Blue Apron · kid-friendly · Recipes

Tomato, Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Pie

You might call this too summery, but I say we are in the midst of a warm spell and we might as well eat like it. Soon enough, we’ll be back to chili, soups, stews and risotto, so for now: bite into a tangy tomato, and a seasoned bell pepper, and enjoy the creamy goat cheese floating under this tender crust! Before you know it, the winter foods will be back in rotation, and wouldn’t you like to have this recent memory to sustain you through those days of early nightfall and windy, icy commutes? I thought so.

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This is very easy, but the most critical tip I can share is to assemble the pie right before you put it in the oven. If you put the tomatoes in and let them sit while you prepare the rest of the filling, it will make the crust too soggy to hold together while baking, so it’s critical to prep your ingredients and then put it all together at once before placing into a pre-heated oven. As with most recipes I share involving pie, I use a pre-made, store-bought crust. If you’re looking for a great homemade pie crust recipe, I like this one.

This recipe originally came from my Blue Apron delivery and I’ve recreated it using my own seasonings and garden tomatoes with excellent results. It really is easy and crowd-pleasing, and vegetarian to boot.

Tomato, Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Pie Crust, homemade or store bought pre-made
  • 2 Tomatoes (large beefsteak/heirloom variety)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • Sweet Peppers (3-4 small ones or one large)
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Bunch Basil
  • ½ Cup Crumbled Goat Cheese (or more if you really love it!)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar (or sub another kind you prefer)
  • ½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ¼ Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1½ TBSP Spice Blend: equal parts Flour, Mustard Powder & Dried Thyme

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Peel and mince the garlic (I used a garlic press). Cut out and discard the stem, ribs and seeds of the sweet pepper and thinly slice them into rings. Chop the onion. Cut the tomatoes into ¼-inch-thick slices. Pick the basil leaves off the stems and discard the stems.

In a medium pan, heat some olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic, onion and sweet pepper; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Stir in the vinegar; cook, stirring frequently, about a minute or until well combined. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Next, make the breadcrumb topping: while the onion and pepper cook, combine the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in enough olive oil to moisten the mixture slightly.

Layer half the tomatoes onto the bottom of the pie crust in an overlapping pattern; season with salt and pepper. Top with the cooked onion and sweet pepper, half the spice blend, half the goat cheese and the basil; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes, spice blend and goat cheese.

Evenly top the assembled pie with the breadcrumb topping; season with salt and pepper.

Place the topped pie on a sheet pan. Bake, turning halfway through, 20 to 22 minutes, or until the topping and crust are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Eat all in one sitting with a glass of white wine!

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Other things you can try if the crust comes out soggy: either pre-bake it for a couple minutes on low heat, then proceed with the recipe as usual; or, you can move it lower in your oven and thus closer to the heat source, which may solve the problem. Other solutions might include pricking the bottom of the pie with a tooth pick before baking, and/or lining the bottom of the crust with Parmesan before you add the tomatoes. If you pre-bake and are concerned about the top getting over browned, you can always cover that part with foil while it’s cooking, and it should prevent burning. But again, I didn’t have any issues with sogginess, I just noticed it was a common complaint about this recipe on the Blue Apron Facebook page.

The last piece of advice I would give is something that Blue Apron has taught me, which I must admit has improved all of my cooking: seasoning with salt and pepper throughout the preparation of any dish is essential to making sure it’s fully flavored at the end. You don’t have to be too heavy-handed with it, you just have to keep the seasonings coming at each step of the recipe. That’s definitely true of this pie as well!

Good luck, have fun cooking, and tell me how you’re getting ready for Thanksgiving! I’m cooking a turkey for the first time this year, for our community’s “Don’t Be Alone on Thanksgiving” event, which feeds over 900 people on Thanksgiving each year. Some come in person for the meal at our local high school, while families in shelters and elderly or disabled shut-ins have a meal delivered to their home. I’m using this helpful guide for first timers, although Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) also has an excellent one. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Something tells me cooking the bird will pale in complexity against actually delivering the darn thing to the proper location with a rambunctious two-year-old in tow! 🙂

Recipes

Braised Fennel & White Beans

What a delicious side to meat or standalone vegetarian dish! I made this to go alongside my brined pork chops in citrus sauce, which I shared last week, and then ate the leftovers as a light lunch all weekend. Lucky me that a co-worker was looking to get rid of fennel from their farm share, and that’s what inspired this recipe! Despite not really liking licorice, I love fennel and have ever since I studied abroad. Italians are all over it. The fragrance mellows quite a bit when you cook and blends nicely with contrasting flavors like cider vinegar, red onion, savory stock and a touch of butter.

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I’ve hung onto the greens in the past when making soup, and I’ve heard that it makes a slammin’ pesto, too, though I haven’t tried that myself. Generally, though, you just want to keep the “bulb” part of fennel, which you slice up any which way you please before cooking. I love that this recipe offers a protein boost with the white beans, another staple of Italian cooking, and that the cooking process softens the bite of the red onions enough that they just add a nice seasoning and don’t overwhelm. Paired with the vinegar and a touch of butter, this comes in a creamy sauce seasoned with oregano or whatever Italian-type spices you have on hand. The last time I made this, I used my Wildtree spaghetti sauce blend, and it came out fab.

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Braised Fennel & White Beans

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped/sliced, greens discarded
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 1 can of white (cannellini) beans
  • 1 can chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 TBSP butter (omit if desiring a vegan dish)
  • 2 TBSP red wine or apple cider vinegar
  • olive oil for the pan
  • salt, pepper and oregano (fresh or dried) if available, for seasoning

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a good sized saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and onion and cook, stirring, until they are tender and the edges are browning, approximately 10 minutes.

Add the beans, chicken stock, oregano or other seasoning you’re planning to use, plus salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by about half, which should take less than 5 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar and butter and remove from the heat. Serve warm!

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Martha suggests making this with pork chops, as shown above, and suggests cooking those first then making this in the same pan with the browned bits left over for extra flavoring. That would obviously make it non-vegetarian, so that’s your choice! I didn’t do it that way — we cooked each dish separately, though they were served together — but I’m sure it would taste great.

Baby & Toddler · DIY · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

DIY Tile & Grout Cleaner

I have a 100-year-old house with REALLY annoying tile flooring in the bathroom.

I have to clean it daily simply because I have a toddler and a cat who track fur and dirt everywhere, but it’s when we host a party or holiday — like last weekend — that I really start dreading the deep clean. Nothing I buy at the store has ever made these floors look acceptable, and no matter what I use, I have to get down on my hands and knees with a brush to scrub — hard. So, I set my mind to figuring out a way to clean it using things I have in my pantry, things that could sit on the floor for a while and really do half the hard work for me, before wasting more time scrubbing or more money on something store-bought, stinky, expensive and ineffective. Thus I created a homemade cleaning solution with lemon, baking soda, vinegar & water, and let it do half the hard work. Can I just say? WOW, did it ever work.

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Here’s the solution: 7 cups water, 1/2 cup baking soda, juice of 1 lemon (approximately 1/3 cup) and 1/4 cup vinegar. Spray onto the tile/grout you are looking to clean, let sit, and scrub with a brush after 5-10 minutes. Voila!

Yes, I still had to get down there with a brush to get every nook and cranny sparkling, but it was nothing compared to how long and hard I used to have to work to see anything resembling white between these tiles. You can see how well it worked in this somewhat gross, yet also uplifting photo:

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Interested in more homemade cleaning solutions? Lemons are a great all-around cleaning tool, and make an excellent substitute for bleach. I do not personally use any bleach in my home, and I never feel like I need to. Why would I, when you can do all the following with lemons?!

  • Squeeze into your laundry for brightening
  • Cut in half and shine chrome faucets & fixtures
  • Throw a used-up lemon into your disposal to freshen it up and keep it in good working order (ice will do the same)
  • Make a glass-cleaning spray by mixing 3 TBSP lemon juice with 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
  • Squeeze into your toilet bowl with your cleaner of choice for a freshening and deodorizing; use a cut-up lemon along the rim and on the seat for deep cleaning, then flush.

Get the most out of your lemon by rolling it on the counter for about 30 seconds, to draw out more juice; if you’re going to use the cut lemon to clean, remove the seeds with the top of a knife first so they don’t scratch your surfaces.

You can also use a paste of baking soda and water to remove wetness stains from hardwood, like from a pet’s accident or a beach towel or damp shoe left on the floor. Try 1 TBSP baking soda to 1 tsp water; rub in a circular motion until the water stain disappears. The trick is not to use too much water. This trick works for rings on a coffee table if you forgot to use a coaster, too. And if you use petroleum products, you can also remove water marks in wood by leaving Vaseline on them overnight then wiping away in the morning. (Got scratches? My go-to fix is rubbing a walnut on it. Yup, it really works).

Baking soda is great for removing pet odors from upholstery, too. Just sprinkle some on your couch, let sit for a little while, and vacuum up. Better than spraying with fabric refreshers all the time (dog and cat owners, I know you’re with me on that one!) This worked for us when some rogue milk stains (ugh) managed to escape our notice for several days, too. Thanks Georgia!

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so cute…such grubby little hands!

I hope you found these tips useful. This is now my go-to tile cleaning method for our old fashioned bathroom! Do you have any similar tricks to share? Whenever I don’t have to use store-bought cleaners with nasty ingredients that make fumes in my house, I’m all in. It’s amazing what you can do with hot water, vinegar and some reusable microfiber cloths or scrubbing brushes!

Psst — on an unrelated note, today is the last day to sign up for Mama Natural’s first-ever online natural childbirth class, which starts up tomorrow! I couldn’t get by without her blog, and what I like about this course is that it includes comprehensive breastfeeding support, a.k.a the information you need even more than preparation for labor and delivery. You’ll also get to be part of a community of crunchy moms with due dates around the same time as yours, and who wouldn’t love that? Check it out! 

Recipes

Belgian Salad

This recipe comes to me from my aunt who lives in Florida and hosts lots of casual cookouts and parties. This is a great dish to bring to a barbecue because it doesn’t spoil, since there’s no mayo or sour cream or any other protein/dairy in it. The marinade adds a nice tang to the crisp veggies!

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Belgian Salad

  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 Minutes
  • Ready In: 8 Hours 20 Minutes
  • Servings: 10

Says my aunt, “this is a refreshingly sweet side dish of baby peas, white corn, green beans and pimentos, all tossed together with a simple sweet n’ sour vinaigrette. Using all canned vegetables, this is a snap to prepare and has wonderful flavor after marinating overnight. It does not taste like canned veggies and you get a variety of crunch in every serving.”

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can green beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can baby peas
  • 1 (15 ounce) can white corn, drained
  • 1 (2 ounce) jar pimentos, drained
  • 1 cup chopped celery, plus the leafy green tops if available
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring oil, vinegar, and sugar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate for one hour.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the drained green beans, peas, corn, pimentos, celery, and onion. (I actually put my canned veggies in my colander and let them drain while I am chopping the fresh onions and celery). Combine them all in a big bowl then pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Before serving, drain the marinade. Season with salt and pepper, and serve chilled.

This easily feeds 10-15; double the recipe to feed a crowd of 20 or more. Enjoy!