What fun Rachel and I are having hearing back from readers enjoying We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook. Here’s one I got a kick out of today from Linda: “Becky I’m only on page 18 and I’m laughing out loud like a nutcase. You really have made a career out of telling on yourself! OMG, too funny and you’re not exaggerating, not even a little? Starting with misplacing your car keys in Nashville, your suitcase exploding at the airport, you can’t find your car once you arrive in Fort Worth, then when you do, the battery is dead? I’m dying over here.”
People often ask my daughter (now co-author), my friends, my husband, “Come on, tell the truth. Is Becky making this stuff up?” All they can say, with a slow head shake is, “We only wish she were.”
As I read the fun note above, I was in the middle of posting this episode on Facebook:
Leaving hotel room today. Close door, get 4 big suitcases in hall.
Me: “Uh I took my glasses off again.”
Greg: “Did you leave them in the room?”
Me: “I might have.”
All four of our keys are behind locked doors so Greg goes to get new ones. Upon his return, I say, “I also can’t seem to find my cell phone.” He enters the room and turns it upside down. I look on the carpet, I’ve been sitting on the phone in the hall. I find my glasses, in the case where I put them in my suitcase. I don’t remember doing that AT ALL. We close the door pick up our things and go on. Greg never gets mad, not even testy. No matter how many times we exit a hotel room this way.
Life has been so busy lately with the book’s release and travel and finding things I have lost, that when I do cook I want it to be fast and easy and delicious. One of the things I enjoy the most at some of the great Italian restaurants we’ve visited on our trip to Oregon this week, is fresh homemade bread dipped in a little plate of olive oil, good aged balsamic vinegar and a little garlic. Heaven.
Recently I found a way to turn Heaven into a quick snacky meal or a wonderfully easy appetizer for a bunch. Cutting a nice fresh loaf of French bread lengthwise, I sprinkled it with cheese, then layered sliced fresh garden tomatoes, followed tiny pinches of salt, pepper, basil or oregano (fresh or dried, whatever you have on hand), a little fresh grated garlic. Pop this in the oven until the cheese melts and tomatoes are sizzling. Then, here’s the fun part: drizzle it all with good olive oil and balsamic, cut in slices and serve with plenty of napkins.
Cheesy, Garlic, Fresh Tomato Bread with Oil & Balsamic
1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup grated cheese (I used mozzarella, some white cheddar and feta. Use any combination you like.)
2-3 tomatoes (my baguette was small so Roma tomatoes were perfect size), sliced
Pinch fresh salt
Several turns of fresh pepper
1 t. dried oregano, or 2 t. minced fresh basil
1 clove fresh garlic, grated
¼ cup olive oil, approximate
2 T. good aged balsamic vinegar
Preheat Oven to 400 degrees
Put both baguette halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle about ½ cup grated cheese on each side. Slice tomatoes and place atop both pieces of bread, overlapping slightly as shown. Sprinkle each half with a little fresh salt, some turns of fresh pepper, the herbs and garlic.
Place in oven for about 5 minutes or until baguettes are hot, cheese is melted and tomatoes are sizzling.
Drizzle the baguettes with oil and vinegar, slice in 3 inch pieces and serve hot. (With plenty of napkins.)
If your life is like my life, t-i-m-e is at a premium. And even when you carve out time for concentrated tasks, or cooking a great meal, there are life’s pesky interruptions.
Last night, while Greg was otherwise occupied, I stole away to the Corner Bakery in Highlands Ranch. It has one of the most beautiful patios and views in Colorado! Plus, it has WiFi and whoopie pies. Need I say more? My office away from home. Vacation put me behind on writing and correspondence, so I was determined to fire up my lap top, away from the noise and demands of home, and get ‘er done!
Within minutes, four men in khakis with booming voices sat down inches from me, pulled out their legal pads and starting talking Geek: techy, nerdy, computery words flew at full volume, assaulting my quiet retreat.
I gave up, moved to another table, plugged in my computer at which point a family with a small child possessing a scream like a siren sat down behind me. The piercing screams were intermittent and so sharp, that patrons covered their ears and hurried to finish their meals. Still determined to get some work done, I moved for a second time, to a quiet corner protected on two sides by chest-high walls. Ahhh….a little fortress.
Just then a waitress rounded the corner, hit her tray on the edge of my fortress wall sending a large glass cup of salsa flying, uncannily, perfectly in my direction. My left side took the biggest hit, with salsa now dripping from my left cheek, arm, legs and sandaled feet. My computer screen looked like someone threw a tomato at my prose-in-progress. I wiped myself and computer down, but the spots on my bare skin where I had been hit in the drive-by-salsa-ing, began to burn uncomfortably. I called it a night, shut ‘er donw, and headed home. Later I regretted not asking for a free whoopee pie for my trouble, but alas, I was afraid the ceiling might cave in on me next.
Mama said there’d be days like this and on days like this, you need a fast, delicious, savory snack supper that you don’t have to spend hours cooking or preparing. I offer you one of my favorite go-to snack or party foods: 5 minute Apricot Thai Chili Cheese Spread. It’s a little like a soft cheese ball, with more interesting shape and toppings. It has so many great tastes and textures: creamy, crunchy, sweet, hot. Spread out on a plate, your guests also get a lot more of the sweet-spicy sauce and nuts with each bite than they do with a typical cheese ball. Plus no refrigeration or clumsy rolling of the ball in nuts to deal with. Add some fruit and veggies and wine, some hard Italian salami or roasted chick peas and its a great snack supper.
This recipe is fast, impressive and beautiful on a table, and it will get you rave reviews and requests for recipe. I never make it or bring it to a party that people don’t ask for the recipe. In winter you can use the same toppings over warmed brie.
Try this topping with warmed brie. Vegans could make a “cheese spread” of Tofutti cream cheese mixed with white beans such as navy beans or butter beans in the food proceesor — add a little garlic salt and maybe some chives for extra flavor.
NOTE: I had some of this leftover and refrigerated it. Company was coming and so I put it in a small oven proof bowl and heated in the oven a few minutes, turning the broiler on for a minute at the end to caramelize the nuts and top of sauce. It was OVER THE TOP delicious. Company devoured it in minutes. So served cold or warm, this is a winner!
5 Minute Apricot Thai Chili Cheese Spread
1/2 cup cream cheese (I like the lower fat Neufchatel cheese)
1/3 cup cheese of your choice (I used a crumbly apricot white cheese with brandy this time)
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 T. sweet Thai chili sauce
Finely chopped roasted salted almonds (pecans or walnuts are also delicious)
In a food processor blend the cream cheese with the cheese until it forms a nice stiff creamy cheese spread. (It should be thick.)
Spoon the mixture onto the center of a pretty serving plate in a mound. Using the back of a large spoon pat the cheese into a round or oblong shape, about an inch thick. This is going to be a rustic cheese spread so don’t worry about perfection.
Mix the apricot preserves with the sweet Thai chili sauce and then spoon this on top of the cheese and spread it around, letting some of it drip prettily down the sides.
Finally, top with chopped nuts. Serve with a pretty small cheese spreader knife and an assortment of your favorite crackers.