Zucchini Pizza Pie

Since our summer months are usually inundated with zucchini, I try to prepare it in a wide variety of ways.  Most of my family agreed that this recipe is a keeper.  Once the crust in established, the rest of the dish is very flexible, so it’s a great option when trying to use what you already have on-hand.

4 c. grated zucchini
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
2 c. grated mozzarella or provolone
1 c. grated cheddar
1 lb. ground beef or pork sausage or chorizo, or whatever
1 onion, chopped
2 c. marinara sauce of your choice
1 c. bell pepper, chopped (or mushrooms, black olives, more zucchini, tomatoes, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Put grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand 10 minutes, then squeeze out moisture.

Combine zucchini with eggs, Parmesan and half of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.  Press into greased 3-qt. baking dish.  Bake 20 minutes.

In large saucepan, cook ground meat and onion over medium heat until done.  Add marinara sauce.

Spoon sauce/meat mixture over baked zucchini crust.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with veggies of your choice.  Bake another 20 or so minutes, or until heated through.

NOTE:  This casserole freezes really well.

Stuffed Zucchini

About this time every year, I am looking for new ways to use zucchini.  This recipe is easy and tasty, and it uses another veggie that I have plenty of right now–Swiss chard.  If you don’t have Swiss chard, feel free to use spinach.

6 smallish zucchini, halved lengthwise
4-5 c. Swiss chard, sliced and packed
1/2 c. onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. oil
1 T. fresh basil (or 1 t. Italian seasoning blend)
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. dry bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs)
4 T. grated parmesan, divided
2 T. butter

Scoop out the pulp of the raw zucchini halves.  Chop the pulp coarsely.

Cook the Swiss chard, then drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Saute the onions and garlic in the oil until soft.  Add the spinach, zucchini pulp, herbs, salt, pepper, bread crumbs and half of the cheese.  Mix well.

Place the zucchini shells in a baking dish and stuff with spinach mixture.  Melt the butter and drizzle over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

NOTE:  These can be completely cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap or wax paper, then placed in a freezer bag for freezing.

Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes

Need a new idea for a pound of ground beef?

This is a fun, easy twist on the standard sloppy joe.  You can even make a big batch and tuck some in the freezer for another night.

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. ketchup
1 4-oz. can chopped green chilies
1/2 c. beef broth, tomato juice or even water
1/4 c. chili sauce or salsa
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin powder
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes (or a pinch of cayenne pepper)
salt & pepper to taste

Brown ground beef with onion until meat is cooked through.

Add remaining ingredients; allow to simmer 15 minutes or so.

Easy Tomato Soup

Grilled cheese sounds good to me right now.  And, when I think of grilled cheese, I sometimes think of tomato soup.  This yummy version can be made with canned tomatoes or fresh, so it’s a great recipe to have on-hand in the year-round.  I’m even thinking of making enough of this to can this summer.  Soup always tastes best to me during the winter months.

2 cans (14.5 oz. ea.) diced Italian tomatoes, undrained (or about 4 c. of diced fresh tomatoes plus some basil, oregano and garlic to taste)
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
6 T. flour
4 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
parmesan cheese

In a blender, process tomatoes until pureed; set aside.

In a large-ish saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until tender, then add garlic and cook about 60 seconds.  Remove from heat.  Stir flour in until smooth.  Return pan to heat and cook about a minute or so.

Gradually whisk in broth.  Add pureed tomatoes; bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes to allow flavors to become lovely.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top…and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

Flour Tortillas

My friend, Tisha, introduced me to this recipe several years ago.  Homemade tortillas seemed like quite a hassle at the time, but once we made them, we were hooked.  Instead of just being the vessel for the “real food” in a taco, the tortillas become center stage to whatever other tasty ingredients you add.  I find myself especially hungry for these when we have ripe, flavorful heirloom tomatoes in our garden.  Mmmm!

When we make tortillas, we make a huge batch to last for at least three meals.  We eat the first round fresh that day and put the rest in the freezer for later.

These tortillas are best served warm, so take the time to heat them before proceeding with your tacos.  They are also really yummy when brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 t. oil
3/4 c. warm milk

Mix the first four ingredients until well-blended.  Slowly add warm milk.

Stir until a loose, sticky ball forms.

Knead for two minutes on a floured surface until dough is firm and soft.  (You can do this part in your KitchenAid, if you have one.)

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover for 20 minutes.

Divide dough into 8 equal parts and roll each part into a ball.  Cover and let rest 10 more minutes.

After dough has rested, pat out each ball into a 4″ circle and roll out until 6-8″ in diameter. (Keep tortillas covered until ready to cook, because they dry out quickly.)

In DRY skillet (as in, without oil), cook tortillas on high 20-30 seconds per side.  The tortilla will begin to puff a bit when it’s done.  Keep cooked tortillas covered until ready to eat.

Use as you would any other tortillas.  Store in fridge, tightly wrapped, until ready to eat.

Cheesy Chicken Bundles

I simply must share this recipe with you.  I found it while looking through some recipes, and it piqued my interest.  I had been searching for a new non-casserole, non-soup freezer meal that could be adapted for my power cooking classes.  I gave this a whirl, and it was an instant success.  Once we tried, it I realized that I had made it years ago and wrote it off because it was a hassle.  Obviously, my definition of “hassle” has changed considerably.  Plus, I now know that making a double batch yields twice as much for only one mess.

Anyway, I tweaked a couple of things, and it has worked beautifully for both my power cooking classes and my family.  I rarely buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but I confess that I’ve been buying them monthly in order to put these on the menu.  Boneless, skinless chicken thighs would also work nicely.  I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine.

1 c. bread crumbs
½ c. cheese, grated (Swiss is my fave.)
½ c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 ½ t. seasoned salt
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ c. butter, melted

Slice chicken breasts in half lengthwise as though you were going to butterfly them.  The goal is to have a thinner piece of meat with which to work.

Combine bread crumbs, cheeses and seasoned salt in bowl.  Melt butter in separate bowl.

Dip chicken pieces in melted butter, then in cheese-crumb mixture.Tuck sides of chicken under to form individual bundles.

To freeze, wrap each bundle in plastic wrap and then place in freezer bag.

To serve, make sure chicken pieces are thawed.  Place bundles in large, shallow baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until topping is crispy and chicken is done.

NOTE:  If you use smaller pieces of chicken, you will have less baking time than if you use larger pieces.  If you think your pieces look smallish, start with a baking time of 25 minutes; you can always add more if needed.

Zesty Chicken

This creamy recipe is a super easy freezer meal option.  When you find chicken breasts at  a good price, buy enough for three or four of these meals, along with the remaining ingredients and you can have supper ready to cook and spares for yourself and a friend in less than 20 minutes.

If you’re steering clear of canned cream soups, you can easily make your own version for not much more time.  There are lots of recipes available online.

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pkg. cream cheese, cubed
1 pkt. Italian seasoning/dressing mix

Added later:  1 bag frozen broccoli, cauliflower or California medley, if desired

Add all ingredients to slow cooker, stirring to coat.

Cook on low 5-6 hours.  (Add a bag of frozen veggies last hour, if desired.)

If preferred, you can bake this in the oven, covered, at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is done.

Serve over rice or noodles.