Fall Nights on the Patio

5 Nov

Fall has finally arrived here in the Northeast and it is beautiful. The chilly nights and the colorful leaves always make me happy. And just because there’s a chill in the air doesn’t mean you can’t use your patio.

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Having our friends and family over for dinner and then going out to the patio to a nice warm fire to roast marshmallows or have an after dinner cocktail is absolutely the best. And there is no better fire kettle than the ones from our friends at Sea Island Forge.

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Sea Island Forge is a collection of handcrafted entertaining and cooking tools which celebrate the laid-back lifestyle enjoyed by generations along the Georgia coastline and now everyone, everywhere can enjoy that same lifestyle. They have an array of handcrafted kettles and all the essential tools to go with them.

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Grab some blankets, invite your friends and enjoy a beautiful night on your patio by the fire creating memories that will last a lifetime.

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Souper Easy Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

29 Oct

Now that soup weather is finally here I decided to make tomato soup. Growing up we always had Campbell’s and I always loved it but now that I rarely eat anything processed or pre-made I thought it was time I grew up and made my own tomato soup. I found a super easy recipe and it tasted great.

As far as what kind of tomatoes to use, you can really use any kind. I did a mixture of Roma and Compari. The recipe called for white onion, not sure I’d use that again, I think I’ll try a Spanish onion the next time I make it. Not crazy about the white onion flavor.

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Ingredients:

6 cups tomatoes, chopped

1 white onion, chopped

Salt

5 or 6 garlic cloves, peeled

2 large red peppers

Red pepper flakes, optional, to taste

2 tsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp olive oil, plus more for roasting

To do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss tomatoes and onions in olive oil, spread evenly on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. You may need 2 baking sheets, you don’t want them too close together.

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Peel garlic and place on tin foil, drizzle with olive oil, fold tin foil and secure edges, place in oven.

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Roast everything for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping tomatoes and onions half way through.

 

After removing the tomatoes and garlic from the oven, roast the red peppers under the broiler. Turn on the broiler, place red peppers whole on baking sheet. Put under broiler on the highest rack so they are close to the flames. Roast about 2 to 3 minutes each side turning as they get charred.

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Once they are well charred, remove and place in a bowl, cover bowl tightly to allow the steam to loosen the skin. At least 5 minutes. Remove the skins, just be careful, they are hot. You can leave some of the char as it adds a nice flavor to the soup.

Once the peppers are peeled; cut, core and remove seeds.

In batches add tomatoes, onions, red peppers, vinegar and olive oil to a blender, only till the blender is half full. Blend until smooth.

 

As you blend each batch, put the blended batch in a pot over low heat, once it is all blended and in the pot you can taste and adjust the seasoning. You may need to add more salt or red wine vinegar for a little more tang.

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Serve with a loaf of rustic bread and enjoy!

 

Cocktail Time: The Aperol Spritz

8 Oct

Here is another post inspired by our recent trip to Italy, the delicious cocktail that is quintessentially Italian, the Aperol spritz. As you look around while sitting at any of the beautiful outdoor cafes the Aperol spritz is everywhere.

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The cocktail is made with the aperitif Aperol that is produced in Italy by Compari. It is refreshing and slightly bitter with the perfect dose of sweetness. The most common garnish is an orange slice but while I was doing research I came across recipes that used everything; cucumbers, raspberries, thyme, rosemary and olives among others. I chose to use fresh rosemary from our garden. (Also because I forgot to get an orange and didn’t feel like going back to the grocery store…again!)

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You’ll need:

3 parts Prosecco

2 parts Aperol

1 part sparkling water

Ice cubes

Garnish of your choice

Add a good amount of ice cubes to a pretty glass, I like a wine glass. Pour the ingredients into the glass, add garnish and begin sipping! Saluti!

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This cocktail is also referred to as the 3-2-1 because of the ratio of ingredients.

And if you look closely at the top right of this photo you can see our goat Pepsi…

*Cocktail napkins: Patio Fashions

Tuscan Inspired Vegetable Soup

1 Oct

We recently took a vacation to Italy; we went to Rome, Tuscany and Florence. All of which were beautiful but I have to say that Tuscany is absolutely breath taking! The scenery, the food, the wine and the people were all wonderful.


When we left it was still summer, now it is definitely fall. And soup season has only just begun, so with that in mind after scouring several recipes I came up with my own Tuscan inspired vegetable soup. While in Tuscany we took a cooking class, it was so much fun! There were 2 other couples in the class from New Jersey, what are the odds?! The one thing that I learned in the class that was eye opening is that the chef didn’t use white onions or Spanish onions in anything, only red. He said that they only use red onions because they are sweeter and don’t have the bitterness that the others can have. Huh, who would have guessed. So in this recipe I used red onion, normally I would have used a Spanish onion for sure.

One other thing about this recipe is that I used pink beans, most Italian soups with beans call for cannellini beans but I did’t have any and certainly didn’t feel like going to the grocery store…again.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs olive oil

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

4 celery stalks, sliced

1 red onion, diced

1 zucchini, sliced then cut the slices into halves

3 cloves, garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried basil

3 Tbs tomato paste

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

6 cups vegetable stock

2 cups spinach

salt and pepper to taste

8 oz. elbow macaroni cooked and drained

Directions:

Heat a large heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium low heat, add olive oil. When oil is heated add onions, celery and carrots. Slowly cook vegetables, stirring every few minutes until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, basil, oregano and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes more.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, bay leaf and stock to pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes more. In the meantime cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside.

After the soup has been simmering for 20 minutes add spinach and cook for 3 or 4 minutes more. Remove from heat.

I like to add the pasta as I eat the soup otherwise in my opinion the pasta sops up the liquid and the soup gets gloppy.

Add some pasta to a bowl, pour desired amount soup over pasta and serve with parmesan cheese and crusty Italian bread. And of course a nice glass of red wine doesn’t hurt!

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* Photographed on Patio Fashions Chambray tablecloth with Patio Fashions Chambray napkins*

 

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Cacciatore, Hold the Chicken!

16 Aug

Since becoming a vegetarian I learned how to make all kinds of recipes without meat, and this has become a favorite. Summer time in New Jersey means lots of fresh local vegetables including eggplant, peppers and the famous Jersey tomatoes all of which I used in this recipe. Now I know most of you think of New Jersey as crowded and dirty, with bad drivers but in fact, there is a lot of farmland and beautiful rolling hills. We have lots of local farmers markets where we can get everything from local produce to homemade pies. (We are called the Garden State for a reason.)

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This is the perfect summer time pasta dish that is light, has lots of taste and loaded with healthy veggies!

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Just a few notes-I peeled the eggplant, I don’t like the skin but it’s up to you. You can use your favorite mushrooms, I used baby Portobello, just about any kind will do. Finally, instead of the 14 oz can of diced tomatoes I used fresh Jersey tomatoes.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb eggplant, sliced into 1/4 thick slabs

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

6 oz dried penne pasta

1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced

1 small onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp capers

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dry

1/2 tsp dry oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub eggplant slabs with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until eggplant are slightly browned and tender, but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

 

While eggplant is baking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to instructions. Drain when done and return pot, toss with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.

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While eggplant bakes and pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and  place over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and sauté’ for another minute. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until liquid is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, capers, rosemary, oregano and red pepper flakes to skillet and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and add eggplant, simmer 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Serve over pasta with a salad, crusty bread and a glass of delicious wine!

Thank you to Connoisseurusveg.com for this recipe and the photo of the final dish, mine didn’t look quite as good.

 

Summer Salad Series III: Hearty Roasted Veggie Salad

28 Jun

This is the perfect salad for a healthy summer meal, the potatoes and chick peas make it a bit heartier than a typical salad. For those of you who need protein you can always add chicken or salmon. And the balsamic dressing for this salad is super simple and really delicious, you should definitely keep it handy and use it for other salads!

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Ingredients-Salad:

12 asparagus spears, ends cut off and cut in half

1 cup red potatoes, quartered

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs balsamic nectar or vinegar

Salt and pepper

2 cups arugula or baby spring greens (I’m not a fan of arugula)

1 avocado, sliced

1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, halved

1/3 cup canned chick peas, drained and rinsed

Ingredients-Dressing:

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs balsamic nectar or vinegar

1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of dried oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the potatoes and asparagus in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, tossing once or twice during that time. Add the asparagus to the potatoes and roast for another 10 minutes. Once the vegetables are done remove from oven, let cool for a bit.

While the vegetables are roasting, whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

To assemble, grab a nice big bowl; add lettuces, then add the rest of vegetables and sprinkle with the chick peas. Whisk the dressing before drizzling it over the salad and there you have it! Super easy, super healthy and super yummy!

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*Napkin by Patio Fashions

Recipe from Pumpkin and Peanut Butter

Summer Salad Series II: A New Take an Old Stand By…Potato Salad with Green Beans

21 Jun

As much as I love traditional potato salad, it’s always nice to try something new. My husband loves green beans so when I was looking through potato salad recipes and saw this one with green beans I knew it would be a winner. It is so easy and so delicious! Thank you Sweet Little Bluebird for this great recipe!

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Ingredients:

4 cups cooked potatoes, cubed-I used red skinned but you can use whatever you prefer

1 pound green beans, cooked al dente and cut in half

3 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp oregano

2 cloves pressed garlic

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 to 1/2 cup dressing-recipe calls for Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar Dressing, I personally like Ken’s Italian Dressing & Marinade

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss with desired amount of dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, toss well and refrigerate. Enjoy!

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I added about a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and you could also try adding some mustard, I think I may try that next time! I also added some tomato to my husbands and he loved it!

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