Summer’s End Zucchini Bread

The nights have gone cool, and who can complain at this point in the year? While I confess that the climate in mid-Maryland often leaves something to be desired, a nice fall here really can’t be beat. Our nights are cool, and days are dry with clear blue skies. Perfect time to get the last few harvests of summer veggies.

I’ve gotten the last of the tomatoes, the cukes are dwindling, my butternut squash are hanging on the vine getting a nice protective skin, and I thought the zucchini were done. Then I lifted a few of those gigantic leaves. What I had assumed was the wooden border of the garden was actually a huge and very dark zucchini. I mean HUGE. And two days later – another on a plant that I thought had given up earlier in the summer, but was growing in secret behind another plant. So now I have these enormous zukes.

My favorite trick with zucchini is to shred it and freeze it. I tend to do it by weight, put it in a bag, write the weight on the bag and pop in the freezer. Why by weight? Because my favorite zucchini bread recipe calls for zucchini by weight. So as we move into the cold months, I have my key ingredient already shredded and measured, ready to go. My favorite zucchini bread recipe is based on one I used for years from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. America’s Test Kitchen publications, such as The America’s Test Kitchen New Family Cookbook (this is the new version of the book I have which is no longer in print), are fantastic. If you are trying to improve your cooking skills, there are few more comprehensive resources. The recipes are not intended for restrictive diets, but they are full of real food and I’ve successfully adapted many of them as my own dietary preferences have changed. And what I’ve learned from the authors has been priceless. This zucchini bread is lightly spiced, sweet but not cloying, and deeply satisfying with a cup of coffee, or a mug of tea, or whatever you want to drink.

Late Summer Zucchini Bread (DF)  photo IMG_0782.jpg

  • 1 pound zucchini, shredded and drained (see below)
  • 1/4 c coconut milk (or whatever kind works for you)
  • 3/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 4 T coconut oil, melted and let cool but not harden
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t allspice
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 c walnuts chopped and toasted (or if you’re like me you don’t toast, forget to put them in the batter and then put them on top where they will toast in the oven and then think you’re awesome for doing that)

Preheat oven to 375 with rack set in middle of oven. Coat a small loaf pan (mine was 8 x 4, standard is fine, but your loaf will be shorter). Shred zucchini on large holes (I used a food processor)l Place zucchini in strainer. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir to distribute the salt. The salt will pull the liquid out of the veg. Let drain for at least 15 minutes. Wrap a tea towel (or paper if that’s all ya got) around the zucchini and squeeze the remaining water out. Be astonished by the amount of water in that veg. No, you can’t skip that step. Whisk coconut milk, maple syrup, applesauce, coconut oil, flax eggs and lemon juice together in a bowl. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Fold the zucchini and the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix (yeah, I don’t know why either).

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Scrape batter into loaf pan. Bake until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean – or until it feels right to you (that’s my test, a little press in the middle with my finger), should be about an hour. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Continue cooling on wire rack for at least an hour, being sure to have a taste while it’s still warm. Super yum.

Broccoli ‘Cheese’ Soup – all of the taste with much less fat

One of the most wonderful things about a powerful blender is the creamy soup that can be created and poured… or schmoved with a spatula into bowls – already hot!  If your blender isn’t strong enough to heat, then you can always pour this into a pot and heat after you’ve creamed it.  There is nothing like soup to fill the belly and warm the soul.

We experimented with a lot of soups when we first bought a Vita Mix (15 years old and still going strong).  One of our favorites was Broccoli Cheese Soup.  What’s not to like about Broccoli Cheese Soup?  Well, once you determine that you can’t handle dairy, and there are those that argue that the fat in dairy is a bad choice, and those that would rather leave the cow’s milk to the cow’s…. well then, the cheese is not to like about broccoli cheese soup.  So here is my dairy free version, loosely based on the recipe for broccoli cheese soup found in the Vita Mix recipe book.

Dairy Free Cheesy Broccoli Soup

1 tsp oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 cups steamed or blanched broccoli
1 cup raw cashews soaked in water for about 5 hours or more (I put the cashews in a 2 cup measuring cup and then fill to the 2 cup line with water
1 c unsweetened milk – I used almond
1 c water
1.5 Tbsp bouillon

You can also substitute broth for water – or broth for water and milk.  Whatever works for you!

Steam or blanch your broccoli – keeping in mind that stemmy pieces need a little more cooking than plain florets.

I prefer to saute my onion and garlic before adding it to soup.  Just saute until translucent while steaming your broccoli (which I did in the microwave)

Put all ingredients in the blender and whirrrrr it up, or more accurately,  sideways until it is smooth and blended and if you don’t want to heat in a pot – let it spin till it’s hot!

I served mine with some broken up toasted Ezekiel bread.  My husband said it was fabulous but I was too busy eating to notice ;-)

This took 20 minutes from the beginning of chopping onion to pouring in the bowls.  You gotta love that!

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Enjoy the arrival of Fall – may your windows be open, your skies blue and your hearts full like a pumpkin.

Fall Recipe Parade – Yes, there’s some pumpkin

It’s that time of year – one of the many that sneaks up on me each and every year. While it is still sunny and warm here in mid-Maryland, I am apparently supposed to desperately want pumpkin everything. And honestly, I’m okay with that (except for the coffee thing, I don’t get it – but to each her own coffee). Here at the pantry we do have a healthy love of pumpkin. We also love the other flavors of fall and the opportunity to break out those super warming dishes as the temperatures begin to drop. To welcome this season of bounty and cool nights, we offer you a treasure trove of autumn yum. Most of these recipes are both gluten and dairy free. :-)

Morning Warmer Uppers

  

1. Pumpkin French Toast

2. Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oats

3. Sweet Potato Apple Oats

Mains

  

4. Slow Cooker Burritos

5. Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala 

6. Sweet Potato Chili with Greens

Sides

  

7. Amazing Applesauce

8. Herbed Bulghur Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Cranberries

9. Waldorf Saute

Sweet Endings

  

10. Super Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

11. Walnut Crust Apple Pie

12. Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Yay for pumpkins and apples, for warm afternoons and cool mornings, for low humidity and crunchy leaves, for new pencils and new schedules. Here’s to fall and wonderful food, family, and friends. Delish!

Super Easy Freezer Pickles

 photo IMG_0689.jpgI may have mentioned it already, but I have a cucumber problem this year. I haven’t had a cucumber problem in many, many years. I can only assume that our relatively cool summer prevented the nasty powdery mildew and other humidity related diseases that eventually do in all of my curcurbits. In surveying my cucumber bounty, I knew there was only one answer, to pickle some of them. Big Sis and I have already shared some pickle preparations, but they aren’t really meant for the long haul, sort of more of a 10 day window on those puppies. My past experiences with hot water canning for pickles left a bad and totally non crunchy pickle taste in my mouth.

 photo IMG_0687.jpgAnd so in honor of our cool summer, I turned from one temperature extreme to the other in search of a perfect freezer pickle recipe. I found this one, and then didn’t follow it. :-) Who on earth needs 4 cups of sugar in anything? Not this momma. And I assume that the turmeric was added for the sake of color – to make them look more like commercial pickles, which use yellow food dye to look like what? What would happen if we all just decided greenish pickles are okay? But, I digress. I hustled out to the store and picked up some of these babies. I could use glass, and with a vinegar based brine I usually would, however, one of my kids’ new chores is to do the fetch it run from the downstairs freezer and I had visions of freezer pickles all over the basement. So I went with plastic.

This couldn’t have been easier. These won’t last as long as water bath pickles would, but given the reaction my kids had to the batch I prepared last week, they won’t make it until winter anyway.

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  • 8 pounds cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2T salt
  • 1 1/2 c maple syrup (oh yes I did)
  • 1 c white vinegar
  • 1 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t celery seed
  • 1 t mustard seed

In a large container (I had to use my largest pot), combine cucumbers, onion, and salt and let sit for 3 hours, stirring periodically. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 2-3 hours. Drain and rinse cucumbers and onions. Add liquid to cucumbers (being sure to get them out of the strainer first… I’ve done such things). Pack in 1 pint containers, being sure to leave at least an inch at the top for freezer expansion. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Thaw in fridge, consume with a week or so. Crunchy, sour, sweet, delish!
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Creamy Roasted Tomato Pasta (DF)

 photo IMG_0756.jpgI don’t quite understand it, but my tomato cherry tomato plants just keep going. They look terrible. An ill-timed vacation left the plants vulnerable to the one two punch of japanese beetles and grasshoppers, but they don’t seem to have gotten the message that they’re kaput. And so I keep going out and gathering a few at a time. I have standard cherry tomatoes and these wonderful yellow pear shaped ones that I grew from seeds my Mom got for me while visiting Monticello. Yes, these are Thomas Jefferson’s tomatoes. What former history teacher wouldn’t geek out about that?!

At any rate, I featured these tomatoes in a an easy and satisfying dinner last night that got a 100% approval rating – yes, folks you heard me right. Last night I defeated Ms. Picky Pants. Granted it was pasta, so it’s kind of cheating, and I deconstructed the dish so she could have some control over the ratio of the elements, but the pasta had the creamy goodness already on it, and pre-sauced pasta without complaint is a victory over here! I take what I can get. We’d had a few not thrilled with dinner nights in a row, so I decided it was time for a dish that stood a better chance of at least being consumed without complaint.

 photo IMG_0753.jpgWhat makes this pasta meal special is three main elements. The creamy goodness (here I’ve used my friend Annie’s cashew cream which I think I could write a book on because it’s so wonderful), the roasted tomatoes (if you’ve not done this you have really been missing out), and the fresh herbs. The cashew cream provides just the right amount of cream feeling without the clumpiness of sunflower cheese or real dairy ricotta. And roasting tomatoes? Nothing brings out the sweetness like a little roast. Throw in a little olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar and you’ve got a dresser upper for just about any dish. Fresh herbs? I say yes please!

The original version of this dish is here on Meatless Monday’s website, a great resource if you are looking for vegetarian meal ideas. Because my version is pretty close, I’m just going to cover a few highlights. In changing this recipe for my family, I removed the dairy, increased the pasta amount (because leftovers are good), and left the components separate (aside from combining the cream and pasta) because this is a more successful strategy with my children. You could also choose to use gluten free pasta or veggie noodles like these.

Roasting Tomatoes: To achieve super goodness, preheat the oven to about 350. Place clean tomatoes in a baking dish. Add olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt. Stir to ensure tomatoes all have contact with the other yum. Place in oven and cook until tomatoes have cracked skins and have begun to release their juice. Mine took 35 minutes, with a goose up to 425 for the last 5 minutes. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.

While the tomatoes are roasting, boil your pasta, chop your herbs, and if you have some toast some pine nuts in a pan. If you don’t have pine nuts, walnuts would also make a nice addition to this dish.

Creaminess: As I said, I used cashew cream for my version and simply added just enough to the dish to ensure that noodles all had some cream, but were not drowning. Many dishes with cheeses and cream sauces go overboard in my opinion, so I usually start with less than the recipe calls for and see how that looks.

Herbs: Fresh basil makes this dish absolutely sing. The combo with the tomatoes is a natural, and the basil cuts through the cream in a way that makes the dish lighter feeling, more summery. We also put chopped fresh parsley on ours.

Other veggies. After our initial taste, which garnered universal approval, Mr. Little Sis and I began our usual varia-bowl treatment by adding fresh spinach and other chopped veggies we had in the fridge. This would be a great place to use some zucchini noodles.

So there you go, another way to use that summer bounty, and to enjoy those flavors while they linger. May all your pasta be delicious and all of your meals garner 100% approval (or at least 75). Delish!

 

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF)

 photo IMG_0726.jpgI have cucumbers coming out of my ears – and no Big Brothers, I did not eat a seed. I can only assume that our relatively cool Maryland summer has delayed the usual onset of powdery mildew (which has now arrived and I’m combatting according to Big Sis’ suggestion) long enough for my cucumber plants to go bananas, so to speak. I’ve regularly been harvesting not just 1 or 2, but anywhere from 6 to 16 (yes, I said 16) delicious cukes from my 4 cucumber plants. What variety is doing so well in my not very well tended garden? I have no idea. Seed mixups are a real bummer. I digress.

In order to take advantage of my cuke bounty, we’ve been experimenting with some things, and I’ll share more of them over the next few weeks before it snows and puts an end to this whole summer bounty thing. Today, while it is relatively hot, I’ll share a lovely cooling use for all those wonderful cukes.

If you’ve been playing along for a while, you already know how I feel about Deborah Madison. In addition to my Deborah Madison cooking bible, I have a slimmer volume dedicated only to soups, because I really like soup. In this beautifully produced and photographed cookbook, there are a few cool soups perfect for beastly weather. Last night I was inspired by her Cool Cucumber Soup, although as usual I was compelled to make some changes. At any rate we had an 85% approval rating (meaning Picky Pants initially enjoyed it and changed her mind later). So, for all you cucumber lovers, or just those of you who like the sound of an easy cooling meal made from the most abundant veggie out there right now…

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF) adapted (and made larger and milder) from Deborah Madison’s version in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen(serves 4)

Soup

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  • 2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 c cashew cream (here, from our lovely friend Annie) or yogurt or sour cream
  • 3/4 c herbs (I used dill, basil, and parsley to great effect
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Relish

  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 2 T chopped scallions
  • 1 T dill
  • 2 T chopped basil and parsley
  • 2 t olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel and seed the cucumbers – dice 1/3 of them (or one pound) and set aside for the relish. While I often recommend skipping peeling and such, in this case I peeled to remove the bitterness sometimes in the skins. Coarsely chop remaining cukes and place in blender with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Blitz until smooth. Place in fridge to chill. Yes, that’s it. No, I’m not joking.

Just before serving, combine ingredients for relish in bowl and stir. Done. No muss, no fuss, no cucumbers wasted. Delish. Happy super late summer!

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Blueberry Pie w/ sweet potato & walnut crust- GF/DF

I do love sneaking the vegetables into places where no vegetable has gone before.  Vegetablization is like charting new territory and is great for your health ;-)  What better place to vegetablize than in places where I used to use gluten and can no longer due to Mr. Bigg Sis’ dietary constraints?  But don’t let no need to lose gluten slow you down here, because more vegetablizing is always a good, and in this case, a delicious thing.

You may recall that in the past I presented you with a walnut crusted apple pie.  It’s delicious but turns out more like a cobbler when all is said and done.  So I am still interested engaging the search for a healthy GF crust…. and will go back to the cobbler-y things if it doesn’t work, right?  Or try Little Sis’ nectarine cream pie with a walnut crust which is also GF / DF.  Oh the possibilities are endless…. and this possibility I combined the idea for a sweet potato crust (also tasty and cobbler-ish) with the walnut idea to see if that might yield something a bit more pie-like.

Blueberry Pie with Sweet Potato/Walnut crust

crust
2 cups shredded sweet potato
1 cup walnuts
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp maple syrup
1 pinch salt

3 c blueberries (mine were frozen at home)
1/4 c sugar
1/4 + 1/8 oats (that’s 1/4 cup and then about a half again of a 1/4 cup measure)

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a pie plate (I used coconut oil)
Shred the sweet potato in the food processor

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Take it out and put all the other crust ingredients in the food processor and reduce to a fine crumble

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Add the sweet potato back in and process into a mash

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Spread the mash into the bottom of a greased pie plate (I found fingers more effective than a spoon)
Bake at 375 for 15 – 20 minutes or until it starts to get a little crisp.  If your crust is a little thin it will crisp better, but the thick crust was nice as well – just spread out well and evenly and up the sides

While the crust is baking, mix the blueberries, sugar and oats
Pour into crust when it has baked

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.  You can cover the top with foil if you like to protect the edges of the crust.

Feed it to happy, intrepid, inter-vegetable travellers…

20140831_184827-001 Now I will say that this came out a bit cobbler-ish as well, but the edges of the pie crust were crispy, so I”m thinking that if I made it a little thinner and cooked it a little longer prior to filling that it might come out more crispy.  On the other hand, this really rocked, and all 3 of us had seconds… so why mess with it?

20140831_184835-001May your September be full of pie!

 

 

Pleasing Picky Pants…Oven Baked Carrot Fries

I have an unwritten policy as regards dinner planning in my house. It’s important to remind you all that I am the mother of one VERY picky eater. When I say picky I don’t just mean that she makes faces when she eats or that she really loves the foods that all children love most.  When I say picky I mean my daughter has about 5 foods in the world that she enjoys, the rest is either nearly tolerable or yucky. We spend a LOT of time in nearly tolerable. When I plan a few days worth of meals I attempt to ensure that at least every few days I make something that Ms. Picky Pants might actually almost enjoy (even if it’s not one of the top 5). If I know the main dish isn’t anywhere near the top 5, I try to make up for it with sides she might like to ensure some level of dinner time tranquility. Which brings us to tonight.

Having backed myself into a grocery corner by running out of time yesterday, I was committed to having my beloved nutshroom burgers. I should mention that Mr. Little Sis and I both love these. My son is not enthusiastic, but is accepting. My daughter USED to love these burgers. That’s the other thing I should tell you about the top 5 foods Ms. Picky Pants enjoys. They rotate out on a daily basis. I’m not making this up. In response to “I thought you liked this dish sweetie,” my daughter will say “I DID like it before, but I DON’T like it today.” Yes, she is going to be the death of me. You can, perhaps, now also see why I don’t accommodate her preferences more than I do. I’d have to actually know what her preferences are on that day to even consider accommodating her. I digress.

 photo IMG_0670.jpgIn order to make the nutshroom burger dinner a pleasant experience I had decided to make oven fries. Many problems can be solved with my oven fries. When the time came to get started this evening, I realized that I had failed to procure the needed spuds. My own garden spuds are not quite ready for fry size, so I decided to do some creative improvising. Internet search engine to the rescue. Carrot fries coming up, thanks to William Sonoma. Continue reading

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF)

The garden continues to produce green squash at a startling rate. What a lovely problem to have. If the plants keep up like this I will surely shred and freeze a good bit of it for use in zucchini bread and mac and cheez in the colder months, but it’s nice to have some to use right now, today, when our thoughts are turning toward books, notebooks, pencils (I love the smell of new pencils) and  LUNCHBOXES. It is time for Momma to get busy making some reasonable goodies for those lunch boxes.

 photo IMG_0658.jpgWhile I was thinking about the need to start baking for school and noticing the abundant zucchini, the internet happened and mashed them together for me. I was inspired and responded with my usual “Ooooh, that looks good. What ingredients should I change?” The result got a straight yummy thumbs up from 3 of the 4 of us and even earned a “pretty good” from Ms. Picky Pants. That is a good cooking day in my house. Because of the lower fat content, these cookies are a little more biscuity than most, but ring all the necessary cookie bells to satisfy treat eaters who are willing to overlook the little flecks of green, which I think are beautiful, BTW. And so, without further ado, I give you… Continue reading

Pickled Green Beans

Our Pantry Penchants are sometimes quite clear.  We have toyed at times with re-naming the blog My Sister’s Sweet Potatoes…. My Sister’s Pancakes….. and now I guess we’ll have to consider My Sister’s Pickles as well.  I hope you like pickles as well as I do, so you won’t mind another pickle recipe, and I offer the explanation that my preference for pickles is related to a problem.  My son, who used to enjoy lots of raw vegetables has somehow lost his taste for raw veggies.  We have a rule that before any non-produce snack is eaten, a piece of produce must be consumed.  Fruit is easy and always an option, but in the past he was also willing to eat raw sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, carrots, green beans, slightly pickled (raw) cucumbers or salad (although that is generally only with a bit of pressure).  We do also keep leftover roasted potatoes and other cooked veggies as an option but as far as raw vegetable go, we are down to pickled (raw) cucumbers, carrots (under duress) and salad (duress-er).  He eats cooked vegetables and I still freely load any dish with veggies that I can, but I’m thinking that perhaps if I can cold-pickle some more veggies, that would provide us with another veggie snack.  These green beans are not strictly raw, but they aren’t cooked much…. so I’m going to give it a go!  The recipe I found was a dill-y concoction but my son generally prefers the sweet (surprise, surprise), so I made up a batch of both which are currently getting flavored up in the refrigerator.  I leave you the recipes and then I will sleep while my green beans soak in flavor!! Continue reading