Monday, May 28, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini with Bread Crumbs

Friday was last day of school for the kids. I signed up to make some sandwiches for their classes' last day celebration. Since I'm a sucker for cuteness, I decided to go out of my way to cut the sandwiches in heart shapes and flower shapes with cookie cutters. In result, there were lots of bread crumbs piled up in the kitchen from 2 loaves of bread. Two days later, some of the bread crumbs got stuffed into the zucchinis and squash as part of the dinner (I didn't have enough zucchinis, so I used a yellow squash).

Serves 4

4 small zucchinis
1&1/4 cup of bread crumbs, cubed
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 small stalk of green onion, chopped
Black pepper to taste
Tamari sauce / salt to taste
Canola oil
Four cheese Mexican blend

Cook the zucchinis whole in boiling water for about 8 minutes, then take them out to cool a bit. Cut them in halves lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp and chop them. Saute the garlic, onion and green onion until tender in canola oil, then add the pulp and bread crumbs. Add tamari sauce (or salt) and black pepper to taste. Stuff the zucchinis with the bread mixture. Put them on a baking dish lined with foil and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

Before the cheese was added to the top.
At about 15 minute mark, sprinkle the Mexican cheese over the top until it's melted, then sprinkle another layer of cheese over. You can turn off the oven at this point and let them stay in the oven for the remaining 5 minutes to let the flavor set in. Take them out and serve.

In the end, the bread crumbs I used in this dish barely made a dent on all those bread crumbs I had, but the dish turned out to be flavorful, thanks to the Mexican cheese. I think the cheese on top needs to be a kind that has some punch to it. Also the zucchinis and the onion added a nice soft crunch to it. By the way, I used a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the pulp. I found it was easier than using a regular spoon.

Oops, almost forgot to take a picture before it was all gone.

We had fried eggs with it, quite a good combination.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Quinoa Burger Patties

It was a Sunday afternoon. I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner. My family was not much of help, one said "French Toast" as usual, another said "Soup" (didn't sound too good on a warm day)... So once again, I turned to the good old internet for answer. I had quinoa in mind and was wondering what else I could do with it beside the usual cooking method. Inspired by the quinoa burger patties recipe on, I decided to make my own version. It's a simple one. Here is how I did it.
The first batch of the patties.

Makes about 8 patties

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 to 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 to 2 skinny stalks green onion, chopped
1 egg + 1 tablespoon egg white or water
1 cup bread crumbs (about a slice of bread)
roughly 1/2 cup shredded cheese*
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce*
2 teaspoons Italian salad dressing*
Black pepper to taste

* I used Organic Valley Mild Cheddar cheese. This cheese is pretty mild, so it doesn't overpower the flavors of the other ingredients, but you can use a stronger kind if you prefer some cheesy taste. On the dressing, I used Newman's Own Lite Italian Dressing. The tamari sauce was the low sodium kind. You may substitute it with soy sauce.

Cook quinoa with liquid ratio of 2:1 (2 liquid and 1 quinoa that is). I used 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of vegetable broth as my liquid combo. Bring the quinoa to a rapid boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. When done, the grain appears soft and translucent and the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of the grain. Sorry I didn't measure how much 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa made after it was cooked.

Put the cooked quinoa into a mixing bowl to cool a bit. Meanwhile, chop up the cilantro and green onion; tear up some bread. Mix them in the quinoa, then add the cheese and the egg. I added extra egg white to make the mixture give more moisture and adhesiveness for the patties. You can add water instead if you don't have egg white readily on hand to use. Or you can just dump another whole egg in it. I happened to have a small carton of egg white in the fridge. Personally I don't like to crack an extra egg just to use the white or yolk. You'll need some extra moisture for the cooking process, otherwise the patties will be too dry. You can adjust the amount of bread crumbs and egg white or water whichever you choose as you go along.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix them well. Form patties about 2 to 2 1/2 inches diameter and 1/2 inch thick. The mixture make about 8 patties. Heat up the skillet with some olive oil and put the patties in over medium-low heat, cook about 6 minutes or until the bottom sides are sturdy enough to be flipped over. By the time the patties are flippable, the bottoms are probably browned adequately. Then cook the other side until golden brown as well.

When I cook any kind of patties, balls or whatnot that contain raw eggs or meat in the mixture, I'm always afraid that they aren't cooked all the way through enough, so I tend to cook them with the lid on at a low cooking temperature for a little while and check to make sure it's not burned or overcooked. Sometimes I also add a tiny bit of water. That way the bottoms won't get burned easily and the whole thing get cooked through.

The flavor of the patties turned out to be surprisingly delicious. It was savory but light. Hubby usually is not a big fan of quinoa but he loved the patties. The kids liked them too. We had avocado slices and zucchini fries with it in a bun. Quite a burger, wouldn't you say? Yum yum!

The latest quinoa burger meal, with corn.
On a side note, you could make the patties in different shapes with cookie cutters; just to make it more interesting to eat for kids.

Friday, May 4, 2012

French Toast Bake

I got the idea for this dish from another blogger's post, Rach's Blog. Her post details each step of making the french toast bake. My kids love french toast and they ask for it as dinner often. When I came across the picture of Rach's dish on pinterest, I thought 'hey, I can make this version for dinner.' Her recipe was for more people than the four I feed at home, so as usual I cut down the quantity and it turned out scrumptious and everyone loved it.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 packed light brown sugar
6 to 7 slices of bread
3 eggs
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon almond milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Grease all sides of the baking pan. Mix the sugar in the melted butter well. Spread the mixture onto the bottom of 2-1/2 quart (2.3L) baking pan (or you can use 8" x 8" pan but it may only hold 6 slices of bread). Beat eggs, milk, vanilla and salt.

Brown sugar and butter mixture spread on the bottom of the baking dish.
Lay single layer of bread in the pan and spoon about 1/2 the egg mixture on the bread layer. Add second layer on, then pour the remainder of the mixture over. Make sure every bit of the bread is covered with the egg mixture. Cover and let chill overnight.

Before putting it in the fridge to chill.
Bake at 350 F degree for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

The brown sugar on the bottom was the best part after it's baked. Flip the toast upside down to serve, so you can get all that yummy brown goodness into your tummy. MmmMmm (*rubbing tummy in circles*)! Hubby commented that was the best french toast he's tasted. Of course, my kids asked for seconds.

The bread I used was home made so the shape and size were a bit different than the store-bought ones. I think they were a bit bigger than store-bought bread. It was kind of fun trying to fit all the bread pieces into one layer at a time, like working on a puzzle. Also, I use 3 tablespoons egg white to substitute the 3rd egg. I think using egg white makes the dish less eggy and cut down the cholesterol a bit. I suppose you could use all egg white if you prefer. I still like some yolky taste in mine plus the nutrients from the yolks. The almond milk I used was the Original flavor of Blue Diamond Almond Milk. If you use unsweetened kind or plain soy milk, you might want to add more sweetness to the mixture. I got the dish ready the night before and took it out of the fridge the next day to bake for dinner. It worked out great while giving the kids a bath or spending extra time with them before dinner.
This is what it looks like after the dish is all assembled before baking, a self-made jigsaw bread puzzle.
You don't want to not have enough batter to soak in every inch of the bread, so making it a bit more batter is better than not enough. I find neither syrup or powder sugar is necessary when eating unless you like super sweet stuff. Adding a bit of cinnamon in the mixture would be good too, or you could sprinkle it on top when it's served.

Since I covered the pan with foil while baking for the first 30 minutes, the top wasn't as brown and crispy as Rach's. I always has this fear of burning the pie crust or any toppings for baking, so I usually cover it with foil  the whole time or at least for part of the baking time.

I knew this was going to happen some day and it did. I forgot to take a picture before the dish was served! At least I remembered it after I put the servings on my kids' plates and took pictures of them. Well, you get the idea of the brown goodness here. Hope you get to try it too.