44. Potluck Tomato Zucchini Dip

This recipe didn’t come from anything, though it did go to a potluck, and it was part of my ongoing efforts to clean out my cupboards. Unfortunately, these sorts of things don’t always go perfectly… So a girl has to improvise.

I expected I was making something like these, a zucchini dish that would be more like a side or a hot veggie dish. I started with a big can of diced tomatoes with oregano, garlic, and basil in them, two large zucchini, and half a small log of garlic herb goat cheese. I imagined pinterest-worthy food. What I got was surely delicious but not fancy… which I guess is what to aim for!

I roasted the zucchini and didn’t count on how small it would be after that! Mixed with the cheese and the cooked tomato, it looked like a cheesy dip but not at all like a fresh, zesty hot side. I think I needed more veggie volume to make that work. Still! When I put it onto a cracked-pepper triscuit, I realized it still had great potential as a party dip.

At N’s house, I foregrounded that I might have made a disaster food, but people liked it! So… this might not be the thing to aim for when you are trying to make a fancy dish, but if you just want something delicious and veggie-ful, try it out!

Zucchini Tomato Surprise Dip

 

  1. Cook 1 can of herbed diced tomatoes in a pan on the stove top; add a little olive oil if you want.
  2. Slice and roast zucchini, at least two large ones. (If I did this again, I’d also cut them into quarters and make every slice at least 1/2 an inch thick. Grease that pan!)
  3. When tomatoes begin to thicken, add cream cheese or herbed goat cheese. When zucchini have roasted for 30 minutes, mix all ingredients together and serve on crackers or pita chips.
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42. Kristin’s Zucchini Bread

27This recipe, like the Avocado Bread from Khadija, was one I found while trying to clean out my cupboards. You know how after a while you have amassed the odds and ends of many different recipes and you have ingredients you didn’t even remember you bought? This summer I’m hoping to get rid of those odds and ends via recipes from blogs I respect, like this one: http://www.yellowblissroad.com/zucchini-bread-recipe/ Yellow Bliss Road is a great example of someone who has turned her passion into a full time job, but who also just produces a really great product.

I found grating zucchini (one of the two ingredients I was trying to finish up; also had a lonely almost-empty bag of flour) very soothing, but I ran into a problem: no eggs in the house! After a quick google search for egg substitutes, I thought I would throw in some applesauce… no go for that either. For a girl who claims to be clearing out the cupboards, I seem to be doing an awful lot of running out of things!

What I did have, however, were two sad neglected apples. I cut them into pieces and grated them straight into my pile of zucchini shavings, added all the other ingredients, and hoped for the best. The result? DELICIOUS. Like, maybe my new favorite sweet bread. It’s moist in the middle but has some integrity to it, and caramelized-crunchy on the exterior… I was totally pleased. Probably even better with eggs, like Kristin intended, but I’m quite pleased. When life gives you no eggs or applesauce, you can still turn old zucchini and apples into the perfect breakfast treat.

Caprese Salad: Eating Salad without the Greens

I have had the goal of eating 4 salads a week, and yesterday, we’d run out of salad greens. What we hadn’t run out of was ripe, delicious, garden tomatoes. Mostly I wanted to use cherry tomatoes, but I caved and used the ripest of the San Marzanos too.

You see, salad is a funny thing: some people consider potatoes coated in mayonnaise to be a salad, and others see only things with lettuce as a base as the healthy form of ‘salad.’ I’ve tried to stick to my belief that anything with a veggie base is salad, and caprese salad (characterized by the combination of tomatoes, basil, mozzerella cheese, and sometimes balsamic vinegar) is a wonderful variation that is filling while still being refreshing. I knew yesterday afternoon that I was in the mood to eat something unhealthy and I wanted to head it off with something fresh and lighter. This worked perfectly.

I sliced all the tomatoes up to bite size (no exact measurements here; just use what you want based on servings you want to have) and tore the basil leaves. I cut the mozzarella down to quarter-inch cubes or crumbles, whichever happened faster, and threw in a dash of olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of crunchy salt. The salad worked up well but I got overzealous and added a bunch of dried basil, which rehydrated into a pretty overwhelming level of basil-ness. I didn’t think I could overdo basil, given my love for it, but this was that. Basically: add basil, taste, add more if you want it.

I know a lot of people who like to do the caprese combination on toast, but I would advocate eating it out of the bowl like a regular salad. After all, it’s one less piece of toast in your life, and it’s so tasty even when it’s in a bowl by itself (and even when it has too much basil!). This combo could be stretched to a full meal if mixed with some whole-wheat pasta or quinoa, or it could be served on a pizza/flatbread for a new variation on the timeless margherita pizza. Regardless, it makes me happy my definition of salad is pretty broad. 🙂

Preserving leftovers for eating later!

Husband and I have been taking a hard look at our food expenses; we aren’t being super irresponsible with groceries and restaurant expenses, but it seems like an area where we could trim back a little just by wasting less. I hate it, but there are drips and drabs of food that get thrown out because we either get sick of it, or it sits in the fridge too long, or we just miscalculate and make too much.

One place where we have room to work harder is when we have these parties – they are potlucks, and pretty much always involve more food than is needed. This time, since soup is involved, I’ve got one plan: I read online that many soups that freeze well can be frozen into ice cube trays and then stored in freezer bags until needed. I like this, because the soups I’m making might actually make nice sauces in the future.

If you have favorite ways to preserve extras after a party, do comment! I am especially in need for bread reuses (though I do love croutons and french toast for that), because i think we may have excess homemade bread tonight. 🙂

The Return of Pumpkin Spice: Squash Scones/Cookies

Sometimes, the way I choose my cooking plans is crazy. For instance, when I type “pumpkin cookie shortening” into google because 1. no one makes cookies out of butternut squash and 2. I am running low on inspiration for what to make out of all this squash and 3. somehow I am out of butter AND vegetable oil in my house. Sigh. I’m a mess.

But the internet rewarded me, in the form of this recipe – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/10671/pumpkin-cookies-iii/. It has a cute backstory about a simpler time, and with a couple substitutions (adding chocolate chips, swapping pumpkin puree for mashed roasted butternut squash), the cookies were all set to go.

I made them a little haphazardly big, and because they are so fluffy and cake-y when they come out, they remind me of scones. Everyone has some cookie memories, but I have some lovely scone memories: it was one of the first things I baked all by myself, and I loved the fact that the dough was almost savory and the chocolate chips I put in them made them into a sweet treat. My sister and mother and I once shared a wonderful afternoon at a tea room drinking herbal teas and eating scones with lemon curd… it’s just one of those simple-pleasure foods, something that isn’t necessary but is rather delightful.

So these cookies/scones came with me to a little backyard campfire across town that we attended over the weekend, and they have been my quick go-to breakfast for days, and they seem inexhaustible… much like the squash from which they came, I guess. Still, if you want a treat that reminds you that fall is coming, but don’t quite want to break out the pumpkin puree yet, this is a pretty great way to get your veggies; Vitamin A and C in a cookie!

Homemade garlic croutons – more white bread uses!

Husband mentioned off-hand the other day that a bag of the garlic croutons he likes on his salads cost 3 dollars. Granted, 3 dollars is perfectly fine expenditure if it makes him happy, but it got me thinking: we still have a lot of white bread from the pantry giving us two spare loaves, and it seems like the perfect canvas on which to create croutons.

I experimented by cutting stacks of the bread into small, 1/2 inch cubes, though I didn’t sweat it if some pieces weren’t uniform. I covered them with pepper and salt and garlic powder and some oregano flakes, then shook them up in a bowl to cover evenly. Then I added three tablespoons of olive oil, trying to distribute it through mixing the bread, but again, not sweating it too much. I layered it out on a cookie sheet and put the croutons into a 425 degree oven until most of the pieces were turning brown, probably somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes, but I was cooking other things so I didn’t pay good attention to the time.

The oven did a great job of making a soft bread into a crunchy crouton! The necessary step after that was complete cooling before I put them into the plastic bag I was going to store them in – I know that any leftover moisture can seep out and be trapped with the croutons, turning them into soggy oil bread… much less delicious sounding, you know? I let husband sample them and he pronounced them good! I always remember croutons being the thing that got me through salads I didn’t like, a little savory crunch for all that green. While not as easy as buying the three dollar bag, these are pretty easy and cost pennies total to make. I recommend using all leftover bread, even that which is heading toward being stale, to make these croutons!

 

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Basil/Oregano Mashed Butternut Squash

I’ve become a big fan of dips – give me a variety pack of hummus flavors, or a savory baba ganoush, or a pile of guacamole any day and I’ll lay into it. I wasn’t expecting that butternut squash would make such a fantastic dip, though; rather than a recipe, today I present something I affectionately call a “mess-cipe” – something that easily could have turned out terribly as an experiment in the kitchen but which instead turned out delicious!

I was eager to roast up the butternut squash, so I added basil, oregano, and some last sprigs of rosemary that I had handy but after it finished cooking I kinda… left it in the oven to cool? I went about my afternoon, busy, and then came back to cooled-off, gooey squash. It was easy to separate the chunks from their skin, but then I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. My thought was “Pasta sauce,” along the lines of some you might have seen used on “butternut squash mac and cheese.”

I didn’t have a lot of cheese available, but I added cheese and milk, and used the food processor to mix it up. I made Husband a bowl of pasta and covered it in the sauce, which he vouched was sweet but flavorful, a perfectly fine dinner. What I noticed, though, was that since it was all fairly cool, it was really firmer than a sauce… more like a dip.

Instead of serving myself pasta, I dug a tortilla chip into the mixture, and crunched into it… PERFECT. While not a normal dip for tortilla chips, the mixture was too smooth for me to want it on something else soft like pasta, so I got the satisfying crunch and also the yummy flavor of butternut squash. I cannot give you exact measurements, but I definitely recommend that you try something like “mashed butternut squash” and have chips or crackers with it – the flavor is unusual but the texture is perfect for a dip.