Tag Archives: tomato

Breakfast in Scotland

27 Jun

Breakfast.  What does it mean?  When we sleep, we are fasting, meaning we do not eat.  Breaking the fast, or breakfast, is the first meal of the day.  We are often told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  This is a topic of great debate in nutritional circles and beyond.  As for me, well, it’s not a meal that I skip.

There really isn’t uniformity with breakfast.  Depending on lifestyle, culture,  socioeconomic status, and time constrains, breakfast food varies.  If I have a morning workout, a protein packed breakfast is my go to choice.  If it is a lazy weekend morning, a chewy toasted bagel and some fresh fruit can be wonderful.  And, of course, if there are leftovers around, those also work at times.

Since I like to eat regionally, I enjoy all meals that reflect the personality and culture of the surroundings.  Recently I was in Scotland.  The food was spectacular.  And the breakfast was not only filling, but a very interesting combination…and one that I would not have put together.  But I loved it nonetheless.

As my beloved partner Denis and I steeped ourselves in the people, history and food of Scotland, we noticed that this breakfast was pretty much a staple in every region of the country.  The flavors varied slightly, reflecting the region of the food, but when we ordered the “standard” breakfast, it was consistent.

Breakfast consisted of bacon (it looked and tasted like ham to me, but it was called bacon), potatoes, an egg, a roasted tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and a sausage. A basket of breads also accompanied the plate.  Sometimes beans and back pudding were present too.  This meal started us off on the right foot.  Daily breakfast left us with a full belly of warm food on which to set out for the adventures that each day held for us.  Breakfast was sustaining, culturally reflective, and delicious.

So the next time you are off on travels, depart from your comfort zone.  Be open to local culturally rich experiences, including culinary.  Break your fast in the way that is right for you, but notice local flair. Scotland held many delights along our travels, and breakfast each morning started our day off just right.  Go out there and have fun. Let me know what you find.

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Wet and Fresh

23 May

The warm weather is coming.  Thank goodness.  I am tired of the gray rainy spring.  As much as I detest the horror of getting my jiggles and wiggles into a swim suit, I simply adore summer.  The breezy warm nights, a casual vibe,  outdoor evening concerts, dining al fresco.  Yes, the pleasures of summer are many.  But take caution.  The warm weather can increase the threat of dehydration.

If you are thirsty, you are already experiencing mild dehydration.  And did you know that dehydration is the number one cause of daytime fatigue?  Even mild dehydration can decrease endurance, slow cognitive thinking, and cause headaches.  Great reasons to stay hydrated.

Interestingly enough, studies suggest that 70-80% of daily hydration should come from fluids, and 20-30% from the water content in food.  So, it is important to drink water and healthy fluids during the day and limit sugary drinks.  But in addition to that, especially in the warm summer weather, it’s also important to eat foods that are high in water content.  Need a list?  Look no further.  This list contains fruits and vegetables with more than 90% water.

  • cucumbers
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • iceberg lettuce
  • cantaloupe
  • zucchini
  • radish
  • tomato
  • cabbage
  • bell peppers
  • strawberries

Looking at this list I hope you are not thinking of just eating these wonderful fruits and vegetables solo.  Oh no!  Lets have some fun while we eat our water!  How?  So glad you asked.

How ’bout this…a salad.  No, not a lettuce side salad.  A cucumber watermelon salad is the best!  So hydrating and refreshing in the hot summer months, not to mention beautiful.  Simply dice up watermelon and cucumber.   Toss.  Then the fun begins.

Make it more sophisticated with mint.  Or add a savory balsamic glaze.  There are a million ways to customize this fun summer salad, and it will keep you alert and ready to go to the next thing.  So this summer, don’t forget to eat your water!

Watermelon Cucumber Salad.  Delicious and refreshing.  Oh..and so pretty!

Watermelon Cucumber Salad. Delicious and refreshing. Oh..and so pretty!

Time for soup!

12 Oct

Ah yes.  The calendar says its October.  We may still be having some warm days, but make no mistake.  It is fall.  Soup is on!

Let’s have a brief history of soup.  Many historians believe that soup is as old as the history of cooking.  Soup is an ancient food.  It was the perfect food for rich and poor, all cultures, healthy people and invalids.  In other words, it was an ideal food for everybody.  Most everyone had access to a pot and fire  Not only that, anything can go into soup.  So it is easy to understand how it dates back hundreds of years.

The art of tossing things into a pot for a one dish meal started out as a rustic meal, and has come a long way.  Soup is nutritious, flexible with ingredients, warm and nourishing.  It can be as simple or as sophisticated as desired.   My number one reason for loving soup, though, is that it can be made on any budget.  Another bonus…soup can easily feed a crowd.

I am not the only one craving comfort food at the moment.   I went out to lunch with some folks from the office.  They invited me to “go out for soup”.  Sure, I thought.  When I inquired as to where we were going for soup, the answer confused me.  Donna, a coworker,  said “Oh, to a Mexican restaurant down the street”. Umm, what?  A mexican place?  But always one for a culinary adventure, off I went with the office crowd.  I need not have questioned the rationale.

The soup and quesadilla lunch special was about 6 bucks.  It was easy on the budget, but more than that, it was fantastic!  Who knew that you could get delicious soup at a place that I relate more closely with a cheesy, spicy, rice and tortilla meal.   This lunch outing really got me jazzed yet again for soup season.  Its time for some fun.   After all, it is fall!

The soup and quesadilla lunch special.  Delish!

The soup and quesadilla lunch special. Delish!

Just look at that chunky soup filled with veggies, avocado, and chicken.

Just look at that chunky soup filled with veggies, avocado (a favorite superfood of mine), and chicken.

Soup-Rich warm comfort food! Yum!

21 Sep
Home made tomato basil soup.  Easy and delicious!  And the leftovers were fabulous.

Home made tomato basil soup. Easy and delicious! And the leftovers were fabulous.

 

As the weather continues to turn from steamy days to the cool crisp air of fall, I am on my comfort food fast track.  Last week, home made tomato basil soup filled the bill.  And if I may be so bold,  it was creamy, rich, and quite delicious. (Ouch!  It hurts to pat myself on the back!)

Tomato basil soup is a snap to make with just a few things on hand.  I used canned tomatoes, but had fresh basil still going crazy in it’s sunny patio pot.  I began by sautéing onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil.  Next, in went some canned tomatoes to simmer for a bit. I use a variety of tomatoes depending on what is in the pantry.  (Whole tomatoes are just fine to use if you have a stick or immersion mixer to smooth it out). Salt, pepper, and a dash of sugar is also necessary.  I use both black pepper and red pepper flakes because I like a little heat in my soup, but you can be light handed with the pepper if that suits your personal preference.

Even if using fresh basil, tossing in about a tablespoon of dried basil while the soup is simmering adds a nice flavor touch, and certainly adds to the succulent aroma.  When the soup starts simmering, the amazing scents of tomatoes and basil begin wafting through the air.  Pathetic true confession: sometimes when I am cooking and it starts to smell good in the house, I will go outside for a sec, then step back inside and let those incredible aromas hit me all over again.

Fresh basil.  The taste is amazing and the aromas are truly mouth watering!

Fresh basil. The taste is amazing and the aromas are truly mouth watering!

There are so many reasons to love soup.  The house warms up with delicious lingering scents, and you can really customize it for your own taste and occasion.  Add a little of this and a little of that.  And soup is super budget friendly.  Soup is also easily paired with a well toasted or grilled sandwich…the crisp texture  of the sandwich is wonderful with the warm smooth soup.  Very pleasing to the palate. Make it on the weekend and use the leftovers for a quick week night supper.

Amy’s Tomato Soup

  • 2 T. olive oil

    Simple soup ingredients.

    Simple soup ingredients

  • 1/4 cup each of chopped onion and celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock (can use vegetable to make it vegetarian)
  • 2 32 oz. cans tomatoes
  • 1 cup milk (optional-and I use skim)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 T. ketchup
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 2-3 T chopped fresh basil
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Put olive oil in large stock pot.  Heat briefly and add onion and celery. Sautee until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add garlic and stir for another minute.  Gently pour in stock and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring twice.  Add all tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, salt, pepper, sugar and dried basil.  Give this a good stir.  Turn heat to medium to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Use immersion or stick blender to smooth out the texture, being mindful of the hot liquid.  Taste for salt and pepper at this time and adjust for taste.  Add fresh basil  and let simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.  You can whisk in the milk at this time if you choose.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

This is a fun recipe to tinker with.  Feel free to make it more hispanic by adding cumin.  Make it a little more greek by adding oregano.  Go for it.  Have a blast!  Welcome fall into your family kitchen by adding this fabulous comfort food.  Try this soup, make it your own, and then shoot me a note to let me know what you did.  I can’t wait to hear about your foray into fall comfort food!

 

 

This ‘n That

16 Jul

The weather is hot.  Summer is in full swing.  It is hot outside, and the air conditioning is blasting inside.  That adds up to one thing…time to take the cooking outside.  Fire up that grill!  Marinate and toss some tuna, chicken or tofu on the grill.  Cook a meal without heating up the house.  Oh, but wait.  There has to be a side dish to go with the delicious grilled food.  Hhhmm.  What is an easy cold refreshing summer side dish?  I have the answer and I just made it!  Try it!

Amy’s Summer Side Quinoa Salad

  • 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced free onions including green tops
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped arugula
  • 1 cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 t. fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix vinaigrette and set aside.   In large bowl, combine quinoa through cheese.  Stir.  Add vinaigrette and stir to combine thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate.  Next step..enjoy!

This is an easy recipe to quickly toss together as a side dish. I had the leftover salad for breakfast the following morning after my morning workout.  It is a nutrient packed salad, and the ingredients can be easily substituted with any veggies on hand. Toss in some of this, a little of that.  Make a this ‘n that salad!  So go ahead!  Keep the energy bills low and take the cooking outside.  Toss this fabulous cold salad together and enjoy!

 

Fresh summer side dish.  Yum!

Fresh summer side dish. Yum!

Roasted Pasta Sauce

21 Sep
Roasted baby peppers!  yum!

Baby peppers! Perfect for roasting! Yum!

Tonight I made pasta for dinner. I roasted the sauce. Yes, that’s right. And it was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous!

Here we go. I had a taste for pasta Primavera. A Primavera sauce is a vegetable sauce usually associated with fresh, or seasonal, chunky cut vegetables. I wanted a light supper.  Nothing heavy and fatty. I needed bright, light, and colorful.   Something not only packed with flavor, but loaded with beneficial nutrients too.

And as you know, I love to use what i have on hand. That is my creativity springboard.  For some reason, that absolutely energizes me.  I started pulling vegetables out of the fridge and pantry.  For a special flavor twist, I decided to roast my sauce instead of cooking it on the stove top.  I cut up my veggies  and dumped them into a big mixing bowl.  Next I sprinkled them with pepper, both red and black, salt, herb de Provence, olive oil, and a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

A good starting point.  Chunky chopped vegetables!

A good starting point. Chunky chopped vegetables!

Next, I gave the mixture a good minute of stirring with a big wooden spoon.  Then I put it into a glass roasting pan that was about 2″ deep.  I sprinkled the vegetables with a little more salt and pepper, and tossed the pan into a preheated 375 degree oven.

In the meantime, Denis popped open a bottle of wine.  We sipped a glass of a yummy big bold red, and chatted with my son a bit.  The boys set the table.  I put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  We had fresh pasta that was in the freezer, and that cooks pretty quickly.

Into the oven it goes!

Into the oven it goes!

In 30 minutes, I pulled the veggies out of the oven.  They had cooked down, so there was a good bit of what my grandmother called “vegetable liquor” in the pan.  There was just enough liquid for a perfect sauce.  I poured it over the cooked pasta, and voila!  A super yummy light dinner was ready.  Onto the table it went with some crusty bread.  It was a colorful healthy vegetarian dinner.   I am sharing my recipe with you, but customize it using your own palate as a flavor compass.

Amy’s Pasta Primavera

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then start cutting…

1 large zucchini, cut into chunky quarters

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 large container fresh bella mushrooms, sliced

1 large container button mushrooms, sliced

3 large or a dozen small bell peppers, deseeded and sliced

6 green onions, sliced in 1/2 inch intervals from the whites to the tip of the green

8 ounces arugula (2 big handfuls)

8 ounces baby spinach

1/4 cup olive oil

3-4 T. balsamic vinegar

2 T. Herb de Provence

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in large mixing bowl.  Add salt,  pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Herb de Provence and any seasoning to taste.

Pasta of choice-cooked (I used fresh ricotta penne)

Bread of choice

Toss this on the table for an incredibly mouthwatering meal loaded with flavor and packed with antioxidants and nutrients!  The great thing about this recipe is that it can be totally customized.

I am a moody garnisher.  Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t.  It depends on the flow of my day and, as always, time allowed.  Sometimes my creative juices and energy match, other times I just need to get something, anything, on the table.  But with this beautiful bounty of vegetables, my creativity ran wild,  and I garnished with chunks of creamy mozzarella cheese, some shredded zippy parmesan cheese, and fresh from the garden basil with a chiffonade cut.  It was simply wonderful!

This is the dish headed to the table.  Pasta with roasted sauce.  Super Yum!

This is the dish headed to the table. Pasta with roasted sauce. Super Yum!

Refrigerator Cook-II (The sequel)

10 Dec

Ok.  Here is another recipe from my pantry and refrigerator.   Super easy, delicious, and healthy.

Tomato Basil Soup

  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 3  28 ounce cans plum tomatoes
  • 14 ounce can chicken broth
  • 4 ounce can V-8
  • 4 T. dried basil
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in skillet and add olive oil.  When bubbling and hot, add the onion and garlic.  Saute for 3-4 minutes.

add onions and garlic.

add onions and garlic.

Add can of chicken broth and let cook down for 5 minutes, stirring twice.  Add the cans of tomatoes, V-8, red pepper flakes, and 2 T. dried basil.  With medium heat under the pot, let the soup bubble.  Turn the heat down a bit, but allow the soup to continue to bubble for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Let the soup start to simmer and bubble.

Let the soup start to simmer and bubble.

Now that the soup has simmered and reduced, its time to mix the soup up.  This will make the consistency change from chunky to smooth and creamy.  I use a stick blender, but you can also use a blender.  Be very careful and mindful of the hot liquid that you are blending up.  Take it slow so it doesn’t splatter.

I use my stick blender for a million things.  Making soup is certainly one of them

I use my stick blender for a million things. Making soup is certainly one of them

Take this opportunity to adjust your seasonings.  Add the remainder of the basil, or more to taste if you prefer.  Also, add salt and pepper to taste.  Let the soup simmer for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then serve!  It is an easy soup and made straight from things you already have on hand!  I garnish with croutons and fresh parmesan cheese.

Delish!  Eat up!

Delish! Eat up!

I usually serve this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich or a tuna fish sandwich.  A glass of red wine doesn’t hurt either!  This is another one of my “refrigerator cook” creations…straight from the pantry.  As promised in my last blog, I will help you build your fridge and pantry so you too can pull things out and start creating!  I have a page attached that has a list for you to start your pantry building.  I will be adding to it and changing it, so take a peek at it every now and again.  Start having fun in the kitchen!