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Full Dinner Menu: Hearty Tomato Soup and Awesome Grilled Cheese

DSC_2006 (1024X768)

Awesome Photo by JeffreyW

It’s been a busy week. Today I spent six hours helping clean out and organize one of my client’s offices that had two feet of water in it three days ago. Not much of the paperwork was salvageable, but they got the computers and other equipment up and out in time. The office will need to sanitized and repainted before anything can go back. It will get better with time…for everyone. The one thing that does not surprise me is how everyone has pitched in to help, even complete strangers. There are so many stories of good deeds. The sun comes out and we’re all reminded of the beauty that is Colorado, both the view and the people.

When the rain continued on last week and the floods hit, I suddenly needed to cook. Normalcy and comfort. I made a couple of batches of soup. Easy Chicken Tortilla and this tomato soup. I knew I wanted to post this as the full dinner menu this week, but it took me a while to get to it. I apologize for the delay.

This not your mom’s canned soup or grilled cheese.  These are tasty, hearty and easy to whip up.  And the flax cookies are addictive (I can say this because it’s a friend’s recipe).  On the board tonight:

  1. Hearty Tomato Soup
  2. Totally Awesome Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  3. Flax Cookies

Hearty Tomato Soup

  • 28 oz canned tomatoes*
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 8 oz carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions, including greens
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour

2 quart saucepan

In a blender, mix tomatoes, garlic, carrots, celery & onions. Blend until liquid. In saucepan, combine tomato mixture with spices, heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let bubble (don’t let boil or use high heat, it will scorch) for 5 minutes. Add flour to cold milk, blend until smooth, add to soup. Let bubble again, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

* This is the time to use up any left over garden tomatoes, instead of canned. Blend until you have 4 cups of crushed tomatoes.

Totally Awesome Grilled Cheese

For each sandwich:

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (or favorite firm bread)
  • Enough favorite cheese (Velveeta, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, etc.  to cover bread (about 3 slices)
  • Sliced Jalapeños (if you want some heat)
  • 1 large slice of tomato w/dash of salt
  • 1-2 tsp Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • Butter
  • Spray Oil

Spread salad dressing on both slices of bread and add ½ of the cheese to one slice of bread, place tomato & jalapenos on the cheese and top with remaining cheese and the other slice of bread, this keeps bread from getting soggy from the tomato. Lightly butter outside of both sides of the sandwich and grill in skillet sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled on medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. While it is grilling, press down hard with a spatula, “squishing” the sandwich. We don’t know why, but this makes them taste better.  :-)

Flax Cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup ground flax
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped almonds

Bowl & cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar, add egg, vanilla and beat well. Combine dry ingredients together and then fold into egg mixture until well blended. Mix in almonds and drop by the spoonful onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden, don’t let them brown.

Shopping List:

  • 28 oz canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes (4-6 large)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 8 oz carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions
  • 8 slices whole wheat bread (or favorite firm bread)
  • 8 – 10 oz favorite cheese (Velveeta, cheddar, Monterey Jack, etc)
  • 1- 2 Jalapenos or 2 oz pickled Jalapenos
  • 1 large tomato for slicing
  • Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 2 sticks + butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground flax

Also: crushed garlic, basil, oregano, pepper, whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, oil spray

Originally posted October 2009

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Cold Salads

Pasta Salad final

Cookout season is in full swing. And with it, cold salads, a personal favorite. There are so many varieties out there, from coleslaw, to macaroni, to cold bean salads I thought it would be a good place to start the summer cookout season.

The featured recipe tonight is from a neighborhood cookout we had last week. I was very busy, so I had to throw together something quick. I went with a basic macaroni salad, but with a few tricks to keep it fresh and flavorful, instead of soggy and bland as some can be.

Before that, here are a few other cold salads:

JeffreyW has a traditional coleslaw recipe (and slideshow) here.

I’ve made a Caribbean Orange-Mango Coleslaw for several summer cookouts. Recipe here.

I adapted a Giada De Laurentiis, recipe for Italian Lentil Salad here.

And here are several pasta salads: Chipolte Macaroni and Cheese Salad with Bacon (here), Greek Pasta Salad (here), and my favorite quick dinner, Pasta Caprese (here).

That’s just a start. I’ll probably follow-up in a while with some veggie cold salads. But until then, what’s on your summer plate this weekend? What are some of your favorite cold salads? What’s your go-to dish when you’re invited to a cookout? Hit the comments and share your ideas.

And finally, the featured recipe (pictured above).

Quick and Easy Macaroni Salad

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup creamy Italian dressing (I like Newman’s Own)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • pepper

Blend together well and refrigerate until ready to mix in.

Salad:

  • 16 oz box favorite pasta
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed dried basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 oz shredded carrots
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz cubed mild cheese (I used a marbled colby/jack)

Bring water to a boil, add 1 tsp salt and pasta. Cook until al dente (firm to tooth). Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Do not drain well, allow macaroni to stay wet, remove to bowl. Immediately add garlic, spices, celery seed, and let sit for 5 minutes. As the pasta absorbs the remaining water, it absorbs all the flavors. Next stir in carrots, celery, cheese and tomatoes. Save tossing with the dressing until 5-10 minutes before serving. This keeps the pasta from absorbing all of it and becoming mushy and flavorless, but still gives it enough time to meld the flavors together.

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Blood Orange Coleslaw

Continuing with the today’s theme, Blood Oranges.

If you miss the short season or can’t find any locally when they are in season, you can substitute half navel oranges and half ruby red grapefruit for a nice sweet-tang. Alternately you can use all navel oranges and it will work fine. Toss a few red raspberries in the mix and you’ll have a great flavor combo.

Here’s a recipe that I adapted from somewhere or other.  I substituted a lot of ingredients to match my flavor palette, you should feel free to do the same. The dressing would work well over spinach or other greens, as well as the cabbages listed.

Blood Orange Coleslaw

  • 6 tbsps fresh blood orange juice
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey (more as desired)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 finely sliced red onion (try using the mandoline or slicing blade on a box grater for a pretty effect)
  • 1 large head of savoy cabbage, finely sliced, or 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 blood orange, peeled, sectioned and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (opt)

Prepare dressing in advance: Whisk juice, vinegar, and honey in bowl. Whisk in oil, then mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper. Store in a covered glass container.

Toss onion, cabbages, bell pepper and oranges in large bowl. Just before serving, shake dressing well and pour over vegetables; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with pecans.  Serves 4-6

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Chipotle Macaroni Salad

Photo by JeffreyW

EDIT: Just realized the tomatoes were omitted from the ingredient list. Corrected now.

What a week. The Colorado wildfires became personal again, as my office was smack in the middle of an evacuation zone. The authorities never had to make it mandatory and as I write this, that fire is well contained.  Add to that, one of the guys I work with was in a horrible motorcycle accident at the beginning of the week and that shook us all up. I was ready for the week to be over sometime around Tuesday night, so I’m grateful it’s Thursday and the weekend is within sprinting distance. Even happier that Independence Day is around the corner

Since I love July 4th, I have quite a few recipes that celebrate it with great picnic foods. All 21 of them can be found at this link.  There is quite a variety: fancy appetizers; cold salads; grilling ideas; fun desserts; and even cold drinks. There is also an entire post of potato salad recipes from Balloon-Juicers.

I really like tonight’s featured recipe. It was a huge hit last year at the July 4th picnic. I’m actually making it right now for a going away party, that’s how it became tonight’s recipe.

All right, now it’s your turn, what are your favorite foods on July 4th? Are you all-American with burgers and dogs or something more sophisticated? Share your favorites in the comments and we can all argue about it, good-naturedly of course.

Tonight’s featured recipe:

Chipotle Macaroni Salad

Chipotle Mayonnaise:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp limejuice

Mix together ingredients and set aside while macaroni cooks.

Macaroni Salad:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped (or equivalent)
  • 8 oz cubed sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 thick cut bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (optional)
  • 1 cup chipotle mayonnaise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring water to a boil, add 1 tsp salt and macaroni. Cook until al dente (firm to tooth). Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Do not drain well, allow macaroni to stay wet, remove to bowl. Immediately add garlic, celery, onion, parsley and lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in cheddar cheese, tomatoes, bacon and chipotle mayonnaise. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow to chill 15 – 30 minutes. Serves 8-10.

Just a note: There will be no recipe exchange next Thursday, we’ll pick up again on July 12th.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Rice

JeffreyW makes a delicious rice side.

Rice is a staple in my house. I usually make a big batch and serve it with various things over the week. I’ve even switched over to brown rice pastas which I find far superior to most wheat pastas. Let’s get right to it. Here’s an overview of various types of rice:

Brown rice – I prefer long grain, though at the local Asian market I can get brown jasmine, basmati and aborio fairly easily, each with a unique flavor. Brown rice is nutty and a bit sweet.  It’s a great compliment with any fish, beef, poultry or pork.  The only addition it needs is a touch of butter and salt.  Besides being full of flavor, it is also packed with nutrients.  Per cup it has 5 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and niacin, as well as other vitamins and minerals.  It’s a great side that adds flavor to many dishes.  Brown rice cooks like regular rice in a 2:1 ratio of water to rice.  But it takes longer to cook.  About 45 minutes at a low simmer.

I still use white rice, though.  White rice varieties are more delicate and are necessary when you want the rice to take on the flavor of a sauce or spice.  Brown rice’s rich flavor can overpower the balance of flavors in some dishes.

Jasmine—A long grain rice, delicately fragrant, soft, moist and slightly sticky, compliments any Asian dish.

Arborio (white) – A medium grain rice, with a chalky white appearance. It is this chalky area that makes this grain unique, allowing the grains to absorb unusually large amounts of liquid and hence flavor during cooking. This is also what makes it especially suited to risottos, paellas, dolmades and other Mediterranean dishes.

Basmati— An aromatic long grain rice that has the unusual characteristic of doubling in length but not width during cooking. This dry, separating grain is especially suited to Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, such as curries, pilafs.

Time to hit the comments with some of your favorite rice dishes.  I’m curious if anyone makes a good paella. Next week: Soup

Now here’s a little something with brown rice:

Chicken and Rice Wraps

Substitute raspberries, peaches or plums if you like.

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup cooked brown or wild rice
  • 4 large tortillas (flavored ok)

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Raspberry Dressing
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Fresh mint

Mix together chicken, spinach, strawberries, pecans and rice. Mix together dressing ingredients, toss with chicken mixture. Let sit 15 minutes or more. Roll 1/4 of mixture in each tortilla.


Here are Some Great Picnic Ideas….

…and none of them are mine, but they sound delicious.  And there is a how-to video to boot!  Click on the link below to see all the recipes and the video:

Avocado Cilantro Yogurt Dip  &  Smoked Turkey Wraps with Mango and Curried Mayonnaise 

Avocado Cilantro Yogurt Dip

  • - 1 16-ounce container plain nonfat yogurt (scant 2 cups)
  • - 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • - 1 large avocado, peeled, halved, pitted, coarsely chopped
  • - 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • - 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño
  • - 1 small garlic clove, minced

Set strainer over medium bowl; line with double layer of cheesecloth. Place yogurt in cloth-lined strainer. Cover with plastic wrap; chill overnight.

Discard liquid drained from yogurt. Transfer yogurt to processor. Stir cumin in small dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cumin to processor, then avocado, 3 tablespoons cilantro, jalapeño, and garlic. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer dip to small bowl. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Press plastic wrap onto surface of dip and chill.) Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cilantro.

Smoked Turkey Wraps with Mango and Curried Mayonnaise

Curried mayonnaise

  • - 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • - 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • - 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Sandwiches

  • - 2 low fat wheat wraps
  • - 8 ounces thinly sliced smoked turkey
  • - 4 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
  • - 2 cups thinly sliced seeded peeled English hothouse cucumber
  • - 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • - 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • - 1/2 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, thinly slices
Recipes courtesy of  Chef Len from At the Diner in Zeeland and WZZM in Michigan.

Lettuce Wraps

I’ve pretty much given up bread in my daily life.  I don’t deny myself when we eat out or I’m travelling, but most days I don’t see a lot of bread or pasta.  One of my favorite substitutes has become lettuce wraps.  Usually they are messy and yummy, nothing I’d serve to anyone else.  But today’s were a bit more elegant, so I thought I’d share.

Tomorrow peaches arrive from the western slope, so if I get to the farm stand early enough I may actually get some.  They go fast.  The western slope of Colorado grows some of the best peaches anywhere.  If you search “peaches” in the W4DS box (if you’re unsure, see instructions here)  you’ll be treated to a slew of peach recipes.  Last year, this time, we had “Peach Week” – yeah I was pretty sick of peaches by the time we were done, but some good recipes came out of it.  Especially the peach salsa and peach chutney.  Yum.

Back to the chicken:

Easy Lettuce Wraps

  • 1 head romaine hearts, washed, dried and separated
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 apple (I used a Jazz which had the perfect blend of sweet & tart for the chicken), cored and diced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Dressing:

  • 2 parts mayonnaise
  • 1 part red wine vinegar

Mine was 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup vinegar – you can adjust depending on how much dressing you like.

Mix chicken, pecans, apple and seasoning together.  Mix together dressing and combine with chicken.  This tastes best when it sits for a while – I usually put it together the night before – but 1/2 hour to an hour would be good.  Scoop a couple of tablespoons in each lettuce leaf.  Munch away.

Chicken and Rice Wraps

This recipe takes advantage of what’s available from the garden these days.  Substitute raspberries, peaches or plums if you like.

Chicken and Rice Wraps

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup cooked brown or wild rice
  • 4 large tortillas (flavored ok)

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Raspberry Dressing
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Fresh mint

Mix together chicken, spinach, strawberries, pecans and rice. Mix together dressing ingredients, toss with chicken mixture. Let sit 15 minutes or more. Roll 1/4 of mixture in each tortilla.

Macaroni Salad with Sharp Cheddar Cheese and Chipotle Mayonnaise: UPDATED

UPDATED:  Now with bacon.  Friend of blog reminded me I was going to add bacon to this recipe (though he suggested Pancetta).  See updated recipe below.

This is what I’m taking to the 4th of July picnic. (Photos to follow). What are you cooking this holiday weekend?

Macaroni Salad with Sharp Cheddar Cheese and Chipotle Mayonnaise

Chipotle Mayonnaise:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp limejuice

While macaroni is cooking, mix together ingredients.

Macaroni Salad:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley
  • 8 oz cubed sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 thick cut bacon strips, cooked and crumbled.
  • 1 cup chipotle mayonnaise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring water to a boil, add 1 tsp salt and macaroni. Cook until al dente, (firm to tooth). Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Do not drain well, allow macaroni to stay wet, remove to bowl. Immediately add garlic, celery, onion, parsley and lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in cheddar cheese, bacon and chipotle mayonnaise. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow to chill 15 – 30 minutes. Serves 8-10.

Apple Slaw

A friend dropped off about 5 lbs of apples Thursday.  She was expecting more from her CSA delivery that night, so I got the leftover bounty.  What to do, what to do.  So far I’ve made two batches of apple crisp to share.  But I was looking for something that wasn’t sweet.  Then I thought about apple slaw.  Looked at several recipes and came up with this (basically taking the favorite ingredients from about 4 different recipes):

Apple and Raisin Slaw

  • 3 cups chopped cabbage (I prefer green)
  • 3 apples, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in large bowl, let sit for 1/2 hour to overnight for best flavor.

And then I saw this recipe and I think I will try it next:

Ginger Apple Slaw

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into matchsticks
  • 4 apples, of different varieties, cored and cut into matchsticks

Stir together mayonnaise, ginger, and vinegar. Add celery and apples and gently toss to coat.

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