Sunday, June 30, 2024

Giada's Fried Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms {A Fun Summer Appetizer}!

 So I was finally able to score some beautiful zucchini blossoms at the farmer's market and I was able to buy enough to make two recipes! The first recipes I was shared was Ina Garten's Zucchini Flower and Leek Frittata (click here for that) and also this recipe for Giada Delaurentiis' Fried Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms!This is a pretty simple recipe but it does require some finesse and preferably....small hands! You've got to open up these delicate zucchini flowers, remove the stamen, rinse and fill with the cheese mixture below, then twist the flowers to seal.

The cheese mixture is a combination of goat cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, basil, green onion, and salt and pepper. I think you could simply some of that by buying different flavors of goat cheese and/or cream cheese and make the filling your own if you like! 

Then you make a simple tempura batter consisting of flour, salt and sparkling water and VERY CAREFULLY dip the stuffed flowers in the tempera and fry them in the oil. This takes some finesse and tender loving care, but is overall easy. 

I liked this fried zucchini flower recipe so much better than Ina's Zucchini Flower and Leek Frittata. The texture of the zucchini flowers in the frittata was somewhat soft, hard to cut, and maybe a little slimy or less than pleasing. The texture in Giada's Fried Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms was way better. I loved the light crispy batter on these zucchini flowers and they were really tasty dunked in some marinara. Now for the ultimate question: Would I try to source zucchini flowers again? Would I make this recipe again? No, I don't think so. While I enjoyed cooking with zucchini flowers and trying two different recipes, it's not something that I loved or would seek out and make again. But, I am very happy to have tried it and crossed it off my list!

Fried Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Adapted from Food Network

by Giada De Laurentiis

Makes 8

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sparkling water

3/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning

1/3 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cream cheese at room temperature

2 teaspoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

1 green onion, finely chopped

black pepper

8 zucchini blossoms*

vegetable oil, for frying

Optional: marinara sauce for dipping

*Cook's Note: Zucchini blossoms can be found at farmer's markets and specialty grocery stores. As an alternative, try using baby bell peppers. Cut off the tops and remove the seeds. Fill with the cheese mixture and dip the cut end in flour before dipping in the batter. 

 In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, water, and salt until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, basil, and green onion. Mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons filling into each blossom. Close the blossoms and gently twist the petals to seal.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350F (if you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 1 minute.) Dip the stuffed zucchini blossoms in the batter and allow any excess batter to drip off. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Allow the cooked blossoms to drain on paper towels.

Season with salt and serve with your favorite marinara sauce or vinaigrette.

 June IHCC Potluck @ I Heart Cooking Clubs

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Creamy Lemon Zucchini Spaghetti To Celebrate The Summer Solstice!

One of the dishes I love to eat most in the summertime is a cheesy vegetarian pasta laden with fresh veggies and herbs. I literally dream about it all year!

Luckily, How Sweet Eats just posted this Creamy Lemon Zucchini Spaghetti that is right up my alley. It was kismet because I happened to have all the things on hand: spaghetti, lemon, Parmesan, cream, and lemon then also fresh baby zucchini from the farmer's market, as well as fresh basil and chives from my garden. I love it when things come together like that!

Think of this pasta dish as a creamy summertime pasta dish that is lighter than most cream-based pasta dishes. The way we accomplish the lighter feel is by using 2 cups of starchy pasta water and just 1/2 cup of cream. When you marry the caramelized cooked down zucchini with the pasta and the pasta cooking water you get a creaminess that only calls for very little cream. Also, Parmesan cheese is a lighter cheese, and when you add the Parmesan in stages, alternating the starchy pasta water, it produces creamy cheesy results for a lot less calories.

I'm gonna say, this might be THE pasta dish of the summer! It's economical, it's easy, and it's everything you crave in a pasta dish, creamy and comforting but with the bright pop fresh zing of summertime produce, veggies, and lemon zest. I also think it's very kid-friendly because most kids are veggie-averse and with the zucchini shredded and cooked down, you really don't notice it as much. 

What is your favorite summertime pasta dish?  

Creamy Lemon Zucchini Spaghetti

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

by Jessica Merchant

Serves 4

3 to 4 cups freshly grated zucchini, before squeezing

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound spaghetti or other long noodle

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for topping

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1/3 cups Parmesan cheese

Freshly grate the zucchini. Place it in a large kitchen towel and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the zucchini with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to toss. Cook, stirring over, until the zucchini melts down and becomes caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes (mine only took about 10-12 minutes). Stir in the garlic.

While the zucchini cooks, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the spaghetti. When its finished, reserve 2 cups of the starchy pasta water.

Transfer the pasta to the pan with the zucchini - you can take it right from the pot and place it in the zucchini skillet. Add 1 cup of the reserved starchy water and the heavy cream. Stir and toss until combined. Stir in the lemon zest and the finely grated Parmesan.

Add another 1/2 cup of the starchy water, stirring to combine. Add in the fresh basil and chives. Taste and if needed, add in more salt, pepper or lemon zest or Parmesan. 

Top the pasta with the Parmesan and a bunch of fresh basil. Serve immediately!

 Summer Solstice @ I Heart Cooking Clubs!

American Cookie #4: {1886 Vanilla Wafers}

Each week, I'm going to be highlighting a new American Cookie and sharing its history, as well as my results. This is the fourth week of baking with American Cookie by Anne Byrn, and I'm sharing 1886 Vanilla Wafers, which actually originated in 1851!

The History of Vanilla Wafers: The origin of the Vanilla Wafer dates all the way back to 1851 with a Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook called Die Geschickte Hausfrau, The Handy Housewife. What's the most interesting about the Vanilla Wafer is that not long before the Pennsylvania Dutch shared the recipe, a Boston pharmacist named Joseph Burnett bottled the first vanilla extract for a customer who had sampled vanilla desserts while traveling in Paris! So the history of the Vanilla Wafer actually coincides with the history of vanilla extract here in America, how fascinating! In addition to the history of vanilla extract, this cookie also predates baking powder because baking soda and cream of tartar (which are both used in this recipe) are both early leaveners, predating baking powder. These leaveners produce crisp and light cookies, characteristic of wafers.

My Results: These cookies smell intoxicating! This recipe calls for one whole tablespoon of vanilla and right off the bat the aroma of the vanilla in the cookie dough is irresistible. When the cookies come out of the oven at first they are soft and tender, tasting somewhat like a vanilla cake cookie. As the cookies cool they become a slightly crisp. We enjoyed them both ways! I would love to make these again and use them to make a from scratch banana pudding. For now we enjoyed them as is, but we also enjoyed them with some vanilla and strawberry ice cream sandwiched between them. 

It is crucial for the dough to chill (I chilled mine in the freezer for at least an hour). My first tray of cookies baked for 8 minutes total, then I decided I wanted them to be a little more golden and I baked them for 10 minutes total. If you want to use them in a banana pudding or another layered dessert then I think you'd need to bake them 10 minutes because you'd want them to be more on the crisp side. However, if you want to eat them a little more on the soft side, opt for about 8 minutes total.

Notes on the recipes in American Cookie: After making my fourth cookie from American Cookie, one thing I can say is that this cookbook produces some of the most perfect cookies I've ever made (and I've made a lot of cookies)! I think it has something to do with the chilling process. Most of these recipes call for the cookie dough to chill for several hours or overnight and I believe this makes all the difference, so I'll be doing that with all cookie dough recipes going forward for here on out! Also, I think it wise to bake your cookies are parchment paper. Sure, the parchment keeps the cookies from sticking, but the parchment also seems to protect the bottom of the cookie and keep it from becoming too dark or overdone. Beyond those two tips, this cookbook really does produce some of the most perfect cookies I've ever made and I highly recommend it!

My Rating: 4 out of 5! We really liked these cookies and will make them again so we can enjoy a homemade banana pudding!

I'm going to be rating all the cookies with the five-star format, one star being the lowest rating and five-star being the highest.

1886 Vanilla Wafers

Adapted from American Cookie

by Anne Bryn

Makes 4 to 5 dozen

10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons milk

 Place the soft butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined, 30 seconds.

Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Alternately add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined.

Tear off an 18" sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper. Spoon the batter into a log on the paper and roll the paper up around it to secure. Place the log of dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 hours and up to overnight, or freeze for 1 hour.

When ready to bake, place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375F.

Unwrap the dough and slice into 1/4" rounds. Place them 1" to 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet, and place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cookies until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in a covered container for up to 10 days.


Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ina Garten's Zucchini Flower and Leek Frittata {A Thing of Beauty}

I am my Lost Kitchen Era, where I am obsessed with Erin French's The Lost Kitchen show, restaurant, food, plating, and all the edible flowers she uses to garnish her dishes! I love how Erin goes to the local farms and is inspired by what is in season to make beautiful dishes. 

I wanted to create a Lost Kitchen dish in my own kitchen, so I went to the Lexington, Kentucky Farmers Market and I found zucchini flowers! I was so excited because I had never cooked with zucchini flowers before.

So I turned to the one and only queen, Ina Garten and I found her recipe for Zucchini and Leek Fritatta. This was a major win as it allows me to really channel the whole edible flowers vibe of The Lost Kitchen.

I searched the market for the rest of the ingredients needed: pancetta, leeks, baby zucchini, fresh thyme, eggs, half and half, Gruyere, and fresh basil. This added up to be a pricier dish than most recipes I cook, but that's ok, because as I shared above, I'm in my Lost Kitchen Era and I have a major need to cook with edible flowers.

This was more laborious than most dishes, with a lot of prep, as I had to clean the zucchini flowers, removing the stamen, and dry them. I had to cut and wash the leeks, which was a rather sandy and dirty task.I had to cut and wash the basil, the thyme, the zucchini. Cut and cook the bacon. Shred the cheese. Crack and beat 8 eggs. Cook the frittata filling. It was more involved than your regular everyday frittata, but no worries, this was THE FRITTATA to end all fritattas! It was going to be adorned with the most beautiful zucchini flowers. Doesn't it look gorgeous going into the oven?

Doesn't it look gorgeous coming out of the oven? I mean wow...It's stunning! Ina says to allow the frittata to cool for five minutes and then cut into it. I am dying to see how it all tastes.

The frittata slices perfectly and each person gets their own zucchini flower with their portion, how brilliant! The frittata is brimming with zucchini, zucchini flowers, bacon, leeks, and my favorite...Gruyere cheese. I love all these ingredients so much!

I go to take a long awaited bite and the zucchini flower is soft and baked into the frittata. It is an odd texture, soft and hard to cut into, the whole flower wants to stay together. Something about the flavor and texture is not appealing. I push the flower off and take a bite of the egg and filling, the flavors are too strong and overpowering. I take another bite and something here is just not working. I keep taking bites because I love all the ingredients, it appears to have baked up perfectly, and Ina Garten has never let me down, but the dish just didn't work for me. I am, however, very happy to have made the dish and finally get a chance to work with zucchini flowers. I like to try new things even if they don't work out. I do have another zucchini flower recipes up my sleeve, so stay tuned for that. The verdict is still out!

 Seasonal and Local Produce @ IHCC


Friday, June 14, 2024

American Cookie #3 {Ursuline Anise Cookies - St. Joseph's Day Cookie}

Each week, I'm going to be highlighting a new American Cookie and sharing it's history, as well as my results. This is the third week of baking with American Cookie by Anne Bryn, and I'm sharing Ursuline Anise Cookies, which are a sugar cookie with anise flavoring dating back to 1727 New Orleans!

The History of Ursuline Anise Cookies: In 1727, twelve French Catholic nuns from the Sisters of the Order of Saint Ursula (founded in Italy) came to New Orleans to educate girls and women (some also call them the casket girls). Their original convent was located at the corner of Chartres and Ursulines Avenue down in the French Quarter of New Orleans and is still in operation today! It is a tradition for those in the Catholic faith to bake anise cookies when St. Joseph's Day is celebrated on March 19th. Anise, with it's licorice flavor, has long been a celebratory flavoring of Europe, and has been prized as a digestive. 

We know New Orleans is famous for it's wide array of ethnic backgrounds and cuisines, including French, African, Cajun, Creole, but Italian cuisine was also quite popular in New Orleans. By 1850, the Italians (Sicilians in particular) populated New Orleans more than any other city in America.The Sicilian immigrants brought the tradition of staging a St. Joseph's Day altar, stacked with anise cookies, to New Orleans. This recipe and the tradition of staging the altar, still continue today.

My Results: Two years ago, I had the good fortune to visit New Orleans. We took a ghost tour right by the Ursuline Convent! Some say the 12 nuns that came over brought caskets and thus began all vampire lore in America, but for now we'll stick with them bringing us these delicious and addictive anise cookies! I have seen these cookies often and heard about them, but never tried them so wanted to make sure they had a spot in my roundup as they have quite the history here in America. I mean a cookie that's been around from 1727 and still exists today is no joke!

I had to special order the anise seed from Amazon because none of my stores carried it. When I placed the order I was hoping I would love the cookies because what on earth would I do with a whole container of anise seed? Well, the verdict is in and these cookies are absolutely amazing! Using up the whole jar of anise seeds will be no problem at all! I love how light and fluffy the cookies are and the anise seed gives the cookie just a very slight hint of licorice. I also love how you can see the anise seed running throughout the cookie like little flecks of flavor. The icing on top is nice and sweet and before you know it you can pound back three or four of these real quick. I think I preferred the cookies hot and fresh right out of the oven, but they are still very good once they've cooled. They are addictive enough on their own, but I imagine they would pair very well with coffee or tea. I love them! 

My Rating: 5 out of 5! My favorite cookie so far in my American Cookie series and a new favorite cookie that I will add to my rotation. There is a good reason these cookies have been around since 1727! More people need to be making them

I'm going to be rating all the cookies with the five-star format, one star being the lowest rating and five star being the highest.

Ursuline Anise Cookies

Adapted from American Cookie

by Anne Bryn

Makes 4 dozen

vegetable shortening for prepping the pans

2 teaspoons anise seeds

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Optional Icing

1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.

Crush the anise seeds coarsely with a mortar and pestle (or between sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin). Place in a large mixing bowl with the soft butter and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft, about 1 minute. Gradually blend in the granulated sugar until creamy, about 1 minute. Beat the eggs into the mixture, one at a time, until well blended. Set aside.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl. Using the mixer on low speed, gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture until just blended, 30 seconds. 

Shape the dough into 1" balls and place them 2" apart on the prepared baking sheets. Place a pan in the oven.

Bake the cookies until lightly browned around the bottom, about 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool, then store in airtight container.

If desired, for an icing, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and milk in a small bowl. You can tint it red or green at Christmastime, or use any other color any other time of year. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cookies, and let the icing set before serving.


Sunday, June 9, 2024

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Breadcrumbs

My new favorite thing is making fresh Parmesan Breadcrumbs. You cook fresh breadcrumbs on the stove top with butter and olive oil until golden brown and toasty, then you add in lots of Parmesan cheese and the Parmesan clusters together with the breadcrumbs to create cheesy clusters of hot crunchy bread and cheese. It's good on pasta dishes and great on green veggies! Give it a try on asparagus like I've done here, or on broccoli! It's delicious!

 Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Breadcrumbs

Adapted from Food Network

by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 4

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Asparagus: Preheat the oven to 400F. Snap or cut the dry steam ends off each asparagus and place on a heavy baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss. Roast until the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. 

For the Parmesan Breadcrumbs: Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil to a medium skillet and allow butter to melt. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add in Parmesan cheese, stirring, allowing the Parmesan to marry with the breadcrumbs and create clusters. 

Plate the asparagus and arrange the Parmesan Breadcrumbs over the asparagus. Enjoy!

Spring Brunch @ IHCC

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

American Cookie #2 {Joe Froggers - Revolutionary War Era Molasses Spice Cookies}


Each week, I'm going to be highlighting a new American Cookie and sharing it's history, as well as my results. This is the second week of baking with American Cookie by Anne Byrn, and I'm sharing Joe Froggers, which are a Molasses Spice Cookie from the Revolutionary War Era.

The History of Joe Froggers: Historians say the Joe Froggers cookie was named after a freed slave who ran a tavern in Marblehead, Massachusetts, called Black Joe's on the edge of a millpond. The tavern was known for its ginger cookie baked in an iron skillet. The cookie was unlike any other ginger cookie because it was flat, pancake-like, and laden with rum, which was a plentiful ingredient in New England after the war. Ginger was known to soothe stomachs and these cookies went out to sea to help fishermen ward off seasickness.

Historians also say it's possible Joe Froggers got their name simply because the millpond behind Black Joe's had many fat frogs and lilypads. 

My Results: The cookies are soft and memorable with a mild spice flavor, you can taste hints of the molasses, ginger, clove, nutmeg and allspice but it's not overpowering. There is quite a bit of rum in the cookies (1/2 cup) but you don't really taste the rum. I think the rum acts to keep the cookies soft and stay fresh longer. These are good fresh out of the oven and even better sandwiched between vanilla ice cream. The cookie was very easy to make, but they do need to chill for at least 3 hours, best if they can chill overnight (this will make it easier to flatten the dough before baking). The spice cookie feels reminiscent of the holidays, but I think during the Revolutionary War period the spice cookie was enjoyed all year round. I'm not the biggest fan of spice cookies but I liked these cookies better than I expected to, and the texture was great! I would make them again if I needed a spice cookie.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars!

I'm going to be rating all the cookies with the five-star format, one star being the lowest rating and five star being the highest.

Joe Froggers

Adapted by American Cookie

by Anne Bryn

Makes 20-22 cookies

Butter or shortening for prepping pans

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark rum

Note: It is important to chill the cookie dough at least 3 hours so the cookies don't spread as much while baking!

Place the flour, ginger, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice in a medium size bowl and sift or whisk to combine well. Set aside. Pour the molasses into measuring cup, and stir in the baking soda to combine. Set aside.

Place the soft butter and sugar in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy and fluffy, about 1 minute. Pour in the molasses and soda mixture and blend on low. Add the rum and blend on low until combined. Remove the beaters.

Sift the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time into the butter mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator at least 3 hours.

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375F. Pinch off large pieces of dough and drop them, spaced 6 to a pan, on lightly greased baking sheets. Press down on each piece until it is 3" in diameter and about 1/3" thick. Place the cookies in the oven.

Bake the cookies until they slightly deepen in color and are set in texture, 9 to 11 minutes. Immediately transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Let the baking sheet cool to room temperature, then repeat with the remaining dough.

Store cookies in an airtight container for up to a week. 


Sunday, June 2, 2024

Salted Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats


These Salted Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats are ooey-gooey perfection! The addition of the extra butter, extra marshmallows, and peanut butter make them a crispy, crunchy, ooey-gooey delight! I love them so much!


If you're looking for a fun new twist on the traditional Rice Krispy Treat, please give these a try! They are peanut buttery goodness and oh so addictive!

 Salted Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

by Jessica Merchant

Makes 12

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

20 ounces mini marshmallows, (usually 2 bags)

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 cups crisped rice cereal

flaky salt, for topping*

Note: I didn't have flaky salt, so I added salt to the mixture instead.

Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick baking spray. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Continue to cook it without stirring, watching it constantly, until brown bits begin to form on the bottom. Reduce the heat to low and stir in 15 ounces of the marshmallows, reserving some for later. Then stir in the peanut butter. 

Stir the mixture with a spatula continuously until the marshmallows and peanut butter melt completely. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour in the cereal. Stir until it's about halfway mixed, then stir in the remaining marshmallows. Mix until the marshmallows are evenly distributed.

Place the mixture into the 9x13 dish. Sprinkle the top with flaky salt. Let the bars set and cool for 30 minutes before cutting. Slice them as small or as large as you'd like.

 May IHCC Potluck!