Monday, August 22, 2011

Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Me: Peach Pie and Puff Pastry

Claire took her boys and my two oldest kids out to pick peaches.  Their peach picking was cut short, according to my daughter, by a swarm of killer bees, but they nevertheless managed to acquire a ton of beautiful tree-ripened peaches that smelled wonderful. When Claire went to pay, she was expecting that it would be over $20 (as her similar haul the previous year was about the same size), but to her surprise, the total was $4. She suspected that the cashier felt sorry for her, with all those ragamuffin kids running around. With all her savings, she spent another 25 cents on a baseball bat-sized zucchini so she could make more zucchini noodles, zucchini fry cakes, zucchini lasagna, and zucchini bread. After getting their free Otter Pops from the cashier, the kids regaled Claire with their, um, game of who could make the loudest fake bodily emissions on the way home. A game suggested by the little lady in the car, my daughter. So so proud. The upshot is that we had all these great peaches to use up quickly, and this is what we came up with.

Peach Pie
Claire is a cinnamon fan.  I love cinnamon, but I insisted that this pie be made with almond. I won her over on this one. I used premade crust from the freezer section, for convenience.   We can debate the wonders of the homemade crust, but here's the thing. With a premade crust, I can get a virtually homemade pie in the oven in a few minutes. It takes me a lot longer to make the crust also, and the end result is no pie. So, premade crust is an acceptable compromise to me.  Trader Joe's has really nice ones.

Peach pie is notoriously messy. Put the pie plate
on a baking pan if you want to keep your oven clean.
6-8 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/4 c tapioca
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp almond flavoring
Pie crust, your choice

Prebake your piecrust for 5-8 minutes at 400 degrees.  Peel and slice the peaches.  If they are not uber-ripe, you might want to consider blanching them first.  Pot of boiling water, dunk the peaches in for about 45 second.  Take them out and the peel should be a cinch.  Mix the peaches with the tapioca, sugar, and almond flavoring.  Place the top crust accordingly.  I used amother crust to make a lattice, but made a second pie with crumb topping.   Bake for 45-50 minutes at 400 degrees on a baking pan lines with foil.  These will bubble over. Wrap the edge of the pie crust with foil if you don't want it to burn.

Peach Cream-cheese Puff Pastries
These are heavenly.  They were gone in the blink of an eye. Blink. Gone. That fast.

2 peaches, sliced/mashed and tossed with a little cinnamon
1 8-oz package cream cheese
6 T confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c whipped topping

Prebake puff pastry according to instructions.  Shell out inner layer, and put in a dollop of cream cheese mixture, and then another dollop of peach mixture.  Replace top.  Bake for 20 minutes, or according to package instructions.

This one was a crumb topping.
I was trying to be artistic with the edge of the crust.
In the bottom of this pie, there is a layer of
the cream cheese filling for the puff pastries. Mmmmmm. 

Would you vote for cinnamon or vanilla? Please leave us a comment!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Faux-fried Drumsticks, Zucchini Corn Cakes, Wheat Berry Salad, and Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp

This is an amazing summer meal, with yet another way to use up zucchini.  We actually made one other complete meal, as well as several dessert items containing peaches, but you'll have to wait for those to post. In the meantime, here are some recipes to keep you from starving to death.

Faux-fried Chicken Drumsticks
Delicious.  The original recipe calls for 6 drumsticks, but we doubled it and added cornflakes for the extra crisp. Six drumsticks would be a joke for our family. A super funny joke that would end in people crying because there was no bawk-bawk left. So be sure to make enough. The ironic thing about this recipe is that it's oven-baked, but you dip the drumsticks in melted butter, so I kind of feel like something gets cancelled out. You could try olive oil or egg wash, but let's face it, butter adds such a great aroma and flavor.  I've never been tempted to leave it out.,1826,148166-231196,00.html

1 c flour
1/2 c cornflakes, finely crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
12 chicken drumsticks
1/2 c butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, cornflakes, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper in a bowl. Dip the drumsticks in butter and roll in flour to coat. Arrange on an ungreased baking pan.  Like with foil to easy clean-up.  Bake uncovered until done, about 50 minutes.

Zucchini Corn Cakes
Wow.  These were amazing. They are best served immediately.  We thought there should be a light dip that went with it, so we whipped one together.  Recipe follows. It was hard to stop snacking on them, and they were a hit with my kids.  The original recipe calls for only 1/2 c flour, and makes thinner pancakes. We like these- a little heartier and easier to handle.,1850,142181-230206,00.html

4 large eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 c mayonnaise
1/3 c Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 c flour
1 small finely diced onion
4 c shredded zucchini
2 T fresh chopped basil
1/2 c corn
1/4 c chopped yellow pepper (for color)
salt and pepper
1-3 T each butter and salad oil

Beat eggs with a fork in a large bowl until well-blended, then beat in lemon juice, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, flour, and onion. Stir in zucchini until well-combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a 10-12 inch frying pan, heat 1 T each of butter and oil until butter melts. Drop 1 heaping T of zucchini mixture at a time into the pan, let it spread out slightly.  Cook until golden brown, and gently flip.

Basil Cilantro Yogurt Dipping Sauce
You could just serve with sour cream and chives, or you could make this.  We used leftover stuff from all our other dishes. Fantastic!

1/3 c yogurt
2-3 basil leaves, chopped
smidge of minced garlic (scraped it off the cutting board)
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 T chopped cilantro

Whisk it all together.

Wheat Berry and Barley Salad with Smoked Mozzarella
Our friend Robi made this with us. Delicious and satisfying, with lots of protein. Substitute regular mozzarella if you must, but the smoked mozzarella flavor brings it all together. You may want to cut back on the red onion a little if you have little guys.  Or consider adding more if you don't want to be bothered with having to talk to people. Whatever works for you. From

1 cup wheat berries
1 cup pearl barley
1 small red onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
6 scallions, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups cooked corn (cut from about 2 large ears)
1/2 pound smoked mozzarella cheese, diced fine
1 pint vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives

Into a kettle of salted boiling water stir wheat berries and cook at a slow boil 30 minutes. Stir in barley and cook grains at a slow boil
40 minutes
While grains are cooking, in a large bowl stir together onion, garlic paste, vinegar, and oil.
Drain grains well and add to onion mixture. Toss mixture well and cool. Add scallions, corn, mozzarella, tomatoes, chives, and salt and pepper to taste and toss well. Salad may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before serving. Serve salad with parsley salad.

Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp with Pistachio Crust
This was also Robi's contribution.  We love when she joins us.  This was extremely popular with the kids, who did not pause to hear the answer to their question, "What's rhubarb?"

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 pound rhubarb
2 cups blueberries (about 11 ounces)

For topping
1/3 cup shelled natural pistachios
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. and butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
In a bowl stir together sugar and flour. Trim rhubarb and cut enough of stalks into 1/2-inch pieces to measure 2 cups. Add rhubarb and blueberries to sugar mixture, tossing well, and spread mixture in baking dish.

Make topping: Finely chop pistachios. In a bowl whisk together flour and sugars. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes and with your fingers or a pastry blender blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add pistachios and toss well.
Squeeze a handful of topping together and coarsely crumble in chunks over filling. Squeeze and evenly crumble remaining topping over filling in same manner. Bake crisp in upper third of oven until filling is bubbling and topping is crisp and golden, about 50 minutes.

Serve crisp warm or at room temperature.

Please leave us a comment!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mango & Red Pepper BBQ Sauce, Orzo Salad with Basil, Zucchini Lasagna,and Grilled Peaches

We haven't yet put away our grills, and with so much of the country feeling the heat, this week we're back out on the grill with a cool summer orzo salad that was difficult to stop tasting before it got served. We've also got an original lasagna dish in case, like so many with home gardens, you have zukes the size of little league bats coming out of your ears. 

Grilled Chicken with Mango & Red Pepper Barbecue Sauce
We let the chicken marinate while getting everything else ready. Once dinnertime rolled around, the chicken went on the grill, adding the BBQ sauce right at the end. I served it with the orzo salad and a side of stir-fried broccoli.  I didn't have 2 lbs of chicken breasts, so I used a pork tenderloin and 1 lb. of chicken breasts.  Lesson learned:  it works great on pork too!

Easy Chicken Marinade

2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
1/2 t salt
1/2 t thyme
pepper to taste
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1/3 c oil
garlic powder

Marinate for 2-4 hours.  Grill.  If using Mango BBQ Sauce (see below), grill until 2-3 minutes from being done, and dunk the chicken pieces into the sauce, or baste if you prefer. Grill until done, and pour reserved sauce over to serve. 

Mango and Red Pepper Barbecue Sauce
We adapted this slightly from  It's simple and good, with more of a Caribbean flavor than Asian. If you have a habit of putting every other mango chunk in someone's mouth, you might want to buy an extra mango for this recipe. 

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 medium red bell pepper chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 c red wine vinegar
3 T molasses
2T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 medium mango, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 jalapeno diced, with seeds removed

Saute onions and peppers in olive oil. Add salt and cook until veggies are soft.  Stir in vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, and allspice.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for one more minute. Let cool.  Spoon into blender, add mango, and blend until smooth.  Use as topping or basting for meat, but reserve some extra sauce for dipping or drizzling before you serve.

Orzo Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing
This salad was so light, unlike a lot of summer pasta salads. The original recipe calls for feta and olives, but we adapted it to the ingredients in our fridges and really liked this version. It kept well for the next day, too.

12 oz. orzo pasta
3 T olive oil
1 c finely diced red pepper
1 c finely diced zucchini
4 green onions, chopped
2 T capers
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 c shredded parmesan cheese


3 T lemon juice, fresh squeezed if you have it, with a bit of lemon zest for extra pop
1 T white wine vinegar
1 T minced garlic
1/4 c fresh chopped basil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp ground cumin

Cook pasta according to instructions (al dente preferred) and drain. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with olive oil.  Add red pepper, zucchini, green onions, tomatoes, and capers.  Whisk together dressing ingredients, and pour over top. Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh parmesan and toasted pine nuts if you have them.

Zucchini Lasagna
At the last minute during our cooking session this week, we threw together a zucchini lasagna that was the sleeper hit of the month. Inspired by a coworker's description, and saddled with a large number of zucchini on their last legs (a few had actually started growing legs), we came up with this dish that was a complete hit. And, after making a loaf of zucchini bread as well, no wasted zukes. I had some leftover red sauce, and for convenience, used a jar of premade light alfredo sauce. You can make your own if you like. This makes enough for 2 dinners so you can freeze one for later.  As an added plus, if you are doing a low-carb thing, this has no pasta in it!

2 large zucchini, sliced as thinly as possible lengthwise
32 ounce tub of ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 c spinach, chopped
3 T fresh basil, chopped
1 small shallot, sliced (or 1/4 large onion, sliced)
1 lb. sweet italian sausage (we used turkey sausage)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c tomato sauce
1 jar alfredo sauce (15 oz)
1 1/2 cup total grated white cheese (mozzarella, havarti, gouda, parmesan)

Mix the ricotta, egg, spinach, and basil together in a medium mixing bowl. Saute the sausage with the onions and garlic until cooked. Using two 8x8 baking pans or one 9x13 baking pan, layer the zucchini along the bottom. Add the red sauce. Press the ricotta mixture into an even layer. Sprinkle the sausage mixture, then add a zucchini layer. Pour a thin layer of alfredo sauce and press another layer of ricotta mixture. Top with another layer of zucchini, the rest of the alfredo, and generous sprinkling of the white cheese blend.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes covered, then 25 minutes uncovered until cheese is golden brown.

Grilled Vanilla Almond Peaches
I know this is probably obvious. but serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Oh my.

4-6 peaches, cut into thirds
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
3 T brown sugar

Mix the vanilla, almond, and brown sugar together, and drizzle over peaches.  Toss gently if needed so they are evenly coated. Grill with cut side down until the peaches have nice grill marks. You may have to turn them a little so that both sides are evenly grilled.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Zucchini Bread
I gave Claire the zucchini that didn't make it into the lasagna, and she returned volley with this.  It didn't last long. 

3 eggs
1 c canola or vegetable oil
3 tsp vanilla
2 c sugar
2 c grated zucchini
3 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp grated orange peel

(1 c chopped walnuts optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Beat eggs until light in color. Add oil, vanilla, sugar and zucchini.  Mix well, then blend in dry ingredients.  Grease and flour 2 large loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour.  Also makes 4 mini-loaves, but reduce baking time.

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
No doubt about it.  This is a retro, women's magazine, summer classic that kids will love. Strawberry jello and Cool Whip, universal kids' treat. Mmm.  Fair warning:  if you let toddler twins self-feed this dish, it might take you over an hour to clean up the kitchen.

1 1/2 c crushed pretzels
4 T sugar
3/4 c butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

1 c white sugar
2 x 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 x 8 oz container Cool Whip
1 tsp vanilla

1 x 6 oz package strawberry flavor jello
1 c boiling water
1  c cold water
1 x16 oz package fresh cleaned, trimmed, and quartered strawberries (can substitute frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together crushed pretzels, 4 T sugar, melted butter, and vanilla.  Press firmly into 9x13 pan.  Bake for 10 min. Let cool completely. In medium-sized bowl mix, sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla.  Fold in Cool Whip.  Spread evenly over cooled crust, pressing out to the edges so you can't see any of the crust.  Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

In a bowl stir jello and boiling water together. If you are using frozen strawberries, mix them in with the jello at this point. Pour jello/strawberry mixture over cream cheese.  If you are using fresh strawberries, pour the jello mixture over the cream cheese, then layer in the strawberries. (They will sink a little.) Let set at least 4 hours or overnight.

Please leave us a comment!  We love comments!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cooking with Kids: PB Sushi Rolls, Squid Dogs, and Original Recipes

My son Michael, who is almost 9, has been trying for weeks to get on this blog.  Since Claire is busy this week, I'm putting the spotlight on three of his favorites, plus one of my daughter's original recipes.  (She is 5.) The more you let your kids join you in the kitchen, the more interested in food they will be and the less picky they will be.  At least, I think this is true. You do have to accept the mess factor, but I try to use that opportunity to teach them about how to wipe down counters.  I gently suggest that if they don't like wiping down the counters, they could consider using plates, but this often falls on deaf ears. Enjoy their recipes, and leave Chef Michael and Chef Allison a comment- they are anxious to see how you like everything!
Carrot peelings look just like pickled ginger,
but are more kid-friendly.
Peanut Butter Banana Sushi Rolls
I'm not sure where we originally saw this recipe.  I've seen it in kids' magazines, online, and in kids' cookbooks. All I know is that the last time my son complained about being hungry, I told him to make himself a PB & J.  He came up with this.  My daughter can make them by herself, too. The only hard part is watching them glop peanut butter and jelly all over the counter and the outside of the jar of peanut butter, but they have such a good time cooking that I  don't give them too hard a time.

2 slices of bread, preferably white, with the crusts trimmed (reserve the trimmed crusts!)
1 banana
peanut butter

These were Allison's sushi rolls,
no banana. She made them herself.
Roll out the bread slices with a rolling pin until they are flat. (Whole wheat bread just isn't as soft and easily flattened.)  Spread peanut butter in a stripe across one end of the bread square, with a jelly stripe right next to it. Cut the banana in half so it doesn't hang over the edge of the bread.  Lay the trimmed crusts lengthwise next to the banana.  Roll up the bread, and slice the roll into 1/2 inch pieces. Do the same with the other slice of flattened bread and the other half of the banana. Arrange on a plate.

Enthusiastic taste testers!
They call it Na-na Shi-su.
Great with Kale Chips- you can see the crumbs.
Michael's Toasted Parmesan and Corn Turkey Rolls
This is one of my son's original creations. Never underestimate how good toasted cheese is.  It crisps right up.  He garnishes it with fancy toothpicks, and guests are always impressed.  Make extra so that you have some to snack on, too.
Photo and original recipe by Michael.

2-3 slices of turkey (lunchmeat, deli thin)
3 T shredded Parmesan cheese (not the powder kind)
3 T frozen corn

Arrange the ingredients in a single layer on a small pan that can fit in in the toaster oven.  You can do this in the broiler, too, but watch it closely.  Toast until the cheese is golden brown and crisp.  Sprinkle the parmesan and corn on a slice of turkey, and roll.  Slice the rolled turkey into 1 inch strips, and fix with a fancy toothpick.  (NOT MINT!) Serve warm.

Allison's Cracker Appetizer Surprise
My daughter got wind that Michael was going to have a Cooking with Claire entry, and she wanted in on the action, so she created this.  All on her own.  I have to admit, I was skeptical at first, because really, it seemed like it was just crackers and cheese.  But, that grape surprise on top really adds something!  In addition, she made it all by herself, took all the photos herself, and was rightfully proud. And they actually are really good!
The final!
Crackers (Allison likes Breton crackers)
Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Spread
Seedless grapes (washed)

Spread the cheese on the crackers.  Place a grape on top. Serve.

I didn't realize that she had taken all of the following pictures herself when she made up the recipe, until I had downloaded my photos.  So here they are, step-by-step.

Breton Crackers.
These actually can be a little crumbly.
Consider Carr's Table Water Crackers or Wheat Thins.
Boursin cheese,
which can be difficult to spread, but is so good.
We get it in a 3-pack at Costco.
Yummy grapes,
which didn't all make it onto the crackers.

Not to be outdone by her older brother,
this is her original version and photo.
Squid Dogs and Squid Pups
We saw a picture for these in the Disney Family Fun magazine, and thought they looked great!  Here is our version. Consider serving them with baked beans a.k.a. squid eggs.

They are really easy to poke through.
1 package of hot dogs or cocktail weiners
Dry spaghetti noodles

Cut the hot dogs into sections and spear with dry spaghetti noodles.  Load them up with as many as you can. Boil the dogs until the noodles are done. Dip in ketchup, eat plain, serve with spaghetti sauce or baked beans.

Michael suggests a minimum/maximum of four noodles per dog.

Trying to decide how to make them look appealing...

Please leave Chef Michael and Chef Allison a comment!