Fresh Stuffed Tomatoes

I promised you that you would see that goat cheese & the tomatoes again – so here we go! We had a few beautiful looking tomatoes & the goat cheese (which honestly, not sure if I will buy again – it was fun to work with and a different flavor, but as far as “exotic” cheeses go I love and would rather feta & blue cheese. I do love cheese though & was time and money allow, look forward to tasting and playing with them!).

Who doesn’t love the taste of tomatoes, mozzarella, & basil!? I can’t think of anyone. So I decided to play off of that theme. I mixed up cream cheese (less that a 1/4 of a package) some goat cheese (about an ounce or two), some 4-cheese shredded cheese mixture, diced up mozzarella and some garlic. Then I cut the tops off of the cherry tomatoes (and one larger one) & scooped out the insides. Finally just scooped some of my cheese mixture inside, topped it all with a basil leaf & plated it up with some toasted bread (the leftovers from the paninis).

cheese stuffed tomato

Cheese Stuffed tomato

The look on Rich’s face when he came home and saw this waiting for him on the table was priceless – I should have set up that shot in addition to the food. He is learning very quickly though and before even touching the plate stopped to ask if I had already photographed the plate & if he could eat!

Eat Fresh, Eat Healthy, Eat Happy!

Italian Inspiration

Rich called me the other day from work & asked if we could have bruschetta as an appetizer when he got home from work. Since I was home all day, making something to be ready as soon as he walked in the door wasn’t a problem. But then I realized that I needed to make Italian for dinner! It was one of those rainy days so off I went to FoodGawker to get inspired ­čÖéBruschetta 1

After looking around online for a bunch of different recipes to try to find “the best” (even though I am not good at following a recipe, I always play too much with the “original” recipe & try to make it my own) – but I finally ┬ádecided on “Olive Garden’s Bruschetta” from Good Morning America (http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/recipe?id=7270885). The bruschetta was ready for Rich when he walked in the door & made it to the kitchen (after greeting the dogs first of course)!

Bruschetta 2

Bruschetta topped with cheese

Then I decided to get “adventurous” and found a fun recipe for Goat ┬áCheese stuffed Portabellas with tomatoes (again from the garden) and some bacon (http://www.howto-simplify.com/2010/08/portobello-mushrooms-stuffed-with-goat.html). These ended up not being our favorite – but they did taste exactly like something we would get from a restaurant so they were not a let-down at all!

Portabella stuffed with tomato & goat cheese

Finally we were onto the main course. I picked up a bag of the frozen “mixed seafood” while I was at the market ($5 for the bag, not even on sale – I was pretty happy.) To create my Garlic Seafood Pasta I started with some butter & olive oil in the pan and then added an onion (1 small) and garlic (5? cloves – we love garlic). Then I put in some clam juice, chicken stock, & lemon juice. Once I had the flavor I wanted I threw in the (defrosted) seafood & let it all cook for about 5 minutes. Then I tossed in the cooked pasta (oh yeah – I started the pasta before I started my seafood stuff) & served it up. I thought it was great (Rich is not the biggest fan of seafood, but still really liked it).

Seafood Garlic Pasta

So – ┬áthat was my “Italian Inspiration” for that night,┬ájust wait to see what I did with the leftover goat cheese the next night……

Fresh Veggie Panini

veggie panin

grilled veggie panini

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to make something really “fresh” for dinner. So when I went to the market & saw both portabella mushrooms & eggplant on sale – I decided Paninis is was! I found some great inspiration from Panini Happy and got started.

I marinated the eggplant & mushrooms in some Olive Oil & Basalmic Vinegar then threw them on the George Foreman. I put some fresh hummus (more on that another day – I love making my own hummus) on the Olive Oil/Rosemary bread I had picked up at ShopRite, then layered on my grilled eggplant, mushroom, garden fresh tomato, & mozzarella. After about 5 (10?) minutes on the greased George Foreman – dinner was ready!

Earlier in the day I had thrown together a nice fresh salad – one I have been creating & playing with different variations all summer. This one was a can of (rinsed) black beans, a can of corn, can of Rotell tomato with green chilis, chopped stalk of celery, chives (onions – whatever) a few dashes of hot sauce, some (1/4 cup?) lime juce, some (1/4 cup?) olive oil, salt, pepper & you are good to go. I have been playing with other beans, cilantro, tuna, whatever in this – makes a great quick snack or lunch or side dish… think I will try to keep playing around with variations of this salad during the school year, it will be perfect for days that dinner was so good & there are no leftovers for lunch, or we are too tired to cook something, or get home from school and need a snack before diving into cooking – whatever… it is healthy, cheap & easy!

I hope to also keep using the George Foreman more as well, I seem to often forget that I have it and don’t use it!

Hope you enjoyed another “back-blog” of mine – taking things I cooked over the summer and blogging about them, soon I’ll have finished some of the highlights of the summer & will move onto “new” things ­čÖé

“Baking” vs “Cooking”

I think that I started my cooking career at a young age thinking that I loved to bake. Now as an adult, I realize that I do love to bake – although I try to avoid it often because I also love to eat my baked goods which leads to massive amounts of weight gain. As I have become a more talented cook I realize that I have a little bit of a knack of “styling” food – but not sweets (I admire those cake decorators even more!)

That being said – my father LOVES chocolate! For his birthday he said he wanted me to make him a cake like Susan’s Bakery (http://www.susansgourmetcatering.com/bakery.html) makes. I said that I would do what I could! So off to AllRecipes.com I went….

Mini-Cake

Dad's "mini" cakes

I found a recipe for double chocolate cake using Devil Food cake mix with chocolate pudding, sour cream, applesauce, eggs – yum! I made the cake (1/2 of it) in my 3 tier mini-cake-pans that I got for my birthday & put the other half in a square pan. My intention was to make a mini 3-tier cake and a flat square one. But when they came out the round ones were a little softer than I would have liked – so I created a “leaning tower” cake with them (with chocolate whipped cream icing – just add some dark chocolate cocoa powder & brown sugar when making your whipped cream & whip until it is thicker than “light” whipped topping).

Then I created the real cake that I served that evening. I cut the corners off of the

"Large" birthday cake
Dad’s birthday cake

square cake. The next layer was created by putting two of those corners together to fake a square. The top layer was the smallest round layer from the 3 tier pans that I have. Icing the whole cake was pretty easy and getting a nice even layer and making it look even, but then tried to do some decorating. The dots are about as much talent as I have at this point! I hope that as I continue to progress in the kitchen, my “sweets skills” will advance beyond tasting great and with step into looking as good as they taste!

Double-Chocolate cakes

Dad's Birthday Chocolate overload

Happy Sweets ­čÖé

Gourmet at home

I wanted to start off with one of my favorite meals that Rich & I created over the summer. It all started as a normal busy weekend day and by close to dinner-time we were just sitting around doing nothing. I decided that we should have a “date night” and off to Wegmans we went to buy sushi fillings (I already had the rolling mat, nori, wasabi, etc). About $25 later and we were home (I know we could have spent about the same amount going out to sushi – but what is the purpose of loving to cook & create food if we just go out, AND we would not have had nearly as much fun!

I knew we would be very hungry by the time the rolls were finished, so I started off by creating (I love when I have no idea what I am doing and just come up with it on the fly) a starter salad of Asian Lettuce (which happened to be in the fridge that week as I was experimenting with different greens all summer). I then looked at our sushi ingredients and made a dressing of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, & soy sauce. I placed them into some dishes that my parents had received as a wedding present (years ago) and had “re-gifted” to me when I moved out, sprinkled it with sesame seeds & off we went.

"Sushi Salad"

Side Salad for Sushi

Then it was time to create & enjoy our sushi – here is a close up of our creations…. from left to right they are: ┬áTuna Avocado Roll, Smoked Salmon Cucumber Avocado Cream Cheese Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll (homemade “spicy” sauce on top), Crab Avocado Cream Cheese Roll, & Avocado Roll

close up of sushi

SUSHI

Sushi Tray

overall table setup of sushi

We were very impressed with our final product. This meal is probably one of my top 5 that was a “wow” show-stopper so far (from the summer) which prompted me to decide to want to start this blog.

Do not come to expect dishes this fancy on a regular basis! This was a fantastic date night, so I say go for it – just do some searches online to figure out what you are doing and then just have fun with some of your favorite sushi flavors!

Testing the Waters….

As the summer draws to a close and I get ready to begin another year as a teacher I wanted to think about some goals. I just finished my Masters in Instructional Technology (yay – go me), still have lots of work to do on my (85+ year old) house, would like to get back into my crafting (jewelry making & using my brand new sewing machine that I just bought). AND as I think about those goals, I think about all of the fun I had in the kitchen over the summer creating new dishes (my boyfriend looked forward to coming home from work every day).

Many people (friends), after viewing my facebook album that I was constantly updating with food photos told me that I should start a blog (or get my own cooking show). I didn’t think that I had what it took to do it, but now the school year is starting & we make our students make goals… SO ~ I think that my goal is going to be to continue to have as much fun in the kitchen as possible while doing the 9 million other things that need to get done and also to start blogging about my cooking adventures!

edible arrangement

Many thanks to http://foodgawker.com for being such a huge inspiration to me in making me want to start this blog – I have spent many an hour this summer looking through this site & other people’s blogs (which I will try to mention as I develop my own)!

… this fruit arrangement is one of the first things I created that made me really think that I could create food which not only tasted great but with a little bit of effort looks amazing too!

Here goes nothing!