Four-Cheese Zucchini Pizza Boats

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Two weekends in, I feel like I can declare this August downright leisurely.  Lily and Jake camped outside in the back yard this past Friday and they both survived the whole night without coming inside.  They didn’t, however, survive without the iPad.  At one with nature, huh?  I didn’t care; I was inside spread out over the entire bed watching old episodes of Suze Orman in peace.

Lily also had the chance to ride a horse (well, half horse, half pony) for the first time and solidified her love for everything equine.  Anything and everything in our house is now a pretend horse.   She was funny because she was SO excited and fidgety the whole way there and after she was done riding, but while she was with the horses she was calm and focused.  It was incredibly sweet.

 All summers should be so lovely.  

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I call these 4-cheese pizza boats because that title fits, but the filling and marinara make it taste like lasagna to me.  Granted, cheese and marinara are the basis for a million different Italian dishes, so I could have called them zucchini stuffed shells for all it matters.  But pizza boats are a fairly common term, so I went with it.

I really liked this recipe.  I mean, there’s four cheeses!  What’s not to like?  Jake said that he liked the cheese mixture, but didn’t like that you could taste the zucchini.  So, I should give a disclaimer: the zucchini isn’t intended to be hidden!  If you hate zucchini, this probably isn’t the dish for you.  But trust me, for normal people it’s delicious.

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Four-Cheese Pizza Zucchini Boats

3 fresh zucchini
1/4 cup marinara sauce
8 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil or parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the zucchini and slice it in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds.  Put about 1 heaping tablespoon of marinara onto each zucchini half and spread it out evenly.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, and garlic powder until combined.  Stir in the mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I don’t use much).  Spread evenly onto the 6 halves.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is warm and the zucchini is a little soft.  I then throw the broiler on for a minute to brown the top, but that’s optional.

Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve warm.

Source: Inspiration from Cooking Classy

Fresh Strawberry Dessert Sauce

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It’s been a busy summer, and the weather has been perfect.  Is this mother nature’s way of apologizing for the polar vortex?  We haven’t have the air conditioner on for the last two weeks, which is amazing.  I love the fresh air and I really love the low electric bills!  Add to that all of the fresh produce and the long days and it’s hard not to be happy.  We’ve been painting bathrooms and cleaning out closets and fighting over whether or not to plant trees in the back yard (I will win this battle).

Last night, Lily and Jake went to see Walking with Dinosaurs and she is still glowing.  She knows the names, eating habits, mannerisms, and pretty much every other tidbit you may or may not be interested in learning about dinosaurs, so it was a fun time.  Jake said that she got excited for each new scene and was the entertainment of the people around her.  Though supposedly there is once scene where a dead dino gets picked apart and eaten by the others, which was slightly traumatizing to my 3-year-old.  No time like the present to learn the ins and outs of the circle of life!

So, while we’ve been busy, I forgot to post this recipe from a month or two ago.  I originally made this sauce to go over the cheesecakes seen in the picture above but I didn’t like the cheesecake recipe enough to post.  The texture was off and it was way too lemony (didn’t stop Jake from liking it, but I wasn’t a fan).  The sauce is easy and delicious though, so why leave it hanging?   Plus, it’s the last day of national ice cream month, so you can whip up a batch and throw it on a scoop after dinner.  Or before dinner.  Whatever tickles your fancy.  :)

Fresh Strawberry Dessert Sauce

1 pound strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Wash and hull the strawberries.  Chop them up to the size that you would like (if you want big hunks of strawberry in the end product, cut them in half; if not then dice them smaller).

Combine the strawberries in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the strawberries have released their juice and the sugar has dissolved.  Add the corn starch, vanilla, and salt, reduce the heat to low, and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take off the heat and let cool.  Serve over ice cream, cheesecake, or really anything else that you like.  Can be kept in the fridge.

Source: L+K original, though strawberry sauce in general has obviously been around awhile!

Japanese Steakhouse Yum Yum Sauce (a.k.a White Sauce, a.k.a Shrimp Sauce)

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You know when you go to a hibachi restaurant and they give you two little containers of sauce, one that is mayo based and one that is more of a soy sauce?  Who ever eats the soy sauce?  The mayo based sauce (which I didn’t know was called yum yum sauce until I started looking for the recipe) is SO good.  I would really rather just have two of those and skip the other, but I feel like that might somehow offend the chef.  And after seeing how comfortable hibachi chefs are with knives and flames, I like to keep quiet.  I have a child to think about.

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But I still want some more of that darn yum yum sauce.  So a couple of weeks ago I went on a hunt for the recipe, and this one is really close to the restaurant version.  Jake and I ate it on roasted vegetables, and we also had it as a condiment on faux chicken sandwiches.  It was delicious both times.  And super easy to make, so I’ll likely whip up another batch this week (especially because I now have an open container of tomato paste sitting around that needs to be used… WHY do they sell it by the can when no one ever needs that much at one time?).  I can’t wait to lather it on different kinds of vegetables.  Summer produce season is the best!

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Japanese Steakhouse Yum Yum Sauce

1 1/4 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s/Best Foods is recommended by the original recipe author)
1/4 cup water
1 heaping tsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 dash cayenne pepper powder (I like a heavy dash)

Whisk all of the ingredients together until they are combined and the sauce is smooth. Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to blend (don’t skip this step!). Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

The sauce will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Source:
Japanese-Steakhouse-White-Sauce.com 

Easy Greek Pasta Salad

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This pasta salad was born when I clipped a coupon for Marzetti dressing in the Sunday circular and didn’t know what to buy.  Summer was here and we had been itching to eat outside on our never-used screened-in porch, so a pasta salad seemed to fit the occasion.  We also had a huge (Costco-sized.  HUGE.) block of feta in the fridge to use up, so a Greek pasta salad it became!  This recipe is obviously adaptable depending on what ingredients you like.   I think it would be great with the tomato halves roasted, but Jake doesn’t like roasted tomatoes so I left them fresh.  If you try it that way, let me know how it turns out.

So, after two years of living in our house and never using the porch for anything other than storing leaf bags, we ended up using it twice in one day! And I think we actually had this pasta salad as a side for both meals.  The porch is inconveniently placed because the only access to it is through the basement (every house in Pittsburgh is on a hill), but the grill is right there, so we happily had a couple of picnics.  It’s so peaceful on the porch without the tv or any of our other distractions that we determined it’s well worth dragging everything downstairs.

Dinner was followed up with a fire in our also-underused fire pit where Lily learned that she loves s’mores as long as there aren’t any marshmallows.  Too messy.  Can you still call it a s’more if you’re just eating cold chocolate on graham crackers? I wasn’t too surprised by her aversion because she hates the way cotton candy sticks to her fingers.  Yet, somehow this distaste for messiness doesn’t translate to her playroom.  Or jumping in muddy puddles.  Or hating baths.  Can’t win ‘em all.

Easy Greek Pasta Salad

1 pound short-cut pasta
1 – 1.5 cups creamy Greek/feta salad dressing (I like Marzetti and Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup  English cucumbers, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup bell peppers, diced
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh mint and/or oregano, diced, to taste

Boil the pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Drain the pasta and immediately combine with 1/2 cup of the salad dressing (this is so that the pasta absorbs the dressing).  Set aside until cool.

Add in all of the other ingredients, including half a cup of dressing, and stir to combine.  Add additional dressing as needed.

Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors develop.  Enjoy!  Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days.

Source: L+K Original (I just threw it together, but there are many Greek pasta salads out there to explore)

No-Bake Brownie Batter Bites

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These brownie batter bites (I love a good alliteration) are like liking the spoon.  Dangerously so.  I won’t get into the gory details, but let’s just say that after a batch of them I felt compelled to return to the gym this week for the first time since before my spinal surgery.  In October.  8 months ago!  That’s 8 months of wasting $82 which have now come to an end.  So, really, these bites helped me to get back into shape.  I should make more of them.  Maybe I’ll feel so guilty at the end of my second batch that I’ll train for a marathon!

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I know that they aren’t made from scratch, but that’s not the point.  They’re easy, quick, and don’t require an oven on hot summer days.  Taste-wise, they remind me of the chocolate chip cookie dough brownies that I made a couple of years ago (minus the cookie dough, obviously).  And I bought the 6-pack of Ghirardelli brownie mix at Costco, so I can see more experimenting taking place soon.  Look out, gym, here I come!

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No-Bake Brownie Batter Bites

1 (18.3 ounces) bag of brownie mix (Ghirardelli is my favorite)
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
1 instant chocolate pudding mix, dry

Put the butter in a large bowl and microwave until mostly melted (about a minute).  Add in the dry brownie mix and stir until completely combined.  It will be thick and sticky.

Set aside for a few minutes and then stir in the chocolate chips once it is cool enough that they won’t melt.

Roll into bite-sized balls and immediately roll the balls into the dry chocolate pudding mix. Shake off the excess.  Most of the pudding will be absorbed into the ball, so after I finished the batch I re-rolled them in the pudding a second time.  If they are too soft then chill them for a bit.  Enjoy!

You can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week (ha! as if they will last that long!).  The fridge will make them stiff, so if you do this let them sit out for a minute before eating.

Source: Chelsea’s Messy Apron

Also, look who I caught sneaking a treat!

xbrowniebites

 

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