“In-Love” Tomato-Basil Soup

tomato basil soup

Basil’s aroma and flavors are intoxicating. It’s no wonder that many cultures associate basil with love. One tradition states that if a man gives a sprig of basil to a woman, she will fall in love with him forever. In Haitian lore, basil is said to come from their love goddess, Erzulie, as an aphrodisiac. Take a cue from folklore and make this smooth, rich Tomato-Basil soup for your valentine. What a heart-warming way to show your love!

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 small onion, chopped
2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound tomatoes (about 3 medium), chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3/4 chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons basil, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add tomato sauce, broth, cream, and half of the basil, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Pour all ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth.
  4. Pour soup into bowls. Top with chopped basil, crusty Italian bread, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

What recipes do you make to show your love?

Posted in Appetizers, Soups and Stews

Mom’s Yummy Tomatoes

broiled tomatoesThere’s been a lot of talk about tomatoes around the office this week, and it reminded Judy and Curtis of these puffed, roasted tomatoes that Curtis’ mom used to make. We think they’re downright delicious and unique, so we’re sharing our family recipe with you. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3 or 4 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced thick
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons of green onion
1–2 tablespoons green chiles, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

  1. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients together except the cheese. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture on each tomato slice, and then top with cheddar cheese.
  3. Broil in the oven for 4–6 minutes or until lightly browned.

Share your family recipes with us below or on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Appetizers

“Lighten Up” Quinoa Salad

quinoa salad

Most people want to eat lighter after the holidays, but you don’t have to sacrifice flavor. Quinoa is the perfect blank canvas for any flavors you love, and this recipe is no exception—it’s completely customizable. Don’t like red onion? Use green onions or no onions at all. Because quinoa is full of protein, it satisfies meat lovers and vegetarians alike. And, as if you need another reason to make this salad, it comes together so quickly that you’ll be making it all week.

Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions:

  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions.
  2. When quinoa is cooled, mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Serve warm or chill in the refrigerator.

That’s it! Serve quinoa salad with chicken or tuna, over arugula, or on its own. It’s the perfect way to lighten up after heavy holiday food.

Posted in Side dishes, Weekday dinners

Multi-Purpose Creamed Spinach

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Creamed spinach is a classic steakhouse side dish for a reason—it’s a great complement to a juicy piece of beef. However, this doesn’t have to be the only way we enjoy our spinach. Try this essential creamed spinach recipe below and serve as a side dish or (if you’re feeling adventurous and why not?) add it to the three recipes that follow. All recipes are holiday-table worthy.

 

Ingredients:

3–4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 pounds of fresh spinach
3 tablespoons of butter
½ cup of shallots, diced
3 tablespoons flour
2½ cups heavy cream or half and half
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, Parmesan, or Romano all work well)

Directions:

    • Drizzle olive oil in a medium-hot pan and sauté spinach in small batches. You may have to add more olive oil with each batch of spinach. Let the spinach cool, then squeeze the excess liquid out with a towel.

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    • Meanwhile in another medium-hot pan, sauté shallots in butter for 2 to 3 minutes. Now make the roux, which sounds fancy because it’s French, but it is really simple.  Slowly whisk the flour into the butter/shallot mixture until it becomes pasty, and looks like wet sand. And, voilà, there’s your roux!

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    • Continue whisking and slowly pour in the heavy cream or half and half. When liquid has thickened to a sauce, remove pan from heat and stir in cheese.

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    • Combine with cooled spinach until coated evenly.

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At this point, if you’re serving this as a delicious side dish for your holiday roast, you are done! But, if you’ve decided to take this recipe to the next level, here are three other mouth-watering ways to enjoy creamed spinach.

  1. Spinach Lasagna: Spread the creamed spinach over each ricotta cheese layer until layers are complete. It’s still a vegetarian dish, but you definitely won’t miss the meat. As if you needed another reason to love Italian food!
  2. Stuffed Chicken Breasts: Butterfly chicken breasts, spoon a tablespoon or two of the creamed spinach on one short side and roll up the chicken breast. Secure with toothpicks or kitchen twine, brush with olive oil, and bake at 350ºF for about 30 to 40 minutes in a 9”x13” glass baking dish. It looks so impressive that they’ll think you spent all day cooking.
  3. Artichoke Spinach Dip: Add chopped artichoke hearts to the creamed spinach and pour into an 8”x8” glass baking dish. Top with more cheese and bake at 350ºF until cheese is bubbly. Serve as a party appetizer dip with crostini or crackers. Great for holiday parties!
Posted in Holiday, Side dishes

It’s-About-Thyme Scalloped Potatoes

Earthy and familiar, thyme smells like holiday parties, coming in from the cold, and knit sweaters. In this recipe, thyme transforms creamy scalloped potatoes into a comfort food you can’t resist. Serve these potatoes with roasted chicken for a show-stopping Sunday dinner, alongside the turkey and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, or, if you’re really celebrating, next to a thick cut of prime rib. A dish this decadent takes some time, so plan for about an hour and half from start to finish.

When you’re done in the kitchen, check out our article on how to grow an indoor herb garden and chose from popular varieties of thyme, basil, and rosemary.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
3 pounds of russet potatoes (about 3 large potatoes), peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch thick)
3–4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (about 10 sprigs)
2.5 cups of heavy cream
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
Fresh cracked black pepper
Pinch of salt
¼ cup Parmesan-Romano cheese (optional)

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter (you could also use cooking spray). To easily remove the thyme leaves, hold the stem in one hand and pull along the stem with the other hand in the opposite direction the leaves are facing.

Directions:
1. Layer 1/3 of the potatoes, slightly overlapping, in the bottom of the buttered dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the fresh garlic and thyme leaves. Repeat layers with remaining potatoes, garlic, and thyme, ending with the garlic and thyme on top.

2. Pour the cream into a saucepan on medium heat. Stir in garlic powder, pepper, and salt. Heat the cream to scalding, not boiling.

3. Pour the hot cream over the potatoes. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven.

4. Bake for 35–40 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for another 30 minutes or until golden brown. If you like it a little cheesy and salty, sprinkle the Parmesan-Romano cheese over the top for the last 10 minutes of baking.

5. Let the potatoes rest out of the oven for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6–8.

Posted in Holiday Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

The Easiest Pumpkin Ravioli You Will Ever Make

Seriously, they are. The secret is substituting fresh pasta with wonton wrappers.

1 cup pumpkin puree (homemade is best)
10 oz. goat cheese (or substitute with cream cheese)
2–3 cloves of garlic, chopped
pinch of salt
1 12 oz. package of wonton wrappers

Makes approximately 45 ravioli

Mix pumpkin, goat cheese, garlic, and salt in a large bowl (you may want to warm the goat cheese in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it for easier mixing). Position the wonton in front of you so it has a diamond shape. Drop 1 teaspoon of the pumpkin and goat cheese filling in the center of the wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in water and outline the edges of the wrapper. Fold edges over and seal by pressing edges together with a fork. Place ravioli into boiling water until they float, which should only be a minute or two. Remove ravioli from water with a hand strainer or slotted spoon. They are delicious drizzled with a high-quality olive oil or sautéd in butter, garlic, and fresh sage leaves. Mangia!

Posted in Holiday, Italian, Weekday dinners Tagged with: , , ,

3 Garlic Condiments to Steal from the Mediterranean

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Few ingredients are as versatile and delicious as garlic. While it’s instantly recognized in dishes like cheesy lasagna or a spicy green chili, it’s often in the background notes of dishes you don’t expect, such as Thai papaya salad. But you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen making roasts; garlic is the star of these quick condiments that make main dishes shine.

Pesto: While Pesto is the perfect go-to pasta mixer, try it in stuffed chicken or thinned to a vinaigrette for a green salad. Peppery and earthy, pesto brings a taste of summer to any dish.

Ingredients: 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves; 2 cloves garlic; 1/4 cup pine nuts; 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided; Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste; and 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Directions: Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and pulse until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If you are using the pesto immediately, add all the remaining oil and cheese and pulse until smooth. If freezing the pesto, transfer to an airtight container and drizzle the remaining oil over the top. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Aioli: Aioli is essentially a mayonnaise; an emulsifying process makes it creamy and smooth. Aioli is a more flavorful substitute for mayo on sandwiches, but it’s also a mouthwatering swap for tartar sauce on your next fish fry.

Ingredients: 3 garlic cloves, chopped; 1 large egg; 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice; 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 2 turns freshly ground black pepper; and1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions: Combine the garlic, egg, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Add the oil in a slow stream and continue to process until the mixture has formed a thick and creamy sauce.

Bruschetta Topping: Known mostly as an appetizer, bruschetta topping can also be used to dress warm or cold pasta. Add a little Parmesan cheese and some shredded chicken the pasta, and bruschetta topping goes from appetizer to main course.

Ingredients: 1/2 baguette or crusty long loaf bread, sliced (12 pieces); 2 large cloves garlic, cracked away from skin; Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling; 3 small plum tomatoes, halved and seeded; 20 fresh basil leaves; and
Coarse salt

Directions: Place bread slices on a broiler pan and char on each side under a high-temp broiler. Rub toasts with garlic cloves and drizzle with oil. Chop seeded tomatoes and place in a small bowl. Thinly slice basil into green confetti and mix with tomatoes. For added garlic flavor, mince garlic cloves and add to basil and tomato mixture. Add a drizzle of oil and a little coarse salt to the bowl and gently toss coat. Scoop topping onto to crunchy bread.

Posted in Condiments Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Roasted Parsnip and Carrot “Fries”

Root vegetables are a winter staple in most of the country: nutritious, comforting, and an essential part of nearly every worthwhile stew. But by the time February arrives, they can seem rather, well, boring.  That certainly doesn’t have to be the case.

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Posted in Side dishes, Weekday dinners

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Short Ribs

Stuffed Cabbage

No question about it: Winter in Colorado is one of the many reasons people love living here. We get our fair share (and then some) of snow and cold, but we also have warm, blue-sky, sunny days to break up the winter blues. And for most of us, our hands are itching to get back in the dirt and plant our gardens, even though we know that the only wise thing is to wait for Mother’s Day weekend, when the threat of frost has passed.

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Posted in Weekend dinners

How to Peel Butternut Squash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter squash, with hundreds of splendid varieties, are deliciously nourishing, easy to grow, and store well for months into the winter season. But preparing them can be as daunting as cracking into a coconut— without the right tools and a little bit of know-how, the task is nearly impossible. Aside from the delightful Delicata (whose skin is just as tender and edible as its creamy interior), butternut squash is one of the easiest cold-season squashes to prepare. But, like other winter squash, it’s hard exterior can be intimidating, and dangerous if you don’t know the technique.

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Posted in How to

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