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Full Dinner Menu: Hearty Tomato Soup and a Couple of Awesome Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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Awesome Photo by JeffreyW

This is one of my favorite menus, perfect for a chilly week.

For a different take on grilled cheese, JeffreyW makes Inside Out Grilled Cheese here.

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


Food Pr0n – Gyros

DSC_1337 (1600x1060)I was tempted to use the entire 16 inch tannour loaf as a single gyro but better sense prevailed. (Note:  That photo is of a typical tannour oven of a design thousands of years old, my loaf was made by more modern methods.) This one uses 1/4 of the loaf.  Note the cunningly deployed mint stem used as a toothpick.  LOL  I think about buying some foil/paper wraps that street vendors use to hold one together.  Every time I make these things and try to get a photo I am reminded that I have yet to do so.DSC_1336 (1600x1060)The slices of lamb/beef meatloaf are about the best that you can do at home, a serious gyro vendor will have a vertical rotisserie going.  There are recipes all over the web for the meatloaf: I’ve used Alton Brown’s recipe to good effect.  His uses all lamb, I’ve gone half and half with ground beef and added a few more spices – cinnamon and allspice.  I add dill to his tzatziki sauce but mint works.

Friday Recipe Exchange: What’s in the Pantry?

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The sun is peaking through the clouds after two days of excellent rain. A little thunder, a steady drizzle and snow in the mountains, perfect Colorado fall.

Tonight’s recipe exchange was prompted by a friend of mine who recently lost her husband. I was working at her house and she asked me to come into the kitchen and began going through her pantry, freezer and refrigerator and filling a bag for me with things she didn’t think she’d be able to use. She doesn’t really like to cook much and cooking for one can be a challenge. That’s when I had an idea. I asked her if I could come over every once in a while and cook for her and use up a lot of these amazing ingredients. Her husband was a bit of gourmet, so the whole kitchen is filled with mouth-watering things.

What sold her on the idea was my desire to just pop in, look around the kitchen and come up with something on the spot based on what ingredients sparked my imagination. She thought that sounded like fun and I agree. One of the things I’m really looking forward to is using the black rice. I’ve never cooked with it before.

So for tonight, I went looking through my recipe files to find the ones that started out as a “whatever is in the pantry” meals. They are rarely the same thing twice, but I put the basics in a recipe.

Here are a few:

Pineapple and Bacon Fried Rice is one of the reasons I keep Ponzu Sauce on hand. Click here for that recipe and click here to see all of JeffreyW’s photos and recipes for a variety of fried rice dishes (including the one pictured above).

Pasta is always a great base for a quick dinner.  Here is my Pasta Rustica, (basic recipe here), that can include any number of items from your vegetable drawer or freezer.

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Of course JeffreyW has a great photo of Beef and Broccoli. Yum.

Spicy Beef and Broccoli (click here) is one of my favorite dinners to make with sirloin. And it’s great if you forgot to take the meat out to thaw until late. There is also a full menu, recipes and shopping list at that link.

I thought I hated vegetables, until I had Stir Fried Vegetables in a Bread Bowl, (recipe here) at a local restaurant. Quick and easy, serve over rice or noodles if your basket weaving skills are minimal (that would be me).

Finally, the weekly dinner menu starts with a basic recipe that you can jazz up with whatever you have on hand, Beef Vegetable Soup and Apple Pumpkin Butter. Menu, recipes and shopping list are here.

What are your go-to “raid the pantry” meals? Are there ingredients you always keep on hand for quick dinners? What’s on the menu for the weekend? I’m not sure there will be a recipe exchange next week, I’m hosting a dinner. Stay tuned…

For tonight’s featured recipe, I kept it as simple as it gets. If you can’t find pineapple salsa, JeffreyW has a recipe for it.

Frijoles Ananás

  • 2-15 oz cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16 oz pineapple salsa
  • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp chili powder (start with 1 tsp and add more to taste)
  • 1/4  tsp to 1 tsp cayenne pepper (start with 1/4 tsp and add more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

To serve:

  • 8 oz shredded cheddar
  • 6 to 8 taco size tortillas, warmed


Add beans, salsa and spices to a saucepan, bring to a low boil for 1 minute, reduce heat and let simmer 10 minutes, add cilantro and simmer for 5 additional minutes. Serve with cheese and tortillas.

If you want to make it a one-pot meal, add corn or cubed zucchini to the mix for a complete dinner. Serves 4 generously.

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



Really Quick Dinners: Pasta Rustica

Scrolling through my recipes looking for ones I pulled together by rummaging around the pantry, freezer and refrigerator and came up with this one. Quick, easy and versatile.

Pasta Rustica

  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine pasta
  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 green or red pepper
  • 4 green onions
  • ½ tbsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Optional: ¼ lb sliced pepperoni or ¼ lb cubed turkey

saucepan, large skillet

Fill saucepan with water and bring to a boil.

Chop tomatoes, pepper and green onions (use greens and whites).  Heat oil in skillet, add onions, garlic and pepper, sauté until onions are golden, careful not to let garlic burn.  Add pepperoni and turkey.  Let simmer on medium to low medium heat.

Add pasta to water while ingredients simmer in skillet.  Cook according to pkg. instructions.

Once pasta is al dente, add tomatoes to skillet, sauté 1-2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or pasta spoon, transfer pasta to skillet, letting most of the water drain before transferring. There should be just enough water on the pasta to create a nice sauce. If it seems too dry, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water. Stir and serve with grated Parmesan.


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




Friday Recipe Exchange: Garden Bounty

N1106NIWO126.JPG Eddie Running Wolf of Boulder is carving figures with a Northern Arapaho theme out of the remaining stumps and trees along Niwot Road. The town of Niwot has commissioned him to do the work. For a video of the project, go to Cliff Grassmick / November 5, 2009

Carving by Eddie Running Wolf of Boulder, Photo from Times-Call

I am completely slammed again this week. Though I am hoping to escape early today and head out to Chainsaws and Chuckwagons to see some of the artists. We take our old tree stump carving very seriously here. Since I didn’t have time to cook this week, I decided to raid JeffreyW’s recipes and photos.

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Let’s start with his Stuffed Anaheim Peppers, pictured above and recipe here

Then there is his Homemade Sauerkraut, for instructions click here.

I bought ribs on sale and am going to make my slow-cooker Polynesian Ribs this weekend, the complete dinner menu and recipes are here. Even if I can’t find time to cook, these are easy and quick.

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JeffreyW took some of his garden harvest and made a fresh batch of Hot Giardiniera last weekclick here.

Have any recipes to share using fresh from the garden bounty? What’s your recipe for fun this holiday weekend? Cooking up anything special?

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I picked two featured recipes tonight, both taking advantage of fresh garden veggies and herbs, like JeffreyW’s lush basil, above. They are simple and quick to make, so you can get back outside to take advantage of the last unofficial weekend of summer.

Pasta w/Fresh Basil

  • 10 oz bow-tie pasta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil (1 loose cup)
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan


Cook pasta in saucepan according to package directions.  Drain well.  In saucepan, heat oil, basil, tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute, add pasta and toss with cheese.  Serve immediately.

Collard Greens w/ Bacon

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch collard greens (or spinach)
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • salt & pepper to taste

skillet, saucepan, steamer

Wash collard greens. In skillet, cook bacon till crisp, remove, cool and crumble. In bacon drippings, sauté onions, remove. In saucepan, place steamer and enough water to come to the bottom of the steamer, add greens and steam until tender. Mix honey & vinegar, and a little of the bacon drippings if you like. Toss all ingredients together and serve.

Aren’t JeffreyW’s photos fun? I’m so lucky he came on board years ago. That’s it for this week. Have a safe and fun holiday weekend.  – TaMara




Do You Know What Happens to Tomatoes at High Altitude (and a Peach Cobbler Recipe)


Bustling. Things have been bustling. House hunting has heated up. Looked at two last week, one was a 110 years old. I was really drawn to it, but in the end, despite it being a solid, beautifully built home, there were too many check marks in the cons column. So the search continues.

A quick trip to visit family gave Bixby four days of fun and just a bit of overwhelm, which I’ll detail more in a dedicated Bixby post later in the week. Since we’ve been home, he’s been a total…brat. Somehow all our training has gone out the window.

My brother sent me home with a trunk full of fresh vegetables. But do you know what happens to very ripe tomatoes as you climb from sea level to 5280 feet? Yup, they burst. I was able to salvage one for slicing, but the rest I turned into Fresh Salsa tonight. Which was a good thing, since I’m already 3/4 of the way through the jar he sent home with me.

I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to use these beautiful tomatoes to make this:


Doesn’t that look amazing? Basically a Caprese Sandwich. Mouth watering just looking at it. I may have to get some fresh mozzarella tomorrow and make a caprese salad.

Before I left on my trip, I filled my car with as many fresh Palisade peaches as I could fit around Great Dane stuff and my stuff. Before I left, my mom said she was going to use the few that were left to make a peach cobbler. I missed out on that, but yum. I’m sure it was delicious. Recipe below:


Peach Cobbler

  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1 tbsp sugar

8X8 baking dish, bowl

In 350° oven, melt butter in baking dish. In bowl, sift together flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder & salt. Add milk & egg, whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour into baking dish (don’t stir butter in). Scatter fruit evenly over the top of the batter and sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until fruit bubbles and batter is golden brown.

I’m hoping for a quieter week this week, to catch up on a few things and hopefully see a few more houses. Dinner menu and Bixby Diary later in the week. Until then…..



DSC_0734 (1600x1060)I’ve been on a fruit salad kick.  Lots of fresh fruit at the market this time of year.  Grapes are a mainstay, I use both red and green grapes and I like to cut them in half unless they are really tiny.  Seedless grapes are easier but I have spent a lot of time scraping seeds away when those aren’t available.  Also in this one are pears, peaches, kiwis, pineapple, oranges, and bananas.DSC02695 (1600x1200)

Kitteh!  Here’s a 3 month old male.  Mrs J says they named him Diti but she will not swear to the spelling.  D. T.?  DeeTee? Ditty?DSC_0723 (1600x1060)Mmm… cheeseburger.  This one has Swiss cheese and a pile of pickled peppers.DSC_0718 (1600x1060)More of those roasted rosemary Parmesan potatoes.  These are Yukon Golds and they are plated with sesame green beans and a piece of roasted chicken.DSC02699 (1600x1200)Moar Kitteh!  This is Kaitlyn, an 8 week old female with interesting coloration, a tabby/calico look.IMG_20150806_113021225 (1600x1200)That’s Kaitlyn there – right up against the blue watchband on this kitten house staffer.  They call that staffer “the cat whisperer” because she can really get a feral cat calmed down and purring.DSC_0728 (1600x1060)Country ribs and fries.  I have my best luck with these pork “logs” when I braise them, covered, in a low oven, say 225 to 250.  I use broth as the braising liquid, adding bbq sauce at the end and uncovering them to help reduce the sauce.  These were finished on the outside grill but they can be done under a broiler – watch them close so they don’t char.DSC_0653 [1600x1060]Here’s another cheeseburger, this one is garnished with some of those refrigerator pickles.  On the side is one of my favorite summer salads of tomatoes and cucumbers with onions in a vinaigrette.  It’s better the next day but isn’t bad when freshly made like this one.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Grilled Herb Steak Tacos

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I was planning to put together a salad for dinner on Wednesday after a long day, but when I looked around I had all the ingredients for tacos and that inspired both dinner that night and tonight’s recipe exchange.

For my tacos that night, I used homemade fajita seasoning (recipe for seasoning and fajitas here) instead of packaged taco seasoning. The recipe makes a lot, so I always have some on hand.

On the taco front, not to be missed are JeffreyW’s awesome Fish Tacos (pictured above, recipe and photo directions here).

Earlier in the week, an excellent and creamy, sharp goat cheese was the center piece of my Stuffed Burgers (recipe here) for dinner. So easy to make and full of juicy flavor.

The Dinner Menu was a given, since Olathe Sweet Corn finally arrived in stores. This menu was also the first one I put together many years ago, because it was and still is, a summer staple. Menu, recipes and shopping lists here.

For the pet lovers, here’s Bixby awaiting our lunch guests and a bonus Greek Pasta Recipe.

With that I leave you to the comments. Tacos, burritos or fajitas, what’s your favorite? And what’s on your weekend menu as we move into the last month of summer?

Now for the featured recipe:

Grilled Herbed Steak for Tacos or Burritos

Notes: Serve with either corn or flour tortillas and stuff with fresh garden items, such as tomatoes, lettuce, diced zucchini, grilled corn, and top with Fresh Garden Salsa (recipe here). And if you don’t like cilantro, there are alternatives offered at the bottom of the recipe.

Herb Paste

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves*
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 medium jalapeno, quartered – remove veins and seeds for milder, otherwise, use it all
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp fresh limejuice

Pulse in a food processor or blender, cilantro, garlic, scallions, jalapeño, and cumin until finely chopped. Add oil and process until mixture is smooth and resembles pesto. Transfer 2 tbsps of the herb paste to medium bowl; whisk in lime juice and set aside.


  • 2 lbs flank steak – cut lengthwise (with grain) into 4 equal pieces (cooks quicker this way)
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Using dinner fork or tenderizer, poke each piece of steak 10 to 12 times on each side. Place in large baking dish; rub all sides of steak pieces with salt and then coat with remaining herb paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before cooking.

To cook: Scrape excess herb paste off steak and sprinkle all sides of pieces evenly with sugar and pepper. Sear steak pieces on the grill for 3 minutes, then turn and grill the other side for 3 minutes. Continue to cook (don’t turn more than one more time) until internal temperature registers 125 to 130 degrees, usually an additional 2 to 7 minutes. Transfer steak to cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.

To Serve: Using a carving knife, slice steak pieces across grain into 1/8-inch-thick pieces. Transfer sliced steak to bowl with herb paste-limejuice mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve with tortillas and choice of vegetables, shredded cheese and salsa, etc. Garnish with additional limejuice if desired.

*If you don’t like cilantro, you can substitute celery leaves or fresh basil, or try a mixture of both.

That’s if for this week, have a terrific weekend – TaMara


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.


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