Zucchini & Feta Pie

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This is such a perfect summer dinner! Zucchini is usually so large and beautiful in the summer. And if you or a family member has a garden, you know that it is abundant this time of year. People are giving it away, begging everyone they know to take some! Try this dish, which features the zucchini itself, instead of relegating it to the side like usual! We’re always trying to find a new way to eat zucchini – we probably zoodle it more often than necessary! {“Chicken Lo Mein” ZoodlesZoodles with Roasted ChickpeasCaliente Chicken & ZoodlesFrench Onion Chicken ZoodlesMediterranean Cucumber-Zoodle Salad}

Oh and side note. Please feel free to make your own pie dough. I’m sure it would be better than my freezer-case dough, but I was just not feeling making my own today! And see our Spinach & Feta Gözleme recipe for my rant about feta cheese. Go try some delicious, not pre-crumbled feta today!

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Zucchini & Feta Pie

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • Pre-made pie dough
  • 6oz feta cheese
  • Fresh basil, chopped
Instructions: 
  1. Place all of the sliced zucchini in a colander over the sink and toss with salt. Allow to sit and dehydrate while preparing the onions.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the sliced onions and toss to coat the onions with the butter.
  4. Saute onions until caramelized, stirring occasionally and covering with pan’s lid in between stirrings. [Truly caramelized onions take AT LEAST 30 minutes, if not more like an hour! I get most of my cooking tips from The Kitchn, you should too!]
  5. Follow the directions on your pre-made dough. Spray a pie pan and place the dough in there to line it. (If the packaging indicates your dough should be baked for more than 30 minutes at 375 degrees, go ahead and pre-bake it a little bit.)
  6. When onions are done, place them in the pie pan, forming the bottom layer of the pie.
  7. Add the sliced zucchini to the pan that held the onions and cover for just 2 minutes, so they soften up a little bit.
  8. Place a layer of zucchini on top of the onions.
  9. Follow this with a layer of scattered feta chunks, followed by another layer of zucchini, more feta, and lastly, a layer of zucchini. Sprinkle some chopped basil through the layers.
    • To recap: layer 1 – onions; layer 2 – zucchini; layer 3 – feta; layer 4 – zucchini; layer 5 – feta; layer 6 – zucchini.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.
  11. Top with a little bit more fresh basil.
Serves 3 as a main dish; 6 as a side.

Creamy Confetti Corn

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This post is alternatively titled: How to Make Your Vegetables Less Healthy. Just wanted to acknowledge that up front. Nothing makes vegetables yummier than bacon and cheese! Maybe you have picky little kids who you’re trying to convince to eat something other than mac & cheese and frozen chicken nuggets (describing my brother Jeffrey from age 5 to age 21…)? Or maybe you’re just trying to find a veggie side dish that’s a little bit more decadent? That’s what I was doing when making this dish. All I was craving for dinner was chips and dip – since apparently that is not a true meal (says who am I right??), an indulgent side dish was in order.

I’ve had this recipe pinned for a long time – I feel like I type that sentence a lot around here. This one has been pinned 114,000 times! It’s so impressive to me when blogs take off like that – so cool! We have quite a ways to go before we would reach that level – but hey man, one of our recipes, Bay Scallop Risotto, has been pinned 33 times! Given that I’m still shocked to see that people who are not related to me have ever read this, that’s pretty spectacular! I guess that’s the internet for you…

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Creamy Confetti Corn

(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
Ingredients: 
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce (we love Frank’s Hot Sauce!)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Green onions, sliced to top
Instructions: 
  1. In a large skillet, cook your bacon until it’s very crispy. Remove to the side on a paper towel.
  2. Pour off the bacon grease, except for just a thin coating of the pan.
  3. Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic for 3-4 minutes, until softened and fragrant.
  4. Turn heat down slightly (medium-low), and add the rest of the vegetables and milk. Stir together and then cover pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes in this way, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove lid and stir in the cream cheese and hot sauce. Cook for another ~5 minutes until the cream cheese is well-incorporated and coats the vegetables as a creamy sauce.
  6. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  7. Crumble bacon into bits and top the dish with this and sliced green onions.
Serves 6-8 as side dish

Citrus Chili Cucumbers

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I love cucumbers, but I basically eat them the same two ways over and over. (See: Fresh Avocado & Cucumber Salad & Mama Z’s Cucumbers) I’ve had this cucumber recipe pinned for literally years, but have never made it. It’s been pinned more than 119,000 times! Apparently everyone likes a nice cucumber… I’m glad I finally tried them. These cucumbers are different from my go-tos, which makes it a nice change. I usually don’t think light and fresh cucumbers need something like oil topping them, but it works well here.

Citrus Chili Cucumbers

(Adapted from Our Life in a Click blog, via Pinterest)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 large cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients minus the cucumbers themselves.
  2. Pour liquid over top of the cucumbers.
  3. Eat! Marvel at how easy it was to make this delicious snack.

Mama Z’s Cucumbers

Update 7/1/17: Soooo… turns out my memory was faulty. After talking with Jon and our other friend/my old roommate Terry, we think I mentally combined Mama Z’s recipe and Terry’s. Too lazy to change the title and the whole post, so we’ll just pretend – but give a quick shout to Terry and my muddled brain as well! 

There are some recipes that are so simple, I feel like you can barely call them “recipes.” These cucumbers fit that bill. I have to share them though, because they’re so easy to make and delicious – I’d hate to hold out on the precisely 17 people who follow this blog and are probably desperately wondering how I like to eat my cucumbers 😂😂

My friend Jon taught me how to make these cucumbers years ago, and I’ve been addicted ever since. He learned this quick snack from his mother. I’m pretty sure I still make them they way I was taught… but it was awhile ago. Hopefully so, otherwise I guess I’ll have to change the title of this post🤞🏼🤞🏼 These cucumbers will just take you a minute or two to make and are perfect for lunches or a light snack. Even better, just adjust the proportions for as many cucumbers as you want!

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Mama Z’s Cucumbers

(Recipe from my friend Jon’s mom!)
Ingredients: 
  • Cucumbers
  • Equal parts:
    • Low sodium soy sauce
    • Rice wine vinegar
  • Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions: 
  1. Slice your cucumbers.
  2. Mix together equal parts of soy sauce & rice wine vinegar. [ie: 1 tbsp soy sauce + 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar; 1/4 cup soy sauce + 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar; etc]
  3. Combine the cucumbers with the liquid and place in a dish you can cover and refrigerate.
  4. Top with a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper flakes (as little or as much as you like in terms of spiciness).
  5. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before snacking.

Shrimp Rice Bowl

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Mmmmmm… shrimp! I feel like if you polled the world about their favorite seafood, shrimp would win hands down. Shrimp is like the gateway drug of seafood – even people who “hate seafood,” seem to like shrimp. In fact, I’m pretty sure my sister’s introduction to the seafood world was with deep-fried shrimp, doused in ketchup. She now eats shrimp, crabs, scallops, the occasional fish, and lobster.

This recipe incorporates this delicious shellfish with fresh veggies and herbs, brought together with a great Asian umami flavors. It’s easy enough to throw together for a weeknight dinner, full of flavor, and contains more vegetables than average American dinner plate. Enjoy!

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Shrimp Rice Bowl

Ingredients: 
  • 3/4lb of shimp, peel & de-vein
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 tbsp low sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar, divided
  • Splash of fish sauce
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 20 baby carrots, sliced length-wise
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar, divided
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
  • Rice, prepared as you prefer
Instructions: 
  1. Allow coconut oil to liquefy in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add minced garlic to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until beginning to turn golden.
  3. Now add 2 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tsp of rice wine vinegar, and the carrots. Cover and steam for 4-5 minutes. (If you prefer your cooked carrots on the softer side, extend this time. We prefer our carrots still a bit crisp.)
  4. Lower the heat just slightly. Remove lid and add 2 more tbsp of soy sauce, the other 1 tsp of rice wine vinegar, the bell peppers, crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tbsp of brown sugar, and roughly 3/4 of the basil. Stir a few times to combine and return to lid to the pan.
  5. After ~3 minutes, add the shrimp to the pan, along with the remaining 1 tbsp of soy sauce and 1 tbsp of brown sugar.
  6. Leave the lid off this time and return the heat back to medium. Cook until the shrimp are all pink and opaque. This will take less time than you think – should be < 5 minutes. Try to avoid overcooking – rubbery shrimp are no fun!
  7. Serve over rice and top with the remaining fresh basil.
Dinner for two!

“Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles

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Every time the new year rolls around, it seems like everyone makes a resolution involving weight loss, healthy eating, or general fitness. We’ve been eating zoodles for awhile now (see here, here, here, & here), but I think they’re a great way to simultaneously cut calories and add more healthy vegetables to your dinners! This zoodles dish was inspired by a recipe I’ve had saved on Pinterest for awhile now from the blog/website SkinnyTaste. On this site, you can find so many healthy recipe ideas and healthier variations of classics. Given that takeout chicken lo mein can top out anywhere from 1000 to 1500 calories per carton (obviously varying between restaurants and preparations), this homemade version will probably serve your New Year’s resolution AND your waistline well!

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“Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles

(Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste)
Ingredients: 
  • 12oz chicken breast
  • 2 med-large zucchini
  • Vegetables to stir fry – options:
    • Carrots
    • Bell peppers
    • Onions
    • Mushrooms
    • Green onions
    • Snow peas
    • Broccoli
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 tsp sesame oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the zoodles. (Click if you need more instruction.)
  2. Slice the chicken and your choices of vegetables.
  3. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp of garlic powder.
  4. Heat the 1 tbsp of neutral oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes until no translucent spots are visible.
  5. Remove the chicken to the side and wipe clean if needed.
  6. Add 2 tsp of sesame oil to the pan and increase heat to medium-high. Once oil is quite hot, add the vegetables. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 1 tsp of sesame oil, chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, and flour.
  8. Remove vegetables to the side and lower heat to medium.
  9. Add sauce to the pan. Allow to warm for 2-3 minutes, stirring as needed.
  10. Add zoodles, other vegetables, and chicken to the pan. Cook over medium heat for ~5 additional minutes so everything is coated in sauce and vegetables are cooked to your liking.
Serving sizes depends on how many vegetables you choose to add!

Hearty Hoppin’ John

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Technically this is our second New Year’s Eve living in South Carolina, but the first one barely counts. We had just moved here, in a whirlwind month that not only included moving to a new state, but also getting married, honeymooning in Puerto Rico, and spending Christmas with Ally’s family. I’m pretty sure there were boxes strewn about, half unpacked, while we watched the ball drop to close out 2015.

This year we decided to put a little bit of effort in and make a New Year’s Eve dinner. I strongly considered going Asian and honoring their traditional New Year’s noodle dishes, representing longevity for the next year. But instead, I decided to pay homage to our not-so-new-anymore home with southern Hoppin’ John.

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In researching Hoppin’ John recipes, I learned that like pimento cheese (see similar ravings in that post), everyone’s own grandma prepares it the correct way, while everyone else’s grandma is doing it incorrectly. Here are the facts regarding Hoppin’ John as best I can tell: It contains black eyed peas, although certain specific areas substitute field peas or red cowpeas. The peas are what makes Hoppin’ John one of the lucky New Years dishes of the American South – the peas represent coins and thus, wealth in the new year to come. The dish also must contain rice and some form of pork product. The dish almost certainly originated with slaves brought to the US from Western Africa. And most agree that the dish’s American origins began in the Carolinas, more specifically in the South Carolina Low Country. Now for the controversies: Which pork product to use – bacon, ham, pork sausage? Which spices, if any, to use? Where did the name originate? Does the rice have to be cooked in the same dish?

Therefore, I make absolutely zero claims to the authenticity of this Hoppin’ John. In fact, I guarantee you that it is not authentic. I skimmed probably 20-25 different recipes for inspiration, but did not follow any one in particular. With the base of the aforementioned black eyed peas + rice + pork, people toss in all sorts of different additions. I certainly did. This is quite a stretch from the plain, historic version that only contained the three base ingredients. But to be honest with you, I doubt I’d really enjoy plain rice, peas, and bacon.

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Happy New Year! We’re looking forward to 2017 and hope everyone else is too!

Hearty Hoppin’ John

Ingredients: 
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepped, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of dry rice
  • 6 cups of stock (chicken, turkey, vegetable)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 large spicy sausages, sliced
  • 4 cups of cooked black eyed peas*
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce (we like Frank’s)
Instructions: 
  1. Slice bacon into lardons. Toss into a large pan with tall edges. Cover and cook over medium heat until the bacon begins to release its fat, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and stir to coat in the bacon fat. Re-cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Now add the garlic. Cook uncovered for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the next 10 ingredients to the pan (peppers through sausages). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover the pan. You want the liquid to be just slightly simmering while the lid is on.
  5. Uncover and stir briefly every 15 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, add the black eyed peas.
  6. The dish is done when the rice is fully cooked. This took us ~45 minutes. You may require slightly more or less time, and/or slightly more or less liquid.
  7. Before serving, stir in the hot sauce.

*You may choose whether or not to use canned black eyed peas or soak/prepare dried peas yourself.

Serves ~10 people.

Post dinner notes: We soaked our own beans, instead of using canned ones. We overdid it in the preparation phase, and the beans were fairly mushy. Next time, we need to be a little more attentive when preparing dried beans.