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Tomato-Pasta Salad

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Yesterday’s bounty from my yard and some bonus homemade salsa

Tomato season is in full swing. Every meal has tomatoes in one form or another. This is a nice combination of flavors to shake things up from the usual pasta salads:

Tomato-Pasta Salad

  • 10 oz dry rotini pasta, cooked, drained, chilled
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Dijon or stone-ground mustard
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 oz fresh basil
  • 4 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
  • 4 oz Kalamata (Greek green) olives
  • 4 oz shredded parmesan
  • 2 oz crumbled Feta
  • 8 oz diced ham (opt)

serving bowl, bowl, saucepan

In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, pepper, garlic & basil.  Slowly whisk in oil.  To serving bowl, add pasta, fresh basil, spinach, tomatoes, olives, parmesan, opt. ham and toss with dressing.  Garnish with crumbled feta.



 

Grilled Vegetable Salad

This works well as a side or a nice, fresh main course.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

  • 1 large red onion, quartered
  • 4 red potatoes, quartered
  • 8 oz baby carrots
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tsp sage, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 8 oz bag spinach leaves or spring greens
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp melted butter

serving bowl, large bowl, grilling basket or foil

Mix oil and spices, toss with onion, potatoes and carrots in a large bowl, until well coated. Place in a grilling basket or wrap in foil and grill for 20 minutes, stirring or turning frequently.  Mix together lemon & butter.  In serving bowl, add greens, grilled vegetables and toss with lemon butter

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Dinner Menu: Spring Flavors

Apple Salad1

Lots of fresh spring flavors in this dinner menu, which is what I need after a long cold week.

On the board tonight:

  1. Herbed Fettuccini
  2. Apple Salad
  3. Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt

Herbed Fettuccini

  • 9 oz fresh fettuccine
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 5 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz fresh spinach, torn
  • ¼ cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 oz fresh parmesan, grated or goat cheese (chevre)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 6 oz artichokes hearts (opt)

2 large saucepans, large serving bowl

Cook pasta according to pkg. directions. Next bring broth to boiling in second saucepan. Add green onion and spinach. Reduce heat, cook and stir for 2 to 4 minutes or until spinach is slightly wilted. Add parsley, herbs, salt & pepper; mix well. Remove from heat; cover and set aside. Drain cooked pasta and remove to serving dish, cover and keep warm

In saucepan combine cheese, milk, and butter. Cook and stir until cheese is melted. Add pasta; toss to coat. Remove from heat. Add vegetable mixture, hazelnuts, opt artichokes, half of the tomato to the pasta mixture; toss gently to mix, heat until warm through. Transfer back to a serving bowl, garnish with remaining tomato.

Apple Salad

  • 16 oz spring greens, washed
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 2 Fuji (or other sweet red) apples
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 oz toasted  slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

serving bowl

Layer greens in bowl.  Core and cut apples into large chunks.  Layer over greens, add raisins and nuts.  Mix together vinegar, oil, salt & pepper.  Drizzle over salad, toss, then crumble feta over the top.

Note: If you can’t find toasted almonds, heat a skillet, add almonds and stir constantly until they are lightly toasted.

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Copyright What’s 4 Dinner Solutions Cookbook: Spring Edition

Snow Alert Means Soup Time: Hearty Spinach-Tomato

Spinach Tomato Soup

French Toast Alert System may be activated, but I have my own comfort snow foods. Big pot of soup on the stove:

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, more 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.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Not Afraid to Experiment

Spinach Tomato Soup

What a week we’ve had here. I retreated to the kitchen often, cooking truly reduces my stress and helps me refocus. And since everyone needs to eat, I have a perfect excuse to retreat and regroup.

Cool weather blew in today, signalling the start of soup season, a great time of year. I have quite a few soup recipes and I began the season with one of my favorites, Tomato-Spinach, pictured above and recipe here.

Next up, Pumpkin Bars, because I needed something to share with friends and this recipe makes a lot. Click here for recipe and photos.

JeffreyW went to the Farmer’s Market and made Refrigerator Pickles, there are plenty of great photos and the pickle recipe here. He went on to use the beans he purchased to make Three Bean Salad, here.

And finally, for the pet lovers, some Bixby pictures and a bit of an update.

It’s the last official weekend of summer, how will you usher it out? What’s on your plate for the weekend? We are going to head up to the mountains to take in some color, which is predicted to be a short show this year.

Sausages with Grapes

For tonight’s featured recipe, I decided to experiment with flavors I would have never thought of on my own. Facebook and blog friend Michael F, shared a recipe on Facebook from Italy, in Italian no less, and the photo intrigued me. I let google translate the recipe (which was a hoot) and went about putting my touches into it.

It was so unusual, my most reliable recipe testers politely declined my dinner invite. Totally understandable. But I will tell you I was pleasantly surprised how well this turned out. If you like pork and apples, this has a similar flavor palate. It was also quick and easy to prepare. I’m glad I decided to experiment.

All right, if you’re up for something new and different, here you go, tonight’s featured recipe.

Sausage and Grapes

  • 8 links Italian sausage (I used spicy, but you could use any style sausage you favor)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 cup green seedless grapes, washed, dried and halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, washed, dried and halved lengthwise
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used none, didn’t need it)
  • angel hair pasta
  • freshly grated Parmesan

skillet

Slice sausage links into four pieces each, add to skillet and fry on medium high for about 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel seeds, cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent. Add grapes, stir until well mixed, cover and let simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes while pasta cooks.

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain well.

You can toss with the sausage mixture, or serve separately. Serve with Parmesan.

The pasta was my addition. When I asked Michael what would be a good side, he suggested eggplant or roasted potatoes. Roasted zucchini spears would probably work well, too.

Here is the original recipe.

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

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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.



 

Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

Lemon Sunshine

Someone asked me if I could post a few recipes that limited the amount of salt, so this week I thought I’d focus on that. I’ll start with lemon. It makes a great substitute for salt, it adds flavor, a bit of bite and enhances the flavors of many things like fish, chicken and pastas. In this recipe, both ricotta and Parmesan are salty enough that additional salt should not be necessary.

Lemon Ricotta Linguine with Chicken and Spinach

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 10-12 oz dry linguine pasta
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 6 oz baby spinach, washed
  • 12 oz ricotta cheese
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh shredded Parmesan, additional for garnish

shallow dish, large pot, skillet

Place chicken between plastic wrap, pound flat and place in a single layer in a shallow dish. Zest lemons and then juice them. Reserve 2 tbsp of juice, mix the remaining juice with 1 tbsp of oil and basil leaves and pour over chicken, making sure it’s well coated. Cover and marinate for 30 to 60 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through.

Cook pasta according to directions. While it is cooking, heat oil in skillet, remove chicken from the marinade (toss the marinade) and cook chicken breasts over medium high heat until cooked through. Remove from heat, cover and let rest. Alternately you can grill the chicken.

When pasta is al dente, remove 1 cup of water and then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Over low heat, add lemon juice, ricotta, lemon zest, 1/2 cup of Parmesan and toss. Slowly add a 1/2 cup of pasta water, tossing to make a sauce, until the pasta is coated evenly. Add more water as needed. Slice chicken into strips and add to pasta mixture, then add spinach leaves and toss. Add pepper as desired and serve immediately with more shredded Parmesan. Serves 6

p.s. Schedule is still crazy this week, so time for recipes, but not photos. I may update later with pix as time allows.😉



 

Friday Recipe Exchange: Grilling Up Some Steaks

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JeffreyW is always making magic with steak. Here he shows off his Cheesesteak.

A big work project came up this week, as a result I have barely been in my kitchen. So for the featured recipe, I pulled up one of my prettier projects, Flank Steak Pinwheels. Not as much effort as it looks. Although I save them for special occasions.

If you’d like something with a bit less work, how about a Spicy Grilled Flank Steak? (Recipe here)

JeffreyW whips up some Cheesesteak Sandwiches (instructions and photos here)

This week’s dinner menu is Grilled Steak with Coffee Rub and Blueberry Coffeecake (menu, recipes and shopping lists here).

No real Bixby update this week, but I did finally receive and assemble my new motorized standing desk. It fascinates him, so of course there is video here.

What’s on your plate for this last weekend (how did that happen) of August? Are you sad summer waning or is fall more your season? Most importantly, whatcha cookin’?

Flank Pinwheel Prep Final

This steak can be prepped the day before, just wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap. Makes it great for a date night, anniversary or small dinner party. I pan-seared and finished in the oven because with the cheese, I thought grilling them wouldn’t work as well. The reward was great pan drippings when I was finished, which I drizzled over the potatoes before serving. If I was going to grill, I’d probably use a grilling pan to avoid flareups.

Flank Steak Pinwheels Final

Flank Steak Pinwheels

  • 1 large flank steak, butterflied
  • salt and pepper
  • crushed garlic (at least 2 cloves)
  • 8 oz sliced provolone cheese
  • 1 bunch washed and dried spinach leaves
  • 8 wooden skewers
  • olive oil

Cast iron or oven proof skillet

You can ask the butcher to butterfly your flank steak, which  is what I did. But it’s fairly easy to butterfly. You want the grain running up and down in front of you and then you’ll slice it in half, NOT slicing all the way through. When you’re done you’ll lay it open, flat, basically making a larger, thinner steak.

Once you have it laid out flat in front of you with the grain running left to right, you’ll want to tenderize it, pounding it flat. I use my pronged Tenderizertenderizer, so I add the spices first and use the tenderizer to help infuse the meat.

If you haven’t already, once it’s pounded, add salt, pepper and garlic evenly over the meat. Layer the spinach over the meat. You want it to be several leaves thick, because it will reduce as it cooks.

Next layer the provolone cheese slices, two to three slices thick, over the meat.

Now it’s time to roll.  Roll tightly in the direction of the grain. Add a skewer every 2 inches and then slice between the skewers, so you have 2-inch thick pinwheels.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 1/2 to 1 tbsp of oil in large skillet, reduce heat to med-high and add pinwheels, flat-side down. After a minute, using the skewer (you may also need a metal spatula to get all the cheesy goodness) flip over, sear additional minute.  The usual method of waiting until the meat moves easily to flip will not work with this because the cheese is sticky. So just do one minute each side, it will be fine.

Place the skillet in the oven, turn the oven off and let the steak finish for 10-15 minutes for medium rare. These are thin and don’t need a lot of cooking time and you don’t want the cheese to burn.

Remove to a plate, cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes.  You can then use the great juices in the skillet to make a gravy if desired. I just drizzled them over the steak and potatoes right before serving.

My steak made 4 pinwheels. If you have more, you may need to finish cooking on a baking sheet after searing them in groups.

That’s it for this week. Have a good weekend, I’m sad to see August go, but fall in Colorado is stunning. – TaMara



Friday Recipe Exchange: Peaches and Peppers

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JeffreyW’s garden bounty

Another week just flew by and it’s time for the recipe exchange. I came home from NE with a car full of fresh vegetables from my brother’s garden. I’m afraid some of tomatoes did not survive the change in altitude very well. But I made fresh salsa with them and all was well.

I gifted my family with Palisade peaches and with the few that were left, my mom made Peach Cobbler (recipe here). At that link you can also see a photo of the 110 year old house I considered putting a bid on before heading out on my trip.

Dinner menu this week was Fajita Chicken & Vegetable Kabobs and another cobbler. For the full dinner menu, recipes and shopping list, click here.

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JeffreyW turns his garden bounty into spicy Five Pepper Jelly.

Finally, JeffreyW was showing off his Five Pepper Jelly, and I wish I canned because I LOVE pepper jellies. How he transforms peppers into jelly, click here and what he does with it, yum, click here (warning, click and you’ll want biscuits and gravy).

For the pet lovers, Bixby took time out from his daily adventures to write a diary entry here.

Cooler weather has put me in the mood for fall recipes, especially soups. What are you looking forward to making as fall approaches? What is on the menu for the weekend?

Tonight’s featured recipe has to be all about the peaches again, since it’s a short two to three weeks of sweetness. This recipe is sweet and spicy, great for lunch or dinner.

Spicy Peach Dressing

  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 jalapeño or other hot pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Purée all of the ingredients, except oil, in a blender or food processor until smooth. Continue to blend, on low, while adding oil slowly. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate.

Spinach Chicken Salad

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 small sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb cleaned baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
  • 1 peach, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces crumbled bleu cheese or chevre

Place the chicken in a plastic zipper bag with ½ cup of dressing. Marinate 2 hours in refrigerator. Remove chicken, discard marinade and grill until cooked through (165 degrees at center).

Toss the spinach, onion, walnuts and cheese with the remaining 3/4 cup dressing. Slice the grilled chicken and arrange on top of the salad.

Serving: 4 to 6

That’s it for this week. Have a good weekend and enjoy the last full week of August, I know I will.  – TaMara

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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

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  • 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

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