Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Toast

If it’s been awhile that I wrote a general life post than it’s been FOREVER since I shared a recipe. We’ve definitely been eating well though, so hopefully I can get busy in the kitchen and snap some photos to share.

This year we planted five tomato plants and OH MAN did they ever produce. I’ve made about 20 pint jars of salsa, given away bags and bags full to friends, family, neighbors and coworkers, and made fresh caprese salad dozens of times. It’s now mid-September and I’m still collecting 4 or 5 tomatoes every couple days (last night I got 9– true story). I certainly don’t mean to complain about having so much produce, but I tell ya, it’s tough to come up with new ways to use it all.

I actually found this recipe looking for new ways to use the 1+ lb block of goat cheese that I recently bought. Goat cheese + roasted tomatoes + basil + balsamic reduction…. That’s a combination that will get me into the kitchen RIGHT THAT SECOND to make (which is definitely what happened!).

There’s a few steps to this open faced sandwich, but most of them you can do while the tomatoes are busy, busy roasting. It probably took me about a half hour to prepare, but was well worth the wait and the effort!

It also looks pretty fancy (if I say so myself!) so it would be a perfect recipe to make for a small dinner party or if you were trying to impress someone.

(little note before we get started: I’m going to leave off the quantity for each ingredient. I had plenty of tomatoes and balsamic reduction (enough for 4-5 people), but since it’s just me — I obviously didn’t need a ton of toast, goat cheese, parmesan, basil, etc..)

Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Toast

Ingredients:

  • Good Sandwich Bread (I used a marble rye + pumpernickel, but you can use whatever)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Garlic, minced
  • Goat Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Balsamic Reduction (recipe to follow)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice tomatoes 1/4 inch thick and lay on a foil lined baking sheet.

DSC_09232.  Mix together olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic and pour some over each tomato.

DSC_0924 DSC_09273. Roast tomatoes in oven for 20-25 minutes. (when they’re done, they’ll be shriveled and almost brown around the edges)

DSC_09464. While those are cooking, make the balsamic reduction (look below for directions) and toast the bread. Brush olive oil on each side of bread and place on a hot skillet (medium heat). Flip until each side is browned (like you’re cooking a grilled cheese).

DSC_0937 DSC_09385. Once bread is browned, spread goat cheese over each piece.

DSC_09576. Still on the hot skillet — fry parmesan cheese and cook until brown on each side. Once browned, let cool on plate and break into pieces.

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7. Use a spatula and place roasted tomatoes on each slice (I had mid-sized tomatoes so I could fit three per piece of toast). Top with chopped basil, parmesan crisps, and balsamic reduction.

DSC_09648. Devour!

Balsamic Reduction:

This can be used in SO many recipes to really take them to the next level. All you need is 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar. Heat in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring very, very frequently (but I wouldn’t say constantly). It should take about 10 minutes to completely reduce. You want to take it off the heat when there is about 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar left and it’s the consistency of maple syrup.

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There you have it!!!

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Margarita Cupcakes

It’s Wednesday, what better time to talk about booze, right? Uhh.. Hmmm, I’m not sure that’s exactly true, but hey, it’ll work! Speaking of booze, part of our focus on health dealio was to cut back on drinking a bit. We definitely don’t drink all the time, but there’s always room for improvement! First, we considering not drinking at all during the month of January to really kick start the year. All was going well and dandy until the first Friday night.

You see, every Friday night Alex and I go out to a Happy Hour near our house. We have a drink or two and grab some food, we chat with our bartenders, and we make new friends at the bar. It’s our thing. We don’t go crazy and drink all night or spend a ridiculous amount of money. We just hang and decompress from the week. In fact, most evenings we’re home by 7:30 and already in our PJs. So on this particular Friday, we were contemplating what we should do instead… should we go to the movies? Just hang out at home? We searched our minds for answers when we both realized that we really wanted to do our thing and that we had been looking forward to it all week. We agreed that instead of putting a restriction on not drinking for the whole month, we decided we just wouldn’t have a glass of wine after work and drink only on Friday and Saturday nights.

 DSC_0092

here we are at the Budweiser factory in NH.

So far, so good. We don’t have to give up something we enjoy or quality time that we both anticipate all week long. But, we are still being a little more mindful of it and making good choices.

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here we are with Mr. Jack Daniels himself in Tennessee.

These babies are probably not good choices, but I just have to share them with you. My mom’s friend, Becky, would bring them to all of their girls’ nights and my mom would rave on and on about them. I never understood why until I was there one night and got to try them! They are out of this world! I’ve made them twice since then for parties – once for Alex’s 30th birthday and just this past New Year’s Eve. They’re always a big hit!

I think the recipe she originally used was from here, although I’ve listed the changes that I’ve made below.

Also – you can find a ton of recipes online that make the cupcakes completely from scratch. This one uses a white cake mix as the base. It turns out really, really well using the mix that I haven’t even bothered to try it from scratch. If you try both and the from scratch recipe is waaaay better, let me know and I’ll give ‘em a whirl.

Margarita Cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients
9 ounces Margarita Mixer
3 ounces tequila
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
1 (regular size) box white cake mix
3 large egg whites
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon lime zest

Icing Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/8 teaspoon salt
Tequila and Grand Marnier to taste
1 teaspoon lime zest
green food coloring (optional)
small lime slices for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine margarita mix, tequila and Grand Marnier in a small bowl. The original recipe suggests using only 1 ¼ cup of this mix for the recipe, however, I’ve used the entire amount and it turned out great!
  3. Blend cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, lime zest and the liquid mix. Blend on low until ingredients are incorporated and then increase speed to medium for two minutes. Batter should be slightly lumpy.
  4. Pour batter into cupcake liners (about 3/4 full). Bake for 20-25 min, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pans. Remove them to a rack to cool completely.
  5. To prepare icing beat butter until light and fluffy. Add 5-6 cups of powdered sugar, salt, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix until thick and creamy. I’ve found that these ingredients alone make the icing way too thick. I always add tequila and Grand Marnier to my icing mix to thin it out (or just margarita mix if I’m making non-alcoholic ones for kids). Mix in a small amount of green food coloring or if you desire (I’ve made them with and without this step). Ice cupcakes once they are completely cool. Use small lime slices as garnish.

Enjoy!

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Have you ever tried margarita cupcakes before? Or some other kind of alcoholic cupcake? I’ve heard of Bluemoon cupcakes, but I’ve never tried them. What’s your absolute favorite kind of cake/cupcake??

NYE + Salsa Recipe

Wow, I’m getting pretty original with the old titles, aren’t I? Yes, my friends – I put a lot of thought into that one.

Happy New Years Eve! Tonight we’re planning to hang out with good friends and family at my mom’s house. I’ll bring my camera — you know that though. I’ll even try to take pictures of people too, not just dogs! Oh yeah, it’s happening. Let’s take bets though. Five to one chances that I take twice as many pictures of dogs than people. What do you think?

DSC_0857I kinda like these mutts.

DSC_0848Before the holiday season is officially over and it becomes taboo to write about it anymore, I wanted to share my little village. I remember as a child my grandma (who we all call Mom (yes, even Alex) but I think that would be confusing for all you non-family members).. anyway! I remember my grandma had a village set up every Christmas. I could sit for hours and look into all of the different houses (they’re very, very fragile so certainly not a toy) and imagine about the little people’s lives. I would make up little stories about their Christmases and their families.

I kinda forgot about them though. It wasn’t until Alex and I got really serious and started our own Christmas traditions when he told me that his mom had a collection of them as well. So it was an easy decision, I wanted a Christmas village too. We started collecting the Department 56, Dickens Village a couple years ago and oh, how it’s grown!

This year we set up a little table just for the houses!

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DSC_0866I just love them. They make me feel like a little kid!

Anyway, let’s get to this recipe. I’ve mentioned it a few times that the man of the house REALLY enjoys salsa. Like… a lot, a lot. He judges salsa based on whether it can make the back of his neck sweat. When I ask Alex to put into words how much he likes salsa, his exact words were (in a very serious voice, mind you), “I can’t. I drink salsa. I love it.”

So, in an attempt to have his favorite snack around the house – I dove head first into the salsa making world. I’ve tried all different kinds. Fresh tomatoes, pureed, chopped, roasted, ALL KINDS.

The problem was that every time I made a different kind of salsa, I never wrote the recipe down. I just kinda winged it, ya know? I would throw in this and that, we would taste it, then I’d add a little more of a couple things. It really wasn’t a science. BUT every time we would find the best salsa ever, I could never recreate it exactly. Thus this recipe was born. I made salsa again a couple weeks ago and wrote down every ingredient and made changes every time I added a little more. It was a pain, but I’m happy it’s done and I can finally make it taste the same every time! Huzzah!

some notes before we get started: I use a food processor, but you could use a blender as well. I would recommend chopping the onions and jalapeños first if you use a blender. Also, this recipe is more of a pureed salsa without any big chunks. You could throw some chunks in at the end if you want more texture. Additionally, I’ve found that using fresh tomatoes versus canned tomatoes doesn’t make a big difference taste wise. Unless it’s summer time and I have an overflow of tomatoes like I did here, I always use cans now. I buy them in bulk and they’re way cheaper than fresh ones and MUCH less work than cutting them and scooping out the seeds, yadda yadda.

One last thing: keep in mind that the longer you keep the salsa in the fridge, the stronger the cilantro taste becomes. If you aren’t eating it right away, tone down the cilantro. And feel free to make a TON and freeze it (like I did here and here).

Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 -3 jalapeños (depending on how spicy you like it, I freeze my jalapeños in half so I use 2.5 (5 halves))
  • 1.5 medium onions or 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1.5 T garlic
  • 3 T of lime juice
  • 1 t cummin
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 3 cans of chopped tomatoes (do not drain)
  • small handful of cilantro, rinsed
  • salt to taste

Directions

1. In a food processor (or blender) pulse together onions, garlic and jalapeños until chopped.

DSC_06562. Add the remaining ingredients besides the tomatoes and pulse until well incorporated.

DSC_06573. Add tomatoes and pulse until desired consistency.

DSC_06594. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour for flavors to really combine. (we occasionally eat it right away, it’s still good. it just gets better if you can manage to wait!)

ENJOY!

DSC_0662So yeah, it’s really easy. Just basically throw it all in the processor and pulse it together. Bing, Bang, Boom. Done.

one more quick note: I typically only use two cans of tomatoes, however, I added a little too much lime juice this time so I had to dull it down with more tomatoes. If you only want to make it with two cans, only use 2 T of lime juice rather than 3. Since I was trying to write down exactly what I used and we ended up loving this end result, I’m keeping the recipe as is.

Do you have any recipes that just wing every time you make it? Do you have specific Christmas/holiday decorations that remind you of childhood? Do you have any fun NYE plans? 

Happy New Year!!!!