August 20, 2018

Zucchini-Potato Latkes

4 cups finely grated Russet potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
2 small-medium zucchini, finely grated
1 small onion, grated
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil


In a large cast iron skillet or another heavy bottomed pan, heat about 1/4 inch oil.

Place the potato into a metal sieve over a large bowl. Press out any liquid. Pour out the liquid and place the potatoes in the bowl on top of the remaining starch. Use the same sieve to drain the zucchini and onion over the sink. Add to the potato. Stir in spices, and the matzo meal. Form into flat patties. If they will not hold their shape, stir in additional matzo meal until they do. Fry in hot oil, flipping halfway through, until just golden.

Drain on paper towel lined plates.

Yield: about 10 latkes, depending on size.

Note: Make sure you use the finer grater on a box grater, not the large, coarse side for best results.

My thoughts:
I had made zucchini fritters a couple of weeks ago and my husband expressed disappointment they were not more like latkes (they were batter-based) so I thought I'd remedy that and make something closer to a straight-up latke. I'm glad I did! They were super crispy, had a nice subtle zucchini flavor and made us feel like we were eating something very slightly better for us than straight up fried potatoes. I was out of sour cream so I served them with onion dip(!) and it was so good, I think I'm going to do that on purpose come Hanukkah. 

To round out the "Jewish food in the summer" theme, I served with some Alaskan sockeye salmon with "everything" seasoning on it. 

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August 16, 2018

Cocoanuts Bars


1 3/4 cups (honey or cinnamon*) graham cracker crumbs (about 8 graham crackers' worth)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup semi or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Melt butter in a small pan. Remove from heat and stir in graham cracker crumbs until thoroughly combined. Press, using the back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup into the bottom of the buttered pan taking care to reach all corners.

Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips, then the butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, coconut, and peanut over the graham cracker layer. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top, and spread with the back of a spoon or spatula until the mixture is evenly coated.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are golden brown and the bars look "set".

Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before slicing. This seems to take forever but resist the urge to cut them when they are even remotely still warm. You can refrigerate them before slicing if you are a clean lines fanatic. Store in the refrigerator or on a cool counter in an air-tight container. Freeze leftovers up to 6 months if desired.

*I like honey best but either work.

My thoughts:
Bars like these have a lot of different names. 7-Layer Bars (for those, the butter is normally melted in the baking pan while preheating and then sprinkled with the graham cracker crumbs to form the first and second layers), Magic Bars (I guess because it is a bunch of layered stuff that "magically" makes a bar cookie?) and oddly, Hello Dolly Bars after the Broadway play. I also heard "dream bars" from a reader commenting on my Instagram story when I was making them, upon googling they look like perhaps a precursor to the 7-layer bar because they require you to actually make a shortbread cookie vs. using graham crackers which also sounds really good. The recipes are all pretty similar although can vary in what kind of chips to use and when to put in the sweetened condensed milk. A lot of recipes call for it on the graham cracker layer then everything else is plopped on top but I opted to put it on last with the hope it would help the coconut brown while still holding everything together and "protecting" the chips from direct heat.

I did not grow up eating these, I think they are much more of a midwest thing, the parties I went to all had black bottoms, drop cookies and brownies (and birthday cake if applicable) not bar cookies but I've read about them so many times I felt like I've had them. I can see why they are popular, they are very simple and can be made with ingredients that most people probably have on hand or at the very least pick up easily at any store. They would be so quick to make for a last minute occasion or weeknight treat.

I took my inspiration from the classic back of the can recipe but really made it my own--a bit more graham cracker crumbs so the pan is easier to coat, a mix of butterscotch and peanut butter chips, using bittersweet chocolate chips instead of milk, honey roasted peanuts instead of walnuts and I think the most genius switch up: using unsweetened shredded coconut instead of sweetened flaked coconut. The bars are so sweet thanks to all the chips and the sweetened condensed milk, the coconut really doesn't need to be sweetened too! I'm happy too that unsweetened coconut is so much easier to find now (Harris Teater actually had a store brand version!), I remember back when I started Coconut & Lime I had to track it down at health food stores and South Asian groceries. Coconut is naturally sweet and a lot of recipes that call for sweetened are so sweet already, they don't really need extra sugar.

The result is a bar that is a solid nod to the classic but that is much more appealing to a more "adult" tastes than the super sweet ooey-gooey original. Personally, I prefer desserts that aren't described as "tooth-achingly sweet"; a descriptor I saw more than once in conjunction to the original bars but to each there own! It might be fun to take a batch of these and a batch of the originals to a party and do a taste test. These are still sweet of course but with a deeper, darker flavor than the usual.

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August 14, 2018

Oysters au Gratin

4 pieces bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 onion, small dice
1 lb "baby" spinach
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
hot sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 pint shucked oysters, drained
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used cheese bread)
1/2 cup shredded gouda


Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 1-quart baking dish. Set aside. 

In a large skillet, saute the bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease (if needed). Saute the onion until translucent. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Cook over low heat until most the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat. Stir in the bacon bits, spices, hot sauce, and oysters. Pour into the prepared baking dish. 

Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese in alternating handfuls. Bake for 20 minutes or until the oysters are just cooked and the top is browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
This recipe is a bit of an odd one. I don't know if oysters au gratin is a thing (if it's not, it should be!) but I had picked up two pints of oysters a while back. One pint I made into oyster po'boys for the second time in about two months and I didn't have any idea what to do with the second jar. Finally, I had to make them or risk spoilage so I came up with this dish. It ended up being really good! Who knew? I served it as a side but it definitely could be a main dish, it is rather filling.

It isn't as rich as it could be as I didn't add anything but spinach, a small amount of bacon and oysters in the filling--no dairy at all, and topped it with a modest amount of cheese. The result was a fresh tasty, briny dish that seemed really festive despite me whipping it up on a random weeknight on a whim.

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August 08, 2018

Summer Vegetable Pearl Couscous with Andouille


1 cup pearl couscous
1 lb turkey or regular andouille sausage, sliced into coins
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 Serrano pepper, minced
2 ears' worth of corn kernels
2 zucchini, cubed
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 tablespoon Creole seasoning
pinch celery seed
pinch cayenne

fried eggs, optional

Bring 1 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Add couscous, cover and simmer 8 minutes or until covered.

Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil in a skillet. Saute the sausage until browned. Add the onion and pepper and saute until the onion is softened. Add remaining vegetables and spices. Saute until the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat. Stir in the couscous. Serve.

Yield: 4 servings.
My thoughts:
It has been a trying few weeks here lately. Not the least which is that our porch roof leaked so we had to take care of that which was an unexpected and unwelcome surprise!

The weather has be awful, alternately very rainy or very very humid and sunny and nothing in-between. The local produce has really suffered. We've barely had one good peach, nectarine, tomato or plum. This is the only time of the year we eat any of those things of course so this is extra disappointing! I wait all year for them! The corn has been okay though and these zucchini are from my mother's garden and were quite good so I made this sort of couscous meets hash thing. Originally I didn't put an egg on it but I realized that my camera lens had fogged up when I took the initial picture so I took the picture this morning when I had some leftovers for breakfast. I think the egg added something though! The dish is very simple but flavorful thanks to the in-season produce, Creole seasoning, the Serrano pepper (mine were very spicy but feel free to add more if your's are not) and of course the andouille, one of my favorite kinds of sausage. I used turkey andouille so it was a little lighter but regular would probably be even better! It's a great meal for a hot summer night.

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July 23, 2018

Roasted Sugar Snap Peas & Tomato Salad


1 small-medium tomato, cut into wedges
1 lb sugar snap peas
3 sprigs' worth of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon (coarse) Herbs de Provence
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 oz crumbled fresh goat cheese
zest and juice of one lemon


Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil. Set aside.

Place all the peas, thyme, spices and tomato in a medium bowl and toss to evenly distribute all ingredients. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake 15 minutes or until the tomato and snap peas are just browned around the edges. Allow to cool to room temperature. Toss with lemon zest, juice, and cheese.

My thoughts:
It's sugar snap pea season again! I've found I really enjoy them briefly roasted vs raw or steamed. They seem to caramelize a bit yet stay crisp. Tomatoes are (finally!) coming into season here but they aren't always quite as great as they will be in a week or so. Roasting them really brings out the sweetness and deepens the flavor. I added some lemon, soft goat cheese and Herbs de Provence for a faint French flair that I think complemented them very nicely. A super easy, flavor-packed side dish for summer.

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July 20, 2018

American Taco Pie


3/4 lb 93% lean ground beef*
1 1/2-2 tablespoons taco seasoning*
1/2 onion, chopped*
15 oz canned diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup shredded quesadilla cheese
1/4 cup grated cotija cheese

Heat oven to 400. Grease 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.

Cook ground beef and onion in large skillet, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces until beef is cooked through. Drain off fat if needed. Stir in seasoning mix and canned tomatoes.

Spoon into the prepared pie plate and smooth to cover the entire bottom of the pie plate.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, baking power, milk and canola oil until smooth. Pour over the beef mixture.

Bake about 25-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Sprinkle with cheese.

Return to the oven and bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes prior to serving.

*I actually just used leftover, cooked and seasoned taco meat vs making it fresh. Either works!

My thoughts:
Last year I was into making international-fusion taco recipes for some reason. I made Takoraisu (Okinawan Taco Rice) and Tacopaj (Swedish taco pie), both of which combine American style ground beef tacos with their own traditional cuisine. Somehow, I never made the very American version of this, Impossible Taco Pie, a popular '70s era Betty Crocker recipe using Bisquick. Basically. it's "impossible" because you creates the crust by just pouring it over the meat and it "magically" forms a cohesive, sliceable pie.

It's a little silly but it's fun. I don't keep Bisquick on hand so I made my own batter and jazzed the filling up with some spicy tomatoes and some quesadilla and cotija cheese instead of the cheddar normally used in the pie. The result is an interesting mashup of tacos and almost quiche if quiche wasn't quite so eggy. It's easy to make, very flavorful and a neat change for a weekday dinner.

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July 17, 2018

S'mores Marble Cake


for the cake:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup (2 crackers, smashed) graham cracker crumbs, divided use
pinch salt
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1/4 cup hot water

for the glaze:

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



for the cake:

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a standard (9x5) loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter, vanilla, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Add it to the egg mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with milk. Pour roughly 1/3 of the batter into a second bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the hot water and cocoa until smooth. Whisk into the smaller bowl of batter until fully incorporated. Set aside.

Stir half of the graham cracker crumbs into the vanilla batter. Spoon the batter into the pan, alternating spoonfuls (forming a sort of checkerboard pattern) until both batters are gone. Run a thin knife through it to marbelize once or twice.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick or thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

to decorate:

Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle over cake. Top with remaining graham cracker crumbs and mini marshmallows.

My thoughts:
We've been watching the Great British Bake-off lately. What's airing here in the US right now is about 6 years old so that's a bit odd but luckily it is not a show that depends on fads. PBS has the "new" episodes but Netflix has what they call the GBBO Masterclass which just has Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry making versions of what were challenges for the contestants. It's a little odd (they flash to the competition occasionally but it isn't really worked into the baking "class" very much) and I wonder if maybe it was a web-only special? Anyway, all of this watching baking has made us really want cake!

The problem is that we are only a family of two so making a huge cake is tricky--there is no way the two of us can finish it! A few years ago I made a few loaf cakes and they are a pretty good solution. Much less final product for us to eat or have to giveaway. They seem to be popular with afternoon tea in England as well. I can see why you get a good number of servings out of it (about 8 slices) but they are modest slices and not quite as overwhelming as a whole bundt or layer cake.

For some reason, I've been obsessed with s'mores this summer so I thought I'd put a twist on an old favorite, the marble cake and s'mores-ify it . I added graham crackers to the vanilla batter to give it that distinctive flavor and sprinkled more onto the top of a chocolate glaze. Mini marshmallows complete the look. It really is a show stopper if I do say myself! Very tasty, good chocolate and graham cracker flavor throughout, fairly simple to make yet very impressive and fun to look at.

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