Friday, September 24, 2010

Zuchinni Parmesan with Spicy Tomato Sauce

If you are like us, you have an abundance of zucchinis. I mean they are coming out of the bathtub we have so many. Our friends are handing them to us at every chance encounter and take them all because, well, hell-- I love to cook and I might as accept something free to cook with and create new exciting recipes to share with all of you. What the hell, right? That's what we say!
In addition to having tons of zucchinis, we are also about to have another houseful. My sister, fiance, and future mother-in-law are all coming to spend the weekend. In preparation, we have been cleaning the house like mad-- you'd think the Queen of England is coming or something-- Hell maybe she will decide to. I told my dad yesterday that when my sister comes she won't even recognize the place. It is way to perfect. Just like anything perfect though, I know it will only be like this for about another few hours and then things will return to chaos.

I decided to take a break from cleaning and scrubbing and bake some delicious Zucchini Bread using these elephant zucchinis. A zucchini about this size saved a woman from a bear just yesterday, so I feel very safe and protected with all these zucchini around. I shred about 8 cups of zucchini and I kid you not-- I made 9 loaves of this bread and one of my tasters said this.. "Abby, I want to eat this bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday." No joke.

Oh and the Zucchini Parmesan is delicious and a great spin-off from the original eggplant variety. It's now one of my new favorite things! Try them out and let me know what you think. Baking the bread was soothing and helpful in this crazy country where we watched a man on a surf board paddle across the lake and then a huge barge went by carrying God-only-knows what. This is the kind of stuff we see living on the lake in Montana...
And my sister will be here in a few hours! I can't wait to see her. It has been way too long! And my future brother.. I always wanted one of those and I will finally get one! Wish us luck, we will try not to offend, be respectful, and most importantly have lots of fun!

Zucchini Parmesan
2 Large Zucchinis
1/4 Cup Light Mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1/4 tsp. Salt and Black Pepper
8 Ounces Mozzarella Cheese; Shredded
1 1/2 Cup Spicy Tomato Sauce (see recipe below)
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese; Shredded

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the zucchinis into quarter inch rounds. Then in a shallow bowl combine the bread crumbs and salt and pepper.

2. Using a butter knife, spread a light amount of light mayo on each side of the slices of zucchini. Dredge each side of the zucchini in the bread crumb mixture.
3.  Place each zucchini round on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the zucchini pricks softly with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Turn down the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
4. In a baking pan lay a single layer of zucchini on the bottom. Place a half cup of Spicy Tomato Sauce (recipe below) over the zucchini, sprinkle with 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and repeat another layer. Repeat layering until all of the zucchini have been added to the casserole dish.

5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. You want the edges to be bubbly and the cheese to be melted and slightly browned on top! Serve immediately!

Servings: 8

Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 Tbsp. Smart Balance Butter
1 1/2 Cup Onion; Finely Chopped
1 Roasted Red Pepper; Chopped
4 Garlic Cloves; Minced
1 Jar (26 Ounces) Spicy Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine
3 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
2 Cups Water
1/4 Cup Fresh Oregano
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil

1. Heat a large sauce pan with the oil, then add the onion, red pepper, garlic and heat until onions are translucent.

2. Pour the jar of sauce into the sauce pan. Then in that same jar add the wine, tomato paste, and water and seal and shake the ingredients in the jar to combine. Add this mixture to the sauce pan as well. Add the herbs and  cook until bubbly.

Servings: 8 

Mental Health Tip: No matter who is coming to dinner, whether it's the Queen of England or just your sister, remember-- they came to see you-- not your house, not your lawn. Although it is nice to have things clean, never forget that the most important element is fun! Don't forget to relax and enjoy every moment with your guests! That is what I plan to do!



Wishing you abundance from our kitchen to yours!

~ "Little Hot Mess" in a clean kitchen

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Packing the perfect picnic.. Spiders & all...

We have been enjoying the last few drops of summer weather here in Northwest Montana with a promise that winter is right around the corner. It feels like we have had about a week and a half of summer, but I'm not complaining.. Okay. I am, but seriously only a few nice hot days? Okay, I know. Get over it. 
In pursuit of getting over it I decide that a picnic is in order. I whipped up some delicious Smoked Salmon Dip, Caprese Sandwiches, Potato Salad, and Mediterranean Vegetable Salad. Time to be outside soaking up the last bits of sunshine and eating deliciously decadent foods. There are a few obstacles to picnics, one of which is ants, but out here the bigger problem is spiders. I used to be deathly afraid of spiders, but out here they are prolific. I mean everywhere. Just the other day one was hanging out in my bikini top... while I had it on! Talk about a jolt, you should have seen me jumping up and down screaming..
 Recently, however, a dear friend of mine shared helped me overcome the fear of spiders by sharing their totem with me. As she described it the spider totem represents creativity and balance, especially in the area of writing. This perked my interest and I started looking around for more information in our favorite Spirit Animals book.
 
 What I discovered is that some ideas are that generally accepted are that her "thread" connects the human world and the world of spirits or the "above world" and the "below world". Spider Woman also weaves the "relationship" of the Web of Life and all beings. 
 
Also, it is said that she weaves the web of fate and if we are not decisive enough about changing our lots in life, we may end up being consumed by our fears and limitations. Okay.. I get it... Stop being afraid of spiders.  Spiders should encourage us to create, create, create whatever we want! Whether we write, paint, draw, sing, dance, cook... whatever. If life feels boring (or gloomy) let spider help inspire you! Let's get creative when we feed our kids, families, loved ones, and souls!

I have provided lots of delicious recipes for picnics, school lunches, or whatever you want. I hope that along with spider, I inspire you to create, create, create!

Smoked Salmon Hummus

1 (15 Ounce) Can Garbanzo Beans; rinsed
1 Cup Fat Free Plain Yogurt
2 Cloves Garlic
1 tsp. Dried Cumin
1 tsp. Seasonal Salt
1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 tbsp. Dried Parsley
2 Cups Smoked Salmon; chunked 

1. In a food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, yogurt, garlic, cumin, seasonal salt, lemon juice, and dried parsley. Process until smooth. 
2. Add 1 cup of the smoked salmon and continue processing for 30-60 seconds. Stir in the remaining cup of chunked smoked salmon. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and fresh parsley. Serve with your favorite crackers, pita slices, and fresh vegetables!

 Caprese Sandwich
 1 large tomato; sliced diagonally
1 clove garlic; minced
6-10 leaves fresh basil
4 one ounce slices of mozzarella cheese
4 slices of whole wheat bread
Olive oil


1. In a hot skillet heat a little dab of olive oil. Spread the garlic lightly over the inside of each slice of bread and place on slice of bread into the hot oil. Add the mozzarella, basil leaves, and tomatoes on the bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then place the other slice of bread on top with the garlic on the inside of the sandwich. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes a side. The cheese will be melted and the bread crispy. 
2. Slice in half and serve immediately while the cheese is oooey-goooey! You can also save on calories by making this open faced and skipping the top slice of bread! Either way it is delicious!

 Herbed Potato Salad
3 large potatoes
2 tbsp. fresh dill; minced
2 tbsp. green olives; minced
2 tbsp. fresh chives; minced
1/2 tbsp. lemon grass
1 tbsp. stone ground mustard
1 tbsp. light balsamic dressing
1 tbsp. low fat sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the potatoes for 45 minutes or until you can easily squeeze the skins. You can also take a short cut and microwave the potatoes for 20-25 minutes depending on how big they are. Once cooked, allow the potatoes to cool for 15 minutes.
2. Slice the potatoes into cubes and place in a large bowl. Add the dill, olives, chives, lemon grass, ground mustard, balsamic dressing, and sour cream to the potatoes and stir to combine. Refrigerate until you are ready to eat!

Garden Veggie Mediterranean Salad
3 large garden ripe tomatoes
1 large zucchini
1/2 green onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup fresh chives
1/2 cup fresh basil
16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans
1/2 cup low fat balsamic dressing (Paul Newman's is the best!)

1. Slice the tomatoes, zucchini, green onion, garlic, chives, and basil into bite sized pieces. Add to a large mixing bowl. Cube the mozzarella cheese and add to the bowl along with the garbanzo beans rinsed. Stir to combine.

2. Add the balsamic dressing to the mixture and stir coating all of the veggies and cheese. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry and brighten. Serve cold right out of the fridge!
Mental Health Benefit: Being outside amongst the fresh air, wild flowers, and spiders also promotes a healthy appetite. I know I am hungrier when I'm camping or playing outside! Join me in enjoying these last few minutes of summer time together! As the weather turns we too are reminded of the changes with in all of us within each moment. Let's share in the creativity of mother nature and ourselves as we prepare healthy meals filled with love!

Wishing you more sunshine from my creative kitchen to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot messes in the kitchen!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Grillin' with Feelin'

After a wild and rowdy long weekend at Lake Charles, LA, with my Chicks I find myself home alone again. The weekend was an annual visit with my I AM Chick sisters. There was laughter, boat dancing, swimming, eating, and lots and lots of love. The trip started with me accidentally getting on the wrong airplane and ending up in Minneapolis instead of Salt Lake City! Ooops! As my Chicks said, I am a piece of work, and I ended up arriving in Houston at exactly the same time as I was originally planed.
 The rest of the trip was just as wild and just as fun! We stayed at the most beautiful lake house and saw gorgeous sunsets. There was lots of great food, prepared in Hot Mess style, and we did lots of fun things that I can't share on this blog... Let's just say that what happens in Lake Charles... Stays in Lake Charles!

Now I am faced with myself and the computer and trying to stay on task. A lot harder than originally believed when I got out of bed this morning... I find myself day dreaming, thinking, wandering around the house and generally distracting myself...
 Instead of finishing my outline, I decided to type up this blog in honor of my I AM Chicks. They are the wind beneath my wings, the laughter inside my tears, and the calm in the storm. This Grilled Chicken wings, Spicy corn on the cob, and delicious Apricot Chocolate Cheese-quakes are the perfect way to celebrate a sisterhood of the heart.

These recipes are also easy and the perfect way to celebrate the end of a great weekend, the end of summer and a whole new beginning awaiting all of us. I wouldn't change a thing... Not this cloudy day, not this cold weather, and especially not any of my friends, family, or sisters!

  • I AM exactly where I want to be.
  • I am grateful for the many blessings in my life.
  • I am creating the life that I deserve, one recipe at a time!
Oh, and I am grateful for this fresh delicious sweet corn! What are you grateful for? These recipes I hope! ;)

Spicy Grilled Chicken
2 pounds chicken wings

Marinade:

1/4 cup hot sauce (we love Valentino's)
1 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. Italian seasonings
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. Hungarian Paprika
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. cracked pepper

1. Combine the hot sauce, garlic powder, Italian seasonings, cayenne pepper, paprika, and olive oil using a whisk.

2. In a large bowl place all of the chicken wings. We prepare each of them by creating triangle shapes by placing the leg behind the drum stick. Add the marinade to the wings and turn to coat the chicken completely. Then cover with saran wrap. Allow to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but it can be overnight if you have the time.

3. When ready to cook, heat your grill to 250 degrees. Place the chicken wings on the grill and cover. Check and turn every 20 minutes for 2 hours total. We are cooking these low and slow so they will fall right off the bone and be tender and delicious. After 2 hours place in a serving dish and eat with your fingers! Delicious!

Grilled Spicy Corn on the Cob
6 ears of sweet corn; husks removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon Cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1. With husks removed place the corn right on a grill that has been heated to 300 degrees. Brush each corn cob with olive oil on both sides. Then sprinkle each side with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. Close the lid and cook each side for 10-15 minutes. The corn will pop and sizzle and slightly blacken. This is exactly what you want to happen!

2. Once the corn has been grilled and is sufficiently cooked and blackened. Place in a large serving platter or bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately with the delicious chicken wings!

Apricot Chocolate Cheese-quakes!
Crust:

1 cup crushed chocolate wafer cookies (we used Pirouette chocolate fudge wafers)
1/4 cup milled flax seed

Filling:

8 ounces low fat Philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup low fat sour cream
2 cups fresh apricots; pitted and sliced in half (about 3-4 apricots)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup splenda
1 eggs
1 tablespoon brandy (we used E & J)
3 ounces dark chocolate (we used Hershey's dark chocolate)

To make the crust:

1. Crush up a cup of the chocolate wafer cookies and add the milled flax seed and stir to combine.

2. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Spray with non-fat cooking spray. Reserving 1/4 of a cup , sprinkle the cookie and flax seed mixture into the bottom of each of the muffin tins using about 1-2 tablespoons per muffin. Spray the crust with a little bit of cooking spray to seal. Set the muffin tins aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling:

3. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, apricots, vanilla, splenda, egg, and brandy. Process until smooth. Add the chocolate breaking into small pieces at the end and process for another 20 seconds.

4. Pour the filling into each muffin until full and bake for 30 minutes.
Topping and eating...!

5. Once done the top should be only slightly jiggly.

6. Remove from oven once the top is set and spread a teaspoon of sugar free apricot jam (we love Smucker's) and sprinkle with the remaining cookie crumb mixture.

7. Allow to cool in the refrigerator for at least one hour and devour! Bon Appetite!

Mental Health Benefit: These recipes are easy, healthy, and best of all they are fresh and no matter what the weather is like near you they are the perfect way to celebrate summer. Hang on to the very last drops of this summer time bliss. With fall comes great things too, but that doesn't mean that we can't celebrate the hot mess bliss that summer brings us all. As you pack yourself or your kids up for school celebrate the lasting summer with one more delicious outdoor cooked meal!

Sending you love from my kitchen to yours!

~ "Little Hot Mess" In the kitchen!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

CORRECTION... The Real Montana Breakfast

The REAL Montana Breakfast.....

This is Abby’s boyfriend, and I’ve taken over Abby’s her blog for today.  She is preoccupied at the moment and will not be able to get to the computer.  That duct tape is great stuff.
I’m here to inform you of a slight misguidance made in a previous post by our beloved Hot Mess Abby.  Her pies are always quite good (especially her apple pie); however, pie is only but a slice of that which embraces the term “Montana Breakfast”.  Anything labeled Montana I get very sensitive about.  If you’re going to label something “Montana” you better have it right.  I’m a born and raised Montana boy, 5th generation, and pie alone simply isn’t worthy of being the breakfast that is Montana.  So, please sit back, loosen your belt, take a Lipitor and prepare yourself for the gorging and indulgence of a Montana man’s breakfast that is nothing short of a serious health risk.  Yes, I’m about 25 lbs over weight, but I’m dead sexy!
Montana Breakfast (noun):  A hearty, greasy, salty meal, usually served before 11am, and requires a noon nap time.  Designed to feed two or three, but prepared for one.  Piled with meat, eggs, potatoes, biscuits and gravy.  Finished with a slice of apple pie.

Take notice that I said apple pie.  I didn’t say cherry, nor peach, nor some lemon meringue pot of pudding sorry excuse of a pie.  Apple pie.

Best Ever Biscuits
1 cup white flour
1/4 cup butter; cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp salt. 
1.2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup low fat milk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, add the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder combining with a whisk. Gradually cut in the butter. Using your hands (yes, get in there) combine the flour and butter until a course meal is formed. Add the baking powder and milk and stir to combine making a thick batter.

3.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and drop 1/2 cup sized biscuits onto the cooking sheet. This recipe will make 4-5 good sized drop biscuits. Bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes. Then remove and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Gut Stickin' Gravy
1 pound package sage sausage
1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

1. First, the gravy.  The number one ingredient is sausage (sage flavored sausage to be exact). 

2. Brown the sausage, don't drain it.  Some use vegetable oil for the gravy, but they’re wasting their time, and good sausage grease. Wasting good bacon and/or sausage grease is a sin, and you will lose a hand in some countries if caught doing so. 

3. Add the flour and continue browning the sausage over medium heat until the flour has cooked... Approximately 3-5 minutes. Add the milk and stir using a wooden spoon until the gravy has thickened to resemble a creamy custard like texture. If it is too thick, feel free to add a few tablespoons of water, one at a time to thin it. Add the salt and pepper and the gravy is ready to go.

 Chicken Fried Steak
1 cube round steak (ours was large enough to serve 2+)
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1. Place the round steak between two sheets of suran wrap and beat with a mallet until the steak is thinned to 1 inch.

2. Create a dredging station. In one bowl crack and scramble the egg. In a separate bowl combine the flour, cayanne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (or bacon grease if you have that lying around like I do). Place each steak first in the egg and then in the flour mixture. Then drop in the heated oil in the skillet. Brown on each side for 3 minutes. Once both sides are cooked remove from skillet and place on a paper towel lined plate.

Homemade Hash browns
 4 red skinned potatoes; shredded
1/4 white onion shredded
1/4 cup fresh chives; minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. In a large oven proof pot combine the shredded red potatoes and onion. Why red potatoes? Because they are simply the best, just like our Hot Mess Abby.

2. Brown on both sides. Add the chives and salt and pepper after 7-10 minutes of browning over medium high heat. During the last 5 minutes  add the cheddar cheese over the top and place under the broiler for 3 minutes to brown the top of the hashbrowns.

Eggs

Eggs should be done over-easy, end of story, let’s move on. The plating and eating starts now.


To Plate:
1. Take your biscuit and cut in half and lay open faced on the plate. Add a hearty portion of hash browns next to the biscuit. Place your chicken fried steak over your hash browns and add your eggs on top of the steak. Place a hearty portion of gravy over the whole plate and add salt and pepper and maybe Tabasco to taste. You can also add bacon to this meal, cooked the way you like it. Dipping bacon in gravy.. Is there anything better? I think not. That's why I'm a Montana guy.

Mental health tip:
You’re in Montana.  Go big or go home.
 Okay folks, It's Abby again... The duct tape has been removed. It was fun to go big for breakfast and if your going to do it, breakfast is the right time. It gives you the rest of the day to digest. To be honest, it reminded me of breakfast with my grandma cooking in the kitchen biscuits and gravy... we used her recipe even. In the end the kitchen was a mess, our stomachs were full, and Scott was happy. That is what cooking should be: sharing food, memories, and making each other happy. 
 He cooked, making me happy. He shared his Montana recipes, making him happy. You and I both know that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. As you can tell my the picture... He is happy.

Remember, Go big or go home. No matter what you do... Do it with all your heart.

~ This little Hot Mess in a dirty kitchen, but with a morning off!