Sweet & Spicy Cucumber Slices

Original Recipe HERE

This recipe is one of those that's well-suited to serving during the summer: little effort required, refreshingly crisp and cool, and it can sit out at a barbecue for a few hours without worry of spoilage or deterioration of quality.

I didn't use the full amount of red pepper flakes that the original recipe called for since I was hoping my kids would eat it - and generally the less heat, the better.  Also, I didn't reduce the marinade to 1/3 cup because it had already cooked well past 10 minutes and I was getting impatient.  I'd say I had at least 1/2 of a cup.

I could've eaten the entire batch of this myself, in one sitting.  However, I purposely saved some for the next day to see how it would hold up.  It was noticeably watered down - but still very edible.  Next time I will do more to drain (sweat?) the cucumbers and press as much water out as possible instead of simply drying them.  And reducing the marinade to the instructed amount would probably help with that as well.

1-1/2 lbs cucumber [I used 3]
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup rice vinegar [I used 1/4 cup rice and 1/4 cup red wine]
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
one slice of red onion

(1) Peel cucumber.  Cut in half lengthwise; slice into 1/4" pieces.
(2) Place cucumber slices in a colander sitting over a bowl.  Sprinkle with salt; toss well. Let sit for 1 hour refrigerated. Toss several times while draining.
(3) Meanwhile, combine vinegar, water, sugar and red pepper in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cook until reduced to a 1/3 cup (about 10 minutes). 
(4) While marinade is reducing, finely chop onion to make 2 tablespoons.
(5) Remove marinade from heat.  Add onion. Let mixture cool to room temp.
(6) Pat cucumbers dry with paper towels.  Combine them with the marinade.  For best results, refrigerate until well-chilled.  To avoid mixture becoming watered down, serve the same day it is made.

Kid Participation: None.

Seasoned Vegetable, Sausage, & Potato Skillet

Original Recipe HERE

My concern about this recipe was how flavorful it would be.  I knew the bratwurst would have a distinct taste, but the rest of the ingredients might be sort of...blah.  I thought this could be easily rectified by using Lipton onion soup mix, since that's my go-to when needing a quick potato side dish.  But I only had vegetable soup mix in the pantry, so I turned to my spice cabinet.  There was no rosemary like the original recipe called for.  Time for Plan C, which is when I start opening random spice containers and sniffing them to see what might work.  I settled on turmeric (which gave everything a not-so-appetizing yellow hue) and thyme, and I think they were good choices.

The potatoes were very soft after cooking them for the recommended time.  If you want them to be firmer, shave a few minutes off.  I wonder if cooking them without the lid on would also give them a little crustiness that would help them stand out from the other vegetables.

1 lb baby red potatoes, quartered
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
1lb fully cooked chicken sausage [I used chicken bratwurst], sliced lengthwise & cut into 1/2" pieces
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed & roughly chopped
2 peppers [I used red and green], diced into 1" pieces
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups zucchini, sliced lengthwise & cut into 1/2" pieces

(1) Put oil and potatoes in a large, deep non-stick skillet with a lid on high heat.  Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Once skillet is hot and potatoes start to sizzle, reduce heat to low.  Cook with a tight lid on for 20-25 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burning.
(2) Remove from heat; let them sit 5 minutes without removing the lid. Set potatoes aside on a dish.
(3) Add sausage to skillet.  Sautee on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned (about 10 minutes).
(4) Add onions, peppers, and garlic to the skillet.  Sprinkle with turmeric and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and peppers become slightly browned.
(5) Add zucchini; cook an additional 5 minutes or until softened.
(6) Return the potatoes back to the skillet and mix well. Adjust salt and pepper as needed; cover and cook 5 more minutes.

Kid Participation: None.

Crustless Zucchini & Cheese Pie

Original Recipe HERE
I prefer my quiches to have a crust (extra prefer it if it's homemade), but this eliminated that step that can be time-consuming and unpredictable.  I was shocked that *N* and *J* had three slices apiece.  Boo, no leftovers for me for lunch tomorrow.

I will try it with regular all-purpose flour next time.  I tasted the slight bitterness of the whole wheat and thought it distracted from the others (though I had the regular brown type, not the white as the recipe called for).  Also, I will try a cheese with a more pronounced flavor and probably throw in some garlic powder (because garlic powder enhances almost everything).

10 oz shredded zucchini [I used two medium]
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup fat free milk
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots 
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (King Aurthur)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste

(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a standard-size pie dish.
(2) Squeeze as much liquid out of zucchini as possible using a dishtowel or cheesecloth.
(3) In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and oil.
(4) Add zucchini, shallots, and cheeses to egg mixture.  Combine thoroughly.
(5) Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper.  Add to mixture.
(6) Pour batter into pie dish.  Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Pie will be set and turning golden on top.  Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Kid Participation:
* Squeeze the heck out of the zucchini
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Stir all ingredients together

Chickpea, Peanut Butter, & Chocolate Chip Bites

Original Recipe HERE

I was eager yet apprehensive to try these.  Eager because I was intrigued by the chickpea element; apprehensive because I was scared I would like them a lot and eat them all and go back and make more.  I am nothing if not self-aware.

The original writer insisted that they were better warm and would be too chickpea-ish if eaten at room temperature.  I didn't have that experience.  All I tasted was the peanut butter with a nice hint of honey.  Most were eaten the night they were made, but 24 hours later the remaining ones were delicious and still ever-so-slightly gooey in the center.  They will remain soft after baking; don't wait until they get crispy.  Mine had a barely detectable crust on the top when I took them out.

Update: I made these again, and they DID taste too chickpea-ish (FYI, when something has chickpeas in it and I don't like it, I refer to them as garbanzos because that awkward, alternate name seems to fit my impression better than the benign "chickpea").  I eyeballed the amounts and probably didn't put in enough peanut butter or honey.  Next time I'll also try a bit of ground cinnamon in my quest to perfect this recipe.

1-1/4 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed & patted dry
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons peanut butter [I used Smart Balance creamy}
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt (if peanut butter doesn't have salt in it)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

(1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
(2) Combine all ingredients, except for chocolate chips, in a food processor.  Process until very smooth.
(3) Add chocolate chips.  Process until just combined. Mixture will be very thick and sticky.
(4) With wet hands or a mini scoop, form dough into 1-1/2" balls. Place onto Silpat or piece of parchment paper lining a baking sheet.  They can be close together; they do not expand much.
(5) Bake 10 minutes. Yields about 30 1" bites.

Kid Participation:
* Add ingredients to food processor
* Operate processor
* Use scoop to place dough on cookie sheet
* Eat too many of them because they're so small that Mama would allow, "OK, just one more."