Wishing Tree

It’s Saturday night, time for wine and cheese! We discovered this great little wine store near by call the Verona Wine Cellar, love it! Nice selection, friendly service, they even have free wine tastings on Fridays! We stopped in to try something new and were very impressed!

I generally lean towards wines that are from warm weather regions like California, Australia, Italy or Chili. For what ever reason, those seem to be my favorites. So, I was automatically attracted to this Western Australian 2007 Shiraz from The Wishing Tree. It is fabulous! Described as being “medium red color, with cherry and black raspberry aromas” it is smooth and tasty, almost like a grenache. A great bargain at $9.88 per bottle. This wine received a 5 star rating from Wineaccess.com. You can also order it online at their website, here’s the link:


We are serving it with Wisconsin Havarti and Co-Jack cheeses. Fresh grapes on the side make for a real treat. Curl up on the couch with your loved ones and enjoy the evening!

Designer Mom

Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes

One of my favorite things to do with tomatoes, other than canning them, is to make roasted tuscan tomatoes. It’s amazing what roasting does to the flavor of things.
Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes|Designers Sweet Spot|www.designerssweetspot.com
Somehow it just accentuates the fresh taste. This is a technique borrowed from Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun. Which by the way, is an absolute must read book. The movie didn’t do her justice at all. Anyway I am getting side tracked again. This reciepe is from Mayes’ book Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensus Style from the Heart of Italy.
Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes
Ingredient number one: You will need a multitude of luscious, ripe tomatoes.
Ingredient numbers 4,5,6,7,8, 9:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, chopped garlic (lots!), Thyme, Oregano, Basil, and Rosemary (you can also use Italian Seasoning).
It is critical before you do anything else at this point to pop in some beautiful Italian music to listen to while you work, such as Puccini, Josh Groban or Andrea Boticelli. The tomatoes will taste ever so much better…………trust me on this.
Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes
Slice the tomatoes thickly, about 1/4″ will do, spread them on a cookie sheet.
Sprinkle them liberally with the chopped garlic. I used about 5 tablespoons.
Drizzle them with the olive oil. I probably used at least a 3/4 cup.
Sprinkle the herbs over the tomatoes, make sure they are all evenly covered.
Roasted Tuscan Tomatoes
The idea is so saturate the tomatoes with the olive oil, garlic and herbs.
Bake them in a 200 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours. They will have a wonderful smell.
After they have roasted you can do lots of different things with them. They can be stored in an air tight jar in the refrigerator, covered with olive oil, for up to 5 days. I like to chop them and add them to soups, sauces, toss them with pasta and grated Parmesan cheese, or even freeze them to use later. They also make wonderful Bruscetta when added on top of sliced french bread.
Designer Mom
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The Stuffed Tomato

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 Summer is here in Wisconsin. Warm sunshine, cloudless skies, and deceptively pleasant temperatures which make you think summer will never end. Our favorite summer meals have very little preparation time and use simple fresh ingredients.
I try not to cook more than 2 or 3 days a week during the summer, but instead make due with leftovers and easy meals.
So, time to stuff yourself silly with the fresh tomatoes that are in your garden. James and I created this master piece, the Stuffed Tomato:

It falls into the super easy to prepare category. All you need is:

The Stuffed Tomato


  • 4 large cooked chicken breasts, cubed, or 2 large cans cooked chicken breast
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery
  • 4 large tomatos
  • Lettuce leaves, whole
  • 1-2 tsp. Mrs. Dash
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice


  1. Cut tomato into quarters, but don't cut entirely through the skin. Set aside. Chop chicken place in a medium sized bowl. Chop celery and onion, add to chicken. Stir in mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with Mrs. Dash and stir to combine. Stuff into tomato, serve tomato chilled on lettuce leaves.
No additional dressing is really needed for this dish, but you could add a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the top if you desire. You can also add some extra fresh veggies on the side such as celery or carrots for crunch! I also love to sprinkle seeds on top, try flax seed, slivered almonds, walnuts or sesame seeds.
It’s almost too pretty to eat.

Tortellini Soup

You can tell the change of seasons has arrived. Suddenly the humidity is gone, the nights are cool, and the breeze seems a bit chilly. Fall is definitely here, and along with it I suddenly have a craving for soup. We eat lots of soup during the colder months, one of our family favorites is this Tortellini Soup recipe that we discovered at a favorite restaurant in Chicago years ago.

The simple list of ingredients includes olive oil, baby spinach, garlic, onion, chicken base, and of course Tortellini. We like the three cheese variety Tortellini the best.
So, first swirl some olive oil in the pan, don’t be afraid of using too much. I really don’t think there is such a thing…
Add two teaspoons chopped garlic….
Saute over medium heat, until it starts to brown.
Then add the chopped onion.
Saute with the garlic until the onions become translucent.
Then add 8 cups chicken stock. I use water with two tablespoons of my favorite chicken base.
Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, chop the spinach, then set it aside. For a big pot of soup I used about 4 cups. You can add more or less if you wish.
After the soup begins to boil, throw in the tortellini.
My kids love it, so I used two of the small bags. The manufacturer claims each little bag will serve 3-4 people. Who are they kidding? My kids could eat it all in one sitting if I let them. That’s why I use two bags. Cook for about 13-15 minutes until the pasta is tender.
Then throw in the spinach and cook for about 5 minutes more. You can also add seasonings at this time. Salt and pepper, perhaps a bit of dill, basil or oregano. It doesn’t seem to need much.
Then serve with a bit of grated Parmesan on top.
If you don’t have one of these nifty graters, you simply must get one. Nothing compares to the taste of freshly grated Parmesan. You will never go back to canned again. Trust me on this.
Designer Mom

Friday: Team Pizza

It’s been a crazy week. I worked overtime last week, and we moved over the weekend. I have been in bed sick most of this week, and today am finially beginning to recover from it all. To celebrate, we decided to make pizza. Pizza is usually accompanied by a movie, but tonight we are blessed with the Packer game. Go Pack!
So, here we have the players (yes, I realize there is a little player who sneaked into my photo at the last minuite):

Crust: Unbleached flour, corn meal, olive oil, yeast, salt.
Toppings: Chopped garlic, tomato basil sauce, fresh tomatoes, peppers, onion, Italian seasoning, and shredded mozzarella cheese.
This is my favorite dough recipe. It comes from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. It’s the simplest one I have found that is quick and easy to make. I usually turn on the oven to preheat, start the dough, then prepare the toppings while it rises. It’s important to preheat your oven at 450 degrees for at least 1 hour for a great crust. 
Basic Pizza Dough
1 c.warm water
1 package yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp. bulk yeast
2 1/2 to 3 c. unbleached all purpose flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 salt

Combine water, yeast, 1 1/2 cups of flour. Mix well, add remaining ingredients. Knead for 5 minutes. Cover with an over turned bowl on your counter top or return to a bowl coated with olive oil to rise until doubled in bulk. Mine takes an hour, sometimes longer if the house is cooler. After rising dough can be divided into two or more balls. This recipe will make two twelve inch pizzas. 
While the dough is rising I chop the veggies and shred the cheese if needed. I also prepare the pizza pans by sprinkling a bit of corn meal in the bottom. This keeps the pizzas from sticking and adds a bit of texture to the dough. Although I use several styles of pans, including stainless deep dish, stainless with holes and clay pizza stones, my favorite by far is the clay. It produces a crispy evenly cooked crust, and keeps the pizza warm while serving. 
After the dough has risen, I roll it out. Have your pans handy to slip underneath the dough, and then add the toppings. I prefer to put all the toppings on with the cheese last. It helps hold it all in place. Then I bake them for 20 minutes on the lowest oven rack. Sometimes I move them up to the top rack for the last 5 minutes if they need to brown more.
Here is our line-up:

This is our turkey, onion, and peppers combo.
This is our extra cheesy pepper, onion, tomato combo. I also threw on a bit of crumbled bacon I found rattling around in the fridge.
Yummmm! Let the game begin!
Designer Mom