Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Friends, I apologize for my absence here. My camera is broken! A disaster for a food blogger!

Searching through old photos, I found this (not-so-great) one of my favorite autumn dinner: stuffed acorn squash. Today a brisk wind is blowing the leaves from the trees, the sun is shining, the air is crisp: this dish is a perfect match.

The recipe fills a baked acorn squash bowl with sausage, apples, pecans, onions and cranberries and drizzles it all with maple syrup. Need I say more? It can be served as a main dish (one-half squash per person) or sliced up further as a side dish. It's prettier in person than it looks in the photo--definitely

Enjoy this autumn meal while I figure out this camera mess!

Receipe below; printable version here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Turn rice into entertainment: DIY I Spy Toy

A bit of a departure from the recipes today--although rice is featured!

If you don't already know the wonder that is an I Spy toy, allow me to introduce you. It is a small container--often a fabric pouch, here a bottle--filled with trinkets and poly pellets or another sort of filler. As you turn the container around the trinkets shift about and come into view for you to spy. A simple toy, but one that's oddly addicting. They're great for waiting rooms and car rides--any place a kid needs some distraction but can't run around.

There are some gorgeous handmade fabric I Spy bags out there that I've picked up as gifts in the past (my favorites are here). But I thought I'd try my hand at a cheap and easy homemade version. As it turns out, it's not hard at all to make your own I Spy toy.

You probably have everything you need already: an empty plastic bottle (it could be glass if your kids are older), rice, and a handful of tiny trinkets.

Start by gathering up whatever toy bits and other interesting small items you can find around the house. Just the floatsam and jetsam of a home with kids: the solo Barbie shoes, odd stickers, and lost buttons that sink to the bottom of the toy bin or hide beneath the couch. They only need to be small and lightweight. Heavier items--even something like a penny--tend to get stuck in the center of the bottle, which doesn't make for a very interesting spy hunt.

Next, take inventory of what you're hiding. My kids don't read yet, so I arranged the trinkets on a white sheet of paper and snapped a photo. Later I printed a wallet-size version and hung it from the neck of the bottle for them to use as a guide. For readers, you could just jot down a list of items.

Here you can see the sorts of things that went into our I Spy: a guitar pick, alphabet-shaped pasta, pony beads, paper clip, hair clips, a dry pinto bean and the missing head of a Lego guy. I used 24 items total.

Drop the trinkets into the bottle (in our case, a Vitamin Water bottle) and fill it not quite full of rice. The headspace at the top is important, to give the rice room to move about and reveal the treasures. (I think I even ended up pouring a little more of the rice out after this picture was taken.) If you're worried about kids unscrewing the lid, add a bit of glue under the cap as you seal it up.

Now you're ready to hunt! Tip, roll, and shake the bottle to make the treasures appear.

You can adjust the number of trinkets or the size of the bottle for older kids who are up for more of a challenge. The lower the trinket-to-rice ratio, the harder it is to spot one.

It was a perfect distraction on our recent long car trip. An adult would call out a treasure from the card for The Boy to find. Or sometimes he would just hunt on his own and excitedly report on things he spotted. The Girl mostly appreciated it as a musical shaker, but anything that occupied the kids was fine with us!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Zucchini-Crusted Pizza

I'd been holding on to this recipe for months, waiting for zucchini season to roll around. Zucchini-crusted pizza? So intriguing! I imagined the traditional bready crust with bits of zucchini poking through.

It turned out to be much different--which I would have realized if I had actually, you know, read the recipe before I started. What a concept!

It was more akin to a quiche. A quiche with pizza toppings. I know, right? The ingredients were simple:

Grated zucchini +
beaten eggs +
flour +
grated mozzarella + parmesan
We also added some fresh basil. I spread the batter into a tart pan, but a pie pan would work equally well.

We baked it around half an hour until golden brown. Then squinted a bit at the finished product, decided, "Sure, why not use it as a pizza crust," covered with our favorite toppings and returned to the oven until cheese was melted and the toppings were heated through.

It may not have been what I was expecting, but it was tasty. Much richer than our usual pizzas, to be sure. But it definitely worked a lot of zucchini into our meal and even earned The Boy's seal of approval!

Recipe below; printable version here.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Two great deals to share with you on some of my favorite things:

Sunset--part shelter mag, part travel mag, part food mag--was my way to keep Pacific Northwest homesickness at bay when I was living in California. The featured homes are gorgeous and the recipes are always spot on; a good number of the ones featured here come from Sunset's online recipe library. A one-year subscription is just $5 right now at Amazon!

Oxo--makers of well-designed household gadgets galore--has a new website and its celebrating with a sale. We have more Oxo gadgets in our kitchen than I'm probably willing to admit. But they are all well-used and appreciated, especially the mango splitterstrawberry huller, and food mill. And my itsy bitsy mini measuring cup, which measures liquids by the tablespoon. Use coupon code OXONEW through 9/26 for 15% off and free shipping on all orders. Can anyone say "stocking stuffers"?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Watermelon Popsicles

The warm weather came back for one last September fling, so the kids and I decided to make our own watermelon popsicles.

We started with some yellow watermelon we had on hand. The kids get cutely excited about yellow watermelon. It tastes just like pink! But it's yellow!

We chopped up the melon and ran it through our food mill to purée and remove the seeds. You could also just start with a seedless melon or work with a strainer. The Boy enjoys the food mill--much less scary loud than a food processor and you get to crank the handle.

After adding a spash of lime juice, we poured it into the popsicle molds. A few hours in the freezer and we were done!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ridiculously Easy Peach Crisp

This dessert comes together crazy fast, satisfies the urge for a warm sweet treat, and dirties just the baking dish and a paring knife.

Fill a baking dish with sliced,
peeled peaches
Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon
and lemon juice

Cover with crumbled gingersnaps
Bake and you're done!

Recipe below or printable version here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Herbed Potato Salad with Green Beans and Tomatoes

You'll have to use your imagination a bit for the photo above. Instead of the slightly overcooked potato lumps, picture firm red potatoes tossed with tomatoes, beans and basil. Now, doesn't that look tasty?

Despite the smushy potatoes it was still delicious. Our produce box had potatoes, beans, basil and tomatoes the other week and this was a wonderful way to combine them: the fresh veggie flavors overlaid with basil and the slightest bit of vinegar tang. A great salad to squeeze in to those final sunny September barbeques.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Impulse purchase

I ask you, how could I pass up something this adorable? How?

I've already grated a wee bit of cheese for a lunchtime garnish. Too. Cute.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Zucchini Cookies

I probably shouldn't admit this but when I see a bowl of freshly grated zucchini...

...I don't think, "What a tasty, healthy vegetable!" I think, "Oh, tasty, sugary baked goods!" Like zuchhini bread. And zucchini cake. And these awesome zucchini cookies.

The recipe include chocolate chips and walnuts and coconut. (It calls for raisins, too, but I would never sully such yumminess with horrid raisins.) They freeze well and can be eaten nearly straight from freezer. (Not that I would ever do that. Ahem.)

Recipe below; printable version here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bulgur, Mint, and Parlsey Salad

When I saw the large bunch of flat leaf parsley in the produce box I knew tabbouleh was in our future. Nutty bulgur, tart lemon, cool cucumbers and tomatoes--love it!

The Husband made this dish, so no prep photos today.

The flavor blends and intensifies the longer it sits, so make it a few hours ahead of time if you can. It was near divine when I scarfed down the leftovers the next day.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chili in Grilled Zucchini Boats

Yesterday was too dreadfully hot to think about cooking, so we fired up the grill and tried something new. These are officially chili-stuffed zucchini, but we thought it was much more interesting to dub them zucchini boats.

Halve zucchini lengthwise and scoop out
the centers
Salt and pepper, then brush with garlic
and olive oil
The recipe has you make up a very basic mix of beans, cheese, cilantro and salsa, but you could substitute leftover chili for an even faster prep. I'll add a pinch of cumin or chili pepper the next time around.

The Boy declared that it was the only recipe I've ever made that he liked. I decided to accept the compliment without comment!

Recipe below; printable version here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pacific Northwest Chili

We've dubbed this dish Pacific Northwest chili because it includes an item held in great esteem by many in these parts: beer. Also because all the veggies in it are grown around here (and are in season right now). But mostly the beer.

We tried this out when we were looking for vegetarian recipes to add to our repertoire, but it's become our favorite chili recipe.  It is simply amazing in the summer when the ingredients are all fresh.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dairy-Free Zucchini Bread

I've been experimenting with coconut oil in my baking lately as a substitute for butter and shortening. It's naturally dairy-free and avoids the trans-fats in margarine. And--I was happy to discover--doesn't seem to make everything taste like coconut.

On a side note, we always have unrefined coconut oil in the house because I regularly use it to moisturize my daughter's super curly hair. I'm not sure what seems odder to me: that I use a food item on her hair, or that I cook with a hair product.

This is a basic zucchini bread using coconut oil, with a little whole wheat pastry flour slipped in for that whole grain goodness. Best enjoyed on the deck in the morning sun with a cup of good coffee.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

We're on vacation at the moment. Playing in the sand, spending time with family, and enjoying chocolate zucchini cake.

Why, Heather, you might be saying. That cake looks a little mussed. Like the top third completely separated from the rest of the cake and was plopped back on in a rush.

Eh, maybe. I refuse to admit anything. But it's vacation time and the cake still tastes great (the mix of cinnamon and cocoa is to die for).

Visit Simply Recipes for the recipe!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dairy-Free Pesto

I think pesto is pretty close to perfection. So I embraced this dairy-free pesto recipe pretty much the minute I tasted it, since it meant we wouldn't have to kick pesto out of our meals for The Girl's sake. Not quite as rich as regular pesto, it still has that sublime flavor mix of basil, garlic and pinenuts. With no olive oil and no cheese involved, the recipe triples as a low-fat pesto recipe and vegan pesto recipe.

The equation begins, of course, with basil.

One cup firmly packed basil leaves +

one cup tomatoes +
one clove minced garlic +
one tablespoon toasted pinenuts +
one-half teaspoon salt
Blend it all together in a food processor or blender, and you're done! I make up several batches when basil and tomatoes abound in the summer and freeze it in one-cup portions.

Recipe below.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bee-bim Bop

This is Swiss chard.

It is not, as I mistakenly believed last year, rhubarb. Although, in my defense, rhubarb looks suspiciously like Swiss chard. The purple stalks! The broad green leaves!

Thinking it was rhubarb, one year ago I tossed the (perfectly edible!) leaves and used the stalks to make "rhubarb" crisp. Which tasted like it was made from celery. Ugh.

Aside from learning what chard actually looks like, the most useful thing I've learned about it since then is that its leaves can be substituted for spinach in pretty much any recipe. It's not too tough and  has a very mild flavor.

We used some of our first chard of this summer in bee-bim bop. I always enjoy this meal, even with all the pots and pans it dirties.

Believe it or not, this recipe came from a children's book.  One day The Boy picked up Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park at the library. It's a bouncy, rhyming tale of a little girl happily helping make her family's dinner of bee-bim bop (which the book translates as "mix-mix bowl"), a Korean mixed dish of marinated beef, vegetables and fried egg.

A recipe follows the story, with instructions divided up for "you" (the child" and the "grown-up". After many, many readings of the book, The Boy was excited to taste bee-bim bop himself. It was a huge success! Love the marinade for the meat.

It is a time-consuming, multi-pan recipe. And I make no claims that I'm doing authentic Korean cooking here. But bee-bim bop has easily slipped its way into our regular stable of meals.

Recipe below; printable version here. Check out the book for a kid-inclusive version!

Photo credit (rhubarb): Sandy Austin

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