Saturday, March 27, 2010

Broiled tomato appetizer

A simple and delicious appetizer that is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your next soire, date night or when you feel like have something extra special with your grilled cheese. I'm pretty excited about this because it is my own recipe (!) and my mind is already filled with variations, so without further ado...

Broiled stuffed tomatoes

4-6 ripe tomatoes (tomatoes the size of plumbs are best)
4 oz soft cream cheese
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
2 TB pesto sauce
Italian seasoning

Equipment: muffin pan

Preheat oven to broil. Grease one muffin pan. Mix cream cheese, feta and pesto together in a small bowl and set aside. Using a sharp knife core each tomato and use a spoon to scoop all of the seeds and center of the tomato out. Sprinkle Italian seasoning in each tomato and fill with cheese mixture. Place tomatoes in the slots of the muffin pan. Broil for 4 minutes allowing cheese to melt but not burn on the top and tomatoes to soften. Serve while while still warm.

These were delicious! A fantastic and simple start to a meal. A great date night addition that will make it look like you tried, even when you didn't!

Taste: A+
Cost: A-
Waste: A

Monday, March 22, 2010

My crock pot and I are on speaking terms again

The crock pot and I are once again on speaking terms. Thanks to the thorough crock pot recipe research provided by Stephanie at A Year of Slow Cooking. I have now made 2 successful recipes, both soups but I have plans to branch out.

Last week, while I was home from work due to illness my crock pot made dinner. End of Summer Harvest soup to be exact (see recipe below sourced from Stephanie's blog). I had, before I got sick, chopped up all the ingredients and put them in the fridge in my slow cooker, so all I had to do was put the pot insert in and turn it on (and go back to bed). It was amazing.

My only problem was I could NOT find dry cannellini beans. I went to two different grocery stores. I could only find the pre-cooked canned variety. I thought about substituting another kind of bean but I know nothing about beans (I don't really like them). So I bought the canned ones, intending to add them toward the end, but ended up not using them (they looked gross). I just added a little extra pasta at the end and the soup was very tasty, though the beans would give it more nutritional value.

Next time, I'm adding lentils. I love lentils and they would give the soup lots of fiber, just like the beans. If you wanted to make a version with meat, I'm thinking sausage or turkey sausage would be good additions. I'm trying to be a good Catholic this Lent so I made this recipe specifically because it was vegetarian.

Single girls should keep portion size in mind. I cut the portion in half and still had about 5 bowls of soup. This soup does not keep particularly well in the fridge, I tried to eat the last bowl for lunch 3 days after making it and it was definitely a little bit questionable.

End of Summer Harvest Soup (yes I realize it's winter)

4 cups chicken broth (I used vegetable, works fine)
1 cup prepared pasta sauce
1 cup water
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 zucchini, washed well and sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
2 yellow summer squash, washed well and sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/3 cup dry white Cannellini beans (could not find them!)
1/2 cup pasta (to add 20 minutes before serving)
salt and pepper to taste
garnish with Parmesan and Romano cheeses

I used a 5-quart slow cooker and cut this recipe in half. Wash squashes well, and slice in rounds. Place into slow cooker, with diced onion and tomato wedges. Rinse your beans in hot water, and add to cooker. Add broth, pasta sauce, and water. Stir in Italian seasoning.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until beans have reached desired tenderness. 20 minutes before serving, stir in raw pasta. Serve with grated Parmesan and Romano cheese.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fresh Guacamole - I'm converted!

I'm currently in KC, visiting my friend Jess - culinary student extraordinaire! We were at the store negotiating dinner options and I saw avocados on sale. While I was feeling up the avocados trying to find a ripe one, Jess was asking me what the beep I'm planning to with it. I said, just eat it. I LOVE avocado. Jess felt this was not a good plan and insisted on making guacamole, which I told her I don't like.

Apparently I was wrong. Jess makes some tasty guacamole. I'm not sure I'd ever had fresh made before because when I hear guacamole I think the goopy stuff you get at restaurants. Ew. But this was almost chunky. I ate almost all of it. Jess got like 2 chips. The following day we made it again, this time using two avocados so Jess could have at least a little bit. Oh I'm hungry just thinking about it.

Here is a link to Jess' blog with her avocado recipe. I'm working on getting a guest post from her in the future.

PS: I got in trouble for this photo because it wasn't "presentation ready." Forgive me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Potato soup - crock pot success!

Finally, finally, finally, the crock pot comes through. After all the depressing crock pot outcomes, I was on the look out for a specialist and I was browsing around on $5 dinners when I saw a post by Stephanie O'Dea, aka slow cooker aficionado. Stephanie's blog, A Year of Slow Cooking is amazing. She has a small slow cooker obsession, but I'm grateful for it, and challenged herself to use her crock pot everyday for a year in 2008. Wow. I can't even challenge myself to cook everyday - partly because I wouldn't be able to eat all of the food.

Anyway, so after I found Stephanie's blog, my hopes were still pretty low and I thought it was perhaps best to start small. Soup seemed like a natural thing to make in a slow cooker so I looked at the soup recipes on her blog and I wasn't disappointed there are a bunch to choose from.

I made the potato soup. It was yummy. I sort of forgot to buy seasoned salt, uh, twice so I used some random mix of seasoning I had around including paprika. I tried to blend the soup smooth with a hand mixer because unlike Stephanie, I did want a smooth soup. It sort of worked but not really. She suggested using a hand blender but I don't have one and did not want to pour the soup into my standing blender.

One final note, this is not single-girl portion sized recipe, at all! Probably because Stephanie is cooking for a family. I was planning to make the whole recipe and put some in the freezer but then I started cutting up potatoes, and let me tell you 5lbs of potatoes is a lot. I would recommend you to cut it in half. If you decide to make the whole thing, make sure to use a 6qt slow cooker as the recipe recommends. My crock pot is 5qt and it was almost full with 3/4 of the recipe.

I would say the full recipe makes 10-12 servings. I was eating this most of the week...yea none made it to the freezer, probably for the best as there is still some chicken in there from the whole chicken recipe.

The recipe calls for chicken broth, but I suspect a vegetarian version could easily be made by substituting vegetable broth.

I'm planning to make the End of Summer Harvest soup next week.