Another Post About Tomatoes

It’s October, which means that fall is in the air!  The bad news?  The weather just can’t seem to make up its mind.  Last Friday I wore shorts; today I was in my peacoat, scarf, and boots!  The good news?  Our favorite fall dishes are back!

I am usually not a coffee person, but since I was up at the inhumane time of 7:45 this morning, I splurged on a little fall bliss: Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks.  I felt uber hipster with my Starbucks cup, but at least I wasn’t tweeting about it on an iPhone (I am a proud Android owner, thank you very much).

Aside from the drinks and apple everything,  some of my favorite fall flavors are yummy, warm soups that are perfect for those brisk fall evenings.  A few days ago, I tested out a new tomato soup recipe, and I am absolutely in love.  It is delicious and hearty, and it won 3rd place at my last NU Eats club meeting!

Mmmm Tomato Soup

Ingredients:
3 really, really big tomatoes (or a few more smaller ones)
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 fresh basil leaves
Salt and Pepper
Shredded mozzarella cheese and garlic bread (optional)

Prep:
1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line jelly-roll pan with foil.
2. Cut tomatoes into small wedges (if you’re using large tomatoes, about 8-10 wedges per tomato).  Remove as much of the seedy part as you can.  Spread evenly onto pan.
3.  Cut onion into wedges and place on pan between tomatoes.  Peel garlic and tuck away into tomatoes (so it doesn’t burn!).  Sprinkle with olive oil; salt and pepper generously.  Roast in oven for around 60 minutes or until tomatoes and onions are justtttt starting to get a little golden on the edges.
4.  When the veggies have about 5-10 minutes left in the oven, heat broth in a large pot and add tomato paste.  Stir until dissolved.  When the veggies come out of the oven, add to pot with basil leaves.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.

5.  Put everything into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth (or as smooth as you like it).  Return to pot.  Stir in heavy cream.   Simmer for another 10 minutes or so.
6.  Remove any remaining chunks.   Serve with shredded cheese and garlic bread.

Happy Eating!

Onion Tomato Sauce

You go ahead and try to tell me that doesn’t look delicious

One of the things I hate most in the world is tomato sauce.  I think it’s grimy, thick, heavy, gross, and worst of all, tastes a little like vomit.  This is highly unfortunate as a love spaghetti, and what better to go along with spaghetti than tomato sauce?

One day I got this feeling that it wasn’t that I inherently hated tomato sauce, it was more that I just disliked the jarred/canned kind.  Determined to test my theory, I decided to make my own sauce using local, organic produce.  I scoured the internet for an easy recipe, and found one that looked simple and delicious by The Naptime Chef.

As you might have noticed from my other posts, onions are probably my favorite veggie ever. So of course, even though the recipe did not call for them, I felt the need to add onions as the sauce was cooking in on the stove.  Unfortunately, I added too many and had to improvise as I was cooking to thin out the sauce and dilute the abundance of onions.  Here is the recipe for the sauce I ended up making, which is absolutely delicious.  The first part is adapted from The Naptime Chef’s recipe, the rest is all mine.

Ingredients:
8-10 plum tomatoes, halved and cored
6 unpeeled garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small can (6oz) tomato paste
1/4 cup cilantro
1 – 1 1/2 cups onion (depending on how much you like onion)
1 – 1 1/2 cups water (depending on how thick/thin you want it to be)

Preparation:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Place halved tomatoes in a medium sized bowl and toss with olive oil.  Spread tomatoes face-up evenly across a jelly roll pan (cover the pan with aluminum foil to avoid a mess).

3.  Arrange the garlic cloves around the pan.  Place pan in oven and roast for 45 minutes.

4.  Place tomatoes and leftover liquid into food processor or blender.  Squeeze roasted garlic into processor as well.  Puree until smooth.

5. Pour puree mixture into medium saucepan.  Add tomato paste, onions, and cilantro.  Stir until mixed completely, then slowly add water until you reach the desired consistency (it will thicken a more as it cooks, so make it a little thinner to start).

6. Bring to a boil, stirring often until sauce is thickened.

7.  Enjoy!

One great thing about making homemade tomato sauce is that you can freeze it in a Tupperware container until you are ready to use it.  I don’t like a whole lot of sauce on my spaghetti, so the yield for me was upwards of six servings (about the same number of servings I get out of a box of spaghetti), but it might be different for you if you are a heavy-on-the-sauce type of person.

Of course, here’s a breakdown of cost for the broke college student:

8 plum tomatoes: $2 at the local farmers market
1 onion: $0.50 at the farmers market
Fresh cilantro: <$0.50
Garlic: $0.50
Tomato paste: $1
Box of spaghetti: $1
Total Cost: $5.50
Cost Per Meal: <$1

When you think about how much they charge for a plate of spaghetti at a nice Italian restaurant, it kind of makes you mad, doesn’t it?

 

Veggie Turkey Burgers

A few months ago, I claimed that the cheeseburger I had at Husk in Charleston was the best burger I had ever had.

I might have found a replacement.

I’ve finally moved into my new dorm, and with it comes a whole new set of responsibilities, including feeding myself on a regular basis.  My roommate, Rebecca, had her mom staying with us for a few days, and she made us some delicious meals while she was here.  However, she’s back in Cincinnati now, which means we have to fend for ourselves.

After exhausting all of my go-to options (Garlic Pasta, Enchilada Soup, Hot Pockets) I decided to try something new from a recipe I found on Foodily.  I changed the recipe around a little to suit my tastes and make do with what I have, but you can find the original recipe here.

Ingredients: 

1/2 lb ground turkey (If your grocery store only sells it buy the pound, chop it in half while still frozen and save the rest for taco night!)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 onion, chopped into small pieces
1 4 or 4.5 oz can chopped green chilies
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
Potato Rolls
Philadelphia Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread

 Preparation: 

1.  Combine thawed ground turkey, cilantro, onion, green chilies, and spices in medium bowl (use your hands… it’s okay to get a little dirty!)

2. Coat medium-sized fry pan lightly with vegetable spray

3. Form into patties and cook over medium-high heat until cooked through (mine were about 4 minutes on each side, and I cooked 3 at a time)

4.  Spread Cream Cheese on bun, add patties and enjoy!

Yield: about 6 patties

My favorite part about these burgers is that they are so juicy and delicious.  I don’t have access to a grill, but cooking them in the pan worked just fine, and the addition of the creamy Philadelphia was the perfect match.  I didn’t add any additional veggies on top as I usually do with burgers (lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc) since the patties themselves are already stuffed full.

The best part about these is that I ate one for lunch, and froze the rest after I cooked them.  Since meat can’t be re-frozen after it’s already been thawed, you have to cook the burgers before you can put them back into the freezer, but once they’ve been cooked, a couple of Ziplock baggies with the date on them do the trick.  Basically, you’ve just made yourself five additional meals!

But buying groceries is expensive, they say.  No way!  Here’s a breakdown of price to prove to you that you’re better off making these burgers for yourself than buying that McDonald’s Happy Meal:

Can of Chilies: $1.29
LB Ground Turkey: $5.29/2 = $2.15
Yellow Onion: $1.05
Cilantro Flat: $1.29/2 (I only used half) = $0.65
Hamburger Rolls $1.99
Miscellaneous spices and cream cheese: $0.00 (I already had these around the apartment)
Total Cost: $7.13
Cost Per Burger: $1.19

 

Chicken Veggie Wraps

My chicken veggie wrap before I wrapped it up

Lately, I have been super into The Laughing Cow Cream Cheese Wedges.  I never really liked the regular cheese wedges (my Mom swears by them though), but I love, love, love the Garden Vegetable cream cheese flavor.  The other night, I used it to enhance the frozen taquitos I cooked for dinner, and they tasted great!  Today, I used one for my dinner.  I love that you know exactly how much you’re getting and that they have great flavor with less fat than regular cream cheese.

Image from thelaughingcow.com

 

So now you’re dying to know how I made these deliciously simple chicken veggie wraps, right?  They were so easy and easily one of the best wraps I’ve ever had!

Ingredients:

8-10 bite sized pieces of chicken, uncooked – I like to use the Tyson grilled strips that come already cut and cooked, but you can use cut up pieces of frozen chicken breast
1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1 wedge Laughing Cow Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread
2 tortillas
Seasonings for chicken – I used onion powder, garlic powder, and basil

Preparation:

1. Coat bottom of small fry pan with a very thin layer of oil.  Cook chicken mostly through and season as desired.
2.  Add veggies and cook until chicken is completely cooked through (mine took about 3 more minutes after I added the veggies)
3.  Heat tortillas in microwave for about 20 seconds, until soft and warm
4.  Divide 1 wedge of Laughing Cow cheese in half and spread down the middle of each tortilla
5.  Add chicken and veggies, wrap up, and enjoy!

This was the perfect quick dinner after a long day of work and provided a healthy serving of dairy, veggies, and protein without a heavy carb load.  I would even try it with a whole wheat tortilla or pita next time!

Hope you enjoy!  Happy Eating!

 

When You Just Have to “Wing it”

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Our favorite Pasta Roni variety!

I have two very, very picky little brothers.  Well, little is relative: one is fifteen and taller than me, the other is eight and almost as tall as me.  Picky is no exaggeration, though; these boys will not eat ANYTHING, especially the older one (the kid won’t eat pizza or hamburgers, for starters).

We are home alone a lot in the summer, since my parents work, so we often have to fend for ourselves for lunch.  When I don’t feel like trying very hard, or paying to take them out to lunch, there’s one trick I’ve found to be a popular favorite and it only takes about five minutes to make.  It comes in very handy when all you can hear is a whiny chorus of “I’m hungryyyyyy.”

Ever heard of Pasta Roni?  My brothers absolutely love the stuff, and it comes in really handy when we don’t have the time or ingredients for homemade creamy pasta.  It doesn’t taste half bad, and the Angel Hair varieties only take 4-5 minutes to cook.  We like the Pasta with Herbs and Parmesan Cheese varieties, and all you have to do is follow the directions right on the box – just add butter, milk, and water.

For those quick lunches, I like to cook 2 boxes of Pasta Roni and grill up some Tyson frozen chicken (not the breaded strips kind, the grilled chicken breast kind).  I cook both, spicing the chicken with a bit of garlic powder, salt, pepper, and whatever else is sitting in the front of the spice cabinet.  When they’re done cooking, I just cut the chicken up into bite size pieces and mix it into the pasta.

This isn’t a truly homemade lunch, but the boys love it and it is super quick to make.  And since you can get boxes of Pasta Roni on sale for $1 each or less, it’s a pretty good bang for your buck.

I prefer to make my own homemade creamy pasta sauce, but this works well for two picky boys who look at anything unfamiliar like it’s alive and going to crawl off of the plate at any moment.

Tried this recipe tonight for dinner and everyone loved it! I didn’t have a whole onion, so I chopped up what was left of the onion and the red and green peppers from tacos the other night, and they worked perfectly (about 2 cups of veggies in all). I also made my own cheese soup, since I don’t particularly like the flavor of the canned kind. It only takes about 5 minutes, and you can find a great recipe for it here.

It was a huge hit with kids and grown-ups, and it was enough for about 10 people to have medium sized servings!  Thanks My Days Can Count for the recipe!

My Days Can Count

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts – grilled

1 stick butter

2 cloves garlic

1 onion, chopped

3/4 Cups flour

1/4 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons paprika

16 ounces sour cream

1 small can green chilis

1 can cheddar cheese soup

32 ounces chicken broth

tortilla chips, black olives, monterey jack cheese, chives

I had my husband grill the chicken earlier and he added some chicken spices but usually I just add salt and pepper.  If you don’t want to grill the chicken, cook it anywhich way you choose.

In a large pot, melt butter over med-high heat.

Dice up the onion and garlic.

Add onion and garlic to the melted butter and cook until the onions are clear looking and wilted.

Once the onions are wilted, add 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour to the pot. Stir flour into butter/onion mixture.  This will become very thick.

Add cumin and paprika to this thick mess and stir.

Now add the chicken…

View original post 83 more words

Microwave Hash Brown Casserole

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This was the first time I cooked this dish – for a dorm friendly food contest. It won 2nd place!

Today, I have been making a lot of preparations for my return to school in August.  I submitted my early move-in request, signed up to volunteer for freshman move-in and work the Strong Women Strong Girls table at the Activity Fair, and sent my RSVP to the Service Learning Partnership Orientation for the class I will be TAing in the fall (I like to do it all!).

Doing all this college-y stuff has inspired me to share a college girl friendly recipe for the day.  I love this recipe because it’s easy, inexpensive, and it can be cooked in the microwave! (Good news for anyone living in a traditional dorm).  I made it quite a few times during my freshman year, and even submitted it in a contest where it won 2nd place!

So here it is, Microwave Hash Brown Casserole!

Ingredients:
2 cups frozen tater tots
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup each chopped bell pepper and onion
1/2 medium sized ham steak, diced
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite grated blend – I like the Kraft Four Cheese Mexican!)
Salt and pepper

Preparation: 

(Quick note: I like to make this dish in a round Pyrex glass bowl.  The four cup one is the perfect size and it transitions easily from microwave to refrigerator if there are leftovers.)

1.  Start with your tater tots in a medium sized microwavable dish.  Add chicken broth and microwave on high for five minutes.
2.  Remove from microwave and stir together until broth disappears completely and the tater tots lose their individual form.  Add onion and pepper; stir together and microwave on high for another five minutes.
3. Remove and add ham.  Lightly salt and pepper, and stir again.  Layer cheese on top of the dish; you can add more or less than the suggested amount to taste.  Microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
4.  Give it one more good stir, and serve.

This works as a great dinner for 1 or 2 people to share, or a side dish for 3-4 people (I like to omit the ham if I’m cooking it as a side).  Also tastes great with bacon bits!

Another quick note: measurements are not super important for this recipe.  I pretty much eyeball everything, and just cut up whatever pepper and onion I happen to have on hand at the time.  As long as your tater tot to broth ratio is good, you will have a perfect, dorm friendly microwave casserole!

Happy Eating!

Creamy Garlic Pasta Sauce

Delicious, creamy, and sooooo easy to make! I made it this time with leftover grilled shrimp and homemade salsa, served over whole wheat penne.

I found a recipe awhile ago online for a creamy garlic pasta sauce.  I have since tweaked the recipe a lot and it has become my favorite homemade pasta sauce.  It is super easy to make and only takes about as long as the pasta does to cook.

Since I have mostly been cooking for myself this summer, the ingredients list is for a single serving.

Ingredients:

A single serving of your favorite pasta (I have tried it with linguine, penne, and thin spaghetti, and it works well with all of them.  It tastes great with whole wheat pasta, too!)
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder (you can always use fresh garlic if you have it on hand)
3/4 tbsp flour
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
Salt
Pepper
Parsley Flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not the Kraft kind in the green bottle, it doesn’t have the right consistency)
Optional: your favorite meat or veggie addition – I like to use bacon bits or grilled shrimp and homemade salsa  (make sure you cook or heat up anything else that you are going to add to the sauce BEFORE you add it)

Preparation: 

(1) Start by boiling the water for the pasta.  While you wait for it to boil, gather your ingredients and measure out your chicken broth, milk, and Parmesan cheese.  You will need to have these ready to grab with one hand when the time comes.

(2) When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to box directions.  In a separate, small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once the butter is about halfway melted, add garlic powder.

(3) Once the butter has melted completely, grab yourself a fork, add the flour, and stir constantly for about 30 to 45 seconds.  It is going to turn into a thick, chunky mush.  Keep smashing it with that fork until the butter and flour are completely mixed.

(4) While continuing to stir, add the chicken broth, followed by the milk.  Combine completely until the butter/flour mixture disappears into the liquid.  Turn the heat up to just above medium and stir frequently until the sauce thickens and begins to boil slightly.

(5) Add salt, pepper, and parsley to taste.  I like just a dash of each.

(6) Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until it melts completely.  If you like bacon bits, now would be a good time to add them.  Anything else you can just add when you serve it.  Your pasta is probably just about done now, so turn the heat on your sauce down to just below medium and let it cook awhile longer while you strain the pasta.   Once the pasta is ready, the sauce is too!  I like to serve it to myself in a big bowl with a little extra Parmesan cheese on top.

Like I said, this is my favorite pasta sauce recipe.   It doesn’t take more than ten minutes, and it works with any kind of pasta or add in.  One time I served it with shrimp and salsa (pictured above) and the veggies were a nice addition to the creaminess of the sauce.

Hope you like it! Happy Eating!