Category Archives: Recipes

So I Have a Garden…Now What?

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Vegetable BountyIt’s a great feeling when all the hard work you’ve put into your vegetable garden starts paying off, and you begin harvesting your own vegetables.  I’m having a zucchini overload and have been looking for recipes left and right. 

I received an email from Martha Stewart’s website directing me to the greatest thing ever – A Seasonal Recipe Guide…broken down by season! 

This guide has a vast directory of all vegetables and fruits you may encounter in your own garden, at your local farmers’ market, or from the grocery store.  This guide is amazing! 

Here are my favorites for summer:

Check it out and let me know if you find any great recipes to take care of your own bountiful heap 🙂

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Recipe: Refrigerator Pickles

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So not only are zucchini coming out of our ears in our garden, but I hear that cucumbers seem to be following suit in my friends’ gardens.

I’ve always found cucumbers (that aren’t pickled in the dill-fashion) to be rather bland but refreshing all at the same time.  I’m not a huge fan of the giant cucumbers most common in the supermarkets because after I dig out all the watery seeds, there isn’t much left. 

I prefer the English Cucumber a.k.a. Seedless Cucumber (total misnomer.)  I slice them in half and then use a melon baller to remove all of the compact seeds.  This isn’t necessary for the recipe below but just a suggestion.

These refrigerator pickles are on the sweet side which are usually not my favorites, but I’ve been eating them as an accompaniment to summertime meals for as long as I can remember.

This recipe comes straight from my grandma’s old, green metal recipe box from the cabinet above her fridge.  Who knows how long she’s had it in her possession?  To be honest, I’m surprised it isn’t one of those recipes that grandma’s set to memory because it’s such an easy summertime side dish. 

Refrigerator Pickles

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup sugar

¾ cup water, lukewarm

1 large Seedless or Conventional Cucumber, seeded and sliced

½ yellow onion, slivered (optional)

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and water together until sugar is completely dissolved.

Add the cucumber and onion.  The cucumbers and onion can be above the level of the liquid a bit- you’ll find that the cucumbers will lose a lot of their moisture when they’re pickling.

Refrigerate for at least 24 hours – I prefer 48 hours.

Note: The great thing about this recipe is that once you’ve depleted the “pickles”, you can feed the vinegar/sugar base with more cucumbers and onions for a second batch.  I don’t do anymore than that because I feel like they start to lose their kick.

If you’re overrun by cucumbers, check out some of these recipes:

Easy Tzatziki with Toasted Pita Chips

Gazpacho (this will help use up your tomatoes and peppers too!)

Greek Salad

Thai Cucumber Lemonade (this looks way too interesting to pass up!)

Cucumber Watermelon Margaritas (obviously a good idea)

And if it appears by my selections that I have an Ina Garten obsession, it’s because I do.  She has fantastic recipes that never cease to amaze our taste buds.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Zucchini Nut Bread

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I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the heat this time of year, but I love when our garden starts producing vegetables that I can cook and bake with.  It’s amazing to be able to grow something in your own backyard and then enjoy it in a dish you prepare yourself. 

And if you don’t have a garden of your own, you can get great prices on locally grown produce in your grocery store, at fruit and vegetable stands, and farmers’ markets this time of year.

Our vegetable of choice for this recipe is zucchini.  This bread freezes very well so if you have copious amounts of the zucchini like we do, feel free to bake as many loaves as you can stand (preferably at night when using your oven won’t cause heatstroke) and freeze them for later.

Zucchini Nut Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups zucchini, shredded (with peel on) and squeezed to remove excess moisture
1/3 cup buttermilk OR 1/3 cup whole milk + 1 teaspoon vinegar
¼ teaspoon almond extract (I prefer almond, but pure vanilla extract would work just fine)
1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray OR use the paper from your stick of butter to grease the pan.  (If you use the butter option, I’d lightly flour the pan as well.)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon; whisk by hand until well combined.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer or the in the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter until well creamed.  Add the sugar, and mix until well combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, letting the mixer incorporate the first before adding the next.

Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the batter.  Do not over mix or your end product will be tough.  The batter will be a little lumpy.

In the bowl you used for the flour mixture, combine the zucchini, faux buttermilk, and almond or vanilla extract.  Stir gently until combined.  Add this mixture to the batter by hand.  Fold in the chopped pecans.

Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan, place on the middle rack in your oven, and back for approximately 50-60 minutes. (How long it actually takes depends on your oven and what type of material your loaf pan is made of.)  When a skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Carefully remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

To freeze extras: Follow all of the steps above.  When loaves are completely cooled, wrap twice in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil.  Don’t forget to label your product with the name and date you baked it!  

To ensure a fresh loaf, I would thaw and eat up to 3 months after the baked date. 

Recipe adapted from Reader’s Digest: Homemade

Recipe: Cranberry Raspberry Iced Tea

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My default summer drink is Iced Tea, but sometimes, it needs a little makeover to make it a special treat.  You can use any juice cocktail in this recipe, but I highly recommend taking a few extra moments and making the Simple Syrup to sweeten it!

Cranberry Raspberry Iced Tea
Makes a 2-quart pitcher

6 cups water
6 tea bags (I use PG Tips)
2 cups Cranberry Raspberry juice cocktail
Simple Syrup (I add this by taste, ¼ – ½ cup works for me)
Lime slices (optional)

Put 2 cups of water in a tea kettle or in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, put the tea bags in a 2-quart pitcher.  Once the water is boiling, immediately pour it over the tea bags and allow to steep for 5 minutes. (I like my iced tea on the strong side and left mine in for 10 minutes.) 

Remove the tea bags and discard. 

Pour in the cranberry raspberry cocktail, the remaining 4 cups of water, and stir.  Taste the tea and begin adding the amount of Simple Syrup you desire. 

Slice a lime into ¼-inch slices and float in your pitcher of tea. 

Store in the fridge until well-chilled.  Pour over ice and garnish with a slice of lime.

If you really want to jazz this up, fill your drinking vessel (I love that term and needed an excuse to use it today!)  ½ full of the chilled tea and top off with club soda for a Cranberry Raspberry Iced Tea Spritzer.

Recipe: Simple Syrup

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Simple syrup is, in fact, one of the easiest things I’ve ever made in the kitchen. It consists of water and sugar, and is THE only way to sweeten your cold drinks in the hot summertime. I also use it in between cake layers to keep my decorated cakes moist and yummy. You can store leftovers in the fridge or at room temperature.

Simple Syrup
Makes approximately 1 ½ cups

1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup water

Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Allow to bubble for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved; stir as necessary.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Add to your favorite cool drinks, such as Cranberry Raspberry Iced Tea or Iced Coffee.

I prefer to store mine in the fridge, but it also keeps well at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.

Recipe: Spinach Quiche

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Late last summer (while I was very pregnant), my husband decided to plant a late-season crop of spinach so we’d have some before winter.  Little did we know 1) a screaming, colicky baby was not interested in spinach, 2) we’d forget about the garden altogether, and 3) it didn’t matter anyway because the spinach never did more than sprout. 

We were sure the winter would zap our spinach as soon as the first frost hit.

But much to our surprise, the little sprouts did make it through the endless amounts of snow and then decided to produce and produce and….produce.

We’ve had to come up with tasty recipes for all this spinach – our favorite being Chicken Alfredo Spinach pizza (recipe coming soon!)  I was flipping through an old cookbook of mine and came across a recipe for a spinach quiche.  

Dictionary.com defines quiche as the following:

 a pielike dish consisting of an unsweetened pastry shell filled with a custard and usually containing cheese and other ingredients, as vegetables, seafood, or ham: spinach quiche.

Quiche is great for any meal and is excellent re-heated.  I also like making quiche because I can pretty much throw in anything I want.  I tweaked the old cookbook recipe quite a bit, and this is what I came up with:

Spinach Quiche
Makes a 9-inch quiche, approx. 8 servings (in our house, 6 servings)

1 9-inch pie crust
½ cup yellow onion, diced finely
6 slices of good-quality bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
8 eggs
½ cup sour cream (can also use ¼ cup sour cream + ¼ cup plain yogurt)
½ cup whole milk or half-n-half
½  – 1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
3 cups of lightly-packed fresh spinach, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a pie dish with non-stick cooking spray and line the plate with the prepared pie crust.  Flute the edges as desired.  Line the crust with a piece of parchment paper (NOT waxed paper) and fill with dried beans.  Bake the crust for 8 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper and beans and bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

In a large saute pan, cook the bacon pieces until they are crispy.  Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.  In the remaining bacon fat, cook the onion until it is translucent, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove the onions from the pan and allow to drain on the paper towel with the bacon.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until well combined.  Mix in the sour cream and/or yogurt, the milk or half-n-half, salt, pepper, nutmeg, onion and bacon mixture, spinach, and the mozzarella and Swiss cheese.  Gently stir until combined.

Pour the mixture into the par-baked pie crust and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  (This is where I cover the edge of my pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent it from being overdone.)  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

Recipe adapted from Better Homes  and Gardens New Cook Book 

Recipe: Basic Pie Crust

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This is my go-to recipe for pie crust.  I don’t own a pastry cutter or any special rolling pins and/or delicate pie crust mats for which to roll my pie crust out on.  I use my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, and I’m quite sure that a hand mixer and/or a fork would work just fine 🙂 

I promise you that this recipe for pie crust is not scary and each and everyone of you can make it!

Basic Pie Crust
Makes a 9-inch pie crust

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening (I use Crisco)
4 tablespoons very cold water

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt with a whisk or mixer. 

Add the butter and vegetable shortening and turn the mixer on low to medium speed, and mix until the butter and shortening have formed pea-sized crumbs. 

Add the water and mix just until combined.  Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Either freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for an hour.  (It’s important not to handle the dough too much or the butter will melt and prevent a flaky crust.)

Remove the dough from the fridge/freezer and the plastic wrap.  Lightly dust your countertop with flour, and place your disk on top of the flourerd surface.  Rub your rolling pin down with flour, and proceed to roll out your crust until it’s about 10″ across.  (To avoid sticking, I flip the pie crust over once or twice and reflour my countertop and rolling pin.)

Fold the crust in half (through the equator) and then in half again (through the poles.)

Unfold the crust over a greased pie plate and gently press the crust onto the bottom and the sides.  Crimp the edge using your fingers or a fork to make a decorative edge for your pie

Fill the crust and bake according to the pie recipe’s directions. 

For a pre-baked crust, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line your crust with a piece of parchment paper (NOT waxed paper) and fill with dried beans.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool and fill.