RECIPE: Zucchini Fritters

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These are wonderful little pancakes I created on our vacation in Michigan. They are a great way to use some of the ample amounts of farm stand zucchini everywhere right now. They are easy to make, and we found they are delicious with a dollop of light sour cream. I have made them a few times since we have been back from vacation, my 8 year old really likes them. They are a great way to sneak in vegetables to kids-they will never know it's healthy! They also are great warmed up in a toaster oven for a light lunch the next day

Zucchini Fritters

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini, washed and shredded
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. minced onion
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
Sour cream, optional, for garnish

Directions:









 In a colander, toss the shredded zucchini with the salt. Let sit for ten minutes over a bowl. The salt will draw out the water and drain as it sits. After ten minutes, take a paper towel or just with your hands, squeeze as much water as you can out of the zucchini. It is important to do this well.




Add the zucchini in a bowl and add the onion, garlic, dill and seasonings. Sprinkle the cheese and the flour over it. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add it to the mixture and mix everything together until a paste or dough forms with the zucchini. If water seems to be pooling in areas, you did not squeeze enough water out. To solve this, add a tbsp. of flour at a time until the extra water is absorbed.






In a large skillet over medium high heat, add 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Take a small little drop of dough and place in the oil. Watch it cook. When it begins to get golden, the oil is ready. Drop the dough 2 tablespoons at a time in the oil, flattening the patties with the back of your spoon. As things get going, lower your temp a little so the cooking slows down a little. You want nice golden color on both sides, but you want them cooked through (3 minutes each side.) Flip them using a spatula and a fork. Let them drain on paper towels. Serve with sour cream as a garnish.

MOMMYHOOD: Magic Tree House Books are Great for Growing Independent Readers

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Some of you may be familiar with the Magic Tree House series for your kids. If you get the Scholastic book order from your Homeroom Mom, you will see a smattering of Magic Tree House books throughout. They are a great first step in chapter book reading, even if you are the one reading them to your child. If they are not ready yet to read a chapter book, but you read a couple chapters a night to them, they get a taste of the story every night and get excited about delving into them again the next night to see what happens. The funny thing, I thought my daughter outgrew this series as she has been moving into longer chapter books on account of beginning third grade. But I have discovered a couple of things.

One is that my child's growing independence in reading as well as her "silent" reading skills is giving old chapter books that I thought we were done with new life. It is as if my daughter is rediscovering them on her own, at her own pace. And because these books are a little easier than the longer chapter books she is tackling, it is giving her more confidence as she peppers in these Magic Tree House books to her reading schedule. She gets through them quickly and adeptly, giving her a sense of accomplishment when she is done. So don't throw away those early chapter books too soon! They may be a good way to ease the transition to harder reading for your child.



Secondly, we discovered tonight that The Magic Tree House series has a great passport program online. (http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/magictreehouse/activities_passport.html) This is a great reward program for your child to entice them to keep reading. It is also a great way to teach them reading comprehension. The program is so simple and easy to navigate. You print out a 20 page pdf that is your child's passport which you can staple or put in a binder. Than as they finish each adventure, you take them to that book's online quiz, and if they answer the three questions correctly (based on the story) you can print out their "passport stamp". This quiz is short, but it really helps your child think about what she read and if she remembered key points in the story (again, GREAT for honing comprehension). They then cut out the stamp and put it in it's proper place in the passport book that they save. As she reads each book, she can collect that stamp until the passport is filled. My daughter was so excited about it! I was very surprised. She is a strong reader, but it has been hard to get her really engaged in reading. She brought down all the books she already read and we spent an hour doing the quizzes and getting her passport book up to speed. She now wants all the missing books so we can keep filling her passport.

I did notice some other popular series that also have online components to help parents incent their child to read. If your child has become interested in a certain series (The 39 Clues, The Babysitter's Club, Andrew Lost, etc), check and see if the publisher has put something together online to engage them further. It will be worth the search. You can also create your own passport program at home, where your child needs to write a page report or draw a picture of the story, and they get a sticker in a "passport" book you can make for them. Maybe when the passport is filled, they can have a big reward that would really excite them and keep them reading. I was once told by a sage Grandfather that if you want someone to keep doing something, reward the behavior you want. Well, it seems to be helping here for reading. I was genuinely shocked at how excited my daughter was at this passport program. We'll see if it lasts!

BOOK REVIEW: Dracula in Love by Karen Essex-GREAT READ!

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In a Nutshell:
First of all, to keep things transparent, I was asked to write this review by Random House. I was absolutely honored and have enjoyed Karen Essex before, so it was a good fit for me. The funny thing is, I am not a "Dracula" kind of person. In fact, a review I wrote a few years back was on "The Historian" which was another Dracula book I could not stand. I also was a little skeptical regarding this book. With the whole "Twilight bandwagon", I had to ask myself if Ms. Essex was just riding the coat tails of the trend? Well, I can tell you that this book is more about revisiting the original Dracula story than anything else, in a way that has never been done before. In way that was very provocative, creative and, well...dare I say...way sexy.

This book is based on the original story of Dracula written by Bram Stoker. But don't assume too much here. Ms. Essex takes a completely different look at the story and turns certain things on it's head for distinct reasons-but I will get to that below. So to be fair to the author, I decided to brush up on the original Dracula tale with some Spark Notes before I dove into Dracula in Love. It was well worth it, and I think I enjoyed the read even more because of it.

The original story of Dracula was a commentary on not only the modern world encroaching on the old, traditional world-thus making Victorian Society (i.e. men) very uncomfortable. But it was also a "watch out" to Victorian society for sexualized women. Beyond the horror and thrilling story of Dracula was a commentary on women-and that sexuality in women was dangerous. Sexualized, independent women could ruin a man's life. As women began awakening to their "freedoms", they were a threat to the steady, predictable fabric of acceptable society. Science and technology was also doing that-but women were as well. And they were easier to control as well as a perfect scapegoat for all this change. It is important to keep that in mind as you read this novel.

The cast of characters are the same, with Mina being the main character. Mina is a school teacher, engaged to the lawyer, John Harker. John Harker goes to close a real estate deal for a mysterious Count overseas, and that is where Harker meets the "she devils" that seduce him and as he says, try and kill him. There is also Lucy (Mina's best friend) and Lucy's ailing mother, as well as Lucy's three suitors. There is also the legendary Dr. Von Helsinger, and of course, Count Dracula himself. The cast is the same, but their motives, actions and personalities are all different. The story is told solely by Mina. And even as she begins her story in her words she basically refers to the original story that we know as a sham, and plans to tell you the way in which things really happened.

"Unlike most people whose lives remain private, my story has been written by another, sold for  money, and offered to the public for entertainment. The author of the fiction claims to be above reproach because his records are "exactly contemporary". But these "records" are falsified documents, based on lies of a cabal of murderers desperate to conceal their dark deeds. The true story remains a secret–my secret–and with good reason. Reader, you are about to enter a world that exists simultaneously with your own. But be warned: in its realm, there are no rules, and there is certainly no neat formula to become–or destroy–one who has risen above the human condition. " (prologue)

To that end, there is also a tertiary character, a sensationalist newspaper man, that is gently woven through the story. He is the character that perhaps causes the known Dracula horror story to grab hold, just to sell more papers. This helps gives reason as to why you would believe the tale you are now reading versus the last one by Stoker. Many of the major events unfold very similar to the original story, except that Lucy is not seduced by Dracula, nor does she become a vampire. Her tale is more real, more sad, and more true to what many women had to deal with during this time period. In sharp contrast is Mina's story, complete with magic, mysticism, love and empowerment.

My Take:
It took me a little bit to get into, but let me clarify. Out of the gate, it grabs you at 100 miles an hour. Page one, Mina is sleepwalking and gets assaulted and almost raped in the first few pages of the book. The writing is so descriptive-the situation so horrible-that it is quite a fast paced page turner. Then things slow down for a bit after, particularly when Mina is in the quiet, seaside town of Whitby with Lucy. But when Mina goes to her fiance's bedside overseas until the very end, things get really interesting. Toward the last half of the book, I pulled a couple of all nighters, it was so good I could not put it down! I love a read like that (though my dark circles don't!) I really liked quite a few things about this book that give this novel merit in the halls of "Dracula" interpretations. First, it is very sexual. And it should be-considering that is what the main basis was for the original book of Dracula. Mina awakens to many things in herself, but especially to her sexuality. A few times, I needed a cold shower after reading. Some of the scenes in here were really sensual and erotic, yet beautifully written so that it did not feel like a cheesy romance novel.

But beyond the sex, I love that Dracula was not a monster, per say. He was still an immortal being, and the drinking of blood was a powerful thing that should only be shared with other immortals–or someone you wanted to become immortal by having the human drink the immortal's blood. The latter is described as a very dangerous thing because most mortals can't survive the transition and usually die. Dracula, though powerful and able to kill, only killed when he had to–mostly to protect Mina. Mina often refers to him as her "savior" and her "companion". Dracula brought Mina to her real self, protected her, took care of her and awakened her freedoms and her sexuality. Bram Stoker was against much of this. In the original Dracula story, he made Mina an asexual being in his story and way too "Pollyanna". She was "good" and a perfect example of the ideal Victorian woman. In contrast was Lucy, a flirtatious woman with three suitors, and admitted to wanting to marry all of them! Stoker kills her off because she gives into her sexual side by giving into Dracula-thus her more carnal desires.
This scenario was in need of refreshing. We all know now that women can be true to themselves, that it is healthy to be a sexual being and to rejoice in our freedoms. So who are the real monsters here? Victorian men who wish to squelch a woman's spirit? Men that use them and prevent them from being who they are–or Dracula? Ahh, this is the paradox that Ms. Essex brings to life in a very gripping manner. I really liked how she turned this whole story upside down. The real monsters were most of the human men of this time period. When Mina (and Lucy) begin to show too much free thinking and independence-they become forced patients of the Bedlam insane asylum. It is here that Von Helsinger runs awful experiments. One such experiment is the infusion of male blood into women to make them (what he thinks) mentally superior and overall better. But without the knowledge of blood types, Von Helsinger kills Lucy because the blood they transfuse was incompatible. Ms. Essex writes the actual process in such a way that describes that this blood violation–this blood draining by these men–was the real crime here. For example, Lucy describes the blood experiment in her letter to Mina as she begs for help to escape:

"Von Helsinger...directing the men how to touch me...When Arthur isn't taunting me, they are completely silent as they stroke and kiss me all over my body. I can hear their heavy breaths breaking the awful silence in the room. I cannot tell you the state of self-disgust this invokes in me. When Von Helsinger feels that my body is ready, he takes my naked arm and makes an incision into which he inserts a tube with a central rubber bulb for pumping. Then he rolls up the sleeve of my donor..." pg. 180

This experiment eventually killed Lucy. A sexual violation, and a blood transfer, but not Dracula. Something far worse and more sinister.

So if you are in the mood for a steamy, slightly "women's lib" approach to the Dracula story with a little bit of fairy tale mixed in, than pick this book up!  I found myself sad when the book ended, but I have a glimmer of hope that Ms. Essex is not done. There are elements in the ending that made it seem like there might be more to this saga. I hope so. I would like to visit Mina and her Count again. Thank you Random House for giving me the opportunity to read it. I am not sure I would have on my own, and it was worth it!

LIFESTYLE: Unplugged to the Point of Being Clogged!

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First of all, I wish to apologize to my followers and readers that I have been a little MIA the past week and a half. My family and I went on a vacation and where we go, we have no Internet, among other things. It is a time that is spent away from all the distractions of daily technological life. I originally posted my thoughts in the following post during last year's vacation;  http://www.urbandomesticdiva.com/2009/08/mommyhood-great-unplugged-family.html 

But an odd thing happened this year. When we got back recently, I found it very hard to get replugged and engaged. It was as if my brain liked the quiet so much, it longed for it back, almost to the point of being mushy! When I came home from work this past week, I longed to just be still and quiet. I did visit Facebook to share vacay pictures with friends. But work was at such an intense pace this week compared to my week on a quiet lake, that my brain needed to just stop when I got home from it. Then I began to add pressure to myself, for not getting on my other social network activity and get back on my blog. This just made me shut down more, in revolt almost! This has also given me a mental block-in a way. You would think the week of quiet would have helped the creative process! Well, here is my baby step back. My brain is coming back from vacation. It's a little behind, but we'll get with the program!

7 DAY GARDEN VEGETABLE CHALLENGE! DAY 7: Summer Veggie Pizza

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As our garden bounty continues to pile up in the kitchen, we decided to take a week and make an effort to cook with a garden vegetable each day/night. Please join us on our journey!

This recipe was supposed to be "pizzettes" and you can still make it that way. I just ran out of time and made one huge pizza! I cut time by buying a store bought pizza dough, but if I made it again I would buy a better quality dough, use puff pastry to keep it lighter in feel, or use Trader Joe's pizza dough. I used a brandywine tomato from the garden, as well as fresh thyme and oregano from the garden. 

Oh, and also. I made a second mini version for me, but I used my multi-grain flat bread pita as a base. You can do the same. The olive oil drizzling is important in keeping the pita moist and cooking evenly. If you are on a heathy-eating regime-that is a way to make this pizza heathier.


Summer Veggie Pizza


Ingredients:

Pillsbury refrigerated thin crust pizza dough or other
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp granulated garlic
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. thin asparagus, ends removed and cut in 1" pieces
1/4 lb. good quality, thinly sliced prosciutto
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme 
1/2 tsp. fresh oregano
1 cup grated Fontina cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400˚. Oil a baking sheet or pizza pan. Spread and flatten the dough to the edges. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. olive oil all over the dough and sprinkle 1 Tbsp. granulated garlic. Cook dough for 5 minutes in the center of the oven. 








Take out, and layer the thinly sliced tomatoes evenly from one another. Then sprinkle the shallot slices, breaking them apart as you go. Then layer the asparagus. 




Next, take your prosciutto and rip it with your fingers, and layer it evenly on the pizza. Now sprinkle the thyme leaves and oregano leaves and the Parmesan cheese. Finally, sprinkle the grated Fontina evenly, and drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, making sure to hit the edges of the dough. Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the pizza midway so it cooks evenly. 


Cut into squares and enjoy!




7 DAY GARDEN VEGETABLE CHALLENGE! DAY 6, Chicken Pesto Veggie Pizza

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As our garden bounty continues to pile up in the kitchen, we decided to take a week and make an effort to cook with a garden vegetable each day/night. Please join us on our journey!

This recipe is very easy, and kind of a Friday night standby. Whole Wheat Boboli crusts are kind of a staple at our house, and make pizzas for Fridays pretty easy. However, fresh basil in the pesto and garden bell peppers made it extra special (we are up to our ears in Basil!). We also grilled some extra chicken from the kabobs last night, and sliced it up for the pizza tonight. The chicken had a lot more punchy flavor on account of the marinade. One last comment-we found that our Boboli crusts do better on wire mesh pizza racks versus flat metal sheets. It cooks the crust evenly and golden. We highly recommend them. We cook the pizza on them than transfer to a cutting board or cookie sheet to cut.


Chicken Pesto Veggie Pizza

2 chicken breasts, grilled or roasted (ours were marinaded from the previous post )
Whole Wheat Boboli Crust
1 green pepper, chopped 
4 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 sliced red onion
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. sliced fresh basil
1/2 cup pesto sauce (store bought or fresh made-we use the Mario Batali's recipe, of course!)
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella-Asiago mix
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 450˚. Put the pizza crust on the wire mesh. Spread the pesto sauce evenly. Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat and cook the garlic and red onion until tender. Add the green peppers and cook for a couple more minutes, than add the mushrooms. Cook until they just start releasing their juices. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and set aside.


Next, slice up the cooked chicken, and set aside. Layer the cooked vegetables evenly around the Boboli. Layer the sliced basil, then layer in the chicken. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, then layer the mozzarella evenly. Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil, and cook on the center rack for 10 minutes, or until cheese is hot and bubbly and just starting to brown on the edges. Take out, transfer to a cutting board. Let sit for a few minutes, then slice and serve.

7 DAY GARDEN VEGETABLE CHALLENGE! DAY 5, Chicken, Pepper and Pineapple Kabobs

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As our garden bounty continues to pile up in the kitchen, we decided to take a week and make an effort to cook with a garden vegetable each day/night. Please join us on our journey!

We inherited some bell peppers from a fellow gardener, and peppers make great kabobs, among other things. They have a sweet flavor that really comes to life on the grill. You can mix in whatever bell peppers your garden is yielding-orange, green, yellow and even purple would work well. If you have extra cherry tomatoes, pop those on the skewers as well for an added sweetness. This marinade has a lot of an Asian/tropical undertones which really enhance the pineapple chunks. You can play with this recipe with whatever you have coming out of your garden, understanding that this marinade has a sweet profile.


Ingredients:


Marinade:

3/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. grated orange zest
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 Tbsp. Asian sesame oil
2 tsp. curry powder
1/8 cup chopped lemon grass
1 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. celery salt
2 tsp. granulated garlic


4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, 6 oz. each, chopped into 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 large bell peppers, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 medium pineapple (clean, core and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces right before skewering)
cherry tomatoes (optional)


Peanut oil


Directions:


Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl, adding the oils last. While adding the oil, whisk gently to emulsify. In a large plastic bag, add the chopped chicken and bell peppers. Add the marinade to the bag, and push all excess air out while sealing it closed. Refrigerate 4-6 hours, or overnight.


Before skewering, prepare the pineapple. Remove the chicken and bell peppers from the bag, reserving the marinade for brushing during grilling. Thread the chicken, pineapple and bell peppers alternately on the skewers. Lightly brush the kabobs with peanut oil. Grill them over direct medium heat on your grill. Grill until chicken is firm and peppers and pineapple are tender-anywhere from 8-10 minutes. Baste with reserved marinade as they cook, turning once halfway through cooking time. Serve warm.



7 DAY GARDEN VEGETABLE CHALLENGE! DAY 4, Baked Peas, Artichoke and Tomato Pasta Bake

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As our garden bounty continues to pile up in the kitchen, we decided to take a week and make an effort to cook with a garden vegetable each day/night. Please join us on our journey!

This was a great pasta bake we whipped up with fresh garden peas, fresh basil and garden tomatoes with lots of other yummies. I couldn't stop eating it, it was so creamy and delicious. Feel free to use whole wheat pasta or regular. Also makes enough for left overs.

Baked Peas, Artichoke and Tomato Pasta Bake

Ingredients:
1 pkg, (16 oz) rigatoni, whole wheat or regular
3-4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5-6 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/4 cup cream sherry (can be left out, but gives it extra flavor)
6 oz. mushroom, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes OR 3 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 1/2 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (4 oz.)
1 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella and Asiago cheese blend
14 oz. fresh or frozen peas (defrosted)


Directions:


In a 4 qt. sauce pot, cook pasta per package directions. The last 3 minutes, add the peas to the pasta to blanche. Drain, and keep warm.


Meanwhile, in 8 qt. sauce pot, melt butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook until tender and golden, 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juices, basil, salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Add cream sherry, and cook 2 minutes.


In a bowl, mix cornstarch and 1/2 cup milk until smooth or blended. Add to tomato mixture in the pot. Add 2 more cups of milk, cream and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for topping). Boil until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes or more.



Preheat oven to 400˚. In the sauce pot, add the pasta and peas to the cream sauce. Stir until blended.


Spoon pasta mixture into a 13" x 9" glass dish and fill 1/2 way, leaving more to top. Add a layer of Mozzarella/Asiago cheese (about 1/2 cup). Top with the rest of the pasta mix, then top that with the rest of the mozzarella (3/4 cup). Sprinkle the final cup of Parmesan cheese on top of that. Bake casserole until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

7 DAY GARDEN VEGETABLE CHALLENGE! DAY 3, Tomato Frezzelle

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As our garden bounty continues to pile up in the kitchen, we decided to take a week and make an effort to cook with a garden vegetable each day/night. Please join us on our journey!

You are in for a treat today. I swore not to share any family recipes from the cookbook I have been writing until it finally gets published. However, I can't have a garden vegetable challenge without using tomatoes on frezzelle. So you are getting a sneak peak on one family recipe that will be found in my cookbook.

Frezzelle are often found in Italian bakeries or International food markets. They are very hard toast rings, and are used for light lunches and snacks. My grandmother used to break these up and put them in warm, sweetened milk with some Nesquik and a shot of espresso for breakfast. The frezzelle would soften up in the sweetened milk, soaking up all the "yummy". And that is the key to frezzelle-the softening of the toast through various means of flavor. The approach here is best with garden fresh tomatoes. This makes a great, light lunch. You can use fresh herbs, too. But we often use dry out of habit. This was a staple for my family growing up in the summer.


 
First, take a frezzelle ring and break it up into easy to eat chunks. Lightly drizzle water over the ring until the ring is softened, but not soggy. It should still feel firm in the center. Place the frezzelle on a plate. Clean 4-6 small garden tomatoes and cut in half or quarters, depending on size. Meanwhile, gather dried Basil, Parsley, Garlic Salt and Whole Oregano, as well as salt and pepper.



Mush each piece of the cut tomato into the toast, spreading the pulp all over. Do this with each tomato, then place tomato cut side up on the frezzelle. Keep doing this until all the tomatoes have been mushed into the toast and evenly cover the ring. Now sprinkle seasonings generously over the tomatoes. Do this according to your tastes, but for these smaller rings I use about 1/4 tsp. garlic salt, 1 tsp. of the other seasonings, salt and generous pepper. Next, drizzle olive oil evenly over the tomatoes, about 3 Tbsp. total. Now between the olive oil and the tomato juice, the toast will be nice, chewy and flavorful.

The final step before eating is to turn the tomatoes over and press them into the bread. The tomatoes act as little cups holding oil and seasonings, and flipping them over so it all stays put and soaks into the bread is key. This is a messy process-making and eating! Now grab a lot of napkins and with your fingers, enjoy!


7 DAY GARDEN VEGETABLE CHALLENGE! DAY 2, STUFFED ZUCCHINI WITH CORN AND COUSCOUS

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As our garden bounty continues to pile up in the kitchen, we decided to take a week and make an effort to cook with a garden vegetable each day/night. Please join us on our journey!


So day two, we had the BIGGEST zucchini we had ever seen courtesy of my mom. We also had some smaller ones, too. SO we were under some pressure to make something amazing with all this zucchini, and this fit the bill! You can also use fresh corn for this recipe if you have it, but we used frozen. Our garden provided the parsley and tomato. The recipe started from Good Housekeeping's Family Vegetarian Cooking cookbook, with some extra things we added and changed.

 STUFFED ZUCCHINI WITH CORN AND COUSCOUS

Ingredients

8 tsp. olive oil
4-5 small zucchini, or a few big ones, or one MASSIVE one (as shown) equalling to about 24-30 oz total,
  cleaned, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 medium shallots, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cups corn kernels (cut fresh from 4-5 ears or frozen kernels, defrosted)
1 cup Israeli couscous (or regular if you can't find it)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cardamom
2 cups chicken broth plus 1 tsp. chicken base
1/2 cup water (plus more as needed)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 medium diced tomato


Directions:

Making the "boats"
Preheat oven to 425˚. Grease broiling pan or Pyrex pan with 2 tsp. olive oil. With a spoon, scoop out the centers of most of the zucchini, leaving a 1/4 inch shell. Leave a couple halves whole to chop up later after they have roasted. Rub zucchini with 2 tsp. more of oil. Coarsely chop the scooped out flesh and set aside. Place all zucchini halves, cut side down in the pan. Set aside.

Make the filling
In a skillet, heat 2 tsp. oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and onion, and cook until softened. Add the chopped zucchini flesh and salt. Cook until liquid evaporates from the zucchini and it begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add corn and cook until tender, about 2-3 more minutes. Transfer filling to a mixing bowl and set aside. Return pan to heat and add remaining 2 tsp. olive oil. Scrape bits from the bottom of the pan, and reduce heat to low. Add couscous, and toast couscous in the oil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cumin and cardamom, cook for 1 minute longer. Add broth and 1/2 cup water, heat to boiling. When the liquid is close to boil, lower heat, cover the pan and simmer on low until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 25 minutes. Check the tenderness of the couscous midway. If it is looking dry and the grains need more time to cook still, add water 1/4 cup at a time as you go, until desired doneness. Fluff and keep warm.

Assembly
As you are finishing the couscous, roast the zucchini in the oven until edges are browned and the flesh is tender-about 15 minutes. Once done, keep warm. Take the few halves you did not scoop out, and roughly chop them in 1 inch pieces and add them to to couscous. Add the corn mixture to the couscous and heat through. Add parsley to the filling and simmer for one more minute. Place the zucchini halves on a platter. Fill with the corn/couscous filling. Sprinkle with diced tomato and serve!

7 DAY GARDEN VEGETABLE CHALLENGE! DAY 1, COOL CUCUMBER SOUP

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As our garden bounty continues to pile up in the kitchen, we decided to take a week and make an effort to cook with a garden vegetable each day/night. Please join us on our journey!

So day one, we had a PILE of cucumbers we wanted to enjoy, but what to do with so many cucumbers? We decided on a great cucumber soup from Good Housekeeping's Family Vegetarian Cooking cookbook. It was easy, healthy and delicious-even our 7 year old liked it!

Easy and Cool Cucumber Soup

Ingredients:

12 oz. cucumbers, peeled
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 cups plain, low fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup low fat milk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 small (4 oz.) ripe tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp. sliced fresh mint leaves

Directions:

 First you need 1/2 cup 1/4 inch cucumber pieces for garnish. So, cut enough to cover you there, and set aside. Now cut the rest of the cucumbers in 2 inch chunks. Add them to your food processor with your knife blade attached. Add garlic, yogurt, milk, lemon juice and salt, and pulse until almost smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill for 2 hours.

Now it is time to make your oil for drizzling. In a small saucepan, heat oil over low heat, and stir in curry powder, cumin and red pepper. Cook until spices are fragrant and oil is hot (3 minutes). Remove saucepan, strain curry oil through thin sieve or cheesecloth into a cup.

In a small bowl, mix the reserved cucumber with your chopped tomato. To serve, stir the soup and pour into bowls. Sprinkle chopped garnish, as well as mint leaves, and drizzle the oil. For more heat, drizzle more oil than less (or add more red pepper in the oil when steeping). Eat up!
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