31 January 2010

Sassy Stuffed Zucchini

These zucchini are so absolutely wonderful that I insist that you make them.  Now.  I had some zucchini in my fridge that needed to get used up, along with a roma tomato and a half of a purple onion.  After searching for a recipe for a while, I stumbled across a recipe on CooksIllustrated.com that sounded pretty darn tasty.  I altered it a little to fit our tastes and what we had on-hand.  I wasn't sure at first how the red potato would work on the zucchini, but it turned out to be super tasty. 
Everything tastes so fresh and light, but is still very filling.  We ended up eating the zucchini as the main dish, with sides of garlic smashed potatoes, sauteed summer squash, and steamed carrot and cauliflower.  So, without further ado,...

Here's My Recipe:
  • 4 small to medium sized zucchini
  • 1 large red potato (or 2 small), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3-4 TB olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped onion (depending on your tastes)
  • 1-2 ripe roma tomato(es), seeded and diced (we just used 1, but it almost wasn't enough)
  • about 4 fresh basil leaves chopped small
  • 4 ounces shredded vegan cheese of your choosing
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
Method: (I know it seems like a lot of steps, but I broke it down to be extra simple and easy to follow)
  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Place one rack on very bottom, place second rack on the second-highest rack. Place rimmed cookie sheets (I placed foil on cookie sheets) on each rack so they are nice and hot before you add the food to them.
  2. Trim ends of zucchini and halve lengthwise.  Use a small spoon to dig out the seeds and some flesh so the shells are about 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Use about 1 TB oil and brush each each side of the zucchini, then add sea salt and cracked pepper to each side.  (I started with cut sides up, brushed on the oil, topped with s&p then flipped them cut side down and did the same).
  4. Once you've chopped the potatoes, add them to a small bowl and lightly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss well to coat.
  5. Once the cookie sheets have heated to 400 degrees, carefully place the bottom one on a counter or the stovetop.  Place the zucchini on sheet cut side down.  Place sheet back in the oven.
  6. Remove the top cookie sheet and place potatoes on it in a single layer.  Place back in the oven.
  7. These will cook about 10-13 minutes.  Watch the zucchini and when the skin begins to wrinkle, pull them out.  If you poke with a fork, they will still be sturdy, but soft enough to pierce.
  8. Use tongs to flip zucchini over and set the cookie sheet aside while you work on the next part.  Here I also pulled the potatoes out and stirred them around to unstick them from the foil.  I turned the oven down to 350 and put the potatoes back in to stay warm while I worked on the fillings.
  9. In a 10-inch small skillet, add about 1 TB olive oil and heat pan on medium heat about 2-3 minutes.  Then add onion, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes.
  10. While onions are cooking, remove potatoes from oven and scrape to clear from the foil.  I left them on the foil so I could just scoop into the skillet in a few moments.
  11. After the onions turn slightly translucent and brown on the edges, stir in garlic.  Cook 30 seconds.
  12. Add potatoes and tomatoes, stirring occasionally.  Cook about 3 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat and stir in basil, 2/3 of the cheese and any salt or pepper you may want.
  14. Once cheese is melted, scoop filling into the zucchini shells, pressing down to pack the hollows to heaping full.
  15. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top of the zucchini and return to oven for about 5-7 minutes, or until cheese melts.  
  16. Serve immediately to a very thankful world!!
Let me know how you like them.  Also, any suggestions you might have for alternate toppings for the zucchini.  I can't wait to hear how other people like these!

28 January 2010

Uncle Richard's Fettuccini Alfredo

This delicious recipe comes direct from my Uncle Richard, who makes this dish pretty much any time my family gets together for any reason.  It is a staple in our clan.  This was the first time I've ever attempted to make it and it turned out surprisingly well.  I have to keep reminding myself not to get bummed that mine doesn't taste exactly like Richard's.  Well, really, he's been making fettuccini for over two decades, so his is definitely going to be tastier than mine.  I paired the fettuccini with some fresh lemon slices that, when squeezed over the fettuccini, taste great.  Also steamed some carrot, broccoli and cauliflower.  I wanted to make some fresh garlic bread, but I forgot to buy some at the market today.  Regardless, we loved it.  The recipe below is cut in half from his original as there are only 2 of us.  We both ate plenty and have a bowl with leftovers, which is big enough to be a meal for one of us tomorrow.

Before you start cooking:

  • Set stick of butter on counter to soften before cooking.
  • Finely grate fresh parmesan because you won't have time to do it after you start cooking.
  • Peel and mince your garlic and set aside.
  • Slice your lemon (optional) - we like to squeeze a little bit onto the fettuccini once on our plates. Also looks nice in the larger serving dish.
Here's the Recipe:
Click Here to Print This Recipe
  • 1/2 lb. fettuccini noodles
  • 1/2 TB olive oil
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups of Half and Half (found near the milk at the grocery store)
  • 1/3-1/2 lb. finely grated fresh parmesan
  • 1/2 head of garlic, minced (at least about 7 medium or large cloves)
  • Grated pepper and salt to taste
  • 1/2 TB salt to be used during the noodle cooking
  1. Bring water to boil in large pot.
  2. Add 1/2 TB salt and 1/2 TB olive oil to water.
  3. Once boiling, add fettuccini noodles (follow directions on pasta package as different brands cook at different speeds).
  4. Place a strainer in the sink and drain noodles.  DO NOT RINSE NOODLES.
  5. Return empty pot to stove and turn to med-low heat.
  6. Add the stick of butter to the pan and melt.  Be careful not to burn butter.
  7. Add minced garlic to pot and cook until the garlic turns blond in color, 2-3 minutes.  Again, careful not to let it burn, as it can happen rather quickly.
  8. Add the half and half to the pot.
  9. Add the cheese to the pot, stirring often with wooden spoon to keep cheese from sticking to bottom.
  10. Once the sauce starts to bubble, the cheese melts and the sauce will thicken (about 3 minutes).
  11. Turn off heat.
  12. Stir noodles into the sauce until well combined.  Should be quite thick and sticking to the noodles.  Here I added more cheese, fresh cracked pepper and crushed sea salt and mixed well.  
  13. We put the whole mixture into a serving bowl and garnished with lemon slices.  Richard notes that you can also add some chopped parsley for garnish. 
  14. Once on our plates, we squeezed a bit of lemon, added some more pepper and salt and more parmesan to taste.  Enjoy!!!
Quite easy and takes very little time at all!  Big thanks to my uncle Richard for sharing his awesome recipe with me!

26 January 2010

Rigatoni with Squash and Zucchini

I have had several friends asking for this recipe lately, so I thought I'd post it here for everyone.  I made it last week and it was melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  I got the original recipe from Gordon Ramsay's cookbook called Healthy Appetite, and adapted it to my tastes, as I love garlic and onion in pretty much any dish I make.  It is an extremely easy and fast recipe to make.  I thought for sure that my husband wouldn't really like it, but here it is over a week later and he still mentions it and asks when I'm going to make it again.  To make it a more filling meal, I steamed some veg (carrot, peapods, broccoli) and made some fresh garlic toast with some bakery-made Italian bread.  I hope you like it as much as we do.

Here's My Recipe:
Click Here to Print This Recipe
  • 8 oz. Rigatoni
  • 2-3 Small zucchini
  • 2-3 Small summer squash
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 TB olive oil 
  • Small handful of basil leaves, chopped or torn
  • 1/4-1/2 cup onion sliced or diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Freshly grated parmesan to taste (close to a 1/2 cup)
  1. Halve the zucchini and squash lengthwise, then cut into half-moon slices
  2. Boil rigatoni in salted water to al dente, or your preferred softness.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet on med-high and add the oil. 
  4. Add the garlic and cook less than 1 minute.
  5. Add the onion, zucchini and squash to the oil. Stir to occasionally to keep them cooking evenly, about 4-5 minutes, or until the zucchini and squash are tender.
  6. Toss the veg, drained pasta, and basil leaves together in the skillet.
  7. Add the salt, pepper, and parmesan until it tastes good to you.  
It's a simple dish that fills you up very inexpensively.  And, it truly isn't bad for you.  I'm thinking that next time I make it, I'm going to add in some fresh peas and broccoli for added nutrients.  If you like pine nuts, you may want to toast them in a dry pan and add them in at the end.  The possibilities with this dish are virtually endless.

Try it out and let me know it it turns out!

23 January 2010

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Garlic Mayo

I have to admit that I was really unsure about sweet potatoes in general prior to making these.  I got three medium-sized taters in my organic produce delivery this week and was completely at a loss for what to make.  It seemed that all the recipes I found emphasized the sweetness of the potatoes instead of their savory possibilities. I thought savory sounded much more appetizing than sweet, so these potatoes were supposed to resemble the sweet potato fries found at pubs and restaurants.  I tried to keep them healthier by baking the fries instead of deep frying, which in effect made these fries a little softer than I expected.  If anyone has a suggestion for making them crispier when baking, I'd love to hear it!

Anyway, these baked sweet potato fries are accompanied by a delicious garlic mayo dipping sauce that is super easy to make.

**Edit 2/8/2009-- I tried making these again a couple days ago.  They turned out much better.  Here's what I changed:
I cut the potatoes each into 8 potato wedges (lengthwise).  I used peanut oil instead of olive oil.  I pre-heated the oven to 400.  Taking 1 tsp peanut oil, I used a paper towel to spread it over a baking sheet.  Then, put the baking sheet into the oven without the potatoes to heat to oven temperature.  Meanwhile, I put the potatoes in a ziploc baggie, poured in 1 TB peanut oil, added cracked pepper and sea salt and shook together in the baggie to coat fully.  After the pan heats, add the wedges with one of the cut sides down on the hot pan.  Make sure they are in a single layer and spread evenly.  Cook 20 minutes, then remove sheet and flip potatoes over with spatula so that the other cut side is down on the sheet.  Return to oven and cook about 15 minutes more, or until the wedges are browned and slightly crispy.  They turned out really well, with just a little crispiness outside, and a soft center.  I also made a chili powder mayo using about 3 TB mayo and 1 tsp hot chili powder.  It turned somewhat sweet as opposed to spicy. 

Here's my recipe:
Click Here to Print This Recipe
  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • 4 TB Vegenaise vegan mayo
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika to taste (chili powder would probably be equally good cooked on these)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes to desired size.  *I used my mandoline to slice them into fry-shaped pieces of a nearly equal size, but you can cut them to be bite-sized chunks should the mood strike.
  3. In a large bowl, drizzle the olive oil over the potato pieces.
  4. Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika to your desired tastes. 
  5. Spray a cookie sheet with Pam (or the equivalent you use) and spread potatoes into a single layer.
  6. Bake 20 minutes, then take out and flip potato pieces over so bottoms don't burn.
  7. Return potatoes to oven another 20-30 minutes, or until they reach your desired crispness/doneness.
Garlic Mayo
  1. In the last few minutes of cooking the potatoes, mix mayo and freshly minced garlic in a shallow dipping bowl.  
  2. Let set about 10 minutes before serving to develop the garlic flavor.
*I paired the sweet potato fries with quick fridge pickles (thank you to Mart for that recipe) and Caesar salad with homemade garlic croutons.

Again, if you know of a way to crisp up these baked sweet potato fries, please leave a comment.  I'd really like to know.

Thank you for visiting :)

Banana Bread Success!

So, this morning I decided that I really needed to use up some bananas that were quickly turning too ripe to eat.  I was torn between making banana waffles in my amazing new waffle maker or making a simple banana bread.  Since I decided to start trying more things with my cooking, I went for the bread, which I have never made before.  It actually turned out amazingly well.  As soon as it was done, I sliced off a steaming hot chunk and slathered a little Earth Balance butter on it.  It was divine!  This recipe has been added to my permanent collection.

Here is my recipe:
Click Here to Print This Recipe
  • 4 medium-sized ripe bananas
  • 4 TB melted Earth Balance, 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I used unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg replacement (I use Ener-G)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ground cinnamon to taste (I used approx. 1/4-1/3) tsp.
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Mash bananas in a mixing bowl with a fork or potato masher.
  3. Add all other ingredients, mixing well with wooden spoon or spatula.
  4. Butter/lightly oil the loaf pan.
  5. Pour into loaf pan and bake approximately 55 minutes (or until outside is brown and a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean).
  6. The end.  Eat it! *
*Because I don't know if you've made bread before, here is what I did as soon as I got it out of the oven: I ran a thin silicone spatula around the inside of the loaf pan to make sure the bread wasn't stuck.  Then I flipped the pan on its side and the bread slid right out onto a cutting board.  I let it cool about 20ish minutes and then covered it with saran wrap to keep moist.