Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stuffed Cheesy Sausage Heirloom Tomatoes

I love stuffed vegetables. I think it is an Egyptian thing. We stuff anything, grape leaves, tomatoes, cabbage, eggplant, and everything stuffed is called "mashi." It is surprising how many traditional Egyptian dishes have Southern twins. This is one of them. I have put my own twist on it. I will also take this moment to brag about my garden of heirloom tomatoes, which adore. I found the Virginia Heirloom Tomato Seeds the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which may be my favorite website of all time. I digress. Back to the maters, because they won't cook and eat themselves. 

What you need: 

4 large tomatoes 
1/2 pound lean sausage
1 medium onion diced
4 celery stocks diced
sprinkle of Slap yo Mama Creole Seasoning
a dash of cayenne 
1 teaspoon of balsamic or red wine vinegar 
salt and pepper to taste
4 slices of cheese, any kind you like I used Muenster because that is what I had

What you do: 

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F
2. Slice the tops of the tomatoes and keep them (they will be lovely little hats later) 
3. Using a spoon gently take out the tomato innards and put into a bowl. 
4. Cook up in a hot cast iron skillet the onions, celery, seasonings (and the sausage unless it is cooked already)
5.Mix the tomato guts, sausage, most of the basil, cayenne, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper in a bowl 
6. Fill the tomatoes with the sausage mixture
7. Top each tomato with a slice of cheese and the little tomato hat
8. Cook for 20 minutes or in my case how long it takes me to sing my little one to sleep 
9. Serve with a smile on your face and love in your heart and a big glass of Chianti

As always, much love, many blessings and happy garden to tabling!  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cucumber, celery, apple and lemon juice

This is by far my favorite juice. According to some of the juicing blogs I frequent cucumber has a cooling effect, very desirable in the hot Virginia blackberry summer. I also read that celery is a known stress reliever, clearly a status sought by all working moms. So hear goes, this recipe makes a quart. I make it on Sunday afternoons and then keep it in a jar for as long it lasts, usually a day or two for me. 

What you need: 

1 large english cucumber, washed 
1 large bunch of celery, washed
6 or so large apples, washed and quartered
1 small lemon, peeled and quartered

What you do: 

1. Using your juicer, turn on the blade runners
2. Push through all of the fruit and veg
3. Drink happily, clean the juicer soon after, you can compose the pulp

As always, much love, many blessings and happy juicing!

S'more Pops

This is a super easy, super fast treat. I made them for a sip n' see party but you could make them for any occasion, even a weeknight. 

What you need: 

12 or so large marshmallows
6 oz of chocolate chips or bark chocolate chopped
3 large graham crackers crushed 
12 or so paper straws or Popsicle sticks  

What you do: 

1. skewer the marshmallows with the straws
2. melt the chocolate chips in a mug in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time 
3. dip the marshmallow one at a time in the melted chocolate about 3/4 of the way up
4. take the chocolate marshmallow  out of the chocolate and allow the excess chocolate to drip off, shaking slightly 
5. then dip the chocolate covered marshmallow still wet into a bowl of crushed crackers about half way up 
6. allow the marshmallows to cool and harden on wax paper about an inch from each other 

as always, much love, many blessings, and happy chocolate dipping 

Skinny Spinach Manicotti (Vegetarian)

This is another one my of my freezer meals. You make a big batch and separate it into three aluminium tins and freeze it. This recipe also has the added benefit of being vegetarian. This recipe makes three 8X8 tins that you can freeze separately or you can make one large batch. 

What you need: 

1 large box of dry manicotti
1 jar of marinara sauce (16 oz) or your own (2 cups)
1 frozen bag of chopped organic spinach (16 oz) thawed
2 ricotta cheese 8 oz tubs (fat free if you are so inclined)
1 egg
1 large bag of shredded mozzarella 8 oz (fat free for me)
Italian seasoning
red pepper flake
olive oil spray  

What you do:

1. set a large pot of water to boil at least six quarts, once at a boil add one tablespoon of salt and the box of manicotti 
2. cook the manicotti for five minutes, it will still be quite raw but you want that so that it is not mushy when you put it in the oven
3. drain the manicotti, and spread on a large cookie sheet to cool 
4. drain the thawed chopped spinach and squeeze with your hands to remove any excess water
5. in a large ziptop bag mix together the spinach, ricotta, egg, and season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flake according to taste
6. prepare the baking dish(es) spray with olive oil spray, spread a thin layer of marinara on the bottom of the dish or dishes 
7. spread out the manicotti rolls in a single layer in the baking tins
8. snip one of the bottom tips of the ziptop bag with the spinach ricotta mixture 
9. fill each of the manicotti rolls with mixture
10. covered the filled manicotti with marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes to taste
11. you can then cover with foil and bake right away, keep in the fridge for a day, or freeze them 
12. once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
13. cook for an hour covered, and uncovered for 15 minutes 
14. serve with chopped basil, Parmesan cheese on the table, a green salad and a good Italian Chianti 
15. enjoy with happy people who love you and love food 

as always, many blessings, much love, and happy cooking  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Easter is here! Oh happy day. Let's celebrate with hot cross buns!

What you need:

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm milk
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons ground spices (for example, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature (if taking right out of the fridge, let sit in warm water for a few minutes to take the chill off before using)
3/4 cup currants (can sub half of currants with chopped candied citrus peel)
2 teaspoons grated orange zest


1 egg
1 tablespoon milk


1 teaspoon milk
3 to 4 tablespoon powdered sugar

What you do:

  1. First you will need to proof the yeast. In a small measuring cup, stir together 1/4 cup of the warmed milk and one teaspoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
  2. In an electric mixer, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, the salt, spices, and 1/4 cup of sugar.
  3. Add the foamy yeast, softened butter, and eggs, and the remaining milk. Using the paddle attachment of the mixer, mix the ingredients until well incorporated. Add in the currants, candied peel, and orange zest.
  4. Switch to the dough hook attachment and start to knead on low speed. Slowly sprinkle flour, kneading until completely incorporated.
  5. Pull the sticky dough from bowl. Clean the bowl and spray with oil. Form a ball of dough in the bowl, cover with a spray of oil and use plastic wrap over the bowl. Let sit, covered, at room temperature for 2 hours, until the dough has doubled.
  6. Press down the dough. Roll the ball of dough into a log shape and cut it into 16 equal pieces.
  7. Take the individual pieces and form them into balls by tucking under the edges. Place each ball an inch apart on a baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about 30-40 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare egg wash by whisking together one egg and a tablespoon of milk. Score the top of the buns with a knife in a cross pattern. Using a pastry brush, brush on the egg wash over the dough.
  9. Place the tray in the middle rack of the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the buns are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.
  10. Whisk together the milk and the powdered sugar. Pipe two lines of frosting across each bun to make a cross.

Serve with hot coffee after Easter Service.

As always, much love, many blessings, and Happy Easter. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Crock-pot Beef and Broccoli

Like many working mothers, I love my crock-pot. I have been trying to get ahead of the dinner time-crunch and organize my week with the help of freezer bags and an hour or two on Sunday afternoon, during Freddy's nap-time. Suffice it to say my "cook for the week" journey is a lot like the Mexican - American war, some wins, some loses, and some disasters. Thankfully there is Mexican dictator involved, although my husband might disagree. Nonetheless, this recipe I am happy to report is a definite winner, the trick is to leave out the broccoli and put it in frozen or fresh about 20 minutes or so before you eat.  I do it just as I put on the rice to cook. 

What you need

  • 1 pound of all natural grass-fed beef stir-fry 
  • 1 cup of dark beef consume
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil 
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar 
  • 3 large garlic cloves minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 16 oz bag of frozen organic broccoli florets (or fresh chopped) 
  • cooked rice
  • chili flake (optional)

What you do

  1. Add all of the ingredients save the broccoli and rice into the crock-pot. Cook on high for 2 and a half hours or 4 hours on low. 
  2. Add the broccoli about 20 minutes before you want to eat. 
  3. Make the rice
  4. Enjoy! 

Make-ahead and freezing instructions

  • You can mix all of the ingredients except for broccoli and rice and store in a Ziploc freezer bag. You can either freeze the bag  as it is, or place in your fridge. The ingredients will keep in your freezer for up to 3 days. 

    • Remember to label the bag with the dish 
    • If you freeze the ingredients, you can either thaw and then cook as instructed or you can put the frozen ingredients directly in the crock-pot. If cooking from frozen increase the time to 3 1/2 hours on high or 6 hours on low. 
    As always, much love, many blessings, and happy cooking!

    Skinny Turkey Lasagna

    Suffice it to say that no lasagna is skinny... I mean clearly, let us operate in the realm of truth. Nonetheless, this is a less calorie intensive rendition of this delicious comfort food. I switch out the normal pork sausage for a low fat turkey turkey sausage. I use part-skim and fat-free cheeses. I bulk up the flavor of marinara with balsamic vinegar and a ton more veggies. This is a great freezer meal or you can make ahead and store in your refrigerator a day in advance. 

    What you need

    • 3 stalks of celery diced
    • 2 medium onions diced
    • 1 cup of shredded carrots
    • 1 pound of raw turkey sausage 
    • 3 cloves of garlic minced or micro-planed 
    • 1 tablespoon of salt free Italian seasoning
    • 3 cups of marinara 
    • 2 eggs
    • 16 oz of fat-free ricotta
    • 2 cups of low fat mozzarella 
    • 1 box of no boil lasagna sheets or fresh pasta sheets
    • 2 tablespoons of Parmesan 
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • red pepper flake (optional)
    • basil leaf for serving

    What you do

    1. Make the sauce: In a large non-stick sauce pan over medium heat cook the celery, onions, and carrots. Cook the vegetables for a minute or two. Add the turkey sausage out of the casing. Cook until no longer pink, stirring. If the turkey sticks to the bottom of the pan add some water. Micro-plane in or add the minced garlic, add the Italian seasoning. Then add the marinara. Turn the heat down to low, and allow to simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. 
    2. Make the cheese filling: In a large bowl whisk the eggs and add the ricotta. Stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper.   
    3. Assemble the lasagna: Cover your pan in foil and spray with non-stick spray. Pour a ladle full of sauce into the bottom of 11 X 9 X 3 inch serving dish or lasagna pan. Place the no-boil noodles, one at a time to make a noodle blanket and cover the bottom of the dish. Lots of thin layers is better than 2 thick ones. Layer a few laddles of the sauce. Cover with a layer of raw noodle sheets. Pour about half the cheese mixture, spread into a flat layer, cover with noodles. Repeat with remaining noodles, sauce, and cheese. When at the top, cover the noodle sheets with sauce, then mozzarella and top with Parmesan. You can bake right away or freeze for later. 
    4. Bake: Cook the lasagna covered for 30 minutes at 400 degrees; then uncover the dish for an additional 15 minutes so the cheese can turn bubbly and brown.  
    5. Serve: thinly slice fresh basil leaves. Serve with red pepper flakes and extra Parmesan cheese.

    Make-ahead and freezer directions 

    • The dish will keep in the refrigerator tightly covered for a day. 
    • If you are freezing cover the entire dish in foil. 
    • Write what is in the dish and label with date and cooking instructions. 
    • You can either thaw the lasagna and cook covered for 30 minutes at 400 degrees; or you can put the frozen lasagna in the oven covered in foil for 2 hours at 400 degrees. Either way you want to uncover the dish for an additional 15 minutes so the cheese can turn bubbly and brown.  
    As always, much love, many blessings, and happy cooking!