Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts

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I’d like to take this opportunity to drop a few nuggets of truth on all of you, if that’s okay.

Nobody is normal. Nobody.

Fears are nothing more than stories that we tell ourselves.

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.

Nothing is really lost- until your mom can’t find it, that is. Then, it’s just gone forever.

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Lastly ( and perhaps most  importantly)…it is always, ALWAYS, a good ‘time to make the donuts’.

For those that may not know, the Dunkin’ Donuts company featured a commercial with a character named Fred the Baker who appeared in commercials with the trademark ‘catchphrase’: “Time to Make the Donuts”. It was a pretty popular ad, and was also parodied in one of my favorite Saturday Night Live sketches with Jon Lovitz. It’s really all I could think about when I was putting this post together, and I think that that really says something to the centrality of donuts in life in general. Think about it: there’s no time, event or circumstance when it’s not a good time for some donuts.

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Had a lousy day at work? Time to make/eat some donuts.

 Your favorite team won the game? Time to make/eat some donuts.

Fight with the spouse/significant other? Time to make/eat some donuts.

Payday? Time to make/eat some donuts.

Fiesta Friday? Definitely time to make/eat some donuts.

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I mentioned in some of my earlier posts that I recently got into the mood to make some donuts from scratch. My sisters wanted these Cinnamon Bun Doughnuts and Apple Cider Donuts. And me, well I wanted these.

A good old fashioned sour cream donut just like the ones you get from the bakery.

Guys. Guys, guys, guuuuuuuuys.

Drop whatever you’re doing, print out this recipe and get in your kitchen. ‘Cause it’s time to make the donuts. These donuts. Right now.

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This recipe is so good, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between these donuts, and ones you would buy from a bakery. The dough creates the perfect browned, crusty crevices that have just enough body for the icing to seep into, solidify and form the most delightful pools of pure sugary goodness. It’s just what a sour cream donut should be, and I meant JUST: golden brown and crusty on the outside, soft and  flakey tender on the inside, with the sour cream giving it just enough of a subtle tang to complement the sweetness of the icing. One of the best donuts, I’ve ever had, hands down.

And yeah, I’m more than a little pleased and proud that I was the one to make them.

I’m bringing these donuts to this week;s Fiesta Friday #38 hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Hilda and Julianna. Don’t fight over  them all at once, guys. There’s plenty enough to go round-for now…

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Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts

Recipe Adapted from Completely Delicious via  Hand Forged Doughnuts

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts

Ingredients

For Donuts

  • 2 1/4 cup (255 grams) cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter flavored shortening
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) sour cream
  • Canola oil, for frying

For Glaze

  • 3 1/2 cup (350 grams ) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) hot water

Directions

1. In a bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the shortening and sugar together until sandy. Add the egg yolks and mix until light and thick.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream, ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl down as necessary. The dough will be sticky. Spoon it into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

4. On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Use a donut cutter or two differently sized biscuit cutters to cut out as many donuts as possible, dipping the cutters into flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

5. Pour the canola oil into a heavy bottomed pot to at least 2 inches deep. Heat to 325 degrees F. Add the donuts to the heated oil a few at a time, careful not to overcrowd the pot. Fry on each side about 2 minutes, but watch to make sure they don’t burn.

6. Let drain on a paper bag to soak up the excess grease.

7. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until smooth. Dip each donut into the glaze, making sure they are covered completely. Place on a wire rack above a sheet pan to catch any excess glaze. Let sit for 20 minutes until glaze is set.

8. Store in an air tight container at room temperature for a few days.

Checkerboard Layer Cake

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One year ago today, I thought that I was absolutely crazy.

I had tried to talk myself out of it for months, giving all kinds of excuses as to why the idea in my head was a bad, terrible, even abysmal one that would never lead to anything.

I didn’t know anything about blogging. I mean ANYTHING.

WordPress or Blogroll? How should I know? Wait. What’s the difference between them anyway? (This was a serious, actual conversation I had with myself at the time, I kid you not.)

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I didn’t know anything about photography.  I got my first real digital camera for my 24th birthday, and I knew virtually nothing about operating it besides pressing the button that would actually take the pictures. Food styling? Natural Lighting? Props? What were those things? I sure as heck didn’t know.

There were literally millions of other food blogs out there; what reason did  I have to think that anyone out there would take any notice of it? Not a single one.

Despite all of those misgivings and factors working against me, a year ago today I pressed the ‘Publish’ button. A year ago today, I published the very first blog post on Cooking is My Sport.

My tiny blog baby is one year old, guys. I can’t believe it. When I first started this thing, it was purely an experiment- I told myself that if no one showed interest in my posts, I could always just quit and delete the whole thing, with the world being none the wiser. And for some strange, but wonderful reason, that didn’t happen.

And it’s all because of you people.

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I’ve said it before, but today on my blog’s anniversary I can’t help but say it once again: to every single person who has ever visited CIMS, liked a post, commented on one, or followed my blog- you have my immense gratitude.

Thank you. Thank you. And THANK YOU.

Most of all, thank you all to the wonderful new friends and buddies I’ve made through blogging. Thanks for sharing your wonderful blogs with me and always showing mad support ❤

This has been such a wild ride of a year. I feel like I’ve learned so much- not just about blogging, but photography as well. Check back to my first posts if you don’t believe me.

Wait no, don’t do that. My photography is horrifyingly God-awful on several dishes.

Eh, whatever.  You’re welcome to look if you’re brave enough. And regardless of poor pictures, the food is still spot on, so there’s that.

I knew I wanted to make a special cake to celebrate my blogs’s birthday, and this one certainly is special. The checkerboard layer cake is one of those things that for a lot of people that haven’t made it before, is a real mystery. They just can’t figure out how it gets done. I used to be one of them myself. Then, earlier this year, my grandma and grandpa remodeled their kitchen. While emptying it out for the contractor, my grandma decided to get rid of a good number of her old appliances and cookware- fortunately, most of them got passed on to yours truly. One of the things I got was her checkerboard cake pan set. When I was trying to think of what type of layer cake to make for the blog anniversary, I thought of the set and immediately decided that this would be the one.

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Now, if you don’t have a checkerboard cake pan set, have no fear: you can still make this cake. All you really need are 8″ or 9″ layer cake pans, and bowls/cookie cutters that measure 4-5″ and 2-3″ inches. You also don’t have to automatically go with white and chocolate cake as your flavors: as long as they’re different colors to create the checkerboard pattern, it’s fine. I will say this though: try to use cake recipes that aren’t overly moist. Since this cake requires multiple steps of assembly, super moist cakes can have the tendency to be really fragile and crack with too much handling. The cake shouldn’t be as dense as pound cake, but not as soft as a twinkie either- a perfect medium is what you’re looking for.

I didn’t think I would like this cake a much as I did. Chocolate cake isn’t my favorite, and I’m honestly more of a yellow cake lover than a straight white one. However, I found this to be VERY good. There’s just something about the blending of flavors that creates the perfect blend between the sweetness of the white cake and the slight bitterness of the chocolate cake that just really works together. The vanilla butter cream is delicious enough to eat by itself on a spoon- straight up.

So, I know what you’re thinking: there’s a crap load of frosting on this cake. I know. And I can explain. See the original plan was to use the butter cream to make these lovely, artistic peaks with a spoon, and  needed a rather thick layer of frosting to do so. I just forgot one thing:

I am not artistic by any stretch of the imagination. It took me about 5-7 minutes of attempting this elaborate, peak design to figure out that it just wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t making peaks- more like craters. And no one wants to see craters on a layer cake. So, I just smoothed it all out and called it a night. Yeah, it’s thick, but so what? You get extra vanilla butter cream to eat- who’s gonna complain about that? Not I, said the Jessica.

I guess this about wraps this post up. Once again guys: thank you SO much for all the support you’ve given Cooking is My Sport over the past year- I can’ wait to see what next year holds 😉

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Checkerboard Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Hershey & Melissa@My CakeSchool

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION: Page 1, Page 2

Ingredients

For Chocolate Layer:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup, plus 6 tbsp. flour
  • 6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup veg. oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

For White Cake Layer:

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted, soft butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 6 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

For Chocolate Layer:

1. Grease & flour 1 9-inch cake pans. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Mix sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add egg, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed in a stand mixer for 2 min.

3. Stir in boiling water and pour batter into pan (it’ll be thin). Bake for 30– 35 min, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10min, then remove to wire rack.

For White Layer:

1. Keep oven at 350°. Grease/flour 9-inch cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Combine the egg whites, milk and vanilla extract.

2. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add half of the milk mixture. Add the rest of both, continue to alternate beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

3. Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-30 min, until cake passes toothpick test. Cool in pan for 10 min, then move to wire rack.

For Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

1. Cream shortening, butter & vanilla until smooth. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time and milk. Mix on medium speed for 8 min, scraping bowl sides & decreasing speed to slow on last two minutes.

Shepherd’s Pie

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When people find out that I love to cook, try my food, or find out that I have a food blog I get several pretty regular, frequent reactions:

“Oh, you’re a REALLY good cook: have you ever thought about going to culinary school?”

“Wow, you should open up a restaurant and/or catering company!”

“You should totally go on ‘Chopped’ ‘Next Food Network Star’ or ‘Master Chef’!” (Popular food tv shows)

I always politely laugh off these remarks and questions in the real world. However, since this happens to be my blog and here I’m not obligated to laugh or even be all that polite about it, I can just give the straight up honest answers that go off in my head when this happens. Because I know you guys can take it.

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Do I ever think about going to culinary school?

Never.  Not once. It’s a notion that has not, nor ever will be a possibility in my life. For one, culinary school tuition is not cheap. I already signed my life away in five years worth of student loans for my B.A. degree- I’m still trying to get it back now in the small loan re-payments I make now every month. Signing off on more loans to go to culinary school? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Second, culinary school is not something I would ever want to pursue because for me, shaping the act of cooking around the very regimen and structure of school would completely take all the fun out of it for me. When I cook for myself and my family, I like having the freedom to not only add or take away from a recipe as I see fit, but also to mess it up. In culinary school you learn so-called rules of making this and that, having to add this many ingredients, and these exact seasoning with very little wiggle room for freedom and personal interpretation of a dish. And if you do make a mistake and blow a dish, you could fail a mid-term or a final. Where’s the fun in that?

I’ll pass, thank you.

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Would I ever open a restaurant?

Heh. Honey, you couldn’t pay me enough to do that. Long, endless hours of thank-less work. An almost guaranteed loss in profit in the first 1-2 years. Disgruntled, rude customers. The stress of continuity in putting out good food. Just a few reasons for me to steer clear of the restaurant business like it’s the Plague. I would want to have a life outside of my restaurant- most restaurant owners don’t. I want to be able to see my family on a regular basis- most restaurant owners don’t. I don’t do so well with failure- statistically speaking, most restaurants go belly up. There are virtually no pros to balance out those cons, at least not for me. A restauranteur, I am most definitely not.

Do I want to go on tv shows like ‘Chopped’ or ‘Master Chef’?

H-E-double hockey sticks, NO! No. No. No. And, uh no. I don’t do very well cooking under pressure,much less the added pressure of cooking on national television. Although it would certainly be nice if I did get to win one of those contests,the emotional repercussions if I didn’t wouldn’t be pretty. I’m a really sore loser, folks. Plus, if I had to cook for celebrity chefs (several of whom I really like and revere) and they didn’t end up liking my food, I would seriously give up cooking for the rest of my life, no joke. Why put myself through all that?

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Okay, moving on.

It’s fall, and that means you have to have a shepherd’s pie. Seriously: you HAVE to. I keep mine pretty simple; it’s a real meat and potatoes kind of dish-literally. If you’re not in the mood to make mashed potatoes from scratch, then please feel free to use the potato flakes you can microwave- I’ve done that in the past and the dish still comes out perfectly fine. We also don’t add cheese to ours, but I know that most people do, so I added it in the recipe. My only regret is that I didn’t make some brown gravy for these pictures, because that’s how I serve it to my family. This is pure comfort food, folks. No frills, no fancy stuff. But it sure is good for what ails you on chilly winter nights.

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 Shepherd’s Pie

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 4.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 12 medium russet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 12 oz. frozen, mixed vegetables, thawed and drained
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 15.25 oz. can of tomato sauce (like for Hunts Meatloaf sauce)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder, divided
  • 2 tbsp. onion powder, divided
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. basil leaves
  • 1/2tsp. Ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. pepper, divided
  • Cheese (optional)

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°

2. Set a large pot of boiling water over the stove. Cook potatoes, fully submerged in water for about 15 minutes, or until they are fork tender and drain.

3. Mash potatoes using a potato masher (or a mixer fitted with paddle attachment). Don’t worry about making them completely smooth– lumps aren’t a bad thing here. Add the heavy cream, butter, 1 tbsp. garlic and onion powder, and 1/2 tsp garlic  salt and pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

4.Brown beef over stovetop, then add mixed vegetables beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, remaining garlic and onion powder, sugar, basil leaves, Ground thyme and garlic salt and pepper. Bring to a medium high heat and allow to cook for a further 10 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed (it’s okay if there’s a little bit left). Taste and adjust for seasoning if needed.

5. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish (or any casserole dish) with cooking spray. Spoon meat filling into bottom of dish, then spread mashed potatoes over the top. Make sure potatoes completely cover the meat to prevent any juices from bubbling up and spilling over.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until potatoes begin to barely brown across the top. Remove dish from oven and turn on broiler.

8. Spray the potato layer with Butter-flavored cooking spray, or dollop with unsalted butter. You may also add cheese here if you like. Place dish back into oven, directly beneath the broiler and allow to cook a further 1-2 minutes, until potatoes are golden and browned.

Caramel Snickerdoodle Cake

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So today, I’d like to say a few things about September 27th.

(Yes, I’m aware that today is the 26th. I just don’t want to talk about the 26th. I want to talk about the 27th.)

On September 27th, 1779, John Adams formally negotiated the Revolutionary War peace terms with Great Britain.

On September 27th, 1821, the Mexican Empire formally announced independence.

On September 27th, 1908, Henry Ford’s first Ford Model T automobile was leaves the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan.

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On September 27th, 1919, the Democratic National Committee voted to allow female voters.

On September 27th, 1954 “The Tonight Show” first premiered, hosted by Steven Allen.

On September 27th, 1983, basketball legend Larry Bird signed a seven-year contract with the Boston Celtics worth $15 million. The contract made him the highest paid Celtic in history.

Then, on September 27th, 1989 (9:01 a.m. to be exact)…something else happened.

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A baby girl was delivered by C-section in a hospital on a remote Army base in Montana. She was me.

So yeah, guys: tomorrow (September 27th) will be my 25th birthday. I’ve officially hit the middle of my twenties-five years past twenty…and five years away from being thirty. Ouch. Why does just typing that out make me feel old?

Birthdays haven’t been very much of a big deal to me for years. I’ve never actually had a birthday party. Most of them have either been spent at home while my mom or grandma made me a special dinner and cake, or in more recent years, out for a celebratory dinner at a restaurant. Not much of a big deal, which is fine with me. I’m a self-proclaimed introvert and I my social life is very private. I don’t need much of a fuss.

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This year however, was special in that, this was the first time that I’ve ever made me and Jas our own birthday cake. I’ll admit, the blog was a huge factor in pushing me to make that decision. I usually don’t make very many cakes in our house, but for some reason I just felt a necessity to bake a  really good birthday cake for a post. So after running several different ideas by Jas, I finally settled on this cake as one.  We both were very impressed with the result. Despite the title, I wouldn’t say that the flavor mimics a snickerdoodle cookie perfectly- however, you get a lot of the cinnamon, earthy and rich flavors that remind you of autumn baked goods. The texture is very moist and soft, thanks to the sour cream.The icing really sends the whole dish over the top- it’s good enough to eat off a spoon, no joke.

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I’d like to give a small shout out to my twin sister Jas real quick:

We made it to 25 years, chick. Thanks for being a pretty awesome ‘womb-mate’ for nine months, and an even greater roommate for the last 25. It’s been a great ride. You’re not just my twin sister- you’re the person who knows me the most in the entire world- both the good and bad. Happy Birthday. You know I love you.

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I’ll be taking this cake to this week’s Fiesta Friday #35, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Prudy and Naina. Hope to see you all there 😉

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Caramel Snickerdoodle Cake

Recipe Adapted from Gold Medal Flour

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (5 oz) evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Cinnamon Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350°F.

2. Grease 12-cup fluted tube cake pan with shortening. In small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over inside of pan, turning to evenly coat. Shake out any excess.

3. In large bowl, mix remaining 1 3/4 cups sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, the flour, baking soda and salt.

4. Stir remaining evaporated milk, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla and eggs into dry ingredients until well blended. Pour batter in pan.

5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 30 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

6. Combine all remaining ingredients. Add more powdered sugar or milk if need be to achieve correct consistency. Icing should be slightly thicker than a glaze, but not as thick as a frosting. Using offset spatula, spread icing over cooled cake. Allow to harden for about 30 minutes. Serve.

Squash Casserole

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When I was putting this post together, I couldn’t stop thinking about this game that me and my twin sister Jas would play when we were little kids.

We grew up in the 90’s, where there were still such things as boom boxes, walkmans and cassette tapes around. I’m sure most of you still remember those, but for the ‘youngins’ that don’t, it’s cool- just google it. Anyway, my mom kept a large number of blank cassette tapes around that she used to make copies of music albums or church sermons. Eventually it got to the point where we had too many lying around that really weren’t serving any particular purpose.

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Jas and I has this weird quality of being able to make a game out of just about anything. Blank cassette tapes were no different, and one summer day we came up with the idea of using the cassette tapes, as well as two double deck boom boxes we had to record ourselves in a game. We would pretend that we were DJs on our very own imaginary radio station. I played the radio station’s primary ‘Host’, and Jas played the primary ‘Sponsor’- (why the sponsor would be on the actual broadcast of the radio show, I don’t know but we always just stuck with that title).

We even gave it a name and slogan: “WSFJ-Where Jesus Is the Way.” We gathered together all of our music cassette tapes and assembled a playlist of mixed Christian contemporary music that we recorded onto the tapes using the double deck. In the true style of actual radio stations, we had commercial breaks in between the songs where Jas as the ‘Sponsor’ would give product endorsements, ads and recommendations. We had a Book Club segment where we shared our favorite books and read off our favorite excerpts. Then there was even a Debate & Discussion segment where the two of us would discuss and debate various topics on the air, taking ‘questions’ from imaginary ‘callers’.

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 It may sound silly to you all now, but for us, it was a real blast. I think we accumulated over seven double sided cassette tapes from our imaginary little ‘radio station’.My mom insisted we keep them even after we grew up, saying that we would like listening to them later.  And it’s nothing if not entertaining  to listen a period in my life when I was young, silly and just having a lot of fun with something seemingly ordinary that me and Jas were able to turn into something we made a lot of fun.

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 What does that have to do with this post? Well, zucchini is one of those things that people tend to have a whole lot of around this time of year as they harvest their gardens, then try to find as many uses of it as possible just to not let it go to waste. When they run out of ideas, they usually start handing it out to other people to see if they can find something to do with it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a personal garden to grow my own zucchini, but fortunately I know a few people that do. And when they unload some of their surplus zucchini on me, I like finding other uses for it other than just zucchini bread (not that zucchini bread isn’t awesome enough on its own.)

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This recipe is one of the easiest, but tastiest ones I’ve ever tried when cooking with zucchini. Once you get our zucchini all chopped up, it all literally comes together in minutes and bakes in less than thirty. I serve it as a side dish, but it’s certainly good enough to eat all on it’s own. I used regular butter Ritz crackers to top it, but I can also see using some other flavored crackers to give it a twist, like ones flavored with garlic or herbs.

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Squash Casserole

Recipe Courtesy of Paula Deen

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 cups large diced yellow squash and zucchini
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon your favorite seasoning blend (like Mrs. Dash or Emeril’s Essence)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed butter crackers (recommended: Ritz)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Saute the squash in a little vegetable oil over medium-low heat until it has completely broken down, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Line a colander with a clean tea towel. Place the cooked squash in the lined colander. Squeeze excess moisture from the squash. Set aside.

4. In a medium size skillet, saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients together except cracker crumbs.

5. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve.

Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

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My mom is really, really REALLY crafty.

When I say that, I mean that she’s one of those people who can take the most ordinary, seemingly common objects and turn them into something really cool and awesome.This happened a lot when we were little kids. She would buy one of the cheap stuffed animals from the dollar store, then go to the fabric store to buy the clearance fabrics that she would sew into beautiful, sometimes even elaborate dresses to dress the animals in. A lot of the glass and porcelain knick knacks and show pieces in my grandma’s living room are ones that my mom bought from the dollar store and jazzed up on our her own so that they look like they came from a gift shop and cost a fortune. For a while, she even made and sold floral wreaths and jewelry boxes.

When I was around six or seven, me and my sisters were in our church’s Vacation Bible School in the summertime for kids and there was this costume contest. We didn’t have a lot of money at that time, and certainly not enough for my mom to buy three girls fancy costumes to wear. So, being the crafty, innovative person that she is, she decided to construct costumes for all of using items she already had in our house.

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Oh yeah, and I should probably mention that the items were white garbage bags, silver wrapping paper ribbon, glitter and dress-up wigs (two pink, and one blue). The result? Three little angels.

My mom sprinkled glitter over the white garbage bags, then cut holes out of them to fit our arms and legs. She then used the silver ribbon to cinch them at the waist, then curled the ends so that the bags looked like dresses. After putting on the wigs and a little bit of lipstick and blush, our costumes for the contest were complete.

I know it sounds weird and crazy now, but I can still remember feeling so pretty in that costume at the time. I thought my mom was a genius and was so proud of her for coming up with the idea. The reality is that instead of angels, the three of us looked like The Paper Bag Princess meets The Jetsons.

I can’t decide whether the greater miracle was that no one laughed or made fun of us…or that me and my sisters actually won that costume contest.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have my mom’s crafty abilities in using ordinary objects to create physical art that wins contests and makes money.Art’s not my thing- never has been, and likely never will be. I’m just a home cook. However that does mean that I can take ordinary ingredients that some people (including myself) may underestimate and make them into a dish that really exceeds even my own expectations. That’s what happened with this dish.

Small confession: I don’t like ordinary lasagna. For one, I hate ricotta cheese. Two, there’s something about the texture of the noodles, that puts me off. So for years, I’ve just avoided it all together. But then, I found myself with a whole lot of zucchini that I simply had to find something to do with that didn’t involve zucchini bread. I’ve seen variations of this dish done before, so I decided to create my own rendition, specially tailored for my ricotta/lasagna noodle-hating tastes.

I was REALLY impressed with how this came out.  The zucchini is such a great alternative to the pasta, and I actually think it’s a vast improvement on the original. It tastes like pure comfort food, and I’m planning on adding it to the dinner rotation for my family as a regular dish. I’m also bringing it to the party at this week’s Fiesta Friday #32, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener . Give it a try, folks. I don’t think you’ll regret it 🙂

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Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Large Zucchini
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 15 oz. cans of pizza sauce
  • 1 1/2lb ground beef
  • 1lb roll of pork (or turkey) sausage
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 7 oz. pouch of pepperoni
  • 8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Using a mandolin (or a VERY sharp knife), slice zucchini length-wise into very thin slices, about 1/8 thick.

3. Lay slices on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle liberally with salt. Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes.

4. Using a paper towel, press all the remaining moisture from the zucchini and set aside.

5. Brown ground beef and sausage together in a pan, then drain off excess fat. In same skillet, saute onion and bell pepper in same skillet, until softened.

6. Pour pizza sauce into a bowl and stir in the ground beef, sausage, onion and bell pepper.

7. Turn up oven heat to 375°. Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer the zucchini slices in the bottom and spread with pizza sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over sauce, then lay pepperoni over cheese. Repeat layers, ending with pizza sauce.

8. Cover lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes.

9. Remove lasagna from oven and heat broiler. Place back in oven and bake until cheese is browned, about 2-3 minutes.

10. Allow lasagna to sit for about 30 minutes before eating to allow to settle. Serve.

Pizza-Style Meatballs

Pizza Meatballs1

Happy Fiesta Friday #27, (hosted by Saucy @Saucy Gander and Margot @Gather and Graze)! Thanks to all of you who stopped and commented and liked my post last week. Not only was it my first time hosting Fiesta Friday, I also shared a bit of my own family heritage in relation to my My Grandma’s Banana Pudding. To date, it’s the most popular post I’ve ever done on the blog- something I really wasn’t expecting, but am very grateful for. Thank all of you for making me and my lovely Grandma feel so appreciated and welcome. I really do appreciate that.

One of the earliest memories that I have of pizza will always be associated with John, the guy that always made our Sunday night pizza at the local Papa John’s Pizza.

Now, this wasn’t a Papa John’s of the huge franchise with the jerk CEO that  to this day I absolutely refuse to buy from. This was a small, independent chain that I don’t even think went outside of our city. There was no design on the pizza boxes- they were just plain old white cardboard, with a piece of scotch tape pasted on the edge to keep it closed. They were also dirt cheap, which was really the only way that we could afford to eat pizza back then. (These were the much ‘leaner years’, you understand.) Every Sunday night, my mom would pile me and my sisters into the back of our 1988 Delta and we would drive down to the Papa John’s for our large pepperoni and ham pizza, where John the Pizza Guy would always, without fail, be there to greet us with a smile.

Pizza Meatballs2

If I close my eyes, I can still see his face. He was tall and ginger haired, with freckles all over his face and arms. His voice was nasal, and to be honest it reminded me of the voice of Telly from Sesame Street. l really liked him.  He had an infectious smile and in all the many times I saw him, I never once saw him in anything but a bright and cheery mood- despite the fact that he always seemed to be working in the store alone while one other guy that we never saw much of strictly did the pizza deliveries. John had a wife and (if my memory serves me right) four small children at home. I remember hearing about them and thinking that someone as nice as he was must have been a really good daddy, even if he couldn’t be with them on Sunday night.

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It may have been cheap, but that pizza was so good. The crust was crisp and browned on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The cheese was perfectly browned and not laid on too heavy, while the sauce was sweet and slightly thick. John sure could make a good pie, and we faithfully went to get it every Sunday night, then went home to watch The New Adventures of Lois & Clark (remember that show?) over dinner.

Unfortunately, that Papa John’s closed a while ago and has since been replaced with several other businesses that never seem to hang around that long. Still to this day, every time I drive past it I remember John the pizza guy with his warm smile and Telly-voice that made such good pizza for me and my family. It’s always a really good memory.

Pizza Meatballs5

Apart from loving pizza itself, I like trying out other foods that try and duplicate the flavor of pizza. It’s a great way to try and get your pizza fix in without constantly eating it all the time (not that I EVER get tempted to do that or anything). One weekend, I decided to make two dishes that would achieve just that, and I think the results were great.

I got this idea from a recipe for meatloaf that I’ve been using and loving for a pretty long time. Instead of making it into one loaf, I thought that I could instead mold it into meatballs, bake them off, then simmer them in a delicious pizza sauce.

Pizza Meatballs4

I could see these making a great appetizer or game food, but we just ate them as a main course over rotini pasta.

So, what’s the general consensus here?

If you like meatballs, you will love these. If you like pizza, you will love these.

If you don’t like either meatballs or pizza…you will still love these. Yep, you will.

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

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Pizza-Style Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Ragu®

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope Beefy Onion Soup Mix
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups garlic bread crumbs, plus about 3/4 cup extra
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Pizza or tomato sauce

Pizza Sauce*

Note: You may want to double the pizza sauce recipe, depending on how much sauce you like with your meatballs.

  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° Place a wire rack over a half sheet pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Combine first five ingredients in a bowl. (If mixture seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If too dry, add more pizza sauce.)

3. Shape meat into golf-ball sized meatballs and place onto wire rack. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, then rotate meatballs and continue to bake for about 5-7 more minutes, or until crisp and browned on outside.

4. Meanwhile, make pizza sauce: combine all ingredients in a deep sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat until sauce begins to boil. Lower hear to a low simmer.

5. Remove meatballs from wire rack and GENTLY place into pot of pizza sauce. Cover, and allow to cook at a simmer, about 15-20 more minutes. Serve over rotini pasta or egg noodles.