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Its getting hot in here

Aug 25, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Blog, Main course  //  No Comments

Crock Pot tomato sauce

On days when its 104 degrees, I just can’t bring myself to fire up the oven. The problem with that – i have a ton of tomatoes from the garden, ripe and ready to be made into homemade pasta sauce. I usually slow roast them in the oven with spices and garlic so they can cook away and I can forget about them. Because while we know I love to cook, I actually don’t love slaving away in the kitchen all day. Then it dawns on me. Slow. Why not plug in the slow cooker and throw em in there? I still don’t have to pay any attention to them and Google says that the low setting uses about as much energy as a light bulb! It only heats its own small container and not the entire kitchen! So, it looks like I still get slow roasted tomato sauce for dinner, and I don’t have to add fuel to the insanely hot fire that is the end of southern California summer. You can also do this in the oven for 4 hrs at 250 degrees.

Slow Cooking Pasta Sauce

8 cups tomatoes diced
1 large onion diced
5 cloves garlic diced
1 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp basil
1tsp chili powder
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp garlic salt
1 small can tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp sugar

Toss all ingredients together in slow cooker and stir. Turn on to low setting. After about 4 hours tomatoes should be fully cooked and ready to be blended. Remove a few cups at a time and process until smooth. Place back in the slow cooker for an additional half hour. While its cooking down, you can fry up sausage or burger to add to the sauce and boil your pasta. Check for seasoning and add S and P to taste. (If you’re setting the cooker before you go to work, don’t worry about the time limit, because the longer it cooks the better it will taste. Just make sure its on your lowest setting.) If adding meat you can do so at this time, stir together add to your pasta plate and enjoy your no fuss homemade sauce.

Believe! It’s not butter

Aug 23, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Blog, Dessert  //  No Comments

Heart healthy gooey brownies

Olive oil is the nectar of the gods. With so many heart healthy properties it has the power to put even a sinful and delectable brownie on the good for you list. It’s mostly monounsaturated(a good fat), contains anti-oxidants, and even Omega fatty acids. Research is showing that these things improve digestive functioning, can help prevent cancers and, (selfishly) improve skin quality. Since recipe wise fat is fat, I figured why not add it to my brownies instead of butter to get all those health benefits along with my daily chocolate allowance. The result? The chewiest, fudgiest, brownies, that I think you’re going to love. To maximize these heart healthy properties I chose to melt in a dark chocolate-full of more antioxidants and good for you flavinoids. The recipe can adapt to milk chocolate if that’s more your thing. You probably should only eat just one…

Heart Healthy Gooey Brownies

9oz chocolate
2/3 cup olive oil (pure has the best flavor in sweets, it will say this on the bottle.)
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup flour
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350. Place chocolate and oil in a microwave safe bowl. Heat on high for 2 minutes and stir together, the chocolate should melt into the oil as you stir. Set aside to cool a little. Beat sugar and eggs. Slowly pour chocolate into the sugar and eggs. Mix flour, soda, and salt together and then slowly add into the chocolate mixture. Pour into a greased 9 by 13 pan and bake at 350 for 30 min. They are good on their own with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or frost with your favorite frosting.

Need a margarita?

Aug 20, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Main course  //  No Comments

taquila sunrise pork tacos

Sometimes the greatest ideas are born after a few sips of a delicious and relaxing beverage. Especially after a lot of hard work has been done. Like the other day when I was purging the cupboards of all things un-useful and discovered a forgotten stash of tequila and triple sec. It’s the perfect Margarita combination. Thinking it had to be past its prime and in need of finding a Mary type meal to be a part of I began to experiment. I quickly decided that the ingredients in a Margarita with tartness from the lime, and its unbeatable salty and sweet combination, would make a terrific marinade for BBQ. All you have to do is add you favorite spice rub to a traditional margarita mix, soak the meat and dinner is one grill away. Here I have created a delicious marinade to infuse this traditional and delicious flavor into your favorite cut of meat. This BBQ is a great main course on its own, but I decided to make it into tacos. It feeds more because you dice up the meat, and really, who doesn’t love a great taco? The tequila is optional but highly recommended for its ability to tenderize even to toughest cuts of meat.

Tequila Sunrise BBQ

For the Meat:
2lbs pork, chicken or beef
1Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp red pepper
1 Tbsp of garlic salt
1tsp dill seed
1Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tequila(optional)

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk in oil, lime, orange and tequila. Reserve 1/4 cup for basting. Place meat in a large Ziploc bag and pour remaining marinade over. Place in fridge and let mixture penetrate meat for 1 to 3 hours turning bag occasionally. To Grill: Place meat on grill and baste occasionally using reserved marinade For Pork, 12 to 18 min. For chicken, 8 to 12 min.
To Roast: Preheat oven to 350. Place meat and marinade in a non metallic dish and cover with aluminum foil. bake covered for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 min
For the Tacos:

diced tequila sunrise BBQ
black beans
lettuce or cabbage
sliced avocado
sour cream mixed with a little lime juice

You can’t go wrong here with whatever you’re putting into your tacos. Any taco type ingredient you usually use or have on hand will be delicious. I layered in the meat, black beans, lettuce, avocado, sour cream, and salsa. Mary tip: For tasty tortillas spray both sides with non stick cooking spray (I love Watkins!) and toss onto the grill for about 30 secs on each side.

Here’s the recipe for some great homemade Sunrise Margaritas:

1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup triple sec
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh lemon juice
splash or orange juice

Combine sugar with water until sugar is completely dissolved. Add fresh lime and fresh lemon juice stir to combine. Add tequila, triple sec and a splash of orange juice. Serve on ice or blend in blender with ice. Add salt or sugar to the rim of your glass before serving. Garnish with a slice of orange. This is a great non alcoholic beverage as well mix as usual omitting all liquor.

I’m not fat, I’m fluffy!

Aug 18, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Dessert  //  4 Comments

Red Velvet Cupcakes

There’s something about a cupcake shrouded in mystery that just tastes better. The origins of this extremely popular and extraordinarily delicious cake are the stuff of urban legend. Some say that during the sugar rations of WWII home cooks used beets to replace sugar in their baking thus producing the pinkish red batter. Others say it was a chemical reaction between the cocoa and the acidic vinegar that turned the cake its blood red hue. I say no matter what its one of my favorite and most requested dessert options. I can’t claim to be responsible for this mysterious recipe, but I have created one of the fluffiest frostings you’ll ever find on top of this magnificent treat. You can easily make this recipe into a cake by switching to two round 10 inch pans.

Red Velvet Cup Cakes with Marshmallow Fluff And Cream Cheese

1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp food coloring
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the sugar and oil together. Slowly add one egg at a time, beating in between. Add, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar mix well.  In a small bowl combine flour baking soda, cocoa, and salt. Alternate between adding a small amount of this dry mixture and adding a small amount of buttermilk. Continue adding small amounts of each until all is combined in the batter. Line two muffin trays with cupcake liners. Scoop batter into liners, once all batter is evenly in trays place in  oven for 20 to 25 minutes. If you are making a cake it needs to cook about 45 minutes.

Marshmallow Frosting

1 jar of marshmallow fluff
1 pkg. of cream cheese(room temp)
4 tbsp of butter(also room temp)
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup of powdered sugar (up to 2 cups if needed for stiffness, I like less.)

Beat together cheese, butter and marshmallow fluff till combined. Add vanilla and continue mixing. Add powdered sugar and beat till fluffy about 10 minutes. You can add more sugar if you desire a stiffer frosting.

To frost: I like a smooth even frost on my cupcakes so I use a dipping method. I just turn a cupcake upside down and dip into the frosting bowl. Its very easy and looks great.

Yo quiero un ensalada Caesar!

Aug 16, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Soups and salads, Starters  //  No Comments

Caesar Salad

With its distinctive garlic bite and salted lemony goodness the Caesar is one of the best tasting salads ever invented. Despite its Roman sounding name this delicious side dish actually hails from south of the border. I’m not clear on exact details, but legend has it that it was some time during the prohibition when Hollywood starlets had to escape to Mexico to party. Caesar Cardini’s restaurant ran out of foodstuffs on the menu during a busy dinner rush. He pulled the ingredients together out of the kitchen, and tossed it table side. The rest is history. Whether or not his original salad contained anchovy is still subject to debate. My version doesn’t but still achieves that classic Caesar flavor with a pantry staple: Worcestershire sauce. Feel free to take this dish from appetizer to main course by adding some grilled chicken.

Caesar Salad

For the croutons:
5 slices of sourdough
Olive oil
Garlic salt
Dried oregano
Dried rosemary
Slice bread into cubes arrange on a baking sheet. Coat with oil, herbs, and garlic salt. Mix with hands and place under broiler til golden. About 10 min. Set aside.

Caesar dressing:

1tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic
Garlic salt to taste

This dressing comes together in seconds in the food processor or blender but is also easily whisked together by hand. Make sure to chop garlic if whisking by hand. Place Dijon, garlic cloves, lemon,vinegar, and Worcestershire, in the processor or bowl. Begin processing or whisking and slowly add in olive oil in very slow even stream. The dressing will thicken as the oil combines with the other ingredients. Add garlic salt to taste.

The Salad:

1 head romaine lettuce chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded

Place lettuce in large bowl. Add croutons and dressing and toss salad. Top with Parmesan. Ole!

Open Sesame

Aug 12, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Main course  //  No Comments

Tahini Burger

Great flavor combination’s are often achieved in my desperate attempts to find something in the freezer to salvage for dinner. It’s late, I’m starving, and I just know I have some hamburg (that’s what Grandma Nancy called it) in this house that I can throw on the grill. A brilliant plan begins to form in my head. Tahini Burgers! Tahini is a delicious Israeli dressing traditionally made out of sesame paste, lemon and garlic. It’s typically served on falafal sandwiches, or mixed with chic peas to make hummus. The paste comes in jars like peanut butter and there is always some hanging around in my pantry. I couldn’t help but think if it was good on falafal which is essentially a veggie burger it would be even more delish on the great American hamburg! (vegetarians-just use your veggie patties in this recipe)

Tahini Burgers

1/2 cup of sesame paste
Juice from half a lemon
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of water
Salt to taste
4 hamburg patties
Season salt
1 tomato sliced
1 onion sliced
1 small green pepper sliced
4 pita pocket breads

For the Tahini:
Place paste, lemon, and garlic in a small food processor or blender (you can also whisk together by hand, but you have to chop the garlic first) add the water and blend you may need more water depending on the thickness you desire for your dressing. Season with salt to taste.
For the burgers:
Season salt each side and grill to desired done-ness. Cut off the end of the pita bread so you can open the pita. Place hamburg inside, layering slices of veggies and spoon over a generous amount of tahini.

I say “toe-may-toe”…

Aug 11, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Soups and salads  //  No Comments

Caprese Salad

…You say “toe-mah-toe” but we can all agree on what makes a great salad. Their juicy goodness adds more layers of sweetness and flavor to oil and vinegar than any other addition can. My love for these garden apples is no secret. I toss them into any dinner I can. Try using them to replace lettuce as your main salad ingredient, like in a delicious Caprese Salad.

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad

1 lb of cherry tomatoes
1 small pkg of fresh mozzarella( this cheese is a much softer version and ideally comes packed in liquid)
1 bunch of fresh basil chopped
2 tbsp of seasoned rice vinegar(this is my favorite but any vinegar or even lemon would work here)
1/4 cup olive oil
Garlic salt to taste

Cut tomatoes in halves and add to a large bowl. Slice mozzarella into bite size pieces and add to tomatoes. Toss in basil, vinegar, oil and garlic salt. Mix together in bowl. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed.

Southern Comfort

Aug 10, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Main course  //  No Comments

Grandma Nancy's Baked mac and cheese

The south has a reputation for taking its food to deep fried and buttery extremes. We crave these comforting and indulgent dishes because they remind us of family, simpler times, and lets face it because they’re downright delish. Things we end up eating, then panicking that we shouldn’t. Try this delicious 1940’s recipe for Baked Macaroni from my grandmother’s collection. You’re free to indulge with a little less guilt since I’ve lightened it up by replacing the cream with low fat milk, and removing a tablespoon of butter.

Grandma Nancy’s Baked Mac N Cheese

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup low fat milk
1 egg
1/2 to 1 cup buttered fresh bread crumbs (2 cups of croutons mashed in a Ziploc bag. melt 1 tbs of butter in microwave and toss into the bag to combine)


Bring salted water to a boil add macaroni. Boil about 10 minutes. Drain. Cover bottom of a 2-quart baking dish with layer of macaroni, a layer of cheese, bits of butter, salt and pepper. Continue layers until all ingredients are used, ending with a cheese layer.

Whisk milk and egg together with cayenne pepper and salt, pour over the top, cover with buttered bread crumbs, and bake in a 350° oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until browned and cooked through.Serves 4 to 6.

Got milk?

Aug 8, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Dessert  //  No Comments

Cookies N Creme sanwiches

I usually take after my dad in the sweets department. That’s preferring fruity dessert options rather then chocolate, candy, or cookies. Unless… those cookies happen to be two magical little chocolate discs with vanilla creme sandwiched between them. At one point I was “forced” to learn how to make my own version when I was suffering from some food allergies a few years ago and I’ve never looked back. Bring back joy to the kid in all of us with my bonus size version of this classic treat. Just make sure the milk glasses are big enough for dippin’

Cookies N Creme Sandwiches

11/3 cup flour
4tbsp coco powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl set aside.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
Cream together til light and fluffy.
2 eggs
Beat in eggs one at a time.
11/2 tbsp water
1tbsp vinegar
Beat in remaining liquids and slowly add dry mix stirring till combined. Drop batter in 2 inch mounds on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 10 min. Let cool completely. The cookies will be a much softer version then the typical Oreo.

2 sticks of butter (room temp)
1tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
Whip Butter, vanilla, and sugar together til light and fluffy.

To assemble:
After cookies have completely cooled flip to flat side spread with filling and place another cookie on top. Continue building sandwiches out of remaining cookies.

Forbidden Fruit

Aug 5, 2010   //   by marymeals   //   Blog  //  No Comments

garden tomato

Tomatoes have always been a favorite of mine. I ate them secretly in the garden behind our house when I was a child, and was absolutely convinced that they were apples. You couldn’t tell me otherwise. Well, they were red and sweet and juicy! I chowed down on them any time I could escape into the garden. With no one looking, I would bite into them dirt and all, leaving a trail of evidence with my apple style cores carelessly discarded under the vines. It was a magical world. A place that inspired my love for cooking and taught the invaluable lessons that make wonderful meals out of produce you grow yourself. My crop tasting did crash to a halt the day my mom took me into the garden and asked me if i knew what was happening to all of her tomatoes. I had been found out! I looked at her very seriously and told her it must be the dang rabbits. She agreed and said maybe they think that they’re apples too. Today, I still cannot resist eating the very first ripe tomato of the season straight from the vine, apple style. Its delicious and easy to make your own sun-dried tomatoes and a great use of surplus ripe tomatoes.

Sun-dried Tomatoes

3lbs tomatoes halved
1tbsp dried oregano
1tbsp dried basil
1tbsp garlic salt
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves minced

In a glass baking dish arrange tomato halves cut side up. Sprinkle with all seasonings except minced garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Place in a 275 degree oven for a total of 3 hours. But halfway through turn tomatoes over and return to the oven for the remaining 1.5 hours. When finished the tomatoes should be roasted to a deep red. Remove tomatoes one by one reserving the oil. Place tomatoes in a jar or bowl in layers. Sprinkle minced garlic between layers. Pour Reserved oil from baking dish over the tomatoes. This makes a great pizza topping! You can also toss it with pasta or serve with cheese and a nice crusty baguette.

ready for the oven

sundried tomatoes