Chocolate Zucchini Sheet Cake

 

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Lots of zucchini + 2 upcoming pitch-ins = a need for this sort of yumminess

I have a serious problem with using other people–often people I don’t even know–as my guinea pigs for new recipes.  This weekend is no exception.

I have two pitch-ins this weekend (one last night and one today).  When deciding what to make, I wanted something that would travel well, something that used summer squash and something that utilized on-hand ingredients.  Voila!  I made two of these cakes, which I had never made before.  Such a risk-taker!

The bad news is that the batter for this cake really filled my jellyroll pan.  So, when I put on the icing, there was some drippage.  My recommendation to you is to either cut back by one egg or ice to within half an inch of the edge of the cake with the understanding that the warm cake will naturally move it closer to the edge.  Or, be like me and let it drip!

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The good news is that nary a crumb remained from last night’s first round of guinea pigs.  Let’s hope round 2 is equally successful today!

2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
3 eggs (or 2 eggs to reduce the amount of batter a bit)
2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 c. grated fresh zucchini (or any summer squash)
2 t. vanilla

Frosting
1/2 c. softened butter
1/4 c. cocoa powder
6 T. evaporated milk or half-and-half
1 lb. (4 cups) powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla

In large bowl, combine sugar and oil.  Cream in eggs, one at a time.

Combine dry ingredients.

Gradually add dry ingredients, alternately with milk, to creamed mixture.  Stir in grated squash and vanilla.

Pour into greased jellyroll pan (15x10x1).  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until cake is done.

While cake is baking, combine all ingredients for frosting; mixing until smooth.  Spread frosting on cake while still hot.

Cool on rack.

 

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Garlic-Herb Breadsticks

Since our kids were little, we have reserved Sunday evenings as Family Nights.  We rotate through the family, taking turns choosing our activity for the night.  We have made some worthwhile memories with this tradition, and I am so thankful my husband had the foresight to put it on our calendars.

Last night was my turn to choose an activity.  The weather made my first choice a not-so-great option, so I chose Scrabble, a new breadsticks recipe and an old Ingrid Bergman/Yul Brynner film, “Anastasia”.  See, I wanted to watch an old movie, but not all of my family loves old movies like I do.  Plus, I had never seen “Anastasia”, so I didn’t even know if it was worth watching.  I basically added the breadsticks to soften up my crew with food.  It mostly worked.

These are a quick yeast bread breadstick, so don’t expect the soft yeasty-ness of Olive Garden.  They are yeasty on the inside and kind of crunchy on the outside.  Even though the recipe I used calls to make 12 breadsticks, we made 10 since there are five in our family.  We each shaped two sticks and dressed two sticks according to our preference.

These guys would be tasty with soup or with a good ol’ summer garden supper…or as a snacky bribe on your next Family Night!

1 t. active dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter, softened
Topping Options:  More butter for brushing on top, salt, minced garlic or garlic powder, herbs

Combine yeast and water and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add sugar and salt and stir until dissolved.

Add flour, olive oil and butter, mixing until dough forms in a ball.

Dump dough onto flour surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil.

Divide dough into 10-12 pieces.  Roll each piece into 12-16″ rope, rolling them in the oil to coat before setting them on baking sheet.  Cover pans with towel and let rise 45-60 minutes.

Preheat over to 400.  Brush melted butter over breadsticks and top according to preference.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

 

Dilly Beans

Dilly Beans are basically a pickled green bean.  I prefer to pickle the young, tender beans from the plants’ first harvest because the beans are nice and straight, making them an easier fit for my pint jars.  (Subsequent harvests tend to have beans that curl more.)  I usually leave the ends on my beans before pickling, which makes a nice little “handle” for pulling them from the jars when they’re ready to eat.

I would think that any dill pickle recipe could be used with green beans, but this is the one I typically use for mine.  When I have access, I will also add half of a seeded jalapeno to my jars.

2 pounds (ish) green beans, washed well
1/4 c. salt
2 1/2 c. vinegar (white or apple cider)
2 1/2 c. water
4-8 cloves peeled garlic
4 heads dill

Combine salt, vinegar and water in large pot; bring to a boil.

Pack beans lengthwise into hot, clean pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.

Add 1-2 cloves garlic and 1 head dill to each jar.

Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust lids and bands.

Process pints for 10 minutes in hot water bath.

Makes 4 pints.

As you can see, I have pickled all manner of veggies when I have them available. I especially enjoyed these pickled carrot sticks!

 

Zucchini Pinwheels

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Zucchini pinwheels may not be pretty, but they sure are yummy!

The yearly avalanche of zucchini is in the near future at our place.  Right now, we’re getting about one every other day, but we will soon be finding six or eight every time we walk by the garden!

So, to battle Zucchini Boredom, I am always on the lookout for new recipes.  Plus, variety is the spice of life…right?

4 zucchini (6-7 inches in length), sliced lengthwise as thinly as possible
salt & pepper to taste
1 bar cream cheese, softened
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
a smattering of your favorite herbs, fresh or dried
oil for brushing on zucchini
toothpicks (if desired)

Brush zucchini with oil, then sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Grill or roast until very soft (but not falling apart).

Put cooked zucchini slices on towel so that moisture is absorbed while zucchini cools completely.

Combine cream cheese, garlic and herbs.  Spread along length of one side of each zucchini slice.  Roll into pinwheel and secure with a toothpick.  Or, if you’d like to skip the toothpicks, just pop them into your mouth as soon as they’re rolled (like my friend, Sarah, and I did last night).

 

Chili-Glazed Green Beans

I recently tried this tasty recipe on a group of women in my house.  By the time my husband got home to give ’em a taste test, there was not a bean left in the skillet.  So, I made them for my family this week, and they were a hit.

I found the recipe in The Happy Cook by Daphne Oz.  I’ve adapted it for our family, and I am listing the recipe as I made it.

1 T. Asian chili sauce
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. honey
1 T. grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs. green beans, ends trimmed
1 T. sesame oil
1/2 c. roasted, salted peanuts

In small bowl, combine chili sauce, soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic.

Bring medium saucepan of water to boil and blanch beans 4-8 minutes, depending on how soft you like them.  Remove beans and put in ice water bath to stop cooking.

Heat large skillet over high heat for 2 minutes.  Add oil, heating until it shimmers, then add beans.  Cook on high, shaking the pan often, until the beans begin to color and blister (about 3-5 minutes).

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The blistering and coloring will give the beans added flavor.

Add sauce mixture to the skillet and toss beans to coat.  Cook for about a minute, then transfer to serving dish.  Top with peanuts and serve hot.  (I served them from the skillet for my informal gathering, and we discovered that they’re quite tasty even when not piping hot.)

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Several weeks ago, it came to my attention that my children had never had a tuna-noodle casserole.  I don’t know that I’d ever made one, and I don’t remember that my mom did, but I had certainly eaten them at friends’ houses when I was little.  It seems as though they were even part of school menus in my early years of public education.

I remember that tuna noodle casseroles definitely made it on the menu of my babysitter, Jana.  I don’t know how old I was when she kept me–maybe three or four years of age–but I remember that she would sometimes begin her supper preparation before my mom came to pick me up.  I would watch her make a tuna noodle casserole for her family, even volunteering to help crunch up the potato chips for the topping.  She would set the casserole on the table to await its turn in the oven…and I would watch for my opportunity.  Potato chips were a rare treat in my house, so as soon as Jana’s back was turned, I pinched some of those salty crumbs clean off the top of that unbaked casserole!  Can you imagine my nerve?!  I never gave a single thought to how disappointed her daughter, Nikki, would be to not have crunchy potato chips on the top of her portion of tuna noodle casserole!

I was a sneaky kid.  (And I loved junk food.)

Anywho, when my younger two children expressed an interest in trying out this Midwestern comfort food, I searched out a recipe.  While I made some changes to suit our family’s preferences (and my on-hand ingredients), this recipe is based on one that I found in one of my favorite freezer cooking cookbooks, “You’ve Got it Made” by Diane Phillips.  It’s a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to stock their freezer without stocking up on the usual high-sodium, preservative-laden canned soups and convenience foods.   

The recipe received 5 thumbs up at my table, even from the thumb that belongs to the daughter who does not like tuna.  Hope you enjoy it as well!

Oh, and Jana, if you ever read this, please accept my sincere apology.

6 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
a stalk or two of celery, chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 c. milk
4 dashes hot sauce (you will not taste the spiciness, but it does add flavor)
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 6-oz. cans tuna, well-drained and flaked
2 c. frozen peas
1 c. crushed potato chips (or more, if you have a sneaky chip thief in your house)
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Melt 4 T. of the butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and celery, sauteeing until they begin to soften.

Sprinkle flour over veggies and stir until flour disappears.  Cook veggies 2 minutes, then gradually add broth and milk, scraping up any bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add the hot sauce, salt & pepper.

Coat a 9″ baking pan with butter or cooking spray.  Spread thin layer of sauce over bottom of dish.  Combine noodles with 1 1/2 c. of sauce in large bowl, stirring until well-mixed.  Stir in tuna and peas until evenly distributed.

Transfer noodle mixture to prepared pan; cover with remaining sauce.  Combine crushed potato chips and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over casserole.  Drizzle remaining 2 T. melted butter over top of chips.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to a month.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

NOTE:  If frozen, thaw completely before baking.

Italian Meat Loaves

My amazing friend, Betsy, brought these little meat loaves to us after the birth of our son.  We have made them often since then, and I always appreciate the yummy meal as well as the sweet memory of my thoughtful friend.

By the way, that son Betsy helped us celebrate is making this recipe for supper tonight.  He’s (gasp!) fourteen now and will eat more than his share of these tasty meatloaves with multiple helpings of the peas and mashed potatoes he’s making to accompany them.  I asked him if he wanted to make the loaves in heart shapes for Valentine’s Day; he declined.

2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. cracker crumbs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. finely-chopped onion
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 t. salt
1 t. Italian seasoning
2 lbs. ground beef, pork or turkey (or a combination)
1/4 c. ketchup or barbecue sauce

In large bowl, combine eggs, crumbs, milk, cheese, onion, Worcestershire, garlic, salt and Italian seasoning.  Add ground meat and mix well.

Shape into 10 mini loaves; place on rack in a shallow pan.  (A broiler pan works great!)

Drizzle ketchup or barbecue sauce over mini loaves.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-55 minutes, or until no pink remains.

These little guys freeze beautifully both before and after baking.