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Cold Zucchini Soup with Buttermilk – Too Much Zucchini, part III

Cold Zucchini Buttermilk Soup title

We have a zucchini plant in our garden this year.  Just one, as we have learned from years past that zucchini quickly becomes overwhelming.  Fried zucchini blossoms are one of our favorite summer treats, and one of the most cost-effective ways to get our hands on them is to plant our own zucchini plant.

Apparently, though, there is something mysterious in our soil because that one zucchini plant has grown to monstrous proportions.  It’s the tomacco of zucchini plants – each leaf is the size of a cocktail table.
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We are diligent about seeking out the zucchini and picking them when they’re either still flowers or at a reasonable size, and we’ve been eating a lot of zucchini fritters and zucchini bread this summer.   However, occasionally one will escape our notice, hiding under a massive leaf, until one day we discover this Godzilla-zucchini, and have to figure out what to do with it.  They’re more watery and less flavorful than the little ones, and the seeds are enormous, too.

Giant Zucchini

 

Staring at these enormous zucchini this weekend, I was struck with inspiration.  What do you do with any excess vegetables?  Make soup.  But since it is July, and it is going to be 101 degrees at my house tomorrow, chilled soup is the game.

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McCormick American Homemade: Meatloaf {Sponsored Post}

Copy of SavourFareAmericanHomemade2

I live 2 minutes away from where I grew up.  This was a combination of happy chance and deliberate decision making – we knew we wanted the kind of beauty and community my hometown provided, and when we decided to buy a house, the first one we looked at happened to be here, in this neighborhood, 2 minutes away from my childhood home.    What that means is that to some extent, my children are living my childhood – playing in the same park, reading in the same library, walking the same streets.

My childhood comes back the most vividly for, me, however, when I’m in the kitchen, with my daughter (who is truly my mini-me), making dinner from my mother’s recipes.   Cooking together is a thread that  links the generations of my family.  One of our family’s favorites is meatloaf – the recipe is forgiving enough for little hands to help, and we can work together – chopping, mixing, shaping.  I let her choose the McCormick spices we add (within reason), and she has pride of ownership when the meal comes out of the oven, “Daddy, I MADE UP this recipe.”  The meatloaf becomes hers, as it has been mine, and my mother’s before me. When we gather outside to eat (because we are Californians, and we eat outside three quarters of the year), I hope that my children feel the strong sense of home that I felt, that brought me back here, to my home town, to my neighborhood, and to the family table. That is American Homemade to us.

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Crispy Chinese Garlic Chicken Wings

Chinese Garlic Chicken Wings

I mentioned recently that I’ve been trying to cut out starches and sugars, and it has made a huge and positive impact on my energy levels. It’s pretty easy to eat regularly – lots of salads with homemade dressing (which I make anyway), lots of tasty meats, and cheese. But what is missing when you’re trying to clean up your eating is junk food.

I think junk food is an important part of every healthy diet. Eating should be enjoyable, and you should feel like you can cut loose from time to time or you’ll pick back up on your unhealthy habits. The key for me is to find food that feels indulgent or fun without including a lot of starches and sugars and kicking my cravings back into high gear.

Chicken wings are a great alternative – they’re food you eat with your fingers, with friends, while watching football. They feel like an indulgence, like fun food, but most recipes you see are battered and deep fried, or covered with sweet and gloppy sauces. I wanted to create a recipe for wings that still seemed like fun food – something you would eat while watching the Super Bowl – but still remained fairly healthy. These soy garlic chicken wings, inspired by one of my favorite dishes at a local Chinese takeout restaurant – do the trick.

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Miso Pork Tenderloin with Apple Ginger Relish

Pork Tenderloin with Apple Ginger Relish

The holidays are over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. I love the lights and the cookies and the carols and the cocktails and the feasting as much as (or more than) anyone else, but I admit to welcoming the calm space of January, when a little austerity doesn’t go amiss. In the new year, we are all looking for food that’s a little lighter and fresher.

Lighter and fresher doesn’t have to be less flavorful, however. In the last year I’ve made a dedicated effort to cook more with fruits and vegetables, and I’ve been thrilled with the flavor and variety they’ve brought to my diet. That’s why I’m pleased to be partnering with Opal Apples and Kitchen Play to bring you this fresh and flavorful recipe for the New Year.

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Pasta with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Cashel Blue Cheese

Spinach Pasta>

I have resisted pasta for many years. Other people can’t get enough of it – I could take it or leave it. But life in our household has been pretty crazy lately, and I have been embracing pasta as a way to get dinner on the table relatively quickly instead of having to resort to eating crackers. (It’s happened.)

I think the problem is I’m not really a fan of traditional spaghetti sauce. My husband has taken to complaining that we never have a jar of spaghetti sauce in the house (he asked if we could make a bid for normalcy and just have a jar of Prego), while I’ve never felt the lack. Once I started to move away from the tomato sauces, pasta got a lot more interesting.
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This one was inspired by  a gorgeous wheel of Irish Cashel Blue cheese that the kind folks at Kerrygold USA sent me.   I’ve been a fan of their grass fed butter for years, but I won a year’s supply of butter and cheese at the Big Traveling Potluck and that has made be a convert to their amazing Irish cheeses.  They have several cheddar and cheddar type cheeses that are amazing, but my favorite is probably the Cashel Blue.  I shared the wheel with family members but immediately regretted it – I wanted more blue cheese for myself!  Even my mom, who has been a diehard French Roquefort snob for years said this is her new favorite blue.

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Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Lemongrass Pork t

I first tried Vietnamese food the summer after I graduated from college. I was in the south of France with my parents, who were chaperoning a group of college students through a summer program. We were staying in a hotel in a small town on the Riviera where nearly every restaurant served a variation on the following menu: Fish soup, grilled fish, poached fish, sauteeed fish, tapenade. Although washed down with copious amounts of rose wine, we were desperate for some.. any! variation in our daily bread. So when we stumbled on the town’s only non-French restaurant, we fell on it like starving people.

Vietnamese food was a revelation – clean flavors bright with citrus and fresh herbs and that dank, funky flavor I since learned comes from fish sauce. When I moved to New York that fall, I found a local Vietnamese restaurant that delivered to my apartment, and went to town. I fell hard for crunchy nem wrapped in a lettuce leaf with herbs and dunked in that mysteriously orange nuoc cham, the star anise aromas of Pho (still my favorite food when I have a head cold), delicately crisped Banh Xeo, fragrant with coconut, and Bun Thit Nuong – bland noodles with crispy, savory pork on top. Pork with layers of flavor, charred from the grill.
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Split Chicken Breasts with Goat Cheese and Pepper Jelly

Chicken Breasts with Goat Cheese and Pepper Jelly

Not every recipe comes with a cute story, a long origin tale, a photo-worthy finish. Sometimes we are just trying to get dinner on the table. Sometimes we’re dealing with real life here — that life where we have to get dinner on the table EVERY NIGHT, where lamb is expensive and beef unhealthy and your kid won’t touch lentils with a ten foot pole so you’re making chicken again, where if you see another boneless skinless “cutlet” you might have to throw something. That life.

In that life you might have optimistically bought two jars of pepper jelly at Christmas time – it’s so nice on cream cheese For all those parties you ended up not going to, since one kid had the stomach flu and the other had an ear infection. In that life, you buy too much cheese and have odds and ends of it overflowing the cheese drawer in your refrigerator.

Or maybe that’s just me.
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Crockpot Mexican Pork Carnitas

Carnitas Tacos 2

I must have missed out on the “party planning gene” that every other person in the world seems to have, or at least other moms. I look at Pinterest, with the decorations and the tablescapes and the elaborate menus – and break out into a cold sweat. The theme for my kids’ birthday parties is “birthday party.” Or really, “Come to our house and eat some cake.”

But I LOVE to have people over. My idea of the perfect summer evening is sitting on our back deck with some good friends while our kids run wild in the back yard, chatting over a glass of wine or a margarita and eating yummy food. The key is relaxing and having fun, not throwing a fit over a menu. So I’m always looking for low-key, low-stress recipes to feed a crowd. Things that I can make that don’t require a lot of last minute preparation (to allow for appropriate amounts of yapping and wine-drinking) but that are delicious enough that people want to come back and hang out some more.
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Five No-Fuss, No-Pasta Dinners For When You Don’t Really Want to Cook

dinners

 

So if you listen to as many food-related podcasts as I do, you may have noticed that lately there has been a lot of talk about cooking (I blame Michael Pollan)- about how it’s healthier, and better for society, and connects you with your humanity, etc.  Which, hello? is great, and I’ve been saying for years! Yay cooking! We love it around these parts. I also, however, like to play the role of fairy godmother of the reality check. You know and I know that we would LOVE to make from-scratch, healthful dinners EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, but we also both know that sometimes that just isn’t happening. Before you call the delivery man, or open (yet another) box of pasta, I present you for five ideas for easy, quick, no-fuss dinners. They don’t require NO cooking, but they do require MINIMAL fuss and no thought whatsoever. I usually plan to have ingredients for at least one of these in the house at any given time, to account for traffic jams, late meetings, and general exhaustion.

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Salmon On Curried Spinach

Salmon on Curried Spinach

I told my husband last night that I loved him but what I really need is a 1950’s wife.  Someone who will hand me a cocktail and my slippers when I walk in the door so I can relax, pat the kids on the head and send them off to bed while sipping my scotch.  Sadly, my reality is more along the lines of leave work, pick up the baby, drive drive drive drive drive, come in, immediately rush to find dinner for the Nuni and Bootsy, feed the kids, bedtime routines, fix grownup dinner (if we didn’t eat with the kids), eat grownup dinner, and then start in on the laundry before I even get to think about a cocktail.

Since weeknights are a little crazy (to put it mildly), I’m always on the lookout for meals that are a) healthy and b) quick to prepare.  And that doesn’t mean 30 minutes or an hour quick.  I mean on the table in 20 max, so I can get to my cocktail faster.  This salmon on curried spinach, which is an old recipe of my mom’s, just fits the bill.

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