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Lunch Time!

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I go through phases where I buy lunch a lot at work and when I’m good at planning ahead and bringing my lunch. I’m on a phase of bringing my lunch right now. The thing for me about packing a lunch is that is still needs to be fresh an interesting and delicious. Last night I picked up some groceries to help the attempt at saving money and being slightly healthier.
Today’s (and the rest of the weeks) menu is a turkey sandwich. I know it sounds boring, but it’s not! I used a cheddar foccacia bread with smoked turkey and smoked Gouda cheese, a chipotle Dijon mayo, tomato and drag cilantro.

Yummmmmmmmmm!!

Tomato Gratin

This dish was a near disaster!  Luckily, it was saved in time and was still very tasty!

1 – 2 pints grape tomatoes

About 1/4 cup finely grated mozzarella cheese

About 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Garlic salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Heat about 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil in a skillet and add the grape tomatoes.  Stir the tomatoes while they cook over medium heat and let them wilt down a bit.  When they become soft and tender, season to taste.  Transfer the tomatoes into a ramekin or oven proof dish.  Sprinkle with the cheese and bread crumbs and place under the broil until the bread crumbs crisp (about 2-3 minutes).  This is where disaster nearly struck.  I left the dish in for a bit too long and had to do a bit of scrapping.  You could also bake the dish if you have a little more time, I’d say about 15 minutes at 350 would do the trick.  I think that parmesan cheese would also be a great choice instead of the mozzarella.  This dish would also be an excellent side for any meal!

(I forgot to take a final product picture of the scraped and rebaked finished product!  But it did look much more appetizing than this last picture!)

Guacamole

I love avocado.  I love it by itself.  I love it in salads.  I love it on sandwiches.  I love avocado.  I cringe when I am looking for a nice ripe avocado and notice a guacamole “mix” to make your own.  I don’t understand how fresh from scratch guacamole is any more difficult than using a processed packet mix.  Gross.  Don’t do it, it’s the simplest thing in the world!  So, here’s how to do it.

To make sure you get a nice ripe one, give them a light squeeze.  You don’t want to put a lot of pressure and bruise it, but it should have a little give to it.  If it feels soft, it’s past it’s prime and it’s not for you.  If it’s really firm, just give it a couple of days and it’ll be perfect.  If they are all a little under ripe, but you need it ripe by the next day, put it in a paper bag, it helps speed up the ripening process.  When you cut into it, it should be a vivid greenish yellow.  Delish!  Oh and a simple way to get the pit out is to just cut it in half long ways (when you cut into it you will feel the pit, so just rotate the whole way around it).  Once you separate the 2 halves, hit the pit with your knife with a little force then just rotate the knife.  If the avocado is nice and ripe, the pit will release from the fruit easily and you can lift it right out!  Easy peasy 🙂

2 ripe avocados

fresh lime juice (pbly 1/2 – 1 whole lemon) I used lemon juice this time, because I had it

1 tomato (I used plum) diced

about 1 TBS red onion diced very small (to taste)

about 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Dice the tomato and onion and chop the cilantro.  In a bowl, mash avocado with some lime juice and salt (the salt helps it break down) with a fork.  Once it is chunky, add the tomato, onion and cilantro.  This (as pretty much every recipe) is a guideline, adjust to your taste with salt and pepper and lime juice.

Serve with tortilla chips or with tacos on scrambled eggs.  Endless possibilities!  Any way you serve it though, I promise you will get an empty bowl back!

Pizza Party!

Last week my friend Mandy and I had a pizza party.  I had picked up fresh dough at Trader Joe’s, 1 wheat and 1 herbed.  The dough turned out to be very good.  We decided to do margarita on the herbed crust and did 1/2 cilantro and shrimp and 1/2 blue cheese with caramelized onions.  The blue cheese and caramelized onion was my favorite!  For this pizza parties, real margaritas were a must!  It took Mandy quite some time to get to my place because of the roads.

So, this is not so much a recipe but a note of encouragement to take flavors you love to the crust!  What is your favorite combination for pizza toppins?

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes

I got this recipe from  “Fine Cooking Annual, Volume 2″ and made a couple of loss adjustments.  It is beyond simple and absolutely mouth watering.  I have made this dish twice, the first time I did top with ribbons of fresh basil.  The second time I didn’t have fresh basil, but I drizzled a reduction of balsamic vinegar.  Both times I did sprinkle with lots of shaved parmesan cheese.  The really great thing about this recipe is that it’s good served hot or at room temperature, so it makes it a great dish to make while entertaining!

I slightly changed it up and used regular eggplant and just sliced in about 1/2″ sections, where as the recipe called to use several baby eggplants just cut in half and grilled.  If you are using baby eggplants, score the skin with a fork so that the oil and garlic soaks in and can flavor the dish.

3 cloves garlic, peeled and made into a paste

1/2 extra virgin olive oil

2 tsps kosher salt

freshly grated black pepper

6-8 baby eggplants (or 1 large eggplant)

1 1/4 pounds ripe but firm plum tomatoes

handful of basil leaves

1/2 cup shaved Parmigiana-Reggiano

Mash the garlic into a paste by sprinkling kosher salt over minced garlic and then running the side of your knife back and forth over the garlic.  It will break the garlic down into a paste.  Put that into a container or bowl and cover with the olive oil; let the flavors marry.  Slice the tomatoes in half length wise.  If they are really seedy, scoop the seeds out.  Slice the eggplant in about 1/2” slices (or in half if you are using baby eggplant).  Toss the vegetables in the oil to coat.  Grill the vegetables until desired doneness.  I cooked them until they were soft, but not falling apart or soggy, about 5 minutes.  I used a George Foreman to grill, so what you are using may definitely  effect timing.  When they are done, alternate tomatoes and eggplant on a platter.  Cut the basil in thin ribbons and sprinkle over the dish.  Sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables.

If you are interested in doing the balsamic reduction, just place about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir it occasionally.  It will thicken as it reduces.  Once it’s the desired consistency you want, drizzle of the veggies.

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.