Too Much Zucchini??????

Are you overloaded with zucchini from your garden and wondering what it is you are supposed to do with it all? Keep an eye out, I will be posting some yummy zucchini recipes!


Good Receipes Gone Bad (alternative Title: Cooking Disasters)

Today I'm going to post something a little different. Most of the recipes on this blog are posted after we have tested them and actually come up with a recipe that works. Admittedly, some of these things work out the first time we try them, others do not. We never show you the dirty side of being a true cook. We never talk about when things...well...just don't work out. I'll be the first to admit that I am much more of a baker than I am a cook. Don't get me wrong, I can pull together a great meal, but I bake and create works of sweetness with much more ease and comfort. I made perfect Chocolate Souffles the first time I tried, on a whim, one night, with nothing but a recipe from a chocolate cookbook I have on hand and some leftover chocolate. I'm always a little uneasy when I am cooking something for the first time, and I will NEVER cook something big for the first time for other people. I always try out my dishes first. For those of you that read my other blog (That Kind of Girl), the dish that I first made when Memphis came over, I tried out the night before. So yes, that means I bought enough for 2 separate versions of the dish, and yes, it means I actually had leftovers from my first attempt (which worked out quite well) in the fridge while I was cooking the second attempt for him. I even do this with new recipes because I've found, that sometimes, every once in a while, even if you follow a recipe to a tee, it just doesn't work out. This is what happened the other night and I thought I would share with you home cooks out there my disaster because I want you to all know, messing up is half the fun. And sometimes, messing up means creating a whole new piece of art in the kitchen. Other times it means throwing away a whole lot of food because things just did not work out. I realize, especially being on a budget, that can be a hard thing to face. And I have, on occasion (like with this attempt) ate it anyways. But never in a million years would have fed it to someone else.

A few days (weeks?) ago, I was at Shannon's house getting my fix of the Food Network (I am cable-tv-less and get my fix of cable tv at her house). Paula Dean in all her magic was on tv and was making this receipe for Squash and Zucchini Cakes and I thought that those looked like an awesome way for me to incorporate 2 vegetable that I could otherwise care less for into my life (you know the rule "fry it, therefore it is good"). Only I thought I could make it with a Chipotle Ranch dip...because Ranch makes everything better. Hey, I never said I was a healthy cook most of the time all of the time. One of the things that they don't tell you in the recipe is to squeeze the shredded squash and zucchini in between paper towels to remove a lot of the moisture before cooking. Paula did however mention this on the show. APPARENTLY I did not squeeze enough of the moisture out because my cakes did not look like hers (go look at the Food Network picture)....nope, mine looked like this:

Ok, so besides the greasiness factor, you can't really get the full affect of my 'cakes'. They looked kind of crispy on the outside, but no, they were a mushy mess that was barely held together by the egg/breadcrumb mixture you add. They did taste quite good, if you could get over the baby-food texture. And then I threw away the other half of the mixture because I couldn't face it. It was 11 pm and I was just eating my 'dinner'. And as a side note, the whole 'Chipotle Ranch dip" idea didn't work out so well either. I am going to attempt to make them again, but have decided to try baking them first to remove some of the moisture, then frying them for the crispiness factor.

However, I did manage to throw this together in about 5 minutes (with 20 minutes of cooking):
Summer Fruit Crisp with Flaxseed and Pecan Crust

So needless to say, THIS is what I really ate for dinner that night. And THIS is what my kitchen looked like at the end of the night:

Hey, I never said anything about being a tidy chef! My motto has always been "A messy kitchen is the sign of a successful meal" (even if it was only half true this night!).


Steak fries and gravy

I was watching TV the other day and saw someone dunking a fry into gravy.  I got a craving and went to work in the kitchen.  I made it for my husband and a friend who came to dinner.  They both sopped up almost all their gravy with their fries and then started dunking in their steak.  I guess when I got up to get the baby his friend, who had run out of things to dip actually finished his gravy by drinking it.  This is a super quick cook.  Nothing fancy, nothing special, just a quick way to satisfy a craving.

4 large russet potatoes halved and quartered
3 cups vegetable oil
4 cups water
4 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp flour

For potatoes
Preheat oven to 400.  Place cut up fries on large cookie sheet.  Lightly coat with oil (reserve remaining oil for frying).  Bake for 15 minutes turning once with a spatula to loosen the potatoes.  Remove potatoes and set aside.  Heat remaining oil in large pan over medium heat (the oil will ripple when it is ready). You can test on potato first, you want the oil to look like it boils softly when you put it in, not bubble and pop out of the pan.  Working in batches of about 10 place fries in oil and turn frequently.  Remove when fries are a golden brown.  Place on paper towels to dry and immediately salt to your taste.

For gravy
Bring water and bouillon to a boil.  Add pepper and boil about 10 minutes.  Pour broth into heat safe container and add butter to pan. Reduce heat to medium. When butter melts whisk in flour. Whisk until golden color.  Turn heat to high and pour broth back in whisking continuously.  Bring gravy to a boil to allow flour to bind and thicken.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and allow gravy to simmer and thicken.  Pour and serve.


Shrimp Fajitas

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Tapatio (or your favorite hot sauce)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion, julienned
2 bell peppers, julienned (two different colors sweetens up the dish and add more color)
flour tortillas

1. In a large Ziploc bag combine the vegetable oil, lemon juice, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, Tapatio, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Squeeze the bag to thoroughly mix the marinade. Add shrimp. Refrigerate and let shrimp marinade for 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp along with the marinade and cook about 2 minutes or until no longer pink.
3. Add bell peppers and onions. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Serve with flour tortillas, sour cream, guacamole or your favorite toppings.


How to: Truss a chicken

With the chicken facing away from you start by putting your cooking twine under the chickens legs.
Then cross the strings forming an X
Pull the X down toward the butt (facing away from you) and pull tight

This will close the legs for you. Bring each piece of twine around the sides of the bird

Make sure you tuck the wings under the twine so they don't pop out during cooking.

Tie the string placing the knot over the neck opening of the bird. This will keep it sealed during cooking.

Tie it up in a pretty bow

And you have a beautifully trussed chicken ready to be roasted!


Vodka Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons vodka
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoons fresh basil

1. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and golden, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until thick, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the vodka and cook until the sauce reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes.
5. Stir in the cream and cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
6. Stir in the basil and remove from the heat.
7. Top your favorite pasta with the sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan/Romano cheese.

Pictured served over gnocchi and breaded veal.


Roasted Herb chicken

1 Whole chicken
1 stick unsalted butter semi softened
2 sprigs rosemary - stemmed
3 sprigs thyme - stemmed
1 large sprig tarragon
7 cloves garlic
1/2 shallot
4 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 lemon juiced
1 White onion chopped to 1" pieces
3-4 yukon gold potatoes chopped into 1" pieces
1.5 cups celery chopped into 1" pieces
2 Cups chicken stock
1 Cup white wine
3 tbsp corn starch
4 tbsp cold water

Preheat oven to 450. In food processor combine, butter, olive oil, 2 sprigs rosemary, thyme, garlic, shallots, crushed red pepper, 1 pinch pepper, 2 pinch salt. Mix until all ingredients are chopped and combined in butter. Wash chicken. Starting near the head of the chicken loosen the skin. Begin placing herb butter under skin making sure to reach all the way to the end and down the sides. Truss chicken coat outside with her butter and place in roasting pan. Scatter potatoes, celery and onions around chicken. Cover with stock, wine, salt, and pepper. Halve lemon and juice over chicken. Place halves in pan and drop in remaining rosemary and tarragon. Place in oven for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and flip bird and roast for another 30 minutes this will crisp the skin on both sides. Flip one final time and roast continue cooking for another 30 minutes. Remove when temperature is close to 170. Cover bird for about 15 minutes and then carve. Dish out vegetables and remove herbs and lemon. Strain excess fat out of roasting pan. Place roasting pan on burner (or pour juices into a soup pot) and bring to a boil**. Season generously with salt and pepper. Combine cornstarch and cold water and add slowly until sauce thickens (not heavy like a gravy just slightly thick). Remove string. Carve chicken and cover in sauce.

** Note, if you don't have enough juice left in roasting pan add some chicken stock. Also some people may prefer to strain their liquid before making the sauce to remove all the bits, I do not do this).

Thickened sauce

To carve breast meat start in the dead center of the bird and let your knife follow the bone down the side. You will have 2 perfect size breasts.

Turkey Tacos

1 1/4 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon onion flakes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup El Pato Mexican tomato sauce

1. In a large skillet combine the turkey, onion flakes, chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt and water. Cook thoroughly on medium heat until no longer pink, approximately 10 minutes.
2. When the turkey is brown add the El Pato. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until your desired consistency. Turkey can dry easily so do not cook the liquid all of the way out.
3. Serve in fried corn tortilla taco shells, or soft flour tortillas and your favorite taco toppings.


Mississippi Mud Cake

2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ bag miniature marshmallows

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
9 tablespoons milk
1 ½ pounds confectioners' sugar
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
2. Combine the sugar, salt, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Bring the butter, oil, cocoa, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add to the flour mixture.
3. Beat together the eggs, baking soda, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add to the chocolate mixture, mix well, and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
4. While the cake is baking, make the icing by melting the butter in the cocoa and milk over low heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the confectioners' sugar. Slowly mix in the nuts and the vanilla.
5. Take the cake from the oven, and when it cools a bit cover it with miniature marshmallows. Pour the warm icing over the cake and the marshmallows. Cool the cake before serving.

Grilled Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus
olive oil
lemon herb seasoning

1. Preheat grill.
2. In a pot of boiling water add salt and asparagus and cook for 2 minutes to blanch.
Remove asparagus from pot, and plunge into a bowl of ice water, to cool. Pat asparagus dry.
3. Drizzle with oil, salt, pepper and lemon herb seasoning to taste. Put asparagus on a heated grill. Grill for about 5 minutes, turning over half way through.

Grilled Halibut

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound halibut steaks
Pam for grilling cooking spray

1. Spray grill with cooking spray. Heat grill.
2. In shallow dish mix lemon juice, vegetable oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Add fish and turn several times to coat with marinade. Cover dish and refrigerate 10 minutes.
3. Remove fish from marinade and reserve remaining marinade. Cover and grill fish on medium heat 10 to 15 minutes, turning once and brushing with marinade, until fish flakes easily with fork. Discard any remaining marinade.


Summer bouillabaisse (or fish stew as a friend calls it)

2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cups celery chopped
6 cloves garlic chopped
5 large tomatoes chopped
1 ear white corn with corn cut off
2 large shallots
1/2 pound halibut cut into 1 inch pieces (remove skin)
1 (or more) pounds peeled deveined shrimp
3/4 pound mussels rinsed well
2 tbsp fresh tarragon chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup white wine
2 pinch crushed red pepper

In large dutch oven (or pot) add olive oil, celery, corn, shallots and garlic and stir until celery softens. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add halibut, shrimp and tomatoes. Stir to combine, cover and cook for about 3 minutes, until the fish and shrimp are cooked through. Add mussels, vinegar, half of tarragon, salt, pepper, and half of crushed red pepper. Cover and cook until mussels open. Serve and top with remaining tarragon and crushed red peppers.

I started with this recipe from Real Simple. I looked around on Food Network at other variations. I changed the cod for halibut, added corn and shallots, forgot the fennel at the store (I'm glad I think it would have ruined it with the tarragon in it), added crushed red pepper, and upped the dose of garlic.


Creamy Mushroom Soup

If you ask anyone who knows me, you will know that I never used to eat mushrooms. When I recently mentioned to a friend of mine that I've started eating mushrooms, she responded with "It's like I don't even know you anymore!?!"

But in my attempt to eat things that are better for me (not in the whole 'grilled chicken - brown rice - wheat grass' kind of way, but in the eating more nutritious things, but in the same old delicious way!) I have started eating mushrooms. To work my way into the world of fungi, I have been making this recipe lately. Because really, anything can be tasty when it's 'creamy', right? But if I do say so myself...this is a pretty tasty dish, and pretty easy to make.

1/2-1 pound firm mushrooms, cleaned, mixed or crimini
1/2 medium lemon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons flour or 1 teaspoon cornstarch (dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water)
1 tablespoon minced parsley

Sprinkle the cleaned mushrooms with lemon juice and coarsely chop in a food processor (or, you know, with a knife!). Set aside. Next, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and lightly saute the shallots. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and saute over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Add a little bit of salt, the pepper, cream, and chicken stock and bring ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the flour or cornstarch to the soup, mix thoroughly, and continue to simmer 10 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve in warm bowls, sprinkled with minced parsley.


Quick and Easy BBQ Tri Tip Roast

1 2-3 pound tri tip roast
3 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
olive oil

1. Combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.
2. Drizzle roast with olive oil and rub with the seasoning mixture completely covering roast.
3. Grill roast on low heat, about 15 minutes per side or until desired doneness.


Purple Potato Crusted Tilapia and Purple Potato Crisps

4 (4 to 6 ounce) tilapia fillets
2 pounds purple potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
olive oil
fresh rosemary
fresh chives

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Season tilapia with salt and pepper.
3. Top each fillet with enough potato slices to completely cover the surface of the fish, overlaying the potatoes like shingles. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt, pepper and rosemary.
4. Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter. When the butter is melted and the oil is hot add the fish, potato side down. Cook until the potatoes start to brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, place remaining sliced potatoes on a cookie sheet. Season with a small amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary.
6. Place sheet of potatoes and skillet in the oven. Bake until the fish is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.
7. Serve the fish potato side up sprinkled with fresh chives, along with the potato crisps on the side.

CAUTION: REMEMBER THE SKILLET IS HOT!!! PLACE A POT HOLDER OVER THE HANDLE SO YOU DON’T BURN YOURSELF. The first time I made this dish, not thinking, I grabbed the skillet while plating. Needless to say, the entire dish ended up on the floor and we had bowls of cereal for dinner instead.


Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

1 large angel food cake
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 1/2 cups
4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 1/2 tablespoons strawberry gelatin (Jell-O)
1 1/2 cup hot water
2 packages fresh strawberries, quartered
Half of a chocolate bar

1. In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch, and gelatin; add water. Cook stirring over medium heat until thick and everything is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. I place it in the fridge so it doesn't take as long. Add a few ice cubes to further speed up the process.
2. Add all of the strawberries except for 1/2 of a cup worth and reserve for topping.
3. Slice cake, horizontally into 3 equal layers.
4. Mix together cream cheese, condensed milk, and whipped topping in a bowl; set aside.
5. In a large trifle bowl place a layer of cake, topped with a layer of strawberry, followed by a layer of the custard mixture. Repeat layering in this order for remaining cake, strawberries and custard.

6. Top cake with remaining strawberries and shredded chocolate. It is best to shred the chocolate while it is slightly chilled.

NOTE: You can also assemble in individual trifle bowls.