Cilantro Walnut Pesto

So remember that pesto I mentioned in last week’s Sunday food prep? Well, here you go!

cilantro and walnut pesto |

I actually didn’t plan on making pesto as part of my weekly food prep. Frankly I didn’t plan on making pesto at all, but I did have a huge bunch of cilantro in my fridge that I needed to use. I couldn’t even remember why I had cilantro in my fridge – I only buy it for specific recipes, and nothing I made that week called for it…so I improvised.

cilantro and walnut pesto |

I originally wanted to make something similar to my dairy free sun dried tomato basil pesto, subbing cilantro for the basil, but as it turned out I also didn’t have any pine nuts on hand. I did, however, have an excessive amount of chopped walnuts in my pantry, so I went with it. I kept the rest of the recipe pretty simple, using chopped garlic, lemon juice, a hint of cayenne pepper, and olive oil. I have to confess I didn’t even realize regular pesto contains cheese, so the few times I’ve made my own I don’t even bother. And even though I’m a complete cheese addict, I think I actually prefer pesto without the cheese. Is that sacrilege?

cilantro and walnut pesto |

Another thing I don’t really like about traditional pesto is that it can be pretty thin, so I used less olive oil to make my pesto a little thicker. This came out close to a paste, which I loved – especially on grilled chicken breasts. Be forewarned: if you’re not a fan of garlic don’t use as much as I did! I adore garlic – I think it’s safe to say I don’t have to worry about a vampire attacking me ever – and fortunately for me my husband likes it as well (albeit not as much as I do) and doesn’t mind when his wife goes to bed smelling like a stinking rose. All joking aside, this pesto turned out surprisingly well and I didn’t think it had an overwhelming cilantro flavor, so if you’re not a fan of cilantro you should try this anyway! It doesn’t have the same flavor as basil pesto but unless you’re planning on eating this straight out of the jar with  spoon, I couldn’t tell a huge difference. Eat up!

Cilantro Walnut Pesto

yields: approximately one cup


1 and 1/2 cups cilantro, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

juice of one half lemon

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/2 to 1/4 cup olive oil (more or less depending on the consistency you prefer)

cayenne pepper to taste


Pretty simple. In a food processor or blender, toss in all ingredients except the oil and pulse until combined well. With the processor still running, slowly add the oil, scraping down the sides as necessary, until you have the consistency you want. Done!

cilantro and walnut pesto |

This pairs really well with chicken, but try it on crackers or eggplant rounds, toss it with some pasta or zoodles, or simply eat with sliced veggies. Experiment with it!

Staycation Weekend – February 2014

Hello and Happy Tuesday! So because Kevin had to work last weekend we decided to celebrate Valentines Day and our six month anniversary a week later! Since we’re on a bit of a budget we decided to stay in the area instead of truly “going away” for the weekend. Originally I wanted to stay in a little boutique hotel in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, but then I found a special deal on a hotel in the Dulles area for – are you ready for this? — $56 per night. And this wasn’t just any hotel on sale – this was the hotel that Kevin and I usually stayed at on our layovers in DC when we were in between overseas for work – so it holds some sentimental value. For those who are interested, we stayed at the Hyatt Place Dulles-Herndon East. (For the record, there is also a Hyatt Place Dulles North and Dulles South, but no West. Interesting.) Anyway – this hotel is a complete gem for the price (Usually the cost is typically around $89 or $99 per night). Not only does it includes a hot breakfast, which is a huge bonus for me seeing how much I love food, but it also boasts 24 hour room service, a bar, an indoor pool – (huge in Virginia in February), and a fitness center. Not to mention each room has a separate sort of sitting area which includes a sofa bed, so it’s a total win. The hotel is about a 45 minute drive to downtown DC, so if you’re ever in the area and looking for a deal – I highly recommend it!

hyatt place dulles herndon east

We didn’t really have a plan for our weekend, so after some deliberation and online searching we ended up driving in to DC to check out Union Market DC. Union Market is an artisan market in Capitol City and has a bunch of adorable artisan stands. Parking in the area is free and we scored a spot right outside the building – woohoo! Once inside we did a lap to check out the shops and ended up at the Red Apron Butcher for lunch and beer.

red apron butcher union market

It only just occurred to me that I didn’t take any pictures of the beer or the sandwiches we got, but suffice to say they were awesome. Some more pictures:

cordial fine wine and beers union market dc |

righteous cheese union market dc |

union market dc |

From Union Market we decided to check out Port City Brewery in Alexandria, VA. I’m not going to lie, from the outside it was a little underwhelming:

port city brewery virginia |

But once we got inside it was nice – it was sort of a mixed ambience between modern America and old style Bavaria…at least that’s what I felt anyway. It was pretty crowded when we arrived, so we decided not to take the actually brewery tour and opted instead just to drink. and because the bartender and my husband are both from the same area of California and both have family from the same area in Oklahoma (weird, right?) we scored free flights! Sweet! The flight was pretty spectacular – six different tastings for $9 — and they were all great beers. I’m not an IPA person, I’ve mentioned this before, but I was really impressed with their Monumental IPA, as well the American Pale Ale which I’m also not normally a fan of. Kevin and I decided that there wasn’t one beer we wouldn’t order if we saw it in a restaurant, and that’s saying something!

port city brew house flight |

Anyway – if you ever get a chance to get to Port City Brewery in Alexandria, you won’t regret it. At least, I think you won’t! 😉

port city brew house virginis 2 |

After the brewery we were hungry again, so we checked out restaurants in the area and ended up at Rocklands Barbecue and Grilling Company for some barbecue. It was awesome, and that’s all I have to say about that.

rocklands BBQ |

rocklands BBQ |

After the barbecue we pretty much called it a day.

We checked out of the hotel on Sunday morning and brunch with some friends from our Bible Study before returning home and preparing to head back to reality, but it was really nice to spend some time away from our house, but not really away from home. And the best part? The entire weekend cost us about $250! Not too bad for a mini-getaway weekend!

I’m already planning our next one.

Sunday Food Prep

Happy Monday! I am in the middle of enjoying my lovely day off, thanks to the President’s Day holiday! (To those of you working today, you have my sympathies.)

presidents day

With the snow day on Thursday we almost had a five day weekend, which would have been awesome – but I’m definitely thankful for a three day weekend instead of the regular two! And given that this is the last major holiday until Memorial Day – ugh – I tried to make the most of my time!

Kevin had to work on Valentine’s Day (we celebrated on Thursday instead), but I did make homemade pizza and took in it to work to surprise him for dinner. Unfortunately for me he worked again on Saturday, and so  I used my evening alone to catch up on some homework for my Perspectives class. I had fallen hopelessly behind (definitely not used to being in college anymore – was there this much reading involved when I was an undergrad??), so it was nice to have some uninterrupted time to really dig in to God’s word.


I attended church on Sunday morning, came home, and immediately got started on my weekly food prep. You may remember from my Whole30 recaps that I’ve been spending a few hours on Saturday or Sunday prepping food for the week ahead so that Kevin and I always have quick and easy meals to grab and go. Because Kevin’s job isn’t conducive to a sit-down meal I like to pack him foods that are easy to carry – hard boiled eggs are great, sliced chicken breast, meatballs, and chopped fruit or veggies. I also like to keep some snacks on hand like bars (I like Kit’s Organic bars by Clif – the berry almond and cashew flavors are whole30 approved!) and beef jerky packs (try PrimalPacs – also Whole30 approved!)

Here’s what I had on hand when all was said and done (about four hours of work):

sunday food prep

You’ll notice most of my stuff is protein – I prefer to cook my vegetable sides the same day I’m going to eat them, so when I do my food prep I stick to protein, sauces or condiments, and vegetables that still taste great as leftovers – hence the gigantic bowl of cauliflower fried rice. Here’s what I made:

Curried meatballs: I combined ground beef, diced onions, garlic salt, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper and baked in a 375 oven for about 25 minutes.

Cajun hamburger patties: Kevin loves taking hamburger patties to work, so I seasoned a bunch with my favorite cajun spice blend and cooked them on the stove. Normally we’d grill them, but the three feet of snow piled up between us and our grill on the patio sort of deterred me.

Hard boiled eggs: I use hb eggs to make the easiest breakfast ever, to have sprinkled with salt and pepper as a snack, or to whip up a quick egg salad if I have homemade mayonnaise on hand.

Baked Chicken Breasts: Again, these would normally be grilled if it weren’t for all the snow. I started brining my chicken breasts based on this recipe from Melissa Joulwan and then I play around with whatever seasonings I feel like using. This time I seasoned half the chicken with a moroccan seasoning blend, and left the other half plain. Brining the chicken takes a while, but trust me, it is so worth it. The chicken comes out deliciously moist and flavorful and pretty much tastes good with anything.

Cilantro Pesto: Recipe for this delicious condiment coming soon! I originally bought cilantro to try to make cilantro-lime cauliflower rice and made fried rice instead, leaving me with an overabundance of cilantro instead. But worry not! I scoured my pantry and decided to make pesto instead! (Hint: it’s the perfect condiment for the plain baked chicken breasts I just mentioned.)

Cauliflower Fried Rice: This has been one of my favorite side dishes lately, I think because it’s so versatile and I eat it with everything. Plus, a head of cauliflower is $3.49 at the store and makes approximately three hundred servings, so it’s a total win.

Chopped peppers: I should have done this with onions as well – Kevin and I use diced peppers and onions in just about everything, so dicing them up in advance saves so much time when you’re actually getting ready to cook.

So there you have it! I finished all my food prep just in time to wolf down some dinner, grab my books, and head off to class – it certainly made for a busy Sunday!

Kevin and I started our Monday off with something we haven’t done in a long time – coffee on our patio!

winter coffee

The temperature outside this morning hovered at about 26 degrees, but with the sun shining brightly we decided to brave it and it felt SO good to be outside! Plus having coffee on our balcony/porch/patio in the morning is a huge part of Kevin and my relationship and with the polar vortex hitting the East Coast it’s been months since we’ve gotten to do it, so it was an extra special indulgence!

All in all it was a great weekend – here’s hoping the rest of the week is just a nice!