Friday, September 17, 2010

Z is for Zucchini Chicken Parmigiana

I love Italian food, but one thing about it puzzles me: You often seem to have to choose between meat and vegetables. Meat Lasagna or Vegetable Lasagna. Chicken Parmigiana or Eggplant Parmigiana. Beef Ravioli or Cheese Ravioli.

I say bollocks to that.

What I Did:

1 medium size zucchini
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 egg
dash of water
flour (approx 1 cup)
Stove Top stuffing mix (approx 1 cup)
frying oil

1 can of tomato sauce
1 cup of red cooking wine
3 cloves of garlic, smashed or chopped
1 TBSP each of: garlic salt, white pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, olive oil

2 servings of pasta of your choice (I like thin spaghetti, myself)
1 cup of cooking wine


0) Preheat oven to 375

1) Put about half an inch of frying oil in your favorite frying vessel and warm it over medium heat.

2) Mix the egg and water in a bowl to create the Egg Wash Step in your Breading Station.

2.5) Place the flour and Stove Top crumbs in separate containers (small plates are totally fine for this). This completes the Breading Station.

3) Bread the chicken:
- dip in the egg wash
- shake off excess
- dip in the flour
- shake off excess
- dip back in the egg
- dip in the Stove Top crumbs

4) At this point the oil should be hot enough to fry the chicken. Cook approx. five minutes per side.

5) While the chicken cooks, combine the tomato sauce, wine, garlic and spices in a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken and zucchini.

6) Drain the fried chicken on a plate covered with a paper towel.

7) Quarter the zucchini and slice off enough of the outside so that they can sit basically flat. Repeat the breading and frying steps with the zucchini.

8) Drain the zucchini briefly on the paper towel plate. Add the chicken and zucchini to the baking dish and place the dish in the oven.

9) Set oven timer for 15 minutes.

10) During baking, start boiling the water (plus 1 cup of cooking wine) for the noodles. When the water is boiling, add the noodles (you know the drill).

11) After 15 minutes of baking, add shredded cheese of your choice to the tops of the chicken and zucchini. (I used Parmesan and American. You should use what you like. It's cheese; very hard to go wrong here.) Put back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

12) Remove dish from oven, drain noodles (this timed out really well for me), put on plates and serve. Nom!

How Did it Go?
I'll repeat my 'Nom!' here. I learned from my previous mistakes and it all worked much better. Crispy outsides to the chicken and zucchini, tender juicy insides.

What Would I Do Differently?
Allegedly there's a method for breading things that keeps your hands from getting gloppy. I have soooooo not mastered this. I've heard the "One hand for the dry ingredients, one hand for the wet ingredients" Principle, but I always get stymied at the point where I'm moving the item to be breaded from a wet dish to a dry dish (or vice versa). One hand inevitably winds up both wet and dry and then i just give it all up for lost. So, that's a skill I'd like to look into before my next go at something like this.

Zucchini on FoodistaZucchini

Monday, September 13, 2010

Y is for YMCA Hunger Challenge

(you know, while we're hanging out here at the end of the alphabet)

The local YMCA is doing a Hunger Challenge, which I wish I'd heard about sooner. A friend of mine is doing it and keeping track of her experiences. Perhaps I'll ask her if I can re-post.

Tangentially, this is one of my only sadnesses with FaceBook's taking over Blogs. FB is so lock-down-able, that it can be hard to link to cool things going on there.


The gist of it seems to be that you eat off of the same budget as someone living on food stamps - $28 per person per week, according to their calculations - in order to get a feeling for the challenges, etc of that.

I love this idea. I love anything that makes me think more about what I'm eating. Not necessarily in a Life Changing sort of way, because I'm realistic. But at the very least one would go back to one's normal eating habits with a renewed sense of appreciation. Or relief.

So, even though I've missed the official challenge, I may try this on my own later, just for the heck.

For the record, I would also be up for a Gluttony Challenge. You know, like, eat a Microsoft employee's paycheck worth of food in a single week? It'd be very Brewster's Millions, but I think I'm up for it. You know, in case anyone wanted to sponsor me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Z is for Zucchini Chicken Parmigiana

My first time trying this was a FAIL due mainly to 2 things:

1) Following the bad advice of an online recipe that suggested pan frying was not necessary. I blame my laziness for letting me succumb to this ridiculous notion.

2) Not having cheese in the house when I started making it. Grrrr! Couldn't interrupt cooking to run out for cheese so what I made was more Zucchini and Chicken Breaded and Baked in Red Sauce and rather dry.

I'm giving it another go this evening with cheese and frying pan firmly involved. I'll let you know.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Z is for Spinach Zucchini Balls

This falls firmly into the category of Foods That Hide the Zucchini. (That sounds way naughtier than I intended, . . . but note that I do not delete it.)

My friend decided to hold a poker party in honor of her birthday. She asked me to bring some zucchini to grill and also a snack.

Enter the Spinach Balls, a time honored family recipe. First shared with us when my favorite aunt married in, it's my go-to when busting out a savory snack for large group sharing.

Spinach Balls + over abundant zucchini = sneaky deliciousness.

What I Did:

1.5 cups baby spinach, chopped (frozen spinach is also totally ok)
1.5 cups of zucchini, grated
1/2 tsp each of:
garlic salt, white pepper, celery salt, chicken bouillon powder, basil

1 stick of butter
3 shallots
1 clove of garlic

2 cups of Stove Top mix
2 large eggs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

0) Preheat oven to 350

1) Add spinach, zucchini and spices to a pot.

2) Add enough water to cover veggies.

3) Bring to a boil and then let cook as you proceed with the other steps, stirring occasionally.

4) Chop shallots and garlic and saute in the butter until they are transparent.

5) Turn off veggies and onion/butter pans and allow them to cool.

6) Combine stuffing mix, eggs and cheese in a bowl.

7) Strain water from veggies. Mix veggies into stuffing mix.

8) Mix butter/onion/garlic mixture into stuffing mix.

9) Shape the mix into large marble-sized balls and place on a baking sheet.

10) Bake for 15 minutes.

How Did It Go:
Awesomely. The balls were gone before anything else, several people at the party asked me for the recipe, and no one seemed aware that there was zucchini involved. Win, win and win. Thanks to Aunt Mary, as always, for this no-fail recipe of tastiness.

What Would I Do Differently:
Nothing to make it better, but I think it's fair to point out that this is a very flexible recipe. More/different onions, different cheese, different spices; I've done all these at various times and it's always worked out (and, as suggested, the zucchini is not an original part of this recipe), so feel free to play and substitute. The only thing you can't stint on is the butter. At least, I don't think you can. I've never tried it. If you do, let me know how it goes.