Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Zucchini Stuffed Tomatoes by Nadia

Okay, so if you've been to this blog a few times, you may know that I'm a teacher. To be more specific, I am an elementary school English as a Second Language teacher. The students on my roster learned another language first at home, and now they're becoming proficient in English speaking, listening, reading, and writing. One of my favorite parts of my job is co-teaching writing in a fourth grade classroom. The regular teacher and I share the responsibility of teaching writing to all of the students. (Before I was an elementary ESL teacher, I taught middle school English and almost every summer I teach at Young Writers' Camp on the campus of Long Beach State University.) 
Our first unit of the year was about "the writing community" and "the writing process," and students got to choose what they wrote. I love that. One native English speaker, Nadia, chose to write a recipe. When I was emailing her mom to get permission to post Nadia's recipe, she said that Nadia started helping her cook at the age of 3, and by 6, Nadia was making omelets for herself. Amazing. She's been experimenting with vegetarian dishes recently due to some dietary concerns, and this is one that she came up with. Mom also said that Nadia is planning to start a cooking show that she will post on YouTube. I'll keep you updated on that.
This is a great recipe for tomato & zucchini lovers, especially when there are garden-fresh tomatoes available. It was easy to make and as Nadia told me, you can adjust the amount of cheese and bread crumb/crouton mixture to suit you. I scaled the recipe down for my vegetable-fearing family, and I made only 3 tomatoes--relatively large ones, and I used one medium sized zucchini. I had lots of crumbs left over, but I plan to use them on something else soon.
What you see below after the pictures is just what Nadia wrote (typed by me). In her school draft, Nadia included some awesome icons, a knife and a spoon, to indicate which steps were dangerous and needed adult assistance, and which were kid-friendly. I couldn't find anything to substitute, so you'll have to use your own judgement. I hope you enjoy this recipe from 4th grade Nadia. I know that I am looking forward to how she develops as a foodie as she pursues her cooking show and recipe development.

Zucchini Stuffed Tomatoes

How to Make Tomatoes & Zucchini Beautiful

Bam! There that idea was just sitting in the back of my head. Just sitting there. I couldn't think because of this. It was so heavy I thought it would take up all the space in my brain and I would forget to breathe.
My Idea

Ingredients/What You Need
  • Eight sturdy, fresh, red tomatoes (preferably fresh garden, but store bought are fine. Make sure they are hard, but look and smell nice.)
  • Parmesan Cheese & if you don’t like parmesan, apple wood smoked cheddar will work fine.
  • Zucchini, not yellow summer squash; green summer zucchini (two totally different things). If you get store zucchini use within 5 days, garden in 1 month.
  • Croutons & bread crumbs. Please get Italian bread crumbs and New York Texas Toast croutons.
  • a non-stick cookie sheet
  • olive oil

1. First line up the tomatoes in a row on a paper towel, then get a knife & cut off the stems and all the tomato around it. Do this with the other 7.
2. Ask an adult or someone responsible with the stove to get a small pan and the olive oil. Put one cap full of olive oil in the pan and spread it around. After that put the stove on 1 and put the pan on until it starts to sizzle. This should give you enough time to do #3 & 4.
3. Get the zucchini and cut the ends off. Then cut it vertically in half, you should be able to chop the zucchini horizontally into small, bite size pieces. Then get a bowl for number four.
4. Get a big wooden spoon, trying to be careful not to damage the insides. Take the spoon and get the bowl. Dip the spoon in the tomato and get all the seeds and the insides. Then put it in the bowl. IF you didn’t get all of it, leave the rest in the tomato. Put the bowl to the side.
5. Put the zucchini in the pan with the tomato insides. Turn the stove to 3 and let it cook for 5 minutes. After it’s done cooking set the pan on another burner.
6. Get a meat tenderizer and put the croutons in a small quart size bag then put the quart size bag in a gallon size bag. Now don’t start pounding away yet, you need toknow one thing and do another; first use the flat side to pound the croutons, then put the oven at 385° for the tomatoes to bake. Then start smashing the bags until there’s no big chunks left. Take out the quart size bag from the gallon and open the bag, the quart size, then put a one-fourth of the Italian bread-crumbs in the quart bag, now put the quart bag aside for now.
7. Get the Parmesan (or smoked cheddar), a cheese grater, and a bowl (better yet, wash the bowl you already used and use it). Hold the grater in a slanted direction and put the bowl right under it, right by the end on the counter. Then like you are looking right over it, try to grate the cheese only over the bowl. Then when only half of the block is left, put the solid half in a container or a zip-loc bag. You’re done with cheese for now.
8. Okay take everything you’ve done; cut the tomatoes, cut & sautéed the zucchini, crushed, smashed, pounded, and pulverized the croutons, and grated the cheese. Now we put it all together. First put the zucchini in tomato’s hollow shell, just 4 or 5 pieces. Now put 1 layer of cheese, then croutons and breadcrumbs. Just try to put enough but not too much. Surprisingly you need to put another layer of cheese on and now put it on the cookie sheet and get it ready for the oven. Please try and do it right, now you can do it with the other 7.
9. Now it’s time for the ending of this recipe. I wrote this book so you can enjoy your food and I can enjoy remembering this lovely book. Now for the next step, pu the cookie sheet in the oven and let it bake for 7-10 minutes. Have fun eating this Stuffed Tomato. PEACE-OUT!
From the Author,
Nadia Emelinda-Herrera Adams

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Toasty Parmesan Garlic Bagel

Toasty Parmesan Garlic Bagel
I think I started preparing my plain bagels like this when I was in college. I was living on my own for the first time, and I had bagels and no cream cheese. What I did have was butter. And garlic salt. And Parmesan cheese. And a toaster oven. My mom used to do this with English muffins to go with spaghetti. I think it was around the 90s sometime that bagels became more popular, so that's what I used. 
After making these the first time, I would make them somewhat regularly for breakfast. I'm a big fan of non-breakfast foods for breakfast, and anything with garlic fits the bill. I also used to enjoy Kraft Mac 'N Cheese for breakfast before my whole high blood pressure thing. I'm sure these babies aren't exactly low in sodium either, but I was home for a couple of hours all by myself, and besides napping, I guess I wanted to make something tasty and blog about it.
Today I had this Parmesan Garlic Bagel with some leftover chicken pot pie soup. I probably ate too much, but boy, was it all yummy. 

Toasty Parmesan Garlic Bagel

  • 1 large plain bagel, sliced horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • garlic salt to taste
  • 3-4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
Spread 1 tablespoon of butter over each of the cut sides of your bagel slices. Sprinkle with garlic salt. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Place in oven for about 5-6 minutes, or until butter is melted. Then turn on the broiler and broil bagels for about 2 minutes, or until a deep brown color. (Oven temperatures vary, so keep an eye on your bagels while they broil, lest they burn and become inedible.)
Remove from oven and allow to cool a little before eating.
Makes 1-2 servings.

buttered with garlic salt
with the Paremsan
broiled to toasty perfection

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Crispy Fried Chili Cheese Tacos

Mmmm... Chili Cheese Tacos

If you've visited this blog before, you might have noticed my affinity for Mexican food. Although I love, love, love authentic Mexican food, I also love some fast food Mexican. I don't even know if you can call Jack in the Box tacos Mexican at all, but I love them. I grew up eating those greasy yummies on a regular basis. If you've never had one, imagine a corn tortilla folded in half with a seasoned meat paste in the center, with a one-inch perimeter of crisp fried shell. That fried taco is opened and they insert a triangular piece of American cheese, lettuce, and taco sauce. The taco is slipped into a little white bag and you gradually slip the taco out of the bag as you eat it. You either love Jack in the Box tacos or you think they're disgusting. Clearly, I'm in the "love them" category.
The other day, I had made some chili for chili baked potatoes, and I had some leftover chili. I also had some leftover small corn tortillas (available mostly at Mexican markets), so I decided to try frying up some chili cheese tacos Jack in the Box style. I've never attempted this before, so I wasn't sure if it would work. I only made like 6 of them because I knew if they succeeded, I probably shouldn't eat more than a few.
They did succeed and my husband and I both enjoyed them. I thought about making some more, but decided to settle for what I'd made lest I make myself sick. After I let them cool a little, so as not to melt the interior of my mouth, I was pleasantly surprised at how well contained the filling was. The three flavors of the crisp corn tortilla, the yummy chili, and Tillamook cheddar cheese were exactly what I was going for. DElish.
This is one of those experimental recipes that turned out super tasty. I don't know if I should ever make these tacos again, because they seem so greasy and decadent, but the next time I have left over chili, I think I will be making these.

Crispy Fried Chili Cheese Tacos

  • 1 cup cold chili (must be cold)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12-14 small (or about 8 regular sized) fresh corn tortillas
  • canola oil
  • sour cream, guacamole, or salsa for dipping, if desired
Heat about 1 inch of oil in a frying pan. When hot, use tongs to put in one tortilla at a time. Oil should bubble up when tortilla is added. Flip tortilla immediately and them remove to a plate. Repeat with remaining tortillas, stacking fried tortillas onto each other. Remove pan from heat while you assemble the tacos.
Once tortillas are cool enough to handle, flip your pile of tortillas over to start with the first one you fried. Take about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of chili and place in the center of the tortilla. Add 1/2 tablespoon of shredded cheese. Carefully fold in half and secure about 1/4-inch from the edge with three toothpicks (preferably flat ones). Repeat with remaining tortillas.
(If you're using the regular sized tortillas, you can put probably 3 tablespoons of chili and 1 tablespoon or so of cheese in each one. I'm guessing here, since I haven't tried it yet.)
Return pan to heat and bring up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place as many tacos into the pan as will fit with about 1/2-inch between tacos. Fry on each side about 1 minute, or until crisp on the edges. If the filling starts oozing out, you'll have to do your own trouble shooting, like putting a splatter screen over your pan or taking them out early if you're afraid they'll burst and burn you. (Frying can be dangerous, so be very cautious.)
Once tacos are crisp, remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool. Allow to cool at least 5 minutes before attempting to eat, and when you do, proceed with caution.
Serve with sour cream guacamole, or salsa, if that's what you enjoy with chili and/or tacos. Me, I like them plain.
Makes about 12-14 small tacos or 8 regular sized tacos.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hot Fudge Sauce

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce

I made this sauce a couple of weeks ago to go with my birthday mud pie. I had some left over, so I purchased some Archer Farms (Target brand) Madagascan Vanilla Ice Cream to finish it off. Now, this sauce was perfectly fantastic on my mud pie, but the coffee ice cream and Oreo crust were the stars of that dessert. Eating this sauce on vanilla ice cream was a whole new experience for me. I didn't heat it too much, just enough to make it liquid, about 11 seconds in the microwave for 2 tablespoons of fudge sauce. When I poured it onto the ice cream, it started to thicken immediately and turned into what it was intended to be, what it was named for: fudge. A nice, soft, rich, Dove chocolatey fudge. Oh my gosh. I had to blog about the sauce on its own because it's worth its own post. 
Lucky for me, I'm down to about my last quarter cup of this stuff because I would definitely be eating too much if there were more. 
If you're looking for a homemade hot fudge sauce, look no further. This is it.

Hot Fudge Sauce
    --adapted from


  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 24 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring cream, corn syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt and half of the chocolate to a boil. Stir until chocolate is melted. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Add butter, vanilla, and remaining chocolate and stir until smooth. Cool sauce to warm before serving.

Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Makes about 2 cups of sauce

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Croissants: One Batch of Dough, Three Treats

One dough, three yummy croissants
The Plain Croissant
The Chocolate Croissant
The Croissant Cinnamon Roll
Okay, so I've gotten to the point in my croissant making skills that I can take one batch of dough and make three different things from it. My husband Eddie doesn't like chocolate croissants, but Ezra and I do. Max will eat the cinnamon roll croissants sometimes. Eddie, Ezra and I all enjoy plain croissants to some extent. I, personally, would rather not eat a cinnamon roll ever again. So, to end up with an entire batch of one kind of croissant would displease someone, and I end up throwing away beautiful baked goods. I have tried giving them away, but most of my Midwestern friends don't think I'm serious when I post on Facebook that they can come over and get some. Weird. Really weird. 
At any rate, When I make them this way, they mostly get eaten. Plus it's more fun. So far today I've eaten a chocolate croissant, a plain croissant, and a couple of scrap croissants. My tummy is full and happy.
If you would like to make an entire batch of one or the other of these, here are the links. The recipe below is for those crazy/daring enough to try the three at one time. Have fun!

Croissants: One Batch of Dough, Three Treats



Filling for Chocolate Croissants
  • 12 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, unwrapped
Filling for Cinnamon Roll Croissants
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Egg Wash
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
Glaze for Cinnamon Roll Croissants
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
The Dough
1.  Whisk 3 cups flour together with the yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Place the milk in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Add the flour mixture and kneed at low speed until a ball of dough forms.  Cut the 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and add to the dough.  Continue to knead until the butter becomes fully incorporated and the dough becomes smooth, begins to form a ball, and clears the sides of the bowl.  Add up to ¼ cup more flour, one tablespoon at a time if the dough is too sticky.  Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.
2. Place the 2 ½ sticks of butter and 1 tablespoon flour into the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat until butter is uniformly smooth and creamy. 
3. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.  Roll dough into 10 x 14-inch rectangle.  Spread butter evenly over the bottom 2/3 of the rectangle.  Fold unbuttered third onto the middle third.  Brush away excess flour with a clean pastry brush. Then fold that onto the bottom third.  Seal edges with side of your hand. (You have 3 layers.)
4.  Using a rolling pin, gently whack the dough, starting at the center of the dough and go outward.  Then gently roll the dough into about a 7 x 12-inch rectangle, and fold into thirds again.  Make sure that the butter doesn’t break through.  IF it does, sprinkle with flour. Wrap in wax paper and then place in an unsealed gallon size plastic bag. Refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes. (This makes 27 layers now.)
5.  Remove dough from refrigerator and remove from bag/wrap, and on a floured surface, gently whack and roll into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle.  As in step four, fold dough into thirds (81 layers now) and then fold in half one last time. (Now there are 162 layers.) Wrap and refrigerate again for 2 hours to overnight.
6. Place chilled dough on a large floured surface and gently roll dough into a 20-inch square.  Using a pizza cutter and ruler, cut the dough into two equal rectangles. 

*Here is where you have to make a decision about how many of each type of croissant you want. Today I went with 6 plain, 6 chocolate, and 11 cinnamon roll (should have been 12). The cinnamon roll really needs to have half the dough to turn out properly, but if you get into it, you can try different ways of cutting the dough. You might want to refrigerate the dough you're not working with at the moment so it doesn't get too floppy to work with, especially if you're doing this in warmer weather.

Version 1: Plain Croissants

7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  
8. Cut one of your long rectangles in half lengthwise. Set one aside for the chocolate croissants. Cut your long rectangle into thirds, so you'll have three 5"x6" (approx.) rectangles. Cut each of those diagonally so you end up with 6 right triangles.
9.  Form each croissant by taking a triangle , hold the base in one hand, and the tip in another.  Gently stretch into an isosceles triangle with two sides equal in length.  With the base closest to you, cut a 1/2-inch slit into the center of the base of each triangle.  Fold the two sides of the slit outward and then with both ands, roll the triangle from the base, gently stretching the dough as you roll, leaving ¼ inch of the tip unrolled.  Transfer the croissants to the prepared baking sheets, facing the croissant tips downward.  Bring the ends of the croissants toward each other to form a crescent shape. Cover the croissants loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rise at room temperature until puffy, about 45-60 minutes.  (They will not double in size.)
10.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Beat the egg and water for the egg wash. Brush each croissant gently with the egg wash.  Bake until croissants are golden brown, 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through baking.  Cool the croissants on a wire rack at least 15 minutes.

Version 2: Chocolate Croissants
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
8. Take the other half of the half of dough and cut into six smaller rectangles that will be about 5"x3".
9.  Place two chocolate pieces in a row down the center of each small rectangle.  Fold one side over the chocolate.  Moisten the other edge with a little water, then fold over the chocolate. Brush off excess flour. Transfer the croissants to the prepared baking sheets, seam side down. Cover the croissants loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rise at room temperature until puffy, about 45-60 minutes.  (They will not double in size)
10.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Beat the egg, 1 T sugar, and 1 T water.  When croissants are done rising, place one baking sheet in the refrigerator while you bake the first one.  Brush the croissants with the egg wash.  Bake until croissants are golden brown, 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through baking.  Cool the croissants on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.

Version 3: Croissant Cinnamon Rolls

7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt with a fork and set aside.   

8. Use the large rectangle that remains. Roll dough out again so it's about 3/8" thick. Evenly spread the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the surface of the rectangle, leaving about 1/2 inch clear at one end. Gently press sugar down with the flat palm of your hand. Starting at the edge opposite the unsugared edge, roll the dough into a log. Try to brush away excess flour as your go. Gently pinch the seam to seal.

9.  With a very sharp knife, trip off ends.  Cut log into 12 equal pieces. Place cut rolls on the baking sheet, at least three inches apart. Let rise for 45 minutes, or until rolls are puffed and leave an indentation when gently poked on the side with a finger.

10.  Preheat oven to 400°.  Place one pan in refrigerator until the other is done baking.  Brush with egg wash.  Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a deep golden brown color all over.
11.  Remove pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Slide parchment with rolls onto wire rack to cool.  Allow to cool at least 10-15 minutes before frosting. 
12.  Whisk glaze ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over warm, not hot, cinnamon rolls.

Makes 6 plain croissants, 6 chocolate croissants, and 11-12 cinnamon roll croissants

Chocolate croissants being formed.
I baked the plain and chocolate croissants on one pan.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Vegetable Beef Soup

Vegetable Beef Soup

I love this soup. It reminds me of the vegetable beef soup at Mimi's Cafe, but I don't think they serve it there any more. At any rate, it's a nice, relatively light vegetable beef soup that's salty, beefy, and vegetable-y. I found the recipe at, but the original recipe called for ground sirloin. I thought top sirloin (not ground) sounded better, and since Mimi's had zucchini in theirs, I added that too. The soup tastes great the first time you serve it, but I think it tastes even better the next day after it's sat in its juices and flavors over night.
I haven't made this soup in a long time, maybe because I avoided such recipes when my kids were little. In retrospect, I see the error in my thinking, but they will eat this tonight. And they will love it. I am surprised at how MUCH soup this makes and I'm now thinking I need to package some up for my mother-in-law who will be taking my kids to school tomorrow while I go to jury duty. Clearly it's time to end this post now that I'm talking about jury duty.
Bottom line: this is a GREAT vegetable beef soup. Enjoy.
Note: I recently added the chili garlic sauce and it really kicks this soup up. It does make it a little spicy, so if you don't like spicy, don't bother with the chili garlic sauce.

Vegetable Beef Soup

   --adapted from

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds top sirloin
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (optional)
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 russet potato,peeled and diced
  • 1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
Cut top sirloin into bite-size chunks or slices. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown sirloin and onions.
Add basil, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook and stir another minute or two.
Add tomatoes, water, salt, bouillon cubes, pepper, and chili garlic sauce (if adding it). Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low/medium-low, and simmer for about 1 hour.
After an hour of simmering, add vegetables. Stir and simmer for another 45 minutes.
Serve hot.

Makes about 8 servings.

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