Tag Archives: fresh herbs

Parmesan Baked Tomatoes

The frost is almost upon us!  That means it’s time to harvest the herbs!

I work at The Celtic Cup Coffee House in the small town of Tullahoma, Tennessee.  I don’t have my own herb garden, but The Celtic Cup does.  I love getting to use the fresh herbs when I bake quiches, casseroles, and savory scones.

Today I harvested all the basil for the winter months.  If you’ve never processed herbs before, you probably think it’s really complicated.  At least, that’s what I used to think.  I know there are a couple different ways to do it.  Drying herbs actually does take a while, so I prefer freezing them.  I think it preserves the flavors better, too.  It’s really a lot easier and faster than I imagined.  All you have to do is snip the entire plant, wash, pluck the leaves, and freeze  on a towel-lined sheet pan.  After about half an hour, the leaves should be stiff enough to store in a plastic freezer bag for the winter.  It’s that simple!

While we’re on the subject of basil, last week I made some delicious parmesan baked tomatoes.  I love how all the local markets are just bursting with fresh fruits and veggies from the garden this time of year.  I bought some beautiful plump red tomatoes and thought I would get creative.  All they needed was some leftover basil pesto and a hearty sprinkle of cheese.  Voila! Parmesan baked tomatoes! So fast and simple, but delicious and comforting.  They taste like pizza!  You can make them as a side dish or just a healthy snack.

I’m not religiously gluten free or anything, but I think I feel better when I stay away from bread.  So, to accompany the tomatoes, I baked some chicken and made fresh broccoli salad.  This broccoli salad was at my friend’s wedding last weekend.  It was so good I had to make it for myself.

Together it was the perfect guilt free/gluten free dinner!  It only takes about 30 minutes to make, so I hope this meal will find it’s way into your week as a tasty and stress free option!

Abby Hughes

Parmesan Baked Tomatoes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A quick and tasty side dish or snack.
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 12 slices
  • 3 ripe medium tomatoes
  • ½ cup basil pesto
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 415 degrees.
  2. Thick slice the tomatoes and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan
  3. Spread about a tablespoon (more or less to taste) of basil pesto on each slice.
  4. Bake for about 8 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and broil on high until the cheese is lightly browned (about 4 minutes).
  6. Enjoy!



Broccoli Salad
Prep time
Total time
A light brunch or dinner side.
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 8 servings
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 medium red onion
  • ½ c. Craisins (dried cranberries)
  • ½ c. roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • ¼ c. white distilled vinegar
  • ½ c. mayo
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  1. Chop broccoli and cauliflower into small bite-sized pieces.
  2. Small dice red onion.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, mayo, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add chopped broccoli, cauliflower, onion, craisins, and sunflower seeds.
  5. Toss to coat all ingredients.
  6. Enjoy!

Cooking With Basil

Verse of the Day

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

Today Renee Swope wrote the “Encouragement For Today Devotions” titled listening to God.  As I was reading what she wrote, I thought, “I wonder about that too!”.  She writes, I want to be a woman who listens to God. But, sometimes I’m not sure if it’s God talking or just me thinking.  And if I’m really honest, when I do sense Him whispering to my heart, I’m not always crazy about what I sense He’s telling me to do. Click here to read more.
I am a member of the Town and Country Garden Club where I live. Today our county Extension Agent, Whitney, presented a really informative and fun program on cooking with herbs. It reminded me of why I like to cook with fresh herbs and why I love to have herbs growing in my yard. I decided to start sharing some of the herbal information with you! Now, I realize that it is the dead of winter and that I don’t have any basil in my garden at the moment — and you probably don’t either.  However, this is exactly the right time to start thinking about our spring planting!  In the meantime, we are lucky to have fresh basil available at the grocers!  The recipe link is from Simply Recipes.com.

Herbs are plants whose leave, stems, flowers, roots, or seeds are valued for their culinary, aromatic, medicinal, pesticidal, or coloring (dye) properties.  GROWING HERBS:  Most herbs need at least a half day (6 hours) of sunlight for optimal growth and flavor. Herbs need well-drained ordinary garden soil. Herbs have a stronger flavor and fragrance if not fertilized (I didn’t know this!)  Allow at least 1 to 2 feet between plants when planting herbs and avoid insecticides, as you will be eating some of these leaves.

For this first post I want to highlight BASIL (Ocimum basilicum).  I love using fresh basil in so many dishes.  I also love just rubbing it between my fingers and taking in the fragrance when in the garden!  Basil is an attractive 2 foot tender annual.  Sweet Genovese is the best variety for cooking.  It has a smooth, bright green leaves.  It can be started from seed or a cutting.  Be sure not to plant outdoors before all danger of frost has passed.  Basil requires full sun and prefers moist, well drained soil. For the first few weeks, pinch off the top two pair of leaves to make it branch out. Harvest up to 1/3 of the plant often throughout the growing season. Then when it starts to set flowers, cut the plant back by 1/2 or 2/3 or it won’t continue to make leaves.  Don’t allow them to bloom and to seed.  leaves have a sharp spicy flavor. Use fresh for the best flavor.  Preserve by freezing.  Basil is especially good with tomatoes and Italian or Thai dishes.  Don’t store basil below 45 degrees F. or it will blacken.  It also bruises easily so use a sharp knife to cut the leaves.  Stir in at the end of the cooking time for best results.

STORING TIP:  Classic Basil Pesto can be placed in ice cube trays, and frozen for use later. After they are frozen, place cubes in a Ziploc bag for storage.

Many Blessings and Happy Cooking!

Classic Basil Pesto
Prep time
Total time
Fresh basil combines with the nuts and garlic to make a beautiful classic pesto.
  • 2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup Parmesan-Reggiano, grated
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup Pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Combine olive oil and minced garlic. Warm in microwave for 30 to 45 seconds to infuse garlic flavoring into the oil.
  2. Combine the basil with the pine nuts or walnuts. Pulse a few times in a food processor.
  3. Slowly add the olive oil/garlic mixture in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. The mixture should be ground to a paste-like consistency but a little bit of the leaves' texture should remain.
  4. Add the grated cheese, salt and pepper. Pulse again until blended.
  5. Serve over pasta, baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.
(1) Sweet Genovese basil works best, giving the most flavorful pesto.
(2) When making bread, flatten out the dough, spread with pesto sauce and roll up tight. Bake as you normally would. Pesto gives a lovely taste and presentation within the bread.
(3) Makes 1 cup

Garlic Basil Cheese Puffs

11 Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

I am so thankful today for the freedoms I enjoy living in the United States.  Freedom to read what I want, give my opinion, share my religion without oppression.

Cory shared:   Three things I am thankful for:
1) My family
2) Our health
3) Our jobs, food, cars, house, neighborhood, friends, warm showers, hot coffee & breakfast burritos!

What are you thankful for this thanksgiving season?  Please send in your comments so that we might share during the next weeks.

These cute little savory puffs made a big appearance at our dinner table along with our recent baked Macaroni and Cheese!  Mom and I have been making cream puffs for a long time.  But savory puffs?  I came across this recipe in The Taste of Home cookbook that was a recent gift from my Florida girlfriends, Kathy and Phyllis.  Wow, we love these.  An endless ingredient list can be changed up depending on what they are served with.  Garlic, basil, Parmesan, onion, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and the list goes on.  We ate them warm out of the oven and boy oh boy are they good!  Very easy to make also!

Garlic Basil Cheese Puffs
  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 tablespoon Butter
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup All-purpose Flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
  1. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, and salt to a boil. Add flour all at once and stir until a smooth ball forms. Remove from the heat; let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in garlic, basil, and cheese.
  3. Drop by small rounded tablespoons 1 inch apart onto baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Remove to wire racks. Serve warm.
Can be frozen for up to 6 weeks.  Let thaw uncovered, warm slightly in microwave or oven.