Avocado Toasts with Roasted Tomatoes and Hummus

Avocado Toasts with Roasted Tomatoes and Hummus

Serves: 6-8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

6-8 slices bread, cut into squares or circles and toasted
3-4 plum tomatoes, cut in half and seeded
3 avocados, pitted and mashed
1 small container regular hummus
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Preparation:

1. To prepare tomatoes, spread on baking sheet, open side up. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven at 450 degrees for 25 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to caramelize.

2. Spread a thin layer of hummus on toasts, add avocado and top with a tomato.

Recipe adapted from Eat, Live, Run.

I planned on making these for a picnic pot luck for school but since I had to buy $600 worth of food at Costco that day for the picnic and make sure everything was prepped, I didn’t have time. So I made them this weekend instead. I was very intrigued by the roasted tomatoes and they ended up being delicious! The toasts were great. The creaminess of the avocado and hummus were a nice contrast to the bite and sourness of the tomatoes. The ones I made were a little big as finger foods and needed either a big hand or a fork, but I used them as a side anyway. I made all the tomatoes I had and therefore had a lot left over so I mixed them with chicken that I marinated in balsamic. Very tasty and great for a party! Don’t forget to check out How to Treat Your Avocados with Respect to make sure you know what to do with the avocados.

Taco!

Potato Soup with Bacon

Potato Soup with Bacon

Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

5-6 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 slices bacon
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (14 oz) can chicken stock
1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Sharp cheddar for topping, shredded

Preparation:

1. Place chopped potatoes in a large pot. Cover with water, salt and boil until potatoes break apart easily when stuck with a fork. Drain and set aside.

2. In the same pan, cook bacon until crisp. Place cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain.

3. Drain bacon fat, leaving about 3 tbs of fat in the pot. Cook onions and garlic in pot until translucent. Add wine, making sure to stir to get the bits off the bottom of the pot. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

4. Remove pot from heat. Add potatoes and mash. Add stock and cream and stir. If it’s not soupy enough, add more cream or water. Season with pepper and red pepper flakes (if desired). Return to heat until heated through. Chop/crumble bacon. Serve soup in bowls with cheese and bacon on top.

Recipe is an original.

I ended up with a very large bag of potatoes in my kitchen and my first thought was to make soup! Potato soup was always one of my favorite things my mom would make growing up and I wanted to try to make my own. This was an experiment that turned out well. I just added stuff as I went along and it worked! The soup was nice and rich and still tasted like potatoes. This would also be good with sour cream, scallions and all kinds of things as a topping. My mom also told me her technique for making this, which I will try next time. She boils the onions with the potatoes and makes sure the potatoes are barely covered with water. Then she uses the water instead of stock and doesn’t have to drain the potatoes. She said to keep checking on the water level to make sure the potatoes don’t burn. I will definitely try this the next time I make soup, which may be soon since I have so many potatoes! I am very proud of this recipe and I definitely recommend giving it a try!

Taco!

Curry Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 cups chicken stock
2 Macintosh apples
1 yellow onion
3/4 tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

For Topping:

Scallions, white and green parts chopped
Cashews, chopped
Toasted sweetened coconut
Bananas, diced

Preparation:

1. Coat inside of squash, apples and onions in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. On a cookie sheet lined with foil, place squash inside facing down and scatter apples and onions around. Roast for 40 minutes at 425 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Scoop out insides of squash.

2. Heat chicken stock in a pot. Add vegetables to stock. Use immersion blender until smooth.

3. Add curry, salt, pepper and cinnamon and stir. Heat through. Serve hot with toppings.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten at FoodNetwork.com

I decided to buy a butternut squash a few days ago and see what I could do with it. Adam’s mom told me about roasting them and using them in soup so I did some research and found Ina Garten’s recipe online. It. Is. Amazing. The soup was the perfect consistency and so easy to do with the immersion blender. The flavors were excellent. The onion and curry gave a nice spice while the apples and squash and cinnamon gave it a good sweet flavors. The toppings were an excellent idea. I was thinking of ignoring them but when I read the reviews of the recipe I knew I needed to try them. The reviewers were right. The onions give flavor and crunch, along with the cashews. The coconut adds a little more sweet and the banana gives a smooth texture and a taste that goes well with curry. Overall this was an excellent dish that I will certainly be making again. Especially because it gives a good serving of vegetables in a tasty way! Keep in mind that butternut squash are ridiculously difficult to cut. But it’s worth it. You can also peel and slice the squash and roast them along with the apples and onions. I found just slicing them in half and scooping out the insides to be pretty easy. Definitely give this one a try!

Taco!

PS: I’m now using Instagram and tend to post pictures of my food in process. Feel free to follow me at srice22.

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Quinoa Mac and Cheese with Chicken

Quinoa Mac and Cheese with Chicken

Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups uncooked quinoa
1 chicken breast
garlic powder
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
2 tbs flour
1 1/2 cups milk, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mild cheese such as chevre (goat cheese) or Queso Fresco

Preparation:

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with garlic powder, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook in oil until cooked through.

2. Heat 1/2 cup milk and flour, whisking until combined. Add the rest of the milk and a dash of red pepper and stir with spatula. Bring to a boil and stir for an additional minute.

3. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted. Add quinoa and chicken and stir.

4. Put in casserole dish and place under broiler for about 2-3 minutes. Allow to set for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats.

More quinoa! It was a quinoa kind of day. This was delicious! Definitely make sure you have enough cheese and keep stirring the milk mixture so it doesn’t curdle. I used what I had so I used Queso Fresco left over from Carnitas Night. Seasoning the chicken was also great because it gave it a great flavor. I’m also a lazy bum and I don’t like waiting for chicken to cook so I cut it up and then cook. It was delicious and easy. And apparently relatively good for me. Yay!

Taco!

Super Food Quinoa Green Smoothie

Quinoa Green Smoothie

Serves: About 3 medium smoothies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 0!

Ingredients: 

1 cup kale
1 cup baby spinach
1 cup broccoli, steamed
1 carrot, steamed
1/2 banana
1/4 cup strawberries
1/4 cup blueberries
1/3 cup pineapple
1 cup yogurt (I used Greek Gods Greek Yogurt with Honey)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 avocado

Preparation:

1. If steaming veggies, place steamer over boiling water or place veggies in glass, microwave safe bowl and add a little water. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving one corner open and microwave for about 5 minutes.

2. Place ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. If necessary, continue to blend with an immersion blender.

Recipe adapted from Cook to Love.

I found this online and immediately wanted to try it. I have been looking for quinoa recipes since I’ve never cooked with it before and ways to eat healthier so, here you go! Mine was not nearly as pretty as the one in the recipe I found but it was definitely tasty. Nice and sweet. The reason I mention the immersion blender is because my blender isn’t that great and I really didn’t want chunks of anything in my smoothie. This made it work! I will definitely be using this for lunch for the week.

Taco!

Beef Carnitas Tacos

Beef Carnitas Taco

Serves: 8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 hours

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs beef (Boston butt/shoulder)
1 yellow onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbs cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs agave (or honey)
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbs orange juice
1/2 cup BBQ sauce

Preparation:

1. Combine all ingredients except meat in a crock pot and stir. Add meat and cook for 6-8 hours. Turn meat half way through cooking.

2. Take meat out of crock pot and shred. Return to juices and let soak before serving.

3. Serve hot with tortillas, sour cream, Steph’s Guacamole, cheese and everything else!

Recipe adapted from Life as a Plate.

Another “because I have stuff for it” meal. Boston butts are not usually in my grocery store and not only did they have it this week but it was also on sale! I’ve already made BBQ and wanted to try something different and I also had avocados so ta da, Carnitas! I found this recipe online and it’s very good. It’s not too spicy, which is good for me but you could certainly add more chili powder or even some peppers for some more heat. I served it with store-bought tortillas, cilantro-lime rice (I added cilantro and lime juice to rice when it was almost done cooking), homemade guacamole and sour cream. I also found Queso Fresco and it was a great addition. I do love Carnitas and this fed my craving while using what I had in the house and feeding me for at least a week!

Taco!

BlowToad: A Review

Bleu Ball Pizza

Where: BlowToad (2907 W. Cary, Richmond)
What: Pizza and Beer
Number of People: 2
Total Cost: $50
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

**UPDATE**

I just learned that the steak that was on my pizza was bull testicles. I guess I should have asked what swinging steak was but still feel like that should have been obvious on the menu. It was good but now I know why I couldn’t figure out what was different about it!

**End Update**

I visit Cary Town on a regular basis and it is one of my favorite places in Richmond. Like most people here I was incredibly curious and seriously concerned when I saw the sign for BlowToad go up where the BBQ restaurant used to be. BlowToad, what the heck is BlowToad and how could they possibly have good food? Well, I checked it out online after it had been open for a while and it had good reviews so after the end of the French Film Festival Adam and I decided to check it out. Adam is incredibly picky about pizza with the whole being Italian and actually eating pizza in Italy thing so it was a stretch.

The atmosphere was nice. It was loud and the lighting was low. Nice and romantic. There was also the option for outdoor seating but it was a little chilly so we stayed inside. They had a great selection of beer and I had a Crispin Cider. They did the very trendy thing of bringing out cups and a big bottle of water that you can pour yourself which I appreciate. All of the waiters also used iPads which seems like a fabulous idea. As someone who worked in a restaurant with no technology and now being an iPad owner I can only imagine the convenience it provides.

Pizza with Eggplant, Ricotta and Anchovies

When it came time for food I ordered the Bleu Ball pizza and Adam did a make your own with eggplant, ricotta and anchovies. The Bleu pizza had thing strips of steak, bleu cheese and onions. It had a great thin crust and minimal amounts of sauce. The cheese was good and the onions were nice and crunchy. The steak strip things were interesting. I couldn’t quite figure them out but they were tasty and added to the overall pizza. The pizza’s are $12 per pizza and the make your own is $8 with $2 per side. They are all 12 inches. Adam says his pizza was good but I don’t eat anchovies because they’re gross so I can’t vouch for it. But as I said before, he’s picky. He described it well saying that the pizza was good American-style pizza but not quite up to Italian standards. It was definitely tasty and worth the trip. Our service was a little slow so they got dinged a star for that but again, worth the visit.

Fresh Vegetable Marinara

Fresh Vegetable Marinara

Serves: A lot
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 yellow squash, diced
1 green squash, diced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
5 small cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced or diced
1/4 cup basil, chopped
Salt

Preparation:

1. Heat onions and garlic until softened, not browned. Add other vegetables, basil and salt and cook until softened.

2. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Add to pasta, chicken, whatever you want!

Recipe is an original.

So I had a ton of vegetables in the refrigerator and am trying to heat more of them. I also wanted to make my own marinara. And so we have vegetable marinara. I couldn’t find a straight recipe online for this so hopefully it’s helpful. It’s a great way to get fresh veggies in a tasty form. I used my cast iron dutch oven for this. You definitely want something that is very deep. It makes A LOT of sauce.

Taco!

Mommy’s Meatloaf

Mommy's Meatloaf

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef (or half beef, half pork)
1/2 onion
1 egg
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained with the juice reserved
1/2 – 1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 block cheddar cheese, cubed
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs catsup
1 tsp ground mustard
Water
Salt and Pepper

Preparation:

1. Beat egg and add drained tomatoes. Add bread crumbs, salt and pepper,  and cheese and mix. Add meat and mix with your hands. Don’t mix the meat too much. Form into a loaf shape in a glass pan.

2. To make sauce: Combine juice from tomatoes, brown sugar, catsup, water if needed, and ground mustard. Heat in a sauce pan until thickened. Taste and season as necessary.

3. Bake meatloaf on 350 degrees for one hour.

Recipe from my mother!

I was always puzzled by people who talked down to meatloaf. The meatloaf I always ate growing up was delicious and something to look forward to. This probably has a lot to do with the chunks of cheese and wonderful consistency of Mommy’s meatloaf, but I have to say my favorite part has always been the sauce. A sweet, tangy tomato sauce that goes perfectly on meatloaf. I sigh thinking about its awesomeness. This was definitely one of my favorites growing up and I’m excited to be able to make it myself now and share it with you!

Taco!

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cook If I Want To

That’s right. It’s my birthday and so I have to cook up a storm and have people over. Then, of course, go to the midnight showing of The Hunger Games. I decided to make an appetizer spread and have my guests bring the drinks. Here’s the menu:

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip
Meatballs with BBQ Sauce and Garlic Basil Aioli
Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Herbs and Goat Cheese
Homemade Pico de Gallo with chips

There are several recipes involved here so I’ll give them to you individually as well as let you know what I did in advance, etc. Here we go. It’s party time!

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip with Garlic Butter Crostini

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Serves: 10-12
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (10 0z) package frozen spinach (make sure it’s not in sauce), thawed
2 (14 oz) cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped in food processor
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup parmesan, grated

Preparation:

1. Grease a casserole dish (recommend a 2 oz dish). Combine ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Pour ingredients in casserole dish and top with extra cheese.

2. Bake on 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

3. Serve with crostinis. To make crostinis, combine 1 stick butter and 4 garlic cloves in a food processor. Cut a french loaf into slices on an angle. Spread garlic butter on crostinis and bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. Allow to cool. Crostini’s can be made in advance.

Recipe from Paula Deen at FoodNetwork.com.

Meatballs with BBQ Sauce and Garlic Basil Aioli

Meatballs with BBQ Sauce and Garlic Basil Aioli

Serves: Makes 40 meatballs
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: About 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Meatballs

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 eggs
2 cups chicken stock
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

BBQ Sauce

1 cup catsup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tbs light brown sugar
2 1/2 tbs sugar
1/4 tbs pepper
1/4 tbs garlic powder
1/4 tbs ground mustard
1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

Basil Garlic Aioli

2/3 cup mayonaise
4 garlic cloves, chopped
5-6 basil leaves, chopped
3 tbs olive oil
Salt

Preparation:

1. Make BBQ Sauce and aioli in advance. To make BBQ Sauce, combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour or until thickened. To make aioli, combine ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and pulse. While machine is running, slowly add olive oil.

2. To make meatballs, brown onions and add garlic. Remove from heat once browned and allow to cool.

3. Combine ingredient except chicken stock in a bowl. Mix together with your hands. Heat olive oil and make a tester patty. When tester patty is tasty, make balls (or patties) and cook in batches.

3. Brown meatballs on all sides. Then add a splash (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup) chicken stock and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

4. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Meatball recipe adapted from Anne Burrell’s Cook Like a Rock Star, BBQ Sauce from the Neely’s at FoodNetwork.com and Garlic Basil Aioli from Bobby Flay at FoodNetwork.com.

Homemade Pico de Gallo

Homemade Pico de Gallo

Serves: 10-12
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0!

Ingredients:

3 large beefsteak tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Salt to taste

Preparation:

1. Combine all ingredients and mix. Refrigerate for about an hour or more before serving. Serve chilled with tortilla chips.

Recipe is an original.

The important part of this recipe is to remember to make the salsa and onion in big chunks. At least, that’s the way I like it. Nothing beats fresh pico de gallo.

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs

See my previous post for the recipe on these. They are divine!

It was a fantastic party and the food turned out well. It was definitely a lot to make and it took all day but it was worth it. The Bacon Wrapped Dates get better every time I make them and I find they do not take long at all and they need a good stuffing of goat cheese to make sure it all doesn’t melt out. The Spinach Artichoke Dip is a dish I’ve been making for years and it is always a crowd pleaser, plus it is so incredibly easy. The meatballs turned out pretty well. I found it was much easier to cook them as patties and I ended up doing that because I was running out of time. They were very moist and it seems essential to use fresh rosemary. That made all the difference. And of course there’s the Pico de Gallo. That’s another dish I’ve been making forever and it is always delicious and simple. It was a great party and a great birthday!