Sunday, January 25, 2015

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup and Italian Sammies

Cold weather means Soup Weather, but I love this soup so much that I make it in the hottest days of summer (when tomatoes are inexpensive and amazing) and put it away in my freezer for the cold months.  The sandwiches can also be assembled and frozen (before you grill them) and then you just put them on the panini press frozen.  Instant dinner makes me a happy Kate!

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

3 lbs of fresh tomatoes, halved (I used Romas, but use whatever looks the best)
6 cloves of garlic (or more), peeled (6 tsps. of crushed garlic in the jar will work too)
2 shallots, peeled and halved
2 yellow onions, sliced
1/3 cup olive oil (or any neutral oil of your choice)
1 box of chicken stock (or veggie)
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
1tsp. pepper red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
grated parmesan for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, onion, shallots, salt, and pepper.  Pour out onto two cookie sheets (cover them with parchment or foil, trust me).  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.  Once you remove them from the oven, sprinkle the fresh thyme over the tomatoes.  Let the tomatoes sit until they are cool enough to handle.  Blend in batches with the chicken stock.  Pour into a large stock pot and heat through.  Add the cream and fresh basil, turn off the heat.  Serve with grated parmesan and fresh basil.

Yes, I used more than 6 cloves, but I am a garlic junkie!

Add the thyme onto the hot tomatoes to bloom the herb flavor,
but not over cook the thyme.
Carmelized goodness

Hello gorgeous, despite bad lighting :)

Italian Paninis with Parmesan Crust 

These sammies will make you happy!  Switch up what you put in them, the options are endless.  

8 large pieces of sourdough bread 
3oz pepperoni
3 oz hard salami
8 pieces pepperjack cheese 
sliced pepperoncinis
12 fresh basil leaves 
1/2 cup mayo or butter 
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (for this volume, go with the green can, it's okay... I promise)

Preheat your panini grill.  Lay out your 4 slices of bread.  Layer with cheese (break each slice in half to cover the piece), layer the pepperoni and salami on top, then the basil, followed by the second piece of cheese and the top piece of bread. Spread the mayo (or butter) on top, pat on the parmesan, and place on the press the cheese side down.  Spread the other side with mayo (or butter) and cheese and close the press.  Grill for 5 minutes, until melty, browned goodness.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bacon + Pasta, heck ya! Bucatini All'amatriciana

We were blessed by our trip to Europe this past summer and ate many great foods, but the favorite thing that I ate was in Rome at restaurant that we picked because it had AC on a hot, hot, day where we got lost in the city (not a fun lost, but a lost LOST).  I knew when I ate it I had to figure out how to replicate it.  When I got home and did some recipe searching I found out that my favorite dish was probably the simplest too.  Sometimes simple is best.  The trick to this is in the quality of the ingredients and the technique.  This is a great weeknight meal option because it is that easy.  I did bump up the garlic and chile because I had to make it mine :)


1/2 up to 1 lb thick sliced bacon (I like to use peppered, do not use applewood) cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
2 onions diced finely
6 cloves of garlic crushed (must use fresh, it is just better)
1tsp crushed red pepper (or less, if you are a sissy lala)
48 oz tomato product (Pomi Strained)
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2-3/4 cup chicken broth, water, or white wine
1lb bucatini nooodles
1/4 cup butter
1 cup finely grated Romano cheese.


1.  Saute the bacon until golden brown, but not crisp all the way through.

bacon and onion perfection
2.  Add the onions and cook until softened and then add the garlic and chile flake.  Cook until soft and fragrant.

Scrape up the browned goodness and reduce. 
3.  Deglaze the pan with 1/2-3/4 cup of chicken broth (water or white wine is fine too).

 4.  Add in the tomato sauce and simmer for 15-30 minutes until it has thickened and darkened.
5.  While the sauce cooks, boil the pasta in salted water until it is al dente.  Once the pasta is cooked toss it with the butter and cheese.

6.  Then pour the pasta in the sauce and toss until well coated and the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce.  Serve with the remaining 1/4 cup of romano cheese on top.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Haven't blogged in awhile, no good excuse as to why I haven't either :)  I have been making this mac and cheese for a few years and I love it because it allows me to use up whatever hunks of cheese I have laying around in my fridge.  We had Thanksgiving last week, so I had a hunk of sharp cheddar, some gruyere, and big hunk of some type of white cheese that I bought at Coscto and took the label off of, oops!  You can mix whatever types of cheese you want, as long as it equals 6 cups.  If your family likes blue cheese, trying using some on top of the chicken and the casserole.  The hubby can't stand it, so I just used a cheddar blend.  This makes a big 9x13 deep dish pan of pasta; enough to feed at least 10-12 people.  I made it for my husband and I and will portion out the rest for freezer lunches.

For a lower carb version of this use Dreamfields lower carb pasta on its own or mix in steamed cauliflower with the pasta (use half of the amount of pasta) and of course don't top it with potato chips. 

2 boxes of penne pasta (or any tube shape of your choice) cooked and drained
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup flour (use whatever kind you have, I used white whole wheat) 
3 cups milk (any type)
3 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)
6 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I like gruyere, sharp cheddar, and a mild cheddar).  Separate cheese into a 4 cup portion and a 2 cup.
2 tsp. dried mustard (or 1 tbsp. dijon)
2 tbsp. Onion Onion (dried onion or 2 tsp. onion powder)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
4 cups shredded chicken 
1 cup Frank's Hot sauce (change the amount according to your taste)
Crushed potato chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

In a medium bowl toss the chicken with the hot sauce and season with salt and pepper.
In a large saucepan melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour and cook until it slightly darkens and smells a little toasty.  Pour in the milk, whisking to incorporate.  Whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a light boil.  Once it has started to thicken add in the dried mustard, salt, pepper, and Onion Onion.  Once the mixture has slightly thickened, start adding the 4 cups of cheese slowly, whisking until it is melted in.  Toss the pasta in the sauce.  
Grease a deep 9x13 pan. 
 Ladle in 1/2 of the mac and cheese mixture.  Top with chicken and 1 cup of shredded cheese. 

Cover it with the other 1/2 of the mixture.  Top with shredded cheese and crushed potato chips.  Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until is is browned and bubbly.  Remove for the oven and let sit for 20 minutes.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Freezer Cooking with Friends

I love to cook, but find weeknight cooking tedious.  Having to come up with what we are going to eat after a long day is annoying.  I like having time to cook and being creative with it.  After realizing this about myself I experimented with once a week cooking using Rachel Ray's recipes and it was awesome, but time consuming.  I lost a whole day 4x a month and just didn't have the time to do it that often.  Then I found Once a Month Mom's website that had monthly menu options depending on your diet needs and I knew that I had to try it.  We are trying to follow a whole foods diet and that was one of the options, so it was perfect!  The first time I did it I did 4 of the dinners and it was awesome.  Then I did it again with my sisters and it went well.  This last cooking day I did it with 2 friends, 6 meals, 8 hrs, and $110 investment for each of us.  Here are the tips that I have for freezer cooking with friends:

1.  Meet together ahead of time to pick the menu, come up with the grocery list, split the list, and choose your date/time frame. Customize the menus to your diet needs.  We didn't like mushrooms, so we omitted them from one recipe.  Another recipe called for Orzo, but we decided to use a low carb spaghetti instead. The stuffed zucchini recipe called for no meat, we added some.

2.  Split up the grocery list by stores/friends.  One of us went to Costco and bought the bulk items, one went to the grocery store, and the third has a young baby and got to sit out the shopping :)  Plan on having ziploc bags and aluminum pans.

3.  Chop everything FIRST! This will save you time and help keep things clean and organized.
48 cups of chopped tomatoes were needed for our day. 

Your food processor is your friend, use it!
All of our ingredients chopped
4.  Finish one recipe before you start another.  With three or more people in the kitchen things can keep crazy and you might try and get ahead by having one person work on one recipe while another does a different one, but I promise things will get left out or missed.  It is much better to focus on one at a time.

5.  Label every dish with not only the name, but cooking directions too.

6.  Pick simple recipes that have a limited number of ingredients.

7.  Have each person bring a cooler to store their food in until they head home.  We were lucking enough that the house we cooked at had an extra freezer and we were able to put our dinners in the freezer and then take them home.

8.  Use some convenience items.  We used prechopped garlic because we needed such a HUGE amount.  If you aren't a fan of prechopped then buy the cloves already peeled and chop them in the food processor.

This one day will be tough.  Your back will hurt and you will exhausted.  However, the laughter and memories made are totally worth it.  Not to mention knowing that after a tough day all you have to do is come home and put something in the oven is totally worth all of the effort.


Cheesy Artichoke Chicken
Shrimp and Feta Bake
Asian Meatballs
Peachy BBQ Pork
Stuffed Zucchini
Citrus grilled chicken

Click on each of these recipes to see the complete ingredients/directions.

If you decided to do a freezer cooking with friends day, please come back and let me know how it went!

Asian Meatballs

This was one of the recipes that I was MOST excited about, but it ended up being a little lackluster and needed some oomph.  The original is here and my spins are down below.  I chose to serve mine with sautéed peppers and onions, but you could use any veggies.  The final product was delicious and I can't wait to have them again.

Ingredients: (makes 2 freezer meals of 4 servings each)

  • 0.5 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2.5 pounds extra lean ground beef
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 0.50 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 6 medium green onions, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. red chile flake 
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 8Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  • 1 cup medium green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsps. grated ginger 
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed


Preheat oven to 500. Mix together all ingredients listed for meatballs in a large bowl. Mix well with hands until combined. Shape 1/4 cup meat mixture into balls.  Place rolled meatballs in baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix all sauce ingredients in small bowl.  Serve meatballs with sauce for dipping.

Freezing Directions:

Prepare meatballs as directed above, but do not bake. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flash freeze. Once frozen, place in gallon freezer bag. Place sauce in pint freezer bag. Label and freeze. TO SERVE: Thaw. Preheat oven to 500. Place meatballs in baking dish. Bake 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté two cups of mixed peppers and one large onion in a large frying pan.  Once soft, add the sauce.  Remove the meatballs from the oven and toss in the sauce and veggies.  Serve over rice. 

Low Carb Shrimp with Feta Pasta Bake

I love Mediterranean flavors because they are usually light and delicious.  This recipe definitely falls into both categories.  The original recipe can be found here and uses orzo.  I am trying to do the lower-carb thing so we decided to use broken Dreamfield's spaghetti instead.  You can find this pasta at Winco, Ralphs, and Von's grocery stores.  I have also ordered it on! We did switch up the recipe a little because our cooking group likes a little spice and we had extra basil.

Assembled and ready to go into the freezer.


  • 2 cup cooked pasta 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, chopped
  • 12 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 Tbsp chopped green onion
  • 1.5 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 ounces feta cheese
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice


Cook the pastaaccording to the directions on the package.  Drain.  Heat olive oil in a large pan.  Cook onion for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook 30 seconds.  Add wine, tomatoes, chives and oregano.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, cooking for five minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.   Combine shrimp, cooked orzo and tomato mixture.  Divide among baking dishes.  Sprinkle feta and lemon juice over top.  Proceed to freezing directions or bake immediately at 425 for 15-20 minutes until shrimp are thoroughly cooked.   

Freezing Directions:

Prepare baking dishes as listed above and freeze.  To serve, thaw and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes until shrimp are thoroughly cooked.

Cheesy Artichoke Chicken

This is probably my favorite recipe from our Freezer Cooking with Friends menu.  It was DELICIOUS.  The original recipe can be found here.  My friend Heather cooked her's first so she gave us the tip that it needed to be served with pasta to catch the yummy sauce.  I used a low-carb spaghetti from Dreamfields that I tossed with butter, parmesan, and parsley.  I am still thinking about this and know that I will have to make it soon!  Word of caution, the freezer recipe has you put the cheese topping in a bag and then freeze it on top of the casserole.  Make sure you remove the baggy of cheese before you put the casserole in the oven.  This was learned the hard way by one of our group ;)

Ingredients: (makes 2 freezer meals, of 4 portions each)

  • 8 cups diced roma tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 30 ounces artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 4 cups chopped baby spinach
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Serving day:  Cooked pasta of your choice 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, artichoke, basil, spinach, olive oil, flour, salt, and pepper to taste. Divide mixture evenly among 8 x 8 baking pan or pour all into one 13 x 9 pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste and Italian seasoning. Place on top of vegetable mixture. (If freezing, proceed to freezing directions at this point.) Bake chicken and vegetables at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until almost done. Top with cheese and place under the broiler for 1-3 minutes (watch closely) until cheese and veggies are just browned. Remove and sprinkle hot dish with fresh basil. Serve alone or over pasta if desired.

Freezer Directions 

Layer vegetables in the bottom of an 8x8 pan.  Top with chicken, sprinkled with seasonings.  Place parchment paper over the top.  Mix cheeses and put into a quart sized ziploc bag.  Place ziploc bag on top of the parchment, cover with foil and freeze.