Flank Steak-Topped Oven Fries


If there’s one self-admitted food weakness that the hubs has, it’s fries. There’s a restaurant here in town that serves a humoungous bowl of Honey Truffle Fries, and when we’re talking about going out for supper, there are a lot of nights where we don’t get past the discussion of those fries. At least they don’t know our names there… yet 🙂

I saw this Buzzfeed recipe on my Facebook feed, and I knew it was something that we needed to make soon.  It worked out as a great weekend dinner for us (particularly after our 12 mile hike this weekend!), but I could easily see this adapting into something that appears in our house more often once football starts back up!


The potatoes are cut, mixed with spices and oil, and then baked. With the oven temperature as hot as it was, I didn’t find that I needed to use a wire rack to elevate the fries. Laying them directly on the pan worked great, although I did line my pan with foil. I actually didn’t even turn the fries during the bake time. They did ‘stick’ a little to the pan, so it might be a good idea to turn them with a spatula halfway through.

The flank steak that we picked up was a thicker cut than I’ve used with flank steak in the past, and I definitely needed longer cooking times to cook it to our desired doneness. As written in the Buzzfeed article, it was definitely rare. If you prefer, I think the steak would be great grilled!



(Printable Recipe)

Flank Steak-Topped Oven Fries
Adapted from Buzzfeed

For the fries:
2 russet potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika

For the steak:
1/2-lb flank steak
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 to 1 Tbsp. olive oil for cooking the steak

1/2 to 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
Plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
2 roma tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
Cojita cheese (Can sub queso blanco or feta)
1 avocado (mashed with pepper, garlic salt, cumin, and lime juice) or prepared guacamole

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil.

Place the flank steak and ingredients from the salt through the lime juice into a ziplock bag. Marinate for 20 minutes.

Rinse the potatoes and dry them well. Slice lengthwise into 4-5 slices, and then cut into fries that are 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Place the potatoes into a large bowl. Add the olive oil and spices and mix until the potatoes are evenly coated. Line the potatoes, in two rows, onto the baking pan so that no pieces are overlapping. Bake for 30-35 minutes until crispy and golden brown. You may want to flip the pieces halfway through the bake time. After the fries are complete, switch the oven to low broil.

Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and cook the steak until desired doneness in the skillet. Alternatively, you can also grill the steak. Once done, remove from the pan and set aside and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Cube the pieces of steak. Pile the fries back into the skillet and top with the shredded cheese and then the steak pieces. Broil 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with Greek yogurt, guacamole, diced tomatoes, cilantro, and Cojita cheese.

Tomato Basil Orzo Stuffed Peppers

orzo stuffed pepper open

Has anyone else ever dug through the pepper display at the grocery store trying to find the ones that will stand on their own? Please tell me I am not the only one! Normally, I don’t really care what my peppers look like. If I am going to chop them up anyway, what does it matter? Random pointed bottom? No problem. Odd growth off the side that makes 1 pepper look like 2? Just means more pepper for the same price. Throw it in the cart. But when I know that I am going to be making stuffed peppers. Every single one of those babies better stand on its own, and I will dig through the entire display until I find enough that will.

This stuffed pepper recipe is a little different from most as the predominant flavor is that quintessential summer combination of tomatoes and basil. Yes, the tomato-basil combination is coming out here. It’s been warm here for the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been spending every day off swimming (laps) at the local outdoor pool (in training for our triathlon). Definitely enough to make me start craving summer flavors.

orzo stuffed peppers filling

orzo stuffed peppers before baking

This particular recipe comes from Maria at Two Peas & Their Pod. I’ve changed the cooking process slightly using the boil first then bake method. It will make another pan dirty, but by boiling the peppers for just 5 minutes, you can cut 40 minutes off the bake time. A win-win in my book for getting dinner on the table quicker and not heating up the house as much. The recipe is written for 6 peppers. I must measure my vegetables generously because I always end up with extra filling. If you measure like me, you could probably stretch this to 7-8 peppers. Why not? The leftovers make a great lunch. Enjoy!

orzo stuffed pepper close

(Printable Recipe)

Tomato Basil Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth (low-sodium if possible)
1-1/2 cups orzo
heaping 3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese, divded
1/3 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
6-8 sweet bell peppers of any color

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare the peppers, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, carefully cut around the tops of the bell peppers to create a hole to use to stuff the pepper. Remove the seeds and stems. When the water comes to a boil, submerge the peppers and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain well in a colander and set aside.

Simultaneously, bring the vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook for 5 minutes (this will only partially cook the orzo). Drain the pasta, making sure to save the vegetable broth. Set both aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach. Cook until wilted. Remove from the heat. Stir the orzo into the vegetable mixture. Mix in 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the basil.

Pour the reserved vegetable broth into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish up to about a 1/2-inch depth (you may not use it all). Place the peppers in the baking dish and spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Sprinkle the tops with the reserved Mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until heated through and the cheese is melted. The peppers can also be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake. Add an additional 5-10 minutes the bake time if prepared ahead. Serve warm.

Balsamic Smothered Chicken and Spinach Salad

bruchetta smothered chicken salad

Do any of you have specific ingredients that often predict what you will be making/eating? Those items that you cannot get enough of and automatically make an item included in your dinner or menu plans?

I have several – kalamata olives, caramel, roasted red peppers, butterscotch chips. I could give a few more, but as you may have guessed balsamic vinegar is pretty high on my list. Enter this smothered chicken recipe by Iowa Girl Eats. Truthfully, this has another ingredient both the hubbs and I cannot get enough of – tomato, basil, and garlic bruschetta from Trader Joes. They sell both a fresh and canned version, and both are awesome. We end up eating this bruschetta topping on toasted baguette slices at least once a week. Not kidding. Layer those with some avocado, chicken, and mozzarella cheese and you have this recipe.

bruchetta smothered chicken salad chicken cookingbruchetta smothered chicken salad close

The recipe itself is pretty simple. If you have never reduced balsamic vinegar, it is possible to burn it. The recipe states it takes about 20 minutes, but you probably should keep and eye on it and stir it a few times during that down time (not that I would know anything about burning the vinegar). This can be done ahead of time, making the recipe a great choice for a busy night. I cooked my chicken breasts on a grill pan, although they could be prepared in anyway you would like. Now that it’s officially spring, I am thinking the outdoor grill would be nice. Layer the cooked chicken with your toppings, slide it under the broiler, and you’re ready to eat. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Balsamic Smothered Chicken and Spinach Salad
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

1 cup balsamic vingear
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded until even thickness
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup tomato, basil, garlic bruschetta topping
1 avocado, sliced
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, fresh or grated will work fine
baby spinach

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan then bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to simmer until the vinegar is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the oven rack in the top position. Preheat the oven to broil. Warm a grill pan and warm over medium-high heat. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken breasts and cook until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. Can also bake or grill the chicken breasts if desired.

Spray a small baking pan with nonstick spray. Add the chicken breasts to the dish. Spread the bruschetta topping over each chicken breast. Top with a few avocado slices and mozzarella cheese. Place the dish in the oven and broil for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Plate the chicken over a bread of spinach. Split any remaining avocado slices between the plates. Drizzle the chicken and spinach with the reduced balsamic vinegar and serve.

Roasted Tomato and Basil Pasta

basil and roasted tomato pasta

I kid you not. I walked out of an exercise class a couple weeks ago at the gym to find a man selling flavored olive oils. In. The. Gym. He had pieces of baguette to sample each kind and everything. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. As a blogger, this was awesome. The food literally came to me!

I sampled several of the different types (he also had a reduced balsamic glaze that was to die for), and ended up settling on a trio of basil, garlic, and lemon-infused oils. At that point, I had a new mission. How I was going to use these for dinner?

I know the flavors in this dish are a little summery, but fall doesn’t officially start until tomorrow. I can proudly say that this dish is entirely my creation, and it turned out quite well if I do say so myself, although it’s hard to go wrong with the tomato-basil-pesto combination.

I started by drizzling the tomatoes with garlic and lemon oil, salt, and pepper and roasting them in the oven to concentrate their flavor. The idea and taste were spot on, but I can tell you do as I say, not as I do. First, I highly recommend lining your pan with parchment paper and not foil. Secondly, keep a close eye on those critters. I cooked mine for a bit too long. Nonetheless, the tomatoes were amazing. I could have eaten them alone for dinner!

basil and roasted tomato pasta2

The pesto I used in here is a recipe I made and froze last year from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best Light Recipes. I’ll have to share that sometime as well. My husband has since decided to pull up the basil forest growing in our backyard garden, so I may have to wait until the new plant grows a little more.

Hope you enjoy this!

Printable Recipe

Roasted Tomato Basil Pasta

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp. garlic-infused olive oil, divided
2 tsp. lemon-infused olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
8 oz. whole wheat pasta
1-2 Tbsp. basil pesto 
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the halved cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchement paper. Drizzle with 1 tsp. of each olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes have started to dry. This was about 25-30 minutes in my oven, but if you want them to be more like sun-dried tomatoes, this will take longer.

Boil water and prepare pasta to al dente preparation according to package directions. Drain. 

In a large skillet, add the remaining 1 tsp. of each oil, the pesto, and the lemon juice. Add the pasta and stir to coat each of the pieces. Let the pasta “cook” in the skillet for a few minutes. Add the prepared tomatoes, basil, and feta cheese. Heat through and serve with a small sprinkle of feta cheese.

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes


I always seem to miss the foodie holidays… Pi day, national pancake day, etc. I really need to get up with it a little more because it always looks like a lot of fun to participate in these days. One thing that I do know is that today is the first day of spring, so here is a “springy recipe to celebrate 🙂

Side dishes are something I don’t plan for very well… I usually will do okay with having a side of bread with soup but for most meat and casserole-type dishes, I really don’t do sides. There are a couple of reasons behind this: 1) I’m already making the main dish and don’t want to have to work too hard on another aspect of the meal and 2) I don’t want sides that are loaded with calories. It has been a little while since I have made this, but this asparagus recipe meets both of those qualifications. Quick, pretty simple, and it clocks in at 69 calories a serving (4 servings). 

asparagus with basalmic tomatoes cooking tomatoes
asparagus with basalmic tomatoes close

I’ve talked before about how much we like asparagus, and this recipe is no different. My only swap was feta for goat cheese, as I am not the biggest goat cheese fan. Be sure to use a vinegar you really like here as the balsamic flavor is quite prominent (a bonus in my book). Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes
Adapted from Cooking Light April 2011

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
2 tsp. olive oil
1-1/2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add trimmed asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and garlic; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, and cook 3 minutes. Mix in salt. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter on on individual plates. Sprinkle with feta and black pepper.

Ribollita (Italian Bread Soup)

ribolitta soup2

Amongst the ways this little blog has changed our lives, one of the biggest is our willingness to try both new dishes and new ingredients, especially new vegetables. Prior to blogging, I can honestly tell you that my vegetable repertoire consisted of whichever common varieties were available in the frozen bags at the grocery store. I had certainly had the standard corn, peas, carrots, green beans and broccoli, but had never ventured out into the world of other veggies. Even asparagus was relatively new to me when I started blogging.

All of that brings me to this soup. While the vegetables in here do not get too exotic, I can certainly say there was a time when cooking with kale, fresh cabbage, and broccoli rabe would have been way outside my comfort zone! As you would expect, the bread in here soaks up much of the extra liquid leaving you with a soups that packs a hearty punch while managing to stay pretty light.

ribolitta soup

I have to admit that the health factor was one of my primary reasons for choosing to make this recipe. Lots of vegetables in a hearty dish. What I didn’t expect was how much we would really enjoy this. I knew it would be good, but not this good. My husband has been talking about it all week and basically ate all the leftovers himself. If you’re looking for a way to warm up or maybe lighten up after a heavy Valentine’s Day meal, I would highly recommend this soup. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipes)

Ribollita (Italian Bread Soup)
Found on MyRecipes.com, Recipe from Cooking Light

3 cups, crusty whole wheat bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
cooking spray
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup celery, chopped
6 cups water, divided
1 pkg. (6 cups) kale, stemmed, leaves chopped
6 cups chopped cabbage 
4 cups broccoli rabe (can substitute regular broccoli)
2 cups Yukon gold or red potato, peeled, cubed into 1-inch cubes
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 (14.5oz) can chopped tomatoes with fluid
2 (15oz) cans cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup shaved or grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Place 3 cups bread on a baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven; cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery to pan; saute 5 minutes. Add garlic, and saute 1 minute. Add 5 cups of water and next 6 ingredients (through tomatoes). Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until greens are wilted, stirring occasionally. It will seem like the greens will never wilt. Stir it occasionally. They will cook, just slowly. Mash 1 can of beans. Add mashed beans and remaining 1 cup of water to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until potato and carrot are tender. 

Stir in bread, remaining can of beans, salt, thyme, oregano, and red pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Ladle about 1-1/2 cups of soup into bowls. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake

Eggplant. That word may still be enough to strike a fair amount of fear into this household. If you’ve read my blog over the past couple of months, you may know that our garden gave us a fair number of eggplant from late summer into fall. Too many. Enough that I was actually considering leaving a bag of them on my neighbor’s doorsteps! Our plants have since died out in the cooler temperatures so this may be one of the last eggplant recipes that you see from me for awhile.

The basic idea for this dish comes from Isabelle of Crumb, however I pre-cooked the eggplant based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. In CI, they explain that cooking with eggplant has 2 problems: 1) It has a fair amount of water that when baked, will water down your dish, and 2) It’s full of air pockets that will soak up any oil that is used in the dish. Their solution? Wrapping it in paper towels and pre-cooking it in the microwave for a few minutes before adding it to the dish. The cooking time collapses the air pockets, leaving no room for the oil, and the paper towels will soak up any extra water. Makes perfect sense, and it is so easy that I may never make an eggplant dish without first doing this step.

Out of all the things that we made with our eggplant, this dish is my favorite. The ingredients are pretty unassuming – eggplant, pasta, a homemade tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella, but the combination is stellar. Good enough that I’d even consider planting another plant again. Well, maybe in a few months. Just remind me at that time that it is not a good idea to grow 6 plants of 1 type of vegetable for only 2 people 🙂

(Printable Recipe)

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake
Adapted from Crumb and cooking methods from Cook’s Illustrated

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. whole wheat rigatoni, ziti, or penne pasta
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14oz) low-sodium diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
generous pinch red pepper flakes
about 1/3-lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss eggplant with the salt in a large bowl. Line surface of a plate with a double layer of paper towels or coffee filters. Spread eggplant in even layers over filters. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that the eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, boil water to cook the pasta. Cook al dente, as directed by the package. Drain and rinse under cold water when finished cooking. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browning, about 8-10 minutes. Add eggplant and cook 2-3 minutes until warmed through. Add the tomatoes with juices, red wine, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes to the eggplant mixture. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the pasta and stir to combine. Pour into a prepared 1-quart baking dish. Distribute the sliced mozzarella over the pasta and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

Bake for 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is starting to brown. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Christmas Soup Series: Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Day 2 of soups for Christmas. This is one of the other recipes that my brother made last week while he was visiting. It is a little similar to this soup recipe that I posted last year in that it contains both sausage and red wine, but the soups are distinct enough that I am considering them different. 

Of all the things on my blog, my soups are probably one of the things that we “repeat” the most at home. You other bloggers know what I am talking about. The “are we having something new again for dinner” syndrome. This soup is definitely up with the others in flavor, and that is considering that we really like all of the soups posted here. Given the fact that my brother served us this during the same meal as the chocolate-chip toffee cheesecake, I would certainly say we had a great meal!

Similar to the minestrone, the pasta in this soup will soak up some of the liquid as it sits. Just add extra broth to your preference when you reheat it. This one also calls for red wine, but it can be substituted for the beef broth if you prefer. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini
Adapted from allrecipes.com

1 lb. sweet Italian chicken/turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
1 can (14.5) oz. diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1-1/2 cups quartered zucchini
8 oz. fresh whole wheat tortellini 
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large Dutch oven, brown the sausage, crumbling as you cook it. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain the fat.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until the onion begins to soften. Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Skim fat from the soup if necessary (should be very little if you use chicken/turkey sausage). Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.

Crockpot directions: Cook the sausage as directed. Place all ingredients except tortellini and Parmesan cheese in the crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cook tortellini separately on the stove according to package directions and add just before serving. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.

Cheesy Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts

It has been almost two weeks since I have posted on here. I have my reasons (solid 19 day stretch at work), but it is what it is. We’re all busy. I am currently on day 14 of 19, and I promise that I will try to be better. We have certainly still been eating, so I should keep posting 🙂  In a peace offering for my absence, I am offering up this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

While it may be a little hard to offer you a serving of this dish in person, I am not kidding when I tell you this recipe rocks. In her post, Mel talks about wanting to dream about this dinner forever. I am with her! The ingredients themselves seem fairly basic, something that would be the makings of your standard weeknight meal. I am not sure if it is one ingredient that stands out or if it is the combination of these ingredients together, but the finished dish is hands down one of the best dinners we have made (I say we because my husband actually made this dish, although I have to get some credit as I picked out the recipe). 

My take on this one: Just make it. Please! And call me when you do, as I’ll be over for supper as soon as I get off work 🙂

(Printable Recipe)

Cheesy Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and from Cook’s Country Cookbook: Rediscovering America’s Home Cooking

1 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup minced basil, divided
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (on the thicker side in order to stuff them)
3 Tbsp. lowfat mayonnaise
1 cup whole wheat Panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine the shredded cheese, 2 tablespoons of the minced basil, cream, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Cut a pocket in the thickest part of the chicken breast. Stuff with cheese mixture and seal using a toothpick to help close the slit if necessary. Transfer the stuffed breasts to a 9×13-inch pan and spread the tops evenly with mayonnaise.

In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, remaining garlic, remaining basil, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the chicken breasts, pressing lightly to adhere.

Toss the tomatoes with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange the tomatoes in the baking dish in and around the chicken. Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and the chicken is cooked through (registering 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer), about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Lighter Macaroni & Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes

I was talking to my mom the other day, and she was telling me that they are absolutely getting a bumper crop of tomatoes off their 3 plants right now. It hasn’t gotten cold enough there to kill off the plants yet, and the plants are churning out tomatoes like crazy. Sounds like my eggplant plants! 

I spotted this dish several months ago when Natalie posted it on her blog, Oven Love, but I think it is quite appropriate right now with the change in seasons. While it is a lighter take on macaroni and cheese, there is certainly enough cheese and carbohydrates in here to land it squarely in the comfort food category. The summer link comes through the tomatoes – just in case you have the same bumper crop that my parents do 🙂

It has been several weeks since we made this dish, and in looking through my pictures, I am thinking that I want to add it to the menu again soon!  Natalie suggests making it in individual ramekins, however I didn’t have enough small ramekins for the entire dish, so I simply made it in a large casserole dish. In changing it to a larger dish, I would do 2 things differently next time. One, add more tomatoes. I love how roasting tomatoes brings out their flavor, and I definitely could have done with more tomatoes in here! Two, roast the tomatoes for a little longer. Since the tomato slices were only roasted in the oven for 20 minutes, they were still pretty soft.  I wouldn’t want to take them all the way to “dried” tomatoes for this dish, but I think I would rather have them somewhere in the middle between soft and water and fully dried. This may fully be a personal preference, so I’ll post the recipe below as written and let you decide. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Lighter Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Oven Love and Martha Stewart

6 small vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 24, 1/4-inch thick slices
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for sprinkling
coarse salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. elbow macaroni (whole wheat if you’d like)
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne
1 tsp. ground mustard
2 cups milk (I used skim)
4 oz. (1-1/8 cup) reduced-fat (NOT non-fat) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz. (1-1/8 cup) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 oz (about 1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread tomatoes in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle each sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until tomatoes have softened, about 20 minutes. Leave the oven on.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and pasta to the water. Return to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (about 2-3 minutes less than called for on the box). Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk 1/2 cup of stock into the flour in a medium bowl. Set aside. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in nutmeg, cayenne, ground mustard, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add milk and remaining 1-1/2 cups of stock. Whisk in flour mixture. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce to a simmer. Cook 8 minutes, whisking frequently. Add cheeses, cook, stirring until melted. Pour over macaroni and stir to combine. 

Arrange the tomato slices to cover the bottom of a large casserole dish. There should be a few slices left. Carefully pour the macaroni over the tomatoes. Top with any remaining tomato slices. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and thyme. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.