Slowly but surely I am getting back into the groove of making a proper dinner. This dish has a pretty quick prep time and you can even put it together earlier in the day and bake it later. It can be a side or your main dish. So even on a busy weeknight you can have dinner together without much fuss. And you can use up any summer squash you might have around!
Once at a pot luck dinner a friend brought this amazing, creamy, cheesy squash casserole. She described the ingredients to me, but I never got the entire recipe. When I saw this squash casserole on Pinterest I had to give it a try because it looked so similar. This casserole is different. Less creamy and cheesy, more focus on the vegetables, which is really nice. It’s flavorful, clean tasting, and delicious. One of the main differences is that this one doesn’t use condensed cream soup, something I really have nothing against, but something that I don’t mind finding a replacement for if I can. The original recipe calls for eggs and sour cream as the binders. I used the eggs, but substituted greek yogurt and it turned out really well.
The feta gives a nice punch to the dish. I mixed in some shredded carrots to add extra veggies and to help with some fridge clean out. This is a really great side dish. I served it with grilled pork tenderloin and bread.
The thyme is a great herb here, you can use fresh or dried. I used a mixture of green and yellow squash, but you can use all of one type of course. And something I think I might try next time is using goat cheese instead of feta because I love me some goat cheese. Enjoy!
Squash and Carrot Casserole with Feta and Parmesan
5-6 squash (mix of zucchini and yellow squash) sliced
3-4 grated carrots
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried)
1 cup greek yogurt
heaping half cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large saucepan heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat.
Add in the squash and cook for a few minutes. Add in the carrots and garlic and cook, stirring to keep the garlic from burning, until the squash just begins to soften. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
In a medium bowl whisk eggs and yogurt, then stir in the feta and parmesan. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and layer half of the squash in the pan. Spread half of the yogurt mixture on top, then layer again with squash and then yogurt. Sprinkle with a little extra feta if you have some!
Bake for 45 minutes until top is golden brown. Serve warm. This reheats well for a light lunch.
My kids, ages 3 and 16 months, aren’t very good at eating their vegetables. Fruit, cheese, bread, french fries, ice cream, cookies, chocolate? No problem. But vegetables are another story. Carson will eat a baby carrot from time to time, and Betsy will eat a few green peas if I mix them up in her macaroni. But that’s as good as it gets around here. So in an effort to get them to eat more vegetables I decided to hide them in meatballs. Both of my kids are pretty good at eating meatballs, so I figured this was a genius plan.
The first night I gave them the meatballs plain without sauce, and they weren’t the biggest fans. And I felt like a failure. I went to all that trouble and they didn’t want them!? But the next night I heated them in some pasta sauce and we had much better results. My kids ate vegetables! Without gagging!
These meatballs are simple and geared towards a picky kid’s palate. Not a lot of spice or heat. If your kids are more daring than mine (or if you’ve done a better job of exposing them to spices!) add what you like to the mix. You could also use half beef and half Italian sausage for a more interesting meatball. I used jarred sauce, but if you have a great recipe, then use it…and then share it with me! Do you have any great meals that are healthy and delicious that your kids enjoy? I’d love to hear them. We need all the help we can get!
Meatballs with Zucchini and Carrots
Makes 24-30 meatballs
1 pound ground beef (85/15)
3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded zucchini (pressed between paper towels to remove excess moisture)
1/4 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and let soak for a couple minutes. Add in beef, egg, vegetables and seasonings and mix (clean hands are a great tool here) until combined.
Form into balls (around golf ball size) and place in a greased pan.
Bake for 30 minutes. You can pour on some sauce in the last 10 minutes of baking or heat the sauce separately.
Me and coconut oil became fast friends once we finally got around to meeting each other. I’ve only used it in baked goods so far, but have plans to deepen my relationship with coconut oil by using it in my morning smoothie and as a substitute for vegetable or canola oil in stir fry. And as you probably know by now, there are like a million other uses for this trendy cooking oil.
This zucchini bread was a hit, which was a total relief. When I poured (scooped) the batter into the pans I was worried about it. Coconut oil just has a different consistency and doesn’t create the same textured batter as vegetable oil does. It’s thicker and doesn’t fill the pans on its own, it needs some help into the corners. This being my first time using coconut oil in a quick bread, I wasn’t confident that it would come out well. If you have the same concern, no need to worry! The loaf does end up being on the short side, but the texture is nice and while it is dense it isn’t heavy. The zucchini isn’t overwhelmed by the coconut, which is rather mild. If you really like and want a more distinct coconut flavor, then add some flaked sweetened or unsweetened coconut to the batter. Some crushed pineapple might not be a bad idea either…
I have an undying love for pecans, so that is what I used, but you can use walnuts or leave the nuts out altogether. If you really want to go tropical, use macadamia nuts. Yum.
White whole wheat flour isn’t always a great substitute for all purpose, but it worked well here. White whole wheat flour does have more texture than all purpose, so when I tried it in a pound cake a while back it wasn’t great. I’d imagine it would work in banana bread, though. White whole wheat flour apparently has the same health benefits of whole wheat flour, but without the stuff that gives whole wheat flour its strong flavor and darker color. I don’t know the proper terms for all of that or the reason behind it all, but I do know that when I can sneak good stuff into my baked goods without it changing the texture or flavor too much, I am on board. It’s all about lessening the guilt, am I right? I have the same mentality with the coconut oil. How can a slice of bread made with coconut oil, white whole wheat flour, and zucchini be BAD for me? It can’t. What sugar? It all cancels out… So I’ll go ahead and eat another slice smothered in butter. Eat up and enjoy!
3 cups shredded zucchini, drained on paper towels for 10-15 minutes
1 cup toasted pecans, cooled to room temp
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Grease and sugar two loaf pans.
Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium sized bowl.
Combine coconut oil and sugar and whisk well. Add in eggs, one at a time until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla.
Fold flour into the coconut oil mixture until just combined, then fold in zucchini and pecans.
Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check bread at 45 by inserting a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, then your bread is done. If it’s gooey, bake for another 10, then check again. Mine baked for close to an hour.
The last meal I made from Martha Stewart Everyday Food was just ok, so I was a little apprehensive about this one. It sounded like it had to be delicious, though. Zucchini and fresh corn tossed with ricotta cheese, pasta and fresh basil. It was a nice, light dinner served warm, but an even tastier lunch the following day right from the fridge. This is a good summer pasta.
I changed some of the cooking methods. The recipe calls for grilled zucchini left over from another meal, which is a great way to use leftovers, so use extra veggies if you have them on hand. It also says to boil the corn with the pasta. I just chopped the zucchini and sauteed it with the corn. Basil and dill are the herbs in the recipe, but I just used basil. I meant to add some fresh parsley, but forgot about it until my plate was almost clean. I added some chopped grilled chicken Ben had made the night before. I might serve this along side grilled chicken next time instead of mixing it in, at least the first night we eat it. I think they would look good next to each other. And then the chicken would have pretty grill marks and not look as pale and sad as it does in this picture.
The corn is wonderfully sweet and crunchy. The basil is spicy and one of my personal favorite herbs for summertime. The ricotta is not heavy or overwhelming, it just adds a light creamy coating to everything. The only thing I found to be missing was salt. I salted the pasta, salted the veggies and salted the sauce, but still I wanted more. Now that I think about it, a nice squeeze of lemon juice might have done the trick. Acid is important…at least that’s what they say on Top Chef. So taste as you go along and definitely taste after mixing everything up to adjust as you see fit and let me know if you try lemon juice.
Here are some other changes. I used bowtie pasta (and a little penne to make 3/4 pound) but I think you could easily get by with 1/2 pound of pasta. Just throw in another zucchini or two and another ear of corn. You can use fat free ricotta, but low fat might give you more of a creamy and substantial feel. Grill the zucchini and the corn if you can. While I loved the way the corn tasted I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better it would be with slightly charred smoky corn. Grill it on the cob, then cut it off. If you grill the zucchini, use a grill basket or cut the zucchini into long thick strips to grill it, then cut it into proper sized pieces after it cools a bit.
Does anyone have any great tricks for cutting corn from the cob? I always make a ridiculous mess and throw bits of corn all over my kitchen. Please advise.
Basil Ricotta Pasta with Corn and Zucchini
From Everyday Food
1/2-3/4 pound short pasta, such as campanelle
1 cup reserved pasta water
salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
4-5 small zucchini, sliced and then quartered
1 3/4 cups corn kernels (from 2-3 ears)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for serving
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken (optional)
In a large skillet heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and corn and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until zucchini is slightly softened but not squishy. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup pasta water, ricotta, and Parmesan. Add pasta mixture, zucchini, and basil, and toss to combine. Add more pasta water if necessary to create a light sauce that coats pasta. Season with salt and pepper and top with more basil and Parmesan.
When I bought the ingredients for this soup today it was intended to be “Italian Tortellini Soup”, a recipe I got from a woman who came to a Bible study group I am involved with. It became this Italian sausage & vegetable soup when I realized that I did not use a large enough pot and had to leave out half the mushrooms and the entire package of tortellini. Thankfully the soup came out OK and we’ll be enjoying it for the next few days! It might be a blessing in disguise that my pot was too small. This way we won’t be eating the same thing all week long.
Soup is quite forgiving. The world does not come crashing down when you realize you’ve left something out, don’t have quite enough of an ingredient, added your ingredients in the wrong order, or added more of something than directed. Thank goodness, since almost all of those things happened to me!
Ben was not happy when I told him the tortellini soup had no tortellini. Ben likes tortellini. But he ate it anyway and I think he thought it was pretty good. He had a bowl and a half, so it couldn’t have been that bad. I really liked how chock full of veggies this soup was. The amount of sausage made it just meaty enough and provided a nice flavor. I added a huge handful of torn basil leaves right before serving and that was lovely. I really enjoy fresh basil and am sad I will have to wait until next summer to grow some of my own. I have attempted this before…and failed. But every summer I try again. Maybe this next time I’ll get it right and it won’t wither and die on me.
Here is the recipe, which was adapted more than just a little bit since I was not quite on top of things when I went grocery shopping. I will try out the original recipe sometime and post that as well. Enjoy! (more…)
One of the best things about this meal, besides being quick and simple, is that it is almost completely free of any kitchen clean up! By baking the chicken and vegetables in little foil or parchment packages, you don’t have to worry about scrubbing down a pan that is coated with the remnants of roasted vegetables. It felt so good to just wad up the foil and toss it in the trash! I am sure Ben was thankful as he is almost always the one who does the dishes after dinner.
So, is this quick, simple and clean-up free meal any good? I thought so. The recipe is from Eating Well and is full of vegetables. I love when a meal is heavy on warm cooked veggies. Having a salad can be a good way to get your daily amount of vegetables, but it can often become monotonous. This is a good way to actually incorporate vegetables into your main course instead of having a separate salad with your meal.
I used more tomatoes than called for in the recipe, replaced the cubanelle pepper with an anaheim, and only used one shallot since the ones at the grocery store were monsters! These guys were huge. I also made the great error of leaving out the mustard. This came to my attention as they were coming out of the oven…not the best timing. So, I just spread some mustard onto the chicken after it was cooked, and all was well. I am sure it would have been better had I remembered the mustard earlier, but it didn’t ruin dinner. I served the chicken with white rice, and so the liquid that remained in the packets was a good sauce despite its thin consistency. Since I had it on hand I used dried thyme, but I think that fresh would give this a much better flavor.
Overall, a good, tasty meal that can be scaled down to make a quick dinner for 2. If you’re like me, finding recipes and cooking for 2 is often a challenge, unless you want leftovers for the rest of the week. A reviewer on eatingwell.com said she doubled the ingredients and cooked everything in a Dutch oven, so that is another way to go to serve a larger crowd. Enjoy!
2 sweet banana peppers, or cubanelle peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 1 anaheim)
2 shallots, thinly sliced (I used 1)
1 1/2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
For the foil packets you will need 4 pieces of foil, about 18 inches in length.
Place a chicken breast in the center of one piece of foil and spread with mustard.
Toss zucchini, peppers, shallots, tomatoes, oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Place about 1 1/4 cups of the vegetable mixture on top of each piece of chicken.
Close the packet to cover the ingredients. Starting at the top, seal the packet by folding the edges together in a series of small, tight folds. Twist the tip of the packet and tuck it underneath to help keep the packet closed. Place the packets on a large rimmed baking sheet (packets may overlap slightly). Bake until the vegetables are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165°F, about 25 minutes. (Carefully open one package to check for doneness and be cautious of the steam.) Let the packets rest unopened for 5 minutes before serving.
More zucchini calls for more zucchini recipes. This time I thought something sweet was in order. I got this recipe in my daily cookie email from Martha Stewart. She sends them to me personally…ok, not personally. I had everything on the ingredient list, so not having to go to the grocery store was an appealing thing to me about this cookie.
I liked the crunch that the cornmeal provides, the clean flavor of the lemon and the moistness that the zucchini adds. You can’t really taste the zucchini, so don’t let that deter you. The cookie isn’t too sweet. It would be nice with a cup of coffee or tea. A nice afternoon treat! Enjoy!
With the mound of shredded zucchini I could have made 3 batches (6 loaves) of zucchini bread. I could have done this and frozen loves, or given them to friends. But lets face it, I just don’t have that many friends and my freezer just couldn’t take the load!
If I would have been thinking more clearly I would have shredded half of the ginormous squash and then sliced the rest and grilled them or sauteed them to serve with the leftover mac and cheese. We cannot change the past, so I decided to make zucchini fritters. I looked at a few recipes. All used shredded zucchini, at least one egg, flour, and salt and pepper. From that base I found that the possibilities are endless. Some recipes used Parmesan or other cheeses in the mix, some used panko or some type of bread crumbs, some used onions (scallions or red), and the seasonings that were used ranged from simple S&P to 6 different herbs in one recipe. I mixed and matched based on what I had at home.
Last week I was greeted at 8am with a bag of fresh vegetables from one of my co-workers. There were beautiful red cherry tomatoes, a couple of bright green jalapeños and the biggest zucchini I had ever seen! My first thought was zucchini bread. I love how moist and wonderful zucchini bread is, and I like that it has vegetables in it…even if none of the original nutritional value remains after it’s been mixed with sugar, oil and eggs.
Back to the huge zucchini. I really wish I’d weighed this monster before using it yesterday. Just use this picture as proof…it was a big vegetable.