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What’s Cookin’ – Pico de Gallo

A long-time (I won’t say “old” because it sounds so awful) friend came to stay for a few days and made this absolutely amazing pico de gallo. It’s simple and wonderful and tastes so fresh …

tomato and avocadoPico de Gallo

1 large tomato

1 small onion

1 avocado

1 lime

salt and pepper to taste

*optional* jalapeño chili peppers – fresh, seeded and chopped; or canned, diced

*optional* cilantro, fresh chopped

Cut the tomato, onion and avocado into small dice. Zest the lime over them, then juice the lime over them and mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste. If you’re looking for a little heat or spiciness, add chilis ’til you’re happy. Although we’re not fans of cilantro, add it now if you like it. Chill. This is delicious on burgers or scooped with tortilla chips.

Microplane Adjustable Grater

There are a couple of Pampered Chef tools I bought at a party a few years ago that I love for the zesting and juicing.

For zesting, their Microplane Adjustable Grater is wonderful. I zest a lot of oranges, lemons and limes for recipes and we are fortunate enough to have a few citrus trees in our yard.

 

Citrus Juicer

 

 For juicing one or two pieces of fruit, I like their Citrus Juicer. Works like a dream and easily gets every last drop of juice.

What a great way to eat your fruits and vegetables!

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What’s Cookin’ – Zucchini Bread

The zucchini in gardens and on farms is abundant and beautiful right now and just begging to be baked into something wonderful. Another one of my favorite recipes from mom is Zucchini Bread, which I have updated to be lower in calories. It’s still moist and dense and tastes fantastic!

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs, well beaten

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 cups sugar

3 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp. vanilla

3 cups flour

2 cups raw grated zucchini

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (5x9x4″). Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

Or you can get about 24 muffins out of this recipe. Bake at 350 for approximately 18-20 minutes.

Zucchini

Zucchini

Notes: If you have a food processor, grating the zucchini with the shredding disc is really fast, although a hand grater works just as well. While I haven’t tried this on my mandoline, this would be another good option.

The original version of this recipe called for 1 cup of vegetable oil. Although it is very delicious, in order to lower the calories I substituted 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce. You can also use both, i.e., 1/2 cup oil plus 1/2 cup applesauce or 1/4 cup oil plus 3/4 cup applesauce. But here’s a shocking fact … the calories in 1 cup of vegetable oil is 1,879 — the calories in 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce is only 100!

We normally use chopped walnuts, although pecans or another type of nut you like would be just as good. I’ve also made it without nuts and it’s great, too.

Personal note to mom: My original recipe card is from you, in your handwriting, yellowed and covered in grease spots. It’s perfect! Thanks for all the great recipes!!!

What’s Cookin’ – Stuffed Bell Peppers

The gorgeous red bell peppers from the farmers’ market made delicious Stuffed Bell Peppers. I’ve taken several different versions and tweaked them into this recipe that everyone seems to enjoy.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers

1 cup long grain white rice

2 cups water

cooking oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound lean ground hamburger (ground turkey or chicken would also be good)

salt and pepper

1 – 26 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce

4 large or 6 medium bell peppers (red and yellow are our favorites – mild and sweet)

1 cup shredded cheese (we use colby jack)

Directions:

Place rice and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes. When the rice is done, remove from heat and leave the lid on until time to add to the hamburger mixture.

In a large skillet, heat oil (I use extra virgin olive oil). Add onion and garlic, saute. Add hamburger, season with salt and pepper, cook until browned.

Melon Baller

Melon Baller

While onion, garlic and hamburger is cooking, wash and prepare peppers for stuffing. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, cut out stems and scrape out white membranes and seeds. (I have found the easiest way to do this is with a melon baller. They’re small, round and sharp and it goes much faster.) Place pepper shells, cut side up, in a large baking dish.

Once the hamburger is done, drain any grease. Stir in the cooked rice and the spaghetti sauce. Add a little hot water to the spaghetti sauce jar and shake it to get every last bit – put this in the hamburger mixture as well.

Spoon the hamburger mixture into the pepper shells. (I use a Pampered Chef Large Scoop for this.) Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle grated cheese over the peppers and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

I have found that you can sneak other vegetables in, too. I like to chop mushrooms and saute them with the onion and garlic. This dish serves 4 to 8, depending on size of appetite. Hubby eats 2 pepper halves, I eat one at a sitting. They taste really good reheated, too, which is a bonus.

Strawberry Huller

Another one of my favorite new kitchen gadgets this summer is a Strawberry Huller. We eat a lot of strawberries. One of our favorite light desserts is cleaned, hulled strawberries simply dipped in fat free whipped topping (like Cool Whip).

Strawberry Huller

Strawberry Huller

I bought this Strawberry Huller a few months ago from Sur la Table for $6.00 and we use it all the time. It’s fast and easy. Yesterday I had a pound of strawberries that were getting slightly past prime so I hulled, sliced and sugared them (about 1/2 cup sugar) in the afternoon and by evening, we had wonderful fresh strawberries in strawberry syrup to eat over vanilla bean ice cream. What a yummy ending to the day!!!

What’s Cookin’ – Grilled Chicken Salad

One of our favorite things to have for dinner is a grilled chicken salad with all the fixin’s. We have these pasta bowls that are 9″ in diamater that we serve in so it can be a pretty good-sized salad as you can see by the photo of my hubby’s recent salad.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Grilled Chicken Salad

We buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cook them on the gas grill — hubby’s method is cooking them slowly over low heat so they stay juicy. Then over romaine or iceberg lettuce, we add fresh raspberries, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds, tomatoes and avocado.

I have an unfortunate love of all kitchen gadgets and was compelled to buy this Chef’n Flexicado Avocado Slicer at Sur la Table a few months ago for $5.95. It works pretty well and we eat a lot of avocado — on salads, sandwiches, burgers, etc.

Flexicado

Flexicado

Anyway, back to the salad. My favorite dressing, which is so good on this salad and everything else, is Girard’s Fat Free Raspberry. Hubby makes a mix of Italian and Bleu Cheese on his. We always feel satisfied, full and righteous after having this healthy dinner. And company seems to like it as well. My father-in-law always asks us to make this when they visit.