Grilled Crostini with Fresh Chèvre, Tomatoes, and Basil

I hear that Labor Day is unofficially the end of summer. Technically, we still have 16 more days until Fall, so let’s stay positive here. I don’t think anyone has told my tomato plants a thing about this because they are turning out beautiful, ripe tomatoes like crazy! (I’m not complaining, I’m thrilled!). If you’re lucky like me, you are probably trying to find a way to use up all your end-of-summer tomatoes.

These crostini has been one of my favorite picnic recipes this summer. They are easy and pretty quick, but still tasty enough to seem like a treat, especially if you are using home grown or farmer’s market tomatoes. The smokey grill flavor makes the crostini extra-special, so I would recommend grilling if you can – but I did include the how-to for preparing the crostini in the oven.

Now go enjoy the last of the summer produce and weather!

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Caprese Salad

caprese stack

I know making a Caprese Salad is probably nothing new to you.  There are probably millions of recipes just like this; I know you’ve seen probably 6,000 photos that look just like these.

However.

Let us not forget that Caprese Salad is a perfect light snack.  It is a perfect summer appetizer.  It is a perfect sandwich filling, spread out between a nice loaf of crusty bread.  It can be chopped.  In its skewered cherry tomato and Ciliegine (cherry-sized) mozzarella form, it becomes the cutest appetizer ever.  It can fill a small dish or an entire bowl.  It is healthy – tomatoes and olive oil are wonderful for your body, and fresh mozzarella is low-calorie and low-fat compared to many cheeses.

You get the idea – it’s versatile, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it.  Let’s begin.

caprese arial

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Steamed Leeks with Mustard–Shallot Vinaigrette

mustard leeks

This afternoon, I knew I wanted to cook something.  I had two hours in between getting home from work and driving to meet Brian, in which I had to make myself look presentable after seven hours with three hyper children, cook something, and write this post.

It’s times like these where “Advanced Search” features come in handy.  I clicked over to my go-to recipe site, Food and Wine.  I thought about what I actually had in my fridge: “lemonade, leeks, cheese…umm…” Leeks it was.  Leeks+Fast+Healthy+Vegetarian brought up a few results, and this was the one I instantly decided I wanted to make.  It’s essentially leek salad with homemade dressing, and I think it would be best as a side (unless you’re weird like me and would enjoy eating an entire plate of leeks). My parents tried it, and came up with “Interesting,” and, four seconds later, “That’s good!”  So there you have it.  Deeelish and easy!

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Spinach Ricotta Baked Potato

spinach ricotta potatoFor my fifth birthday, I got this really great cookbook: Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual.  It came with bright colored plastic measuring spoons (which are still among my family’s utensil collection today), which was awesome, and it is filled with great recipes and great illustrations.  Throughout my childhood, I poured over this cookbook.  I loved it.  Actually, why am I using past tense?  Let’s be honest: I still have it, and I still love it.

So. Put-back potatoes, anyone?  I’ve been a huge fan since I first made one around the time I got this cookbook.  These days, I usually go for broccoli and cheddar put-backs – a classic combo, and the broccoli adds good fiber.

This particular recipe was born one evening when I felt like a good ole put-back.  The problem: no one had been shopping in a while (a common problem in these here parts), and the broccoli I had in the fridge was on the yellow side (whoops).

I took stock of what we did have.  Ricotta?  Hmmm.  Spinach?  Do-able. Another classic combo, but will it work in a baked potato?

Oh yes, I found.  Quite well.  Read on for my grown-up recreation of a childhood favorite.

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Baked Stuffed Squash Flowers

squash flower mozzarella stuffing

One of the classic family stories that I’ve heard a million times but don’t remember is this: Little Laura, maybe three or four years old, is asked if she wants some squash at dinner time.  I replied, “Yes, please, but I’d like it whole, not squashed.”  SO cute, right?!  It makes me smile every time.

Not only do I love un-squashed squash,  I love interesting ingredients (like fava beans).  Last week at Gisuppe’s in San Luis Obispo, we ordered the fried zucchini flower appetizer, and after that I knew I was ready to create my own.  Luckily, this past Thursday at SLO Farmer’s Market, I found some for sale and bought a basket – they cost something like $2, and there were probably 10 in the basket, though some were too small to stuff.  I knew I wanted mine to involve mozzarella, and I knew I didn’t want to fry them…so this is what I came up with.  Tomato Basil Mozzarella Stuffed Baked Squash Flowers.  Oh my goodness.
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