Pattypan Squash and Zucchini butter bake

The thing I love most about squash is the variety. There are hundreds of varieties. My first favorite has always been acorn squash–cut in half and baked with butter, salt and pepper, until it melts. Or butternut squash roasted and made into a smooth, hearty soup. And then there is spaghetti squash–which is divine when prepared like pasta.
My new farmer’s market find is the Pattypan squash. I’ve seen this little summer squashes before the grocery store–typically about an inch in diameter. The pattypan squash I found was gigantic in comparison; about 5 inches across. It sat in my refrigerator while I obsessed about what to do with it. One crazy Wednesday night (Lily has horseback riding and then I teach), I came up with this delicious butter bake as a side dish for vegetarian sloppy joes (Morning Star crumbles plus sloppy joe sauce).
This recipe is so easy and the squash melts like butter in your mouth. Feel free to substitute any summer squash and to use whatever herbs you have on hand.
The goods:
1 medium to large Patty pan Squash or a handful of small patty pan squash, sliced thin
1 small zucchini, sliced thin
4 tablespoons ghee or melted butter
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
kosher salt

black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh herbs–parsley, chives, basil and cilantro
The cooking:
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a baking dish, begin layering as follows:
Pattypan & Zucchini, (to cover the bottom of the pan)
a sprinkle of garlic
a tablespoon of herbs
a tablespoon-ish of butter
Keep layering and top with any remaining butter.
Bake for 20 minutes (or until soft and buttery).

Nana Spotlight: Baking Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies with Olga

There are few things more precious than baking

chocolate chip cookies with your Grammy. Lily got the delicious treat of baking with her Grammy (a Nana-extraordinaire!) today. On the menu: delicious Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies and memories for a lifetime.

Grammy (or Olga, my mother-in-law) is a wonderful cook. While my Nana, mother and father all influenced my culinary loves, Olga really taught me how to cook. I learned by watching and asking and helping. She has taught me to love food–appreciate the flavors and textures. She has also taught me how to make something out of nothing. All you have is a lime and some steak–well, how about fajitas? Some stale bread–make some french toast that puts room service to shame. Olga exposed me to all the best gear for cooking–from herb snips to the perfect cork screw–the things that inspire me to add more herbs and drink more wine.
I could write a book about Olga–an official Nana (to 5 fabulous kids) and a master home cook!
The recipe below is wonderful! The cookies are light and crispy and chocolately. Lily and Grammy mixed the batch in a beautiful heirloom bowl–the same bowl that Olga’s mother, Grandma Rudko, used to mix bread and cookies. There is history in that bowl–and when we eat something mixed in that bowl–we share in the history of the Rudko family.
Bake these cookies with your favorite Nana (or Nana-in-training!)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup shortening
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups rolled oats
9 oz chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large bowl, cream shortening, brown sugar and white sugar. Add eggs and mix thoroughly.
3. Combine the baking soda, salt and flour and stir into creamed mixture.
4. Add oatmeal and chocolate chips and stir until well blended
5. Drop by teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Quiche-tastic Monday: Nacho Quiche

I am a complete sucker for Nachos. No matter how I try to avoid junk food–I just can’t go without loaded nachos once in while. I love the cheese, the salty chips and the spicy peppers. Yum!

This quiche is a fabulous fill-in for nachos. It has a crunchy corn tortilla crust, spicy jalapenos, creamy cheese, hearty black beans and flavor out the wazoo. Serve it up with your favorite nacho toppings-fresh avocado, pico de gallo and hot sauce.

Like every one of my quiche recipes–make two-eat one now and freeze the other for later.

The stuff
Cooking Spray
6 corn tortillas
1 cup of cooked black beans
4 eggs, beaten until they are frothy
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon no fat sour cream
1 medium jalapeno
1 1/2 T. fresh cilantro
2 green onions, diced
8 black olives, diced; plus 1 whole olive
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper
Canola Oil (just a bit)

The crust
Spray a 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray. Arrange 5 corn tortillas around the outside of pie plate, overlapping. Place last corn tortilla in the middle. Spread black beans evenly on the bottom on the pie plate (on top of tortilla crust.

Get cooking
1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Slice eight thin slices of jalapeno. Remove seeds. Reserve slices for later. Dice up remaining jalapeno.

3. Beat 4 eggs, by hand until pale yellow and frothy. You want to add air to the eggs–this could take 5-10 minutes (it is a fabulous arm workout, like yoga in the kitchen). Beat in

the sour cream and then the milk.

4. Fold into the egg mixture: diced jalapeno, 1/2 cup of the cheddar, all the monterey jack cheese, cilantro, diced black olives and green onions. Add salt and pepper to season.

5. Pour egg mixture on top of black beans in tortilla crust.

6. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Evenly place 8 slices of jalapenos around the outside edge of the quiche. Put a black olive in the center.

7. Brush the exposed outside edges of the crust with canola oil (will help it to brown instead of burn!)

8. Bake for about 40 minutes or until quiche is set. If edges of crust burn too quickly, just cover with foil.


Quiche-tastic Monday: Go greek with zucchini and feta

Zucchinis are abundant this time of year. It is a versatile summer squash–but so often I buy a bunch and I am left wondering what to make. One of besties, Rachel, always has an abundance of zucchini from her backyard garden. Rachel came over for lunch today, so I thought I’d give a zucchini quiche a try.
This yummy and summery quiche is filled with fresh zucchini, carmelized onions, fresh tomato and topped with feta cheese. I love feta cheese–it reminds me of a trip I took to Lesvos, Greece. The island was bursting with tomatoes, zucchini and feta. It seemed every meal included a sprinkling of this distinctive cheese (and a gallon of Ouzo).
And like all my quiche recipes–make two at a time and freeze the second–makes for a great meal in a week.
The stuff
2 small zucchinis
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 eggs, beaten until they are frothy
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 T. mixed fresh herbs, chopped ( I used a mixture of parsley, chives, marjoram, basil and mint–use what you have)
1 teaspoon of dried dill
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Crust: make your own OR be lazy like me and use the pre-made kind from the refrigerated section of the grocery store OR go crustless, just spray your pie pan with olive oil before baking.
Get cooking
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Slice eight rounds of zucchini (about 1/8- 1/4 inch thick). Reserve for later.
3. Grate remaining zucchini using a hand grater (it grates up super fast.) Place in a colander and press with a bar mop or paper towels to squeeze out excess moisture.
4. Melt butter in skillet over low-medium heat. Add sliced onion and cook until caramelized (translucent and caramel-y brown at the edges) about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
5. Beat 4 eggs, by hand until pale yellow and frothy. You want to add air to the eggs–this could take 5-10 minutes (it is a fabulous arm workout, like yoga in the kitchen)
6. Carefully unroll your pie crust into a pie pan. Pinch the edges. Indent the bottom of the crust with a fork (let’s steam escape).
7. Stir 1 cup milk, shredded zucchini, fresh herbs, dried dill and salt/pepper into beaten eggs. Pour into crust.
8. Top with caramelized onions. Then arrange 8 reserved zucchini slices along the outside edge of the quiche. Arrange the 8 pieces of cherry tomato on the inside ring of the quiche, seed side down.
9. Evenly sprinkle feta cheese on top.
10. Bake for about 45 minutes or until quiche is set. If edges of crust burn too quickly, just cover with foil.
And of course, Eat it!

Garden Girl: Thai-inspired Sunday dinner

It has been a produce inspired weekend! I love this time of year–meal options are endless with so much in season. I picked up these gorgeous Fairy Tale Eggplants. I could not resist their purple and white stripes and I was enticed by the name. Then, Lily and I harvested Mike’s crop of edamame from our backyard garden. So, what to make?

I had no idea what to do with the Fairy Tale Eggplant, so I googled and found a fabulous blog (called Figs with Bri, totally worth a follow!) and
a super yummy recipe for a Vegetarian Thai inspired dinner with Fairy Tale Eggplant, Red Curried Tofu, Basmati Rice and Green Beans.
The meal was amazing. I swapped out the green beans and steamed fresh edamame instead (in the pod, sprinkled with kosher salt). The Fairy Tale Eggplant was super tender and delicious with honey, soy sauce, ginger and serrano pepper. (I am addicted!). The curried tofu was easy to make (I used extra firm, versus firm and dusted the outside of the tofu with pan-searing flour before cooking) and satisfying. The sides of

rice and edamame rounded out the meal perfectly.
It was definitely a 4-pot meal–but it cooked up quickly. I used Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice-Basmati, instead of making my own. It tastes great and takes about 2 minutes to warm up.
And there were enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow!
Check out the recipe here.

Summer in a seashell: Beer Clams

I grew up going to the Jersey shore every summer and with stories of my Father’s childhood at the beach. We would always dig for clams as the tide went out at sunset. I was not a fan of eating seafood then–but I loved the thrill of finding a clam under the sand. It was magical.

Now I adore seafood. Clams remind me of summers at the beach–like last year’s family vacation with our close friends. We went to Ocean City and had an amazing time. My favorite meal: the night we got steamed clams and other yummy seafood takeout and ate it on the deck of our rental home. Fresh steamed clams taste of the beach; steam them in beer and they are summer in seashell.
Clams are so super easy to make and the final product is awesome. My husband is firm believer that everything is better with beer. I ignored my normal inclination to use white wine and tossed in a can of Yuengling lager instead.
You can pick up fresh clams at your grocery store or local seafood market. Try to avoid buying a pre-bagged batch–instead ask for a fresh bag (that way they can sort through the batch for you, making sure all the clams you get are good). Make sure the clams can breathe-ensure the plastic bag is open at the top. Pop the clams in your refrigerator until you are ready to steam.
I made 3 dozen clams for two of us and it was plenty. However the broth makes enough to steam about 6 dozen clams. Pick little neck or cherrystone clams–the smaller clams are more tender.
The goods:
6 dozen cherrystone or little neck clams (or less, depending on your crew)
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 of a small sweet onion, chopped
Handful (like 5 or 6) cherry tomatoes, chopped
Handful of fresh parsley (like 5 springs, coarsely chopped)
1 bottle of Yuengling lager
1 baguette
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

The work:
1. Place the clams in a bowl of cold water. Under running water, use a brush or a bar mop to scrub the grit of each clam. Place cleaned clams in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Swirl some olive oil in a heavy duty pot. I used my cast iron dutch oven. You can use anything with a lid-a skillet, a pasta pot, whatever you have-it will work. Heat the olive oil on medium heat.
3. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the heated oil. Stir constantly until fragrant and to avoid burning–about 2 minutes. Add the onion and tomatoes. Stir and cook for another 1 minute.
4. Add the parsley and stir. Then de-glaze the pan with the bottle of beer. Turn the heat up and put the lid on the pot.
5. Once the broth is boiling, turn down the heat to medium.
6. Add your clams, one at a time, making a single layer of clams. Put the lid on. Let them steam, maybe about 5 minutes. As the clams open up completely, transfer from the pot with a slotted spoon to a serving platter and cover with foil. If you leave the cooked clams in too long, they become tough and overcooked.
7. Add more raw clams as you remove the cooked ones. Serve with melted butter and excess broth on the side (for dipping your fresh baguette!)

Quiche-tastic Monday: Green pea, bacon & monterey jack quiche

We love quiche (or egg pie, as Lily’s calls it) around here. Quiche is sort of like grown-up breakfast for dinner–it is easy, you can toss anything in and it is super filling. And you can easily double this recipe and make two at once. Bake them both and freeze the second one for dinner in a couple weeks.

I love this combination of sweet peas, salty, crispy bacon and creamy monterey jack. Peas just seem like they belong in a chicken pot pie–so they make this quiche extra hearty.
I typically don’t make my own pie crust. Even though homemade pie crust is wonderful and relatively easy, it is just another step. I like to get things done quick–since the quiche takes a little while to bake, I compromise with store bought crust.
The stuff
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen. If frozen, take out of the freezer first thing, to thaw slightly)
Premade pie crust (grab it in the refrigerated section in the grocery store, take it out of the refrigerator with the peas to warm up slightly)
8 slices turkey bacon, diced (a staple in this house. Substitute any kind of bacon-pork, veggie, whatever)
Olive oil
4 eggs, beaten until they are frothy
1 cup milk (I used whole, because we had it. Use what you’ve got, just not skim milk)
1 T. dijon mustard
1 T. fresh chopped parsley
1 T. fresh chopped chives
4 oz (or 1 generous cup) shredded monterey jack cheese
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Get cooking

Preheat oven to 400F.
Grab a skillet and heat a swirl or two of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced turkey bacon (if you use pork bacon, you can forgo the
olive oil. For low fat turkey bacon, the olive oil makes it extra crispy). Cook bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes. Crack some fresh black pepper into the skillet.
Remove bacon and drain on paper towels.
Carefully unroll your pie crust into a pie pan. Pinch the edges. Indent the bottom of the crust with a fork (let’s steam escape). Add the greens peas and bacon as the first layer, on top of the crust.

Beat in 1 cup milk, dijon mustard, parsley, chives and salt/pepper to taste into eggs. Then stir in shredded cheese.
Pour milk/egg/cheese mixture into pie pan (on top of peas & bacon)
Pop into oven and check after 30 minutes. In my oven and with my pie pan, the quiche took about 45 minutes to finish. You know it is done when the quiche is puffy and slightly browned on top. You can check the center with a toothpick as well.
Eat it
Let the quiche stand for 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with a green salad or fresh fruit kabobs. Leftovers make a great lunch to take to work the next day.

Came-home-from-vacation-and-there-was-nothing-to-eat Taco Salad

After our fabulous mini-break last week, the last thing I felt like doing was going to the grocery store. I was also sick of take-out and my wallet was sick of paying for a meals out. We always seem to have something rattling around in the freezer and pantry. And this time of year, the garden typically has something to offer.

I went foraging through the reserves and found all the perfect ingredients for this fantastic (and meatless!) taco salad. The best part–you can make this salad with what you have–toss new stuff in or leave out items you don’t have.

Lettuce (we had some romaine in the fridge and some red leaf in the garden), torn in bite size pieces
Cucumber, sliced
Sweet onion (a great cool, dark place staple), chopped
Red pepper (i had a some bit of red pepper that I chopped and froze before we left.
I just took it out of the freezer and thawed it before adding to the salad)
Shredded cheddar (I keep blocks of cheese in the fridge and shred as I need it. keeps me from eating too much!)
Black olives
Morning Star Meal Starter Crumbles (from the freezer. greatest, easiest item ever)
Envelope of taco seasoning
Can of fat-free refried beans
Pico de Gallo or salsa
Tortilla chips
Your favorite vinaigrette (I used Good Seasons Italian)

Place lettuce on large dinner plate, leaving a hole in the center (like making a wreath of lettuce).

Sprinkle all veggies, cheese and black olives on top of lettuce. Warm up refried beans. Prepare MS Crumbles according to package directions (swirl of olive oil in a pan, add the crumbles). Then add taco seasoning with water to Crumbles.

Put a scoop of refried beans in the center of your lettuce wreath, add a scoop of MS Crumbles on top, followed by some pico de gallo and garnish with a tortilla chip. Serve with extra tortilla chips and salad dressing on the side.

And enjoy. It rocks and tastes way better than take out!

An oldie, but a goodie: Seven Layer Salad

This is from my fabulous mother-in-law, Olga, who is living a fabulous life as a Grammy, wife, mother and friend. She is one of my best friends and one of the best cooks I know.

I think Seven Layer Salad is comfort food. It reminds me of potlucks and barbecues. I’ve experimented with other modernized versions, but nothing quite beats the original.

One note: if you have fresh peas–this absolutely rocks. Just steam the fresh peas and chill them for a couple hours before layering in your salad.

The directions are super easy:
Tear up one head of romaine lettuce in a large bowl and layer over that in order.
1/ pepper
10oz. frozen peas. Thaw and dry on paper towels (or use fresh, as noted above)
1pt real mayo
dash of salt
1c. grated cheddar cheese
8 strips of bacon fried crisp and crumb
Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Serve the next day. It rocks!