Fall starts September 23rd, which means summer is nearly over. Good riddance, frankly – there’s something about heat that makes my brain shut down. The only thing I’m really going to miss is the lovely produce — tomatoes in particular.
(Admittedly not the prettiest tomato photo)
Thanks to the generosity of my friends (and occasionally a good find at a farmer’s market), I’ve had more than my fair share of really delicious heirloom tomatoes this growing season. The kind that you can just slice up, sprinkle with a little salt, and enjoy the hell out of.
They’re also great in the heat – some of my favorite no-cook meals rely heavily on good tomatoes. This tomato basil mozzarella appetizer, for instance. It’s a relief to avoid heating up the house by way of an oven.
A few years ago, the great Oprah turned me on to another no-cook, delightfully tomato-centric recipe that’s perfect on a hot day: a simple tomato sandwich.
So simple, in fact, it kind of sounds like it’s missing something (for BLT fans, it’s basically “missing” lettuce and bacon. But you really don’t need those with an especially lovely tomato.)
(Looks are deceiving – this thing was freaking delicious).
Get yourself to the farmer’s market, pick up some tomatoes, and give this a try before summer is over. 🙂
Simple Summer Sandwich
Recipe type: Sandwich
- 1 ripe, fabulous tomato
- 2 slices of white bread
- Salt to taste
- 1 napkin
- Thinly slice the tomato and lay it on one slice of the white bread.
- Salt lightly.
- Spread a thin layer of mayo on the remaining slice of bread.
- If it's really a grand tomato, eat it over the sink - you'll likely have tomato juice dripping down your chin and eating hand.
- Use the napkin.
A couple of years ago Cat mad this amazing french onion soup that was so incredibly delicious.
We’ve been craving it and wanting to make it again for a while now, but it’s a bit of an energy and time commitment and there’s usually something new and interesting that takes priority.
This last weekend though, enough was enough! We decided to try a slow-cooker recipe and see how it compares.
I thought it was quite tasty and worth it, Cat was a little more discerning and much preferred the stove top version.
I would recommend trying this recipe though, especially if time and patience are an issue.
This took physical time, but very little effort.
Crock Pot French Onion Soup
- 3 pounds yellow onions, peeled, sliced, and cut into quarter-moons
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 10 cups beef broth
- 3 tablespoons brandy, optional
- To Serve
- 4 to 6 baguette slices, toasted, for each bowl
- 1⅓ to 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (1/3 cup per bowl)
- Chopped shallot or fresh onion
- Cutting board and chef's knife
- Slow cooker
- Wooden spoon
- Oven-safe soup bowls
- Baking pan
- Season the onions: Place the onion slices in a 5-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Stir in the butter and olive oil, salt, and a generous quantity of black pepper.
- Cook on LOW for 12 hours: Cover and cook on LOW overnight or for 12 hours. The onions should be dark golden brown and soft.
- Add broth: Stir in the balsamic vinegar and the broth.
- Cook for 6 to 8 hours on LOW: Cover and continue cooking on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. This is flexible; as long as your slow cooker holds moisture well (wrap a towel over the lid if quite a lot of steam escapes), you can cook the soup for hours. Longer cooking will only intensify the flavors. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired, and stir in the brandy if using.
- Portion the soup into oven-safe bowls: Heat the oven to 350°F. Ladle the soup and onions into oven-safe bowls and place the bowls in a baking pan.
- Top with toast and shredded cheese: Top each bowl with a slice of toast and a generous quantity of shredded Gruyere cheese.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes: Bake on a rack in the upper third of the oven until the cheese is completely melted.
- Broil for 2 to 3 minutes: Turn the oven to broil and broil the soup for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, then serve with chopped fresh onion on the side.
This Sunday I got the most excellent call from my brother-in-law to let me know that he had a few summer squash from his garden for me.
They were big and beautiful and ready for eating. I grated up one to put in a zucchini raisin bread, and the rest I diced up with some sauteed chicken and a 40 clove garlic sauce from Trader Joe’s to pour over some multicolored bow-tie pasta.
The flavor was so light and fresh and just screamed “summer”.
Summer Squash Garlic and Chicken Pasta
- Boil the pasta as the package directs.
- While the pasta is cooking, saute the chicken in the olive oil over medium high heat for until mostly cooked through.
- Add squash to the pan and cook for a few minutes until they start to soften.
- Add the garlic simmer sauce and simmer over medium low for five minutes.
- Spoon the garlic chicken squash mixture over a bowl of pasta.
Instead of the Trader Joe's sauce, you can simply butter and season the pasta and mix with non-sauced chicken and veggies.
It’s no secret that the majority of our recipes here count as “treat” food. The dishes are mostly meant to be served to a crowd for special occasions or diet “cheat” days. That being said, some of the things that are fresh and delicious also happen to be surprisingly healthy.
For example, low-carb folks tend to love Adam’s kielbasa and cabbage recipe. There’s also Brie’s Cold Couscous salad and my Thai Steak Salad. I’ve had the pleasure of trying all of them and they are definitely tasty without compromise.
Kale, however, still has to catch me in just the right mood to enjoy it. I keep trying it, despite that. This quiche was better than I expected, but I still had to be up for the kale portion. I figured that perhaps making it simpler would help. Maybe. Possibly.
That’s where sauteing it came into the picture. Frankly, this recipe tasted great, but was still kale. I enjoyed it, but still have to be in the right mood. If you’re a reluctant kale eater and are up for some of the lovely green stuff, this version is quick, easy, and relatively tasty.
If you’re in the same boat, let us know what kale recipes have worked well for you in the comments! I’m always looking for suggestions. 🙂
Recipe type: Healthy
- 1 pound coarsely chopped kale
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons squeeze bottle garlic
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ cup water
- 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt (to taste)
- Cook the garlic over medium heat in a medium pan for about two minutes.
- Toss in the kale, sprinkle on onion powder, and add water, then turn heat up to high.
- Cover and keep cooking for five minutes.
- Remove cover and stir until liquid evaporates.
- Season with salt (to taste) and stir in vinegar.
When we had our pasta inception Ravioli Lasagna night, I knew that the dinner needed a little green to round things out.
I had been planning on making my Pepper Roasted Asparagus, but as soon as I was ready to get my asparagus in the pan I realized we were 100% out of olive oil! Or really, any kind of oil that would be acceptable for roasting vegetables.
Being the culinary genius that I am I decided the best approach was to fry up a couple pieces of bacon, and then pan fry the asparagus in the resulting fat.
It was a good approach. One that I highly recommend.
Side benefit, fresh bacon appetizer.
Pork Fat Asparagus
- 2 pieces of raw bacon
- 1 bundle of asparagus
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasonings
- In a large pan fry the bacon to your desired doneness and set aside reserving the bacon fat in the pan.
- While bacon is frying, rinse your asparagus and snap off the tough bitter bottoms.
- Add the asparagus to your bacon fat and turn heat to medium high.
- Sprinkle with your seasonings and roll around in pan to coat.
- Fry asparagus, and move around the the pan occasionally, until fork tender and soft. This should be about 10 minutes.
- Serve while warm.
I know that it’s still pretty cold in many parts of the country, but around the bay area, it has been warm. Hot even. Uncomfortably so. Sometimes it is especially hot out, and super hot inside, and hot everywhere, and why is it so hot? Heat is the worst. Ugh.
Hot days make me avoid doing anything that will make it even hotter in the house. Like, you know, MAKING FOOD. (Or moving, for that matter). Luckily, I have a beef taco recipe that takes very little time and doesn’t do much to affect your thermostat. Thank goodness for quick, oven-top food.
Tacos are also a great food for entertaining. Just put out a bunch of ingredients and people can assemble their own yumminess however they would like. We did just that this past Friday. Taco bar!
The hardest part, really, is chopping all of the things that need chopping. Luckily, my handsome and wonderful boyfriend was on hand to do the food prep. He used to be a general manager at a deli and has retained all of his fancy/fast sous chef-y skills.
Here we are, post-eating at a Spaghetti Factory on his birthday. The day after is when I forced* him to do taco prep.
Mark, blissfully unaware of the taco horrors he would face in less than 24 hours.
*Asked politely and he very sweetly agreed.
We put out a really nice spread of ingredients and it all got gobbled up pretty quickly.
You’re looking at: limes, chopped cilantro, diced onions, sliced black olives, green and red salsas, sliced avocados, diced tomatoes, canned refried beans, jalapeños, shredded lettuce, and canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. We also had shredded cheese, sour cream, the beef taco filling (recipe below), shrimp (which I tossed in garlic powder, salt, adobo pepper sauce, lime juice, and some butter before throwing the whole thing into the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes), hard taco shells, soft taco shells, lettuce wraps (for the carb avoiders), and Adam cooked up some garbanzo bean flour quesadillas (for the slow-carb angle). It sounds like a lot of stuff, but many of the ingredients we already had on-hand in the cupboard or from our local produce box.
This all came together for some mighty fine tacos. Behold.
Don’t forget the shrimp tacos!
All together now!
The meat itself was flavorful and cooked up quite quickly. A nice mix of onions, ground beef, adobo chipotle sauce,tomato paste, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, and a little butter.
Well, now I’m hungry again. Oh well. On to the recipe!
Ground Beef Tacos Filling
Recipe type: Dinner
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1½ cups diced onions
- 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- Start by melting your butter in a medium pan.
- Toss in the onions, and cook them until they've softened a bit (about 3 minutes or so). Stir occasionally.
- In a large bowl, add your ground beef, tomato paste, garlic powder, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
- Carefully strain some of the liquid out of the canned peppers and into a separate container (about two Tablespoons) . Unless you want a *really* intense flavor, I don't recommend including the peppers themselves. Just use the liquid around them.
- Mix the pepper juice into the beef, then add the whole mixture to your pan with the onions.
- Cook until there is no pink left in the beef and the meat is nicely browned. (Stir often enough to keep things cooking evenly).
- Serve as part of your very own taco bar and enjoy!
So, the original recipe I used said that there would be a ton of frosting leftover. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
I had to make two batches to cover the cake the way I wanted to. “The way I wanted to” originally being pretty rosettes, which I then over-thought and ruined by trying to add color. Don’t do that. Leave them as plain, white, pristine rosettes. Trust me. Simple is so much better here.
Speaking of rosettes – know of any good tutorials? I used this one: Rose Cake Tutorial. As is generally the case for anxiety-me, there isn’t enough detail in the steps in that one for my taste. I want to be walked through the most basics of basics in order to feel a little more confident. My hesitation shows in the results, sadly.
Anyhoo, I’ve always said that I’m much better at making food taste good than I am at making it look good. I mean, you can pretty safely call the below a “cake wreck,” but it was really delicious (and look at how thick the frosting is!).
Anyway, on to the important stuff. CAKE. Carrot cake. With Cream. Cheese. Frosting. I am convinced the frosting is why most people like carrot cake in the first place. I mean, the cake itself in this recipe is pretty great, the caramel is pretty nice too… but the frosting is the star. Rich, creamy, not too sweet. Just lovely.
I made this when Brie requested carrot cake for her fabulous birthday. I was happy to oblige, especially since this year’s birthday theme was SO much less complicated than the year prior. Last year, we did this:
Remember? The Chinese-inspired birthday? It was incredibly delicious, but wow – a lot of work to pull off. This time we went with a “movie theater food” theme: hot dogs, buttered popcorn, sloppy Joe nachos, homemade soft pretzels, and lots and lots of candy. Jr. Mints, the red licorice that comes from Trader Joes and is SO much better than Red Vines or Twizzlers, Sour Patch Kids, gummy bears, lollipops, chocolate covered raisins… I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Regardless, it was super easy to pull off and barrels of fun. (Someone snuck in some cream cheese wontons, because that’s how we do.)
Plus there was the carrot cake. Just look at it.
Anyway – the original recipe came from The Smitten Kitchen (which, frankly, is a never-ending well of awesome). Hope you like my tweaks – let’s get to baking!
- 3 cups super finely grated carrots (the finer, the better)
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 cups sugar
- 1¼ cups canola or vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Generously butter and flour two 9" cake pans. You'll also probably want to line the bottom with parchment paper, depending on how much your pans like to stick to things.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and ginger in a medium bowl.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together oil and sugar until very well combined.
- Slowly stir in flour mixture, then fold in grated carrots. Batter will be quite thick.
- Pour batter evenly into both pans (split evenly between the pans).
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until a tester comes out clean - be careful not to overbake (the cake will dry out FAST).
- Remove pans from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pans for at least 15 minutes.
- Turn out onto cooling rack and allow to cool completely before adding optional caramel drizzle and maple cream cheese frosting.
Recipe type: Dessert
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ stick salted butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Whisk together ingredients over medium high heat for about 7 minutes or until it begins to thicken.
- Allow to cool slightly, then drizzle over the center segment of your carrot cake. Allow to cool further as you frost the cake (if it accidentally solidifies completely during that time, heat it up slightly to make it a liquid again).
- Once the cake is fully frosted, drizzle the caramel as generously as you would like over the entire thing. Yum!
AMAZING Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe type: Dessert
- 4 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup of maple-freaking-syrup
- Using an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients together and beat until nice and fluffy.
- Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until it firms up.
- FROST YOUR CAKE!