really well on the grill. I didn’t actually measure anything (worst recipe creator ever) but I’ll guesstimate for you here:

1 tbs smoked paprika

1 tbs garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried mustard

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp black pepper

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Of course you can increase these quantities based on how much meat/fish/chicken/tofu you’re grilling. I patted the fish/pork dry, then coated both sides with the dry rub and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before grilling. Worked like a charm.

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The second summer staple is pineapple salsa! You know this is my favorite way to have it, but a quick salsa with your main course always makes things look fancier.

1 pineapple, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tbs cilantro, chopped

juice of 1/2 lime

salt and pepper to taste

I thought about grilling the pineapple on skewers and then chopping it, but didn’t have the patience. I love the look of grill marks, but it definitely makes the pineapple sweeter so I think I would consider adding some diced jalapeno to the mix if you decide to grill it.

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Thanks for sticking with me. Here’s to another four years of my nonsense!

eggplant burrata bruschetta

I saw something very offensive in a grocery store in DC a few weeks ago.

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WHY in the middle of summer is my only option for basil a few old leaves in a plastic container?! I was furious.

This is more like it. A+, Wegmans.

basilI was able to work from home in Camillus last week, and was pleasantly surprised when I returned to Baltimore to find that Kelly had been watering my basil plant for me. Speaking of Kelly…

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Her first bridal shower was this weekend! Three generations of Hale ladies right there. It was really nice, and somehow made the fact that she’s getting married seem very real. More real than when she was trying on wedding dresses? I don’t know why.

Anyway, the bride-to-be had been watering my basil plant, and I knew I wanted to use it for last night’s dinner. The GS and I went to the store in pursuit of other ingredients that go with basil. Otherwise known as, anything.

When you go to the grocery store immediately after reading this post to buy all the ingredients I used and make the exact same thing (that’s how the blogger-reader relationship works, right?), you may be surprised by how pricey burrata is. You’re going to think to yourself, “Wow, she really does have a job now!”

Certain things are worth a splurge. I had it for the first time in Rhode Island over the 4th of July, and fell in love.

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That’s the stuff. I had fresh basil, heavenly cheese, and given that it’s summertime I needed some kind of grilled element. Even though it was 100 bajillion degrees outside yesterday and I didn’t really want to stand next to a grill. That’s what boyfriends are for!

Just kidding!! I went outside to bring him the tongs.

We also grilled chicken thighs with our bruschetta. Bone-in, skin-on. Cheap on the protein, splurge on the dairy.

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Eggplant Burrata Bruschetta

1 eggplant, skin removed and sliced thinly

3 tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped

burrata cheese

baguette

olive oil, salt, pepper

Peel the eggplant and slice lengthwise into about 1/4 inch thick slices. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Chop the tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Once the eggplant has cooled slightly, chop into bite sized pieces. eggplantStir with tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste.

bruschetta

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Brush baguette with butter or olive oil and toast. Spread with a little bit of burrata, and the bruschetta mixture.

I’m leaving later today for California, so I contemplated bringing the leftovers with me on the plane for dinner. I felt confident that whoever was sitting next to me would appreciate both the garlic smell and the mess I would undoubtedly create by assembling my bruschetta in the confines of an airplane seat.

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The GS said this was a bad idea and that maybe I should start using my corporate AmEx to expense my business meals instead of packing my own lunches and dinners because my company is not going to give me an award for being the most frugal employee.

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I think someone just wanted to take the leftovers back to DC.

 

what’s on my kindle, part 3

Another round of Kindle reads! This list took longer than I expected to put together, because I went through a string of not-so-great books. Back in the olden days of hard-copy books, I used to have a 50 page rule. If I wasn’t into it by 50 pages, I put it down. There are too many great books out there to keep reading something you don’t like. With the Kindle, I don’t have a hard and fast “percentage complete” that I go by, but I’m still willing to return something if I don’t like it.

I have to be the ultimate nerd and give you a quote from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry which I thought summed this up quite well:

“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”

This book, by Gabrielle Zevin, was a really cute and unexpected story about a widower who owns a bookstore and ends up adopting a toddler who was abandoned in the store by her mother. It sounds corny but it actually really wasn’t. There’s a few different story lines woven into it, and I really liked it. Quick read.

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Reading The Rosie Project in the Columbia, SC airport.

I’ve been reading a lot while traveling, but I’m also supposed to be studying because I have a big product exam for my job. Said exam is in 45 minutes, and I’m blogging. This feels just like grad school!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Ummm, this book is about exactly what you think it is.  It’s about these ridiculously rich families in Singapore, and while it does have a lot of drama and scandal it’s actually very well researched. Couldn’t put it down. Definitely one of my favorite books on this list.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I absolutely loved this. It was recommended by the GS’ sister, and I’ve had it on hold forever. I had no idea what it was about when I reserved it, but I trust her judgment because we seem to have the same taste in books. It’s written from the perspective of a geneticist in Australia who essentially has undiagnosed Asperger’s and is looking for a wife. It was excellent.

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This was about 7 hours into my 9 hour adventure in O’Hare.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. I actually read this a while ago and forgot to put it in my last Kindle post. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good! Somewhat disturbing subject matter, but it’s really interesting because, as the title implies, the big thing happens in the beginning of the book and then it’s all about putting the pieces together. I really liked it- kind of a borderline Young Adult novel.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. I’ve gushed over Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret before. This wasn’t as good as those two, but still worth reading. I just love her writing style so much, it keeps me hooked. Apparently the person who narrates a lot of her audiobooks is excellent (thank you for the tip, Sheila!) so that’s on my list.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. Can’t get enough of this lady, clearly. I loved this. It’s about triplets. That’s all I can tell you because there are so many plots. I think I loved it even more because I have two sisters and even though we aren’t triplets, I appreciated the sister humor.

My go-to hotel breakfast. A Kindle is the perfect meal companion when you're eating alone.

My go-to hotel breakfast. A Kindle is the perfect meal companion when you’re eating alone.

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This was a book that I was on the waiting list for FOREVER through my library. I liked it. I expected it to be a completely different style, maybe more like All the Light We Cannot See. Maybe just because I was on the waiting list for a long time for that, too. If you read this already and really enjoyed it, I recommend The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. They have very similar vibes.

China Dolls by Lisa See. I think I’ve read all of Lisa See’s books, initally because my high school English teacher recommended Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. All of her books are historical fiction, based on Chinese women in a variety of different eras. Anywhere from 17th century to World War II era. I wouldn’t say her books are couldn’t-put-it-down or particularly fast-paced, but they’re really well written and interesting.

The only time I drink soda is on airplanes, and it has to be ginger ale.

The only time I drink soda is on airplanes, and it has to be ginger ale.

All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue. I wish this book had a different title, because it makes it seem like a beach read for a 13 year old. Which it isn’t. It has a very similar vibe to Elin Hilderbrand and Emily Giffin books, so if you like those authors I would recommend it. She has another book called How to Eat a Cupcake which also sounds like it was written for middle schoolers, but I’ll probably give it a chance.

The Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen. I listened to this audiobook, narrated by Andy Cohen, during my drive from Chicago to Iowa. I don’t even know what to say about this other than I felt less intelligent after listening to it. But I did enjoy all the references to Kelly Ripa because I love her.

Also a few books that I read a while ago but stick out in my mind as things that I always recommend to people…

Looking for Alaska by John Green. He’s most well-known for The Fault in Our Stars, which I listened to on audiobook resulting in somewhat dangerous driving given that I was sobbing through the last hour. However, Looking for Alaska was (I believe) his first book and by far my favorite. I read it when I was in high school and I still tell people all the time to read it so that says something.

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. This just made me laugh. It’s very dry, not-obvious humor and about a bunch of girls who have recently graduated from college. Think HBO’s Girls, but without the aggressive nudity.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. This was my absolute favorite book from the ages of about 11-15. I probably read it almost as many times as Harry Potter. I read it again recently and still loved it. She’s written a bunch of other YA books that I also remember loving.

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. I read this a few years ago and absolutely loved it. It’s about four girls who go to an all-female liberal arts college. Now that I’m typing this I might re-read it… I also loved her book The Engagements.

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson. She’s obviously most well known for Speak, which I also love, but I think I’ve read Catalyst at least 5 times. It’s about a high school overachiever. I wonder why I identified with it so much at the age of 17…

And of course, the Harry Potter series, which I re-read during April and May. Seriously it gets better every time somehow.

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If I were ever going to get a tattoo, I would probably want that quote somewhere on my body. (Don’t worry, Mom, not getting a tattoo.) Speaking of which, my current read is The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I know. You can’t believe I haven’t read it already after this soapbox post. I’m only 3% in and I already know I’m going to love it.

chicken burrito bowl

I’ve done several stupid things recently. When I found out I was going to be working from home, I figured all I would need is a laptop and I could just carry it around the house and work from wherever.

Uhh, not so much. I have so much crap already. And by ‘crap,’ I mean very expensive equipment that caused me to nearly pee myself with excitement when I got it in the mail. #nerdtoys

Because of all the stuff I need, I decided to get myself a desk. I bought one from Ikea, got it home, and wanted to set it up rightthisminute and start getting organized. I texted the GS “I really want to try to carry my desk in by myself, but it’s really heavy and I know I shouldn’t.”

How do we think this played out?

My Body Pump muscles do not outweigh the fact that I am a relatively small female trying to carry a massively heavy and awkwardly shaped box. My foot hit the curb, and I went down. It was really painful both physically and emotionally because there were people outside who saw me fall. A guy came running over and asked if I wanted him to help me carry it in. Given that I was unsure of whether I could even get myself off the sidewalk and in the house, I whimpered a request for him to just put it back in my car.

The scabs on my knees have healed pretty nicely, but I still have massive bruises on both legs. We just spend the weekend with the GS’ family in Rhode Island and I reassured them that he doesn’t beat me, I’m just an idiot.

My next stupid thing was less of a faux pas; I was making banana bread and put too much faith in my pop-top container of flour. I was holding it by the top and it came off and covered me and the floor with flour. These are always the most fun messes to clean. flour The last stupid thing is really small. I forgot to buy an avocado to add to this recipe. That’s the only thing missing here. Learn from my mistake. bowl2 Chicken Burrito Bowl

inspired by Jo Cooks

1 package brown rice

2-3 chicken breasts

2/3 package of taco seasoning

1-2 bell peppers, chopped

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

8 ounces frozen corn

2-3 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1 avocado (you should add it!)

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Monterey Jack)

salt and pepper to taste

Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Toss it with taco seasoning. I am 100% supportive of buying pre-made taco seasoning for 89 cents. If you want to be an over-achiever and make your own, I guess that’s okay. chicken In a large skillet, add a little bit of cooking spray or oil. I recommend vegetable oil here- higher smoke point than olive oil. The smoke detector in our new house is absurdly sensitive. Cook the chicken for 7-8 minutes (depending on the size of your pieces) until browned and cooked through. While the chicken is on, cook the rice. I like the boil-in-bag brown rice, but you can use whatever variety you like. Remove the chicken from the pan. Lower the heat slightly, and add the corn. I used about 8 ounces of frozen kernels. Cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly charred and cooked through. chicken1 Rinse the black beans. Chop up the bell peppers, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, and avocado. beans peppers Toss everything together and top with cheese. Any cheese you like will do- Monterey Jack, cheddar, or even queso fresco if you’re feeling extra authentic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. burrito I made this ahead of time and ate it cold after the gym and it was fantastic. It was also good re-heated, and at room temperature during our road trip up to RI. I love the combination of the cooked and fresh ingredients. And it’s super flavorful and colorful and healthy! Triple threat recipe. bowl1 This was one of my smart decisions.

guest post: tuscan rib-eye steak

I am SO excited to announce that I have a guest blogger on Spill the Beans today. This makes the whole blogging thing feel very legit. My special guest is Jay, whom I have known forever and ever because our families used to vacation together. Actually, we still vacation together, but sometimes Jay is too important to join us.

On one Hilton Head trip many years ago when he and I were probably in 7th and 4th grade, Jay pretended to have a crush on me the entire trip. I think it was for the sole purpose of making me uncomfortable, and he was successful. He also came up with the clever nickname of “T” (short for “tinkle”) for one member of our group who shall remain nameless, who happened to pee in the pool that year.

This is making him sound like an evil adolescent, isn’t it? Not my intention. Jay is the one who let me crash on his couch in Chicago a couple of weeks ago when I was stranded. He’s a badass DEA agent now, with a beautiful apartment and a great kitchen for cooking. Without further ado…

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Hello bloggers, Jay here, of the Hilton Head crew, guest blogging for Erin.  First time blogger so go easy on me.  I’ve heard a lot about this blog from family and friends and the main theme I get is that it is really funny and has a lot of good recipes, so I hope I can add to this and not turn away any dedicated readers.

So for those of you who don’t know me, I was not the best cooker growing up.  My cooking consisted of my yelling “Mom, what’s for dinner” from my couch.   It wasn’t until the parents kicked me out of the house (I’m assuming because the grocery bill was so high) that I started cooking for myself.  So what is the best way to learn how to cook?  Google, the Food Network and calling Mom every Sunday begging her to send recipes.  This recipe I stole from the very beautiful and talented Giada De Laurentiis after watching her show one Sunday morning.  And no, I am not ashamed to say I watch Giada’s cooking show.  I lead a very interesting life out here in Chi-Town.

Tuscan Rib-Eye Steak

  • 18 ounce bone-in rib-eye
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh arugula (thin layer to cover the steak)
  • 4 springs of fresh rosemary
  • 4 springs of fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, used for lemon juice and lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper

Start by marinating the steak the night before you plan to make this dish.  Chop/smash the 2 garlic cloves, cut up 2-3 springs of rosemary and thyme.  Place in a re-sealable bag.  Next coat the rib-eye on both sides with extra virgin olive oil and place inside of the baggie.  Place the bag into the fridge to marinate overnight.

Once the rib-eye had time to sleep in the marinade, just throw it on the grill to your desired liking.  While your steak is cooking it’s time to make the lemon syrup.  In a small bowl, mix in some lemon zest, about a teaspoon of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, a little bit of chopped up rosemary, thyme and top it off with 1/8 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper.  I only used 1 spring of both rosemary and thyme because the steak was marinating in both overnight.  Mix it all together and set aside until the steak is done.

The arugula calls for baby arugula however, this was my first time buying arugula (or anything else that is green) so of course I could not find baby arugula.  I instead brought regular sized arugula and cut it into smaller leafs.  (It was also my first time in Trader Joe’s by myself, I looked like a lost puppy).

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The last thing that needs to be cooked is an egg over easy.  Heat a skillet to about medium heat and add about 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Place the egg on the skillet and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on it and let it cook for about 3 minutes.

At this point your steak should be done and it is time to assemble this masterpiece.  Once the steak is on the plate add your layer of arugula. And sprinkle a little bit of the lemon syrup over the top.  Then carefully add the egg on top of the arugula and top it off with the rest of the lemon syrup.

And there you have it.  Make sure you cut open the yolk when you start eating to get all the flavors in one bite.

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For all you fitness nuts out there who think it is ok to wake up at 5am to workout and only eat paleo, this dish is perfect for you.  Takes about 15-20 minutes to make and I’m pretty sure it’s paleo.  I’m not 100% sure on the paleo but there are no carbs and loads of protein, so you have that going for you, which is nice.

 

Thanks, Jay!!

pear & walnut salad

Of course I post an egg recipe and then go to the store to find that avian flu is wiping out the hen population and causing the price of eggs to skyrocket.

Timing is everything. I also need to share with you this little tip.

omelette

Making an omelette with leftover bean dip and some monterey jack or pepper jack cheese  is a wonderful idea for those overpriced eggs you may have on hand.

Other good things I’ve eaten lately? I had Ethiopian food for the first time in Atlanta.

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injeraThat would be tilapia with spicy red lentils, which I ate with a fork like a real novice. I did try the injera (picture above) which is the traditional spongy sourdough like bread that they basically use as a utensil. It was good! Not something you would eat plain like how I could house an entire loaf of actual sourdough bread straight up, but an interesting taste.

When the GS’ mom visited DC, we went to G by Mike Isabella (of Top Chef). It’s a sandwich place during the lunch hour and then they have a larger dining room with a dinner menu. Although I am 100% Team Blais, I had a damn good chicken salad sandwich and the house chips were top notch.

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The GS and I also went out for our 3 year anniversary a few weeks ago, and we got this pear and walnut salad that was inexplicably awesome. I tried to re-create it here to the best of my ability.

Pear & Walnut Salad

2 cups arugula

1 bunch frisee

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

3 ounces goat cheese

2 pears, peeled and sliced

balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper

Rinse the arugula and frisee. We learned in our French cooking class that you’re only supposed to eat the white and light green parts of frisee. Opposite of what I would have guessed. Chop off the dark green ends, and toss the rest with the arugula.

In the salad we ordered, the pears were cooked or caramelized or transformed in some way to be really super sweet. This was the original plan, but we happened to get two perfectly ripe pears so I couldn’t cook them. If you get some that are a little iffy, toss them on the stove in a little butter and sugar and let me know how it turns out.

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Toast the walnuts on the stove or in the oven for a few minutes until fragrant. Crumble the goat cheese.

Mix it all together. I tossed ours with some balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can use whatever dressing you want here, but I would recommend something light. Maybe even sub out the balsamic for lemon juice. I was trying to mimic what we had at the restaurant.

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That sweet and salty combo gets me almost as much as the granite in my new kitchen. Okay, Kelly and Aaron’s new kitchen. We ate this salad with filet mignon! Obviously, it was on sale. I made the salad while the GS cooked the steaks. He likes his steak very rare. I told him I thought mine might still be alive.

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Perhaps I need to refine my palate for red meat, but girl knows how to make a salad that involves no cooking.

 

slow scrambled egg sandwich

Today I’m writing from Atlanta! HOT-Lanta!

Actually I haven’t been outside yet today and it’s freezing in my hotel room, but it was hot yesterday.

I had a somewhat uneventful trip down here, which was a welcome change from my travel experience to Iowa last week. We left Baltimore late, so I missed my connecting flight in Chicago by less than 10 minutes. No big deal, they got me on the next flight out a few hours later. Or so I thought.

That next flight got further and further delayed until, after sitting in O’Hare for over 9 hours, they cancelled it.

At this point, all the hotels within a 50 mile radius were booked. Unless I wanted to do one of those secret hotel bookings where they don’t tell you where you’re staying until after you put down your credit card info. No thank you. Thankfully, my buddy Jay of the Hilton Head crew lives in Chicago, so I imposed upon him for the night. The next morning I got up and rented a car and drove the 5 hours to Newton, Iowa.

Iowa is pretty much exactly what you would expect. Farms. Highways. My food options were VERY limited- think a Pizza Hut and Arby’s. I found a deli and waited 25 minutes for them to make me a sandwich. I’m a relatively impatient person even when I have nowhere to be, so it should come as no surprise that I didn’t fit in well in this slow moving town. My trainer took me to a cafe that was actually really cute and had good food, but of course they were only open from 11-2. What?!

Anyway, I survived and got back to Baltimore. I’ve been dreaming about this sandwich since I had it on my last day in Rochester from Village Bakery, and decided to recreate it for you.

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Slow Scrambled Egg Sandwich (makes 4 sandwiches)

for the pesto

about 1/2 cup basil leaves

about 1/4 cup toasted walnuts

about 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2-3 cloves garlic

3-4 tbs olive oil

for the sandwich

12 eggs (4 whole eggs, 8 egg whites)

1 cup arugula

4 ounces goat cheese

8 slices of bread (I used 12 grain)

Combine the basil, walnuts, cheese, and garlic in a food processor. You can use any nuts here- obviously pine nuts are the traditional pesto choice- but make sure to toast them first! While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until you get to the desired consistency.

My egg ratio is usually 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, but you can mix and match whatever you like. I added a little bit of milk to my egg mixture, and scrambled them in butter over very low heat. You want to keep moving them around the pan as they cook super super slowly. It makes them special.

Butter two slices of bread. On one of the non-buttered sides, spread your pesto. Top with crumbled goat cheese, and then some arugula. Place the scrambled eggs on top, and season with salt and pepper. Top with your other bread slice, then toast on the stove until both sides are lovely and brown.

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I ate this for dinner after a double workout and it really hit the spot. Obviously, it’s more traditional as a breakfast food. But eat it whenever you’re craving it!

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You would think goat cheese and eggs and pesto would be a weird combination, but it just isn’t. Try it!

sandwich3Just in case you’re thinking I have man hands, those aren’t mine.