Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Man has it every been hot out there! Because of this heat there is no way I was heating up the oven or stove to make dinner. I’ve been doing a lot of slow cooker meals and also a lot of salads. There is just nothing like a salad with fresh vegetables in the summer!

We are starting to get fresh tomatoes here in the area now, especially the cherry and grape varieties and I’ve been loving eating them plain, as well as in salads and even cooking with them when the heat wasn’t as bad.

This is a salad that I’ve really been loving as of late. It’s quick, easy, healthy and delicious! It’s the perfect summer time treat!

What You’ll Need:
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half (Note: I used an orange variety.)
1 spring of fresh rosemary, chopped roughly
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
The juice of 1 lime

Slice tomatoes and place in a glass bowl. Add rosemary, a pinch of sea salt (I used fleur de sel) and some freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat.

In a small bowl whisk together lime juice and olive oil and pour over the tomatoes. Toss again to mix.

Serve immediately.

Note: Due to the lime juice you’ll want to eat the salad when you make it. If you store it the lime juice will begin to break down the tomatoes. You can also add thyme and/or parsley to the mix. A variety of tomatoes mixed would be good as well.

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of those quintessential sides dishes that often grace dinner tables across the world. Don’t get me wrong, a basic mashed potato has its place, but it’s also fun to shake them up a bit! Jamison is a strictly plain mashed potato sort of guy and Alexis actually doesn’t care for mashed potatoes, so I don’t shake them up often, but when I do oh my!

Rosemary is one of my favorite all time things. I can’t even begin to explain to you my adoration for rosemary. I like it dried, I like it fresh and oh my the smell of rosemary can just perk me right up on the weariest of days! In other words rosemary is good!

By pairing two simple ingredients garlic and rosemary, with a little Parmesan, you end up with a really fabulous, really delicious side dish that really hits the spot. What is better than that?

What You’ll Need:
1 bulb of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds of red skinned potatoes
2 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup of fat free half and half (or any other type of dairy)
1 tablespoon of crushed Rosemary or 2 tablespoon of freshly chopped rosemary
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese (the kind you shred yourself)

Preheat oven toe 425 F.

Cut the top of the bulb of garlic off and place on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and then wrap up the foil around the bulb. Place in a preheat oven for 20-30 minutes, until garlic sticks tender.

Let cool and then squeeze the roasted cloves of garlic out of the skin. Set aside.

Cut red skinned potatoes into chunks (don’t remove the skins) and place in a pot with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking place butter and half and half in a large glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or so until butter is melted and half and half is warm. Add roasted garlic, rosemary, a generous pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and stir until incorporated. If your garlic is chunky then mash it a bit to make it a bit more smooth.

When potatoes are done drain well and add them to the bowl with the butter mixture along with the Parmesan. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and stir to mix in the ingredients from the bowl. I like the texture to be a bit chunky, but you can mash them as fine as you like.

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Serve immediately.

Notes: The garlic can be roasted and stored in the fridge for up to a week. You could also sprinkle on some chopped parsley on top if you liked.

Spicy Baked Chard

Spicy Baked Chard

We’re melting! We’re melting! Oh wait…I got sucked in to Wizard of Oz for a moment…Where was I?

After a couple of days just above freezing temperatures, despite the fact that Mother Nature scoffed at me and let it snow yesterday, we’re actually seeing some melting! If I could dance, and rest assured I can not without looking like a chicken with seizures, I’d be dancing my happy little self around in a circle!

Today we’re supposed to hit around 40, 40 I tell you! I mean let’s break out the flip flops! And are supposed to continue to do so for the next two days. We’re finally going to be able to reschedule our dinner with friends that was supposed to happen the night the first storm hit.

Keep in mind there is a slight chance of snow Saturday night that I am hoping will just go away and the extended forecast says we might have some snow on Monday, though details of that are too far out to know for sure. So fingers crossed that goes away, but still. We are making some progress in the melting department and that makes me a very, very happy spring yearning person!

Melting, Slowly

Now on to chard.

I love chard. The past few months I had been actually craving it, but some reason I couldn’t find it at my local store. I finally made it over to MOM and they had rainbow chard and I was a very happy girl. I promptly bought it and then put in the fridge and forgot it for a week or so. Luckily it didn’t go bad and the other night I decided to see what would happen if it was baked, and you know what it worked!

The chard ended up a bit crispy (which I like), yet tender at the same time. This is the perfect, quick, easy and healthy side dish to spice up your dinner. This is the perfect side dish for a busy night when you need to get dinner on the table fast!

What You’ll Need:
Chard, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Spicy Baked Chard: Ready to Bake

Chop chard in place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes. (Note: More if you like it spicy, less if you don’t.) Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until chard is slightly crispy around the edges and soft in the middle.

Serve immediately.

Notes: This works on any leafy green.

My Favorite Mushroom Soup

My Favorite Mushroom Soup

I eat a lot of mushrooms. I’ve always liked them, even as a child. One of my favorite things to do with mushrooms is to make soup. A lot of people think of a creamy soup when they think of mushrooms, but my favorite is not only creamless, it’s actually vegan as well.

Mushrooms are really quite versatile and I’ve made variations of this soup over time, but I have to say this is my favorite version. When steeped in water mushrooms give you a very “beefy” broth without the cholesterol. What’s not to like about that?

This soup is easy, quick and delicious. In no time you have a steaming pot of soup that is not only healthy, but is also hearty and satisfying. Who says the two have to be mutually exclusive?

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into strips (Note: Sometimes I use red onions, sometimes I use white or yellow. This time around I used yellow.)
1 leek, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped fine (Note: If you don’t have fresh, you can use 1 teaspoon of dried, but the fresh really is best with this soup.)
A generous pinch of sea sat
Finely ground black pepper
2 cups of button mushroom slices
2 cups of crimini or baby bella mushroom slices
4 cups of water
2 cups of spinach leaves, chopped roughly

In a large to medium pot saute onions and leeks with sea salt, black pepper and rosemary in a little extra virgin olive oil, stirring often until slightly caramelized:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup: Leeks and Onions Slightly Caramelized

This is the only place that you are adding seasonings so be generous. You want roughly a teaspoon of sea salt and up to a teaspoon of black pepper depending on how “spicy” you like things.

Add mushrooms and stir to mix:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup: Mushrooms

Don’t worry about cooking the mushrooms before the next step. They are going to cook in the water and form the broth of the soup, just like you are making mushroom broth.

Add water and again stir to mix:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup: Ready to Cook

Cook mushrooms at a simmer until broth darkens and mushrooms are tender. This usually takes about 20 to 25 minutes.

Next add spinach leaves:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup: Spinach Added

Cook and additional 2 to 3 minutes until spinach wilts:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup

Serve immediately.

Notes: Sometimes I add in fresh thyme too, but for the most part I prefer this with the rosemary alone.

Sweet Potato Chip

Sweet Potato Chips

Want to hear some fabulous news? I mean really just stellar?

Do you?

Are you ready?

Sun! Melt, Baby! Melt!

We only got an inch of snow last night! An inch! Today the sun is shining and more importantly it’s going to be above freezing mind you! And the most important part of my happiness today, and the part that might just save my sanity, is that as of the time that I’m writing this, there is no foreseeable snow accumulation in the 5 day forecast!

None!

Zip!

Nada!

Zilch!

And did I mention none? And did I mention the sun is shining? And did I mention the part about it being above freezing?? (This could change, but I’m going to be Pollyanna and looks for the joy instead! ;oP)

Seriously this makes me more than happy. Who ever thought that I, the Snow Queen, would be actively seeking no more snow! It just goes to show that too much of anything is not a good thing! A variation of The Law of Diminishing Return if you will. But the point is, no snow! (Let’s hope Mother Nature doesn’t curse me for that statement! ;oP)

(Update: 1:34 PM: Well that didn’t last long. Now they are saying we might get snow tomorrow, but “less than a half inch possible”. *sigh* It could be worse I suppose! ;oP)

So now that that is out of the way, let’s talk some sweet potato chips!

I have a soft spot for sweet potatoes. I just love them! For a while now I’ve want to make an actual sweet potato chip. I’m not a fan of potato chips in general, but occasionally I do like a sweet potato chip. I’ve made baked vegetable chips before, which are divine by the way, but I’ve never made chips the “old fashioned way” until yesterday.

This is another one of those things I assumed was hard. You’d think after all the things I’ve assumed were hard, yet found out to be anything but I’d get past that, but well I’m stubborn. Yes I’m stubborn. There I said it. Most of us are, but isn’t admitting it the first step?

So all of that to say I’ve thought about making sweet potato chips for a long time, yet I hadn’t made them. Boy was I sorry I had not! They are even better homemade than any I’ve every tried out in the wide blue yonder!

So I’d say these were a huge success. Next time I’m going to play around with sea salt and vinegar chips, but I’m not going to wait as long! ;oP

What You’ll Need:
Oil for frying (Note: Safflower, vegetable, olive oil, etc. You choose. I do not recommend using canola oil, for this or anything really.)
Sweet potato(es)
A big bowl of water
Sea salt

Heat your oil to 375 F. I use a fryer.

While your oil is heating set up your ingredients and the things you will need for your frying process:

Sweet Potato Chips: Set Up and Ready to Go

You’ll need a big bowl of water, a sweet potato (or more if you want to make a big batch of chips), a potato peeler, a baking sheet lined with paper towels, a tool to remove the chips from the hot oil and sea salt.

You might also want to grab a cutting board and a very sharp knife if your sweet potato is big in diameter. We’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Peel your sweet potato:

Sweet Potato Chips: Sweet Potato Peeled

Look for a long skinny potato. Also look for one that is relatively unblemished and with few “eyes”.

Next you want to make your potato “chips”:

Sweet Potato Chips: Ready to Put in Water

I like my chips to have a bit of a thickness to them, but you don’t want them too thick or you’ll end up with fried sweet potato chunks and not sweet potato chips.

You can use a mandolin if you have one (which I do, but I’ve never gotten it to work properly) or you can use a potato peeler (which I did).

Place “chips” in a bowl of water:

Sweet Potato Chips: Soaking in Water

This prevents the potatoes from turning brown while the oil heats and you’re slicing the rest of the chips.

If your potato gets to be too cumbersome in the middle to make chips, cut the sweet potato in half:

Sweet Potato Chips: Cut in Half

Continue slicing with the potato halves.

It also helps as you’re cutting your chips to rotate the potato on each slice so that you don’t end up with a slanted edge and you keep your cutting surface relatively flat.

Once your oil is heated take a handful of chips out of the water and drain on a paper towel to remove excess moisture:

Sweet Potato Chips: Draining Before Frying

Place chips in a thin layer into the heated oil, stirring with a metal strainer occasionally until the chips begin to curl:

Sweet Potato Chips: Frying

Once the chips start to curl, continue to fry for another minute or two until they are slightly golden and continue to curl.

Remove chips from oil and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels. Add a generous sprinkle of sea salt immediately:

Sweet Potato Chips

Repeat process until you run out of potatoes.

Serve immediately, or let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Notes: I always like to use organic ingredients when possible. This is especially true with potatoes who tend to store pesticides in them readily! Find a really good organic sweet potato or yam. You’ll be glad you did!

http://www.diannesdishes.com/~dianne1/cgi-bin/mt/mt-t.cgi/418

Spicy Brussels Sprouts

Spicy Brussels Sprouts

As I’ve mentioned before I’m a recent convert to Brussels sprouts. When you think of this vegetable most often you think of dull, tasteless and boring, but they really don’t have to be! This version is a spicy twist that makes a fabulous side dish, or even a really good meatless main course paired with a salad. They are easy, tender, spicy, healthy and delicious. What’s not to like?

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 pound of Brussels sprouts
4-6 cloves of garlic minced
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

Cut the stem end off of the Brussels sprouts and cut them into slices. Place in a large glass bowl:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts: Sprouts

Mince garlic and add to the Brussels sprouts:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts: Sprouts and Garlic

Next add coarse sea salt (I like the Celtic variety), freshly ground black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts: Salt and Peppers

How much you add is according to taste. I like things spicy so I add a lot of both varieties of pepper. If you’re not a spicy person use less.

Add a drizzle of olive oil and toss to coat:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts: Tossed and Ready to Cook

Preheat pan over medium to high heat. You want your pan screeching hot! Add a thin layer of olive oil and cook, stirring often until Brussels sprouts are tender and slightly browned in places:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts

Serve immediately.

Notes: No notes for this one.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Some people turn up their nose at sun dried tomatoes, but I’m a huge fan. I love their sweet, concentrated burst of flavor! You can get the same type of results by oven drying any basic tomato, and its especially fun to do with those late season tomatoes, that you might have a lot of right about now. It’s a simple way to dry your tomatoes to be used later in any recipe that calls for sun dried tomatoes, or even just as a fabulous, healthy snack!

What You’ll Need:
Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Plum Tomatoes

Rinse and dry your tomatoes. You can use any type of tomatoes you like. This go around I used plum tomatoes, but I like to do this method with cherry or grape tomatoes too. If you use cherry/grape tomatoes you can skip the next step and go straight to the “drying” process.

Slice tomatoes and lay out on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet:

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Ready to Dry

Some people add herbs, salt or even sugar at this point, but I like to do them plain.

Bake for 4-6 hours checking every 30 minutes or so until completely “dried”:

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Done!

Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container. (Note: If you store them in the fridge they’ll last a very long time.)

Notes: No notes for this one!

Eggplant Fries with Creamy Onion Dip

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip

I love eggplant. I wasn’t always smitten with this lovely plant, but over time it is one of those things that has grown on me and then some! It’s amazing how tastes change over time.

There are many ways to prepare eggplant, but I have to say this version has to be my all time favorite! These “fries” are just perfect and I seriously think I’ve found a new addiction! If you want something a little different, and a little bit healthier than your average fry, then look no further…You’ve found exactly what you didn’t know you were looking for!

What You’ll Need:
1 eggplant, cut into strips
1 cup of plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Extra sea salt for sprinkling
Extra finely ground black pepper for sprinkling
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cut the top and bottom off of your eggplant:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Top and Bottom

Cut the eggplant in half:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Halves

And then cut the halves in half:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Quarters

Next cut the eggplant quarters into slices roughly 1/4 of an inch thick:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Slices

Now cut the eggplants pieces into strips roughly the size of french fries:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Strips

Continue cutting strips until you run out of eggplant. Place all of the strips on a plate:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Eggplant Strips Ready to Dredge

Sprinkle strips with sea salt, finely ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Sea Salt, Pepper and Olive Oil

Toss around to coat. It’s easiest to just use your hands for this step.

Set aside for a few moments.

Now you are going to mix up your breading. In a shallow dish, such as a pie dish, stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon each of sea salt, finely ground black pepper and oregano. Mix well.

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Breading

Roll sticks in breading mixture:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Ready to Dredge

Until coated on all sides and then place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Ready to Bake

Make sure the “fries” are mostly not touching.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Baked

Serve immediately with Creamy Onion Dip (see below).

Notes: You can use this method with mushrooms, zucchini or yellow squash as well. You can store any left over breading in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a month. It’s good on chicken too.

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip

What You’ll Need for the Creamy Onion Dip:
1/2 cup of light sour cream
1/4 cup of chopped dried onions
1/4 cup of boiling water
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (Note: You can use garlic salt if you like, but if you do omit the sea salt below.)
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

While the “fries” are baking make your dip.

Place dried onions in the bottom of a glass bowl:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip: Dried Onions

Pour boiling water over the onions:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip: Onions Soaking

Let sit until water is all or mostly absorbed by the onions.

This will take 1-3 minutes. Don’t worry if all of the water isn’t absorbed. A tablespoon or so at the bottom isn’t a big deal and actually helps the dip come together.

Stir in seasonings and sour cream and mix until completely incorporated. Chill or serve immediately.

Notes: If you don’t have, or can’t find dried onions, then you can caramelize 1/2 of a small onion and use that instead.

Creamy Corn and Cucumber Salad

Creamy Corn and Cucumber Salad

This one is another throw together what you’ve got and make the perfect meal! The flavors of this salad are mild, yet refreshing. The dill gives it just the right pop! By utilizing fresh, local ingredients, You’ve got a salad that can’t be beat!

What You’ll Need:
6-8 ears of corn, stripped from the ear (Note: You can use cooked or raw corn.)
1-2 large cucumbers, cut into strips and chopped
2/3 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/2 cup of light sour cream or fat free Greek yogurt (Note: I’ve made it with either, but I prefer sour cream.)
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Chop vegetables and herbs and toss together in a large glass bowl. Set aside.

In a separate glass bowl stir together sea salt, pepper, sour cream and vinegar until smooth. Pour mixture over the vegetable/herbs and toss to coat. Chill for up to 4 hours, or serve immediately.

Notes: You can add in shredded carrots, chopped scallions, zucchini, squash, etc. It’s all a matter of personal taste.

Better Bites: Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup with Basil

Soup is an easy, yet healthy and delicious way to get a balanced meal all in one bowl! This version pairs fresh ingredients, with little work, and yields a fabulous end result that not only is great the day you make it, but is better the next day and can even be frozen for later! That’s my kind of meal!

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What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2-4 ears of corn, stripped from the cob 1 small red onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, sliced into rounds
2-3 yellow squash, cut in half and sliced
1-2 cups of green beans, chopped
3-4 ribs of celery, chopped
1 cup of mushrooms, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1 quart of tomato sauce (Note: I used some I canned)
1 quart of diced tomatoes (Note: Again, I used ones I canned)
1 quart of water
Fresh basil, torn or cut into strips

In a large stock pot saute vegetables in a little extra virgin olive oil, with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper until onions are tender. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and water and stir to mix. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes.

Remove cover and add basil:

Vegetable Soup with Basil

Cook for an additional 5 minutes uncovered or until basil is wilted. Serve immediately.

Notes: Any vegetables will work. Zucchini would be a nice addition, as would leeks. This soup, made as listed is vegan.