Zucchini Cobbler with Sea Salt Caramel Sauce and Ice Cream

Zucchini CobblerIt’s been a ridiculously hectic month of May. With Hubs and I doing our fair share of over booking ourselves, there has been little time for new recipe creation… or cooking… or sleeping…well you get the idea. Times like these cause me to go into auto-pilot in an effort to just get through each day, I rely on past recipes rather than creating new ones.

I’ve been declining some fun offers lately. One of my friends, unwilling to wait until June to hang out started showing up at my workplace to convince me otherwise, then a second showed.  Then the text messages started rolling in, then lots of frowny emoticons on Evite. Fine, I get the memo. All work and no play makes for a sad group of friends.

No need to bring anything to the potluck they assured me. I agreed and offered to bring wine. The day of the party I woke up with a nagging voice in my head. It was my mother’s.

“You aren’t actually going to show up to a potluck with nothing but wine, are you?”

“Uh, well…”

So lucky for me, I had a good 3 pounds of zucchini in this weeks CSA basket. I pieced the following recipe together in about an hour, including a quick trip to the store. When we arrived to the party, late as promised, everyone else had finished eating and was ready for dessert. I don’t know if it was the empty bottles of wine they’d consumed or the fact that I just haven’t been out in a while, but, I don’t think I have ever made a recipe that was so well-received. Even the kids wolfed it down, assuming of course that it was apple.

“You must blog it!” they insisted, “we need the recipe!”

“You’ve really outdone yourself this time!”

“Zucchini? But, how did you make it taste like apple?”

“I’m sensing a new cooking demo class”, Hubs suggested, “maybe we can do it in the dutch oven over the campfire!”

Hands down, it was a huge hit. Before the last piece flew into people’s mouths we quickly took a photo- on a paper plate. It isn’t fancy, but sometimes the best things in life aren’t.

This recipe gives me renewed faith in the ability to create something wonderful from even the most chaotic times. It also makes me look forward to a long summer ahead of zucchini, potlucks with friends, and the “occasional” chance to get off auto-pilot.

Zucchini Cobbler

3 lbs of peeled and seeded zucchini

4 C. AP Flour

3 sticks of butter, cold

1/2 C. Orange Juice

3 C. Sugar, divided

2 tsp. Cinnamon, divided

1/4 tsp. Nutmeg

1 tsp. Salt

Sea Salt Caramel Sauce (Trader Joe’s), optional

French Vanilla Ice Cream, optional

Grease an 11×9 baking dish. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Peel, seed and slice zucchini into half-moon shapes, so they resemble apples. In a large saucepan cook down zucchini, orange juice and salt for about 20 minutes. Drain excess liquid. Mix in 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp cinnamon and stir to combine. Set aside.

Cube the cold butter into small pieces and combine with 4 C. flour and 2 C. sugar. Combine until mixture resemble crumbs.

Combine half of the crumb mixture with the zucchini mixture and press into the bottom of the baking dish. Top with remaining half of crumb mixture and sprinkle 1 tsp cinnamon on the top.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until light brown and bubbly.

This dessert holds its own, but is extra decadent with the optional addition of ice cream and caramel sauce.

Serves 12+

 

April Fool’s- Blackened Road Kill Chicken and Curb Cabbage Slaw

KOA_RoadKill_AprilFoolsHere is a fun recipe I just did in collaboration with KOA’s The Greater Outdoors Blog. The recipe is in fact real, and with the exception of the cabbage, many of these events, did not occur.

Anyone get the feeling food prices have gone up lately? Me too. Which is why I like to reach out to Mother Earth to see what goodies she can provide. Recently, I was leaving Pilates and I eye-spied a head of cabbage on the curb next to my car. It was like Mother Nature felt bad about my bank account and sported me a freebie. And sure enough, I needed a freebie because Pilates isn’t exactly cheap. Then, on my way home in the middle of the suburbs was a dead chicken. I know, weird, right? Some people call that Road Kill, but I call it a free meal. Sure it had tire marks, which is why I decided to blacken it on the grill to make it all blend in, and won’t you know- my uppity suburban dinner guests, never knew the difference? So raise your can of PBR to a free meal if you should be so lucky to find one in your neck of the woods. But, not your last can of PBR, cause you got to put it up that chickens you-know-what.

Blackened Road Kill Grill Chicken and Curb Cabbage Slaw

1 free dead animal (preferably a chicken)
2 Tbl. Road Kill Grill Spice
1 Can Pabst Blue Ribbon (aka- PBR)

For the slaw-
1 head curb cabbage
1 head purple cabbage you’re probably gonna have to buy
Dressing (Free can’t be picky- get one that’s cheap)

I found both Road Kill Grill Spice and the beer can chicken contraption at my local KOA general store. You can use any kind of spice, but I do prefer Road Kill Grill Spice for this recipe.

Remove the not so pretty parts of the chicken (head, feet, gizzards, etc.) Remove excess rubber from chicken’s skin and rinse off gravel and asphalt. Smear 2 Tbl. Road Kill Grill spice all over that dead thing. Preheat your grill on low with heat below and on the back burners. Open can of beer and shove it up the chicken’s rear and set over low heat on the grill. Cook for 45-60 minutes or until thermometer reads- No Salmonella /Road Funk Left.

Make the slaw while the chicken is cooking on the grill. Slice and chop up the cabbage and cover in dressing. Set aside.

Overnight Kale Salad with Quinoa

Overnight Kale Salad with QuinoaAfter a long hard day of work, Hubs often comes home, tired, sweaty and hoping for a hot meal. It’s often those days I hand him a plate of this kale salad. Sure, I can see the momentary flicker of disappointment in his eyes. Salad can be a very boring meal. I usually follow-up with bourbon on the rocks, or a nice bottle of red,  which seems to ease this momentary blow.

But, Hubs is a smart man and he doesn’t dare say a negative word. After all he married a vegetarian whose been in recovery now for three years. Every once in a while I like to reminisce about the old days when I didn’t eat or cook meat.  At least, that’s my go-to excuse when I haven’t been shopping in a week.

Since kale salad is all the rage these days and I get at least two large bundles in my CSA basket each week, we never seem to run out of kale.  A lot of recipes for kale salad have you dressing the salad and serving it immediately. I suspect this is why some people aren’t very fond of this trendy dark leafy green. While it’s true that it’s a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, it also tastes very healthy. One might even say “tough” or “chewy”.  I don’t believe kale should be treated like lettuce which has an entirely different texture.

My solution to tough kale salad is simple marinate it in a dressing overnight. A salad that tastes better the longer it sits? It seems odd, but it’s true! Won’t it get soggy? Actually, no it will “tenderize” the kale much like a marinade would to chicken or beef. If you don’t have overnight, I suggest a minimum of two hours. I’ve added quinoa which is a complete protein along with feta, raisins and pecans for Hubs sake.

Because this salad can easily be done ahead of time, it’s become my new go-to recipe for dinner parties and even camping. This salad can be stored up to 48 hours in advance. That being said, don’t add the quinoa, pecans or feta until you are ready to serve, because those items do get soggy.

Overnight Kale Salad with Quinoa

Prep time 10 min. Serves 4

4 C. chopped kale, stems removed

½ C. cooked quinoa (can substitute rice, farro or barley)

½ C. raisins

½ C. chopped pecans

½ c. feta cheese

For the dressing

1/4 C. olive oil

¼ C. apple cider vinegar

1 lemon, juice and zest

1 Tbl. Honey

After washing, stemming and chopping kale, let it dry. In the meantime, combine olive oil, vinegar, honey and juice of one lemon as well as its zest and combine with whisk or fork. Toss in a bowl with chopped kale and leave for a minimum of 2 hours up to one night.  I like to do this the night before.  When ready to serve, combine with cooked quinoa or other starch substitute, chopped pecans, raisins and feta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Greek Yogurt Chiffon Cheesecake with Mango-Passionfruit Sauce

Yogurt Chiffon Cake with PassionfruitGirl Scout Cookie sales have consumed every spare second of my life since Superbowl Sunday. My incredibly motivated daughter insists upon selling 800 boxes to get the American Girl doll of the year.

I am all about kids working hard for what they want. However, at her age, the hardest working person is Mom, who has to schlep around of hundreds of boxes of cookies, coax her friends, family and strangers into sales all while  manuevering a giant wagon that barely fits in the back of an SUV. My daughter just stands there, sweetly  smiles and enjoys getting all the goodies. Her toddler brother has even been caught up in the sales, feeling the need to personally open and taste each cookie if he thinks someone is waffeling on which box to buy.

Hindsight says I should have made this crust with the Girl Scout Trefoil cookie. Lord knows, we’ve got a few dozen boxes floating around the garage. I think it’d be fab. In fact, if you are willing to give it a go, call me- we still have about 80 boxes left to sell.

I first got passionfruit in my CSA basket in early February. To be honest, I thought it was a really bad-looking heirloom avocado, it was wrinkly and purple and unlike anything I’d ever seen, so I tossed it in the fridge without further thought. My only other encounter with passionfruit came in a small can from Australia when Hub’s brother was living there. In fact, I still have that can in the pantry. Passionfruit is exotic and not something you see often, even here in sunny San Diego.

When I cut open the fruit one night (half expecting a rancid version of guacamole to spring out) I was overjoyed when passionfruit came out instead. It’s kinda slimy and has these little green crunchy beads and it smells and tastes absolutely amazing. It smells like a tropical vacation.

So now I’ve been hoarding these things in the fridge, squirreling them away to come up with some sort of awesome dessert. There are seventy-eight cookbooks in my kitchen and only one of them has a recipe involving passionfruit and that recipe was a coconut cheesecake. I despise coconut (sorry GS Samoa fans) and after 6 weeks of eating way too many boxes of Girl Scout cookies, I needed to find a “healthier alternative”. So I hit the internet. I combed page after page, blog after blog and I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. So in the end, I made this one up on my own, which is tres’ risky when you have guests coming for dinner.

It’s definitely more chiffon-like than dense cheesecake and I think this recipe will be my new go-to when I’m hankering a Cheesecake Factory fix. If passionfruit evades you or is too pricey, you can just add the mango sauce. Our guests said it was like taking a bite out of Belize, which in February, even in sunny San Diego, sounds as amazing as it tastes. Oh and did I mention, it’s no-bake? Which in the middle of my hectic life and cookie sales, is all the vacation this Mama’s gonna get.

Greek Yogurt Chiffon Cheesecake with Mango-Passionfruit Sauce

For the cheesecake-

8 oz low-fat cream cheese

1 1/2 C. low-fat cottage cheese

3/4 C. non-fat greek yogurt

2/3 C. sugar

2 Tbl. pasteurized egg whites

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 vanilla bean

1/2 C. butter or margarine

1 1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs

For the sauce-

1 bag frozen mango pieces (12 oz)

4 passionfruit (or 1 small can)

1/2 C. powdered sugar

For the sauce- You can make the sauce up several days in advance. Thaw the mango overnight and drain. In a blender or food processor blend the mangos with powdered sugar. Cut the passionfruit legthwise and scoop it out into a bowl. Hand mix the mango in with the passionfruit and set aside for up to 3 days in the fridge.

For the Chiffon Cheesecake-

Melt the butter or margarine and mix in with the graham cracker crumbs and press into the bottom of a springform pan. Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, blend the cottage cheese, sugar and cream cheese together until smooth. Split a vanilla bean legthwise and scrape the contents into the bowl and blend again.

Follow the direction on the gelatin box to make 1 envelope gelatin. In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites. Gently fold egg whites into cheese mixture. When the gelatin has cooled a bit gently fold into the cheese and egg mixture. Pour into the springform pan. Cover with wrap and place in the fridge a minimum of 4 hours prior to serving.

Nana’s Southern Trifle

Southern Trifle in a PunchbowlI come from a family that eats their way through grief. Which is why I decided to make this cake for the 45 kinfolk that came to town for my Aunt’s memorial service last weekend. Every grown man in my family is well over 6 ft. tall, with a hollow leg and a serious sweet tooth. It’s not my usual style of recipe. In fact, it has no ingredients from a Farmer’s Market, which means it will get eaten. I also sat out a veggie platter with ranch and the kin just stared at it, but didn’t dare touch.

This is the kind of recipe my mom or Granny would have made for this type of occasion. Mom and Granny would have made it in a punchbowl and I did as well.  When I had excess ingredients, I made it in a traditional trifle footed dish, which is far more my style. Instead of traditional cake mix and cool whip, I do impart my own foodie twist. Both were gone in relatively short time.

Family is a funny thing and my family is rather unique. This is my favorite conversation from the weekend-

“Cuz, I need yo’ opinion on somethin’.”

“Sure, I like to tell people my opinion.”

“K. You know how those sacred heart tattoos are popular?”

“Uh…No?”

“You know cuz’, the heart with the flames? Well I think it’s lame, everyone has one. So what do you think about me gettin’ a Sacred Cheeseburger on my stomach?”

“Uh…well, so like over your belly button, like you want it to talk?”

“Cuz, don’t be crazy. I mean like a cheeseburger on my stomach with flames.”

“No, right…certainly, you wouldn’t want to appear crazy. Well, to be honest, I’d normally try to talk someone out of a tattoo like that, but on you, I think it’d be a possibility”

“Thanks cuz’ I’m gonna do it.”

Apparently, I’m no longer the only “foodie” in the family…

Nana’s Southern Trifle

Nana's Southern Trifle

Pineapple is the southern symbol of hospitality. If you can find fresh go for it, but the canned is plenty fine for most my kinfolk and likely yours. This recipe will make the quantities in the footed trifle dish, for the punchbowl double the recipe.

2 boxes Trader Joes Vanilla Bean Cake Mix

1 tub True Whip Low Fat *,thawed

1 Large box Fat Free/Sugar Free Vanilla Jello Pudding

1 20 oz can Pineapple chunks

1 12oz can Mandarin Oranges

1 8 oz can pineapple slices

(You will also need eggs, butter and milk as per box recipes)

Bake the cake in two 8 or 9 inch round pan per box instructions. Cool on a rack and carefully cut one of the rounds in half lengthwise, so that you have 2 thin cakes and 1 thick cake.

While the cake is baking, open and drain cans of fruit, set aside. Make pudding according to package directions and keep in fridge.

To assemble-

Place 1/3 of the pudding on the bottom of the trifle or punchbowl, make sure there is a nice layer and it covers the bottom completely. Then place a thin layer of cake. On top of cake spread out a layer of True Whip (about 1/2 the container)  and add the entire can of pineapple chunks. Top with the thick layer of cake. Top cake with 1/3 pudding and the drained can of mandarin oranges. Top with the last thin layer of cake, then add the last of the pudding and top with the remaining True Whip and sliced pineapple.

*True Whip is a healthier version of Cool Whip. I can get it in major stores and it’s located next to the Cool Whip in the freezer section. If you cannot find it, you can substitute Cool Whip.

Winter Farmer’s Market Salad

I tried my hand again at farming. This time purely by default. When my farmers left the winter saladgarden they left it chock full of goodies. Beautiful winter veggies that were going to go to seed if I didn’t do something quickly. So one afternoon I trekked out back with a Lululemon bag in hand and a romantic vision of putting together my own “CSA Basket” from the farmers hard work. The sun was shining, it was a mild 70 degrees in December and there I went to “reconnect” with Mother Earth.

What I did not bring was-

1. Proper work shoes for muddy conditions

2. Any work tools whatsoever

3. Work gloves

4. Common Sense

I quickly realized I was ill-prepared. Thankfully, the grounds gardener stopped by and offered me items 1-3. Within an hour I had filled up several large trash bags full of kale, beets, lettuces and carrots. I day-dreamed about the lovely recipes I’d be cooking that week and how I’d wow my dinner guests with stories of “picking my own veggies straight from the garden”. It was so idyllic, nothing could go wrong. After an hour, I stopped for a break and to soak in my own foodie daydreams.

But, as I sat, something felt wrong. Something was missing. Oh no, it couldn’t be…where was my wedding ring?

I quickly scanned the ground, ran up and down the row and started digging by the weeded  butternut squash. No sign of the ring. As I looked over the acre of garden I just walked through, a complete hysteria came over me.  That ring could be anywhere. It was a needle in a haystack. I seriously may never find it. And, that’s when I lost it.

Screaming, hysterical profanities spewed from my mouth. Sure, I knew the ring was too big and I knew it needed to be sized.  I’d even been wearing a fake ring for months because I’d been worried it’d fall off and I’d lose it. So why, today of all days, had I put it on?

Well, it was simple, I’d worn the ring to remind me to take it to the jeweler and get it sized. But, as Murphy’s Law would dictate, at the last minute I had decided to go for this tromp in the garden.  So, there I was with 7 giant bags of kale and plenty of carrots, just not one of them sparkling. Could I get a metal detector before it got dark? If not, should I sleep in the dirt to ward off trespassers and blingy-diamond-obsessed raccoons until I had recovered the ring?

My screaming hysterics caught the attention of the grounds gardener, who by now had clearly guessed I belonged back in the office rather than the garden. As I ran around in circles pointing at my ring finger, crying, she somehow gathered what I was saying through my jibber-jabber.

She calmly asked me if I’d checked the glove.

No. Why would I? That would have meant I had brought item 4.

Sure enough, there was my wedding ring.

I tossed my 7 giant bags of kale and lettuce, beets and the edible carrots into the back of the golf cart and gave the gardener back her supplies. On the way to the jeweler I contacted San Diego Roots Sustainable, who gleans unused veggies and fruits and donates them to the food banks.

I made this salad for dinner and confessed the story to Hubs.

No, I have not tended the garden since. But, I have found some new cool gardeners who want to take it over. And you know what I realized? The first day I met them, they brought items 1-4. Oh, and distinctly no jewelery on any fingers. So naturally, I have instant respect for their savvy already.

Farmer’s Market Winter Salad

If you can’t find persimmons in your area feel free to omit or add your own local fruit delicacy.

1 bag winter mixed greens/lettuces

3 persimmons

1/2 C. Trader Joes Sweet and Spicy Pecans

3 oz. Goat Cheese

Dressing-

1/2 C. Pumpkin Balsamic Vinegar *

1 C. Olive Oil

1 tsp. Mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and Pepper to taste

* If you don’t have Pumpkin Balsamic Vinegar add 1/2 tsp of Pumpkin Pie Spice to regular Balsamic Vinegar.

Combine dressing ingredients and set aside. Crumble goat cheese and add to washed greens. Peel and slice persimmons length-wise for prettiest presentation. Top with pecans and toss with dressing.