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PEAR BREAD

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sweet, crisp pears!

 

Last summer a friend gave me lots of pears from her tree. I made canned pears, and pear sauce, and Pear Flip Flop and this bread. It is delicious! The secret to its yumminess is Cardamom. I hadn’t used this spice much until I discovered this recipe. Cardamom, in the ginger family, is the world’s third-most expensive spice by weight, outstripped in market value only by saffron and vanilla. It adds such an interesting flavor! When I found this box of pears in Saturday’s CSA box, I knew Pear Bread would soon be in the oven!

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Secret ingredient!

WHAT YOU NEED:

3 cups flour

¼ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cardamom

3 eggs

¾ cup vegetable oil

2 tsp. vanilla

1.5 cups white sugar

2 heaping cups chopped pears

1 cup chopped pecans (opt)

WHAT YOU DO:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease two 8×4 inch loaf pans. I used parchment paper in bottom as well.

Prep the pears. The original recipe calls for grated pears, but I enjoy finding a piece of soft pear in my bread, so I used my chopper. I covered the pears with a damp paper towel to slow down oxidation while I got other ingredients ready.

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Chop or grate the pears.

In large mixing bowl combine oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom (and nuts, if using).

Stir chopped pears into dry ingredients; coating the pears this way will help distribute them throughout the batter.

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Coat pears with dry ingredients.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.

Place in preheated oven; position a pie tin filled with cool water under the loaf pan. This will keep the loaf from browning  too quickly before the inside is baked.

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A pie tin of water slows down browning of the loaf.

Bake for 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a loaf comes out clean.

Allow loaves to cool in pans for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Pear Bread!

NOTE: I halved this recipe to make one loaf. I used two eggs and reduced oil to 1/3 cup because of the two eggs.

EGGPLANT DRESSING WITH BEEF

This Cajun dish is a good fall-back for me when I’ve exhausted all of my eggplant recipes. It freezes well and is enjoyed by everyone in the family. It makes a filling meal when paired with some peas (purple hull, crowder, or limas) and some fresh fruit.

WHAT YOU NEED: DSC00109

1/2 stick margarine

2 large purple eggplants (peeled and cubed)

1 lb. good ground chuck

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup water

1 tsp. each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme

2 cups cooked hot white rice (I used brown; recipe below)

WHAT YOU DO:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9 by 11 inch pyrex dish with a non stick spray.

Prep eggplant. I used Fairy Tale Eggplant from the CSA box.

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Chopped Fairy Tale eggplant

Saute’ onion and bell pepper in melted margarine. I used about half of the amount called for; you could also use olive oil.

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When onion and bell pepper are softened, add garlic and stir to prevent burning.

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Garlic joins the mix!

Add meat and brown slightly; then, add seasonings, eggplant, and water.

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Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on medium low heat.

Add rice* and pour into the pyrex dish.

Sprinkle with 1/2 cup bread crumbs and bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

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Eggplant dressing with beef!

* The original recipe calls for white rice, but it works just as well with brown rice. Since the oven is hot already, I like to bake up two recipes of Alton Brown’s Baked Brown Rice. After reading reviews, I cut back on the rice to 1 cup and use chicken broth rather than water for deeper flavor. I omit the salt because of the chicken broth.

BAKED BROWN RICE: 1 cup brown rice mixed with 2 1/2 cups boiling chicken broth mixed in small baking dish. (I spray dish with non-stick spray.) Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375* for one hour. Fluff with fork and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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Boiling chicken broth gets brown rice to cooking!

I used one pan in the recipe; the other pan got divided into 1/2 cup portions, bagged, and frozen for future meals. It’s a snap to zap a bag in the microwave for a quick addition to supper!

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Double the recipe and freeze one for later!

OKRA: boiled and fried!

th8BF3NOE5These tender little guys are just screaming for a spot on your dinner plate! Today I’ll show you TWO ways to prepare them.

#1.  BOILED OKRA

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Boiled baby okra with onion and fresh tomato!

WHAT YOU NEED:

fat to sauté onion (I used bacon)

onion

fresh tomato

okra

salt & pepper

Sauté  chopped onion in the bacon fat. I used about 2 tsp. of fat and half of a red onion.

When onion is translucent, add chopped tomatoes and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

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Add okra. My CSA portion was right at a pound. I did cut off some of the upper stem. Stir to coat okra with other ingredients and then add ½-1 cup of water. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer about 6 minutes. Check for tenderness. Mine were done in about 7 minutes.

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That’s it! Easy and delicious! This is how I prepare baby okra, but if I have larger pods that I slice, I use this recipe for Stewed Okra and Tomatoes. I use chicken broth in place of the chicken bouillon. I found the recipe to need more liquid, and the broth takes care of that.  

# 2.  FRIED OKRA

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Super crunchy fried okra “fingers!”

Hubby loves fried okra, but he doesn’t get it very often, for a couple of reasons: health (Hello!) and because I hate the smell of fried food in the house. I control these two reasons by limiting his intake of these deliciously crunchy wonders and by frying them outside on the patio.

I had two FRIED OKRA break-throughs last summer:  I found the absolute BEST recipe for fried okra – a Southern Living method that produces crunchy breading that stays ON the okra! The secret is cornstarch and a tiny bit of sugar. And, I read on a blog about okra “fingers.” I hate chasing little pieces of okra around a frying pan. This blogger sliced the pods length-ways and fried them up like that. Eureka! Okra fingers!

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Slice okra length-ways to create okra “fingers.”

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 lb. fresh okra

¾ cup buttermilk*

1 ½ cups self-rising white cornmeal mix *

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

Vegetable oil

*MAKE YOUR OWN self-rising cornmeal mix:

       1 ½ cups cornmeal

       2 Tbl. baking powder

       1 tsp. salt

       1/3 cup + 1 Tbl. cornstarch

*MAKE YOUR OWN BUTTERMILK: to one cup of warmed milk add ONE of the following, stir, and let stand 5-10 minutes:

1 Tbl. lemon juice

1 Tbl. vinegar

1 ¾ Tbl. cream of tartar

WHAT YOU DO:

Slice okra length-ways and add to buttermilk; I used a pie plate.

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okra soaking in buttermilk

Stir together cornmeal mix and next 3 ingredients in a separate pie plate.

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Remove okra from buttermilk, in batches, using a slotted spoon, and dredge in cornmeal mixture. Shake off excess, and put on plate until ready to fry.

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Dredge okra “fingers” in cornmeal mixture.

I use an electric skillet and vegetable oil heated to 375°. You could also use a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven. I like to use the electric skillet so I can set up my frying station on the patio and keep the smell of fried food out of the house.

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Pretty view while frying okra!

Fry okra, in batches, 4 minutes or until golden, turning once.  Just like shrimp, the okra will stop sizzling when the moisture has cooked out, signaling that it’s time to get out of the frying pan!

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Fry until golden brown!

Drain on paper towels. Salt lightly. Enjoy!

Food Network was on while I was sewing, and my ears perked up when I heard the words eggplant paired with Italian sausage and pasta. A cold salad utilizing this purple veggie along with grape tomatoes in combination with several of my favorites (kalamata olives! feta cheese!) had me watching the entire episode. I quickly printed off the recipe to give it a try!

It’s a fairly lengthy list of ingredients, but the combination is quite delicious and yields a large salad that will provide several meals for your family.

WHAT YOU NEED:

Kosher salt

1 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta

2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium eggplant (1 pound), cut into 1-inch cubes

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 pound Italian sausage, casings removed

1 pint (10 ounces) grape tomatoes, sliced in half

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 large lemon, juiced

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

WHAT YOU DO:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Prep the eggplant: these Fairy Tale Eggplant in Saturday’s CSA box weighed a little under one pound, so I supplemented with a small purple globe eggplant I had from my garden to reach the one pound mark.

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almost one pound!

The thin skin of the Fairy Tale Eggplant eliminates the need for peeling; I just chopped into cubes.

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Add the eggplant to the prepared baking sheet; drizzle with the 1/4 cup olive oil (I did not use this much!), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss it all together. Roast until golden, tender and caramelized, about 30 minutes.

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Roasted eggplant!

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat to cook the Italian sausage. I used some from Rose Creek Farms.

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Sauté until cooked through, using the back of a wooden spoon to crumble the sausage, 6 to 7 minutes. At this point, I elevated the skillet to drain off the excess fat, saving just a little to sauté the garlic.

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Elevate to drain off fat!

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

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Sauté garlic in a bit of sausage fat.

Now, add tomatoes. Heat through until tomatoes begin to soften a bit, 1 minute.

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Sausage w/garlic and tomatoes!

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. (I used half of the package of pasta; I wanted it more “meaty” for a sometimes-picky husband!) Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons olive oil and the freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Toss to coat and then add the fresh basil and parsley.

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Pasta!

Now add the feta cheese and chopped Kalamata olives. These two ingredients add a unique salty deliciousness to the pasta!

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Kickin’ up the flavor!

Add the roasted eggplant to the bowl and toss together.

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So many flavors in each bite!

The recipe says to serve at room temperature which is what I did the first day; however, this salad was just as yummy cold from the refrigerator the next day. I am happy to report that the husband really liked this salad and ate it happily – both days! I think you’ll like it, too!

 

TOMATO & KIDNEY BEAN SALAD

Don’t let the name of this salad scare you off. It is amazingly yummy! I had it for the first time two weeks ago while in Wisconsin on a church mission trip, and I’ve made it three times since I’ve been home. That should tell you something!

Gale, the daughter of my friend Deb, made it for a pot luck meal, and I was intrigued by the appearance. It looked like a whipped cream based salad with grapes, but Gale had told me she had made a salad with tomatoes and beans. One bite and I was smitten! I think you will be, too!

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Tomatoes and beans – NO grapes!

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced ( I used grape)
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced (I used 3)
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 3 cup shredded romaine lettuce, opt. (I did not use)
  • Dressing
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup ranch salad dressing
  • 1 tsp. dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

WHAT YOU DO:

In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and store in refrigerator for several hours to let flavors blend. I really like the way the dill weed flavors the dressing. I don’t like to bite into raw onion, so I grated red onion into the dressing mixture rather than adding the green onions to the salad.

In a large bowl, combine the drained/rinsed kidney beans, the chopped tomatoes, and the chopped celery (and the green onions if you so choose.) Our garden is producing grape tomatoes by the gallon, so I sliced some of those in half. I also added more celery than the recipe calls for; I love the crunch of celery!

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Colorful!

Add the dressing to the salad ingredients and toss gently. Refrigerate for a couple of hours for the flavors to blend together. This salad may be served on a bed of romaine lettuce.

This is a delicious way to use up those garden tomatoes. It’s a quick, cool, and tasty addition to your summer table! I’m so thankful Gale and Deb shared the recipe with me.

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Fairytale Eggplant

I’ve got several quick ideas for you of what to do with eggplant!

First, those cute fairytale eggplant are perfect for grilling up – quick and easy!

GRILLED FAIRYTALE EGGPLANT

Fairytale eggplant in the amount you would like

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the grill to medium.

2. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Brush each side with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper. I used an Italian flavored seasoning blend.

3. Grill on each side about 1-1 1/2 minutes. You will note the color change in the flesh from opaque yellowish-white to a more translucent, watery yellow, and in the purple skin to brown. Do not over grill.

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Grilled fairytale eggplant

If I don’t want to cook the eggplant immediately, I blanch and freeze. I can use it later in casseroles such as Eggplant Cheese Casserole.

Stabilize the eggplant by cutting off the top and bottom. Use a sharp knife to slice down, removing the peel.

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Peeling an eggplant!

Cut the eggplant into uniform pieces (I use a vegetable chopper) and blanch in boiling water for 4 minutes.

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Blanch before freezing!

After 4 minutes, shock the eggplant in icy cold water. The rule of thumb is: double the blanching time – so chill eggplant for 8 minutes.

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Shock the blanched eggplant!

Drain well, label and freeze in heavy-duty zip-lok bags.

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Ready to freeze!

I also like to blanch, bread, and freeze thick slices of eggplant to use in eggplant parmesan.

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Thick slices!

I blanch/shock these thick slices as described above, and then set up a breading station.

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seasoned flour, egg wash, panko bread crumbs

I dip the blanched eggplant into the seasoned flour (salt & pepper), then into the egg wash (beaten egg with water) and finally into seasoned panko bread crumbs.

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3 step breading process

I line up the breaded eggplant on a parchment lined cookie sheet that will fit into my freezer. I freeze about an hour to set the breading. Once they are frozen, I stack them into a container and return to the freezer.

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Packing for the freezer!

It’s such a great time-saver to reach into the freezer for these “ready to fry up” eggplant slices. Since they are blanched, they fry up quickly in a little bit of hot oil. If I’m using them in eggplant parmesan, I don’t worry about cooking all the way through; I just want them browned. They will finish cooking when baked in the parmesan. You could also drizzle the frozen slices with olive oil and/or spray with a cooking spray and bake in a hot oven until browned.

It’s easy to throw together eggplant parmesan: in a lightly greased casserole dish, make layers of browned eggplant slices, spaghetti or marinara sauce, and cheese (ricotta/mozzarella/parmesan). Bake until bubbly!

Hope these ideas help you use up those beautiful purple veggies!

 

 

 

 

 

Recently we were able to visit some high school friends who have moved within two hours of us. Happy! I sat in her kitchen flipping through one of her cookbooks as she prepared a meal for us and came across this recipe. Any recipe using zucchini always grabs my attention!  It looked easy with interesting flavor combinations, so I gave it a try. It’s a keeper!

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simple ingredients!

WHAT YOU NEED:

3 cups diced and steamed zucchini, drained

4 oz. can diced green chilies

1 cup fresh or canned corn

2 cups tomato sauce (I used homemade salsa)

½ Tbl. chili powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon white vinegar

6 fresh corn tortillas, cut in fourths and fried ( I used 24 store-bought tortilla corn chips)

2 ½ cups grated cheddar (divided use)

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional toppings: sour cream/green onions

WHAT YOU DO:

Chop zucchini. I used my vegetable chopper.

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Quick and uniform pieces!

Steam the zucchini. I boiled the chopped zucchini in about a cup of water for 5 minutes or so. Drain well.

Combine the steamed zucchini with the next 8 ingredients and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. I used the same skillet that I used to steam the zucchini.

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All thrown together!

Stir in the tortilla chips. I do not like to fry, so I used some store-bought tortilla chips. They worked fine!

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crushed tortilla chips!

Spread into a lightly greased (or sprayed)  casserole dish. I doubled the recipe and filled a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until hot. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese and continue to bake until cheese is melted.

If desired, serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions.

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Sonora Casserole

I took this to a church dinner meeting, and it was devoured! People were very surprised that it contained zucchini. The southwest flavors were very obvious and delicious. I’m sure using salsa rather than plain tomato sauce added to the intensity of the flavors – in a good way! I’ll be making this fast and tasty dish again. You can never have too many ways to cook up zucchini!

 

This recipe was featured in the local paper. It uses several ingredients in our weekly CSA boxes, so naturally I grabbed the scissors and clipped it out! That night, Hubby was grilling brats and zucchini anyway, so I had him grill the eggplant while he was at it.

 

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Colorful ingredients!

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 large eggplant, sliced into ½-inch-thick slices

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 medium tomatoes, seeds removed, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 orange or yellow bell pepper, cored and diced

3 scallions, sliced

6 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Balsamic glaze, to serve

Baguette or pita, to serve

WHAT YOU DO:

Heat the grill to medium. Use 2 tablespoons of the oil to brush each eggplant slice on both sides. Sprinkle the slices with salt and pepper. Grill until tender, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

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Ready for the grill!

Allow the eggplant slices to cool until easily handled; then dice. Mine were in the refrigerator since Hubby had grilled them two nights before. It was great to have this step already done!

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Great smoky flavor!

Mix the crushed garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper,  and set aside. This allows the garlic time to infuse the oil.

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Garlic infused olive oil!

Finely chop all the other ingredients. You don’t want huge pieces of onion or bell pepper. This takes a few minutes, but it sure is a colorful mixture! I made a few substitutions so I could use items I had on hand: red onion for the scallions; cherry tomatoes for whole tomatoes.

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Pretty enough to eat!

In a large bowl, gently mix together the eggplant, tomatoes, celery, bell pepper, scallions, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the garlic olive oil.

Allow to sit for at least 2 hours for best flavor. I set it nearby on a counter and stirred it every 30 minutes or so to allow the garlic oil to penetrate all of the ingredients.

Serve on baguette or pita bread and drizzle with balsamic glaze. (I actually forgot the balsamic glaze but it was delicious without it!) I had some left-over sub rolls in the pantry, so I smeared them with more garlic olive oil and toasted them up.

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Smoky goodness on crusty bread!

 I served this as a side item with our lunch. Everyone agreed it is a delicious way to get in lots of veggies! The grilled eggplant is smoky and adds a wonderful layer of flavor to the crunchy vegetables. Our daughter took the left-overs home and planned to use them in a frittata.

This is a delicious way to use an eggplant!

We enjoy using the grill on lazy summer evenings, so I keep a stash of Rosecreek Village Farms pork bratwurst in the freezer. I needed some sides to go with our grilled brats, and I really needed to use up some zucchini, so I tried two new recipes I’d collected. Hubby was in charge of Smoky Grilled Zucchini, and I took care of Baked Zucchini Chips.

Since my recipe needed to bake 30 minutes, I got mine going first.

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for Baked Zucchini Chips

Baked Zucchini Chips

WHAT YOU NEED:

1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

1 tablespoon olive oil

Vegetable cooking spray

WHAT YOU DO:

Preheat oven to 450°.

Process the panko, basil leaves and salt in a food processor until finely ground.

Transfer to a shallow bowl and add cheese.

Slice the zucchini. I misread the recipe and sliced mine ½ inch thick. I’m thinking this was a good mistake as the chips were thick and meaty. They browned so much, I’m afraid they would have been super dried out had they been half that thickness.

Toss zucchini rounds with oil and then dredge one round at a time, in breadcrumb mixture, pressing gently to adhere.

Place rounds in a single layer in a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray.

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Coated and ready to bake!

Bake 30 minutes or until browned and crisp. Serve hot.

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Golden and crispy!

I was very pleased with how these turned out. We actually snacked on them while Hubby finished grilling the brats and his zucchini assignment.

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for Smoky Grilled Zucchini

Smoky Grilled Zucchini

WHAT YOU NEED:

3 medium zucchini

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Fresh limes, for squeezing

WHAT YOU DO:

Heat the grill to medium-high.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise; then rub them all over with the olive oil.

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Oil those thick zucchini slices!

In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, paprika and brown sugar. Sprinkle all over the zucchini.

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Smoky sweetness!

Grill the zucchini until tender and charred, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

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Zukes and brats a-grillin’!

Serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

With my first bite, I thought, “These have a tropical, Jamaican flair to them….” and then I remembered I was supposed to squeeze lime juice on them! They really tasted tropical then. I liked them; Hubby said they were too sweet for him. I didn’t really taste the sugar over the smokiness of the paprika.

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A squeeze of lime adds a pop of flavor!

It was fun trying out these two new recipes. I’d make both of them again!

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Tasty summer time meal!

 

GREEN BEAN POTATO SALAD

Friends know how much I enjoy cooking and are always sending me links to recipes. Recently a friend was cleaning out her kitchen in anticipation of a move and gave me a box of cookbooks. Score! I was especially interested in this 1997 cookbook focusing on using produce from the local farmers’ markets.

 

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Filled with great ideas!

I had a small bag of green beans in the refrigerator that I needed to use, so I zeroed in on a recipe for a cold green bean potato salad. It sounded like something we’d like on these hot summer days!

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 lb. green beans, cut and steamed

4 large potatoes, diced and boiled

2 scallions

 DRESSING:

2 Tbl. oil

2 Tbl. vinegar

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 small onion, sliced

½ tsp. oregano

Pepper to taste

 WHAT YOU DO:

Prepare the dressing first so the ingredients have time to blend together. I put everything in a jar and shook it up.

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dressing ingredients

Wash and de-stem green beans. Since my bag was just under half of a pound, I halved the recipe which worked out nicely.

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just under half of a pound

Break into small bite-size pieces and steam. I used a microwave steamer; you could steam on the stove-top in a covered skillet with a little bit of water. Don’t over-steam the green beans; you don’t want a mushy mess!

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a microwave steamer basket

Chop the potatoes. My fruit/vegetable chopper made quick work of this task and gave me uniform pieces which makes for even boiling.

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a handy kitchen tool!

When tender, drain potatoes. Chop the scallions and combine with the green beans and potatoes in a medium bowl.

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Combine potatoes, green beans, and scallions.

Add the dressing and toss gently to mix the ingredients well.

Cover the salad and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

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Cold green bean potato salad!

This is definitely a twist on potato salad! The dressing with oregano gives it an Italian flavor. I don’t think it will replace my regular mayo-rich potato salad, but it is a nice way to use up a small dab of green beans.