Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Zucchini and Whole Wheat Pancakes

Mark has declared these his new favorite. He knows they've got a secret ingredient, but I haven't had the guts to tell him what it is. (Yup--one of those parents--right here--he's just so painfully picky...)

Suffice it to say that these pancakes are delicious, whole wheat, simple to make, and a handy solution to anyone's zucchini problem. Interestingly, the zucchini (a wholesome ingredient) keeps these moist and ends up making them taste less "wholesome" than they are.

If you need to hide the zucchini because you have bravery issues and also, likely, low moral fiber, I suggest you peel your zucchini. Otherwise the tell-tale green specks will appear and then you're ruined--ruined I tell you.

Zucchini and Whole Wheat Pancakes
Makes 6-10 pancakes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $1.75 ($.20/pancake)
flour: .20, buttermilk: .90, zucchini (free at this time of year, but otherwise, let's say $.50), other stuff: .15

Note: These work best with fresh zucchini. When I've made them with frozen/dethawed zucchini, they tend to come out gummy.

1 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
1 1/2-1 3/4 C buttermilk (I used the real stuff this time; can sub 1 C milk, 1 Tbsp vinegar, but you may need less as this will be a bit more runny)
1/2-3/4 C finely shredded peeled zucchini

Blend dry ingredients. Add milk and mix. Add zucchini and mix.

Pour onto hot greased skillet. When bottoms of pancakes are golden, flip, and cook other side.

P.S. Those dark spots you see in the pancakes above--they're chocolate chips. Told you I had weak moral fiber.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chocolate Banana Bread

Originally, I made this as a loaf of bread. I love sweet loaves. But recently, I made the muffin version and got some prettier pictures! 

(original photo of chocolate banana loaf. Chocolate bread is so hard to photograph)

I know when you think summer fruit you're not like, "Hey bananas." But we've always got a bunch hanging there in the kitchen getting spotty way faster than in the winter and needing to be used just as desperately as any bowl of berries. We also have a few more pleasant sleepy-in mornings than we do during the school year (thank goodness). These mornings and a batch of old bananas are the perfect summer combination.

This week we made these into a bread. They can become muffins even easier (think 20 minutes instead of 60).

Chocolate Banana Bread
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes on loaf pan or about 12 muffins
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes (for loaf)
Cost: $2.45 (or about $.20/serving)
bananas: .40, butter: .50, sugar: .10, egg: .10, flour: .10, cocoa: .30, chocolate chips: .80, other stuff: .15

3 medium over ripe bananas
1/2 C butter, melted
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 C flour (I used 1/4 whole wheat and 3/4 all-purpose)
1/2 C cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C chocolate chips

Heat your oven to 350 and spray a loaf pan generously. 

Mash bananas in a bowl. Add melted butter, granulated sugar. Mix. Add egg and vanilla. Mix. Add dry ingredients (sure, you're supposed to pre-mix these, but I never do; I just throw them in--be sure your cocoa isn't super clumpy though). 

Pour into pan and bake for 55-65 minutes (I use the 7x5 loaf pan rather than the larger size and it is on the long end. If you use a bigger one, you'll probably be on the shorter end time-wise). When a toothpick comes out clean or with moist crumbs attached, you're done. 

Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes and turn out. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Forty Clove Roast Chicken--One Pot

Gardens can be maddening. One year you get a whole bunch of beans, but the bugs get all your squash. The next year the squash might be thriving, but the squirrels carry off your tomatoes. There are the years you get too much of something to eat it all. And there are the years you don't seem to get much of anything at all.

Last year my garden was awful. It was a ton of work and barely produced anything. The squirrels discovered the tomatoes and ate every single one--or rather I should say they took a bite out of every single one. My squash just sat there looking infected with something. The raccoons knocked over all the corn, but the ears were super tiny anyway so whatevs. And for all that, I weeded and sweated. I was almost ready to give it all up. But--as so often happens with gardens--this spring gave me a funny little consolation prize. I'd planted a bunch of garlic the year before and harvested some, but before I could harvest the rest, I'd let it die back to the point where I no longer knew where it was. Then, this spring, up it popped--full, awesome, prolific, and ready for eating for absolutely no effort at all on my part. Nature can certainly be a harsh mistress, but that doesn't mean she can't be gracious when she wants to.

(yeah, I braided it cause I'm awesome)

Except, you know--what do you do with dozens of bulbs of garlic if you don't have a vampire problem in your neighborhood (which, to my knowledge, we don't)? Especially if you don't want to ward off your neighbors and friends (and, uh, spouse). Well, this Forty Clove Chicken is a great start.

You roast it for nearly an hour and a half, which takes all the edge off the garlic, while infusing the chicken with something deeply flavorful and rich. I actually ate the somewhat caramelized garlic on the side as a veggie (with no ill effect on my love life). And the chicken--I really just couldn't believe how the roasting had transformed it. I was concerned about the long roasting time--this is a cut up chicken--I was sure it was going to come out leathery and tough. Nope. Not in the slightest. Not even the small pieces of meat, like the wings and drumsticks. It was all tender, moist, and deeply flavorful without being offensive to vampires, or at least your loved ones. The other great thing was that I don't usually like my chicken with skin--mostly because the skin sucks up all the flavor and leaves the actual meat kind of boring. Not with this--the long cooking time and many garlic cloves just suffuse the meat with flavor. Seriously, it's awesome.

And even though the cooking time is a little long (especially for summer--sorry--we've had some really cool days), the prep time is about five minutes (I love you five-minute-prep-time). And even though you do need 40 cloves of garlic, you don't have to peel them (go on, do your happy dance). The peels come off during cooking or soften so significantly that they can be eaten.

Bonus: If you like garlic bread, you can press the cooked garlic into a paste, add to butter, and spread. I didn't; I just ate them. But garlic butter would be delicious.

Forty Clove Roast Chicken--One Pot
adapted from 365 Ways to Cook Chicken
serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 90 minutes
Cost: $11.20
butter/oil: .15, chicken: 10.00 (this is a humanely raised chicken--you could get for half as much if you buy a normal store chicken), garlic: 1.00, other: .05

2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
40 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 C water

Preheat oven to 350.

In a Dutch oven, melt butter in oil. Add chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until golden. This takes about 10 minutes

Add garlic and stir to coat (mine were pretty crammed in there, but it got them all a bit of seasoning). Sprinkle with lemon juice, thyme, salt, pepper, and 1/4 C water.

Cover tightly and bake for 75-90 minutes (mine only took 75). Let rest for about 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Five Fabulous Things to Do with Enormous Zucchini

Apparently in the summer zucchini becomes a threat. Gardening friends get a wild look in their eyes and tell you that you won't be able to leave their houses unless you take some squash with you. Oh, sure, it sounds friendly enough. Until the fasten seat belt sound won't stop beeping due to the weight of all those zucchini in your passenger seat.

Of course I can't be threatened. I couldn't pass up free food if it spit in my face. And I love zucchini season because (confession) I'm a bit of a zucchini failure myself. I've had a garden for seven years now and have never grown a successful zucchini plant. I know. I know. The shame. Zucchini is oozing out of everyone else's ears and my plants are infested with bugs or only have male flowers or the forces of the universe have lined up to otherwise spoil my zucchini. I keep planting it every year. Hoping that this--this will be the year. So far it hasn't been. But who wants to go to the store and pay for zucchini in the summer time. I always take what I get.

Recently, I was not allowed to pick my child up from a birthday party without taking some squash. I was happy to oblige. I got a tiny sweet one, a baseball bat-sized one, and two regular-sized yellow crooknecks.

Now the great thing about summer squash and zucchini in particular is that it's very inoffensive--it tends to soften up and to take the flavors of whatever it's with. Thus you can use it in bread, pancakes, fritters, muffins, even chocolate cakes. And no one will be the wiser.

Tip: If you do have a super enormous one, don't be afraid to discard the "core" of seed that is in there and just use the edges of that fat old zucchini.

Here's are my very very favorite recipes for zucchini. To be honest, I love every single squash recipe on this blog (I love them), but these are the best of the best:

1. My favorite zucchini bread.

2. Since I was shredding for the bread anyway, I froze several 1-cup serving sized bags of zucchini for later use.

3. This soup. It's summer in a pot. Super quick, fairly nutritious. Divine.

4. Latkes. Fritters. Whatever you want to call them. Even my kids will eat these. They don't know there's zucchini in them. Delicious.

5. And my favorite summer lunch--Not Really Ratatoille. I haven't posted it before because it's just so easy. And also because it's ugly. In fact, every summer when I make it again for the first time, I always see it and think, "Is this going to be any good? It sure looks ug-ly. Maybe I did some special step that I'm forgetting." Nope. It's always great. Seriously, like, plop a bowl-full in front of a friend/spouse and watch his/her face. But then it just tastes so so good. I love it plain, or on rice, or wrapped in a tortilla.

Here's what you do:
-Heat olive oil in a skillet.
-Dice zucchini and throw it in the oil with some salt. Cook until tender and browning on the sides.
-Dice some fresh tomatoes (or used canned if you don't have any from the garden). Throw those in and cook.
-Slice some black olives. Now I know this sounds weird, but just do it okay. It's actually a really fabulous compliment to the tomatoes. Throw the olives in.
-Top with cheese. Cheddar is my favorite, but Monterey Jack or Parmesan would probably be good too.
-Eat alone or over rice or in a tortilla shell.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blueberry Pie Bars--SRC

Oh my golly. I made the most wonderful thing with blueberries I've ever made before thanks to my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month. I had the blog Flavors by Four. And I had bunch of blueberries that I'd picked from a local farm. It turned out to be a match made in heaven.

I love blueberries and I've made a few recipes I'm proud of with them. But I have to tell you, these blueberry pie bars are the very best blueberry dessert I have made. Ever. Make them. They are also not extremely difficult and I like that the "crumble" on top is just more of the bottom crust, so you don't have to make a different thing for the top.

I admit that at first I wasn't sure how these would go over with the minions (the minions are chocoholics), so I did something I sometimes do when I really want to make a recipe, but don't want to have to eat a pan-ful by myself (and I would have). I made a teeny tiny one just for me. I did it in a miniature casserole dish my sister-in-law gave me for my birthday (ramekins would work too). I have a thing for one-serving dishes. I realize that it's slightly ridiculous to make something  just for yourself and yet it brings me a certain pleasure. When you sit down to your very own dish of a dessert--I don't know--it's like you're royalty. Minus, you know, the servants to make it for you. But whether you're eating for one or serving a crowd--seriously--make these (P.S. If you're a little weird like me, I'll include my instructions for a tiny treat below as well).

Blueberry Pie Bars
adapted from Flavors by Four
makes 1 8x8 inch pan
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45-55 minutes
Cost: $4.10-ish (or $.25/bar for 16 bars)
whole wheat flour: .20, oat flour: .10, sugar: .15, almond extract: .15, butter: .75, eggs: .20, more sugar: .20, sour cream: .30, flour: .02, blueberries 2.00 (summer sale price)

Note: I used whole wheat flour and oat flour in place of the all purpose--not because I was trying to be virtuous, but because I love those nutty grain flavors with fruity fillings--it's like an oatmeal cookie crust to me, so I went with my id.

Another note: These can be served chilled as bars, but my very very favorite time to eat them was about an hour after it had come from the oven. It was not cold and not warm--soft, and perfect.

Wanna be a weirdo like me? To make a tiny portion, follow the tiny letters (it's 1/6 the recipe). Bake it in a ramekin or mini casserole like this one.

Crust and Topping:

1 1/2 C flour (I used about 1 C white whole wheat flour and 1/2 C oat flour)
1/4 C flour
3/4 C sugar
3 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
pinch salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
drop almond extract--be careful not to add too much--just a drop
3/4 C butter, chilled
3 Tbsp butter

2 large eggs
1/2 small egg
1 C sugar
1/6 C sugar (about 2 1/2 Tbsp)
1/2 C sour cream
1 1/2 Tbsp sour cream
3/8 C (3 Tbsp) all purpose flour
1/2 Tbsp flour
3/4 tsp almond extract
a drop almond extract
20 oz fresh blueberries
3 1/2 oz blueberries or a handful and a half or so

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 inch pan (or a ramekin). I'd also recommend parchment paper just to make bar removal nice and easy. Then spray the parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor or Kitchenaid. Cut butter into pieces and add. Mix until the butter is in pea sized clumps. (Alternatively you can use your hands to quickly mash up the butter into bits and mix that up with your dry ingredients.) Add the almond extract and give a quick mix.

Reserve 1 to 1 1/2 C (3-4 Tbsp) of this for your topping. Press the rest into the bottom of your pan. (Note: I may have reversed this and put that amount on the bottom instead of the top--still worked.)

Whisk eggs, add sugar, sour cream, all purpose flour, and almond extract. Then fold in blueberries.

Put this on your crust.

Then top with the remaining crumbly crust.

Bake 45-55 (35-40 minutes--small things don't ever take as little time as you think they will in baking) minutes or until top has turned golden brown and the center is no longer jiggly. If blueberries are showing through, they'll be bubbling throughout the treat, not just as the sides.

Let cool for an hour and eat it warmish/room-temperaturish as a cobbler or chill it and then cut it into bars. Either way is fabulous.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Lentil Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing

This is the type of salad your mother would be so proud to hear you are eating. (Unless, of course, your mother is the type of woman who believes dinner should come from a can or a box in which case she'll feel you've gone all hippie on her.) Unfortunately, it is often the type of salad that gets passed right over at the church/work potluck as people head towards the pan of potatoes and cheese. It's like one of those foods that has a "nice personality." I mean, it does have two varieties of earth-toned beans in it. It is wholesome and not flashy. And yet it is absolutely not boring or yucky (when frankly, there are many many pans of potatoes and cheese in this world that are both those things). The thing about foods (and most likely people too) with a nice personality is that they often have so much more--a burst of tangy feta you weren't expecting, the brightness of the lemon zest and fresh cilantro, the unusual yet satisfying bite of the tahini. This salad--it just does more than the sometimes-flatness of its flashier, saucier potluck competitors. You should give it a try. (Note: I have NOT ever taken this to a potluck of any variety. I will have to try it to see if it gives those pans of potatoes a run for their money after all.)

The other perfect-for-summer thing about it is that it can be eaten cold or at room temperature. In this way, it's ideal for picnics or work lunches or sweltering summer evenings

Also, it's super cheap and perfectly filling

Lentil Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing
adapted from Smells Like Brownies
serves 4
prep time: 30 minutes
Cost: $2.35 or about $.60/serving (and it can easily fill you up for lunch)
lentils: .20, chick peas: .70, garlic: .05, olive oil: .10, lemon: .30, tahini: .20, feta: .50, other stuff: .10, onion: .20

To cook lentils:
scant cup dry lentils (I used brown; green would work too and be a bit prettier)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 fresh sage sprigs
5 Tbsp olive oil
2 C water

For dressing:
1 tsp coriander
3/4 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic
sea salt
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp water

Other stuff:
1 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt
1 small red onion (mine was quite small--I don't like the onion to overpower everything else; use only 1/2 if you worry about this)
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 C feta crumbles
15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp lemon zest

Combine lentils, 2 cloves of garlic, sage, and 2 Tbsp olive oil in a small pot with 2 C water. Cook over medium heat. Let water come to simmer, then turn to low and cook until lentils tender. This will take about 25 minutes. Take pan off heat and drain. Discard the sage and garlic.

As your lentils cook, make the salad dressing. 

Combine coriander and cumin in a small pan and toast until fragrant (this brings out the flavor of the herbs, but can be skipped if you're in a rush).

Mash 1 clove of garlic with 1 tsp sea salt until it forms a paste. Combine garlic paste, toasted spices, 3 Tbsp lemon juice, tahini, and 2 Tbsp water. Mix well.

Put onions in a bowl or on a serving platter. Add 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp olive oil, and a pinch or two of salt. Toss this well and crumble in your feta.

Now assemble it all: Add your chickpeas to your lentils. Add lemon zest and another shake of salt (or up to another 1/2-1 tsp salt). Toss this with your onions. Then add the dressing. Taste for seasonings and salt.

Garnish with cilantro or parsley (cilantro is definitely my favorite).


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mango Lime Pops

Ah. Lately I occasionally feel (as I stumble into bed after midnight) that I am a little bit drowning in summer.

Well, if you're going to drown in summer, these pops are the way to go. They are bright and fresh and perfect. Lime and mango together are perfect partners. Occasionally after I've peeled a mango to eat, I'll just rub a cut lime all over it and eat it like that.

Generally, mangoes aren't cheap, but this summer they've gone on sale for $.39/each at least three times. Each time, I've bought the limit (10) and then wondered what to do. Mangoes seem so decadent to me that just cutting them all up seems boring. Because of this I let some of them sit there until I was worried my precious fruits would go off (like a woman who buys a dress she doesn't wear because it's so nice). So I tried to get over that. Still, I wanted to do something special with at least some of them. And then the temperature pushed into the nineties, which is when summer popsicle ideas are born (or at least extracted from Pinterest).

Mango Lime Pops
adapted from Love and Lemons
makes 4-6
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Freeze time: 4 hours

2 ripe mangoes, cut
2 limes (or about 1/4 C juice)
1/4 C coconut milk
2-4 Tbsp sugar

Put it all in a blender or food processor and puree. Taste and adjust sugar. I always start with just a bit and add more as necessary. Pour into popsicle molds or, if you're cute and Pinteresty, something like Dixie cups that you will them make look amazing. (I was born a little too much without the cuteness gene, but at least what we eat tastes good.)



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