Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stuffed Zucchini with Turkey Sausage

I came across a fantastic new food blog called Simply Recipes and one of the featured recipes recently was this stuffed zucchini. Seeing as how I had 4 large zucchini in the fridge that I found for $0.10 each at Ciolino's I knew I needed some unique ways to use them...you know methods other than "mix with loads of sugar and flour and eggs and make into an amazing loaf of goodness." This was simple to put together and I had all the ingredients on hand (minus the fresh herbs, but I substituted dry ones.). It was really tasty. The zucchini flavor is not at all overpowering...in fact the flavors are quite mild. I'm not sure I would add the egg next time simply because it made the insides taste more like a breakfast casserole than I would have liked. Also, don't forget you can alter the spices to your liking and, if you love cheese as much as we do, you can add some shredded Muenster (or other variety) to the turkey mixture. I hope you, too, will enjoy this healthy meal.

1 zucchini about 12 inches long, or 6 medium ones

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 pound ground turkey

2 diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides, leaving shells about 1/4 inch thick. Reserve about half of the insides.

Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add mushrooms and reserved zucchini insides, and sauté another 2 minutes.

In a separate skillet heat a Tbsp of olive oil on medium high heat. Add the ground turkey. Lightly brown the turkey, stirring only occasionally. After the turkey browns on one side, stir it so that it has a chance to brown on other sides. Cook until the ground turkey is lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Stir in the onion and mushroom mixture from the other pan. Add the wine. Stir in tomato, basil and rosemary and cook 1 minute longer. Drain any excess fat. Remove mixture from heat and set it aside.

When mixture has cooled, add cheese, egg, salt and pepper. Fill zucchini shells with mixture. Fill a baking pan with 1/4 inch of water. Place filled zucchini halves in pan and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove zucchini from pan and serve while hot.

Serves 4.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random Tips Everyone Should Know

I have decided to begin compiling a list of tips that I use regularly in my kitchen but forget to mention in specific recipes. If you have tips of your own feel free to comment. And know that this list will most likely continue to expand.
  1. Brown sugar, unless other specified, should always be packed in the measuring cup.
  2. Baking times may vary based on your oven. Mine, for instance, is old and crappy, and I have learned to manage it's overheating by lowering the temperature 15 degrees and lowering the baking time in addition (for example, a recipe instructing "375 degrees for 9-11 minutes" would be translated to "350 degrees for 7 minutes").
  3. Practice makes perfect. In the last year alone, my baking skills have improved exponentially and I now have a greater sense of "Baker's Intuition"--the name I have given to my ability to walk into the kitchen to take out a certain dish within seconds of the timer going off. This is a combination of experience and letting my nose speak. The nose knows.
  4. Don't overbake your cookies. I think most people tend to bake their cookies for 2 to 3 minutes too long. This may not seem like alot and the cookies might look perfectly done in the oven, but once they have cooled you will quickly realize any hope for a soft cookie is gone. I suffered from the "overbake syndrome" for years, until I was specifically instructed by the owner of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to "not overbake. Cookies will not look done in the oven." This is so true. Typically, when you open the oven door, the edges of the cookies should be barely golden brown and set nicely. The middle will look slightly undercooked. Do not fear. Simply remove the baking sheet and allow the cookies to set on the baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes and then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. When measuring molasses, use a glass measuring cup and spray it with non stick cooking spray for easy pouring and cleanup.
  6. Liquid ingredients should only be measured with a glass measuring cup. Measuring is most accurate when the meniscus rests on the appropriate line.
  7. Use the straight edge of a knife to level dry ingredients in their measuring cups.
  8. To easily peel a garlic clove, lay the clove on a cutting board and place the flat side of a wide knife on top of it. Then, use your fist to crush the garlic, releasing it from its paper-y chamber.
  9. Always preheat the oven before baking or cooking.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Black Bean Mexican Pie

I came across this recipe at Annie's Eats--one of my favorite foodie blogs. Her recipes are simple enough for an amateur like me to try but at a nearly professional level. I hope you enjoy this recipe from her blog. Go check it out! and fee free to make any alterations (like I did) to suit your tastes and/or the serving sizes.

Twice Baked Stuffed Potatoes

I have to be honest with you. I posted the pictures here probably a month ago when we actually had this meal for dinner. However. I have completely neglected to publish it along with the directions. Which is no big deal except I can't remember exactly how I went about these glorious potatoes. I'm going to try my best and encourage you to "wing it." Don't worry...you can't go wrong with potatoes. and bacon. and cheese. You just can't. :)

2-3 medium baking potatoes
4 strips cooked bacon
1/4 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup (or less) milk
Sour creamJustify Full

Bake potatoes (whole) in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes--or until tender. Allow them to become cool to the touch. Cut each potato in half. Scoop out the insides, leaving a sturdy "shell"--approximately 1/4 inch thick. Combine potato "insides" with desired amount of bacon, butter and/or sour cream, salt and pepper. Refill shells. You may find you don't have enough filling for all the shells--hence the extra potatoes. Be sure to choose to bake at least one extra potato than you plan on serving. Just discard (or eat!) the extra skins. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes--or until cheese is melted and filling is piping hot.

Molasses Sugar Cookies

Kevin recently declared that his favorite cookie is a molasses cookie. I myself have always loved spiced cookies such as gingersnaps and molasses sugar cookies--though most of my peers shy away from this genre of treat. (That is, they are our grandparents' favorites!) Immediately I was on the hunt for a great recipe--one that combined just the right spice with the perfect softness (at Kevin's request). This recipe is great! Kevin rated them an 8 on a scale of 1-10 (knowing I'll probably keep improving them!) Though I may still try other recipes (cause that's just what I do...) this one will remain in my arsenal. I hope you love them too!

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses (tip: measure in a glass measuring cup--sprayed with cooking spray!)
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
Granulated sugar, for decorating

Mix brown sugar, margarine, shortening, molasses, and egg in large bowl. In a separate bowl, use a whisk to combine remaining ingredients (except granulated sugar). Add slowly into creamed mixture until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour until chilled. (Note: my dough was in the fridge for at least 2 hours and was still sticky to roll. It may be necessary to add up to an additional 1/2 cup flour.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough into 1 inch balls; roll in granulated sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 11 minutes or just until set. Cool slightly on pan and then remove from cookie sheet to cool on a wire rack.

Yields: about 3 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Cookies

These cookies are definitely a way to satisfy a chocolate craving. They come out nice and chewy and of course chocolately! I have no idea where this recipe came from and while I plan on trying it again sometime, I found it rather difficult to roll the dough into the logs needed to chill and then slice. My hands were covered in sticky chocolately goodness and when Kevin came home he pointed out more dough on my nose and my arm! So...if anyone tries this (or already has experience with it) and has a tried and true method for keeping the "stickiness" to a minimum please let me know. And if I happen to come up with a solution, I will edit this post. In the meantime, enjoy the fruits of your labor.

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salkt
White Sanding sugar, for garnish

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and continue mixing until incorporated.

Roll the dough into 2 logs that are about 2 inches high and 1 foot long. Wrap them in waxed paper and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once thoroughly chilled (and firmed), slice the cookies into 1/2 inch thick rounds and cover with sanding sugar. Place on parchment lined (or greased) cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Barbeque Pot Roast & Zesty BBQ Sauce

We have had a pork roast in the freezer for...well...way too long now so I took it out to defrost in the fridge and hopefully forcing myself to use it. I asked Kevin for his opinions/cravings on how I should prepare and he said "barbeque." Now, I've never heard of a barbeque pork roast, but I figured it had been done before. Sure enough, my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook came through with both a barbeque pot roast recipe and a zesty barbeque sauce recipe.

This was surprisingly quick and easy to throw together. Kevin absolutely loved how this turned out and we plan on experimenting with our own barbeque sauce until we have a "signature" recipe. I hope you will try this meal sometime.

Barbeque Pot Roast
1. Begin by heating a dry 12 inch skillet to medium heat. Cook beef on all sides until brown (to sear in the juices).
2. Meanwhile, in a 1 qt. sauce pan, heat all sauce ingredients to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Zesty Barbeque Sauce--Ingredients
1/2 cup ketchup
3 Tbsp vinegar (calls for white, I used apple cider)
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground dry mustard
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

3. When meat is finished searing and sauce is simmering, place prepared vegetables in the bottom of your greased crockpot:

4 potatoes, chopped
1/2 bag baby carrots
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

4. Place seared meat on top of the vegetables and pour prepared bbq sauce over top.
5. Cook in crockpot on high for 4-5 hours.

Better than Your Average Oatmeal

Personally, I hated oatmeal for my entire childhood. My sister loved the instant stuff --especially strawberries and cream--but I just couldn't stomach the texture. In college I gave oatmeal another shot to impress me and I began to enjoy the Dining Common's extra thick oatmeal with loads of brown sugar. I was soon hooked on Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal and then decided to try the plain instant oats out of a desire to save money. I loved that stuff with brown sugar and the occasional scoop of peanut butter. Recently I have become obsessed with the Old Fashioned Oats and buy them in bulk from good ol' Sam's Club. Cooking oats on the stovetop increases their irresistible factor by a million. I thought I would share with you one of my favorite and most frequent breakfasts--not to mention healthy & filling! I hope you enjoy!

1/2 cup Old Fashioned Oats
1 apple, chopped
1 tsp (or more) brown sugar
1/2 -1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
5 almonds, chopped

In a 1 quart saucepan begin heating the water and milk over medium heat and add oats. Let the mixture begin to thicken as you chop the apples. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and apples and let oats start bubbling, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to low and remove when oatmeal reaches desired thickness (it will continue to thicken after being removed from heat).

Chop almonds with food chopper or by hand and toss on top of your delicious breakfast.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Zucchini Bread

This recipe was passed on to me by my wonderful mother-in-law who knew this was one of my favorite breads and has made it for me often. It's delicious and just spicy enough and perfectly moist. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini (you can freeze shredded zucchini and save for later use...like today!)
1 cup cooking oil
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, I leave out)

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease 2 loaf pans.
In large bowl, beat eggs until foamy.
Stir in sugar, zucchini, oil and vanilla.
In separate mixing bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients with a wisk.
Add dry mixture slowly into wet ingredients until thoroughly incorporated.
Pour batter into greased pans.
Bake 60 minutes.
Cool in pans then turn out to serve.

Loaves can be frozen.