Archives for category: Low Carb

white chicken chili indian eggplant 032Kale is the new black.  It is so trendy I even saw a kale soda by Hansen’s on the shelf the other day.  My local market has lacinto kale, red winter kale, green kale, baby kale and many packaged snack foods made with kale.  If you go to the market late in the day where I live in Boulder Colorado it is likely the kale display will be picked over and only a few sad bunches left

The mustard greens are often left untouched.  Mustard greens are part of the cruciferous family of veggies that are powerhouse vegetables for phytochecmicals that are beneficial in a healthy heart.

Mustard greens are quick cooking and add a wonderful slightly bitter flavor to dishes.  Grab some instead of kale.

My favorite way to prepare mustard greens is a light saute in olive oil or hemp oil.  Mustard greens are also great added to soups or stews.

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A  veggie popular combination I make for my clients is a combination of baby kale, chard and mustard greens that are lightly sauteed in hemp seed oil or olive oil with just a dash of sea salt.  I remove the greens from the pan when slightly under done so that the carry over heat finishes the cooking process while the greens rest.  Mustard green take only a few minutes to saute unlike full grown kale or collard greens that take longer to cook.  Pair sauteed mustard greens with pasta, curries, soups or as a healthy side dish.  I  like to thinly slice mustard greens and add them to a salad with a sweet component such as dried cranberries or dried cherries to balance the mustard flavor.  Mustard green salads are great with dried fruits, roasted fennel or roasted sweet potatoes and can be dressed with a sweet balsamic.

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To choose perfect mustard greens look for leaves that do not have any yellow or brown spots.  Leaves should also be firm and spring back to the touch.  The color should be a bright green color for the freshest greens.

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Next time you are at the market choosing greens add some mustard greens to your cart and you will be glad you did.

May 13 2014 052

There was a  barrel of little tiny eggplant at Sprouts market recently.  My teenage daughter was with me and she delightedly exclaimed.  “Mom, look at the tiny aubergines.”  She loves to call eggplant, aubergines since she found out that is what they call them in England.  “Can we get some?”  This question surprised me so I said to her that she did not like aubergines.

Her response was to tell me they would be great in pictures.   She really knows how to get me to do what she wants.  I often purchase food just because of its photo worthy qualities.

I don’t use eggplant often in my private chef service as many people find the interior texture of cooked eggplant to be unpleasant.  Eggplant can  get a bit mushy inside.  I thought I would try these new small eggplant and see what the flavor and texture were like.

I cut the small veggies  into half and tossed them in olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and sea salt and let them marinate for about an hour and grilled the eggplant at a high temperature.

The interior texture was firm and flavorful.  Most of my eggplant haters loved these tiny aubergines.  I found out they were called Indian eggplant.

I can see why these smaller eggplant are used in Indian cuisine.  They hold a firmer texture in sauces but still soak up the flavors.  The larger eggplant sold in grocery stores would not be very good in a thick sauce since the texture of the spongy vegetable would become too mushy.  Try these little veggies next time you are making a curry or grilling.

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frittata 4 lemon chicken 099My last blog post was titled “Self Hosting Fun”  and it was not fun at all.

This is why I have not been blogging.  I regret it.  I have blog posts swirling around in my brain all of the time.  I still have not been blogging.

Why?

Fear of failure.  It really is that simple.  I tried to jump over to self hosting with a new template and failed at being able to figure it out.   I have used many different types of templates and have been pretty successful at figuring  out how to work with templates, but not this time.  I have met my match and lost the fight.  The template I chose was not something I could figure out.  I failed.

I have a quote on my fridge that says, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.”  -Winston Churchill

It is on my fridge! I see it everyday but I was not approaching this particular failure with enthusiasm.  Instead I was hiding from it.  My goal with the self hosting and new template was to create a more professional looking blog.  How could I go back to blogging until I succeeded?

My failure was not in being unable to figure out my new blog template but by not continuing to blog while I solved the problem.

I was talking on the phone to my lovely sister Shelley over the holidays and she said, “My mother in law, Doris and I love cooking the recipes from your blog.”

That was it.  That was all I needed to hear.  This is why I write this blog.  It has nothing to do with professionalism or how the blog looks.  It is about getting people to enjoy being in the kitchen and cooking healthy, scratch-made meals for family and friends.

I have not given up on making the change to a more professional looking blog but will continue to post while I approach the transition without fear and with lots of enthusiasm.

frittata 4 lemon chicken 082

Lemon Chicken Thighs with Thyme and Garlic

Simple and delicious, this entree is easy to make and tastes great.
Gluten Free and low carb as well as Paleo,  I love to make this dish on any night since it is quick and easy.

4-6 servings

10 minutes prep and 20 minutes cooking, but remember to let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes after baking for the lovely juices to redistribute in the chicken for the most tender and moist results.

Start heating your oven to 425 degrees for at least 20 minutes before baking the chicken.

Total time:  40 minutes to delicious chicken.

6-12 Good quality Chicken Thighs with bones and skin.

4 large good-looking lemons, preferably organic as you will be using the whole lemon with skin and all.

1 generous handful of fresh thyme chopped lightly with the woody stems cut off or 1 tbs dried thyme (if I am using dried I like to use the French thyme from Savory Spice Shop)  Remember to save your fresh thyme stems for stock, just put them in a zip lock bag in the freezer for later use.

2 large cloves of fresh garlic minced.

2 tbs good quality unsalted butter softened. 

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

Cracked pepper to taste

Get your oven really hot.  Pre-heat to 425 degrees for at least 20 minutes while you are prepping your ingredients.

Smash together in a small bowl, the garlic, ½ tsp of kosher salt and ½ of your fresh thyme and your softened butter.  Use a fork to get it all mixed together by smashing it with the tines of the fork.  

Slice your lemons into thin circles.  Remove any seeds. 

Lay the chicken out on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.  Give the thighs a little room for the heat to circulate around them and allow for the skin to get crispy.

Lift up the skin of the chicken thighs and insert a small amount of butter mixture and one slice of lemon.  If you are making 6 thighs you will put in more butter mixture than if you are make 12 thighs.  Just use you judgment on how much you should put in.  You can measure out the butter mixture ahead of time so that you can see how much to use on each thigh.  I usually use around ¼ tsp per thigh.

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Season the top of the chicken with the rest of your kosher salt and cracked pepper.  Liberally sprinkle the rest of the thyme over the top of the chicken and bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches around 170 degrees and the skin is crispy and browned.

Let chicken rest for about 10 minutes.

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Great served with roasted Brussels Sprouts or steamed fresh broccoli.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 074

Last weekend I catered a lovely little party in Jamestown.  My friend Andy had asked me a couple of months ago to cook for his birthday party.  I knew it was coming up but did not realize that he didn’t have my phone number.  I was in Jamestown the friday before dancing at Town Hall to a great line up of local bands including the Gasoline lollipops.  I went out on the porch to cool off because the place was packed and the music had us all dancing and started talking to Nolan Farmer.  Andy rents a room in Nolan’s’ beautiful house nestled in the mountains above Jamestown.  Nolan asks if I am coming to Andy’s party on Sunday.  SUNDAY!  I told Nolan I better call Andy in the morning because I am supposed cater the party for him.  I called Andy in the morning a we worked out a quick and healthy menu.  Andy is committed to eating healthy and he is doing a great job.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 109Here is the birthday boy telling a joke.

I arrived at Andy and Nolan’s on Sunday and had a great day cooking with Andy and listening to the talented Nolan Farmer playing his guitar and singing some of the wonderful bluegrass songs he has written.  Does it get any better than that?

I made a kale and cabbage slaw with oven dried apples.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 056A light platter of salami and olives with some delicious fresh oranges.

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My whole wheat carrot cake cupcakes were a hit.

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Andy made a fantastic guacamole.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 089I also made some yummy goat cheese and veggie flatbread.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 088The center dish was an oven roasted salmon fillet with marinated baby heirloom tomatoes with garlic and fresh basil.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 040The guests loved the food but I think I had the most fun just watching my friends enjoy food cooked with love.

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Oven Roasted Salmon with Marinated Tomatoes

This dish is simple and delicious

2 lb Fresh Salmon Fillet

1 Pint heirloom Grape Tomatoes or Regular Grape Tomatoes

1 Garlic Clove Sliced Thinly

8-10 Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Lemon Sliced into Rounds

Sea Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

8 Hours before cooking marinate Tomatoes slice in half, Garlic and Basil with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Slice the salmon fillet down the center and then slice into the salmon about 1 inch on each side of the center cut so that the salmon will open up.

Rub the salmon with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Open the top and pile in the tomato mixture.

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Top with slices of lemon and bake until salmon is fully cooked.  About 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Serve hot or cold.  The roasted tomatoes take on a bright and sweet flavor.

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Mothers Day is coming up and this dish would be a hit.

A la greqce cauliflower 012

I was thinking of Thomas Keller when I was trying to figure out what to do with all of this lovely cauliflower I had in my refrigerator.  I usually roast cauliflower, or make a soup or just steam it, but I wanted to do something new.

Thomas Keller has a  recipe for vegetables a la grecque.in his cookbook Bouchon. I love bistro food and preparing food ahead of time to be eaten later.  This recipe is perfect for making a day ahead and enjoying it all week.

You gently cook veggies in a court bouillon with olive oil, aromatics and lemon juice.  After cooking you store the veggies in the refrigerator in the cooled cooking liquid and reduce the liquid and make a vinaigrette before serving.  Genius.

I tweaked the recipe a little bit and substituted  butter for olive oil and  white wine for lemon juice.  The result was amazing.  I have been eating little happy bites of cauliflower lightly scented with herbs and wine for days now.  Heavenly.

This is a wonderful recipe for a party since most of the work can be done up to 2 days ahead of time.

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Start by cutting up your cauliflower.

Feb 27 2013 019In a large pot add 2 cups water, 2 cups white wine, 1/4 cup butter and aromatic herbs.  I used thyme, sage and rosemary.  I also threw in a garlic clove sliced into rounds.  Season the water with 1 teaspoon sea salt.

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Bring water to simmer and add veggies.

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Cook until tender crisp.

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Rinse veggies in very cold running water to stop the cooking process.

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Cool the cooking liquid and store veggies in the cooled cooking liquid for up to 1 week in your refrigerator.

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I suggest you try both my method and then go out and buy the Bouchon cookbook and try Thomas’ recipe as well.  I am sure I will be making this dish all summer when it is hot because the veggies, right out of the fridge are cool and packed with flavor.

Feb 27 2013 044

I bought a couple of pounds of roma tomatoes at the store.  They were a wonderful color and looked yummy.  These tomatoes were not very yummy.  As a fresh tomato these little fruits were completely useless.

Being frugal I could not throw them out.  Oven drying was the only solution.  This way the sugars in the tomatoes would be concentrated and the flavor enhanced.  I do not like to waste food.

I had some fresh thyme that I had frozen when I realized I would not use it up by the time in turned.  Freezing thyme is a great way to preserve it when you are not going to use the whole bunch.

I tossed the tomatoes in a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Threw on some sea salt and pepper and tossed some garlic and fresh thyme on top.

Feb 23 2013 053I set my oven and 250 degrees and let the tomatoes roast for 3-4 hours.

Feb 23 2013 079I took out the thyme stems and saved them in a bag in the freezer for stock and packed the dried tomatoes and garlic in a jar with some olive oil.  The tomatoes last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks or 2 months in the freezer.  Use the oil to coat veggies, for a tasty salad dressing or spread on some fresh-baked bread.  Do not throw out the oil after you have used the tomatoes as it has a great flavor for the herbs, garlic and sweet tomatoes.

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These sweet dried tomatoes are very versatile.

Here are 10 ways to use oven dried tomatoes:

1.  Pizza topping

2.  Toss with pasta, olive oil, garlic and a good cheese

3.  Antipasti

4.  Top a salad with bacon and blue cheese

5.  Add to mayo and it is great in a sandwich or as a dipping sauce with fresh veggies

6.  Add to your favorite pasta sauce to punch up the flavor

7.  Add to stew at the end of cooking for a sweet complexity

8.  Add to soup with kale, white beans and garlic

9.  Blend tomatoes, oil that you stored the tomatoes in, and more fresh herbs with some balsamic vinegar for a delicious salad dressing

10. Toss with feta, kalamata olives, olive oil and grilled veggies

What do you use your oven dried tomatoes for?

Check out Lucys Friendly Foods for a great antipasti salad recipe.

July 2012 076

I have catered hundreds of events.  To have a smooth catered event you need a strong team.  Last summer I catered a small wedding in the mountains.  My great friends Ben Bell, Mike Deel and Dominic Daledia helped with this event.  The catering went smooth and easy.  It was a fun night and did not seem like work but having a party in the kitchen.  If only all of my catered events could go this smoothly.

The big difference with good food and great food comes when the people who are cooking love what they are doing.  That love comes through in the quality and flavor of the food.  This post was started last summer and I was reminded of it when I was looking at one of my favorite books Like Water for Chocolate.  This wonderful story is about the power of love coming through in food.  Read it if you have not gotten the chance yet.

When a group of cooks comes together, who love what they are doing, the food is always amazing.  I could not have done this event without the team that I worked with.

The bride wanted a cupcake tower and Dominic got out his chain saw and went to work creating this lovely platform for the cupcakes.

July 2012 118Mike was manning the grill and he can always grill up a piece of meat to perfection.  I  always trust that putting Mike Deel on the grill will result in perfect food.

July 2012 104Ben Bell is such a perfectionist that the detail work is where I task him.  He once topped some pizzas before going in the oven and I swear it looked like he had used a ruler to space the pepperoni evenly.  I love to watch this guy work.  It is beautiful how he is meticulous and artistic.

July 2012 102It really is all about the team when catering and this group of guys are always a pleasure to work with.

July 2012 136

I was reading a post from one of my favorite blogs, Things my Belly likes this morning and she asked if anyone had a cheese and maple recipe.  I thought about how this post has been languishing in my drafts folder and decided it was time to get it out and dust it off.

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Endive Spears with Goat Cheese and Maple Glazed Pecans

This is the most popular appetizer that I use when catering.  The crisp endive spears and creamy goat cheese topped with a sweet pecan and fig jam just fly off the tray when I serve them.

Endive spears separated and washed.  Let them dry on a towel for at least half an hour upside down to drain the water.

Toast pecan halves tossed in maple syrup until crispy.  This will take 8-10 minutes.   Let them cool completely before removing from the tray.

Mix 1 lb goat cheese with 2 tbs heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer with whisk attachment.

This will make the goat cheese easier to spoon into the endive spears.

Scoop a small amount of goat cheese into the endive spears.  Top with fig jam, one pecan, a sprig of fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper.

You can make your own fig jam or pick up a jar at the market.

Here is a great recipe for fig jam from Kiss my Spatula.

I had always wanted to buy that bag of organic farro at Costco.  I would pick it up and just look at it but I would always put it back.  Nothing was coming to mind as to how I would use it.  I love it in soups but I am usually in a salad mood this time of the year.

I read this post from Orangette.  She used farro as a warm side dish with caramelized onions and feta.

I then saw this post from Epicurious.  This salad was a bit closer to what I was looking for.

I had some lovely grape tomatoes, a chunk of french feta and some kalamata olives.  I think you can see where I am going here…

I cooked the farro as per the instructions on the bag but added some herbs and garlic to the cooking water.  Make sure you cook the farro al dente.  It keeps a wonderful chewy texture and sweet flavor if you do not over cook it.

Letting it sit after being cooked in a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs overnight in your fridge is really the way to go.

I wanted to bulk out the salad and bit so I tossed some baby organic spinach in right before serving and poured some more olive oil over the salad.

Perfect.  Just the right combination of nutty grain, sweet tomatoes, salty olives and feta and the fresh bite of spinach.

Farro, Baby Spinach, Tomato and Feta Salad

Cooking the farro

1 cup dried farro

2 cups water

1/4 tsp granulated garlic

1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil and add salt, garlic and thyme.

Add farro and boil until tender but not over cooked.  Al dente is just perfect for this grain.  Drain water and put cooked farro into a bowl with oil, vinegar and season to taste.  Let sit in your refrigerator until chilled or best yet leave it there overnight.

For the salad

1 cup halved sweet grape tomatoes

1/2 cup kalamata olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

5-6 cups fresh baby spinach

Toss farro with the above ingredients in a large bowl and serve.  Add more balsamic or olive oil as needed and season to taste.

Yesterday my husband and I spent the whole afternoon in our garden.  My hands are a bit worse for the wear and I was tired and cranky last night but it was well worth it.

For those of you who garden, you will really understand the joy of watching your seedlings come up and urging them along.

We face several challenges gardening in the Rocky Mountains at 8000 feet.  First off, you can get frost up until the middle of June and as early as late August.  We have set up a system to cover the garden this year.  Last year we had several tomato plants with lots of green tomatoes and corn and zucchini we lost to the frost.  We are much more prepared this year.  I also learned you can pull up the tomato plants and hang them upside down in a sunny spot in your house and the tomatoes will continue to ripen.

Then there are the critters.  Ground squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, deer and elk all menace my garden.  We have a garden that has been dug underneath at about 4-5 feet and with heavy-duty mesh wire sheets laid down so the burrowing creatures cannot help themselves to our crops.  The garden is actually above this mesh with dirt about 4 feet high over the mesh. This wire mesh continues up the sides of the fences and the fences are 7 feet high to discourage the deer.  Now as for the Elk we just have to cross our fingers that a huge bull elk does not decide to push the fence over to get at our goodies.  It has not happened yet!  Cross your fingers for me.

My husband spent about a week this spring re-building the door and reinforcing the fence around the outside so there are not any holes for ground squirrels to get in.  I had a lovely crop of cabbage and collard greens that the ground squirrels enjoyed last spring because we had a hole in the fence.

It is such a gamble to try to garden under these conditions that the chance we will succeed with gardening is pretty small but we also learned a lot last year to help us protect the garden this year.  If this project fails at least we had fun doing it.  I loved hanging out with my husband in the quiet mountain air and listening to some classical music on his smart phone while digging in the dirt.  Yesterday afternoon was priceless.

Before we started out to the garden plot we sat down for a tasty and light salad for lunch.  We talked about how fun it would be to eat our own salad greens.  The ones we were eating came from Whole Foods.  Our salad rows are looking like they have been chewed on by the moths that come out in the early evening.  Do any of you experience gardeners know how to deal with this?

Spring Salad with Chevre, Chicken and Red Onions

Serves 4

1 lb Mixed Spring Salad Greens

1/4 red onion sliced thinly

1/2 carrot grated on a box grater on the small holes

1/2 lb Laurels Chanel Chevre crumbled

8 chicken tenders

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place chicken tenders in a roasting pan and drizzle 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and 1 tbs olive oil over the top.  Season with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Bake until cooked through but not tough on the outside.  About 15 minutes or until internal read thermometer reads 160.

Cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Toss salad greens, grated carrot and sliced red onion together.

Top with shredded chicken, crumbled goat cheese and 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Season to taste.

Yesterday was bright and sunny when I woke up.  There was a bit of a chill in the air but overall it was sunny and clear.

I went up to the lodge and got the grill ready.  My mother in law, sister-in-law and nephew were coming up for Sunday brunch.

It was a perfect spring day.  I was even thinking we may set up a table on the deck and eat outside.  Was I wrong.   Weather can change fast in the mountains.

I starting grilling and decided to take some pictures from the deck.

It was warm and sunny.  Next thing I know I spot a white mass out over one of the hills.  It almost looked like smoke.

As the mass began to move and drift toward the lodge I realized the it was bringing a chilly wind.  It began to spread out and when it reached the lodge I realized it was snow.

Snow….in May.  Well I do live in the Rocky Mountains.

So here I am standing on the deck in cut offs and sandals grilling in the snow.  It made me laugh because almost every time I pull out the grill it starts raining.  I should grill more often since we are having a dry spring.

Thankfully I was done grilling and could move in a light the fireplace and relax with my family.

Ok, so back to the food….I was planning on featuring a summer salad.  This is a salad that we make nearly everyday during the summer.

But how can I feature a salad when it is snowing?  Shouldn’t I feature a stew or soup?  Well since the rest of the country is not blanketed in snow I will go ahead with my summer salad.  It kept snowing all night.  Most of the snow melted on impact but we got some great precipitation that was needed.

In the warm spring and summer months my  family enjoys salads nearly every dinner.  Sliced ripe red tomatoes, rich and creamy cheese, and bright fresh herbs is our favorite combination.

This salad is made with tomatoes (Compari vine ripe tomatoes from Costco), fresh mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme.

Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella and Balsamic Salad

The key to getting the best flavor from this salad is to thinly slice the mozzarella which can be done if you freeze it for about half an hour or until slightly firm but not hard.  With the thinner mozzarella you can marinate it with balsamic and olive oil and the flavor will permeate the creamy cheese.

8-12 vine ripe compari tomatoes (I used the tomatoes from our local Costco but the salad is best with fresh tomatoes in season)

1 lb fresh mozzarella ( I used Bel Gioioso brand)

1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar (I used my trusty Kirkland Signature Brand from Costco, yes I know I love Costco..)

1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove minced finely

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (you can also use basil, oregano or mint)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slice your mozzarella thinly and marinate with balsamic, olive oil and garlic.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours in your refrigerator. 

Slice tomatoes and arrange tomatoes, mozzarella with marinade and fresh herbs on a plate.  Drizzle a bit more vinegar and olive oil and top with fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Serve as a first course with crusty fresh-baked bread or as a side dish with a nice piece of grilled meat.

Here are a few variations on this salad:

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, mint and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, oregano and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, blue cheese and bacon and arugula

Fresh tomato, brie cheese and pancetta

More great tomato salad recipes:

This one from Jamie Oliver. (I just love how he uses tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.)

Or try this one from Martha.

Here is Elsies’ beautiful version of the tomato mozzarella combo.

I enjoy to just sitting and watching my tomato starts and dream that this season will be long enough for us to actually harvest some tomatoes.  Last year our crops froze before they had a chance to ripen.  We are much more prepared this year.  Wish me luck!

If I am not successful I will have the Boulder Farmers Market at my disposal and in late summer the farmers in the area will have a dizzying array of tomatoes to choose from.

Now I will resume my fresh tomato dreams…..

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