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!

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!

 

Going Out: Soho Pizza

Chicken Parm Pizza from Soho Pizza

My friend Bri is currently visiting from Atlanta, GA, and she has commented on how it seems we New Jerseyans are consumed with eating two things: hoagies and pizza.

The more I think about it, the more I think she’s right.  Everyone around here has their favorite, hoagie place, cheesesteak place, chicken cheesesteak place, pizza place, thin-crust pizza place, their favorite chain pizza place, their favorite deep-dish pizza place, and so on.

When my family wants to order takeout, we don’t have many options.  Well, we do have many options, but we only ever really have to choose between two: pizza or hoagies.  From there, we either have to decide where to order pizza, or we call up Lee’s (we only order hoagies and cheesesteaks from one place in the world).

When it comes to eating out, we often run into the same problem… although, eating at amazing pizza places is not necessarily TOO big of a problem.  One of my favorite pizza places outside of my suburban bubble is in Philadelphia, and it’s called Soho Pizza.

Soho Pizza is on Market between Bank and Strawberry, just a block away from the bridge to Penn’s Landing.  They make amazing pizza, and they serve huge slices with delicious toppings.  My personal favorite is the Chicken Parm Pizza, which has perfectly cooked chicken parm atop a slice of cheesy pizza with marinara sauce.   It is absolutely mouthwatering and I highly recommend it!  They also make great cheesesteaks – Bri had a buffalo chicken cheesesteak when we went yesterday and it was oozing with cheese, sauce, and tasty chicken.

Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, just a block away from Soho Pizza!

Soho Pizza is within walking distance from the historic district, so if you are looking for a place to cool down and grab a slice after seeing the Liberty Bell, I suggest you take a walk down Market Street and make a stop at Soho Pizza (it’s on the right side of the street if you are walking towards the water).  Plus, if you walk just a few more blocks, The Franklin Fountain will be on your right and you can grab a dish of delicious homemade ice cream or a freshly made root beer float!

Happy Eating!

Going Out: The Melting Pot

Ryan’s first time at The Melting Pot in Atlantic City, NJ. He loved it!

Confession time!

The Melting Pot is my absolute obsession right now.  I love everything about it.  It was my choice for my birthday dinner, and my family has a reservation for tonight at 5:45 in Philadelphia.

I’ve never been to The Melting Pot in Philly before, but I’ve been to the one in Atlantic City many times and the one in Boston once or twice.  I think their food is absolutely delicious and the concept is so much fun and so perfect for a long, hearty meal with good friends or family.  I am so excited to go tonight, especially because my dad and brother have never been before, so I can’t wait to witness their first experience.

For those of you who have never been, the meal comes out in four courses.  The first is a cheese fondue, and you have a choice of about five or so varieties, all of which are delicious and very distinct.  I really like the Wisconsin Trio and the Traditional Swiss.  Along with the cheese comes your dipping selections, which include veggies, granny smith apples, and several varieties of bread.

The second course is the salad, which may seem boring among the other courses, but they certainly do not disappoint in this department.  My absolute favorite is the California Salad, which comes with candied pecans that are arguably one of my favorite parts of the meal.

Third is the moment everyone has been waiting for, the main course.  You can choose from individual entrees that come with one or two types of meat (or vegetarian selections), or you can opt for the “Four Course Classic,” in which case the third course comes with a variety of meats, including tuna, shrimp, chicken, and sirloin.  This course is my favorite because you get to cook your own food, plus their dipping sauces are AMAZING.  With the meats, they bring out a pot of hot broth, into which they pour mushrooms, potatoes, and broccoli.  You let the veggies cook for awhile as you skewer your meats, one at a time, and cook them in the broth.  When they are finished cooking (each one takes about 1-2 minutes), you put them on a separate plate and use their signature dipping sauces (the waiter tells you which sauce goes best with which type of meat) and enjoy!   It is so much fun, and since you are cooking the food yourself, it spreads the meal out and makes the enjoyment and excitement last even longer.

The final course is dessert, and they definitely make sure you finish with a bang.  I have tried almost all of their chocolate fondue varieties, and each is as good as the one before.  My favorite is probably the Chocolate S’mores, but not by much, since all of them are so delicious.  I mean, you really can’t go wrong if there’s chocolate involved.  They bring out a huge plate of dipping choices, including cake, marshmallows, graham crackers, strawberries, bananas, and brownies.  By the end of the meal, you are already so stuffed that it seems almost impossible to finish off the final course, but trust me, you will make a valiant attempt.

I really just love the atmosphere of The Melting Pot restaurants.  I love that you don’t feel like you are waiting forever for your food to come out, and I love that you get to enjoy the experience of being constantly involved in the cooking process.  The level of interaction is beyond compare, and the taste lives up to all expectations.

The Melting Pot is, of course, super expensive, but if you find specials or coupons it can cut the price nearly in half (trust me, I’m a broke college student and I always look for the deals!).  I love going during AC Restaurant Week, when you can get a 3-course lunch (Salad, Entree, and Dessert) for only $15 per person!  You can also go during any other time for dinner and forgo all courses besides the main one, and pay as little as $19 per person.  Another great way to get part of the experience without the full price is to go for just salads and dessert, which are reasonably priced and just as delicious as all four courses.

Even though it is a chain, I think they do a great job of making the experience very personal no matter which location you are at.  I highly recommend that you give it a try, no matter where you are located!  You can find a map of their locations here.

Happy Eating!

Breakfast Problems

I have a huge problem.  I hate breakfast.  I hate eating breakfast, I hate thinking about breakfast, and I especially hate cooking breakfast.

When I was younger, I had a real problem eating breakfast before school.  Starting around sixth grade, I stopped eating breakfast entirely, and that lasted about five years.  By the time I was a senior, I was able to grab a granola bar or some crackers to go, but that was about it.

In the summer, my go-to breakfast is cereal.  Our house is usually stocked with Cheerios, Kix, and Frosted Flakes, and since I don’t get up until 8 or 9 every morning, breakfast is a little easier to stomach (compared with six in the morning).  My favorite cereal is Lucky Charms, but my mom won’t buy them, so I only get them when I’m away at school.

I don’t mind pancakes and french toast and bacon, but eggs? Forget it.  I have always had a huge problem with eggs. I can tolerate omelets on occasion, but straight up scrambled eggs are public breakfast enemy number one.  Something about the texture and the taste just gross me out.

Today, I came downstairs for breakfast and took a peek into the pantry.  We have a pretty big Cheerio collection right now, so I grabbed the box of Honey Nut and made my way to the fridge.

That was when I found out the worst news: no milk.  I was pretty disappointed.  My brother has swim practice in a few minutes, so with one of my quick breakfast options depleted, I was going to have to get creative.  I didn’t have time for pancakes or waffles, there is no bacon in this house, and I’m pretty sure if there were any granola bars left I’d have eaten them yesterday.

I made my brother eggs to fuel him up for practice, and while I had the cheese out, I decided to make myself a breakfast quesadilla.  I have a hard time eating a lot in the morning, especially heavy stuff, so all that went into my quesadilla was Kraft Four Cheese Mexican.  I grilled it on the skillet, and it was done in time to sit down and enjoy breakfast with my brother.

Sometimes you have to think outside of the box a little to get what you want.  I wanted breakfast, but traditional breakfast food wasn’t working for me.  Hopefully, though, I’ll have time to go get milk today.

Maybe I’ll even grab a box of Lucky Charms while I’m at it.

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!