We love tomatoes! Whether it’s a bowl of pasta with homemade sauce or fried green tomatoes we love them in any and every possible way. Recently I decided to do something a little different. I decided to try my hand at tomato chips. Yep, you read that right, tomato chips. I don’t buy chips because it’s too easy to sit and consume an entire bag before you realize what you are doing but with tomato chips you don’t have to worry about the added fat, cholesterol or preservatives. The super cool thing about these chips is that you can also grind them into powder. My kids say it smells like spaghetti in a jar because of the herbs used. Once ground you can add tomato powder to soups, meats, eggs, anything you want, the possibilities are endless. Customize them to your liking, use different herbs and spices, go nuts!
Watching a good movie while enjoying a homemade pizza is a common occurrence in our house and since no picky eating is allowed it’s easy to try different toppings with success.
One of our favorite movies is Secondhand Lions. It’s the story of a young boy who gets uprooted to live with relatives he doesn’t know and the adventures that follow. Since this movie takes place in Texas and because we’re in Texas it made sense to create a pizza using leftover brisket. After all, there is nothing like Texas brisket! Hope you enjoy the movie and the pizza as much as we did.
Now that school has started I’m back to making lunches for the kids because let’s face it cafeteria food is…well cafeteria food! My children have never been picky eaters because we’ve never dumbed down their food. What we eat they eat! This ol’ gal doesn’t do multiple meals. Because of that our kids are much more open to trying things most of their contemporaries won’t touch and quite honestly it makes my life much easier. I do have to be honest with you though. Our food philosophy has created borderline food snobs, but hey, worse things could happen ya know?!
A couple of days ago I was standing at the stove making dinner when I glanced over to the counter and realized that I had 7 onions. “Hmmmm…”, I thought to myself, “I need to get rid of those.” My Mom had already asked for a couple so that solved part of the issue. I then checked my onion stash in the freezer only to realized I still had 10-1cup portions already frozen. Then, suddenly, I had an “Aha!” moment. Not a major aha like the solution to world piece or how to eat 15lbs. a chocolate a day and not gain weight, just a little aha that would ultimately save me money and expand our basket goodies even more.
Fusilli with Fava beans, Clams, and Calamari
1lb fusilli col buco (or any long noodle pasta)
3/4-1 lb. calamari rings
1 lb. clams (in shell pre-cleaned)
1 1/2cps. * fava beans (pre-shelled and blanched)
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon (chopped)
1 cup white wine
3/4 cps. heavy whipping cream
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions, drain, toss in 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
*To shell fava beans remove beans from pod and blanch in salted boiling water approximately 3 minutes, submerge in ice water and remove white outer shell.*
Heat 1 TBS. olive oil over medium high heat. Add calamari rings, stir to coat in oil and cook approximately 2 minutes. Remove from pan (leaving liquid in pan) and place into a bowl, set aside. To the remaining liquid in the pan add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add white wine and clams, continue cooking until all of the clams open (discard any clams that do not open). Remove clams from pan and place in bowl with calamari rings. To the wine reduction in the pan add the cream, fava beans, white pepper, and tarragon. Reduce heat and stir to incorporate ingredients. Return calamari and clams back into the pan and cook approximately 2-3 minutes or until reduction sauce has thickened.
Serve over cooked pasta. Mangia!
Have you ever tried eggplant in your meatballs? It adds a nice depth to the flavor, and has the extra benefit of adding a little bit of health to your dinner.
Though it’s no new discovery that vegetables are beneficial to ones health, did you know that greens, when eaten regulartly will improve your health. Greens are filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant-based substances all of which play an important role in the maintenance and well being of your body. Without a doubt the fastest and easiest way to incorporate greens into our diets is by way of the salad. Now most people when they think of salad they think of the basics: ice berg lettuce, tomatoes, maybe a few slices of purple onion and a crouton or two. What they don’t realize is that there not only are some greens not actually green but there are dozens of varieties to choose from. Here we’ll go over some of the most commonly used and their care.
Lettuces are one of the oldest vegetables known to man. They are grown and sold worldwide and are members of the genus Lactuca. The most common of the lettuce families are butterhead, crisp head, leafy, and romaine.
Types of Lettuce
Boston and Bibb
The most common of the butterhead variety, Boston and Bibb posses soft leaves and feature a buttery texture and flavor. Boston is larger than bibb but both for cuts and are excellent choices to be used in making lettuce wraps.
The most common of all lettuces, iceberg falls under the crisp head category. It possess a mild flavor, remains crisp for long periods of time and lends itself well to hearty dressings.
Red and Green
Distinguishable by it’s separate ruffle edge leaves, leaf lettuce is not a firm head. It’s rather delicate, therefore, can be easily damaged. Leaf lettuce can be found in both red and green varieties and are known for their mild flavor and tender leaves.
I like to call Romaine the backbone of all the lettuce family. It’s hearty, flavorful, and versatile. Romaine is a loosely packed head with long leaves and thick ribs. The outside leaves are dark and you will see a noticeable fading as you get into the center of the head, or the “heart” of the romaine.
Though not new in the culinary world, living lettuce is finally making it’s way to dinner tables across the United States. Living lettuce is grown hydroponic and sold with the root system in tact. if you happen to have a green thumb you can maintain the lettuce for quite awhile if you just pull off leaves as needed. The most commonly used living lettuce varieties are butter and bibb but if you look around you can also find arugula, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, Boston lettuce and watercress.
The most common and easiest to find are nasturtiums, calendulas, and pansies. They are often used in salads or as garnish.
****Be mindful to ONLY use edible, pesticide free blossoms.***
When most people think of spinach they see visions of Popeye and the overcooked spinach that he always ate. Truth be told, spinach is terribly under appreciated but incredibly versatile. Whether tossed in a salad, sauteed with bacon or added to stuffing, spinach possesses a rich flavor and tender bite.
Spring Mix(aka Mesclun)
A mixture of a variety of baby greens that posse very subtle flavors much less bitter than their more mature counterparts.
Sometimes known as rocket arugula is actually a member of the cabbage family. It’s strong spicy flavor lends itself best to salad mixes when eaten raw but can be quite delightful when sauted.
A member of the chicory family, endive can be found in a a couple of varieties, Belgian and curly. Belgian is the shoot of the chicory root. The leaves are normally seperated and filled though whole heads can also be grilled or braised.
Delicate leaves on hearty stems, watercress has a very peppery flavor and can be tossed into salads, added to cream cheese, soups and most savory dishes what do not require extended cooking times.
Most commonly identified by it’s large ruffled/curly leaves kale possess a bitter flavor that goes well with rich foods but is a nice accent to salads and soups and can sometimes be found in it’s ornamental variety (also known as Savoy).
Somewhat tart and almost spinach like, chard is essentially a type of beet that does not produce a root. It can be steamed, sauteed or used in soups and salads.
Care and Storage
Please keep in mind that all salad greens are highly perishable and need to be handled properly in order to maintain a reasonable shelf life. Soft leaved varieties tend to perish more quickly than their heartier leaved counterparts. Do not store greens with tomatoes, apples or other fruits that emit ethylene gas as it will accelerate spoilage. All greens should be vinegar washed after they are torn and prior to using. Drain thouroughly either in a colander or a salad spinner as wet greens do not stay crisp, they do not hold dressing, and they will go bad much more quickly than dried leaves. Once dried store in an airtight container.
Don’t forget to eat your greens!
Eggplant and Pasta Incaciata is a traditional Italian dish that can be as varied as homemade tomato sauce. Some variations will contain chicken livers, some will have ricotta cheese, some use bread crumbs and some will use different pasta. The trick is to make it your own!
2 med.-lg. eggplant (or 1 med. eggplant and 2 Chinese eggplant)
1cp extra virgin olive oil
1 box penne pasta
2lb. Italian sausage
**16ozs. tomato sauce
1/2 grated Romano cheese
1 1/2cps. shredded mozzarella cheese
**(I used homemade tomato sauce that I had previously canned so it already contained garlic and herbs. If you are using plain tomato sauce be sure to add garlic, basil, oregano, sea salt, and cracked pepper to taste.)
Boil pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and set aside.
Heat saute’ pan or grill to med. high heat. Thinly slice eggplant (vertically). Brush each side with olive oil. Saute or grill both sides until slightly limp. Set aside.
Brown sausage over med. high heat until cooked throughout, set aside.
Lightly oil the sides and bottoms of a springform pan. Layer bottom and sides of pan with eggplant allowing pieces to hang over the sides.
In a bowl combine pasta, meat, Romano cheese, and tomato sauce.
Pour pasta mixture into the eggplant lined pan and smooth. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of pasta and cover with eggplant pieces that are hanging over the rim.
Heat oven to 350*. Remove plastic wrap and weight. Cook approximately 45 min. Allow to rest 10-15min. prior to cutting.
Sooooo, you have bananas that very very ripe and you are walking over to the trash can to toss them out…STOP…DON’T DO IT! There is never a good reason to toss an overripe banana. You can easily toss them in the freezer (either in the peel or in a freezer bag) for use in banana bread, banana muffins, or better yet….COOKIES! These are without a doubt the easiest cookies you will EVER make and the the beauty part (aside from the whole using overripe banana thing) is that they only take 2 ingredients. Yep, TWO ingredients. Now I can’t take total credit for the two ingredient cookie concept. I saw it last week (maybe the week before) and I thought it was a great idea but wasn’t overly thrilled w/the idea of using plain ol’ everyday oatmeal. So I thought to myself, “Self, what can we do to jazz this up a bit?” Then, as I glanced around the kitchen the rays of joyful light were extruding from the bag of cherry pecan granola that had been tucked away. THAT’S IT! Cookies made using only ingredients from Bountiful Baskets….SAAAWWWEEETTT!
2 over ripe banans
2cups of Bountiful Baskets granola (any flavor will work)
**I added a handful of pecans because I’m nutty like that!
*Technically you can toss in a little brown sugar, chocolate chips, cranberries, raisins, etc. whatever your heart desires as long as all of the ingredients remain moist.
Place granola in a mixing bowl and add bananas. Incorporate ingredients until completely moist and drop by tablespoons onto a non stick silicone lined baking sheet. Bake at 350* for apprx. 15 min. Remove from the oven and allow to cool (SERIOUSLY, hot granola is REALLLLLLLYYYY hot, trust me on this one ok?!) Now pour yourself a nice cold glass of milk and enjoy.