Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ok I must confess, this isn’t really a recipe per-say, but I thought it would be fun to share regardless. I had a request last weekend for grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner… I thought about getting creative with the sandwich (adding meat, veggies, fancy cheese etc.) but then remembered a pin I had seen on Pinterest referencing “Grilled Cheese Croutons” and thought I’d give it a go. It certainly made the soup more interesting for sure.

To make the croutons, just make your grilled cheese the way you normally would, and cut it up into bite size pieces and plop them into the soup (I used Trader Joes roasted red pepper/tomato soup). I just used regular sandwich bread and got 12 croutons out of each sandwich. The best part is that the cheese oozes out into the soup… just sayin’.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

 

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Caprese Bites

Not much to write about this one, the picture pretty much sums it up! I’ve done the caprese salad and the larger caprese skewers, but I wanted something more bit size for an appetizer. These were quick, easy and compact.

Caprese Bites

Ingredients:
One small container cherry tomatoes
One container small fresh mozzarella balls (called Ciliegine), halved
One large bunch basil leaves (the larger the better)
Salt/Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

Directions:
1. Poke a small hole through the bottom of the basil leaf and thread the toothpick through so that the majority of the toothpick is resting on top of the basil leaf
2. Thread the cherry tomato and the mozzarella onto the toothpick
3. Bring the top of the basil leaf up and thread through the toothpick to create a “boat”
4. Arrange on a large platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar (optional)

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

In an attempt to beef up my meals without sacrificing my precious Weight Watchers points, I sacrificed my pasta one night for roasted spaghetti squash. If you are a true pasta lover, this might be a stretch for you, but I quite enjoyed it. The squash doesn’t have a ton of flavor so it lends itself well as a substitute for pasta.

I tried cooking the squash a few ways, cutting it in half first and cooking squash side up, cutting it in half and cooking rind side up and then cooking whole and cutting after. The best way I’ve found is the rind side up method, I think it keeps the squash firmer.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash
(1 large squash is enough for about 4 people for a main dish. 0 P+/serving)

Ingredients:
1 large spaghetti squash
PAM or an other Non Fat Cooking Spray
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
2. Cut the squash in half length-wise (use a sharp knife, it can be a bit hard to cut if you are using a dull knife)

3. Scoop out the seeds and fibers from the inside of the squash
4. Spray the squash lightly with the cooking spray and liberally salt and pepper each half of the squash
5. Line a cookie sheet or baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the squash rind side up on the baking sheet
6. Cook for 45 minutes
7. Remove the squash, flip it over (use caution, it’s hot!) and let it rest for 5 minutes
8. Using a fork (and pot holders), scrape out the flesh of the squash a little at a time – it will separate into spaghetti like strands
9. Place in a serving bowl and top with pasta sauce, pesto or just some butter and cheese!

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

If you are in need of a quick and easy appetizer recipe, here it is! It’s best made in the summer when you have access to fresher/more in season ingredients but making this in the winter did transport me back to summer (for a second anyway). This recipe is adapted from Simply Recipes and the original can be found here.
Ingredients:
1 french or sourdough baguette, sliced into half-inch size pieces
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes (I like the color, you can use regular on the vine too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. Olive Oil, plus 1 Tbs. for brushing the bread
1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
12-14 basil leaves, thinly sliced
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
1. Remove the seeds and juice from the tomatoes as much as possible. Chop tomatoes (you can remove the skin if you want, but I prefer to keep it on).
2. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil. Place the olive oil side of the bread down on a baking sheet. Bake for 6-7 minutes on the top rack in the oven (or until edges brown)
3. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, 2 tsp. olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve tomato mixture with the bread olive oil side up*
 *You can serve this a few different ways, but if you are pre-loading the bread with the tomato mixture, be aware the bread could get soggy. The best way to serve is to have the bread on a platter with a spoon in the bowl to allow people to build their own.

Puff Pastry Cheese Sticks

I’ve been pretty behind with posts lately – the Christmas season will do that to ya! I wanted to get this recipe posted before New Years, in case anyone needed a good appetizer recipe. This has been a favorite in my family for the past couple of years… originally a Barefoot Contessa recipe, I made a few changes to kick up the flavor a few notches. The great thing about this recipe is that you can add whatever type of cheese or seasoning you want as the puff pastry provides a good canvas for most anything you can dream up.

The key is to finely grate whatever cheese you chose to use (unfortunately most cheese you buy pre-grated at the store is a bit too large, and usually falls off when you twist the sticks). I use a microplane which can be purchased almost anywhere these days, or you can use the smaller side of a box grater. Whatever seasoning you use make sure its chopped up fairly small – again larger chunks tend to fall off during twisting. One more tip – don’t skip the egg wash or you’ll end up with a pile of cheese/spices on the counter instead of the sticks.

Puffy Pastry Cheese Sticks – Makes about 20-24 sticks

Ingredients:
1 box (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry – thawed (throw it in the fridge overnight)
Flour for dusting
1 large egg
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cups finely grated swiss cheese
1  Tablespoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
2. Place one sheet of puff pastry on a floured cutting board. Roll the pastry out until it’s a tad bigger than a legal sized sheet of paper (about 10 inches by 12 inches)
3. Brush the sheet with the egg wash
4. Sprinkle the puff pastry with half of the parmesan, swiss cheese, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
5. Gently press the toppings into the puff pastry with the heal of your hand (this will help the ingredients stay on while twisting)
6. Cut the puff pastry into one inch strips (this should give you about 11-12 strips per sheet) with a sharp knife or pizza cutter
7. Twist each strip so that the ingredients are on the inside of the twist
8. Place each twist on a cookie sheet with parchment paper
9. Bake the sticks for 12-15 minutes (or until the sticks are slightly browned). Be careful not to over bake!
 The sticks are served best at room temperature. 

Kale Chips

A healthy tasty chip… yep, they exist. Easier to make than homemade potato chips and much better for you. Very simple to make and will satisfy that need for something salty and crunchy. I recommend using dinosaur kale or any other type of curly kale (it has a thicker texture than the type you use to saute, so it won’t brown as quick or burn.)

Cooking time can vary depending on how hot your oven is. Mine took a bit longer than others had recommended, so if the kale is not crunchy or browned on the edges after 10 minutes, leave it in, but keep your eye on it.

Kale Chips

Ingredients:
1 bunch of dinosaur or other curly kale
2-3 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Slice or tear kale into chip size pieces (removing the stemmed portion if you like)
3. Place kale in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil
4. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, pepper and the cayenne pepper if you want it spicy
5. Toss the kale a few times and spread it on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or foil
6. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are brown and kale is crispy

Vegetable Curry

I wanted to try and do one meatless meal a week and it was challenging to think of something that wasn’t just pasta. cooking lighthas a great section of vegetarian meals, many of which are really quick and easy to prepare. This recipe in particular caught my eye because I love curry and sweet potatoes, both of which it includes. It’s simple to prepare, but might require a more extensive shopping list than you’re used to.Vegetable Curry (Adapted from cookinglight.com)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups diced peeled sweet potato
1 cup small cauliflower florets
3/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup  vegetable broth (such as Swanson)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat
2. Add sweet potato to pan; sauté 3 minutes
3. Decrease heat to medium. Add cauliflower, onion, and curry powder; cook 1 minute, stirring mixture constantly
4. Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil.
5. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve over rice with yogurt and Naan bread.

Lasagna

This is one of my go to recipes whenever I have a larger group of people over, or I need something I can make ahead and re heat later. It seems too simple to taste as good as it does, and I guarantee you, even the biggest of meat eaters won’t realize or care that there isn’t meat in it. This lasagna can be a great weeknight dinner (with plenty of leftovers for lunch) or even a great dinner party main dish. I adapted this recipe from a Cooking Light recipe (it didn’t have enough cheese in it for me). The original recipe can be found here. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread.

Lasagna

Ingredients
9 no boil lasagna noodles
6 ounces reduced fat cottage cheese
6 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
6 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 (26-ounce) jar pasta sauce, divided
Cooking spray
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Combine the cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta cheese in a large bowl; stir to blend well. Stir in Parmesan and next 8 ingredients (through eggs)
3. Spread 1/2 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray
4. Arrange 3 noodles over pasta sauce; top with half of cheese mixture and one third of remaining pasta sauce

5. Repeat layers once, ending with noodles. Spread remaining pasta sauce over noodles.
6. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella; bake an additional 20 minutes or until cheese is melted
7. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Pineapple “Pico de Gallo”

A couple posts back, I made some adobo pork tacos and while eating them I thought to myself, “these tacos would be perfect with some pineapple salsa” so this past weekend, I tried it out. Well my suspicions we totally correct – the sweetness of the pineapple combined with the slight heat from the jalapeno really played up the earthy taste of the adobo. I still served it with some chipotle salsa for some added heat and caramelized onions for texture. It’s a ridiculously easy salsa to prepare, and can be paired with any type of taco (especially good with fish tacos!)

Pineapple “Pico de Gallo”

Ingredients
2 cups canned pineapple, drained and cut up into bite size pieces
1/2 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup cilantro, packed
Juice from 1/2 a lime

Directions
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl
2. Squeeze lime juice over salsa
3. For best results, refrigerate a few hours to let flavors combine

I love tomatoes!

Yep, I do. Probably more than Mexican food which is saying a lot. Tomatoes are finally starting to ripen in most of our gardens (I ate my first ripe one today). It reminded me of all of my favorite tomato recipes, call it tomato nostalgia if you will.  Our summer came so late here in Seattle that you can still find amazing tomatoes at the farmers markets and local organic heirlooms in the grocery store… score for me!

I have included links/recipes for some of my favorite tomato recipes. Enjoy!

Slow roasted tomatoes from Kalyn’s kitchen
Roasted tomato sauce from Champaign Taste
Tomatoes Provencal from Amy Cotler
Tomato and goat cheese tarts from Ina Garten
Panzanella from Ina Garten
Basic Marinara Sauce from Smitten Kitchen

Tomatoes with Basil and Mozzarella:

Ingredients

A few large heirloom tomatoes (or beefsteak if you can’t get heirlooms) sliced
As many basil leaves as you have tomato slices (sliced into ribbons if you’d like)
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (as many slices as you have tomato slices)
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Place tomatoes in a single layer on a platter, cover with a slice of mozzarella and the basil. Add a splash of olive oil over all tomatoes and a drop of vinegar on each tomato. Finish with a dash of salt and pepper.