Okay, honestly, who doesn’t like cream cheese. It’s a love-hate relationship because I know how bad it is for you, but oh it tastes so good! So here are a couple of my favorite apps (…to eat in moderation, kind of 😉 )
Jalapeno Poppers – approx. 6 servings
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened (I always use 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
1/2 c. shredded cheese, any kind (sharp cheddar, mozz, smoky cheeses are especially good)
2 oz feta cheese
1 tsp grated fresh onion
fresh herbs optional (cilantro, parsley, chives)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cleaning the peppers: I like to make boats. You leave the stem on and cut a thin slice off the long ways of the pepper. Then use a spoon to scrape out all the seeds and innards. You can save the sliced-off pieces and add to the filling or use for something else, like eggs or hash the next morning 🙂 Rinse peppers and set aside.
In a bowl mix softened cream cheese, your choice of shredded cheese, feta, onion, and herbs if you choose to use them.
Stuff peppers with cheese mixture. You can pile it up in those babies too.
Bake for 15-20 minutes and then I like to broil for a few extra minutes just to brown the cheese a bit.
A variation of this recipe that my husband just loves is with bacon. Basically the same concept, but then wrap a half slice of bacon around the peppers (don’t fill quite as full with cheese) and secure with a toothpick. We find instead of baking these that broiling works better in making the bacon crispy. Keep an eye on them; they’ll take 10-15 minutes. We use a small roasting rack in a baking pan, which holds the peppers upright and the bacon grease drips to the bottom.
Spaghetti sauce/marinara sauce – Made about 4-5 pints with this recipe, but it always seems to vary. Good for just about anything: pasta, pizza, dipping sauce 🙂
10 lbs. tomatoes, cored, blanched, and skinned
4 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. grated onion, or finely minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil (or 1 T. dried)
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 T. dried)
1 tsp. sugar (may need to adjust depending on tomatoes)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
First off, I like to squeeze out most of the seeds and juice by hand before blending the tomatoes. If you’re using plum or roma tomatoes, you probably can skip this step.
Next heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes and cook about a minute making sure not to burn the garlic. Add in the blended tomatoes, which you’ll need to do in multiple batches in the blender.
Then add the vinegar, tomato paste, and all seasonings. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer uncovered for an hour or until mixture is desired consistency.
To can the sauce: Be sure you’ve sterilized your jars and lids (I like to do my jars in the dishwasher while I’m preparing the sauce.) It’s a good idea to add lemon juice to each jar before filling to make sure your sauce doesn’t go bad in storage (might add some extra sugar to compensate.) Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a water bath for 20 minutes.
*adapted from http://www.theyummylife.com/marinara_sauce
Update: Rachael Ray is on point with this one! Also, this is the original recipe, but I halved it and thought there was plenty for four if you’re serving it with anything else.
Greek-style Fresh Tomato Penne – serves 4-6
2 T. EVOO
2 T. butter
1 T. fresh oregano (I used 1 tsp. dried)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 pints cherry tomates
1 lb. penne rigate (with lines)
12 oz. feta cheese (use the block stuff packed in water)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (again, I used dried because that’s what I had available)
Heat olive oil in large skillet with tight-fitting lid over medium to medium-high heat. Melt butter in oil. When the butter begins to foam, add oregano, garlic, and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and season with S&P. Cover and turn down heat. Simmer until tomatoes have burst and sauce is thickened, about 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water till al dente. Reserve 1/2 c. starchy cooking water when you drain it.
Stir the sauce, then crumble the feta in and cook until melted, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water and toss, 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and top with mint and parsley.
Two more recipes to use up those cherry tomatoes and to make them last longer! This first one is super easy “sun-dried” tomatoes and the second, a tomato jam, sweet with a little spice.
Sun-dried Tomatoes (in the oven) – makes about one 1/2 pint jar
2 pints cherry tomatoes (about 50-60)
2 T. olive oil, plus more to fill jar
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (or whatever you like: oregano, basil, garlic, thyme, pepper, so on and so forth 😉 )
Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup.) Cut tomatoes in half and place on baking sheet cut-side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on seasonings.
Place in the oven for 2 hours, and then bake an additional 1-2 hours, checking every 30 minutes for even drying. Rotate pan if needed.
They are ready to eat right away. OR you can pack them in your jar by putting a bit of oil in the bottom, pack to about a 1/2 inch of the top, and then fill with more olive oil to completely cover the tomatoes. They will be good in the refrigerator for about three weeks.
Cherry Tomato Jam – makes approx. four 1/2 pint jars
If you don’t have a canner, no problem. I used my large stock pot, which fit four 1/2 pints perfectly. Be sure to sterilize jars and lids beforehand. Also, the yield on this can really vary, so might want to grab a couple extra jars just in case.
3 lbs. cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 c. sugar
Zest of one lemon
5 T. fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger (I used the kind in a tube)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 T. salt
1/2 T. red chili flakes
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Be sure to keep an eye on it and stir frequently, breaking up the tomatoes as you go. This will take about 1 1/2 hours for it to reduce to a jam-like consistency.
Remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims with a wet cloth and place sterile lids on jars with rings.
Place in large stock pot of water (at least 1 inch above jars) and boil for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool. You should be able to hear a pop from each jar after a while to ensure it has sealed. These can be stored up to a year.
When it’s 90 degrees outside, like it has been here lately, the last thing you want to do is turn on your oven or be cooking over a hot stove. Using a slow-cooker is the perfect solution.
Beef Roast – 5-6 servings
3 T. olive oil
3 lb. beef brisket or top round
Salt and pepper
2 medium onions, quartered
4 medium potatoes, quartered
4 carrots, chopped in 1-2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves
2 tsp. dried rosemary
3 bay leaves
3 c. beef broth
1 c. dry red wine
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Season beef generously with S&P and add to hot oil. Brown on all sides, 2-4 minutes per side. **You can shortcut this recipe and skip this step, and it will still turn out delicious.
Place onions, potatoes, carrots, garlic, and bay leaves in bottom of crockpot and sprinkle with S&P. Then top with the beef. Sprinkle with rosemary.
Add broth and wine. If need be, pour a little more water in covering to about 3/4 up the beef.
Cook on low 8 hours and then on high 1 more hour until beef is fork tender.
Be sure to remove the bay leaves. I also like to find the garlic cloves and, using a fork, smear them over the beef. Mmmm.
This was a total hit with the family last weekend. It’s ooey-gooey cheesy and a bit like a souffle. It’s so indulgent, though, I can only make it when there’s plenty of people to share with!
Mac ‘N’ Cheese – serves 10-15
3 c. uncooked cellentani pasta
1.5 c. half-and-half
6 oz. American cheese slices, chopped
6 oz. smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
6 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
6 oz. light cream cheese, cubed
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c. light sour cream
6 T. butter, melted
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3-quart baking dish and set aside
Cook pasta in salted water according to package. Drain and return to saucepan. Stir in half-and-half and all the cheese. Cook on low heat until cheese is mostly melted.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sour cream until smooth. Melt butter and let cool slightly, then add to eggs and sour cream mixture. Add a pinch of S&P.
Stir egg mixture into pasta and then spread in baking dish. Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes.
The original recipe adds a panko topping, but I skipped this and it was still fabulous 🙂 If you want, though, while the mac is baking, mix 1 c. panko breadcrumbs with 1 T. melted butter and 1 T. chopped parsley. Sprinkle on top of the mac at about 30 minutes and then put back in oven for 15 minutes.