Zucchini Chips

FullSizeRender-2Veggies = crisp and savory snack. That equation doesn’t always add up with non-vegetable eaters. But try serving up a bowl full of these tasty treats and you’ll win over even the most staunchly adamant vegetable hater.

These were my second new recipe effort with a monster zucchini that had been bestowed upon me. They were best straight out of the oven, and within a few hours of being baked. I brought them to my zucchini gift-giver to try the next day, and they’d absorbed moisture from the air and gone soggy. So if you can bake and eat same day, go for it! (This recipe from allrecipes.com didn’t offer any suggestions for how to make them good Day 2.) I will tell you, you have to bake these to total crispness—any hint of bendability in the chips, and they will start to get soggy as they cool on the racks.

Makes 4 baking sheets of zucchini chips

1 cup low-fat milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or Kraft grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced (1/8″ works best)

Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour milk into a bowl. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and black pepper in a food processor and pulse until combined into fine crumbs. Place zucchini slices in the milk and soak for 1 minute. Remove zucchini slices from milk and press each into the bread crumbs mixture until coated on both sides. Arrange coated zucchini slices on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake 2 sheets at a time in the preheated oven until chips are totally crisp, about 30-40 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Repeat with 2 more sheets of zucchini chips. Best eaten first day.

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce and Orange Scented Rice Bowl

FullSizeRender-1The light peanut flavor seems like a strange pairing with the citrus rice in this stir fry, but it’s an odd couple arrangement that works. My son Justin got this recipe from his Senior Foods class, and we often joke that it was the only good thing to come out of his high school experience. (At least there was one thing…) It’s become his signature dish, and when he lived at home, I often asked him to make this to give me the night off from cooking. As there is a lot of chopping involved, it’s good to have a couple people in the kitchen doing prep for this one. And that’s where a younger brother comes in handy—especially when that brother is a whiz at keeping the knives sharp for all that chopping… The fresh grated ginger and bit of heat from the red pepper flakes enhance the sauteed vegetables, and have made this another family favorite.

Makes 4-6 servings

For rice:
3 cups water
1 orange, zested
1½ cups white rice (short or medium grain is best)

For stir-fry:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
½ green (or red) bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces
½ cup snow pea pods, ends trimmed

For Thai peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1-inch ginger root, peeled and grated (about 1 teaspoon)
1 clove garlic, minced
½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Justin likes 1 heaping tsp. – too much heat for me!)
1 orange, juiced

Topping:
Chopped dry roasted peanuts, optional

Rice: Bring water and orange zest to a boil in medium saucepan. Add rice, return to boiling. Stir once then cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Stir-Fry: Pour oil in large non-stick skillet with heat on medium-high. Add chicken, garlic, and onion – stir-fry 5 minutes. Add carrot and green pepper, stir-fry 5 minutes; add remaining vegetables and stir-fry 5 minutes more or until chicken is done. Be careful not to allow vegetables to cook until soggy.

Thai Peanut Sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat, mix all sauce ingredients. Simmer until combined. Add sauce to stir-fry and toss. Serve mixture over rice in a bowl.

Three-Bean Turkey Chili Con Carne

FullSizeRender-1It’s safe to say soup season is officially upon us, and this staple chili recipe is perfect for a filling lunch or a hearty dinner when the weather turns nippy. This is such a fave, that frankly, I’m surprised I’ve not posted it yet! Although, I need to give a disclaimer here. It used to be a family favorite for for everyone in our household, but when I first went back to working full-time a dozen years ago, I was hard-pressed to come up with recipes to throw on the table in a hurry after 5 p.m. I had previously been freelancing from home, and could putz in the kitchen between projects. That luxury was lost when I had to be elsewhere from 8-5. Sooooooo… I would whip up a batch of this chili in the evening or weekends to have on hand for dinner. But apparently, I relied on this a little too much, and my sons started groaning, “Chili, AGAIN???”

We took a much-needed break from chili, and I found other recipes I could make in a snap when we needed to eat and run to guitar lessons or hockey practice, etc. (Many of those fast favorites have been posted on this blog.) Were my offspring a little harsh on me regarding this dutiful recipe? I think so. Especially when my son Brandon made this for a church youth group chili cook-off fundraiser, and won the coveted first prize trophy—an ancient can of beans glued to a block of wood bearing a “First Prize” plaque. (Helped that he’s stinkin’ cute and there were lots of teen girls voting…) Who’s dissing my chili NOW, huh?

The original recipe came from my Mom’s friend Arlene, one of those women who always makes great food. I believe she got the recipe from the St. Paul Pioneer Press sometime in the 70’s, but I’m not sure. (Feel free to comment, Arlene!) I’ve altered to suit our changing tastes, and now use turkey instead of hamburger, and have added black beans (unheard of among suburbanites in the 70’s), butter beans, more vegetables, and some additional seasonings. Serve this with the Corn Bread recipe previously posted, and you’ve got a winning combination. Maybe even first place.

Serves 10-12 (But freezes well, if that’s more than you need!)

Rating: Easy

1-1¼ pounds ground turkey (or hamburger)
1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped (optional)
3 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (14.5 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans with cumin and chili spices (do NOT drain)
2 cans corn
1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15-16 ounce) can butter beans
1-1½ tablespoons regular chili powder
1 tablespoon chili con carne seasoning (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½-2 teaspoons salt

Toppings

Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped scallions
Sour cream

In large fry pan, cook turkey until no pink remains. Put into large Dutch oven, or other large pot in which you will be simmering your chili. Using same fry pan, sauté onion for 2-3 minutes. Add green pepper, carrots, and zucchini (if using). Sauté until onions are translucent, and other vegetables are slightly softened.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and black beans to pot with cooked turkey. Stir in sautéed onion mixture. In colander, rinse and drain corn, kidney beans, and butter beans. Once drained, add to pot. Stir in chili powder, chili con carne seasoning (if using), cumin, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to simmer, and cook on low for 30-60 minutes. Serve with toppings. Or store in frig to serve later.

Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing

IMG_0919Fresh summer salads need a fresh summer dressing, and what tastes fresher than the zing of real lemon? This dressing recipe make-over from a Pillsbury Classic Cookbook circa August 1991 (those little grocery store booklets sold in the check-out lanes next to the trashy tabloids) uses sour cream as a thickening agent instead of the traditional coddled egg, so there’s no raw egg issues in this mix. I’ve made it with just torn romaine lettuce, grated Parmesan cheese, and big, buttery croutons, but that’s too limiting for this zesty salad topper. It’s great on any torn greens and vegetable combination you can dream up.

IMG_0924Pictured in my salad are curly leaf lettuce, chopped sweet red peppers and cucumber, jicama chunks, fresh basil, and grated heritage carrots (they’re purple—so they kinda look like bacon bits), and finally a sprinkling of grated Parmesan, as a nod to it’s Caesar roots. Be warned that lemon is the predominant taste in this dressing, so pucker up. (Mom and Janine, this one’s for you!) I’ve never used the anchovy paste suggested in the original recipe, and we’ve found it’s just dandy without it. In fact, I think it would make it far too salty. 

Most people know how Caesar salad got it’s name…but here’s a refresher just for kicks. It was created by Chef Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who worked in kitchens in Mexico and the U.S. Legend has it that he came up with the concoction during a 4th of July rush when his kitchen supplies were running low, and these were the ingredients he had on hand. His original recipe didn’t use anchovies, either, so I guess I’m in good company there. Apparently, there are a variety of bottled dressings called “Cardini’s Caesar” to be found in grocery stores. But why buy it bottled when it’s so easy to make your own?

Makes about 3/4 cup dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (I typically use only one clove)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon course ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk—or combine in a jar and shake vigorously—until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use, or pour over salad greens and vegetables, and toss until greens are coated.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

IMG_0618This fresh and healthy Asian salad is perfect for a warm weather lunch, brunch, or served alongside whatever is on your grill for dinner. My sister Susan brought it to a party recently, and it was a hit. She found the recipe on allrecipes.com, but changed it considerably. The original calls for five, count ’em FIVE cloves of garlic, which is way too much raw garlic for a salad. She subbed in soy sauce for fish sauce as she didn’t have the fish sauce on hand, and added bell pepper, snow pea pods, and red cabbage to the vegetable mix. She said she’s also included edamame (boil according to package instruction then chill) when she’s made it previously. The drizzle of toasted sesame oil at the end was also her addition. Isn’t she clever? We thought so!

Serves 6-8

1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
1/2 pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce or 1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 (12 ounce) package dried rice noodles
2 carrots, julienned
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped
4 leaves Napa cabbage, julienned
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, ends cut off
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup salted dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Combine the minced garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the lime juice, fish sauce (or soy sauce, and sugar; stir well. Let the sauce sit for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Break the rice noodles in half and add them to the pot; boil them for 2 minutes. Drain well. Rinse the noodles with cold water until they have cooled. Let them drain again.
Combine the sauce, noodles, carrots, cucumber, Napa cabbage, bell pepper, red cabbage, sugar snap peas, and mint in a large serving bowl. Toss well; drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Toss again and serve the salad garnished with the peanuts.
(NOTE: if using a gluten-free soy sauce, this recipe would be gluten-free.)