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Baked Feta

August 29, 2015

Not too far from our home, there is an area by the water called the Sponge Docks. It’s a special place for celebrations, or to take visiting family. Fairly self explanatory in that it’s a fishing town famous for the collection of sea sponges. We love going there as it’s a cultural experiences that satisfies all the senses. Quaint little stores line the streets,some carrying souvenirs, some emanating the scent of beautiful handmade soaps, and some  filled with things imported from Greece, as the area has a heavy Greek influence. Along these streets are some of the best Greek restaurants and pastry shops. When we go one of the things we always order is the flaming feta. I tried to think of a fancy name for this baked version which includes earthy Kalamata olives, and sweet little tomatoes…but nothing came to mind that really describes this melding of flavors. You’ll just have to try it for yourself! It’s simple and quick, from start to finish shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. A lovely appetizer, served with a crusty bread, encased in a pita or just eaten right off of your fork.. mmmm…Opa!!

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1/2 cup marinara tomato sauce, so the cheese doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn,

8 oz. block of feta cheese, drained

1/2 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives (I used my fingers to tear the pit out, then tore them in pieces to give a rustic look)

1 1/3 C.grape or cherry tomatoes,cut in half

2 cloves garlic,grated

1 t.dried oregano

2 T. fresh basil

fresh ground pepper, to taste

Pre heat the oven to 400 Degrees. Combine your sliced tomatoes, roughly chopped olives, basil, oregano and grated garlic in a small bowl and toss to combine. Let sit while you get the feta ready.

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Pour the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 6″ or so baking dish.Turn the feta on it’s side and cut in two equal pieces. .Place the slices side by side, with a bit of space in between.(This dish merits a reason to get a special pan for next time, something smaller and square….)

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Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the feta slices.

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Top with a few twists of fresh black pepper.Bake approximately 15 minutes.

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Tear off a hunk of crusty bread and prepare to enter feta heaven…..

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Grilled Cheese Gone Wild

August 18, 2015

One of the top comfort foods around is the simple grilled cheese. It’s what Mom made for lunch with a steaming bowl of tomato soup, on a chilly fall day. Lately the grilled cheese has gone full scale gourmet, switching out American cheese for it’s fancier French sisters and tangy German brothers. With a glut of wild blueberries on hand, some spinach donated by the visiting vegetarian, a few slices of creamy Havarti and my favorite Muenster begging to be used, Grilled Cheese Gone Wild was born.A great combo encased between a hearty whole grain, you  almost might  consider it healthy!

3/4 C. blueberries

1 1/2 T. balsamic

1 T. brown sugar

4 slices dense bread, a whole grain or sourdough

4 slices of cheese- we used 2 Havarti and 2 Muenster- a perfect combo of creamy and a nice “bite”

2 handfuls cleaned dried spinach, stems removed

fresh cracked pepper to taste

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In a small pan, simmer the blueberries, balsamic, and brown sugar until the blueberries begin to burst. Smash them down a bit, to extract more juice. Simmer 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat to a mesh strainer and  push out most of the juice.This will leave you will a thick, tangy berry paste.Save the juice! Use it to flavor water, as a pancake syrup,  or do as we did, drizzle over some fresh watermelon – divine!

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On low heat, warm a frying pan large enough to hold two slices of bread. Butter one side of two slices of bread and put them face down in the pan. Spread one half of the blueberry balsamic paste on each,and cover with one slice of cheese.

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Top with the spinach and the other slice of cheese. Add a few generous turns of cracked pepper.

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It even looks  good just like that!

Butter the other two pieces of bread on one side. Lay the unbuttered side on top of the cheese.

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I recommend leaving it on low to brown, about 5 minutes,. Peek at the bottom, and when browned carefully flip over. Continue cooking on the other side until the cheese is nice and melty, and the bottom side of bread is browned.

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Slice in half  and serve. The blueberries should just be an accent to this ooey, gooey yummy creation. The spinach and the black pepper are the perfect balance to this sweet and tangy twist of an old favorite.

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That is serious goodness.

~ Enjoy~

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Crabcake Pie in Oyster Cracker Crust

August 1, 2015

 

An old neighbor friend shared a recipe on facebook for a crabmeat pie.It looked great, but had ingredients in it such as green pepper and celery that we just don’t enjoy. Wonder of wonder there was also no Old Bay in the recipe! I can’t imagine crab cakes without Old Bay! Linda also mentioned she did not like pie crust and asked what I could suggest in it’s place. Oyster cracker crust seemed to be the perfect pairing,so off I was  to recreate this gem. . If you love crab you have to make this. The flavor is everything you  love in a traditional crab cake, without the hassle of making cakes and frying. Simple yet elegant, don’t be daunted by the ingredient list, this comes together quickly and easily. It’s light and fluffy, crispy crusted, sweet and slightly lemony with just a hint of Old Bay singing in the back round. I wish I had a slice now!

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Crabmeat Filling
7 1/2 oz. crab meat, I used 3 cans, 2 lump and one white
1/2 C. assorted peppers, finely diced (we don’t like green – use what you like)
3 scallions. diced, save some of greens for top and garnish
2 carrots, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 C. sour cream
1/3 C. panko
1/2 C. shredded Cheddar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
zest from lemon
1/2 T. parsley
1/2 T. dill
1 t. coriander
1 t. Old Bay
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper

Get all your veggies diced and ready. Drain your crab but do not separate the lumps. If you can get all lump fresh crab by all means do so. I think the white crab which is more shredded holds the filling together better, so try to get at least 2 oz. of that as well.

Add the veggies, cheese and panko  to the crab and gently combine, once again not breaking up the crab lumps as best that you can.

Beat the eggs well. Add the sour cream, lemon juice and zest, and beat until creamy. Add the seasonings to this and stir well.

Combine your egg mixture to your crab mix and yes.. stir g-e-n-t-l-y!! You should still have crab lumps in your mix!

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Oyster Cracker Crust
1 1/2 C. ground oyster crackers
1/2 C.  unsalted  butter – melted
1/8 cup cold  water
a few shakes of dill, Old Bay and onion powder

Crush the crackers leaving some texture to them. Combine with butter and seasonings.
Add a little water at a time until the mix slightly sticks together. You don’t want it to be too wet or sticky. Pour into a 9″-10″ pie plate and press evenly onto the bottoms  and up sides, making sure there are no gaps.
Bake 8 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven until lightly browned.

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Pour the crab mixture into your baked crust. It does not have to be cooled. I sprinkled a bit of paprika on top for color.

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Bake in a pre heated 35 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, add topping and back for 15 minutes more.

Topping
1 T. panko
1 T. shredded cheese for top
2 T. scallions tips

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Serve with fresh lemon wedges, and more scallion tops for garnish.

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Eggplant Tapenade a la Izzy

November 2, 2014

Hands down this is my favorite way to make eggplant. It came from a very dear friend,that I don’t keep in touch with as often as I should. We  chatted via text last week, and it reminded me that I finally need to share and  blog this recipe. The olives are my addition.. You can eat this on crackers, scoop it up with pita, or serve it under or over a beautifully grilled chicken breast and top it with some fresh feta.. Addicting…simple but  elegant enough to be an appetizer  for your fanciest guests.. or for a lazy  football Sunday with friends… It is highly recommended that you at least double this recipe. I love you Izzy.. I hope you are more honored at my blogging your recipe than you were when I named the bearded dragon after you ❤

1 large eggplant

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 T. good red tomato sauce, or seasoned diced tomatoes, or one whole tomato diced

10-15 chopped black olives

1 T. Italian seasoning

1 t. black pepper

2t. Kosher salt

1/4 t. red pepper flakes (optional)

2 T. good olive oil

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Peel eggplant. Slice in 1/2 inch circles and then cut into cubes. Put about half of the eggplant in a sieve and sprinkle with one teaspoon of Kosher salt.Toss a bit to distribute. Top with remaining eggplant and sprinkle with another teaspoon of salt. Allow to drain for a minimum of one hour and preferably more.

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That is all the bitterness coming out of the eggplant.

I do not rinse the salt off the eggplant, which is why there is not additional salt in the recipe. Heat a large saucepan and add the oil and crushed garlic. Saute the garlic on low heat til fragrant. Do not try to rush this as the garlic will burn. There is no saving oil that garlic has burned in.

Pre heat oven to 350*

Taking handfuls squeeze as much liquid from the eggplant as you can. Add to the flavored oil.  Stir in Italian seasoning and pepper. Saute  the eggplant for about 5 minutes, and then put the pan in a pre heated oven for 20  minutes. Remember the handle is HOT! Use a pot holder to remove it!

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Add the olives and tomatoes or tomato sauce to the roasted eggplant cubes. Stir. Refrigerate.

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     Serve with crackers, as an appetizer, or light lunch on top  of Red leaf or Romaine lettuce.

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 Additionally,   you can reheat and serve on top of a grilled chicken breast. Crumble a bit of feta on top.

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I hope you enjoy this versatile recipe from my long time friend.

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Spaghetti Squash Genovese

October 28, 2014

There is a delightful Italian recipe called Spaghetti Genovese, I never quite understood pasta and potatoes in the same dish, but being the pesto lover that I am, I never questioned it too far. To cut down the carb content it only made sense to use spaghetti squash, and size down the potatoes to those creamy flavorful minis. A must try adaption of an classic Italian favorite.

1 small spaghetti squash, roasted

12-15 small red, yellow and purple potatoes (usually called tri color, in a mesh  bag)

1/3 lb. fresh green beans

1/2 C. pesto ( made with fresh spinach tonight)

3-4 T. freshly grated parmesan

Prepare pesto.(I substituted spinach for kale- no need to salt and macerate spinach)

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Roast the squash. Cut potatoes in half.  Cut off tips of  green beans, and cut them in half  as welI .

I boiled the green beans and potatoes together,in a small amount of water, until fork tender.

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Drain well. Strand the squash and mix with the potatoes and beans.

Toss with pesto. Grate cheese over top and serve immediately.

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Cheesy Vegetables and Chicken

October 13, 2014

Another one of the clean out the fridge recipes, you will have to control yourself on the portions of this. The original recipe (no clue where I got it from) was also a throw together, but I have skimmed down the cheese and sour cream, added a ton of additional veggies, and most definitely achieved perfection. (My lovely cousin Marcia says she makes this with plain yogurt )There is still a reasonable amount of cheese. Since it is evenly dispersed in 4-5 servings ( or less if you have a teen age son!) the overall quantity per serving is not substantial, and it is of course very low in carbs. The original recipe also called for a 13 x9 pan. I scaled it down to a 9×9 pan so there is less area that needs to be covered by cheese. You can switch up your choice of vegetables. This is what I had on hand last night. It comes together quickly and since every thing is pre cooked, the bake to serve time is minimal.

2 boneless chicken breasts

1 can diced tomatoes, drained well.

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets and lightly  steamed

1/2 large red pepper

8-10 mushrooms, sliced

2 C. fresh spinach, chopped

3/4 C. sour cream (or plain yogurt)

1 t. black pepper

3 t. smoky paprika

1 1/2 C. shredded cheese – Mexican blend. Cheddar, Monterrey Jack (anything but Mozzarella)

Put the cauliflower in a large frying pan and sauté a bit after steaming. Add remaining vegetables in according to the length of time they need cooked. Mine went in the pan in this order: red pepper, mushrooms, diced tomatoes  and lastly, spinach.

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I made my chicken in the Foreman grill.. I love my Foreman grill.. Four minutes- done enough  as it will cook more in the casserole.

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Cut it up in bite size pieces, and add it to the vegetables in the pan.

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Mix in your sour cream and add 2 teaspoons of the paprika, and pepper. Combine well and put in a 9×9 pan.

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Bake covered in a 350* oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, top with shredded cheese and sprinkle with  paprika.Return to oven until cheese is just melted. I shut the oven off and left it in  for  about 5 more minutes.

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We had no sides with since there are so many vegetables in it. If you want to add carbs,  rice would be wonderful as there are plenty of juices from the tomatoes.

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Cauliflower Tabouli

October 6, 2014

Tabouli  or Taboulleh is a traditional vegetarian  Middle  Eastern dish, most closely classified as a salad. Usually made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Some type of grain like bulghur  is often added to the dish. This is my variation of it. It’s a pretty flexible recipe. I added some jalapeno because…well because I add jalapeno or some kind of heat to most things we eat! Tomatoes, unless straight off the vine or green and fried, also don’t do it for me in most dishes. In this I have substituted red pepper, which also makes it less watery than tomato. I am not much  a bulghur fan (but  then I also haven’t given it much of  a chance) and I wanted to keep this grain  free. Quinoa would make a tasty addition and add  a nice texture contrast and I might try it another time with that. Crumbled feta took the place of salt in my version, but if you are looking to make it dairy free it can be omitted.

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1/2 head cauliflower grated

1/2 red pepper. diced

1 finely minced jalapeno

1 medium cucumber. seeded and diced

3 diced scallions. including green tops

1/3 C. chopped fresh mint

1 C. chopped fresh parsley

1.4 C. olive oil

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice

1/2 C. crumbled feta (optional but will need salt if this is omitted)

1/2 t. pepper

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 Here is a close up of your cauliflower. You want it “grainy” not mush. I grate it rather than process it.

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Combine your lemon juice and oil and whisk a bit.Mix all your veggies together. Pour the olive oil and lemon over all. Stir to coat all of the vegetables. At this point you can add in a 1/2 cup of cooked bulghur, quinoa or couscous. Lastly stir in your feta if you are using it.This is best if left to sit a few hours. but it is  really hard  not to keep  tasting it! This didn’t last very long and I would definitely double it all next time.

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This dish is so colorful, and it tastes as happy as it looks.