Cheesy Zucchini Bake

While I was studying for the bar, I wanted fast and easy homemade meals.  Our freezer was full of ground turkey so I decided to cook it up, mix it together with pasta, cheese, and herbs and turn it into a bake.  Matt feel in love with the meal, begging me to remake it.  So after making various versions of the pasta bake, I decided it was time for a vegetarian bake.

Our fridge is becoming increasingly more full of fresh veggies from our garden every day so I cut up our multi-colored zucchinis, some basil, green onions, and jalapenos, mix them with some cheese, spinach, and dried herbs. and the cheesy zucchini bake was born!

isn’t this tomato cool! it’s a striped tomato.
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Orange Bell Pepper and Basil Bruschetta

Today was harvest day at the Cremona house.  With my handy shears, I plopped tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, serranos, green beans, and an orange pepper into my basket.  When I was done, I looked like I raided a farmer’s market.

I am so proud of my orange bell pepper.  Last year only my green peppers grew so I was thrilled when this year turned out to be different.  I didn’t want my miracle pepper to go to waste.  This pepper needed to be used in a truly fun recipe.  Something unique where the flavors of the pepper stood out.

my orange pepper in its natural habitat.
Matt arrange them like this, claiming they were on a cucumber sled.

This twist on the traditional, tomato-based bruschetta was excellent.  The orange pepper makes the bruschetta sweeter and crunchier.  Next time I make this I think I’ll use different color bell peppers to see how that mixes up the taste.

 

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Beet Chips

My friend Krystal is a member of this vegetable co-op where every Thursday she gets a box full of fresh veggies from a local farm.  I am the lucky person who gets extra veggies when her crisper is already filled from the week before.  In her box this week were some beets which she gifted to me.

 

I’ve honestly never had beets before.   I certainly had no idea how to prepare them.  In fact, my only interaction with the vegetable was through the cartoon Doug.  Matt has been craving snack foods a lot lately.  Every night he is rummaging through the kitchen looking for something to nibble on.  He has always been a fan of chips, and his stash of ketchup chips is running thin.

And that’s how beet chips were born.  The creation in this dish caused possibly the most “damage” my hands have ever had to go through in the kitchen.  My hands were stained red, and I cut my fingers on the slicer 4 times.  There was a real labor of love.  While the recipe I followed recommend slicing the beets as thin as possible, Matt and I both liked the thicker pieces.  So try some thicker and thinner slices to see where your taste buds land.

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Spicy Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

Our garden has really started to take off. My orange peppers are slowly turning colors, tomatoes are becoming plump, and I have more hot peppers than I know what to do with! As expected, the cucumbers have taken the lead as the highest producer. And that is ok with me.

apparently growing at massive speeds isn’t enough for my plants. they now are showing off their contortionist skills.

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE cucumbers.  I can thank my father for this obsession.  Growing up, my father had a small vegetable garden.  Every summer, he harvested his cucumbers to make a dill cucumber salad.  It has always been one of my favorite dishes.  This year, we have so many cucumbers that we’d be eating this salad every day for every meal if we wanted to use up all our cuc’s.  So I’ve been making modifications to his salad to spice up our veggie side dishes.

freshly picked cucumber from the garden.

The spicy peppers rival the cucumbers in multiplicity so I added a pepper to our salad.  It was a bit too spicy for poor Matt (he’s a bit of a wimp when it comes to heat) so I added less red pepper flakes.  I recommend opting for less heat at first and add more to taste.

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Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

The dreaded bar exam is lurking around the corner.  In 16 days, I’ll be sitting down in a crowded, stuffy classroom, surrounded by over-stressed, nerve-ridden students waiting to take a two day-12 hour exam that will decide whether or not we are fit to practice law in Minnesota.  Sounds great huh?  Bring on the fun!

While I wait in anticipation of this joyous event, I have been cramming every single piece of law I can into my over-sized head.  It’s gotten to the point that when I have conversations, they consist of me telling someone about a certain area of law.  “Hey! So you’re never gonna believe this crazy piece of information! You can use prior inconsistent statements to impeach a witness. AND it can come in as substantive evidence.” Yeah, I know. Crazy. But it’s true!!

So since I can only speak in legal jargon, I’ve decided to stick to crock pot recipes for the next two weeks.  Anything that takes more than 20 minutes to cook makes me feel guilty for reading something that isn’t cluttered with italic, Latin phrases. My poor summer fun reading list has been set aside (sorry Jessi Witkins!) And this recipe only calls for ingredients that most people have on hand at all times.  No need for a grocery run.

The heat index in Minneapolis has started to decline (we live in house without air conditioning. the last couple days were less than pleasant) so using the crock pot isn’t completely unreasonable.   Plus, after a full day of studying, a warm meal sure feels great! And hell, who doesn’t love chicky catch with some long ass rice (much love to my boy Tom Haverford).

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Greek Avocado Quinoa

I bought quinoa almost a two years ago. I tried to make it and completely failed.  Either I cooked it too long, not long enough, or I did it right and couldn’t even recognize it. Either way, I gave up.  Put the bag in my cupboard and forgot that I even had it at all.  Until earlier this month.  People kept pinning all these recipes with quinoa as the staple.  It was time to bring my cupboard quinoa out of retirement and try to make something.  So I picked some herbs from my garden, threw all the veggies we had in the crisper together, and tossed a dressing.  It was delicious.  Now I can see what all the fuss was about.

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Feta Crumble Chicken Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Hot summer afternoons means gardening.  My garden has doubled from last season.  I have a special herb garden filled with cilantro, basil, mint, orange mint, rosemary, hot and spicy oregano, chives, and parsley.  Plus two huge planter boxes my husband made me stuffed with red, yellow, orange, and green peppers, serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, green beans, carrots, several types of tomatoes, garden salsa peppers, okra, sugar peas, potatoes, and cucumbers.  I know—it’s a lot of plants!  (I have 15 basil plants! My backyard smells heavenly). But my goal is to be self-sufficient this summer and autumn, and I think I’m right on track.  With all these fresh vegetables and herbs, salads are a must!

One of the planter boxes my husband made for all my pepper plants

 

my patio and porch are filled with potted plants. my favorite.

Two of my friends started CrunchTime Fitness, a website focused on helping individuals attain their physical fitness and nutritional goals.  Thanks to them, I started and finished one round of p90x (next round to be started soon) and rejuvenated the way I look at food.  This salad has been modified from their recipe box.  The dressing was delicious! I plan to mix up this dressing with different salad variations throughout the summer.  It’s the perfect way to meet your veggie requirements on a hot, sunny day.

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Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Today was rainy.  On my way home from my bar class, hail the size of golf balls started to impale my car.  Cars huddled under the closest bridge seeking refuge.  I was lucky enough to have Sally (my car) completely under the bridge.  But the whole experience was mildly scary.  When the hail first started, it sounded like my car was being shot at.  I was honestly worried that they were going to break my windshield.  While I am far more susceptible to being frightened, I knew I wasn’t the only person concerned when all the cars under the bridge created a barricade, stopping all traffic.  But by the time the song on the radio was over, the storm had lifted and so did the barricade.

This cold, rainy weather meant a warm dinner was in order.  One thing I often have trouble with is portion control when it comes to those warm casseroles.  And while the weather outside mirrors autumn more than summer, next week (or maybe even tomorrow) will be swimsuit weather again.  Thankfully these spinach lasagna rolls realize this and come with built-in portion control.  Instead of having to eyeball how many inches your slice should be, you roll the lasagna–making each roll a serving size.  Much easier to stay on track and still enjoy a warm slice of lasagna.

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Avocado, Red Pepper and Black Bean Salad

I have made a conscious decision.  This is going to be the best summer ever.  See, I am unemployed and studying for the Minnesota bar.  In short, I go to 3 hours of class a day and spend the rest of the day doing whatever I want.  Sure, I gotta get some studying done.  But it’s completely self-scheduled studying.  No meetings.  No office I have to be at.  No uncomfortable suit jacket to wear.  No recording every 6 minutes of my time. Instead, I get to sit on my porch, drink a beer, crack open my Barbri books and relearn everything I learned my first year of law school.  It’s not too bad.  In fact, I love it.  Because I have complete control over my schedule.  If I want to work-out at 3 in the afternoon, I can.  If I want to run to Target, I can.  If I want to study in my swimsuit and get a tan, I can.  This is far better than sitting in an office all day.  And chances are, I will not get the opportunity to have such freedom with my afternoon schedule ever again.

Still, with watching Criminal Minds and falling deeper in love with Matthew Gray Gubler studying for the bar, I haven’t had as much time to make full meals.  Rather, I have resorted to snacking.  And of course, when I think of great snacks, anything that can go on chips sounds like the perfect study aid.  This black bean salad is excellent on chips–its a great garnish for tacos and is even tasty all by itself.  Even better, all you gotta do is throw all the ingredients into a bowl and mix.  Even a brain mushed from too much studying of property law can manage that!

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Chicken Tikka Masala

I never knew my love for Indian food until I moved to the Twin Cites.  My friend Leslie was coming to visit and wanted Indian food.  She did some online research and found The Dancing Ganesha.  The food was amazing! It quickly became my favorite restaurant, and I have celebrated many occasions there.  Since starting to cook, it has been a goal of mine to make Indian food at home.  It took a while for me to track down garam masala, but once I found it, I couldn’t wait to make this.  And it was definitely worth the extra effort.

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