Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

My father has got one of the greenest thumbs that I’ve ever seen. Every summer, for as long as I can remember, my dad has had a HUGE garden. It’s actually come to be quite the spectacle at their current home. They live on Chincoteague Island, which is a popular tourist destination in summer. Evidently, people are not used to seeing a garden up close and personal. Every time we are visiting, there are folks stopping in the street to take pictures. Poor souls – I don’t know what I would do without a garden at my fingertips!

Last weekend my dad gave me two HUGE zucchinis. You know, the kind that are too big to do anything with? Then, I came across a post over at Erin’s site. It was the perfect use for these goliaths. Actually, I only used one. Any suggestions for the other?

These were seriously some of the best cupcakes I’ve had in my life. And, I’ll tell you kids, I’m no stranger to a cupcake. The were so moist and delicious, they literally melted in your mouth. They would have been awesome “as is”. But then, to slather them with heavenly cream cheese frosting? OMG, make these.

I always have a cache of spices I am trying to use up, so I tweaked the original recipe a bit. I added in some allspice, as well as a pinch of 5-spice powder. If you don’t have those – feel free to omit them, they will still be just as good!

chickenenchiladas

I think if my husband had to choose his favorite dish, aside from a big honking steak, it would be enchiladas. I had never had them before meeting him. My mom was a great cook, but ethnic dishes were few and far between in our house. The first time I had them, my father-in-law made them for a football game.  I took one bite of that saucey-gooeyness and realized what I had been missing my whole life. He was a fan of using pork, which, I really would like to try.  But, we always have large quantities of chicken in the freezer here…

This recipe originated from America’s Test Kitchen, but I’ve changed quite a few things over the years. It is certainly a favorite in our house, and I’m sure it will be one in yours as well. Don’t be afraid to play around with the ingredients. Sometimes I add diced green chiles, sometimes chopped black olives. Or, this time of year, when I have jalapenos overtaking the garden, I’ll throw in a couple of those that have been diced. The only limit with these is your imagination!

It was one of those days. Nothing seemed to be working for me. I went from one task, to the next, to the next last Saturday…yet, nothing seemed to get done. I had gone to the local orchard and picked some peaches the previous day. The peaches you pluck off a tree do not last as long as those you would buy at your local grocery store, so I knew I had to get this pie made. I followed Cooks Illustrated’s recipe, and it turned out great. However, I had issues with the lattice-top.

The recipe had me freeze strips of dough to use for the lattice before “weaving” the top together. I guess I left it in there too long, or my freezer is too cold…but the strips were just snapping and breaking at every turn. I was getting ready to throw the whole damn pie out the back door. Thankfully, my husband talked me into putting it in the oven. I’m glad I did, because it really was delicious. The prettiest pie? No. But, sometimes the best things to eat certainly aren’t the prettiest now, are they?

risotto

I have a confession: I was a risotto virgin. I know, I know… How could call myself a “foodie”, and not yet experienced a delicious masterpiece like risotto? Alas, I have now found it, and plan to keep it in my repertoire for a long time to come. It was ridiculously easy; not only to cook, but also to clean up as it is a “one dish meal”.  I can easily see it becoming a “go to” meal for those nights when I just don’t feel like cooking anything. You can pretty much throw anything in there with equally delicious results. A great way to clean out the refrigerator at the end of the week!

I was concerned that this dish would need a protein to go with it. So, I served it with seared scallops. Now, the scallops were delicious, don’t get me wrong. I made a balsamic reduction in the pan that I seared them in, and drizzled that over the whole mess. It definitely added an extra oomph, or “kicked it up a notch” if you will. But, both my husband and myself agreed that it could certainly stand on it’s own as a satisfying dinner – sans meat.

So, if you haven’t tried making risotto at home yet – do yourself a favor, and please do. I kick myself for waiting as long as I did!