Simple & Savory Baked Pattypan Squash

or a fresh take on a playful Summer squash

Our Farmers Market is currently filled with fresh flavors of late Summer.  Last Summer I first explored the world of pattypan squash thanks to both the community gardens that our local group initiated at the time and the wonderful farmers that contribute to our Farmers Market.  I was first drawn to the squash because of how beautifully it photographed, but it only started there.

My first experiments in preparing this little cutie was to boil, seed, and stuff it.  I loved this dish, but my husband was still on the fence so this year I continued to experiment and have found one that he truly likes.  An added bonus - takes only a handful of ingredients and utilizes fresh herbs from my home garden.  So in summary - fresh local ingredients, a light and simple side, quick and easy to make, minimal financial investment, and overall a just plain delicious dish that suits our Summer months to a tee.  Check it out:

2 medium to large pattypans
4 tbsp melted butter
4 tbsp parmesan cheese
6 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1-2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Kosher salt

1. Slice pattypan squash into ¼ inch thick sections and remove any tough parts, i.e. stem area and base.

2. Brush the bottom of a baking dish with a coating of melted butter then layer in the following order one quarter of each of the ingredients: slices of squash, brush a layer of butter, salt, basil, rosemary, and parmesan cheese.  Repeat with 3 more layers.  Pour any remaining butter over top.

3. Bake at 400 F for 20-25 min or until the squash is tender throughout. Remove from oven, scoop, serve, enjoy!


Stress Prevention Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce: Revisited in Honor of "Can you can it?"

Can you can it?  I can!  I'm very excited to enter this in the contest on Garden of Eating's blog!!!  Wish me luck  :)  Check it out here

or It's Home Canning and I Helped!  An instant homemade meal.

Now, before you go running off at the thought of canning your own food let me lay it out for you.  This isn't your grandmother's canning.  Now I'm sure what she did was great, and the hard hours she put into it made it delicious, but much of that has gone by the wayside.  There are many tools that make it easy for you to preserve jars of delicious foods with only a few extra tools and your stock pot.  So never fear, modern home canning* is here!

Ok, I admit it, I am biased.  I love canning.  I only began canning on my own over the past year and it is already a mild obsession.  This recipe was one I created when I first started canning last Fall to make gift baskets for the holidays but my husband loved it so much that I soon had to make more.  To be honest, it was surprising how nice it was to be able able to pour out the slow simmered, homemade sauce over pasta and have such a delicious meal in the same time it takes to make a box of macaroni and cheese.  It does take some time to lovingly cook all those flavors into the sauce but just think of how many meals you'll have at your fingertips in the cupboard and it will all seem worth it again.  It took some adjusting, but I made a close replica of my Sicilian grandmother's spaghetti sauce base that is hot water bath canning safe.  And really, who doesn't want easy access to the grandmother's comfort foods?  Let the idea marinate as you read on, and maybe - just maybe - you'll find your inner strength to give it a try.

Beef bullion granules – 4 tbsp
Tomatoes - 1 can crushed, 28 oz
Diced tomatoes – 1 can, with basil & oregano
Onion – 1 large, minced
Garlic – 3 tsp fresh minced garlic
Seasoning salt
Parsley, Oregano, and Basil - 1-2 tsp each, dried
Garlic powder – 2 tsp
Tomato paste – 1 can, 12 oz
Wine – red, ½ a cup (perhaps an extra glass for the cook)
Parmesan cheese – ¼ cup, to taste

1. Get a big pot and sauté garlic and onions with some seasoning salt.  As they start to sizzle and brown soak in those savory aromas.  Once the onions begin to turn translucent it is time to move on.

2. Stir in the crushed and diced tomatoes until well blended. Bring to a simmer.

3. Now it is time to add the tomato paste, 2 cups of water, and wine. Stir until the tomato paste is incorporated in the sauce and the aroma of the red wine mixes almost seamlessly into that of the tomatoes and garlic.  Keep the pot at a simmer and add the beef bullion granules, stir until completely dissolved and start to cook down.

4. Mix in the remaining spices, adding additional amounts to taste. If you love garlic as much as I do use a more generous amount of garlic powder.

5. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring whenever you happen to be in the kitchen to prevent neglect induced bottom burning. Remember to add water as needed, and season with salt and pepper. Keep cooking down and attending to the sauce lovingly generally for about 2 hours or so.

6. Taste throughout and add more herbs or salt and pepper as needed. Separate out any that will not be canned and during the last 30 min add Parmesan cheese, stirring well. Heat all the way through.

7. If canning, prepare jars and lids according to guidelines below and complete while sauce is hot.

You did it!  Your first canning experiment is now complete, and believe me it will be worth it.  After a long stressful day at work, chasing kids around, fixing other people's problems, or just about anything else that gets under your skin, just crack open a jar, boild some noodles, and enjoy!  I love to use this in my slow cooker lasagna recipe (coming soon to a blog near you) and also adding some browned ground beef or crumbled Italian sausage for a quick meat sauce.  If you are having guests or just want to dress it up a bit, toss it wiith pasta after adding the ground meat and then throw in the oven topped with mozzerella for a quick baked dish that will taste like it took hours to make.  And of course, you can't forget the garlic bread.  With so many options, and a great back up supply, this can be a perfect go to dish for instant stress relief, but maybe that's just the Italian me.  Either way, I hope you enjoy!

Canning tomato sauce:
1.) Prepare boiling water canner or stock pot. Heat jars and lids separately in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) Ladle the hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a non-metal utensil if needed by sliding it gently down the side. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) Place the filled jars in a boiling water canner or stock pot for 35 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

* You have to be careful to use tried and true recipe ingredients for hot water canning or it may go bad (some ingredients can only be pressure canned, a bit more expensive process).   As long as you stick to safe ingredient combinations, the options are endless!  So let loose and let those creative juices flow; just keep in mind a touch of restraint to keep from crossing over into forbidden ingredient land.


Oh So Easy, Stuffed Zucchini

or a "hands on" approach to summer squash season

Getting vegetables into our meals isn't always easy.  You can only steam or roast them so many times before you are just sick and tired of the same thing, and the family starts to murmur of potential revolts and runs to the local burger joint.  So, to keep things a bit more lively and maintain a minimal effort I started combining meal components.  In short, yes - this recipe is a result of meal time laziness.  But, be honest now, aren't we all a little lazy at meal time once in a while? Or a few times a week... But that's not the point, what I'm getting at is this - I finally have a stuffed zucchini recipe my husband likes!  And it is relatively healthy to boot!  Double win, with a bonus of meal simplicity.  

This is quick and easy to throw together and works just as well for a casual meal main dish (just cut in half width-wise and pick up to eat) as a side to a more elaborate sit down event (cut in half width-wise into thirds and estimate 2 per adult serving). I even diced everything up and reheated the leftovers for lunch to satisfactory success, at this point you could even toss it in a pocket pita for a handheld meal.  So many options..  Just check it out:

3 medium whole zucchini
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/4 cut sliced leeks
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz low fat or fat free cream cheese, softened
Parmesan cheese, reduced fat
Italian breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 F

1. Brown the meat in a large pan. Once cooked, drain and season with paprika and salt.

2. Add the cream cheese to the bottom of a medium sized bowl and pour the drained meat over top. The cream cheese will start to melt into the meat from the existing heat while you cook the leeks.

3. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat. Saute the leeks and garlic until they start to crisp slightly and caramelize. Then drain and stir into the mixture in the bowl. Continue to stir the contents until it has an even consistency throughout, you may need to throw it back in the drained pan to add some more heat if using full fat cream cheese.

4. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh, leaving about ¼ - ½ inch wall around the outside. Lightly salt the zucchini halves and fill with equal amounts of the stuffing mixture.  Top each with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and Italian breadcrumbs.

5. Bake for about 20 min or until the zucchini is fork tender.


Healthier than Most Honey Lemon Cookies

or a reduced fat, sans cream, sweet solution to daily snacking

I don't crave sweets too often, but when I do - look out!  All I have wanted lately has been sweets, and I attribute this mostly to the fact that my sweet of choice for the past few weeks has been frozen yogurt and since I have had problems with breathing and a persistent cough I have had to reduce my "creamy food" intake significantly.  You always want what you can't have...  So it was time to come up with a "healthy-ish" non-creamy treat, but my lack of breathing has significantly limited my cooking explorations so I decided to do some research.

I found some cookie recipes that used egg beaters, or another egg substitute, to reduce fat and calories and thought - well, it's a start.  There were also many that used alternative artificial sweeteners, but I'm not really on board for that, so those were out.  There were then a number that utilized honey, both as a flavor enhancer and as a natural sweetener to cut back on sugar - ok, I thought, that's not so bad.  Add in the fact that I've mostly switched to a light butter (containing about half the fat of regular) whenever possible and I had a great place to start.  I had no idea what would happen to the texture of a cookie when I took that much fat out of the recipe, but I figured it was worth a shot.

Turns out - it worked great!  Cooking time is more sensitive because the chewyness factor of under-cooked cookies with less fat seems to be higher, but when they are cooked long enough - hot out of the oven - you'd never know they lacked that extra fat.  I was sure to taste test these later in the evening as well, just to make sure they were still good when room temperature of course, and I can assure you they are just as delicious once cooled.  I think the only addition I may make next time is to include a little lemon zest for a bit more punch of flavor.  Check it out:

2 tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ tbsp honey
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp light butter
¼ cup egg beaters
2 cups flour
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp baking soda
Granulated sugar for topping

1. Cream together sugar and butter until blended and slightly fluffy. Add in egg beaters, lemon juice, and honey and blend to combine.

2. In a separate container combine flour, cream of tartar, and baking soda.

3. Stir dry ingredients into the wet until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 min.

4. Roll into balls about 1-2 tsp in size. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet, add the cookie balls, cover with a second sheet of parchment and flatten each cookie only about halfway with the bottom of a cup.

5. Remove the top layer of parchment, lightly dust with granulated sugar, and bake at 375 F for 8-9 min

Nutritional information below is based on making 30 cookies from the batter (the amount that I made), but it could vary depending on how many cookies you get depending on size.

The nutritional information is from the recipe calculator on the Live Strong website in the My Plate area. I love this website and use it on a regular basis for monitoring my meals, if you enter the ingredients and portions for a recipe it gives you a nifty readout like the one below and allows you to use it to track on your My Plate page very easily.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 3 cookies
Amount per Serving
Calories 193
Calories from Fat 18.0
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 2g
Saturated Fat 0.6g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 47.12mg
Total Carbohydrate 39.61g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 21.65g
Protein 3.8g

Est. Percent of Calories from:

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calories needs.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/recipes/honey-lemon-cookies/#ixzz1TmTmJLPJ