Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

I’ve always been curious about squash blossoms, but I had never tried one. I’ve never had the nerve to take them off of my own squash plants, preferring to let them become their destined squash. A couple of summers ago I got some blossoms at the farmer’s market with the intention of stuffing them, but they got pushed back to the abyss of the refrigerator and I forgot about them, until they turned up on my next fridge clean shriveled and beyond use. That little foray in to squash blossoms was the end of my curiosity until I saw them again recently at a local farmer’s market. This time however I would be scrumptiously victorious!

Edible flowers have always amused me. When Alexis was three, she became obsessed with them. At the time we lived near a Whole Foods, and they usually had packages of them in their produce section, so we’d pick one up from time to time. A particular favorite of both of ours were Nasturtiums, which sort of have a peppery taste about them, and also violets, which tend to be a bit sweeter. I also have fond childhood memories of eating rose petals from my mom’s roses with my sister. I even introduced this tradition to Alexis on one of our trips to Tennessee. If you’re curious about some of the flowers that can be safely eaten, Wikipedia has a nice section on the topic.

Squash blossoms are a lovely, golden yellow color and are slightly sticky to the touch. Sometimes when you purchase the blossoms, they will have small squash attached to the end, but most of the time when you buy the blossoms, you’ll get just the blossom. You can eat them raw, use them in stir fry, or as I have done, you can stuff, bread and fry them. Any way you make them though, they’re a fun little treat.

What You’ll Need:
1 small package of button or baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 10.5 ounce package of goat cheese
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sized skillet, sauté mushrooms and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil, until tender. Set aside.

In a glass bowl add goat cheese and microwave on high for 10 seconds, to soften. Stir in mushroom/garlic mixture, thyme, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until well incorporated. Set aside.

Add about an inch of olive oil to a deep skillet and heat over medium heat until hot.

While your oil is heating, mix breading and then stuff/bread your blossoms.

To make the breading, in a pie dish stir together panko crumbs and parmesan. Depending on how salty your parmesan is, you might want to add a bit of sea salt too. The easiest way to decide is to take a taste of the breading/cheese mixture and see if it needs a bit of salt. You can also add in some black pepper if wanted.

Beat your eggs in a separate dish.

You can stuff the blossoms one of two ways…

First you can fill a pastry bag with the mushroom/cheese mixture and gently pipe the mixture down in to the blossoms until each one is relatively full…

Or you can gently tear the blossom down one side and put a dollop of the mushroom mixture in each, then wrap the blossom back together, using the cheese mixture to stick it closed. This is the method I used.

Once the blossoms are filled roll the blossom in the beaten egg to coat and then roll the egg washed blossom in the bread crumbs until completely covered.

Place breaded blossom in the oil and cook for about 20 to 30 seconds until the side in the oil is browned. Then slowly and gently rotate the blossom in the oil until all sides are browned. It takes 1 – 2 minutes per blossom depending on its size. I usually brown 4 “sides” and once it is browned all over place cooked blossom on a paper towel lined plate to drain and then serve while still hot.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Notes: You could play around with the goat cheese mixture and add onions or other herbs. You could add a mixture of cheeses, blue cheese would be heavenly. You could also replace the goat cheese with cream cheese if you liked. It’s a fun dish to play around with. If you have any of the cheese/mushroom mixture left over, it makes a good spread on bagels.

Another Summer Salad

Another Summer Salad

It’s been hot. Really, really, really hot. And when it gets like this I have zero interest in cooking. It’s too hot to grill and I most certainly don’t want to heat up the house, so I’ve been eating a lot of salads. It’s the perfect solution to dinner in the summer when you can get all sorts of produce from literally under the sun!

So we’ve established that it is easy to come up with all sorts of salads, but it’s hard to name them all! Therefore this is simply “Another Summer Salad” but don’t let the bland name fool you. This one is packed full of flavor and is just perfect for that hot summer day!

What You’ll Need:
1/2 cup of cabbage, chopped
2 ears of corn, kernels removed (Note: I used some I had grilled earlier in the week when we actually had a day that wasn’t blazing hot.)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (Note: I actually used 1/2 of a green pepper and 1/2 of a yellow.)
1 large cucumber, cut in half and sliced
1-2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of brown rice vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan, shredded

Another Summer Salad

In a large glass bowl toss together cabbage, corn, red onion, bell pepper and tomatoes until well mixed. Set aside.

In a small glass bowl whisk together extra virgin olive oil, brown rice vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and some finely ground black pepper until incorporated. Pour oil and vinegar over vegetables and toss to coat.

Sprinkle the salad with Parmesan and toss once more to mix in the cheese. Serve immediately.

Another Summer Salad

Notes: This time of year there are so many things you could add to this mix! Banana peppers would be great, or how about some shredded carrots? Peas are also a favorite. Don’t be afraid to mix it up! You could also top it off with some fresh herbs like chives or parsley.

Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Man has it every been hot out there! Because of this heat there is no way I was heating up the oven or stove to make dinner. I’ve been doing a lot of slow cooker meals and also a lot of salads. There is just nothing like a salad with fresh vegetables in the summer!

We are starting to get fresh tomatoes here in the area now, especially the cherry and grape varieties and I’ve been loving eating them plain, as well as in salads and even cooking with them when the heat wasn’t as bad.

This is a salad that I’ve really been loving as of late. It’s quick, easy, healthy and delicious! It’s the perfect summer time treat!

What You’ll Need:
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half (Note: I used an orange variety.)
1 spring of fresh rosemary, chopped roughly
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
The juice of 1 lime

Slice tomatoes and place in a glass bowl. Add rosemary, a pinch of sea salt (I used fleur de sel) and some freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat.

In a small bowl whisk together lime juice and olive oil and pour over the tomatoes. Toss again to mix.

Serve immediately.

Note: Due to the lime juice you’ll want to eat the salad when you make it. If you store it the lime juice will begin to break down the tomatoes. You can also add thyme and/or parsley to the mix. A variety of tomatoes mixed would be good as well.

Grilled Peaches and Pound Cake

Grilled Peaches and Pound Cake with Peach Ice Cream

When my parents came to visit this past week they brought me their old grill. We used to use it when we camped out at the lake in the summers and it was just sitting in Mom’s garage collecting dust. I had hoped to bring it back with me when I was in Tennessee a few weeks ago, but both trips there just wasn’t room in the car. We killed two birds with one stone; Mom got the grill out of her garage and I finally have a grill again! My mom’s only request? “If you decide later you don’t want it you have to find somewhere else for the grill to live!” Deal!

I have to admit that charcoal freaks me out a bit, especially the kind that is drenched in chemicals to ignite. You know me, I’m not much of a chemical person and avoid them at all costs. I was thrilled when we found a natural charcoal that was made from hardwood charcoal and put together with a vegetable binder!

Charcoal

I was further thrilled when I realized by purchasing a charcoal chimney you didn’t need lighter fluid!

My New Charcoal Chimney

There’s a bit of a learning curve with this apparently and this go around wasn’t perfect, but I got it smoking!

My New Charcoal Chimney

And then we really got it going!

My New Charcoal Chimney

Next time I’ll put more charcoal in the chimney and put the paper underneath it instead of the in the chimney itself! You live, you learn! But no lighter fluid! Woot!

Overall this really is a simple, yet delicious summer time treat that gives you a bit of wow factor, yet doesn’t take a ton of time or a lot of effort. I love fresh, simple desserts like that!

What You’ll Need:
Peach ice cream
Peaches, cut in half and pitted
Pound cake, sliced (Note: You can buy one at the store like I did this go around, or you can make one. This is my favorite.)

Obviously you’ll want to make your ice cream ahead of time and have it ready to go.

Next up grill your peaches:

Peaches and Corn Grilling

I actually grilled the peaches with our dinner and then let them cool off before we ate them. They were fabulous! It’s simple to do, just cut the peach in half, remove the pit and place it face down on the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes or until tender.

How easy is that?

Next grill the pound cake!

Slice your pound cake and place the slices on the grill:

Pound Cake Grilling

This process basically just toasts the pound cake and deepens its flavor! Toast each side about 1-2 minutes until golden:

Pound Cake Grilling

Now you’re ready to put your dessert together. A slice of pound cake, a grilled peach and a scoop of peach ice cream and voila…Dessert is served!

See easy peasy!

Notes: You can grill many fruits. Apples, bananas, pineapple, plums, nectarines, etc.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Some people turn up their nose at sun dried tomatoes, but I’m a huge fan. I love their sweet, concentrated burst of flavor! You can get the same type of results by oven drying any basic tomato, and its especially fun to do with those late season tomatoes, that you might have a lot of right about now. It’s a simple way to dry your tomatoes to be used later in any recipe that calls for sun dried tomatoes, or even just as a fabulous, healthy snack!

What You’ll Need:
Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Plum Tomatoes

Rinse and dry your tomatoes. You can use any type of tomatoes you like. This go around I used plum tomatoes, but I like to do this method with cherry or grape tomatoes too. If you use cherry/grape tomatoes you can skip the next step and go straight to the “drying” process.

Slice tomatoes and lay out on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet:

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Ready to Dry

Some people add herbs, salt or even sugar at this point, but I like to do them plain.

Bake for 4-6 hours checking every 30 minutes or so until completely “dried”:

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Done!

Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container. (Note: If you store them in the fridge they’ll last a very long time.)

Notes: No notes for this one!

Creamy Corn and Cucumber Salad

Creamy Corn and Cucumber Salad

This one is another throw together what you’ve got and make the perfect meal! The flavors of this salad are mild, yet refreshing. The dill gives it just the right pop! By utilizing fresh, local ingredients, You’ve got a salad that can’t be beat!

What You’ll Need:
6-8 ears of corn, stripped from the ear (Note: You can use cooked or raw corn.)
1-2 large cucumbers, cut into strips and chopped
2/3 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/2 cup of light sour cream or fat free Greek yogurt (Note: I’ve made it with either, but I prefer sour cream.)
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Chop vegetables and herbs and toss together in a large glass bowl. Set aside.

In a separate glass bowl stir together sea salt, pepper, sour cream and vinegar until smooth. Pour mixture over the vegetable/herbs and toss to coat. Chill for up to 4 hours, or serve immediately.

Notes: You can add in shredded carrots, chopped scallions, zucchini, squash, etc. It’s all a matter of personal taste.

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

I love pasta salads. They are so easy to throw together and you have something fabulous, yet delicious that is so easy to share! Pasta salads are just perfect for cook outs, picnics or even pot luck dinners.

This is the pasta salad that I ultimately sent to the shelter a few weeks back. It combines pasta, fresh vegetables, a few canned items and dried herbs to make the perfect all around dish. Easy and delicious…Now I like that!

What You’ll Need:
1 – 1 pound box of bow tie (farfalle) pasta, cooked according to package directions and cooled
1 – 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 – 3.8 ounce can of black olives, drained and sliced
1 cucumber, speared and chopped
1-2 raw ears of corn, stripped
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese

Cook bow tie pasta, drain and set aside to cool. (Note: If you want to speed up the cooling process you can run cool water over the pasta and it cools almost immediately.)

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Bow Tie Pasta

In a large glass bowl toss together diced tomatoes, black olives, cucumber and corn until well mixed:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Vegetables

Next up is mixing your dressing. I like to use a canning jar and shake it all together, but you can whisk it in a bowl if you like.

Add olive oil, vinegar, oregano, basil, thyme, sea salt, pepper and Parmesan to a glass jar and place the lid on tightly. Shake until ingredients are well mixed:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Dressing

Add cooled bow tie pasta and dressing mix to the bowl with the vegetables and toss to coat:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Chill for at least 2 hours to overnight and then serve.

Notes: You could add chopped onion and or bell pepper. Since this doesn’t use fresh tomatoes you don’t have to worry as much about the vinegar breaking down the tomatoes. I would still eat it within a day or two or making it though.

Kicking Up a Tomato Sandwich: Cornmeal Waffles

Cornmeal Waffles: Tomato Sandwich

I’m late today, but I’m here!

Yesterday was one of those days. I woke up with a migraine that would just NOT GO AWAY! It wasn’t a functioning migraine either, it was a shut myself in my dark room with the fan on and sleep all day sort of migraine. Even after the migraine finally started to abate around 4:30 yesterday afternoon I felt tired, zombie like and sore. Days like that make me glad Jamison works from home most days! I woke up this morning feeling better, but way behind on everything!

So without further ado, let’s talk some cornmeal waffles/tomato sandwiches!

Tomato sandwiches are one of my all time favorite summer treats! There is just nothing like a tomato sandwich on a corn cake! It takes a while to make corn cakes though, so I started thinking of ways to speed up the process. I’m all about finding ways to do things faster!

Corn cakes are cooked like pancakes, so there is a lot of standing around waiting to flip them and such. Pancakes made me think of waffles, because I prefer waffles over pancakes for the simple fact that you can make them much faster, and then I decided the perfect way to cook corn cakes would be in waffle form, so I decided to give it a whirl and it worked perfectly!

This method is a quick, easy way to make delicious, hearty yet healthy, whole grain corn cakes. What’s better than that?

What You’ll Need:
2 cups of yellow stone ground corn meal
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 1/4 cups of buttermilk
2 eggs
Tomatoes
Sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat waffle iron at medium heat.

In a large bowl stir together corn meal, salt, baking soda and baking powder until well mixed. Next add milk and eggs:

Cornmeal Waffles: Making the Batter

Stir together ingredients until thick batter forms:

Cornmeal Waffles: Batter

(Note: Depending on humidity you might need all of the milk, part of the milk or maybe just a bit more. You want a thick batter that is not runny.)

Spray your waffle iron with non-stick spray or brush with oil. Place scoops of batter on your preheated waffle iron:

Cornmeal Waffles: Ready to Cook

If you want you can spread the batter out to the edges to make them uniform, but with these I actually like them to be a bit rustic.

Cook for 2-4 minutes until golden brown:

Cornmeal Waffles

Repeat until you run out of batter. This will make 6-8 waffles.

Cornmeal Waffles

Now you’re ready to make your sandwiches!

How you put together your sandwich is a matter of choice. I like tomato sandwiches when they are on corn cakes or corn waffles pretty simple. I either like them with mayo and tomatoes, or with mayo, tomatoes and cheese. This go around I stuck with the former. If I eat a tomato sandwich on regular bread I like it with avocado, green pepper strips, cucumber, sprouts, cheese and mayo, which is probably my all time favorite sandwich, which is neither here nor there.

Anyway…

You want a nice ripe tomato and big, thick slices:

Cornmeal Waffles: Tomato Sandwich: Tomatoes

This is an heirloom variety we got from our CSA.

Place your condiment(s) directly on to your waffle and then top with tomato(es) and sprinkle with sea salt:

Cornmeal Waffles: Tomato Sandwich

Add lettuce, cheese, bell pepper, avocado, etc. Whatever floats your boat and then top with another waffle and voila…The perfect tomato sandwich!

Notes: No notes for this one!

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish)

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish)

Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes! I just love fresh tomatoes! There is just nothing that can compare. Sure they’re fabulous for eating all by themselves, but their flavor is really good cooked as well!

Tomato slices are really fabulous paired with mozzarella, herbs and Parmesan and baked as a pizza! With a few simple ingredients, you’ve got a really fabulous pizza that is just perfect paired with a salad as a summer meal!

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Tomatoes!

What You’ll Need for the Pizza Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (Note: You could use white whole wheat flour instead.)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of yeast
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar or honey
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3/4-1 cup of warm water

In a large glass bowl stir together flour, sea salt, yeast and organic cane sugar. (Note: If you are using honey add the honey to the water.) Stir to mix.

Add olive oil to the flour mixture and then slowly add water, stirring until dough forms. Depending on humidity and things of that nature you may need some of the water, all of it, or even perhaps a bit more. When the dough ball forms you know to stop. You want a slightly sticky dough, but not too sticky.

Set the dough aside for at least 10 minutes to an hour.

This is enough dough to make one 12-14 inch pizza or several individual sized pizzas.

What You’ll Need to Make the Pizza:
Dough (see above)
Tomatoes, sliced
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Basil, cut into strips
Dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan
Garlic powder or salt

Preheat oven to 425 F.

First up you’ll need to decide what size pizza you are making. I went with individual sized. If you are making a big pie then spread the dough out onto a pan that has been oiled or sprayed with non-stick spray. If you’re making the smaller variety I usually bake them in “rough” form on a baking sheet lined with my Silpat.

After the dough is spread you want to top it with tomatoes and mozzarella slices. You can do this one of several ways…You can fan them out like this:

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Ready for Basil

Or you can make a layer of tomatoes and then top it with a layer of mozzarella or you can place the layer of mozzarella first and then top it with tomatoes. It’s completely up to you.

Next you want to top your mozzarella with basil, a sprinkle of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, a generous sprinkle of dried oregano, a drizzle of olive oil and a nice shake of garlic powder or salt:

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Ready for Parmesan

Note: If you are going to use garlic powder then omit the sea salt.

Last add a generous sprinkle of Parmesan and then pop it into the oven:

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Baking

Bake for 8-12 minutes until crust is golden, cheese melts and tomatoes are tender:

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Baked

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Notes: You could use fresh oregano if you liked, but I really think that dried oregano just has such a lovely concentrated flavor. You could also use fresh garlic, but the powdered garlic gives it more of a uniform taste. This is one of the few places where I prefer powder garlic versus fresh.

Summer Vegetable Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup

Some people think that warm soups are only a cold weather food, but I’ve never fallen into that line of thinking. I love soup, Alexis loves soup, and it seems a shame to just corral it into the cooler months of the year, though I do make more soup during those times. So even during summer you’ll see soup pop up on our menu from time to time.

The other day I was in the mood for soup and surprisingly while I was thinking about soup Alexis actually asked me if we could have soup for dinner. Alexis’ go to soup is chicken noodle, but I decided I wanted to take some of my fresh vegetables and whip up a soup with those. You could really eat this soup year round, utilizing frozen vegetables, but with the fresh variety it really gives the soup that much more!

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large zucchini, chopped
1-2 yellow squash, chopped
1-2 carrots, cut in half and sliced
2-3 ears of corn, kernels stripped from the cob
1-2 cups of green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
1 quart of canned tomatoes (Note: If you don’t have canned tomatoes you can use 2 -14.5 ounce cans of tomatoes instead.)
2 quarts of chicken broth
A generous pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1-2 teaspoons of dried thyme

(Note: The proportions of this soup do NOT have to be perfect! If you have a little more of something and little less of something else that’s completely OK. You can mix and match what you add.)

In a large stock pot sauté the onions, celery, zucchini, squash, carrots, corn and green beans until onions are tender. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, sea salt, black pepper, oregano and thyme and stir to mix. Taste the soup and if it needs more salt or pepper add it now.

Bring soup to a quick boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Serve immediately.

This soup also freezes well.

Notes: This soup has endless possibilities. You can add in peas, or fresh chick peas, or leeks, or mushrooms, or potatoes, etc. Go with what you have on hand and what you like. You could also add in bit of chicken, steak or shrimp. If you liked rice or noodles either could be added as well.