Foodie Friday…I Hart tomatoes!

this was only one day…and there were a bunch more on the vines!

Good Morning! It’s Fri-YAY!! Now that I’m back at work, Friday’s become a little more FABULOUS! My neighbors, the Harts, have been out of town and I’ve been watering their tomatoes. Steve is not only a backyard bee keeper, but also a prolific tomato grower. His wife, Maggie, is a prolific tomato chef…trying new recipes just to keep up with the abundance. Well, since I’ve been picking them the past few weeks they’ve been piling up and I’ve been making tomato sauce, oven roasted tomatoes, tomato soup…you name it…everything tomatoes. My easy, go-to, favorite is just cutting tomatoes into chunks, along with some chunks of cucumber and avocado and throwing them in a bowl with, that old favorite, Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix or Makato Ginger Dressing. I have the Good Seasons cruet, but use balsamic or white balsamic a little past the “vinegar” line, add water almost up to the “oil” line and waaaay less oil than it calls for…and I use olive oil. It makes it much lighter than the actual recipe. I think I’ve had this for lunch at least three or four times this past week.

Thought I’d share a few more favorites I’ve found….

Adapted from Easy Garden Fresh Tomato Basil Soup from NeighborFood blog

  • olive oil (I just eyeballed the amount)
  • chopped yellow onions (against, just the amount you want)
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • chopped tomatoes (I used a variety of kinds and didn’t measure just the right amount for the amount of onions you’ve chopped)
  • 6 cups chicken broth (or swap vegetable broth)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Basil, to garnish (I didn’t use this)
  • Cream, if desired (I didn’t use this either)

In a large (at least 6 quart- bigger is even better!) heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 5-7 minutes, or until they’ve started to soften. Add the balsamic, sugar, and garlic and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until garlic is fragrant.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the chicken broth and bring the mixture back to a simmer. Simmer another five minutes then taste. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Use an immersion blender (I just got one…they’re amazing!!) to blend the soup into the consistency of your choosing. You can make it totally smooth or leave some chunks. You can also blend this in your blender, but just blend the solids to avoid a blender explosion! Once the solids are blended, add them back to the liquid and stir to combine.

To serve, spoon the soup into bowls. You can top with sliced fresh basil & a swor; pf half and half or heavy cream. I made some crostini with parmesan for dipping.

To freeze, allow the mixture to cool then ladle it into freezer safe containers or quart size freezer bags. Freeze bags laying flat. Thaw soup in the fridge overnight then reheat on the stovetop.

Oven Roasted tomatoes

I just cut some of the yummy grape size tomatoes in half, drizzled with olive oil, chopped garlic and salt…pop in the oven at 375 for about 1/2 hour. Then I let them cool and put in freezer bag for later use.

Puffed Pastry Tomato Tart

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • pesto
  • ricotta (I had leftovers from Pizza Monday)
  • two different colors of tomatoes sliced really thin (I only used 2 of each cause I made mine small)
  • carmelized onions
  • pitted kalamata olives cut in halves or quarters (optional)
  • olive oil
  • mozzarella/italian style or parmesan cheese
  • S&P to taste

Heat oven to 400°F.

I didn’t really roll out the puff pastry and make it larger, cause I was in a hurry and the smaller size fit my toaster oven pan, but you can make it much thinner and use a large cookie sheet to make it for a bigger crowd. Too hot to turn on that big oven!

  • Spray your pan with Pam.
  • Wet the ends of the pastry and roll up the sides a bit. place in pan
  • combine the pesto and ricotta and spread on pastry
  • overlap the tomatoes, alternating the two different colors…so pretty!!
  • spread on some carmelized onions
  • add a few of the kalamata olives
  • drizzle a very little olive oil over everything
  • top with cheese

Bake for 15-20 minutes or so. I like my puff pastry pretty brown and tomatoes blistered. Slice into squares. Enjoy!!

I like mine a little well-done…Delish!!

Easy way to peel tomatoes…cause some people don’t like the skins and it’s easy to freeze them for future recipes

  • prepare a bowl with water and ice cubes (an ice bath)
  • boil a large pot of water
  • cut off the stem and put a cross on the opposite, or bottom side, of the tomato
  • place in water for about 30-60 seconds…when skin starts to split
  • remove and place in ice bath
  • when they cool, just peel off the skin…super easy

 REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT….cause you have lots of tomatoes to do!!

….and of course you’ll need to use some of those fresh tomatoes on your pizza!

Another super easy appetizer that is a huge hit is crostini, topped with pesto, a slice of fresh tomato and some parmesan. Quick & oh, so yummy!

Bon Appetit!!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Monday….Don’t Overthink

“Don’t overthink your next step, because none of us knows where we’re going to be 10 years from now or 15 years from now.” Got this one in yesterday’s New York Times interview with PayPal CEO Dan Schulman

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Maine…on to Bar Harbor

We left early Saturday morning for our drive up the coast of Maine from Portland to Bar Harbor, with a stop to see Pemaquid Point, my mom’s summer vacation spot. We actually just drove through Pemaquid on our way to see the PP lighthouse…another beauty.

So, in researching our drive I came across this article about a “Perfect Maine Coastal Road Trip”. Because the article referenced that the Maine has “5000 miles of coastline, more than California” I assumed it would be a gorgeous drive with beautiful views of the water. It’s not at all! Okay, it’s pretty, but the drive itself might as well have been in the middle of the country…also a gorgeous place…but not a coastline. Hwy 1 in Maine is lined with tall trees and unless you venture into the towns, as we did, you won’t see any coastline. If you want to get from Portland to Bar Harbor, or vice versa, straightaway take Hwy 295 to 95…it’s about 3 hrs.

On to Pemaquid….right after leaving Portland we came across a store that had so much STUFF outside that you could barely see the store. Val and I wanted to bring back a cool, vintagey, colorful lobster buoy and there were a ton here. So, I made a U-turn and we stopped in….it was closed. We were bummed, but when we went up to the front door there was a sign that said (I’m paraphrasing) “If were closed please pull the tag on the item and put cash in an envelope and drop in the box.” What?!! Yep, that’s what we did and for $20 we had our cool lobster buoys.

We also made a quick stop at a flea market along the way and I got this fun sign…

Here are some pics of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse and views from the top…

yup…took this circular stairway to get a view from the top

A few pics of Rockport, Camden and a little cove we found when we ventured off the main road…

Rockport
Camden… it’s much larger than this, but you get the idea of it’s charm

The quaint little town of Bar Harbor reminds me of a larger version of Balboa Island out here in Newport Beach, with little shops, restaurants…and an even more gorgeous harbor. We arrived at our hotel, The Bar Harbor Grand (I’d recommend…basic/close to everything/free breakfast), in the late afternoon/early evening and walked down a nearby street, which led to a walkway along the water. We were on a nice stroll when we came upon The Bar Harbor Inn and Spa, with it’s adirondack chairs beckoning us to sit and have a happy hour cocktail….so, of course, we did.

Sunday plans took us to beautiful Acadia National Park, stopping at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, popovers at Jordan Pond House and looking for sea glass at Sand Beach.

If you visit Bass Harbor Lighthouse take the path on the left from the parking lot and take the little hike down to these rocks to get a cool view. Nothing much to see if you take the path on the right.

looking for sea glass

We got back in time to walk the sand “bar” of Bar Harbor at low tide, did some wandering and met up for dinner on the patio at McKay’s, right next to our hotel.

some cool houses looking from the sandbar back towards Bar Harbor

…..and then had a nightcap at Leary’s Landing Irish Pub

The next morning our plan was to leave at noon to head back to Portland….but there was a bit of time in the morning to wander….

CJ’s famous ice cream….there was a line out the door the night before. Val’s son’s name is CJ and we met the young man whose dad named it after him
this is the Ivy Manor Inn, which looks like a fairytale cottage.

Loved Bar Harbor and definitely see myself going back someday. We had one more lobster roll place on the list before we left Maine, High Roller Lobsterin Portland. I think that may have been my favorite. There are numerous sauces to choose from, but I chose ghee, which was just perfect!

Goodbye lighthouses and lobsters….’til we meet again! On to NY to see this adorable doll….

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Maine…Lighthouses and Lobstah…first stop, Portland!!

I was planning for a week long home exchange with my friends in Brooklyn to see Austin, Kate and baby Jude, when my friend, Val and I were chatting about how we both wanted to see Maine. So, she, and my friend/neighbor Jan, came over one night and we all sat on our laptops and made plane, car, airbnb and hotel reservations for a 4 night stay in Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine…followed by a week in NYC/Brooklyn.

Lots of planning to do, which I love! As our plane was taking off we enjoyed the exploding 4th of July fireworks…a metaphor for our 11 day adventure!

Flying into Portland…A LIGHTHOUSE! photo cred/Val Steinbergs

We arrived in Maine early on the 5th and hit the ground running. Our rental car agent recommended a cute place for breakfast, Hot Suppa. It was good, I’d recommend. We couldn’t get into our airbnb until 2, the forecast for the following day was rain, so we thought we’d roam around the Old Port and check out the shops, etc… while we had time. We happened upon a long line outside Holy Donut which are made using mashed potatoes and Val waited in line so we could see what all the hype was about. Very YUMMY donuts!! It was REALLY hot and muggy, so after wandering for a few hours we decided to hop in the air conditioned car and venture out to Portland Head Light. Maine is lighthouse heaven!

Portland Head Light…commissioned by George Washington in 1790. She’s a beauty!
Rams Island Ledge Lighthouse…viewed from Portland Head

After a stop at the lighthouse we decided to just let the road dictate where we go, so we continued South along Shore Road, gawking at the beautiful homes and gardens of Cape Elizabeth along the way. We saw a sign for “Two Lights” and took a left turn down a little road and happened upon the greatest surprise….The Lobster Shack. We thought, “wow, how beautiful to have our first lobster roll eating outside overlooking the Maine coast”…when, in fact, it’s a pretty famous destination place for lobster anything and the roll was great! Lucky us!! See, it pays off to wander!

This is Cape Elizabeth lighthouse as seen from The Lobster Shack…privately owned so you can’t get closer

After our pleasant little detour it was back to Portland to check in to our Airbnb and relax. We went to a cute place a few doors down called Bao Bao Dumpling House. We really loved the Asian slaw, a noodle dish & some dumplings. We encountered a bit of an issue with a homeless person trying to get into the building of our Airbnb, but we remedied that problem and called it a night…trying to keep cool!

Day 2 in Portland was, in my opinion, one of the highlights….a ride on the mailboat out to five islands to, literally, make mail deliveries. It’s $16 and about 3 hours and it was glorious. The captain of the ship gives you interesting tid bits about the islands along the way and halfway through they had quite a few deliveries to Cliff Island, so we were able to get off and get a snack in the little store at the end of the pier.

Bug Light…as we are leaving the harbor
This cute puppy is waiting for the captain to throw down some treats…which he did. He’s obviously a regular on the mail boat stop at Cliff Island.

lobster traps and buoys everywhere

the sky was spectacular as we were heading back to port….we got a little wet, but WOW what a sight
Sprint Point Ledge Lighthouse as were heading into port
wet, windswept hair…and so happy!

We returned around 1:00 and it was time for another lobster roll. We had passed some colorful umbrellas out on a pier as we walked to the boat, so we went back and decided it was the perfect setting for lunch….The Porthole Restaurant.

did a little shopping at the original “Sea Bags” store…everything made from recycled sails

A local store owner told us about “First Fridays” where there’s a kind of street market with vendors and the Portland Museum of Art is free. Low and behold it was right around the corner from our Airbnb…bonus! We walked over and shopped the vendors and I thought the Clarence H. White photography exhibit at the museum looked cool, so ventured in. What a surprise you get when you really don’t know what a museum has in their collection. I got to see works by Warhol, Winslow Homer, Degas, Renoir, John Singer Sargent and famous Mainer, Andrew Wyeth.

these were cool, whimsical, trompe l’oeil pieces by John Frederick Peto

Another recommendation that was close to our place was a restaurant called Local 188…where we had our final Portland meal.

my mushroom risotto was FAB! So much food….I had it for breakfast the next day!

Portland, you were the perfect introduction to Maine…lobster rolls and lighthouses! Yes, we ate our way through Maine, but we logged over 10,000 steps every day too! Gotta have balance, right?!

….on to Bar Harbor (…or as the locals say Bah Hahbah)

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Monday…Vulnerability = Confidence

Vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence…Brene Brown

I love this! The more vulnerable you allow yourself to be and the more courage you have to be imperfect, gives you confidence to know you can handle anything. Thank you Brene!!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Sunday Mornings…Oven Bacon Avocado wrap

I have bacon almost every Sunday…and only on Sunday. It’s my NY Times, Sunday morning ritual…that I love!! Most times I just have it by itself ’cause it really doesn’t need much help.

Who doesn’t love avocado toast?? I didn’t have any bread, but did have some butter lettuce, so decided to elevate my Sunday morning bacon by adding some avocado, some ginger dressing and making a, no bread, new version of avocado toast.

I’ve never been good at making bacon ’cause I’m impaitent, watch the pan, want the cooking over with, and inevitably it comes out a little too dark/burnt. The was-band was much better at bacon. When I started living alone I still wanted my bacon and realized that I’ve made large quantities of it in the oven when I needed it for a party. Why not do that in my toaster oven with just a few slices. BINGO! It comes out perfect every time and I can go about doing other things while it’s cooking.

Preheat oven to 325ºF

Line your toaster oven pan with aluminum foil and lay down your bacon. Set a timer for 25 minutes (give or take a few…you might want to start with 20 & adjust according to your oven’s finickiness)

Perfect crispiness every time!! ….and the cleanup is easy!

I took 1/2 avocado and mashed it up, adding a touch of kosher salt. I then plopped some on a piece of butter lettuce, placed the bacon on top and finished it with a little dollop of Makato ginger dressing. It would probably be good with a simple ponzu sauce too.

Elevate your bacon game this Sunday by making a lettuce wrap! Bon Appetit!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Monday…Go For It!

Go for it now. The future is promised to no one….Wayne Dyer
It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined…Henry James

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Monday….Beach

HAPPINESS IS FOUND HERE….BEACH MORE, WORRY LESS…
A DAY AT THE BEACH RESTORES THE SOUL!

(okay…not super “motivational” but it’s summer, so take a deep breath & imagine yourself here!)

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!