Zucchini bread

zucbread1My grandma has a story that she loves to tell whenever she makes zucchini bread. Once, she made zucchini bread and gave some to my granddaddy. He refused to eat it. She made zucchini bread another day, but this time when she served him a slice, she said that it was spice cake. He said it was great. She called it spice cake from that day on.

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I don’t know anyone other than my granddaddy who has ever been so turned off by the thought of zucchini being in bread to refuse it, but I have found a few who can’t believe that there is zucchini in the bread. The secret is that zucchini makes a super moist snack cake.

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Vanilla and almond pudding with cherry compote

pudding2Pudding is not just for kids! Really, it can be for grownups too! (Just not from a plastic cup that you buy at the store–kids deserve better than that, too.) I realized that homemade pudding is superb a few years ago after making eclairs. I used all of the cream puffs I made but had quite a bit of leftover pastry cream and ganache, so I ate those things together, and I didn’t miss the cream puff at all.

I had a little dinner party this weekend, and although I usually plan what I want to cook days in advance, I hadn’t decided on a dessert until 12 hours before the meal. It’s hot and steamy here, so I didn’t really want to turn on the oven, and cherries have been extra delicious and cheap for the past few weeks. I thought about buying ice cream, but that’s too easy, and then it hit me: pudding. Pudding topped with cherry compote. Doesn’t it just sound delicious? It gets even better, because I ended up with vanilla and almond pudding with cherry compote. Doesn’t that sound fancy?

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It might sound fancy, but it’s a snap to prepare.

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Jalapeno-cheddar corn muffins

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I eat a lot of salads, I’d say at least one for a meal every two days and often once a day. They’re easy, quick and healthy. My salads are usually pretty boring, though– spinach, tomato, avocado, boiled egg if some are on hand and salad dressing. Although I do like this salad, I get really tired of it. There are weeks when I just can’t eat one more piece of raw spinach. Those weeks require much more meal planning than normal. They’re pretty rough.

Although I eat lots of salads, they often don’t seem to be enough, even if I’m full after eating it. I just want something else, too. I have a huge sweet tooth, so a dessert can fit the bill, but sometimes you want something a bit more wholesome than that. Bread can get boring, though, and an apple definitely doesn’t count when your meal is a salad– that’s all healthy and no fun.

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Carrot-ginger dressing

carrotginger1What is the best part of getting sushi? The sushi, of course, you may think. Yes, that’s likely the main reason you go to a sushi restaurant. But there’s an added benefit, and it’s actually a pretty big one for me– the salad dressing! (Yes, I’m pretty emphatic about this, too.) The salad dressing on the little puny side salad that I always order makes up for how pathetic it is that I’ll pay $3 for a few pieces of iceberg lettuce, three cucumber slices and a light sprinkle of shredded carrots. I can eat the dressing with a spoon, though, so that makes up for it.

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Foster’s Market blondies

blondies2There’s a deli with locations in Durham and Chapel Hill that I love. It’s called Foster’s Market, and it has homey food and a solid menu. I have the habit of always ordering the same thing, but I’ll occasionally branch out, and I’ve never been disappointed by anything there.

I’ve recently been browsing The Foster’s Market Cookbook, which contains recipes served there plus extras, and I now question my resoluteness when ordering. Everything sounds great, and it’s difficult to decide what to make first.

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Of course, I finally managed to make a decision.

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Spaghetti puttanesca

spaghettip3It’s finally time the time we’ve been waiting for all year: Farmer’s market tomato season. This week, I diligently went to the farmer’s market in front of my office, as I do every week, to check out the inventory. Today was the day. They had everything. Yellow squash, zucchini, peaches, peppers, cantaloupes and the prized tomatoes. I purchased four tomatoes, my hopes high with anticipation to see and eat the perfect, beautiful deep red fruit.

I went home, thinking only about tomato slices lightly sprinkled with salt, and sliced a tomato. After the first slice, my hopes and expectations came crashing down. The tomato was not the apex of summer but only slightly juicy and with whitish green spots throughout. I’m eating my farmer’s market tomatoes, but they’re not all I’d hoped for. I’ll try a different stand next week.

In the meantime, without my perfect tomatoes to satisfy my hunger, I had to actually cook something.

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Fried dill pickles

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For being someone who isn’t into snack foods, I’ve sure been on a roll with them. I made homemade Cheez Its. I just finished a bag of pretzels that I bought for a beach day the weekend before the 4th. And now I’ve made a bar food/Southern appetizer staple: fried dill pickles.

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The fried pickles weren’t technically my choice, though. My mom has a ginormous (technically one gallon) jar of sliced dill pickles in her fridge. What on earth are you supposed to do with a gallon of pickles? You either have a cookout for 1,000 or an unhealthy obsession with pickles to justify that purchase. She fortunately did not purchase the jar, but it’ll take her five years or so to get to the bottom of it.

We did, luckily, find this great use of the new pickle collection during my 4th of July visit to Kentucky.

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Cheesy crackers

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I’m not one for snack food, but I’ll occasionally get the urge to buy some, and Cheez Its are my weakness. The cheesy, crunchy crackers are addictive and delicious. I eat that box of Cheez Its in less than a week. Cheez Its are really bad for you though, and when I’ve professed my obsession with them, multiple people have told me that they are probably engineered so that I can’t stop eating them. Therefore, I decided to make my own! All the cheesy, crunchy glory without the preservatives and mystery ingredients.

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Three bean salad

on spoon 

We’re coming upon the eve of the Fourth of July, and if you haven’t already gone to the grocery store to stock up patriotic groceries and libations, you might be thinking about going. July is hot, though, and if you’re like me and don’t have a grill, you’re also probably looking for ways to avoid turning on the oven. Even if you have access to a grill, it’s likely that you seek reprieve from the heat outside, too, and hope to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, even without the oven on. Filling your belly with watermelon is a good solution, but one can’t survive on watermelon alone. Let me introduce you to the solution to  your problems: three bean salad.

ingredients

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Summer berry pie

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For me, summer is berry season– not pool season, not beach season, and certainly not summer camp season. I load up on the biggest container of blueberries at the grocery store every week and then make the tough decision to buy or not to buy raspberries in addition to the blueberries. I always eat at least a cup of berries every day, and when they disappear from my fridge, there must be a trip store immediately the next day to stock up once again.

just washed berries twoSummer is my favorite food season, and clearly the aforementioned berries are a big part of the reason. However, not only do I heartily take advantage of the berries, but I also devour watermelons, cherries and peaches, as well as homegrown tomatoes and other yummy super fresh veggies that I don’t feel like listing because nothing compares to the greatness of these summer fruits. (I think I’ve been eating more fruit than anything this past week.)

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