Friday, August 28, 2009

Spinach Rice Gratin

Ken requested something hot for dinner last night, and I had just seen a recipe for Spinach Rice Gratin while browsing 101 Cookbooks. It looked delicious and I wanted to try it.

I used Lundberg Countrywild rice blend instead of plain brown rice. It has three types of rice in it so it gave it a little extra flavor and texture. Cooking the rice took the longest - other than that, the recipe was pretty quick and easy. It calls for pre-cooked rice, so I had to make it myself, but I think next time I make rice for something I will probably make extra so that I can make this again.

This is basically a rice casserole, and it was delicious. It held together really well, which is probably due to the 3 eggs in it. It also contained tofu, but since it is crumbled and mixed it with everything else, you can't even really tell unless you know what you are looking for. This is a great way to sneak tofu into someone who refuses to eat it.

This was a delicious, warm comfort food kind of meal. I think it would be great for fall or winter, and maybe even Thanksgiving. I will definitely be making this again. I would love to try baking it in a muffin tin instead of a casserole dish to make individual and freezer-ready servings. It held up really well in the freezer so I think it would be a perfect go-to lunch.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nutty Oatmeal Cookies

As our dessert, Haley and I wanted to make oatmeal cookies. To keep it healthier, I used the recipe for Nutty Oatmeal Cookies in Food Matters. We both HATE oatmeal raisin cookies, so we left out the fruit altogether and opted for walnuts and chocolate chips.

I used white whole wheat flour in place of 1/2 of the flour and it worked out just fine. I might try 100% white whole wheat flour next time. The stuff is great. It is admittedly heavier than AP flour but it seems to work for me. I might also try oat flour, and I might also try some of the vegan variations.

The cookie turned out delicious. It is moist and chewy just like an oatmeal cookie should be. Looking back, I was a little too generous with the chocolate chips, so I will probably use less next time. Ken thought it tasted "healthy" and wanted me to make the ones I used to make, but I will definitely be making these again. I also popped some in the freezer for another day - maybe I will bring one with lunch when school starts.

Broccoli Crunch

For our cooking date, Haley picked out Broccoli Crunch as an entree. We had planned to add some shrimp to make it more of an entree, but we totally forgot about it and didn't even notice until we were having seconds. This recipe, although it was a bit of work, was absolutely delicious.

The crunchy shallots were one of my favorite parts. They got a little lost in the salad because of the red onions, but they were so fun to make and yummy little crisps. These can be made in advance, which I would recommend since I was constantly running back and forth to check them. I guess I am not the type of person who can handle more than one thing on the stove at a time.

One sad part was that I cooked the broccoli a little more than I wanted to. The salad is called "Broccoli Crunch" for a reason - everything is supposed to crunch. I cooked the broccoli in boiling water as per the directions, but left it for a few minutes rather than a few seconds. It wasn't mushy or bad, just not crunchy enough. The broccoli also was unfortunately not that great quality either. I would like to try again when I see some better broccoli at the market in the coming weeks.

We used Pink apples and Fuji apples (or so said the sign at the store). Both were delicious, but I particularly liked the Pink apples. We sliced them thinly, which was fine, but I would also cut the apples into bite-size pieces next time in keeping with the rest of the salad being crunchy bite-size pieces.

The almond butter dressing was amazing, and we used sliced almonds instead of walnuts to complement the dressing. It was so good, and I know it would lend itself to shrimp as well, even though we forgot them. They would be perfect in this bite-size salad. I think some tofu croutons (see How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) might be yummy as well. I also want to note that I left out the optional chives. I think the salad was oniony enough without them, and after the sad green bean experience yesterday, I didn't want to use them in case they were part of the problem.

One more note about leftovers... I might make this again on a weekend, keeping all the ingredients separate and combining them only for individual portions. I might cook the broccoli each time too, since my slightly overcooked broccoli didn't hold up too well in the leftovers. But it would be easy to throw together during the week with everything already prepared and ready to go. I found that it worked well to keep the thinly sliced apples in a tupperware with water and the juice of one lemon. They seem to be keeping really well.

This is definitely something I will be making again, especially as more apples come in season. According to this map on Epicurious, broccoli will be in season through October, so I will have plenty of chances to perfect this recipe. If I am lucky, broccoli will stick around for Thanksgiving so I can make this for the big meal... I am already plotting to cook lots, although I won't be able to have it at my house, so hopefully my mom will host and take care of the meat and things. But that is a topic for another time...

Chilled Watermelon Soup

Haley came over to cook with me today. We had planned this a while ago and she had picked out some recipes from my bookmarks that she wanted to make. For our appetizer/first course, she chose Chilled Watermelon Soup.

The recipe called for 6 pounds of watermelon, or 9 cups diced. I obviously have no idea how much anything weighs, because I ended up at the register with a 20 lb watermelon. Now I have a ton of watermelon. It was pretty difficult to cut up, and then it barely fit in the blender - it was kind of oozing out of the top. I also had to strain the soup, which was then a big squishy mess. It was a pretty color, though.

The soup was okay, but tasted more like a drink than a soup. I couldn't really drink too much of it. Then again, I am not a fan of soup. The general consensus seemed to be that the spoonful of added watermelon chunks, mint and feta was not enough and that these things should be prevalent in the soup. They also floated in the picture, but not in real life. Although I probably will not make it ever again, if I did I would reserve more of the watermelon chunks - maybe three cups instead of one, and mix the feta in with them instead of adding a bit by itself.

Peachy Fruit Smoothie

I have been craving a smoothie lately and didn't feel like cooking breakfast for myself, so I made up this smoothie. It is peachy and very delicious, although I think it may need a little extra liquid next time, because I am eating it with a spoon.

1/2 bag frozen sliced peaches
1 frozen (or fresh) banana
6oz. pineapple juice
juice of 1 valencia orange
1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1. Put everything in a blender and blend until well mixed. Add more liquid if necessary.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The only tabbouleh I have ever had was storebought and I didn't like it. I liked the look of the ingredient list of the Tabbouleh in Food Matters - Mark Bittman's "way." He adds many more vegetables than are traditional.

One fun part of this recipe was that it called for fava beans. It took me forever to find these dried. I looked at every grocery store and farmers' market. Ken finally found them for me in the Mexican section at Whole Foods. But I walked over to the farmers' market the other day for some fruit and other ingredients, and I noticed while walking up and down the aisles that they had fresh fava beans. Some of them looked really good, but some were kind of browning and weird looking. I didn't know how to choose fresh fava beans but I figured they should be bright and plump looking. Lucky for me, I later found a website showing how to choose and prepare fresh fava beans, which assured me that I had been looking for the right qualities. When it came time to prepare them, I took the beans out of the pods, steamed them, then popped the edible part out of their little waxy shell. You have to shell these beans twice! But they were pretty good - I am not a big bean fan, but I liked them in the tabbouleh. The fresh beans were a little agonizing to prepare though, so next time I might try frozen or make the dried ones if I have enough time.

The recipe also calls for a lot of parsley and mint. Since I had a lot going on, Ken chopped it up for me. The recipe says "roughly chopped," but it was a little too roughly chopped so we decided that "roughly chopped" was not the best instrution and next time we will chop them more finely. Another change I would make from the recipe is the bulgur. With all the chunky vegetables, I think coarser bulgur should be used rather than the fine bulgur that is called for. I used coarse because that's what we had on hand, and I thought it was great. Because of the large amount of vegetables there isn't much grain in each bite anyway, so I think it would get lost with a fine bulgur.

We really liked the tabbouleh and I particularly love the lemon juice, and that it is packed with a variety of veggies. It is also suited well to adaptations, so you can probably change it up based on what you have on hand. I hope the leftovers are just as good tomorrow and I will definitely be making this again - I think it would be a great picnic salad!

Shredded Green Beans

I bought a bunch of nice looking green beans over the weekend just because I like them and they looked nice. At the time, I had nothing in mind for them, but while flipping through my cookbooks I found a recipe in Super Natural Cooking for Shredded Green beans. Basically, you cut the green beans into little circles, which is kind of an unusual way of cutting them. You add lemon zest and lime zest, and chives.

It was fun putting the green beans through the food processor. They mostly cut into little circles as intended, with some longer strips as well. I actually liked that there were some different shapes in there because it gave it some visual texture.

I thought this would be really good, but it wasn't. I may have zested too much and gotten some bitter rind in there, but it was really unflavorful too, and just not very good. It looked nice, but that's about it. If I ever want to make this again, I would have to change it significantly and maybe use some garlic and olive oil, or lemon juice, or some other flavor because it really was not good the way the recipe was.

This is the first recipe I have tried from Super Natural Cooking, which is by the author of 101 Cookbooks, one of my favorite websites. So I was kind of disappointed to find that it wasn't very good, but I will try some other recipes and hopefully they will be better.

Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Panini

This is one I made up all by myself. I don't like to eat the same things over and over and over, but cooking for only two people I often have a lot of stuff left over. From the Red Pesto Ravioli ingredients, I got two more dishes of that, plus I still have some oven roasted tomatoes, sun dried tomato pesto (dry and chunky, not like a sauce), spinach, and goat cheese. I wanted to use some of these things, plus I wanted to find ways to use my freshly baked bread, and from this my panini was born.

20 tiny oven roasted tomatoes
1 Tbsp goat cheese
1 Tbsp sun dried tomato pesto
6 spinach leaves
2 slices whole wheat bread

1. Spread the goat cheese on one slice of bread and the sun dried tomato pesto on the other slice.
2. Layer the oven roasted tomatoes over the goat cheese, and the spinach leaves on top of that.
3. Put the other slice of bread on top and pop it in the panini grill until warmed through.

Yum yum yum! I would definitely make this again... maybe even later today!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Almost No Work Whole Wheat Bread

Using the recipe from Food Matters, I decided to make my own bread. In his efforts to make healthy eating simple for everyone, Mark Bittman has come up with a bread recipe that requires (as the title states) "almost no work." The ingredients are: whole wheat flour, salt, yeast, and water. Next time you are at the store, look at the ingredient list on the healthiest-looking sliced bread and see how many bad or unrecognizable ingredients there are. And while this bread took a lot of time, I spent most of that time sleeping and laying around watching TV. It was great.

At first I was a little nervous. I have active yeast and the recipe calls for instant yeast. I couldn't find "instant" in any store, so I just used the active yeast and it worked out fine in the end. The bread also had to rise for 14 to 24 hours. That is a pretty broad range. In the directions it says to look for bubbles on the surface. I didn't see what I would call "bubbles," but I saw lots of things that look like popped bubbles, and also lots of bumps, so I just went for it. I estimate this was about 15 or 16 hours. I kept it in my laundry room, covered of course, since it is the warmest place in my house.

I dusted the top with wheat bran as suggested in the recipe. When it came out of the oven it was dense and heavy. After it cooled, I sliced it up and put all the slices tightly back together like a commercial loaf of sliced bread. I wrapped it up tightly in a dishtowel and it is now sitting on my counter.

I tried an end piece of the bread and it was really delicious. The crust was really crunchy in the best way, and the inside was much more dense than a commercial sandwich bread, but I have a feeling it is going to be just as good. I am going to eat a lot of bread this week to try to figure out the best ways to use it - toast with some kind of spread, sandwich, panini, maybe french toast... then whatever is left over later in the week will be made into fresh bread crumbs.

It was really easy and kind of fun to make my own bread, and it really makes me happy to know that all the ingredients are good things and that it is 100% whole wheat, for real.

Breakfast Couscous

I am trying to eat breakfast more regularly, since studies show it makes you more likely to be thinner. I decided to try the Breakfast Couscous from Food Matters. I do like oatmeal a lot so I thought this would be an easy switch.

I sort of followed the recipe in the book. I made whole wheat couscous, and added a sliced banana and chopped walnuts, with a drizzle of honey, then mixed it all together. I scooped up some to-go for Ken to go to work.

I liked the breakfast. It was a good serving size - small but big enough to fill me up, and it really tasted like breakfast. I was a little worried that I was going to be thinking of dinner eating couscous, but it worked well. I think using whole wheat couscous helped too, and the banana walnut combination that I chose really did it for me. I could see that combination working really well with mixed grains too.

The honey added a little sweetness, but I'm not a person who loves sweetness - I don't add sugar to my oatmeal (although I do often make it with vanilla soymilk). So it was just a bit too sweet for me, but not to the point where I couldn't eat it. Next time I will have to consider how the banana gets all mashed up and sweetens it too. I might also make this again trying different combinations, and I would love to try some dried fruit as well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Red Pesto Ravioli

I used my goat cheese raviolis to make the Red Pesto Ravioli from 101 Cookbooks. The red pesto is made with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh thyme, and walnuts. I have had this recipe bookmarked to make for a while, but since I was making raviolis I decided it would be a good idea to serve them this way.

This recipe was delicious. At first I wasn't sure how it would be, especially with my weird homemade raviolis, but it turned out to be so good. The bed of spinach tossed with olive oil and just a little salt was a perfect accompaniment to the sun-dried tomato pesto. I almost didn't bother with roasting the cherry tomatoes (I actually used grape tomatoes, but whatever - they were the perfect tiny size) but I am incredibly glad that I did. They were so sweet and perfect as another topping on the ravioli. I think I will definitely be using oven-roasted tomatoes more because they were just so incredibly good. I am glad to have some left over because I would love to try them in a salad, on a panini... endless possibilities.

Lucky for me, I have plenty of everything left over, including the raviolis (if they survive the night in the fridge and reheat nicely tomorrow), to make this again tomorrow. It was a really filling dinner and now that everything is already done I think it would be extremely easy to throw together. If I didn't have everything left over I obviously wouldn't make this again right away, but I will definitely return to it another time - probably with store-bought raviolis, though. Without making your own raviolis, this recipe is pretty easy and comes together in no time - just remember to get the oven going with the cherry tomatoes first. It might be really good with regular pasta, too - something curly or hollow would be great. This time, I used sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil and already seasoned, but I think they worked just fine. I might try this again with plainer sun-dried tomatoes. I'm not sure how exactly the flavor would differ, but I think it would be good.

Goat Cheese Raviolis

So I have a few things bookmarked in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and one of them is ravioli. Yes, I am crazy enough to make my own ravioli. I wanted to do it, but at the same time was dreading it - I just had this bad feeling that it was going to be a huge disaster. When I finally got started, I started to feel a little better about it.

I replaced half of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour. I was too nervous to replace it all on the first try, but I knew I could safely replace half. I used the food processor to make the dough. It was dry, so I added a little water as the directions called for. The whole wheat flour definitely made a firmer dough, I think.

Since I don't have a pasta machine, I had to roll the dough by hand with a rolling pin. At this point I kept asking myself what was I thinking making my own damn pasta! It is ridiculously difficult to roll the dough thin enough. You have to roll it over and over. Towards the end, I started rolling it, cutting it in half, rolling out the half, cutting that in half, and rolling another half... you get the idea. It worked, because my first few raviolis were a little on the thick side and they got thinner as I went along. But towards the end, I gave up entirely. The dough became too elastic to work with. Luckily I had plenty of raviolis by this point so I just threw the rest away.

I put them all on a baking sheet, separated, and kept them in the fridge for a few hours until I was ready to cook them. They cooked very quickly, about 3 minutes or so, but we also had to cook them in batches of about 8 at a time.

As it turns out, we only ate about 6 raviolis each, and I made around 30. If I had known that they would be so filling, I probably would have frozen the rest instead of cooking them, but hopefully the raviolis reheat well. The cooked raviolis stuck together and a few ripped when I tried to put them in a tupperware.

Reminder for next time: buy pre-made ravioli. Or at least a pasta rolling machine.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Basil Pesto (Pesto Genovese)

I went to visit my Nonna today and she has basil growing rampant all around her backyard. I asked her if I could take a big bunch to make pesto and she gave me a LOT. Using the recipe from my favorite big green book (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) I made a triple batch.

First, I made a double batch. It was so easy - just throw everything in the food processor and go, adding a little more oil when you take off the top to scrape down the sides. I used this double batch to freeze in an ice cube tray. I have read this trick somewhere to make individual servings of pasta with pesto. I think one or two cubes would do the trick. When they are fully frozen, I will pop them out of the tray and just toss them in a plastic bag. I might wrap them individually but if they are already frozen they probably won't stick together anyway.

One thing to remember is that you need to add Parmesan when using the pesto. I have heard that it doesn't freeze well, so I guess the best thing to do would just be to stir it in when you defrost it. I stirred it in to the batch I made for the pasta but didn't realize I would have a little left over. The recipe says to only stir it in when you are about to use it, but I will have to see how it keeps in the fridge. Another thing I might try doing differently next time I make pesto is to toast the pine nuts. The recipe didn't call for it and I wanted to just stick to it this time, but I think toasting them might bring out the flavor more and add more dimension to the pesto.

When I was done with this I still had more basil left, and it was about enough for another single batch. Ken suggested we have it with the whole wheat pasta we picked up this weekend. I don't remember if I've ever had true whole wheat pasta, but I have heard that it is substantially different from traditional pasta.

The whole wheat pasta with pesto turned out pretty yummy. Whole wheat pasta is definitely a different texture and feel from traditional pasta, so get some olive oil or something in there ASAP after straining. It was a little thicker and denser, but was very good with the pesto. I definitely want to try the whole wheat pasta with the Rustic Pine Nut Sauce - but back to the pesto... I would definitely have it again as a quick, easy, last-minute kind of meal. There is a good amount of olive oil in there though, plus the Parmesan, so don't go overboard with it. I would also like to try it for other uses than just pasta, but not much comes to mind right now. If you have any suggestions please let me know!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quinoa

Recently I picked up a LOT of grains at Whole Foods and I like to pick up interesting looking stuff to try out, even if I don't have something exactly in mind for it at the time. One of my acquisitions was Bhutanese red rice, and I remembered a recipe a few days later from my favorite recipe site. The recipe comes from a cookbook by the owners of a restaurant in the UK called Ottolenghi. It is something like a grain salad, served at room temperature. The dish is called Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quinoa, but the name doesn't even express the deliciousness!

At first when I was making this, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. You cook the red rice and quinoa in two separate pots, then spread them (separately) on a sheet pan to cool to room temperature. At the same time, you slice and sautee white onion in olive oil. At the same time, you toast pistachios in the oven before chopping them up. And at the same time, you have to slice and dice and zest and juice and more with all the other ingredients. That is a lot to do all at once. I don't think it would be too much of a problem if you had the quinoa and red rice already made and let them warm to room temperature, or toasted and chopped the pistachios in advance, or did a lot of the chopping and zesting in advance. This would probably be another good picnic salad since it is intended to be served at room temperature. In smaller portions, it would also be a great salad course.

I halved the amount of grains knowing that the recipes on 101 Cookbooks usually produce way too much food for us as two people, and I estimated how much I would need for the other ingredients, whether using the quantities for the full recipe or halving them. This is really a matter of personal taste. I used the juice of a whole lemon and a whole Valencia orange because I like the citrus taste. I also love the orange zest - I like how zest kind of melts or dissolves into whatever the dish is, so I really love using it in almost anything. I also used a little more pistachios and apricots than the recipe calls for. The chopped dried apricots are so great in this dish - they add a fantastic sweetness against the arugula and grains, and they really complement the citrus flavor too.

In the end everything turned out all right. I ended up cooking the rice a little longer than the suggested time and having to add more water. The quinoa is easy to get right - when their little tails come out they are all done! You can always strain off any extra water if you overestimated or measured wrong. I got everything chopped and mixed together. Rather than putting a small bit of arugula on top as the picture shows, I served the grain mix on top of it and used quite a bit more. I think the peppery bite of the arugula goes really well with the citrusy grain mix. I am finding that I love citrus-dressed grains so I will probably be looking for more recipes that incorporate that, especially now that I have a huge stock of whole grains!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Impromptu Guacamole

While grocery shopping Heather and I decided to make guacamole. We had no recipe or really any idea what we were doing so we decided to just make it up based on our previous experience with guacamole. Lucky for us, it turned out really good! Heather did a great job mashing it up, as you can see in the picture.

4 Haas avocados
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 large white onion, chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
juice of 1 1/2 limes
salt, to taste

1. Slice around the avocados longways (to make two halves). Twist the halves apart and stick a knife in the seed. Twist to pull out the seed and discard.
2. Use a spoon to remove the flesh from the avocado halves, reserving the skins.
3. Crush the avocados with a fork, leaving large chunks. Add the lime juice, tomato, onion, and jalapeno and crush some more, leaving small chunks.
4. Add salt to taste.
5. Spoon into reserved avocado shells and serve with tortilla chips.

Since we totally made this up on the fly, as you can see we have no cilantro. Oh well! It was actually really good, although I would like to try it with cilantro one day. Here is a guacamole tip: if you have some left over, put it in a tupperware. Before you put the lid on, cover it with plastic wrap and press it down directly touching the guacamole. This will prevent the top from turning brown. I don't remember where I read/heard this, but it is a great tip.

Cherry Tomato Couscous

Ken's mom gave us a whole big bag of produce this weekend, and when she said "cherry tomatoes" I instantly thought of the latest recipe on 101 Cookbooks - Cherry Tomato Couscous. I knew I had to try it and decided to do so on my trip to the beach with Heather.

The directions for making couscous didn't really seem like they were going to cook it at all, but it worked perfectly. Apparently, couscous is already precooked and it just has to "steam" or something. It turned out very nice and so we left it to cool to room temperature while we went to buy groceries.

When we came back we sliced everything up and mixed it together. I ended up using 1 1/2 limes and 1 1/2 lemons. I didn't measure anything really. For the feta I just dumped in the whole container.

This recipe was ridiculously easy to make. Anyone who can cut up stuff can make this. The couscous practically makes itself and the rest is just mixing in a big bowl. We particularly liked that the salad was room temperature. I think it would probably be good warm or cold too, but room temperature was definitely an important aspect of the dish. Deanna even liked the chickpeas! I will definitely be making this again since it is so incredibly easy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Roasted Red Peppers

I found some red bell peppers sitting in my fridge and I couldn't remember what I intended to use them for. I decided to extend their life a little by roasting them. I followed the directions from Mark Bittman in Food Matters just because that was the book I picked up first. It turns out I had it bookmarked anyway!

This process takes a long time but not time that you are actually doing something. The peppers were in the oven for an hour, so I watched my soap opera and some stuff on Food Network while folding laundry. When they came out, I wrapped them up in foil as instructed and went out to dinner. When I came back I finished it up by basically extracting the flesh of the pepper. It was pretty easy and you can just run the peppers under water to get the pesky seeds off.

According to the recipe, these should keep for a few days in the fridge, and I am storing them in olive oil so they should actually keep even longer. I wanted to post a picture of the finished product, but they just look like weird salmon fillets in the pictures. So the picture is kind of the in-between of me peeling the skin and taking out the seeds.

I'm not sure what I am going to do with these yet. I might try making a sandwich with them, or maybe I will make roasted red pepper hummus. Or a sauce. Hmm... the possibilities are endless!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Honey Soy Dipping Sauce

I found veggie dumplings in the freezer section of the grocery store and I wanted to try to make a dipping sauce for them. I googled and found several recipes, but settled on Emeril's Honey Soy Dipping Sauce. It is one of the easier recipes I found and used mainly ingredients that I already had on hand.

All that really needs to be done is grating ginger and toasting sesame seeds, then measuring a few things and mixing it all up. I cooked the dumplings by steaming them, which I did per package directions for just under 15 minutes. You can make the sauce in this time and still have time to clean up, too.

This sauce was delicious. I may have slightly over toasted the sesame seeds, but they looked good! The sauce was just a little thick because of the ginger, and the sesame seeds added another dimension of texture. I dipped the dumplings in the sauce using chopsticks and everything was great. I almost doubled the recipe thinking I would run out of sauce, but this was plenty for 6 dumplings and I am positive will be enough for the other 6 in the package as well.

One day I will try making my own dumplings, but for now I find these frozen ones (Stop & Shop's Nature's Promise line) to be absolutely delicious. (I also love the Stop & Shop vegetarian spring rolls - just don't use the microwave instructions or they will be soggy and gross. Dip those in Thai sweet chili sauce, which you can find in the Asian section.)

Now that I am done with my internship, I will have a lot more time to cook and hopefully will be posting more! I am looking forward to making falafel, hummus and baking my own bread (maybe even pitas!).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zucchini Bread

Despite all our efforts, we still had a GIANT zucchini left and wanted to use it before we left. I had wanted to bake all weekend (I love baking!) so I wanted to make a zucchini bread. I remembered this zucchini bread recipe from one of the cooking blogs I like. It looked like it would make a nice moist bread... yum!

We had 3 disposable loaf pans, so we decided to triple the recipe so there would be enough for everyone to take home with them. This meant we needed 3 cups of grated zucchini, but this giant monster zucchini we had gave us 4 cups, so we just put it all in for some extra zucchini flavor. The oil and yogurt also made it very moist. My mom helped me by cutting the zucchini to fit in the food processor and helping me measure it out. Haley also helped by mixing, handing me stuff, and being my official photographer again. I am glad she likes to help and she takes a LOT of pictures - I wish I could use them all!

One of my favorite things about the recipe was that it included whole wheat flour - yay! But it still called for a lot of all-purpose flour. If I try making this again, I would probably substitute white whole wheat flour for most or all of the flour.

We mixed the wet ingredients (and sugar) together, and the dry ingredients together, and then combined them to make the batter. We added walnuts (the recipe suggested them) and that added a nice textural difference. I like how you can see the flecks of green from the zucchini throughout the bread and on the top too.

My only regret is that I forgot to bring some for lunch today! I would love to try making these as muffins, since we all know how much I love muffins...

Zucchini Gratin

As I mentioned in my last post, we needed a way to use all that zucchini we had down the shore this weekend, and I remembered seeing a recipe for Summer Squash Gratin on one of my favorite sites. My mom thought it would go well with the rest of our dinner so we made it.

The recipe can be made with any summer squash (the yellow and green look nice together in the picture) but we just had so much zucchini that we couldn't really play around with it. We also used much more of pretty much everything than called for in the recipe. 2 pounds of potatoes is about 3-4 potatoes (not big ones), and just didn't seem like enough, so we used more of everything.

My mom cut the zucchini by hand while I sliced the potatoes with the food processor. I haven't sliced anything with my food processor at home yet, but now I am super excited to do it. How incredibly convenient! We chose to do it this way because the potatoes need to be sliced much thinner than the zucchini and we figured it was easier to slice thickly than thinly by hand. In the end, the potatoes were still sliced slightly too thick, although I think this could have been remedied by making sure the slices all came apart from each other. I also used the food processor to grate the Gruyere (and kept sneaking tastes... YUM).

The sauce was extremely easy to make, and we doubled it to account for the large amount of veggies we were using. We used fresh parsley, but dried oregano (2 Tbsp.). Everything else was doubled. I roughly chopped the garlic before tossing it in. I also couldn't really taste the red pepper flakes at all, so I might add more of those next time (I didn't measure). I did this in the blender because our food processor is an attachment to the blender, and of course my mom forgot the regular blade for the food processor at home! But I found that the blender worked just fine, and possibly better because we had a lower capacity food processor. This is a liquid so you don't want any leaking out of your food processor from having too much liquid.

For the bread crumb topping, we ran into a few minor problems. My super assistant Haley handed me a stick of butter from the fridge and I put it in a pan over the stove to melt and "brown." In the meantime I measured the bread crumbs. I had doubled the butter, so I thought I would double the bread crumbs to 4 cups (my mom says, "we like bread crumbs!") After measuring out 2 cups of bread crumbs I realized there was no way they could possibly fit in the pan I was using. I called my mom over to fix my crisis and she poured the butter into a bigger pan and got it going again. After a while it was just kind of coagulating and not really doing anything. I was getting a little frustrated because this seemed so straightforward. Finally my mom realized that Haley had handed me some margarine or something like that, not butter. So we found a way to dump it and got some real butter going in the bigger pan. Things were MUCH easier from here. It did exactly what it was supposed to! I had Haley standing by to measure 2 more cups of bread crumbs (they would not fit in the bowl) so when my butter was brown I dumped my 2 cups in and started mixing. At this point I realized there was NO way that 2 more cups of bread crumbs would fit in the pan. Oh well! This looked like plenty. I mixed them in with the butter and turned off the heat.

The veggies are tossed with the sauce, then with the Gruyere and half the bread crumbs. You put them in the zested (of course) baking pan and then top with the rest of the bread crumbs. It was a LOT of bread crumbs. In the oven, it was in the middle, but the bread crumbs were getting burny looking on top, and the potatoes were not done. So this problem was solved with some aluminum foil and moving the pan to the bottom rack. Luckily the bread crumb topping did not cook more after this.

When it was finally done the zucchini gratin was delicious. Everyone loved it at dinner and it was definitely a perfect accompaniment to the rest of the meal. 1/3 of the sauce is reserved to drizzle over it on your plate, which was especially yummy. It was kind of a lot of bread crumbs and I think everyone agreed on that... but it was delicious and definitely something to make again. My mom suggested that it was kind of Thanksgiving-y. I don't know if there will be many zucchinis around at Thanksgiving, but I could definitely try it with another kind of squash.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Grilled Veggie Skewers

While I am down the shore I like to have grilled food since I don't have a (real) grill at home. I was cooking for only myself, using only what happened to be around, and I ended up making these grilled veggie skewers.

1 small zucchini
1/2 onion
1 baby eggplant
6-8 mushrooms
Italian dressing

Directions: Soak skewers so they don't catch on fire. Cut up zucchini and eggplant into pieces that can fit on a skewer without breaking. Cut onion layers into square-ish pieces. Skewer everything in whatever order you feel like. Put in a dish and cover with Italian dressing (try to get some on everything).

Pretty self explanatory, and you can use whatever veggies you like. I don't love zucchini, but we have so much. I don't know when is the last time I had eggplant, and I don't think I've ever had these little ones.

I made a box of garlic & herb long grain and wild rice to go with this. I like this kind of thing because you just toss it in the pot and leave it alone. But don't forget to check it every few minutes, because for some reason mine cooked very fast today, even though I turned it down almost all the way. I also started to get a little discouraged when my veggies didn't seem to be cooking. I was under the impression that they would cook really quickly on the grill. But when I finally just left them alone for a little while, they cooked very nicely. I think the eggplant pieces could have been a little smaller though. I was very surprised that I liked the zucchini and eggplant much more than I thought I would. Since they are in season I will have to make some more stuff with them.

This stuff just about fit on 4 skewers and with the rice it was definitely enough for one person for dinner. Yummy!