August 30, 2008
While at the farmer's market recently, I spied some really nice and not too large zucchini that I just had to take home. I didn't know yet what I would do with it since there are so many different ways to prepare and serve zucchini. It's a vegetable that has a lot of different options when it comes to enjoying it this time of year. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Often, I have drizzled a bit of olive oil over it and sprinkled various seasonings and simply grilled it. Other times, I cut it into bite-size pieces and add it to a salad or even saute it so that it can be added to a pasta dish.
This time, I wanted to do something a bit different and inspired by another recipe I had come across in my many searches for new ideas. I got my handy-dandy mandoline out and set it to make the thinnest slices possible without making them transparent, but rather very thin ribbons. While I was doing that I had some whole wheat spaghetti cooking on the stove. Once the pasta was done, I drained it and let it hang out in the collander while I cooked up the zucchini.
I'm sure that some fresh basil would have been really nice, but since I have critters in my neighborhood I can't grow anything edible or there won't be any left for me to use in cooking! Maybe next year I'll give herbs a try in hanging baskets, perhaps the critters won't be able to reach them and I will somehow develop a slightly less brown thumb.
If you love zucchini, perhaps you want to check out these recipes:
Garden Vegetable Lasagna from Picky Palate
Zucchini Cakes from The Pioneer Woman
Drop Dead Delicious Zucchini from Eating Out Loud
August 27, 2008
As you may or may not know, I read alot of food blogs. I'm a bit obsessive with trying to read nearly everything that I have subscribed to in my Google reader. Of course, when I go away for a few days or can't take peeks during the day at work (shhh... don't tell anyone I do that!), they do tend to pile up on me. At one point I think I had well over 100 blog posts to read so I had to do a lot of skimming to get caught up.
One of the blogs that I enjoy reading is Recipegirl she shares some fantastic recipes and the photos are always mouth-watering. I discovered her blog while I was lurking over at the Cooking Light BB since she has another website that she started before she began blogging that contains a ton of recipes that she's made and has shared. Her recipe site also allows for users to rate the recipes once they have made them. Pretty cool!
Now the reason I mention Recipegirl, is that I was reading through the many blog posts that I have bookmarked to make and one really caught my eye, Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. I have quite a few really ripe bananas sitting on my counter and I don't know about anyone else, but I can't let them go to waste! I usually make Favorite Banana Bread, but this time I wanted to make something more jazzed up. I also wanted something that My Oldest would like and I could send in his backpack for the morning snack. This could be considered a healthy snack since half of the flour used is whole wheat flour. The sugar is not overkill either.
The batter is rather thick due to the peanut butter. I thought this was a good thing since I decided to make one loaf and a dozen muffins from the recipe. When I make muffins, I like to use my larger ice cream scoop to get the batter into my muffin tin and the thicker batter seemed to work exceptionally well this way.
I made the recipe as written with no changes and it was delicious! The muffins were the first to be taste-tested since they came out of the oven around 22 minutes - one reason I love making muffins, almost instant gratification. The peanut butter is truly the star of this muffin. While the banana bits are distributed throughout the finished muffin/bread, they are there more for the moist, sweetness they have to offer. The chocolate chips were evenly distributed as well, I hate when they all end up on the bottom of the pan. The combination of chocolate, peanut butter and bananas is never a bad idea, and when made into muffins or a quick bread they make a fantastic breakfast or mid-morning snack.
If you are looking for some other quick bread or muffin recipes, please go check out these blogs for some delicious recipes:
Easy Banana Muffins from the Diet Recipes Blog
Zucchini Bread from Stephanie's Kitchen
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins from Jersey Girl Cooks
August 25, 2008
I found a recipe on Cooking Light for Lemon Blueberry Muffins. For once, I had all the ingredients on hand since I had picked up some low-fat buttermilk for another recipe I ended up not having time to make.
The recipe was simple to make and was in the oven within 10 minutes. I had made the Melt in Your Mouth Blueberry Muffins a few months back and those were really wonderful so my hope is that I can find a lightened version of that recipe. As the Lemon Blueberry Muffins baked the scent was mouth-watering. I had visions of making them over and over again before even tasting them. They rose beautifully and the blueberries were really juicy. I didn't make the glaze since I will be nibbling on them for breakfast throughout the week, and I wasn't sure they would hold up well if they were glazed in advance of serving them.
My Oldest is my go-to tester and he didn't care for them. So, I think I have some tinkering ahead of me with the other recipe that he did like. Even though I enjoyed these muffins, I need to find a lighter one that my family will enjoy as well.
If you want to try some of the other Blueberry Muffin recipes that have been making the rounds recently, check out these blogs:
Blueberry Maple Oatmeal Muffins at Closet Cooking
Sunday Morning Blueberry Muffins at Good Things Catered
Blueberry Cinnamin Muffins at Recipegirl
August 21, 2008
After last time, My Husband spent some time reading how to transport them properly. Seems that the best way is to take a bag of ice and put it in the bottom of your cooler. Then place some damp newspapers over the ice. The crabs can go in right on top of the newspaper, but you'll want to add a bit of water to keep them moist. Also, make sure none of them are upside down, turns out they can die that way. You want to keep them alive until it's time to cook them.
My Husband likes steaming the crabs rather than boiling. If you boil them, they get a lot of water inside them and it's messier cleaning them. Add water, vinegar and Old Bay Seasoning to your crab pot and bring up the heat so that it's ready for steaming. Put the crabs in and allow to steam for about 30 minutes. Here's what they should look like when they are finished.
Once they are steamed we put them in the refrigerator to cool down so that they will be easier to handle. Next up, My Boys got a lesson in cleaning crabs from their Dad. I wish I could share the details on the process, but that's not my thing. Too much work for me! Now, I've got 3 people who will clean them for me.
They were able to get about 1 pound of meat from all those crabs! Well worth an hour on a pier on a lovely afternoon. So, we made crabby patties again! We plan to go crabbing again since the season runs into October. Perhaps next time I can convince my boys to let me make something different with the crab meat... we'll see!
August 19, 2008
This cookbook is really thorough in the information it provides on changes you should make to keep your heart healthy or to regain heart health. The first section of the book provides in-depth information on the heart and coronary arteries in addition to meal planning and ingredient substitutions to increase heart health. The next section is where you get recipes that include everything from appetizers to desserts. Each recipe details the nutritional information so that you can easily incorporate it into a lower calorie diet or whatever plan you might be following. It covers everything and all of the recipes are simple to prepare with ingredients that can be found at any grocery store. The focus is on preparing your own foods rather than purchasing pre-made products.
I mentioned the other day that I had purchased a large bag of lemons that I wanted to make sure I used during the next couple of weeks. I also had picked up some nice looking limes and didn't want them to go to waste either. When I was paging through my cookbook I came upon one of my marked pages for Grilled Chicken with Fresh Lime. This recipe is quick and easy to put together and the marinade infuses the chicken with the flavors in as little as one hour, which is all I had tonight.
The result from even 1 hour of marinating the chicken is a moist and tangy flavor. I don't think the rosemary added much to the flavor, perhaps using fresh rosemary would bring that out more. This is a perfect dish for a summer night. We are still enjoying some unusually cool weather of an evening here so dinner outside the last couple of nights has been a requirement. Soon as dinner is over, all of the kids in the neighborhood are out riding bikes and the parents are all chatting outside. A really nice way to cap off a busy day.
Grilled Chicken with Fresh Lime
Adapted from: Don't Eat Your Heart Out Cookbook by Joseph C. Piscatella
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts - thinly sliced (or pounded thin)
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
Juice of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons EVOO
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine lime juice, lemon juice, EVOO and black pepper in a gallon size plastic bag. Add chicken and turn to ensure all pieces have been coated. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator - can marinate overnight if you have time.
Heat grill to medium-high heat. Spray grill with cooking spray, then add chicken breasts. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes on each side, or until cooked thoroughly.
Check out these blogs for some other recipes perfect for grilling while summer is still here:
Grilled Teriyaki Salmon at Dinners for a Year and Beyond
Grilled Chicken Cajun Salad at A Corner of My Kitchen
Portobello Burgers at Enlightened Cooking
August 17, 2008
Our block party is something we look forward to every year, not only because we get to see some neighbors that we normally don't run into but also because everyone brings food to share! This year was no different since we had over 20 families participate. There was everything from hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage sandwiches, broccoli salad, potato salad, corn on the cob, chips and dip, and a wide range of desserts - just to name some of the delicious food that was there.
After a trip to a local farmer's market this morning, I was able to make a simple orzo salad that had some fresh vegetables in it. I had some beautiful green zucchini, fresh corn and heirloom cherry tomatoes in different colors. I didn't really follow a recipe this time. I sauteed the corn and zucchini in about 1 tablespoon of EVOO and then tossed it with some Italian seasonings before tossing with the orzo. Then, I added about 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and combined to allow it to melt into the other ingredients. Lastly, I added the halved tomatoes and did a quick toss of everything together. It was really quite tasty for something I made with really fresh ingredients. A bonus was how colorful and pretty it turned out!
August 15, 2008
Now, on to a MEME. Lia over at Swirling Notions tagged me for an interesting MEME. I have to answer the following questions: Are you a morning person or a night owl? What would you do (related to food and/or drink) if you could change your ways and become the opposite?
Well, I guess I am a morning person- or rather a later morning person when my boys allow me to sleep past 7 a.m. On most mornings I try to get up and do my walk/jog by 5:30 a.m. so that I can get my exercise out of the way before the day gets started. If I wait, it's likely not to happen at all.
Now, if I could change my ways and become a night-owl, my sleep requirements would have to seriously change. I'm one of those people who really does need about 8 hours or else I become difficult to be around. So, assuming that could happen...
- I'd spend more time tinkering with recipes and trying to enter some cooking contests. Right now, there just isn't enough time to tinker with them and remake things so that I'd want to subject myself to rejection from perfect strangers.
- Since I would have some additional quiet time to myself, I could also spend more time looking for more tidbits of information to share in my blog posts and play around with my food photography. I think both have improved, but I have to do it when the boys are asleep so that I don't take too much time away from them.
- One thing I hardly ever do is make those overnight breakfast dishes because by the time I can get to it, I'm too tired. So, I'd take the time to make one of those overnight stuffed french toast recipes... oh, and the ooey-gooey cinnamin rolls! I made those years ago (before the boys were born) and they were so good! Now, I'm going to have to make them since I'm thinking about them again. To wake up and have breakfast nearly made except for putting it the oven sounds so wonderful.
- I have a few foodie fiction books I borrowed from the library, and if I could become a night-owl I might be able to actually get started and finish them. Right now, it looks like they'll be returned un-read because there are so many other things I end up doing instead.
Well, now that I've shared what I'd change if I could be a night-owl, I need to pass this MEME on to a few other bloggers to see what they would do:
Kristen at Dine and Dish
Deborah at Taste & Tell
And, anyone else who wants to play along! I have so many blogs in my Google reader that I can't possibly tag EVERYONE! Have a great weekend!
August 14, 2008
In my search for something simple to make for dinner, I turned to the August issue of Cooking Light. Last weekend I picked up a 5 pound bag of lemons when I was shopping, with so many lemons on hand the Lemon-Grilled Chicken Breasts sounded appealing. The chicken is marinated only for 30 minutes, which works well for a weeknight meal. The simplicity of the marinade appealed to me when I began putting the meal together.
I served the grilled chicken with a rice pilaf, grilled Vidalia onions and steamed broccoli. The meal as a whole was very satisfying. My only change would be to add a bit more seasoning to the marinade. It needs something more than lemon to really take it to the next level where it would be a truly fantastic meal. I've made Cooking Light's Lemon Oregano Rubbed Chicken previously and the flavor profile is so much more interesting than this particular recipe. For a quick meal that went over reasonably well with the family I could make this without a lot of planning or thought.
Now, Cooking Light does recommend saving 3 of the chicken breasts for dinner another night using their recipe for Hearts of Romaine Caeser Salad with Grilled Chicken. This might be the best use of these chicken breasts, dressing them up in a Caeser dressing.
Lemon-Grilled Chicken Breasts
Source: Cooking Light, August 2008
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
7 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper.
3. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until done.
Check out these grilling recipes while summer is still hanging around:
Grilled Ribeye with Garlic Butter from Mr. Orph's Kitchen
Grilled Teriyaki Salmon and Fresh Corn and Scallion Timbales at Dinners for a Year and Beyond
Grilled Pitas with Carmelized Onions and Goat Cheese for something a little different at Sweetnicks.
August 11, 2008
Once the water temperature warms up to at least 55 degrees, you’ll have more luck according to what I’ve read. As I mentioned you don’t need much to catch crabs off of a pier, dock or boat. We went out with a dozen chicken legs, a roll of twine and a net with a long handle. We did see other people using larger pieces of chicken, but they didn’t seem to be having any luck getting anything with them.
Once you have chosen where you want to try your luck, simply tie a chicken leg to the end of a string and allow it to sink on down into the water to where the crabs are most likely to be hanging out. It is best if you have another person with you so that one of you can gently pull the string back up while the other has the net handy to get underneath the crab before it decides it would rather not be dinner. If you pull the string too quickly, they will jump off before you even realize that you had one. There are also rules on the size crab you can keep, they must be at least 4 ½ inches to keep them. We caught a good number of “babies” and sent them back to continue nibbling and growing bigger.
Our Boys had a great time with crabbing and are looking forward to doing it again soon. Apparently, you can do this into September so we just may have to give it another try. The town we were in was lovely and the other people who were crabbing were so friendly.
Once we got them home, which was VERY late at night, we steamed them and then set them aside in the fridge until Sunday. Since we ended up with about 8 crabs that were big enough to bring home, that meant we were going to be limited in what we could do with the meat. Before getting to that, My Husband spent time showing My Oldest how to crack them and pull out the meat. My Oldest was a quick study and will now be helping whenever we indulge in getting crabs!
We ended up with just about a half pound of meat. Not a lot to work with, but just enough to make a few smaller “Crabby Patties” (a.k.a. crab cakes for those who don’t watch Spongebob Squarepants). I have made the recipe from Cooking Light before and since it turned out so well, made it again this time. What I like about this recipe is that the patties are fried for just a short time on the stove-top and then finished in the oven. The patties firm up while frying, then they become golden brown in the oven, using less oil overall. They are simply delicious and the best part is they are so simple to make. You won't need to wait until you go out to dinner to enjoy crab cakes anymore. Even if you can't go crabbing where you live, go out and purchase some REAL lump crab meat (not that artificial stuff - yuck!) and make these crab cakes! You can serve them simply as they are with a bit of tartar sauce if you like, or make them like My Oldest (and Spongebob) likes them: on a whole wheat bun with ketchup, lettuce and tomato!
This was one of those activities that made me really feel like we weren't just out doing the usual thing, but rather creating family memories together. One of My Brother's out in Kansas City had commented that when we drove out to visit the last time, that the trip would make memories the boys would remember for the rest of their lives. That really made me stop and think about how important it is to live in the moment and do things that are fun together as a family. Those are the things you remember when you grow up and the stories you tell your own kids. I think that's something I will have to keep reminding myself as we get into the routine come September with the homework, afterschool activities and the regular business of life. We shouldn't just save the fun stuff for summer, we should make time for it throughout the year.
Check out these recipes using fresh crab meat:
Crab and Fuji Apple Salad by Jaden at Steamy Kitchen
Broiled Mushrooms with Crabmeat at Dragon's Kitchen
August 8, 2008
I found the original recipe at Kraft Foods website. It is so simple, and I am sure most of us have had it at one gathering or another over the years. This is not a new creation by any means, but I hadn't had it in years and when I got it into my head again it was time to revisit it.
Of course, I couldn't make it exactly as the recipe suggested. That would make things just too simple, right? I made some changes to lower the calories a bit more and to use things I had on hand already, so I wouldn't have to buy a bunch of ingredients just to make one appy. I hate having to make a special trip to the store for just one recipe.
Inspired by: Kraft Fooods
2 cans (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
8 oz. reduced fat sour cream
1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch dip and dressing mix
about 1 cup broccoli florets
1 tomato, seeded and diced (plum tomatoes will work best)
2 scallions finely chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Separate the crescent roll dough into 4 rectangles and press into the bottom of a jelly roll pan (the kind with the raised edge). Press each rectangle into the others to ensure they are sealed together. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool before continuing.
Mix the cream cheese, sour cream and dressing mix until thoroughly mixed together. Then, spread evenly over the cooled crust. Add remaining ingredients evenly over the cream cheese mixture.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then cut into bite-size squares.
Do you have a potluck or a neighborhood block party to go to? Then, check out these appetizer ideas for inspiration!
Simply Tasty made Giada's White Bean Dip and served it with fresh veggies.
Good Things Catered used some fresh tomatoes and served up Tomato Herb Flatbread.
Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats shares a fantastic recipe for Guacamole. All you need to do is bring chips and you're done!
My Mother-in-Law has been making this recipe for a couple of summers now, and it can be pretty potent. It goes down r-e-a-l-l-y easy. It's a simple recipe, but I think that's generally the case with Sangria. I made 2 pitchers and they were gone in no time, yes, it goes down that easily! After making the first batch, I had memorized the recipe. So, this will probably end up being made several more times by the end of summer. Do give this a try as it is a perfect summer cocktail, but be warned it is very easy to drink!
Be sure to check back later over the weekend as I'll be sharing the appetizer I made for Bunko.
Source: My Mother-in-Law (not sure of where it originally came from)
1 bottle Castle Rock Merlot (or your favorite red wine)
1 orange sliced and crushed with a muddler
1 lemon sliced and crushed with a muddler
Juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Triple Sec
Mix the all ingredients except for wine until sugar dissolves. Add wine, stir and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (3 hours is ideal).
If you are looking for more summer cocktails, check out these recipes:
Recipegirl made Electric Lemonade for her Happy Hour on the Beach
Sweetnicks likes to enjoy a bit of Mom Juice aka White Wine Strawberry Sangria
Or you can cool off with a Frosty Wild Strawberry Cocktail from Anne's Food.
August 5, 2008
This is not a green pumpkin, but rather an 8-Ball Zucchini. Having never seen these before, I wasn't sure how to prepare them. So, I did a bit of internet searching for some inspiration. The end result was a stuffed zucchini filled with rice, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and zucchini. I seasoned the mixture with Penzey's Tuscan Sunset, but if you don't have that you could use an Italian seasoning blend that you like. When I opened the oven to take out the zucchini, the aroma was mouth-watering. The combination of the seasonings and ingredients truly makes this worthy of a company side dish.
I only made 2 of the zucchini for this recipe because I want to slice the others up for grilling later in the week.
Stuffed 8-Ball Zucchini
Recipe by: Patsyk
2 Eight Ball Zucchini
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil, and rehydrated) - chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning (Penzey's Tuscan Sunset works beautiful)
1 cup cooked Texmati rice (American basmati)
Panko bread crumbs - about 1/2 cup
3/4 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut each zucchini in half through the middle, not from stem to the bottom. If the stem makes it hard to stand them up, slice off enough so that it is even. Scoop out the inside of each half and cut into a small bite-size dice. Place into a glass bowl.
Combine remaining ingredients until thorougly mixed. Using a spoon fill each zucchini cup with the mixture so that it is mounded over the top.
Place zucchini's in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle Panko bread crumbs over each filled zucchini cup. Fill the dish with the remaining chicken broth.
Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden. Serve hot.
Looking for more delicious vegetable side dishes? Check out these ideas:
Stuffed Tomatoes from Equal Opportunity Kitchen
Lemon Chive Roasted Vegetables from Taste and Tell
Pancetta Sauteed Hericot Vert with Cherry Tomatoes and Feta (plus a couple more side dish ideas on this link!) from Picky Palate
August 3, 2008
Now, there are lots of ways to use up these beautiful vegetables but for us there's one thing that we simply MUST have each summer - Gazpacho! It's so fresh with just a little bit of crunch in each bite. Ideally, you should make this one day and let it sit in fridge overnight. The flavors really intensify the longer they have time to "marry". If you don't like onion or garlic, then this one may not be for you. As for us, we love both. The perfect garnish for this soup is diced cucumber.
Source: My Mother-in-Law
1 clove garlic
3 tomatoes, peeled
1 small can mushrooms, drained
1 jar pimientos
1/2 medium onion
1 kirby cucumber (if using the larger cukes, use about 1/2)
1 green bell pepper
3 lemons, juiced
1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large bottle tomato juice (V-8 juice will also work nicely, just use low-sodium)
3 drops Tobasco sauce
Chop all vegetables (garlic through green bell pepper) in several batches in a food processor. Use the pulse to ensure that you do not completely puree the mixture. It is better to have some smallish chunks so that you get a bit of crunch in each bite. Put all vegetables into a large plastic bowl, then add the remaining ingredients and stir to ensure it is thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight is ideal.
Here are some other recipes that use fresh produce to inspire you:
Blueberry Cinnamin Muffins from RecipeGirl
Stuffed Zucchini from Eating Out Loud
Fabulous Summer Berry fruit Tart from A Corner of My Kitchen