Seasonal Fare: Zucchini

I love this time of year because not only are berries and peaches in abundance, but zucchini is finally starting to pop up at the farmer’s market too.  I love zucchini because it’s such an easy veggie to incorporate into recipes, and it’s pretty much the most delicious thing ever, especially when you’ve been eating leafy greens like kale and chard for what seems like an eternity.

We’ve gotten so much squash and zucchini in our CSA bag the past few weeks that it’s been fun to get creative and figure out ways to use it.  I have zucchini muffins in the oven right now but one of my favorite ways to eat zucchini is in “chip” form.  It’s basically like a healthy mozzarella stick where you use zucchini (or squash) instead of a chunk of cheese.  Plus, you don’t have to worry about choking on a huge string of cheese, which I seem to do everytime I eat a mozerella stick (which is really only about once a year, I promise).

You can cut the zucchini into “sticks” to mirror the shape of mozzarella sticks, but I just stick with slicing them into coins since it’s a lot quicker and I can let my handy-dandy food processor do all of the work for me.  Also, I make my own whole-wheat breadcrumbs by grinding up slices of bread in the food processor and then toasting them in the oven on 300 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.  If you ever have bread that’s a little too stale to make a sandwich, making breadcrumbs is always a good way to use it instead of tossing it in the trash.  I store my breadcrumbs in the freezer, so I always have them on hand and they last for a while.

Zucchini Chips

Ingredients:

2 zucchini

1-1.5 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

1 egg

Salt and pepper

Tomato sauce for dipping (I use the organic brand from Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees

2. Slice zucchini into 1/4-inch coins

2. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper

3. Mix the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl

4. Make an assembly line starting with the zucchini, then the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture, and ending with a baking sheet

5. Use one hand to dip the zucchini into the egg mixture and then place on the breadcrumbs.  Use your other hand to coat the zucchini with the breadcrumbs and place on the baking sheet, leaving a little room between each chip

6. Once all of your zucchini slices are coated, bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  If you want, sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese and serve with tomato sauce


Zucchini are known to grow really quickly (I wouldn’t know because everything I try to grow seems to die), so if you find yourself with a boatload of zucchini, here are some of my other favorite squash recipes that you may want to try.

Zucchini Boats (stuffed with tomato, onion, sour cream, cayenne pepper, and parmesan)

Sauteed Zucchini (with shallots, garlic, and almonds)

Summer Veggie Bake (onion, zucchini, squash, potato, tomato, and parmesan baked to a golden-brown goodness)

Here’s a little peek of the whole-wheat zucchini muffins that are just coming out of my oven.  The entire house smells like cinnamon, but I’m going to try to hold off until after dinner to dig in to these little treats.  I’ll share the recipe soon!

What about you, what’s your favorite way to use zucchini?

Also, if you want to find out more about what other bloggers are whipping up with local veggies, check out this post at In Her Chucks and get inspired to take on some local cooking adventures of your own 🙂

Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Corn Succotash

I feel like I haven’t shared a recipe in a while, and the truth is, it’s because we’ve been cooking so much with our CSA that we’ve basically thrown meal planning out the window and just cook whatever we get in our bag for the week.  It’s nice to open the fridge and look at all the yummy and fresh ingredients that we have on hand and just pick out what we are in the mood for and create something delicious.

If you told me a few years back that I’d be cooking dinner without following a recipe, I would have never believed you.  I never really cooked until I moved into my own apartment during sophomore year of college, and I literally ate “Shake ‘n Bake” chicken/pork chop, garlic cheese noodles out of a bag, and one of those frozen yeast rolls for just about every meal.  Since then, not only have I given up meat, but I also eat about a million different vegetables/other foods that I would previously turn my nose up at without even trying first (I was pretty much a 5-year-old trapped in a 20-year-olds body).

There’s this place down the street from our current house called Crepe Cellar that Steve and I love to go to. We normally take any visitor’s that we have from out-of-town there just because the food is so good for brunch and dinner, and it satisfies both omnivores and herbivores alike.  My favorite thing to get is their side dish of zucchini succotash, which is a mixture of zucchini, red peppers, corn, spices, and a ton of butter.  My least favorite thing about it is that they give you a bowl about the size of a muffin, charge you five dollars, and three bites later (aka: 30 seconds) I’m left staring at an empty bowl wishing I had more of the buttery veggie goodness.

When I saw that red peppers were popping up at the farmer’s market (yay, late spring/summer!), I knew that I had to pair one with the zucchini and fresh corn we were getting from our CSA farmer to create that delicious dish.  It was super easy to throw together and Steve cooked up some whole wheat spiral noodles and mixed it with some pesto I’d made earlier in the week and tomatoes.  We did a great job of mmmmm’ing our way through dinner that night and probably used significantly less butter than the original dish.  It was so good that I neglected to take many pictures, sorry 😦

So – here’s the recipe:

Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Corn Succotash

Ingredients:

1-2 zucchini (I actually used yellow squash because we had already eaten our zucchini)

2 ears of fresh corn (you could also use frozen kernels)

1 red pepper

Butter for cooking

Directions:

1. Slice the zucchini/squash into ½-inch coins, then slice each coin into fourths

2. Remove corn kernels from the cob

3. Slice red pepper into bite sized pieces

4. Melt a bit of butter in a skillet and add the zucchini and red pepper.  Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes.

5. Add a little more butter and throw in the corn kernels.  Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 3 more minutes.

6. Throw in a bowl and enjoy!

Whole Wheat Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

We’ve been getting tons of carrots in our CSA the past few weeks, and I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to use them.  Carrots are probably one of my least favorite veggies, so I usually use them to bulk up a dish like veggie fried rice or spaghetti.  I’d love to be one of those people who just eat carrots raw or dipped in ranch, but that’s just not going to happen (and I have yet to perfect my homemade ranch recipe).  I can tolerate carrots dipped in peanut butter, but it’s still not my snack of choice.  I’ve heard that carrots can be used to help bad doggie breath, so I’m thinking of feeding Socrates about 20 pounds of carrots when I get home today (seriously, that’s how bad his breath is…).

My favorite way to incorporate carrots into my cooking is by using them in sweets.  Carrot cake pancakes have been a breakfast (and dinner) hit in our house, and I recently experimented with these carrot oatmeal cookies.  One of the only good things about carrots is that you can put them in baked goods, like pancakes and cookies, and justify eating a lot simply because it’s packed with nutritious veggie goodness. 🙂

These cookies are actually pretty healthy, but are also still delicious enough to be worthy of the cookie name.  I love that the recipe uses maple syrup, a natural sweetener, instead of refined sugar.  I’m constantly trying to find ways to substitute honey or maple syrup for white or brown sugar in my baking and a lot of times it is hit or miss since you’re dealing with substituting a dry ingredient for a liquid like honey or maple syrup.  Sugar is sugar though, and no matter if I’m using white sugar, honey, or maple syrup, I still try to be mindful of using them all in moderation.

Whole Wheat Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup oat flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, etc.)

1 cup shredded carrots (I had a lot of carrots so I used about 1.5 cups)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut oil (melted until in liquid form)

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or Silpat)

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt, oats, and nuts

3. Pat the carrots dry to remove some of the excess moisture, add to the dry ingredients, and mix together

4. In a small bowl, whisk to combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, and ginger.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

5. Drop batter onto baking sheets (I used a tablespoon cookie scoop), leaving about 2 inches between each cookie

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are golden on top and bottom

Of course Socrates was waiting patiently to try these out.  He gobbled one up in about half a second, so I assume that he approved.

I did store these in a plastic container and they got really soft/soggy/somewhat inedible.  It may have been due to my impatience in waiting for them to cool completely which created condensation in the container.  I do find that baked goods I make using whole wheat pastry flour get a little soggy once stored, so I’ll be doing a little research to find out how to fix that.

Happy Baking!

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Happy Monday Everyone!

I’m kind of dragging today so I’m glad the first day of the work week is over and done.  I had a nice and relaxing weekend, so I should have been a little more upbeat today, but that just didn’t happen.  Steve and I spent most of our weekend watching Dawson’s Creek episodes and enjoying the nice weather.  We actually never watched the show when it came on over a decade ago, so it’s been fun jamming along to the awesome ‘90’s soundtrack and reminiscing about our middle/high school dances and generally just feeling very old.  I’ve also learned that I definitely want to name my first born son Pacey.  Not only does it rhyme with my name, but I (and dare I say Steve too) have a major crush on Joshua Jackson’s cute-as-a-button character, and the name Pacey is just so fun.

We got our CSA from Atherton Market on Saturday and along with the usual veggies, we picked up some homemade butter and a gallon of strawberries.

I haven’t used the butter yet but I’m interested to see how differently it tastes than the much less expensive butter we normally buy from the grocery store.  I’ve been eyeing the butter for a while now but have been put off by the $4.50 price tag for a half pound since that’s what we normally pay for a full pound of organic butter at Earthfare or Trader Joe’s.  I like that I can talk directly to the farmer and find out about the cows environment and diet, and I was finally swayed to try it out when the farmer told me about how the cows were grass-fed and led a super happy life.  I admit it, I’m a sucker for buying eggs/milk/butter, even if they are more expensive, if I can know for sure that the animals are happy and treated well.  I’ll probably continue to buy butter from the farmer’s market regardless of the cost.  Maybe it will encourage me to use less butter and voting with my dollars and supporting local businesses is always a good thing in my book.

On Sunday afternoon, Steve and I went to see The Five Year Engagement so that we could snatch up the cheaper price of the matinee ticket.  I remember when movies used to be $7, and now a regular showing at our local movie theater is $10 or $11 (hey, that’s over a pounds worth of farmers market butter!).  Being the poor couple that we are, we went to the 1:00 showing and got in for $7.50.  It’s always a bit odd coming out of a movie theater in the middle of the afternoon.  There’s just something inside my brain that expects it to be night time when I leave so I wasn’t ready for the blinding sun when I stepped outside.  The movie was awesome, but then again, we both love anything with Jason Segal in it.  I generally love going to see a comedy with Steve because he pretty much laughs at everything and always laughs significantly louder than anyone else in the theater…yeah, he’s that guy, and I love him for it!

I did a bit of baking and ice cream making this weekend too.  I made whole wheat snickerdoodles, which were okay, but not nearly as delicious as they look in the picture.  I need to try them again before the recipe is post worthy.

I also made some whole wheat banana nut muffins since my bananas were about to go bad.  The most delicious item of the weekend was the strawberry ice cream that I made from the gallon of strawberries we bought at the farmer’s market.  A gallon is a lot of strawberries, so we’ve been in strawberry heaven all weekend, and I’m actually munching on a few as I type this (my keyboard is turning a nice shade of pink).

This is the first time I’ve made strawberry ice cream, so I do have a few changes I’ll make next time around.  This ice cream was really good right out of the ice cream maker, but once we froze it overnight it was frozen solid and nearly impossible to eat without sitting it out on the counter to thaw for 15-20 minutes.  Steve says that it’s probably due to the water content in the strawberries, so next time I’m going to drain the juice from the chopped strawberries and just pour in the actual strawberry pieces.  We still have some strawberries left so I think I’m going to try out a recipe I found that uses coconut milk and roasted strawberries (this should take care of the water excess issue).  I’ll let you know how it goes but in the meantime, here’s the recipe I used for my first shot a strawberry ice cream.  You’ll notice that the recipe uses maple syrup instead of a refined sweetener like sugar.  I used this Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker where you make the ice cream in a freezer bowl.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Adapted from 100 Days of Real Food

Ingredients:

– 3/4 cup heavy cream

– 3/4 cup full-fat milk

– 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup (add a tablespoon or two more if you like your ice cream on the sweeter side)

– 15-20 fresh strawberries

Directions:

1. Combine the heavy cream, milk, and maple syrup in a measuring cup and mix together

2. Chill in refrigerator for at least a few hours

3. Chop strawberries according to how chunky you like your ice cream

4. Pour the milk mixture into your ice cream maker, then add the strawberries (if you’re eating your ice cream right away, pour it all in.  If you plan on freezing some for later, strain some of the excess juice out of the strawberries)

5. Once the ice cream reaches your desired consistency, turn off the machine and enjoy.  For me this took about 15-20 minutes

I was too excited about the yummy ice cream to try to snap a good picture, so hopefully this picture will entice you enough to give it a try!

I think that’s all for the day, especially considering I came home to this note:

And here’s what I found:

Stacy Eats: Tales of CSA Cooking

One of my favorite blogs is Kath Eats Real Food where she basically takes pictures of her breakfast, lunch, and dinner and blogs about it three times a day.  As silly as it sounds, it’s actually given me a lot of inspiration in the kitchen, and good for Kath because she gets paid to do it (seriously, her blog is her job, how awesome!).  Our dinners were pretty simple this week so instead of blogging about the recipes, I thought I’d just share pictures of some of our eats for the week.  We’ve been getting a huge bag of veggies each Saturday from our CSA, so it’s fun to open the fridge and make dinner out of unique local veggies that we normally wouldn’t buy at the grocery store.

Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Croutons, Candied Pecans, Sunflower Seeds & Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Sauteed Kale, Onion, & Scrambled Egg Sandwiches/Pitas

Lemony Swiss Chard Pasta with Parm & Toasted Walnuts

Veggie Fried Brown Rice

Strawberry Salad with Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

We still have some beets and kale to use before we get our fresh bag of produce tomorrow, so I’m thinking of trying to perfect kale chips and maybe making some red velvet cupcakes with the beets (you can’t taste them, it’s just a way to make the cake red with using food dye).

My favorite dinner of the week was definitely the strawberry salad.  I’m so happy it’s finally strawberry season, and even though I’m going broke buying an extra pint or two a week, they were certainly a tasty addition to the salad.  I figure this salad was too delicious not to share, so the super simple recipe is below.

Strawberry Salad with Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette:

Mix 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon mustard, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and a clove of minced garlic in a bowl.  Slowly stream in 1/2 cup of olive oil and whisk until the mixture thickens.  Add salt and pepper.  Store any leftover dressing in the fridge.

For the salad:

Toss the dressing with the salad greens.  Top with toasted walnuts and strawberry slices and enjoy!

And of course a food post wouldn’t be complete without a couple Socrates begging photos:

Double the Delicious: Two Recipes with Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter

I’m back with two posts in two days.  I guess things are looking up, or shall I say, looking productive.  After professing my embarrassing level of love for my new food processor in yesterday’s post, I decided to use the maple cinnamon almond butter I made to make a couple of chocolatey treats.  Let’s face it, nut butter + chocolate = the best combo ever/love/God’s gift to us as humans (Sorry Socrates, no choco for you).

I’m basically drooling all over the computer while trying to upload these pictures, so let’s get on with the recipes!

Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter Cups

Adapted from Edible Perspective

These almond butter cups are the fancy, adult version of your typical Reese’s.  They are made with dark chocolate, so obviously they are healthy, and the almond butter is homemade, so you shouldn’t feel bad about sneaking a spoonful (or ten) while putting these little pieces of heaven together.  Yield: 12-15 mini cups

Ingredients:

– One batch of maple cinnamon almond butter*

– One bag chocolate chips**

– 1 tablespoon coconut oil

– Optional: 2 plastic squeeze bottles – I didn’t have these but they would be very helpful in keeping things mess-free and making sure the chocolate and almond butter are evenly spread.

Instructions:

1. Line a mini muffin tin with cupcake liners

2. Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and add the coconut oil.  Heat for about two minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until chips are melted

3. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the chocolate into the bottom of each liner

4. Spoon a little less than a tablespoon of almond butter on top of the chocolate

5. Top the almond butter with 2 teaspoons of melted chocolate, making sure the almond butter is completely covered

* You don’t really need an entire batch of the almond butter, but having a sample here and there while making the recipe will be a nice treat to break up the monotony of licking melted chocolate off your fingers every few seconds.  Also, you could just pick up a jar of almond butter from the grocery store to use, or be a square and substitute peanut butter.

** I used Ghirardelli 70% dark chocolate chips, but you could use semi-sweet or milk chocolate.  The almond butter is already sweet from the maple syrup, so I definitely think dark chocolate is the way to go.

Chocolate Covered Almond Butter Frozen Banana Bites

Yes, the title of the recipe is a mouthful but these treats are super easy to make and actually taste like ice cream once they’ve  been in the freezer for a few hours.  I was inspired by this recipe, but decided to substitute almond butter for the peanut butter, and add it right into the banana and mix it all up to give off a more creamy texture.  The result?  Success, and a much more inexpensive and healthy alternative to a container of ice cream.  Yield: 2 dozen

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup of maple cinnamon almond butter (or whatever nut butter you have on hand)

– 3 ripe bananas

– 1/2 bag dark chocolate chips

1. Using a food processor, blend the bananas and almond butter together until creamy (you could stir it all together in a bowl, just make sure the mixture has a very creamy and smooth texture)

2. Chill the mixture in the freezer for at least a few hours, you want to be able to scoop it, so it shouldn’t be frozen solid or too liquid-y

3. Line a baking or cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the banana mixture onto the parchment paper

4. Place the banana bites in the freezer and chill for 20-30 minutes

5. While the banana bites are in the freezer, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth

6. Drop one banana bite at a time into the melted chocolate and stir around until fully covered.  Using a fork, gently pick up the chocolate covered banana bite and place it back on the parchment.

7. If you are using toppings, now’s the time to sprinkle them on.

8. Once all the banana bites are covered in chocolate, transfer the cookie sheet back to the freezer.  Once they are frozen solid, about 2-3 hours later, transfer them to a freezer safe container, or just stand by the fridge and eat them all (just kidding, don’t do that!)

These will last a couple of weeks in the freezer, and they really do get better as they freeze longer.

We’re off to a gym-warming party at Steve’s Crossfit gym tonight, so we’ll probably be indulging in leftovers for dinner.  We used a few items from our CSA to make the delicious sandwiches below, and we also have some leftover veggie spaghetti, so I’m excited to eat good food while avoiding the dirty kitchen and sink full of dishes that normally goes along with it.

Sauteed chard, apple, and cheese panini

Have a happy weekend!

Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Onion Frittata

We all know how much I love Pinterest, and if I tried to cook my way through every recipe that I’ve pinned, I’d literally be in the kitchen for the next ten years or so.  But, I have to start somewhere right?

After what seemed like a never-ending supply of eggs in our house last week, I decided to put all that time I spent pinning to the test by trying out a frittata recipe from Skinnytaste.com.  I did change a few things as I chopped and sautéed my way around the kitchen.  The recipe called for using half egg whites, but there’s no way I’m throwing out the yolks of my pretty little eggs, so I went with eight whole eggs in all their high cholesterol glory.  No health worries from us though, the frittata actually lasted us through about six or seven meals (we were in an egg-coma by day three), and according to my favorite foodie, Michael Pollan, egg yolks aren’t the evil villain they’re sometimes made out to be.  In fact, eggs from pastured hens (aka – happy grass-roaming, bug-eating hens) have 34% less cholesterol than eggs from factory farm hens.

Enough with my chatter and on with the recipe.

Zucchini, Red Pepper, & Onion Frittata

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs (preferably from grass-fed/pastured hens)
  • 1 small onion, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1.5 cups zucchini, diced into strips (1-2 zucchini, depending on size)
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup cheese (I used cheddar, but you could use parmesan)
  • 2 teaspoon olive ol
  • salt & pepper
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Add the oil to a 10-inch oven-safe skillet and turn the heat to medium
  3. Stir in the onion and cook for about 10 minutes until slightly brown
  4. Add peppers and cook for 5 minutes
  5. Stir in the zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally
  6. While the veggies are finishing up, whisk the eggs, cheese, and a little more salt and pepper
  7. Add eggs to the skillet, making sure all the veggie mixture is covered.  Cook for about 2 minutes until the edges start to set
  8. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven, and bake for 10-15 minutes

What I love about this recipe is that it’s incredibly versatile and will work with just about any mix-ins you can dream up.  I can’t wait for the spring vegetables to appear at the farmer’s market to try with this.  Asparagus and gruyere frittata, anyone?  We ate this for dinner, but then re-heated for breakfast and lunch too.  There’s no “eggs are only for breakfast” nonsense in our house.

An EGG-cellent tip (seriously, I’m so funny) – Not sure if your eggs are spoiled?  Drop one in a bowl of water, if the egg sinks it’s good, if it floats it’s spoiled.

Enjoy!