August 4, 2015

Recipes for your Garden Haul: Cucumber Sandwiches


The garden haul in this photo is from a few weeks ago. I haven't been taking pics lately, but I need to. Next week I'll share some photos of the garden itself, along with the fun stuff we're harvesting (and, of course, some garden recipes).

So, we're moving on from zucchini recipes (as promised) to cucumbers...because that's what's coming in in my garden right now. I've got a few simple cucumber recipes to share this week. (I think every recipe involving cucumbers is simple.) In addition to those, my husband's been making lots of fun cucumber drinks and we've canned some cucs for dill pickles (as well as some hot peppers) that will be ready to eat later this month.

I also highly recommend using up extra cucs by making cucumber water. It's lovely. To make it extra interesting you can add some fresh ginger and lemon to your cucumber water. It is light and refreshing and very spa-like.

But today, we're talking cucumber sandwiches.

They're not just for English High Tea!

(And they are actually quite delicious. Seriously. Give them a try.)

These are so simple. They are cool and light. Perfect for a hot summer day. And they are a delicious way to use up the 542 cucumbers that are growing in your garden...or is that just in my garden???

Seriously people, those things are taking over! They have squeezed out the summer squash plant; they would be squeezing out the beans and lettuce if I hadn't put up a barricade; they might be trying to take over the world! It is a crazy tangled mess in there, but boy are those cucs delish.

So here's another way to use them...dainty, proper, English cucumber sandwiches.

Cucumber Sandwiches (makes 4 sandwiches)

recipe originally found on www.chindeep.com
3 oz. cream cheese
2 tbsp mayo
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cucumber, sliced (I leave the skin on unless it's really tough)
8 slices, bread of your choice (I think a softer bread works best, but any kind will do)

Mix the cream cheese, mayo, garlic and Italian seasoning together in a small bowl. (If you let your cream cheese sit out for a little bit before mixing, you can just mix it by hand. If your cream cheese is very firm you can either soften it a bit in the microwave (just a little though, don't heat it up) or you can mix this all in a mini food processor.) Spread cream cheese mixture on all 8 slices of bread. Add one layer of cucumber to 4 of the slices of bread. Sprinkle cucumber lightly with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with other bread slice. Cut and serve. (You can cut the crusts off to be extra proper, but I don't bother...I like crust.)

There you have it. Super simple summer sandwiches...say that 5 times fast.

Until next time, happy eating.




July 30, 2015

Recipes for your Garden Haul: Zucchini Bread


Since this is, like, my fourth zucchini recipe this month, I thought I should do a little research to sell you on eating all of this zucchini. I mean, we all know that zucchini is a vegetable, so I'm guessing that we all assumed that it's pretty good for us. But just how good is it? Well, here's what I found...

It's a good source of vitamins C and A, as well as the B complex vitamins. It's rich in phytonutrients (antioxidants) and is a great source of potassium (apparently it's even better than a banana!). It also delivers some good minerals--iron, zinc, magnesium and manganese, to be specific. And it's a low calorie, high fiber food. So there you have it.

Zucchini = Good for you.

So let's make some zucchini bread!!

I've already shared recipes for Zucchini Brownies and Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread, well now here's a recipe for a more traditional zucchini bread...and boy is it good! This loaf lasted about 4 days in our house...and it only made it that long because we were gone the better part of one of those days! It's moist and flavorful and I loved it!

A little swath of butter and it is a bite of heaven. Give it a go...

Zucchini Bread
2 c. shredded zucchini, extra water squeezed out
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 c. plain yogurt (not fat free)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 tbsp butter, melted (and cooled a bit)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray and flour. Shred your zucchini, peel and all. Place your shredded zucchini in a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and squeeze out some of the excess water, then set aside 2 cups of it. (If you have extra, you can freeze it already shredded and ready to go in a ziploc freezer bag.) In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, yogurt, lemon juice and melted butter until combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry using a rubber spatula. Add the zucchini and mix just until combined. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached. Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.

If you like nuts in your zucchini bread you can add some chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter just before you pour it into the pan, or you can sprinkle some on the top (like I did) once it's in the pan, before it goes in the oven. You can also mix a little cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of the top of the bread before you pop it in the oven. I did this too...tis yummy.

Until next time, happy baking!


P.S. This is the last zucchini recipe for a bit. Up next...cucumbers! :-)




July 28, 2015

Recipes for your Garden Haul: Spaghetti with Zucchini, Walnuts & Raisins

Look! More zucchini recipes!

Hopefully this isn't getting old, because I'm not going to lie...as long as I keep finding good ones, they're gonna keep coming.

But this one is savory, not sweet. And it's what's for dinner at my house tonight!

Oh, and it's easy, light and delicious.

Here you go!

No, this is not my stylized shot. I forgot to take a photo when I made it so I took a photo of the picture in the magazine (Real Simple) where I found this recipe years ago. Weak, I know.

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Walnuts and Raisins
12 oz.Whole Wheat Spaghetti (about 3/4 of a box)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2-3/4 c. walnut halves, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs zucchini cut into thin half moons (about 4 small zucchini or 1 really big one)
3/4 c. raisins (golden or regular)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 c. grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta according to package directions then drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over, medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown, probably less than a minute. (Note: Be careful working over this high heat. Pay attention so that you don't burn your walnuts or garlic!) Add the zucchini and raisins to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until the zucchini is just tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the pasta to the zucchini mixture and toss to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan before serving.


The whole dinner takes about 20 minutes to make. It's pretty quick and easy--chopping the zucchini is the only real work. You do have to babysit it a bit on the stove though, so you don't burn the nuts and garlic. But it's great for using up your garden zucchini and it's a nice, light summer pasta dish.

Until next time, happy cooking.


July 22, 2015

Recipes for your Garden Haul: Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread


And we're back!

It's time for another recipe using the delicious stuff you're growing in your garden. And since I have a whole lot of zucchini, I'm sharing yet another zucchini recipe. This time it's a light and refreshing Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread.

I thought this one was a fun twist on the traditional zucchini bread recipe. In case, like me, you have a lot of zucchini and are looking to mix things up a bit. So here you go!

Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread
2 c. cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 c. canola oil (I use a coconut oil/canola oil blend)
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 c. buttermilk
zest of 1 lemon
1 c. grated zucchini


for glaze:
1 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp milk

Grease 9x5 loaf pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs, then add oil and sugar and mix until well blended. Add lemon juice, buttermilk and lemon zest and mix until combined. Fold in zucchini. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix until well combined. Pour batter into greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool a little then remove loaf from pan. While loaf is still warm, make glaze and spoon over the bread. Let the glaze set up before cutting and serving.

Notes: 1) An easy way to keep buttermilk on hand for recipes like this without always having to buy fresh is to buy powdered buttermilk. You can keep it in the fridge and then mix it with water for whatever amount you need for your recipe. 2) If you like a lot of glaze on your bread (like I do), you can spread some on the bottom of the loaf too. There are a couple of ways to do this: a) you can put a puddle of it on a plate and then set your loaf in that puddle before spooning the glaze on top of the loaf, or b) once you've glazed your loaf and the glaze has set up, you can use a knife to scoop the "run off" and spread it on the bottom of the loaf. 3) And one last thought. If you have more shredded zucchini than you need for a recipe, you can freeze it. Just load it into a freezer bag and save it for later...I'd recommend doing it in 1 or 2 cup servings so you'll only need to thaw what you'll use next time.

For more recipes that use what you're growing in your garden, check out my pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/amylorbach/recipes-for-my-garden/.

Until next time, happy baking!





July 20, 2015

Recipes for your Garden Haul: Zucchini Brownies



If you planted zucchini in your garden, chances are that you are now, have been, or will soon be knee-deep in giant zucchini, like me.

What to do? What to do?

Make treats, of course.

So, over the next couple of months I will be testing lots of new zucchini (and summer squash and cucumber and hot pepper...etc.) recipes. And the good ones I will share with you.

First up? Zucchini Brownies. These are so ridiculously good...chocolatey, super moist and delicious. A definite must make.

So, without further ado...here's your recipe!

Zucchini Brownies
2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. canola oil (I use one that combines coconut and canola oil)
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c. shredded zucchini (squeeze out some of the excess water)
1/2 to 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 to 1 c. chopped walnuts, if desired

Grease 9x13 pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, then set aside. In large bowl, blend oil, sugar and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and stir to combine (batter may be stiff/dry, that's ok). Then mix in zucchini (this should loosen up batter a bit, but it will still be a stiffer batter). Finally, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips, as desired. Spread batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips. If you're adding walnuts, now's the time to sprinkle them over the top as well (As you can see, I did half with and half without. And they're so good with walnuts!!). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some crumbs (and no wet batter). Be sure not to over bake! No one likes dried out brownies! Move pan to wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Up next...Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread!

For more recipes that use what you're growing in your garden, check out my pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/amylorbach/recipes-for-my-garden/.

Until next time, happy baking!



July 14, 2015

YA Reading Reco: The Selection Series

You know how there are books that you really enjoy reading despite the fact that they're not THE MOST AWESOME THING YOU'VE EVER READ?

They are the Easy Reads. The books you fly through and enjoy. You want to keep reading them, though they may not necessarily inspire you or challenge you or leave you in a state of awe. They're typically somewhat predictable, but in a good way. They are light and they leave you smiling. A lot of times they're referred to as Summer Reads or Beach Books. Perfect for reading while you lay on a chaise by the pool. Most good trashy romance novels fall into this category. And a lot of mystery/thriller/detective novels.

I am in no way knocking this type of book. I love them. I've read a lot of them. I like to sprinkle them heavily into my reading lists. But I mean to distinguish them from the books that change you in some way. The ones that do inspire and awe and challenge. Those are a different breed.

For today, we're talking Easy Reads. And in this case, we're talking Easy-YA-Dystopia-Romance.

Too many modifiers?

How about this...

Today, we're talking The Selection series by Kiera Cass.

This series includes The Selection, The Elite, The One...and, recently released, The Heir.

It's been described as "a cross between The Hunger Games (minus the bloodsport) and The Bachelor" or "reality TV meets dystopian fairytale." And those are pretty apt descriptions.

The story is set in a dystopian future in which the US democracy has fallen and from the wreckage the monarchy of Illea has risen, built on a caste system. All citizens are relegated to one of seven castes (the eighth caste being reserved only for the royal family). The caste you are born into determines your social standing, ability to earn money and type of work available to you. The only way to change castes is to marry into another caste, be drafted into the military or The Selection, or be relegated to a lower caste as punishment for a crime.

The monarchy throws a proverbial bone to the masses whenever a prince comes of age and is ready to marry. Then, "The Selection" is initiated and a pool of eligible young women from across the land (and across castes) is chosen and brought to the castle. It is from this pool of girls that the prince will choose his bride (ala The Bachelor). And so the series begins...

America Singer, our "she don't know she's beautiful" protagonist, sort of "accidentally" finds herself amongst the candidates and her world turned upside-down by The Selection. And we take the journey right along with her. From her small town home and work as a Five, to the behind-the-scenes world of the royal family.

It takes us three books to get from the beginning of the process to the end. And it's all fun. All three books deliver a similarly enjoyable experience. They are all easy, quick, engaging reads. And the first two will leave you wanting to know what happens next...even though you know full-well where the whole thing is going to end up. Doesn't matter. You'll still want to know how you'll get there.

Like I said, perfect for summer. So, pick up a copy, plop yourself in a lawn chair, and enjoy the brain candy while the kids play on the swing set.

You're welcome.

Until next time, happy reading!


P.S. In case you're wondering, the fourth book in the series The Heir, picks up America's story years later. I haven't read it yet...it just came out. But my niece, Katie, will be lending it to me on vacation next month. I fully expect it to deliver another easy, engaging read. :-)



July 7, 2015

I. Love. This. Book. Mosquitoland.

Awesomeness.

There are these books that get me on so many levels. I think it's when great writing intersects with a great story and a great character and then they all roll together through that something special that nabs my heart from the get-go.

And that's what David Arnold did to me with his first novel, Mosquitoland. Nabbed my heart from the get-go. I think it was Mim's voice.

As I said in the header...I. Love. This. Book.

For me this is right up there with Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park. Which I adored. It left me with the same feeling.  I finished it a few days a go and I miss Mary Iris Malone (aka: Mim, true heroine) terribly. I wish she lived next door. I imagine sitting on a front porch swing with her. Rocking and sipping lemonade while we talk about life.

Yes, I sometimes do this with fictional characters. Ones that are so well drawn that I imagine them real...and, apparently, sharing beverages with me.

What makes this book even better is that I didn't pick it out for myself. I love that I, literally, found this book on my doorstep.

For Mother's Day this year my husband got me a subscriptions to Brilliant Books Monthly. Each month, the lovely folks at Brilliant Books hand pick a book just for me and mail it to me. Isn't that the most brilliant thing ever for a bibliophile?

My husband knows me well.

So what's this Brilliant Books? It's an independent bookseller in Traverse City, Michigan...one of my favorite places on earth. My husband and I were married at a nearby vineyard and have been visiting the area every summer since then. And every summer I spend a few hours in Brilliant Books. Always leaving with a stack of books and a smile.

It's like a pilgrimage to the motherland for me. It's been my dream for a long, long time to have my own little bookshop. Maybe someday. If we lived in Traverse City I would at least work there part time...for the discount and the company. Oh, to talk books all day! Anyway...

After last year's visit I began following their children/YA lit specialist's book blog, The Hiding Spot (which I love...you can find it here: http://thehidingspot.blogspot.com). That's where I first heard of Mosquitoland. I had added it to my To-Read List after reading Sara's write-up on it, but hadn't gotten around to picking it up.

Then the folks at Brilliant Books read my mind. Love that.

So back to the book...

I really don't want to tell you anything about what the story is about. (And that's not just because I don't like writing blurbs.) I just want you to get it, blind, and start reading. Don't even read the book jacket blurb. Just dive in. That's my favorite way to start a book. No preconceived ideas. Just immersion in someone else's world.

Just do it. As a favor to me.

I will tell you this about the book: You'll find it in the Young Adult section. It's a realistic, present day story...no dystopia. The main character is Mary Iris Malone. She is 16. Her voice is unique and unforgettable. And she takes a journey.

That's all you need.

Until next time, happy reading!



P.S. You can find more information about Brilliant Books Monthly here: http://www.brilliant-books.net It makes a wonderful gift for a booklover that you love. And if you just want to support independent booksellers, Brilliant Books ships anywhere for free. :-)