Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Baked Ziti

Baked ziti is the Italian-American version of mac & cheese. The dish is filling, cheesy and so easy to make.

Growing up, baked ziti was a staple at every event — family reunions, birthday parties, any gathering, really. The meal is even immortalized in many episodes of HBO's The Sopranos.

This is also the dinner to bring to a potluck or to deliver some cheer to a favorite family. Add a bottle of wine and a green salad or dessert and you'll truly make someone feel loved.

Baked ziti is perfect for a friend with a newborn, the new neighbors down the street, or a fellow parent with kids who needs a night off from having to prep dinner (friends, you know who you are!) Since I live too far away from Erin to bring a freshly-cooked meal to her door, let's consider today's blog post my way of sending her some virtual home cooking in celebration of baby Elaine's arrival!

Keep in mind that baked ziti is designed to serve a crowd. Each 13 x 9-inch tray will satisfy a group or feed a family of four more than once. Baked ziti is also great for stocking your freezer.

This recipe is made for customizing. I like to add provolone cheese to mine. You can change the pasta shape, but do note: the tubular ziti traps the sauce and cheese inside the pasta, which makes it taste even better.

You can't really mess up this meal. Any sauce and cheese combination that you and your family love will taste delicious baked up with some ziti-shaped pasta.

Mangia! Mangia!

Baked Ziti 

1 pound ziti pasta
2 to 4 cups of homemade tomato sauce or 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
2 to 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 pound (or less) ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded provolone, or 4 to 5 slices, cut into thin strips
1 or 2 teaspoons basil
1 or 2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Spray a deep lasagna pan or baking dish with cooking spray. The pan should be at least a 9x13x2-inch size. If your family is small, divide the recipe into two deep 8 x 8 pans. Cook one and freeze the other.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Place pasta in large bowl.

Add 16 ounces tomato sauce and all other ingredients except the Parmesan cheese and a 1/2 cup to 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Feel free to add more or less tomato sauce and cheese to suit your taste.

Mix well so that everything is combined.

Tip: My mom and my brother just mix everything up right in the baking pan, but whenever I do that I end up accidentally shooting a few spoonfuls onto the floor. So I use a bowl.

Transfer pasta mixture to prepared baking pan. If you like, top with more tomato sauce (I skip this step.) Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. You can throw in some provolone here, too.

For freezing: Wrap baking dish in foil and freeze for another day. When you are ready to cook the baked ziti, follow the instructions below after it has thawed in the fridge.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour or until the ziti is browned on the edges and bubbly. If the cheese on top starts to brown, cover it with foil for the rest of the cooking time.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 or 15 minutes. Serve with a side of extra tomato sauce and your favorite wine.

At my house, my husband and sons fight over who gets the crunchy corner pieces, like this one.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sugar Cookies

I love sugar cookies. Not the labor-intensive ones that you roll out, cut out and ice and that look pretty but are kinda dry and bland. Correction: I love my sugar cookies. Loaded with butter. Falling apart in your mouth.

I mostly make these cookies at Christmas, decorating them with red and green sugar. But sometimes when I need a quick dessert and don't want to run to the store for special ingredients, these cookies are the answer. I always have all of the ingredients on hand.

I recently whipped up my sugar cookies for an impromptu grill-out dinner party Chez George. I doubled the recipe so I'd have enough to take to a dinner party where we were the guests.

By the way, these cookies freeze nicely, too. FYI in case you are like me and you like to get a lot of baking done for the holidays or teacher gifts.


Sugar Cookies
Yields 5 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Colored sugar sprinkles

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla.

In separate bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients, except the sugar sprinkles. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and combine.

Place the cookie dough in freezer for an hour or fridge for a couple hours or overnight.

After the cookie dough  has hardened a little, remove from fridge or freezer and shape into tablespoon-sized balls. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets. Pour colored sugars onto individual plates. Take a glass and rub butter on the bottom or tap it onto the cookie dough to get it greasy enough to transfer the sugar sprinkles to the cookie balls. Dip the glass into a plate of colored sugar and then tap down gently on a cookie ball, flattening it just a little. Repeat. Use a different glass for each colored sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for about eight minutes. The cookies should not turn brown and you want to barely see any brown at the bottom.

The cookies will seem soft when you remove them from the oven--and they are kinda fragile, so be careful. Transfer cookies to wire racks. Eat a few immediately--worth it!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Corn Souffle Casserole

Sometimes you need fancy food. With a flamboyant display of sauce on the plate and a confetti of fresh herbs. Really impressive stuff like Sole Meuniere or Beef Tenderloin.

And sometimes you need stick-to-your ribs, warm-your-soul stuff. Well, folks, Corn Souffle Casserole is middle America comfort food at its finest. It is dang good, and I'm always looking for an excuse to add it to the menu.

So leave your fancy pants in the closet. Today we're eating casserole.

Let's get cooking!

Corn Souffle Casserole
Adapted from my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law

1 (8.5 ounce) box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
2 beaten eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 quart baking dish (a 9" x 9" or 8" x 8" baking dish would work great) and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together corn bread mix, whole kernel corn, creamed corn, eggs, sour cream, and 1/2 cup cheese. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over top and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and casserole is set in the middle.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Grilled Cabbage with Thai Dressing

If you need a speedy way to spice up your menu, this grilled cabbage will do the trick.

I don't usually cook cabbage, but my husband and oldest son love it. When I get in a rut, they remind me that I haven't made cabbage in awhile.

In fact, I had not whipped up this side dish in more than a year. Thank goodness for those Facebook flashbacks to remind us of what we were doing so many months ago. This little gem popped up on my feed. Thank goodness. 

Everyone in our house gobbled this up, and my boys even had seconds —which hardly ever happens with a vegetable. We enjoyed the cabbage with a roasted chicken. It makes the perfect lunch all by itself the next day.

The folks over at The Kitchn get all the credit here, and their notes about grilling the cabbage ahead of time are perfect. These cabbage steaks hold up beautifully in the fridge. Just warm them up in the microwave and you are good to go.

I recommend doubling the dressing, because it tastes so good you'll want some leftover for the next time you have salad. 

Mangia! Mangia!

Grilled Cabbage with Thai Dressing
Inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn.

For the dressing:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (bottled is OK, too)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/3 cup fresh cilantro (Leaves and thin stems. Remove thicker, tougher stems)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Give it a taste. You might want add a bit more lime juice or fish sauce, depending on your taste. The dressing will have an orangey-green hue.

For the cabbage:
1 head green cabbage
Vegetable oil

Preheat your gas grill to medium-high. If you are using a charcoal grill, you'll want low flames. You can also use a grill pan and cook up the cabbage on the stovetop.

Slice cabbage into wedges that are about 1 inch thick. You should get at least eight and you might end up with more, depending on how large the cabbage is. Brush both sides of each cabbage slice with oil.

Grill cabbage for about 6 minutes or until the edges are charred. Flip over and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes, again grilling until the outer leaves acquire some black char. 

Remove from grill, top with dressing, garnish with slices of lime and serve warm.

To warm up leftover cabbage (or if you did your grilling in advance,) place cabbage slices on a microwave safe plate, cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and heat for about 45 seconds a slice.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Chicken Piccata

This recipe is a keeper, folks. Chicken Piccata looks fancy enough for your classiest company, but it's simple enough for your busiest weeknight. You can get this meal on the table in 20 minutes flat. Maybe even faster if your butcher is kind enough to cut the chicken for you.

Simple chicken breasts are seared until a flavorful crust forms. Then build a rich sauce in the same skillet (only one pan to wash!) with lemon juice and briny capers. Serve it up with creamy mashed potatoes, quinoa pilaf, or buttered egg noodles, and you have a dynamite dinner on your hands.

Let's get cooking!

Chicken Piccata
Serves: 4
Adapted from Jo Cooks

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
About 1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken broth or white wine
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Cut chicken breasts in half through the center so you have four thin cutlets. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish and season flour with salt and pepper as well. Dredge chicken in the flour and pat off excess.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil. Once the butter has melted, add chicken. Cook until chicken is browned, about 4-5 minutes per side. Set chicken aside and cover to keep warm.

Add lemon juice, broth or wine, and capers to the empty skillet, scraping the bottom of the skillet to incorporate any browned bits into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil and return chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, until sauce has thickened slightly.

Remove chicken to a plate and whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Return chicken to the skillet, spooning the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Friday, September 18, 2015

How to Pack a Week's Worth of School Lunches...In One Day

My kids take packed lunches from home to school nearly every day. I could count on one hand the times they bought lunch at school last year. Lucy and Penny would love to buy lunch at school more, but Mom and Dad want them to eat healthier food than what is offered in the cafeteria.

While my daughters take their lunches daily, I pack lunches weekly. In other words, every Sunday I make 10 lunches and stack them in the fridge (Monday and Tuesday in the upstairs main fridge; Wednesday-Friday in the downstairs bonus fridge). It is always such an accomplishment to see a week's worth of lunches labeled with name and day of the week (Lucy George, M; Lucy George, T, Lucy George, W...) and ready to go. 

People ask how I do it.

It's so easy.

You will see.

One question I get a lot: Don't the sandwiches get soggy or dry?

Nope. My kids don't require condiments. And one trick I found is to layer the cheese on both sides of the bread and place the "wetter" deli meat in between the cheese. I asked my kids if their sandwiches are ever dry and they said "no." I credit this to the containers I use. (Go to Amazon and type in

I am also strategic about when my kids get sandwiches -- typically just on Monday and Tuesday, so the sandwiches are relatively "fresh." The girls would get bored with a sandwich every day, anyway. Later in the week, my kids will get items that hold up better for longer in the fridge. Examples: chickpea salad, tomato-quinoa salad, and meat and cheese and crackers.

How do you store 10 lunches?

Again, it's all about the containers I use. My EasyLunchBoxes stack neatly on top of each other in the fridge. It also helps that we have an overflow fridge.

Some might wonder if my kids are getting a bunch of packaged junk.

I strive to include no more than two packaged goods per lunch. Ideally, it's one or none. And I read labels. High fructose corn syrup is not my friend. There is always at least one fresh fruit or vegetable, but often two. My favorites to pack: blueberries, strawberries, grapes, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots and red pepper slices.

Sometimes friends say "Well, it's easy enough to throw together lunch in the morning." Sure it is, if I want to skip the gym to pack lunches, which I do not. Plus, some mornings are crazier than normal if Jeff or I happen to be away on a business trip. I'll take my Sunday morning assembly line of Bento-style lunch boxes and get the job done. That's how I roll.

Below are 11 examples of recent lunches -- packed for Lucy and Penny for the short Labor Day week and this past week. Just to give you some inspiration going into the weekend. Why don't you give it a try? Get your shopping done today or Saturday and spend an hour packing a week's worth of lunches on Sunday.

Let me know how it goes and what you pack in your kids' lunches. I'm looking for inspiration, too!


How to Pack a Week's Worth of School Lunches...In One Day

Penny: Half of a PBJ sandwich on wheat, GoGo organic applesauce, tomato-quinoa salad and grapes. (Note: I will add avocado and make tomato-avocado quinoa salad only for the next-day's lunch; otherwise, the avocado goes bad.)

Lucy: Half of a PBJ sandwich on wheat, GoGo organic applesauce, grapes, sliced red peppers and Laughing Cow cheese.

Lucy/Penny: Turkey and Swiss cheese hot dog bun "sub", pretzel crisps, cherry tomatoes, Babybel cheese and grapes.

Penny: Turkey and cheddar tortilla wrap, chocolate cat cookies from Trader Joe's and cucumber (from our Tower Garden) with blue cheese dressing. (Note: The lids to these containers keep contents from spilling into other compartments, so while the dressing might get all over its own compartment it won't spill into others.)
Lucy/Penny: Turkey and cheddar hot dog bun "sub", chocolate cat cookies from Trader Joe's, grapes, sliced red peppers and cherry tomatoes.
Penny: Pita crackers from Trader Joe's, sliced red peppers, Laughing Cow cheese, grapes and tomato-quinoa salad.

Penny: Organic, unsweetened applesauce, pita crackers from Trader Joe's, cherry tomatoes, Laughing Cow cheese and Mom's chickpea salad.

Lucy: Salami and provolone pack from Trader Joe's, sliced red peppers, cherry tomatoes, grapes and pita crackers from Trader Joe's.

Lucy/Penny: Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, Babybel cheese, organic and unsweetened applesauce, pimiento cheese and multi-grain crackers.

Lucy/Penny: Baby carrots, LARA bar, Babybel cheese, cherry tomatoes and Craisins.

Lucy/Penny: Hummus, cherry tomatoes, cheese stick, baby carrots and multi-grain crackers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

My mom used to make this cake when I was a kid and my brother and sister and I could not stop eating it. Super moist and chocolate-y, this is now a favorite snack or dessert at my house, too.

The chocolate hides all the zucchini inside, so it's a nice way to get the kids to eat extra vegetables. (And just like the Blueberry Zucchini Bread, you won't taste the squash.) The cloves add something a little unexpected to the taste.

I like to use a 9 x 13 pan and cut it into brownie-sized pieces. But you can easily use a bundt pan or muffin tins with this batter. Just adjust the baking time accordingly.

If there are any leftovers, this cake freezes perfectly.

Mangia! Mangia!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Inspired by my Mom

2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 cup all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1 cup white sugar or Splenda
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13x2 inch pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Add the eggs and oil and mix until everything is well combined.

Add zucchini, stirring well. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into pan. Sprinkle top with mini chocolate chips.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack before cutting. Garnish with raspberries or strawberries.

As you can see in the photo above, this cake remains very moist.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chickpea Salad

My husband has been known to lament on Facebook that some days he has quinoa salad for lunch and chickpea salad for dinner. Geez, there I go again, trying to keep us all healthy.

But if Jeff is being honest, he loves it. After all, he's always picking up quinoa at the store and whenever I haven't made this chickpea salad in a while, he drops some subtle hints. Hey, we have lots of cans of chickpeas in the pantry. Why don't you make chickpea salad?

This recipe is adapted from my favorite vegan cookbook -- The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. I have made the vegennaise (that's "mayo" without the oil and egg) Angela calls for in this recipe just once. Sorry, Angela, but some things taste better with mayo -- Duke's mayo to be precise. Also, I don't put in as much dill pickle as Angela calls for, because it makes the salad (mine, anyway) too wet. I also add carrot. And I always double the recipe, because the chopping takes some serious time, so why not make more while I'm at it? And besides I love my hubby.


PS: You will see later this week that one of my kiddos likes chickpea salad in her school lunch. Bless her.

Chickpea Salad
Adapted from The Oh She Glows Cookbook

2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
3-6 green onions, thinly sliced
2 carrots, finely diced
1-2 dill pickle spears, seeded and finely diced
2 bell peppers, each one a different color, finely chopped
4-6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
4 teaspoons dill
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toasted bread, crackers, or lettuce for serving

Put chickpeas in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until some of the chickpeas appear flaky in texture and others are still whole or mostly whole. Combine all other ingredients, adjusting mayo, mustard, salt and pepper to your taste.

Serve this salad with toasted bread, crackers, lettuce -- or eat plain.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Microwaved Corn on the Cob

With a brand new baby and all, I'm looking for any and every possible shortcut. Have you ever seen the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer installs a garbage disposal in his shower so he can multi-task? Yeah...I'm totally there.

So when I read an article by The Kitchn about microwaving corn on the cob, I was alllll over it. With late-summer corn filling the farmers market and grocery store, it's the perfect super-speedy side dish. 

Let's get cooking!

Microwaved Corn on the Cob
Serves: 2
Technique from The Kitchn*

2 ears corn on the cob, still in the husk
Butter, for serving
Salt, for serving

First...DO NOT SHUCK THE CORN. Put the entire corn on the cob in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes on high. Allow the corn to cool for a few minutes so you don't burn your fingers off. Shuck the cooked corn and marvel at how easily all that pesky silk comes off. Ask yourself why you haven't always cooked corn in the microwave. Serve with plenty of butter and salt.

*Check out The Kitchn's tutorial here

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kale & Spinach with Chickpeas

Now that my boys are back in school, our weeknights are busier than ever.

When sandwiches just won't cut it for dinner, this vegetarian dish is super quick to make and filling and tasty to eat. Serve it with a hunk of crusty bread and you've got a main course. Or use it as a side dish for any meat, chicken or fish.

Mangia! Mangia!

Kale & Spinach with Chickpeas
Inspired by

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
6 to 8 cloves of garlic, minced
5 to 6 ounces of fresh baby kale, chopped or 1 bunch mature kale, ribs removed and chopped
5 to 6 ounces of fresh baby spinach, chopped or 1 bunch regular spinach, rinsed and chopped
2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in skillet over medium low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, stirring often, about 5 or 6 minutes.

Add kale, spinach, chickpeas, cumin and black pepper and cook while stirring and mashing some of the chickpeas. Continue cooking about 7 minutes, until heated through.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Greek Salad Quinoa Salad

I eat quinoa every day. Every day. Usually, it's my Tomato-Avocado Quinoa Salad. But recently I needed to shake up my quinoa routine, so I created this yummy Greek Salad Quinoa Salad, using ingredients that I just happened to have on hand and that would normally go into a Greek salad.

Readers, I have found a new favorite quinoa salad.

PS: If you loved Erin's Bulgar Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumbers, you will love this, too.

Greek Salad Quinoa Salad

3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
Heaping 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Ground pepper and sea salt to taste
Cherry tomatoes (if desired), cut in half, for serving
Greek olives (if desired), for serving
Fresh basil (if desired), for serving
Olive oil (if desired), for serving (FYI: I put a 1/2 tablespoon on the above serving.)

Combine quinoa, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, pepper and salt. When serving, add whatever combination of the "if desired" ingredients suits your fancy. Or maybe you can think of other toppings to make this dish your own. On the day I created this yumminess, I didn't have any fresh basil or Greek olives on hand.

BTW, the reason I add the tomatoes at the end is because I think the salad will keep better in the fridge and not get soggy.

Also, you can totally adjust the ratio of ingredients to suit your taste buds.

Finally, fyi, just as with the Hungarian Sour Cream Cucumber Salad, I got to use a cucumber grown on my Tower Garden!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Chocolate Madeleines

A few years ago I splurged on a $30 baking pan at Sur La Table. Not just any baking pan: my Madeleine pan. Worth it. Every francophile and anyone who has read Marcel Proust needs a Madeleine pan, non?

I love that just as Marcel remembered a childhood in which his maman baked these mini pound cakes, so shall Lucy and Penny. My daughters adore Madeleines. They have proclaimed my Madeleines to be better than the packaged variety sold at Starbucks! Mais oui.

And while the girls appreciate the classic French treat, they have been begging me to try making chocolate Madeleines, so I did. Pour mes filles.


PS: Lucy helped.

Chocolate Madeleines
Adapted from
Yields 18 Madeleines

3 eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted -- plus additional non-melted butter for greasing Madeleine pan
1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Put eggs and sugar in bowl of your blender and blend at medium high for five minutes. You want to blend until the mixture has tripled in volume  and a thick ribbon forms when you lift the beater. Again, about five minutes.

Meanwhile, place butter and chocolate in top of double boiler and melt over a medium boil.

Then, mix the remaining dry ingredients -- flour, baking powder and salt -- in a small bowl.

When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, fold in a bit of the flour mixture. Then fold in the rest of the flour mixture, bit by bit. Key word is "fold." Do not overstir or stir too vigorously as that will result in some flat Madeleines.

Your chocolate  and butter should be melted by now. Let it cool for a few minutes. Then fold some of the batter into the chocolate and butter. And  then fold the entire chocolate-butter mixture, which now contains some batter, into the mixing bowl with remaining batter. Combine gently. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Toward the end of that 30 minutes, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Then take a stick of butter and grease the Madeleine pan. There are a lot of grooves in these seashell-shaped cakes, so make sure to do a good job here or your Madeleines will stick and not look as pretty.

Remove batter from fridge and place a generous tablespoon of batter into the center of each mold in the Madeleine pan. This is how you get the classic "humped" appearance in your Madeleines.

Bake for 10-11 minutes or until edges are slightly browned and the center of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Transfer Madeleines -- smooth side down -- to a plate and allow to cool.

When serving, sift confectioners sugar over the grooved side of the Madeleines.

Note that Madeleines are best eaten the same day. You can store leftover Madeleines (provided there are any) in an airtight container  and eat them the next day. If you want to store for longer, wrap well and freeze for up to one month.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Meet Elaine

For the past nine months I've been cooking up something besides hot dinner. Today I'm thrilled to introduce you to the newest addition to our happy home, my daughter Elaine.

She was born on Saturday, August 29, weighing in at 6 pounds 15 ounces and 21 1/4" long. We are completely smitten.

So today I'm not cooking, just snuggling. In that spirit, let's order some pizza!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Last summer I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) co-op and in August and September, we were inundated with all kinds of squash.

Lorna and Dale, the owners of Bompa's Farm, shared lots of ideas for how to use up the vegetable and I came across even more on the web. I used zucchini, white, yellow and patty pan squash in casseroles and sliced up raw to dip into hummus. I stuffed, sautéed, roasted and baked them into all sorts of deliciousness.

One of my favorites is this quick bread, which tastes super with zucchini, yellow squash or both. It is super moist and each bite delivers a burst of blueberry flavor.

This year, I'm buying my zucchini and squash at the local grocery store. Lorna and Dale sold their Central Illinois farm and moved out west to be closer to family. I didn't know them long, but they made a big impression on us. Lorna and Dale taught my boys about where food really comes from and what it takes to grow vegetables (i.e. broken legs and hail storms don't mean the work stops!) And if their gentle giant of a dog Solomon hadn't taken such a liking to my Sam, I never would have taken home one of his pups.

Now I think of Lorna and Dale when I watch Trixie (our puppy,) Max and Sam running around outside, and whenever I bake this treat.

Mangia! Mangia!

Blueberry Zucchini Bread
Inspired by

3 eggs
Part of my CSA squash haul.
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup Splenda (or white sugar)
2 cups shredded or grated zucchini, yellow or white squash
3 cups all purpose flour (or use 1 1/2 cups white and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 pint fresh blueberries

(Note: I recommend doubling the recipe. I usually do, so that I have some extra loaves on hand or in the freezer when I need a treat for family or friends.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange over racks to be in the middle of the oven. Lightly grease 2 to 3 loaf pans, depending on the size you are using. I use pans that are either 9 x 5 x 2 1/2 inches or 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches. You can also use mini loaf pans or make muffins.

In a large bowl, whisk or beat together the eggs, applesauce, oil, vanilla and Splenda or sugar. Stir in the zucchini and/or yellow or white squash with a spoon.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add half of flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir with spoon or beat with mixer. Add remaining flour and stir well with spoon or beat with mixer until everything is combined.

Gently fold in the blueberries.

Fill prepared loaf pans with batter. Bake for about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into middle of loaves comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes.

Slice and enjoy. Goes great with coffee.

That's our "puppy" Trixie. She's a farm girl at heart. She likes this bread too, if she's tricky enough to snag a piece!