Tag Archives: recipe

Easy Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini pancakes are one of the few reliable tantrum-free ways to get green food into my toddler. This afternoon felt like a good time to cook up a batch, so I got my equipment ready and then shared my plans with Twitter. As one does.

Screenshot from 2016-04-15 13:02:43And then someone on Twitter asked me for the recipe.

Uh-oh. Think fast.

I rarely follow recipes when I cook. I assemble meals out of some fresh stuff and some packaged stuff, call it a win, and then never manage to make that meal quite the same way ever again. The zucchini pancakes are no different. I “invented” my “recipe” almost a year ago when I had some pureed zucchini the kid refused to eat, and I turned to the millions of DIY baby food blogs hoping to find a way to use it up. I found lots of pancake suggestions, but they were all from scratch, because that’s how you prove your love as a mother, I guess? They wanted me to get out flour. Baking powder. Eggs. Blah. I have a box of pancake mix right here, how hard could this be to figure out? Let’s wing it.

Lazy Zucchini Pancakes

You need:

  • Zucchinis
  • Pancake mix
  • Water
  • Big microwave-safe bowl with lid (or plastic wrap to cover it)
  • Stick blender or regular blender

Wash and dice the zucchinis, skin and all. No, I didn’t tell you how many zucchinis to use. How many do you have? Use that many. We’re winging it, remember? Dump the diced bits into a microwave-safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover it tightly, and microwave until the zucchini is super squishy. 3-4 minutes usually does it for two zucchinis diced small.

Drain the water out carefully into a bowl or cup and save it in case you need to add it back in. Or dump it down the sink and just use regular non-zucchini water to thin stuff out later. No biggie, really.

Puree the zucchini. I use a stick blender, because it’s fast and much easier to clean than a regular blender, but either one will work. You can leave it chunkier or you can puree it completely smooth. I don’t mind chunks, but kiddo spits them out when he finds them, so I pretty much liquefy the stuff.

pureeing microwaved zucchini

Pour in some pancake mix. Maybe about half as much in volume as the amount of puree you have? Start with less; you can always add more. Mix it all in with a spoon. Or a fork: I’m not here to judge. Then just keep adjusting it by adding more pancake mix or more water until you get a consistency that looks like a thick (greenish) pancake batter. You’ve made regular pancakes using the directions on the box before, right? You know what pancake batter should look like? If not, maybe go do that first, then come back. I’ll wait.

making zucchini pancakes

Once the batter looks right, you’re ready to make pancakes.

Cooking zucchini pancakes

It’s hard to really screw this up – the worst that’ll happen is you’ll have too much zucchini in there and you’ll end up with really dense cakes that stay kind of squishy and taste more like zucchini fritters. If you’ve got more mix than zucchini in there, you’ll get nice fluffy pancakes, but you’ll have less zucchini per pancake that way. Be flexible and be prepared to play around with this one, because it’s such a variable process. How big are the zucchinis? How well did you drain them? What brand of mix are you using?

These pancakes freeze very well. Just lay them flat on a baking sheet or cutting board or something, and put them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, pop them off and put them into a freezer bag. They last at least a month and can be thawed overnight in the fridge and microwaved back to warmth in the morning. They can also be microwaved from frozen, but you’ll need to flip them over a lot to avoid the frozen-middle-and-lava-edges problem.

easy zucchini pancakes

Go make some of these pancakes and show me! I want to see you winging it!

 

Stuffing Chicken Pot Pies

By special request, I’m putting my stuffing chicken pot pie not-quite-recipe recipe out into the world to grow and flourish.

I’ve posted a chicken pot pie recipe before, but it was years ago and I’ve learned a lot since then. I never use a recipe now, and when I look back at my old one, all the amounts seem off. So here’s a fresh start and maybe a good dinner.

chicken pot pie stuffing

Chicken pot pies!

 

Ingredients

  • Butter
  • Flour
  • ½ a medium onion, diced small
  • One box (32oz) chicken broth
  • Poultry seasoning (or thyme & sage if that’s all you’ve got)
  • Frozen mixed veggies (peas/carrots/green beans)
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced small
  • Diced rotisserie chicken
  • Dry stuffing mix

How-To

Get a medium pot (one that holds 6 cups or so) and melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter to saute the diced onion until it’s soft. Sprinkle in some flour and whisk it into the butter to make a roux, and don’t worry if you add too much and get lumps – this dish can survive lumps. Add in the chicken broth a little at a time, whisking lumps to death as you go. Once you’ve got a nice smooth slurry, pour in the rest of the broth and add in a generous sprinkle of the poultry seasoning – it should smell like thanksgiving stuffing when you sniff your pot. Stir in as many frozen veggies you feel appropriate, lower the heat to simmer, and stir the pot every couple of minutes. After ten minutes, test them for doneness – when they seem right, add the chicken to the pot. Taste and add extra seasoning if it needs more. At this point you can just call this a stew or thick soup and go to town with a giant spoon, and nobody would judge you.

But you want pot pies! That’s why you’re here!

In that case, ladle the stew/soup mix into oven-safe dishes that’ll hold however much you want to eat. I use 16oz Corningware dishes, because I’m hungry. It’d probably work pretty well as a casserole, too, but I’ve never tried it that way. Whatever you choose, leave some space at the top. The stuffing needs to fit!

Get some stuffing ready. I use the kind that’s little crouton cubes in a bag, and I don’t bother with the directions. I just put about a cup of cubes in a bowl, and pour enough hot water over them to soften them up a bit. Scoop the stuffing on top of the dishes and press it in place gently. Put the dishes onto a baking sheet and pop them into the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 350, until they’re bubbling and the top of the stuffing has crisped up a little.

 

(Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, and you can read more about that here. I only link to stuff I love and recommend.)




Recipe Bookmarks – Tomatoes done right

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Ah, that’s more like it.

If cooked tomatoes are going to get all soft and squishy, then let’s put them in a pasta dish where that won’t matter! You expect tomatoes to be soft and warm and squishy in a pasta sauce.

Normally, when I have too many cherry or grape tomatoes and can’t get them all into salads before they go soft, I use them in my Fish & Tomatoes dinner. But it’s nice to have other options, and this Spaghetti with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes seemed like an easy place to start.

It’s incredibly simple: just tomatoes, oil, and garlic to make the “sauce”, then some fresh mozzarella and basil added after the pasta’s tossed in. Because the sauce is so basic, the quality of the ingredients makes a difference. I used fresh basil leaves from my garden and found some of the good squishy fresh mozzarella at the cheese counter at Wegmans. I didn’t use “heirloom” tomatoes, as the goal was to use up my grape tomatoes that had already started to go soft, but I don’t think that took away from the flavor. Where I compromised was to use a store brand box of fettuccine. Oh, it was still a tasty dinner. But I think if I’d splurged on some fancier pasta, or gone all-out and made my own fresh pasta, it would have taken it to a whole other delicious level.

Yay, an excuse to try making fresh pasta again! I’ll just need a free weekend, because that’s a big project!

Recipe Bookmarks – Tomatoes done wrong

When it’s summer and tomato season, I always feel like buying up all the big (or little!) red tomatoes I see at the farmers markets. I can only use up so many in salads, though, so I’m always looking for other tomato recipes I can try.

Look at these baked parmesan tomatoes, from Eating Well. Don’t they look pretty? All cheesy and tomatoey and delicious? One of the reviews said the baked tomatoes tasted like pizza, and who doesn’t love pizza?

Official Eating Well photo for this recipe

The only detour I made from the recipe was to slice my big tomatoes into four thick slices, so they’d look more like that photo. The recipe says to halve them, but my tomatoes were pretty big, so I felt safe making the change.

The results made me sad. They were bland, and the flavors all stayed independent instead of working together to contribute to a yummy whole. Normally, I would be willing to try the recipe again with a few tweaks to the spices, but this dish didn’t have any other redeeming qualities. The tomato part was delicious, because I started with delicious tomatoes, but it was incredibly soggy. The slices were falling apart as I moved them to our dinner plates.

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My sad, soggy slices.

The other thing is, Parmesan isn’t a good melting cheese. The grated cheese I put on the tomato slices stayed in clumps, barely melted, and didn’t brown at all. Why am I putting this cheese in the oven if it’s not going to get melty and brown? That’s the entire point of oven cheese! Looking back at the official Eating Well photo for this recipe, I suspect they cheated and threw on some mozzarella or a shredded “Italian cheese” blend. No way is that straight Parmesan.

Maybe this recipe would work with less-juicy tomatoes. Or with different cheeses. Or with more oregano, or maybe some basil. But there are so many other things to make, and so little time.

Moving on. Pin deleted.

Recipe Bookmarks – Egg Muffins

Ah, breakfast. French toast, bacon, omelets and crepes… I know how to make all these things, but I rarely exert that much energy towards getting myself fed in the morning. There’s more free time on the weekends, but most weekend mornings we wake up late enough to start the day with lunch.

I like fancy breakfasts, though. I know this because dozens of my bookmarked recipes are for baked eggs, breakfast casseroles, or stuffed French toast. Breakfast everywhere! Maybe I need to become a lady who brunches.

I started, last week, with egg muffins pinned from the Snacking in the Kitchen blog.

I treated it like a quiche recipe, in that the eggs are the base and everything else can be more or less freely substituted depending on what supplies are in the fridge. I used crisp bacon, sauteed diced onion, mushrooms, parsley, and cheddar.

This is what they looked like when I pulled them out of the oven: adorable.

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They pulled away from the edges of the muffin pan as they baked, and I had followed the instructions to spray the pan lightly with oil (I used canola oil cooking spray), so I thought I would get lovely, round, muffiny things to plate up.

No.

Baking pans are the bane of my existence. No matter how much I spray things, I always lose chunks of baked goods that remain stuck to my pans. Bundt pans, loaf pans, muffin pans, they’re all the same and they’re all against me. Even when I use a wide tube pan and go at it with pats of butter, using my fingers to get every last edge, I lose cake. I flip the cooled cake over and then have to peel off a residual chunk with a fork before I try to hide the carnage with carefully-applied frosting. When I use anything other than simple round cake pans, I end up with a messy cake and hands that smell like butter all day.

The egg muffins were delicious, though. Fluffier than a quiche, possibly because of the baking powder, but still eggy and cheesy and versatile. And if you dress up the plate a little and turn them so the missing parts don’t show, they sure look fancy!

IMG_0592

Hasselback Potatoes

I dove into my recipe bookmarks this week, because I promised myself and the Internet that I would.

I needed a side to go with chicken, and I found a picture of “Hasselback potatoes” on my Pinterest board, pinned from a fun cooking blog called Panning the Globe. They were potatoes (always good), they looked fancy, and I had all the ingredients! Well, except for the lemon, but I had lemon juice, and I could skip the zest. Also, I had the wrong kind of potatoes – Yukon Gold instead of the Russets the recipe asked for – but they were the right shape for the job. One of these days, I will make a recipe exactly as it’s written. Probably. You would think that I’d have learned my lesson by now, but no.

You see, the recipe called for parsley. Fresh parsley, chopped up into the oil and lemon and garlic, to look pretty and, I assumed, be spectacularly delicious. I do not have any explanation for why I decided it was critical that I head to Wegmans to acquire fresh parsley for this recipe, while neglecting to purchase the other elements that I was missing to make the recipe like I was supposed to. Maybe I should have bought that stuff, because the potatoes didn’t really turn out as I’d hoped.

The preparation was easy enough. Most websites that tell you how to do the accordion-slicing will suggest that you put a wooden spoon on either side of the potato to keep it steady and to prevent you from being able to cut all the way through. I tried that, but found it too wobbly for my liking. Instead, I wedged the peeled potatoes between two cutting boards to slice them, which worked really well and felt very safe. I whisked the components of the basting juice together in a measuring cup and brushed it onto the potatoes every ten minutes while they were cooking.

Oh, they were pretty!

But they were very bland, tasting more like olive oil than anything else, and they stayed a lot firmer than I would have liked.

I can’t blame the recipe, though, because, like a fool, I used my Yukon Golds instead of spending a little and buying a couple of Russets to work with. I know better. I’ve seen the episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown teaches us about waxy potatoes and starchy potatoes and which kinds are best suited to which types of cooking. Yukon golds are on the waxy side of the potato spectrum, which is (I assume) why they didn’t absorb very much flavor from the lemon and garlic oil.

So I will have to try this again, using potatoes of appropriate starchiness, and see if it makes any difference. It’s possible that some of the other Hasselback potato recipes out there, the ones involving cheese, would have worked better here, since Yukon Golds are supposed to work well in a gratin situation.

Oh well. Even if this recipe wasn’t a big winner, at least I can say I’ve mastered the art of cutting a potato-accordion. I’m sure that counts for something.

Bookmarked For Later

I have a little bit of a bookmark problem.

I just went through my Firefox bookmarks trying to find an article I wanted to share with a friend, and noticed my “Recipes” bookmark folder, sitting there looking all small and closed and innocent.

“Oh, hi, Recipes folder,” I said, “how’ve you been? Let me click you and see how big you’ve grown.”

 

I have seventy recipes in there. At least a dozen of them are actually bookmarks for pages with titles like “Fifteen things to try with fresh lemons,” or message board threads titled “Share your favorite soup recipes.” Out of the list, I’ve tried exactly three recipes. That’s pretty terrible.

Even terribler? I haven’t been adding as many recipes to my browser bookmarks lately, because of a delightfully time-sucking website called Pinterest. I can save recipes from anywhere and get to them all on this one website! Even better, I can save pretty pictures of food that catch my eye, without even knowing what’s in the recipe! The result of this witchcraft is that I have 74 pins on my “Food” board, only a few of which I’ve tried.

 

Add that up, folks. That’s a minimum of 144 recipes.

I need to get off my butt and start trying some of these. I saved them because I wanted to try them, right?

I’m making a commitment to myself here and saying I’m going to try at least one new recipe each week from my bookmarks, so I can weed out the ones that don’t work and print out and save the ones that do.

I can’t promise I’ll come back and report on every single one (unless there’s an overwhelming demand), but you’ll certainly be hearing about the successes and the glorious disasters, because those are always fun to write (and read!) about.

 

Cake With Raspberry Filling and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

At first, I told my mother-in-law that I’d bring cookies for Easter dessert. I’ve got springtime cookie cutters and a pile of pastel-frosted flowers and bunnies and eggs would look nice and Eastery on the table. But while cookies were easy to make, cookies were not what I wanted to eat. I just couldn’t shake my craving for a lemon and raspberry dessert. I went rogue.
I’m not really a food blogger, so don’t critique my lousy photos.

The Cake

I made a white cake from a box to save myself a little time and trouble. I made 2 8-inch rounds so I’d get a nice 2-layer cake. I was not adventurous enough to go for 4 this time.

The Raspberry Filling

4-6oz fresh raspberries or frozen (thawed) raspberries
1/4c to 1/2c raspberry jam
Mash up the raspberries and jam until you get a nice lumpy raspberry goo. Spread it on top of one of the cake halves, leaving empty space at the edges for the inevitable oozing when you put the cakes together.

The Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting 

8-ounce package cream cheese
1  cup  confectioners’ sugar
zest of 1 lemon, grated
Splash of lemon juice
I used this frosting recipe from Real Simple but ended up using less sugar than it calls for. I tasted it after one cup was added and decided I liked the balance of sweetness and tartness. If you like a sweeter frosting, then go ahead and add more powdered sugar. Also, be careful with the lemon juice. If you add too much, the frosting gets runny. Mine did, but it went on thick enough to coat the cake and firmed up just fine in the fridge.


The cake was a big success at Easter and it’s already been decided that I have to make it again, preferably soon. I’m okay with that.

What’s for Dinner – Garlic Mushrooms

I had more mushrooms than I could reasonably put into a salad, and I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making stuffed mushroom caps, as yummy as those can be. Instead, I made a mushroom side dish that tastes like stuffed mushrooms, but is a whole heck of a lot simpler.
Garlic Mushrooms
Mushrooms (white or “baby Bella”)
Garlic
Butter
Breadcrumbs
Slice up a bunch of mushrooms. For two people, I cut up about half of an 8oz package. I prefer starting with the whole ones, because the already-sliced ones are usually cut too thick.
Mince a clove of garlic. Or two. 
Toss a pat of butter into a frying pan and let it melt and bubble. I used about half a tablespoon for my 4oz of mushrooms, but more mushrooms will require more butter, so adjust accordingly.
When the butter’s hot, toss the mushrooms and garlic into the pan and cook them until the mushrooms start to soften. You want them to retain some texture, so don’t cook them down too far. You’re looking for a “tender and buttery” endpoint.
When they seem right, add another little bit of butter and couple of tablespoons of breadcrumbs. I used unseasoned, but I’m sure the Italian ones would be wonderful too. Mix everything up and cook it for another minute or two, to let the breadcrumbs get buttered and toasted.

I ended up using this stuff to top chicken breasts, and it was wonderful. I think it would be great as a side for almost anything, and may even be taken to the next level of deliciousness by adding some grated parmesan cheese at the end. I did not have any, so I could not try. Please, try it, for me, and report back!

Purple Mashed Potatoes

As I promised, I’m back to share the results of my mashed purple potato experiment.
This batch of purple potatoes was not as purple as the first, so already we’ve got an unexpected variable to contend with. This is terrible science*, but at least I can admit it – the worst terrible science is the kind that tries to pass itself off as the real thing.
I blithely assumed that the potatoes from Wegmans would look like the potatoes from the farmer’s market on the inside, because they looked the same on the outside. Consider this proof that you cannot judge the purple-ity of a potato by its skin. The Wegmans potatoes were pale immediately under their skins, but a medium, radiating purple at their core. Not as dark as the first set, and with more white streaks through the middle, but definitely still purple.
I treated them exactly like I would normal potatoes. I boiled them until they were fork-tender, drained them, and then mashed them by hand with some milk, butter, salt, and pepper. The water I poured off was an unappetizing grey shade, and the end result was a sad greyish lavender color, with a few purple chunks.

Honestly? They reminded me of Montreal’s slushy winter streets, and despite them tasting exactly like regular mashed potatoes, I wasn’t really happy with them. Some of the color washed out during the boiling process, since the water was greyish, but adding milk likely also contributed to diluting the purple. Maybe very purple potatoes would have fared better, but I’m not going to keep trying, since they’re quite a bit more expensive than regular old potatoes. Nope, it’ll be russets or reds for mashing, and if I decide to get fancy with purple potatoes again, I’ll roast them to preserve their beauty and impress friends.
*To make this a little more accurate, I’d have needed white potatoes to boil and mash and compare to the purple ones, because maybe the boiled-potato-water is grey for white potatoes too and I’ve just never noticed before because it goes straight down the sink. I only saved the boiled-purple-potato-water because I was expecting it to have color. An experiment with no control, conveniently confirming my hypothesis? I hang my head in shame. Maybe they’ll let me use the spectrophotometer at work to see just how much color difference there is in the runoff from boiled white vs purple potatoes…