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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Recipe 11: Zucchini-Tomato-Herbed Ricotta Flatbread


Today we harvested three of the BIGGEST zucchinis so far. One was almost as big as my youngest daughter's arm! Wowsa! (Also? I don't know how they grew so large since I was just in there two days back and took anything large enough to take. I'm pretty sure this must be what happened while I was sleeping...) I'll have to think of something really yummy to make with those bad boys.

In the meantime, yesterday I wanted something light for lunch. Luckily, the other day my fave food blogger--Sally at Sally's Baking Addiction-- posted a zucchini-based non-dessert. Score! I decided I'd have to try it. Sally's recipe includes making one's own flatbread. I've made her deep dish pizza in the past (including the homemade dough) so I know it's good, but I didn't feel like going to the trouble, so I just bought pizza dough from my supermarket and went from there. (If you want to go all out, you can find her directions and ingredients in the link I included. It should be noted that pizza dough and flatbread dough are not exactly the same thing, so be forewarned.)

Zucchini-Tomato-Herbed Ricotta Flatbread

Yield: 2 flatbreads

Ingredients:

1 store-bought pizza dough (I find them near the deli section of my supermarket. They're refrigerated raw pizza dough in a bag.) OR recipe for flatbread dough in link above (OR, if you're really pressed for time, cooked flat breads)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved, seeds squeezed out (optional)
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 Tablespoons milk
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced garlic (I used the jarred stuff for this recipe, but if you want to use fresh, it's about 2 cloves)
1 1/2- 2 cups sliced zucchini (about 1 small-medium zucchini, sliced in thin rounds)
2-3 ounces ricotta salata cheese (the original recipe called for 6-8 ounces goat cheese; however, I LOATHE goat cheese. Therefore, I bought myself a wedge of ricotta salata at Wegmans and it was a nice salty pairing with a different texture than the rest of the ingredients)

This is a side view of what the dough looks like in the bag
 
Directions:

1. Prepare tomatoes: Toss the halved, seeded tomatoes with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread onto a parchment or silicone-lined  baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until blistered. Set aside. (Once cooled enough to handle, you can remove the skin from the outside of the tomatoes by pinching it off. It slides right off. This is an optional step. I did it for the same reason I took the seeds out of my tomatoes: I don't like seeds, I don't like skins. But that's totally up to you. It's not a step in the original recipe.)

 Lovely shot of fresh ingredients. Use a smaller zucchini than this one. I had too much.
Squeezing the seeds right outta these suckers. I'm not a fan of seeds.
 Sliced and diced
 Yum!
Ready to roast!
Roasted to yummy perfection. Once slightly cooled, the skins slide right off if you're so inclined to remove them.


2. Increase oven temperature to 475 degrees.

3. Prepare ricotta: Whisk the ricotta, basil, milk, lemon juice, and garlic together in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

4. Prepare the dough: Divide the dough ball into two. On a lightly floured surface and with floured hands, work with one dough piece at a time. Shape and stretch the dough until it's about 1/4 inch thick. (Sally says you can use a floured rolling pin for this step if you want. However, I just used my hands. It was easier.) The dough can be any shape. **Note: if you're using a bought dough like I did, stretch it even thinner. When it bakes, it puffs up and  ends up thicker than a standard flatbread.**





5. Place both pieces of dough on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet (you can also use a pizza stone).

6. Use a fork to prick a few holes into the surface of the dough, then drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil each. Spread ricotta mixture on both dough pieces. (The original recipe says to use half of the ricotta mixture on each dough pieces. However, I spread a good half cup on each, and it was thick and plentiful, but I still had about a cup leftover. So next time I'd either half the ricotta mixture recipe, or I'd stretch those pizzas even thinner.)


 
Arrange zucchini and tomatoes on each, followed by your crumbled cheese.



7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove from oven. Slice and serve.

This was, indeed, a perfect option for lunch. So perfect, in fact, I enjoyed it two days in a row. It was also the perfect recipe to occupy little helper-hands. My daughters were bickering (too much togetherness) so I asked my younger daughter if she wanted to help me and of course she did. She helped me squeeze the seeds from the tomatoes, toss the tomatoes in oil, whisk the herbed cheese, and even stretch and shape and top one flatbread. She had a great time.

As I indicated in my notes above, taking the shortcut and using the pizza dough did seem to effect the outcome of the flatbread since it definitely more resembled a traditional-crust (as opposed to thin crust or thick crust, that is) pizza. If that much dough isn't your thing, then I'd suggest either making your own flatbread dough, taking the time to roll the pizza dough very thin, or just buying pre-cooked flatbread and topping it with those toppings. Easy enough changes. (I try these recipes so I can pass along my live-and-learn trade secrets to you!)

The other thing was...um...I didn't prefer the zucchini on this. For real. It just tasted too...raw and zucchini-y, and sort of overpowered the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes, creaminess of the ricotta, and saltiness of the crumbles. I picked it off my flatbread, as did both my daughters. (My husband wasn't around so he didn't get to try this recipe.) If you're very much into the straight flavor of zucchini, you'd probably enjoy it. I'm more of a love-to-eat-zucchini-without-knowing-it's-zucchini type gal (especially this far into the Summer Squash Series.) Ah well.

Still, the tomatoes and herbed cheese and the ricotta salata I put on top were all top-notch. Since I have so much of the herbed cheese leftover, I think I'll make it again without the zucchinis and on some Naan or even an English muffin, quick-lunch style.

Next time I'll share with you a fun side-dish (or appetizer or healthy-ish after-school snack option). In the meantime, I'll be scouting out the perfect uses for my ginormous zucchinis, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Recipe 10: Chicken Zucchini Casserole


Today was one of those days I didn't so much feel like cooking, yet I was ravenously hungry by dinnertime.

I wanted something easy. I wanted something tasty. I wanted something that would stick to my ribs. I wanted to use a zucchini (yes; I'm obsessed.) So I decided to try this recipe I found on the Six Sisters' Stuff blog.

I cheated by using a rotisserie chicken I bought at the market. I love using rotisserie chicken in recipes--from soups to casseroles to enchiladas, they just make life so much easier. Not to mention, at only $4.99 a pop, they're cheaper than (or comparable to) buying the raw chicken and cooking it yourself. Some days, ain't nobody got time for that! (Dude, I still LOVE this video.) My rotisserie chicken gave me around 3 cups of shredded chicken. I used half for today's recipe and set aside half for a chilaquiles recipe I'm making for tomorrow which my older daughter almost certainly won't eat...(I also used the other half of the onion from today's recipe and cut that up already for tomorrow.) It's all about shaving time where you can, people.

I halved the original recipe so that it only made an 8x8 casserole dish's worth. For my family of four, that will feed us and I don't have to deal with leftovers. (Sometimes I want leftovers, but not this week.) Thus, the amounts I provide in my recipe are for the smaller portion. If you want more, feel free to follow the original recipe, but note that I increased the ratio of chicken and soup in my version.

Chicken Zucchini Casserole

Yield: 8x8 casserole dish; feeds 2-4

Ingredients:

3 oz Stove Top stuffing mix
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups zucchini, diced (mine was one large zucchini)
1 1/2 cup cooked chicken, cubed (I increased the chicken from half the original recipe- half would be 1 cup, but I wanted it to be more hearty)
1/4 onion, chopped (about 1/3-1/2 cup onion)
1/4 cup sour cream
10.5oz can Cream of Chicken Soup (I used the entire can because half the can left my mixture drier than I preferred)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not in the original recipe but, again, CHEESE)

Directions:

1. Grease 8x8 glass casserole dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix and melted butter. Portion out 1/4 cup of the mixture and set aside to use later for topping.

3. In the same large bowl, add to the stuffing mixture the zucchini, chicken, onion, sour cream, and soup. Stir to moisten.


4. Spread evenly into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup stuffing mix and Parmesan cheese.


5. Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.



It reminded me a of cross between this Swiss chicken bake and a casserole my mother-in-law makes, though neither of them have zucchini. My husband and I enjoyed it; my girls ate it. (Which, in the scheme of their reactions to dinners, is a win.) Although it would have been fine on its own, I served it with an extra side of veg. I'd planned to go with a romaine salad, but discovered the bag of organic hearts I bought last week had started to rot, so I had to toss them (BOO to waste!) I ended up heating up something from my emergency frozen vegetable stash. I picked my husband's favorite--Brussels spouts--because the poor guy got stung by a wasp--twice!--whilst out mowing the lawn and I felt bad for him. (By the way, if you are stung by a bee or wasp, you can make a paste out of water and baking soda and cake it on the affected area and it really helps ease the sting. I've had this little home-remedy stored away in my head for decades and never had occasion to use it until I was able to bust it out twice in the past seven days! It worked for the poor little kid who got stung--also twice!--on his back because a wasp got caught in his swim vest, and also on my husband's ankle/calf. It worked for me, too, when I was a kid. So well, I guess, that I've never forgotten...)

Anyway, if you're looking for a casserole to make on the fly, this one is a go. Maybe you can even serve it with a slice of yesterday's chocolate zucchini banana bread for dessert... mmm.

Next time, I'll share a seasonal flatbread. Check back to see!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Recipe 9: Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread


It's Sunday night as I write this. I won't post this recipe until a couple days hence, but now is when I'm writing the post and doing the baking. (As I sit here typing, the loaf is still in the oven and smells oh so delicious.)

Thankfully, my garden produced some additional squash over the weekend. I harvested 5 or 6 gourds, so I'm back in business for recipe trials. Whew.

Today I made a chicken and zucchini casserole and this bread which, like the last loaf, is more cake than bread. Such is the world of misleadingly named dessert stuffs. (Actually, I believe they get their name because they fall in the category of "quick breads" which are basically breads that don't contain yeast. Several sweet ones exist. But still, even knowing that, I find it odd calling something cakey "bread.")

Anyhoodles.

I had some sad looking bananas sitting on my counter. I decided to search for a zucchini banana bread recipe. I found a few. One of them was chocolate. Then I remembered these amazingly delicious muffins I made a few times back in the spring and realized I missed them. Thus, I decided to give the chocolate zucchini banana bread a whirlio. I modified the recipe base from If You Give A Blonde A Kitchen's blog. I sort of combined some of the things I liked in the muffin recipe and techniques I used in the first zucchini loaf I featured in this series.

Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread

Yield: 1 9" loaf

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder (like the brownies I made recently, the original recipe called for dark chocolate cocoa. I still haven't bought any, so I used regular. Use what you have/what you like.)
1 1/4 cup (160g) all purpose flour
1/4 cup (30g) white whole wheat flour (the original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups (190g) all purpose flour; I decided to use some white whole wheat flour too because it's in those muffins I love)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup vegetable oil; again, I used some coconut oil in mine because of those muffins)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini, moisture removed (the original recipe just called for the zucchini to be "patted dry"-- I used the squeeze technique from my last loaf. I measured my 2 cups of shredded zucchini, then squeezed it dry and added to my recipe. Also, for me, this was 1 medium zucchini and 1 medium yellow squash. I removed the seeds from the yellow squash but not the zucchini.)
2 medium very ripe bananas, mashed (medium bananas are 7-8" in length)
1 cup chocolate chips (the original recipe called for Ghiradelli semi-sweet chips; however, I used 1/3 cup EACH of Hershey's milk, semi-sweet, and special dark chip varieties because YUM)
(optional) extra chips for the top

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9" loaf pan. Set aside.

2. Mash banana in small bowl. Set aside.

3. Trim ends off zucchini. Shred using box grater. Wrap in lint-free kitchen towel and squeeze out moisture over the sink. Set aside.

4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
5. In a large mixing bowl, whisk oils, vanilla, and sugars.
Stir in eggs, bananas, and shredded zucchini until well combined.
 
6. Fold in dry ingredients just until moistened. (Do not over mix.)


 
7. Fold in chocolate chips.


8. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. If you accidentally "drop" a few chocolate chips along the top of the cake just so it looks pretty, now would be the time. (haha)


9. Bake in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick (or knife if you don't have long toothpicks) comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs sticking to it. (Read: if you put it in and there's wet batter on the knife, it's not cooked!) (Mine took 63 minutes, though I started checking it at 45 minutes, then put it back in for 5 minute increments until the final 3.)


Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing and serving. Store covered at room temperature.

Now it's Tuesday afternoon. The loaf is already half gone. My older daughter, in particular, has been scarfing it down. Of course, until she saw me updating this blog, she didn't know there's zucchini in it. Bwa hahahaha.

Anyway, it's got an intense chocolate flavor with a not-overpowering (though discernible) banana flavor. The zucchini, as before, is barely detectable. And I mean you can't taste it and you can barely see it. I think I still prefer those muffins, but this bread is solidly similar and I love that it uses up some zucchini. It's a score.

Check back tomorrow for the casserole we had for dinner before I made this bread.



Bachelorette Episode 8: Hometown Dates and a Damned Cliffhanger!

And we're back. It's a big night. Hometown dates. JoJo claims she's "so connected" to all four guys. But these hometowns are going to show her some magic she doesn't already know. Naturally.

Let's get to it.

We start off in Colorado. JoJo is driving in a car in a really chunky sweater-robe situation. I hate it. Chase is ready to share it all with JoJo. Share it all except, um, you know, LOVE. Chase shares that he's nervous because he comes from a broken home and JoJo's parents have been married a long time. He seems to be worried about this.

They set up a picnic on the edge of a cliff with a great view. Chase confesses his parents had a nasty divorce back in the day, and he's going to have her meet his dad apart from his mom. JoJo didn't realize this wound was so deep; she's impressed with the wall-dropping. I am less impressed. They kiss. Then they go to Chase's house. She oohs and ahs about his house. The doorbell rings and JoJo starts acting ridiculously giggly and stupid and I want to sock her.

Chase is telling his dad about JoJo and has said "JoJo" about 6 times in as many sentences. Then Chase asks his dad why he couldn't make it work with his mom. It seemed like a conversation that would have been better off-camera. Chase and his dad have a private (from JoJo) talk, and it's therapeutic for Chase, but not all that interesting to the viewing public.

Back from commercial, Chase and JoJo are now going to meet his mom and the rest of his family. Chase's mom is "thrilled" to meet JoJo and compliments her laugh. Hardy har har.

The mom steals JoJo away to talk. JoJo tells the mom that Chase shows his emotions well, but doesn't talk about them. The mom responds, sober, about how Chase has processed the divorce--slowly--but thoroughly. I got the impression from JoJo's expression that she was hoping for a less intense answer.

Chase and his sister have a heartwarming conversation about how their past has made it hard for them to drop "the L-bomb." His mom asks if he can propose to her at the end of this. He says he'd like to be there emotionally.

At the limo when it's time to say goodbye, Chase tells JoJo he's falling in love with her. Chase's confidence level now is "outta this world."

On to the second date at Jordan's hometown-- Chico, California. There's lots of deer frolicking.

JoJo and Jordan walk through a field. JoJo is wearing impractical shoes for walking. They meander over to Jordy's old high school. The sign there welcomes them. JoJo says it's sweet. I think it's lame. I'm distracted by how Jordan walks like he's holding in a fart. His steps are teeny and his butt is clenched. It's totes awkward. 

They walk around campus kissing. JoJo sees old pictures of geeky high school Jordan. When she sees a photo of Aaron (his famous football-player brother he doesn't talk to or about), Jordy clearly doesn't wanna talk about it.

They show up to the parents' house and go inside after JoJo makes him feel her pounding heart. They sit down at the table for a meal. His brother's girlfriend has a weird puffy combover hairdo. Lotsa hairspray up in there. JoJo notes to camera how there's two empty chairs at the end of the table. JoJo speculates that the family would love to have Aaron there.

JoJo sits down with Jordan's other brother, Luke, a puffier, bearded version of Jordan. JoJo goes right for the jugular and asks about Aaron immediately. It's kind of annoying and insensitive considering she already talked about it with Jordan and asked if the family would talk about it and it seemed like he didn't want them to all discuss it. Also, she seems a tad preoccupied with the subject. (Although, just like Chase's story line is his reticence to say "love," Jordan's story line is his estrangement with his famous bro. Editing. Whatever.)

JoJo sits down with the dad. She talks up Jordan to his dad, but when she says something to the effect of "I know lots of people say Jordan only got where he is because of his brother and I don't agree with that at all. He's his own man and I respect him so much," the dad's eyes changed the exact same way Jordan's and his bro Luke's changed when she brought up Aaron. Like, dude, JoJo, STOP mentioning Aaron!

Jordan and his mom--who talks in a whispery soft voice; she maybe should do guided meditation CDs-- have a talk. I noted nothing of interest. Just like this entire episode so far. God, what a snooze.

Ooh. Here's something finally! Jordan and JoJo are talking on the bench after the date, and JoJo confesses she's still scared. Will Jordan definitely want it to be forever at the end of this? He's annoyed. JoJo tells the camera when Jordan says he loves her, she wants to say it back, but that Ben told her everything she wanted to hear and broke her heart. Now Jordan is telling her everything she wants to hear and she's so scared it'll happen again. (Go with that feeling, JoJo. I'm sorry; I just don't trust Jordan.) He tells her "don't ever doubt this" but he's bothered because she's still doubting. He says he wants to marry one person in his entire life and wants it to be JoJo, but what can he do except tell her he'll prove it?

What indeed. I wish this whole thing wasn't so formulaic. I've seen the same exact dates with the same worries, same conversations, same dilemmas over and over and over and over on this show. After the commercial break, we're going to see Robby's date. This is the one around which they've chosen to make big (fake) drama for the preview. The previews show that Robby's mom tells him that there's rumors flying that he broke up with his ex girlfriend just to come on the show. Then, presumably, JoJo confronts him, demands the truth, and cries in a fancy blue dress.

Now, I can't help but point out here that, interestingly enough, JOJO herself was in this exact position last season. On hometowns, she received a vase of roses from, she thought, Ben, but it was actually from her ex who sent a letter all about how he wanted to be with her. She ended up telling Ben. He made constipated faces, asked her if she was sure she didn't want the ex, she offered up her reassurances, and the whole thing was over. Just as this shit with Robby will be. (And it should be noted that if JoJo is freaking out whilst in a fancy blue dress, it's not on the hometown; it's obvi before the rose ceremony since that's how she dresses for those and not the dates. So this is editing.) All this to say: the whole drama is all going to be a non-issue.

Ok, rant over. Let's see if I'm right.

For the third date we're visiting Robby at St. Augustine, Florida. (I went there as a kid. It's an interesting historical place to visit. Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth is there. It's gross tasting, though.)

They take a horse-drawn carriage ride through town. It's making me want to go back there.

JoJo is wearing a paisley romper. It's super 70s. I'm not a fan.

Robby keeps reminding JoJo that he told her he loved her back in Uruguay. Dude, we get it. You told her. Good for you. You don't get a prize for being the first tool to lie to the bachelorette.

Anyway. JoJo confesses that she's concerned about "filling the void" for Robby so soon after his last relationship ended (only 3 months ago). Like, is he really sure that chapter of his life is over? She doesn't want to fall madly in love with him only to find out later that that chapter isn't done. Makes sense. He reiterates that he's done with the other relationship, that he told JoJo he loves her because it's true, that she doesn't have to worry, she's everything to him, yadda yadda. 

I'm sorry. I just DO NOT see these two together. I don't. I hate his stupid pompadour hair. Ooh, Robby just said he doesn't see anything that could possibly go wrong. Sounds like a dare, ABC. Bring on the drama!

Robby is a former competitive swimmer. What is he presently, I wonder? (Besides a tool.)

The fam hoots and hollers when JoJo and Robby walk in. I will hoot and holler when this episode is finally over. Robby is regaling the family with stories of past dates--the fireworks on the beach in Uruguay, etc. They are duly impressed. I am duly bored.

Robby talks to his brothers and says he's had several panic attacks this week and got no sleep thinking about how JoJo is going on 3 other hometown dates. That's how I felt this week, too, thinking about how I was going to have to watch the hometown dates episode.

Robby's mom and JoJo have a chat about Robby and JoJo's worry about his past relationship. JoJo tells Robby's mom a big secret! She's falling in love with Robby. Shhhh... Robby's mom pulls him aside now and she drops the bomb that Robby's ex's roommate has made it look like Robby broke up with the ex to come on the show. Robby acts all upset because JoJo has already expressed concern over this very topic! What a conundrum.

Robby wants to get ahead of this situation and immediately goes to the bedroom where JoJo and Robby's sisters are dishing about Robby, and he ruins the mood big-time. (Something tells me this isn't the first time he's ruined a bedroom mood.) He tells JoJo the bad news about how the ex's roommate is putting it out there that he's "not here for the right reasons" (the show uses this phrase WAY too often). JoJo clearly struggles with this information. She's all, "What would the roommate have to gain by saying that if it wasn't true?" (Meanwhile, my question is this: who gives an eff?) JoJo says "It scares the shit out of me." Though the "shit" is bleeped. JoJo asks him point-blank if there's any truth to what the roommate has said. Robby, in a really suspect manner, repeats the question, "About me leaving her...???" That's not at all evasive, Rob... He then said "no, no, no" because everyone knows that things become more true the more times we repeat them. JoJo wants to know if they've been on and off or whatever. Robby says they'd been over for 9 months before the actual end when there was a blow up fight and Hope (the ex) slapped him. JoJo guzzles her wine and mutters "I don't know" and "I have no clue what I'm doing"-- she's clearly freaking out because she is worried that it could come down to the two of them--Robby and JoJo for evs--and the ex will rear up and cause stress in the relationship. JoJo says she trusts Robby. He says he won't disappoint her.

Ooh! I love that clear bubble umbrella they're using! It's big and deep. I want one! (Here it is!)

Anyway, is it possible that Robby could go all the way to the final two? I just...didn't think he was an actual contender. To me, he's about as blah as...well, all the other guys, actually. (Seriously. I think I only just realized how drippy all the final contenders are. Snoooooooze.) But I've felt like he was a throwaway for weeks. Is he going to sneak in there and surprise me? I hope not.

Final date (finally). Wow. Luke has referred to his bow-leggedness before, but I never realized until just now how true that was. He's walking toward the camera around an invisible horse! Anyway, JoJo is back in Texas. She's with Luke. She wants to see more emotional depth from him. He has a surprise for her; he won't tell her where they're going.

They're holding hands in the car and wearing matching cowboy boots. They show up to a picnic packed with people. Surprise, JoJo! You're meeting THE WHOLE TOWN. Good thing he didn't overwhelm her. Bullet dodged.

Luke and his mom have as engaging a convo as you would expect Luke and anyone to have. Then he and his dad have a similarly boring conversation. His dad gets a little emotional praising Luke and Luke just stares at him. He tells his dad, "Love you" with about as much emotion as a robot. He's so...blank. I just can't imagine having a serious spousal conversation with him. I feel like he'd have the same reaction if he was angry or pleased.

If JoJo had any one-on-one convos with the parents, they must've been even more boring than the ones Luke had because they got NO air time.

JoJo praises Luke's dad's BBQ, and asks Luke if he's as good a BBQer. Luke says his dad taught him some stuff, and his grandfather is quick to interrupt that Luke can't even boil water. Thanks for the sell-out Gramps. Everyone has a big laugh except Luke who gives his creepy blank stare.

Luke excuses himself and JoJo to bring her to a remote spot with a hay-bale sofa (seriously--it's arranged in the shape of a sofa and is covered with pillows and a blanket. It looks so uncomfortable!) and they have a heart to heart. Luke turns on the Luke-romance. JoJo is all, "Shut up and kiss me." (Well, figuratively. That's what her eyes said.) I laugh out loud as I note how, once again, she wants to make out and he wants to talk. He's holding her face as he drones on, and she looks like she is straining to lean in to kiss him, but he holds her face away from him until he finishes talking. They kiss. Then he gazes (lovingly? murderously? I can't tell) at her. He's got an intense gaze. It scares me a little.

JoJo must be scared, too. She's crying. She claims it's because she's happy and wants more time with him, but I think it could be she's scared to be out in the middle of nowhere with him. haha. Just kidding.

Luke has one more surprise for JoJo. He leads her down a lit path to a heart of petals. He tells her his heart is hers. They kiss and hug as a romantic country tune plays (just for us-- the love birds can't hear it). Hmmm...Watching them, I am struck by one thought: this dude is a goner. Wow. That's surprising but...yeah. She's gonna cut him.

Now they're back in LA. Limos pull up at an airport hanger because the men who get the rose tonight get to "jet set" to the "next exotic spot" (as Robby put it). Also? It's fantasy suite week next week. Bow chicka wow wow.

JoJo cries to Chris Harrison. She feels sick to her stomach. She doesn't know what she wants to do. Is she about to make a huge mistake? She's sad.

Wait. Whoa. JoJo just said to camera, "This makes me so sad because I think I need to say goodbye to Luke." Ok. Let's pause (as I just hit pause to type this part before I see what comes next): A. I KNEW that look she gave Luke was not a good omen. But B. I now don't believe she'll say goodbye to Luke tonight because otherwise they would not have ruined the rose ceremony suspense early by having her saying it before actually handing out roses. Ergo, through some means--I don't have a theory as to why, however-- she will not cut Luke.

I'm surprised by this, though, as I thought she really wanted to do, er, I mean, love Luke. I can't believe she'd keep Chase longer than Luke. True, Chase doesn't have the scary intense-gaze, but he also doesn't seem to make her as amorous as Luke. Hmm.

Ok, let's unpause and finish up here.

JoJo is talking to the four guys and saying they've impacted her heart a lot, blah blah. Luke looks like he knows he's on the block. JoJo is taking her sweet time, holding the rose and heavy breathing. Luke just interrupted and said, "JoJo, can I talk to you for a second?" They walked off together. The other guys aren't impressed. They, well, Jordan, thinks the timing is "suspect" as Luke had a whole day to talk to her, etc.

Alone with JoJo, Luke is all, "Remember the other night when I said you have my heart? Well, I didn't say I love you and I need to tell you that." I kinda thought that the big heart and the words "you have my heart" implied the same, but evidently the sentiment doesn't count unless the actual L-word is uttered. Live and learn. JoJo says it's what she's wanted to hear for so long.

Luke returns to the guys and JoJo walks the other direction and full-on sobs and has an attack of "what if I make the wrong choice? What do I dooooooo?" I'm concerned she's going to tear that tight bodice. What WILL she do, people? (I'm looking at the time and am growing concerned they aren't going to tell us today...)

And guess what? They aren't! These ABC bastards are making us wait till next Monday night. UGH!

Just when the news feels like it can't get worse, they drop this bomb on us: Next week is a two-night "event." Monday is the "dramatic conclusion" of today's episode. Tuesday is the Men Tell All. They did a big tease of Chad's antics. No doubt they'll give him a chunk of air time. You know what else is next Monday? My allergy testing. I'm hoping I'm not allergic to peanuts. I think I'm in more suspense over that than the episode. (What are the chances I'll end up being allergic to this show? Is there a test for that? I'm hilarious, I know...)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Recipe 8: Zucchini Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Today. Oh, what a day was today.

It poured out. And when I say poured, I mean it rained and rained and rained heavily for a long time. My mom told me she heard on the news that our area got three inches of rain in an hour. Our pool is filled to the tippy-top!

So what could I do but stay inside and bake? (And, regrettably, take some dark-ass photos...but such is life.)

One of my older daughter's friends came over to play, and he's a big fan of my baking. He actually polished off the last of my zucchini brownies from the other day, and he LOVED them. My daughter was still under the impression they were zucchini-free, and struggled with the news she'd been happily scarfing down zucchinis for days. "But...I don't like zucchini!" "And yet you like these brownies. Shocking, huh?" Her friend was way less fazed. He simply shrugged and said, "Who cares? They're great!" I love that kid. He's welcome anytime! haha.

I decided cookies were in order today, so I pulled up a recipe from a blog I've turned to many times in the past for solid, tasty recipes, both savory and sweet: Cooking Classy. I followed her recipe pretty closely--only really swapping out chocolate chunks for chocolate chips, and using just a little less batter in each cookie than her 2 Tablespoon suggestion--because baking is more of a science than cooking (due to the chemical reactions that go on in baking) and I wanted my cookies to turn out properly.

Here's how I made them.

Zucchini Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yield: about 36 cookies (using OXO medium sized cookie scoop)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature (Tip: set it on the counter for 30-60 minutes, or stick it in a cup of warm water for 5-10 minutes; the room temperature egg makes it disperse better into the mixture. Rule of thumb: if you're using room temp butter, you want room temp eggs)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (from about 1 - 1 1/2 medium)
1 cup quick oats (not Old-Fashioned oats. Tip: if all you have is Old-Fashioned, you can turn them into quick oats by pulsing them in a food processor a few times to break them down)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (the original recipe notes you could also use walnuts)
1 bag (just under 2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chunks (the original calls for 1 2/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with silpat or parchment. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt for 20 seconds. (Not sure why 20 seconds, but I did it. haha.) Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until creamy.


4. With machine on low, add in egg and vanilla extract until combined.

5. Add zucchini. Then, with mixer set on low speed, slowly add in flour mixture until dough forms.

6. With your machine still on low (or feel free to do it by hand) stir in oats, nuts, and chocolate chunks.

7. Use medium cookie scoop to scoop 1 1/2 Tablespoons of dough onto sheet, approximately 2-inches apart. I fit 9 cookies on each pan. I made  (Note: On my first two sheet pans, I scooped the cookie dough and left it alone-- i.e. didn't press down the cookie ball at all. When those trays came out of the oven, they hadn't spread at all. They were still mounds on the pans. Because the dough seemed a little wet to me, I put the mixing bowl in the refrigerator while the first batch baked, thinking maybe the dough would firm up a little in that time. It didn't change much in the time between batches. When I scooped my second batch onto the trays, I decided to lightly flatten the mounds so the cookies would bake up flatter. However, the second batch spread quite a lot, especially certain cookies. Probably since the trays were still warm from the first batch--technically, you're supposed to let the trays cool between batches, but I don't have that kind of time--the cookies spread more since they were sitting on residual heat. In any event, I wanted to point it out in case you encounter it, too.)
Raw scoops
Mounds
Blobs
8. Bake in preheated oven 11 - 14 minutes until edges are lightly golden. (Mine took 11 minutes only.) Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

 You can get a sense in these pictures of how some stayed mounded and others flattened out.

These remind me of a super chewy oatmeal chocolate chunk cookie (which is essentially what they are, but I'm trying to emphasize the chewy aspect.)  Jaclyn, the author of Cooking Classy, described them as being like zucchini bread in cookie form. I'd agree with that. They aren't overly sweet (just sweet enough, I'd say), but they're plenty moist and thick and chewy. I'm glad I went with the chocolate chunks because I love biting into the bigger mounds of chocolate (both because of the flavor and because of the textural difference.) I made them in the afternoon and they're only getting tastier the longer they sit. (Some cookies are good still warm and gooey from the oven. These are not those cookies.) I will say that, from a texture standpoint, they aren't my personal favorite, but the flavor delivers. Better still? Both my kids liked them (despite the zucchini! despite the nuts!), as did my husband and mom. As for my daughter's friend? He wanted to know how I do it--*it* being all the great treats. (That kid! What a guy!)

Now, I'm hoping all that rain fed my garden enough to produce more squash, since--gasp!--I used up the last of the stuff I already harvested AND picked the final acceptably-sized zucchini in there today. It better give me more because I have at least 5 more recipes I wanted to try during this series...