Monday, October 29, 2012

Cheesy Zucchini Biscuits

Cheddar Zucchini Biscuits
This weekend I had a baking spree!  One of the clear winners was these biscuits.  They remind me a little of the great cheese biscuits at Red Lobster, except of course those don't have zucchini and these are smaller.  Smaller means they last longer!  I can't taste the zucchini (maybe I should add more next time?) but I love the nice green color to keep them from looking like normal boring biscuits.  The flavor of sharp white cheddar comes through loud and clear and the texture is outstanding.

I put most of them into the freezer for future enjoyment when I am craving cheesy bready things.  This would be another easy and delicious recipe for autumn potlucks.  The original recipe was published in a magazine but I don't know which.

Cheesy Zucchini Biscuits
Makes 12-18 small biscuits

        3/4 cup shredded zucchini
        1/2 tsp salt, divided
        1 cup shredded aged cheddar cheese (sharp white cheddar is excellent)
        1/4 cup sliced green onions (optional)
        2 cups plus 1 Tbsp flour, divided
        2 tsp baking powder
        6 Tbsp butter, chilled, cut up
        1 cup milk

Heat oven to 450.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (or spray with cooking spray).
Combine zucchini and 1/4 tsp salt in small bowl; let stand 20 minutes. Place zucchini in strainer; press on zucchini to drain any liquid.
Combine zucchini, cheese, green onions and 1 Tbsp flour in medium bowl.
Whisk remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder and remaining 1/4 tsp salt in medium bowl.
With pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas.
Stir in zucchini mixture.
Stir in milk just until soft dough forms.
Drop dough by Tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet.
Bake 10-13 minutes or until light brown on top and bottom (13 minutes in my oven). Serve warm.

Make extra to wrap in plastic in the freezer, they are great re-heated.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Polenta (Northern Italian Style)

I am a food collector.  I like buying food and don't necessarily have any intention to cook it or eat it, I just like having it in the pantry.  Sometimes I fight this by picking an ingredient that has been ignored and finding a dish that I can use it in.  Today's winner: coarse corn meal from Bob's Red Mill!  After reading about things to do with corn meal, I decided on Polenta.  I have had it fried in little sticks at restaurants but it's a lot more like oatmeal or malt-o-meal if you don't fry it.  Also, super easy!

I served it sprinkled with Parmesan and paired with a basil tilapia (thanks Costco) and Moscato wine (the Barefoot winery has a great one) to round out the Italian theme.  Getting the consistency I wanted meant undercooking it a little, so it was perfect for spooning out of the pot rather than something slice-able.  Why?  Well, it tasted good and I was hungry so that usually means declaring it dinner time.

Later note: This made great leftovers!  Not everything tastes good reheated but this one does so make extra.

Northern Italian Style Polenta

5 1/2 cups water
dash of salt
1 3/4 - 2 cups coarse yellow corn meal

Pour water into large heavy pot, add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so water is just simmering. Pour the corn meal slowly in a steady slow stream, while churning the corn meal and water with the whisk to minimize lumping of corn meal. Stir with whisk a few times, then cover and cook at low temperature. Stir mixture thoroughly every few minutes for about 30 to 45 minutes or until mixture stiffens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. The polenta is ready.

Slowly invert the polenta on to a wooden or plastic serving board or large dish, shaping to resemble a cake. Using a double strand of white sewing thread begin slicing polenta into "bread slices" by cutting from one side and then from the other side. To keep polenta warm, cover with a clean, white dish towel. Serve.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pad Thai

It is a new and different experience cooking something when you don't know the end result.  I'm not talking about "will this recipe be good" results.  I had never tried Pad Thai or any non-curry Thai dish and would not recognize it other than knowing not to eat it (I have allergy issues).  What is it supposed to look like?  What is it supposed to taste like?  The strangest part was that at the end, I didn't know if it had come out well or not.  Most things you know when they are right.  Does it look like a cookie and taste good?  Success!  Does it look like something you've never seen and taste like nothing you have ever tasted?  Yes, but are those good qualities?

Thankfully my husband, whose birthday the Pad Thai was for, declared it great with a few minor recipe tweaks.  I made it without lime juice so that I could eat it too and was pleased to not be allergic to any of the other ingredients.  I've been avoiding limes for so long that I forgot what they smelled like.  Of course that is one of the best parts, so I've read, so I made sure to have a fresh one on hand so my husband could drench his in lime juice and beam with pleasure. I also learned a trick to enjoying it *almost* the way it should be: smell is very closely related to taste, so I can smell the fresh cut lime wedges and take a bite of Pad Thai, which is darn close to drenching it in lime juice and won't kill me.  Hooray!

The original recipe came from

Pad Thai
Makes 6 servings

16 oz rice noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tablespoon crushed red pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces*
1/4 cup safflower oil (or vegetable or sesame)
4 eggs
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons white sugar
2 tsp peanut butter
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup grated carrots and/or bean sprouts
1/4 cup crushed peanuts or cashews (for serving)
2 green onions, chopped (for serving)
1 lime (for serving)

NOTE about the chicken: To use frozen chicken, cook it part-way until it's soft enough to cut to bite-size.  Cut up then use in the recipe as called for.

1. Make Noodles: Follow the instructions on the package of noodles for cooking. Finish cooking noodles before starting on the chicken. Rinse noodles well under cold water to prevent sticking together.

2. Make sauce: Mix together in a small bowl: vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, peanut butter, and paprika.
3. Cook chicken: Heat olive oil in a wok or large heavy skillet. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and chicken; saute chicken until browned. Remove from wok and set aside.
4. Heat safflower oil in wok over medium-high heat. Crack eggs into hot oil, stirring to break the yolks and half-scramble, and cook until firm. Stir in chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Add cooked noodles and sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add carrots and mix for 3 minutes until they are warm; do not over-mix or the noodles break into little pieces.
5. Sprinkle crushed nuts and chopped green onions over the top and serve with a lime wedge.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October Chicken Soup and Stock

One autumn in Portland, I discovered a magic place.  I was taking a tax preparation class and needed a good place to study, and happened upon a little deli/restaurant downtown that played soft jazz music, had beautiful wooden tables, and made the best soup.  I never got around to trying the sandwiches, they looked great but I couldn't bear to trade the soup for anything else.  The combination of squash, cabbage, and turmeric stayed in my mind and I am pleased with my best duplication of it.  This brings to mind the dark stormy afternoons of bright wet yellow leaves, and of running in the rain with my books under my bright red raincoat, with the pleasing soft jingle of the bell on the door and reading the entire chalkboard menu before ordering my favorite soup. 

October Chicken Zucchini Soup
I am still enjoying the bounty of October vegetables and being sick this weekend (again! ugh!) was a perfect time for chicken soup. Using a pre-cooked game hen from the grocery store not only saves a ton of time, it makes a pot of chicken stock for future use.  If you make anything with veggies at other times, save the discards (peels, ends, etc) in a zip-lock bag in the freezer and throw them into the stock pot.  The more veggies, the better!  Onion peels are my favorite because they give the broth that nice brown color. 

October Chicken Soup

*NOTE: Save all of the cuttings from the veggies for making stock!
1 Pre-cooked cornish game hen
4 cups chicken broth
1-2 yellow crookneck squash and/or zucchini, cut in half-slices
5 small white potatoes, cut to bite-size
3 handfuls of baby carrots, cut to bite-size (in thirds is a good size)
3 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, washed
1 round slice of cabbage, broken into large bite-size pieces
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt & pepper to taste
Additional water to cover ingredients

Strip the meat off the chicken bones and break or cut meat into bite-sized pieces.  Add meat, broth, all veggies, and bay leaf to large soup pot.  Add enough water to cover the ingredients and stir carefully.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until all veggies are cooked.  Add turmeric and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with a big chunk of crusty bread. 

Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock

1 poultry carcass, all good meat removed (obviously leave this out to make vegetable stock)
Veggie discards: This includes onion peel, garlic peel, ends of zucchini or carrots, stems from broccoli or kale, etc.  The more the merrier, this is all flavor! 
Enough water to cover everything, and as much as you want to make into broth
** Ingredient note: Don't use potatoes.

Put everything into a large soup pot and cook on low to medium for several hours.  Do not add seasoning other than what may have been on the poultry skin.  Refrigerate or freeze until needed.
This can be used to make future chicken soup or anything else that calls for chicken stock - pumpkin soup, pot pies, risotto, etc.

(Photo by me)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Autumn Risotto with Kale and Acorn Squash

Autumn in Utah is too short.  The leaves start to change, the weather cools down, and before you know it there is snow on the ground, so I have to get to celebrating it as soon as I can tell the seasons are changing.  The farmers markets are going strong and are full of beautiful colors and a wide variety of late-summer veggies.  Kale and acorn squash are a great combination of colors and textures.  Autumn is the perfect time to eat them, when they are both fresh and locally available.  Everything tastes better straight from a farm!

Don't be intimidated by the fancy-sounding name of risotto, it's far easier than it sounds.  This recipe is adapted from one I found on   I used a dry sake for the white wine and the flavors combined beautifully.  I only used half of the squash since it I was rushing off to a potluck and forgot to allow it time to cool from the oven.  Half seemed good but one can always use more squash.  This is best fresh and hot and also made delicious leftovers. I paired it with an apple cobbler to continue the autumn fruit/veggies theme. 

The original recipe did not call for pre-cooking the squash but I don't think it would be fully cooked otherwise, although my biggest reason for making that change is that squash are hard to cut in half let alone into bite-sized pieces while raw.  Baking it first makes this far easier (in fact I did it using a spoon).  Swiss chard would be another great winter greens option. 

Later edit: Banana squash works very well in this dish too!  I have added the variation below.

Autumn Risotto with Kale and Acorn Squash
4-6 servings


1 acorn squash or about 1/4 lb banana squash
4 1/2-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup minced onion
2 -3 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
3 cups stemmed and chopped kale, packed (about 1/2 pound before stemming)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt & fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (for serving)

1. Heat the oven to 350.  Cut the acorn squash in half  (do NOT remove the seeds, they help retain moisture) and place cut-side-down on a foil-covered baking sheet.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until almost cooked.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, remove seeds/pulp, and cut the orange flesh into bite-sized pieces.  Note that this is needed part-way through the risotto cooking, so prepare the squash before starting the rice.
Variation:  For banana squash, cut it open and clean out the seeds.  Bake a nice big chunk with a tablespoon of butter at 375 degrees for 40-60 minutes, until soft.  Let cool and slice into butter-pat sized pieces.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.
3. In a large wok or heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick, saute the onions in 2 tsp oil for about 5 minutes, until softened but not browned.  Add more oil if needed to prevent sticking. 
4. Add the rice in small portions, stirring until it is well coated with oil.  Add the wine and stir.  
5. When the wine is absorbed (it won't take long), ladle in 1/2 cup of the simmering stock at a time, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes between each addition, until the rice has absorbed the liquid.  Do this until 2 1/2 cups of the stock have been absorbed.
6.  Add the cut squash and kale and stir. 
7. Continue adding 1/2 cup of broth every few minutes, stirring often, until all of the stock has been added and absorbed and the rice is tender but firm. 
8. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat, sprinkle with parmesan, and serve immediately.