Zucchini Squares

I had my mind set on making an appetizer that would be portable, easy to eat, and contain some fresh summery produce.  Bam–I found it!  These squares were so easy to make!  And who can argue with a new fun way to use zucchini!  They are tasty, not too rich, and have a nice airy texture.  Though these turned out well, the next time I make them I would entertain the idea of using a 9 x 9 square pan to make thicker smaller squares (for use as an app) or thicker larger squares (for use as a side dish).  The mixture seemed a little bit on the scarce side for a 9 x 13.  I would also increase the 1/2 cup of cheese to a full cup.    

Zucchini Squares:

  • 3 cups thinly sliced zucchini, unpeeled
  • 1 cup Jiffy biscuit mix
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • dash garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated 
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish. (Cooking spray works fine here.) Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour mixture into dish. Bake at 350° for about 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool and cut into squares.  Can be served as an appetizer or side dish.

    Original recipe found here on About.com.

    Barbeque Meat Loaf

    My oh my, meatloaf is a far cry from photogenic.  And because I made this and gave it away (you guessed it, to the new parents) I didn’t slice it and plate it in attempts to make it all pretty for the camera.  If only there were a mechanism by which you could smell through your monitor!  The aroma of this meatloaf  was fantastic! I actually said the words, “Bath and Body Works should create a meatloaf-scented candle.” That’s how good this smelled.  When I asked my brother to describe the taste he said, “Slightly sweet and tangy.”  (That sounds like a description of Paula Deen herself!)  He said it was delicious and moist, and I believe him based on the scent of it!  

    Leftovers of this would be great sliced up in a soft white bread sandwich.

    Barbeque Meat Loaf:

    • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
    • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
    • 1/2 large onion, diced
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 2   8 ounce cans tomato sauce
    • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 1cup BBQ sauce*
    • 1/4 cup Colby Jack cheese, shredded

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, salt, pepper, 1 can of the tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce. Create a loaf out of the mixture and place it in a shallow baking pan. Sprinkle the top of the meatloaf with shredded cheese.  Stir together the remaining tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, mustard, Worcestershire and BBQ sauces.  Pour this sauce over the meatloaf. Bake covered for 1 hour, basting every so often with the sauce from the pan.   Let stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing. 

    *Recipe note: As a BBQ sauce zealot, I feared the recipe would not taste BBQ-y enough as it stood, so I added BBQ sauce to the meat and the sauce.  However, unless you like to drink BBQ sauce from the bottle with a straw like I do, you’ll probably want to omit the BBQ sauce.  This recipe is sweet and moist enough without it!

    Recipe adapted from Paula Deen’s recipe found here on foodnetwork.com.

    Caprese Salad (Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil)

    The flavor combination of tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil ranks very high on my list of favorite flavor combinations.  (Add some prosciutto and a loaf of crusty bread and we’re really talking!)  The freshness, the burst of flavors, the textures, the smell, and the vibrancy of the colors all woo me.  Even the simplicity of the combination is appealing–just grab the fresh ingredients and go.  No prep work required.  No kitchen tools or gadgets.  Maybe it evokes nostalgia of simpler times.  Or maybe I like a good reason to buy bouquets of basil at the farmer’s market.  Or to talk to the tomato vendor about his tomatoes.  Whatever the reason, I find this salad to be pleasing both to my eye and my palette.

    Caprese Salad:

    • 2 large field tomatoes, sliced thick
    • 16 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thick
    • 10-15 fresh basil leaves, rinsed
    • 1/4 – 1/2 cup good olive oil
    • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

    Start by layering tomatoes across a platter.  Top with cheese, then basil.  Add salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Repeat the layering until you have used all of your tomato slices.  Serve with a fresh crusty loaf of Italian bread.

    Recipes available here on foodnetwork.com.

    Somewhat Fancy Tuna Noodle Casserole

    I wanted to make some food for the new parents–something that could easily be re-heated in single servings.  Tuna noodle casserole was the obvious choice, however, I was in the mood to be adventurous and I wanted to make it a little more special than the usual (and delicious!) canned mushroom soup recipe.  The Kitchen Illiterate has perfected what she calls “The Ultimate Tuna Noodle Casserole.”  I just knew I had to give it a try.  

    And I am glad I did!  This turned out really great!  (I snuck a bite while visiting baby!)  I would say mine turned out a little bit more like a mac and cheese with tuna and peas–very cheesy, flavorful, and delicious!  A success!  Thanks, KI!

    The Kitchen Illiterate’s Ultimate Tuna Noodle Casserole:

    • 1 bag of egg noodles (I used the smaller sized noodles) 
    • 1 tablespoon  butter
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 10 ounces mushrooms, coarsely chopped
    • 1 cup chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 6 ounce can of tuna, shredded
    • 1 1/2 c. grated cheese (I used an Italian blend, Parmesan, and Romano Pecorino)
    • 1 half of a bag of frozen peas
    • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put a large pot of water on to boil.  In another large pot, heat the olive oil and butter then add the garlic.  Saute on low for 3-4 minutes, and then add the mushrooms. Stir them quickly so they get coated in the oil and butter.  Let the mushrooms cook down for about 10 minutes, stirring only a couple of times. Add a cup of chicken stock and stir. Then add the flour. Using a whisk, mix the mushroom mixture with the flour. Then add the milk, a little at a time, whisking and whisking and whisking. Between additions of milk, let it sit and get thick and bubbly, then add more milk. I only used two cups of milk because I feared it wouldn’t be thick enough.  Whisk while heating for several minutes.  In the meantime, toss your pasta into the rolling pot of water.  Cook it for a few minutes less than the package suggests.  Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Mix the soup, tuna, peas, and cheese into the pasta.  Make sure the pasta is thoroughly coated and all of the peas and nuggets of tuna are evenly dispersed.  Pour into a casserole (I used a disposable aluminum tin so the parents would not have to worry about getting my dish back to me).  Bake covered for 30 minutes in preheated oven.  Remove from oven, top with cheese and breadcrumbs and broil uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. 

    Recipe Notes: KI uses broccoli florets.  I stuck with peas.  Also, KI cooked a fresh tuna steak.  I used canned tuna. 

    Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Illiterate’s Ultimate Tuna Noodle Casserole found here.

    Update: If you prefer not to make the soup just use 1 26 oz. can of store-bought cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup of whole milk, 2 cups of frozen peas, and 2 cans of tuna drained.  Mix all of these ingredients with 4 cups cooked egg noodles and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  (Top with 2 tablespoons bread crumbs + 2 tsp. melted butter before baking, if you wish.)

    Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Pancakes

     I have wanted to make whole wheat pancakes for over a year now.  In June of 2007 we attended a friend’s wedding in Philadelphia.  After doing some sight-seeing on the morning of the wedding, husband and I went to a little breakfast place (on the recommendation of a friend of the bride who also happened to be Jennifer Weiner’s assistant) called Sabrina’s on Christian Street near the Italian market.  The whole wheat banana pancakes were DELICIOUS!  So delicious that over a year has passed and I still remember them.  Every time I thought to make them, however, I did not have the whole wheat flour, or buttermilk, or bananas.  Finally, I had all ingredients on hand and I decided to run with it.   These pancakes were so easy to make and they did not disappoint!  I have a feeling these will be a regular weekend occurrence on my comfort table, as they were fantastic.  The bananas were over ripe so they provided a nice moistness and sweetness that complemented the wheat flour.  The blueberries from the farmer’s market were plump and tart and offered a nice contrast from the sweetness of the banana.  Served with a dollop of honey on top and a cup of hot coffee, this meal made me feel like I was in a cozy little Bed and Breakfast! 

    Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Pancakes:

    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 cup fresh blueberries
    • 1/2 ripe banana, sliced

    Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Combine egg, buttermilk, and oil.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until combined.  (There will be some lumps, however, if batter is too thick, add some additional buttermilk.) Fold fruit carefully into batter.  Lightly grease a  skillet with butter or shortening.  Pour batter into hot skillet and cook pancake about 2-4 minutes on each side.  I made two large pancakes, however, you could probably make about 5 small pancakes.  Garnish with blueberries and serve with honey or maple syrup.

     

    Recipe adapted from recipe found in Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, Bridal Edition available for purchase here.

    Welcome Home, Little Guy

     

    There is a brand spanking new precious cuddly cub in our family and I am unable to articulate a sentence that would accurately express my excitement and joy!  I wanted to make a special treat in honor of his coming home from the hospital.  Teddy Bear cupcakes seemed appropriate! 

    I did some digging to find a trustworthy chocolate cupcake recipe and that is when I discovered that Joanne Chang, owner of the locally well-known and acclaimed Flour Bakery in Boston, had posted the recipe for her bakery’s chocolate cupcakes.  I decided to give it a try and I am so glad I did!  These cupcakes are so chocolatey and delicious and I am so thankful to Joanne for sharing! Not only are they wonderful, but the recipe is suspiciously easy.  

    Flour Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes:

    • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop chocolate and place it in a bowl with the cocoa powder. Mix butter, water and sugar in a pan over medium high heat. Whisk until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Pour hot buttervmixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until chocolate melted and ingredients are combined.  Whisk the egg, milk, and vanilla extract together then whisk into the chocolate mixture until combined.  Sift the dry ingredients together.  Pour the dry ingredients onto the wet ingredients. Whisk  until the dry ingredients are totally mixed into the chocolate mixture.  Let stand about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, line muffin tin with liners and then pour the batter (or use an ice cream scoop) into the muffin cups, dividing batter evenly among the 12 cups.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 26-29 minutes. Cool in tin on rack for 15 minutes. 

     

    Remove cupcakes from pan and place on rack until completely cool.  Frost with chocolate frosting (as I did) or frosting of your choice.

    (Teddy Bears, pre-ears!)

    I used white frosting and colored sprinkles for the eyes, black frosting for the nose and mouth, and chocolate melt candies for the ears. 

    (I apologize for the fact that several of the bear’s pupils are so constricted that the bears appear to be under the influence of opiates!  These cupcakes were supposed to be kid-friendly!) 

    The design of the Teddy Bear cupcakes was inspired by the cupcakes found here on Wilton’s cupcakefun.com.

    Cupcake recipe courtesy of Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery.  Original recipe can be found here.

    Vegetarian Tortilla Pie

     

    I wanted to make something light yet satisfying for dinner.  When I came across this recipe, it beckoned.  My photo (above) does not do it justice.  Here it looks like a sad pancake, however in reality, it was very crisp and tasty!  It is so quick and easy–a perfect weeknight dish.  You could even use different types of beans or fillings to your liking.  Get creative! Give it a try!   

    Some notes on the recipe: 

    (1) I modified this recipe by using the below ingredients (plus four additional tortillas) to create two pies.  It worked out well and there was plenty of filling, however, if you’d prefer a single hardier pie, stick with the recipe as it is below.

    (2) I added avocado, which was not listed in the original recipe, as I always like to include as many fresh items in a meal as possible.  I think doing so really boosts the flavor and satisfaction you get while eating the meal.  This worked out well.

    (3) I don’t always enjoy the taste of cilantro.  I often find it to be too strong and prominant a flavor.   To me, it overpowers and sometimes masks the other flavors in a given dish.*  I recently learned that I am not alone in my dislike for the herb.  Did you know there is an entire website/club devoted to cilantro-haters!?  This is zealous group!  But I digress… The point is I wanted to include a fresh herb other than cilantro, so I used chives.  I love chives!  They are so neat and easy to rinse and chop.  And they provide a subtle fresh flavor.

    (4) Using low fat cheese would make this a low fat meal.  It’s as simple as that.

    (5) I used low carb wheat wraps in place of flour tortillas.  I actually enjoy the chewiness of them.  However, if I were to make this for guests I would likely use traditional flour or corn tortillas.

    Vegetarian Tortilla Pie:

    • 1 jar of salsa
    • 1  8 oz. jar/can tomato sauce
    • 1  15 oz. can black beans
    • 1  15 oz. can corn
    • 1 avocado, diced
    • 1 cup fresh chives, chopped
    • 4  ten inch tortillas
    • 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

    Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick olive oil spray.  In a small bowl mix salsa and tomato sauce.  In another bowl, mix corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped chives.  Place one tortilla on the cookie sheet and spread 1/3 of the salsa mixture on it.  Then top with  1/3 of bean mixture and then 1/3 of the shredded cheese.  Layer like this twice more ending with a tortilla.  Bake the pie for 12 minutes, or when heated through and cheese has melted.  Let sit five minutes before cutting and serving.

    *One exception, however, is my cousin’s famous guacamole.  When she told me she uses cilantro I was shocked.  Her guacamole is fresh and delicious and the cilantro flavor is by no means overpowering!