# Cooking

Five ways to use up zucchini

If you’re a gardener or subscriber to a community-supported agriculture farm, you probably have an abundance of zucchini or other summer squash. The classic Fifty Ways to Cook Everything by Andrew Schloss and Ken Bookman has a whole chapter on zucchini. They start with a “basic zucchini mixture” that you are supposed to cook and freeze in 1-cup or 2-cup amounts, for use later in a variety of dishes.

I’ve never been that organized about putting up food, but after the jump I’ve posted my strategies for using up summer squash before it goes bad. You’ll have to click through to learn the secret ingredient of my favorite zucchini bread.

Yellow summer squash of any shape can be substituted for zucchini is any of these recipes.  Most of the time there’s no need to peel summer squash, but you should cut away the ends and brown spots. I prefer to slice the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds, unless you’re dealing with a If you’re shopping for zucchini at the store or farmer’s market, try to pick small ones. The huge ones can be watery or have a woody texture.

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Favorite burger recipes thread

I don’t cook hamburgers at home, but every so often I like to make veggie burgers. My recipe doesn’t contain eggs, because while I love them, I eat plenty of them in other dishes. I’ve adapted this dish from Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites. I prefer them with cannellini (white kidney) beans, but you can also use pinto beans. All quantities are approximate; I don’t measure carefully, and this recipe is flexible.

Veggie burgers (suitable for vegans)

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon mustard (I like coarse-ground, but dijon or other smooth kinds work well too)

1 tablespoon tomato paste (or ketchup)

1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

1 medium or two small onions

1 large or two regular cloves garlic

1 carrot, shredded

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

about 3/4 cup rolled oats

In medium bowl, mash beans with potato masher. Add mustard, tomato paste or ketchup, and soy sauce and mash together.

Chop onion and saute in vegetable or olive oil. After a few minutes, add the shredded carrot. When onion and carrot are soft, add cumin, chili powder and pressed garlic cloves. Stir for another two minutes or so, adding a tablespoon or two of water if you need to prevent sticking. Stir sauteed vegetables into bowl with bean mixture. Add rolled oats and mix well. I like to leave this to sit in the refrigerator for a while to let the oats soften.

At dinner time, heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook on both sides for 5-8 minutes.

Share your own favorite burger recipes–vegan, vegetarian or carnivore–in this thread.

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Orange Bowl and citrus fruit open thread

I’m no college football fan, but I was glad to see that Mediacom and Sinclair Broadcast Group reached a temporary agreement on New Year’s Eve so that thousands of Hawkeye fans who are Mediacom subscribers will be able to watch tonight’s Orange Bowl game between Iowa and Georgia Tech.

This thread is for Bleeding Heartland readers to discuss the game. Cyclone fans, please accept my belated congratulations for Iowa State winning the Insight Bowl.

Alternatively, feel free to post any favorite dishes involving citrus fruit. I like oranges and grapefruit so much that I almost always eat them plain. However, I’m interested to hear other recipes for using them in salads, side dishes or desserts. I use a little lemon or lime juice frequently in Indian or Thai cooking, but the citrus isn’t the centerpiece of the dish.

After the jump I’ve posted a recipe for lemon-sesame salad dressing and a cake with lemon syrup that I haven’t made since before I had kids. It’s not even that time-consuming, but making the syrup seems to be one step too many for me these days.

UPDATE: Congratulations to the Hawkeyes for beating Georgia Tech 24-14.

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Winter comfort food thread

What do you like for dinner when winter just dumped more than a foot of snow on your house? My first choice would normally be home-made soup, but we’re out of bread, and I just made curried pumpkin soup over the weekend.

We had tomato and olive wild rice casserole, and I’ll be enjoying the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Yesterday I baked brownies while the kids were playing in the snow, and I finally tried my friend’s trick of stirring a can of black beans, pureed, into the brownie mix (instead of oil, butter, eggs or water). They turned out great, and my kids never suspected a thing. Good way to sneak protein and fiber into a treat.

This thread is for any comfort food recipes or inspiration.

Something for vegans, something for carnivores

I watch the Food Network sometimes while I’m exercising, and in the past two weeks I’ve seen Giada and the Barefoot Contessa make risotto on their shows. They both insisted that you “have” to put cheese in your risotto, and I think they added cream as well.

I couldn’t disagree more, so I’m re-posting one of my favorite food substitutions:

To make risotto with no milk or cream, I use a tip from the Moosewood Collective’s Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. In a food processor or blender, combine a cup or two of frozen corn kernels with whatever kind of stock you will use to cook the risotto. This creates a creamy consistency, but without being as heavy as risotto with cream. It’s good for vegans or anyone cutting back on calories.

I like to stir basil pesto into my risotto right before serving, but you can make that without cheese as well.

For the carnivores in the Bleeding Heartland community: on Thursday I cooked a flank steak (local and 100 percent grass-fed) using a recipe from Cynthia Lair’s article on grass-fed beef in the March-April 2009 issue of Mothering magazine. It comes from her book Feeding the Whole Family. You use a little of the dressing as a marinade; the rest is supposed to go on a noodle salad, but I saved it to pour over the leftover meat:

2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, 3 Tbsp tamari, 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 Tbsp hot-pepper oil.

It only took a minute to stir together the ingredients, and if you don’t eat meat, you could use this dressing for a vegetarian or vegan stir-fry or noodle salad.

What have you been eating or cooking lately? I am not a big salad eater for most of the year, but I am loving the fresh mixed greens I’ve been getting from One Step at a Time Gardens this month.

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Open thread on favorite food shortcuts

It’s been too long since I posted a food diary. A while back I wrote about my favorite food substitutions. Now I would like your input on favorite shortcuts in the kitchen.

I’m not talking about picking up take-out or eating a peanut-butter sandwich instead of a hot meal. For the purposes of this thread, I am seeking ideas that save preparation time or cooking time when you are making the meal.

After the jump I’ve posted my chili recipe, which incorporates three shortcuts. This won’t win you a prize at the chili cookoff, but it is tasty and highly adaptable to your own preferences or what you have in your kitchen. I’m all for cooking with what you have rather than slavishly following recipes.

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Go ahead, treat yourself to wild rice

It’s been too long since I wrote a food post here.

“Eat well on a tight budget” articles are all the rage in this tough economy. I have a few of my own diaries in mind on that topic, but today I felt inspired to write about one of my favorite winter foods.

As you may know, wild rice is not really rice; it’s an aquatic grass that “towers over other grains when it comes to amounts of protein, minerals, B vitamins, folic acid, and carbohydrates.” Wild rice is often considered a luxury food, but if your local grocer has it in the bulk food section, the price per meal may be more reasonable than you think.

You don’t need to soak wild rice before cooking. Just rinse and add to a pot with approximately 2 parts water (or a little less) to 1 part rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until some of the grains have split, about 25-40 minutes depending on the type of wild rice. Don’t wait until all the grains are split–you’ll overcook it. If there is any extra water in the pot, drain the rice before proceeding with your recipe.

After the jump I’ve posted recipes for my two favorite wild rice dishes.

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New Year's resolutions follow-up

It’s the end of January. So far I’ve stuck to my pledge to make soup once a week (through the cold months at least, but I’d like to continue this in the spring and summer–I love soup).

I have substantially cut back on my carbs and dairy intake, which started right after Thanksgiving. I find it easier to eat well on the days I get more exercise, so I’m trying to stick to that routine. Will I manage to fit into my jeans by spring? Too early to tell.

Most nights I’ve been doing well on my resolution to get more sleep. Exercising during the day helps on this front too.

Share your own New Year’s resolutions progress report in this thread.

Open thread on favorite food substitutions

A lot of people resolve to make changes in their diets in January. This is an open thread for any tips you have on substituting one kind of food for another for any health or ethical reason.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, do you have a tip for adapting a recipe you used to enjoy with meat, eggs or dairy?

If you’re trying to lose weight, have you changed the way you cook any of your favorite meals? Some people would rather eat a completely different dish than adapt a beloved recipe that is “too fattening.”

If you have developed a food allergy or sensitivity, have you learned any trick for replacing the foods you can’t tolerate?

Here are a few food substitutions that work for me:

1. I’ve been using strained tomatoes or tomato paste packaged in glass jars in place of canned tomatoes ever since I learned that almost all canned tomatoes, including organic brands, contain bisphenol-A (BPA).

2. I’ve been having oatmeal for breakfast, or yogurt with cereal, instead of bagels. That’s partly because I’m trying to eat less bread, and partly because I’d rather forgo bagels than eat a bagel that isn’t slathered with either butter or cream cheese.

3. To make risotto with no milk or cream, I use a tip from the Moosewood Collective’s Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. In a food processor or blender, combine a cup or two of frozen corn kernels with whatever kind of stock you will use to cook the risotto. This creates a creamy consistency, but without being as heavy as risotto with cream. It’s good for vegans or anyone cutting back on calories.

4. Applesauce or other fruit purees can replace some of the fat in cake or quickbread recipes. Diana Shaw’s Essential Vegetarian Cookbook has lots of ideas on this front. Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites has a good spice bread recipe containing prune puree and no egg, which is good to bake for vegans or anyone with an egg allergy.

Final suggestion, which I’ve never tried but a friend swears by:

Dump an undrained can of black beans into a blender or food processor and puree. Add the mixture to any boxed brownie mix (she says this works with any brand). Don’t add egg or oil or water–just mix the dry ingredients in the box with the black bean puree, then bake. This sounds crazy, but I have eaten her brownies at potlucks, and you would never know there are beans in them. She does it to sneak extra protein and fiber into a treat for her kids.

I’ll look forward to reading your comments.