tomato basil salsa over chicken breast

I wish I could say something poetic about the glut of tomatoes in my garden this year. But alas, I can not. Because I got a harvest totaling six tomatoes. Six. I had twelve plants of all different varieties, but between the unnaturally cool spring, the obnoxious amount of rain we’ve had, and my lack of attention to the garden as of late, the tomatoes plants all bit the dust.

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So. The six fruits I managed to grow are precious to me.
I felt like I needed to prelude with this because there are a myriad of ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes. (Tomato sandwiches are one of my favorite!) And yet I have chosen to take four of my six and blend them into a sautéed tomato and basil salsa.
But fear not. It’s that good and worth each precious fruit I spent. In addition to which, this recipe is whole 30 friendly.

I mixed up the salsa one morning in about twenty minutes (before I made coffee even!) and stuck it in the fridge for later use. Tonight it was simmered over medium heat until it began to resemble a sauce more than a salsa, and poured lavishly over grilled chicken breast. Summer in its zenith.

The key to eating clean is simplicity and preparedness. If a recipe takes too long to make or is too fussy, then I’m liable to cram fistfuls of chips or thick slices of cheese into my mouth while I’m making dinner because I’m too ravenous to wait. There goes Whole 30. Oops.
So:
Be prepared.
Keep it simple.

This recipe does both. I used a food processor to finish the dicing process for me and pulsed the ingredients below a few times before tasting and adding salt and pepper. You can use a knife and dice each item on its own as well, combining everything in a mixing bowl. Either way, this recipe is diverse, keeps well in the fridge, can be used hot or cold, and is worth the expenditure of four precious garden tomatoes.
Enjoy!

TOMATO BASIL SALSA

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4 medium tomatoes, cubed.
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 whole onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
dash of salt
dash of pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

 

Cauliflower-Rice Stuffed Peppers

Well, the time has come.
I must lay aside my mixing cups, my sugar and flour, the almond and vanilla flavoring—it’s time to set aside the pastry and fruit, the chocolate, and cinnamon glaze. It is nearly September and this summer saw a bakery style transformation occur in my kitchen.
And somehow my closet also transformed.
All of my clothing shrunk.

Ahem.

But cooling evening temperatures and achingly blue skies are bringing out a desire for roasted root veggies and sage, soup, baked eggplant and zucchini, and a cleaner approach to life in the kitchen. It’s time.

Last September I did my first round of Whole 30. —For those unfamiliar with this, Whole 30 is essentially a month’s reprieve from processed food, grain, sugar, and alcohol. A reset. A month of whole-food eating. A gastronomical rest. It was the best thing I did for myself last fall. And I’m ready to do something good for myself again.
If you’re interested in jumping on that sort of bandwagon for a short period of time (read: do-able period of time) stick around. Most of the recipes you find here for the next thirty days will be Whole 30 compliant. But even if that’s not your jam, I promise the food you find here will be nourishing, tasty, and not overly-complicated, as always.

To get things off to a rolling start:

CAULIFLOWER-RICE STUFFED PEPPERS

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1 head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to your taste preference
3-4 chicken thighs, cooked and diced fine
2-3 cups of baby greens
3-4 sweet peppers, color of your choice

Start with a batch of cauliflower rice.
I use a food processor for this, but you can also use a hand grader.
When whirled in a food processor or run over a grade, cauliflower transforms into ‘grains’ that resemble rice in texture, but of course, without the grain aspect Whole 30 and other clean eating methods avoid.

Take one head of cauliflower and whirl, or grate one small batch at a time, until the entire head has been transformed into “rice.” In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and cook diced onion and diced garlic until transparent. Add the cauliflower rice and work gently with a soft spatula over the heat until it cooks through. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the rice and then add the diced chicken thighs (or omit, if you prefer to avoid meat), and finally, add the baby greens. Continue mixing over heat until the greens begin to wilt and all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Remove from heat.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove seeds from inside. Fill each pepper with cauliflower rice, place in a baking dish, and bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes.

Serve warm.

Cinnamon-Rum Ice Cream

It’s Sunday morning and after a cold rainy day yesterday and a very cool night, I’m caught somewhere between late summer and early fall. This is evidenced by several nectarines on my counter, quickly becoming over-ripe.
I’ve baked them into almost every muffin, cake, and pastry I can devise this week, so it seemed unwise to bake them into anything else this morning. (My waistline doth protest!)
But what if . . .

This is my favorite question, by the way. It’s how I begin every story and every new recipe.

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What if I let them stand on their own? Halve and pit, sprinkle with cinnamon and glaze with honey. Broil for a quick minute or two so they warm and singe. And then top with ice cream! What’s better than ice cream for breakfast?!
Unfortunately, Cotton Candy Ice Cream was the flavor of the week, according to my kids, and it is all I had in my freezer. Nasty.
Solution: make my own. But alas, I don’t have an ice cream maker.
Pffft. No worries. You don’t need one for this recipe.
Just a freezer, a blender, and a few hours.

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So from my late-summer-early-fall kitchen to yours: homemade Cinnamon-Rum Ice Cream, excellent over honey-glazed nectarines (or peaches).
This morning this is breakfast, but dessert is an excellent option as well.
Enjoy!

CINNAMON-RUM ICE CREAM

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2 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup white sugar
a dash cinnamon
a dash of ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp rum extract (or a teaspoon or two of the real thing!)

In a blender, combine the ingredients and whirl until frothy, and the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a metal bread-pan and freeze for 4-5 hours at least, preferably overnight.

Nectarine Galette

Late summer. August. The season of purple cone flower and golden yarrow, cicada song, heat, and stone fruit. Peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots . . . the apples and pears are close behind, but for now it’s all about achingly sweet fruit that melts into pastry dough and oozes out of pie crust. Welcome to my favorite part of summer. This quote from Natalie Babbitt sums it up perfectly for me (though sadly, we are already past the first week in August).

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.” 
(from Tuck Everlasting)

I found  a crate of nectarines at the grocery this week. They were so ripe I could smell them almost as soon as I walked into the store. I prefer nectarines to peaches because I’m not overly fond of fuzzy peach skin. They are not quite as sweet as peaches, but nearly. And they meet this galette, saturated in brown sugar and cinnamon, the way the first week in August meets September. —A final sweet hurrah of summer.

NECTARINE AND BROWN SUGAR GALETTE

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BUTTERMILK PIE CRUST
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup chilled buttermilk

In a food processor, whirl the butter, flour, and salt until crumbly. Then, one teaspoon at a time, add the buttermilk until a dough forms. The trick here is not to overwork the dough or let it get warm. You don’t want the butter melting into the dough, but rather staying rather crumbled within it—those butter bits are what will make the dough flaky when it bakes.

FILLING
3 very ripe nectarines, sliced and pitted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup flour

In a bowl, gently combine the sliced fruit with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. The flour will help thicken the juices and sugar as they galette bakes, but there will be extra juice in the bowl. You can leave this and discard it when you scoop the fruit onto the pastry.

Roll the pastry out between two pieces of parchment paper until you have a 1/4 inch thick circle about 12 inches in diameter. Remove the top sheet of paper and scoop the nectarines into the center of the rolled dough, leaving 2 1/2 inches around the outside edge free of fruit. Taking an edge of the dough, bring it up onto the fruit and press it gently. Bring the next edge, beside the one you just creased, up beside it and onto the fruit, gently pressing it onto itself. Go around the circle, pulling the dough up onto itself, one bit at a time until the whole thing is self contained in a sort of pastry-pocket. The beauty of a galette, is that you do not need a pie pan!

Slip the bottom layer of paper with the galette on top, onto a flat baking sheet and bake on 350-degree preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown across the top.
Allow to cool before serving.

rustic pastry with preserves

This recipe totally cheats.
Just felt like I should start with that so you’re prepared when you see pancake mix on the list of necessary ingredients.
Like I said. Cheating.
If it bugs you, you can totally mix up your own dry pancake mix from scratch. In fact, I have a great recipe right here. Just leave out the wet ingredients!

There. That’s done.
Moving on.

I love this recipe for its simplicity. And yet the end result is gorgeous in a rustic, french-breakfast kind of way. I imagine myself enjoying a slice while on a balcony in Paris, early morning sunlight filtering through white curtains as I lounge about in a silk robe.

Clearly this is my imagination at work, because reality looks more like a mad rush of chaos between changing diapers and serving slices of this pastry up on paper plates, to small humans who are clearly dying of starvation (as evidenced by their whining for food before the sun rises).
A far cry from balconies and silk robes, but it’s nice to know we can whip up beautiful food that meets us where we’re at. So here. Here’s to pretty food that tastes good, nourishes, and meets us where we’re at. Cheers, and enjoy!

RUSTIC PASTRY

3 cups of pancake mix
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2-3/4 cup fruit preserves of your choice

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine butter, egg, and yogurt. Gradually stir in pancake mix until a thick dough forms. Use your hands or a dough hook to finish combining the dry ingredients with the butter mixture.

On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll dough out in a large rectangle, approximately 1/4 inch thick. With a spoon, spread fruit preserves down the middle of the dough and then cut notches along either side of the preserves, folding each strip up on top of the preserves as you go. A kind of braid will form with each new strip you layer. Lightly sprinkle the finished braid with cinnamon and sugar. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown across the top.
Allow to cool slightly and set before serving.

Ps. This would be super good with Nutella filling in place of the preserves. Just saying.

Cinnamon Rolls

Weekend food is not typically my favorite. Often I feel as though I get stuck in the kitchen while my tribe goes off galavanting.
HOWEVER. Sunday morning food traditions are an exception.

When I was a child, my Mom used to make a large pan of cinnamon roll on Saturday night. They would rise, gaining girth and height until she would pop them into the oven Sunday at dawn. The whole house would smell of baking cinnamon rolls and I swear to you, my spiritual life is wafted-over with the smell of baking cinnamon and brown sugar. It’s a beautiful thing. My mom is particularly good at recognizing both the physical and spiritual needs of her people. Food when we’re hungry, naps when we’re weary, prayers over all. It’s a motto she lives by, though I’m not sure she’s ever stated those words exactly. I’ve inherited some of that from her.
And also cinnamon rolls on Sunday morning.

These are so easy to whip up, I rarely make them Saturday night. Sunday morning before my tribe starts rolling out of bed is enough time. Thirty minutes or so and these guys are in the oven. Also, they rise as they bake, so no need to wait overnight.
Enjoy!


CINNAMON ROLLS

DOUGH:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon quick-rising yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup very warm water
3 cups flour

FILLING:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon (or more) cinnamon

In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine warm water, melted butter, sugar, salt, and yeast. Whip vigorously until yeast mixture is foamy. Add in flour, one cup at a time, stirring until you can no longer work with a spoon or spatula. If you’re using a stand mixer, attach the kneading hook and finish the last cup of flour with that. If you’re using elbow grease, dump soft dough onto the counter top and work the last cup in by hand. Allow to rest for ten minutes.

Work dough on a floured surface into a large, long rectangle. Dough should be no more than 1/2 an inch thick. If the dough continues to shrink dramatically every time you stretch it out, allow it to rest a couple more minutes. Feel free to use a rolling pin if you like.

Spread the surface liberally with butter, then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up, working the long side of the rectangle closest to you toward the opposite side, smoothing and stretching as you go. When you reach the opposite side, pinch the open side onto the roll, sealing it up. Turn the roll seam-side down, and using a sharp knife, trim off the ends. Cut the roll in eighteen to twenty slices, about 2 inches long each.

Place rolls in a well-buttered pan (you should have enough small blunt-ended rolls for two round pans) and allow to rest for ten minutes or so. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown across the top. Serve warm.

Pesto

There are so many varieties to this gorgeous idea of herbs and olive oil blended and tossed over pasta. Parsley . . . Cilantro . . . Rosemary . . . I even whip up a batch of Balsamic-Lemon Spinach Pesto that’s really delightful! But truly, my favorite variety is the traditional one.
Basil.
The earthy sweetness. Crisp and almost acidic, but not quite. Green like fresh grass. It’s hard to find a meal I enjoy more than one that includes fresh pesto. And knowing this about myself, I planted ten basil plants in my garden this year. That’s right. Ten. And I might double that next year. I have no shame.

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My two oldest girls and I cut a bunch, washed them up, and whipped up a lovely batch of pesto this week. I spooned it generously over three-cheese ravioli and fresh grape tomatoes. Sprinkled with parmesan, only a loaf of crusty bread would have made it better. Next time.

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PESTO 
1 large bunch of basil—roughly 2 cups of leaves, washed, and stems removed
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 grated parmesan cheese
1 heaping teaspoon garlic
dash of lemon juice

Pine nuts are traditionally part of a solid pesto recipe, but I’m not a fan, so I left them out. If you like them, roast two tablespoons in a hot sauté pan with a splash of olive oil and salt until they brown. Set aside on paper toweling and allow to cool.

In a food processor, whirl basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and parmesan, scraping down sides of the bowl frequently for about a minute, or until a thick, smooth paste forms.

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Everyone has a different opinion about the thickness of a proper pesto. The beauty of making your own, means you get to decide what that looks like! Feel free to add more olive oil if you prefer your pesto a little thinner.
At this point you would also add the roasted pine nuts if you enjoy them.
Whirl again, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Serve over pasta of your choice, hot or cold.

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To store: divide between small jars and freeze what you intend keep beyond immediate use.
Enjoy!