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Dinner Menu: Pasta with Marinated Vegetables and Bruschetta

Photo courtesy FoodNetwork

Photo courtesy FoodNetwork

Just finished giving the Beast a bath. He hasn’t been in the tub all summer because he loves sprinklers, his pool and my neighbor hosing him down. The first thing I noticed: he’s grown. I’ll post pictures later.

Keeping in the vegetarian theme, here is this week’s dinner menu.

On the board:

  1. Pasta w/ Marinated Vegetables
  2. Tomato & Olive Oil Bruschetta
  3. Grapes

Pasta w/Marinated Vegetables

  • 10 oz Rotini pasta
  • 1 tray ice cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled & chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 10 to 12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 red onion, sliced in rings
  • 2 oz black olives
  • 2 oz grated parmesan


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 oz fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tsp minced oregano leaves
  • 1 to 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Saucepan, skillet, bowl, serving bowl

Mix together dressing and refrigerate. In saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse in cold water and toss with ice cubes. Set aside and let cubes melt. While pasta is cooking, in skillet, heat oil and sauté eggplant, mushrooms and zucchini until tender. Remove and cool in refrigerator while preparing remaining vegetables. In bowl, toss all vegetables with dressing. Remove any un-melted ice cubes from pasta, and toss with vegetables, refrigerate 10 minutes. Add cheese.

Tomato & Olive Oil Bruschetta

  • 1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (more if needed)
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 green onions, chopped

baking sheet and bowl

Gently toss 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp crushed garlic, basil, tomatoes and green onions and set aside. Mix togethere 1 tbsp oil and 1 tsp garlic. Spread on sliced sides of bread. Broil bread until golden brown on top (watch carefully). Layer tomato mixture on each half of the bread and then slice each half into quarters or eighths.

Shopping List:

  • 10 oz Rotini pasta
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 2 zucchini
  • 10 to 12 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 loaf Italian bread
  • Large bunch of basil
  • Small bunch oregano
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 3 green onions
  • Grapes or any in season fruit

Also: crushed garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar




Soup Season: Updated Tomato-Spinach Soup

Spinach Tomato Soup

It’s been a rough week – mostly for people around me. I found myself retreating to the kitchen often to cook. Definitely helps clear my head and regroup. Soup season is in full swing as Autumn is fast approaching. We may actually blow off work tomorrow and head up to the mountains to see the colors.

Today I decided to make a big batch of one of my favorite soups. It did not disappoint. I ‘beefed’ it up because I had some ground beef that I needed to use up. I’ll do that again. Yum.

Tomato-Spinach Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef (or 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 1/4 of a small onion, chopped
  • 24 oz diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, cleaned
  • 8 oz sliced carrots (I use frozen)
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup water, as needed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish
  • spinach chiffonade for garnish

blender, saucepan

In saucepan, brown ground beef and onions. In a blender, blend together spinach and tomatoes, until smooth*.  Add to beef mixture, along with vegetables and spices.  Bring to low boil, stirring frequently, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan and spinach chiffonade.  Makes 4 generous servings.

*Blending the spinach, tomatoes together gives you a nice hearty tomato base for the soup.  You can add some additional spinach leaves at the end if you like, letting them get limp but not overcooked.

Original vegetarian recipe is here.


Grilled Lemon Salmon with Corn Pepper Relish

This is a great recipe and you can cook it on the grill or indoors in the oven.  Add baked potatoes or rice and fresh greens from the garden for a nice summer meal.  Serves 4.

Grilled Lemon Salmon:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 4 – 6 oz skinless salmon fillets

zip-lock bag

Add ingredients to bag and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.  Grill on a clean, oiled grill or use a well oiled grilling pan, or broil in oven in a heavy skillet or broiler.  Cook for 4 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily.  Serve with relish.

Corn Pepper Relish:

  • 1 cup cooked corn (or canned, drained)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • ½ red pepper chopped
  • ½ yellow pepper chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp chopped jalapeno
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic


Combine all ingredients and let marinate while salmon cooks.  You can use the remaining peppers in a salad for your next dinner.


Sweet Olathe Corn Finally Arrives and Dinner Menu

DSC_2554 [1024x768]

Photo by JeffreyW

How is it Thursday already?

It was a big day today. Took a friend out to lunch at the new Tapas bar and Olathe Sweet Corn finally arrived in the store. Seems the rainy spring delayed the crop. I made a special trip to the store today to ‘stalk’ up.

Before that, we sampled the new Tapas bistro, SAMPLES. Really wanted to check out the roof top patio, but it was much too hot for that, so we settled for a sidewalk table. It was a pleasant experience. Good food, good beer and super nice staff. I think the consensus was that we would go back for more ‘samples’.

I had two completely new taste experiences (well four if you count the beer samples): truffle butter (on the bacon and grilled onions flatbread) and poutine (spare rib poutine to be exact). They were both fun and flavorful. I’d add spaetzle in brown butter, but my friend tells me it wasn’t true spaetzle, even though it was still delicious. Tasted like chicken mac ‘n cheese.

We finished down the road with Funnel Cake Strawberry Sundaes, offered in honor of county fair season. It was yummy.

Freddy's Funnel Cake Sundae

Freddy’s Funnel Cake Sundae

Later in the day I stopped at the grocery store, picked up a dozen ears of corn and steamed a few for dinner. I’ll prep the rest tomorrow and remove from the cob and serve cold on salads.

In honor of that arrival, grilled corn is on tonight’s Dinner Menu. It is one of the first menus I ever wrote.

On the board tonight:

But wait, there’s more! Click to read full menu

Roasted Tomato Sauce

DSC_0666 (1600x1060)I look forward to making this dish every year when the little tomatoes come in strong.  We have grape tomatoes this year instead of the cherry variety but they are much the same thing.  I saw this recipe where the tomatoes were roasted in the oven before they were mixed with the usual herbs and garlic and went with that method today.  I think it worked very well.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Just a Little Salsa Flavor

Photo by JeffreyW

Photo by JeffreyW

I have lost my cooking mojo. I have a stash this <————> big of recipes I want to try and share with you, but every time I look at my kitchen I go,“meh”. So next week I’m going to begin blogging in a bit of a different way and hope it brings back enough creativity to overcome my kitchen ennui. I hope you’ll check in and see how it’s going. There will probably be plenty of notes on Bixby antics. He’s become quite the clown. Spoiler alert, he has a girlfriend.

Until I can rediscover my kitchen magic, here are some recipes from 2012 that take advantage of garden bounty:

I am not a fan of canning. When I am overrun by tomatoes, I lean more towards freezing bags of pureed cooked tomatoes to use in sauces and soups later on. I also love to make a batch of salsa each week when the produce is fresh. Since I was faced with an abundance of tomatoes this week, I felt it was time for some salsa.

I have a Vita-Mix, which means if I’m not paying attention, salsa quickly goes from chunky salsa to picante sauce in the blink of an eye. Tonight my first batch went to full juice before I realized what I was doing. I’ll pulse my next batch and pay closer attention. Not sure what I’m going to do with the juice – but it sure tastes good.

Tonight’s recipes are all about tomatoes and what to do with the bounty from the garden or farm stand. I bet everyone has a favorite salsa recipe, I like mine fresh and simple. JeffreyW has a good salsa recipe and a nice Salsa Verde in case you’re tired of tomatoes, recipe here. He also makes and cans batches of his Awesome Sauce™, recipe here.

I love tomato season – sliced on a plate, grilled with olive oil, pasta caprese salad (recipe here), or just going out to the garden and eating the grape tomatoes right off the vine.

Are tomatoes a summer favorite? What’s your favorite way to prepare them? Anyone (besides JeffreyW) canning? And I know you have some salsa recipes to share…

Featured tonight, salsa recipes:

TaMara Fresh Salsa

  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 green onions
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ to 1 bunch cilantro, remove stems
  • 2 to 4 jalapenos*, remove stems
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • dash of limejuice if desired

blender or food processor

In blender or food processor, add all ingredients and coarsely chop until blended well**.  If you can make a day ahead, it gets even better.  Seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

**If you prefer a chunkier style salsa, you’d be better off chopping vegetables by hand.

JeffreyW’s  Salsa:

DSC_7740 [1024x768]

(Oh, you wanted his recipe…)

Couple of the jalapenos, a smallish onion or two, those green peppers, and most of the tomatoes.  Added a couple of dried ancho peppers all snipped small, a dash of chili powder, a few garlic cloves, a good squirt of lime juice, a bit of salt and fresh ground black pepper

(I think this is why I write the recipes and he takes the photos – both of us working to our strengths)

That’s if for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara


Friday Recipe Exchange: Revisiting Fun with Ricotta

Yummy Cannoli by JeffreyW

Yummy Cannoli by JeffreyW

Things are not slowing down here. I put a bid in on a cute little Victorian house, only to face 15 other bids this past week. I did not realize house hunting was going to turn into a full-time job that feels like an episode of the Bachelor, where I go home without the rose each week. Between that and raising a rambunctious 10-month old Great Dane, the weeks are slipping by. Speaking of the Beast, I had to clean out the freezer to make room for his frozen apples halves (apples were on sale, so I stocked up) and his giant beef bones (again, on sale, so I stocked up and boiled a good two week supply). Deep in the freezer, behind the pumpkin, cranberries and leftovers, was a pint of ricotta.

Decided I needed to use it up, so I dug into the archives looking for my vegetarian meatball recipe. That became tonight’s featured recipe, and I pulled up the previous recipe exchange where it was featured and said, “hey, that looks good.” In other words, tonight is a repeat. Next week, though, I’m planning on sharing some fun recipes I’ve been playing with this week.

To start tonight, how about homemade ricotta? JeffreyW has made it and if you click here and he’ll take you step by step through the process.

He then puts his homemade ricotta to good use with Stuffed Shells, as pretty to look at as they are delicious. (recipe and photos here)

I have a great alternative to regular gnocchi, a lighter, easier version using ricotta cheese and a fire roasted sauce to make a simple, quick Baked Gnocchi. (recipe here).

A quick Skillet Lasagna (recipe here) is great for weeknights and a breeze to make.

And a yummy dessert from JeffreyW, a beautiful Cannoli recipe, pictured above and found here.

Finally, for the pet lovers, a Bixby update from the pup himself. If you click here, be prepared, he’s a Beast, standing at his full height on his hind legs.

What’s on your menu for the weekend? Anyone else house hunting? Have you started your gardens in earnest yet?

Now on to the featured recipe. These are very simple to make and are delicious. It’s a great vegetarian alternative for your pasta dishes. They’re light and once you get the technique down, you can play with the flavors and customize them to your palate.

Veggie Meatballs

Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of  garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. My second round of these, I added a bit of red pepper flake.

Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs

  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs, beaten


  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
  • Olive oil

Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.

Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.

Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.

Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.

You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.

To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.

To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.

Serve them with your favorite pasta and sauce. If you need sauce ideas, click here for Garden Fresh Sauce and click here for Awesome Sauce.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara


Pasta Pr0n – Breaded Chicken Cutlets with Spaghetti and Broccoli

DSC_0120 (1600x1060)Pasta and veggie tossed in a lemon garlic butter sauce with Parmesan.  Chicken was floured, then dredged in beaten egg and breaded with my famous garlic breadcrumbs.DSC_0123 (1600x1060)

Dinner Menu: Oven Baked Chicken and Garlic Baked Potatoes

Oven Baked Chicken

I’ve had this in my files to post for a while, so I thought it would make a good full dinner menu. I had run across two different techniques to improve on oven-baked chicken and decided to combine them to see what would happen. I will not make it any other way going forward.

The first thing that is different, you add the flour to the egg mixture, making a bit of a batter. Dip the chicken in it and coat completely. Hold up and let excess drip off, back into the bowl. Then place the chicken piece into the breadcrumb mixture.


Take a spoon and generously spoon bread mixture over the entire chicken. Using a fork, press the breadcrumbs into the egg wash. Turn it over gently and repeat on the other side. Place on a baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper for ease of clean up).

Baked Chicken Prep

Bake according to directions below. This technique  works well with boneless or bone-in and any meat you would dredge in flour or breadcrumbs. It coats piece evenly, creates a tighter seal and you lose less of the breading. By adding flour to the egg mixture the batter keeps the chicken very most and creates a great, crunchy crust.

On the board tonight:

  1. Oven Fried Chicken
  2. Broccoli
  3. Garlic Baked Potatoes
  4. Sliced Pears

Oven Fried Chicken

  • 2 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  • 2 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken legs (or two additional thighs)
  • 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups Panko
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup water**
  • 1/8 tsp ea. salt & pepper (or to taste)

large mouth bowl, large plate and baking sheet lined with foil or parchment

Wash and pat dry chicken. In large bowl, add water, eggs, flour, oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Spread breadcrumbs and panko evenly on large plate. I often use extra seasoning in the breadcrumbs – garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil and oregano, lots of pepper.

Take chicken pieces one at a time and dredge in the egg mixture, coating completely, dredge in bread crumbs until lightly coated on all sides. See technique above. Place on baking sheet. Bake  at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until temp registers 160 degrees. I usually cover for 10 or 15 minutes with foil at the beginning to avoid burning the crust. For even crisper chicken, place a wire baking rack on the baking sheet and cook chicken on that. I don’t have one big enough, so I haven’t tried it.

** add more if needed

Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Butter

  • 4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 to 4 metal skewers


  • 1 or 2 large head of garlic
  •  olive oil
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of rosemary, minced
  • 4 to 8 tbsp of butter

Skewer each potato (depending on the size of the skewer you can sometimes get 2 on it, leaving room between potatoes). Rub oil liberally on potatoes and then coat with a light layer of salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, peel white paper skin from garlic and slice off 1/4 inch off the top. Coat well in olive oil, place in a small baking dish (I saw a great recommendation making several and using a 6-cup muffin tin). Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cloves are soft when pierced. (Of course you can use a garlic roaster if you have one). You can cook this while you are prepping the chicken and potatoes, then reduce heat.

Once garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves out of their skins. Using a fork, mash garlic, butter, pinch of salt and minced rosemary to smooth paste. Serve with potatoes.

Shopping List:

  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts, 2 bone-in thighs, 2 legs (or additional thighs)
  • 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups Panko
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large head Broccoli
  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 4 large pears
  • parchment paper (my preference) or foil
  • 2 heads of garlic

Also: rosemary sprigs, olive oil, salt, pepper, and butter




Thanksgiving Files: Hearty Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I was looking through the archives trying to decide which recipes to repeat and this one caught my eye, mostly because I had totally forgotten this cooking method. So reposting as an idea for your holiday dinner. For all the Thanksgiving recipes, click on this link: Thanksgiving Files.

I’m never going to turn away mashed potatoes.  Ever.  But I do have a favorite style – unpeeled and hand mashed potatoes.  I love creamy ones too, but with a good gravy, the hearty ones really hold up.

A while I ago I wrote about a mistake I made cooking potatoes and how I used a recipe I remembered from a few weeks before to save them.  Well, I decided to try it for real this time.  I could not track down the recipe, but did the best I could with what I remembered.  I must have remembered pretty well.  They turned out great.

This recipe uses unpeeled potatoes, but you can peel them and whip them for creamy mashed potatoes suitable for the fanciest Thanksgiving table.  And don’t be startled, but you don’t boil the potatoes either, you cook them in cream and butter. Yummy.

Hearty Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 1/4 cup water or broth
  • 3 tbsp to 1/4 cup of butter
  • 4-6 small garlic gloves, peeled and minced
  • 6 to 8 medium potatoes (russet or yukon gold work best)

4-qt saucepan

Add half & half, water, butter and garlic cloves to the pan and turn heat to low and let butter melt and liquid heat.  Meanwhile, scrub potatoes well and cut small (not diced, but smaller than 1-inch cubes).  Add to liquid and turn heat to high.  Stir constantly until liquid begins to boil, turn heat down to medium-low, cover and let cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes.  Keep an eye on them and turn the heat lower if it looks like they might stick – if you feel like you need more liquid, add half & half.  There is so much water in the potatoes, this technique works really well.  And the potatoes are extremely creamy because you haven’t soaked them in water.  When they are tender, turn off heat and mash to desired constancy.

Originally posted November 2011


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