Cooking Club: Week 26


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I am assuming you have sea salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and a higher heat oil, such as avocado oil or coconut oil. Check your stock on these before you head to the market, and check off any other items you may already have. As you continue to use these recipes, you will see repetition of my favorite ingredients. For example, while real maple and pine nuts are pricey pantry staples, they won’t sit in the pantry, you’ll use them in upcoming weeks. Use bulk bins at your local health food store to buy in smaller quantities if you prefer.

The broccoli pesto recipe can go two ways, and I included both the chicken and pasta on the grocery list. Eliminate one if need be. The ingredients for the pistachio pesto are also included, scratch those if you’re excluding those from the recipe.

Your List i

broccoli pesto - two ways Italian Tortellini Soup veggie burgers Jesse’s peanut butter crispy balls


Dry Ingredients

Meat & Dairy

recipe 01: broccoli pesto - two ways

serves 4

I’m going to try to make this simple smash up of pesto and broccoli work two ways. For the vegetarians, or the more kid-friendly-focused crowd, I stir the mixture with shells (we love Banza chickpea pasta for a wheat-free option). For those following the carnivore additions, or lower carb notes, I stuff the mixture into a chicken breast, and serve it on a puddle of warm marinara (don’t mind the photo, this is important, chicken breast needs moisture, don’t skip the sauce!). Both instructions are included below.


Tips of The Week

Make Ahead: The pesto broccoli mixture can be made in its entirety a day in advance. Proceed with the pasta or chicken when you’re ready to complete dinner.

Use it Twice: The broccoli pesto is great stirred into scrambled eggs or into some quinoa.

Kid Friendly: See pasta edition above . It’s also great smashed into a grilled cheese.

Low Carb: You can use this mixture on top of spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles too.


for the broccoli pesto

3/4 lb. or 1 12 oz. bag broccoli florets
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of one small lemon
Dash of cayenne
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

For the vegetarian-friendly option

3/4 lb. or 12 oz. pasta shells, regular or gluten free
Fresh parsley, for garnish


For the carnivore-friendly option

2 small-ish boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 lb. total
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for cooking
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
2 cups arrabbiata or marinara sauce



Steam the broccoli for 2 minutes, remove to cool.

While the broccoli cools, make the pesto. In a food processor, combine the garlic, salt, pine nuts, and pulse a few times. Add the basil leaves, and pulse a few more times. Drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to pulse. Add the lemon zest and juice, cayenne, and parmesan. Pulse again. This should yield about 1/2 cup.

To the food processor, add the cooled broccoli, and pulse a few more times until you get a large, rough chop on the broccoli. Not a puree. If it looks dry, you can add a drizzle more oil, or lemon juice if you like a brighter mixture. The pesto can also be made in a blender as well. Just chop the steamed broccoli, and stir it into the prepared pesto. 


Cook your pasta according to instructions, reserving a half cup of the pasta water. Stir the broccoli pesto in with the noodles, and a splash of pasta water and mix. Garnish with a bit of extra parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.  

Stuffed Chicken

Wrap the chicken breasts in plastic wrap, and pound them until they are similar in thickness from top to bottom. Not too thin; we want about 1.5”. 

Use a sharp knife to cut a pocket into each chicken breast; coming in from the side. Do not cut all the way to the backside of the chicken breast. (You are not inept, this is pretty hard to do. Your knife needs to be sharp. I have also done this with kitchen scissors. While not professional by any means, it works!)

Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the chicken, along with a generous pinch of salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and rub it on all sides. 

Preheat the oven to 375’. Warm a drizzle of oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Stuff the chicken pockets with the broccoli mixture, and transfer the chicken to the hot pan.

Sear for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes (this will vary by size of your chicken breasts). While the chicken cooks, warm your red sauce. 

To serve, plate a generous puddle of the red sauce, with your warm chicken on top. Make a simple salad on the side if you’re going low-carb, or pasta or rice if you want more food. 

Nutrition Information

per serving (pasta option)

  • calories
  • fat
    29 g
  • carbs
    72 g
  • protein
    18 g

per serving (chicken option)

  • calories
  • fat
    36 g
  • carbs
    19 g
  • protein
    32 g

recipe 02: italian tortellini soup

serves 4

This is a similar soup to that Samin Nosrat one a few weeks ago. We’re adding tortellini to fill it out and some creme fraiche to make it subtly creamy. It really does make it silky and nice, but if you are dairy free, skipping it is fine too. I know I say this about every soup, but it’s a cozy gesture to deliver to a friend in need. A nod to Modern Proper for the recipe inspo!


Tips of The Week

Make Ahead: The soup can be made in advance and rewarmed. The tortellini and greens will lose their bite after sitting in the broth for too long, so you can also make everything else in advance, and when you are closer to dinner, rewarm the soup and add the pasta and greens at that time

Gluten Free: Use a gluten free pasta instead of tortellini. You can use the same garlic bread application to GF bread.

Dairy Free: Skip the crème fraiche and use some cashews that have been soaked and blended up to add some creaminess to the soup. You can also use a store-bought dairy-free sour cream alternative, or skip the creaminess all together.

Low Carb/Carnivore: Brown some ground Italian sausage in the pan, remove it while you soften the vegetables, then add it back in before you add the broth. You can skip the pasta if needed.


for the soup

2 Tbsp. avocado or extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, small dice
2 stalks of celery, small dice
1 small fennel bulb, small dice
1 small yellow onion, small dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. each sea salt and pepper, more to taste
1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 qt. vegetable or chicken broth
10 oz. tortellini
1 bundle swiss chard or kale, chopped
4 ounces crème fraiche
Grated parmesan, for garnish

For the garlic bread (optional)

1 fresh baguette
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 large garlic cloves, grated
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped 


The soup

Warm the oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, fennel, and onions with a pinch of salt, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, and sauté another two minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, and let the tinny flavor cook off for a couple of minutes. Add the dried basil, pepper flakes, and broth. Simmer everything with the lid ajar for 15 minutes.

Uncover, stir in the tortellini and greens, and let them simmer until tender for about 5 minutes. Stir in the crème fraiche, and then taste the soup for seasoning. More salt? More spice? 

the garlic bread (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450’. In a small pan over low heat, warm the olive oil and butter. Add the garlic, salt, dill and warm until the garlic becomes fragrant. Slice the baguette in half lengthwise, pop it in the oven for 3 minutes, just to get a slight toast. Brush the oil mixture all over the face of the baguette, sprinkle the parsley, a few grinds of pepper, and toast another 2-3 minutes until the edges are browned.

Nutrition Information

per serving (of soup)

  • calories
  • fat
    21 g
  • carbs
    57 g
  • protein
    19 g

recipe 03: black bean & pumpkin veggie burgers (member favorite)

serves 4

These burgers were from a few months ago, and we used the pesto below in both a pasta and this burger. If you want to cut a step, skip the pesto and do basic burger spreads. I also like mashed avocado with a few spoonfuls of the prepared zhoug sauce from Trader Joes. It’s a bit spicy, but so so good. 

You can use the cooked flesh of any winter squash, or canned pumpkin in place of the sweet potato. The water content may vary given this flexibility. If the mixture looks wet, add another sprinkle of panko.

These very easily go between a bun, or on top of a salad. Adjust your grocery list for serving preference. Add a melty cheese or other condiments as you wish. 


Tips of The Week

Make Ahead: The veggie burger “dough” can be made a day in advance and kept covered in the fridge. Or, the patties may be made in full a day or two in advance, and rewarmed in a pan when ready to eat. The pesto can be made up to three days in advance.

Use it Twice: Double up the patty recipe - use it for taco or burrito filling, or freeze them after they’ve been cooked. They reheat well. For the pesto, we are making more than you need here, so you can use it in this dish, and again for either a sandwich spread or base for a salad dressing for the veggie burgers. The stuff is just amazing, we use it on tacos, with eggs, everywhere. Make lots.

Kid Friendly: My kids love anything that looks like a burger, BUT, you can also form them into small balls for a more nugget like look. Place the balls on the baking sheet as noted for the patties, and cook them for about 15 minutes.

Low Carb: I’m into a veggie burger patty on a salad, or lettuce wrapped. Just make sure you have sauce and condiments to make the salad taste good!


For the pistachio pesto:

2 cloves garlic
Juice of one lemon
1 jalapeño or serrano, stemmed and partially seeded
1 large bundle of cilantro
1/2 a bundle of parsley (about 1/2 packed cup)
1/2 cup roasted pistachios or pepitas
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Splash of water
1/3 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
1/2-1 tsp. sea salt and pepper, to taste

For the burgers:

2 cloves garlic
2 green onion, white and light green parts
1/2 cup sweet potato or pumpkin puree
1 large handful of cilantro or parsley
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup cooked and cooled brown rice
1 1/2 cups black beans (about one 14 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1/3 cup panko or old-fashioned oats
grated parmesan, for the crust, optional

for serving

romaine, avocado, raw or pickled red onions, buns, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400’ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse the garlic and green onions. Add the sweet potato puree, herbs, oil, chili powder, cumin, salt and pulse again. Add the brown rice, black beans, panko and give it a few more pulses, scraping the side as needed. Don’t over work it or it’ll be a mush ball, you want to have the texture of all the ingredients. The mixture should resemble, well, hate to say it, ground beef. Not super wet, but not dried out. If it seems wet, add a sprinkle of panko, but note it will dry up in the oven. This much can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for a day.

Form the dough into 5 patties, and place them on the parchment. Sprinkle grated parm on the top (it will melt and dry out while they bake and leave you with a delicious crunchy, umami topping). Bake for 20 minutes. 

While the burgers are baking, make the pesto. In a food processor or blender, pulse the garlic, lemon juice and jalapeño. Pull the fluffy bundle off the herbs, and add them (some stems in there are fine), along with the pistachios. Pulse a few more times. Add the olive oil, splash of water, cheese, salt, sprinkle of pepper and pulse again. Taste and season. If it looks thick, add another splash of water to thin, or citrus juice if you taste it and want it brighter. Set aside.

Toast the buns. Swipe the pistachio pesto on one side (or whatever spread you like) and smash avocado on the other side. Top with a patty, lettuce, onion and enjoy!

Nutrition Information

per serving

  • calories
  • fat
    10 g
  • carbs
    91 g
  • protein
    21 g

recipe 04: Jesse’s peanut butter crispy balls

Makes about 15 balls

My friend Jesse, of the blog Jessie May and Faring Well, published a cookie e-book around the holidays. I love all things chocolate and peanut butter, and these balls, with their short ingredient list, have been a favorite. I am halving her published recipe because we will inhale however many there are, and the only chance at portion control is to make less of them. If you are feeding friends, double this for sure!


Tips of The Week

Make Ahead: They can be made and kept covered in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Use it Twice: Try any kind of nut butter.

Kid Friendly: Easy sell.


1 cup natural, runny salted peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups crisped brown rice cereal
4 oz. dark chocolate

Flaky salt, optional


Combine the peanut butter and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the rice cereal. Use a wooden spoon to start, then get your hands in there and make a cohesive ball. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, roll tablespoon sized balls and line them up on your lined baking sheet. Chill them in the fridge or ideally freezer if you have room, for 20 minutes. 

While the balls are freezing, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between. 

Remove the balls from the freezer. Using two spoons, roll a ball around in the melted chocolate to coat the outside. Place it on the parchment sheet. Repeat with remaining balls. Sprinkle a bit of flaky salt on top if using. Return the sheet to the fridge or freezer to set. About 10 minutes.

Once the chocolate is set, transfer them to a container with a lid and store them in the fridge.

Nutrition Information

per ball

  • calories
  • fat
    12 g
  • carbs
    17 g
  • protein
    4 g