straggler

the last strawberry from the garden and the first green beans!

 

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Tahini Date Cookies

I was not expecting to post this recipe. I was not expecting it to taste good, much less come out right, after 2 failed attempts at meringues earlier in the day (ugh). But I was intrigued, as I always am by odd combinations. Tahini, oats and dates in a cookie? My mom was not excited. And I’m not sure if I even was, but I was just too curious not to try them.

Wow. A completely surprised wow. My mom tried one first and said, “those cookies are really good.” What?! She never likes my cookies because hers are always better. But she was right, these were really good. The texture of a perfect oatmeal cookie, the sweetness lent by honey and soft dates, the earthiness of the tahini, and the lingering touch of spice…… They in fact reminded me of my favorite oatmeal raisin cookie in my freshman year dining hall in college, although I’m sure these are much more nutritious =]

As for the recipe, it’s incredibly simple and nutritious. Tahini, oats and honey are your main ingredients; add anything else you desire. Tahini had me thinking hummus, which had me thinking Middle Eastern…. which brought to mind my awesome little jar of garam masala! I decided it would definitely make an appearance. I also used this Ceylon cinnamon mom had in the cabinet, which has a slightly spicier taste than typical cinnamon, similar to Saigon cinnamon if you’ve ever had it. Although I’ve never been a fan of dates, I used them as the recipe called for and was pleasantly surprised. But I think I’ll use raisins next time just because I love raisins!

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Summer Squash

It’s the time of year for the garden to be overflowing with squash, which we must pick or else they will grow to the size of our yellow lab, Benny, and no one wants that.

So what to do with zucchini upon zucchini upon zucchini? Well, get creative of course! Zucchini is loved in our family and my mom often makes her ‘zucchini marinara’ year round, which is simply sautéed squash topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella. As simple and tasty as this is, you can guess it gets old after a while. So here are some of our latest summer squash recipes…. and if you have a favorite I’d love to know about it!

Zucchini Cakes with Goat Cheese, found here

Calabacitas con Elote – Me and mom’s absolute favorite. We really could eat this every day of the summer! It’s such a simple recipe but something about the zucchini and sweet corn simmering together creates a rich, “summery” flavor, if I may call it that :]. I’d like to try adding some vegetable broth and eating it as a soup!

3 large ears sweet white corn or 3 cups thawed frozen whole kernel corn

6 medium zucchini (1 ½ lbs)

2 poblano or California Chiles, roasted & peeled OR 2 canned whole green chiles (mom uses a 4.5oz can of chopped green chiles, because they’re milder)

3 tomatoes, chopped OR 1 15oz can chopped/diced tomatoes

¼ medium onion (use more if desired)

1 ½ T olive oil

¼ t dried leaf oregano, crushed (or use ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro)

¾ t salt

pepper

If using fresh corn, slice kernels off cobs, then scrape cobs with sharp spoon to get juices. Discard cobs. Cut zucchini into ½ – ¼ inch cubes. Cut chiles into short thin strips. Chop tomatoes and onion. Heat oil in saucepan or Dutch oven. Add corn and zucchini cubes. Cook over med-low heat until zucchini is crisp-tender, about 3 min. Add chile strips (or can of chopped chiles), tomatoes (and juice if canned), onions, oregano (if using cilantro, add once zucchini is tender approx 5 min before serving), salt + pepper to taste. Stir. Cover and cook over medium heat 5-10 min until zucchini is tender. Makes 6-8 servings.

Pesto Zucchini Noodles – a healthy substitution for spaghetti noodles with way less cooking involved!

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Light & Summery Peach-Blueberry Crisp

In our family, this is summer’s signature dessert. With local peaches and blueberries taking over our kitchen faster than we can handle, fruit crisps are something easy to make and easy to enjoy. Eaten for dessert, breakfast, or a snack, hot or cold, with ice cream, yogurt, or solo… it’s simply the essence of summer in your mouth. Unfortunately, while some people mistake crisps, cobblers, crumbles, etc. for being “healthy” desserts seeing as they contain fruit, many are made with loads of butter, white sugar, white flour, sour cream…everything that may be found in your most decadent chocolate cake. Here I’ve lightened up and perfected our recipe so it can truly be a refreshing and light summery dessert, and double as a delicious breakfast :]

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“Nikki’s Healthy Cookies”– my go-to healthy cookie

Let me redeem myself for providing you such a devil of a cookie recipe. I promise indulgent treats will be a rare occasion and I’ll do my best not to tempt you [and myself] with them. But while we’re on the subject of chocolate chip cookies……

A year or so ago after attempting this mystically butter-less, flour-less, egg-less and sugar-less cookie (isn’t that just about everything that makes up a cookie?), I would be forever changed. No, it did not contain any of those heart-clogging, empty calorie ingredients which make “the cookie” such a sinful temptation. But the combination of these ingredients worked their magic and emerged from the oven as toasty, hearty, chewy, perfectly sweet and coconutty bites of bliss exploding with chunks of melty dark chocolate. I can honestly say they satisfied my cookie craving 100% as well as my classic beloved chocolate chip cookie. And they’re that much more enjoyable when there’s zero guilt to follow.

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The real thing.

The perfect chocolate chip cookie. So classic, yet surprisingly hard to come by.

When I was in school and on sports teams my mom had her faithful recipe she could count on to never, ever fail. Thick, crisp, golden, melting with chocolate chips, never flat. The only issue I ever had with these cookies was that the dough didn’t taste great, which ruined all my bowl-licking fun while she made them. Why didn’t the dough taste good? And what was that magic ingredient that promised success every time? Crisco. Yes. It’s solid saturated state leaves the cookies puffy, soft on the inside and crisp on the outside, rather than thin and flat which often happens in recipes calling for butter.

Now, I hadn’t had a “real” homemade chocolate chip cookie in years I think, since I started baking with much healthier ingredients in order to enjoy without the guilt. I wouldn’t dare bake a batch of cookies with Crisco in my kitchen. However when I saw this “chocolate chip cookie recipe round-up,” a quest to find the best, I mentioned it to my mom and she reminded me of her trusty recipe! I don’t think she had baked them since I’ve been out of school either. I can’t believe I forgot all about these guys—I must have literally pushed them out of my memory for fear that I would give in, bake them and eat a whole cup of Crisco. yuck. And yuck is what came to my mind when she reminded me of this secret ingredient. Would I really get out a tub of saturated fat and dump it in my cookie dough? It’s a well known fact that while making cookies I will eat a quarter of the dough, at least. Ugh. But I wanted to taste and remember that “perfect” chocolate chip cookie from my childhood. Dilemma.

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