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!

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:

Life According to My iPhone

Obviously my three posts a week goal isn’t being met, but what can I say, life got in the way.  Hopefully I’ve gotten over my I-just-want-to-watch-Friends-and-play-on-Pinterest-all-day streak, and after being called out by two people about not posting (seriously, my blog is so popular!), I thought I’d stop being a slacker and get on with it already.

In between watching Friends and pinning things, I have squeezed in a few activities that could actually be described as productive.  Instead of blabbing on and on about my past few weeks, I figured I’d participate in a little “Life According to My iPhone Photos” action (with a little babble mixed in, of course).

In the few minutes it took to sort through my photos, two things became very clear:

1. Random puppy dog pictures seem to be way more important to me than documenting other life events like birthday’s, Easter, etc.

Socrates rocking a fresh cut courtesy of his Daddy.

Socrates enjoys being lazy too.

Watching friends is obviously very tiring.

2. Taking pictures of my food seems to be way more important to me than random puppy dog pictures and documenting other life events like birthday’s, Easter, etc.

French Onion Soup is delicious - especially since I stood over the stove for 3 hours caramelizing the onions.

Cinnamon Honey Popcorn - had to have a snack to compliment all the Friends action going on in the Bentley household.

Lazy Dinner #1 - baked potatoes and veggies

Lazy Dinner #2 - Sweet Potato Wedges & Zucchini Boats

We also celebrated Steve’s birthday – yay 23!

23!

Berry yogurt frozen into hearts and 23's = the lazy wife's way of making a birthday cake

We took advantage of the nice weather and put rocks down on our patio that was starting to look like a jungle.  Now all we need is some patio furniture, which for those of you who don’t know, costs ALOT of money!  For now, if we want to go out there, we’ll just take the “romantic” route and lay a blanket down for a nice cozy picnic.

Before Picture - we had actually already pulled up a lot of weeds by this point, I just never squeezed in a picture of the real "before" jungle.

We were growing onions and didn't even know it.

After - goodbye jungle, hello rocks

We also celebrated our 7th dating anniversary!  Does anyone else think it’s so unfair that you have to start all over in year counting once you get married?  Since it was also Easter weekend, we celebrated our 7th year of being in love (aww!) by meeting Steve’s family for a breakfast at IHOP (how Easter relevent!), and then participating in some other Easter festivities.

This is the only picture we took the entire day. Clearly I need to get my photographing priorities in order. People > Food

Here comes Peter Cottontail!

We celebrated Easter back home with our family.  Of course I forgot the actual camera, so I had to improvise with a few iPhone photos that I snapped here and there.

Pretty much the cutest Easter suit (and toddler) you will ever see!

Whole wheat bread bunny for Jake - he bit off a piece of his foot, and then proceeded to make a face like I had just fed him dirt and then spit it out on the floor. Mental note - children want candy for Easter, not whole wheat bread bunnies.

Dad hiding Easter eggs for Jake

Sweet picture courtesy of Maggie, who is basically responsible for documenting Jake's entire life.

Two things happened this week that have pretty much changed my life.

One, I was gifted with a 12-cup food processor from the Easter Bunny.  Seriously, I could have cried with happiness.  I’ve  been nagging anyone who would listen for the past few months about how much I wanted one, and apparently the Easter Bunny (aka. my lovely mommy) took note…or maybe she was just tired of me talking about it.  I pretty much stole a line from Carrie Bradshaw and exclaimed “hello lover” when first learning that this fine piece of machinery was mine.  I’m not sure if saying this to shoes or a food processor is more sad/pathetic, but what can I say, I love what I love.  I could literally write thousands of words about how excited I am about the food processor, but you probably don’t want to read all that, so I’ll just leave it with a picture proving that even Socrates is excited about our new addition.

Socrates bonding with his little brother, Mr. Food Processor

The second awesome thing that happened this week is not all the continuous spring weather but the wonderful fruits and veggies that have come along with it.  We received our first CSA share of the season this week, and I could have cried again with happiness as I unloaded what seemed like a never ending bag of strawberries, asparagus, swiss chard, kale, lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, spring onions, eggs, rosemary, parsley and sweet potatoes.  What I love most about getting our CSA each week is that it gives us the opportunity to cook with things that we normally wouldn’t pick up at the grocery store.

Yummy #1

Yummy #2

Yummy #3

Some items on the menu this week include:

– kale chips

– sauteed chard, gruyere, and apple paninis

– caramelized balsamic beets & carrots

– corn tacos with zucchini-radish slaw

I’ve already broken in my food processor by making some maple-cinnamon almond butter that I’m going to use to make a few treats.  I’ll be sure to share the recipes in between my continuous trips to the refrigerator with a spoon in hand to make sure the almond butter still tastes good.

Oh – and Steve participated in Toms “One Day Without Shoes” and came home with disgustingly dirty feet.  Needless to say, he had to crawl up the stairs and scrub those things for a good 15 minutes before he was carpet-walking ready.

See you later!