i love growing Tomatoes and contrary to the rule of thumb that you only need one plant per person in the household, I like to have many more. First of all, I like variety and second of all, not all plants will produce as they should. This year I planted 6 Tomato Plants and have two left over from last year. Unfortunately, the ones from last year are not producing too well. Probably because they are not in full sun – we only have so much garden space that will get sun.
Even though my larger Beefsteak type Tomatoes produce more and larger fruit, my favorites this year are the Green Zebra and the Lucky Tiger. I don’t think my Lucky Tigers are growing to the size that they should but they are fun – they are shaped like the Romas, but thinner and are green with orange/red stripes that are supposed to be dark purple according to the tag that was on the plant when I bought it. In spite of that, I still love the tomatoes. They are fun to grow and delicious to eat. They have a slightly tangy taste to them in contrast to the red tomatoes which are very sweet.
All this being said, what do you do with Tomatoes when you have an abundance of them? You can only make some many salads and eat so much salsa. In past years I have made Chili Sauce and will probably do that again this year if the plants keep producing like they have. For this batch though, I decided to make a Tomato Basil Soup. This is a tasty soup that can be eaten hot, warm or cold so it is perfect for summer or any time of year. The recipe actually calls for Roma Tomatoes, but not having Roma Tomatoes, I just used what I have growing and that is mostly red round tomatoes. Even though I put the tags that came with the plants in front of the plants, they somehow get lost or covered up so except for a couple of the plants, I’m not really sure what kind they are. Just round, red, sweet and delicious!
The Soup can be served as a first course or as a Vegetable Dish along with a meal – that is what I did last night. We had Meat Loaf, Baked Potatoes and the Tomato Basil Soup which I actually served first, but we had seconds along with the meal. I serve this soup in small bowls but it can be served in larger ones. Another way I like to serve it is in demitasse as a ‘stand-up appetizer’ for company meals.
The recipe calls for 2 lbs. of Tomatoes, 1/2 cup of diced Onion, Chicken Stock (I had Beet Water leftover from cooking Beets so I used that instead thereby making the soup good for the Vegan or Vegetarian Crowd. Of course you also need Basil which I also have growing in the yard. I used the Italian Sweet Basil for the Soup and Purple Basil for the Garnish along with the Lucky Tiger Tomatoes.
After the Tomatoes are washed and cored, chop, quarter or dice them. (It doesn’t really matter too much as they are going to be pureed after cooking)
Saute the diced Onions in 2 Tbsps. of Olive Oil until they are soft – from the photo below, you will notice that mine are slightly caramelized. This add additional flavor as long as you don’t let them burn. If they do burn, discard and start over – the burn taste will ruin the soup.
Once the Onions are sufficiently cooked, add the prepared Tomatoes and Basil and cook until the Tomatoes release their water. Mix as they cook. When the tomatoes are sufficiently cooked, transfer to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. If you don’t have a food processor, use a blender or a food mill.
Run the processor or blender until the Tomatoes are completely pureed and then return to the pot. Add the remaining seasonings -taste and add additional salt or Vinegar, if so desired.
Serve Hot with tiny Meatballs or at Room Temperature or Cold as an Appetizer. Garnish with additional Basil and diced Tomatoes, if desired. I used the Purple Basil and Lucky Tiger Tomatoes which only need to be sliced vertically down the middle. For additional zest add a splash of your favorite style ‘Old Boney Mountain Hot Sauce’.
Update to Homemade Ricotta – In July and September I posted Blogs about making your own Ricotta Cheese. The first batch that was made used Lemon Juice to curdle it. The second batch I tried using Rennet Tables but that did not work so well, so here I am back using the Lemon Juice which works great! This batch of Ricotta like the first batch made was very delicious and on a par (if not better) than the expensive brand I usually buy. When I buy Ricotta I buy a whole milk product which has much more flavor and body than the lower fat one. I usually pay between $5 & $6 for it. The batch I made at home this time, cost:
Milk – $2.99
Cream – 75 cents
Lemon Juice – free (the lemons were given to me – if you have to purchase the lemons you will need 1-2 lemons depending on the size – also the price will vary from store to store and from State to State.
Cheese Cloth – about $2.00 worth (but I was able to wash it and will be able to reuse it again)
So, my fresh batch of Ricotta which tasted delicious and was made right in my own kitchen cost me about $4.00 to make, not counting the gas and the hot water for washing the pot. Maybe it was as much as I pay for the finished product but it was well worth it as it is delicious. For the directions for making the Ricotta, please visit Adventures in Cheese Making
Now, what did I do with this batch of Ricotta. I made Cannelloni for dinner tonight and was able to freeze half of them for another meal. If you have four or more eating dinner, the whole recipe will be sufficient for 4- 6 people, depending on appetites. If teenage boys are involved, then you will have dinner only for four. If like us, there are only 2 people at the meal, then you will have at least 2 meals out of it and maybe more.
While the Ricotta was draining I made the Crepe Batter for the Cannelloni Shells and then refrigerated it. Crepe batter needs to rest for at least one hour after being made. For the recipe see Crepe Batter
While the Crepe Batter was resting, I started the Meat Sauce that was to go over the top of the filled shells. Next, I shredded the Mozzarella Cheese that was to go over the Meat Sauce. If you need a recipe for the Meat Sauce you can just use my Fresh Tomato Sauce but start out by sauteing a pound of ground beef, chicken or veal before you add the other ingredients. Or you can use only Tomato Sauce.
After the Crepes are made and the Sauce is simmering, prepare your Ricotta Cheese by adding an Egg, some freshly shredded Parmesan, Basil and about 1/2 tsp. Salt and 1/4 tsp. White Pepper or whatever your taste buds decree. The Basil that I added was actually a combo of minced Basil and Garlic in Olive Oil.
Set the Crepe Shells out on a flat surface and place 2-3 Tablespoons of the Ricotta filling on each Crepe (depending on the size of the Crepe). Fold in the sides and then the top and bottom.
Place each filled and rolled Crepe in a baking dish that has been lightly oiled with Olive Oil. Place them close together. When all the shells are filled, wrapped and placed in the baking dish top with the Sauce and some shredded Mozzarella Cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until everything is hot and the Mozzarella Cheese has melted.
Serve immediately with a mixed Green Salad and fresh Italian Bread, if so desired.
This dish will serve from 4-6 people, depending on appetites. We had enough leftover for a second meal and half the Manicotti went in the freezer for a third meal. Of course, we are only two people and so we are lucky enough to have more than one meal out of this dish.
Saturday Morning Farmer’s Markets abound in Southern California. Within the distance of approximately 33 miles, extending from the city of Ventura to Calabassas (at the far Western end of the San Fernando Valley) there are 4 markets that I know of: Ventura, Camarillo Old Town, Newbury Park and Calabassas. You can go further South and find quite a few more but of course, it would be difficult to attend all of them in one day. On my foray to Calabassas I also went to Newbury Park and could have hit Camarillo if I had so desired. The market is across the street from the most prominent and probably well-known business in Camarillo and that would be the Sage Brush Cantina. The Cantina opened years ago in a one store front location and soon took over the properties next to it, so that now the whole block (where there used to be a bakery and other businesses) is now all Sage Brush Cantina and their parking lot. It has become a gathering for locals and out of towners as well.
The Calabassas Market is probably the most diverse and exciting of the one that I previously mentioned. The time slot is from 9 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon. You can buy produce, flowers, artisan bread products and foods ready-made to eat on the spot.
The first thing when you walk into the market is a sign for Valet Parking and an attendant to manage it. The fee is only $3.00 which is the same that the parking lot across the street charges. There is very little street parking in Calabassas and since the Market is well-attended the lot or Valet Parking is well worth it. An alternative is to park in the shopping center on Valley Circle – it is about a one block walk but if you are carrying market produce it can be a little tireing.
There are many flower vendors and they are the ones that are most prominent in the front of the market. This is not to say there are no produce vendors there – there are plenty but the flowers are so colorful and beautiful that they do stand out. If you are planning on purchasing flowers as well as produce wait until you are finished and almost ready to leave – that way your flowers will have stayed fresh in water until you pick them and take them home. If you carry them around the market there is a strong possibility that they will start to wilt, especially if it is a hot day.
There are many produce vendors but one of my favorite has produce similar to Underwoods in Camarillo in that they have those beautiful heads of Purple and Gold Cauliflower along with Romesco which is shaped like a castle with little turrets.
One of the ways in which I like to use the Cauliflower is to prepare it with a Cheese Sauce – the simplest Cheese Sauce that you will ever make. Simply shred as much Medium or Sharp Cheddar Cheese and combine it with enough Mayonnaise to make a spreadable mixture. Place the washed Cauliflower in a microwavable dish and spread the Mayo/Cheese mixture all over it. Microwave for approximately five minutes or until the Cauliflower is fork tender.
I love Mushrooms and one of the Vendors has a great variety of Mushrooms and they are locally (in the Conejo Valley just West of Calabassas) raised. Mushrooms grow best in the dark and not exactly knowing I asked the Vendor where he grew them – in a Greenhouse? The answer was no – he actually grows most of them in a warehouse building – probably in raised beds or flats. You could purchase one type of mushroom or a variety pack of different sizes and different prices. I couldn’t resist and did buy a $15 pack which did last me for several meals.
Also at the market were Citrus Vendors, Vegetable Vendors, Egg Vendors, Hot Sauce Vendors and many more. I am pictured below at the booth of a vendor from Central California – at this point in the day (about 1 hours before closing) his products were marked down to 3 for $5.00. An excellent and everything I purchase from his was of excellent quality.
This next vendor sells Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Beans at both the Calabassas Market and the Market in Thousand Oaks on Thursday afternoon. When I visit these markets her stand is always one that I stop at. The Cucumbers are of the Japanese variety and do not need to be peeled. They are always sweet and crisp and delicious.
One of the Vendors at the Calabassas Market was not selling produce but instead he had Pasta and Olives – the booth was called Zona de Italy. Lots of interesting pasta and delicious Olives of various varieties.
So take a trip out to Calabassas and check out their produce, flowers, pasta, etc.
Baking is one of my favorite Kitchen Activities and I especially love making bread and the Winter Months are the ideal time to do it. Not only will the result be a delicious product but your kitchen and your home will be warm with the fresh fragrance of baking bread and the communal warmth your family will feel when sitting down to the table and enjoying freshly buttered bread with their meals.
I love to watch the dough raise up and the smell of freshly baking bread is indeed heavenly. When a fresh loaf comes out of the oven your taste buds perk up and your mouth waters for a slice of that hot, buttered bread!
One of my favorite type of breads is Ciabatta. Ciabatta is Italy’s answer to the French Baguette. It was created in 1982 to stop the influx of French Baguettes into Italy. The Bakers there were afraid that the use of the Baguette would hurt there business. Ciabatta is a crusty bread with a chewy inside texture. It is fairly simple to make, although it does take a little bit of time but if you do spend the time, the dough is so nice and easy to work with it is actually fun, not work to make this bread. And when you eat it with melting butter it is so good you can practically swoon over it.
So let’s go through the actual steps of making Ciabatta (the complete recipe is at Recipe for Ciabatta
- You have to make a starter that is called a Poolish. The best time to do this is the night before you plan to make the bread as it has to proof for at least 10 hours.
- Once the Poolish is proofed, add the Olive Oil and mix it in with a Dough Spatula, if you have one; if not, then use the next best tool that you have – perhaps a Wooden Spoon.
Then you add the remaining ingredients and knead the Dough; a standing Electric Mixer fitted with the Dough Hook is the best to go but if you do not have one, then just make use of your Elbow Grease and knead the dough by hand.
Finish making the Dough and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.
Next comes the fun – stretching and folding the Dough to develop the gluten. This is a four step process, although you can shorten the process by eliminating any of the subsequent stretching and folding turns. (If you do this, your bread won’t have the true Ciabatta texture – somewhat like the texture of sour dough but without the sour taste) I figure that if you are going to make the Ciabatta and if you have the time, it is well worth it to go through the whole process and not eliminate any of the stretching turns)
A – Flattened Dough before Stretching
B – Bottom and Top Folds (fold from the side closest to you)
C – Sideways Folds – fold from the right side to the middle and then from the left side over the right side fold
D – Complete fold – cover and let rest 20 minutes before flattening and folding again
Once the stretching process is finished, then you allow the dough to rest for another 50 minutes before placing it on your baking sheet for baking. The Dough can be made into a loaf or cut into rolls – whatever you do, unlike most yeast breads, do not flatten the dough – just gently transfer it to your greased and floured (use cornmeal or Semolina on the pans) baking sheets.
In the photo below left, the loaf is on a Pizza Paddle and below right, the loaf is on a Baking Stone.
The traditional way to bake Ciabatta is to place it on a greased and floured pan and bake it in the middle of the oven with a pan of water on the rack under. The steaming water helps to give the bread its chewy crust. The Baking Stone is an alternative way to bake the bread. It still comes with a nice crusty exterior.
Time for another ‘Make-over’. When cooking for two people, it is often difficult to cook just the right amount of food. Especially when making Fried Chicken! Whoever heard of frying just half a Chicken? And who gets what? So, I always make a whole one and use the leftovers for lunches, salads, sandwiches and even a dinner.
This time I made Fettucinni with the Fried Chicken leftovers and Garden Fresh Vegetables. Yes, from our backyard Garden. The Vegetables that came from our yard were Tomatoes, Japanese Eggplant and Basil. The rest of the Vegetables that I used were Onions, Mushrooms, Red Bell Pepper and Garlic.
Start with the Chicken by boning and removing most of the skin. Next slice the Chicken against the grain into bite-sized pieces. Set the Chicken aside and prepare your Vegetables. Wash and dry all the Vegetables before prepping them. Peel and crush or mince the Garlic. Dice the Onion and clean and slice the Mushrooms. Mince the fresh Basil and set aside. The Eggplant I used was Japanese Eggplant and they are slender to begin with so I just sliced them into 1/4″ slices. (Thicker if you prefer) Dice the Tomatoes and Bell Pepper and set aside.
Cook the Pasta in Boiling Salted Water per package directions. (DO NOT OVERCOOK!) Drain in a colander and set aside.
In a saute pan, heat a small amount of Olive Oil and start sauteing the diced Onion, minced Garlic, sliced Mushrooms and sliced Eggplant.
Once the Vegetables have softened add the Chicken Pieces along with the prepared Tomato. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.
Just before serving combine the Cooked Vegetable/Chicken Mixture with the Cooked Pasta. Add the diced Red Bell Pepper and Basil. Serve immediately.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Oh my gosh! It has been at least three weeks since we have had Pizza! The last time we had it was the first week we were on Maui and we have been almost two weeks now. So, what did I make for dinner tonight! Pizza, of course! If I do say so myself (and everyone else says so too) I do make the very best Pizza and my husband doesn’t like anything like he loves Pizza! I made the dough this afternoon around two o’clock, put in a greased plastic bag and stuck it in the refrigerator. Then I went out and did some errands. Around 4:30 I took out the bag of Dough to allow it to warm up and the prepared the toppings for the pizza. Then I shaped the Dough and dressed it.
Pizza Dough shaped to fit the Peel
Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes
Dried Oregano & freshly ground Pepper
Bulk Sweet Italian Sausage Meat – cooked with diced Onions.
Shredded Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese
Sliced Crimini Mushrooms & Sliced Black Olives
Dinner is served.
To make the Pizza follow the recipe at /dinner/cheese-pizza/
Then just add any toppings you wish.
Tuesday we lunch at a Storefront Restaurant called Coconuts Fish Cafe. Even though it was storefront restaurant, the food quality was excellent and the décor was very attractive. In the photo above, the car is reflected in the door’s windows. (Not great photography, but the only photo I have) The tables and benches were all made in the shape of Surfboards as were the recipe boards. The fish was all very fresh and prepared quite well. Ev wanted Fish and Chips; these were not your ordinary Fish & Chips that one would get Stateside. The meal consisted of Ahi and Mahi and the Fries were skinny and crispy. I ordered their signature dish which was Fish Tacos. Again these were no ordinary Fish Tacos – the Fish was not breaded, just grilled and good and was again Hawaiian Fish. Diced Mango, Lettuce and Tomato were also on the Tacos. The order consisted of two Tacos and each was served on a separate plate. This meal was so good that we visited this Restaurant again before we left for home.
Tuesday night, since lunch was sufficient to call dinner we decided just to stay in and cook a simple meal for ourselves. Dinner or Supper consisted of Bacon and Eggs, Grilled Pineapple and strips of Baby Jicama. If you have never had Baby Jicama do try it during the summer when the Farmer’s Markets Vendors are bound to have. It is tender and sweet and the skin is much thinner than in the more mature varieties.
The next day was Wednesday and we spent most of the morning at Hosmer Grove in Haleakala National Park. The object of course, was to look for Native Birds and we did see the birds we set out to see – the I`iwi, `Apapane, `Amakihi and Maui Creeper as well as the Red–billed Leiothrix. On our way back from the Mountain we stopped and picked up lunch of Roast Beef Sandwiches and Potato/Mac Salad. The Potato/Mac Salad is an Hawaiian traditional side dish. Potato/Mac Salad is as it sounds: Potato Salad with cooked Elbow Macaroni in it – in this way you get two salads at once – Potato and Macaroni.
After exerting a lot of energy on the Mountain we went back to the Condo and spent the afternoon resting. I tried out the Hot Tub at the poolside and treated myself to a Shave Ice – another favorite specialty in the Hawaiian Islands. For dinner we went to a Restaurant called Pizza Madness and had a Pepperoni/Vegie Pizza. Even though it was only a medium it was so large that we had enough to take home for lunch the next day.
Last Night’s Dinner was Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin with sautéed Spinach with Mushrooms and Onions. I had been busy most of the afternoon baking Gingerbread House Parts so my husband Ev, went to the store for me to pick up the Pork Tenderloin and a Vegetable. I had asked him to get whatever Leafy Vegetable he preferred and it could be fresh or frozen. He picked out frozen chopped Spinach. Now, I love Spinach, but chopped is another story. Anyways, I sautéed it with diced Onions and sliced Mushrooms. It came out pretty good, but the whole leaf would have been better. Anyways, I always cook too much for two people and there was a good size portion of the Spinach leftover. When we discussed what we would like to have for Dinner tonight, Ev wanted Pasta. I said okay but didn’t tell him what kind of Pasta we were going to have. Here is where the Makeover comes in. Listed below are the leftovers that I incorporated into the meal along with the additional ingredients that I had to purchase:
ON HAND PURCHASED
Lasagna Noodles Ricotta Cheese
Mushroom/Spinach Sauté Canned Diced Tomatoes
Egg & Cream Ground Veal (optional)
Fresh Basil & Garlic
Dried Oregano & Bay Leaves
Salt & Pepper
This was probably one of the easiest meals I have prepared in a long time. Below is the order in which I prepared this dish:
I – Making the Tomato Sauce
- Sautéing the Veal in a small amount of Olive Oil
- Crushing the Garlic and adding it to the Veal
- Add the Crushed Tomatoes along with the Dried Oregano & Bay Leaf
- Add half can (3 oz.) Tomato Paste along with Salt and Pepper to taste
- Allow to simmer until the Sauce is of the desired consistency
- At the end, add about 1/4 cup minced Basil
II – Spinach/Ricotta Mixture
- In small bowl I mixed 1 cup of Ricotta with 1 beaten Egg and then added about 1/4 cup of Cream.
- Stir in the Mushroom/Spinach Mixture
III – Assembly
- Place a very small amount of Olive Oil at the bottom of the baking dish and spread it with a paper towel to cover the entire bottom surface.
- Arrange a layer of Noodles on the bottom
- Add a layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Add a layer of shredded Mozzarella
- Add another layer of Pasta and top with another layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Sprinkle some Parmesan Cheese on this layer
- Add another layer of Pasta and top with another layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Add Mozzarella Cheese
- Half hour before serving bake at 350 degrees until the Cheese is melted and slightly browned and the dish is hot all the way through – (about half hour)
IV – Serving
- Let the Lasagna rest for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving it.
- Serve with the Veal/Tomato Sauce and additional Parmesan Cheese as desired
Funny that November is recognized as the following Food Month –
- Georgia Pecan Month
- Good Nutrition Month
- National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month
- National Pepper Month
- National Pomegranate Month
- Raisin Bread Month
- Vegan Month
Honoring many types of food, but not of all things the Turkey. Why not? November is Thanksgiving and Turkey is the main highlight of most families dinners on Thanksgiving. So like October which I have declared ‘The Month of the Pumpkin’ I am now declaring November as Turkey Month. Everywhere you go, there are turkeys for sale, Frozen Turkeys, Fresh Turkeys, Heritage Turkeys, already prepared Turkey Dinners, etc.
Before we go any further does anyone know why the Turkey is called the Turkey? What did the Indians call the Wild Turkey that was prevalent when the first Pilgrims came over? Does anyone know? And why did the Europeans call Turkeys, Turkeys? Well it seems that the Europeans thought the Turkeys were related to Guinea Fowl which were transported to Europe via Turkey. Therefore, they called the Wild Bird they found in the New World, Turkeys. That name has stuck to this day.
Benjamin Franklin thought that the Turkey should be the National Bird but the Bald Eagle has and probably always will be the Bird Symbol for the United States. However, three States including Massachusetts have adopted the Turkey as their State Bird.
Most of us will be making or Eating Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner. There are many ways to cook Turkey; Smoking, Frying, Barbecuing but the traditional and most ways to cook Turkey is still to roast it fully packed with Stuffing. But preparing Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner is not the problem. It’s what to do with the leftovers that presents challenges. The best and probably favorite way is the ‘Turkey Sandwich’. My preference is with Mayonnaise, Pickles and Lettuce. Some like to put Stuffing and Cranberries on their Sandwiches, but whichever way you make it, I would venture to say that the Sandwich is the favorite way to use Turkey Leftovers.
Another use, though probably not usually thought by most people is a Turkey Frittata turkey-frittata/. The Frittata can be made for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner and is a good way to use up those little pieces of Turkey that fall off the bone or crumble from the slices. The Frittata is an omelet with Meat, (Turkey) Vegetables and usually some kind of Cheese. The Frittata is very tasty and a great use for leftover anything, including Turkey.
Another good use for Turkey leftovers are Turkey Croquettes. /turkey-croquettes/ Great for Brunch, Lunch or Dinner the Croquette can be varied to suit your individual taste palette. Either good old American, Italian, Mexican or even Asian. With just one or two additional ingredients the flavors can be easily varied.
One more use for leftover Turkey is the Turkey Pot Pie. turkey-pot-pie/ Delicious and warming in the cooler weather of Fall!
The above are just a few of the things that can be done with Turkey Leftovers. You can probably come up with more ideas on your own.
And don’t forget! November is ‘Turkey Month’!!
Categories: Asian, Breakfast Ideas, Cooking for Everyone, Cooking for Kids, Dinner Ideas, Holiday Ideas, Holiday Meals, Holiday Tidbits, Italian, Leftovers, Lunch Ideas, Main, Mexican, National Food Days Tags: Appetizers, family dinner, holiday recipes, Leftovers, National Food Days, turkey, Turkey Leftovers, Vegetables