Bean Pot Chili

No two chili recipes are the same. Just about everyone who makes this cool-weather favorite likes to put their own spin on it. And some of those are adamant about what chili can and cannot contain.

There are some who use beans, while others abhor the addition. Whether to use tomatoes is another bone of contention among chili aficionados. And there are those like me who love their chili hot and spicy. My specialty is something called 10-alarm chili because it contains at least 10 kinds of peppers.

I like to look at other people’s chili recipes, such as the following that was posted by a Facebook friend, Pam Butala. The rather simple creation takes little time to put together and is made in a bean pot.

Bean Pot Chili
1 pound ground burger
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14½-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14½-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 14½-ounce can chili beans
¼ cup chili powder
Cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and oregano to taste
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Brown burger and sausage with onion and celery. Put in bean pot and add remaining ingredients. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 3 to 4 hours. Top with sour cream and shredded cheese.

Apple Caramel Cake

Church suppers and bazaars are a sure sign of fall. Another is the offer many of us receive for free, home-grown apples, which are abundant this time of the year.

And if you’re the lucky recipient of some Haralsons, Haralreds, Honey Crisps or the like, you’re no doubt looking for your favorite recipe for apple crisp or pie.

Or maybe it’s your recipe for an apple cake, such as the following that’s drizzled with caramel sauce.

Apple Caramel Cake
2 eggs
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup canola oil
2 cups applesauce or grated apples
1½ cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon each: baking soda, cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼  teaspoon each: ground cloves, salt
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted, see note
½ cup store-bought caramel sauce
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray or line muffin tin with paper liners. Combine eggs, brown sugar and oil in bowl; beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Stir in the applesauce; set aside.
Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in a large bowl. Add to the egg mixture; beat on low speed just until mixed. Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan (for cupcakes, fill cups three-quarters full).
Bake until tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes for cake, 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes. Cool 5 minutes on rack before turning cake out of pan.
Gently pierce cake with a fork about 1-inch deep all over surface of cake. Heat caramel sauce in microwave until warm, 20 seconds; drizzle over top of cake.
Note: To toast walnuts, heat, stirring, in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Yield: Serves 14.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 260 calories, 41 percent of calories from fat, 12 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 35 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 188 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

As any gardener knows, it won’t be long before it’s time to dig carrots. I like to hold off until we’ve had a hard frost before taking my out of the ground. It’s my contention and that of many others that waiting until the temperature dips well below freezing sweetens the orange beauties.

Well, actually, I already have pulled a few. I sliced some of them in a bean and pasta soup and grated a few more for a meat sauce that we like to put over spaghetti. Both the soup and sauce were quite tasty.

But the rest went into something that by far was one of the best-tasting desserts I’ve ever eaten — a carrot cake that was  topped with a cream cheese frosting.

The recipe came from the “Heavenly Recipes” cookbook put out by Calvary Lutheran Church of Grand Forks in 2000. It’s just one of several recipes that we’ve tried in the cookbook, which was given to me by Marilyn Hagerty, former features editor at the Herald, current columnist and member of the Calvary congregation, who helped with the publication.

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Fran Paulson, Becky Bryson and Ellen Loing, which I’m sure will become a family favorite by any who tries it.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla
3 cups shredded carrots
½ cup raisins (optional)
Cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together; add to mixture. Add vanilla, carrots, nuts and raisins, if using. Mix well. Pour into greased 9-by-13-inch greased pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes at 325 degrees. When cool, spread Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows) over cake. Serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 3-ounce package cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream cheese and butter. Add sugar gradually. Add vanilla and beat until smooth. Spread on cake.

Breakfast Burritos — And More

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of a good breakfast. And it’s even more important for kids to have a substantial meal before they head off to school.

The advantages of starting the day with a good meal are well-documented. Among other things, it helps improve brain function and competition as well as aiding in weight loss for those who so desire.

My parents knew importance of a good breakfast when I was a kid. My brothers and I always started our school day off with a fried egg, two pieces of toast and a glass of tomato juice. My dad usually fixed breakfast for us before he went to work, while Mom was busy packing lunches or getting our clothes lined up.

Nowadays, kids and parents are constantly on the go, so breakfast often gets lost in the shuffle. But it shouldn’t be. Here are some quick recipes for those on the go that should have some appeal to the younger generation.

Healthy Breakfast Burrito
1 whole-grain tortilla
1 egg, scrambled
½ cup fresh spinach
¼ cup cooked brown rice
½ cup black or pinto beans
1 ounce shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Heat tortilla over an open flame or in the microwave so it is easy to fold. Roll up the egg, spinach, rice, beans and cheese in the tortilla. (Leftover cooked meats and vegetables can also be added, if you wish.) Wrap in wax paper, then heat in microwave before leaving the house.
Yield: Serves 1.

Sausage and Egg Muffins
16 slices wheat bread, crusts trimmed
¼ cup butter, melted
16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
½ pound sausage meat, cooked and drained
7 eggs
3 cups milk
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 chopped scallions (optional)
1 chopped red bell pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tins. Use a rolling pin to roll and flatten the bread slices. Cut into squares or use a pastry cutter to cut circles. Brush the bread slices with butter and use them to line muffin cups, pressing lightly to form a crust.
Set aside ½ cup cheese. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and the crumbled sausage in each bread-lined cup.
Whisk the eggs, milk, onion powder and mustard together. Pour the egg mixture into the cups. Add scallions and red peppers, if using. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Cool completely, then store the muffins in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to use. Microwave them, and you’re out the door.
Yield: Serves 16.
Note: These can be made the weekend ahead and refrigerated.

Metal-Head Oatmeal for Rocker Teens
1 cup Irish steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk or half and half
Toppings of your choice

Grease the bowl of your slow cooker with butter. Add all ingredients and stir well. Cover and set slow cooker to low. Cook for 8-9 hours. In the morning, stir contents of the slow cooker well; season with butter and brown sugar if needed. Spoon into to-go cups and top with dried fruit, toasted nuts, brown sugar and milk (optional).
Yield: Serves 2 to 4.

A Go-Go Cone Breakfast
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup milk
Preheat waffle iron.
Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Whisk eggs and sugar until light in color, 1 minute. Add dry ingredients. Add butter and milk; stir just until combined.
Spoon a scant ¼ cup batter onto waffle iron. Spread batter evenly over surface. Close lid; cook until golden.
Quickly remove the waffle, shape it around the cone form and hold for a few seconds to set. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Note: You’ll need a round waffle iron and wooden cone form. Make these ahead of time and store them in an air-tight container. Fill with scrambled eggs or fresh fruit for on-the-go fare.

Belgian Waffle Slides
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1¾ cups milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in large bowl with hand beater until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients, beating just until smooth. (Batter can be made ahead, but make sure you stir before using.)
Spray preheated waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown.
Fill little waffles with a variety of your favorite healthy spreads, such as bananas and peanut butter, chocolate-hazelnut spread and fresh fruit. Top with second waffle and serve.
Note: This batter keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week. Or you can make the waffles ahead and freeze them. Adding a little cinnamon and nutmeg is delicious, too.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of a good breakfast. And it’s even more important for kids.

The advantages of starting the day with a good meal are well-documented. Among other things, it helps improve brain function and competition as well as aiding in weight loss for those who so desire.

My parents knew importance of a good breakfast when I was a kid. My brothers and I always started our school day off with a fried egg, two pieces of toast and a glass of tomato juice. My dad usually fixed it for us before he went to work, while Mom was busy packing lunches or getting our clothes lined up.

Nowadays, kids and parents are constantly on the go, so breakfast often gets lost in the shuffle. But it shouldn’t be. Here are some quick recipes for those on the go that should have some appeal to the younger generation.

Healthy Breakfast Burrito
1 whole-grain tortilla
1 egg, scrambled
½ cup fresh spinach
¼ cup cooked brown rice
½ cup black or pinto beans
1 ounce shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Heat tortilla over an open flame or in the microwave so it is easy to fold. Roll up the egg, spinach, rice, beans and cheese in the tortilla. (Leftover cooked meats and vegetables can also be added, if you wish.) Wrap in wax paper, then heat in microwave before leaving the house.
Yield: Serves 1.

Sausage and Egg Muffins
16 slices wheat bread, crusts trimmed
¼ cup butter, melted
16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
½ pound sausage meat, cooked and drained
7 eggs
3 cups milk
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 chopped scallions (optional)
1 chopped red bell pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tins. Use a rolling pin to roll and flatten the bread slices. Cut into squares or use a pastry cutter to cut circles. Brush the bread slices with butter and use them to line muffin cups, pressing lightly to form a crust.
Set aside ½ cup cheese. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and the crumbled sausage in each bread-lined cup.
Whisk the eggs, milk, onion powder and mustard together. Pour the egg mixture into the cups. Add scallions and red peppers, if using. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Cool completely, then store the muffins in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to use. Microwave them, and you’re out the door.
Yield: Serves 16.
Note: These can be made the weekend ahead and refrigerated.

Metal-Head Oatmeal for Rocker Teens
1 cup Irish steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk or half and half
Toppings of your choice

Grease the bowl of your slow cooker with butter. Add all ingredients and stir well. Cover and set slow cooker to low. Cook for 8-9 hours. In the morning, stir contents of the slow cooker well; season with butter and brown sugar if needed. Spoon into to-go cups and top with dried fruit, toasted nuts, brown sugar and milk (optional).
Yield: Serves 2 to 4.

A Go-Go Cone Breakfast
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup milk
Preheat waffle iron.
Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Whisk eggs and sugar until light in color, 1 minute. Add dry ingredients. Add butter and milk; stir just until combined.
Spoon a scant ¼ cup batter onto waffle iron. Spread batter evenly over surface. Close lid; cook until golden.
Quickly remove the waffle, shape it around the cone form and hold for a few seconds to set. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Note: You’ll need a round waffle iron and wooden cone form. Make these ahead of time and store them in an air-tight container. Fill with scrambled eggs or fresh fruit for on-the-go fare.

Belgian Waffle Slides
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1¾ cups milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in large bowl with hand beater until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients, beating just until smooth. (Batter can be made ahead, but make sure you stir before using.)
Spray preheated waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown.
Fill little waffles with a variety of your favorite healthy spreads, such as bananas and peanut butter, chocolate-hazelnut spread and fresh fruit. Top with second waffle and serve.
Note: This batter keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week. Or you can make the waffles ahead and freeze them. Adding a little cinnamon and nutmeg is delicious, too.

Slow-Cooker Pork Chops

One of the late radio TV personality Art Linkletter’s favorite quotes was, “Kids say the darnest things.” In fact, that was the name of a segment of his popular “House Party” show, which ran in the afternoons on CBS in the 1950s and ’60s.

I was reminded of that the other day when a friend of mine, Pete Hougum of Grand Forks, shared a recipe and an anecdote with me.

Pete, who exercises at the gym where I work out, told me about a slow-cooker dish he prepared that contained pork, potatoes, chops, sauerkraut and apples. The recipes sounded pretty good to me, and I shared with Pete that three of the ingredients would be the topic of a “Terrific Trio” column in an upcoming Herald Food page column.

Pete said he was baby-sitting his 3-year-old grandson the day he combined the pork, sauerkraut and apples. His grandson, Landon, was going around the kitchen sniffing and said, “I smell poop.” Of course, that made me laugh aloud, and it reminded me of the kids’ feature on “House Party.”

The next day, Pete said he was digging carrots in his garden and that his grandson’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the vegetables coming out of the ground. When Pete asked Landon  where he thought the carrots came from, it elicited another quote worthy of the Linkletter show — “The puppies did it.”

After Pete told me about the aforementioned recipe, I decided that it would worth trying, since we had three pork chops in the freezer that needed to be used. Plus, I really like sauerkraut, potatoes and apples.

I’ve made a few additions to recipe — a can of cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup, a little fresh cabbage, some sauerkraut and a small onion.
Slow-Cooker Pork Chops
4 center-cut pork chops, fat removed
1 small onion, diced
1 10¾-ounce can cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 quart sauerkraut
4 small potatoes
3 apples, cored, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all of the ingredients in slow cooker and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or until meat and potatoes are fork-tender.
Yield: Serves 4.

Four-Cheese Baked Penne

Cheese and pasta is a combination that’s hard to beat. It’s hearty, comforting and delicious. Many of us grew up with it. The lucky ones had a mom who made it from scratch, while others had to rely on store-bought mixes such as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

I’m still a big fan, so whenever a recipe comes to my attention that features the two, my tastes buds begin to perk up.

Just recently, I came across a tasty-looking recipe in the August-September issue of Taste of Home magazine that contains four kinds of cheese and penne pasta. And with my experiences with Taste of Home recipes being generally quite positive, I’ve decided to give it a try.

And I won’t have to convince my visiting grandson to dig in, either, since he’s as big a fan of mac and cheese, just like most other kids.

Four-Cheese Baked Penne
4 cups uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon pepper
1½ cups (12 ounces) 2 percent cottage cheese
1¼ cups (5 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook penne according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, oregano, rosemary, pepper flakes and pepper. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat; cool for 15 minutes.
Drain penne; add to sauce. Stir in the cottage cheese, ½ cup mozzarella and all of the ricotta. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella.
Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 523 calories, 12 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 37 milligrams cholesterol, 682 milligrams sodium, 72 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 32 grams protein.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Things have changed a lot since I was a kid. And one of the biggest changes has been people’s eating habits.

We probably didn’t have too many meals in which meat wasn’t the star when I was growing up, unless it was a Friday, and on those days, there’s a good chance fish took center stage.

But in these health-conscious times, we rarely have red meat more than once a week, and in some cases, that’s not even the case, since we eat a lot of fowl (chicken and pheasant) as well as fish (both fresh-water and from the ocean).

In fact, some of my favorite meals have been meatless. Consider the lasagna I prepared today. Some people wouldn’t even think twice about a vegetarian version of this Italian favorite, but I believe the recipe that we just sampled was the best lasagna ever to tickle my taste buds.

Probably what made the dish so appealing and delicious in my view was the fact that a good portion of the ingredients were from my garden. The Roasted Vegetable Lasagna contained eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini that I grew as well as parsley from our herb garden.

The only thing that I would remotely resemble a minus was that it’s not the kind of dish you can have on the table in less than 30 minutes. But considering the outcome, that’s something I can accept.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
3 cups sliced zucchini
3 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cups eggplant, peeled and quartered
2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
8 cups plum or Roma tomatoes, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 15-ounce container low-fat ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Nonstick cooking spray
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have ready 2 large sided baking sheets, such as a jelly roll pan.
On one baking sheet place the zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant and red peppers. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons oregano, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and toss to coat.
On the other baking sheet, toss the tomato wedges with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, remaining 1 teaspoon oregano, fennel seed, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and red pepper flakes.
Place both in the oven and roast uncovered for 15 minutes. Turn the vegetables over and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove roasted vegetables and roasted tomatoes from oven.
Carefully place the tomatoes and all pan juices in a bowl and add the sugar and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Mash the tomatoes to create a sauce.
In a medium-sized bowl combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, parsley and remaining ¼ teaspoon black pepper; set aside.
Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. To begin layering the lasagna, place about 1/3 cup of tomato sauce in the baking dish, spreading to cover the bottom of the dish. Top with 3 noodles, half the ricotta cheese mixture, half the roasted vegetable mixture and ¼ cup of the tomato sauce. Begin again with 3 noodles, remaining cheese mixture, remaining roasted vegetables and remaining 3 noodles. Top noodles with remaining tomato sauce and a ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Bake lasagna uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes or until edges are bubbly and the cheese topping is golden brown.
Yield: Serves 10.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 277 calories, 42 percent of calories from fat, 13 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 26 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 369 milligrams sodium, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 284 milligrams calcium, 4 grams fiber.

Fiesta Salad

I’ve been a fan of taco salads ever since my first one sometime in the mid-1970s in the old Palace Restaurant in downtown Grand Forks. I was enamored by the hearty salad that came inside a baked taco shell and was served with a generous portion of hot sauce.

I still have a taco salad every once in a while when we go out to eat but generally opt for something a little lighter. And now, I have the option of having one a home.

That’s because Therese gave me two large tortilla shell baking bowls (courtesy of Avon) for our anniversary. The directions for the “perfectly baked shells” says they can be made in less than 10 minutes and after a short cooking-off period are ready to be filled with your favorite cooked meat and vegetables.

I’ve been looking for a good recipe to try with my new bowls and came across the following that turns the fast-food staple into something slimmer and trimmer.

Fiesta Salad
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
8 cups torn lettuce leaves (or 1 11-ounce package prepared salad greens)
2 cups torn spinach leaves
1 large carrot, shredded
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 14-ounce package frozen Southwest blend of corn, black beans, poblano chilies, roasted red pepper and onion, thawed and drained
½ cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup baked tortilla chips or corn chips, coarsely crushed
½ cup fat-free ranch dressing
¼ cup salsa
Place chicken breasts in 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spray each side with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Combine salt, pepper and chili powder, and sprinkle over both sides of chicken. Bake at 425 degrees 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Set aside to cool slightly. Toss together lettuce, spinach, carrot, tomatoes and Southwest blend in large salad bowl. Cut chicken into thin strips and arrange over salad. Top with cheese and tortilla chips.
For dressing, blend ranch dressing and salsa and serve with salad.
Option: Put salad together inside taco or tortilla bowl and top with cheese and salsa or your favorite dressing.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 286 calories, 10 percent of calories from fat, 3 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 46 milligrams cholesterol, 39 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 672 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Pesto on Ciabatta

There’s a big difference between fresh herbs and dried ones. Dried herbs are convenient and are good for dishes that require longer cooking times. But they generally don’t have the same purity of flavor as fresh herbs, which is what you want if you’re making pesto.

The key ingredient in pesto is fresh basil, although you can make it with other herbs such as parsley. I generally like to plant some basil in my garden each spring, but this year, it somehow slipped my mind.

Luckily, a friend of mine, Pete Hougum of Grand Forks, had a bumper crop of basil and gave me a large bag of it recently. While a lot of people like to use fresh basil with tomatoes and mozzarella in a Caprese salad, my preference is pesto.

So, you can guess what I did with the basil Pete gave me. I made a two batches of pesto, one with pine nuts and the other with walnuts. Both are quite tasty, especially when spread on a piece of crusty bread such as sourdough (pesto recipe follows).

And for those of you who prefer your basil on a sandwich with tomatoes and mozzarella, here’s a recipe that looks quite satisfying.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Pesto on Ciabatta
4 slices ciabatta
4 tablespoons prepared pesto (recipe follows)
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 tomato, thinly sliced
2 leaves red leaf lettuce
Spread each slice of bread with 1 tablespoon of the pesto.
Top 2 of the bread slices with mozzarella, tomato and lettuce. Cover sandwich with remaining two slices. For the lunch bag, wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per sandwich: 495 calories, 53 percent of calories from fat, 29 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 55 milligrams cholesterol, 675 milligrams sodium, 36 grams carbohydrate, 22 grams protein, 3.4 grams fiber.

Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until leaves are chopped finely.

Marinated Skirt Steak Sandwich

A lot of grills get put away with the passage of Labor Day. But there are many people who refuse to hang up their spatulas, tongs and grilling forks until the first snowfall. And then, there are those grill year-round.

Well, hopefully, we’re a at least a month or so away from the first snow of the year, although an old friend, Steve Foss, reported there were flakes in the air today (Sept. 14) up in Ely, Minn. He said there even was a little accumulation on his boat cover.

That aside, here’s a recipe for a grilled steak sandwich that caught my eye today, courtesy of McClatchy Tribune Information Services.

Marinated Skirt Steak Sandwiches
MARINADE:
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
¾ cup olive oil
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1½ teaspoons minced shallots
MEAT:
1 skirt steak (about 2½ pounds)
1 loaf French bread, lightly grilled
Mixed greens
Grilled red onions (optional)
Cheese slices (optional)
Tomato slices (optional)
In a glass measuring cup, combine all the marinade ingredients. Place the skirt steak in a glass baking dish or plastic sealable bag. Pour the marinade over. Cover dish or seal bag. Marinate no more than 3 hours.
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates.
Remove the skirt steak from the marinade and wipe off the marinade.
Grill the steak about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until medium-rare or no more than medium. Brush the inside of the bread with some olive oil and grill until just lightly browned. If grilling the red onions, put them on the grill before the steak and grill about 5 minutes on each side. Place some mixed greens on the bottom of the bread and place the whole grilled skirt steak on top. Scatter some grilled onions, cheese and tomato slices on it.
Cut the loaf into individual sandwiches and serve.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 343 calories, 36 percent of calories from fat, 14 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 24 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 353 milligrams sodium, 50 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.