Showing posts with label tomatoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tomatoes. Show all posts

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cherry Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad

I know it's not quite spring or summer yet, but I've never been much of a winter person so I've been anxious to greet the warmer months, along with their fruits. So, I went in search of a good tomato salad recipe.

I decided to make a refreshing tomato cucumber feta salad using some fresh frozen herbs I received from Daregal Gourmet. Their herbs are frozen just after harvest to ensure fresh taste. I don't know about you, but whenever I buy fresh herbs from the supermarket, I never seem to be able to use them all before they go bad. I always feel really bad about it, too, because fresh herbs cost a pretty penny. Fresh frozen herbs seem to be a great alternative for cooks like me, because I can have the herbs on hand and use them whenever I'd like, without worry of them spoiling.

This salad takes minutes to prepare, and is so light and refreshing. It makes a great starter, but to be honest with you I loved it so much that I ate all of it myself in one sitting like it was an entree salad! The fresh frozen herbs were a great addition. I would say that they're not quite as good as fresh herbs, but much definitely better than dried herbs... so I'm glad to have them on hand in my kitchen. If you try this recipe, make sure you season this salad with lots of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to bring out all of the flavors.

Cherry Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad
from Simply Recipes

2-3 cups of cherry and/or pear tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup of chopped cucumber, peeled (and seeded if the seeds are bitter)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 Tbsp chiffonaded mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped oregano
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp of finely chopped shallots or green onions
2 teaspoons olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently toss the tomatoes, cucumber, feta, onions, mint, and oregano together. Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 2-4 Servings

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mexican Pizza and Homemade Taco Seasoning

My apologies to Babette of Babette Feasts who chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe (Tartest Lemon Tart). I would have loved to have tried it, but I just got back from my trip and I was so jet lagged. So instead of a tart this week, I bring you a super simple dinner idea - the Mexican Pizza.

I grew up in southern California and I'll admit, I used to go to Taco Bell. I almost always ordered the same thing whenever I went there - "Mexican Pizza with extra tomatoes, hold the olives please."

I haven't been to Taco Bell in years, and prefer to avoid fast food establishments in general now. So when I got a craving for a mexican pizza, I decided I could just as easily make them at home. Unlike most restaurants, there aren't many things on the Taco Bell menu that you couldn't make at home.

It was relatively easy to create the copycat Mexican Pizza recipe. Each component is simple to make, and this is actually a great weeknight meal because it comes together in no time. I don't like deep frying things, so I baked my tortillas instead. In our house, we buy the 10-inch tortillas in bulk, so that's what I used for this recipe. I then cut them into "slices" for serving. You can easily use smaller tortillas if you want to make individually sized servings instead. You can either use store bought taco seasoning, or you can just as easily make your own to cut back on the sodium (I've included a recipe below).

These are delicious, and a nice change from plain old tacos. I love that I can make my own mexican pizzas at home now, because I can customize them to suit my tastes - with extra tomatoes and no olives :) Give these a try - I think you'll enjoy them!

Mexican Pizza
from Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats

1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp taco seasoning, recipe below
1/4 cup water
4 flour tortillas (10 inch)
cooking spray
2 tbsp chopped green onions (scallions)
1/2 can (8 ounces) refried beans
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup taco sauce
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a Mexican Blend)
sliced black olives, optional

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook the ground beef over medium heat until brown, then drain. Return the meat to the pan and add the taco seasoning and water. Continue to cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring often.

Spray both sides of each tortilla with cooking spray and then place them on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for approximately 6 minutes, turning them half way through. The tortillas should be golden brown and crispy, but watch them closely because they will go from golden to burnt in a matter of seconds. (They may puff up slightly in the oven - you can prevent this by poking them a few times with a knife every few minutes in the oven.) After you remove the tortillas from the oven, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Place the refried beans in a small bowl and heat them for 30-60 seconds in the microwave.

Assembling the pizzas:
Spread 1/2 cup beans, then 1 cup of seasoned ground beef on the first tortilla. Top with the second tortilla.

Top the second tortilla with 1/4 cup taco sauce. Layer with 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, then 1/2 cup cheese and 1 tablespoon scallions.

Bake for 5 minutes. Cut each pizza into four "slices" using a knife or kitchen scissors.

Yield: 3-4 Servings

Taco Seasoning
from Amber's Delectable Delights

1 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

Mix together all ingredients and store in airtight container.
Use within 6 months for best flavor.

Yield: 2 2/3 tablespoons (2 tbsp + 2 tsp)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl Appetizers

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I know that many are on the lookout for great appetizers and finger foods that they can serve up for the big game. Last year, I was able to feature a variety of recipes leading up to the big weekend. Unfortunately, time was not on my side this year, and I was unable to try out any new recipes.

Regardless, I'd still like to feature some great appetizer recipes. I hope that you'll give some of them a try and enjoy them during the big game this weekend! Not sure which one to try? I have to say that the most popular recipe (out of all the recipes, not just appetizer recipes) on my blog to date is the Sweet and Sour Meatballs recipe; the second most popular recipe is the Chicken Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Dip (aka Crack Dip)

Sun Dried Tomato Dip

Friday, October 24, 2008

Basil Chicken over Angel Hair Pasta

This is a very basic pasta dish that is great for weeknights. The flavors in it are classic - garlic, onion, tomato and basil. I adapted the recipe slightly to suit my tastes. I love basil, so I added three times as much basil to this :) I also love spicy food, so I added extra pepper (of course if you don't care for the additional heat, just omit the hot pepper sauce). While I did add some heavy cream to this to balance out some of the acidity from the tomatoes, it is still a very light meal.

You can use dried basil (4 teaspoons) if you don't have any fresh basil on hand, but it really won't taste as good. If you hate paying an arm and a leg for fresh basil at the grocery store, there are two lower cost alternatives. The first is to find your local Asian grocery store. If you live in a decently sized city, chances are you have some local Asian grocery stores around. There, you can get a huge bundle of basil (30+ leaves) for $1 versus the $2-3 you pay at your neighborhood grocery store for 8-10 leaves of basil. The other way to get cheap basil is to plant your own. I bought a tiny little starter basil plant a few months ago (for $3), and it has grown so much now that I have enough basil to cook something with it once a week. Don't worry if you don't have a green thumb - I don't either and mine hasn't died yet ;) For tips on how to grow an herb garden, click here.

Save time and money by using canned, diced tomatoes in this instead of fresh. You can also save time by cooking the chicken ahead of time. That way, all you have to do is throw the sauce together while the pasta is cooking.

This is my submission to the weekly Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast.

Basil Chicken over Angel Hair Pasta from Allrecipes

1 (8 ounce) package angel hair pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained) 2 cups boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed (I poached my chicken*)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I used 3/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used about 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes) 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

* To poach your chicken, put the chicken breast halves in a large saucepan and add lightly salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. You can do this with frozen chicken breasts, too.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook angel hair pasta until it is al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and garlic. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken, basil, salt and hot pepper sauce. Reduce heat to medium, and cover skillet. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture is hot and tomatoes are soft.

Toss sauce with hot cooked angel hair pasta to coat. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Yield: 4 Servings

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas with Chipotle Tomato Rice

When I saw these enchiladas on Holly's blog, Phe/MOM/enon, I knew I had to try them. The flavor combination of honey and lime just sounded so good. Plus Holly assured me that these would How could I not try them? :) A word of warning, though - if you don't like sweet flavors in your savory dishes, I would pass on this... sometimes when a recipe has the word "honey" in its title, it has a subtle hint of sweetness to it. Not these enchiladas! The honey flavor is quite prominent. I enjoy all things sweet, however, and loved these! They're a nice change from your typical enchiladas.

I especially love that they are easy and quick to make. The enchilada sauce is actually a rich, creamy sauce. I used the original quantity of heavy cream recommended in the recipe (one cup) but found it a little too rich. Next time, I will do what Holly did and only add one half cup.

I served these with Brianna's chipotle tomato rice. You can serve these with Spanish rice instead, but I found the smoky, spicy flavors of the chipotle rice to complement the sweet and creamy flavors of the enchiladas quite well.

This is the perfect meal to throw together on a weeknight, especially if you use a precooked, store bought rotisserie chicken. I will definitely be making both of these recipes again. You need to try them - you won't be disappointed!

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas
adapted from Phe/MOM/menon (who got it from Brittany at The Sisters' Cafe via Melanie at My Kitchen Cafe)

6 tablespoons honey
5 tablespoons lime juice (approx. 1 large lime) (I have used 1/2 cup and have found the flavor even better)
1 tablespoon chili powder (use a little less for a milder version)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound chicken, cooked and shredded (approx. 2 large chicken breasts) (I poached* my chicken. Save time by using a store bought rotisserie chicken. If you like a lot of filling in your enchiladas, I would recommend doubling this.)
8-10 flour tortillas (I made 6 enchiladas with 10" tortillas)
1 pound monterey jack cheese, shredded (I used a Fiesta blend of Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Queso Quesadilla and Asadero Cheese)
16 ounces green enchilada sauce (also good with red enchilada sauce)
1 cup heavy cream (I would recommend going with 1/2 cup, as it was a bit too heavy/rich)

* To poach your chicken, put the chicken breast halves in a large saucepan and add lightly salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. The longer you do this, the more tender the chicken will be.  You can do this with frozen chicken breasts, too.

Mix the honey (tip: spray your measuring spoon with cooking spray before measuring out the honey), lime juice, chili powder and garlic together and toss with the shredded chicken. Let it marinate for at least 1/2 hour (or toss together in a ziploc bag and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours).

Pour about 1/2 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan. Fill flour tortillas with chicken (approx. 1/4 cup) and shredded cheese, saving about 1 cup of cheese to sprinkle on top of enchiladas. Mix the remaining enchilada sauce with the cream and leftover marinade. Pour sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until brown and crispy on top.

Serve with sour cream, rice and black beans.

Chipotle Tomato Rice
from Oishii

2 cups cooked rice (2/3 cup uncooked rice)
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or 1 tsp. chipotle powder) (halve this if you don't have a high heat tolerance)
1 tsp dried oregano
14 ounce can of diced tomatoes, with liquid
salt & pepper to taste
chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Prepare the rice by combining 2/3 cup uncooked rice with 2 cups of water in a rice cooker or in a sauce pan. When done, set aside.

In a frying pan, heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Stir in the chipotle and oregano.

Add the canned tomatoes with liquid, reduce heat, and simmer until some of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.

Add the cooked rice, and stir until combined and heated through. Season to taste with salt & pepper and serve. Garnish with some fresh chopped cilantro if you have some.

Yield: 4 Servings

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Baja Fish Tacos

Having grown up in southern California, I love fish tacos. I've only ever had them in restaurants, though... so I thought it was about time that I tried making them myself. Luckily, these are so simple to make. When I went in search of a great fish taco recipe, I decided to turn to none other than Susan of Food Blogga, who lives in San Diego. Being so close to the Mexican border, she's had the opportunity to taste some of the best fish tacos around.

This recipe is so easy as is - but you can simplify it even more if you're short on time. Use a store bought salsa if you don't want to make pico de gallo from scratch. Bottled hot sauce can also be used in place of the chilies de arbol sauce. Use store bought guacamole or simply dice the avocado if you don't want to dirty up your food processor making the avocado sauce. And for those who won't eat anything with mayonnaise, please make the mayonesa sauce - just go light on the sauce when you assemble the fish tacos - it's just not the same if you don't use the it. (My husband, the mayo hater, didn't even notice that I snuck some mayonesa sauce into his fish tacos!)

These were delicious. The next time I make fish tacos, I think I'd like to try Susan's baked fish taco recipe instead (which can be found here - just scroll down). I don't really like frying things in my kitchen, and I'm sure they'd still taste just as good without the extra calories.

If you're a fan of fish tacos - or even if you've never tried them - you need to try these now! :) This is a wonderful weeknight meal for those who are busy because you can put it together in no time (and you can make everything except the avocado sauce ahead of time). Thanks Susan, for sharing this awesome recipe with us!

Baja-Style Fish Tacos
from Susan of Food Blogga, as seen on NPR


Makes 24 servings, enough for 6 to 8 people

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried whole Mexican oregano, rubbed to a powder* (I didn't have any so I just used regular oregano)
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces (1 bottle) cold beer, plus more to thin the batter if necessary
2 pounds firm, meaty fish (I use halibut or Pacific sea bass) (I used halibut; tilapia also works well)
A little squeeze of fresh lime juice, from 2 to 3 limes
Canola oil, for frying

Serve with:

24 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed (you can substitute flour tortillas, but the corn imparts a more authentic flavor) (I used flour tortillas)
Avocado sauce (recipe below)
Lime wedges
Mayonesa secret sauce (recipe below)
Salsa de chilies de arbol (recipe below)
Pico de gallo (use your own favorite recipe, or try this one)
Finely shredded green cabbage (not lettuce)
Cilantro leaves (optional)

For the batter, whisk together the flour, baking powder, garlic, cayenne, mustard, oregano and salt and pepper in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in the beer until there are no lumps. (The batter can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated.)

Cut fish into pieces the size and shape of your index finger. Sprinkle with some lime juice and salt.

Pour oil into a deep, wide pan to the depth of 2 inches and heat over medium-heat to 350 degrees (if you have a deep-fry thermometer). Otherwise, test the heat by dropping a little bit of the batter into the oil. It should quickly bounce to the surface and be surrounded by tiny bubbles.

Pat the fish dry with paper towel. Check the thickness of the batter by dipping a piece of fish in it; it should be the consistency of medium-thick pancake batter, coating the fish easily and dripping very little. Add a little beer or water if it seems too thick.

Add a few pieces of fish to the batter. Using tongs, lightly swish each piece until thoroughly coated. Remove fish, letting excess batter drip into the bowl before gently placing in the hot oil. Cook a few pieces at a time until they float and the batter is set but still light in color, about 2 to 3 minutes. If a piece sticks to the bottom of the pan, just leave it, and it will release itself.

Remove the fish to a rack to drain, reserving the frying oil. At this point the fish can be cooled and refrigerated, uncovered, if you're preparing ahead.

When you are ready to serve, reheat the oil to 350 degrees, and quickly refry the fish a few pieces at a time for about 1 minute until crisp and golden brown.

Heat tortillas on a dry griddle for 1 minute per side or, using metal tongs, simply hold over an open flame until warmed and slightly charred. (I wrapped my tortillas in foil and warmed in them in the oven at 375F for 10 minutes.)

To serve, place refried fish, warmed tortillas and condiments on a table so guests can make their own tacos. To assemble tacos, hold a tortilla in your hand, and spread a spoonful of avocado sauce on it (you can use diced avocados or guacamole instead). Place a piece of fried fish on top and sprinkle with a little lime juice. Drizzle with some mayonesa sauce, a few drops of chilies de arbol sauce (you can use bottled hot sauce instead) and some pico de gallo (or store bought salsa). Top it off with some shredded green cabbage and fresh cilantro.

*Whole Mexican oregano can be found in the Mexican food section of most major supermarkets or in Latin American markets.

Avocado Sauce

Makes 1/2 cup

1/4 ripe avocado, peeled
Pinch of salt
A few drops of lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons water or milk
2 cilantro springs, stemmed and chopped (optional)

Place the avocado, salt and lime juice in a small food processor. Add 1 tablespoon water or milk (for a slightly creamier consistency) and pulse. Add more liquid as necessary until sauce is the consistency of thick cream. Add the cilantro and pulse until just blended.

Mayonesa Secret Sauce

Makes 1/2 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon water or milk

Place the mayonnaise in a small bowl and slowly stir in vinegar. Add water or milk until the sauce is thick and creamy.

Chilies de Arbol Sauce

Makes 1/2 cup

1 garlic clove, smashed with the side of a large knife
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup dried chilies de arbol (about 30 chilies), stemmed**
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Pour canola oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add smashed garlic and cook 4 to 5 minutes until golden and aromatic. Place in a small food processor.

Wearing gloves, seed the chilies (unless you want hotter sauce, in which case, leave the seeds), and place in the processor. Process until well pulverized. Add water and salt and puree until as smooth as possible. Scrape into a bowl and add the vinegar. Let stand at least 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or vinegar as necessary.

**Chilies de arbol are thin, red chilies about 3 inches long, and can be found in the Mexican food section of most major supermarkets or in Latin American markets. These small chilies are big on heat, so use this sauce sparingly.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

Chipotles are actually smoke-dried jalapeƱo peppers. Not sure why they need a different name instead of just "dried jalapeƱos." Guess it's kind of like how we call dried plums prunes :) Chipotles come in many forms (dried, powder, etc.) but the most common form I've seen used in recipes are the canned chipotles in adobo sauce. If you use just the chipotle chiles in this salad, it's only mildly spicy. If you particularly enjoy a lot of heat (like I do) you can add extra chipotle chiles and a teaspoon or two of the adobo sauce.

I'm always looking for quick and easy weeknight dinner ideas and this definitely fit the bill. Plus it's pretty healthy, so even better. I love tex mex dishes with black beans and corn. Top it off with some avocado and I'm sold :) This salad really comes together in just minutes. You can prepare the dressing and cook the chicken the night before. Or, save even more time buy using a store bought/precooked rotisserie chicken. For a little extra crunch in your salad, add some deep fried tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips.

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad
from Cooking Light

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2/3 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon minced chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce (I used about 1.5 tbsp mince chipotles + 2 tsp adobo sauce)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 breasts) (I seasoned some chicken with salt and pepper, then grilled it on the George Foreman Grill)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup diced peeled avocado
1/3 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no-salt-added whole-kernel corn, rinsed and drained

To prepare dressing, combine first 7 ingredients, stirring well.

To prepare salad, combine lettuce and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Tip: Add a spoonful of adobo sauce for a spicier salad. Kidney or pinto beans also taste great in this dish.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 1/2 cups)

Monday, March 24, 2008

30-Minute Meal

Now I have to agree with the vast majority of people who think that Rachael Ray is uber annoying. I can't stand her cooking show. I can't believe her garbage bowl is a big seller, either. C'mon now. The concept of putting all your trash in one place while you're cooking so you don't make a mess of the whole kitchen is a good idea, but why on earth would you need a special bowl for that purpose? I've got a million bowls in my kitchen that I could easily use as a "garbage bowl." (I hope that those who own this don't take offense.)

While I can't stand Rachael Ray, I have to admit that I actually like some of her food. I have no problem with her recipes, I just can't watch her cook them. So when I came across this Rachael Ray recipe, I knew I wanted to try it. Tomato and basil are just about my two favorite ingredients in Italian cooking, and then add tomato cream sauce on top with some spicy sausage? Sounded like a winner to me.

This meal came together in - no surprise - under thirty minutes, perfect for that weeknight dinner you want to throw together (though I've made some of her recipes before that definitely were not "30-minute meals"). We love spicy food, so I used all hot Italian sausage instead of the sweet and spicy combination that Rachael suggests. If you like things milder, I would stick with Rachael's recommendations, or use all sweet Italian sausage. This is definitely something I will making again.

Peasant Pasta
Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, available in bulk at butcher counter or, 2 links, casings removed (I used 1-1/2 pounds of hot Italian sausage)
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, available in bulk at butcher counter or, 4 links, casings removed (I omitted these)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped, optional (I added some garlic and shallots)
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I have also used white wine when I don't have any broth on hand)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (I only used pepper; the sausage is salty enough)
1 cup frozen green peas (I omitted these)
24 leaves fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced
1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente (I used farfalle pasta)
Grated Italian cheese, for passing

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan.

Add sausage meat. Crumble sausage meat as it browns. Add chopped garlic to the pan. When all of the crumbles have browned evenly, deglaze the pan drippings using chicken or vegetable broth.

Stir in crushed tomatoes and bring the sauce up to a bubble, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir cream into your sauce, this will blush the color and cut the acidity of the tomatoes.

Season with salt and pepper. Stir peas and basil into your sauce to combine. Toss hot drained penne rigate in pan with the sauce, then transfer pasta to serving bowl.

Yield: 6 Servings.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bright College Years

It's funny how most of my memories are centered around food :) When we travel, I definitely take in the sights, but sometimes I remember the meals and different things I tasted during our trip even more! Like our honeymoon, for instance. I will never forget that it was on our honeymoon that I had my very first molten chocolate lava cake. How I never came across one until then is beyond me!

When I think of my college years, I reminisce about how my roommate and I concocted these delicious banana milkshakes in an attempt to replicate a milkshake that she had tasted while in Jamaica. And how one night, the chef in our dining hall made the most amazing "Death by Chocolate" cake. Then there was the tres leches cake that my friend Maureen introduced me to - I promptly got the recipe from her and then made one on my own! If only I had a kitchen back then - imagine the possibilities! Alas, I was in a dorm room for all four years. Still, I remember quite a few good eats from those bright college years.

These crostini have to be one of my very favorite appetizers. It's a close call between these and the Sweet and Sour Meatballs. I was introduced to these when I was in college by my friend Nikki. She had brought them to a get together we both attended. One bite and I could not stop going back for more! Tomato and basil naturally go well together, but then the cream cheese makes these little bites heavenly! Every time I have these now, I always think of my friend Nikki.

I'm afraid I don't have good measurements for you here so it's not a real "recipe" yet; I will have to get those the next time I make this (I'll update this post after I get them)... I threw this together in a hurry and did not have time to figure out the exact amounts of everything, but I did include estimates below for anyone who might need them.

These are great for when you are hosting a dinner, or if you need to bring something for a get together. They take very little time, and are sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Crostini
from my college friend Nikki

1 loaf french bread
3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (I normally use 1/3 less fat Neufchatel cheese)
24 fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1-1/2 to 2 cups sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Slice bread into 1/4-inch slices at a slight angle, then brush the slices evenly with olive oil (or spray with cooking spray). Arrange the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Allow the bread to cool completely, then spread a thin layer of cream cheese onto each slice. Top with one or two fresh basil leaves and then a few sun-dried tomato slices on top of the basil.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Marinated Grilled Shrimp

I am always looking for good seafood recipes, as we seem to eat a lot of chicken and beef. I love the simplicity of this dish. There is a little bit of a wait for the shrimp to marinate, but otherwise the recipe comes together really quickly and makes a great weeknight meal.

The flavors are perfect, too. Tomato and basil are always great together - I love fresh basil so much that I pretty much love anything with basil in it :) The cayenne complements the other flavors without making it spicy at all. As the author of the recipe warns, don't leave it out! I might even add more cayenne next time to give it some kick. I halved the recipe (but included the full recipe below) and it was the perfect amount for the two of us. I served it with lemon risotto and roasted garlic bread... mmmm!

Marinated Grilled Shrimp

3 cloves garlic, minced (I halved the recipe and still used 2 cloves)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

In a large bowl, stir together the garlic, olive oil, tomato sauce, and red wine vinegar. Season with basil, salt, and cayenne pepper. Add shrimp to the bowl, and stir until evenly coated. Cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring once or twice.

Preheat grill for medium heat. Thread shrimp onto skewers, piercing once near the tail and once near the head. Discard marinade.

Lightly oil grill grate (I use my George Foreman grill; no oiling needed). Cook shrimp on preheated grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until opaque.

Yield: 6 Servings.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tex Mex Salsa with Homemade Tortilla Chips

If you're still looking for some great appetizers to serve at your Super Bowl party, this might be just what you are looking for! It's different from your traditional salsa, and that's what I like about it. I received a comment on my last Super Bowl appetizer post that made me laugh; it was a question about when the Super Bowl is being played. It was amusing to me because typically, I don't even know when it is either! While I thought it would be fun to blog about several different appetizers in honor of the Super Bowl, I actually don't even watch it! Sometimes we'll turn the TV on, but that's only so we can watch the commercials. We are not football fans in any way, shape, or form :)

I still remember trying this salsa for the very first time back in 2004. I was in school at the time, and one of my classmates had brought this in to share with everyone. Her mom (or aunt, I can't recall now) would make it for her every time she visited her. I couldn't get enough of it, and asked my classmate if she could get the recipe for me. A few weeks later, her mom (or aunt) came to visit again. This time she brought 2 containers full of salsa with her: one for my friend and one for me! :) She told me that there wasn't really a recipe for it, but gave me a rough idea of how to make it. The recipe below includes the proportions I typically use; however, you can easily adapt this recipe to suit your tastes (my husband always thinks I need to double the amount of beans!).

I love to serve this with homemade tortilla chips that are baked, not fried (so much healthier!). For this salsa, I only season the chips with a dash of salt, but for snacking and other dips, I love to season them with other things like garlic seasoning.

Tex Mex Salsa

2 lbs ripe tomatoes, diced (I like to use Roma tomatoes)
1-1/2 to 2 cups "Mexican Blend" cheese or shredded cheddar cheese
1 can black beans, drained (2 cans if you really like beans)
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 cup Kraft Zesty Italian dressing
2 - 3 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 1 hr to allow the flavors to meld and then serve with your favorite tortilla chips. Garnish with additional cilantro.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

flour tortillas
vegetable or canola oil
salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Spritz or drizzle tortillas with vegetable or olive oil. Sprinkle with some salt. Cut the tortillas into strips, and then into triangles. Arrange the triangles evenly on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Pay careful attention to these, as they go from lightly golden to burnt very quickly!