Monday, April 26, 2010

Stuffed Tomatoes

I've decided to start serving my family meatless meals at least once a week.  I didn't get any complaints when I served tonight's dinner of Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, Broccoli and these delicious Stuffed Tomatoes.  My oldest son at three of them.  The original recipe uses Gruyere cheese and some different herbs, but I had to work with what I had in the pantry/refrigerator.  I think they turned out perfectly.  These would pair well with grilled meat, or your favorite vegetarian dish.  Light, healthy, quick and easy.  Perfect.  Enjoy!

Stuffed Tomatoes
inspired by Ina Garten- Barefoot Contessa Family Style

6 ripe tomatoes (2 1/2 - 3 " diameter)
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the cores from the tomatoes, removing as little as possible.  Cut them in half crosswise and remove the seeds and juice.  Place tomato halves in a baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, chives, garlic, cheese and 1 tsp. salt.  Sprinkle the tomato halves lightly, with salt and pepper.  Fill the tomatoes with the bread crumb mixture.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until tender and cheese is lightly browned.  Serve hot or at room temperature.  May be prepared and filled ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hearty Tomato Soup

 I've been on the hunt for some new, lighter recipes to make for my family.  I found this recipe at and thought the addition of white beans to tomato soup sounded interesting.  Instead of using canned beans, I used dried beans that I soaked and cooked myself. This way I save money, and control the amount of salt in the cooking liquid.  I didn't have any fresh rosemary, so I substituted dry.  I also substituted vegetable broth for chicken, but you could use either.  I was going for a completely vegetarian dish.  My "secret" ingredient was the addition of a splash of balsamic vinegar.  I like to add it to my marinara recipe, so I figured it would be just as good in this soup.  I was right.  The original recipe also calls for serving with creme fraiche and lemon, but I didn't have them.  I served it with some homemade croutons instead.  Enjoy!

Hearty Tomato Soup
adapted from recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis


2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Half-n-Half 


In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, crushed tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, dried rosemary, red pepper flakes, and balsamic vinegar.  Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
Puree the soup in a blender in batches, being careful to remove and discard the bay leaf.  Return the soup to a soup pot, season with salt and pepper.  Stir in half-n-half and warm through. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

This is a terrific side dish that goes with almost anything, and the best part is that it can be prepared ahead of time, and is best served at room temperature.  I used Ina Garten's recipe from the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook, except I left out the feta and pine nuts.  I'm sure it would be wonderful with those additions, but I didn't have any and was going for a clean and simple dish.  I served this with Chicken Gyros and hummus and it was a perfect dinner.  Roasting the vegetables gives them such a wonderful caramelized flavor.  I highly recommend this one.  Enjoy!

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!  copyright 2001

1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4 inch diced
1 red bell pepper, diced in 1 in. pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, diced in 1 in. pieces
1 orange bell pepper, diced in 1 in. pieces
1/2 red onion, peeled and diced in 1 in pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 lb. orzo
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I left this out)
3/4 lb feta cheese, diced in 1/2 in. cubes (I left this out)
10-15 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion and garlic with the olive oil, salt and pepper on a sheet pan.  Roast for 40 minutes until browned. 

Cook orzo according to package directions.  Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add the roasted vegetables, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the bowl.   

For the dressing:  combine lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper.  Add to the pasta and vegetables while they are still warm.  Let cool to room temperature, then add scallions, basil, pine nuts and feta, if using.   Check for seasonings and serve at room temperature. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sloppy Joe's

PW posted this recipe on her site yesterday and I just had to give it a try for our dinner.  I followed the recipe almost exactly and it turned out perfect.  Typically, I just mix ketchup, barbecue sauce and a little yellow mustard to make Sloppy Joe's, but I thought this would be fun to try instead.  Once the ketchup and other sauce ingredients hit the heat, the house started to smell amazing.  I'm really impressed with how delicious and easy this was.  No need to ever buy the canned stuff again!  Let me know if you give this a try and how you like it.   Enjoy!

Sloppy Joe's
adapted from The Pioneer Woman


2 tbls. butter
2 1/2 lbs. ground sirloin
1/2 of a large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Ketchup
1 cup Water
2 tbls. tomato paste
2 tbls. brown sugar
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp dry mustard  (I used a big squirt of yellow mustard)
1-2 dashes ground cayenne
2-3 dashes Tabasco Sauce
4-5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Rolls and butter, for serving


Add 2 tablespoons butter to a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add beef and cook until brown.  Drain the grease.  Add onions, green pepper, and garlic.  Cook for a few minutes until veggies start to get soft.  Add ketchup, water, tomato paste, brown sugar, chili powder, mustard, cayenne powder, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.  Stir to combine and simmer for 30 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Spread rolls with butter and brown in a skillet.  Spoon meat mixture over rolls and enjoy! 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cream Cheese Stuffed Berries

Here's a quick and easy dessert that combines some of the best parts of cheesecake, without all the extra calories.  It comes from The Dean Brother's Cookbook and according to Bobby Dean, it's "berries made better."  I agree.  We typically eat our berries with a little sugar or whipped cream, but this was even better.  Once the berries are prepped, filling them is easy with a pastry bag and decorative tip.  This makes a wonderful treat to take to a party... no fork required, just pop them into your mouth!  Enjoy!

Cream Cheese Stuffed Berries
source:  The Deen Brothers Cookbook, Copyright 2007

32 whole large strawberries, hulled
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)


Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each strawberry so they stand upright.  Place berries, cut sides down and carefully make two cuts across the top in an X, cutting about half-way through the berry.  Fan the wedges just slightly and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese , sugar and vanilla until combined but still stiff.  Using a pastry bag with a decorative tip, fill the berries with cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans, if using.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tony Hawk Skateboard Birthday Cake

My oldest son turned 8 this week.  He loves skateboarding and requested that I make him another skateboard cake this year.  Last year I did a blue cake with a lightening bolt, but this year I wanted to get a little fancier.  I found a Tony Hawk logo online and drew a replica on some paper, cut it out and then traced it onto the cake using a toothpick.  I then filled everything in with frosting and made up the rest of the design as I went along.  I used a simple 1,2,3,4 Cake recipe from the back of the Swan's Down Cake Flour box.  I added a little extra vanilla extract though, because I really wanted the vanilla flavor to stand out.  I divided the batter between a 13x9 pan and one 9" round pan.  Once cooled, cut the round cake in half and place one side on each end of the 13x9 cake.  Cut and shave off sides to look like a skateboard deck.  I took the easy way out and used mini chocolate doughnuts and Pirouette cookies for the wheels.  This really is an easy cake to make and the boys just loved it! 

1,2,3,4 Cake 
source:  Swan's Down Cake Flour box

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour cake pans. 

In mixing bowl, cream butter and gradually add sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  In another bowl, sift together, flour, baking powder and salt.  Add flour mixture, alternately, with the milk and vanilla, to the butter mixture (3 additions of dry mix, 2 additions of the wet ingredients, always start with the dry and end with the dry).  Beat until smooth after each addition.
Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on racks.  

Wilton's Buttercream Icing 
source:  Wilton 2007 Cake Decorating Handbook

1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use clear, for perfectly white icing)
4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar (about 1 lb)
2 tablespoons milk or water, to thin icing

Cream the butter and shortening with electric mixer.  Add vanilla.  Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.  When all sugar has been incorporated, add milk or water, and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.  This icing can be stored 2 weeks in refrigerator.  Re-whip before using.  Makes 3 cups.  (I doubled this recipe for the skateboard cake)