SCR: Zucchini Fries

zucchini fries with hummus

September already? Certainly doesn’t feel like it here. Nonetheless, there are several good things that September brings with it mainly football and my birthday. With the change of the month, that means another thing. It is time for the Secret Recipe Club!

My blog assignment this month was Kim’s blog Everyday Mom. She describes herself as partial to sweets, but that she’s also trying to build her skills in other culinary areas. (Sounds a little familiar to how I would describe myself).

Kim has a fun selection of recipes, and as indicated by her about me, I was immediately sucked in by her baking. This Hungarian Coffee Cake anyone? Sign me up. Nonetheless, as you can tell from my picture, I ended up choosing a savory recipe for the SRC reveal. In fact, these zucchini fries worked perfectly to use up a zucchini that had been living in the crisper drawer for awhile…

zucchini fries

So how were they? Really good. The Panko makes them surprisingly crunchy (a word I thought I’d never use with zucchini?). As Kim indicates, they are great on their own, but my favorite was in a white bean and basil hummus. Yum! Definitely a recipe to keep in mind for zucchini season. Enjoy! 

(Printable Recipe)

Zucchini Fries
Adapted from Everyday Mom

Ingredients:
1 lb. zucchini cut into medium-large strips
1/2 cup whole wheat Panko bread crumbs
1/2 Tbsp. (1-1/2 tsp) Italian seasoning 
lemon zest to taste
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If needed, grease a baking sheet.

In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese. Mix well. Add flour and egg mixture to separate bowls (you will have 3 total).

Dredge each zucchini strip through the mixtures in this order – flour, egg, bread crumb mixture. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bread crumbs start to look golden brown. 

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Summer Grilled Vegetable Pizza

grilled vegetable pizza with tomatoes

Around here while the hubby was cooking, it largely equaled more pizza. It was not necessary a bad thing. As I hopefully have proved with our list of recipes, homemade pizza can be pretty good. Recently, we’ve been repeating some of the old favorites, but this is a new one the hubbs ran across to throw into the mix.

grilled vegetable pizza grilling vegetables
grilled vegetable pizza with tomatos before baking

The original recipe is from Cooking Light. We’ve made it a couple times already, with a few variations on the original. As written, the recipe calls for marinara sauce for the crust. The first time we used actual spaghetti sauce, but we found it to be too liquidy as the crust in the center of the pizza never cooked through. Our favorite thus far, pre-made brushetta topping from Trader Joe’s. It is chunky enough to avoid the problems we encountered with the marinara, and man that stuff is good! 

As far as the cheese goes, we’ve made it both with fresh mozzarella and bagged pre-shredded mozzarella. My favorite is probably the fresh, but either works well 🙂 Enjoy

grilled vegetable pizza slice

(Printable Recipe)

Grilled Vegetable Pizza
Adapted from Cooking Light June 2012 

Ingredients:
1 lb. pizza dough (homemade or from store)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 (4oz) zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 (4oz) yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices 
1 small onion, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup marinara sauce (or try a pre-made Brushetta)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut and/or torn into small pieces

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Also, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the stone pizza pan in the oven while it is preheating if you are using one.

Thread the onion pieces onto a skewer so that the skewer pierces each ring. Brush both sides of all the vegetables with olive oil. Grill vegetables for 3 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender and grill marks appear. Remove from the grill and coarsely chop into medium-sized pieces.

Roll out the pizza dough onto a pizza peel or a piece of lightly floured parchment paper. Spread sauce over the crust. Top with vegetables and pieces of mozzarella cheese. Remove the pizza pan from the oven and transfer the pizza (either via peel or on top of the parchment paper) onto the stone. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until the crust begins to brown on the edges. Cut into slices and enjoy.

Grilled Veggie and Hummus Wraps

grilled Mediterranean vegetable wraps cut

I have a confession to make. The hubs and I have developed quite the hummus addiction. All kinds really, but our hummus of choice is currently the white bean and basil hummus from Trader Joe’s. Seriously. Between the 2 of us, the container will not last 2 days in this house. I want to try to make a copy-cat version at home as we are going there several times a week to get it. Will share if we are successful with the recipe!

These wraps fulfill 2 requirements for us right now – 1) they contain hummus, 2) they are super quick. This is really more of a method than a recipe as you could use any veggies or any hummus that you desire. The recipe is written for onions, red bell peppers, and eggplant, but you could certainly swap in any veggies you would like to grill (like zucchini rather than eggplant). One tip I have for grilling onions – slice them thick (1/2-inch) and thread them onto a skewer. When the onion cooks, it shrinks, and this prevents the rings from falling all over the grill. Enjoy!

grilled Mediterranean vegetable wraps

(Printable Recipe)

Grilled Veggie and Hummus Wraps
Adapted from Cooking Light April 2012

Ingredients:
4 (1/2-inch) slices red onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch slices (other veggies if desired)
Non-stick spray
1-1/2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 (8oz) container of your favorite hummus
4 flatbreads or large whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Heat a large grill pan or an outdoor grill over medium heat. Thread the onion slices the long way (through all the rings) onto 2-3 skewers to make it easier to grill. Spray vegetable pieces with nonstick spray. Add to preheated grill, turning at 2-3 minutes until softened and slightly charred. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly and roughly chop. Combine vegetables, olive oil, parsley, and salt. Toss to combine.

Spread hummus over each wrap leaving a 1/2-inch boarder around the edges. Divide vegetables and Feta cheese amongst the wraps. Tuck in the ends and roll up the wraps. Enjoy whole or cut in half.

SRC: Summer Vegetable Torta

summer vegetable torta

Just in case you don’t remember, there might be a special holiday coming up this Sunday. One that you might not want to forget. Sunday is Mother’s Day. I am not a mother myself (unless you count 4-leggged children), so I’d like to say a big thanks to both of our mothers!

My blog assignment this month for the Secret Recipe Club was Carolyn from All Day I Dream About Food. Carolyn’s site is a great reference for some delicious but healthy eats and many of her recipes are low-carbohydrate, gluten-free, or both. I have visited Carolyn’s site prior to this assignment, and it actually did not take me too long to pick out a recipe because I have had this egg bake saved to make for almost a year. Guess this group was the push I needed to (finally) make it! Does anyone else have the experience where they wait forever to make a recipe and then after they finally do, wonder why they waited so long! That was exactly what happened here. We loved this meal!

summer vegetable torta cooking veggies
summer vegetable torta after cooking

While it is not labor intensive, this torta does take awhile to make as it needs to bake for approximately 90 minutes. I adapted it a little bit to our tastes, and by swapping in some lower-fat dairy products. It turned out well, so they seem to have worked okay. My advice would be to pop this torta in the oven when you’ve got something else to do around the house. Your house will smell amazing and it will be done before you know it! Better yet, get up a little early on Sunday and surprise Mom with this for breakfast/brunch. It would certainly be a great way to say, “I love you!” 

(Printable Recipe)

Summer Vegetable Torta
Adapted from All Day I Dream About Food

Ingredients: 
Non-stick spray
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 medium zucchini, sliced about 1/4-inch thick (could swap some summer squash in too)
1 (12oz) jar roasted red peppers (or 2 fresh peppers), cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 pkg (8oz) 1/3-less fat cream cheese, cubed
6 large eggs
1/4 cup skim milk
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. fresh basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
8oz. Swiss cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick spray and saute zucchini and onions (and fresh peppers if using) until softened, about 10 minutes (my peppers are in this picture – that was an oops).

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk together with a whisk. Add the basil, garlic salt, pepper, and cubed cream cheese. Mix. The cream cheese will not completely incorporate. It will soften after you add the hot vegetables. Use a slotted spoon to drain off any extra fluid from the vegetable mixture and add to the eggs. Add roasted red peppers if necessary. Mix. Add shredded cheese. Mix well. 

Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake for about 80-90 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the mixture no longer jiggles when you gently shake the pan. It make take more or less time in your oven (mine was in for 90 minutes and may have been just a little too long). Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes in the pan. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the egg bake, and gently remove the outer rim of the pan. Slice and serve.

Christmas Soup Series: Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Day 2 of soups for Christmas. This is one of the other recipes that my brother made last week while he was visiting. It is a little similar to this soup recipe that I posted last year in that it contains both sausage and red wine, but the soups are distinct enough that I am considering them different. 

Of all the things on my blog, my soups are probably one of the things that we “repeat” the most at home. You other bloggers know what I am talking about. The “are we having something new again for dinner” syndrome. This soup is definitely up with the others in flavor, and that is considering that we really like all of the soups posted here. Given the fact that my brother served us this during the same meal as the chocolate-chip toffee cheesecake, I would certainly say we had a great meal!

Similar to the minestrone, the pasta in this soup will soak up some of the liquid as it sits. Just add extra broth to your preference when you reheat it. This one also calls for red wine, but it can be substituted for the beef broth if you prefer. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini
Adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
1 lb. sweet Italian chicken/turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
1 can (14.5) oz. diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1-1/2 cups quartered zucchini
8 oz. fresh whole wheat tortellini 
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large Dutch oven, brown the sausage, crumbling as you cook it. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain the fat.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until the onion begins to soften. Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Skim fat from the soup if necessary (should be very little if you use chicken/turkey sausage). Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.

Crockpot directions: Cook the sausage as directed. Place all ingredients except tortellini and Parmesan cheese in the crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cook tortellini separately on the stove according to package directions and add just before serving. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.

Christmas Soup Series: Jamie’s Minestrone

Growing up we had quite a few Christmas traditions. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, we’d get up early to grab donuts before heading to the Christmas tree farm to pick out/cut down our tree. We also had a paper nativity scene that doubled as an Advent calendar. My brother and I would alternate days of putting up each character, often squabbling over who would get to put the star up over the manger on Christmas Eve.

One of the other traditions that I still continue – soup on Christmas Eve. The kind has changed over the years (there was a time when I would have a can of Campbell’s chicken and stars because the rest of the family was having oyster stew…), but the idea of soup has stayed constant. We’ve done stews, chili, homemade chicken noodle, and even played with the idea of bread bowls, but it’s always homemade and always great! Plus, it is low stress as you can put it in a crockpot and forget about it. Bonus that it leaves room for Christmas cookies 🙂

As I don’t have too many Christmas cookie recipes to share with you this year, I thought I would let you in on our little tradition and offer up a few soup recipes leading up to Christmas Eve. 

The first soup is a classic – minestrone. I have made this recipe a couple of times, and I really enjoy it as it is everything a minestrone soup should be: great flavor and loaded with vegetables. The recipe calls for red wine. If you are worried about including alcohol, it could certainly be replaced with some additional broth, however if you can, I would strongly suggest you include it. I love the flavor red wine adds to soups. One thing to note is that the pasta will continue to soak up the liquid (even when fully cooked), so cook it al dente and only add it a few minutes before serving. This is especially important if you are making the soup in a crockpot! For the leftovers in this case, I have just been adding a little bit more broth as needed when I heat it up. 

Feel free to join in if you want. It’s a fun tradition to start! Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Jamie’s Minestrone
Adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1 can (14.5oz) low-sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed into 1-inch pieces
2 cups baby spinach
3 small zucchinis, quartered and sliced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup small whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente
shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1-2 minutes.

Add chicken broth, water, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. If using, add red wine. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach, zucchini, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.

Cook pasta separately until al dente according to package directions. Drain and add to soup. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Crockpot directions: Follow the first step through cooking the onions. Add the sauteed onions and garlic to the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients except the pasta, spinach, and Parmesan cheese. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cook the pasta until al dente as directed above and add to the crockpot with the spinach just before serving. The heat will wilt the spinach. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Grandma’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I never grew up with a garden. Always a couple tomato plants but never much else. When my parents moved into their current house when I was about 13, we tried one summer. Mom was weeding and pulled up all but one of the carrots that we had planted and that is about how the garden went the rest of the summer too (although not all of it was our fault). 

Despite my lack of experience with anything green, when we finished our backyard this spring, a garden was on our short list of must-haves. By the time it was finished in mid-April, we were about a month late (for Arizona standards) getting our plants in the ground, but we decided to give it a go anyway. I have to say I have been pretty impressed. We have gotten herbs, cucumbers, tons of little yellow bell tomatoes, eggplant, cantaloupe, jalapenos, little bell peppers, and zucchini so far. Still waiting on our watermelon! You can tell that we were late planting as much of our produce has been small. That is everything but the zucchini! Check out this monster! (Those tiles on our counter are at least a foot in length). I am glad that we decided to only plant one zucchini plant!

So what does one do with a surplus of zucchini? Well, we have been grilling much of it, but there is only so much grilled zucchini that two people can eat! I was talking to my mom one day, and she mentioned that my grandma has a recipe for a chocolate zucchini cake that everyone always loved. I can assure you it didn’t take me to long to decide on that recipe as a destination for this monster, and after a quick phone call to my aunt for the recipe, I was armed and ready to go. 

I grated my zucchini by hand using the smaller portion of a cheese grater as I wanted the pieces to incorporate better into the batter. I can tell you that 2 cups of grated zucchini still left me with about 1/3 of this baby! As anticipated, the cake turned out great! Can you ever expect anything less from a “grandma recipe?” My aunt said that grandma usually frosted the cake with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. I went with a standard chocolate frosting that I will post below because I never keep cream cheese in the house, but if you want to make a cream cheese version, by all means send me some 🙂 Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Grandma’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake
From Grandma F.

Ingredients:
Cake:
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup oil
1-3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups peeled, finely grated zucchini (I left the peel on)
2-1/2 cups flour
4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2-3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (optional: I added these)

Chocolate Frosting:
4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp. milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick spray and set aside. Add the cake ingredients in the order shown (except for the chocolate chips if using) to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix and beat on low speed for 4 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if needed. Gently fold in chocolate chips if using. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

For the frosting, mix the cocoa, butter, and milk. Add powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Frost the cake once cool.

Linked to Sweet Tooth Fridays