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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Recipe 12: Zucchini Pizza Boats (or Bites!)

Usually, when I collect recipes, I pick main dishes. Then, when I cook, I pair the main dish with a fresh vegetable and maybe a starch or grain. Nothing exciting, fancy, or clever. Just simple stuff to fill up the plate with added nutrients.

Then I decided I was bored with those things. So I started a Pinterest Board I call "Veggie and Side Dish Yums" and started searching out more creative sides. This is a recipe I pinned in there several months ago, even before the Summer Squash Series was a thing.

This Cooking Classy recipe couldn't be easier. But it's creative and whimsical, too. And it tastes good. For that reason, I love it. Not to mention, it's so easy to customize with regard to yield. I usually only use two small zucchinis for my family of four, but one day I realized I only had one zucchini in the crisper, so I sliced it into four pieces and it worked! And today, since I had some leftover zucchini slices (in rounds), I made bite-sized pizzas. If you're feeding a crowd/bringing something to a pot-luck/serving appetizers/have a big family, by all means, make a lot. If you just need a side dish for your family of four or a relatively healthy after-school snack, cut the recipe back. This is one of those things that you don't truly need the recipe to execute, except maybe for the idea and cook times. Once you learn it, you're good to go.

I'm going to share it the way I usually do it, for a side dish for 4. But feel free to visit the recipe linked above if you need to feed a crowd.

Zucchini Pizza Boats

Yield: 4 boats (1 boat per person as a side dish)


2 medium zucchini or yellow squash
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cup marinara sauce (I use the Contadina Pizza Squeeze because it's easy to work with)
1/2-2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup mini pepperoni slices (I use the Hormel baby ones)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment or silicon liner. Set aside.

2. Cut each zucchini into halves lengthwise. (If you prefer thinner zucchinis, you can also cut those halves in half again, also lengthwise, to get four thinner boats.) Use paper towels to pat dry the cut portion. Place on prepared baking sheet.

3. In a small dish, stir together olive oil and garlic then brush lightly over tops of zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Squeeze about a tablespoon of marinara sauce over each zucchini, then spread it out with a spoon. (I usually go to the edge, but if you prefer, you can leave a small rim near edges uncoated, per the original recipe.)

5. Sprinkle tops with mozzarella cheese. (The original recipe also uses Parmesan cheese on top of the mozzarella, but I always forget to do that step.) Top with pepperoni slices (as per original recipe, place them toward the center of your boat since the cheese melts and spreads).
6. Bake in preheated oven 12 - 18 minutes (bake time will vary depending on how thick your zucchini are and how crisp/tender you want them).

(That's an open-face "Italian Sloppy Joe" next to the boat. It was tasty. You can find the recipe here.
I substituted ground chicken for ground beef, and provolone slices for mozzarella, but otherwise followed the recipe.)

You'll notice in my pictures that this time I used a yellow squash (which I cut into four quarter inch slices instead of in half) as well as some zucchini rounds I had leftover from the flatbread I shared yesterday. Those made adorable little bite-sized "pizzas." When I make the full-sized boats, I usually bake them for almost the full 18 minutes. I went with 12 minutes this time (for my photo shoot run) because of those thin rounds. At 12 minutes, the rounds were just a tad less firm than I would have preferred (they might have been ready at 10 minutes), and the quarter inch thick squash was crisp tender (perfectly fine, but my preferences are slightly more tender-- those would've probably been perfect for me at 14 or 15 minutes.)

These are a popular side dish at my house. My younger daughter ate a boat and three bites herself!

Definitely try these. Easy. Tasty. Cute. Healthy-ish. It's a squash miracle!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bachelorette Episode 9: Full of Hot Air

Here I am on a stormy Monday night. I could be watching the convention, but I'm watching this show instead. I hope you appreciate the sacrifice I'm making here.

So this epi starts off with a recap of JoJo's emotional breakdown from last week. "What do I do? What if I make a mistake?" JoJo cries. Luke returns to the hangar and the guys look worried. They must've thought he was leaving. Robby says to camera, "I can't really read Luke." That's a feeling I think we all share.

JoJo comes back ready to start the rose ceremony looking far less splotchy than I would've expected given the waterworks we just witnessed. Jordan, not surprisingly, gets the first rose. Robby gets the second. Will she give the final rose to Luke or Chase? Will Luke's grand confession make a difference? Annnnndddd..... nope. ?!?!?! She gives it to Chase. Wow. That actually surprises me.

I'm not the only one. Luke looks a bit shell shocked. She asks to walk him out. He murmurs his assent. He is super quiet and stares off in the distance in a pensive manner. She's crying some more. She tells him how it hurts her so much to let him go, how she never felt as good a connection as with him on their first date. But then as time passed, she didn't feel like she knew where she stood with him. He tells her that when he kissed her, when he looked into her eyes, when he talked to her...he thought she knew, thought she felt the same connection. He could envision their future together. He walks toward the limo in as much of a huff as Luke is capable. (That is to say, not much of a huff. He fixes his gaze on the limo door whilst walking to it with purpose, yet still clearly incredulous as JoJo's fingers grip his hand.)

He looks stiff. He's like a robot. Well Christ; no wonder she was so confused. He's looking off into the great unknown. The limo pulls away. I don't believe he has functioning tear ducts as he swipes dry eyes and breathes deeply. He was in love with her, he says, but he never got a chance to love her. The camera goes in tight on Luke, waiting for tears after such a deep confession. They aren't coming. That's ok. JoJo has enough for both of them. She misses him already, she sobs. What if she made a mistake? (Oh JoJo...this whole THING was a mistake. No sense pinpointing this specific choice as the one to question.)

There's a brief shot of the 3 dudes who are remaining standing impotently in the background as JoJo cries after getting rid of Luke. I wonder what they're feeling watching this spectacle.

They go to commercial without showing us what it was like when JoJo goes back to the chosen ones. That must've been super awkward, I'm thinking. Damn them for not showing us.

And now--just like that--they're in Thailand. JoJo says it's romantic and magical. They have a shot of her staring off in the distance. Then they cut to her walking-down-the-beach-showing-her-belly shot. Then her looking-out-the-window-of-her-hotel shot.

Time for her date with Robby. They go to an outdoor market. It looks...smelly and hot, to be honest. Then it starts raining. Not like a regular rain. Like an effing monsoon with thunder. A terrible storm (kinda like the one we had here a short time ago.) Robby and JoJo take cover at some Thai massage place open to the air. They get their feet massaged. Thankfully we don't have to watch that part. Robby and JoJo have a boring "deep" conversation as the women work on their feet. All I can think is how unromantic this seems. When their chat is over and their heels scraped clean, they go kiss under some other awning because it's still pouring.

Back from commercial break and it stopped raining. It's clearly still hot as balls, however. JoJo asks Robby if he's hot and he lies and says no. But he's sweating like he's run a marathon. So, yeah, not very believable. It's time for dinner. JoJo reminisces about how this was the date that JoJo told Ben she was in love with him and he said it back, but it was a lie. So now she's worried. She has to decide if she wants to offer him the fantasy suite. Riiiight. As though there's ANY chance she's not offering him the suite. Please.

Still, Robby has to convince her he wants it. So he takes out a note he "found" in his pocket that his "dad" wrote him after JoJo left the hometown date. It was all, "I see how much you love JoJo. Don't be stressed about your past relationship. It'll all work out..." JoJo falls for it, of course, and hands over the date card that Robby reads aloud even though everyone in the world who has ever watched this show can pretty much recite by heart the general wording of the letter. (As it were, Robby said "yes" before he even read it, but then got wise to his contractual obligation and mockingly said the words written by "Chris B Harrison" penned on the card.) Then Robby says to camera how he's finally going to be with JoJo instead of dreaming of her. His wording creeped me out a bit, frankly. Then he says he cant wait to be in bed with her...then a pause...then a clarifying "to say goodnight to her..." Like, yeah, I'm sure that's what you're looking forward to, Rob.

Meanwhile, this week of the show still seems inappropriate. I just don't understand how you can be intimate with 3 people in one week. And how the other people can pretend they're cool knowing that person is going to be intimate with 2 other people the same week. It just...defies what a relationship should be.

The show comes back to JoJo and Robby's post-coital glow (I think it's that-- they're inside so it's probably not sweat this time) with longing kisses. JoJo tells camera she loves Robby, but she's not going to tell *him* until she's sure of how she feels. You know, for, like, one person only. Whatever.

Then she promptly leaves and they cut to her date with Jordan. Those two are going on a hike. Jordan notes how JoJo looks "sporty." She explains how she wanted to dress to fit the activity. They seem tired and hot and stop for big breaths as they climb stairs. It seems ungodly and their expressions look like they're wondering why they chose this as a date activity. It reminds me of the time on our honeymoon that my husband and I thought it would be a good idea to abandon the comforts of poolside at our resort for a day trip to Chichen Itza. The experience was like walking on the sun. I was drenched with sweat and couldn't get cool and I wondered why we'd made such a terrible choice. Just...terrible.

J & J hiked to a temple. They don't kiss because the temple is sacred. JoJo wants to respect that. They're having a similarly boring conversation (as the Robby-JoJo foot massage conversation) about their alleged feelings and Jordan says he wants JoJo's dad to look him in the eye and know he's the guy for his JoJo. JoJo wonders if Jordan is too good to be true. (The answer is yes, JoJo.)

After another commercial break, Jordan is still talking about meeting her parents. He's like a dog with a bone. Emphasis on the dog. (Because I don't like his looks.) JoJo asks Jordan what he envisions the next year looking like (good question, JoJo). He hedges ("That's a good question"). She doesn't like that. She pushes. He says he's at a point right now where he doesn't need a home base and can be wherever she needs him. She catches the qualifier "right now" and asks what about in six months when he gets a call to be somewhere? Will he be like "see ya" and go? He says he's in love with her and wants to spend the rest of his life with her. She goes, "That's what Ben said." Boom. You tell him, JoJo. She doesn't want a repeat of the Ben debacle.

Meanwhile, when Jordan looks at JoJo, I see a lot going on in his eyes. But none of it is love. It looks like frustration, annoyance, even scorn at times. I don't buy for a second that he's in love with her. I think he tolerates her for whatever he's getting out of being on the show. (Exposure? Who knows?) Can she not see that? (I hit pause to type that and the shot of her face listening to whatever BS he's feeding her...I don't know. I think she might see it. But she doesn't want to believe it.) Oh hell! She doesn't know what to believe.

I would LOVE--like, absolutely be tickled--if she didn't give Jordan the fantasy suite. I think there's like a 1% chance of that actually happening, but I'd LOVE for it to happen.That's MY fantasy!

But she gives it to him because she's a sucker. And because she tells camera how she knows she and Jordan love each other. (Again, she's not telling him.)

Aftermath. They're eating their first breakfast together. Ew. She just asked him what he was thinking after last night, and he said it was just what he needed. Gross.

She tells camera she sees how Ben got to this point. (Since, you know, she's in love with 2 guys now.) 

She says she's excited for her date with Chase today. I hope she showered.

Chase and JoJo start their date and they're acting like idiots. Chase made out with a fish. Now they're on a boat. He can't believe he's here, he says. Neither can I, Chase. I really thought it would be Luke. It must be SO hot there. That's all they're talking about--how hot and sweaty they are. (That's probably what I'm missing on the convention, too. Haha.)

They're having a beach conversation. Also boring. But the best scenery of the three boring-conversation dates we've seen (and only half-listened to). I'm hungry. I might have a bowl of cereal. That's interesting. JoJo tells us she's having such a great day and doesn't want it to end. Also? It scares her. Because she's worried she may end up being a predicament.

You know what? It's clear to me she doesn't want it to go well because she wants to just go with the other two dudes.

Chase is sitting on the beach before their dinner and he's telling camera how happy he is and how sure. JoJo is in her room gazing pensively at the surf and I feel like I catch a glimpse of that look she's had a few times now where she's made a decision in her heart and isn't looking forward to it. (Remember when someone told her he loved her and she didn't feel as excited as she thought she would to hear it? And again with the whole Luke thing? Yeah. That look.) I think poor Chase isn't even going to get an invitation to the fantasy suite no matter what happens at dinner.

And wow. Just when I thought Chase's chances couldn't get worse...What the actual fuck?! Robby just showed up to her room! That seems SO out of bounds. He lays it all out there for her. He's ready to get down on one knee. Have kids. Join a country club. ("Country clubs and coloring books" he, right. Sounds romantic, Robby...)

She doesn't appear appalled, however. She seems to think it's just the sort of cute thing Robby does to show his love.

So yeah; sorry Chase. You're gone.

She doesn't even want to risk falling in love with him. She feels sick thinking about it. I feel sick, too. Because he's gonna get dumped so hard and he doesn't know it.

Now she and Chase are at their dinner. As he goes on and on about what a great day he had with her, she's got that resigned look in her eye. She did a slow blink when he told her he battled through harder than Robby and Jordan seem to have had to, but after today feels like he and JoJo are *there* (at that romantic place they should be together/point in their relationship, etc)... JoJo gives another slow, sad blink. He's SO toast. 

Oh wow. She gave him the card. That's surprising. She's going for it anyway. Ballsy move by JoJo. But hmm... I still don't believe this night will go all the way. I just don't. I stand by that.

They set up shop on the couch in the fantasy suite. Chase is confessing that he's 100% in love with JoJo. It's killing her. I see it in her eyes. No. I'm sorry. I just don't see this happening.  He is NOT going to make it off this couch with her. No way.

And now...yep. She's telling camera that she's feeling doubt and doesn't feel the way she thought she would hearing him confess that. She excuses herself!! She feels sick to her stomach. So do I. Because I SO called this. She should've spared him the agony and not even offered him the room. She fantasy-suite-teased him! That's cold.

Meanwhile, she's outside ruminating. He's inside alone. He has to know. But...when she finally goes back inside and apologizes and explains she needed to "take a moment," he says, "Why?" Now she's telling him that she's not in the same place as him, and she's not sure if spending the night together would change it and is what she's saying even making sense? He's like, "I see it."

He. Is. Pissed. He's like, "I just jumped over a hurdle and I'm skewered." "I love you now means get the f*** out?" She says she's trying not to put him through what she went through feeling blindsided with Ben. He said she just did that to him anyway. She feels really bad. She's sobbing and he gives her a pity hug, but he's not happy. He's had enough and walks away. She calls him back to apologize more. This is hard to watch. I feel bad for both of them.

Chase pops a beer as he gets in the limo bus to numb the horror. Honestly, I feel like I could use one, too. He gives viewers an eloquent analogy to explain his feelings: "it's like pulling your pants down and getting kicked in the nuts." Thanks; now I understand. He wishes he'd never said he loves her. He's embarrassed. And heartbroken, he adds not-that-convincingly. (Meanwhile, I feel bad for any girl he dates after this because he's totes not gonna be quick to say the L-word ever again.)

Back from commercial break and JoJo reviews the devastation of the previous night. But she still feels like she made the right choice because her feelings for Chase weren't at the same level as with the other two nozzles.

(Pointless) rose ceremony time! Jordan comes in and chats with Chris Harrison about how confident he is. Jordan's pants are RIDICULOUS. A. They're too short, and B. They're way too tight. He looks like a complete tool.

Robby comes in with a striped hanky in his back pocket. His pants are also kinda stupid, but they're less offensive than Jordan's.

JoJo surprises them by showing up and telling them she sent Chase home. Then Chase surprises JoJo by showing up and wanting to talk to her. I'm sure it's just to tell her he's sorry for how things ended last night and to wish her well. The producers just want us to think it'll be be something else. Because they think we're as dumb as JoJo for believing Jordan has legit feelings for her. They go to commercial break to draw out the suspense we don't feel.

When they return from break, the two contenders literally sweat. Since Thailand is obviously hot as Hades.

As for Chase? Yep. I was right. Chase is apologizing and wishing her well and lets her know his heart is still open for her if anything ever changes. And then he leaves, followed by a monkey. That's kinda funny.

But JoJo is crying again. She is giving herself a pep talk to stay the course and trust herself.

Now she's back in front of her drenched suitors who are relieved to find Chase hasn't returned with her. She tells them she's excited and happy with both of them and looks forward to them meeting her family. Jordan likes her enthusiastic speech of affection, but isn't thrilled it includes Robby, too. Fair enough, fella. She hands out the roses. Gives Jordan his first (again) and then Robby. How dull. Couldn't she at least switch it up?

Robby has large sweat stains under both arms. Oh. And down his back. Yeah. I'm never going to Thailand.

Tomorrow is Men Tell All. I may or may not watch it. I probably won't blog it. Then next Monday is the finale. It seems like JoJo has another breakdown as she struggles with which one of the guys to pick. (So what else is new?) But I'll be on vacation so I'm not sure what I'm going to do about blogging the episode in a timely fashion. Hmmm... Stay tuned!

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


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

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
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 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


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)


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.")


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


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


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.