Zucchini Pizza Boats

Zucchini Pizza Boats

Zucchini Pizza Boats

Zucchini is one of my least favorite vegetables.  There, I said it.  Sure, I can tolerate an occasional zucchini bread, and I rarely order zucchini fries at the local fried fish take out restaurant, but besides those few exceptions zucchini is a no-no for me.  And yet, so many people seem to actually like it.  So, I’m figuring there must be some tolerable way to include this veggie in my repertoire.

The search was endless.  Chocolate zucchini cupcakes, breads of all sorts, zucchini chips (I must try that one), zucchini casseroles, zucchini spaghetti, etc., etc., etc.  The picture that caught my attention this week was pizza!  No, not a traditional pizza, but the flavors of pizza made with zucchini.  So here goes, fingers crossed!

Prep Time:  20mins

Cooking Time:  35mins

Recipe Ingredients:

3 small zucchini  (I used locally grown, conventional)

1/2 container of grape tomatoes (I used organic)

1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Fresh Parmesan (thin sliced)

Whole milk Mozzarella (though I think partially skim would work fine too)

Dried Italian Spices (optional)

Pesto (optional–I used the premade from Whole Foods antipasto bar)

Olive Tapenade (optional–same as above, Whole Foods antipasto bar)

Recipe:

Set oven to 400°F

Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil

Wash tomatoes and zucchini

Cut ends off zucchini the cut in half lengthwise (I ran into a problem with my boats tipping over when filling them.  I finally got smart by the third boat.  Either slice a small bit from the bottom of each boat, so that it is more stable; or when cutting the zucchini in half, turn it so that it is unstable while cutting it so each half sits more stable when halved.  If you just let the zucchini sit on the board when cutting it, that’s when your halves will wobble.  Geez, I hope that makes sense to more than just me.)

Next, spoon out the seeds, but be sure to leave some on the ends so your fillings don’t just ooze out.  They should look like cute little green canoes when you’re done.

Place boats on cookie sheet.

Slice grape tomatoes in half lengthwise and line them up side by side in the boats.

If you wish to add italian spices, pesto, or tapenade, do it now.  Sprinkle or spoon it over the tomatoes evenly.

Drizzle olive oil over the fillings.

Next, slice your parmesan cheese (my grater has 4 sides and makes nice even slices which worked great).  Place over the tomatoes evenly the whole length of the boat.

Now sprinkle generously with grated mozzarella cheese.

Don’t add any salt. The cheese should be salty enough for this recipe.

Bake for 35 minutes at 400°F.  If your cheese isn’t a golden brown (as mine wasn’t), put the oven on broil for a couple minutes.  (I will warn you here that my oven started to smoke when I did this because I wasn’t neat when putting on my mozzarella. What had fallen directly to the foil started to burn when I put on the broiler, but it didn’t affect the boats, it just required I stay by the oven during this part of the process and keep the overhead fan on, on the stove)

Review:

This gets the ‘freakin awesome’ award!  I knew I was eating zucchini, but it wasn’t mushy or gross!  I think getting rid of the seeds really helped in this regard.  They were great tasting and had the right textures.  The best tasting was the pesto boat to me, second best was the tapenade.  I might have liked the plain one better,  but I didn’t use any italian spices.  I definitely think the plain one needs that little extra flavor of spices to work well.  Also, they were still good when cooled down, but best when they came right out of the oven piping hot with the cheese still all gooey.

Keep in mind the little extra prep time for this one.  For me, it won’t work during the week when I want something quick.  But, this will be a go to recipe on the weekends!

Cleanup and instuments used:

Not bad for cleaning up.  A knife, spoon, cutting board, measuring spoon, cheese grater, plate for cheese, spatula, and plate and fork for eating.  The cookie sheet needed no cleaning because of the foil I used.

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Carrot Fries (from feelgoodaboutdinner blog repost)

Crispy Carrot Fries

Crispy Carrot Fries

This week I’m reblogging a recipe for Carrot Fries from the FeelGoodAboutDinner blog.  I’ve never tried making them and never even tried tasting them before, so this should be fun.  They’re in the oven now, for Sunday lunch!

I cut back on the recipe amounts since it’s only me eating them.  I used organic baby carrots, and chopped them in half with a french fry crinkle cutter.  I did salt and white pepper for seasonings.  And I apparently used up all my parchment paper, so I used non-stick foil instead.  Otherwise I was pretty true to the recipe.

 

Prep:  8-10 mins

Cooking Time: 30 mins (I tried 20 but they were too soft)

 

Recipe Ingredients:

Carrots

High temperature oil (I used Olive Oil)

Corn Starch

Salt and Pepper

Recipe:

https://feelgoodaboutdinner.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/how-to-make-carrot-fries-crispy-sweet-potato-fries-too/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-2

Review:

These were very good, except I oversalted.  They’re not like french fried potatoes, you don’t need tons of salt.  I loved the pepper on these (and I’m not a pepper lover normally).  The sweet of the carrot works great.  And the crispiness was good, but again, don’t expect french fry crispiness.  They don’t take tons of prep work with the manual crinkle cutter (we got ours at our area Chef’s Store).  This recipe would be good for a weeknight, so I’m guessing I’ll be making more soon!

Cleanup:

Very easy cleanup when using the non-stick foil. Just washing out a few items, really–a bowl, a crinkle cutter, measuring spoons, and a cutting board

Butternut Squash With dried Cranberries: Wow! I didn’t know that would happen!

I’m usually a “toss things together and see what happens” kind of gal, when it comes to cooking.  Truth be told, sometimes the wildlife won’t even eat my  experiments, which tells you how bad some things are.  But sometimes I get lucky!  Here’s some lucky!

This isn’t an official recipe because I was just throwing things together and using up some pre-cubed butternut squash before it went bad. 

I oven roasted the butternut squash with some dried cranberries.  I prepared it by drizzling some olive oil and some honey, salted it all and sprinkled over a fair amount of cinnamon.  Roasted it till it was dark brown on the under side and lightly browning on top (I don’t even know how long it was in but I can tell you the oven was  at 450°F ).

Anyway, last night I wasn’t overly impressed when I ate it out of the oven straightaway.  However, today is a different story! 

Tonight, I reheated the leftovers for 1:30 mins in the microwave, and it was amazing!  I can only guess that the juices and flavors have been mixing together in the tupperware container all day and have made this so-so veggie great!  I’ll have to make it next time and just put all of it in the fridge for the next day’s meal.

It is a sweeter recipe so if you don’t like sweet veggies, this isn’t for you.  I, myself, love sweet and savory.  This dish is SO me!

I wasn’t expecting this, so I don’t even have a picture for you.  I’ll try to do this again and get proper measurements and times.

Veggie Cooking Guide

This could really be handy for the veggie challenged, like me.

Need help COOKING VEGGIES? Here’s a handy cheat sheet!

REMEMBER: vegetables continue to cook even after removed from heat source! Don’t overcook green veggies like broccoli, asparagus, and spinach – undercook to ensure they are vibrant green when served. Opt for steaming/baking over boiling, & avoid the microwave.

Bon appetit!

Veggie Cooking Guide

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Pan-Fried Asparagus and Mushrooms (without commentary)

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time:  20 mins 

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package White mushrooms, already pre-sliced
  • 1/2 of a bunch of asparagus
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Recipe:

Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody bottoms and washing/rinsing.

Wash/rinse sliced fresh mushrooms.

Add mushrooms to heated oil and stir to coat with oil.  Cover the pan and let mushrooms cook, stirring ever couple minutes till they get smaller and start to brown.

Take out mushrooms when they have browned, and put them aside.

Drain the asparagus and drop them into the hot pan.  Separate out the asparagus so it’s a single layer and all of them are touching the bottom of the pan so they can cook and brown.  Flip over the asparagus after a few minutes to cook the other side the same way.

When both sides seem green and slightly browned, remove them and throw the mushrooms back in the hot pan for just about a minute to reheat them up.  As the mushrooms are warming, cut the asparagus into smaller pieces to eat.  Finally, pour the reheated mushrooms over the asparagus.

Serve!

Pan-Fried Asparagus and Mushrooms

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Sunday morning breakfast.  What to do, what to do.  After being a good girl all week, eating my oatmeal (which I am not a huge fan of, but my cholesterol levels dictate I eat), I deserve something special.  I don’t want to completely blow all the cholesterol fighting I did all week, but I deserve a little treat.  I decided to use the asparagus I bought this week at Whole Foods.

Asparagus is one of the true green veggies that I actually like.  I’ve only made them before by blanching them and eating them with salt.  Lots of salt.  But in the spirit of the VegMe 52 challenge, I switched how I prepared them to see if there are other options.  This week they are pan-fried with mushrooms, in olive oil, salt and pepper, and served with scrambled eggs and a piece of cornbread.

Now, before you go and ask ‘why not an omelette instead?’  I’m just not an omelette gal.  I don’t hate ’em, I just don’t love ’em when I make them, because they never turn out right.  Usually, it’s a hot mess on the plate and the veggies are undercooked.  Scrambled seems simpler.

Anywho, below is how I prepared the veggies.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time:  20 mins 

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package (equates to about 5oz) White mushrooms, already pre-sliced
  • 1/2 of a bunch of asparagus (I made them all just to have them later as leftovers, but you only need 1/2 the bunch for a serving)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper)

Recipe:

Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody bottoms.  Most people seem to cut the bottoms, but I learned long ago that the woody part is bitter and stringy.  Does it waste some?  Yes.  But if I have to eat that part, then I tend to avoid asparagus, so it’s counterproductive to getting me to eat my veggies.  If you don’t know what I mean by snapping off the woody parts, go here:   http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Mxtpdn0jYVg  –It’s a great veggie hack!

Next, let the asparagus soak in water to rinse while you prepare the mushrooms.

Okay, now put your oil and a little salt in the pan (I use non-stick because it’s easier to clean).  While the oil is heating at a medium-high temperature, wash/rinse your mushrooms in a sieve and shake off the excess water.  Dump the mushrooms in the pan and stir and separate them out with your wooden spoon.  Cover the pan and let them cook, stirring ever couple minutes till they get smaller and start to brown.

Take out your mushrooms when they have browned, and put them aside.

Drain the asparagus and drop them into the hot pan.  There won’t be much oil in the pan anymore, but that’s okay, there’s still just a light coating in the pan and that seemed to work fine when I did it in the non-stick pan.  Separate out the asparagus so it’s a single layer and all of them are touching the bottom of the pan so they can cook and brown.  I didn’t cover the pan here because this is a fairly fast cook.  Flip over the asparagus after a few minutes to cook the other side the same way.

The idea here is to get each side of the asparagus bright green color and with just a hint of browning.  This only takes a few minutes for each side, less if the asparagus is pencil thin.  This will cook the asparagus, but keep it crunchy instead of getting mushy asparagus.  Most people, regardless of the method used, usually over cook asparagus and end up with them wilty and their flavor cooked out.  Blech!

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When both sides seem green and slightly browned, take them out onto your plate and throw the mushrooms back in the hot pan for just about a minute to reheat them up.  As the mushrooms are warming, cut the asparagus into smaller pieces to eat.  Finally, pour the reheated mushrooms over the asparagus, and you are done!


Review
:

The dish was good, but I got a slight hint of bitterness in the taste which brought down my enjoyment of it.   I’m not sure what caused this.   Was it my preparation, my use of less salt than normal, or maybe I bought a different variety of asparagus.  There are many different varieties of asparagus, each imparting its own unique flavors–see here:    http://www.asparagus-lover.com/asparagus-varieties.html

In any case, it was good enough to make again.  And, now that I’ve learned what to expect from the different varieties, I will keep my eye open for that information.  And, I will post a comment next time I make it to let you know if I figure out what caused the bitterness.

The other downside to this recipe is that it takes about 30 minutes total to prepare.  Not a weekday option for me, but good for the weekend or a day off.

Tools Used:

  • Non-stick frying pan with lid
  • Wooden spatula or spoon
  • Rinsing sieve
  • Rinsing bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Tongs
  • Plate for serving & fork for eating!

Cleanup:

A breeze!  No real chopping or measuring or mixing going on, so not much mess to clean.  Love that!

Have you tried this recipe?

Please comment below to let us all know what you thought.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower (basic recipe)

Roasted Cauliflower (basic recipe)

In researching the best ways to prepare my first veggie dish, I was amazed! I have only ever eaten cauliflower raw (dipped in creamy salad dressings), or boiled or microwaved (slathered with sour cream). It turns out you can make almost any type of cuisine using cauliflower. Besides the usual recipes like cheese casserole and pasta dishes, I found recipes for asian and indian dishes, cauliflower steaks, quiche, bread sticks and even pizza crusts made with cauliflower!  I’m not sure of the tastes of those dishes, but its exciting to think about trying some of them.

For this week however, I wanted something that people gave high ratings, and that was quick and simple to make. Something that could be made after a long day at work without too much prep time. I decided on roasted cauliflower. I found that here too there are so many different ways to prepare this one dish.  Whatever your taste palate, you can find the right spices to add.  I decided to try two highly rated tastes: plain roasted, and garlic parmesan topped.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes at 450°F, or 60 minutes at 400°F

Recipe Ingredients:
Cauliflower head (I used organic which are slightly smaller)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup Olive Oil (I love Olive Oil, but I suppose you can use whatever oil you like)
1 Tbsp Minced garlic from a bottle (so much quicker)
1/4 cup Fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

Recipe:

Abbreviated version here: https://vegme52.com/2015/01/04/roasted-cauliflower-easy-follow-recipe-without-commentary/

Preheat oven.  I tried two different temperatures based on the different recipes I researched.  For a crispier dish, use the 450°. Or, for a more carmelized taste use the lower temp of 400° for a longer time. I think this is just personal preference.

Now, Chopping. Let’s discuss this. Chopping cauliflower or broccoli is one of the chores in Hell, I’m convinced. I could never figure out how to do this well. And, truth be told, one of the reasons I never made cauliflower fresh…  until now! Low and behold, there is a way not to be driven crazy by this. It’s quick and super easy.  If you don’t know this trick, check it out here: http://www.thekitchn.com/basic-technique-how-to-cut-cau-89495

Once chopped, rinse and soak cauliflower for a few minutes to clean it, then drain. You don’t need to have it completely dry, just drained well.

Next, to make things quick and easy I put the cauliflower, oil, salt, and pepper in a rubbermaid 3 liter lidded bowl [here’s where you add the garlic if you’re so inclined] and shook it all up to coat the cauliflower.

Next, line a cookie tray with non-stick aluminum foil and dump out the coated cauliflower. Be sure to spread it out a bit, so it all gets to cook evenly in the oven.

Bake in oven for the alloted time (again, that’s 45 minutes at 450°F, or 60 minutes at 400°F) or until well browned.
[If adding parmesan cheese, add it about 5-10 minutes before the finishing time so it melts nicely]

Serve!

Review:
5-10 minutes prep, and the oven does the rest! That’s what I like–minimal work with maximum rewards! This recipe gave me just enough time to check the email and relax before eating. I can certainly see this one as a weekday option.

The taste was pretty amazing. The plain salt and pepper dish had a cleaner, but slightly nutty taste. I had read this but didn’t believe it. It’s not like a true nut taste, it’s a cleaner taste than that, but definitely nutty.

The Garlic-Parmesan dish was much stronger. I like Italian food, and this would be wonderful tossed with pasta. However, I would stay away from serving it with delicate dishes like mild fish. I think it could overpower those more delicate flavors.
Confession: I think I may have browned this a little to long. After adding the parmesan I forgot to set the timer. It didn’t burn, but I can’t be sure it was supposed to be this brown. Still it’s nice to know this is not a precise, unforgiving recipe. Another plus.

Tools Used:
Cutting board
Cooks knife
Rinsing bowl
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons
Cheese grater (only if you shred your own)
Tupperware bowl
Oven tray lined with non-stick aluminum foil
Plate for serving & fork for eating!

Cleanup:
This is important to me. I don’t like spending too much time on cleanup during the week, so I tend to stay away from complicated recipes that use every utensil and bowl I’ve got! This dish used very few items to make, and because I used the non-stick aluminum foil I didn’t have to clean the oven tray. Win-win!

Have you tried this recipe?
Please comment below to let us all know what you thought.

Roasted Cauliflower Easy-Follow Recipe (without commentary)

Roasted Garlic Parmesan Cauliflower

Roasted Garlic Parmesan Cauliflower

 

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes at 450°F, or 60 minutes at 400°F

Recipe Ingredients:
Cauliflower head
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Minced garlic
1/4 cup Fresh shredded Parmesan Cheese

Recipe:
Preheat oven to desired temperature:
For a crispier dish, use the 450° for 45 minutes.
For a more caramelized taste, use the lower temp of 400° for 60 minutes.

Chop up cauliflower into florets.
Rinse and soak cauliflower for a few minutes then drain.

Next, put the cauliflower, oil, salt, and pepper in a lidded bowl
[Here’s where you add the garlic if you’re so inclined]
Shake it all up to coat the cauliflower.

Line a cookie tray with non-stick aluminum foil and dump out and spread the coated cauliflower.
Bake in oven for the alloted time (again, that’s 45 minutes at 450°F, or 60 minutes at 400°F) or until well browned.
[If adding parmesan cheese, add it about 5-10 minutes before the finishing time so it melts nicely]

Serve!