Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Tomato and Zucchini Pie

So, apparently many of my northern friends haven't heard of the delight that is a tomato pie.  For those of you who are uninformed, it's basically tomatoes in a pie crust with pimento cheese on top.  Then baked.  Don't think about it too much, you'll be sad about the calories.  I can assure you though, it is absolutely worth it.  It's kind of like a combination of my two favorite summer sandwiches: tomato and mayo and tomato and cheese.  Clearly, I enjoy summer tomatoes.

I thought that I'd try to lighten this up a little bit, and add in some other farm share goodies that are about to go bad.  So, I lightened up the cheese topping with Greek yogurt, and added zucchini.  The results?  Amazing.

Summer Tomato and Zucchini Pie:

For the Pie:
2 Medium Tomatoes
1 1/2 Zucchini
1 Pie Crust

For the Topping:
1/2 Cup Mayo (please God get the full fat - the low cal isn't worth it)
1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt
1 1/2 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
4 Sweet/Spicy Cherry Peppers (I found mine at Trader Joe's, but any kind of jarred pepper/pimentos would work)

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  Roll out your pie crust and place into a greased pie pan.  Poke a lot of holes in it, then pre-bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is a little brown.  Allow it to cool somewhat before filling, but do not turn off the oven.

While that's cooking, chop the zucchini into circles and the tomatoes into slices.  Place the tomatoes onto paper towels and salt both sides.  Allow to drain for 20-30 min; this helps the pie crust stay firm.

Next, make up your topping.  Since my peppers were large, I threw them into the food processor for a second, so they'd be chopped up.  Mix everything together, adding more cheese if it seems too loose. Salt and pepper to taste!

To make the pie, simply layer the tomatoes and zucchini into the pie crust.

Top with the cheese mixture and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

I like mine a little more on the crispy side, so I did about 40 minutes.

Allow to cool, then enjoy!

Question of the Day:

What's your favorite thing to make with summer produce? 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Liebster Award

So, the other day, something really awesome happened.  I was nominated for a Liebster Award by the delightful Lizzi at Relish the Scoop.  I'm super excited, especially since I never win anything, and am touched that she nominated me.  Also, her name is Lizzi, so she's clearly amazing.  Thanks girl!  And, what a great way to get to know each other better.

The rules for a Liebster Award are as follows:

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you. 
  • You have to answer all the questions you were given by the person who nominated you.
  • You must choose 5-11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers (I used Facebook likes), and come up with a new set of 11 questions for them.
  • Let your nominees know they are nominated.
I have chosen the delightful bloggers at:
Bagels to Broccoli

1. How did you decide what you were going to write about on your blog?

It was pretty easy for me; cooking was the only hobby I had that I felt would translate into a blog. I'm not super fitnessy (I go to the gym just enough to moderately offset the cookies), I don't really craft, etc. I do love to read, but I didn't think that would be a great blog topic for the long haul. So, cooking it was.

2. Do you have any children? How do they influence your blogging?

I don't have kids, but I do babysit a lot, so I'm around them. A couple of them have starred on this blog before here.  I try to cook with them as much as possible, since I want them to have good life skills, but I don't think they really influence my blogging. Definitely my life though.

3. What is your favorite thing to read?

Honestly, basically anything.  I just really, really love reading.  A lot.  Right now, I'm reading Conduct Under Fire, which is about 4 American doctors who become POWs under the Japanese during World War II.  I find that time period absolutely fascinating and kind of (definitely) wish that I had lived in it.  Before this, I read The Poisonwood Bible, which is about a Christian missionary family who goes to the Congo right before/during their independence.  I seriously love to read everything, so any suggestions are more than welcome.

4. How has blogging changed your life?

Well, it's definitely made me a more confident cook.  There are many things that I'm not sure I would have tried, had I not thought that putting them on the blog would be fun.  Some of them are fails, which is ok.  So that's maybe the other thing it's taught me - failing isn't the actual end of the world.  Even if you put in on the internet.

5. What is your favorite blog?

Ooooh, that's a tough one.  The first blog I ever read was Cheap Healthy Good, so that obviously has a special place in my heart.  But I think my current favorite is How Sweet It Is.  The women who writes it is absolutely hilarious.  Clearly, we share a sense of humor.  And her recipes...gah.  SO GOOD.

6. What is your happy thought/place?


7. Do you like to cook, bake, or both?

I used to prefer baking, but I think I've switched and now prefer cooking.  Don't get me wrong, I still love to bake, but I think cooking better lends itself to experimentation.  There is a lot more science in baking, and while I'm a good directions follower (which I swear is really the key to being a decent baker), to be a good cook, you don't have to be as precise to get a delicious result.

8. What could you talk about for hours?

Basically anything.  I'm chatty.

9. Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Oh so very many.  In no particular order: Applebee's, Wendy's, trash TV, day-long naps, Pinterest, Danielle Steel novels....I could go on, but it's just getting embarrassing now.

10. Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Dog person all the way.

11. What is your favorite board game?

Cards Against Humanity.  I love anything that brings out the most ridiculous and sketchy in people.

Now, love ladies listed above, it's your turn!

1) Why did you start blogging?
2) What is your favorite Robin Williams movie?
3) Do you have any pets?
4) If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
5) What's your favorite book?
6) What do you do to relax?
7) If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want the most?
8) Did you go to college?  If so, where?
9) If you could chose to go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
10) What is your favorite 90's television show?
11) What is your ultimate comfort food?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Almond Butter Thumbprints with Espresso Chocolate Truffles - The Leftovers Club

Once again, it's Leftovers Club time, that joyous club in which I make yummy things and then I get other yummy things in the mail; if you have a blog (or are considering starting one), you should totally join.  You get food in the mail.  How is this bad?

This month, I've been paired with Ruthy, from Omeletta.  As always, she's got some delightful looking treats on her blog, as well as a really adorable baby.  I'm a total sucker for a really adorable baby.  And, the baby food she's making looks amazing.  She also has a really cool series called 5 Great Recipes, in which there is a main ingredient or theme and then 5 recipes using it.  Genius, pure and simple.

If you hadn't noticed by the title, I made her some FANCY treats this month.  And, they're totally worth every step.  They're basically a more sophisticated version of the beloved PB thumbprints that people only seem to make at Christmas.  Why is that, it's as if PB and chocolate isn't delicious the rest of the year.

Almond Butter Thumbprints with Expresso Chocolate Truffles: Adapted from The Kitchn

For the espresso truffles
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (10 ounce) bag bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur

1 teaspoon espresso powder

For the Cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup almond butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk (I actually used Fat Free Half and Half, because I had it, but I'm sure whatever kind of milk you usually drink will be fine)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate espresso truffles (recipe above)

Start by making the truffles.  Heat the cream over medium heat until simmering.  In a separate bowl, combine the espresso powder, Kahlua, and chocolate. Combine with the cream until melted (I actually mixed it all together and put it over the heat again, but you could also pour the cream over the chocolate and melt it that way, off the heat).

Allow the chocolate to cool for about 10-15 minutes.  Then, load it into a bag of some kind (I just use a gallon storage bag, and start piping.  You want it to be runny, but not overly so.  I think the easiest way is to line a plate or sheet with parchment paper, cut a VERY small hole in the tip of the bag, and go to town.  If the hole doesn't seem big enough, then you can always make it bigger.

While those are setting, start on the cookies.  Pre-heat the oven to 375.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together the butter and almond butter, then add the sugars and cream together.

Mix in the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Finally, add in the dry ingredients.

Roll the cookie dough into small balls and place onto a baking sheet.  Push a thumbprint lightly in the middle, so the chocolate has somewhere to go.  Cook for approximately 10 minutes.  Press the truffle into the middle as soon as it's not too hot.

I absolutely loved these.  So much, that this is the second time I've made them - and I usually don't do that. They're not overly sweet, but instead a lot nuttier than typical PB cookies.  I hugely recommend subbing out some Almond Butter once in a while, this can only lead to good.

Check out what my friends made!!

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?