Friday, August 15, 2008

I've Been Cooking

The last couple of weeks have been insane busy, and I haven't had much personal time. Yesterday I decided to take a "personal" day and get to some cooking I've had on my to-do list for quite a while. Yes, I am one of those weird people who consider cooking to be fun and relaxing. It doesn't involve sitting in front of a computer, nor does it require me to be secluded in the basement work room. It was a beautiful day full of sunshine and cool breezes coming through the window. (YEAH! I have a kitchen window now for those breezes to come through!) Let's just say it was PERFECT!

First on my list was my friend Melanie's zucchini bread. Now, I've eaten Mel's zucchini bread many times and must say it is SUPER NUMMY. This was the first time I've made it myself. It's OH so easy and OH so yummy and smells OH SO GOOD while it's baking.

The recipe makes 2 loaves, but I decided to make one loaf and 24 mini muffins. Both turned out amazingly good. The mini muffins were done in 20 minutes, but that was on convect bake so it may need adjusting in a conventional oven. I also found the Pampered Chef Ultimate Mandoline to be a life saver when grating the zucchini. If I were doing more I probably would have pulled out my food processor with the grating attachment, but it didn't seem worth the trouble or mess for only two zucchinis.

You all have to try this recipe. Thanks Mel, for sharing!

Melanie's Zucchini Bread
2 C zucchini (peeled and grated)
3 eggs (well beaten)
1 C vegetable oil
2 1/4 C sugar
3 tsp vanilla
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 C chopped nuts (optional)

  1. Mix together first 5 ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Sift (I whisked) flour and remaining 5 dry ingredients together
  3. Combine wet and dry ingredients together and mix well, adding nuts last if
  4. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans and bake at 325* for 1 hour. Allow loaves
    to cool before removing them from pans.

Other optional ingredients that I didn't try this time, but Mel
suggests: 1 C mini chocolate chips, 1 C raisins.

Next on my list was salsa to use up some of the tomatoes I'm being buried under. I love making salsa. There's no real recipe, just start chopping up fresh ingredients. Add this or that, and voila, you have salsa. Needless to say, I've never made the same salsa twice.

This time, I decided to try my hand at mango/avocado salsa in addition to regular tomato. Oh did it turn out scrumptious! It is a bit thicker and creamier than I would like, largely due to the avocado, but it tastes awesome. I may try topping some chicken breast with it. Hmmmmmm . . . . Again, no real recipe. I just combined mango, avocado, onion, jalapeno, a few tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro and salt/pepper. I did end up blending it with the hand blender just a bit, to help it meld together. But still leaving it chunky. Yum! Definitely give this a try if you like a sweet/spicy salsa.

I do find that some are unsure as to how to purchase mango and avocado. Mangoes do come in different colors, so don't judge solely on the color. The type we have here should be mostly red and yellow, but must important is that they are somewhat soft when squeezed. Oh, and if you have never tried grilled mango, most definitely give it a try. YUM!

If you've not worked with avocado, give it a try. I'm a dork, I know, but I find avocados to be sooooo cool. Look for ones that are completely black and slightly soft when squeezed. When you open them up, the insides are sooooo soft and buttery. And OH that beautiful color!

Then, for dinner we had Stuffed Tomatoes. This was a Rachael Ray recipe that was ok. It's a good base, but I definitely have to play with it. What do you all think? What to add???

Rachael Ray's Stuffed Tomatoes

1/4 c wild rice

8 large tomatoes (mine were really large and I used 6. Still had filling left over)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 oz. mushrooms, coarsely chopped (used my faves, baby bellas or craminis)

1 lb ground chicken (I used ground beef 'cause that's what I had and it needed to be used)

1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika

1/2 c sour cream

1 bunch dill, chopped (about 1/2 c)

salt to taste

  1. Prepare wild rice according to the package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, cut a 1/2 inch slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop our and discard the seeds, most of the flesh and excess juices. Place the tomato shells on a baking sheet and set aside. Preheat oven to 350*
  3. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 mins. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 min longer. Add the ground chicken (beef) and cook until cooked through. Stir in the smoked paprika. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked wild rice, sour cream and dill. Add salt to taste.
  4. Stuff the rice mixture into the tomatoes. Brush the outside of the tomatoes with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and season lightly with salt. Cover loosely with foil and bake until the tomatoes are tender and the filling is hot, about 25 mins.

Personally, I found the dill to be too much and I would probably add some of
the tomato innards to the meat. I'm also thinking some grill seasoning
would have been a good add for the ground beef. What do you all

I froze some green beans, too. But that's boring. All in all, it was a productive day. We topped it off by going to downtown West Bend to watch the band Northern Room play at Music on Main. It's pretty cool. The city blocks off the downtown area and brings bands in to play in the little park area. There are food tents and the shops stay open. People mill about on the street and bring chairs to sit and listen. Sadly, this was the last week for this summer. I'll miss it.

I'll leave you now with this final thought . . . MAKE THAT ZUCCHINI BREAD!! Oh, and take the poll at the top of the page. I'll explain why in my next post. :D