Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tomato Party on Toast

     Just going to say it - I got this recipe from the August 2014 Bon Appetite. This recipe isn't a total rip off however; the tomato mixture is the same base for many of our family recipes that my girls love.  Some prime examples are in an old entry called "Too Many Tomatoes" (Click Here to View It) . The other day I found myself with that happy problem again. I had gone to a farmer's market and bought a bunch of yellow, green, and red varieties. Then that night Roy came home with several more that one of his secretaries had given him from her garden. I gave some away, used several in salads, and decided to give this recipe a whirl. In the magazine, they used cherry tomatoes, but since I had a tomato surplus, I just diced up what I had. It turned out to be a riot of color on the fresh ricotta cheese spread atop the grilled bread - sort of like confetti at a celebration! 

6 tomatoes, various kinds such as red, yellow, even green.
Large handful of fresh herbs such as chives, oregano, rosemary, basil

1 French baguette
3 tablespoons olive oil 

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove. put through a press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

16 oz. fresh whole milk ricotta cheese

Chop up the tomatoes and place in a bowl. There should be able 3 cups. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper together. Pour over the tomatoes and set aside.

Cut the bread into fourths and then slice each piece down the middle lengthwise. Brush each piece with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Grill about 1 minute per side.

After the bread is grilled, roughly chop the herbs and mix them into the bowl with the tomatoes.

Spread 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese on each baguette piece.  Then top each with a generous 1/3 cup of the tomato mixture. Cut in half if desired and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Special Summer Salad

As it gets closer to Labor Day, I find myself trying hard to hang onto summer. The salad in this post is a copy of one I had in Michigan on a perfect July day.  Our family cottage is in Northwest Michigan which besides being the "Cherry Capital of the World", happens to be a good climate to grow grapes. We discovered a great place to rent bikes and a wonderful bike trail that had several wineries along it.  Caroline and Adam were visiting for a few days, and our day of biking and viewing wineries was one of the best activities we did during their stay. Before we left the bike shop, the clerk pointed out a few must see wineries on the map and we stopped at one for lunch. We were starved and everything was so delicious - especially the salad. The dressing was made with verjus which is the juice of tart green grapes. I loved it so much, I bought a bottle of it at the winery and it could be bought on line, but champagne vinegar would probably be a good substitute for it. The dressing also included finely diced preserved lemons. I  bought those at a middle eastern grocery but lemon zest could be used instead.  The baked ricotta and hazelnuts really add a lot to the salad and the dressing wraps it all up in a bunch of lemony yumminess - Enjoy!

Ingredients for Four Salads

1 (5 oz. bags of spring mix salad)
1 1/3 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/4 cup plus hazelnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon or 1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup verjus or champagne vinegar
1 small clove garlic, put through a press
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
scant 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper plus a little more for sprinkling

Directions for the Salad

Mix the ricotta cheese with the lemon zest. Brush the inside of a small baking dish with a bit of the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the ricotta mixture in the dish evenly. Drizzle the rest of the 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. If the top isn't browned, place it under the broiler for two minutes, watching carefully so it browns by doesn't burn. 

Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the hazelnuts and stir for a minute or two until they begin to brown.  Watch carefully so they don't burn. When they have browned, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. 

Whisk together the verjus (or vinegar), olive oil, pressed garlic, preserved lemon (or zest), salt, and pepper. Set aside.

To assemble the salad divide the spring mix between four plates. Put 1/3 cup of the sliced strawberries on each plate.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon dried blueberries and 1 tablespoon hazelnuts on each serving. Cut the baked ricotta cheese into cubes and place 1/4 cup of the cubes on each plate. Give the verjus dressing a good whisk and drizzle 2 tablespoons of it over each salad.

Sprinkle a bit of fresh ground pepper over each plate to finish the salad off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Very Easy (and Yummy) Shrimp Tacos

It doesn't get much easier ( or tastier) than this!  I have found that "cheating" by using frozen precooked shrimp allows me to whip up a meal in about 15 minutes.  The shrimp tacos here are so quick to make but they are so yummy.  They came about one dinner time when the only protein I had in the house was a bag of frozen shrimp. I was lucky enough to have an avocado and a lime as well as a tomato.  I had just gotten back from California after visiting Jenn and I was dreaming of the shrimp ceviche we had eaten out of a paper cup in one of the many fish taco joints near her apartment. The shrimp mixture in these tacos tastes a lot like that; the lime makes the precooked shrimp tastes fresh. With the addition of a corn tortilla, avocado, and tomato - it's a winner!

Ingredients for Eight Shrimp Tacos

1 pound precooked large frozen shrimp
2 to 3 tomatoes
3 green onions
2 limes (enough  for 3 tablespoons juice and garnish)
1 avocado
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
16 (six inch) corn tortillas


Put the shrimp in a bowl of cold water to thaw while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients. Peel the avocado, discard the seed, and dice it into chunks. Chop the tomatoes. Slice only the stems of the green onions.  Then drain the shrimp and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the shrimp, avocado, tomatoes, and green onions into a mixing bowl.

Peel the garlic clove and put it through a garlic press. Juice one of the limes so there is three tablespoons of juice.  In a small bowl, whisk together the pressed garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the mixing bowl.

Gently toss. Warm the corn tortillas up by wrapping them in paper towels and microwaving them for 30 seconds. Or, wrap them in foil and heat them in a 350 oven for 5 to 10 minutes. 

Assemble by using two corn tortillas per serving. Put 1/4 cup of the shredded lettuce on each double tortilla and divide the shrimp mixture up evenly among them. Serve with lime slices.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Farmers Market Feast

I love farmer's markets. They are a fairly new experience for me because for years, I was too exhausted from work and running the girls around all week to go anywhere on a  Saturday morning. I do have memories of going to them as a kid; my mom would buy lots of fruit and vegetables that were in wooden woven pint containers and little bushel baskets. When we got home, she would let us husk the corn outside. Then we would pretend we were Rumpelstiltskin making gold by turning out bikes upside down and running the corn silk through the spinning wheels. Although I never showed my girls that fun little activity, they discovered farmer's markets on their own.  When Jenn was living close by, she took me to one by her house and I remembered how wonderful they are.  This summer I have been inspired by the beautiful vegetable salads I've been seeing in the foodie magazines. And, when I get the chance to go out to lunch, I've been so impressed by how eating one's vegetables seems to be back in style; it's so trendy now to like corn and beets!  The corn, bean, and tomato salad posted here is copied from Taste, a local restaurant.  The beet salad was came about after seeing a dazzling photo in Bon Appetit  (different recipe than theirs however).  The last salad is just fresh tomatoes and basil with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  It's so easy to eat healthy in the summertime. Grab a fork; enjoy the feast! 

Corn, Bean, and Tomato Salad

Ingredients for Four Servings:

3 ears of corn on the cob
1 pound fresh green beans
2 large tomatoes
3 green onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Either use left over corn on the cob or cook the corn by husking it, brushing off the corn silk, and dropping it in boiling water for seven minutes.  When it is cooled, stand the cob upright and use a sharp knife to cut off the kernels. It's alright to have some kernels that stay together in big "patches".
Snap the ends off the beans, rinse them, and place in a sauce pan.  Cover them with water, bring it up to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for just barely five minutes. They should be tender but not mushy. Drain them and set aside.
Wash, core, and chop the tomatoes.
Wash, cut the little end roots off, and slice the green onions.
Place the corn, beans, tomatoes, and green onions in a bowl.
Whisk the vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper together.  Pour over the vegetables in the bowl and gently toss.

Lemon Dill Beet Salad

Ingredients for Four Servings

6 medium sized fresh beets
1 yellow bell pepper
Salt and Pepper to shake
1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/2  tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon* or 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
Some really good olive oil for drizzling
Scant teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or labneh*

*There is a little Middle Eastern grocery store near my house where I can buy jarred preserved lemon and labneh. The labneh is just really thick yogurt - I've been buying it for years - it's great for dips and sauces for Mediterranean food.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and cut off the tops to get rid of the stems. Place the beets in a foil "packet" and drizzle them with olive oil. Shake a little salt and pepper on them and seal them up. Wash and core the yellow pepper, cutting it into four quarters. Place the yellow pepper in another foil packet and drizzle it with olive oil.  Shake some salt and pepper on it and seal it up.  Place both packets in the preheated oven and let them cook for an hour.  Let them cool. Peel or cut the skin off of the beets and cut them into slices. Cut the pepper into strips.
Arrange the beets and pepper slices on a serving platter.
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and preserved lemon or zest.
Pour over the beets and peppers.
Sprinkle the cut up dill over the vegetables.
Drizzle with just a bit more olive oil.
Sprinkle the kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on top.
Place two tablespoons of the yogurt on each serving.

Tomato Basil Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients for Four Servings

Four good sized fresh, ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
1 small glove garlic, put througha  press
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pinch pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Wash, core, and slice the tomatoes.  Gently toss with the fresh basil and put in a serving bowl or platter.  Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pinch of pepper. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes and basil and sprinkle with the kosher salt and pepper.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

California Breakfast: Acai Bowl with Granola

     Last June, I went out to Southern California to help Jenn move.  I love it out there and I was thrilled to have an excuse to go! The move went smoothly and we were able to do a couple fun things as well as load and haul boxes.  One morning we got up early and took a walk along the beach before Jenn had to go to work. It is only three blocks from her place and even at that time, there were people surfing, jogging, and just out enjoying the beauty of a new day.  


     We ended up having breakfast at this cute little cafe just
catty corner from her apartment. Inside we were entertained by a couple of Pomeranian dogs an elderly man had brought with him to share his breakfast. (In California people are allowed to bring their dogs into a restaurant!)  Jenn suggested I try an Acai Bowl which is acai berries blended with yogurt and topped with fruit and granola. We sat at a table outside and enjoyed the cold refreshing acai puree with yummy stuff piled on top of it. It had to be eaten with a spoon, because it has a thicker consistency than a smoothie - almost like sorbet.


                                                       After I got back home and was dealing with the sticky

humid heat of the midwest, I found myself dreaming of an acai bowl for breakfast.  I searched around and found frozen acai berries meant for smoothies at Whole Foods. They come in 3.5 ounce packets in a package of four.  The trick was to get the acai to the right consistency so it could stand up to the additional stuff.  I messed around a bit and found that to be successful, I had to use either a frozen banana or some kind of frozen berries such blueberries, raspberries, or a mixture.  I also experimented with making granola; I wanted to come up with something half way healthy. I posted what I've been using here -a mixture of oats, dried fruit, and nuts with no oil and blue agave syrup or honey to sweeten it.  I confess that I've had this for breakfast 12 times in the last month!

Steps to Make an Acai Bowl and Granola

Make the Granola First

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Either in a large bowl or directly on the baking sheet, mix the following ingredients.

4 cups regular "old fashioned" oatmeal, uncooked
1/2 cup of some kind of nuts or seeds: pumpkin, almonds, pecans, walnuts - chopped/sliced
1/4 cup each of any kind of dried fruit: dried apricots, raisins, golden raisins, dried cherries
3 tablespoons blue agave syrup or honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Spread the mixture evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, stirring twice at 5 minutes and 10 minutes. The granola should be starting to turn golden brown.

  While the granola cools down make the acai blend. 

Put the following ingredients in a blender and process until it has the consistency of sorbet.

1 (3.5 oz.) packet of frozen acai puree, slightly thawed
1/2 cup plain yogurt, Greek or regular
1 cup fozen fruit: blueberries, raspberries, mixed berries, frozen banana

The blender may have to be stopped and the mixture might have to be stirred a few times to get it all blended.  The idea is to have it thick, but mixed through out.

Top with the granola, fresh berries and/or banana slices. A drizzle of honey is nice as well. Yum!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's Another Meatball Thing - An Easy Appetizer

I don't know why the girls like meatballs so much - but they do! And I do to, although I always try to skip the extra carbs in pasta. However, one thing I have a hard time turning down is a toasted meatball sub. There is nothing like biting into warm crusty bread and then into a meatball covered in a great tomato sauce and melted cheese.  What a reward for saving leftover meatballs for lunch instead of on their own in a midnight snack! The appetizer featured here is a variation of a sub; I took the idea from the small plates menu of a restaurant that called them "Meatball Sliders". Because of our family's love for meatballs, we don't have just one recipe we like but several.  Click Here for a link to a post with traditional, Spanish, or Mediterranean varieties or Click Here to link up to a summer time recipe where the sauce is made from fresh tomatoes and, if desired, the meatballs can be grilled.  Whatever type of meatball made, the recipe posted here is yummy for the left overs. Or - just buy pre-made frozen ones and a jar of sauce for instant appetizers.

Here's What You Need For a Dozen Meatball Appetizers 

1 dozen leftover meatballs with sauce
1 baguette
4 ounces goat cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled
6 "sandwich" sized slices of mozzarella cheese, each cut into fourths
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped

Directions for Assembling the Meatball Appetizers

Cut the bread into 12 slices, each about 1 inch thick. Lightly brush one side of each slice with olive oil. Place on a foil lined baking sheet.

Bake in a 350 degree oven  for about 12 minutes or until the bread the bread is just starting to brown.  Take it out of the oven and gently rub the top of each piece with the peeled garlic glove.

Now spread about a teaspoon of goat cheese on each toasted and garlic rubbed bread slice.

Top each bread slice with a meatball and some sauce.

Cut each "sandwich sized" cheese slice into four equal squares and place two squares on top of each slice.

Place the cheese covered slices back into the 350 degree oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the mozerella cheese is nice and melted and the edges of the bread look golden brown. Yum!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Meatballs for the Summertime

     The other day, even though it was hot and muggy, I found myself craving meatballs.  I usually think of meatballs as a cold weather comfort type food, so I changed one of my favorite recipes up a bit to make it leaner, lighter, and more of a warm weather dish.  I used the Spanish style meatballs from an earlier blog post, grilled them, and served sauce and all on top of spaghetti squash instead of pasta. No wheat involved since the meatball mix doesn't contain bread crumbs but is held together with an egg and some Parmesan cheese.  I packed up the meatballs, sauce, and spaghetti squash and took it down to Allison's.  She is still teaching exercise classes for the university over the summer, and after being a participant in two of her classes - she and I were ready for those meatballs! They really hit the spot, her roommates loved them as well, and I didn't feel like I had undone all my workout efforts by consuming a ton of calories.  Click here for three more meatball recipes, and go ahead and serve them with pasta if the weather turns ugly!

Ingredients for 16 Walnut Sized Meatballs and Fresh Tomato Sauce


1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3 green onions, little roots cut off and thinly sliced
1 egg
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
16 green pimento stuffed olives


3 to 4 large tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 good sized spaghetti squash

A little extra fresh rosemary to garnish


Since the squash takes 45 minutes to bake, start to prepare it first. Cut one large spaghetti squash lengthwise in half. Scoop out the sides and the darker stringy stuff.  Put a couple of inches of water into a baking dish and place the squash halves skin side up into the dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven.  With a fork, remove the strands of squash from the skin by running the fork from top to bottom of the squash.

While the squash is baking, dice the tomatoes. Heat the olive oil up in a pan over medium heat. Place the tomatoes, rosemary, wine, salt and pepper in the pan.  Turn the heat up and bring it up to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low and allow the mixture to simmer while you assemble and cook the meatballs - at least 15 minutes.

Now whisk the egg up in a large bowl. Add the meat, cheese, green onion, garlic powder, and thyme.  As you are forming the meat mixture into walnut sized balls, tuck an olive into the center of each one.  

Either bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or grill on medium low heat about 5 minutes per side. I use a nice little grill sheet that is meant for small foods so that the meatballs don't fall between the slats of the grill.  

Assemble by dividing up the spaghetti squash among four plates. Put four meatballs on each plate. Evenly portion out the sauce and spoon it over the meatballs on each serving. Garnish with a bit of rosemary.