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Posts tagged “Basil

Shrimp & Tomato Bisque

Shrimp & Tomato Bisque

My girlfriends were coming for the weekend so I wanted to make them something super delicious … it was chillier than we expected it to be this weekend, so I decided a nice pot of hot soup would be just the thing.

It did happen just perfectly … two of my friends were staying in a camper and when they showed up at my house on Saturday, it was just about lunchtime plus they were quite chilled and hungry so the soup warmed them right up and filled our bellies before we went out to see the sights. I was so happy because they all raved about the soup and the two who don’t like things too hot & spicy said it was just right. Whew!

Shrimp & Tomato Bisque

Shrimp & Tomato Bisque

  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 – 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup Chardonnay or other white wine
  • 2 garden fresh tomatoes + 2 roma tomatoes (about 0.7 lb), peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup mixed vegetable juice such as V8 (or tomato juice)
  • About 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • About 1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha (or other hot sauce … use more or less depending on how spicy you like your soup)
  • 2 cups fat free half & half
  • 1 lb shrimp, fresh or frozen
  • To garnish: freshly shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs

Directions:

  1. Peel and chop the garlic and mix it with the olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside to let the garlic infuse into the oil while you chop the rest of the vegetables.
  2. Once you’ve chopped all the vegies, heat a saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and pour in the garlic and olive oil, then add the celery, onion and carrots and sautee until the onion is soft and translucent. If the vegetables get dry before the onions are soft, add the wine and cook until it has evaporated. Add the flour and stir to coat all the vegetables.
  3. Add the wine (if you haven’t yet added it!), tomatoes, broth, juice, herbs, seasonings and Sriracha and stir well to mix. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes break up and you have a nice thick soupy mixture, about 20 – 30 minutes or so. Using an immersion or regular blender, puree the soup. (If you have a blender with a glass carafe, let the soup cool a bit before pureeing it to avoid cracking the glass.)
  4. Pour the soup back into the saucepan and add the half and half and stir to mix, then add the shrimp. Cook over medium low heat just until the shrimp is hot and cooked through. Serve hot, garnished with shredded cheese and fresh herbs if you like, with some flatbread or Naan on the side.

Shrimp & Tomato Bisque

This recipe was shared at Weekend Potluck and Scrumptious Sunday.


Roasted Pepper Tomato Tapenade

Roasted Pepper Tomato Tapenade

My friend gave me a bit of this lovely roasted pepper tomato tapenade she made. Ooh it was delicious! I tried spreading it on toast with melted cheese over top. Yum. I put it on a sandwich. Oh yes! I imagined all the things I could do with this scrumptious spread: it would be lovely in lasagna and all sorts of appetizers (little toasts! yes!) and pizzas and things. I only had a tiny bit that she gave me … but … she had told me what she put in it … tomatillos, sundried & fresh tomatoes, roasted peppers, garlic, olive oil … hmmm …

I still had four of the tomatillos she gave me and a couple fresh garden tomatoes, and oh yes, peppers from mom’s garden … and I even had some of the “sundried” tomatoes (that I dried in the oven), so I thought I would see if I could make a tapenade.

I threw in some fresh herbs and capers for good measure. It’s not exactly like her tapenade, but even if I had had her recipe on hand, I am sure I wouldn’t have followed it precisely. I just can’t properly follow a recipe!

I want to thank my dear friend Denise for giving me her marvelous tapenade … which spurred me to try making it. What a wonderful spread!

Roasted Pepper Tomato Tapenade

Roasted Pepper Tomato Tapenade

The best way to roast the peppers, tomatillos and tomato for this tapenade is on the grill, but you could also roast them in the oven.

  • 1 medium fresh garden tomato
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 4 tomatillos
  • 1 large bell pepper
  • 1 hot pepper (I used this big hot red pepper my mom gave me similar to a New Mexico Green Chile, only it’s red … but I think you could use any hot — or not so hot — red pepper)
  • 2 – 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Several sprigs of rosemary
  • A couple sprigs of tarragon
  • A few fresh basil leaves
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons capers

Directions:

  1. Heat up the grill and set the tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers directly over the heat. Roast until the skins of the peppers are charred and black (make sure you turn them to roast all sides of the vegies!) and the tomatoes are soft. This should only take a few minutes if your grill is good and hot.
  2. Let the roasted vegies cool for a bit till they are cool enough to handle, then cut out the stem & core of the peppers and tomatoes, leaving the charred skin ON.
  3. Pop all the ingredients except the capers in a handi chopper or food processor and blend until it forms a smooth paste. Pour the tapenade into a bowl and stir in the capers. Add salt if you like … I didn’t think it needed any.
  4. Serve on toast or crackers, use as a sauce for pizza, stir it into the ricotta mixture for your lasagna, use it as a tasty sandwich spread … or just let your imagination run wild.

Roasted Pepper Tomato Tapenade

This recipe was shared at Melt in your Mouth MondayTotally Tasty TuesdayTuesday Talent ShowTasty Tuesday, Show & Share Wednesday, Cast Party WednesdayNewlyweds Recipe Linky, Gala Dinner Party, Fit & Fabulous Fridays and All my Bloggy Friends.


Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie “Noodles”

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie Noodles

Shhhh … they aren’t really “noodles” … they just look sort of like noodles. They don’t really taste like noodles either, but I love the noodley look of this colorful vegetable medley. The Pesto Rosso (a.k.a, sundried tomato pesto) really complements the sauteed veggies too, especially when you add some crumbles of cheese on top.

It was getting very close to bedtime last night when I realized I was hungry. I didn’t want to have a big, heavy meal right before bed, but I didn’t want my stomach waking me up in the middle of night either. So I decided at the last moment to cook up something light and healthy but filling enough to tide me over till morning. I’ve been toying with the idea of using zucchini and summer squash as noodles with sauce over top, but when I went to make it, I thought “why just zucchini? why not toss some other vegetables too?” … and so I did.

For me, this was a late night snack, but I could envision these lovelies as a beautiful bed for meat, fish or chicken. Can you imagine how appetizing that would look? Or you could eat them as is for a wonderfully healthy vegetarian dinner. If you want a heartier meal, toss them with some whole grain fettucine or linguine. The wonderful thing about eating vegetables for dinner is you can pretty much eat as many as you want without guilt or worry.

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie Noodles

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie “Noodles”

This makes about enough for 1 hearty plateful or two side servings. Multiply if you have more mouths to feed!

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 of a small sweet onion
  • 1/3 of a large bell pepper (I used a yellow one)
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized zucchini (yielding a heaping cup or so of zucchini “noodles”)
  • 1 roma tomato
  • About 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used Basil and Terragon)
  • A splash of wine (or water)
  • About 1 Tablespoon Pesto Rosso (Sundried Tomato Pesto … recipe here)
  • About 1/2 Tablespoon white wine (or water)
  • To top: crumbled feta or queso fresco — or thin “shards” of freshly cut Parmesan & a cherry tomato or sprig of fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Peel and chop the garlic finely and, in a small bowl, mix it with the olive oil. Set aside to allow the garlic to infuse into the oil while you chop up the vegies.
  2. Slice the vegies into thin noodle shapes. For the onion, slice it vertically and very thin. The zucchini: slice it in half, then slice each half into very thin slices. Cut the slices into noodle-sized strips. The tomato: cut it vertically, then slice like you did the zucchini. The bell pepper: just cut it into very thin strips.
  3. Now heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic with olive oil, onion and bell pepper and sautee until the onion is soft. Then add the zucchini and tomato and sautee until the zucchini “noodles” are tender. If the pan gets dry while you are cooking, add a splash of white wine (or water) to keep the vegies moist and tender and make sure they don’t stick to the pan.
  4. Mix the pesto rosso with a bit of white wine (or water) to thin it out, then toss it with the vegies.
  5. Top with crumbled cheese or shards of parmesan, garnish with a cherry tomato and/or fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie "Noodles"

This recipe was shared at Tasty TuesdayWonderful Food WednesdayCast Party WednesdayFull Plate Thursday, Fit & Fabulous Friday, Weekend Potluck and Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


Fairy Tale Tomato, Corn & Bread Salad

with Great Northern Beans & Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Fairy Tale Eggplant, Tomato  and Bread Salad: something's missing ...

Have you ever made something once and thought “it’s good, but it really ought to be better?” Yeah, that’s what happened here. The first time I made it I used a great big eggplant and I tried cooking it on the grill. Except my coals ran out of heat and the eggplant didn’t get properly cooked and it was this awful rubbery texture. I ended up picking all of the eggplant out of my salad that night and just eating the tomatoes with the corn and bread … not that that was a BAD thing, it was quite delightful that way. I just hated wasting the lovely eggplant …

So: take 2. This time I used a couple of my fairy tale eggplant. If you’ve not seen fairy tale eggplant, they are those tiny purple eggplant that look SO adorable because they are about finger sized or a little bigger, maybe half my hand size?  You never have to peel them or salt them because their skins are perfectly tender and they are never bitter. If you’re inexperienced with eggplant, fairy tale eggplant are a good place to start. This time was definitely better … but something was missing … oh my gosh! the corn! I totally forgot the corn. Okay, so I went and grabbed some corn from the freezer, cooked it up and added it … ah! much better!

Fairy Tale Eggplant, Tomato, Corn and Bread Salad

Fairy Tale Tomato, Corn & Bread Salad

Adapted from Williams Sonoma. For one hearty serving or two small “sides”:

  • 2-4 fairy tale eggplant (about 1/2 cup after roasting/chopping)
  • 1 cup fresh garden tomato, chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 1/2 cup cooked white beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup cooked corn, drained
  • 2 slices of sweet onion, chopped coarsely
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups toasted whole wheat bread cubes (about 1 inch in size … or smaller … to your liking)
  • A few fresh basil & tarragon leaves
  • A few roasted sunflower seeds
  • Tahini yogurt ranch dressing (recipe below)

Directions:

  1. Slice the fairy tale eggplant lengthwise in 1/2-inch slices. (You can use other eggplant in place of Fairy Tale, but you may need to peel them first.) Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set the eggplant on the baking sheet. Spray them with cooking spray and sprinkle with a bit of salt or Red Robin Seasoning. Roast the eggplant in the oven or toaster oven at 400 for about 10 minutes or until they are tender.
  2. While the eggplant are cooking, chop the tomato and onion and heat the white beans and corn up. Also, set the bread cubes on another oiled baking sheet  and let them toast in the oven for the last few minutes of the eggplant roasting or until the cubes are lightly browned and toasted.
  3. Chop the eggplant into bite-size chunks. In your salad bowl, toss the eggplant, tomato, corn and onion till well mixed. Gently fold in the toasted bread cubes, drizzle with tahini ranch dressing and sprinkle with fresh herbs and sunflower seeds.

Fairy Tale Eggplant, Tomato, Corn and Bread Salad

Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing

  • 1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 1 Tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup mixed fresh herbs (I used rosemary, basil, thyme, tarragon, oregano, parsley … dill would be wonderful too, but my dill plant has died off)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt (start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste as needed) + freshly ground pepper to taste.

In a handi chopper or food processor, blend all ingredients till the herbs and garlic are well chopped and the mixture is fairly smooth. Taste the dressing and add salt and/or pepper to taste. Store any leftover dressing in a covered container in the fridge.

This recipe was shared at Cast Party WednesdayFriday Favorites and Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


Pesto Rosso

Pesto Rosso

When Sonali at The Foodie Physician posted this Pesto Rosso, I was immediately taken with it. Suddenly I wanted nothing but to make her lovely red pesto. With all the fresh garden tomatoes in my kitchen at the time, I couldn’t bring myself to go buy sundried tomatoes to make this, so I decided to try oven-drying some of them. It worked! I got some really lovely oven-dried tomatoes out of it. I didn’t pack them in oil, though. I just stuck them in a bag and put them in the fridge. They softened up a bit in the fridge, but much to my joy, they had the same lovely sundried tomato taste. So I used them in the pesto rosso and it turned out just as wonderful as I had imagined.

If you want to try oven-drying your tomatoes, here is the post from Love the secret ingredient on how to “sun” dry your tomatoes in the oven. She says it takes 5-6 hours, but it took my tomatoes about 9 hours to dry. I think it really depends on your oven.

Here are some suggestions from Sonali at The Foodie Physician on how to use this marvelous tomato-based pesto:

  • Mix with a little pasta water and toss with hot pasta. Top with shredded Parmesan. Instant dinner!
  • Spread it on hot or cold sandwiches- anything from turkey sandwiches to grilled cheese
  • Top grilled chicken breasts, fish or other meats with it
  • Mix it with a little ricotta or goat cheese and use it as a stuffing for chicken breasts or pork chops (or lasagna!)
  • Add flavor to vegetarian or egg dishes- try stirring a spoonful into sautéed vegetables or a frittata
  • Mix it with Greek yogurt to make a healthy dip for vegetables or chips
  • Spread it on garlic bread for an extra hit of flavor
  • Use it onto homemade pizza dough as an alternative to tomato sauce
  • Spread it on toasted country bread and top it off with some arugula and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano for a healthy snack (actually, it’s great on bread all by itself!)

I think it would also be marvelous to stir a spoonful or two into an Italian soup, or use a spoonful as a beautiful & tasty garnish on top of a thick, creamy soup.

Pesto Rosso

Pesto Rosso

Adapted only very slightly from The Foodie Physician. Makes about 1 1/3 cups pesto or 8 servings.
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 – 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Several fresh basil leaves
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 5 ounces small tomatoes (cherry or grape would work well … I had some tiny romas from mom’s garden that seemed perfect)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese (Sonali recommends Parmigiano Reggiano, but I had Asiago on hand …)

Directions:

  1. Place the almonds, sundried tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, and herbs in a handi chopper or food processor. Pulse several times until everything is finely chopped.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, and olive oil and process until the tomatoes are finely chopped. (Sonali says to add the olive oil in a steady stream while the processor is on … my handi chopper doesn’t allow for that.)
  3. Add the cheese and pulse just a couple times to mix it in fully.

Pesto Rosso

This recipe was shared at Cast Party WednesdayLifeologia’s Birthday Party Potluck and All my Bloggy Friends.


Tomato Cuke Salad w Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Tina at Mom’s Crazy Cooking has a monthly challenge for food bloggers. She asks all of us to make one certain thing on the 7th of each month … the idea is we are searching for the ultimate recipe for that one thing. This month it’s ranch dressing. Ranch I can do! I’ve made plain ranch, garlic ranch, avocado ranch, sundried tomato ranch … they were all really good, but this time I thought I would like to add some tahini (sesame seed paste) to the ranch and then lighten it up by cutting the amount of mayonnaise down. The tahini along with the fresh herbs adds such a complexity of flavor that you won’t even notice the mayo went away. This salad dressing makes an excellent dressing for just about any savory salad or a good dip for veggies or chips.

The tomato cucumber salad uses the fresh garden ingredients that are overflowing in my house right now: tomato and cucumber. I added some sweet onion, toasted walnuts and edam cheese because I thought they would taste wonderful with the fresh tomato & cucumber.

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Edam Cheese & Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing

For each salad:

  • 1 – 2 tomatoes, that roughly match the diameter of the cucumber, cut into slices
  • 1/2 – 1 cucumber, sliced thin
  • A couple thin slices of sweet onion
  • A few thin slices of edam cheese, cut into small rectangles
  • A couple tablespoons of walnuts, toasted
  • A couple Tablespoons of Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing (recipe below)

Directions:

  1. First make the dressing.
  2. Then prep the salad by alternately layering slices of cucumber and tomato on your plate. If it’s a round plate, simply follow the curve of the plate, then tuck the last tomato or cucumber under the starting one.
  3. Top with sweet onion slices, cheese and walnuts. Drizzle each “row” of tomato/cucumber slices with a bit of the dressing. Garnish with fresh parsley leaves.
  4. To eat the salad, take a slice of cucumber, slice of tomato and make sure to get a little onion, cheese, walnuts and dressing on top. It’s a little messy when you’re eating it, but SO worth it!

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Edam Cheese & Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing

  • 1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 1 Tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup mixed fresh herbs (I used rosemary, basil, thyme, tarragon, oregano, parsley … dill would be wonderful too, but my dill plant has died off)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt (start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste as needed) + freshly ground pepper to taste.

In a handi chopper or food processor, blend all ingredients till the herbs and garlic are well chopped and the mixture is fairly smooth. Taste the dressing and add salt and/or pepper to taste. Store any leftover dressing in a covered container in the fridge.

This is a Crazy Cooking Challenge post. Click on the button to see all the other wonderful ranch dressings.

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This recipe was also shared at Manic Monday, Newlyweds Recipe LinkyTotally Tasty TuesdayTalent Show TuesdayThursday’s Treasures, Weekend Potluck and Fit & Fabulous Friday.


Fairy Tale Purple Pesto

Purple Pesto

My mother grows both green and purple basil every year. This year she gave me a purple basil plant. Mine grew to about 6 inches tall, enough to snip off a couple leaves or sprigs here and there to season a dish. Her basil plant grew to the size of a bush.

If you don’t trim basil plants, they will go to seed and die, having finished their purpose in life. If you trim them, they grow bigger. I went out to trim Mom’s basil plants for her and came in with quite enough basil to make pesto. So I put it in a bag, stuck it in my cooler, brought it home and decided to make purple pesto.

In my box of goodies from the garden, I also had some of these pretty purple Fairy tale eggplant, and since it IS purple, I thought that would be lovely in the pesto. As I was blending up the pesto, it was a bit too thick, so I was looking for a liquid to thin it so that I didn’t have to add too much oil (I want my pesto to be lower in fat too!) and wouldn’t ruin the color. It just so happens I had a bottle of red wine sitting there, so I added a bit of wine too.

I’m freezing my purple pesto for safe keeping. I have plans in my mind to make purple pizzas and purple pasta, purple pesto salad dressings and purple pesto potatoes.

Have I mentioned that my favorite color is purple?

Fairy tale Purple Pesto

Purple Pesto

  • 6 cups of purple basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pinons (pine nuts)
  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • 1 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 small fairy tale eggplant, roasted (or 1/2 cup of a larger eggplant)
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine

Slice the eggplant lengthwise, set it on a baking sheet and roast it in the oven (or toaster oven) at 350 for about 10 minutes or until it’s tender. Cut it up into chunks and measure it. You should have about 1/2 cup of eggplant.

In a blender or food processor, blend up all the ingredients until you have a fine puree. Whatever you are not going to use immediately, freeze in small containers or ice cube trays.

Use this purple pesto just like you would any other pesto: mix with some pasta water and toss with pasta, spread it on pizza or sandwiches or little toasts.

Fairy Tale Purple Pesto

This recipe was shared at Talent Show Tuesday and Cast Party Wednesday.


Eggplant Parmesan Layer Dip

Eggplant Parmesan Dip

I had a big beautiful purple eggplant that was starting to fade, so I had to find a good use for it fast. I decided to make it into a dip … at first I was going to make some more baba ghanoush, but then I thought perhaps I could make something different with it … perhaps something with the flavors of Eggplant Parmesan … except creamier. Something you could spread on little toasts and munch on with a good glass of wine.

Eggplant Parmesan Dip

We finished the A-Z Health Challenge on facebook on Saturday … I still need to make my way through all the Zucchini recipes everyone shared, but I was busy with my Mom and Dad’s Anniversary party this weekend. The party turned out well, but I’m exhausted. I need a day off. How nice that we have a holiday today so I have a day just to rest. Although I won’t really be resting. We’ll be harvesting tomatoes and other garden bounty, packing and driving and unpacking, assembling my new chairs that my aunt and uncle brought up for me.

Eggplant Parmesan Dip

Eggplant Parmesan Layer Dip

  • 2 1/2 cups roasted eggplant (I used 1 large globe + 1 small Japanese eggplant)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup fat free greek yogurt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Your favorite marinara or pasta sauce (I used my crock pot garden marinara sauce)
  • Shredded asiago (or parmesan) and mozzarella cheese (maybe a cup of the two cheeses, mixed? I didn’t measure the cheese … use enough to cover the sauce)
  • Fresh garden tomato, chopped fine
  • Fresh herbs for garnish
  • Thin slices of toasted ciabatta or french bread

Directions:

  1. To roast the eggplant on the grill, poke the pretty purple fruit all around with a fork, then grill on a hot grill until the outside is black and charred and the eggplant is sagging a LOT … that means it’s fully cooked.
  2. Pull off the peel and discard, then chop the pulp roughly and measure it. You will need about 2 1/2 cups for this dip (or you can scale down the other ingredients to match the amount of eggplant you have). Put the eggplant, garlic, herbs, and cream cheese in a food processor or handi chopper and blend till smooth. I had to do this in batches because my handi chopper wasn’t big enough to hold it all! Pour the creamy mixture into a bowl and stir in the greek yogurt, then add salt to taste.
  3. You can serve the dip in individual ramekins or in a larger pie or tart pan. Smear a good thick layer of the creamy eggplant mixture on the bottom of the dish, cover with a layer of marinara or pasta sauce, then top with shredded cheese and some chopped tomato on top. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with thinly sliced toasted ciabatta or french bread.

Eggplant Parmesan Dip

This recipe was shared at Weekend PotluckMelt in your Mouth Monday, Manic MondayTalent Show TuesdayTrick or Treat Tuesday, Newlyweds Recipe Linky, Cast Party WednesdayThursday’s Treasures and Fit & Fabulous Friday.


Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Eggplant Tarragon Cream

and a Mushroom Cherry Tomato Quinoa Pilaf

Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Eggplant Tarragon Cream

Ever since I made Baba Ghanoush, I’ve been wondering: what else could you do with eggplant puree? And then I picked up these HUGE chicken breasts at the store and was marinading them in buttermilk for my daughter and I for dinner … and it occurred to me that these babies would be really good stuffed with something wonderful and creamy. Eggplant puree, with cream cheese! and fresh tarragon and basil! Ah yes! How wonderful would THAT be?

Um yeah, completely wonderful … especially when you serve it over a pilaf of nutty quinoa with garlicky sauteed mushrooms and fresh garden cherry tomatoes.

Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Eggplant Tarragon Cream

Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Eggplant Tarragon Cream

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Marinade: buttermilk + seasonings

Eggplant Tarragon Cream Filling:

  • 3/4 cup chopped roasted (or grilled) eggplant
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 oz light cream cheese
  • About 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped mixed basil & tarragon leaves

Directions:

  1. Put the chicken breasts in a bowl and add enough buttermilk to cover them completely. Add seasonings as you like: I added a couple teaspoons of Mrs. Dash and a couple teaspoons of a basic rub seasoning I like to use. Let the chicken marinade in the buttermilk for at least an hour … I left mine in there overnight.
  2. To cook the eggplant, I took a couple of the little purple tender eggplant from mom’s garden, sliced them lengthwise, sprayed them with cooking spray and set on a baking sheet that I’d sprayed with cooking spray. (If you’re using a larger eggplant, you probably want to peel it and slice into 1/4 inch slices.) Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and tender. Chop the eggplant roughly and toss them into a handi chopper with a couple cloves of garlic, the cream cheese and some fresh tarragon and basil leaves. Pulse to mix it all well and make a good creamy filling.
  3. Now, take the chicken breasts and slice into them horizontally with a small knife, not cutting all the way through so you make a little pocket in each chicken breast. Fill each pocket with half the filling, then close the open end with a toothpick.
  4. Heat up your grill and sear both sides of the chicken breasts on the hot part of the grill, then move them to the cooler part of the grill to cook until they are cooked through.
  5. Serve over a bed of the mushroom cherry tomato quinoa pilaf (recipe below), garnished with a few fresh basil or tarragon leaves.

Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Eggplant Tarragon Cream

Mushroom Cherry Tomato Quinoa Pilaf

  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup of mushrooms sauteed with red wine, garlic, and bruschetta seasoning (see my Chardonnay Mushrooms recipe for instructions)
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • Roasted sunflower seeds

Sautee the mushrooms with a couple cloves of garlic and a splash of red wine like I did with my Chardonnay Mushrooms. Add the hot, cooked quinoa, then the cherry tomatoes and stir gently to mix. Cook for just a few minutes to let the cherry tomatoes heat up. Serve the pilaf sprinkled with a couple tablespoons of sunflower seeds for a nice salty crunch.

This recipe was shared at Cast Party Wednesday, Weekend Potluck1 Month of Fun and Talent Show Tuesday.


Tomato Eggplant Ricotta Tart

Tomato Eggplant Ricotta Tart

I dreamed of this tart for days but I was too busy to make it … I could picture it in my mind: a lovely summer tart filled with garlic and herb-infused Ricotta and Asiago cheeses, topped with rows of beautifully overlapping garden fresh tomato and tender little purple eggplant slices. Finally I could not stand it any longer. I had to make it. It was nearing twilight, so I rushed to finish it in time to have enough light to photograph it. I was using these lovely little purple eggplant from mom’s garden and some of those little tomatoes that pretty perfectly matched the diameter of the eggplant.

Purple eggplant for the Tomato Eggplant Ricotta Tart

It turned out beautiful …  but the cornmeal crust I had thought would be so good was just awful (re-confirming my irrational fear of pie crust). It looked perfectly lovely … I tried eating it, but ended up eating the topping and leaving the crust … I stuck the tart in the fridge overnight while I considered what to do … the next night I went and bought some puff pastry at the store, scraped the topping off the old crust, roasted some more eggplant and re-made the tart, again rushing to beat the impending darkness. This time, it turned out MUCH better, taste-wise, but not quite as pretty. I had used up all the tomatoes that matched the size of the eggplant so I couldn’t get that perfect layered effect. I used one of the darker Japanese eggplant in hopes that it would match the size of the larger tomatoes, but it didn’t at all. And this tart was square, not round. I don’t think I allowed the puff pastry enough time to thaw because the crust really wasn’t as puffy as it should have been. But despite all that, it tasted oh so wonderful. Almost as good as my dream tart.

Tomato Eggplant Ricotta Tart

Tomato Eggplant Ricotta Tart

Crust:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry (or a pie crust would work if you are not afraid of such things like me)

Topping:

  • About 2 small, tender eggplant
  • Several small tomatoes (with a diameter that roughly matches the eggplant)

Filling:

  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese + a few extra tablespoons for the top
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • Several sprigs of fresh tarragon and basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Thaw your puff pastry or prepare the pie crust.
  2. Slice the eggplant thinly (about 1/8 inch thick) and place on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and dust with Red Robin Seasoning or your favorite seasoned salt. Bake eggplant at 350 for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant slices are tender. (These little tender eggplant don’t require any peeling or salting.)
  3. While the eggplant is cooking, slice the tomatoes thinly and set them aside.
  4. Mix the ricotta, asiago, garlic and about half of the chopped herbs.
  5. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay out the puff pastry (or place the pie crust in your tart pan). Spread the ricotta filling almost to the edge of the crust, then arrange alternating layers of the eggplant and tomato slices on top. If you are using puff pastry, roll up the edge of the pastry just a bit and pinch the corners. Sprinkle with a little asiago cheese and bake at 400 for 20 minutes or so or until the pastry has browned on the edges and the cheese is all melted.
  6. Sprinkle with the rest of the fresh herbs. Slice and serve immediately.

Tomato Eggplant Ricotta Tart

This recipe was shared with Weekend PotluckScrumptious Sunday, Manic MondayTotally Tasty Tuesday, and Cast Party Wednesday.


Crock Pot Garden Marinara Sauce

Garden Marinara Sauce in the Crockpot

I am guest posting over at Stacy Makes Cents! Stacy contacted me back in June to ask if I would do a guest post for her in August … something made in the crockpot. The only things she asked were:

  • Not a recipe already on the site
  • Submitted a week in advance of your date
  • Only use whole food ingredients

I thought that’s no sweat! I can totally handle that … Well, time went by and the date she had given me as a deadline came and went and I hadn’t sent her anything. You know how life gets so busy … this guest post completely slipped my mind! So I totally failed on the “submitted a week in advance” part, but I did make a new recipe with whole foods!

So head on over to Stacy’s blog for the recipe.

Garden Marinara Sauce made in the Slow Cooker

This recipe was shared at Weekend Potluck and Manic Monday.


Smoked Havarti Cheese Stuffed Mini Tomatoes

Smoked Havarti Stuffed Mini Tomatoes

My dad decided to try a different variety of tomatoes … some that would mature earlier so he would have tomatoes earlier on in the season … great idea, but this summer has been so hot that his “early” tomatoes only ripened about a week before the rest of the tomatoes.

These little tomatoes are prolific and delicious, if a little small. They are a little bigger than grape tomatoes, yet smaller than regular ones. Mom has boxes and boxes of them … so I took a little box of these little ones because I thought they would make lovely appetizer tomatoes, stuffed with cheese. I took a picture so you could see how big they are …

Mini Tomatoes

And what do you know? I was right! It took me a couple tries, but you can stuff them up, bake them briefly (only briefly or they get over-soft and fall apart and the cheese falls out!) and then munch. They taste simply delightful!

For this recipe, you could certainly use cherry or grape, roma or even full-size tomatoes. Just make sure they are tomatoes from the garden (or farmer’s market) because those grocery store tomatoes are just pale shadows of REAL garden tomatoes.

Smoked Havarti Stuffed Mini Tomatoes

Smoked Havarti Cheese Stuffed Mini Tomatoes

I was making these just for me, so this makes a small amount! Please double or triple the recipe if you have a crowd to feed! The smoky cheese tomato stuffing is also lovely all by itself, simply spread on toast …

  • Several small tomatoes (I stuffed 6 lil tomatoes for lunch, but had about half the filling left …)
  • 1/4 cup of tomato pulp (from the center of the tomatoes you’re stuffing)
  • About 3 oz. light cream cheese
  • About 1/4 cup bread crumbs (whole wheat is good!)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped fine
  • A sprig or two of fresh tarragon, chopped fine
  • A sprig or two of fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • About 1/2 oz. shredded smoked Havarti cheese (roughly 1/4 cup)
  • A couple tablespoons of roasted, shelled pistachios, chopped roughly
  • For garnish: basil flowers and/or leaves
  • For serving: thinly sliced baguette, toasted, or other small toasts

Directions:

  1. Take the tomatoes you want to stuff and set them out on a flat surface. Notice how they “sit” the best. It might be on their side. Mine all wanted to sit sideways. Cut off the top “side” (the opposite side from the side each tomato wants to sit on), then carefully scoop out the center part of the tomato, being careful not to cut the outside shell. Once you have all your tomatoes hollowed out, set them on a baking tray and chop up the tomato pulp you pulled out of the tomatoes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of the tomato pulp with the cream cheese, bread crumbs, tarragon, basil and Havarti cheese, reserving some fresh basil leaves for garnish. Carefully scoop some of the filling into each of the hollowed out tomatoes, filling it to the top. Press a couple pieces of pistachio on top.
  3. Bake at 400 for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is hot and bubbly on top and the tomatoes just begin to sag a little bit. Don’t bake them too long or the tomatoes will get too soft and won’t hold their shape.
  4. Set the tomatoes carefully on a serving plate, garnish with basil leaves and/or basil flowers and serve immediately, hot out of the oven. You can pop them into your mouth just like this … or I found they go rather nicely on toasted baguette. I would caution against wearing a white shirt while eating these … they do sometimes squirt juice when you bite into them. You can avoid this by popping the whole thing in your mouth at once, but those of us with little mouths have a little trouble with that!

Smoked Havarti Stuffed Mini Tomatoes

This recipe was shared at Tastetastic Thursday, Foodie Friends Friday and Scrumptious Sunday.


Onion Double Garlic Prosciutto Cream Noodles

with Roasted Tomatoes, Two Cheeses & Fresh Basil

Garlic Prosciutto Cream Noodles with Roasted Tomatoes, Two Cheeses & Fresh Basil

Yikes! I’m caught up a double alphabet challenge! One on facebook that is a daily A-Z health challenge … and then there’s this monthly “Eating the Alphabet” challenge that I just started last month and I really don’t want to miss out on this month since I JUST started.

The monthly “Eat your Alphabet” challenge is focused on the letters M, N, and O this month. Given that I’ve been racking my brain DAILY for “what food starts with this letter”, you think this would be easy, but I’m only on the letter K on the DAILY challenge … and this is a few days ahead of that. I don’t plan that far in advance (most of the time)! I suppose it’s good to think about it now, right? Head start on the daily thing?

So first I thought melon … hey, a watermelon margarita sounds yummy! … but then I spent a couple days gazing at gazillions of amazing photos of garlic and pasta and such, so I had NOODLES on my mind … so I decided to go with something with ONION (for the O) and NOODLES (for the N) … hey that’s a DOUBLE “eat the alphabet” win … and then I threw in another double plus: double garlic! Yeah! This is getting waaay too synergistic now … and then I threw some fresh garden tomatoes and basil on top … just for good measure.

Don’t worry too much over the amount of garlic in here: roasting the garlic makes a very mild, creamy flavor that is just wonderful in the sauce.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention! There’s a bit of zucchini in there too. Cuz, well, I’m all about zucchini lately. I still have two more from my sister to use up and I’m going to my parents’ house soon and they will give me more! We are not through with zucchini mania just quite yet … if you happen to be making this dish outside of zucchini season, I would suggest replacing the zucchini some other mashed cooked winter squash such as pumpkin or butternut.

Garlic Prosciutto Cream Noodles with Roasted Tomatoes, Two Cheeses & Fresh Basil

Onion Double Garlic Prosciutto Cream Noodles

with Roasted Tomatoes, Two Cheeses & Fresh Basil. I think this would serve about 4 people. I have had it for two meals so far and there is still plenty left. It reheats pretty nicely, by the way.

The smoked Havarti cheese was a gift given to me from Dofino cheese. It’s such a good cheese for making the sauce extra creamy because it melts really well and adds a little extra smoky flavor to the dish.

  • 1 head of garlic, roasted
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 of an onion, sliced fine (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely chopped
  • 3 paper-thin slices of prosciutto
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • about 1/4 cup white wine
  • 4 teaspoons of flour
  • 2 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded Smoked Havarti cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1 – 2 cups fresh garden tomatoes, chopped
  • a handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I used tarragon, rosemary, thyme and basil)
  • 1/2 lb. angel hair, spaghetti, or linguini pasta (whole grain or gluten free noodles are cool!)
  • Garnish: Fresh, sliced basil leaves + a little freshly shredded asiago

Directions:

  1. Cut the top off the head of garlic, drizzle with a little olive oil, put in a small oven-safe bowl, cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 F. for about an hour or until the garlic is completely soft. Set aside to cool while you start the sauce, but don’t turn the oven off. We’ll be roasting the tomatoes shortly too.
  2. Prepare all your vegies and heat up the water boiling for the pasta.
  3. Spray a skillet pan with cooking spray, then drizzle with a little olive oil and add the onions. Sautee over medium heat till the onions are soft and translucent, add a little wine, cover and cook for a minute, uncover and stir till the wine has evaporated. Repeat this process till the onions are lightly brown and the wine is gone. Remove the pan from the heat just for a moment while you tend to the tomato and pasta.
  4. Set the chopped tomato in a small baking dish coated with cooking spray and set it in the oven to roast while you finish up the sauce. Hopefully the water is boiling by now? Start the pasta cooking. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin and mash it with a fork.
  5. Back to the skillet pan: Add the raw garlic, prosciutto and zucchini, set it back on the medium heat and sautee for about 5 minutes longer. Add the mashed garlic and stir it into the brown mess of vegies. It will all look sort of ugly at this point. Don’t despair! It will get prettier.
  6. Add the flour and stir to coat all the vegies in the pan. Lower the heat to medium low and add the milk. Stir until the sauce starts to thicken, then add the cheeses and cook just a few minutes longer till the cheese is melted. Stir in the herbs, reserving some basil for garnish.
  7. Remove the sauce from the heat. Now, the noodles should be about done by now, so drain them, then stir the noodles into the sauce. Put in a serving bowl, top with the roasted tomatoes and garnish with fresh basil and a little shredded asiago. Serve hot.

Onion Double Garlic Prosciutto Cream Noodles

This post is for the Eating the Alphabet challenge

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This recipe was also shared at Tastetastic Thursday.


Magic “Feel Better” Soup

Feel Better Magic Soup

This soup is one of the best things to make when you’re feeling sick. I haven’t made it in years, but it was one of those things that has always made me feel better, not just because it’s full of loads of good vitamins and herbs, but also because it tastes soothing and comforting and warm.  It’s so tasty, you don’t really need to be sick to make it. But it will help you feel better if you are.

I have struggled with sinus problems for a good part of my adult life … there was a period in my life when I was getting a sinus infection every month. As soon as I would get done with one, I was getting another one. I was on a constant stream of antibiotics and always felt miserable. I’ve learned ways of coping with it now so I haven’t had one now in over a year, but this morning I woke up and I could feel one coming on … this is NOT a good time to be sick! My sister is coming to visit this weekend … I started thinking of all the things I used to do to make them go away and I remembered this soup I used to make.

The last time I made this soup was long before I had all the fresh herbs I have now and I don’t exactly recall what herbs I used to put in it back then. I remember the basic formula for it, though. And this is how it goes …

Magic Feel Better Soup

Magic “Feel Better” Soup

  • 1 large potato, cut into hunks (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped carrots
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups of chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cups of fresh swiss chard or spinach, washed and chopped
  • A handful of fresh herbs: I used basil, thyme, rosemary, & parsley
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or fat free half and half
  • Sriracha or other hot sauce, to taste (to open up the sinuses)
  • Freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley (optional)

Directions:

  1. Put the potato, carrots, garlic, bay leaf, onion and broth into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer (medium low) and cook for about 20 – 30 minutes or until the potato is fall-apart tender and the other vegies are soft.
  2. Fish out the bay leaf and stir in the chard. Cover the pot and cook for just a couple minutes or until the chard is cooked. Add the herbs.
  3. Pour the soup into a blender (or use an immersion blender), add the yogurt or half and half and blend until smooth. Add more broth if you want a thinner soup. I like my soup pretty thick. Serve hot, topped with Sriracha and shredded cheese and garnish with fresh parsley. That red swirl you see there … that’s the Sriracha.

Feel Better Magic Soup

This recipe was shared at Foodie Friends FridayFit & Fabulous Fridays, Scrumptious Sundays, Family Fresh Meals and Manic Monday and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.

Your Child’s Food made a Thai-inspired version of this soup that is dairy free. I really love her twist on it! Her recipe is here.


Watermelon Basil Rose Sorbet

Watermelon Basil Rose Sorbet

I’m guest posting over at  Cupcakes and Kale Chips today … Brianne is a good friend of mine and she is off on vacation. I’m quite happy to help her out while she enjoys her well-deserved vacation. I have several “food sisters” and Brianne  is one of them. With Brianne, we are salad sisters. We really match on the salads … the only thing that we don’t agree on is the subject of onions … I must have onions on my salads and she prefers hers without.

So for this post, I stayed away from onions and salads … just a sweet cold summer treat. I tried this in champagne, by the way. I personally didn’t like it … I prefer the sorbet by itself … champagne separate … but some of my friends disagreed with me and very much enjoyed it.

Yes, there ARE roses in the sorbet. And basil. Watermelon and basil go so well together. Add roses and it’s a wonderful, icy cold, sweet summer treat.

Anyway, head on over to Cupcakes and Kale Chips for the recipe …

Watermelon Basil Rose Sorbet

This recipe was shared at Thursday’s Treasures.

 


Pesto Shrimp Mini-Pizzas

with fresh grape tomatoes, goat cheese & pinons

Pesto Shrimp Mini Pizzas with Goat Cheese & Pinons

If I had to choose one favorite pizza topping, this would be it. Shrimp, pesto, and goat cheese with fresh tomato and pinons are such an elegant combination of flavors, and if you have pizza crusts (or english muffins!) and pesto on hand, they are so quick and simple to put together.

I made these little mini-pizza crusts for the party last weekend, but we didn’t actually eat them at the party. I served some to my friends at the “after-the-party” party, though, and they were very well received. And now my daughter is loving having the little mini-crusts on hand. I’ve made her mini-pizzas for dinner a couple times this week already. I think this mini pizza craze might become a regular thing at my house. They are even better than the individual-sized crusts I normally make because they’re minis! Small, bite-sized food is just so fun.

When the basil is rampant, I make pesto & freeze it so I always have some on hand. I pretty much always have some pizza crusts in the freezer too.

Pesto Shrimp Mini Pizzas with Grape Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pinons

Pesto Shrimp Mini Pizzas with Grape Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pinons

The great thing about these pizzas is you can pre-make everything and keep it in the freezer, so you can have little gourmet pizzas on the table in no time.

  • Pre-made mini pizza crusts (recipe below) or English muffins … or a regular-sized pizza crust if you want to make this as a bigger pizza. You could certainly do this as a grilled pizza too …
  • Pesto (my pesto recipe is here)
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Frozen, pre-cooked shrimp, thawed
  • Fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Pinons (pine nuts)

Spread the pizza crusts with pesto and crumbled goat cheese. Top with lots of shrimp and mini tomato halves. Sprinkle with pinons. Bake at 400 for about 10 – 12 minutes or until the nuts are toasted and light brown and the pizzas are good and hot.

Pesto Shrimp Mini Pizzas with Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Pinons

Beer Pizza Crusts

  • 1 cup beer (I used Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat this time)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Put all ingredients into the bread machine and put it on the dough setting. When the dough is done, divide it into 24 balls of roughly equal size. I did this by cutting the dough in half, then cutting each one in half again, then each piece into three and then cutting each of those into half. Use cornmeal on your work surface to keep the balls from sticking. Shape each ball into a disc shape, set on a flat pizza peel or cutting board dusted with cornmeal, cover with a towel and let rest about 5 – 10 minutes. Then gently stretch each one into a slightly larger disc, cover and let rest until they have risen to the desired size. Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes or until a light golden brown in color. You can throw them in a bag and freeze them at this point and pull them out as needed for snacks or dinner.

This recipe was featured at Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen Seafood Frenzy Fridays.

This recipe was shared at Thursday’s TreasuresTastetastic Thursday, KM’s Seafood BloghopFoodie Fridays, and Manic Monday.


#Tomatolove: Sundried Tomato Ranch Dressing

Sundried Tomato Ranch Salad Dressing

After making Melissa’s Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette, I still had a few sundried tomatoes left and I thought perhaps I should try throwing them in some ranch dressing too? Yep, it works. Tastes mighty fine. The sundried tomatoes do make it thicker, so if you want a drizzle for your salad, you’ll need to thin it out a bit.

Sundried Tomato Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing (or Dip)

  • 1/3 c. light mayonnaise
  • 2/3 to 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. nonfat greek yogurt
  • 3 heaping tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 2-3 big fresh cloves of garlic
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Several fresh parsley leaves or ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • A few fresh dill twigs or ½ teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 green onions (tops only)

Whir all the ingredients in a handy chopper or food processor until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add more buttermilk as needed to get the dressing to the desired consistency. Mine was pretty thick, but I was using it for a pasta salad so that was just perfect.

Use for pasta or potato salad, on green salads or as a dip with vegies. Store in a covered container in the fridge.

Sundried Tomato Ranch Dressing (or Dip)

This is a post for #tomatolove.

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This recipe was also shared at Summer Salad SundayScrumptious Sundays, Weekend PotluckManic MondayTip Junkie, Cast Party Wednesday and EveryDay Mom’s Meals


Spiedies {Legendary Italian Marinated Meat Kebabs}

Spiedies: Legendary Italian Meat Kebabs

My Italian friend Linda tells me “the name Spiedies has nothing to do with speed and everything to with the Big Daddy of spiedies which is spiedini, the Italian kebab or skewered and grilled meat.” Spiedies are an upstate New York Italian favorite that really started in the Middle East. When the Middle Eastern conquerors invaded Italy, they brought with them many ingredients and cooking ideas that stuck – meat kebabs being one of them. As conquered lands tend to do, the Italians adopted and adapted … and then …  made them better. Italians in upstate New York now strive to perfect them and even host an annual festival to celebrate Spiedies.

I didn’t know all this before my Italian friend Linda posted her recipe for Spiedies … when I saw those mouthwatering pictures and read the ingredients in that marinade, I knew right away I wanted to try it with venison.Venison has a stronger gamey flavor that can overpower some marinades, but this marinade was just magic. I made these for a little dinner party with just a few good friends and everyone loved them. My friend told me a few days later that the dinner I made for them was legendary. Legendary! And according to the story, they really are.

Linda says to serve these kebabs in good Italian bread, but I served them over rice because I wasn’t sure if my girl would like them and she loves rice, so I knew at the very least she would eat the rice. But she ate them! Most of the time when I make venison as steaks or kebabs, she doesn’t really care for it. But THIS … this she ate. I was so excited.

I did try them later in Italian bread, but like I tend to do, I smothered the meat with cheese and veggies and by the time I got done, you couldn’t even see the meat. But you could still taste it! That incredible herbilicious meaty flavor shone right through. Mmmm!

Spiedies: Legendary Italian Meat Kebabs

Spiedies

Adapted from Linda’s Italian Table. I cut down the amount of oil and substituted my balsamic sundried tomato “ketchup” in place of the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. I didn’t measure the amounts for the fresh herbs, just threw in what looked like would be about right, and it turned out marvelous. I think fresh herbs are very forgiving that way. Definitely use fresh herbs as much as you can in this dish … it makes a big difference.

  • 3 lb. tender leg of lamb and/or pork tenderloin, or venison, or chicken breast – cut up into pieces about 1 1/2 inches
Marinade:
  • 1/4 c. Olive Oil
  • Zest of 1 fresh lemon
  • Juice of a Large Fresh Lemon
  • 1/3 cup balsamic sundried tomato “ketchup” (recipe here … or use 1 Tablespoon tomato paste + 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/3 c. Dry Red Wine
  • 5 Cloves Fresh Garlic
  • 2 Tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Tsp. Paprika
  • 1 Crushed Large Bay Leaf
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme or Lemon Thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Mint – chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano – chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt or more ( make sure to be generous with the salt as it brings out the flavors)
  • Plenty of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
To serve:
  • Good Italian Bread (or rice!)

You can chop the herbs and garlic by hand if you like, or toss them all in a handi chopper or food processor. I found that didn’t chop them fine enough, so I added some of the balsamic sundried tomato sauce to get it to blend fine. Once you get your herbs chopped, then whisk them together with the rest of the marinade ingredients. TASTE the marinade to make sure it has enough salt and pepper. The salt and pepper brings out the flavor. If you don’t add enough, your spiedies will be bland.

Mix the marinade with the meat so that all the meat is covered in marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. I made my marinade early in the morning and started them grilling around 7 pm in the evening.

Skewer the meat just before grilling. Heat the grill so there is a hot spot for searing and a cooler spot to finish the meat. Sear the meat over the hot spot first, turning to sear all sides of the kebabs, then move them to the cooler part of the grill to finish. They shouldn’t take long if your grill is good and hot. (We had a little trouble getting the grill to heat up, so mine actually got slow cooked for a while over very low heat, then we restarted the charcoal and got it searing hot and then seared them, then moved them to the cooler part. Once the grill was hot, they didn’t take long at all to finish.)

Be careful not to overcook them (especially with venison), because the meat will get dry.  They should cook up fairly quickly on a hot grill. Do a taste test as you go …

Spiedies: Legendary Italian Meat Kebabs

This recipe was shared at  Thursday’s TreasuresTastetastic ThursdayFoodie Friends FridayFit & Fabulous Fridays and EveryDay Mom’s Meals.


Herbed Baked Eggs in a Bread “Bowl” with Avocado

topped with Havarti and Gorgonzola cheese & a Balsamic Sundried Tomato “Ketchup”

Herbed Baked Egg in a Bun with Avocado, 2 Cheeses & Balsamic Sundried Tomato Ketchup

It wasn’t very long ago I saw this great idea for baking eggs in a bread bowl … just hollow out some hard rolls, crack your egg in there, add some seasonings and voila! A beautiful breakfast. But you know me, I couldn’t stop there. I added some herbs and some cheeses and a gorgeous sundried tomato vinaigrette (a recipe I got from my friend Melissa at ChinDeep), which I had intended to drizzle over the baked egg, but I added some extra sundried tomatoes so the vinaigrette turned out kind of thick, more like the consistency of a ketchup. I’ve never liked ketchup on my eggs, but I loved this balsamic sundried tomato ketchup!

It took me a few tries to get this right. The first time I didn’t hollow out enough of the hard roll and then I overbaked it and the yolk was hard and dry. I wanted a runny, messy yolk that you could sop up with the bread. So I tried again, and this time I got the yolk just about right, but the hard roll got way too brown on top. I had cut just a tiny bit of the top off, and our toaster oven is too small; it over-toasted the top. It was delicious, but definitely not photo-worthy. The third time I finally got it right. Perfectly sized hole, perfectly brown crusty hard roll, perfectly cooked egg. The texture of the egg white was amazing, and when I tore into the yolk and it ran all over the plate, my heart just jumped with joy. A perfectly-cooked egg with toasted bread and avocado is pure pleasure in my book.

Herbed Baked Egg in Bread Bowl with Avocado & Balsamic Sundried Tomato Ketchup

Herbed Baked Eggs in a Bread “Bowl” with Avocado

  • Hard rolls
  • Eggs
  • Fresh basil & oregano
  • Red Robin Seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Shredded Havarti cheese
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • Avocado slices
  • Balsamic Sundried Tomato Ketchup (recipe below)

Cut tops off the hard rolls and hollow out the bottom half so there is enough room for an egg to fit in there. Set the hard rolls on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Crack an egg into each roll.

Egg in a Hard Roll

Sprinkle with fresh basil, oregano leaves, the seasoning and fresh ground pepper. Top each egg with a Tablespoon or two of shredded Havarti cheese, then a sprinkle of Gorgonzola (maybe 1/2 Tablespoon per egg?). Bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes or until the white is set but the yolk is still soft. (If you want your yolk cooked through-not runny, let it cook another 5 minutes.)

In the last 5 minutes of cooking, put the tops of the hard rolls in the oven alongside to toast them.

Remove from oven. Set each egg on a plate, top with avocado slices, garnish with fresh basil or oregano leaves and serve immediately with plenty of the balsamic sundried tomato ketchup.

Herbed Baked Egg in a bread bowl with Avocado and a Balsamic Sundried Tomato Ketchup

Balsamic Sundried Tomato “Ketchup”

Adapted from ChinDeep

  • 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup minced  sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • water, as needed

Soak the tomatoes in the vinegar and wine for 15 minutes or so to soften them up, then put all ingredients into a food processor or handi chopper and blend till mostly smooth. Add water as needed to get it to the desired consistency.

This recipe was shared at Scrumptious SundaysEveryday Mom’s MealsEgg Blog Hop and Manic Mondays.


Basil Green Tea Gelato

Basil Green Tea Gelato

Do you love basil? I love basil. My mother has suggested maybe my dad and I love basil a little too much. How could that possibly be?

I have seen people put basil in sorbets and syrups and even cookies, so for #icecreamlove this month, I had this brilliant flash of inspiration: I wanted to make ICE CREAM with BASIL in it! I thought I was SOooo clever … but well, I googled it and it turns out that’s not an original idea. Sigh. But then very few ideas are. I mean with 7 billion people on this earth (currently, plus how many before us?), it’s highly unlikely that none of them ever had the same flash of insight.

I made my brilliant basil ice cream anyway. But I put green tea in mine too. Because it just felt right to add green tea.

I don’t really know whether to call this an ice cream or a gelato. I chose gelato because Saveur calls it a gelato and hey, they’re Saveur, they should know.

If you are a basil lover like me, you will love this gelato. It has a wonderful sweet basil taste. It IS very clever, even if it wasn’t my own brain child. I totally ♥ this gelato … er, ice cream? oh whatever …

Basil Green Tea Gelato

Basil Green Tea Gelato

Kinda sorta adapted from Saveur and Eats Well with Others

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1 cup fat free half & half
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (for a lower-fat version, use skim milk in place of 2%, more fat free half & half and less heavy cream … I would recommend 1 1/2 cups fat free half & half and 1/2 cup whipping cream)
  • 1/2  – 3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup, but if you want it sweeter, add more sugar … )
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 green tea bags

Put the basil, milk, half & half, whipping cream, sugar, eggs, and salt in a blender and blend till smooth. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat till the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch (like as hot as a tea you would drink). Put the green tea bags in the pot and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or so to let the tea steep.  Chill the mixture in the fridge until it’s cold. If you want, you can strain out the basil leaves by straining the mixture through a fine sieve or cloth. (I decided to strain it this time, but I’ve seen others leave the specks of green.) Either way, take the tea bags out and freeze it up in your ice cream maker.

Enjoy immediately, or freeze it in the freezer for a couple hours to firm it up some more.

Basil Green Tea Gelato

This post is an #icecreamlove post powered by Linky Tools

Click here to see all the other wonderful ice creams everyone is making this month …

This recipe was also shared at Weekend Potluck, Manic Mondays and Melt in your Mouth Mondays.


Very Berry Basil Wine Spritzer

Very Berry Basil Wine Spritzer

Soooo I found another use for that wonderful Very Berry Syrup from the Very Berry Italian Cream Sodas. Add it to a little white wine with some club soda and it makes a really nice refreshing spritzer. The thing that makes this magic is really the syrup, which has two kinds of berries and a bunch of basil in it, along with a splash of vanilla. It’s delightful.

This is what I was sipping on as I was grilling up the pizzas last night …

Very Berry Basil Wine Spritzer

Very Berry Basil Wine Spritzers

  • White wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • Very berry syrup (recipe here)
  • Club soda
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: basil leaves and/or edible flowers like violets

Fill a wine glass about 1/2 full of wine, add a few ice cubes and a teaspoon or two of the very berry syrup. Taste it to see if it’s to your liking, and add wine or a bit more syrup to adjust to the level of sweetness you want, then add a splash of club soda (for the bubbles!) and garnish with flowers and/or basil leaves.

Very Berry Basil Wine Spritzer

This recipe was shared at Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


Watermelon Basil Chia Smoothie

Basil Watermelon Chia Slushie

It’s time for the Crazy Cooking Challenge and this month we are all making smoothies. The assignment is to find another blogger’s smoothie recipe, make it, and blog about it.

I chose this watermelon smoothie (slushie?) from the Full Belly Sisters because as some of you who follow me on facebook know, I recently bought a watermelon that was less then stellar. To put it bluntly, it sucked. I asked my facebook friends what to do with it and I had such an amazing response! There were some really great ideas there, and this just happened to be one of them. I also just so happen to have some chia seeds that I won from Lauren at Nutri-Savvy and Ruth’s Foods.

Justine used mint in her slushie, and I have a tiny bit of mint that I planted, but it’s just starting and doesn’t have many leaves yet, so I decided to use some of the basil instead, since that plant ALWAYS needs trimming–and besides, basil is a member of the mint family and it goes very well with watermelon. The other change I made to the recipe was I had to add some liquid because my blender did NOT want to blend up the watermelon cubes “dry”. If you have one of those juicer kind of blenders, perhaps you won’t need any extra liquid, but mine was NOT budging without adding some liquid. I added it 1/4 cup at a time, till it was liquid enough to drink through a straw. It was still plenty thick, though, as you can see.

Basil Watermelon Chia Slushie

Watermelon Basil Chia Smoothie

(yields about 24 ounces)
  • 4 cups cubed watermelon, frozen
  • about 5 or 6 basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds
  • juice of one lime
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup of juice (I used apple cherry juice)
  • 1/4 cup of culinary rosewater (or you can substitute water or juice)
  • Thin watermelon slices and basil leaves, for garnish

Put the watermelon, basil, chia, lime juice, and salt in a blender. Add 1/4 cup of juice and try blending. Add juice (or rosewater) 1/4 cup at a time until the smoothie blends, then add more as needed to get the smoothie to the thickness that you like.

If you drink the whole thing yourself, it will be like eating a meal. You will be full for a long while. The chia seeds add fiber, calcium and protein, so they give this drink a lot of “staying power”, and with all the nutritional benefits of the watermelon and the juice, you will be getting a lot of the vitamins, water, and nutrients that your body needs. Not to mention that it’s quite refreshing to drink this sweet slushie on a hot summer day.

Basil Watermelon Chia Slushie

This post is for the Crazy Cooking Challenge

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Click here to see all the other awesome smoothies in the Crazy Cooking Challenge …

This recipe was also shared at I’m Lovin’ It.


Wild Mushroom Grilled Pizza

Wild Mushroom Grilled Pizza

The last time I grilled pizza, I decided to do a simple wild mushroom ‘za. Just cuz I had some wild shrooms from my wonderful dad. Have I mentioned how much he spoils me? I am so so very lucky …

The mushrooms were fantastic, but really the best part about this pizza was the crust. The crust had such a wonderful flavor, probably because I used the liquid from cooking up the morel mushrooms along with some tomato juice for the liquid in the dough. Morel mushrooms are full of moisture. When you cook them up, the moisture releases and you end up with a sort of soupy mushroom mixture. You can keep cooking to reduce the juice, or you can save that delicious mushroom juice for soup … or pizza crust. I made two pizzas with this crust: this mushroom one for me, and a cheese one for my daughter. I still had some dough left, so I let it rise while I was cooking the pizzas, then baked it up as “flatbread” … my son gobbled those up in no time.

Wild Mushroom Grilled Pizza

Wild Mushroom Grilled Pizza

  • Pizza dough
  • Wild mushrooms (I used morels & shelf mushrooms, but others will work as well)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped fine
  • Red Robin Seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt)
  • Your favorite pizza or pasta sauce
  • Mozzarella or Italian blend of cheeses
  • Fresh chives, garlic scapes, snipped, & fresh basil leaves

Heat a frying pan to medium high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl about in the pan, then add the mushrooms and garlic and sautee for a few minutes. Season to taste with Red Robin seasoning. If the mushrooms get dry, add some white wine and cover for a couple minutes till the mushrooms are soft and moist. Pour off any excess mushroom juice (or wine) to use in your pizza crust.

Make the dough for the pizza crust (see recipe below).

When the dough is ready, light up the coals on the grill, and when they are hot, pile the coals up on one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty to make a not-as-hot spot for the toppings to melt. (If you are using a gas grill, heat up one area to very hot and a lower heat area for melting the cheese.)

Arrange your mushrooms and cheese right next to the grill so you’re ready to top the pizza when the crust is ready.

Put the grate on the grill, and place a crust on the grill over the hot coals, cover and let it cook for 5-10 minutes, checking it periodically. The crust should start to bubble up a little and get brown on the bottom. Once it is nicely browned on the bottom, flip it over onto the cooler side of the grill, add the toppings and cover the grill again till the cheese is melted. (For some more pics showing how to grill pizza, see my Grilled Thai Chicken Pizza post.)

Top the pizza with chives, scapes and fresh basil, cut and enjoy!

Italian Mushroom Tomato Pizza Crust

  • 1 cup liquid (I used about 1/4 cup juice from cooking the mushrooms, 1/2 cup tomato juice, and filled the rest of the cup with water)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Put all ingredients into the bread machine and put it on the dough setting. When the dough is done, divide it into four balls. Shape each ball into a disc shape, cover with a towel and let rest about 5 – 10 minutes. On a clean, flat surface sprinkled with cornmeal, roll out the dough for your crust with a rolling pin. Cover and let rest until the grill is ready and you have all your ingredients prepped and ready. The trick to grilling pizza is to have all the toppings ready to add to the pizza quickly as soon as you flip the dough over.

Wild Mushroom Grilled Pizza

This recipe was shared at Weekend Potluck, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, and Thursday’s Treasures.


Spicy Smoky Corn Pudding

with smoked Gouda and bacon

Spicy Smoky Cornbread Pudding

So what do you do with leftover cornbread? My kids both love it, but they will only eat it when it’s fresh. Of course it’s best when it’s fresh and hot, but it’s still good later! … especially when it’s grilled cornbread. I opened up the container that I stored it in and I could smell that smoky grilled taste all over again … ah! It made a wonderful breakfast.

But still I am only one person … and I tire of the same thing over and over … what if we just work a little bread pudding magic on it?

Spicy Smoky Corn Pudding

Spicy Smoky Corn Pudding

  • 2 cups cubed cornbread (the pudding will have a smokier flavor if the cornbread was cooked on the grill)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped jalapenos (more or less to taste … you can substitute other peppers for the jalapeno if you prefer)
  • 3/4 cup corn (I thawed out some frozen corn, but you could use fresh corn)
  • 1/4 cup smoked gouda cheese, cut into small cubes (or shredded)
  • About 1 Tablespoon bacon, cooked crisp, and crumbled
  • Chopped chives, basil, baby spinach, garlic scapes or other herbs of your choosing (about 1/2 cupful total? I just went out to my garden and started picking random things … my spinach is pathetic … only a few baby leaves to be had, but there are plenty of chives and basil and garlic!)
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Spray a small casserole dish or large oven-safe bowl with cooking spray, and put the cornbread in the bowl. Pour the milk over the bread and let it soak for 15 minutes, stirring a couple times to make sure all the bread gets soaked.
  2. Sitr the jalapenos, corn, cheese, bacon, and herbs into the cornbread mixture.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth, then fold them into the cornbread mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 for 20 – 25 minutes or until the pudding is “set” (springs back when you touch it lightly right in the center). Let set for just a few minutes, then serve while it’s still hot.

Spicy Smoky Corn Pudding

This recipe was shared at Weekend Potluck.


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