Once Bitten Twice Shy Lemon-Basil-Macadamia Nut Pesto

I call my sister to see how she’s doing.  The past few months have been rough between setting up a new household, shuffling kids back and forth, and dealing with all the emotional ups and downs of substantial change.  And in spite of breaking two lamps in the move,  countless hours on the phone and still no internet connection, a clogged vacuum from ridding the van of hay for the miniature pony, she is still being industrious—a family  trait—and making homemade pesto from bunches of homegrown basil brought in earlier that day by a coworker.

“I love pesto!  Do you like pesto?” she gushes!  I can practically hear her inhaling the basil as it is being blended with pine nuts and olive oil.  I also hear the whir of the blender in the background.   Ouch!

“Yes,” I agree, holding my cell phone at a distance and yelling into the speaker phone.  “I love pesto, too.”

“And pine nuts!” she continues.  Whirrrrrrr-whirrrr!  Double Ouch!

Get creative with your pesto ingredients.  Lemon juice and zest are a must for bright flavor and color!

Pine nuts, however, I cannot so enthusiastically endorse.  You see, the thought of pine nuts transports me back to a time years when a mysterious metallic taste in my mouth plagues me for weeks.  At its worst when drinking my beloved hot coffee, nothing, absolutely nothing tastes good!  I am sure I am destined to a life of disturbed taste buds.  Payback for….what?  So, doing what we all do when facing a question we don’t know the answer to, I Google.

Within seconds I am one of them and have a new definition of PMS to boot: Pine Mouth Sufferers.  “Damn You Pine Nuts” becomes my best new Facebook friend, home to tons of other folks who share my symptoms.  Here I learn that pickle juice and hot sauce are palatable.   I also learn that the Pine Nut, Pinus armandii, a smaller, duller, and more rounded variety than typical pine nuts is thought to be the culprit (a 2011 study in the Journal of Toxicology finds results consistent with this hypothesis).

Chinese White Pine seeds are harvested and sold as pine nuts. These nuts are responsible for “Pine Mouth Syndrome”. Damn you pine nuts.

Side note: Others suggest the aftertaste could be a difference in how people experience the nut (sort of like how some people’s genes make them prone to odoriferous pee after eating asparagus or some people’s genes allow them to detect the smell while others’ do not!?!).

In any event, while I am not ready to endorse the pine nut anytime soon, I certainly don’t have the heart to douse my sister’s enthusiasm.  Her industrious spirit inspires me  to face the large pot of basil I grew from seed with some sort of plan.  Heading to my Trader Joe’s after work, I buy olive oil and parmesan cheese and…not pine nuts, particularly after reading the new disclaimer on the package which warns:  Some individuals may experience a reaction to eating pine nuts, characterized by a lingering bitter or metallic taste.

Instead, I am drawn to the bag of comparably priced meaty macadamia nuts next to my metallic mouth nemesis.  Macadamia nuts have a creamy texture and mild nutty base perfect for canvasing pesto flavors.  Back up plan in place, I head home to begin my own whirring frenzy.

The fun thing about making pesto is that you don’t have to follow a recipe once you know the basic ingredients.  It’s really about adding and adjusting to your taste and being creative in the process.  Even so, I will share my approximate ratio of ingredients for this metallic free sister inspired batch.

Once Bitten Twice Shy Lemon-Basil-Macadamia Nut Pesto

Five cups or so loosely packed, washed basil leaves
10 oz. dry roasted macadamia nuts
12 oz. freshly shredded Parmesan Cheese
10 or more plump garlic cloves
Juice of two to three Meyer lemons and zest of one (wonderful for flavor and for keeping pesto a vibrant green)
One cup Olive Oil, more or less
Kosher salt to taste

My on-hand Acme Farms and Kitchens Produce Box additions: Green leafy parts of two to three large Swiss Chard leaves (avoid red stemmed variety for color aesthetics), one plump shallot, one large Poblano pepper.

With the exception of kosher salt, olive oil, and cheese, place all other ingredients in food processor.  Slowly add oil while blending. Lastly, blend in cheese and add salt a teaspoon at a time, sampling until desired taste with all ingredients is reached.

Great storage tip: Spray/coat ice-cube trays with canola or olive oil.  Spoon pesto into individual ice-cube wells and freeze.  Once frozen, remove from tray, wrap individually in foil and place in a freezer bag and return to freezer.  Remove a few cubes at a time, defrost, and add to hot steaming pasta for an easy and delicious pesto pasta dinner come winter.

Yield: Three dozen cubes.

Pesto stores well in the freezer.  Seal individual cubes in foil and freeze for useon pizza, pasta, bruschetta or in your favorite Quiche recipe come winter.

Perhaps you have been lucky enough to find a reliable source of pine nuts that don’t leave a bad taste in your mouth–or maybe you are just genetically blessed.  As for me, I’ll be playing it safe from now on.  Once bitten, twice shy.  I think my sister would agree.

Lemon Apple Slaw and Aunt Betty’s Barbeque* Beef

The first day of fall and my Akane and Liberty apple trees are gleaned of their fruit.  That means more apples than I can eat!  I make mention of apple pie but my son is not in the mood for sweets, he says, having filled up on Cowboy Cookies pulled from the freezer.  He is set on having Lemon Chicken again for dinner, however, and the only produce I have on hand besides apples, is a lovely little head of organic green cabbage and, of course, plenty of lemons.

A simple autumnal slaw: cabbage, apples, a lemon, mayo and sugar.

Looks like it’s time for an autumnal slaw.  And, in honor of the equinox, I use equal amounts of cabbage and apples.  🙂  It’s what I’ll be bringing to an 80th birthday party luncheon next weekend as an accompaniment to take our favorite fried chicken from the neighborhood pub.  Yum!  Next time ’round, I’ll make my Aunt Betty’s Barbeque* (see bonus recipe below) to go with.  I can taste it now…

Lemon Apple Slaw

4 cups green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
4 cups chopped apple with peel on
1 c. real mayonnaise
Zest and juice of one lemon (approximately 2-3 Tbs. juice and 2 tsp. zest)
1 Tbs. sugar
1. Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, zest, and sugar.  Blend until sugar is dissolved.  
2. Mix dressing with cabbage before chopping apples. 
3. Toss apples with cabbage and dressing one cup at a time to prevent apples from browning. 
4. Cover and chill in refrigerator for two hours before serving. 
5. Plate on cabbage leaves and garnish with walnuts and a wedge of lemon  if desired.

Lemon Apple Slaw.  A crisp, zingy accompaniment to your favorite fried chicken or barbeque.


Note: This slaw is very versatile.  It can be served as a meal in itself with the addition of a can of albacore tuna, for example.  Like its Waldorf cousin, green grapes and diced celery can be included as well.  The tart and tangy flavor will also go great with any barbeque, particularly my Aunt Betty’s Famous Beef Barbeque, bonus recipe below:

Aunt Betty’s Famous Beef Barbeque (exactly as she has written)

6 lb. boneless chuck roast

1 or 2 large onions

3 bay leaves

3 c. water

Bake at 350 degrees at least 3 hours or until meat easily pulls apart.  Shred, reserving liquid.


1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

2 1/2 cup liquid from meat

1/2 c dark brown sugar

1/2 c. clear Karo syrup

1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 Tbs. dried mustard

Simmer 15 min.; pour over meat; heat.  Aunt Betty says, “I’ve found this makes enough sauce for 12 lbs. of meat.”  Freezes well. 

*Aunt Betty spells barbecue with a “q” and that is correct, too!

Let me remind you of…Lemon Chicken

But first…I shall recount my day.

It is Saturday.  At 9:30 AM my 17-year-old son comes into my room, sits next to me on the bed where I am still sleeping, and–while cuddling the cat–informs me that he has  been up since 7:30 AM, has showered and washed his hair, and is ready to “do something.”  Dressed in the new long sleeve American Eagle shirt that I got him (at 40% off on the back to school say, mind you), he is looking sharp.  And awake.   So, I head down stairs to make a cup of coffee and find that he has already unpacked my Starbucks VIA (I gave up on coffee makers long ago) and put the little packets in the stainless steel creamer pitcher from my grandmother, just like I do.  Clearly, he has already had his cup.

While sipping on my coffee, I make a few calls to family member on the other coast and catch my mother first.

“It is a beautiful day and Drew and I are going to go do something,” I tell her.

“Isn’t it a blessing to be able to say that and with confidence?” she asks.

It is, I agree.  A beautiful day.  Feeling better.  Mother and son time.

Soon after, we head downtown to the Farmer’s Market where we have an early Ethiopian lunch.  The most tender chicken, golden potatoes, and red sauce with nutmeg and cardamom to soak up in the spongy flatbread or injera. 

A delicious Ethiopian lunch at the Bellingham Farmer’s Market.

Tummies full, we stroll through the market, stopping to smell Red Barn’s heavenly lavender soap slices (made by a now retired math teacher) and admiring the heirloom tomatoes at Tiny’s Organic.  It is a beautiful,  warm early fall day and so we head on to our next destination: Stimpson’s Nature Reserve.

Once onto the trail, we pass the beaver pond and hike up a steady incline for a three-mile loop that will take us deep into the forests so typical of the Pacific Northwest.  Tall cedars and hemlocks line a trail that has become dusty after a dry summer…okay, that parts not so typical.   Sunlight streams through the dense forest.

Waiting for Mom to catch up.

Next on our agenda?  My famous Cowboy Cookies, per his request.  (Bonus recipe below, although no lemon is involved).  🙂  Once home, he settles onto his computer, I find a move on HBO (Sommersby) and the baking begins.

A couple of hours and garage cleaning spree later, it is nearing time for dinner.  We contemplate going to the store for some salmon, but he suggests we just “make something we have here.”  Smart boy.

I check the freezer.  “Mini-tacos, tilapia with Cajun seasoning, or chicken?” I offer.

“Chicken,” he replies.  Very smart boy.

I take two skinless/boneless chicken breasts out to thaw and know just what I will make–after we return from walking the dogs, that is.

Two tired and happy dogs later, I wash my hands in warm, sudsy water and am ready to get cookin’.   I scrub and quarter the Yukon Gold Potatoes and rinse and slice the narrow leafed Lacinato Kale from my bi-weekly Acme Farms and Kitchen local and organic Produce Box.  Both go into pots of boiling salted water.

“It’s going to get loud,” I warn before pounding and tenderizing the chicken breasts till they double in size.  I set half a stick of butter in a large skillet to melt while juicing a Meyer lemon. Some of the juice gets poured over the pulverized side of the chicken so that it soaks into the nooks and crannies and the rest gets added the butter in the skillet.  After flouring the chicken breasts on both sides, I place them in the pan to brown.   I sprinkle a little garlic salt on one side and when ready to turn, a little kosher salt on the other.  When the chicken breasts are nearly done, I add a few fresh rosemary leaves from my herb garden to the chicken breasts.

Meanwhile, more butter, kosher salt, and rosemary leaves are added to the potatoes.  The kale is plated with a dab of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.

We eat.  He is hungry and quiet.  Soon, however, he comments, “The chicken is good!”

“It’s easy,” I tell him.  “Lemon Chicken.”

“But what’s that flavor?” he asks.

“The rosemary?” I suggest.

“No, that flavor on the chicken?” he probes, indicating that something more must be making the chicken so tasty.

I take another bite and can taste what he means.

“Fresh squeezed lemon juice,” I tell him.  “It’s amazing how well pure lemon juice goes with chicken,” I say and he nods in agreement.

I promise to show him how to make it next time.  So easy.  So good.

He cleans his plate.

“There is more of everything,” I tell him.

“I think I’ll just have a little dessert now,” he says.

That means Mom’s homemade Cowboy Cookies and Grandma’s Cake Batter Ice Cream.

What else is a growing boy to do?

Cowboy Cookies
1 c. sweet cream butter with salt (microwaved for 15-seconds)
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 c. old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
1 c. rice crispies
1 c. sweetened flaked coconut (optional but chewy good)
1 c. Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cream brown sugar, sugar, and butter.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and beat till well-blended.  Add flour one cup at a time with soda and salt.  Stir in oatmeal, rice crispies, coconut, and chocolate chips.  Drop by 1 1/2″ cookie scoops onto baking stone or greased cookie sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes.  When you smell ’em they’re done!  Makes three dozen yummy cookies.

Chewy cowboy Cookies. Chocolate, coconut, rice crispies and oats.

Lemons: They Do a Body Good

Nothing says yummy like The Body Shop‘s line of Sweet Lemon products.  I happened upon these creamy lemon products while killing time during an airport layover.   While I purchased the lip balm, I waited on the lotions.  It’s kind of funny to have a Body Shop at the airport being as any goods you buy over 4 oz. would instantly be confiscated at security.  “We can ship to your home,”  the lovely Indian Body Shop consultant with long wavy black hair reminded me.

Your body will thank you for using the Body Shop’s Sweet Lemon Whipped Lotion, Lip Butter and Body Butter.

Although I opted to pick up the Sweet Lemon Body Butter and Whip Body Lotion on my return trip, I did enjoy listening as she recalled a childhood memory of women in her homeland spending sunny afternoons picking large ripe lemons straight from the trees and squeezing the juice over their scalps to prevent dryness while adding shine to their waist length ebony locks of hair.  The peel of the lemon, she confided, is good for rubbing into the scalp, too.  For more on this home remedy visit Dandruff Treatment Using Lemon as well as the Body Shop’s Sweet Lemon Beautifying Oil.

Once back on my home turf, I couldn’t wait to try both the Sweet Lemon Whip Lotion and Body Butter I had purchased.  I do love body butters and any lotion with the word “whip” in it conjures up something delightfully light, airy, and sweet.  (Wipe out those whipped cream fantasies you thought I was leading up to.  Shame on you!)

Needless to say, these products did not disappoint.  Both are rich and creamy and quickly absorb leaving one’s skin smooth and moisturized.   With a scent that conjures up the freshly squeezed lemons in an Indian woman’s courtyard and the perfume of sweet lemon blossoms, you’ll pretty much just want to inhale yourself all day long!

Lemons.  They do a body good.

Note: The Body Shop’s pink grapefruit scent is also intoxicating in its own right.  The glycerin-based soap with pink grapefruit seed oil, an essential fatty acid that  helps to repair the skin’s moisture barrier, gets my vote for a refreshing way to wake up in the morning shower.

Wake up and smell the grapefruit.

Pearls Beauty Hot Oil Hair Treatment from Indiamart with lemon and tea tree oil cleanses the scalp while maintaining hair’s natural shine.

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