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Mater Basil Bisque

The weather has turned, and fall is in the air!  The crispness in the air makes me want to wrap up in a comfy sweater and scarf, have warm cozy meals, drink apple cider, eat pumpkin stuff, and watch scary things.  I love fall!  One of the cozy meals I love to eat in the cool weather is soup.  I love lots of different soups, but one of my very favorites is tomato basil bisque.  On a recent trip to Costco, I saw a huge 6 + pound can of tomatoes and knew that I had to give homemade tomato bisque a try.  (Side note, I should NOT be allowed to go to Costco by myself.  I become way too drawn in to buying in bulk.  2, 4 pound jars of roasted red peppers, yep!  A huge wheel of Brie, with no party in site, you bet!  5 pounds of buffalo chicken bites, can’t pass that up!  You get the picture.  A person who lives by themselves shouldn’t start thinking about where a deep freeze could fit into the apartment!!)

But I digress.  Back to the maters.  At first I was thinking I would split the ginormous can of tomatoes between this soup and tomato sauce, but when I started to cut open and seed them I decided to only go for the bisque.  I wanted to bulk up the soup a bit, so I added cheese tortellini into the bisque (a little inspiration from pinterest!).

These measurements made almost a whole big soup kettle, and could generously give 6-8 servings (even more if you are serving a nice big oozy grilled cheese!).

1 gargantuan can of tomatoes (ok, 6 pounds)

Fresh basil leaves

1 red onion

2 – 2 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

A little red wine

Cheese tortellini

Cut open the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds (it helped to cut down on the bitterness while the tomatoes roast) and place the tomatoes into a pan.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and place basil leaves around the pan.  Roast in the oven for 90 minutes at 300.  The can will probably have a good bit of sauce in it with the whole tomatoes, leave that in the can.

While the tomatoes are roasting, melt better in a large heavy bottom soup kettle.  Finely dice the red onion while the butter melts, and add to the pan.  You really want to soften the onion, which will take 15-20 minutes at least.  You don’t really want to caramelize it, just soften it (having the right amount of butter helps).  Add in the tomato sauce from the can.  Bring the heat up slightly.  When the tomatoes are done, crush them a little more, they will be really soft so it won’t take much (I used a potato masher).  Add them into the pot.  Add in the milk and cream and stir until combined.  Bring the heat up a bit to really combine the flavors and thicken it a bit.  I threw in a little red wine in the mix, I mean why not!?  Add in more basil to the pot.  I like a chunkier soup, so I left it at that step.  If you’re on team chunk (hey you guyyyysssss), ladle in a big bowl and enjoy!  If you want something very creamy, use an inversion blender or add small amounts to your blender.  If you use a regular blender, you don’t want to fill it completely, because it will expand a bit.  Reheat the soup a bit after this stage and then enjoy!

I boiled cheese tortellini in chicken broth (to really add to the flavor) and water.  I added this to the soup once it was done.

This soup does take a good bit to complete, but the active cooking time is very minimal.  The smell of the roasting tomatoes is so inviting and gets you so ready to enjoy this soup!!

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Watermelon Feta Bites

I saw this on www.foodgawker.com (it’s seriously so inspiring to look at!!) and had to try it!  It was really easy to do, and looked so elegant.  It was on the menu for a birthday brunch that I threw for myself last weekend haha.  The picture and recipe I saw had a balsamic reduction that I’m sure would be a fantastic addition.  But, we didn’t have any balsamic vinegar when I made these, so we just left that off.  Next time I do them, I will definitely include that though!

1 watermelon

1 block Feta cheese

Fresh basil

Balsamic vinegar reduction

Slice watermelon in 1 1/2 inch slices.  Use a small biscuit cutter to cut out circles from the melon.  Repeat for as many as you are making.  The block of Feta I had was about 1/2 inch thick.  Use the same size biscuit cutter to cut circles out of the cheese.  Use a very sharp knife and very carefully cut each circle in half.  The Feta is very potent, so you want a much higher ratio of watermelon to the cheese.  Make the balsamic reduction by placing vinegar in a sauce pan over low heat and let it reduce.  It will become thick and sticky.  Place the watermelon on a platter or plate and top with the Feta and then a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.  Place a fresh piece of basil on each bite.

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Caprese Salad (AKA this single girls’ PERFECT summer time dinner!)

My adorable little home town has a great farmers market on Wednesday nights in the warm months.  I love visiting the market, and especially love my favorite vendors there from Goose Creek Gardens (visit there website here to find out what other markets you may be able to catch them at www.goosecreekgardens.com).  They have a great selection of fresh herbs and greens for an incredibly low price.  You can get a really generous sized bag of herbs for only $1.  I know, I know, it’s an incredible deal!  They charge 1/3 of the prize for 1/3 more than what you get at a grocery store.

Tonight I enjoyed a caprese salad with the first cutting of their home grown basil.  It was delish!  It is a perfect and healthy meal when I’m just cooking (or in this case cutting tomatoes and cheese, which I don’t think can actually constitute as cooking!) during the warm months.  All I do is cut the tomatoes in slices, cut some mozzarella cheese in slices and top with basil.  I then drizzle Italian dressing over top.  You could also do nice extra virgin olive oil or balsamic vinegar over the salad.

Voila!  A delicious salad course for entertaining or a whole course if you’re like me and use 2 tomatoes and don’t feel like making anything!  Ok, ok, ok.  I’ll admit it.  I followed the healthy salad with a glass of wine and a piece of tiramisu from a cute little restaurant downstairs while I typed this post 😉

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Stuffed Chicken Breast

This is a combination of a couple of recipes I came across recently.

1 chicken breast per serving

1 small log herb goat cheese (I think it was 2.5 or 3 oz)

2 TBS sun dried tomatoes

2 TBS fresh basil, chopped

Butterfly the chicken breast (slice horizontally through the middle of the breast being careful not to slice the whole way through).  Place the breast flat between 2 pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound the chicken very thin.  In a bowl mix the goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes and basil.  Spread about 1/2 -3/4 TBS on each chicken breast and wrap .  Secure with tooth picks to hold together, if needed.  Heat extra virgin olive oil with a bit of oil from the sun dried tomato oil from jar in a large skillet.  Brown the chicken, about 3 minutes per side.  Once it has good color to it, cover the skillet and let the chicken finish cooking for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Remove from the skillet and take out the tooth picks. and serve!

This recipe was quite tasty, but the goat cheese has  a strong flavor.  In the future I will probably use cream cheese or another soft more mild cheese.  This also works great if you are entertaining and have guests who are vegetarian.  A friend texted me the night before I was serving this to let me know that she was not eating meat for 21 days, so not to be offended if she didn’t eat much but also not to go to any trouble.  I’m not one to invite someone over and not let them sit at my table and not eat a good meal!  So, I picked up large portabello mushroom caps and used the same stuffing on top of the mushroom and backed it at 350 for about 12-15 minutes.

I forgot to take pictures of the chicken actually in the pan, but I’m sure you can figure that part out!

Tomato Basil Snack

This is a great snack/ appetizer that is inspired from a little cafe in England called Pret.

1 canister crescent roll

2-3 plum tomatoes

Fresh basil

Thick slices of mozzarella cheese

Preheat the over to 375.  Unroll the crescent dough and press perforations of 2 triangles together.  Put a slice of cheese, tomato and basil on each section.  Fold up however you like (I bring 2 corners together and pinch in the middle.  Bake for about12-15 minutes, until the crescent is golden brown and the cheese is melted.