Cornmeal Muffins with Yellow Squash and Raisins

We’ve been trying to soak up the last bit of summer before school starts up again, which means that we’ve been enjoying lots of dinners on the porch with friends. Since those dinners tend to involve a lot of playtime with the kids, I always try to prepare the food ahead of time so that I’m not scrambling in the kitchen while also trying to jump rope or kick a soccer ball. At times this has meant classic potato salad with green beans and cucumbers with grilled brats, or a very simple pasta salad made with tomatoes marinated in olive oil and basil alongside muffins.

These muffins were a total surprise hit. I thought we had gotten zucchini in our CSA share but only found yellow squash when I looked in the fridge. I figured that it would probably work just as well, so I grated enough to make a cup when drained and packed.

This recipe is pretty basic, though the combination of all purpose flour and cornmeal lends a nice flavor and a surprising texture that will remind you of cornbread. They were moist, and just slightly sweet—and no one could tell that there was a vegetable inside. The kids all gobbled theirs up drizzled with honey (so did the adults!). You could use chopped walnuts or even chocolate chips instead of raisins and increase the sugar if you like a sweeter type of muffin. Just be sure to mix the batter gently to keep the final result light and airy.

Cornmeal Muffins with Yellow Squash and Raisins
Makes 12

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup grated yellow squash, squeezed well and packed
1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Coat a muffin tin with oil or nonstick spray. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. Mix the wet ingredients and grate the squash. Squeeze it with your hands to release as much water as possible.
2. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, then gently stir in the squash and raisins. Fill muffin cups evenly, about to the rim of each cup. Bake for 22-26 minutes or until lightly browned. Let sit in tin for 5 minutes then cool on a baking rack. Serve slightly warm if possible.

 

 

 

 

 

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Roasted Vegetable and Tomato Salad

 

This salad is a perfect example of how I like to cook in the summer. It makes use of a load of vegetables, is fresh, flavorful, and simple. And it’s more of a method than a recipe since it can follow the lead of whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand.

Basically you:
1. Roast a sheet pan full of chopped vegetables coated in olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400 F for 20-25 minutes or until soft and starting to brown. I used zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and eggplant. Let cool slightly.
2. Toss with as many chopped ripe tomatoes as you like. Add a handful of shredded basil and stir to combine. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
3. Serve as is or top with crumbled feta, goat cheese, aged cheddar, nuts, white beans, or chopped cooked chicken as you like.

The juices from roasting and from the tomatoes combine to form a sort of a dressing, so you don’t need anything else drizzled on top. You might also want to consider serving with crusty bread so you can sop up all of the juices!

 

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Summer Sewing

I recently was gifted with a bag filled with little girl patterns for dresses, bags, and coats, along with some sweet fabric remnants. I haven’t been sewing very much this summer since I’ve been trying to enjoy more time on the porch reading, but this Simple Servant Frock Dress from Sugar City was a joy to make.

I actually sewed it by hand because it was so straight forward and I wound up making the little pleats on the neckline—and adding buttons—because it was a little too big all over for my girl. I loved that there were no closures or zippers to worry about and that the roomy style is very forgiving. I think that it will fit her nicely come fall and I’m already hoping that she’ll agree to wear it for her first day of nursery school.

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Potato Salad with Green Beans, Zucchini, and Herb Vinaigrette

We’ve hit the point in the summer where we’re starting to get a surplus of specific produce items, both from our garden and our CSA. I’m doing my best to stay on top of the chard and beet greens by blanching, food processing, and freezing in ice cube trays (then transferring to freezer bags) to use through the winter in soups and stews. But we’re getting about a gallon of green beans from our garden alone each week and I don’t love them when cooked from frozen, so I’ve been coming up with new ways to use them. And since potatoes are just starting to be harvested in our area, it seemed like a fine time to combine the two—and to throw in some zucchini for good measure.

This super simple potato salad uses the vinaigrette that I so profusely talked about in my last post. It’s still holding steady as my favorite dressing of the season and it’s a great fit for this potato salad. The method for this recipe is so straight forward that I’m not sure it’s even a recipe:

Wash and chop 1/2-1 pound potatoes, 1 quart green beans and 1 medium zucchini.

Add potatoes to a large pot of salted boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes. Add green beans. Cook until potatoes are just starting to become tender; add zucchini.

Strain and let cool in the strainer.

Toss with the Herb Vinaigrette, Parmesan, and roasted sunflower seeds, if you’re like me and can’t have a salad without some form of seed or nut.

Eat at room temperature, preferably outside.

We brought this salad to a potluck last night and it was delicious. And after eating the leftovers with our dinner tonight, I can definitively say that this will be a summer staple in my house.

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White Balsamic Vinaigrette with Herbs

I was in a little bit of a salad dressing rut last week, so while at Trader Joe’s, I picked up a bottle of white balsamic vinegar. It’s been years since I used it in my kitchen but it inspired me to make a new dressing for all of the greens growing in our yard right now—and it might be my favorite dressing of all time. It’s easy to vary according to what you have, it goes really well with simple salads topped with strong cheeses such as feta or aged cheddar, and even makes a nice dipping sauce for snap peas and carrots. I’ve been making large jars full every few days so that it’s ready and waiting.

White Balsamic Vinaigrette with Herbs
Makes about 1 cup

2/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 T – 1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, and thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp roughly chopped shallot
pinch salt
freshly cracked black pepper

1. Put all ingredients into a blender, food processor, or the plastic measuring cup that your immersion blender came with. Blend until smooth. Use right away or refrigerate between uses.

Variations:
Use 1 clove garlic, grated, instead of shallot.
Change up the herbs or leave them out if you don’t have any on hand.
Try maple syrup instead of the honey.

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Lemony Garlic Scape Pesto with Almonds

In addition to the bunch of garlic scapes that came in our CSA box last week, we had about 40 outside in our garden, so I took it as a sign to make pesto. Some of this went onto pizza and some was slathered onto toast and topped with shredded mozzarella and then broiled briefly. And the rest I froze in ice cube trays (which makes convenient portions) to use at a later date, likely on pasta. I love the simplicity of this pesto recipe, which would work just as well with basil if you don’t have a pile of scapes to use up.

Lemony Garlic Scape Pesto
12-15 garlic scapes (or 3 cups basil, packed)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup slivered or whole roasted almonds
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Pulse the garlic scapes, cheese, and almonds in a food processor until broken down. Add lemon juice and olive oil and let machine run until smooth, adding more olive oil if necessary to create a spreadable consistency. Use immediately, store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze in ice cube trays or freezer bags for later use.

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My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

I could tell you that I love these cookies because they are gluten free. Or because they are lower in sugar than most. Or because they are crazy easy to make and require nothing more than a bowl and a wooden spoon. But really, I love them because they taste like a cross between a coconut macaroon and a chocolate chip cookie. I have made three batches in about as many weeks and they are just the best. I sometimes use butter instead of the coconut oil and I usually double the chocolate, but otherwise, I urge you to try these at home the next time you need a treat. (Which is pretty much always, yes?)

Get the recipe for Almond Meal Cookies with Coconut and Dark Chocolate here via Minimalist Baker.

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Three Ways with Frozen Yogurt

My mom recently made a few batches of absolutely delicious frozen yogurt so I needed to share the recipes with you—and also to post them here so that I remember them when I have the urge to make these over the summer!

Strawberry Greek Frozen Yogurt: This is the recipe that recently shared, and one that I absolutely love. I love that it’s lightly sweetened and relies on tart lemon, fresh fruit, and vanilla to flavor the protein-packed base.

Blueberry Greek Frozen Yogurt: Same recipe as above but using blueberries in place of the strawberries. I might add some lemon zest or additional lemon juice to this base to help brighten the flavors a bit.

Mango Mint Frozen Yogurt: I wasn’t sure that I would love this recipe based on the ingredients, but it turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. It’s insanely refreshing—and I am betting that it could be turned into a slushy party drink if you added a scoop to a glass filled with champagne!

You can tell that we’re clearly on a frozen dessert kick around here!

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Greek Strawberry Frozen Yogurt and Berry Tart with Cookie Crust

It’s finally warm in Iowa, which means that the ice cream maker has been in heavy rotation. I have been alternating between mint chip and frozen yogurt made with thick and tart Greek frozen yogurt. The recipe, which you can find over on Recipe.com, is incredibly simple with just 5 ingredients that you might already have in your house. Plus, it’s  low in added sugars (just 1/4 cup honey) as it relies on the yogurt, lemon juice, and berries to flavor the recipe. You can of course adjust the honey up to 1/2 cup, depending on your preference, but if you use ripe berries, you may enjoy the less-sweet taste of this recipe.

And since Greek yogurt is naturally high in protein, this is one dessert that doubles as an equally delicious (and healthy) snack. It’s perfect for toddlers and their parents, and the base can even be frozen into popsicle molds.

Get the recipe here.

And if you’re in the mood to bake (or you need something to serve your frozen yogurt with), try this Berry Tart with an Oatmeal Cookie Crust. I used leftover cookie dough that I had stashed in the freezer for the crust and served each slice with a dollop of lemon curd. So yummy and fresh.

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Lilac Season and Some Links to Share

The little one is almost over another bad cold, the Tulip Time crowds have thinned out, and the lilac bushes are starting to fill the yard with their heavenly scent. I am so grateful that we moved to a house with mature bushes—and it is my goal to have freshly cut lilacs in the house as long as they are outside the door.

A few links to share:

In need of an impressive and delicious breakfast idea to make for mom this weekend? Try this Puffed Pancake from my latest post over on recipe.com.

I am eager to try this Grapefruit Margarita recipe from my friend Kelly. It sounds refreshing and just the thing to sip outside.

I’ve been making this No-Knead Sandwich Bread regularly for my family and I am obsessed. It’s crazy easy and it’s turns out two loaves of really awesome bread for sandwiches, toast, and grilled cheese. I’ve been fine-tuning a perfect whole grain version (and a cinnamon raisin one!) and will share the recipe soon.

I can’t wait to read Delancey after I finish The Fault in Our Stars (pass the tissues!), then find some new recipes in Eating in Color and I Quit Sugar. I love sweets as much as the next person but the idea of filling up on protein and healthy fats instead of sweeter fare does make a lot of sense to me…no plans for a dietary overall but it’s nice to have some healthy cooking inspiration! And since my gluten-induced headaches are back after a blissful remission during pregnancy and breast feeding, I’ve been looking at my diet in the hopes of just feeling better each day.

The Far Far Away Collectors Pack of fabric from Heather Ross is so, so very tempting, though I am reminding myself that I have two bins filled with fabric that needs to be put to good use before I can buy another large stash!

These bright Correa Sandals from Toms are so cute! And this monogram necklace is simply beautiful.

Hope you’re all having a good week so far!

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