Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer Stuffed Squash

So, can anyone actually tell the difference between zucchini and yellow squash?  I mean, I know there's a difference.  But if I boiled a pot of mixed zucchini and squash, buttered it, then ate it with my eyes closed...?  No way could I tell you which is which.  No way.

But that doesn't mean that they're not both delicious!  Honestly though, I'd probably choose zucchini if someone forced me to pick one.  Because zucchini bread?  Amazing.  Zucchini cake?!  Even more amazing.  My good friend Kristin has a kiiiiiiller zucchini cake recipe, and I'd make it right this second if I didn't have to make a batch of cupcakes and a red velvet cake for a couple of birthdays coming up this weekend.

But guess what?  The other day, I discovered that people actually can make dessert breads out of yellow summer squash.  I'm thinking I might try that out, since I have a couple paddy pan squashes in my fridge.  I also STILL have two zucchinis and a crookneck squash.  And three tomatoes, a peach, an anaheim pepper, and a cob of corn.  Farmer's market time!  Also, the time of year when people give away produce like crazy.  I love it!

Oh, and right, this recipe.  I've seen a couple recipes for stuffed squash, and I definitely was excited to try it out myself.  A few tips now that I've given it a trial run:
>If your squashes are BIG, give them a pre-cook for 10-15 minutes to get them soft.
>Use basically any fresh veggies you have in the house.  That's what makes it summery!
>The pickled peppers?  Those are awesome.  The recipe is here, and peppers are cheeeeap this time of year.  It's wonderfully sweet and a great kick of spice.  Try it!
>Breadcrumbs are great crumbled on top for some toasty crunch.  But when you don't have that on hand, do as I do and grab whatever snack chip you have.  I had some Doritos.  But I think salt & vinegar potato chips would be fantastic.

Summer Stuffed Squash
Makes 4 servings

2-3 slices bread
2 zucchini or yellow squashes
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4-1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 c. chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. corn kernels sliced off a fresh cob
1/4 c. pickled peppers, finely chopped
1/4 c. breadcrumbs (or crushed chips)
1/4 c. finely shredded cheese
chopped herbs
balsamic vinegar

Chop bread into a small dice.  Toss with a touch of olive oil and place under a broil for 3-5 minutes, or until toasty.  Watch carefully so they don't burn.  Set aside in a bowl.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse the squashes.  If the outside is tough or bumpy, use a peeler to peel off the skin.  Slice down the center, lengthwise.  Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds.  Line up on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If the squashes are large (over 9-10 inches, 3 inches across),  pre-cook by putting them into the oven as you cook the filling.

Heat a deep skillet over medium heat.  Add a glug of olive oil.  Add onion, bell pepper, and ground beef, and season well with salt and pepper.  Stir around pan for a couple minutes.  Add in garlic, oregano, and paprika, and stir to coat.  Cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes and corn, and saute until the beef is cooked through and tomatoes begin to break down.

Pull the squashes out of the oven (if pre-cooking).  Pour the beef mixture over the toasted bread cubes.  Add the pickled peppers, and use tongs to toss all ingredients together.  Immediately fill the squashes with the beef filling, before the bread gets too soft.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs or chips over the filling, about a tablespoon per squash.  Put into oven for about 15 minutes.  Top with shredded cheese, and allow to cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the squash is cooked through and the cheese is bubbly and brown.

Top with chopped herbs (I used a mix of cilantro and arugula), and a touch of balsamic.

Mmmm.... summer.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cookie Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Guys.  Cookie Butter!  This post is going to be all about that, and I'm sorry if you're one of those people that just doesn't get the hype.  I get the hype.  I'm in on the hype.  If there's a hype train, I'm in it; both conductor and caboose!

Sometimes, things just come to you in your dreams.  These treats?  These are one of those.  In my half-way between dreams and awake stage this morning, I was obsessing over cookie butter rice krispie treats.  It was brilliant and perfect in my half-awake stage.  And the moment I was fully awake, I began to Google.

Now, of course, I'm not the only person that has ever thought of this (though you couldn't have convinced half-asleep-Ashley of that.)  But I'd like to say that I've brought a bit of my own brilliance to the table.  And that brilliance consists of slipping cookie chunks into your krispies.

See those cookie chunks?  It adds an awesome bit of crunch.  Of course, using speculoos cookies (or Biscoff) is ideal, seeing as that's where cookie butter comes from.  But I was already at a local grocery store that doesn't sell either of those, and I couldn't be bothered to make a second trip.  Speculoos cookies are very much like ginger cookies, so I settled for Pepperidge Farm Gingerman cookies.  Super delicious.  And the extra bit of course sugar all over the cookies adds to a crunchy texture in these treats.

Now, this is where I'd post a picture of melting marshmallows in the browned butter (yes, browned!  you don't actually have to brown it because you can't reeeeeally taste the difference since the cookie butter is so strong.  But the smell of browned butter kills me dead, so it's worth it just for that.), or a picture of a vat of rice krispies mixed with chopped ginger cookie, or cookie butter beautifully swirling into the white marshmallow mass.  Buuuut I was so excited about making these that I didn't take a second to pause.  Not even a photo-snap second.

Cookie Butter Rice Krispie Treats
Makes a 9x13 pan
(20-30 squares, depending on the size you like)

5 1/2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
1/2 c. chopped ginger or speculoos cookies
1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick)
1 10 oz. bag mini marshmallows
3/4 c. cookie butter (or Biscoff spread), separated
2-3 Tbs. chocolate chips
1 tsp. oil, vegetable or coconut

Spray a 9x13 pan with non stick spray, or line with parchment paper with the paper sticking a couple inches above the edge of the pan.

Measure out the cereal and chopped cookies.  (I chopped the cookies into 1/4-1/2 inch sized bits.)  Toss together with your hands so the cookies are incorporated throughout the cereal.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat, let it melt til bubbling well, then stir constantly until brown bits scrape up from the bottom.  Quickly pour in the marshmallows, and continue stirring (I like to use a rubber spatula) until marshmallows are fully melted.  Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 c. cookie butter until fully melted and mixed in. Pour cereal mix into marshmallow mix and fold in well until the cereal and marshmallow is fully incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and, using a rubber spatula, gently press mixture flat into pan.  (Use a light hand, you don't want the cereal packed too tightly.)

Melt the chocolate chips and oil together, in the microwave and stirring at 20 second intervals, or over the stovetop on a low heat, stirring constantly.  Use a spoon or rubber spatula to drizzle chocolate over top of packed rice krispies.  Melt remaining 1/4 c. cookie butter, and drizzle that over the krispies also.

Cut into squares and stuff your face!

Yes, I do have a ready-made container of melted chocolate on hand...  And yes, you should make these.  My dreams were brilliant.  Make them your dreams.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kashata-Inspired Raw Cookies

Hey friends!  Do you ever see a recipe online and you can't stop thinking about how delicious it would be?  This happens to me at least once a week.  I'm not talking about the standard, "Ooh, that looks good!"  I'm talking the kind of obsessive thinking where you can almost taste the flavors on your tongue, you imagine how those flavors combined would create magic for the palette.  You keep the tab open on your screen, and keep clicking back.  You go to the grocery store after work, before even going home, so you can pick up all the right ingredients.

That happened to me when I read the recipe for kashata over on Global Table Adventure.  Peanuts and coconut and cardamom, ohhhhhh my!  But you know what's funny?  I don't have cardamom.  And, as much as I love cooking, sometimes it's hard for me to justify buying a new spice.  Spending $5 (at least) on a little bottle, when I could use that kind of money on a couple clamshells of strawberries, or a few bags of rice, or a couple boxes of cereal, just sometimes seems too much.

But!  My birthday is coming up, and my family celebrated yesterday with a birthday dinner.  And when my sister asked me for gift suggestions, the first thing out of my mouth was, "cardamom!"  Yes, I'm that person.  I ask for kitchen supplies as gifts.  And my sister was kind enough to oblige.

All that being said, I don't particularly love brittles.  Cooking sugar is finicky, and I still don't have a candy thermometer.  And besides, biting into a hard chunk of sugar isn't typically my favorite thing.  So, I improvised!  My first plan was to make a kind of blondie with chopped peanuts and cardamom.  And then I decided a cookie might be more in order, so I could freeze half and not have to eat the entire pan of brownies (as you do).

And then I came across my pin for Shutterbean's raw walnut "shortbread" cookies.  It's the perfect recipe to riff off of.  Nuts and coconut were already the base!  Plus, I'm trying to eat healthy, and not having the extra sugar was a good idea by me.  So here's my recipe for a kashata-inspired peanut, coconut, and cardamom raw cookie!  (P.S. All that being said, if you don't have cardamom, cinnamon works perfectly, and is just as traditional in the original Ugandan recipe.)

Raw Kashata Cookie
Makes about 20 cookies
Inspired via here and here

2 cups peanuts
1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
1 Tbs. molasses
3 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cardamom (or more, to taste)
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Pour the peanuts into a food processor, and give it a good few pulses to start the breakdown process (I didn't do this, but I think the texture would be smoother if you did.)  Add the coconut, and give another few pulses to breakdown.

Add the remaining ingredients, and switch your food processor on, and process for 30-60 seconds, until dough sticks together when pressed or pinched.  Use a spoon to scoop the dough into your hand, and press and shape into a ball.  (The dough will be oily--this is all the good nut fat we're told to consume!)  Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet (or not, if you don't have parchment) and repeat with the remaining dough.  Once all dough is balled on the cookie sheet, use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough into a cookie shape.

Place cookie sheet into the freezer for about 30 minutes, til dough is set.  Enjoy!  This would be great with a good vanilla and caramel ice cream, on the side with some herbal tea, or all by themselves!

Store in an air-tight container in the freezer.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ham and Swiss Zucchini Quiche

By this point, you can classify us as MIA on the blog this month, right?  We had some big things going on in our personal lives!  Lacy and her husband moved into a new apartment (a solid 6 miles away from us, but who's counting, right... *sob*).  And I've been busy with a month-long bake sale!  Boy, was that fun and also a mess.  I would have posted pictures and recipes on here, but I was too busy to even take pictures.  And also, none of the recipes were my originals, so it wouldn't have mattered anyway!

We can talk about how I had a pie shell in my freezer from a treacle tart mishap... I made a bea.u.ti.ful crust for the treacle tart, and then the filling was a disaster because transferring recipes from the metric system to the weirdo U.S. system is haaaard.  A package of frozen crusts was purchase from the store about 25 minutes before I had to leave to deliver the tart.  And the tart had to cook for about 20 minutes.  Nothing like cutting it down to the wire.  I like to pretend that never happened.

But if it had never happened, I'd never have made this quiche!  So, disguised blessings, right?  The salty ham is a treat with the sauteed onions.  And hooooh boy, I almost forgot how delicious Swiss cheese is!  You could probably go with all Swiss and no Cheddar, but don't skip the Swiss.  It's delightful.  (I mean, you can skip it, and this would still be good.  But keep it, because that's better.)  Oh, and also, zucchini because vegetables are important--don't worry, there's not much in there.

Husband and I needed a quick meal tonight.  And this is quick! Well... the prep work is quick.  To be fair, a baking time of 30-40 minutes is obviously not a 10 minute meal.  But if you consider that we got home from work, whipped this up, ate, and had time to goof around on the internet and watch some History channel before heading out the door two hours later for gym time, well... I'd still count that as a quick dinner!

Ham and Swiss Zucchini Quiche
Serves 4, or 8 as a side dish

1 unbaked pie shell
1/4 large yellow onion
1/4 Zucchini squash
1 slice thick cut deli Black Forest Ham
1-2 cloves Garlic
3 Eggs
3/4 c. Buttermilk
1/4 c. heavy Cream
a dash of Cayenne
a dash of Nutmeg
1/2 c. grated Swiss cheese
1/2 c. grated Cheddar cheese
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Remove store-bought pie shell from plastic packaging (obviously) (or alternately, make your own; I like this recipe, but instead use half butter and half shortening.)  Set pie shell on cookie sheet (for easier handling). Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice onions into thin half moons.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, add a glug of olive oil, and add the onion.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Slice zucchini into thin half moons while onions saute, about 2-3 minutes, then add zucchini slices.  Chop the ham into cubes and mince the garlic while the zucchini sautes, another 2-3 minutes, then add the ham and garlic.  Let all saute together on medium for 30 seconds to a minute, then turn heat down to low.

Crack eggs into a small mixing bowl.  Add buttermilk, cream, cayenne, and nutmeg, and whisk together well.  Add salt and pepper to your preference.  Pour the ham mixture into the eggs and stir.  Toss 2/3rds of the cheese into the egg mixture and mix in.  Pour the egg mixture into the pie shell.  Top the egg mixture with the remaining cheese.

Slide pie shell (on cookie sheet) into the oven.  Let bake until set and the cheese is golden brown on top, about 30-40 minutes.  If the pie crust edges begin to get too dark, cover with foil until inside is fully set.

Serve immediately as a meal on its own!  Or pair it with some roasted veggies for dinner, some fresh melon and berries for brunch, or, I don't know, a donut for breakfast?  Yes, a donut.  That sounds right.

Now go out and buy yourself an emergency pie crust!