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Here’s another yummy variation on the traditional burger. My husband has been wanting to make a feta stuffed burger for a while so we decided tonight to try it out. I had some ciabatta rolls left over from earlier this week so we toasted them up and they were the perfect bun for this burger. Give it a try. It was great!

Feta Stuffed Burgers with Pesto

1 lb ground beef chuck
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
crumbled feta cheese
prepared pesto

Combine all ingredients except the feta and pesto. Form a thin patty with the ground beef. Place a small amount of feta in the center of the patty. Form another thin patty and place on top. Press together to seal the feta inside the meat. Grill until done, about 15 minutes. Serve on toasted ciabatta rolls with pesto.  

Makes 4 burgers

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Lunch is the most difficult meal of the day for me. I always seem to eat the same old things and it tends to get boring. I don’t like to spend a lot of time making lunch so I like to find things that are easy to make. So, as I started to make myself a pb and j for lunch today, I saw some ciabatta rolls that I picked up yesterday sitting on the counter. I thought to myself, “hmm what could I make with those for lunch?” Then I remembered I had bought some tomatoes yesterday, too and I had some basil growing outside. So I toasted up this beautiful sandwich in just a few minutes and it was delicious. I don’t know if there’s anything I love more than crunchy and chewy bread and melted cheese. So much better than a pb and j.

Tomato and Basil Sandwich on Ciabatta

1-2 thin slices tomato
3 leaves of basil, washed and dried
2 Tbsp shredded mozzarella or 1 slice fresh mozzarella
ciabatta rolls or sliced ciabatta bread
extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice your ciabatta roll in half and place on a baking sheet. Place 1-2 thin slices of tomato on the bottom half of the sandwich. Top with the basil leaves and then the mozzarella. Drizzle the olive oil over both sides of the sandwich. Add a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper on top of the mozzarella. Bake for 10-12 minutes to toast the bread. Remove from the oven and place the top half of the sandwich on the bottom half. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and place back in the oven for 3-5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes and enjoy!

How Does My Garden Grow?

April 21, 2009

How does my garden grow? Well I guess I’ll let you know in a few weeks. I grew herbs for the first time last year and they did very well much to my surprise. I do NOT have a green thumb at all so any plant I have that lives is quite an accomplishment for me. Home Depot had herbs buy one get one free yesterday so I bought a couple basil plants, some flat leaf parsley, and oregano. Hey, at least I’m branching out a bit! Last year I was just brave enough to try the parsley and basil. I guess we shall see how they do this year. I’m very excited to use them in my cooking if I can keep them alive!

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Basil

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Parsley and Oregano

Tomato-Basil Quiche

September 22, 2008

Well the weather is finally starting to cool off in my neck of the woods which means Fall is just around the corner I hope. My mind is already starting to ponder all the pumpkiney things I’ll bake and soups I’ll make during the cooler weather. But I thought I’d end Summer on a good note and use up the last little bit of basil on my basil plant. I am so proud of myself for keeping my herbs alive this Summer with my track record for being the grim reaper of plants. I saw this beautiful quiche on Liz’s blog and thought what a perfect dish to make with the few grape tomatoes and basil leaves I had left. The picky one (aka my husband) had a meeting at work tonight (where they’ll be eating greasy chicken fingers and fries which is right up his alley) so I thought I’d make this just for myself. My nose told me before I even took it out of the oven that this would be delicious and my nose didn’t lie. This is a great quiche recipe to send off the Summer.

Tomato-Basil Quiche

(with my alterations)

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium or 1 large tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick(I used 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise)
  • 2 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar (or you may use Gruyere) (I used sharp Cheddar)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • Leaves from 3 small stems fresh basil, torn if large
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups light cream (I used whole milk)
  • 6 tablespoons aged port or sherry (may be omitted, but reduce baking time by 5 minutes) (I omitted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Place tomatoes on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the cheese with the garlic. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the cheese mixture evenly on the bottom of the pie shell. Arrange the onion on top of the cheese. Arrange the tomato in a single layer on top of the onion. Distribute the basil on top of the tomato and in the crevices between the rounds. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese mixture on top.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly. Add the cream, port, and pepper and beat well. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the pie shell.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350F and bake for 35 minutes longer, or until the quiche is lightly browned on top.
  5. Let the quiche cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.

And speaking of Liz’s blog, I’d like to give her an award for having a great blog! I was recently given an E for Excellent award from From the French Kitchen, so I’d like to pass it on to some more bloggers that I think are excellent. Thanks for being so creative and inspiring!

And the E for Excellent Award goes to…

Liz’s Cooking Blog

Reading Riting and Recipes

Annie’s Eats

Amber’s Delectable Delights

Elly Says Opa!

Made by Melissa

Please pass this on to other blogs that are excellent!

Pasta Fagioli

August 19, 2008

I know I know! It’s only August and already I’m making soup. I do this every year. I start getting the itch for cooler weather around August/September and I always start making Fall-ish foods way too early. I do it every year so get used to it! I guess it’s my way of willing the Fall to come sooner. If only it really worked. Fall doesn’t show its face around here until well into October or November. hmph

I saw this recipe on Chelle’s blog a while back and pasta fagioli being one of my favorite soups, I put it on my list to try. Now I knew I’d be the only one eating this (remember my husband? the bean hater?) so I figured I’d make the whole recipe and freeze half for later. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. I just had a big bowl for lunch and it was great! In fact, I think I ate too much. I’m absolutely about to pop. I guess that’s a good sign though. If you like pasta fagioli, give this a shot. You won’t be sorry!

Pasta Fagioli
(Adapted from Tricia’s Kitchen)

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 package sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
½ large (or 1 medium) onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
64 oz. beef broth
28 oz. can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried parsley (I used 1 Tbsp fresh parsley)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (I used 1 tsp fresh basil)
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. small dry pasta (I used elbow macaroni because that’s what I had)

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large stockpot over medium high heat, and brown the sausage, crumbling it as it cooks. Once brown, remove sausage from pot with a slotted spoon and discard any grease that remains in the pot.

2. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pot, and add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and saute over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add sausage back to the pot, add the can of diced tomatoes (do not drain), stir briefly, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the beans, and add the beef broth and tomato sauce. Add in all of the seasonings, stir well, turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to low heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

4. Add the dry pasta and continue to simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers.

His and Hers

July 31, 2008

My husband and I are pretty much alike. We like the same tv shows, the same movies, the same home decor, and the same music. The one thing we normally don’t agree on is food. I love fruit, vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and pretty much anything good for you. He doesn’t. He loves pasta with cream sauce and cheeseburgers. Oh and don’t forget his relationship with Lil’ Debbie. And the differences don’t stop there. We are never able to order a pizza without doing half and half. Most of the time when I make pizza at home it’s the same way. Last night was no different. I had decided I wanted to use up some of my basil and I had some fresh tomatoes. I thought a margherita pizza would be great but I knew my husband wouldn’t touch it. So I decided to do spinach, pesto, and feta on his side. Both sides turned out great. And it was a quick dinner because I already had the dough in the freezer from when I had made some about a month ago. There really is no recipe for this. Very simple but really good!

Margherita Pizza

(makes one whole pizza)

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

1/2 cup basil leaves, washed and dried

mozzarella cheese (as much as you want…I would never tell you how much cheese to put on your pizza.)

olive oil, about 1 Tbsp

2 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced

crust of your choice (I used this recipe)

Combine the garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Brush your crust with the garlic and olive oil. Put a thin layer of cheese on the crust, to keep it from getting soggy from the tomatoes. Next, do a layer of tomatoes. Then comes the basil leaves. Top with additional mozzarella. Bake at 450 for 12-14 min or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

Whoa, the name of this recipe is a mouthful, but I couldn’t think of of any other way to describe it other than, well, what it is. I was first inspired to make this when I saw this recipe on Elly’s blog. The idea sort of rolled around in my head for a while because I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to make it. I had seen someone on Food Network make a sauce using crushed grape tomatoes and I was toying with the idea of incorporating that into this dish. So, I’ve had it on my menu for a couple weeks, but it sort of kept being pushed further and further down the list. Tonight I finally decided to bite the bullet and make it.

It’s always a little scary for me when I go into the kitchen to make up a recipe as I go. It’s scary for my husband too because of the mounds of dishes I create for him to wash while figuring out my recipe for a dish. I always end up running around like a chicken thinking of things I want to add to the recipe. Sometimes it works out for me and other times it turns into a mini disaster. Luckily, this turned out very good! My husband really enjoyed it and he’s always a bit leary of things I just concoct out of my head. Now let’s see if I remember what all I put in. : P

Baked Shrimp with Feta and Tomato Basil Orzo

14-16 medium shrimp (give or take, cleaned and deveined-I used frozen uncooked)

1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth

1 large clove garlic, minced (Use 2 if they are small)

2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tsp dried basil)

1 cup grape tomatoes, washed

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup orzo, uncooked

1/2 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)

crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400. While the oven is preheating, boil water for the orzo and cook until just al dente. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, enough to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic and grape tomatoes. Stir the tomatoes around to coat in the olive oil. Let cook about 2 minutes and add about 1/4 cup chicken broth. Let cook another 3 minutes. Press one of the tomatoes with a fork to see if it pops. Continuing mashing all the tomatoes to make a sauce. Add salt, pepper, and chopped basil and stir. Add additional chicken broth if the tomato sauce looks to thick/dry. Stir in the uncooked shrimp and let cook about 1 minute. Stir in the orzo. Pour into a baking dish or into individual serving dishes. Top with feta, as much as you like, and bake for about 10 minutes or until feta begins to soften and shrimp are pink.

Makes about 3 servings.

I also made some baked creamed spinach to go along side our main dish. I’ll spare you the pictures because creamed spinach just doesn’t photograph well. But it was really good. I promise! I’ve had this recipe saved for a while and I’m not sure who or where I got it from. If you happen to know, please let me know! Thanks.

CREAMED SPINACH

(with my alterations)

1/2 cup heavy cream (or sub. half and half)

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I omitted)

1 clove minced garlic

black pepper and salt to taste

1 pound fresh spinach

*1/4 cup grated parmesan

*1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix heavy cream, butter, garlic,
nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil, then reduce
heat to simmer. In a separate bowl combine parmesan and bread crumbs.

Coarsely chop spinach in a food processor (I just used a knife), and gradually stir into the heavy
cream mixture. Sautee on medium-high heat and return to boiling, then remove
from heat. Pour into ramekins or a baking dish. Top with parmesan and bread crumbs mixture. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Remember this? I started this little herb garden the end of May hoping for the best since my track record with growing things isn’t so good. Well I am happy to report that since then my basil plant has more than doubled in size! It’s seriously taking over! I may actually have to move it to another pot so my poor little parsley can have some room to grow. And while I’m happy to have thriving, living basil, I had to find something to do with all of it. So I decided to make what else? Pesto! I had made this recipe at a Pampered Chef party before and it was really good so I decided to go with that. I just doubled the recipe but you could easily triple or quadruple it if you want to make more. Here’s how I made it.

The Pampered Chef Basil Walnut Pesto

1 cup lightly packed fresh basil

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

1 oz. grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves

*pinch of salt (I added this)

(I made mine in the food processor but the original instructions involve utilizing several of the Pampered Chef products. I also doubled this recipe.)

Begin by toasting the walnuts in a skillet over med/lo heat, about 5 minutes or until you can smell the nuts toasting. Wash and dry the basil leaves and place into a food processor. Add the toasted walnuts and pulse until you have a coarse paste. Add in the grated parmesan and garlic cloves. Again, pulse until all ingredients are uniform. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt if needed.

*Doubled recipe makes about 3/4 cup

*You can divide this pesto up in ice trays and freeze. Once frozen, remove from ice trays and store in a freezer bag for easy use in other recipes.

Source for original recipe: Season’s Best Recipe Collection, page 10

As I was wandering the aisles of the grocery store last week looking for orzo, I came across couscous on the shelf. I had never had it before so I decided I’d pick some up to try this week. I opted for the pre-seasoned roasted garlic and olive oil kind since this would be my first time making it. So I stuck it in the cabinet and sort of forgot about it. Tonight, I was trying to think of a side for my pork roast and then I remembered that I had bought the couscous so I figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a try. I figured it would be pretty boring on its own so I decided to add about a 1/4 cup of chopped spinach and a tablespoon of lemon juice to it. I had seen this on a blog earlier this week (although I can’t remember which one). I’m pretty sure there was more involved in that recipe, but since I was using the already seasoned couscous, I just left it at that. I have to say it was pretty good and even my picky husband ate it, but I wouldn’t say it was my favorite thing ever. But even if it hadn’t been good, the roasted pork loin I made would have more than made up for it. It was so moist, flavorful and delicious. I’m really enjoying coming up with ways to use the fresh herbs I’m growing and this recipe couldn’t be simpler. It’s definitely quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal.

Garlic and Herb Roasted Pork Loin

2 lb pork loin

2 Tbsp chopped basil

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

1 tsp dried thyme (I didn’t have any fresh)

1 tsp Pampered Chef citrus basil seasoning (you could omit this but I really like it)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus 2 more Tbsp

Begin by cutting 4-5 slits diagonally across the top of the pork loin about 1/2 ” deep. Sprinkle the citrus basil seasoning, salt and pepper on the pork roast. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl to form a paste. Rub the paste over the top and bottom of the roast, making sure to rub it into the slits as well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 1 day. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan and heat over medium high heat. Place the pork roast in the pan and sear on all sides. Place the pan in the preheated oven and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the internal temp is 160-165F. Remove from the oven and place aluminum foil over the roast. Let set for about 10 minutes. The temperature will rise another 5-10 degrees. Slice and serve.

Shrimp Carbonara

May 31, 2008

Do you ever see a recipe and instantly know you have to try it? That was the case with this one. I was sitting at home one lazy Sunday afternoon watching the Food Network and saw Giada make this on her show. I’ve never had any sort of carbonara, but I instantly knew I wanted to try this dish. It just looked so flavorful. Plus it was the perfect excuse to use some of the fresh basil I just planted. This dish tasted amazing! I changed it up a bit by adding the shrimp and omitting the fried egg on top but still the basil aioli was awesome and full of flavor! Another point for Giada on this one!

Giada’s Carbonara (with my alterations)

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, rubber band left on
1 pound linguini (I used spaghetti)
1 cup Basil Aioli, recipe follows
1 cup shaved pecorino (I used parmesan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
4 to 6 large eggs (I omitted these)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*14-16 medium shrimp, tails removed, thawed if frozen

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water and let sit until cool, about 5 minutes. Remove from the water, remove the rubber band, and cut into 1-inch pieces.Meanwhile, add the pasta to the large pot of salted water used to cook the asparagus and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl. Add the Basil Aioli, cut asparagus, shaved cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and place on a long, rectangular serving dish. Saute the shrimp in a skillet with a couple Tbsp olive oil until done. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add these to the dish with the pasta.

I skipped the next step and used shrimp instead of fried eggs in the dish.

Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry the eggs to your liking. Place the eggs on top of the pasta and serve immediately.

Basil Aioli:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large egg yolks*
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I only used 1/4 cup. I felt it had enough oil)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oilYield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes

Combine the garlic, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, basil, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a food processor and run the machine to mix. With the machine running slowly drizzle in the vegetable and olive oil. Basil Aioli can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*RAW EGG WARNING
Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

Source of original recipe: Food Network

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