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Michelle Warner

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Monday Morsel ~ Garden Treasures

Posted on August 16th, 2010

Monday Morsel

sometimes random.
sometimes deep.
just a little something
to begin your week.

As you know, I have endured quite a health crisis the last nine months. Because of this, I have been reading many books and articles about healthy living. I don’t want to keep it all to myself so I decided every Monday I would share with you some of what I am learning. Hopefully, as a result of these weekly morsels, we can implement changes in our lives gradually and become healthier one step at a time.


I have taken on a new hobby this summer: gardening. I guess I should qualify that statement considering I live in Chicago and the only soil I have resides in pots! But nevertheless, after some tutoring from my neighbor, I have tried my hand at growing tomatoes, peppers, pea pods, basil, parsley and dill. Now in mid August, it is quite rewarding to see the fruits of my labor. In light of this, I thought I would share three of my favorite recipes, along with a new one, using my garden vegetables.

Warm Italiano Spread

[This appetizer has been a hit every time I’ve served it. I found it in Kraft’s Food And Family magazine and have adapted the recipe to make it a little healthier.]

1 (8oz) cream cheese or goat
cheese [I buy Trader Joe’s goat cheese with no rBST hormones.]
1/4 cup pesto
[I like to use my homemade pesto. See recipe below.]
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 finely shredded Italian five cheese blend (or similar)


  1. Heat grill to medium heat.
  2. Place unwrapped cream cheese on long sheet of heavy-duty foil.
  3. Top with pesto, tomatoes, and shredded cheese.
  4. Place foil on grill; cover with lid.
  5. Grill 8-10 minutes or until shredded cheese is melted and you can easily run a chip through the cream/goat cheese. (Caution: the oil from the pesto can leak out onto the grill’s flames so make sure your foil is long enough.)
  6. Transfer foil to platter.
  7. Serve spread with crackers or chips.

[To prepare in your oven: 375 for 12-14 minutes.]

Summer Pesto

[I found this on the internet but don’t remember where!]


3 cups chopped basil
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/8 cup walnuts
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. chili powder (optional)


  1. Place basil in food processor.
  2. Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil and blend basil into a paste.
  3. Gradually add pine nuts, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, chili powder, and remaining oil.
  4. Blend until smooth.

Fresh Peach Salsa

[I also found this in Kraft’s Food and Family magazine and adapted it to make a little healthier.]


3 peaches, chopped [Make sure you buy organic since peaches are #2 on the list of produce most susceptible to pesticides.]
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
3 Tbsp. red onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette
2 tsp. jalapeno peppers, finely chopped and seeded (optional)


  1. Combine and stir.
  2. Serve over chips. [I also served this over fish for dinner one night and it was quite delicious!]

Fresh Tomato Sauce

[This recipe is a combination of one I found online and one from my cousin Linda’s recipe book, Fast Track to Fine Dining, page 67. I made it for the first time this weekend and may tweak it again but it is a great way to use ripe tomatoes.]


10 ripe tomatoes, peeled
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ tsp. oregano
2 stalks celery
2 Tbsp. tomato paste [optional]
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of iced water.
  2. Cut an “x” in the tomato near the bottom.
  3. Plunge whole tomatoes in boiling water for about 20 seconds.
  4. Remove with slotted spoon and place in ice bath.
  5. Let rest until cool enough to handle, then remove peel and squeeze out seeds and juice.
  6. Chop 8 tomatoes and puree in blender/food processor.
  7. Chop remaining two tomatoes and set aside.
  8. Place the extra-virgin olive oil, onions, garlic, carrot, and bell pepper in a large saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  9. Pour in pureed tomatoes.
  10. Stir in chopped tomato and basil.
  11. Place whole celery stalks in pot.
  12. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  13. Puree the sauce in a blender or food processor.
  14. Return the pureed sauce to the pan.
  15. Simmer for another hour.
  16. Discard celery and serve.

I’d love for you to share your favorite summer recipes in the comments section below.  Bon Appetit!

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