Monday, July 23, 2012

Zucchini, Part II- Italian Turkey Meatloaf

Well, this post was supposed to be a salad recipe, but my husband decided to take my camera on a day trip to Mt. Hood with the kids, so I can't shoot any photos of it!  Arghhh!  Well, lucky that I already have some pics of the lovely Italian turkey meatloaf that I made yesterday- I *might* forgive him in the next week (or 2)!

I love meatloaf- grew up with it, probably ate it at least once a week for many years.  However, in this day and age, I don't cook with ground beef too much- I have substituted ground turkey or chicken for a lot of dishes that I once made with ground beef.  Meatloaf, though, has been an has been difficult to make a turkey meatloaf that meets the standards of a regular beef one in terms of not only flavor, but also texture.  Recently, I was browsing the Foodgawker site, and happend to see a turkey meatball recipe that caught my eye, because it contained ricotta cheese.  The recipe promised a moist, tender texture to the meatballs, so I figured, why not try it with meatloaf?  The verdict:  GREAT idea!  It really helps the turkey to retain moisture and tenderness, without compromising the stability of the meat.  I will definitely use this again!

This is kind of a standard meatloaf recipe, other than the fact that it uses ground turkey instead of ground beef.  I used 93% lean ground turkey, rather than the ground turkey breast (which is 99 % lean) because, well, this is meatloaf.  It needs some fat.  I went with an Italian theme, because as previously noted, I have lots of zucchini to get rid of, and this was a good use of it.  And honestly, you don't even notice it in this dish.  I have made Italian meatloaves before, and usually in those, I use jarred spagetti sauce in place of ketchup.  Here, instead, I used tomato paste, along with the usual Italian spices, to balance the moisture brought by the ricotta.  You only want to go so far with moisture in a meatloaf- otherwise, you have meatmush.  This produces a tender, moist, flavorful, and light meatloaf.  You can always play with the herbs and spices to change it up a bit, if you want.

Italian Meatloaf

Serves about 8

1/2 onion, chopped
1 package ground lean turkey (93% lean)
1 zucchini, shredded, pressed through a strainer/colander to remove water
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 cup jarred spaghetti sauce

1.  Sautee onion in 1 tbsp. vegetable oil until soft.

2. Place ground turkey in a mixing bowl.  Add zucchini, ricotta, 1/4 cup parmsean, onion (cooled), and egg, and mix to incorporate.  Add seasonings, tomato paste, and bread crumbs and mix well.

3. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Place meat mixture on sheet and form into a loaf.

4.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until meat thermometer reads 180 degrees at deepest point.

5.  Pour spaghetti sauce over the top of the meatloaf.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  Bake for additional 5-10 minutes.

6.  Remove from oven and cool.  Slice and serve.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zucchini, Zucchini Everywhere, Part 1

I have a garden.  It's a rather messy garden, because while I like the part where you plant stuff and harvest it, I'm not a big fan of what comes in between- namely, the weeding.  With the warm, wet beginning of summer that we had, it's like a jungle out there!  Part of me had given up- I was feeling a bit dejected because less than half of the green bean seeds I planted came up, so I haven't even bothered to go out there and check things out much.  I finally started seeing some color on the tomato plants though, so late last week, I ventured out there to pick a few of the little orange cherry tomatoes that had suddenly ripened.  I was pretty surprised to see a fully grown zucchini on the nearest zucchini plant, ready to be picked!  I planted two zucchini plants and one yellow squash, and the zucchini plants have really grown fast.  The yellow squash plant does not get as much sun, so it is slower going there.  So I've had this one zucchini on my counter for a couple of days, and finally this morning I diced and cooked it up with some onion to have with breakfast alongside my fried egg and toast.  Whew, I thought- so glad to have used that up before it went bad!

Then I stepped outside to water the garden, and to my astonishment, there were 5 MORE zucchini ready for picking!  Funny how it happens all at once, isn't it?!  So my challenge today was to use as much of the zucchini as I could, so that I was not faced with the task of trying to cook that much zucchini during the week.  I managed to use 3 of them, so that's not too bad!

So what did I do with these lovelies?

Well, I did several things, and as such, it is going to take me more than one post to document it all!  So this is Zucchini, Part 1.  Stay tuned for more later!

Italian Egg Bake
This was SO easy.  I managed to clean out my crisper a bit for this dish too, and used up some random onion pieces and a few mushrooms that were nearing their use-by date.  This is so simple to make, I won't even bother with a recipe- just a method of putting it all together.  This is so yummy, and bursting with fresh veggies and Italian flavors.

1.  Shred one zucchini.  Put in a colander over a bowl and salt liberally, tossing to mix in the salt.  Leave for 20 minutes or so.  Press water out of the zucchini through the colander and set aside.

2.  Sautee some chopped onions and mushrooms in a bit of oil or butter until soft.  Add zucchini for the last couple of minutes of cooking, tossing to incorporate all the veggies.

3.  In a bowl, crack 6 eggs and beat.  Stir in 1/2 lowfat cottage cheese and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, a few fresh basil leaves chopped, and a clove of garlic, finely minced.  Add cooled veggies and stir to incorporate.  Pour into a 9x9 square pan sprayed with nonstick baking spray.

4.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with a tablespoon or 2 more parmesan cheese and put back into oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before cutting into 3x3 squares.

This crustless quiche is really tender and flavorful, and omitting the crust makes it a lot healthier too!  You could reduce the fat by replacing half of the whole eggs with 2 egg whites for each whole egg.  I know the cottage cheese may seem like a strange ingredient, but trust me- it melts right into the dish and you don't even know it's there, and it contributes to the tender, delicate texture of this dish.  Garnish with fresh basil if you want- mine was fresh right out of my garden!

Stay tuned for Part 2, and possibly Part 3 as well- I have no idea what other lengths I will have to go to to use up all this squash!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Chicken and Grilled Corn Chowder

Ok.  I know. JULY??  Especially when most of the country has been dealing with 100+ degree temps for the last week plus??

Yeah, sorry.  Here in the Pacific NW, the summer has not been so harsh.  (Yet.)  Don't quote me, because in a couple of weeks I will probably be cursing myself for being so smug.  Yes, our warmest day so far was yesterday, which was about 90.  Really not so bad, by comparison.  I grew up where it routinely got to be 105 or more in the summer...with no central A/C.  So, yeah, this is still pretty livable (so far.)

Anyway.  Last week was the Fourth of July.  We spent the holiday with friends barbequing, hanging out, and doing fireworks in their cul-de-sac.  We potluck most years to their house, and this year I got off easy- a veggie tray with dip, some soda, and a dessert.  So I went to the store on the 4th for the veggies.  Holy cow, was it busy!!  While strolling through the produce section, I noticed the 6/$1 corn sale.  I had no plans to bring corn to the barbeque, but we all like corn, so I took advantage and bought 6 ears for $1.  I grilled some of it over this past weekend for dinner, but was left with 3 ears after that, just languishing in my kitchen.  Yesterday (Sunday) was fridge clean-out day, and I was faced with what to do with these last 3 ears of corn.  I decided to throw them on the grill, and figure out the rest later.

Later came today.  It's Monday...back to work, and I'm too tired to make a complicated dinner night.  Hubby took the kids out to grab dinner and a movie, and I pondered the grilled corn, as well as some other stray fridge ingredients, wondering if I could conjur up something out of them into something special...or at the very least, edible.  The answer, it turns out, was surprisingly simple.  This soup showcases fresh grilled corn, with a backdrop of creamy potatoes and a subtle hint of chicken.  The chicken is not the centerpiece here- that belongs to the corn, as it rightly deserves.  The chicken is just barely there, to provide a little structure and substance to an otherwise light, summery soup, making it seem more like a meal than a snack.  The flavor that comes from the grilled corn cannot be faked, so don't even think about substituting frozen or canned corn here- you will not get the same delicious results.  This is a light, yet substantial soup that delivers the essence of summer, right to your tastebuds.

To grill corn on the cob, remove husks and corn silk.  Wrap in foil and grill over a medium flame, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes.  Unwrap and cool, then cut corn from cobs.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Summer Chicken and Grilled Corn Chowder

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
 About 3 cups grilled fresh corn, cut from cob
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 carton (32 oz) chicken broth
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste
chopped chives for garnish (optional)

1.  Heat vegetable oil in a large pot.  Add onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.

2.  Add corn and heat through.  Move vegetables to the side, and add chicken to the middle of the pot.  Brown chicken on one side, then turn and brown on the other.

3.  Add chicken broth and potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender.

4.  Remove chicken from soup and set aside.  Using a hand-held blender, blend soup for just a few seconds at a time.  You don't want to puree the soup, just blend it a bit so that there are still whole pieces of corn and potatoes. 

5.  Shred chicken with a fork, and return to the soup and stir in.

6.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in half and half.

7.  Serve in bowls topped with chopped chives.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

 Well, I was not going to post this on this blog, because honestly, there's nothing healthy, easy, or particularly "common sense" about it.  However, not everything in life has to be, right?  And your son only turns 16 years old once, and if he happens to share your affinity for chocolate/peanut butter desserts, you are well-justified in making something like this (and blogging about it) once in awhile.

And also, my friend Jill asked me to share the recipe after I posted pictures on Facebook.  So, this is for you, Jill!
 I researched a ton for this cake.  I knew exactly what I had in mind for it, and I couldn't find any one recipe that was "it" for me.  So, as I usually do with these things, I combined elements from different recipes to make what I wanted it to be.  I also did not make the cake from scratch- I went for convenience, and used a boxed cake mix.  It was still really darned good!  This cake is incredibly rich.  It was so heavy, I had to weigh it, and it was over 6 pounds!  Make sure to cut thin slices of this to serve.  I gave generous slices of this to three teenaged boys, and they all complained that they could hardly finish them.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

1 box devil's food cake mix and ingredients included on package directions
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Mix cake mix according to package directions.  Stir in peanut butter and chocolate chips.

2. Bake according to package directions in two 9" round cake pans.

3.  Cool 10 minutes in pans, then remove cake from pans and allow to cool completely on wire racks.  (I refrigerated mine to speed up the cooling process.)

1.5 cup creamy good quality peanut butter, NOT natural or reduced fat
4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup heavy cream (plus more if necessary)

4.  Mix peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer in a large bowl until it resembles coarse crumbs.

5.  Add cream and mix until it is a thick, fudgy consistency.

6.  Spray a 9" round cake pan with nonstick spray.  Press peanut butter mixture into the bottom of the pan, smoothing to the edge of the pan bottom .

7.  Freeze for 30 minutes.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature (softened)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 tbsp heavy cream, or enough to achieved desired consistency

8. In a large bowl, combine butter, peanut butter, vanilla, and confectioner's sugar.  Mix with an electric mixer until it resembles coarse crumbs.

9.  Add 1 tbsp of cream at a time and continue to mix, until frosting is soft and creamy and at the desired consistency.

Chocolate Ganache:
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

10.  Place chips in a heatproof bowl and set aside.

11.  Heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to simmer.

12.  Remove from heat and immediately pour over chocolate chips in the bowl.  Allow to sit for 1 minute.

13.  Whisk mixture with a wire whisk until smoothe.

15 mini Reese's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, coarsly chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Cake Assembly:

14.  Place one cake round on cake platter upside down.

15.  Remove pan of peanut butter filling from freezer.  Add about 1 inch of warm water to a shallow pan, and put pan of peanut butter filling in it.  Allow to sit about 1 minute to loosen the filling.

16.  Run a knife or rubber spatula around the edge of the filling to loosen from pan, and pry up gently to pop it out of the pan in once piece.

17.  Place filling on cake layer, then add the other cake layer on top of the filling, right side up.

18.  Frost cake with peanut butter frosting.

19.  Prepare ganache.  Pour over the top of the frosted cake.  Use a rubber spatula to gently spread the ganache to the edges of the cake so that it drips down over the sides.

20.  Sprinkle chopped peanut butter cups and chips over the top.