Follow by Email

Monday, June 29, 2015

Meat-Rice-Tomato Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini is a favorite treat at our house. Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini was previously featured. This version utilizes a blend of meat, rice, tomatoes and spice stuffed in zucchini and cooked in tomato sauce. A delicious summertime meal!  


What makes this dish great for summer:

This version of stuffed zucchini has the stem and tip removed, and then the zucchini is 'cored' with a zucchini corer, leaving a perfect casing for a delicious filling!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Individual Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

Summer is in full swing! Celebrate with making Individual Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad...simple, delicious, beautiful and fun!



There was a stand at the farmer's market last weekend that had the absolutely most gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. I could not resist! I selected two perfect ones, paid $7 and walked away wondering to myself, "Why would I pay $7 for two tomatoes?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Zoodles: An Epic Fail!


'Zoodles' are all the rage these days in the food blogosphere. If you are not familiar, zoodles are an exceptionally noble concept intended to replace carb-rich pasta with straight up vegetable noodles made from zucchini. Again, great idea, but **dare I say it** an epic fail according to those who gather around my dinner table on a regular basis. And I am dismayed to admit that agree wholeheartedly.

In an effort to look like one of the 'cool kids' amongst other food bloggers, I jumped on the zoodle bandwagon by purchasing a spiralizer from my favorite online retailer (you know the one, starts with 'a' ends in 'mazon'). I opted for the simple version for a variety of reasons: it was reasonably priced, it was small so it could be tucked away in a drawer and not take up valuable cabinet space and it had great reviews. Win - win - win!

When the magical box arrived at my doorstep, I was pumped. We purchased both green and yellow zucchini at the farmer's market and were off to the zoodle races. Everyone in my house was excited to give it a try because they look so fun and are a great healthy meal option.

I enlisted assistance from my 5th grader who is generally very curious about how things work combined with a great liking to goof around the kitchen. After spiralizing a couple of zucchini, she gave up in frustration.

I had been preoccupied with making the 'sauce,' which was a wonderful blend of tomatoes cooked in olive oil and garlic with shelled edamame added to incorporate some protein.

I took over the zoodle making process. Not fun. The zucchini didn't twist well and the zoodles were reminiscent of veggie scraps intended for the compost pile, not the dinner plate. The blade popped off, so I had to use the other side (days later, I still haven't tried to fix it). I nicked the knuckles of both my index finger and my thumb on the spiralizer blade. The cut on my index finger required a bandage, which was another ordeal because the aforementioned 5th grader uses an excessive amount of bandages making it difficult to find one.  

Back to the spiralizing. The device I purchased seemed to have a lot of waste. There were a couple of inches of zucchini that couldn't be spiralized unless you are willing to bloody your knuckles more than I had already done. After making enough zoodles, I blanched them for 2 minutes in boiling water to warm them, drained and plated with the tomato-edamame sauce topped with parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

My dish didn't look too bad, but...

Feedback was less than stellar. To say the general reaction was 'meh' would be complimentary. Too bland was the general consensus (even with garlic, salt and extra lemon juice). And 'noodles' made from zucchini just do not compare to glorious gluten containing pasta. 

We may give the spiralizer another try, but it looks like it is something that will likely end up in the donation pile.

Let me know what you think about your spiralizer experience (or if you are planning to join the spiralizing fun and just haven't had the opportunity yet). I'm curious if I am the only one that has had a less than positive experience.  





Friday, June 19, 2015

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

Just in time for Father's Day, I am sharing the recipe for my dad's favorite cookie: Chocolate No-Bake Cookies. What a treat! These gems are nothing at all like a traditional cookie, they are more like candy (you will see there is no flour in the recipe).


I would make these cookies in my college apartment just prior to going home for a weekend. My mom wasn't too keen on my dad having these yummy treats too often, so I would just leave them in his car. Once I got back in my car to return to the university, the container from my previous visit would be in the passenger's seat - along with some cash. 

My mom would often hand me cash as well. "Don't tell your dad," she would say. 

"OK," would be my reply.   Of course I wasn't going to say anything, I had both my parents handing me cash without the other one knowing. Double dipping at its best. Those were the days!

It took me years to perfect making No-Bake Cookies. Sometimes they would turn out too dry (boiling too long) and sometimes they would not set up (either too humid or not boiling long enough).

I have found that adding a bit more peanut butter than most recipes call for helps keep the cookies from drying out. Another tip is to use high quality cocoa powder. I highly recommend Dutch Cocoa Powder (not the natural cocoa powder). You will notice it is higher priced than the mainstream cocoa powder, but you get what you pay for!

These are a delicious summer dessert because you don't have to turn your oven on to whip up a batch. Enjoy!

(Hey, Dad - Guess what's coming to your house for Father's Day? Sorry they were mailed a bit late...you should see them on Monday.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Blueberry Lemon Breakfast Bundt #BundtBakers

A big THANK YOU to #BundtBakers for allowing a new blogger to play with them in their sandbox! Special recognition to Anne at From My Sweet Heart for hosting this month. 

This month's theme: LEMONS! My bundt creation: Blueberry Lemon Breakfast Bundt. I selected this because there is a Blueberry Lemon loaf cake alongside muffins and other breakfast baked goods at my favorite supermarket. It was love at first bite (or I was overly hungry when I first tasted it). Blueberry Lemon is a divine combination! 



Lemons are a staple ingredient in my kitchen. We use lemons like most people use salt. A bit of lemon juice makes food P-O-P. A neighbor from across the street once knocked on our door to ask if we happened to have an extra lemon. He was surprised to see a load of lemons front and center our refrigerator (he actually thought they were a decoration - who has decorations in the fridge?). He ended up leaving with several lemons.  


I digress. On to this month's Bundt Cake... 

It seems the older I get, the more lazy efficient I become. I am a firm believer in making things simple, not complicated. Due to my efficiency mantra, this bundt uses two blueberry muffin mixes that are 'doctored up' with lemon juice and lemon zest (and a little buttermilk) to hit the perfect note of lemon 'zing.'

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Wild Blueberry Muffin Mixes (the mix with the canned blueberries) 
  • Eggs (as called for in mix. Mine called for 2 eggs per mix, so 4 total)
  • Vegetable oil (as called for in mix. Mine called for 1/4 cup per mix, so 1/2 cup total)
  • Lemon Juice to replace Water in one mix (my mixes called for 3/4 cup water each, so I replaced with 3/4 cup)
  • Buttermilk to replace Water for one mix (my mixes called for 3/4 cup water each, so I replaced with 3/4 cup buttermilk)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Powdered Sugar for garnish.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare Bundt pan with a generous amount of cooking spray.
  3. Prepare muffin mixes as directed, substituting one mix's water with lemon juice and the other mix's water with buttermilk and adding 1 teaspoon lemon zest. 
  4. Bake 40 - 50 minutes, or until cake is slightly shrunken away from sides of pan and wooden toothpick inserted in middle of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Cool 15 minutes and invert onto plate. Allow to cool completely prior to slicing. 

I'm a fairly experienced baker and am the first to admit that Bundt Cakes can be a bit daunting.  On more than one occasion, I have turned out a bundt cake only to find half of it wanted to stick in the pan. This go round, I used an excessively heavy hand when spraying my non-stick pan. 

My bundt cake turned out a bit dark. In troubleshooting the issue I have come up with two causes: my bundt pan has a dark (not so) non-stick coating and the amount of baking spray I used was overly generous. Dark pans are known to bake faster and darker. Baking spray contains soy lecithin, a magical ingredient with wonderful functional properties found in many foods (including chocolate). Soy lecithin is known to turn dark with heat. I masked the brownness with a light dusting of powdered sugar.  Sprinkle the bundt with sugar just prior to serving as the oils from the cake will make the sugar 'disappear' over time (it is really still there, it just isn't so apparent). I have an idea about how to remedy this in the future, so stay tuned!



BundtBakers
#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board right here. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.

Take some time to peruse what other #BundtBakers have put together this month. I'm impressed with their ingenuity and creativity!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Florentine Lasagna

Florentine Lasagna seems much more appealing and appetizing than Spinach Lasagne for some reason. Funny that. 'Florentine' is just a fancy way of saying 'made with spinach.' It's all in how you market it!



Florentine Lasagna has been a favorite at our family's dinner table for many years. Lasagna used to be such a labor intensive (almost miserable) dish to prepare because there was so much prep work to get each of the 'layers' in order. For me, the most miserable layer to prepare: the lasagna noodles. Dragging out the huge stock pot to boil the noodles, then rinsing cooked noodles with cold water and laying flat on wax paper to prevent noodles from sticking to each other...ugh! It wears me out just thinking about it.

Thankfully, talented food scientists at pasta manufacturers have been hard at work and have successfully developed 'Oven-Ready' or 'No Boil' lasagna noodles. This exciting product is on the supermarket shelves just ready to be placed in your lasagna. As the name suggests, no boiling required!

Being the food snob that I am, I prefer the traditional noodles to their more convenient counterpart. It could be psychological, but I think the boiled noodles have a better texture than the no-boil variety. Let me know if you are willing to bake two lasagnas side by side, one with the traditional noodles and one with the no-boil noodles. I'm happy to be a taste tester to compare!

Others that eat at the same table as me (i.e. my family) do not seem to notice the difference. For that reason, I am happy to prepare lasagna with no boil noodles.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Margherita-Style Grilled Flatbread #BreadBakers

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to Stacy at foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Special thanks to #BreadBakers for letting me join in their baking fun. This month's theme: Yeasty Flatbreads. A big THANK YOU to Chef Mirelle of The Schizo Chef for hosting this month.



Grilled flatbread is rustic and fun, similar to wood fired pizza. It cooks on the grill in a matter of minutes (don't turn you back for too long!), making it a perfect meal for easy entertaining meal. 

The day I planned to prepare the flatbread, I realized I didn't have any basil. Not wanting to make a trip to the store, I called my nextdoor neighbor (and serious foodie) to see if he happened to have a bumper basil crop. Unfortunately, his basil plants are just a couple inches tall. Fortunately, he had a bumper crop last year and had blended basil with olive oil - a precursor to pesto and had it tucked safely in his freezer. Score! Good neighbors are worth their weight in gold!

Margherita-Style Grilled Flatbread was super fun to prepare and even more fun to eat. I hope that you will give it a try!

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (205 - 215F)
  • 6 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons basil + olive oil paste (puree at a ratio of 1/2 cup basil to 2 tablespoons olive oil...note pesto can be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Combine sugar, yeast and water until yeast has dissolved and begins to get frothy, approximately 10 - 15 minutes.
  2. Combine dissolved yeast mixture with  flour, olive oil and salt with a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook. Blend on medium-low speed until smooth and elastic, approximately 5 - 7 minutes. It is purposely a very firm dough so it will hold up on the grill.  
  3. Place dough in greased bowl and allow to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.
  4. Divide dough as desired and roll flat. (My preference is for 24 6-inch rounds.) Place rolled dough onto well floured tea towels. Using wax paper or similar will cause dough to stick.
  5. Heat grill to 400F.
  6. Reduce heat to low and place rolled dough directly on the grill, being careful not to place over direct flame. Grill approximately one minute or until bubbled and brown. Flip rounds.
  7. Just after flipping to bake the second side, brush with basil + olive oil mixture (or pesto) and top with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Bake just until second side is done.
The big watch-out: be careful to not have the flames too strong and watch carefully - it doesn't take long for this bread to get a little overdone!

Please take a look at what the rest of the group has prepared (in reverse alphabetical order). I'm super impressed with the creativity and skill demonstrated by these #BreadBakers!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

There are fewer dishes more 'comforting' than my mom's Macaroni and Cheese.


Sorry (not really), Blue Box Mac-n-Cheese. It is the from scratch variety, and particularly from my mom's recipe collection, that I prefer. Hands down.

The secret ingredients to this version: onion and white pepper. Delicious! I once took this dish to a potluck in Tennessee, where Macaroni and Cheese is sacred. It was thankfully very well received and a raving success.  

So if you are in the mood for macaroni and cheese, try making it from scratch!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Herb Roasted Tomatoes

Herb Roasted Tomatoes offer a simple and healthy approach to add a splash of color to brunch, dinner or to toss into a salad.


I first encountered Herb Roasted Tomatoes as part of a Full English Breakfast when traveling to the UK. Delicious! 

I have since created my own recipe. Herb Roasted Tomatoes should cool to room temperature prior to serving to enhance flavor (as well as to prevent one from burning their mouth), making them a great side to prepare ahead of time.  

Hopefully these flavorful, healthy gems will make their way to your table as common fare.

Here is my version:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tutorial: How to Core Zucchini for Stuffing

It has been my experience that zucchini is traditionally stuffed by making a 'boat' by cutting in half lengthwise and then scooping the seeds. Cutting the stems and bottom and then coring the zucchini from the stem is a much more fascinating way to prepare Stuffed Zucchini.  

My inspiration for coring zucchini in this manner is from Anissa Helou's Lebanese Cuisine. Anissa Helou is the author of many cookbooks, but Lebanese Cuisine has become one of my 'go-to' reference books.  

My preferred zucchini for stuffing is the light green variety. They are the perfect length and diameter for stuffed zucchini and are abundant at Farmer's Markets. I do not know the specific variety, but here is a photo:



If you could not find this particular variety, you can use the dark green variety which seems to be available year round at the supermarket. The dark green variety is typically thinner and longer, so I often cut in half and then core from the 'half cut.'

Zucchini corers can be purchased from a Mediterranean Market (if you are fortunate enough to have one in your area) or from an online retailer.  Simply search 'zucchini corer' and some options will appear. 


Step-by-step instructions for coring zucchini follow:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini is in full force at the Farmer's Market and Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini is a great meatless option for a fun summer meal!



Growing up in the Midwest, we used to stuff overgrown zucchini by cutting the zucchini lengthwise, scooping out the seeds and filling with a blend of meat and topping with cheese. I always thought it was a great treat and seemed much more spectacular than the usual sauteed with onions version.  

This version of stuffed zucchini has the stem and tip removed, and then the zucchini is 'cored' with a zucchini corer, leaving a perfect casing for a delicious filling!