Side Dish

Roasted Vine Tomatoes

roasted-vine-tomatoes

I really like vegetables in their natural form. I can vividly remember going to the farmer’s market with my mom when I was a kid and being blown away that carrots actually had green tops on them just like the ones Bugs Bunny ate. Yep. Until then we had only been exposed to those convenient yet mysterious peeled little mini carrots. (PS – why do those look nothing like real carrots, other than the color?)

So of course I had to convince my mom to buy these crazy authentic carrots for me…and she happily agreed but then things went horribly wrong. The guy grabbed the carrots, took the money, and then before I could even protest he CHOPPED the green tops right off. Threw them away. Bagged our now-ordinary-looking carrots. I can still feel the devastation. I was sure that I would never encounter bugs bunny carrots again.

Well, I’m 34 now and I’m pleased to tell you that I have. I’ve had many opportunities to hold, eat, and cook carrots with the tops on, and I do. They taste better. They look pretty. They are so easy to roast and look great for dinner parties.

And while this recipe does not involve carrots in any way, it does involve tomatoes with the vine still attached. Like I just plucked them from my garden. You see? There’s something very simple and gorgeous about it. I didn’t actually pluck them from my garden, however, because I’m on my third straight summer of killing my tomato plants.

Anyway. Buy these tomatoes on the vine. Brush them with olive oil. Salt them with kosher salt (tomatoes love salt!). Bake them for 15-20 minutes at 350. That’s it!

Grilled Caprese Salad

grilled-caprese-salad

I’m feeling very uninspired in the world of fashion lately. Anyone else? Denim in particular. I mean WTF. Wide leg, cropped, high-waisted, frayed…basically all the styles that look good on no one all rolled into one jean. So apparently if you don’t know what type of new denim you should get for the summer/fall, just go to the store and find the pair that looks the absolute worst on you – and get those. I also heard that pinch rolling is coming back, and skinnies are out. It literally took me years to get into the skinny trend because it just didn’t suit my body type…now I’m firmly on board and have a closet full of skinnies and they’re out. Well forget it, Fashion 2017, I’m skipping you entirely this year and maybe I’ll check back in the spring. Of course, who am I kidding? When do I wear regular clothes anyway? I’m definitely pushing the boundaries of appropriate “athleisure” on a daily basis.

Onto food. I love the caprese combination. It’s perfect to me, and I like it in nearly every form: sandwich, pizza, flatbread, cold salad…and now, hot salad. I put it on the grill last weekend and I looooved the melty cheesy touch and the sweet, cooked down tomatoes.

Recipe

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • ~1/2 ball fresh mozzarella
  • olive oil & salt
  • ~2-3 tablespoons fresh basil
  • balsamic glaze (store bought)

Cut the tomato into thick slices, remove the seedy/watery part, place them on a paper towel and blot to remove excess moisture.  Season with salt.  Place the tomatoes on a thick piece of foil sprayed with nonstick spray and brush with just a touch of oil. Grill on medium for about 3-4 minutes (on the foil). Slice the mozzarella into thick pieces, and place a piece on half of the tomatoes. Cover each tomato with another tomato slice and cover grill just for a minute or two to melt. Remove from grill. Top with fresh basil and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

raspberry-almond-ricotta-toast

Is there anything better in life than Friday? And before you say Saturday, consider that when it’s Friday, TOMORROW is Saturday which gives you something to look forward to. It’s the best mental situation. And remember the good ol’ days of TGIF on TBS? Was it TBS? Can’t remember but man I loved Full House. Wanted to be Stephanie Tanner and wanted to date Uncle Jesse (still do). And PS – did you know the Olson twins are NOT identical? They look exactly the same.

And since it’s Friday, I decided to celebrate at lunch. A lunch for one with this absolutely delicious ricotta toast (every time I say ricotta in my head I roll by T’s like Giada), topped with slivered almonds and the quickest easiest raspberry jam.

Recipe (1)

  • 1 piece good sourdough or honey wheat toast
  • 1/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons Ricotta  (or cream cheese spread would be just as amazing)
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds

To make the quick jam, place the raspberries and sugar in a sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium high, and crush the raspberries with a rubber spatula. Mix together, and bring to a low boil for just a couple minutes.  Transfer to a fine mesh strainer to remove some of the liquid (or just tilt the pan over the sink and hold back the thick jam). Toast your bread to your heart’s content. Spread ricotta or cream cheese on it (or goat!), sprinkle with almonds, and top with jam. Babies love it too.

 

 

Sweet Potato Skins

sweet-potato-skins

Remember when potato skins were a real novelty? If you grew up in small town Wisconsin I bet you do. I feel like potato skins were reserved for restaurant chains like TGI Fridays and California Pizza Kitchen. God, when I was a kid I would have killed to have one of those restaurants near us. The only reason I knew they existed was because I got to travel to exotic far away places like Appleton for gymnastics sometimes. (if you’re not from Wisconsin, Appleton is about 90 miles away from where I grew up; they had a mall with a Disney store and a real food court).

Anyway, I loved potato skins but I could only get them when I got to travel outside the county. Oh my, how our perspectives change. How fantastic that back then life didn’t get any better than potato skins and the Disney store.

These are really a lot different than Friday’s potato skins, obviously. For one, I don’t like to fry things. So these are baked (at a high temperature to give them some crispiness).  I also used sweet potatoes, because honestly my babies love them and I was going for a two-for-one meal here. I decided to keep the toppings traditional – bacon and cheese – and let me tell you, the flavor combo of sweet and savory is a real winner.

Recipe

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • ~ 3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar + jack)
  • ~1/4 cup cooked & crumbled bacon
  • Canola oil
  • S&P

Start by baking the potatoes. Ours were HUGE (come on, Central Market, what kind of steroids are these guys on??). So they took about an hour in a 350 degree oven. Let them cool, then cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out most of the middle, about 1/4-1/2 inch remaining around the skin. Reserve this for whatever your heart desires.

Increase oven temp to 425.  Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet, place the potato skins on there skin side up, and brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.  Roast until slightly crisp, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, flip over, add cheese and bacon to each, and put them back in the oven for a few more minutes (about 5) until the cheese is melted.

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I need some new TV show recommendations. Anyone? All of ours (and there are A LOT), are either off season or we flew through them on amazon/netflix/HBO. Some of my recommendations: Bloodline, Stranger Things, Nashville, Homeland (duh), Big Little Lies (double duh), and the MISSING – creepiest most addicting show I’ve seen in a long time. Typing all those shows out, you’re probably thinking that I’m a couch potato and maybe I should pick up a book. And quite frankly, it turns out I do have some couch potato in me and I love TV. Plus we’ve been subbing pasta for zoodles so I can lay around all I want.

I’m going to spare you the zoodle talk, because everyone who’s had them knows how amazing they are. Amazing and sneaky. There aren’t many substitutions in this world that are truly maybe for the better. But this one is. They really soak up the sauce so much more than regular pasta, and you can pair them with a semi-indulgent cream sauce like this one because you’re saving yourself 400 calories. Sorry, guess I’m not sparing you the zoodle talk. I can’t help myself! Love these things.


Recipe (for 4-5)

  • ~1.5 lb zoodles (I used two of the 10.7oz noodle co. containers)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 container sliced mushrooms (the normal size..think it’s 8 oz?)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour or corn starch
  • 1 clove garlic (I used 1/2 teaspoon of the jarred minced garlic)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1.5 cups half & half
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • 3-4 cooked/grilled steaks, chicken breasts, or salmon fillets

I started by getting the veggies ready first; I simply cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces, then steamed them in a bit of water in the microwave for 4 minutes. I put them in an ice bath immediately after to conserve the bright green color. I dry-sauteed the mushrooms in a sauce pan for about 8 minutes to cook through and remove excess moisture.


Next, I made the sauce. Create a roux by melting the butter over low heat; add the garlic to cook. Stir in the flour with a fork, then add in the white wine. Cook for a minute or two over low heat, careful not to burn.  Slowly add in the half & half and milk, and whisk to combine (it can be lumpy at first – keep whisking). Add salt. Stir and cook over low heat to thicken; add in the parmesan cheese. Stir in the zoodles and veggies (about 2-3 cups) and cook for 2-3 minutes until the zoodles are cooked but crisp.


We grilled steaks seasoned with plenty of salt (About a teaspoon per steak) and pepper.  Grills vary but our New York Strips cook in about 8 minutes,  flipping halfway through. Would be great with chicken or salmon on top!

Corn with Basil & Feta

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We’re getting a babysitter in 2 hours and 56 minutes. 55 minutes. Not like I’m dying to leave our baby boys, but I kind of am. They are so fun and cute and busy but the day is just about 6.5 hours too long. And also, does anyone have any tips for re-implementing a 3rd nap into the day? Besides ambien?


Actually, I think I don’t feel quite as trapped as a lot of new moms do. I have lots of places to walk to for lunch or other things, and I think my threshold for being home/not in a social setting is higher than most. That is probably the engineer in me coming out…someone that could sit in their cubicle and write code all day and be perfectly content. Or maybe that’s why I chose engineering.  It actually makes me think about an interview I had when I was trying to get out of engineering and into sales..when they asked me why I wanted to leave Lockheed Martin I said that I needed much more social interaction. What? No I don’t. I’m a terrible fit for sales.


All of that being said, I do in fact truly enjoy social events on a sporadic and reasonable basis, and tonight I am thrilled to be getting out. I also love to have people over for dinner, and that was the inspiration for this side dish. Picking the main part is easy…what to go with it is really the age old question.  This is perfect because it is fast, easy, and pretty. All the things you need when entertaining.


Recipe

  • 4 ears corn
  • ~2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons crumbled Feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • S&P

Start by cutting the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife.  Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan, then add the corn.  Cook through, stirring frequently, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat, season with S&P, and throw in the feta and basil. That’s it! 

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