Zucchini Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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“One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke … It’s a relaxed atmosphere in our little town, plus our neighbors keep an eye out and will, if asked, tell us the make and model of every vehicle that ever enters the lane to our farm. So the family was a bit surprised when I started double-checking the security of doors and gates any time we all were about to leave the premises.”Do I have to explain the obvious?” I asked impatiently. “Somebody might break in and put zucchini in our house.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver

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Many of us have been gifted more zucchini than we can use at one time or another and at this time of year, recipes for using zucchini abound.  This is one delicious way to incorporate zucchini into baking.  The chocolate chip cookies are soft, chock full of chocolate chunks and even the pickiest kid will not suspect the sneaky addition of a green vegetable in the batter!  The recipe comes from one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, from her book Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which captures her family’s journey of living for a year on mostly locally grown foods.  The recipes are simple, wholesome and of course, seasonal.  The book will raise your consciousness of sustainable eating in a most delicious and entertaining way.  The cookies freeze well so when you are missing zucchini season in a few months,  you can whip these out of the freezer and fall in love all over again. Continue reading

Seafood Pasta Salad

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“Did you ever see a place that looks like it was built just to enjoy? Well, this whole state of Maine looks that way to me.” Will Rogers

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While vacationing in Maine, I love the abundance of  fresh seafood almost as much as the quaint harbors and friendly people.  This summer salad was inspired by trips to Maine.  Pasta salads are a staple in summer cooking and this one is a fresh option with bright lime and cilantro overtones, dramatic squid ink bow ties and spicy sautéed seafood medley of shrimp, scallops and squid.   Squid ink pasta can be found online at Amazon.com or in specialty food shops.  Fresh summer flavor comes from the addition of big handfuls of herbs, plucked right from the garden. The salad is  versatile and can be composed with your favorite seafood and the herbs on hand.  Enjoy!image Continue reading

Lemon~Blueberry Bundt Cake

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“Ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk!”

 Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey, 1948

In Northern Ontario where I grew up, wild blueberries were plentiful and the only kind I knew.  On summer Sundays when my hardworking dad had a day off from his backbreaking job as a gold miner, we would  pack up the car and head to a local lake for some leisure family time. After what seemed like a long hot drive, we would finally arrive at Slab Lake.  Full of anticipation, we 3 kids would not be allowed to swim until we had picked our assigned quota of blueberries.  Being the youngest, mine would be the smallest vessel to fill.  Ku-plink, Ku-plank, Ku-plunk! That did not stop me from trying to sneak  some leaves and twigs in my pail so I could get into the lake faster!   Those blueberries would be frozen or turned into jam to last us all year.  Unlike the beloved Robert McClusky children’s story, I never encountered a bear WHILE I was picking blueberries…  Those are tales for another time!   I have loved blueberries all my life and they always bring back fond childhood memories.image.jpeg Continue reading

Hot Pepper Jelly~Dijon Crusted Pork Roast with Shallot-Fingerling Potatoes

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Although “sheet pan suppers” are all the rage, I think many families have been preparing them for ages for their hungry families.  Throwing a roast dinner with vegetables into the oven is one of the most common meals  in my household.  This recent one was especially tasty and was cooking itself while I was doing an airport run.

Working in a shallow roasting pan,  I cut multiple slits in 4.5 pound pork butt roast and studded it with slices of garlic from 2 cloves.   I mixed 1/4 cup of Hot Pepper Jelly with 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and slattered this over the roast.  I surrounded the roast with fingerling potatoes tossed with 2 sliced shallots and 2 tablespoons of dried roasemary, a few glugs of olive oil and a few grinds of sea salt.  This went into a 400F degree oven on the lowest rack,  for 15 minutes.  Reduced heat to 350F for an additional 2 hours of roasting.  I tossed the potatoes around once. Delicious, hands free cooking for a family dinner with great caramelized crispy bits scraped off from the bottom of the pan. Yum!

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Roasted Sweet Potato Rice Salad with Cherries and Toasted Hazelnuts

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” Summer afternoon, summer afternoon, to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”  Henry James

This scrumptious grain salad is bursting with the taste of summer:  sweet cherries, scallions, roasted corn and tons of herbs plucked straight from the garden.  It has complex layers of flavor and texture, can be made in advance and will hold up well on summer buffet tables.  Gorgeous colors make it tantalizing to the eyes as well.   It is versatile in that the kind of grains, nuts or herbs used can be swapped for what you have on hand.  It makes a heaping bowl, perfect for summer entertaining.imageimage Continue reading

Chocolate~Mocha Icebox Layered Cake

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“Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first.”  Ernestine Ulmer

A layered cake is always a crowd pleaser at a party and looks like you went through a great deal of effort to make it.  This dessert comes together in minutes, is chilled overnight and is perfect for easy entertaining.  Because of its coffee flavoring, I served it recently at a summer brunch.  With Kahlua, espresso, chocolate and mascarpone, the filling ressembles tiramisu in texture and taste.  The fun secret ingredient is actually layers of chocolate chip cookies!  This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I adapted.  The original had 5 layers in an 8 inch springform pan but was hard to slice.  I made mine in a 9 inch pan with only 3 layers.  This yielded 12 servings instead of 8 and with a cake this rich, that was perfect. Continue reading

Crockpot Mexican Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce With Lime Crèma Drizzle

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True confession:  Meatballs are something I more often buy prepared than make and hardly ever at that.  I mostly dislike the time consuming and mess making process.  cooking them in batches in oil, often ending up with burned bits, falling apart meatballs and a splattered cooktop just does not appeal to me. When I discovered this recipe on the fabulous Hostess At Heart blog, I really wanted to try it.  I have college aged sons who devour meatballs and I have been depriving them!  To skip the browning step, I tried roasting the meatballs in a 400 F oven on a rack over a drip pan, so they could  brown evenly.   Why didn’t I think of this years ago?  Perfection! The meatballs were moist, nicely flavored with Mexican spices and none fell apart while cooking in the sauce. This method worked!  The spicy sauce is just thick enough to nicely coat the meatballs.  Enthusiastic requests begging me to make this dish again had this reluctant meatball cook simmering a second batch as fast as I could  type this blog post.  Who knew there was a meatball queen inside me after all!

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