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Stuffed Zucchini

I had a wonderful visit from a lifelong friend this weekend.  We met when we were around 11 maybe and even though we do not see or talk with each other often; you know life and miles get in the way; it is like we see each other all the time.  We pick right up where we left off from our last visit.  We spent time going through my garden; she and her boyfriend are new to vegetable gardening. We talked plants and what was working and what wasn’t. They had the dreaded vine borers that I had been plagued with the last few years, this year we did not have that problem thankfully. We have had an abundance of zucchini which inspired tonight’s dinner. I just finished making stuffed zucchini; which I have had and never made before.

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While baking is a science and you really need to pay attention to the ingredients and the amounts needed.  Cooking is the complete opposite.  I tend to use the ingredients I like and have on hand.  Stuffing being pretty basic formula; herbs, bread crumbs, a little heat and lots of flavor plus I am a HUGE sausage fan so that is a must.  While I was chopping and sauteing I sent my husband to the garden for some herbs.  I asked for parsley and whatever else he would like.  He came back with thyme, basil and parsley.

Even though I did spend a little time looking online for some ideas in the end I used what I had on hand and made a stuffing that tasted really good.  I can only imagine once the sauce and mozzarella meld with the squash and stuffing it will taste pretty amazing.  I will let you know in about an hour. They were delicious – my husband and I both agree to make them again.

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Jalapeno – I removed the seeds with a spoon – we like a little heat.

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I used 2 whole zucchini’s. I saved the last one for tomorrow nights dinner

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Here is how I made mine – shallot, onion, zucchini, garlic and the herbs were from my garden – I think that is SO cool!

2 Shallot minced – soften in the sausage pan after the sausage is cooked

2 small onions minced – soften along with the shallot

3 Cloves of garlic pressed

3 zucchini halved and seeded – chop and add to stuffing

1 jalapeno – seeded and minced

1 yellow pepper minced

Package of sweet Italian sausage casing removed and crumbled – browned in a pan

½ cup Breadcrumbs

½ cup Parmesan cheese grated

1 jar of spaghetti sauce

Mozzarella

Thyme, basil and parsley – all from my garden

Wash and remove the stem and bottom of the zucchini, in a bowl add all the other ingredients and herbs; stir and let meld for a bit.  Preheat the oven at 350’ get out a baking dish.  Fill the zucchini with the yummy stuffing and cover with the sauce and mozzarella.  Cover with tin foil for 40 minutes then uncover and cook another 20 or so till bubbly and browned we do like our squash al dente versus mush so please cook to your likeness – if you need to place under the broiler for a few minutes please do.  I think food tastes better when it looks amazing – the company helps with this too.

3 ingredient (no fuss) Eggplant

Building our patio a few years back was one of the best idea’s I pushed to get built.  Sometimes my husband needs a little nudge to start a huge project around the house – the carpenters house is never finished. I can’t truly say that as my house is awesome and more than 90% done. We were having a large family gathering and I wanted some place outside for everyone to gather. And even though he had plenty of notice he finished the blue stone patio the day before the event. 

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That’s all water under the bridge now; we have had so many gatherings out there over the years.  It is a wonderful place to talk, laugh, visit, relax and eat. On beautiful days and when we don’t have plans one of us sends the other a text to meet on the patio after work.  Some of my favorite nights are spent out there relaxing.  Keeping with the theme of relaxing, visiting and talking; dinner needs to be something that can be cooked on the grill, simply prepped and a not a lot of fuss. 

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Tuesday was such beautiful day out; I received the patio text and couldn’t wait. I was determined to make dinner an afterthought. We had some zucchini and summer squash from the garden, I had some Italian sausages in the freezer. I was thinking simple and light. My mother-in-law stopped over as I was heading out the patio with my glass of wine, and of course she joined me for a glass. She was planning on making one of her simple eggplant and spaghetti sauce dishes and had a fresh loaf of bread.  After a second glass of wine we called my father-in-law and asked him to walk over with the bread and the eggplant.

Dinner turned out excellent and I wanted to share my in-laws eggplant recipe with you all because it is 3 ingredients and NO FUSS. 

 

No fuss Eggplant

1 Medium or 2+ small (depending on how many for dinner)

1 jar of your favorite jar sauce

Half a package of mozzarella chopped 

Cut up the eggplant and place in your cooking vessel, I use my cast iron for the grill it works out great

Cover with sauce and mozzarella and then loosely with tinfoil and cook on medium low heat for about 10 minutes.

 

Squash Packet 

1-2 zucchini

1-2 summer squash

1 small onion

1 Tbs butter

Kosher salt

Fresh crack black pepper

Cut up all the squash in similar size pieces, you want them to all cook at the same time. Slice the onion and take a square of tin-foil (adjust size for how much you cut up) we are making a foil packet – I use these ALL the time on the grill and sometimes in the house.  Salt and pepper and add the butter and then fold 3 sides several times to create a packet.  They are very easy to grill; even flipping occasionally so they do not burn.  I like mine cooked to al dente so about 10-15 minutes and they are done. Leave the packet closed so they stay warm until everything else is done.

Gyoza & Ramen birthday dinner

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!  It is a beautiful day here in NH – Having my husbands family over for Father’s day dinner in a few hours!  I hope you were able to do whatever you wanted today!  My husband took a nap after lunch on his hammock – Life is good!!!

Last week was both of my children’s birthday’s they are 2 years and a day apart.  Believe it or not they were actually planned just not THAT close.  She was early, he was on time. They could have had the same birthday but I thought they should at least have their own day.  I told the Doctor that I couldn’t come in the next day as I was busy.  I had family coming over for my daughters’ 2nd birthday party.  Still to this day they each get to pick what they want for their birthday dinners.  Unfortunately this year my daughter is living in Japan had to fend for herself.  I think my son was being a little devious this year; he wanted to pick something I had never made before.  I am not sure what that was all about but he took 2 days and finally came up with a couple of things he had while visiting his sister that he really liked; Gyoza and Ramen.  Some of you might be thinking about the packages of ramen you can buy for like a buck that has a flavored sodium packet included, just add water and voila’. Unfortunately Japanese ramen I have come to find out is quite a process and the most important part is the broth, it took a couple of days to make as it wants to sit overnight.

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Gyoza I found out is pretty much a dumpling with a dipping sauce – These came out yummy and I will definitely make again.  Ramen was very good but I think I can do better.  I was so worried that it tasted like seaweed I was a little nervous so I added some chicken base and my son noticed and said it tasted like chicken oops!

Gyoza

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 cups chopped cabbage

¼ cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup chopped carrot

½ pound ground pork

1 egg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 (10oz) package wonton wrappers

¼ cup water

 

¼ cup soy sauce (lower sodium)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat; mix together cabbage, onion, garlic and carrot.  Cook and stir until the cabbage is limp.  Mix in ground pork and egg. Cook until pork is evenly brown and the egg is no longer runny.

Gather some friends to help fill the Wonton’s – it goes by quicker

Preheat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat

Place approximately 1 tablespoon of the cabbage and pork mixture in the center of each wrapper. Fold wrappers in half over the filling, and seal edges with moistened finger

In the preheated vegetable oil cook the Gyoza approximately 1-2 minute per side, until lightly browned.  Lower the heat; add ¼ cup water and place the cover on the pan and let them steam until the water evaporates.

In a small bowl, mix soy sauce and rice vinegar.  Use the mixture as a dipping sauce for the finished wrappers.

Ham & Asparagus Soup

Who doesn’t need to use up some of the leftover ham from Easter?  I swear the weather this weekend also helped dictate what I ended up making.  It has been rainy, raw and just plain chilly, kind of like a fall day.  It also helps that one of my favorite soups is creamy ham and asparagus.  It is so satisfying, it is simple to make and warms you from the inside out.   I also make this when I have leftover asparagus; I guess pretty much any excuse works for me.

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I do know many people who are not soup people, I don’t get that at all, and I kind of feel bad for them? Maybe they have never had a good tasting soup?  Maybe when they were little soup was their meatloaf & peas (two of my childhood nightmares) I do like peas now but I still refuse to eat meatloaf.  I love meatballs but no loaf.  It’s a mental thing I know. That must be it!  On the other spectrum  I have had a few people come up to me at work while I was re-heating my yummy soup for lunch and really want to make homemade soups but have had terrible luck so have given up; which is really sad.  I have had a soup class and hope to again – I will help and or convert as many as will let me.

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Passing it on – My son was looking around the kitchen to see if we had any canned soups.  I convinced him that he could make a delicious tomato soup, fairly easily and would taste a million times better than anything he could get from a can.  I got out all the ingredients and while sitting at the island working; I guided him through the process.  He wanted to make the soup all on his own, that’s my boy!

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If you have some things to use up in the fridge and a little time I believe soup is a great way to feed yourself and your family.

Creamy Ham & Asparagus

1 ½ Cup fresh asparagus

2-3 carrot, julienned

2-3 tablespoons butter

2-3 small white or 1 large onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons butter (equal to your butter)

2 cups milk

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup fully cooked ham, cut into bite size pieces

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Trim asparagus and place in a saucepan, cover with water and cook till just crisp-tender.  Drain and set aside

In a heavy saucepan, sauté carrots in butter for 3-5 minutes; add onions and garlic and sauté a couple of minutes longer or until tender.

Stir in flour; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes, add broth, ham and reserved asparagus.

Reduce heat and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Slight variation – You can also add a couple of potatoes if you wanted a little heartier soup, you could also add your favorite herb to change it up a bit.  If you add raw potato, cut them up small and simmer long enough to cook them probably 20-30 minutes.  Increase the chicken stock for a lighter soup or a little more milk.  if you wanted a really creamy soup, substitue 1 cup of half and half for 1 of the cups of milk – BUT do not boil the soup once you add the half and half. You can let it simmer to heat through but do not let it boil.

Not easy being green – why do veggies get such a bad rap

I am just as guilty as the next for steering clear of everything green growing up!  I was brought up in the era of having to sit at the table until my plate was cleared.  I see good and bad in this approach.  I still feel the need to finish my plate, which is bad for your waist line; good for making you try food that scares you.  I recall as a child placing peas along the underside rim of my plate in hopes that no one would notice.   The family dog wasn’t opposed to any veggie of any color; pretty sure because they don’t see color hmmmm.

I didn’t change my ways until my early 20’s and it has been ongoing challenge ever since.  I have been pretty successful over the years hiding things I dubbed yucky!  I can cut up an onion so small that it disappears in a soup love the flavor, didn’t like the texture – I don’t have to do this as much anymore.  Broccoli was hidden in stir fry or covered with cheese sauce.  Peas were usually covered with gravy mostly only in chicken pot pies.  Asparagus was always covered with hollandaise and just in the last 2 weeks I have been working on brussel sprouts.

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There is speculation that if you eat something 7-10 times you can train yourself to like it.  For the most part I do believe this.  I can now eat Peas, Asparagus and Broccoli without smothering them with anything.  Brussel sprouts are still a work in progress; I am only on try 4 but I haven’t given up hope yet.

Asparagus – we love (except my son) roasting or even grilling with just a little olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. We now have an asparagus patch in our garden
Peas – I only like frozen sweet peas – and they are a great tasting side as well as a punch of color – presentation, presentation, presentation.
Broccoli – great steamed or pan seared with some shallots, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. We have been growing broccoli for many years with great success – We harvest and freeze when we can’t keep up before it flowers.
Brussel Sprouts – we are still eating them with a gravy or sauce of some sort – we are working on it – these look cool but they won’t be making it into my garden anytime soon.

Pasta

1lb tube pasta such as rigatoni, (whole wheat works too)
2 cups frozen peas
3/4 cup pesto
2 handfuls argula
8 oz goat cheese

boil pasta (in salted water) according to the packages directions, at the last minute add the peas, drain and return to the pot. Add pesto and stir to combine.  Add the arugula and toss. Cruble goat cheese on top and a grind of fresh crack black pepper.

*If you wanted to use this as a meal add some diced cooked chicken

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Basil Pesto

6 ounces fresh basil, stems removed, washed and patted dry
4 ounces pine nuts
5-6 garlic cloves (or 7-8 like I do)
2 ounces of grated parmesan cheese
2/3 cup olive oil – more or less
kosher salt
fresh crack black pepper

Combine basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor or blender. Pulse until all combined and chopped. Add olive oil to desired consistency. Finish by pulsing in the parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste.