Penne with roasted grape tomatoes and capers

1 box penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 Pints grape tomatoes
½-3/4 cup capers (depending on how much you enjoy the taste of capers!)
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
sea salt and black pepper
crushed red pepper flakes

 Tomatoes are still all around – and when I passed by these perfectly sized grape tomatoes in the store I couldn’t resist.  Roasting the grape tomatoes really brings out the sweetness in this recipe, and it couldn’t get any easier to make.  I adapted this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis

  •  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  • Rinse grape tomatoes.  If they are large, cut in half.  If you are lucky and find smaller ones, leave them whole, and this makes it even easier! 
  • Place tomatoes in a medium sized oven proof glass roasting pan. 
  • Rinse capers and add to the tomatoes. 
  • Drizzle with olive oil. 
  • Crack some fresh pepper and sea salt over top and give a good mix. 
  • Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes.  You will see the tomatoes wrinkle up and release their juices.

When the pasta is done, drain, but be sure to reserve bout ½ cup of pasta water (just in case).  Place penne in a large bowl.  Top with tomato mixture, which usually has enough of its own juice so you probably won’t need the pasta water.  Mix.  Add the parmesan cheese and mix again.  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. 

 Now here is where I went wrong – I forgot to buy parsley.  I usually always have parsley on hand, but not this time.  At this point I would add about a cup of chopped parsley, or any fresh herb you have on hand.  It is good with it, it is also good without it.  I haven’t cooked this in so long, and I asked myself “why?!” last night, because it is really that simple and that good!

So long summer

This week I have been watching summer drift on over the hill.  Truly, summer is ending, errr, well possibly ended.  I feel like it is finally official.  My relationship with summer is over and I’m ready to flirt with fall, and I do love fall.  But, to bid farewell to summer 0 I have been soaking up the last of the sunshine – on my bike and in the kitchen!

Fresh basil is always in abundance in the summer months – I read complaints on food blogs – but what is there to complain about?! This super star herb owns a very large part of my heart.  I eat it like lettuce.  Seriously.  It isn’t attractive to have a dark green piece of basil stuck in your teeth – but I take the good with the bad.  In honor of this herb, I made pesto last night, and not your average run of the mill pesto – I used sunflower seeds, both roasted and raw.

Plate full of pesto

Sunflower Pesto

1 box of linguini, capellini, rotini (or whatever your heart so desires)  – cooked according to package directions
2 cups of fresh basil leaves
2 large cloves of garlic
1 cup of quality olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
¼ cup parmesan cheese
½ cup walnuts
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds
seasalt and black pepper (to your hearts desire)
crushed red pepper flakes (also to your hearts desire)
½ cup pasta water, reserved

  • Combine basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, walnuts, sunflower seeds, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper in a food processor.  Pulse until well combined and it turns into a beautiful thick paste.  The magic of this little machine – really, couldn’t live without it.  Mine is my mom’s old school version, looks early 90’s, but still does the trick. 
  • Use a flat spatula to scoop out the pesto, and plop on top of the cooked pasta.  Pour some of your reserved pasta water on top to help thin it out, and using a pair of tongs, mix, mix, mix some more – until your pasta turns green with envy!

If you like things spiced up like me, go ahead and sprinkle some more red pepper on top.  I served this with a side of fried zucchini – another bountiful summer star.  This is so easy you hardly need instructions.  Just slice, dip in a beaten egg, dip in bread crumbs, and fry on both sides in a pan of olive oil until browned.   Also with a side of the easiest salad – baby spinach leaves, dried cranberries, crumbled feta, and chipotle sunflower seeds.  That’s right, more sunflower seeds.  Drizzle with your favorite dressing.  Mine happens to be a cinnamon pear vinaigrette – all the way from Naples Florida.  BJ’s mom got this for us – it was the find of a lifetime.  I think this balsamic is life changing, i’m aware that sounds slightly dramatic. 

Fried green zucchini

 

This dinner was so simple, so fresh, so satisfying – BJ disclosed to me today that he wished there was an extra serving of just pesto left over to spread on his lunchtime sandwich.  Next time I may have to double this recipe!

You say tomato, I say tomato pie!

The words “tomato” pie may throw some of you Utica natives off.  I’m not talking the similar to pizza without cheese version.  I’m talking about a quiche like version.  I think it is (equally) deserving of the name “tomato pie”.  I saw this recipe at www.simplyrecipes.com and tweaked it to my liking.  In an attempt to be health conscience, instead of using mayonnaise, I used plain Greek yogurt and nayonaise (vegan mayonnaise). 

Tomato Pie
1 pie crust
4 tomatoes, sliced in half and squeezed to release juice and seeds
½ red onion, chopped
½ cup basil leaves, cut into ribbons (Did I mention I love basil? You may not want as much as I used)
2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup nayonaise (or mayonnaise – your choice!)
Pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Bake piecrust for 10 minutes.  In a medium-sized bowl, mix the grated cheese, yogurt, nayonaise, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Remove from oven, and place chopped red onion on the bottom.  On top, layer the tomatoes.  Make sure to squeeze the excess juice out as much as possible.  Next add the ribbons of basil.  Top with the cheesy mixture.  Bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown.  I topped mine off under the broiler.  Please have more self-control than me, and let the tomato pie set for about 15-20 minutes and cool.  I couldn’t wait, and I cut through and served myself a big slice – some of the juices were still running – it was still great though.

Squeeze them - natural stress reliefmy photo does not do the taste justice

I’m looking forward to fall – cooking some fall favorites in the next couple of weeks and will be sharing the recipes.  Going apple picking with my family, going to visit a possible wedding destination and start planning for a fall wedding, attending a friends wedding, going to my very first (professional) hockey game, and making a long overdue trip to visit my very best friend (and hopefully the Brooklyn Brewery!).  Oh, and I do love apples, apple pie, apple crisp, apple cider, baked apples, and apple theme week is coming up at school.  I’m getting ready to return to boots and cozy sweaters.  Ok fall, I’m ready!
 

So long sweet summer - riding into the fall!

The Dirty Dozen and the Dirty Martini

I’ve been basking in a little last minute Labor Day laziness before the first day of school on Wednesday.  I went home for the weekend with my sister to be. No cooking on my part this weekend – but some dining out at a restaurant in Utica I’ve wanted to try for some time now, called The Willow.  Although a very late dinner (we were the last to leave at 11 pm!) it was well worth the wait.  Utica is known for a dish called chicken riggies (I’ll post a recipe sometime soon – when I cook it and can take a picture of the finished product).  This restaurant had seafood riggies, a different take on the classic, and I substituted linguini for riggies and was so glad I did – maybe not the lightest meal but oh.so.indulgent. 

Seafood Riggies – indulgent

We saw the movie “Crazy, Stupid, Love” – I highly recommend it, if you are a female, and like those quality love/family movies that might just pull a tear or two from your eye.  Yes, I did bring my market tote – filled with goodies from my favorite Utica health food Store – Peter’s Cornucopia. Every time I go to my fiancé’s home, his family indulges me (sometimes on a daily basis – they are wonderful) by taking me to this health food store.  My sister to be took me this time – and I snagged a local health magazine which listed the “dirty dozen” foods containing high amounts of pesticides, and therefore organic versions are highly encouraged  – I’m going to list them for my fellow health conscious eaters!

Sweet bell peppers
Apples
Strawberries
Lettuce
Celery
Peaches
Nectarines
Spinach
Potatoes
Grapes
Blueberries
Kale/greens

Carrot, apple, ginger juice and raspberry smoothie

 

Peter's juices make me happy

 

 Now that we have discussed the dirty dozen, let’s take a moment to celebrate the dirty martini! Our drink of choice, because sometimes a good girl likes to get a little dirty – at least in the cocktail arena.  Sip and savor. 

 

Enjoying my martini

 

Krissy enjoying her martini

 

Ready for a dinner date...

with my sister!

Almost every time I visit Utica – I leave with this Loubyeh, also known as green beans in tomato sauce. There are a few different spelling versions so I went with my gut and took the spelling from my favorite Lebanese restaurant.  I did the prepping of the pole beans, but my mother in law (to be!) did the cooking.  It is delicious and nutritious, served over rice, or even standing on its own.  Recipe goes something like this…

 ½ yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
Large bowl full, maybe 8 cups, of fresh green beans, or pole beans (If you are desperate, perhaps in the winter months, frozen green beans will do… but are not as tasty…)
16 oz can of tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper and allspice (optional)

  •  Heat some olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan – maybe two turns of the pan. 
  • Saute chopped onions and minced garlic until translucent. 
  • Pour in the can of tomato sauce. 
  • Add salt and pepper, I personally like the addition of crushed red pepper flakes and a sprinkle of all spice.  Stir to incorporate. 
  • Add the green beans – cover the pan and cook on low for about 30 minutes. 

    Pretty Pole Beans Before...

 

After... happiness!!

What I haven’t done a lot of this week is cooking – my goal is to get back on track with lots of cooking, juicing and exercising this week – hoping that will zen me out from this busy week of starting school.  I’ll be posting some new recipes – and as soon as I have some extra time I plan on fulfilling my promise of delivering a kiddo friendly recipe for my friend Amy and her little ones!  I’ll also be looking forward to a special fitting on Wednesday, and a Friday night out for a friend’s birthday bash.

Full Plate

My plate has been full this week, and not just with food.  I have been getting ready for the school year to start back up and setting up my classroom/prepping/trying to get everything I can into order.  I still sometimes feel like I’m missing or lacking so much – but I’m excited for the year to start with some new kiddos and to enjoy myself doing what I love, besides cooking, teaching. 

I say my plate is full – but what I really mean is… my new lunchbag is full! Last weekend on a family trip to Lake George, my mother in law (to be!) got matching lunchbags for me and my sister in law (also to be!).  Go figure… I could never find a lunchbag big enough to hold all of my snacks – until now.  To put the size into perspective, it is not called a lunchbag, but dubbed a “market bag” as the description stated “fits most watermelons”. I have taken it with me every day this week, and it has served me well.

I love you lunchbag

Fill me up buttercup
 

I frequently visit many cooking blogs and came across a chicken tender recipe that sounded great – I added the flax seeds and Asian stir fry oil to make it my own, and I was not disappointed. 

Sesame Tenders

 Chicken tenders (I used 8 for 2 people)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup ground flax seeds
olive oil (or Asian stir fry oil)
soy sauce for drizzling at the end

  • Heat oil on medium heat in a large sauté pan.  I used an Asian stir fry oil infused with ginger – makes all the difference – but you could use olive oil as well.
  •  In a large bowl, mix together panko, sesame seeds, and flax seeds.  Clean and dry chicken tenders.  Dip tenders into the egg batter and then dredge into panko mixture. 
  • Drop tenders into the pan, sauté on each side for about 4 minutes or until cooked through.  Drizzle with soy sauce.

    Side of Soba

     Spicy Peanut Soba Noodles
    1 small red pepper, cut into thin strips
    1 large carrot, grated
    2 green onions, diced
    1 package of wheat soba noodles
    ½ cup peanut butter
    ¼ cup soy sauce
    ¼ cup chicken stock
    crushed red pepper flakes (eye-ball – depending on how spicy you like your food)
    1 garlic clove, minced
    ½ cup peanuts, roughly chopped

  •  Slice the pepper and green onions, grate the carrot, and place in a large bowl.
  • Cook the Soba noodles according to package directions.  Drain and run under cold water to cool to room temperature.  Pour into the bowl with the pepper mixture.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together minced garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, chicken stock, and pepper flakes.  Remember you can always add more pepper flakes but can never remove them!  Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and mix together.  Top with chopped peanuts. 

Someone (I won’t name names, but I only live with one person so if you know me you can probably figure this out) seemed to turn his nose up at the “room temperature noodles” for just a second.  No, it’s not exactly pasta, so it is not served hot.  He ate and enjoyed them all the same.  “Different, but tasty” was the verdict.  I think they are worth a try.

One more recipe before I go… This is another recent favorite – very quick, very easy – I can’t stress how easy.  It’s like chicken parm, minus the marinara sauce and add the roasted red pepper. 

Roasted pepper parm with a side of wheat pear couscous

Red Pepper Chicken Parm (sort of – because it’s really mozzarella!)
chicken cutlets
Olive oil for sauteing (about two or three turns of the pan)
1 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg beaten
Good quality fresh roasted red peppers, sliced
Fresh (I stress fresh) ball of mozzarella cheese, sliced thin

  • Heat olive oil over medium heat.
  • Set the oven on broil.
  • Clean and dry chicken cutlets.  Use a meat pounder to pound chicken to desired thinness.  Dip in egg mixture, then dredge in bread crumbs.
  • Saute chicken in oil until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.
  • Place chicken cutlets on a pan.  Top with slices of roasted red pepper.  Top with mozzarella.
  • Broil until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
  • Top with pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or basil – or like me, all three!

If you are wondering what was for dessert, I was a repeat plum dandy offender.  My ever so sweet, understanding of my needs/picky food compulsions, handsome fiance drove me all the way to Saratoga to indulge on my last night of summer vacation. 

vanilla fro yo topped with fresh fruit

 

My view while savoring my frozen yogurt - proof that fall is here when the sky turns this shade of dark at 7:45

With all the prepping for school, I have purchased some Melissa and Doug (I’m newly obsessed) food toys for the class.  I love food – including the wooden toys for children type!  I got the doughnuts, tiered cake, and fruit cutting kit – so adorable I could almost eat them up.  Check them out online if that’s your thing!