Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with Chicken Sausage, homemeade Hummus, and summer in the mountains!

We’re starting the fifth week at our lake house…the first time we’ve been able to get away for this long. Thankfully, J can work from anywhere, with internet, cell phones and faxes. It’s gone by really fast…I can’t believe it’s been this long. Our days are spent hiking, running, swimming, boating, golfing, playing tennis, reading, and SLEEPING! Both of us are starting to really catch up on last year’s no sleeping.

My BHRT is kicking in…that, plus the melatonin that I’m taking every night is enabling me to finally sleep through the night-for the first time in years! When I wake up around 6:30 to go to the bathroom, I’m even able to lay back down and sleep for another hour. Unbelievable, when you think that for the last couple of years I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time!

One of our favorite things up here is the “Music on the Mountain“, which is held at the top of Toxaway Mountain (Meadow Ridge), every 3rd Saturday throughout the season. It’s a potluck, everyone brings food, and coolers with their beverage of choice. Having a glass of wine at the top of a mountain and listening to music is so much fun. We’re even beginning to meet other people who have homes here. A majority of them only spend the summers here, like us, and drive in from places like Atlanta, Greenville, SC, Florida, etc. We started coming last year, and brought our own food and never ventured over to the “potluck table”, but we’ve realized we need to be more social. So even though my family likes to pack our own dinner, I always bring something for the potluck table to share. Gives us a reason to mingle a little bit.

The BEST recipe I’ve found since I’ve been here is so easy and so delicious. We planted a small herb garden when we got here in June, that has just thrived in this weather, and the basil is big and thick and healthy, so I needed to make some pesto. J and H love sun dried tomatoes, so this is a quick variation on plain pesto that is beautiful and delicious. I added the chicken sausage because J always has to have some kind of protein.

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Chicken Sausage

* 12 ounces penne pasta
* 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
* 2 garlic cloves
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
*3 links chicken sausage, cooked and crumbled (**If you want to make this vegetarian, substitute a can of black beans, rinsed, or vegetarian sausage)

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan. Mix with cooked sausage (or black beans)  and place in bottom of large bowl.

3. Add the pasta to the pesto mixture and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve. Top with finely chopped Italian Parsley, if desired.

Since the closest grocery store is half an hour away, I’ve had to get creative with things to bring for the potluck. Instead of picking up a tray at the store, I have to make things myself. Luckily, I had a can of chickpeas and some Tahini, so I made a quick batch of hummus and homemade Pita chips. I think the homemade is so much better than what you buy at the store, anyway (less greasy), and it only takes a minute…

Easy Classic Hummus
* 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
* 1/4 cup tahini
* 1 TBSP lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 cloves garlic, halved
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 pinch paprika
* 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley

1. Place the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, salt and garlic in a
blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a
serving bowl.
2. Drizzle olive oil over the garbanzo bean mixture. Sprinkle with
paprika and parsley.

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