Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to Use Your Summer Tomatoes

It's time to use your summer tomatoes!

Today I wanted to share with you some different dishes that may inspire you to use the ripe summer tomatoes that are currently available.

The best place to buy them?  From farm stands, farmer's markets or natural store foods such as Whole Foods for the best flavors.  However, many stores such as Trader Joe's, Sprouts, and your local grocery store care many wonderful varieties right now such as Heirloom, On the vine, or juicy cherry tomatoes.

You really can't go wrong.  Just look for ones that are brightly colored, plump, and free from blemishes.

Below are some recipes to whet your appetites and provide you with a little tomato inspiration.

Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

Heirloom Pizza

Tomato Salad

Big Batch Marinara Sauce

Cheese Focaccia Panzanella with Grilled Ratatouille

Love me some tomatoes!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Spaghetti with Summer Fresh Garlic Tomato Sauce

For quick weeknight dinners that are low calories and taste fabulous turn to in-season ingredients.

Today we are talking tomatoes!  I love, love, love a good summer tomato.  The flavor is unbeatable don't you think? They are at their height of their natural season, in summer, usually June through September.  To pick the ones with the most flavor, visit farm stands, farmers' markets and natural-food stores for vine-ripened tomatoes, that are organic (if possible).  But how do you keep these beauties?  You'll want to store ripe tomatoes at room temperature for up to 3 days.  That means you will want to use them pretty quickly for the best flavor.

Here is a wonderful view of the different types of tomatoes available right now.

courtesy of

I'm using fresh grape tomatoes that I got from a local farmer's market in today's pasta dish.  Using the best ingredients when you have only a few in the dish makes all the difference in the taste.  You want quality oils and vinegar and fresh herbs.  This will make each flavor pop!

Coming soon I'll be sharing a side dish salad made with Heirloom tomatoes.  Big, beautiful, pretty tomatoes.  I love them as well!  What is your favorite tomato?

Spaghetti with Summer Fresh Garlic Tomato Sauce

Serves 2

4 ounces uncooked spaghetti
2 cups grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
pinch sea salt

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

Cut each tomato crosswise into 8 to 10 thin slices. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and pepper; increase heat to medium-high. Cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes slightly soften, stirring occasionally. Stir in pasta, reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid, basil, and salt. 

adapted from

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Strawberry Banana Bread

I'm stocking up on my summer fruits by buying large quantities and freezing them.

I love my summer fruits, especially the berries.  I can't even believe that the season is almost over.  The good thing about living in Southern California is that the summer heat doesn't actually end until October here.  I just wish there fruit would last as long!

I recently bought blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and red and gold raspberries.  I flash freeze them in a single layer on a sheet pan in the freezer for about 1 hour and then store them in good freezer bags.  They will last me well into winter when I want a nice smoothie or dessert.

So I didn't freeze all my berries because I've been in the mood to make some fruit dishes lately.  I kept out some strawberries to try this Strawberry Banana Bread I've been eyeing on Pinterest from Lisa over at Wine & Glue.  It looked scrumptious and let me say, it is!

I hope you enjoy this bread and use up all the fresh summer berries you can while they last!

Strawberry Banana Bread

makes 1 loaf


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large ripe bananas, mashed well
4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, beaten
6 oz vanilla Greek yogurt 
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup diced strawberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 by 5 inch bread pan with cooking spray. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  
In a large bowl whisk together the mashed bananas, melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla.  Gently add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, folding them together until just combined.  
Gently stir in the strawberries. The batter will be very thick.

Pour the batter into the bread pan and bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

Allow to cool 10 in the loaf pan, then invert and remove the bread to a wire rack to cool.  Slice and serve.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mediterranean Lemon Chicken Pasta

Call us crazy...

Fair will probably think so after reading this.

MGG and I like to take time for lots of little getaways. Something that is weekend doable, not quite too far from LA and worth the drive. We just want to get a mental break and relax...

Needing a much deserved break we were looking for somewhere different to go and landed our sites on Palm Springs, CA. Here comes the crazy part. If you don't know anything about Palm Springs well, it's located in the dessert.
In the middle of nowhere really. So hello? it's summertime right? What were we thinking of? Going to stay in the dessert in the middle of summer with temps of 115 degrees. Yikes! Crazy huh!

Well really it wasn't all that bad, and we did go to relax. We ended up staying at the JW Marriott Dessert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Dessert and it was just wonderful. They have a lake that's pretty large. They offer boat rides around the lake and will shuttle you across the lake to your dinner reservation. Way cool! The grounds were really nice and we got to try several of the restaurants and bars. The food was amazing at The Rockwood Grill which overlooked the lake and the pools. MGG had a Beet Salad that was almost too pretty to eat. It was outstanding, and it even had homemade goat cheese which was just the icing on the cake. I had the Rotisserie Chicken Salad which I loved. It was a southwestern take on a salad with cilantro chipotle dressing that was killer!

So we relaxed by the pool, took in some sites and shopping and then sadly, had to return home. That's the sad part about short weekend getaways...not wanting to go home. Off we drove back to LA and back to reality.

We made it home is record time and once again, I decided to turn to a quick weeknight meal for our dinner. With what I had on hand I whipped up a wonderful dish I call Mediterranean Lemon Chicken Pasta. It's actually a riff off of my recipe for Mediterranean Lemon Chicken. I loved the sauce so much that I just made it again, but created a pasta dish with different veggies and chicken and put it all together with the wonderful lemon sauce.

You are gonna love this sauce and this quick and easy dish. MGG practically inhaled it, which is always a good sign. He even asked for seconds! Make sure to try this one, it's a keeper!

Mediterranean Lemon Chicken Pasta

serves 4-6

8 oz of linguine
3 T olive oil
3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
8 oz of sliced mushrooms
1 large zucchini, cut in half and sliced
2 T flour
1 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
1 t lemon zest
2 T lemon juice
1 t fresh thyme, chopped
salt & pepper
Fresh grated Parmesan

Cook linguine in boiling water according to package directions.  Meanwhile heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add chicken pieces and cooks until just browned.  Add tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini.  Cook until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through.  

Drain pasta and keep warm.  Add flour to the skillet and cook 1 minute, stirring into vegetables.  Add the chicken broth, lemon zest, juice, and thyme to skillet.  Bring to a boil and allow to cook 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens.  Add pasta to skillet and stir to combine. Season with salt & pepper to taste.  Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese if desired.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Beth's Downtown Club

I have always loved a good sandwich, especially for lunch on the weekend.

MGG and I invited some friends over this weekend to hang out by the pool and have lunch alfresco.
Even though it's majorly hot outside sitting by the pool, taking the occasional dip seems to make things better.

So for a casual get together I decided to make a favorite sandwich of mine from way back.  The Club Sandwich has been around forever, but you don't seem to see it too often. A few weeks ago I saw one on the menu at Corner Bakery and it reminded me of how much I really love this sandwich. All the layers, textures, and flavors just work.  So I set out to my own version of their Uptown Club by using my favorite meats and ingredients.  

Buy the freshest ingredients you can find, great bread, and thinly sliced deli meat.  This makes for a fabulous tasting sandwich.  Served along with a big bowl of various fruits, potato salad, and some ice tea or beer and you are set. All our guests enjoyed the meal.  I even got a "This is the best sandwich ever!" compliment.  Don't you love that?

But don't take my word for it. Judge for yourself.


Beth's Downtown Club

makes 1 sandwich

2 slices of bacon
3 slices of country bread
1 large lettuce leaf
2 oz deli thin sliced turkey
2 slice swiss cheese
2 slice of tomato, thinly sliced
2 oz deli thin sliced ham
3 slices of avocado

Cook your bacon in a skillet over medium heat, until brown and crisp, turning once.  Remove from skillet to a paper towel and set aside.  Toast your slices of bread until golden brown.  On one slice of bread spread one side with mayo.  Add the lettuce, sliced turkey and top with bacon pieces.  

On the next slice of toasted bread add mustard to one side of the bread.  Place the bread mustard side up on the sandwich.  Add the cheese and tomato slices, sliced ham and avocado.  With the last piece of bread spread mayo on one side and place that mayo side down on the sandwich.  Cut in half on the diagonal and serve.


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