Grilled Zucchini & Yellow Squash

Grilled Zucchini & Yellow Squash

In the summer time, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven and make your house even hotter. So what’s a girl (or guy) to do? Break out the grill, of course! Grilled Zucchini is one of our summer favorites. As an added bonus, you get to use of a few of those numerous zucchini plants that are sitting in your pile of bounty from your garden. We also like to throw in some yellow squash if we have some of those around. The first time we made this for my mother-in-law, she was certain that she didn’t like zucchini and she really didn’t like yellow squash. However, she tried her obligatory bite, and was really surprised that she liked it! If all you have ever tasted is boiled zucchini and squash (tasteless mush), then you are in for a pleasant surprise. So, fire up the grill and enjoy some Grilled Zucchini on your next hot day!

Grilled Zucchini & Squash

2-3 medium zucchini or yellow squash (about 1 lb total)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 TB olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp papper
juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat grill to medium (375 F). Wash and dry zucchini. Trim ends. Slice lengthwise, about 1/2″ – 3/4″ thick.
In a medium bowl, toss zucchini with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place slices directly on grill or on a vegetable grilling rack. Grill for 10-12 minutes, turning once halfway through. Zucchini will be lightly charred and cooked through, but still firm. Remove to a serving plate. Sprinkle with lemon juice and parmesan. Serve.
Serves 4.

California Beans & Rice

California Beans & Rice

California Beans & Rice is a great recipe for hot summer days when you just don’t want to heat up the house with the oven. Depending on what is most readily available and affordable, you can use more avocados or tomatoes depending on what is on sale and most readily available. A little shredded chicken also goes well in this if you want this to be a more substantial meal. The leftover chicken from Country Chicken Noodle Soup would be perfect for this. This could also be tossed together like a salad and served with a vinaigrette, or served in individual dishes of rice with the other ingredients used as toppings. I have also heard this dish called “California Sushi,” with the ingredients used to make meatless sushi rolls using pita bread or lettuce wraps which would be perfect served as an appetizer at a summer barbecue.

California Beans & Rice
2-3 cups cooked rice
2 cans black beans, rinsed
2 avocados, cubed (place in lemon water to prevent browning)
2 tomatoes, cubed
2-3 diced green onions
1 lb chicken, shredded (optional)
Sour cream
Salsa
Pita bread (optional)
Directions: Spread in layers or rings on a platter, place sour cream and salsa in middle. Serve with Pita Bread if desired.
Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

You know how it works: you plant zucchini, a single zucchini plant, in your garden, and dutifully eat it in many meals and side dishes from mid-summer on, you share it with all your garden-free neighbors, and finally you can’t handle any more of it in a recognizable form. It’s the time of year to start baking Zucchini Bread. I have tried a few recipes over the years, but this one is by far my favorite. Every time I serve it, someone asks me for the recipe. I even use it as my Banana Bread recipe, just omitting the cloves. I like to make several small loaves at a time, and then freeze them for a later date when I don’t feel like baking but still need a little sweetness in my life 🙂 So, the next time your well-meaning neighbor offers you some extra zucchini from her garden, you can willingly accept the offer and make zucchini bread!

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups zucchini (shredded)
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9×5 loaf pans.
Cream eggs, sugar & oil. Add dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and zucchini and mix until just blended.

Bake 55-60 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on wire racks. Remove from pans, and allow to finish cooling.  Slice & enjoy with a pat of butter!

Kale Chips

Kale Chips

When I first saw the recipe for Kale Chips, I immediately skipped over it because, I admit it, green chips don’t seem that appetizing at first glance. However, a friend recently commented on how tasty kale chips are, so I overcame my reservations, dug out the recipe and gave them a try. Guess what? My family likes them! My husband and I both thought they tasted somewhat like roasted pumpkin seeds; I love roasted pumpkin seeds; their yummy crispy goodness warms up a cold fall day. But we rarely make them because separating seeds from the slimy pulp is messy work, and the seeds get eaten up so quickly! Kale is readily available and doesn’t require separating seeds and pulp. Bonus! Kale can have a slightly stronger taste than pumpkin seeds; it only takes a handful to satisfy a flavor craving

There are many variations of kale chips. I have included a few variations below to get you started.
Baked Kale Chips
1 bunch of kale leaves, washed & dryed
olive oil
sea salt
optional ingredients: garlic salt, grated Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, seasoned salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. Tear the kale leaves into large chip-sized pieces, some shrinkage will occur. Spread over a well-greased baking sheet or a sheet with a silicone liner. Spritz with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake 10-12 minutes; edges will lightly brown, but should not be burnt.
Variations:
sprinkle with grated parmesan & sea salt
spritz with balsamic vinegar and sea salt
sprinkle with garlic salt
sprinkle with seasoned salt

 

Gran’s Spinach Casserole

Gran’s Spinach Casserole

This was my Granny’s go-to recipe, the one that came with her to all the family gatherings. Other people have Green Bean Casserole at Thanksgiving & Easter; we have Gran’s Spinach. As children, many of us skipped this dish, but eventually we all came to love it. The cream cheese and sour cream combine with the bacon and spinach into a creamy, comforting experience. However, as she got older the horseradish got stronger, so we ate smaller and smaller portions. Maybe she did that on purpose so that she had more left over for later (it wouldn’t surprise anyone)! Since we don’t usually have horseradish on hand at my house, we substitute fresh garlic instead and enjoy Gran’s Spinach with a little less “kick.” For special events, it is a nice alternative to more commonly used vegetable dishes. This could also be served on crackers or crusty bread slices as an appetizer.

Gran’s Spinach
6 slices bacon
2 bunches spinach
1 TB grated onion
1/2 c sour cream
3 oz. cream cheese
1-2 TB horseradish sauce OR minced garlic (for a more mild taste)  *optional* substitute fresh horseradish instead

Directions: Preaheat oven to 350°.  Brown bacon & crumble.  Cook spinach and onion according to directions on box.  Drain.  Soften cream cheese.  Mix everything together & place into greased pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes. Happy Birthday Gran!

Winter Squash Casserole

Winter Squash Casserole

I must have been in a generous (and adventurous) mood when I first tried this recipe, because Winter Squash Casserole is a little more adventurous than I usually am. However, the entire family liked it – even the previously winter-squash-and-green-pepper-hating ME. It was simple to prepare, and, surprisingly, the only complaint was that we wanted MORE.

Squash Feta Casserole

  • 2 cups winter squash, cut in half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • ½ – 2/3 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 strips bacon, chopped
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • *optional* sliced tomato

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Lightly grease a medium (9×9) casserole dish. In microwave, heat squash for 9 minutes to soften. Remove from microwave, peel and cube. In a medium bowl, blend the eggs and heavy cream. Mix in the squash, green onions, bell pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Top with feta cheese and sliced tomato, if desired. Season with pepper. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned. If desired, top with cheese.

Enjoy!

Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad

Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad

Johnny Carino’s is one of my favorite Italian restaurants. The really strange thing is that my favorite thing there is a salad (?!?!?), specifically, I LOVE Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad. It has the most amazing blend of contrasting tastes – tangy sweet apples and candied pecans contrast offset the bitter cheese and salty bacon. They offset the tomatoes perfectly, and I don’t even like tomatoes!  Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed when the Carino’s near us in Sandy closed. Disappointed may be too mild a word. I howled and acted like a drama queen, which I usually try not to be. Since, driving 25 minutes to the nearest remaining restaurant wasn’t going to happen very often, I immediately went home and tried to find a knock-off recipe that I could duplicate. There are a few out there that were close, but none that had all the ingredients AND the right dressing. So, I made up my own salad recipe and found one for the dressing. Here for your eating enjoyment, are directions to re-create the full Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad experience in your own home.

Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad

  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • bacon crumbles (save yourself some time and get the pre-cooked bacon, it is so very worth it)
  • candied pecans (NOT sugared pecans- there is a difference!)
  • Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
  • diced Granny Smith apples
  • diced roma tomatoes

Directions: Wash and dry lettuce. Remove core and cut head into 6-8 equal wedges. Top with bacon, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple pieces, and tomatoes. Drizzle with Garlic Ranch dressing (recipe below).

Top with GARLIC RANCH dressing from allrecipes.com.
Spinach Feta Empanadas

Spinach Feta Empanadas

This recipe for Spinach Feta Empanadas originally comes from the Food Network. The pastry dough is a little different than usual, but let me tell you, it makes all the difference! I tried making these using my regular pie dough instead, and the results were good. The cream cheese dough, however, makes them amazing! To add a little more flavor, we used1/2 cup Feta cheese and 1/2 of the cottage cheese. We thought it was awesome this way, but we do love Feta at our house. If you don’t care for it, follow the original recipe is below and does not use Feta. The other change I made was to grate the onions instead of chopping them. Many people in our house don’t like too many contrasting textures in their food, so this method satisfies both the need for taste and the desire for “no crunchies!”

Spinach Feta Empanadas

Dough

  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 6 TB butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Filling

  • 3-4 TB bacon drippings or butter
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh spinach, washed
  • 1/3 cup onion, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup Feta cheese
  • salt & pepper

Directions: In a mixer, cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Reduce speed to low and add the flour and salt until just combines. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.

Heat skillet and add 2 TB bacon drippings or butter. Add the spinach and heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach leaves wilt and release their juices. Transfer to a colander to drain. When cooled enough to handle, transfer to cutting board and chop finely. Add remaining bacon drippings or butter to skilled and add the garlic and onion. Cook until softened, but not browned. Add spinach, cheeses, and salt & pepper. Mix thoroughly, remove from heat, and allow to cool.

Remove pastry dough from fridge and preheat oven to 450 F. Roll dough to 1/8″ thickness. Using a small bowl or saucer as a guide, cut the dough into as many 5-inch circles as possible. Gather the scraps of dough together and knead lightly to reform the dough into a disk. Roll out as before and again cut as many rounds as you can. You should be able to get 10 to 12 rounds. Divide the spinach filling evenly among the dough circles. Using your fingers, lightly moisten the edges with water, then fold 1 side over so that the edges meet, and press to seal. Crimp the edges using the tines of a fork and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all of the empanadas are assembled. Bake uncovered until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Original Spinach Empanada Recipe

Banana Nut Smoothie

Banana Nut Smoothie

When the weather is warm, Banana Nut Smoothie is my go-to recipe after an intense workout. It contains a good balance of protein and carbohydrate for post-workout recovery, and it has nearly the perfect amount of calories to refill your glycogen stores and rebuild muscles. In other words, it helps you recover faster. Best of all, it is simple, fast, and filling. I don’t find myself running out of energy a few hours after eating this or having blood sugar dips that leave me feeling cranky and shaky. When I’m not in the mood for a cool drink, I do something similar and top plain yogurt with a chopped banana and granola, or I top granola with banana slices and almond milk.

2 bananas, frozen & peeled (if you remember to do this)
5-6 ice cubes if your bananas are not frozen
1 cup plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp honey
sprinkle of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts OR 2 TB ground flax seed OR 1/4 cup rolled oats

Cut the frozen banana into chunks. Place all ingredients into blender and blend on high until smooth.
With nuts, this recipe is roughly 600 kcal, with flax seed or oatmeal it it is about 500 kcal.

For a fun treat, this is really good with 1/4 cup caramel syrup added to it!

 

Zucchini Alfredo Lasagna

Zucchini Alfredo Lasagna

I am an alfredo-lover, so when I saw a recipe for Zucchini Alfredo Lasagna, I HAD to try it. I ended up combining a few recipes, making a few mistakes, and ultimately creating a new family favorite. My 11-year old pants like a dog with her tongue out when I tell her that we are having Zucchini Alfredo Lasagna for dinner!

Zucchini Alfredo Lasagna

2 medium zucchini (about 8 inches long)
6-9 lasagna noodles
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
Salt & pepper
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Mozzarella cheese, grated
optional: 3-5 pieces bacon or sausage,  cooked & chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place noodles on the stove to boil. Slice zucchini (1/4″ thick slices) and microwave for 5-8 minutes, or until tender when pricked with a fork.
In a saucepan on medium heat, whisk milk, flour, and butter together. Stir until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat and add parmesan and bacon or sausage, if desired. Return to stove and stir until heated through.
Drain noodles.
In 9×13 baking dish layer zucchini, noodles, and sauce. Repeat one or two more times. Top with grated mozzarella.
Bake at 350 F for 25-35 minutes, or until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbly.
If time is short, substitute macaroni or rigatoni noodles for the lasagna noodles. Serve directly from stove without baking in oven, topping noodles with zucchini and then sauce.

Snickers Salad

Snickers Salad

Due to the amount of sugar,  Snickers Salad is NOT for every day diners, but it is a fun recipe for holiday parties or family get-togethers, and it is simple to boot! My sister-in-law introduced me to this when she brought it to a family gathering. Needless to say, we had no trouble convincing anyone to eat their salad at this dinner! There are many versions of this salad, but this one is a little bit healthier, so you can lay-off some of the guilt 🙂 This is one of those things that sounds strange until you taste it, but it really is good. So grab a few extra Granny Smith apples next time you shop and give it a whirl at your next gathering!
1 8 oz. tub of cool whip, thawed
1 8 oz. cup of raspberry or strawberry yogurt
5-6 Granny Smith apples
1-2 cups purple grapes
4-5 Snickers candy bars
*strawberries – optional

Mix the cool whip and yogurt. Chop the apples, candy bars & grapes (& strawberries, if desired). Mix. Enjoy.

Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Few things beat the great taste of real mashed potatoes; at our house, they are one of the things we rarely need to cajole our children into eating. But, while they are good for you, sometimes it is a good idea to eat something besides potatoes to take advantage of all the other nutritious foods out there. Enter Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes, made from cauliflower! And to make a good thing even better, they take less time than real mashed potatoes because you don’t have to peel, slice and boil the potatoes before you mash them!

The original recipe comes from The Food Network, but I made a few changes to make preparation even easier.

 

Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes
1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon straight chicken base or bouillon (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • *optional*  1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
Directions: Steam the cauliflower in the water until fork tender, about 20 minutes (or 10-12 in the microwave). Put the cauliflower, water, Parmesan, cream cheese, garlic, chicken base, and butter in a food processor or blender and mix until almost smooth. Garnish with chives to serve.