JALAPENO POPPER AND TOMATO GRILLED SANDWICH

My first jalapeno popper sandwich came to me via Kevin at Closet Cooking (www.closetcooking.com), and it was a winner at our house. While preparing to recreate the taste sensation of months past, the pretty Roma tomatoes in my produce drawer caught my eye–just begging for a good salting and savoring. So I messed with Kevin’s recipe a bit more and put some red into our sandwich. The verdict: Make it again, Mom!

8 jalapeno peppers, cut in quarters lengthwise and seeded

8 slices sourdough bread (good quality–Panera Bread is our favorite)

2 tbsp butter

8 tbsp “light” cream cheese, softened

2 cups grated “reduced fat” sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup crumbled tortilla chips

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin

sea salt

pepper

1) Preheat oven to broil

2) Place pepper quarters on baking sheet, skin side up; broil 8-10 minutes until skin blisters and is lightly browned; remove from oven, let cool, peel away and discard blistered skin

3) Lay out 4 slices of bread; top each with a spread of 2 tbsp cream cheese, 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 of the jalapeno strips, 1/8 cup crumbled tortilla chips, 1/4 of the tomatoes, a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, another 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, and slice of bread

4) In non-stick pan* (I used a grill pan) over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp butter (reserving 1 tbsp); add sandwiches to pan and grill until cheese begins to melt and bread is golden brown (4-5 minutes); before grilling second side, spread remaining butter over top slices of bread; flip, grill until golden brown; now you get to eat 🙂

*Note: Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to make sandwiches in batches, so divide butter accordingly

Serves: 4

CHICKEN-CORN CHOWDER WITH AVOCADO-TOMATO RELISH

I love a good soup almost as much as I love a good salad, and now that the weather’s cooling, I have yet another reason to pull out the soup pot and toss in yummy ingredient after yummy ingredient. This chicken-corn chowder was tasting pretty fine, though not anything to spectacular–until I topped it with avocado-tomato relish. Then–wow! So the relish is not optional. Enjoy!

Chicken-Corn Chowder with Avocado-Tomato Relish

1 tbsp olive oil

3 slices turkey bacon, chopped small

1 medium-sized onion, diced

3 tbsp flour

4 cups chicken broth

3-10 oz cans chicken breast, undrained

1 large potato, chopped small (I used a baking potato)

1-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used Campari)

1/2 avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped

3 radishes, sliced thin

3 cups frozen corn

juice of 2 limes

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1) To large soup pot, add olive oil and heat over medium; add bacon and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until just crisp; add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring often; sprinkle flour over onion-bacon mixture and cook, stirring often, 3 minutes

2) Stir in chicken broth, chicken breast with its liquid, and potato; increase heat to medium-high and, stirring occasionally, bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes;

3) Meanwhile, in small bowl combine avocado, tomato, and radish; set aside

4) Add corn and lime juice to soup and cook 3 minutes; stir in heavy whipping cream and cook 2 minutes; ladle soup into bowls, scatter avocado-tomato-radish mixture over top, and sprinkle with cilantro; serve!

Servings: 4-6

SHRIMP-BLACK BEAN-AVOCADO SALAD

Though our summer here in middle Tennessee has been unusually rainy, it’s still been hot (and humid) enough to justify an overabundance of salads as entrees. This time, however, I nixed the lettuce (of course, this recipe can certainly be served on a bed of iceberg or romaine). Regardless, it’s a delicious summer meal that will have forks chasing around every last bean and avocado bit. Enjoy!

Shrimp-Black Bean-Avocado Salad

2-15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 lb cooked medium-sized shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tailless

1 small red onion, diced small

1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced

1-1/2 cups diced tomatoes

2 tbsp minced jalapeno

2 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

lettuce (optional)

Tortilla chips (optional)

1) To large bowl add black beans, shrimp, red onion, avocado, tomatoes, and jalapeno; gently mix

2) Add olive oil, lime juice, oregano, cumin, and sea salt; gently mix

3) If you go the lettuce route, first divide lettuce between 4 plates; divide shrimp salad between servings, sprinkle with cilantro, and add a few tortilla chips on the side (optional); serve!

Servings: 4-6

ALMOND-SCATTERED SCALLOPS OVER CORN-TOMATO RELISH

I don’t always get scallops right, but more on that in a moment. This dish is perfect summer fare–tasty, light, and quick and easy to prepare. As for getting scallops right (a lovely sear), the trick is to remove excessive moisture before cooking by setting them on a paper-towel-lined plate in the fridge for an hour or so. It makes all the difference. So yum!

Almond Scattered Scallops over Corn Tomato Relish

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

3 scallions, sliced thin

1-1/2 cup frozen kernel corn, thawed (or fresh, of course)

1/4 cup white cooking wine (or non-cooking wine, naturally)

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 cup diced tomatoes

sea salt

ground black pepper

12-16 extra-large scallops, patted dry

1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

lime or lemon wedges

1) To large skillet, add 1 tbsp olive oil (reserving 1 tbsp); heat over medium-high; add scallions and corn and cook, stirring a time or two, 3 minutes; add the cooking wine and, when it boils, reduce heat to low; stir in butter, parsley, and tomatoes and lightly season with salt and pepper; let simmer while preparing scallops

2) To large skillet, add 1 tbsp reserved olive oil; heat over high, add scallops, and cook 2-3 minutes each side (to achieve a good sear, move only when flipping to opposite side); remove from heat

3) Divide corn-tomato relish between 4 plates; arrange 3-4 scallops on top and scatter with almonds; serve with lime or lemon wedges and enjoy!

Servings: 4

GRILLED TUNA STEAKS WITH ASPARAGUS AND TOMATO-BALSAMIC SAUCE

I’m not a fish fan, but if I’m going to eat it, tuna is one type of fish that sits well with me–especially paired with asparagus and a tomato-balsamic sauce that’s good all on its own (i.e. by the spoonful). Best of all, despite how gorgeous it presents, it doesn’t take much to pull it all together. Though I used a grill pan, you can certainly pop the asparagus and tuna on an outdoor grill if you want to keep your kitchen cool. Delish!

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Asparagus and Tomato-Balsamic Sauce

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp basil paste (in produce aisle and great for when you don’t have fresh basil; of course, you can always use fresh minced basil instead of paste)

2 tsp Thai Chili Sauce (I used Kikkoman brand)

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 cup finely chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp butter

16-20 spears asparagus, tough ends removed (gently bend and the tough ends will snap right off—toss ’em)

4 tuna steaks, about 3/4″ thick

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees (for warming)

2) To small bowl, add: 2 tbsp olive oil (reserving 1 tbsp), lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, basil paste, Thai Chili Sauce, and sea salt; mix well; stir in tomatoes and set aside

3) To large skillet (I used a grill pan) over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp reserved olive oil and butter; when butter melts, add asparagus and cook 5 minutes, turning often; remove from heat, place on oven-safe plate, and put in oven to keep warm

4) In same skillet (you may have to add a bit more oil and butter) over medium-high heat, cook tuna steaks 3-4 minutes each side until just done (mine was slightly pink in the very center); remove from heat

5) Divide asparagus spears between 4 plates and top with tuna steaks; give tomato-balsamic sauce a stir and pour over tuna steaks; serve immediately (perhaps with a side of cheesy ciabatta bread); enjoy!

Servings: 4

BEEF-TOMATO-BEAN STIR FRY

Beans? Yes, beans in my beef and tomato stir fry. Did it work? It raised eyebrows, but it was bottom-of-the-bowl good!

Beef-Tomato-Bean Stir Fry

2 cups instant white rice

2 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 lbs top sirloin steak, sliced thin into bite-sized pieces

2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

4 green onions, sliced about 1/2″ thick

1-15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1-1/2 cups halved cherub (grape) tomatoes

1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1) Prepare rice according to package directions; keep warm

2) Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat; add steak, sprinkle with chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes until beef is just done throughout

3) Add green onions, kidney beans, and tomatoes and cook additional 5 minutes stirring often; remove from heat

4) Divide rice between four deep bowls; spoon beef stir fry over rice, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve

Servings: 4

BEEF, TOMATO, AND ZUCCHINI IN POLENTA CRUST

Polenta–not just a lovely word but a great addition to meat and meatless dishes. Though the beef, tomato, and zucchini is wonderfully tasty, the texture and taste added by the polenta crust take it to the next level–delicious!

Beef, Tomato, and Zucchini in Polenta Crust

Spray olive oil

3 cups water

2 tsp sea salt, divided

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1-1/4 lb ground beef

1 small red onion, diced

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1-14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained

1-6 oz can tomato paste

1 zucchini, quartered and sliced thin

1/4 cup sweet red wine

2 cups halved grape tomatoes

2 tbsp chopped parsley

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly spray an 11 x 9 baking dish with spray olive oil

2) Over medium-high heat, bring 3 cups water and 1 tsp salt (reserving 1 tsp) to a boil; whisk in cornmeal and, stirring constantly, cook 3 minutes until cornmeal thickens; remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese (reserving 1/2 cup); spread cornmeal mixture in bottom of baking dish and set aside

3) To large skillet over medium heat, add ground beef and cook 5 minutes; add onion and cook 5 minutes; drain oil from beef-onion mixture and add tomatoes, tomato paste, reserved 1 tsp salt, and pepper; cook 5 minutes until warmed through; stir in zucchini and remove from heat

4) Spoon beef-vegetable mixture over polenta, drizzle wine over top, and bake in oven 25 minutes; scatter grape tomatoes over top, followed by reserved 1/2 cup cheese and parsley; bake additional 5 minutes until cheese melts; remove from oven and serve

Servings: 8

CHICKEN AND CREAM CHEESE ENCHILADAS DOUSED IN SALSA VERDE

For our weekly get together with friends, I served Chicken and Cream Cheese Enchiladas Doused in Salsa Verde. And–boy!–did they go fast. On top of being decidedly tasty, the dish was fairly easy to put together, leaving plenty of time to toss together a light salad and set a pretty table. All thumbs up!

Chicken Cream Cheese Enchiladas Doused in Salsa Verde

olive oil spray

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup diced red onion

1-4.5 oz can green chiles

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided

2-1/2 cups chopped baby spinach

3 cups shredded cooked chicken (canned chicken breast works great in a pinch)

1-8 oz pkg reduced fat cream cheese

2-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos, divided

sea salt

ground black pepper

12 taco-sized flour tortillas, room temperature

1-16 oz jar salsa verde, room temperature

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 avocado, diced

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly oil large baking dish with spray olive oil

2) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high; add onion and cook 5 minutes until soft and lightly browned; add green chiles, cilantro (reserving 1 tbsp for topping), spinach, and chicken, and stir to combine; add cream cheese and 2 cups (reserving 1/2 cup) Monterey Jack Cheese and stir constantly until both cheeses melt; season with salt and pepper to taste; remove from heat

3) Spoon chicken-cheese mixture down center of each tortilla and roll up; place tortillas side by side in baking dish (I placed seam-side up and tucked tortillas’ leading edges into adjacent enchiladas); spray top lightly with olive oil and bake in oven 25-30 minutes until tortillas are golden brown; remove from oven, pour salsa verde over top, sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and reserved 1 tbsp cilantro; return to oven and bake 3-5 minutes until salsa verde is heated and cheese melts; serve with a light salad and enjoy!

Servings: 6

EGGS EN COCOTTE WITH BACON AND SPINACH

I treated my kitchen to a set of cast-iron mini casserole dishes and just had to give them a try this past weekend. Handsome, hmm? And what’s baked inside is the taste equivalent of handsome–eggs, spinach, bacon, cheese, and tomato. I see a beautiful future for these mini-casserole dishes and me and mine 🙂

Olive oil

12 tbsp cream

1/3 cup baby spinach, torn

2 strips cooked bacon, chopped

1/2 cup grated monterey jack cheese, divided

1 Roma tomato, diced

sea salt

ground black pepper

8 eggs

2 strips bacon, halved vertically and horizontally into 8 short and skinny strips

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; oil bottom and sides of 4 mini-casserole dishes

2) Assemble mini-casseroles as follows, dividing ingredients equally between servings: cream, spinach, chopped bacon, 1/4 cup cheese (reserving 1/4 cup for topping), tomato, light sprinkle of salt and pepper, eggs; place in oven and bake 15-20 minutes depending on how you prefer your yolks

3) Sprinkle reserved cheese over eggs and cross each dish with bacon strips; cook additional 2-3 minutes until cheese melts; scatter parsley over tops and serve

Servings: 4

CHORIZO-AVOCADO-TOMATO MEXICAN BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

Though this casserole carries the “breakfast” qualifier, it’s a delicious and filling dinner as verified by our guests last night (picture does not do it justice). Even the browned bits on the bottom of the dish were claimed–making for easy clean up 🙂

Chorizo-Avocado-Tomato Breakfast Casserole2

olive oil cooking spray

4 cups diced bread (I used ciabatta, but a hearty white or sourdough would work well too)

1 lb lean ground beef

6 oz chorizo sausage, casing removed (or 8 oz if really spicy is your thing)

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup baby spinach

6 eggs

1 cup milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos (or pepper jack cheese), divided

1-1/2 cups tortilla chips

3 Roma tomatoes, halved and sliced thin thin thin

1 avocado (ripe but on the firm side–mine was a bit too ripe), diced

3 scallions, sliced thin

2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; oil a large casserole dish (I used an oval 10×13″) and spread bread cubes over bottom; set aside

2)Heat a large skillet over medium-heat heat; add ground beef and chorizo (don’t forget to remove casing); cook about 5 minutes until meat browns; reduce heat to medium and drain off excess fat; add onion and red bell pepper to meat and cook 5 minutes until veggies soften; remove from heat, stir in spinach, and spoon mixture over bread cubes

3) In large bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, and mustard; pour egg mixture over bread and meat mixture; scatter 1/2 cup each of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses (reserving 1/2 cup each for topping) over top; scatter tortilla chips over cheeses; cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake 40-45 minutes

4) Meanwhile, in medium bowl gently mix tomatoes, avocado, scallions, and lime juice; refrigerate until ready to use

5) When toothpick inserted in center of casserole comes out clean, scatter reserved cheeses over tortilla chips and bake an additional 5 minutes (uncovered) until cheeses melt; remove from oven and spoon tomato-avocado mixture over top of casserole; serve immediately to the delight of your hungry ones

Servings: 6-8