Grilled Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus

Grilled Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus

http://www.nomingthrulife.com/grilled-zucchini-corn-tostadas-spicy-hummus/

This is one of the best recipes I’ve come across in terms of effort-to-deliciousness ratio. It only takes a little bit of work, and the payoff is more than worth it. As long as you have all the ingredients on hand and have the time to grill or roast the veggies, the prep work is a snap, and you end up with a flavor-packed dish that seems like it must have been a lot harder than it really was.

If you have a grill, this is an easy summer staple, great for a light dinner or substantial snack. We technically do have a grill at our house, brand new this summer in fact, buuuuuuuuuut… it’s electric. I have mixed feelings about the electric grill. My fiancé, who is all about no-fuss cooking and alternative energy, was super excited about it, and has had mostly positive results so far. He cooks a lot more meat than I do, and has been very pleased with the grill’s ability to produce precisely-cooked, extra-juicy steaks and such. Personally though, grilling doesn’t do much for me if it doesn’t suffuse everything with that smoky, charred charcoal flavor. We do have some hickory chips for smoking; sometimes they make a difference? But mostly, food isn’t on the grill long enough to really absorb the smoke. I will admit that the setup and cleanup are much less hassle than with a standard charcoal grill. But with some things, the extra work is worth it, and for me summer grilling is one of these things.

That said, when I myself am already roasting from the heat of the day and just can’t deal with the idea of turning on the oven, the grill does a totally adequate job of cooking veggies.  If you’re looking to avoid heating up your kitchen, you can definitely go this route.  When the weather is cooler, I generally use the oven for this recipe.  I don’t roast the vegetables whole in this case. Instead, I dice the zucchini and cut the kernels off the corn, then spread everything in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add some salt and pepper, toss/stir a bit to combine, and then roast at 425 for about 20 minutes. Your time & temperature may vary; sometimes I bump it up to 445 and roast for a shorter time. You do have to stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on it to avoid ending up with a blackened mess (ask me how I know), but I like to have a little bit of char on roasted vegetables, and the higher temp is great for that (as long as you pull it out in time).

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Once you have your grilled or roasted veggies, it’s just a matter of assembly; spread your hummus on tostadas or tortillas, then top with veggies. I also add feta cheese or queso fresco on top, which I highly recommend. The recipe includes a tasty basic hummus recipe, but naturally you can use any hummus you like, including storebought; if you’re not making hummus from scratch (or are using previously-prepared hummus), it cuts down the prep time even more. I do find that spicy hummus really shines in this recipe, moreso than regular hummus (and I say that as a total lightweight when it comes to spicy foods) – I never order above a 1 at Thai restaurants, but I do like a little spice in this. If you only have regular hummus on hand, you can always throw it into the food processor with a little cayenne pepper or chili powder.

Also, I find that I actually prefer regular tortillas to tostadas here. The tostadas are tricky to eat; they tend to drop toppings if you try to eat them with your hands, but they still crumble awkwardly if you go after them with knife and fork. A soft tortilla can be rolled up like a burrito, and is more convenient in my opinion. Alternatively, you could serve these like nachos, with either tortilla chips or pita chips – a unique & tasty appetizer, easy to whip up in small or large amounts.

I’m always excited to find quick, healthy vegetarian recipes that deliver strong flavors, and this one doesn’t disappoint. I come back to it every couple months and it’s solid every time. You could definitely experiment with other veggie toppings, too: roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, or really anything you like. Hope you’ll give it a try this summer and let me know how it goes!

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 9

2.2 pinterest

Grocery List – Week 5 – Dinners That Won’t Heat Up Your Kitchen

Summer is here, and even in Canada the weather is officially hot. It’s gorgeous out and the garden is loving it, but the last thing I want to do in the evening is turn on the oven. So this week I have a list of light, refreshing entrees that are great for hot evenings, no oven required. They’re all pretty versatile:  handheld wraps, tacos, or tostadas that would also make easy lunches or tasty snacks.

You might also sense a chickpea theme; for whatever reason, chickpeas just sounded totally delicious to me this week, so if you’ve got some chickpeas hiding in the back of your pantry, now is a good time to break them out. Also note that this week is 100% vegetarian. If you need a more substantial protein, you can easily throw some grilled chicken into any of these dishes.

Note: It’s unlikely that you’ll use up all your sour cream on entrees this week. Usually I try to plan more than one Mexican recipe in a week when I’m buying sour cream, but with the chickpea theme it didn’t quite happen this week. My latest favorite way to use up extra sour cream is to whip up a batch of Sally’s master muffins:

https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/04/19/master-muffin-recipe/

They’re infinitely customizable; you can throw in chocolate, bananas, peanut butter, berries, nuts, whatever you like. I made some with haskap berries from our local market last week and they were totally delicious. I may or may not do a writeup on the muffins this week, but just something to keep in mind if you have extra sour cream on hand.

 


Recipes

Roasted Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus from Noming Thru Life

Avocado Chickpea Lettuce Wraps from Gluten Free Vegan Pantry

Crispy Chickpea Tacos from Macheesmo


 

Shopping List

Produce

2 avocados
celery
green onions
2 lemons
Boston lettuce (or another lettuce with large leaves)
3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
radicchio or sliced cabbage
red onion
1 serrano pepper
cilantro
1 lime
2 large zucchini
3 ears of corn

Optional toppings for chickpea lettuce wraps:
cherry tomatoes
alfalfa sprouts
cucumbers

Shelves

3 cans chickpeas (15 oz.)
medium flour or corn tortillas
1 jar roasted red peppers
tahini

Refrigerated/Frozen

queso fresco
sour cream

Pantry Staples

garlic
salt, pepper
olive oil
cumin
chili powder
cayenne powder

Super Simple Not-Too-Sweet Granola

Super Simple Not-Too-Sweet Granola

http://thelivefitgirls.com/2014/05/super-simple-granola/

This granola has become a staple at my house, and is in fact super simple to make. It’s nice because you can easily customize it to the sweetness level you prefer, and level it up with whatever nuts or berries or other add-ins you enjoy.

My fiance quit eating sugar last year, and as a result, almost all breakfast cereals taste too sweet to him now. So we’ve been on a quest for granola that holds together, is crunchy, and doesn’t turn out too dry or too mushy, without being overly sweet. It’s trickier than you might think; in most recipes, sugar or honey or syrup or molasses is responsible for the granola’s crunch and stick-together-ness. There is honey in this recipe as well, but I’ve found that you can decrease the amount of honey and increase the coconut oil, and still end up with granola that has good body. (Is “body” a term that applies to granola? I’m not sure.) But the texture is what you’d expect from granola, and it keeps well without losing much of its crunch.

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The recipe as written asks you to toast your oats and almonds together; I prefer to do these as separate steps. I’ve learned the hard way that different nuts have different toasting times, and they can go from perfectly toasted to a burned mess in the blink of an eye. I usually add two or three different nuts to this granola (pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds are our favorites), and you really do have to keep an eye on them and pull them out the moment they’re done. Here’s a quick primer on different ways to toast nuts:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends/3-ways-to-toast-nuts/

It’s pretty simple though; just spread out your nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. When they’ve darkened by a couple of shades and you can smell the toasted nut aroma, they’re done.

You can toast the nuts first, or wait and do it while the granola is cooling.  To make the granola, I start with oats and unsweetened coconut:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

I roast these dry ingredients at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Then I pull them out and drizzle them with the wet ingredient mixture:

  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

This is half the honey called for in the original recipe; the missing honey is replaced with more coconut oil. We’re still experimenting with other binders to keep the granola together: mashed bananas, pumpkin, and peanut butter are all on the list to try (although probably not all in the same batch).

Anyway, just drizzle the wet mixture onto the roasted oats, stir to combine evenly, and then pop it back into your oven and turn it off. The granola will sit in the warm oven for 5-10 minutes to finish toasting. Pull it out and let it cool completely, then mix in your nuts, raisins, or other additions.  I usually add raisins and dried cranberries.

We store this on the counter in an airtight container, and it keeps for about two weeks, which is about how long it takes us to go through a batch. We love it with yogurt and berries; you can also sprinkle it onto a smoothie bowl, or just eat it with milk.

Enjoy customizing your own super simple homemade granola!

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 9

0 granola rating

Summertime Watermelon Slushies

Summertime Watermelon Slushies

So, buying a watermelon at the grocery store is probably in my top 10 exciting things to do. (Other things on this list include spinning yarn and seeing cute dogs, so I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about how exciting my life is.) Seriously though, getting to buy a watermelon is great. It means summer is officially here, for one thing. It’s fun to pick it out, thumping around the bin until you find the one that speaks to you. And it feels so decadent. Why yes, I am going to purchase this ten-pound thing larger than my torso and consume it.

But then, of course, the issue is that you have a ten (or more) pound watermelon at your house. I’ve never managed to consume that much in slice form, and of course once you’ve picked out your perfect juicy melon, you don’t want it to go bad. So here’s my favorite thing to do with it: a simple slushie with just a few ingredients, totally perfect for hot summer evenings.


Watermelon Honey Mint Slushies

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 watermelon, cubed
  • Juice of 2-3 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or sugar to taste)
  • 1-2 trays of ice cubes
  • A handful of mint leaves (optional)

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I found that about a quarter of a watermelon was the most I could fit in my blender; honestly, you may want to use a little less. Just cut up your melon and dump it on in, along with the rest of the ingredients. Depending on how watery your melon is, you might get a slushie, or something more like aqua fresca. It’s great either way. If you want a thicker texture, just keep adding ice until it looks right.

Another way to get that thicker slushie consistency is to start with frozen watermelon cubes. And incidentally, this is also a great way to store your remaining 3/4 watermelon (or however much you have left after your family has eaten their fill of slices).  To freeze, cut up your remaining watermelon into cubes, and arrange them on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet.  (Mine are a bit too close together here; ideally they should have a bit more space between the cubes.)  Place the whole tray in the freezer.  Once frozen, you can transfer the watermelon to a plastic freezer bag.

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Freezing does alter the watermelon’s texture, and also makes it a bit less sweet, so you may not want to thaw your melon again once it’s been frozen. But it’s perfect for smoothies and slushies throughout the summer. You can make the same slushie above, or blend it up with some vanilla ice cream or yogurt & lime juice, or berries and honey, or whatever else you can think of.

Incidentally, here are a few tips and tricks on picking the best watermelon:

https://brightside.me/inspiration-tips-and-tricks/how-to-pick-a-perfect-watermelon-tips-from-an-experienced-farmer-209205/

I was surprised to learn that bigger fruits are generally not better, and also that the sex of the plant makes a difference in the sweetness. (“Girl” watermelons, which are smaller and rounder, tend to be sweeter.)

Happy watermelon hunting!

 

Granola, Waffles, and Watermelon Slushies

Hi folks.  This week is an off week; I’m up to my ears in leftovers and am taking a break from trying new recipes (at least for dinner).  So no shopping list this week, but I’m going to share some of my favorite tried & true breakfast recipes with you, and also a brand new watermelon slushie that’s perfect for hot summer evenings.

I’ll link the two breakfast recipes here, so if you want to try them you can try to have this stuff on hand:


Recipes

Brussels Waffles from The Hungry Belgian

Super Simple Granola from Live Fit Girls


Both of these are amazing breakfasts that I’ve been making for a while and keep coming back to.  The granola is a staple for weekdays; you can make a big batch on the weekend, it keeps well for a long time, and it’s fantastic with yogurt and berries.  It’s not super-sweet, and you can switch it up with a lot of different add-ins; I’ll share more about my modifications later in the week.  And the Brussels waffles are restaurant-quality amazing.  My fiance and I started our search for the perfect Brussels waffle recipe after a chance trip to Nero’s in Vancouver, BC, where we had waffles that completely blew our minds.  We think these ones are pretty close; they take a little time and are more of a weekend brunch endeavor, but definitely worth the effort.

And for the watermelon slushie, you’ll need:

  • Fresh watermelon
  • Lemons (2-3)
  • Honey
  • Mint (optional)

As well as a blender or food processor that can chop ice.  Super simple; I’ve been drinking a lot of it while sitting outside now that our weather has finally warmed up.

Hope this sounds exciting; back with a regular menu next week.

The Best General Tso’s Chicken

The Best General Tso’s Chicken

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/04/the-best-general-tsos-chicken-food-lab-chinese-recipe.html

This is probably the most complicated recipe I’ve posted about to date. It’s the first recipe I’ve tried by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt; he’s a big name in the culinary world, and after making this recipe I understand why. For someone like me, who is made happy by precise measurements, detailed explanations, and reproducible results, this is cooking at its most enjoyable.

He goes into detail about not only what to do, but also why it works. General Tso’s Chicken isn’t a super common recipe to try at home, but his is in fact very true to the take-out version we all know and love.

His primary challenge was finding a breading method for the chicken that would hold its crispy texture under the sauce. He drew from fried food techniques around the world and tested a wide variety of strategies before finding the key: he incorporates vodka into the marinade, which through some magical chemistry makes the batter crispier and more sog-resistant. Vodka, which is more volatile than water, evaporates more quickly than water would, which apparently helps the batter crisp up when frying; it also limits gluten development, which prevents the fried dough from getting leathery.

So, he’s taken care of all the experimentation, and all you have to do is follow the steps to get great results. Caveat: there are a lot of steps. It does feel a bit like a lab experiment, with many small dishes of precisely-measured ingredients waiting their turns. For me, this is fantastic; there’s no pinch-of-this, just-eyeball-that, oh-the-secret-ingredient-is-love bullshit. (This is not a criticism of people who have the gift of eyeballing! Most of my friends who cook do it this way, with great results.) But the whole reason I got so obsessed with cooking in the first place is that I suck at it. When I started getting more serious about cooking for myself a few years ago, I did not have a lot of kitchen experience; I basically had no frame of reference for any but the simplest tasks. I could boil water and flip pancakes; everything else was a mystery. So recipes that instructed me to knead or stir or simmer until the dough or sauce “looks right” were the bane of my existence. How was I supposed to know what “right” looked like?

Now that I have more experience under my belt, I can usually make educated guesses when I run into instructions like that. But having someone like J. Kenji Lopez-Alt spell out each step in precise terms is much more relaxing for me. There’s no guesswork involved in any of the amounts, times, or temperatures, and each step does exactly what it claims to do. The most magical moment comes when cooking the sauce. All of the aromatics (garlic, scallion, chilis) are heated in an oiled skillet from cold, giving the flavors time to develop and blend. Then the sauce liquid is added. The instructions say, “Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about one minute.” For 59 seconds, it doesn’t seem like much is happening. Then, all at once, the reaction happens; a low burbling is heard, first slow, then faster, and all at once the thin sauce thickens into a dark, sticky, Swamp-Thing-esque blob. I realize Swamp Thing isn’t usually considered an appetizing metaphor, but in this case it’s a good thing; you end up with a dark, sticky, perfectly takeout-worthy sauce, exactly the right consistency for coating the crispy chicken bits.

Maybe most people who deep fry already do this, but I highly recommend using a thermometer to monitor the oil temperature. I used my new meat thermometer to keep it around 350 degrees F, and the chicken crisped up nicely in exactly four minutes, as written.

I’d never been a huge fan of General Tso’s chicken at take-out places; it was both too spicy and too sweet. But this recipe knocks it out of the park. It’s the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and savory, and the crispy texture is impeccable. On a night when you have the time and energy to spare and feel up to a challenge, I highly recommend giving this a try. It is definitely worth the effort.

Deliciousness score: 10
Easiness score: 5

6.4 rating

Avocado Toast with Chili Lime Corn Salad

Avocado Toast with Chili Lime Corn Salad

http://lovelylittlekitchen.com/chili-lime-sweet-corn-salad/

This is a dead simple little salad that jumped out at me when I was looking for something to do with my leftover cilantro this week. With only six ingredients, it couldn’t be easier to throw together, especially in summer when I’m always looking for excuses to buy corn on the cob. Just toss grilled, roasted, or boiled corn with some lime juice, butter, chili powder, and cilantro, then add feta cheese and salt to taste.  (The author recommends queso fresco, but I always have a hard time finding this in my grocery store; the feta works just fine.)  The recipe also says to boil the corn, which would be perfectly fine too, but it’s extra-amazing with grilled corn.  And you have the added bonus of not having to heat up your kitchen at all.

It’s not quite a complete dinner on its own, but it’s a perfect side dish or snack. My favorite way to eat it is as a topping on avocado toast.

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I just discovered avocado toast; apparently it’s been a big deal for a while now, but I am not hip and just tried it for the first time. I was a little skeptical when I heard this was a dish people were paying $19 for at brunch, but I have to admit it’s ridiculously good. I used this whole wheat bread recipe from King Arthur Flour to make a hearty bread for toasting:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/everyday-whole-grain-bread-recipe

This bread doesn’t rise very high, as many whole grain breads don’t, but it still has a relatively light texture. I halved the recipe, but still made two loaves as written, which came out very flat. Then I cut them in half vertically as well as horizontally, to get four large toast-size pieces from each loaf. Each piece is crust on one full side, which ordinarily isn’t my favorite, but it’s great for toast that you’re going to load up with toppings because it doesn’t fall apart or soak through.

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Anyway, if you haven’t tried avocado toast yet, I highly recommend it. For this one, I just mashed up 1/4 ripe avocado and smeared it on the toast, followed by the corn salad. There are basically infinite topping options; I’ll definitely be exploring more of them in the near future.

Deliciousness score: 7/10
Easiness score: 9/10 (slightly lower if you make bread for toast)

6.5 rating