The Sunday Recipe: Creamy Cucumber Salad

CucumberSalad

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Our garden has produced a plethora of cucumbers this year and I just can’t keep up with it, but I’m not big on pickling. Here’s one way I use them up. Traditionally the cucumbers are salted fairly heavily and pressed to sweat the juice out before being mixed with the dressing, but I just use a little salt and a short sweat then drain and toss. I prefer the cucumbers a little more on the crisp side. The thickness of the cucumbers is also a matter of personal taste. If the seeds are too big in the cucumbers, I quarter them the long way and slice out the seeds. We’ve had some pretty gnarly looking cucumbers this year that taste just fine after they are peeled. Miracle Whip also works in place of the mayonnaise just as well. This goes particularly well with spiced grilled meats, such as Spiedies or Shawarma.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium cucumbers or 2 seedless cucumbers
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • A few pinches of sea salt
  • 1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia, sliced thin. (optional)

Directions

  1. Peel the cucumbers.
  2. Seed, if desired.
  3. Slice cucumbers to desired thickness, ¼ inch or less.
  4. Layer in a bowl, sprinkling with a pinch of salt after each cucumber.
  5. Place a plate and something heavy on top. (I used the glass bowl I intended to store the cucumbers in for the weight.)
  6. Allow to sit for up to thirty minutes or just while you mix the dressing together.
  7. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl. (If you prefer a really creamy salad, you can double the dressing ingredients.)
  8. Drain the cucumbers.
  9. Stir the dressing into the cucumbers.
  10. If using the onion, stir that in too.
  11. Serve or chill until ready to serve. (A few hours to chill produces the best result.)
  12. Enjoy.

The Friday Poem: Proofs

Proofs

The Sunday Recipe: Decadent Chocolate Snack Cake

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Decadent Chocolate Snack Cake

Okay, honestly, if you do gluten free, you need to try this. I’ve made it several times since I figured it out and it is just incredible. Even if you don’t do gluten free, you’re going to love this. It is a one bowl wonder.

The zucchini is just enough to add an added element of flavor but you don’t necessarily taste it at zucchini. Some people call for shredding your zucchini and squeezing it to remove liquid but I wanted the moisture from the zucchini in this, so I recommend shredding it JUST before you add it in. Use a large whole grater and shred big.

This recipe is also reduced sugar and gluten free, but it may actually be my favorite chocolate cake of all time. It’s good warm or cold from the fridge.

I adapted this from a chocolate zucchini bread recipe I found several years ago that I wasn’t really happy with. The original recipe was dry, not very chocolaty, and just not very enjoyable. I added a third egg, increased the maple syrup and cocoa powder, eliminated squeezing the zucchini moisture out, and increased the chocolate chips, then reduced the oven temperature, and changed the type of pan it is baked in.

If you’d like the link to the original bread recipe, let me know and I’ll be happy to share it.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder (Dutch processed, if you have it.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of almond butter (no salt or sugar added, preferably)
  • 1 cup of shredded zucchini (150 grams)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray or grease a pan. (8 X 8 or 9 X 9, even a toaster oven cake tin works.)
  2. Beat the eggs with a whisk or blender.
  3. Mix in the maple syrup until well combined.
  4. Add the vanilla. (You might get away with less than a tablespoon but indulge, vanilla makes chocolate SO much better.)
  5. Blend in the cocoa powder and salt until well combined. (Go slow at first until the powder is wet down.)
  6. Drop the almond butter by spoonfuls into the batter, spaced out, then blend in. (This can clog your whisk if it is too cold, until it gets mixed in well so make sure it is room temp.)
  7. Now, shred your zucchini then stir it in immediately.
  8. Last step – Measure the baking soda and put in then pour the vinegar over it and stir in.
  9. Pour into your prepared pan.
  10. If using, sprinkle the mini chocolate chips evenly over the cake.
  11. Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out of the center clean.
  12. Enjoy!

The Friday Poem: Paper Time Machine

I pulled this one out of a paragraph I had scribbled down a few years ago. I hope you enjoy.

PaperTimeMachine

 

The Sunday Recipe: Simple Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Zucchini

Marinated and Grilled Zucchini

Once upon a time, I would have used bottled Italian dressing for this. You can still do that if the ingredients don’t bother you. Personally, most of them use soybean oil and I have a bad reaction to it so I started making the Good Seasons Italian dressing packets with olive oil. Then I cut out gluten, which helped me feel better, and found the Good Seasons has gluten in it. So, here’s my adaptation of Betty Crocker’s Italian dressing recipe to use on zucchini. I cooked and served this with a grilled chicken shawarma recipe and the flavors complimented each other nicely. (Check that recipe out at Plays Well With Butter.)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 2 pounds zucchini

Directions

  1. Mix everything but the zucchini together.
  2. Wipe clean the outside of the zucchini and cut off any questionable looking bits of skin.
  3. Cut the ends off.
  4. Cut the zucchini into ½ inch rounds.
  5. Cut small rounds in half, large rounds into quarters.
  6. Toss in a medium sized bowl with the dressing.
  7. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes at room temp. For longer periods of time, refrigerate.
  8. Skewer through the skin of the zucchini.
  9. Heat a grill to medium low, about 400 degrees if it has a temperature gauge.
  10. Grill for approximately 30 minutes, turning once. (Personally I like my zucchini browned, even a tiny bit charred.)
  11. Enjoy!

The Friday Poem: I Used to Write

IUsedToWrite

The Sunday Recipe: Blueberry Lemon Loaf

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I had an incredible yen for something blueberry and lemon last weekend, it is blueberry season after all. I went through multiple recipes online looking for something that would work with my baking requirements and found this one https://www.karenskitchenstories.com/2019/06/blueberry-lemon-ricotta-tea-cake.html from Karen’s Kitchen Stories. I proceeded to deconstruct it and figure out how to make one that would work for me.

I cut the recipe in half to start with. I wanted to be able to make it in a loaf pan instead of my big spring form cake pan. (I also only had a couple cups of blueberries and one lemon.) I figured out how much of my different flours I would use in place of wheat flour, and switched out the sugar for maple syrup. It looked like there was enough eggs and baking powder that I wouldn’t need to add more. I also traded the vanilla for lemon extract.

I got all the dry ingredients put together on Saturday night, set out the butter and maple syrup, then got up early Sunday morning to bake a loaf before the heat set in for the day. It turned out fabulous!

I’m sure it would work fine if you substituted a gluten free flour blend of your choice for the blend of flours I use, but this one is my favorite.

Blueberry Lemon Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups blueberries
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup (or 42 grams) tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup (or 42 grams) coconut flour
  • ½ cup + 1 ½ Tablespoons almond flour (or 70 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 340 degrees.
  2. Spray or grease a loaf pan.
  3. Take a square of parchment paper. (Picture below.)
    1. Fold back and crease two opposing sides so that it is as long as the loaf pan.
    2. Place it into the loaf pan and crease so that it goes down one long side, across the bottom, and up the other side. It should extend up well beyond the sides of the pan.
    3. Fold the wings down and crease.
    4. You now have a parchment cradle for lifting the bread out after it is baked.
  4. Clean the outside of the lemon and dry then peel just the zest off (the very outer yellow part) and chop up fine.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the blueberries and cornstarch. Set aside.
  6. Cream the butter and maple syrup.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  8. Mix in the ricotta cheese.
  9. Add the lemon extract and lemon zest.
  10. Combine the flours, baking powder, and salt.
  11. Mix the flour combo into the wet ingredients, stirring until combined.
  12. Gently stir in the blueberries.
  13. Pour into the greased and lined loaf pan.
  14. Bake for 80 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.
  15. Cool in the pan for about ten minutes.
  16. Lift the loaf out using the paper cradle and cool on a rack until desired temp for eating. (It’s good warm or cold.)
  17. Enjoy!
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The Friday Poem: Cryptic Notes to Myself

CrypticNotesToMyself

The Sunday Recipe(s): Making Marinades and Dressings

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Making Dressings and Marinades

When it comes to making a marinade or dressing, it’s pretty simple once you know the ratios involved. Anyone who has ever used the Good Seasons Italian dressing packets on a regular basis knows you put ¼ cup of vinegar in (white, cider, red wine, champagne – it’s all good) then add 3 tablespoons of water, pour the packet in and give it a swirl to reconstitute the spices, then add ½ cup of oil. (I use light olive oil.)

You can switch out the vinegar and put in lemon to make a pretty good lemon chicken in the slow cooker. (In fact, I put a stick of butter instead of the oil for the slow cooker.) I’ve also used it to marinate chicken for the grill. (Always marinate for three days in the fridge, for maximum flavor.)

I was trying to reduce my intake of table salt so I started experimenting with using a couple tablespoons of Tastefully Simple’s Garlic Garlic seasoning instead of the dressing packet. I put 2 tablespoons of water in a cup with the seasonings and let that reconstitute for an hour before adding ¼ cup lemon juice and ½ cup light olive oil. It turned out fantastic!

Here’s another great trick. If you have a stick blender, use that puppy to blend the marinade before putting it on the chicken, it keeps the marinade on the chicken while it’s sitting in the fridge instead of sloughing off so that it sits in a pool and you have to flip the container.

Now, if you don’t have the, somewhat expensive, Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic blend, what can you use? I found a DIY blend that is supposed to simulate Garlic Garlic here — http://www.walletwhisperer.com/garlic-garlic/

The other dressing and marinade I love to use is balsamic. The key here is getting a balsamic vinegar you really like. Basically, I’ve heard you get what you pay for when it comes to balsamic because aging is the key and the older it is, the more flavor it has. Personally, I love the fruit blended ones. We’re lucky in the Southern Tier of New York to have Crystal City Olive Oil which offers many wonderful balsamic vinegar flavors – I particularly enjoy their raspberry or cherry balsamic. It’s not cheap, but a little bit goes a long way.

To make a quick dressing for a salad, I take 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons of the balsamic in a small container, like a Tupperware midge, then fill to the first line with light olive oil, about 1 1/2 tablespoons. Add a few grinds of sea salt and half a dozen grinds of fresh black pepper. Cover and shake well. (I shake it again just before I put it on the salad.)

In larger quantities, this makes a fantastic marinade for steak. I use a thick, strong balsamic so I use 1 part balsamic vinegar to 3 parts oil. You don’t have to be perfectly exact, and you don’t need a lot to marinade a couple steaks. Again, for me, marinating for 3 days is optimum.

Go with the ratio and try some different combinations of vinegars or acidic fruit juices and butter or olive  oil, then add some herbs, based on what you like. I’m trying a Greek marinade on chicken this weekend. I’m sure it will taste fine and maybe I’ll tweak it later on.

And, I fell down a rabbit hole when I went to the Crystal City Olive Oil web site. They have recipes. You should definitely check those out, and, if you can’t find a good balsamic vinegar near you, they do offer shipping. https://crystalcityoliveoil.com/