Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mozzarella & Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes

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The brief history behind these delights is quite simple. I had a party coming up and decided I wanted to serve stuffed tomatoes. I had never made them before (actually, to be quite honest, I didn't know anyone who had ever made them before) but I loved the idea, and thought they would fit my theme perfectly. But I didn't have a recipe, so I went on a hunt. I searched the internet, and sure enough, in seconds I had hundreds of stuffed tomato recipes to choose from. I narrowed it down to certain ingredients, and started reading them all. I soon found I was disappointed. I couldn't find the perfect combination that epitomized my taste, or my party. I wanted something simple (that seemed obvious to me since stuffed tomatoes aren't usually your main course, so why would you want to spend all day preparing your appetizer? - DUH!) and something that sounded delicious. Apparently this was too much to ask. So I abandoned the internet and set out to make the perfect stuffed tomato. Based on the reviews I have received on these little beauties I think I did it! The only challenge I find is not eating them all before the company comes.

These are so simple there are only three real components:

The Tomato:

Okay, so I know it's tradition to use cherry tomatoes for appetizers, but I have issues with that concept. First of all, that's a lot of work for the tiny bite of food that you get, and second, there are better tomatoes out there. Oh don't get me wrong, I love cute diminutive cherry tomatoes on top of my salad as much as the next girl but when used as a standalone food there are tastier options. WB 053

Personally, I love the vine ripened Campari tomato. They average about the size of a golf ball, so they are good for two or three good bites. The larger size also makes them easier to empty and re-stuff. Campari's are juicy, and have a higher sugar level than other tomatoes. This makes them sweeter and less acidic. Their deep red color is gorgeous, and they aren't overly farinaceous, or mealy in texture, which is a plus for me. I think they are absolutely perfect! And you can get lucky sometimes and find them at Sams and Costco. Yay!

The Mozzarella:

Mozzarella is mozzarella, right? Well yes, and no. I don't think it matters much which brand you choose, just pick your favorite. I use low-moisture part-skim, because that's what I like. As much as I love fresh mozzarella, I opted out for this recipe due to flavor and texture. What I did find that makes a big difference, however, is dicing the cheese. Chopping the mozzarella into small cubes instead of grating it allows for a richer flavor and creamier texture.

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The Pesto:

This is where the "simple" comes in. You can slave all day making your own pesto, or you can find a great sauce already made. That's what I do, shh! I've tried a dozen different pesto sauces, some of them imported directly from Italy, but believe it or not I found one that rivals the best of them right in my own Sams Club! The Members Mark brand is beautiful. It is made modestly with good ingredients: olive oil, basil, romano and parmesan cheeses, garlic and pine nuts. Delicious!

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So what made me think of this triple combination? I don't know, except I recognized that with these three you couldn't go wrong!

The Recipe:

  • 1 ½ cups diced mozzarella
  • ¾ cup pesto
  • 2 lbs. (aprox. 20) Campari tomatoes
  • Salt

Core the tomatoes with a small melon baller or fruit corer. Rinse out the seeds and sprinkle salt into the tomatoes. Turn upside down onto a paper towel, and refrigerate until filling is ready. This gives them time to drain and the salt helps eliminate excess moisture. Mix the pesto with the mozzarella, and use a baby spoon to fill the tomatoes. Serve immediately or refrigerate beforehand. Mangia Mangia! Enjoy.

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Emily

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Balsamic Chicken

This is hands down my family’s favorite chicken recipe! I love how simple it is to make, and it pairs with a tasty garden salad like a dream!  The more you get to know me, you will find I love Balsamic Vinegar and will use almost any excuse to add it to my plate.

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Balsamic Grilled Chicken

4  Boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 c  Olive Oil

1 c  Balsamic Vinegar

2 Tbsp  Agave

1 tsp  Dried oregano

1 tsp  Dried basil

Salt and Pepper to taste

An hour or two before you are ready to grill, mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, agave, oregano, basil, salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag.  Add the chicken and marinade for up to, but no more than, 4 hours.  Place chicken on the grill and cook until it reaches 165 degrees.

Heather

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Apple Scallion Pecan Salad with Agave Goat Cheese Dressing

I am a huge goat cheese lover!  You can add goat cheese to almost anything and it would elevate it to a whole new level, in my opinion.  This recipe was inspired by Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes at SkinnyTaste.com.  I gave it the the old Whipper once over and fell in LOVE!  

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Did you know that goat cheese is 30% lower in fat and calories than most cow’s milk cheese?

Agave Goat Cheese Dressing – Serves 15

  • 4 oz. of creamy goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Agave (a natural sweetener like honey that can be found at most supermarkets these days.)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2  lemon, jucied

In a small blender, combine the goat cheese, agave, extra-virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar and lemon.  Season with fresh cracked black pepper and salt.  Mix until creamy.

Apple Scallion Pecan Salad with Agave Goat Cheese Dressing – Serves 1

  • 10 pecan halves
  • 1/2 apple sliced
  • 2 cups of romaine lettuce (or, what ever green you want)
  • 1 scallion sliced
  • 1 tbsp crumbled goat cheese

Fill a bowl with the baby greens.  Top with the pecans, apples, scallions and goat cheese. Drizzle with the Agave Goat Cheese Dressing.

Heather

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tandoori Chicken with Tzatziki Sauce

I love international cuisine! Not too long a ago, a good friend of mine from India turned me onto the joys of Indian cooking with it’s spicy complexity.  Not only is it a flavor explosion in your mouth, it’s not too bad on the waist line. 

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Tandoori Chicken

4 Chicken Breasts

1/2 c  Store bought Tandoori Paste

1 c  Plain Fat-Free Yogurt

Mix together the yogurt and tandoori paste.  Place chicken in a bag and pour tandoori mixture over chicken.  Seal bag and turn to mix and coat the chicken.  Marinate chicken for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.  Remove chicken from marinade and grill until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 c   Plain Fat-Free Yogurt (I prefer the thicker Greek yogurt for this.)

1 c   English Cucumber, shredded

1 t.   Mint, finely chopped

2      Garlic Cloves, minced

Salt & Pepper to taste

Shred the cucumber, mix with a little salt and place in a strainer.  Let cucumber drain for at least 10 minutes and then ring it out in a paper towel to remove the remaining liquid.  Mix together with the yogurt, mint, garlic, salt and pepper.  Serve with Tandoori Chicken.

Heather

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Perfect Poached Egg

As with most new mom’s, I am working on the ever present weight battle. In this battle I have a few secret weapons that I will, if asked nicely, share. My first secret weapon is PROTEIN. No, I do not subscribe to the whole high-protein low-carb diet. I do find that making sure that I have plenty of protein throughout the day really helps curb the nasty cravings and helps to keep me from inhaling anything not nailed down by late afternoon.
Not long ago, I became totally obsessed with learning how to poach the perfect egg. After several failed attempts, (and taking Julia Childs name in vain a few times) I managed to poach the perfect egg.


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There are several tricks to poaching eggs that are not widely known:

  • First of all, the fresher the eggs the better. Now, if you can’t find fresh eggs don’t worry. What you need to do is warm them up before placing them in the water. What I typically do is place them in a bowl with hot tap water for a few minutes before I cook them. This brings the eggs up to room temperature quickly and allows for the whites to stay together once in the poaching water.
  • Next, the poaching water needs to have some type of acid added. I use white wine vinegar, but you can also use lemon juice as well. This again helps the egg stay together once added to the water.
  • Most importantly: the water. In a sauce pot, add about three inches of water and about 2 tsp. vinegar. The water needs to come up to about 190 degrees. This is just below a boil. Once you reach that temperature turn the burner down to low.
  • Add the eggs one at a time by cracking the egg close to the surface of the water. Do this rather quickly so that they will all finish at the same time.
  • At this point start timing the eggs. If you like your yokes runny, try about three minutes. For a medium egg, three and a half minutes and a firm yoke four minutes.
  • With a slotted spoon take the eggs out and place them on a paper towel to take care of the excess water.

Now, my favorite way to eat these little beauties is on one of those new sandwich thins, toasted, with a little salt and pepper and Tabasco sauce. Delish!

Heather

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