Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread - The Leftovers Club

I swear, time is just speeding up over here.  Didn't I just post this awesome cake like three days ago? Anyways, it's that time again.  If you're unfamiliar, The Leftovers Club is a group of foodie type bloggers who send each other food once a month.  If you have a blog, you need to do this.  There are free treats.  In the mail.  Waiting, at your home, for you to eat.  Best. Idea. Ever.  Also, new people come to visit your blog, and you make new friends.  I love all these things.

This month, I have been paired with Kim, who blogs at Feed Me Seymour.  You should definitely check out her blog ASAP; she's got some amazing looking recipes, including Tomato Bacon Jam.  I mean, hello, she made jam out of bacon, she has precious puppies, and she hates raisins.  This is the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

Anyways, I have this CSA thing in my house, so there is a lot of zucchini.  And lettuce, but I couldn't figure out how to turn that into a baked good that people might want to eat, so I went with zucchini bread. Specifically, the kind with chocolate chips.  Because chocolate chips make everything amazing.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread - Adapted from Mom on Timeout

This is the basic "dump things into a bowl, stir, put it in the oven" type quick bread recipe.  Definitely my favorite kind.

1 1/2 Cups Mashed Banana (3-4 bananas)
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
6 Tablespoons Butter
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups Grated zucchini (most of a decent sized zucchini)
1 1/4 Cups Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
Chocolate Chips (I don't like to put amounts on this, because it's not up to me to tell you how to live your life.  Put as many as you damn well please in there)

Pre-heat the oven to 325.  While it's heating up, mash the bananas up.

Then, add in the butter, egg, vanilla, and brown sugar.  When that's all nice and combined, stir in the the zucchini. 

Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  

Dump in the chocolate chips.  Stir and put into a greased baking pan. 

Cook at 325 for around an hour, or until a fork comes out clean.  

This stuff is delish, it ships decently, and with the bananas and zucchini, it's pretty much a health food. I did wait until late in the day to bake it, because it's hot.  Milton is melting. 

Now, go forth and see what other goodies people have made!! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chicken Sausage, Tomato, and Greens Pasta

I feel like only I post pasta related recipes.  But then, I realize that I eat a ton of pasta, so I guess this makes sense.  Anyways, this one was extra good, and when I got tired of bringing it for lunch, I added some dressing to it and turned it into pasta salad.  Love me some versatility.

The broccoli rabe & sausage pasta combo has been around for a while.  I suppose you could call it so classic.  There's no real "sauce", instead you just use a little bit of the cooking water to coat the pasta, and that kind of brings it all together.  So, despite the sausage, it's actually a pretty light dish.  I think I'm going to be making a solid amount of things like this this summer, because my CSA keeps me in greens.  And by that, I mean I have more green things that I know what to do with.

Chicken Sausage, Tomato, and Greens Pasta - adapted from Macheesmo

1 Pound Pasta (I used Elbows)
1 Pound Sausage Links (I used a Gruyere and Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage)
1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes, Roasted
1 Bunch Greens (Broccoli Rabe is traditionally used in this kind of dish, but anything is fine, I used a combo of several things I already had)
2 Cloves Garlic
2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper
Pasta Water

First up, roast your tomatoes.  Pre-heat the oven to 400.  Cut the tomatoes in half and toss them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast them for a bout 20 minutes (if you're looking for more details on veg roasting, try here)

Next up is the sausage.  Mine was pre-cooked, and if you have that, you can definitely just chop it up and throw it in there.  But, I like to make things harder for myself (and thereby usually better tasting...), so I browned them up.  It doesn't take long (maybe 6-8 minutes per side) and you don't even have to put oil in the pan.  Just do it, it makes it better.  Chop them up into coins, unless you have little ones, then you should cut them however they're telling people to do this now.

While that's happening, get a big pot of water salty and boiling.  You're going to use it first for the greens, and then for the pasta (less dishes = happiness).  When it's boiling, throw the chopped greens in there for about a minute.  You're not really looking to cook them, just mellow them out a little.  Use tongs to pull them out at the end, so you can save the water.

After the greens, toss the pasta into the water.  Cook it for the amount of time you typically cook pasta.  I like mine on the al dente side, so I always go with less than what the box says.  VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: when you drain the pasta, keep about 1 cup of the cooking water.  You need it for the sauce.

While the pasta is cooking, add the chopped sausage to a pan (I used the same one I had used to cook it) with the garlic.  This lets the sausage finish cooking, if needed, and adds in garlic.  Great for keeping Team Edward off your back.

After a few minutes, toss in the greens.  Then, add in about 1/2-2/3 cup of the pasta water.  Toss in the tomatoes, see how it looks.  If you feel it's going to be sticky, add a bit more water.

Toss all this delight with the pasta and enjoy.  Top with the parm, I mean come on.  It's pasta.

I hope that you don't see the number of quasi-simultaneous steps in this and get turned off, because it's actually rather easy.  The sausage and tomatoes can actually be done ahead of time, or really not at all; feel free to use un-roasted tomatoes and pre-cooked and chopped sausage.

Now, go forth and eat.

Question of the Day: 

What's your favorite green? 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mom's Chicken Salad

Chicken salad might be one of the most delicious things on the planet.  I mean, what's not to love? Seriously. And, it keeps really well for a few days, so it's perfect for making a lot of over the weekend and then taking to work all week.  Because you're super healthy and frugal and you totally do that.  Yep.

There are approximately as many ways to make chicken salad as there are weird, creepy people on the orange line.  Some people put pickles or relish in theirs; I do not, that stuff is nasty.  You can do a mayo based dressing, an avocado based dressing, copy the kind from Chick-Fil-A, or make it exotic.  Seriously, SO MANY OPTIONS.

The kind that I make is fairly basic.  I got the recipe from my mom (hi mom) and she got it from the Silver Palate Cookbook (I think, the copy I have is just written on a card).  It's a little different, because it includes green grapes, dill, and pecans.  Since I can't ever manage to leave well enough along, I subbed the pecans for walnuts and the sour cream in the dressing for Greek yogurt.  And I halved the recipe, because I didn't want to eat it for the rest of my life, just a week.  I'm SUCH a rebel.

Mom's Chicken Salad:

For the Salad
2 Large Chicken Breasts, Poached (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 Cups Green Grapes, Sliced in Half (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 Cup Dill, Chopped
1/2 Cup Celery, Chopped
1 Cup Walnuts (or whatever kind of nuts you like)

For the Dressing:
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper
Potentially a few drops of milk to thin it out

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  Place your chicken into a casserole dish and cover with water or part water, part chicken broth.  Cook for 30-40 minutes, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through.  A bit of the water will evaporate (science FTW), so check it, and if it looks like the tops are getting dry, flip them.

While that's happening, make the dressing.  Just mix the yogurt/sour cream with the mayo, add salt and pepper to taste.  I thought the consistency was fine as it was, but if you think it's too thick, thin it out with a little bit of milk.  I would actually make less dressing next time, because I thought it was a bit too much, but you should feel free to do whatever you want.

Then, cut up the grapes, dill, celery, and walnuts.

After the chicken is cooked (I just cut into it and see, but I hear people use meat thermometers for such things), take it out of the liquid and let it cool.  When it's cool, either chop it or shred it into bite sized pieces. I actually put it in a bowl and continue to let it cool after I cut it up, because I want to make sure it's definitely not hot anymore when I mix it with the other stuff.

Once the chicken is ready, just add everything to a bowl, top with the dressing, stir, and eat.  It definitely tastes a little better on day two, because the flavors have had a chance to really meld together.

I always tend to think that chicken salad is a pain to make, and it really isn't.  You could make it even easier by using leftover chicken, instead of preparing new, or a rotisserie from the grocery store.  I just can't have a rotisserie in my house, because Milton uses it as an excuse to try and teach himself how to open the fridge without the benefit of thumbs.  Silly pup.

I did a few lettuce wraps with this, but it's also good on toast.  Or just plain, with some sliced tomatoes on the side.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Clean out the Fridge Lasagna

I have a small problem when I go to the grocery store.  See, what happens is I walk in and think "OMG I need to buy food for my Duggar sized family.  Yes, I will get a 4 pound box of spinach, I will eat all of that before it goes bad in 4 days, because I'm a health nut and there are multiple other people in my home".  Funnily enough, this is not actually what happens.  I know, I know, it's really shocking.  So, about once a month (sometimes more or less depending on my current level of grocery shopping fervor), I try to make things that incorporate all the things in my fridge.  Usually, it's boring and/or weird (like this veggie casserole mess I made last summer), but sometimes I shock myself and I make something delightful, like this lasagna.

There are many lovely things about this lasagna.  First and foremost, lasagna in any form is freaking delicious. I love to try new kinds of this magical dish, so if you have recipes, please send them my way.  I mean, how could you not like bubbly, melty cheese with a rich and comforting sauce, all encased in layers of delicious, delicious carbs?  Seriously, I just finished my lunch (guess what, it was lasagna) and I'm hungry again writing about it.

The second best thing about lasagna, is that it's nearly impossible to make it taste bad, therefore, you can use up whatever it is you have when you make it.  I had some bell peppers, celery, carrots, ground turkey, and spinach.  Now all those things are snuggled up in my fridge, positively contributing to the goodness and beauty that is lasagna.

Ok, now that I've waxed poetic about this stuff, I will give you a recipe.  Sorry, I just really freaking love lasagna.

Clean Out the Fridge Lasagna:

For the Sauce:
2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Bell Peppers
3 Stalks Celery
3 Carrots, Peeled
2 Small Onions (or one regular sized one)
4 Cloves of Garlic
2 28 Oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes
1 Lb Ground Turkey
2 Bay Leaves
Salt, Pepper, and Italian Seasoning
Red Wine

For the Ricotta:
1 15 Oz Container Ricotta (I used whole milk because I think the low fat kind is gross, but it doesn't make much difference)
5-6 Cups Spinach
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

The Rest:
Lasagna Noodles (I get the no boil, because I'm lazy)
Shredded Mozzarella

I decided to try a new technique and food processor the veggies first.  I think it was a good decision; the sauce came out as a cross between my regular marinara and turkey bolognase.  This whole process is fairly time consuming, but it's good, so it's worth it.  Also, this makes a TON of sauce, I used some for this lasagna and I think I could make another 2 with the leftovers.  So, it's sitting in the freezer now, waiting for inspiration.

So, throw all the veggies into the food processor and let it go until they're the size you want.  I definitely erred on the side of more chopped, but be careful not to just pulverize it into baby food.  Unless you're going to feed it to a baby.

Heat up the olive oil in a large pot.  Add the chopped veggies and season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Don't hold back with the seasonings, it makes a huge difference and since this is a massive amount of food, it's going to be fairly difficult to over-do it.

Once the veggies have softened, add in the turkey.  It's highly recommended that you defrost it first; however, I did not and it was fine.  It just takes a lot more elbow grease to break it up.

Brown the turkey, then season a bit more.  I think next time I'd brown the turkey first, because it was a little hard to see with it mixed in with the veggies, but it doesn't really matter.  You're going to cook this for a good. long while, so it's going to get cooked.

Then, add in the tomatoes, bay leaves, and wine.  I guess I used around a half a cup of wine?  I would have skipped it, but there was some open already.  Season some more and stir it all up.

Then, let it come to a simmer and simmer for 30-40 minutes.  You want for everything to have a long time to get all flavorified.  Taste occasionally and adjust seasonings as you think appropriate. 

While this is happening, steam the spinach.  This is way easy, just put about a half a cup of water into a large pan, then, when it's about to boil, add the spinach.  Throw a lid on and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.  You might want to give it a stir or two, so that the top part actually reaches the heat.  Remove from pan and let cool.

Once it's cool, stir it in with the ricotta.  Add a little bit of oil and some seasonings.  Now you're done.

Now, the actual lasagna making part.  Pre-heat the oven to 350.  In a baking dish, layer her up.  I used a small one because I only had a few lasagna noodles and didn't want to get more (remember, cleaning out, not adding in).

Put a layer of sauce on the bottom, then some noodles.  Add more sauce.

Then about half the ricotta mixture and a few handfuls of the mozz.

Noodles, sauce, ricotta, mozz.

You could keep going if you had more noodles or wanted to feed a bigger crowd, but I ran out of noodles.

Bake at 350 for about 45 min, until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top.  Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before digging in, I think it makes it hold together better.

Slice yourself a big ole piece and dig in, you've earned it!

I know this seems like a fairly involved project, and in some ways it is, but it's not overly complicated.  Just time consuming.  I did this on a Sunday afternoon and it was perfect, but I definitely would't recommend that you start this at 8pm on a Tuesday when you're already hungry, because the whole process ends up taking 2-3 hours.  That being said, it's delicious and completely worth it!

Question of the Day:

What's your favorite way to clear out the fridge? 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lemon Pound Cake with Lime Frosting - The Leftovers Club

Man, I took a break from The Leftovers Club, a delightful group of bloggers who send each other treats (totally sign up, it's amaze), and I definitely missed getting some goodies in the mail.  I mean, who doesn't like to arrive home to discover cookies waiting?  You don't ?  You should probably seek help, because that's odd.

This month, I was paired with Sandra, who blogs over at Meadows Cooks.  She lives in NYC and makes delicious, healthy recipes, and probably does a lot of really cool New York things.  She recently made some Honey Goat Cheese Popovers that look incredible.  

I made a lemon pound cake this time.  My mom has been making it for as long as I can remember and there is a reason for that; it's really freaking good.  It's also enough food to feed a solid portion of the red army, so it's great for pot lucks or parties or whathaveyou, because there will always be enough to go around.  We've always made a lime frosting to go with it, so I did that (and sent it on the side, because frosted cakes don't ship super well), but I think that some kind of glaze would also be delicious.  The cake itself is pretty dense and sweet, so I'm not sure I'd like a super sweet frosting with it, but my sweet tooth isn't super pronounced, so do you. 

Lemon Pound Cake with Lime Frosting: 

For the Cake:
2 Sticks of Butter, Softened
1 8oz Package Cream Cheese, Softened
3 Cups Sugar
3 Cups Flour
6 Eggs 
1 1/2 Teaspoons Lemon Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract 

For the Frosting:
5 1/2 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
3 Tablespoons Lime Juice (from actual limes, not the bottle)
3-4 Cups Powdered Sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 325.  

Mix together the butter and cream cheese.  Add in the sugar and mix well. 

Add the eggs, flour, and extracts.  I like to alternate flour and eggs, then add the extracts at the end, because I think it makes it easier for my not so powerful mixer to handle.  However, I'm not sure this really does anything to the cake one way or the other, so feel free to just dump it all in at once.  

Pour batter into a well greased bunt pan.  If you don't have a bunt pan, you can definitely use any other kind of pan you want, but remember this is a giant cake, so it will need a pretty large pan.  My bunt pan is just plain, but really cool options exist.

Bake at 325 for an hour to an hour and a half.  Mine took about an hour and a half, but start checking after an hour, as you definitely want for the insides to stay moist. 

Allow to cool completely before frosting.  I had to put mine on a very high shelf because someone has learned how to get things he's not supposed to have off the counter.  Silly Milty, bananas are for humans. 

For the frosting, just mix it all together in a bowl.  Adjust the sugar to taste.  Making frosting is super easy.

Now, go eat some cake!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fast and Easy Turkey Bolognese

Though I do try to curb my natural carb-a-holic tendencies by topping them with vegetables on occasion, sometimes, there's just no substitute for a big bowl of pasta with meat sauce.  This fast and easy turkey bolognese totally hits the spot on those cold winter (or SPRING WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME SO SOON) nights.

Traditional bolognese is made with beef and pork, carrots, celery, and wine.  Then, you simmer it forever and ever so all the flavors meld together in a big, delicious pot of happiness.  You should definitely do this sometime, because it is so worth the time, but I was low on time (starving) and wanted something a little lighter (my pants are snug), so I used ground turkey.

If you have any forethought at all, you should probably take the meat out of the freezer more the 2 hours before you cook it.  However, if you don't, just plop that ish on in there and break it up.  It'll be fine. 

Fast and Easy Turkey Bolognese:

1 Pound Ground Turkey
2 28 oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes
1 6 oz Can Tomato Sauce
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Pressed or Minced
2 Bay Leaves
1-2 Teaspoons Italian Seasoning (or substitute dried thyme, oregano, and parsley separately)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Heat up some olive oil in the bottom of a large pot.  When hot, add the onion and garlic.  Cook until soft.

Add in the turkey and brown.  When it is almost completely done, add in the tomatoes and seasoning.

Cover and bring up to a simmer; let it cook for at least 15-20 minutes, so that the flavors have some time to meld together.

Don't forget to remove the bay leaves before eating - ICK.

Serve over your choice of pasta and top with cheese.

If you wanted to spice it up some, definitely feel free to add whatever you want/have on hand.  If I had any wine (weird...), I definitely would have added a glug or 5.  Same with other kinds of random veggies (carrots and celery are traditionally used) or spices.

This makes enough for about 10000 people.  Luckily it freezes really well, so check your Tupperware supply before you start.  Now, slip into your carb coma and fall asleep.  You earned it.

More Brussels Sprouts Please!

Probably not what you'd usually expect to hear at the dinner table..but these blackend Brussels are delicious. They're crispy, spicy, lemony...just make them now.  Also, they're super fast and only take one pan.  That's it, no extra dishes to clean up, no random other bowl you discover you're going to need halfway through; just straight up put things in a pan, let them cook, and go eat.

In addition to the little baby cabbages, I also threw some broccoli in there, because it was on it's way out and people keep telling me it's mega healthy.  It was also delicious, but if I were to do this again, I would do two separate pans, since they cook a different rates.  There were a few pieces of broccoli that were way over done, and a few bsprouts that weren't quite ready yet.  I served them with some salmon and grits, because everyday is treat yo self day in my world.

Blackened Brussels Sprouts - Adapted from Mountain Mama Cooks

You will need:
Olive Oil
Garlic Powder
Brussels Sprouts

Chop the veggies.

In a heavy pan, heat some olive oil.  Add as much seasoning as you like (I kind of tried to coat the bottom of my pan).

Let the spices and oil heat up, around 2 minutes on medium-high.

Add in your veggies - you want it to sizzle, this is a good thing.

Turn down the heat and cover.  Set the timer for 8 minutes and DON'T PEEK.

When the timer goes off, check on them.  They should be nice and browned/blackened on the bottom and cooked through.  If not, re-cover and let cook a few more minutes.

This is definitely a recipe that you can tweak to your personal taste.  If you love the spicy, then add some red pepper flakes.  Serving with a Greek style main?  Use Greek seasonings.  Pairing with a stir fry?  Try a little bit of ginger powder.  The possibilities are endless really.

I'm definitely going to try this with a few other kinds of veggies and spices.  It seems like it'd be a good way to use up the little tiny bit at the end of the jar (please tell me I'm not the only one who has 1000000 random jars with like 3 crumbs of seasoning in them) and see what happens.