Simple Oven Roasted Tomatoes…

As I have chronicled in my past couple of blogs, this year has been the year of the tomatoes in my garden. Every day I seem to pick about 5-6 large tomatoes and at least a cupful of yellow grape tomatoes. And because of that I have been on a quest to let no tomato go to waste.

I can’t say it enough, the tomatoes in my garden have been nothing short of phenomenal (for a quick read on the heirloom tomatoes I am growing in my garden this year go to my tri-tomato salsa recipe). You just don’t get tomatoes like this in the grocery stores. When the inside of the tomato looks like the picture below, you know you’ve got a juicy, flavorful tomato. The inside of the tie-dyed tomato

I’m surprised my skin isn’t turning red from all of the tomatoes I’ve been eating lately. They are just so darn good and this recipe is a great way to enjoy them. It’s so simple to make and once it’s cooked you feel like you’re eating a decadently thick marinara sauce topped with gooey cheese.

Lesson Learned 1 – You can use different herbs to flavor the tomatoes: The first time I made this recipe I used some lemony thyme. I have a big pot of it growing on my deck. The second time I used fresh basil (also growing in a pot on my deck) and cut it into lardons before sprinkling it on the tomatoes.

Either the way the process couldn’t be simpler. Cut the tomato into half inch slices, sprinkle with herbs and top with mozzarella and shaved parmesan. You can sprinkle a little italian seasoning on the top or leave it plain, then bake and finish it off with a drizzle of good olive oil before you serve (I used white truffle olive oil).

Lesson Learned 2 – Cut the bottom of each end of the tomato to create a flat surface: Since the tomatoes are round, your end pieces will not lie flat on the baking sheet. That’s really no big deal except that if the tomato is too wobbly the melted cheese can fall right off of it onto the baking sheet. All you need to do is cut off a small portion of the round end and the tomato will lie flat.

I would also recommend spraying your baking sheet with a cooking spray so the tomatoes won’t stick to the pan. I actually line my pan with foil and then spray the foil.

Simple Oven Roasted Tomatoes...

  • Servings: 3 Slices Per Each Medium/Large Tomato
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Fresh tomatoes (1 tomato per person)

Fresh Herbs (I used lemony time or basil, chopped – 1 Tbs. per tomato)

Shredded Mozzarella

Shaved Parmesan (I think it melts better than grated parmesan)

Italian Seasoning, if desired

Good olive oil for finishing (I used white truffle olive oil)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and cut them into half inch slices. Cut a small portion off the bottom of the end slices so they lie flat on a baking sheet. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Place the tomato slices on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the herbs on top of each slice. Top each slice with mozzarella and shaved parmesan. Put the mozzarella on first and top with parmesan. The mozzarella will help the parmesan stick on top of the tomato. Sprinkle with italian seasoning, if desired.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese starts to turn golden brown. Plate the tomatoes and drizzle with some good olive oil. Serve immediately.

Top Each Slice With Herbs

Top Each Slice With Herbs

Top With Mozzarella And Shaved Parmesan - Sprinkle With Italian Seasong

Top With Mozzarella And Shaved Parmesan – Sprinkle With Italian Seasoning

Simple Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs…

The Fourth of July is less than a week away and that normally means outdoor parties and lots of barbecuing – hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and ribs. And quite often if Mother Nature decides to rain on your parade, you’re left with a conundrum of how to get that great barbecue taste without using the grill –  especially for those ribs. Fear no more. I have a great recipe that can be made all year round. This recipe provides great barbecue flavor without the use of a grill (if you so choose).

My oven baked barbecue ribs are made in the oven and finished off either on a stove top grill, broiler or outdoor grill. I guarantee you, you’ll think these cooked on the grill the whole time. The trick to getting that barbecue flavor without cooking on the grill is pretty simple, liquid smoke. And cooking the ribs low and slow in the oven keeps them moist and tender. Try this recipe and you’ll enjoy barbecue ribs all year long!

Rub Ingredients

Rub Ingredients

Lesson Learned 1 – Less is more with liquid smoke: Liquid smoke is what gives the rub for these ribs that barbecue flavor. But be careful because it can be an overpowering ingredient. I get pretty heavy handed with it because I love a heartier flavor and smell, but be aware that might not be your preference. I would try 2-3 drops initially with the rub ingredients. After mixing all the ingredients together take a test whiff. If you cannot smell smokiness or you want more smokiness then add a little more. I use about 6-8 drops but I would not recommend it for everyone initially, especially if you’ve never used liquid smoke before. You can always add more.

You can also brush the ribs with liquid smoke before applying the rub. This will give them an even deeper smoky flavor. Either way be careful until you are comfortable with the amount of liquid smoke that is right for you to use.

Lesson Learned 2 – Peel off the tough membrane that covers the bony side of the ribs: You may not readily see it but you will know it’s there when you try to eat the ribs. I am referring to the tough membrane that covers the bones. I’ll warn you up front, it can be a challenge to remove it. For me, there are times it comes off easily and other times I have to fight with it. Take a sharp paring knife and start at the large end of the bones. Insert the paring knife between the membrane and the bones working it back and forth until you get enough membrane that you can easily grab. You can also use the end of a spoon or kitchen sheers to loosen the membrane. First try and loosen the membrane all the way across the top. Then begin pulling it downwards over the bones until you’ve removed it.

If you buy your ribs at a butcher shop you can ask the butcher to do this for you. Some butcher shops do this automatically before putting the ribs in the meat case. Make sure you ask the butcher if the membrane has been removed. If it hasn’t have the butcher do it for you. That should be an expected service. If you buy your ribs prepackaged you’ll have to do this yourself. Can you leave it on? Certainly, but you will get a crispy tasteless substance on the bottom of your ribs. If you encounter a stubborn membrane just leave it on. You don’t have to eat it. It’s just a slight nuisance when you’re eating your ribs.

IMG_5753Lesson Learned 3 – Foil is your best friend while making this recipe: Besides making the foil packet for the ribs I recommend you also line the jelly roll pan you bake them on with foil. That way if any liquid leaks out of the packet it will not burn into your pan. Remember you are working with a brown sugar rub, and if the brown sugar leaks out it will create a baked on nightmare. If you line your pan with foil clean up is a breeze.

Lesson Learned 4 – You have three ways to finish off this recipe: Once you remove the ribs from the oven you can either finish them off on a grill, under the broiler or on a stove top grill. I always finish mine off on the grill because I have a gas grill and it’s easy to use on short notice. If you finish them off under the broiler or on a stove top grill remember to protect your pans. Either use foil (if you’re finishing them off under the broiler) or cooking spray if you’re finishing them off on a stove top grill. At clean up time you’ll be glad you did.

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs…

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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4 lbs. of pork ribs

3/4 cup brown sugar

Liquid Smoke, to taste (I use 6-8 drops)

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. garlic powder

Your favorite barbecue sauce


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Peel the tough membrane off the back side of the ribs (see lessons learned above). Mix together the brown sugar, liquid smoke, paprika and garlic powder. Apply the rub to both sides of the ribs.

Lay ribs on a sheet of foil (with substantial overlay) shiny side out and meat side down. Lay another layer of foil on the top of the ribs. Join the top and bottom pieces of foil together and crimp. Crimp the edges all the way around the ribs facing up. Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Place the ribs packet(s) on the foil lined pan.

Bake for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the meat starts to shrink away from the bone. Remove from oven. If using a grill, during the last half hour of oven baking light your grill and get it up to a temperature not exceeding 375 degrees. (If using a grill you might leave the ribs on for a little less time than if using a broiler. You don’t want the ribs to burn). If using a broiler, set it on high with the oven rack a good 10 – 12 inches from the heat source.

Place ribs on the grill bony side up. Brush on the sauce. Cook for a couple of minutes. Turn the ribs over. Brush on sauce. Cook for another couple of minutes. Take off the grill and serve.

The Ribs Right Out Of The Oven

The Ribs Right Out Of The Oven

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs

Fall – When Ovens End Their Hibernation…

What is it about Fall weather that makes you want to fire up the oven? The manner in which you cook totally changes from Summer’s outdoor grill mode to Fall’s indoor nesting and baking mode. And for me that usually means heavy duty oven time. Think about it. You move away from grilling chicken and steak to making pot roast and casseroles. And I think that is what I most appreciate about Fall – bringing all those marvelous smells back into the house. And if a Fall day also happens to be a rainy day, well then it is an absolute must to fire up the oven!

And so it was yesterday, that killer combination of Fall and rain and I knew I just had to make something. There were only two givens – one, it had to smell wonderful when it was cooking and two, it had to be a recipe I had not tried before. That doesn’t narrow the playing field very much but I happen to love endless possibilities. But how to proceed… hmm…

Then it struck me. My husband and I recently returned from a trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico. While we were there we stayed at a bed and breakfast and each morning my husband would have an English Muffin and a piece of coffee cake. My husband is not a sweets eater but he often talked about how much he enjoyed the coffee cake. The coffee cake had a cream cheese filling and so as I thought about what I would bake I began to think in that vein.

The finished product

The finished product

So off I went to one of my favorite sites on the web, Pinterest, in search of a cream cheese coffee cake recipe. Lo and behold I found one on a website called Bake or Break and like that my decision was made. There was no turning back, I succumbed to the trappings of Fall weather and rain by making a cinnamon cream cheese coffee cake.

As you can see the finished product was great and it tasted divine. I encourage you to try it. Here are some things I learned when making it:  1.) Be aware that it does take some time to prepare because basically you are making three separate things from scratch, the crumb topping, the cream cheese swirl and the cake. 2.) The cake mixture is much thicker than you might think – I poured it into the prepared pan and literally had to spread it out by hand in order for it to fit the entire pan. I thought this might make the cake tough, but it was not. 3.) Be very mindful of the cooking time – it helps to know your oven on this and really on almost everything else you bake. The recipe says to cook it at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Mine was done at 40 and could maybe have been in for even a few minutes less.

But anyway it turned out great – so much so that even though it takes a little more time to prepare it is definitely worth making in my opinion. My husband loved it, my co-workers are getting a treat today, and a newly formed cooking group that I just joined (something for a future blog) will be getting samples of it tomorrow night. So enjoy the coffee cake, it is definitely worth the work. Happy Fall baking!

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Recipe