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

French Onion Soup Tartines

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I’m BACK.  But no, I didn’t go anywhere (well, I went to D.C. this past weekend, but that doesn’t account for weeks of silence).  I just took a little 3-week vacation in my own mind and really didn’t get into the kitchen very much.  I couldn’t be bothered.  And I have the take-out bills to prove it, so I’m glad I got that out of my system!  I hope I’m not alone in this needed break.  Maybe it’s because it got hot so quickly.  Or just the idea of summer makes me want to laze about.  Or the thought of putting pen to paper and writing up a post just made me want to take a nap.  It could be a hundred things.  But I’m feeling more normal now, and after my weekend full of fancy D.C. meals (with desserts and everything!), I am ready to kick myself back into the kitchen.

I actually made this recipe about a month ago.  It’s a French onion soup reinvented for the spring.  The weather is getting too warm to leave a pot full of onions simmering on the stove for hours on end (though this is about an hour, so prepare yourself), but I love onion soup so much that I couldn’t part with it for the summer yet.  These tartines are a great combo: hearty, but still a fairly light entree.  And with several varieties of onions, the flavor has a good depth to it.  I definitely recommend giving it a try.

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French Onion Soup Tartines

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, quartered and sliced
1 medium red onion, quartered and sliced
3 small yellow onions, peeled and cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices
2 Tbsp. dry white wine
1.5 – 2 cups vegetable broth
½ tsp. honey
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 slices of French or Italian bread
4 sandwich-sized slices of Swiss or Gruyère cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sweet onion and red onion, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until onions begin to brown.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add yellow onion slices (keeping all of the rings in tact), and cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a paper towel to let it drain. Set aside the 8 prettiest yellow onion slices, and chop the remaining yellow onions.

Add the chopped yellow onions to the sweet and red onions. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until all onions are browned. Add wine, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until most liquid has evaporated. Stir in the broth, honey, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Partially cover and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until most liquid has evaporated.

Preheat the oven to broil.  Lightly toast the bread and then place the slices on baking sheet. Spread 1/4 cup of the cooked onion mixture on each slice. Lay two of the reserved sautéed onion slices on top of each tartine. Top with a slice of cheese. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Source: Adapted very slightly from Vegetarian Times

Soy Chorizo and Queso Fundido

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The biggest day of the year is upon us.  Not Christmas or a birthday.  Not even Halloween with all of its candy and treats.  It’s Cinco de Mayo!  I’m not 100% on the origins of the holiday besides what Wikipedia tells me, but there is still no better reason to celebrate with Mexican food and one too many margaritas.  Actually, Jake and I spent our birthdays eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas, so I guess my point it moot, but still.  Cinco de Mayo!  Party time!  Also definitely worth trying this weekend: chiles rellenos, tomato tortilla soup, roasted corn guacamole, and creamy corn and pepper taquitos.  You could have a feast.   Or you can make like my daughter and just eat plain tortilla chips.  She’s a trooper and tried salsa once, but Mommy and Daddy didn’t realize that it wasn’t mild and she thought that her mouth was on fire (literally).  So, once the PTSD wears off we’ll ease her into more diverse Mexican foods again.

Since this recipe makes a whole pie plate and Jake and I aren’t complete ogres, there was a good amount left over.  We ate it the next day on top of baked potatoes with fresh avocado chunks and it was just as good as with tortilla chips.  I would also eat it as a topping on hot dogs or burgers (especially black bean burgers), or as a taco filling.  And I made it after work one day, so it’s a n easy weeknight meal.  But I wouldn’t recommend pairing it with too many margaritas if you have a big meeting at work the next day.  Not that I’ve learned the hard way. :)

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 Soy Chorizo and Queso Fundido

1/2 pound block of Monterey Jack cheese (not shredded)
1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella (not shredded)
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
12 oz soy chorizo (I buy the package from Trader Joe’s)
1 can of tomatoes with green chiles (e.g. Rotel)
Tomatoes, onions, avocado, sour cream, etc. for topping

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Break the two cheeses up into big chunks and put them in a food processor.  Process until they are completely ground up and blended and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil up and add the onion.  Cook until it is soft and starting to be translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, and then add the chorizo and Rotel.  Keep on the heat until everything is warmed through.

In a pie dish, spread about half of the cheese onto the bottom.  Cover with the chorizo mixture and then top with the rest of the cheese in an even layer.

Cover and bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and melted.  If you would like to, finish up with a quick broil to brown the cheese.

Top with the garnishes and serve warm with tortilla chips.

Source: I did a lot of research and didn’t find exactly what I wanted, so I created this combination with the influence of many recipes.

Bang Bang Cauliflower

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This dish piqued my interest the second I saw it because fried cauliflower has a special place in my heart.  It’s just so good and extremely versatile because you can use different batters and put any variety of sauces on top.  When I went to the state fair in NY last year with Jake’s family, there was a food cart that sold nothing but battered, deep-fried vegetables.  It was heaven.  I bought a bucket of them.  Literally.  They serve it to you in a bucket.  That’s upstate NY for ya 😉

So, naturally, I had to give this recipe a try.  I ended up with more sauce than the cauliflower really needed, but that’s ok because it was sweet and spicy which is right up my alley.  If you start with a bigger head then it might be more proportional (and it’s really easy to make more sauce if need be).  Jake’s response of, “This wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  It was actually really good!” was the seal of approval that I was looking for.   My dad happened to be over at the right time (this and the hot chocolate fudge cakes were made simultaneously) and he liked it, too.  Any time meat-eaters approve of something that’s a vegetarian replacement for a classic, I consider it a win.  My dad even helped to style the pictures.  A future food blogger!

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Bang Bang Cauliflower

Batter
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup cold water
1 3/4 cup flour

Bang Bang Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
2-4 teaspoons hot sriracha sauce, or more to taste

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
vegetable or canola oil
2 green onions, chopped

Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a large bowl that big enough to hold all the cauliflower.  Set aside.

Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until it has ripples but isn’t smoking.

Mix the egg yolks and water in a large bowl. Add the flour and stir until it is just combined. Immediately dip the pieces of cauliflower and then drop into the oil.  Cook for several minutes per side until they are golden brown and crispy.  Drain on a paper towel.

Toss with the bang bang sauce and top with the green onions.  Serve immediately.

Source: A Taste of Home Cooking, originally from Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations

Easy Mexican Tortellini Soup

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Happy Valentine’s Day!  In the car last night, Jake, Lily, and I were making up songs to sing to each other and Jake made up a song about how he loves Lily.  She was upset because it didn’t include me, so he made up a song about how he loves Lily, Buster, and me.  His bases were now covered, right?  No.  Lily argued, “But Daddy, it’s very important that you love yourself, too.”  She’s hard to please, but makes a good point.  I’m going to remind her of that sound advice when she’s an angsty 13-year-old.  I’m not sure what we will do to celebrate Lily’s day of love other than the small treats and books that I bought for her.  Maybe go out to a fancypants dinner at Chipotle.  Yum.  We all love anything Mexican, and Chipotle is probably the only restaurant in town that won’t have a wait list.

Speaking of Mexican (yes, I know that tortellini isn’t Mexican but I decided to try something new) I threw this soup together one day while I was home and ate it for days afterward (which is saying a lot because I generally don’t do leftovers).  Jake said that it was spicy, but I thought that the seasonings were perfect for this cold, snowy winter.  If you find it to be too spicy, add water or broth.  Or, if you know you are really sensitive, add half of the packet of taco seasoning and then add more to taste at the end.  The pasta and corn both absorb spice, so wait until the soup is pretty much complete to make a final decision.  Also, the cool and creamy avocado and the crunchy tortilla chips break up the flavor, so don’t go too light on the spices!

Have a snuggle-filled holiday, all!

Easy Mexican Tortellini Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with chiles
1 packet taco seasoning
1.5 cups frozen (or fresh) corn
6 cups vegetable broth
1 family-sized package of cheese tortellini
hot sauce, to taste
avocados and tortilla chips for topping

Over medium heat, pour the olive oil into a dutch oven or large stock pot.  Once heated, add the onions and cook for about 7 minutes, until they are soft and translucent.  Add in the tomatoes with chiles, taco seasoning, corn, and vegetable broth.  Bring to a simmer and add the tortellini.  Cook until tender; this will change depending on whether the tortellini is fresh, frozen, or dried.  The fresher the pasta, the less time you’ll need.  Serve hot with cubed avocado and tortilla chips.

Source: L+K Original