Grilling from my garden!

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We have spent a year in our house. A fall, a winter, a spring, and summer. A year can go by fast when you’re not counting the length of something. Some of my favorite things about living in this house have been the surprises that pop up in our yard. We moved into a blue house with a yellowed yard, the grass dry and prickly from the rain-free summer days of perfect blue skies and nice breezes. When the rainy season came we were happy to see the grass nourished again and refreshed to an emerald green (while the weeds grew taller!) In the springtime the tulips that we didn’t plant popped up, (thanks previous owners!) the camellia tree bloomed white flowers that quickly browned, and the rhododendrons grew big and bright in front of our window.

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I started my first home garden this summer, though as is typical of me, I had high hopes for all the things I would grow, but I never really planned how to make them happen. Eventually I planted some lettuce, which grew, but had a short season, and some herbs, strawberries, sunflowers, and squash. When the weather finally warmed enough I was rewarded with beautiful tall sunflowers, tiny, ruby strawberries, and zucchini whose leaves grew and spread wide just as I hadn’t really expected. I’ve since lost count of how many squash we’ve harvested from that giant plant, but I am thrilled every time I see a new one forming among the squash blossoms. I literally exclaimed with delight and surprise when I discovered the yellow patty pan squash growing on the other side of the plant. (The package I bought said squash medley, but somehow I only expected one type to grow!)

What I love about squash is their ability to be transformed into a number of different delicious dishes. I love zucchini bread, roasted zucchini, zucchini and cheese casserole, and many other recipes. However, though I tend to complicate things when it comes to food, zucchini are probably at their best when simply grilled. Toss them with a little oil, a sprinkle of salt, a few grinds of fresh black pepper and throw them on a hot grill alongside your chicken or burgers or whatever. Grilling them makes them soft, sweet, and smoky, the perfect way to eat more vegetables this time of year.

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I also forgot to mention another garden surprise from our new house: tomatillos! I never planted tomatillos and yet they sprouted seemingly out of nowhere in my garden bed (apparently they’re perennials). If they ever get ripe enough, I hope to share a recipe using them on the blog soon!

Summer is certainly winding down and it makes me sad to think of the return of the rain and cloudy, cool days, but I also look forward to our grass turning green again and the milder temperatures of fall. Happy end of summer!

Grilled Summer Squash

yellow squash or zucchini, any amount, any variety*

oil, salt, pepper

fresh herbs (optional)

Preheat your grill to medium heat (about 400 degrees)

Wash your squash to remove any dirt and trim the stem ends. Slice into rounds, about 1/2 an inch thick or close to that. Most importantly make sure they are close in thickness for even grilling. Toss or brush with your choice of high heat oil on both sides (olive oil or canola oil for example). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When grill has heated up completely, lay squash out on clean, oiled grates using tongs or your fingers (carefully). Cook for a few minutes on one side and then flip and cook a few minutes more. How long you cook them will depend on the thickness, but you want them to be soft and have good grill marks. Remove and serve with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and grilled chicken.

*In general the smaller the squash, the better the flavor. These round squash are perfect for grilling because you can cut them into rounds so they don’t fall through the grill grates. If you buy regular long zucchini, cut them into long strips from end to end. It is much easier to flip bigger pieces.

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Quick Whole Grain Pizza – Happ Happ Hurrah!

In my house we never order pizza. It’s not because we don’t like pizza or because we think it’s unhealthy. It’s because we are spoiled… Let me explain.

Upon finishing grad school a few years back, my husband declared he was going to start making bread from scratch. Slightly skeptical but totally supportive, I bought him the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, figuring with his culinary background (or lack thereof) and schedule this would be a perfect book. Soon after he impressed me by actually reading the introduction to the book and telling me there were a few other tools we needed. We invested in a pizza stone and pizza peel and have since put them to excellent use making homemade bread and homemade pizza. And as he had promised, there was actually a period of time where he made homemade bread!

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Though it has been a while since he’s done any bread baking, we now have a pizza stone that we use occasionally for bread and pizzas. So why are we spoiled? Have you ever baked homemade pizza on a pizza stone? I highly recommend it – you get a crisp, chewy crust with a nice rise from the preheated stone. When you have a pizza stone that makes delicious pizza at home, it’s hard to spend money ordering pizza or going out. You can easily save yourself money and customize your pizza when it is homemade, so why would you order in?IMG_1615 Nonetheless, pizza making takes time. For our recipe you have to make the dough, let it rise for 2 hours, refrigerate it, preheat the stone, roll your dough, top it and bake it. Most nights when you come home from work you want dinner ready as quickly as possible. This healthy pizza can be your fast solution and it’s just as quick as ordering delivery. The ingredients are basic and the toppings are customizable. You may even have everything in your fridge already.

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Forgive the weird prints on the parchment paper. I reused the paper after roasting my sweet potato slices!

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Spelling or translation error: recipies? Recipes for pies?

This recipe comes from a wonderful book my sister-in-law gave me called Happ Happ Hurrah. This colorful book of healthful, fresh recipes comes from the Happ restaurants located in Luxembourg and Iceland. Someday we will go to the restaurant when we visit them in Luxembourg (where they live now!) The dough comes together in 5 minutes – no rising, no waiting – and bakes in 10. After that you top your flatbread-like crust with whatever you like and throw it back in the oven to melt the cheese. IMG_1609IMG_1611Happ has recommendations for four different types of pizza, but you can top it however you like. I did a combination of two of them using roasted sweet potato slices, fresh mozzarella, basil, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes. We also added grated Parmesan for a little extra saltiness. They baked up beautifully and we both enjoyed them (I didn’t know what to expect from Sam, but he gave them a sincere thumbs up). We made them small so that we could personalize our pizzas.

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Quick Whole Grain Pizza Crust

adapted from Happ Happ Hurrah!

makes 6 personal pizzas

2 cups + 2 T. whole wheat flour

1+1/4 cup mix of the following: rolled oats, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds (see note)

2 T. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. salt

2 T. cream of tartar (optional – see note #2)

1 cup warm water

1/2 cup olive oil

toppings of your choice

Mix all dry ingredients. Add water and oil and stir carefully. Add more whole wheat flour if the batter is too sticky. Gently knead the dough and divide into six equal parts. Gently stretch or roll each part of the dough into a small circle. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees F. It should be lightly browned on the bottom when you lift it off the sheet. Turn the oven temperature up to 450 degrees F. Top your pizza as desired and return to the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until toppings warm and cheese melts to desired browness. Cool slightly and enjoy!

Note: The original recipe calls for 3 dl. of oats, sesame seeds, muesli, and sunflower seeds. I did about 2/3 of that in oats and filled the remainder of the cup with a tablespoon of sesame seeds and the rest in roasted, salted sunflower seeds. Feel free to try purchased muesli, use only oats, or try your own ratios of seeds and oats.

Note #2: When I have made bread or pizza it always contains a leavener such as yeast or baking powder or soda. I looked up the properties of cream of tartar, assuming that must give this pizza some rise. Though I learned that cream of tartar is a natural by-product of wine-making, it is still unclear to me its role in this recipe. It is an acidic ingredient often used to make baking powder though it is more commonly used by itself to stabilize egg whites in angel food cakes or other baked goods. This particular recipe didn’t seem to get any benefit from it in terms of rising, though I did not test the recipe without it. Proceed at your own risk!

IMG_1617Bon appetit!

Post 107 – The Cookbook Challenge

I have a lot of cookbooks. Not as many as some people I’m sure, but I still have a plethora. I have old ones, I have new ones. I have thin and thick, tall and small. I used to collect them simply because family and friends knew that buying me a cookbook was an easy Christmas or birthday gift. Eventually I realized this could get out of control and I said, no more cookbooks! Sometimes I still pine for more when flipping through the glossy pages of a new one at Brookline Booksmith – my favorite bookstore.

IMG_1306So what to do with all these cookbooks? After talking with someone this past week who herself was trying to make better use of her collection, I decided that I need to cook from my cookbooks way more often. These days, I tend to go to the internet when I want a new recipe (or when I want to share a recipe – hello blog!) and my poor cookbooks are just taking up space on my bookshelf.

Oatmeal raisin pancakes for breakfast!

Oatmeal raisin pancakes for breakfast with cinnamon sour cream!

So I decided to do a cookbook challenge. I will make at least one recipe out of every cookbook that I own for the next several weeks (months? years?) until I get through every last one. I am still allowed to use the internet for a few recipes here and there, but the majority of my recipes will be from cookbooks that I own. This way I can still expand my recipe repertoire (as many of them have never been used!) and give my collection of cookbooks a little love.

I started my challenge yesterday, making oatmeal raisin pancakes with cinnamon sour cream for breakfast (pictured above). This recipe comes courtesy of Dorie Greenspan from a small book of pancakes I picked up at a used bookstore in Maine while visiting my aunt and uncle’s summer cabin. I altered the recipe slightly and the pancakes and sour cream topping turned out delicious!

Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes with Cinnamon Sour Cream

adapted from Pancakes: Morning to Midnight by Dorie Greenspan

serves 2-3 people generously

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

2 T. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

2 T. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 cup raisins

For the sour cream: Mix 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 2 tsp. brown sugar and set aside.

For the pancakes: mix all of the dry ingredients (flour through baking soda) in one bowl. Mix all of the wet ingredients (butter through egg) in another. Add the wet to the dry and stir just enough so that all of the dry is moistened. Fold in raisins. Allow the batter to sit and absorb the liquid for 10 minutes. Preheat a pan or griddle to medium-low as you would for pancakes. When the pan is hot, add the batter in 1/4 cup ladles and cook for a few minutes until bubbles form. Flip and cook another minute more. Remove to a plate and serve with cinnamon sour cream. Repeat with remaining batter.

Now don’t think I stopped at one recipe for the day. After all, the day had only begun. For dinner I made Salmon in Phyllo (Filo) from the Better Homes and Gardens 75th anniversary cookbook. I had originally planned to make a steak and ale pie using the phyllo in honor of Pi day, but I ended up changing my mind. To use up the already thawed phyllo, I decided a sort of Salmon en croute would be delicious.

IMG_1297These pretty fillets were topped with rosemary, salt, pepper, and don’t forget BUTTER – whoa nelly! Wrapped up in pretty little packages, I tucked them in the oven to brown.

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Atop a colorful pot holder

The salmon and phyllo were flaky and wonderful, flavored nicely with the dried rosemary. Perhaps because of all the butter, the fish was very filling. I served it with roasted potatoes and as always a green salad.

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Salmon in Phyllo

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens 75th anniversary cookbook

2/3-3/4 lb. salmon fillets

4-6 sheets of phyllo dough

rosemary, salt, pepper

3-4 T. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and lightly butter a medium sized oven-safe dish.

Cut your salmon into two equal size pieces if it isn’t already. Pat dry with paper towels and season with salt, pepper, and fresh or dried rosemary.

On a clean surface, lay out your phyllo dough, one layer at a time, brushing each with butter before adding the next layer. When all layers are done, add your salmon pieces on top, spacing them evenly apart. Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo dough to separate into two pieces for each piece of salmon. Fold two opposite sides over the fish, brushing with more butter as needed and roll or tuck up the ends to make a package. Place in your oven-safe dish and bake for 18-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish. If it is an inch thick, 18 minutes is perfect. It is hard to check the doneness of the salmon though since it is wrapped in the pastry. You can cut into it if you are worried about the fish being done. Serve with mustard or a mustard cream sauce (as recommended in the book).

Since we don’t usually like to eat leftover fish, I made one more dish (from yet another cookbook!) for Sam to take for lunch today – Peppered Chicken Stir Fry. This came from a giant cookbook filled with an assortment of recipes from all different cuisines. Chicken is mixed with ketchup and soy sauce and then dredged in crushed peppercorns. It’s pretty peppery, which I knew Sam would love. Serve it with rice for a tasty and well-balanced meal.

IMG_1294(1)I have cooked from three of my cookbooks (out of how many?)

The cookbook challenge has begun!

Peppered Chicken Stir Fry

from 1000 Classic Recipes

1 lb. chicken breast

2 T. ketchup

2 T. soy sauce

2 T. crushed mixed peppercorns (I beat mine contained in a ziploc bag with a meat mallet)

2 bell peppers, your choice of color, sliced

2 handfuls of sugar snap peas

2 T. oyster sauce

Brown rice to serve

Heat up a large skillet or wok over medium heat with a tablespoon of oil.

Thinly slice your chicken breast and mix it with the ketchup and soy sauce. Toss in the crushed peppercorns and mix it all together. When the oil is starting to shimmer, add your chicken breast slices and stir fry for a few minutes until no longer pink on the outside. Add your sliced peppers and snap peas and stir. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the oyster sauce and allow it to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with brown rice.

Post 76 – Bacon-wrapped Ricotta Chicken

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Remember the bacon exception? It’s the theory that even if you don’t eat meat or fat or animals or what have you, most of you will make an exception for bacon. Alright, alright there are some of you who are actually virtuous enough to adhere to your bacon-less diets, but for the rest of you, here is another delicious way to make bacon a part of your menu rotation.

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Bacon-wrapped Ricotta-stuffed Chicken

Could it get any better?

You get a creamy, flavorful filling and a crispy, salty outside layer that keeps the chicken moist and flavorful. The bacon also holds everything together so the chicken doesn’t pop open. The recipe I followed recommended securing the chicken rolls with toothpicks, but I found this unnecessary and annoying.

photo 3(20)Just look at these beauties!

If you are skilled enough to tuck in your chicken on all sides like a burrito, you will keep your cheese filling tucked in. If not, just don’t waste the yummy stuff that oozes out onto to your pan.

Mmmm.

 

Bacon-wrapped Ricotta Chicken

adapted from allrecipes.com

2.5 lb. chicken breasts, thin sliced cutlets if possible

1 lb. bacon

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 T. chopped fresh basil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

 

Prepare a sheet pan lined with foil. Preheat oven to 350.

If you bought chicken breasts and not cutlets, lay your chicken breasts out on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and pound with a meat mallet until thin and even. In a medium bowl mix your ricotta, basil, garlic, and Parmesan. Add salt and pepper as desired (remember that the Parmesan adds a lot of salt and the bacon will as well). Lay out your chicken breasts and divide the ricotta mixture between them, making sure not to fill them too full. Carefully roll up the chicken breasts from the short side, doing your best to contain the cheese. If desired, sprinkle the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Wrap with a strip or two of bacon and place seam side down on your prepared pan. Repeat with the remainder of your chicken. I ended up with 8 rolls of chicken and I used all the bacon, cutting some pieces in half to wrap around parts of the chicken.

Bake at 350 for about 45 min, depending on thickness of the chicken, until the chicken is cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes and then serve.

Note: The bacon doesn’t get super crispy at this temperature, so you could try turning up the temp and baking for less time OR broiling the chicken for a short bit once it is almost done.

We enjoyed ours with homemade pesto and pasta!

photo 1(25)Bon appetit!