Zucchini Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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“One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke … It’s a relaxed atmosphere in our little town, plus our neighbors keep an eye out and will, if asked, tell us the make and model of every vehicle that ever enters the lane to our farm. So the family was a bit surprised when I started double-checking the security of doors and gates any time we all were about to leave the premises.”Do I have to explain the obvious?” I asked impatiently. “Somebody might break in and put zucchini in our house.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver

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Many of us have been gifted more zucchini than we can use at one time or another and at this time of year, recipes for using zucchini abound.  This is one delicious way to incorporate zucchini into baking.  The chocolate chip cookies are soft, chock full of chocolate chunks and even the pickiest kid will not suspect the sneaky addition of a green vegetable in the batter!  The recipe comes from one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, from her book Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which captures her family’s journey of living for a year on mostly locally grown foods.  The recipes are simple, wholesome and of course, seasonal.  The book will raise your consciousness of sustainable eating in a most delicious and entertaining way.  The cookies freeze well so when you are missing zucchini season in a few months,  you can whip these out of the freezer and fall in love all over again.

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ZUCCHINI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES Makes 3 dozen

1 EGG, BEATEN
½ CUP BUTTER, softened

½ CUP BROWN SUGAR
1/3 CUP HONEY
1 TBSP. VANILLA EXTRACT
Combine in large bowl.

1 CUP WHITE FLOUR
1 CUP WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR
½ TSP BAKING SODA
¼ TSP SALT
¼ TSP CINNAMON
¼ TSP NUTMEG
Combine in a separate, small bowl and blend into liquid mixture

1 CUP FINELY SHREDDED ZUCCHINI
12 OZ CHOCOLATE CHIPS OR CHOCOLATE CHUNKS
Stir these into other ingredients, mix well. Drop by spoonful onto greased baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350°, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Enjoy!

Seafood Pasta Salad

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“Did you ever see a place that looks like it was built just to enjoy? Well, this whole state of Maine looks that way to me.” Will Rogers

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While vacationing in Maine, I love the abundance of  fresh seafood almost as much as the quaint harbors and friendly people.  This summer salad was inspired by trips to Maine.  Pasta salads are a staple in summer cooking and this one is a fresh option with bright lime and cilantro overtones, dramatic squid ink bow ties and spicy sautéed seafood medley of shrimp, scallops and squid.   Squid ink pasta can be found online at Amazon.com or in specialty food shops.  Fresh summer flavor comes from the addition of big handfuls of herbs, plucked right from the garden. The salad is  versatile and can be composed with your favorite seafood and the herbs on hand.  Enjoy!image

SEAFOOD PASTA SALAD

7 oz squid ink bow tie pasta or any bow tie pasta

16 oz of seafood of your choice( Trader Joe’s Frozen Seafood Medly with shrimp, scallops and squid, thawed is a great option for salads)

juice of 3 limes

6 T olive oil, divided

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 t hot pepper flakes

1/2 c cilanto leaves

1/4 c flat leaf parsley

2T chives, finely chopped

Lemon or lime wedges to serve

Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions.

Sauté the seafood in 2 T of the oil in a medium pan.  Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes.  Cook until seafood just loses its translucency.

In your serving bowl, squeeze the juice of the limes.  Add the herbs and whisk in the remaining oil to emulsify.  Add the pasta, then the seafood and toss together to coat.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with extra lemon or lime wedges.  Can be eaten at room temperatimage

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Lemon~Blueberry Bundt Cake

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“Ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk!”

 Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey, 1948

In Northern Ontario where I grew up, wild blueberries were plentiful and the only kind I knew.  On summer Sundays when my hardworking dad had a day off from his backbreaking job as a gold miner, we would  pack up the car and head to a local lake for some leisure family time. After what seemed like a long hot drive, we would finally arrive at Slab Lake.  Full of anticipation, we 3 kids would not be allowed to swim until we had picked our assigned quota of blueberries.  Being the youngest, mine would be the smallest vessel to fill.  Ku-plink, Ku-plank, Ku-plunk! That did not stop me from trying to sneak  some leaves and twigs in my pail so I could get into the lake faster!   Those blueberries would be frozen or turned into jam to last us all year.  Unlike the beloved Robert McClusky children’s story, I never encountered a bear WHILE I was picking blueberries…  Those are tales for another time!   I have loved blueberries all my life and they always bring back fond childhood memories.

This year at the Lewe’s DE Farmer’s Market, I discovered Spartan blueberries.  Of enormous size, these attractive highbrush blueberries are paler yet sweet with a nice firmness.  Not having to pick these myself, I took home several containers for eating in big handfulls and for baking. Delicious!  This lemon blueberry Bundt cake is chock full of fresh blueberries with the added goodness of some almond meal and yogurt in the batter. It is an easy recipe for a summer snacking cake highlighting the season’s favorite berries.  Enjoy with a side of nostalgia while re-reading  “Blueberries for Sal”!

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LEMON~BLUEBERRY BUNDT CAKE  Serves 12

2 c unbleached flour

1 cup almond meal

1 t baking powder

1 2/3 c sugar

3/4 c unsweetened butter at room temperature

3 large eggs at room temperature

juice and zest of a lemon

1 c regular yogurt, not Greek

2 heaping cups of fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a Bundt pan with spray cooking oil.

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, lemon juice and zest and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.   In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and almond meal.  With the mixer running at a lower speed, alternate the addition of the flour mixture and yogurt in gradual increments.  Do not over mix.  With a wooden spoon, fold in the blueberries.  Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour at 350F, in the center of the oven.  Insert a toothpick to test for doneness.  Bake an additional 5-10 minutes if toothpick does not come out clean.

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The creamed butter, sugar and eggs ready for the addition of the flour-almond mixture and lemony yogurt.

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The blueberries being folded into the batter.

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The cake ready for baking.

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The golden beauty, oozing with blueberries.

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Dedicating this post to my sister Michelle and brother Guy, who remember picking those blueberries, somwhat reluctantly,  at my side.

Hot Pepper Jelly~Dijon Crusted Pork Roast with Shallot-Fingerling Potatoes

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Although “sheet pan suppers” are all the rage, I think many families have been preparing them for ages for their hungry families.  Throwing a roast dinner with vegetables into the oven is one of the most common meals  in my household.  This recent one was especially tasty and was cooking itself while I was doing an airport run.

Working in a shallow roasting pan,  I cut multiple slits in 4.5 pound pork butt roast and studded it with slices of garlic from 2 cloves.   I mixed 1/4 cup of Hot Pepper Jelly with 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and slattered this over the roast.  I surrounded the roast with fingerling potatoes tossed with 2 sliced shallots and 2 tablespoons of dried roasemary, a few glugs of olive oil and a few grinds of sea salt.  This went into a 400F degree oven on the lowest rack,  for 15 minutes.  Reduced heat to 350F for an additional 2 hours of roasting.  I tossed the potatoes around once. Delicious, hands free cooking for a family dinner with great caramelized crispy bits scraped off from the bottom of the pan. Yum!

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Roasted Sweet Potato Rice Salad with Cherries and Toasted Hazelnuts

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” Summer afternoon, summer afternoon, to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”  Henry James

This scrumptious grain salad is bursting with the taste of summer:  sweet cherries, scallions, roasted corn and tons of herbs plucked straight from the garden.  It has complex layers of flavor and texture, can be made in advance and will hold up well on summer buffet tables.  Gorgeous colors make it tantalizing to the eyes as well.   It is versatile in that the kind of grains, nuts or herbs used can be swapped for what you have on hand.  It makes a heaping bowl, perfect for summer entertaining.imageimage

Roasted Sweet Potato Rice Salad with Cherries and Toasted Hazelnuts

4 c of cooked whole grains(I used a wild and brown rice mixture but farro, couscous, quinoa, orzo would all be good)

3 sweet potatoes, diced roughly

1 large sweet onion, chopped roughly

4 T olive oil, divided

zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small limes

4 scallions, sliced on the diagonal

1 and 1/2 c roasted corn kernels( I used  frozen, thawed)

1 and 1/2 c of pitted fresh sweet cherries(about 30)

pinch of saffron

3 T each of fresh herbs:  chopped mint, chopped parsley, chopped tarragon

1 and 1/2 t ground cumin

1 t ground cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  On a lined shallow pan, on the lowest level, toss the sweet potato and onion in 2 T of oil.  Spread on the pan and roast for 35 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent burning.

In a large serving bowl, toss your grain with the saffron, corn, 2 T of oil and the juice and zest of the lime.  Add the sweet potatoes, onion, scallions, herbs, cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper and toss.   Top with the cherries and hazelnuts.image

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Sweet potatoes and onions ready to be roasted

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This is where the magic happens: lime, scallions, fresh cherries, saffron, tarragon, mint , parsley and toasted hazelnuts will make this salad rock.

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All the ingredients except the cherries and nuts, tossed together.

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The finished salad. YUM!

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Woman with Cherries, Georges Lemmen, 1905, Antwerpen Roayl Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium

Woman with Cherries, Georges Lemmen, 1905, Antwerpen Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium

Chocolate~Mocha Icebox Layered Cake

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“Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first.”  Ernestine Ulmer

A layered cake is always a crowd pleaser at a party and looks like you went through a great deal of effort to make it.  This dessert comes together in minutes, is chilled overnight and is perfect for easy entertaining.  Because of its coffee flavoring, I served it recently at a summer brunch.  With Kahlua, espresso, chocolate and mascarpone, the filling ressembles tiramisu in texture and taste.  The fun secret ingredient is actually layers of chocolate chip cookies!  This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I adapted.  The original had 5 layers in an 8 inch springform pan but was hard to slice.  I made mine in a 9 inch pan with only 3 layers.  This yielded 12 servings instead of 8 nad with a cake this rich, that was perfect.  Ina recommends Tate’s Bakeshop cookies.  I chose Trader Joe’s gluten free cookies.  Any cookie works but you want to choose crispy, flat ones. When the cookie layers soften, the chocolate chips end up blending with the filling and you get a nice chocolate crunch in every bite of cake.  A nice cool summer special occasion cake that doesn’t heat up the kitchen.

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CHOCOLATE~MOCHA ICEBOX LAYERED CAKE serves 12

2 c whipping cream

12oz tub of mascarpone cheese

1/2 c sugar

1/4 c Kahlua liqueur

2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t instant espresso powder

1 t vanilla

2-7oz packages of Trader Joe’s GF chocolate chip cookies

shaved dark chocolate for garnish

In a large bowl whip together all ingredients except the cookies and dark chocolate.  This will be thick and creamy.  In an 9 inch springform pan, place a layer of cookies.  Fill in any gaps with broken cookies.  Top with one third of the cream mixture.  Repeat twice.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In order for the cookies to soften,  make 24 hours before serving.  Let rest at room temperature about 10 minutes and run a knife around the edges before removing the sides of the pan.  Shave some chocolate on top before serving.

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cream, mascarpone, cocoa, sugar, vanilla, espresso and Kahlua get whipped together.

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The filling will be thick and creamy.

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Bottom layer of cookies.

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One third of cream filling being spread over the bottom layer of cookies.

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Second layer of cookies.

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Final layer of cream. Cake ready to chill.

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These GF cookies from Trader Joe’s are so good! An airplane size of Kahlua is the perfect amount for this recipe!

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” Life’s too short to skip dessert!”  Michelle@ Giraffes Can Bake

Serving a big slice of this cake to the talented bloggers at Fiesta Friday!  Check out the tantalizing recipes from all over the world, week after week!

Crockpot Mexican Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce With Lime Crèma Drizzle

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True confession:  Meatballs are something I more often buy prepared than make and hardly ever at that.  I mostly dislike the time consuming and mess making process.  cooking them in batches in oil, often ending up with burned bits, falling apart meatballs and a splattered cooktop just does not appeal to me. When I discovered this recipe on the fabulous Hostess At Heart blog, I really wanted to try it.  I have college aged sons who devour meatballs and I have been depriving them!  To skip the browning step, I tried roasting the meatballs in a 400 F oven on a rack over a drip pan, so they could  brown evenly.   Why didn’t I think of this years ago?  Perfection! The meatballs were moist, nicely flavored with Mexican spices and none fell apart while cooking in the sauce. This method worked!  The spicy sauce is just thick enough to nicely coat the meatballs.  Enthusiastic requests begging me to make this dish again had this reluctant meatball cook simmering a second batch as fast as I could  type this blog post.  Who knew there was a meatball queen inside me after all!

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Crockpot Mexican Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce with Lime Crema( Makes 4 1/2 dozen)

2 lbs of ground meat( beef and pork)

1 c plain bread crumbs

1/4 c milk( any type will do)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 t chili powder

1 t garlic powder

1 t Kosher salt, divided

1 t ground cumin, divided

1 28oz can of fire roasted tomatoes, diced or crushed

1/2 c low sodium, fat free chicken broth

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 t dried Mexican oregano

3 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, chopped finely

cilantro leaves to garnish

Lime crema:  1/4 c of sour cream or crème fraiche whisked with the juice of 1/2 a lime.

Preheat oven to 400F

In a large bowl,, combine meat, bread crumbs, milk, eggs, chili powder, garlic powder, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t cumin.  Roll into  tablespoon-sized balls.  Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Rest a cooling rack on top of the cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray.  Line your meatballs on the rack nd bake for 10-12 minutes to brown. Of course if you prefer, you can brown the meatballs in oil in a skillet, in batches.

In the bowl of your crockpot, combine the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, oregano, garlic, broth and remaining salt and cumin.  Add the meatballs and coat with the sauce.  Cook on high for 3 hours.

Garnish with the cilantro leaves and serve with crusty rolls or on a tortilla.  If using the lime crèma, drizzle over the meatballs first then top with the cilantro.  The contrast of cool and spicy was really lovely with the addition of the crema.

Adapted from Hostess at Heart.

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The meatballs did not stick to the rack and any excess fat could drip down onto the pan beneath.

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Meatballs into the crockpot with the sauce ingredients.

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Serving suggestion:  meatballs in a crusty roll with a drizzle of lime crèma.

Serving suggestion: meatballs in a crusty roll with a drizzle of lime crèma.

image Adjust the amount of chipotle peppers to increase or reduce the heat!  These were so good I am bringing them back to party at Fiesta Friday!  Thanks again for a fabulous recipe,  Julie!