Cooking

Hot or Cold Creamy Zucchini Soup

Creamy Zucchini Soup

You can never have enough recipes for zucchini. If you have ever planted zucchini, you know what I mean. 

This is a recipe I’ve had for ages, but had not made in awhile. I forgot how much I liked it. It tastes really good. As an added bonus, it can be served hot or cold.

I leave the skins on my zucchini, I like the way the little green flecks look in the soup, but you can peel, if you prefer. You can also use a combo of green and yellow summer squash.

Here is the recipe.

Creamy Zucchini Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
2 T. butter
4-6 medium zucchini, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 T. chopped parsley
½ t. each basil, marjoram and thyme
1 t. hot sauce, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
6 c. chicken or veggie broth
1 c. milk or half and half- I prefer the half and half

In Dutch oven cook onions in butter until tender. Add vegetables and seasonings and cook until hot. Add broth, heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Puree mixture in blender in batches and return to pot. Add milk and heat through. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot or cold. I topped mine with some fresh chopped parsley and a little hot sauce. Serves 6-8.

Vanilla Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting

Vanilla Cupcake with White Chocolate Frosting

Today is another camp day- and a day of making cupcakes with kids. I am really looking forward to it. The kids always have a great time and get very creative.

I must admit to being a sucker for the classics. This cupcake is certainly a classic.

I normally top them with a vanilla buttercream, but decided to make a white chocolate frosting instead. Yes, I know white “chocolate” is not really chocolate. But when I say white chocolate, everyone knows what I am talking about.

I used a white chocolate bar- and broke it into pieces, before melting, but you could you use white chocolate chips instead. The frosting has a really nice flavor and fluffy texture, without being too sweet. These cupcakes are always a hit.

Classic White (Vanilla)  Cupcakes

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12paper liners. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they springs back to the touch. Makes12

White Chocolate Frosting

6 oz. white chocolate – if using bars, chop before melting
1 stick (4 oz.) cold butter, cut into cubes
1-2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla

Melt chocolate. I just melt mine in a microwave safe dish, but you can use a double boiler. Let chocolate cool down a little. Beat butter into the melted chocolate. Beat until smooth and then beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Whip until frosting is smooth and fluffy. I normally beat for 5 minutes or longer. If too thick, add a few drops of water or milk.

“Pizza” Zucchini

Pizza Zucchini

I started making this dish out of necessity. I was fresh out of college and never seemed to have much money. I did have a big garden, though. It was August and the garden was full of zucchini, tomatoes and peppers. I had to find a tasty way to combine them. Pizza Zucchini was born.

The name is a little misleading. It isn’t really a pizza at all. Rather, it is a saute of several veggies, seasoned with pizza seasoning. I top it off with cheese, and often serve it over pasta or rice or stuffed in a pita bread. Last night, I served it on a whole wheat tortilla, so it did sort of have a pizza feel to it.

Not much work, this dish packs a lot of flavor. Plus, you can use all sorts of other veggies, depending on what you have around. So if you have a few extra zucchini laying around, this is a fun and tasty way to enjoy them. You might even get your family to eat more veggies.

“Pizza” Zucchini

1 T. oil
½ c. chopped onion
1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
1 c. sliced mushrooms, optional
3-4 c. sliced zucchini or other summer squash, trimmed and sliced
3 c. diced fresh tomatoes, or use canned or 1 c. tomato sauce
1-2 t. pizza seasoning, or to taste*
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese

Sauté onion in oil until tender add pepper and mushrooms and sauté 2 minutes more. Add squash and cook until tender. Add tomatoes or sauce, seasonings and salt, if desired. Heat through, turn down heat and add cheese. Cover and allow to cook on low until cheese melts. Serve as is, over rice or pasta or in pita bread. Serves 3-4.

*Pizza Seasoning

3 T. dried basil
2 T. dried oregano
1-T. red pepper flakes
1 T. dried minced onion
1-T. fennel seeds
1 t. garlic powder

Combine all ingredients and store in a cool, dark, dry place.
To use: Add 1-2 teaspoons per cup of tomato sauce to make pizza sauce. Also good sprinkled on bagels with sauce and cheese or added to any tomato or pepper dish.

Pizza Zucchini in the skillet

Gluten Free Zucchini Brownies

Gluten-Free Zucchini Brownies

These brownies are everything you want in a brownie. Sweet, moist and very tender. The fact they are also flour and gluten-free is a nice bonus for those who can’t have gluten.

You might think, when you read the ingredients, that I left something out. I didn’t. They baked up beautifully and had a wonderful texture.

I made them for a dinner with friends and everyone liked them, a lot.  I think the next time I make them, I might also add some chopped nuts.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Brownies

1½ c. shredded zucchini
1 c. almond butter- but you could use peanut butter instead
1 c. chocolate chips
1/3 c. honey – but you can use 1/2 cup if you want a sweeter brownie
¼ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. allspice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 inch pan, set aside. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until well blended. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool before cutting. Makes 16.

Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Cupcake

It’s that time of year. Zucchini time. Maybe I should call it, “What do I do with all my zucchini time?” Zucchini and other summer squash are in abundance right now. This recipe is another, tasty way, to use them.

These are wonderfully spiced, moist cupcakes. Instead of frosting them, I decided to top them with melted butter and cinnamon sugar.  It’s something I’ve done with muffins, in the past. I didn’t see why I couldn’t do the same thing with cupcakes.

It was a really good idea. The cupcakes were baked to take to a cookout, and in the heat, frosting would have melted. Besides, not everyone likes frosting.

As an added bonus- it is a another recipe using zucchini, and that is never a bad thing.

Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
¼ c. unsweetened cocoa
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup olive oil
1½ c. sugar
2 eggs
½ c. buttermilk
1½ t. vanilla
2½ c. grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
Topping:
½ c. butter, melted
½ c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 24 muffin cups or use paper liners. Mix together the dry ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, olive oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture, just until incorporated. Stir in the grated zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in pans over a wire rack for at least 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Dip top of cupcakes in melted butter, then dip in the cinnamon sugar. Place on rack to finish cooling off. Makes 24.

Giant Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Let me be clear. The bread is normal size- the zucchini are giant. Even the most diligent of gardeners will have a few zucchini get away from them.

Zucchini seem to go from too small to gigantic in the blink of an eye. A friend just brought me a bag of really big zucchini.

This time of year I get a lot of questions about overgrown zucchini.  People seem to think there is nothing you can do with them. That’s not true. Even older squash can be eaten in all sorts of ways.

You can determine if the skin is too tough to eat by trying to pierce it with a fingernail. If you can easily poke the skin- it is tender enough to eat. If it isn’t, just peel before using.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and look at the seed cavity. If the middle looks spongy, hollow or if the seeds are developing scoop out the middle and discard. The remaining zucchini can be cubed or sliced and added to stews, soups, stir fries and all sorts of dishes.

One of my favorite things to make with the bigger zucchini, is zucchini bread. I shred up a whole zucchini and portion it out in amounts I will need for my bread. I freeze what I won’t be using that day. It is really nice in the dead of winter to be able to make zucchini bread. Here is the recipe I use. It is a favorite and makes 2 loaves, which is a bonus.

Zucchini Bread

3 c. flour

3 eggs

2 c. sugar, I use less

2 c. shredded zucchini

1 c. oil

1 c. chopped nuts or raisins, optional

½ c. sour cream or Greek yogurt

1 t. each vanilla, cinnamon, salt and baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 (9×5 inch) loaf pans. Set aside. Place flour in large bowl. Beat eggs and add with remaining ingredients to flour, mixing well and scraping bowl. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 1 hour , or until browned and toothpick in center emerges clean. Cool in pans on wire rack. Freezes well. Makes 2 .

Raspberry Liqueur

Raspberry Liqueur

I make a lot of different liqueurs. Raspberry liqueur is probably one of my favorites. It reminds me of a warm summer afternoon.

I love raspberries. My parents had a row of raspberry bushes at the back of the yard, so I grew up enjoying them fresh. I preserve raspberries to enjoy all year long.  I freeze berries, make jams and jellies and dehydrate some.

I also enjoy  using some to make homemade raspberry liqueur. You just start with alcohol – I  most often use vodka – then you add raspberries. I sweeten it later on, but you can leave it unsweetened, if you prefer.

Its beautiful color and great flavor make it nice for sipping, or used in mixed drinks. Think of it as just another food preservation method. Here is the recipe, in case you want to make it. Makes a great gift, too.

You can use fresh or frozen berries.

Homemade Raspberry Liqueur

1 lb. raspberries*
3 c. vodka, you could use brandy
1 ¼ c. sugar
Combine fruit and vodka and let stand 2 -4 weeks. Stir in sugar and age 3 months. Strain and filter. Makes 3-4 cups.

*You can use frozen berries, too.

Fresh Blackberry Scones

Fresh Blackberry Scones

I was recently given some beautiful blackberries. I decided to make scones with some of them. Warm from the oven, with a cup of coffee or tea, these are hard to beat.

The secret for tender scones is not to over work the dough. The dough for these scones is scooped onto a baking sheet, rather than being rolled and cut out. Stir  until ingredients are just combined. Plus, you don’t want to mash the berries. This recipe could not be any easier to make. The dough can be prepped in the time it takes to preheat the oven.

While scones are traditionally served for breakfast or brunch, I often use them as a dessert. These scones make a great shortcake.

For shortcakes, just split scones add fill with some seasonal fruit, sweetened, if you like. Top with ice cream or whipped cream. Easy dessert and perfect end to a summer dinner.

Here is the recipe for the scones.

Fresh Blackberry Scones

 2 c. flour

1/3 c. sugar

1 T. baking powder

¾ t.  salt

6 T. chilled butter

2 c. blackberries, fresh preferred, but you could use frozen

1 t. orange zest

2 large eggs

1/3 c. heavy cream or half and half

Mix dry ingredients together in bowl and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Toss in berries and zest. Beat together eggs and cream and stir into flour mixture. Mix very gently to avoid bruising berries. Use 1/2 cup ice cream scoop to scoop batter onto a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a little extra sugar, if you like. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 22-24 minutes. Makes 10-12.

Streusel Peach Muffins

Streusel Peach Muffins

I can’t get enough of peaches these days. I have been eating them fresh, making preserves, freezing peaches and cooking with them. This recipe is one of my favorites.

I hadn’t made them in a long time, so I decided today was the day. Now I remember why I liked them so much. Perfect crumbly texture, not too sweet, and that streusel topping.

They can be for more than breakfast, too. Split, topped with sweetened fruit and ice cream, these muffins make a great “shortcake” dessert.

While they are really great warm from the oven, these muffins are still fine the next day, or even the day after that, assuming they last that long. They freeze, well, too.

Streusel Peach Muffins

Streusel topping:
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
½ t. nutmeg
4 T. cold butter

Batter:
2 c. flour
½ c. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
½ t. salt
½ c. cold butter- 1 stick
2 eggs
¾ c. half and half or buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
1 c. finely chopped fresh peaches, about 1 large
½ c. finely chopped pecans, optional

Heat oven to 375. Line 15 muffin tins with paper liners or grease them. Set aside. Make streusel by mixing together flour, sugar and nutmeg in a small bowl. Use your fingers, or a pastry blender, to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. Make batter: In medium bowl combine flour with sugars and other dry ingredients. Mix well. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In small bowl beat eggs and add half and half and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture and fold in until just mixed. Mixture will look lumpy. Fold in peaches and nuts, if using. Scoop batter into prepared tins, filling about ¾ full. I get more than 12 from this recipe- normally about15, but it depends on how full you fill them. Sprinkle the tops with streusel. Place muffin tins on a baking sheet and bake for 20 or until golden brown. Cool a little before serving, if you can wait.

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

Tomatoes are in season and I am loving it.  I have been enjoying tomato sandwiches, tomato salad and fresh tomato sauce.

This is a great recipe for some of those tomatoes. A simple soup, with lots of flavor, it is a favorite of mine. So much better than the canned tomato soup of my childhood.

I enjoy it served hot, but this soup can also be served cold. On a  hot day, this soup, served chilled, is a wonderful change from a salad with dinner.

I prefer to use fresh tomatoes, but I have used my home canned tomatoes, in a pinch.

If you want a stronger tomato flavor- use a couple extra tomatoes.

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes

1 small onion, chopped fine

1 rib celery, chopped fine

3 whole cloves

1 small bay leaf

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

1 t. salt

3 c. milk or half and half

Peel and chop tomatoes. Place tomatoes in saucepan with onion, celery, cloves and bay leaf. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and cover, simmering 15 minutes. Melt butter in a large saucepan then stir in flour and salt. Cook mixture until bubbly. Add milk and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Puree tomato mixture through a strainer, food mill or in a blender or processor. Add to milk mixture and heat through. Serves 6.