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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!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

April 28, 2009

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Why oh why have I never made fresh spaghetti  sauce? I mean, it’s something everyone should at least know how to make right? It’s not like it’s complicated or requires any expert know how. The thing that I think has always intimidated me about homemade tomato sauce are the expectations. Even when you say “homemade spaghetti sauce”, it brings to mind great Italian cooks and secret family recipes. And I guess I’ve just always been afraid that if I were to try my hand at it, the results would be a total failure and I’d go right back to my jar of sauce.

That’s why when I first saw this recipe on Chelle’s blog quite a while ago, I was just too afraid to try it. But I’ve heard great reviews about  it and have seen it on a few other blogs so I figured what the heck. I know she is Italian so it must be good! I made a pot today while I was off work and just a few minutes after it started simmering, my mouth was watering. I had planned on just making the sauce today and using it later this week to make spaghetti, but when I smelled it I decided to move spaghetti up on the dinner list for the week. And am I glad I did! This recipe is really fantastic. I had to make a few changes based on what I had in the pantry but overall it’s the same basic concept. I wasn’t in the mood for meatballs so I just added cooked ground beef to the sauce and made a meat sauce instead. Either way, it’s a great sauce recipe that I’ll be using again in the future.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28-oz. can tomato puree (I pureed one can diced tomatoes because I didn’t have any puree)
1 28-oz. can tomato sauce (I used one can diced tomatoes because I like chunks of tomato in my sauce)
2.5 teaspoons dried parsley (I used 3 tsp fresh parsley)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (I used 2 tsp fresh basil)
Water from rinsing extra sauce and puree from inside of cans
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

*I added 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano.

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until onion is tender.

2. Add tomato sauce, tomato puree, parsley, basil, water, salt, and sugar. (and oregano)

3. Stir and lower heat to a slow simmer. This best if it’s left to simmer for at least 2 hours.

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!

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.

Marinated Chicken Kabobs

June 17, 2008

Here’s another delicious dinner to add to my “it’s too freakin’ hot to cook inside” list. My sister was visiting for my birthday so I decided we would grill out last night. I had all the ingredients to make chicken kabobs so I decided to use this marinade recipe that I’ve used before and added about 1 tsp each salt and pepper. I used chicken, cut into 1″ chunks, bell pepper, red onion, and grape tomatoes. I tossed them all in a bowl with the marinade and let them marinate for an hour. Then I put the chicken and veggies on soaked skewers (to prevent burning on the grill). I also made some red potatoes in a foil packet on the grill so I wouldn’t have to do any cooking inside. I seasoned them simply with salt pepper and lemon juice and left them on the grill about 30 minutes.  It was a wonderful birthday dinner, even if I did make it myself. : P

On another note, I got new kitchen toys for my birthday! My wonderful husband got me the KitchenAid ice cream attachment and an extra bowl for my mixer. I’m so excited to make some frozen treats for summer!

Like Nana used to make

April 13, 2008

It’s finally that time of year when tomatoes are coming back into season and don’t cost a fortune to buy. And it’s a good thing too because I’ve been having such a craving for a tomato sandwich. My grandma used to make these for me all the time when I was a kid and it’s still one of my favorite things to have every once and a while. There’s no recipe to it. It’s just sliced tomato, a little mayo, salt and pepper. For some reason mine don’t taste quite as good as hers. Maybe it’s the fact that she used to cut them into four little squares for me and I slice mine diagonally. : ) I was very fortunate as a kid to spend every summer in south Georgia at my grandparents’ house. If you’ve never been to the southern part of Georgia, I’ll just tell you; it’s farm country. Flat land and fields for miles and miles. Peanuts, cotton, watermelon and cucumber patches, fields of peas everywhere you look. Both sets of my great-grandparents had farms so in the summer we’d get fresh vegetables and fruit from them, including tomatoes. There’s nothing better than a tomato sandwich made with a really fresh tomato. I really miss those days, but I think about them whenever I eat a tomato sandwich.

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