Alley's Recipe Book
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Weekly Menu

The past several days have been perfect for a productive vegetable garden!  Sunny and in the 80s with a pop up down pour in the afternoon followed by some cooler sunshine.  At this point of the summer, we are usually 90+ degrees, meaning flowers will not set fruit, and very little precipitation... so I hope the weather keeps up even if it does ruin an afternoon plan once in a while (although the rain was refreshing to garden in today). 

Since gardening was on my mind today, I stopped by the community garden today to take some pictures and see how everyone's gardens were doing this year.  It was right after the afternoon's schedule down pour, so everything smelled fresh and clean.  The elementary school's summer program maintains a couple of the plots this year... it is great to see kids learning where their food comes from and taking an active role in growing it themselves.

Later, I did some work in my own garden.  My dad was weeding his garden last week and mentioned that he didn't understand how I could enjoy that kind of thing.  Well, I really rather weeds didn't grow in my garden at all, but appreciate the time I spend weeding... getting my hands dirty, listening to the birds, being close to the plants that are growing food that ends up on our plates.  If the weeds didn't grow, I might just glance over the garden, especially lately since the rain has been keeping everything watered.  One glance often isn't enough to enjoy the beauty...

It is a small garden, but there are already more tomatoes than I have ever grown before!  Everything else is off to a slower start, but should be picking up soon enough.

Now for this week's menu...
stuffed tomatoes with corn on the cob
zucchini tart and grilled peaches
burgers and pan fried squash
breakfast for dinner (maybe waffles or waffle sammies with eggs and cheese)

Buttermilk Ranch Chicken - total time 20 minutes

Can we talk about the easiest chicken recipe ever?  It is fast, simple, few ingredients, flexible... and delicious!

We usually do not have salad dressing in our house, because frankly, we prefer olive oil or just cheese topping our salads.  But recently I bought some buttermilk ranch dressing because people were over for dinner, salad was part of that dinner, and I know most people like a little dressing on salads.  Maybe it is a Midwestern thing, but everyone seems  to love ranch dressing.  I know a few people who put it on everything.  But those few people were not at dinner that night, so of course we didn't finish off a whole bottle in one dinner.  I don't like having half full bottles in my fridge for too long... so I thought... if the main ingredient was buttermilk, it might make for some good pan fried chicken!

While I don't have any doubt that buttermilk ranch pan fried chicken would be delicious, we already had the grill ready to go while I was trying to figure out what to throw on it.  So we ended up trying it two ways... the first way was coated in ranch then covered in bread crumbs and the second way was just ranch.  The breaded one had a bit more ranch flavor, so I'll claim that one as the winner this round!

Oh, and as the runner up recipe... try subbing two tablespoons of ranch in your mashed potatoes instead of sour cream.  Holy moly!

Berries and Cream Popsicles - total time 4.5 hours

"Summer summer summertime... time to sit back and unwind."  

It is hot out... and it is only going to get hotter!  But I love it!  I would so much rather be hot than cold.  I don't know if anyone else ever saw that game show that aired about ten years ago called The Chamber, but I always thought I could rock the hot "torture" trivia.  Even though I have lived in Ohio all of my life... I'm convinced I was born to live in a warmer climate.

Since it is hot out, our favorite dessert (chocolate chip cookies) are not really an option while we take a break from our oven and make dinner on the grill instead.  To keep our sweet tooth in check and cool off at the same time, I made these berries and cream popsicles using what I got in my produce deliveries (CSA and Green BEAN) and I plan on making blackberry and peach versions of this popsicle.  So the recipe is pretty versatile .. really any fruit will work... and any yogurt (lowfat, flavored, greek) will work too.  Have fun with it!

Weekly Menu

The first official weekend of summer is about to wrap up.  The extra sunshine is wonderful as I sit outside sitting in the grass typing this post (in the shade, because it is hot).  It is kind of funny to me that the more extreme the temperature, hot or cold, the more likely I am to read through several books.  During winter, after the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, it is nice to cuddle on the couch with a blanket and a good book while the fire is warming the room.  And then in summer I love to sit outside and read while enjoying the fresh air and singing birds (and keep a watchful eye on any bunny attacks on the garden).  Or a beach vacation reading in the moments not in the surf.  I'm not sure what happens to my need to read during spring and autumn...

One of the books on my summer reading list came into the library this weekend.  I have only read a handful of pages, but I am already convinced it will rank among my favorites.  Michael Pollan, one of my favorite authors on food ethics and nutrition, wrote a book about cooking (the importance of cooking and how we are globally cooking less and eating packaged/processed food more) entitled Cooked.  While I am a big advocate of cooking more at home, of course, the first few pages had a very thought provoking statement... the thing that differentiates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is cooking.  Cooking our foods enabled us to more easily digest our foods and metabolize that food into more energy to power our brains.  Cooking is also the main reason for the development of human culture.  Huh... never thought of it that way.  Can't wait to read more!

Our fridge is kind of over run with lettuce and leftovers right now.  I have been taking salads to work for lunch everyday to keep up with the lettuce from our CSA and garden.  That has left a stack of leftovers that I would normally take in for lunch left in our fridge.  So we are eating leftovers tonight and tomorrow to get through the surplus before making more leftovers!  :)

buffalo chicken burgers with crispy potatoes and salad
creamy squash casserole
zucchini latkes with radish slaw
chicken florentine artichoke bake

Beet Ravioli - total time 2 hours

Beets... some people love them, some people hate them.  I guess I'm not really on either side.  Although I do not like beets from a can, all mushy and gross.  I ordered a sandwich with these canned beets on it while on vacay in San Fran... made me never want to try beets again.  But then last year I got them in my CSA order... they were yellow though.  I tried making a roasted beet soup with them... I must not have cooked them quite right.  It reminded me of baby food... gross.

Not long after the soup fiasco, I was standing in line with my friend... actually, I don't remember what we were waiting for... but I do remember the people in front of us.  This guy in front of us was talking to another guy about how kids do not eat their vegetables and that one day people will not remember what beets are.  This struck me as kind of funny.  First, this man was not much older than us to be having one of those "when I was your age" moments.  Second, my friend I was with happens to love vegetables (including beets), she also has a passion for cooking.  And third, how does one just forget a vegetable?  I guess we have lost many varieties from core vegetables and fruits, but they all still exist, right?  Losing a variety of apples does not make everyone forget apples still exist.

So, with anything, I always give it three strikes before ruling it out and beets only had two against it (neither were their fault).  I have always wanted to make my own ravioli and I saw something on Pinterest about colored pasta dough (the recipe used food coloring, but mentioned you could use beets).  Again, they came in my CSA delivery... this time they were traditional red.  ** You need some time to make this between roasting and cooling and kneading and cooling the dough, but really the recipe is quite simple. **

Weekly Menu

Hope everyone had a great Father's Day weekend!  We spent the weekend taking it easy for the most part.  Spent some time in the garden... most things are coming along nicely (have to give up on the beans, rabbits aren't going to let them grow).  Went to the community garden to see how everyone's gardens were growing this year.  One gardener there made me want to plant some fruit trees, bushes, and vines.  But, I will stick to my 8' by 16' plot.

Had another double delivery day this week so our fridge and counters are full.  A good problem to have, of course!  Savoring the last of the local strawberries every morning.  Soon blackberries and peaches will start coming in, can't wait!

So, I usually have my laptop set up in front of our TV and today is no exception.  I just saw a commercial for MySpace.  Huh?!  Is MySpace really back?  I thought I heard that Justin Timberlake bought it a couple years ago and then never heard anything since.  But I guess they just had a launch party for it... or relaunch party, really.  I was never on MySpace before, always liked the structure of Facebook (and the fact that it was only for college students at the time).  I wonder how "new" MySpace will be...

On to this week's meal plan (the zucchinis have started and you can kind of tell from the menu)...
mexican stuffed shells
zucchini enchiladas
grilled ranch chicken and mashed potatoes
shrimp po' boys and last of the asparagus
veggie sushi without the rice

Mini Spinach Quiche - total time 1 hour

I love breakfast foods, love.  Savory or sweet.  Morning or night.  I am down for some pancakes, eggs, breakfast sandwiches, muffins, doughnuts, hash browns... okay, I am getting hungry again.  So I have been planning on making a quiche for a while now.  But after my husband kept calling frittatas "egg pies" that making quiche for dinner might seal the deal on no more breakfast for dinner.  (I got him to admit that frittatas are more like omlettes cut like a pizza, not a pie.)  

Thankfully, he liked it.  So I will continue to sneak breakfast for dinner meals into our menus!

So you could make one big quiche or little ones in a muffin pan.  The little ones are definitely cuter... but I couldn't stop eating them!  Just one more...  ha!  The crust if flaky, the egg is fluffy, and the spinach and feta are savory.  Yum!  It kind of just melts in your mouth.  Also with the mini sized ones... forks are not required... just three bites and you'll be looking for the next one.

Take 5 Muddy Buddies - total time 20 minutes

Probably the first thing I ever learned how to make myself was puppy chow.  Or muddy buddies if you prefer.  Both names are kind of weird.  I mean, puppy chow?  People think you are trying to feed them dog food.  And then muddy buddies... kind of like mud pies.  Why would mud be appetizing?

Puppy chow is so easy to make!  Just melt some chocolate, peanut butter, and butter on Chex cereal... shake in a paper bag... then add powdered sugar... done!  Once everyone gets over the name, they are scarfing down the chocolaty, peanut buttery goodness.  Tastes like childhood!

Fast forward to adulthood and sometimes you just want a snack that will take you back to simpler times.  This time we're adding caramel and pretzels to the mix... a little extra sweet and a little extra salty.  Yum!

Weekly Menu

Today is our 6th anniversary and it seems our tradition is spending it apart.  We have never really been big on celebrating things like birthdays or anniversaries.  We usually both forget about them any way.  Like this morning, as my husband was leaving for a long day at work (on a Sunday) he said "happy anniversary" and my response was "oh, yeah".  Haha.  Not sure why we remembered it this year.  It is usually June 10th before we're like... oops, our anniversary was yesterday.

Anyone else feel the same way?  I mean, if was a perfect day, a day I will never forget... the weather was beautiful, a guy floated down the river on a kayak behind us.  Then onto the reception and the first few dances and then into our togas to party the night away (yep, togas... our first date was a toga party).  So much fun and it went so quick!

So anyway... I found my new favorite breakfast...

A stack of three multigrain pancakes with a layer of Nutella and slice strawberries.  These strawberries are so ripe, so delicious!  We always look forward to strawberry season from our CSA.  Wish it could last the whole season, but these babies are worth the wait!

On to this week's menu...
Fried Arts on a Cake (inspired by Sweet Carrot's food truck at Arts Fest)
frittata with broccolette
grilled cheese (maybe tomato, mozzarella, and basil) and salad

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps - total time 30 minutes

When I was doing my 40 Day Vegetarian Challenge I had some tofu lettuce wraps when we went out to eat for my birthday and Valentine's Day.  I have been meaning to replicate the dish for a while now.  After getting some beautiful green leaf lettuce in my CSA delivery, I decided this week was the week to try!

I don't know what it is about tofu... everyone seems scared of it!  It's just soybeans!  I know I pop soybeans like candy at sushi restaurants as edamame.  And soy is used in so many of our everyday food items as a thickening agent or for added protein.  But even knowing all of this, I was a little nervous about cooking it myself.  I know tofu can be delicious, but I figured it took years of trial and error to be good at cooking tofu.  Turns out, you just need to get it in a pan and it is hard to go wrong!

So I knew for these lettuce wraps, I wanted soy sauce to flavor the tofu, but that would not be enough.  Add some broccoli and cashews and you really got something.  Your carnivores and tofu haters will forget this meal doesn't have meat because they will be gobbling these Asian tacos too quickly to remember!

Thick Mint Cookies - total time 1 hour

I completely thought I posted this recipe already and I looked back the other day realizing that I left the pictures hanging in draft status!  

So remember two months ago when Girl Scouts were on every corner selling their beloved cookies.  I know you bought a few boxes, everyone did.  Now those cookies are long gone and you think you have to wait until next spring before you can enjoy those yummy treats again, right?  

Wrong!  You can get that same thin minty goodness from your own kitchen!  This isn't a 'copy cat' recipe, so it isn't the exact same thing as a Thin Mint.  Depending on your cookie preferences, it is probably better!  :)  Move over Thin Mints... thick mint cookies is where it's at.  Melt in your mouth, covered in dark chocolate, minty, delectable morsels... 

Bok Choy Stir Fry - total time 30 minutes

One of the great things about joining a CSA is you get to try new vegetables that you would not normally pick up from the grocery store.  Well, you can usually customize your delivery, so you don't actually have to try new things... but you never know if your favorite vegetable or meal is out there somewhere and you just haven't tried it yet!  

Our first year we tried kohlrabi which is kind of a cross between cabbage and a potato.  They were good roasted or in a cole slaw type salad.  Last year we tried beets.  I have had beets before, but they are always already cooked and usually pretty slimy, so I have never been a big fan.  I tried making beet soup last year, it didn't really turn out well (and obviously never made it to the blog) so I am giving them another shot this week.  This year we go bok choy for the first time (also known as chinese cabbage)...

After a little research, most of the recipes I found were Asian influences, which wasn't surprising considering its second name.  With a little customization, I thought this dish was quite tasty!  I love cooking with sesame oil, it gives everything such great flavor.  And cashews... yum!  Love cashews and they give this dish a nice crunch.  The bok choy tastes very similar to cabbage with a slight bitterness and a bit of crunch itself.  

Weekly Menu

Oh boy!  Good thing we eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  This past Friday was our first double delivery day of the summer.  That is a cooler full of produce from our CSA and a bin full of produces and grocery from Green Bean.  That is a packed fridge right there...

Needless to say we will be eating a lot of salads for lunch this week with three bags of spinach, 2 heads of green leaf lettuce, and a bag of mixed greens.  Lots of berries too!

It was a beautiful weekend!  Spent some time in the vegetable garden (actually, a lot of time, my back is a little pink and I have a few blisters on my hands).  We went for a walk around the Conservatory checking out their landscaping and community gardens before getting some Jeni's ice cream (...mmmm...).  Summer feels like it is in full swing as I am typing this from our deck enjoying the birds singing, butterflies fluttering by, and sun shining.

Alright, time for this week's menu plan!

Spinach and Feta Quiche with home fries
Homemade Beet Raviolis
Grilled BBQ Chicken and Veggie Kabobs

Shrimp Po Boys - total time 30 minutes

We spent a couple days in New Orleans with my husband's parents in October a couple years ago.  Those were some of the hottest days in October I have ever experienced.  Although I enjoyed the heat when I would normally be shivering in Ohio, I could only imagine what kind of heat the summer brought to New Orleans.  Probably something unbearable.

The first thing we did when we arrived (after we set our stuff down at the bed and breakfast we were staying at) we were in search for some of New Orleans famous creole food.  By the end of the weekend we had jambalaya, oysters, hurricanes, cajun everything, beignets, and more... but the first thing we had was crawfish po boys.  That cajun seasoning will wake up your senses!  Since I'm not sure I want to cook crawfish... and shrimp are much easier to get in the grocery store... here is my take on this traditional southern sandwich.


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