Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Zucchini Bites

It's that time of year when fresh zucchini is still plentiful. When my farmer's market had one of these giant vegetables for just $1, I could not pass it up.

My boys may disagree, but I think zucchini is one of the hardest-working veggies out there. You can use it in so many different recipes, like side dishes such as a simple saute or Zucchini Rice. And you can bake with it for super moist Zucchini Chocolate Cake or Zucchini-Blueberry Bread.

One thing I'd never done with zucchini is wring it out in a towel to squeeze out the moisture before using it in a recipe. Wowza. The process adds just a few extra minutes and it's a great way to get your kids involved in helping out.

Removing the zucchini's extra water led to these amazingly light and fluffy veggie bites. In fact, these will likely replace my go-to Zucchini Pancakes.

I'll be making this recipe again because it is so versatile. You can easily change up the herbs and cheese for variety.

Mangia! Mangia!

Zucchini Bites
Inspired by this recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 cups packed, shredded zucchini
1 large egg
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1 bunch green onions, diced
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper lightly coated with cooking spray.

Place the shredded zucchini in a clean dish towel and fold up the edges of the towel. Holding the towel pouch over the sink, twist and squeeze the zucchini and towel to wring out as much excess water as possible. You want the zucchini to be almost dry.

Place zucchini in medium bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix until combined. If mixture is too wet, add a tablespoon to two of bread crumbs or flour.

Scoop up rounded tablespoons and drop onto prepared baking sheet. Gently flatten mounds with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the tops are browned in spots.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Goes well with plain Greek yogurt or ranch dressing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tahini Shortbread Cookies

A recipe for Tahini Cookies in this month's issue of Bon Appetit caught my eye.

"These are your grown-up peanut butter cookies. The tahini lends a creamy, earthly flavor." 

Sold. Plus, I had a can of tahini in the pantry. Boom.

And, I actually had a reason to bake, as if a reason is necessary. Icing on the cake. Oops, wrong dessert. Anyhow, my friend Megan invited my family over for dinner to celebrate her husband Steve's birthday.

Bon Appetit reported these cookies were inspired by the Tahini Shortbread Cookies at a Cambridge, Mass. restaurant called Mamaleh's.

Indeed, these are cookies for adults. Not too sweet. Not even so pretty. Rich and melt in your mouth. Exactly like shortbread. "They're ugly, but so good," I announced upon arriving at the dinner party. And because I'm a fab friend and lacking in self control, I left all of the uneaten cookies with Megan and Steve. That was on Saturday. Here is the text exchange with Megan the following Tuesday:

Megan: "Even though I just had oral surgery 2 hours ago, I am still eating those cookies you made. They are too (freaking) good to let pain stand in the way."

Me: *Laughing/crying emoji* "Glad they held up and are being devoured."

Megan: "They still taste just as good as day 1....for future reference. Make-ahead potential is very high."

Me: "That's gtk for when I blog them."

There you go, dear readers. My pal Megan and I doing the hard research and reporting for you.


Tahini Shortbread Cookies
From Bon Appetit

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup tahini
1/8 to 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking power and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix together the butter, sugar and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in tahini, then add dry ingredients in two or three batches. Beat until thoroughly combined. Batter will be slightly sticky.

Place 1/8 cup of toasted sesames in a small bowl or on a small plate. You can always add more if you run out. (I didn't need the 1/4 cup that Bon Appetit called for.) Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough (about one ounce) and roll into balls. Dip tops of balls in sesame seeds and place on very lightly sprayed cookie sheet, spacing cookie balls about two inches apart. Take a spatula and gently press the balls to very slightly flatten. (I learned to do this after the first batch of cookies came out of the oven pretty much still looking like dough balls.)

Bake cookies until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire cooling racks. Cookies will firm up as they cool.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cherry Berry Bars

If you ever find yourself with a mess of berries and cherries that need be consumed quickly, this recipe is your new best friend.

After buying more berries than my family could eat, I decided to cook them in a saucepan to make a compote to serve with yogurt or ice cream. When my oldest son started asking for a cherry pie, I improvised.

These dessert bars were delicious, with a dough that reminds me of shortbread. My kids put them in their school lunches and ate them for after school snacks. They disappeared from my kitchen in just a few days.

Mangia! Mangia!

Cherry Berry Bars
Inspired by this recipe from the Kitchn

7 to 8 cups of berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries) and cherries, hulled or pitted, and halved
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon water
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon course sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Place berries, cherries and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until berries break down and release their juices, stirring frequently to avoid burning and lowering the flame if needed.

In a small bowl, mix corn starch with water until dissolved. Stir into berries. Continue to cook until berries thicken. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

Insert the blade attachment on your food processor. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and pulse to combine. Add egg yolks, almond extract and butter. Pulse in short intervals until dough comes together (about 1 minute). The dough will be crumbly and soft.

Transfer about 2/3 of the dough to the baking pan. Use your fingers to press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Spread the cherry mixture evenly over the dough.

Scoop tablespoons of the remaining dough into your hand and flatten them into an oval shape, then place on top of berry mixture. Repeat until you use all of the dough, evenly spacing the dough ovals on top of the fruit. The berries will not be completely covered.

Brush the dough pieces with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the coarse sugar.

Bake until the dough is light brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Oven-Grilled Tuna Steaks

This summer I did something I don't usually do, because of an utter lack of self control. I indulged in beer. Omigoodness I love beer. And not crap light beer but really good craft beer. By the beginning of August, I was ready to be done and start living cleaner. So the husband, who also loves the craft beers, and I have been eating healthier.

It's boring in a way — OK, in a lot of ways. But we have learned to appreciate some simple dishes that we never made at home. Like oven-grilled tuna steaks. Even our kids love these (who knew?), so this dinner has become a new go-to Chez George.


Oven-Grilled Tuna Steaks
3-4 half-pound tuna steaks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs of your choosing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray baking sheet or inside of grill pan with non-stick spray.

Mix together lemon juice and olive oil with a fork. Brush the lemon juice and olive oil mixture over each side of each tuna steak. Salt and pepper each side. Sprinkle herbs (I used rosemary) to each side. Bake for four to six minutes per half inch of thickness, or until fish begins to flake when test with a fork but is still pink in the center. I have found sticking closer to the four-minute mark is best.

Serve with a steamed vegetable or salad for a really healthy dinner.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Creamy Shrimp Salad

When I served this salad, my husband was surprised to see large whole shrimp — which is why I decided to try this recipe.

I usually associate shrimp salad with those tiny "salad shrimp." An email from the Food Network highlighting this dish caught my eye.

This is perfect for a warm day or when you need a meal that you can prep ahead of time. (The dressing tastes even better if it has time to sit in the fridge for a bit.) Creamy shrimp salad is good on buns for lunch or on top of greens for a light dinner. Leftovers stand up well in the fridge, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Creamy Shrimp Salad
Inspired by this recipe from Ina Garten

2.5 to 3 pounds of large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail off
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon orange zest (about the amount you can get from 2 oranges)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced dill
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons red onion, diced small

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. You will need one or two large baking sheets so that the shrimp can be arranged in a single layer.

Place shrimp, oil, salt and pepper on a large baking sheet and toss together. Roast for 6 to 8 minutes or until is pink and cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a medium bowl combine remaining ingredients to make the dressing, beginning with the mayonnaise. Stir well. Add shrimp to a large bowl and pour about 1/2 the dressing on top. Gently stir to evenly coat.

Add more dressing to taste or until all shrimp are coated. Save any extra dressing in the fridge to add to leftover salad or to spread on buns or bread if you make shrimp salad sandwiches. A garnish of orange slices would be nice, too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ramen & Bok Choy Salad

This recipe is a bit of a classic. I've been making it for 14 years — ever since a good friend whipped some up during my bachelorette weekend in Myrtle Beach.

This summer's trip with my husband's family reminded me of this salad as my sister-in-law and I reminisced about that long-ago girls weekend.

When we got home from vacation, I wanted to see if my kids would like this dish, especially since Sam still loves ramen noodles.

The verdict? I still find this salad addicting and my husband still enjoys it. Not so much for my boys. But hey, more for me!

This recipe makes enough for a crowd. Leftovers still taste good on Day 2, but the ingredients will be a little less crunchy. If you want to make less, cut the recipe in half by using a small head of bok choy or 4-5 baby bok choy.

Do you make a version of this salad? Let us know how you do it at your house!

Mangia! Mangia!

Ramen & Bok Choy Salad
Inspired by my friend Claire

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 packages ramen noodles, broken into small pieces (Set aside seasoning packet for another use.)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 large head of bok choy
1 bunch green onions, sliced (5 or 6 stalks)
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white sugar

Note: You can prep this salad in advance, but don't add the dressing until you are ready to serve it.

Heat oil over medium heat in large sauce pan. Add ramen noodles, almonds, sesame seeds and sugar. Still until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Chop the bok choy leaves and the white stalks into small pieces and place in large bowl. Add green onions. Stir to combine. Set aside.

To make the dressing, combine oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a container with a tight lid. Shake to mix. Set aside.

When ready to serve, combine ramen noodle mix with bok choy mix. Add half the dressing and stir to evenly coat. Add more dressing as needed. (You may not need all of it.)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Poppyseed Egg Salad

A few weeks ago, with my nieces in town to hang out with my girls for what is known as Cousin Camp, we had a tea party with some other friends. I made PB&J and cream cheese and jam sandwiches in the shapes of hearts and flowers. But what about for the adults? I hadn't thought that far ahead. Fortunately, egg salad popped to mind, because all of the ingredients — including poppyseeds, which give this version a subtle nutty flavor and crunch — are always on hand.

My friend Ashley, who brought her girls to the tea party, and I were like "Omigosh, egg salad is sooooo good." There wasn't a whole lot of talking during the eating, actually.

Why don't I make egg salad more often? Well, the hubby is watching his cholesterol, and the kids won't eat it. But I'm here to tell you, my friends, that it's good to make dishes for just yourself (and a like-minded friend) sometimes. Besides, taste buds change, too. I now have one kid, Lucy, who absolutely loves this egg salad. I found out about Lucy's new love of egg salad when the leftovers that had my name (figuratively) all over them for a late post-cycle class lunch were half eaten when I got to them.

I hope you enjoy this simple, classic dish with a twist. I hope that sometimes you make something that only you like ... for now.


Poppyseed Egg Salad
12 hardboiled eggs
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon poppyseeds
Salt and pepper, to taste

Peel and cut up eggs; transfer to bowl. Add rest of ingredients and stir gently (so as not to make the eggs a mushy mess) until combined.

Question: Do you know how to boil eggs? That is, do you know how to boil eggs so that the yolks are perfectly cooked without any greenish hint of being overdone? And do you know how to boil eggs so that the shells come off easily, without taking out hunks of egg white?

No? Well, here is what to do. Place eggs in a pot and add water so that it there's at least an inch of water over the tops of the eggs. Add some salt to the water and set pot over high heat. Once the water comes to a rapid boil, allow water to continue its full-paced boil and the eggs to cook for another two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs and transfer to a bowl of ice cubes and cold water. Peel eggs immediately after they are cooled, within about 10-15 minutes.

Oh, and here's Lucy enjoying an open-faced egg salad sandwich.