Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bread? Cake? Who Cares? Just Put it in My Face!

Chocolate Orange Zucchini Bread/Cake

Banana Bread was one of the first things I learned how to bake, although I always wondered why it was considered a "bread" as it had all the sweet properties of a dessert item. Same goes for muffins. Except for the lack of frosting, I don't know how anyone can claim that those chocolate chocolate chip "muffins" from Costco aren't cupcakes. Anyway, having been gifted a couple of garden fresh zucchinis, I was interested in experimenting with the world of "breads" and what I mean is . . . "cake." After baking it up I figured, "Well, if I'm going to do the thing, I had better just do it right." So, I whipped up a vanilla glaze topping. It's not really "bread" I'll be the first to admit. But it's pretty freakin' tasty!


- 2 zucchinis, grated
- zest and juice from one orange
- 3/4 c. vegetable oil
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 c. cocoa powder
- 1 c. chocolate chips
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 c. flour
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- 2 c. powdered sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla, divided
- 1 Tbsp. butter and a little flour for greasing the pan

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour a 9" round baking pan, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together zucchini, orange juice and zest, oil, sugar, 1 tsp. of vanilla, and eggs. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Whisk until batter is smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan then turn out on wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl blend together milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, and powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Ingredient amounts may need to be adjusted slightly to get the desired consistency. Spoon glaze over the cooled bread/cake and allow to dry before slicing and serving. Store in an airtight container, eat for breakfast or dessert.

Nice to Meat You: Part II

Pepper Steak Paninis

Oh no! A pile of delicious leftover steak, a basket of garden fresh peppers, a couple of hungry boys!?! What is a girl to do? Okay, I am admittedly staging this problem a little bit. It is actually a rare occurrence to have leftover steak around my place. After the other night's dinner of marinated flank steak, I had to stop my fellow diners from taking thirds with the promise that I would use the remaining meat for something delicious. I really love making paninis, they are a fantastic way to use leftover meat or grilled vegetables in a new meal. Knowing I had brightly colored peppers and onions waiting on my counter top and a nice chunk of steak and some slices of sharp cheddar in the fridge, all I had to do on my way home from work was pick up a nice loaf of sourdough to whip up a quick and satisfying batch of grilled sandwiches. I kept this one fairly simply to highlight the flavors of the fresh picked peppers. I think the boys were glad they restrained themselves the other night on their meat-consumption to enjoy this meal!


- 1 small sourdough round loaf, sliced into 1/2" thick pieces
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 assorted bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips
- 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
- salt and pepper
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- leftover steak, sliced thin (or pick up some roast beef from the deli)
- sliced sharp cheddar cheese

Turn on your panini press to heat. Meanwhile brush one side of each piece of sliced sourdough with olive oil, set aside. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook peppers and onions over medium, stirring occasionally, until they soften and just begin to turn slightly brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove skillet from stove.

Arrange slices of bread, oiled side down, on a work surface. Layer with a slice of cheese, meat, onion and pepper mixture, and another slice of cheese. Top with a piece of bread, oiled side up.

Arrange sandwiches on panini press and grill until bread begins to turn golden brown and the cheese is melted. Slice in half. Eat up! Easy does it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nice to Meat You

Tasty Marinated Flank Steak and Garden Fresh Cucumber Salad

I am not a gardener. In fact, I like to say that I have a "black thumb."
While I harbor fantasies of lush elegant gardens laden with plump tomatoes and fragrant bulbs of garlic, I have killed every house plant I've ever owned and my pathetic attempts at cultivating edible plant life have resulted in sad, little barren patches of soil. Luckily, I do know people with a flair for gardening and have found that they are usually willing to share what they grow rather than be left with a glut of rotting vegetables. Yesterday was such a day when I was gifted with a lovely basket of cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, peppers and zucchini. The wheels in my foodie brain turned and, effected as they were by the unusually hot weather for a late September afternoon, settled on a simple light cucumber salad. The perfect pairing? Meat of course! This was simple, fast, and great.


- 1 2 lb. cut of flank steak
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. minced shallots
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. hot sauce
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. Herbs de Provence
- salt and pepper

- 2 green cucumbers, sliced into 1/4" rounds
- 2 lemon cucumbers, sliced
- 6 Roma tomatoes, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. minced shallots
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
- 2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper

Lay steak flat and score it with the tip of a sharp knife on both sides in a diamond pattern. This keeps the meat from curling up when it cooks under the broiler. Season both sides of meat with salt and pepper and lay in a broiler pan. In a small bowl, whisk together other ingredients and pour over steak. Cover pan and refrigerate at least 20 minutes to marinate. When steak is finished marinating, heat the broiler. Cook meat under broiler 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from oven and remove meat from pan. Tent with foil and allow meat to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, arrange sliced garden vegetables in a serving dish. In a separate small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over vegetables. After meat has rested, slice thin across the grain. Serve with salad. Enjoy this tasty dinner with friends and a nice glass of Chianti!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brain Food

First Day of School Tuna Casserole

I don't know if I'm the only person whose mother said the phrase, "Eat your fish, it's brain food." I don't know what would be appealing about the idea of "brain food" to a little kid, but moms say things. Growing up, I wasn't a particularly picky eater, but I did approach fish with a bit of trepidation. While I grew to appreciate and delight in the many and varied tastes the ocean has to offer, as a child I never strayed too far from tuna. My mom would whip up a tasty tuna casserole using grated cheddar, egg noodles, and a can of cream-of-whatever soup. My mom's version was one of the first things I learned how to cook and one of my favorite comfort foods. Lately, as the seasons have been changing, I have been musing over this childhood favorite and developed a slightly more sophisticated version. Today being the first day back in the classroom, I knew I had to be on my intellectual game and felt as if a little brain food were in order.


- 3 7-8 oz. cans Albacore tuna (packed in oil or water), drained
- 16 oz. fussili pasta
- four large leeks, trimmed, rinsed and chopped
- 4 stalks celery, rinsed and diced
- 1 c. frozen peas
- 1 lb. Swiss cheese, grated
- 1/4 c. butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
- 1/4 c. flour
- 1 qt. whole milk
- 1 tsp. celery salt
- 1 tsp. dried dill
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 2 c. crushed potato chips, (I used Hawaiian style, but your favorite chip will do!)

Grease a 13x9" baking dish with a Tablespoon of butter, set aside. Preheat your oven to 375˚ F. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add leeks and celery, stir with a wooden spoon to make sure they are covered with butter, season with salt and pepper. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and let the leeks soften oven a low-medium heat for about 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile, boil water to cook the pasta. Cook to al dente, about nine minutes, drain, and set aside.

When the leeks are soft and translucent, but not brown, whisk flour into Dutch oven to create a thick paste. Whisk constantly for about a minute, making sure the flour is well distributed through the pot and leeks. Slowly add the milk, about a half cup at a time, whisking between each addition to make the mixture creamy and smooth. Cook over medium-low heat until sauce begins to thicken and can coat the back of a spoon. Add shredded cheese and frozen peas, stir until smooth. Remove Dutch oven from heat, add drained tuna, breaking up chunks with a wooden spoon. Season with dill, celery salt, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked pasta to mixture and stir to combine.

Spread pasta mixture into prepared baking dish the sprinkle with an even layer of crushed potato chips. Bake in over for about 30 minutes until the top becomes browned and the sides are bubbling a bit. Remove from oven, let cook 5 minutes before serving. Yum! Your brain will instantly feel more powerful!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Better Eat Your Greens!

Penne with Lots of Delicious Veggies and Goat Cheese

It's no secret that I love pasta. In all the world of starches, I can't think of anything to cover with sauces or toss with veggies. I was in the mood for something fast and a bit on the lighter side after spending the previous evening gorging myself with movie theatre popcorn, Milk Duds, and nachos (yep, even the most dedicated foodies have their weaknesses). This was super simple to whip up and it's full of crisp asparagus and fresh herbs. I hope you enjoy!


- 1 lb. penne pasta
- 7 oz. goat cheese
- 4 oz. diced pancetta
- 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
- 6 green onions, ends trimmed off and sliced
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 c. frozen peas, thawed
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
- salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions (about 9 minutes). Drain, reserving 1 c. pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile in a large skillet cook pancetta over medium heat until almost crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Leave drippings in pan and add olive oil, green onions, and asparagus. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until asparagus starts to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add lemon juice, garlic, and peas, cooking over medium for an additional 2 minutes so that garlic becomes sweet and fragrant. Stir in fresh herbs until warmed through, remove from heat. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Toss warm pasta in a large bowl with goat cheese and stir until goat cheese is melted and equally distributed. Add asparagus mixture and additional pasta water if it is too dry. Toss in pancetta. Season with additional salt and pepper. Eat! It's that easy. Dinner in less than 15 minutes. Really.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bacon . . . What Can't It Do?

Autumn Chicken Carbonara

Here's one of my secrets of cooking- much of my inspiration comes from whatever is lying around in the refrigerator. In the case of this recipe, I happened to have four pieces of bacon and a pound of colorful and ripe heirloom tomatoes destined for something. BLTs? A nice idea, but I was (as I often am) in the mood for pasta and the presence of eggs and Parmesan cheese really got the wheels turning in my brain. A quick trip to Trader Joe's for pasta, Italian parsley, and two chicken breasts and a new recipe was born. I am a fan of one pot meals AND bacon, I hope you enjoy this fast, cheap, colorful meal as much as I did.


- 1 lb. penne pasta
- two boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1" chunks
- olive oil
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1" chunks
- 1 handful chopped Italian parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- a pinch of sugar

Boil pasta according to package directions to al dente (about 9 minutes) reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, place diced bacon in a large Dutch oven. Cook over medium until cooked through, but not too crispy. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Reserve rendered bacon fat in Dutch oven and add onion and garlic. Cook over medium, stirring often until onions start to become translucent. If Dutch oven becomes dry, add a little olive oil. Add chicken to pot and cook over heat until meat is cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from heat.

Place beaten eggs in a medium bowl, slowly add 1/4 c. warm pasta cooking water to temper the eggs, beat in Parmesan cheese. Place warm pasta in the Dutch oven with chicken and onions, stir to combine, slowly add the egg and cheese mixture to the pasta. Stir to combine. The warm pasta will cook the egg mixture. Add tomatoes, parsley, bacon, and a pinch of sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Just Peachy

Perfect Peach Pie to Put in Your Face

For a long time I was intimidated by the concept of pastry. I was convinced I would somehow screw it up. Growing up, my mom would consistently turn out the most delicious desserts (among other things) and encourage me to bake a pie. When I refused she would comment with exasperation, "They say 'easy as pie' because pies are easy to make." Well, Mom was right after all. I didn't discover this, of course, until I actually went an made a pie myself. Yes . . . it is easy. Particularly when you have a perfect buttery crust recipe and delicious fresh fruit or berries with which to fill it. Late summer and early fall is the perfect time for pie. Stone fruits abound! My mom gave me this crust recipe years ago and it's my favorite- perfect for almost any pie and a snap to whip up in the food processor. The key is- don't handle to dough too much and work with COLD butter and COLD water.


- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 c. cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes (my favorite is the Irish Kerrygold butter)
- 4-6 Tbsp. ice water

- 6 c. fresh peaches, peeled, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. minute tapioca
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 3/4 c. sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. butter

To make the crust. Place flour, sugar, salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until well combined and crumbly. With the motor running, add water one tablespoon at a time through the feed tube until mixture gathers on top of the blade. Remove dough from food processor, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use. This makes enough dough for a two-crust 9" pie.

For the filling combine peaches, tapioca, cornstarch, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir gently and allow to sit for about 20 minutes to soften the tapioca.

While filling rests, cut dough into two equal pieces and roll each out onto a floured surface. Roll pie bottom out into a 9" pie pan. Fill with filling and trim crust to about 1" from the edge of pan. Cut 1 Tbsp. of butter into the pie and top with other piece of crust. Cut vents in top crust and crimp together edges. Sprinkle top of crust with extra sugar.

Place pie onto a heavy foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 400˚ for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and bake an additional 50-60 minutes until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly. Let cool at least one hour before serving with fresh whipped cream or ice cream. Easy as pie . . .