Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Food Network's Summer Fest - Tomato Jam

The bounty of summer tomatoes often leaves us scratching our heads. What to do with all those gorgeous, ripe tomatoes? Tomatoes are a versatile fruit that can be used in a number of applications so when I came across this recipe for tomato jam I thought now this is an unusual, simple and incredibly tasty way to use up garden fresh tomatoes.  And the best part –you can freeze it, so you can enjoy this treat even when the snow is piling up outside!

What is tomato jam? I know, jam made from tomatoes sounds odd and maybe even a little gross, but trust me, this flavorful spread will liven up any meat or pasta dish and can even be spread on some toasted bread with a little goat cheese or feta to make a snack with Mediterranean flair. Tomato jam is a combination of savory and sweet: balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, garlic and onions along with chopped tomatoes that simmers on the stove and fills the house with tantalizing smells.  The jam is then cooled and stored in the fridge to be used on just about anything.

To Make Tomato Jam you’ll need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 pound of ripe plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons brown sugar, I used dark brown
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp salt

Heat a pan over medium high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot add the onions and sauté for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and continue to cook.  Meanwhile dice the tomatoes then and the diced tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes. With an emersion blender or in a food processor gently break up the jam until it is still slightly chunky. Set aside and let cool completely. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for several months.  If you freeze the jam place it in a food storage bag, making sure to squeeze out all the air and store flat.

French bread topped with soft scrambled eggs and tomato jam.

This recipe was adapted from the original recipe found in the Sparkpeople cookbook.  It was a delightfully versatile recipe I just had to share. With my own little tweak added of course. For more interesting, versatile and of course delicious recipes be sure to check out the other bloggers below. You won’t be disappointed!!

Cooking With Elise:   Fresh Tomato Sauce
Jeanette's Healthy Living:  Tomato Gazpacho Salsa
Napa Farmhouse 1885:   Tomato Cobbler Anyone?
Virtually Homemade:   Spaghetti With Tomatoes, Prosciutto and Fresh Corn
What's Gaby Cooking:  Chicken Kebabs With Romesco Sauce
Big Girls, Small Kitchen:   Salmon Spaghetti With Plum Tomatoes and Avocado
Feed Me Phoebe:   Roasted Fresh Tomato Puttanesca Sauce
Chez Us:   Easy Tomato Tart
FN Dish:  Tomatoes Go Beyond Salads

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Fest - Stir Fry with Summer Squash and Red Pepper

When you want to beat the heat and use up your abundance of zucchini and yellow squash, stir fry just might be the answer.  It takes little time so you don’t have to heat up your kitchen for long. And this particular stir fry is an all veggie version which makes it perfect for using up your garden goodies.

Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the page for more creative and delicious ways to use up your summer squash.

The original version came from my mother in law who took out the mushrooms.  I added them back because I think it gives the dish a meatier taste and adds texture.  I like to have a sauce with my stir fry but you can omit that.  In this recipe I’ve chosen to serve the stir fry over pasta a la lo mein style, but of course you can have rice or just eat it bare.

To season the stir fry I chose a little red pepper flake, some fresh ground ginger (my new go to spice) and garlic, and of course a splash of bottle stir fry sauce.

To make Summer Squash and Red Pepper Stir here's what you'll need:

1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 red pepper
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms
green onions for garnish
2 large cloves of garlic, minced or grated
1 -2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons stir fry sauce or tamari
a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, to taste
Rice or noodles

Heat a wok to very, very hot.  Add the first 5 ingredients and stir fry, but only until veggies are tender crisp.
Season with salt, pepper, garlic and ginger. Continue to stir fry until fragrant.
Add the sauce and continue to cook briefly until thickened.
Serve over rice or noodles.

<TIP> Stir fry goes fast so have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go. That way the veggies will be tender crisp and there won’t be any possibility of forgetting something. 

<TIP> Be sure to have your pan as hot as you can get it so as you add ingredients it won’t lose heat.

 <TIP> Keep it moving. As you add your ingredients be sure to keep tossing them in the pan. This will insure even cooking.

Stir fry is one of those versatile dishes I love to make.  You can make it so many ways – all veggie, with tofu, with just about any kind of meat. Plus you can experiment with sauces and flavorings.

Check out these great blogs for more ways to use summer squash:

Jeanette's Healthy Living:  Quick and Easy Sesame Summer Squash Stir-Fry
Cooking With Elise:    Orange Summer Squash Bread
Feed Me Phoebe:  Summer Squash and Cornmeal Cakes With Tarragon
Chez Us:   Zucchini Pancakes With Minty Dill Crème Fraiche
And Love It, Too:   Peter Pan Squash Spiced Oven Fries
Made By Michelle:  : Pattypan Squash and Tomato Frittata
Cooking Channel:  Our Top 5 Favorite Squash Recipes
Daily*Dishin:   Summer Squash Confetti Salad
Delicious Lean:  Summer Squash Ribbons With Feta and Pine Nuts
Napa Farmhouse 1885:    Summer Squash Chips
Ingredients, Inc.:   Summer Squash and Kale Sauté
Thursday Night Dinner:   Summer Squash Medley
Sweet Life Bake:  Zucchini Fried With Tequila-Spiked Avocado Dip
Dixie Chik Cooks:   Fried Summer Squash Parmesan Sliders
Healthy Eats:   Summer Squash Any Way You Slice It
FN Dish:  Cheesy Summer Squash

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Food Network's Summer Fest - Plum Upside Down Cake

It's time for another installment of Summer Fest -- this time it's plums.  I have to be honest -- I'm not much of a plum eater. I really prefer peaches, but I thought that I would give it a try and make something for plums.  My mom used to make the best pineapple upside down cake.  She would take a cast iron skillet, melt butter and brown sugar in it and then carefully lay out the pineapple rings with a cherry in the middle of the center one.  It was always a big Ta da when she flipped it over and revealed her beautiful work.  So I thought, what about doing the same thing but with plums.  I did a little research (since I don't really eat plums, I wasn't sure what flavors actually went with them) and this is the recipe I came up with based on the upside down plum cake I found on epicurious.com

For even more ideas on how to use plums read all the way to the bottom of this post for the list of other Summer Fest participants!

The bottom layer - which in fact becomes the top- started out with melted butter, brown sugar and a little honey.
After it was melted I poured it into a 9 inch cake pan.

I then sliced about 5 small black plums.....

...and arranged them on top of the melted butter and brown sugar mixture.

The cake is a basic white cake flavored with ginger to enhance the flavor of plums and then topped with toasted slivered almonds.  The cake batter is poured on top of the arranged plums and then baked  --the result was a sweet, almost caramely top with a light cake, delicious with some whipped cream or even a scoop of ice cream. 

Topping the cake with toasted slivered almonds not only covers where the cake might have stuck to the pan but also gives a little added crunch.

To make Plum Upside Down Cake here's what you'll need:
6 Tablespoons of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
5-6 medium sized plums

In a large heavy bottomed skillet melt the butter, brown sugar and honey.  Once melted, pour into a 9 inch cake pan.  Slice plums and arrange on top of the butter/sugar mixture.  Set aside.

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons of butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until light. Add in the eggs and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla.
Combine the flour mixture with the butter/egg mixture alternatively with the milk until the cake batter comes together.

Top the butter/sugar/plums with the cake batter and smooth out the top, which now will be the top.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes.
Let the cake cool for about 5 minutes before turning it out onto a large plate or platter.

In a small skillet, toast 1/4 cup slivered almonds on low heat just until the nuts are toasted and fragrant.  Sprinkle the top of the cake with the nuts.

Makes 8-10 servings.

For more ways to use plums be sure to check out these recipes from the other participants of Summer Fest!

Ingredients, Inc.  Pork, Plums and Rosemary Kabobs
Virtually Homemade:   Grilled Plum Pizza With Goat Cheese
Cooking Channel:  Best Plum Dessert Recipes
BGSK:  Grandma Esther's Plum and Walnut Cake
Delicious Lean:   Plum Delicious Pork Chops
Daily*Dishin:   Roasted Chicken With Plum Chili Salsa
Healthy Eats:   6 Ways to Cook With Plums
Napa Farmhouse 1885:    Time for Plum Cobbler?
Thursday Night Dinner:   Plum BBQ Chicken
Cooking With Elise:   Vanilla Plum Tart
Sweet Life Bake:   Plum Pineapple Margarita
And Love It Too:  Plum Pickin' Pineapple Jam
FN Dish:    Perfect Plum Recipes

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Food Network's Summer Fest -- Marinated Cucumber Salad

It’s that time again – summertime and that means Food Network’s FN Dish is sponsoring Summer Fest.  What is Summer Fest?  It’s a group of food bloggers who participate weekly throughout the summer posting amazing and unique recipes using the best ingredients Summer has to offer. This week is all about cucumbers.  Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the page for all the other Summer Fest links!

When I lived in St. Louis we would have dinner out with my parents 2-3 times a week, and one of our favorite places to eat was Miss Sheri’s Cafeteria.  Every time they would have it, my dad would get a side dish of marinated cucumber salad.  When I saw that this week’s topic was cucumbers, it was the first recipe that came to mind.  It’s a simple salad that can be made days in advance – it really tastes better after the third day. 

To make marinated cucumber salad you will need:
2 medium size cucumbers, sliced thin
1 medium size onion (yellow or Vadallia), sliced thin
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
¼ cup of white sugar
Salt and pepper
Slice the cucumbers very thinly using a knife or mandolin. Place in a non-reactive bowl.  Slice the onion also very thinly and mix with the cucumbers.  On the stove (in a non- reactive sauce pan) warm the apple cider vinegar. Once warmed, add the sugar, and dissolve. Set aside to cool.  Season the cucumbers with salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the vegetables. Mix to combine.  Store in the fridge.

 <TIP> For a little extra zing, you can add some red pepper flakes or a seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper.
<TIP> Also remember the longer it sits, the better it gets.  So try to make it at least 3 days before you want to serve it.

The Sensitive Epicure:  Chinese Style Cucumbers
What's Gaby Cooking: Cucumber, Herb and Pita Salad
Ingredients, Inc.:   Easiest Cucumber Salad
Virtually Homemade:   Cucumber Strawberry Cooler

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shrimp Fajitas - Thanks to Goya Brand

I love shrimp. I love Mexican food. So combining the two seemed like a great idea.  I stock my pantry with Mexican spices like cumin and also spice blends like those created by Goya – adobo and sazon along with marinades and chipotle in adobo.  Then I can go to my pantry, grab what I need and create a flavorful dish with what’s on hand.  In this post like most of my others I’ll give you recipes inside recipes. Fajitas are made from components so this recipe is loaded with bonus recipes!

Fajitas are traditionally made from beef or chicken but I had shrimp on hand, actually shrimp skewers. So I took off the tails and removed them from the skewers.  Then I marinated them briefly in Mojo Croillo (I also used Goya brand) which is a marinade of citrus juices, garlic and spices.  You only need to marinate the shrimp for about 20 minutes, any longer and the shrimp will begin to cook in the citrus.

I was able to get frozen onions and red pepper strips on sale so I thought once those were cooked up and seasoned they would a great component for the fajitas.  I seasoned them with some fresh chopped garlic, adobo and sazon. They became a gorgeous color!
Once the shrimp marinated I cooked them until just firm and pink.  Don’t overcook them or they will be chewy.
For a garnish and for added flavor I whipped up some chipotle mayo.  So easy. In a food processor I put in about a cup of mayo and one chipotle pepper with a little bit of the adobo sauce.  Whirl it together and that’s it!  It gives it a little spice and creaminess to the fajita.
I used my grill pan to warm up the tortillas and then it was time to build the fajitas.

As promised here’s the recipes
Shrimp Fajita filling
1 ½ pounds of shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup Mojo Croillo (I use Goya brand but if you can’t find it you can use garlic, lime juice and whatever Mexican seasonings you like)
Add the shrimp to the marinade and let them marinate for about 20 minutes, covered in the fridge.  After 20 minutes, heat a pan with 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot cook the shrimp (be sure not to add the marinade in the pan with the shrimp) for just a minute or two until they are firm and pink.

Onion and Pepper topping for fajitas 
1 large onion chopped
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
Or 1 package of frozen onion/pepper blend
Adobo seasoning powder
1 Sazon packet
While the shrimp marinate you can prepare the onions and peppers.  I used a frozen blend but you can use fresh.  Slice the onion and peppers. Add to a hot pan with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When the vegetables are tender season them with the adobo and sazon packet. Set aside.

Chipotle Mayo
For garnish I do like to add pico de gallo or guacamole but one of my family’s favorites is Chipotle Mayo, flavorful and simple.
Chipotle in adobo
1 cup mayo, light or full fat

In the bowl of a food processor or mini chopper add 1 cup of mayo and 1 chipotle pepper along with a little of the adobo sauce.  These are very hot so be careful and use a small pepper at first. You can taste and add to it.  Season with a little salt and pepper and if you like – a squeeze of lime.  Make extra because it is very versatile, you can add it to scrambled eggs or use it for sandwich spread.

Now it’s time to build the fajitas.
Warm a tortilla on a grill pan.  Add some of the shrimp and vegetables. Now you can top it the way you like – chipotle mayo, pico de gallo, guacamole.  It’s up to you.
The shrimp will be tender and flavorful with hints of citrus. The vegetables will be tender crisp with the subtle  flavor of Mexican seasonings.  The pico de gallo will give that added sweetness from the tomatoes and the guacamole will add the just the right cooling affect.

Goya makes a variety of seasonings, sauces, and other Mexican products that will lend that special extra flavor to almost anything you make.  Go into the international foods aisle in your local grocery store and see all that is available.  Buy something new and experiment with different flavors and cuisines. You never know what you might come up with!

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