Ypsi Cooks

healthy and sustainable for the frugal foodie


Zucchini Glut

We were introduced to this fabulous “tomato glut sauce” last summer. It’s a great recipe to have when the tomatoes are coming with such force that you’re not sure what to do with them. (I just tallied and we’ve picked 85 pounds so far this year. And yes, we need to make more sauce.) But really, what about zucchini?

Everybody knows about having too many zucchinis (though I’m sure the accurate plural is zucchino or something), I mean, Prairie Home Companion recommends you lock your car doors at night so the neighbors don’t generously stick you with their squash. It seems most people fight a mountain of zucchini with a shredder (good plan) and bake it up into bread (another good plan). But that gets a little old, right? My mom also her’s and bags it up to freeze in appropriate quantities to make the bread winter long. To break us out of the zucchini bread rut, I offer 3 “I have too many zucchino” solutions. With so many choices, you can start accepting the insanity of zucchini that people keep trying to sneak into your car. (I’ll have a 4th idea soon… and it will help use up those tomatoes, too!)

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Pizza Party

After hanging out at the Heritage Festival on Friday afternoon we had a pizza party in the living room. The green tomato and caramelized onion pizza was especially good.

Pizza Party

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My Mom’s Cookbooks

Amelia likes to take lids of bottles and pour. This is an important thing to remember when you’ve just added a few drops of almond extract to your waffle batter: don’t leave the bottle on the counter and walk away. But did I think of that little piece if logic? No. Needless to say, I walked into the kitchen to see her standing on a chair at the counter with an empty bottle of extract. Into a little bowl I poured off what I could and mixed the rest into the batter, hoping for the best. The waffles turned out fine, if a bit “boozy,” as Tom said. But what to do with that precious little bowl of extract?

I recalled an unusual little cookie, a recipe I had seen many times in my mom’s wonderful collected cookbook. She actually has several of these binders, each labeled with it’s major food category, filled with newspaper clippings, recipes pulled off the back of boxes, and note cards from friends. I admit, the only one I’ve ever actually opened is the one labeled “Cookies, Pies, Cakes and Treats.” Now, the problem with this particular cookie recipe is that I could only recall the image of it, not the recipe itself, along with a very vague memory of this unusual, delightful cookie. An Almond-Sesame Cookie. Not recalling her recipe, and not wanting to call her to give me the recipe over the phone, I scanned the internet. I sat in front of the computer disappointed. None of the recipes offered what I was looking for, either lacking almond or sesame punch. Read the rest of this entry »

On Family Dinner

I just took this poll on how many times a week we eat family dinner together. For us the answer is 7. Unless Tom and I have a date. So, um, like I said. 7. (Ok, so we do go on dates, but usually just once every-other month or so, and then the kids are eating with their grandparents or some of our best friends, so I feel that’s pretty much like family dinner. And we spend our dates talking about our kids antics, so that’s kinda like family dinner, too.) But back to the poll. She talked about Michelle Obama asking people set an attainable goal in cooking family dinner, even if once a week is the most you are willing to aim for. This got me thinking, why is this such a normal part of our life, and so challenging for others? You know what I come up with? Practice.

We’ve had a lot of practice. When we started dating, I lived with my folks (the best student teaching decision I ever made) and Tom lived in a house with friends. We had dinner at his house, or at the home of friends (yes D&B, I’m talking about you). Then he moved home and I move into a place that was mighty close to his work. So, Tom came over to my house and we made dinner just about every night. So for the two years before we were even married, that’s the way it worked. Dinner at his house, dinner at mine, dinner with friends, dinner at our parents’… By the time Eli came around, we had almost three years of practice making and eating family dinner. Sometimes it’s fancy and planned, but more often that not it’s “What sounds good and what do we need to use?” and meals we know how to make without looking at a recipe. But most of all, it’s practice. And it gets easier as time goes on, even as the kids present us with new challenges. But lately we’ve been talking about making a weekly menu so we don’t have the daily, “What’s for dinner?” conversations. Or maybe just a list on the fridge of easy, delicious, quick dinners. What do you think? Do you plan ahead, or fly by the seat of your pants? Any other thoughts on family dinner?

Easy Summer Salad

I’ve been making this for a few years, so I thought I should share it here. To match the simplicity of the recipe, I will be brief. I think there is no better way to consume cabbage than this. If you like the ubiquitous ramen noodle potluck salads, try this: it’s much healthier and, if I do say so myself, more delicious.

Asian Slaw  (This is enough for several small batches of slaw. I love to have this dressing in the fridge for an easy salad all summer long. Cut the recipe in half if you’d like, and it will probably still be plenty for a small head of cabbage or two.)

Measure into a jar with a good lid:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
  • 1-1 1/2  tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced or grated, optional

Put it in a jar with a good lid and shake until the mustard is dispersed. Pour a little (you can always add more) over chopped cabbage (I usually use 1/2 a head), sliced carrots, green onions and/or vegetables of your choice.  Toss. Sprinkle with chopped almonds, sunflower and/or sesame seeds if desired. Store leftover dressing in the fridge.

Not too busy for Ginger Peach Pie

We’ve been busy lately. Weddings to attend, gardens to weed, family to see and sprinklers to run in. Yep, we’ve been busy. Not that we haven’t been in the kitchen. We’ve been there plenty, perhaps more than usual but really not choosing to write about it until now. Ya know, busy.

I’ve got 3 recipes up my sleeve, but life is short, so let’s talk dessert first: peach pie. Read the rest of this entry »

Tons of stuff from the garden

This morning we spent a bit of time before it got too hot doing some stuff in the garden. I did some tomato plant wrangleing and it looks like we are going to have tomatoes coming out of our ears soon. We harvested the first couple eggplant. It has been really hot here for the past week or so and our basil started to go to seed. Bridgit headed that off by snipping off the top of the plant and I made the first round of pesto this afternoon. I made an ice cube tray worth and then noticed that I had left a third of the basil in the salad spinner. Bridgit is going to put it into bread for dinner

This combined with the Potatoes, carrots, beets, onions and beans that have started to become ready means we are in for a good harvest this year!

Waffles, overnight.

Do me a favor. Imagine golden brown, crispy waffles drizzled with brilliantly white and creamy yogurt, and then another drizzle of crimson pureed raspberries. Also, if you would, imagine the prettiest place setting and perfect lighting. Then imagine a camera with fully charged batteries. Now take a picture and enjoy your breakfast with your family. If you wouldn’t mind posting that photo here:

I’d be grateful.

Clearly some technical difficulties (read: there was no way was going to let a battery hunt slow down my breakfast consumption) stopped us from getting a photo, but don’t let silly little things stop you from this recipe. My favorite part is that you make the batter the night before, as you’re finishing cleaning up from dinner, and the next morning all you have to do is plug in the waffle maker, whisk, and pour.

I don’t think there’s much else to tell you, except that when we first made them, our guests (and us too) went mad over the yeasty aroma wafting through the kitchen. Then, as we collectively contemplated the leftover batter, chopped ham and cheese came to mind. Don’t stop the urge. These waffles are delicious with savory toppings, too. (Ice cream and sundae fixings wouldn’t be a bad plan either.)

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On Fig Cookies (Or was it fruit and cake?)

A few weeks ago I read a blog post about not really liking fig newtons as a kid, along with the recipe for a homemade version that is decidedly worth a try. Many commenters posted, sharing similar feelings about fig newtons. I on the other hand devoured newtons as a child. So, with a container of figs languishing in my dried fruit drawer, I knew had to make it. And am I ever glad I did. The cookie part itself was very good, and the with the fig filling, delicious.

The recipe originates from a gluten free cookbook and a version of it can be found here on Heidi's site 101cookbooks.com. I got the recipe from Julie at dinnerwithjulie and she adds the fresh ginger, which she lists as optional, and I think is absolutely mandatory if you like ginger at all. The ginger cookie-cake with the citrusy fig filling is a wonderful pair.

Eli and I enjoyed them with tea made from lemon thyme we had trimmed off the bush earlier that day.

You may have noticed that I am not the best food (or anything) photographer. Eli might be taking over. Here's a shot he set up and took after I took the one above. For the recipe, click “read more.”

Not bad for a 3-year-old with a camera where you can't control the flash.You don't need to use almond meal (especially if you're the mom of a kid with a nut allergy but didn't know it until your kid snuck a piece of PB & J from my kid… that was not such a good day), but I wouldn't recommend using all white whole wheat flour. I find you have to use something with low/no gluten (oat flour, other grains & legumes) with the white whole wheat and you could certainly use all all-purpose flour.

Also, you could easily soak the figs one day, prepare the dough the next and assemble the third day.

I found it easier to roll the dough with an open cereal beg (you could use wax paper) on top.

Fig Slab Cookies(adapted from dinnerwithjulie from 101cookbooks from GlutenFreeGirl [the cookbook, not the website])

Fig Filling:
1/2 lb. (one 250g package) dried figs or apricots
Juice of 1/2 a lemon plus enough
orange juice to equal 1 cup

Finely chop the figs (removing the tough stems) and put them into a small saucepan with the orange juice . Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until it turns into a soft sort of jam. The texture will depend on the dryness of the figs – add more juice or water if need be. If the mixture seems too chunky, puree it in the food processor once it has softened. (It’s tough to chop dried figs in the food processor alone – they tend to be too thick and sticky.) Alternatively, just soak chop the figs and overnight or a few days then puree in a processor.

1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger (optional, but it's SO good with it. 1/4-1/2 tsp of ginger powder might suffice)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until well blended and the mixture has the texture of wet sand. Beat in the egg, molasses, ginger (if using) and vanilla. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, almond meal, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and stir with a spatula just until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the dough in half and roll one piece out into a rectangle about the size of your cookie sheet – this is easy to do on a piece of parchment or a Silpat baking mat, which can then be slid right onto the baking sheet. Spread the dough with the fig filling. Roll the second piece of dough out to the same size on a piece of waxed paper, or better yet, an opened cereal bag; lay it over the fig filling, and press it gently to seal the two together a bit. I usually roll the whole thing gently with a rolling pin, being careful that the filling doesn’t spill out the sides.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until set and beginning to brown (I'd say better a little over done than under on this one: the slightly crispy bits were my favorite). Cool for about 10 minutes, then trim the edges and cut the slab into squares or rectangles with a knife, pizza wheel or pastry cutter.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies, with plenty of edge scraps that are very tasty too.

Easy. Delicious. Our new go-to pasta sauce.

My friends, I love tomato sauce. I remember living in a house full of 6 women and cooking up a pot of sauce. One of my roommates walked in, and if my memory serves me correctly, she just about fainted (She now works at Zingerman’s Roadhouse: a good place for someone so appreciative of good food). She raved about the aroma (the result of sauteed onions doused with a good amount of a few day old wine). When it got to the table, it was what we all hoped for, all galic-y and basil-orgegeno-ed. But I haven’t made a sauce like that in a while. Perhaps not since then. But not too long ago I found this sauce.

It couldn’t be simpler: 4 ingredients that bubble away on the stove, just asking for the occasional stir and mash while you get your brain together after a long day. The sauce, made with whole tomatoes, butter, onion (just cut in half and peeled) and salt, is warm, and rich, and comforting, and decadent. So, throw the ingredients in a pot, open a bottle of wine (no need to save any for the sauce), then take a little time to pick out a pasta (I’m a fan of long and skinny for this one), talk with your family (or roommates, whatever the case may be), set the table, get out some parmesan, light the candles (it’s that good), and enjoy.

Oh, and by the way, I just made a double batch, because the only thing easier than this sauce is “planned-overs” for dinner. When I doubled it, I just used one stick of butter, and one onion cut into funky thirds (an of-set cut and then a slice down the middle of the bigger chunk). There was still plenty of onion flavor, and no buttery richness was lost.