Lauren's Fabulous Zucchini Bread

For the last couple of months, me and Scott have spent our Friday nights cooking yummy meals and then our friend Lauren comes over and we watch Stargate Atlantis. Well one night I tried my hand at making a banana bread. It as just okay, the flavor was good but I wasn't in awe with it. Lauren told me she had a good zucchini bread recipe and said she'd bring it over sometime. Well the next weekend she brought over some of the best zucchini bread EVER. My sister and I love this stuff. What's great about her recipe is that it reminds me so much of autumn. The flavors make me think of Halloween and pumpkins and the changing leaves. The recipe also can very easily be made into banana bread, just swapping the zucchini with 2 bananas. Its sooo yummy!

Zucchini (or Banana) Bread

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (put in more if you want stronger flavor)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (put in more if you want stronger flavor)
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup water
about 1 cup (shredded) zucchini or 2 (mashed) bananas depending on what kind of bread your making

Preheat oven to 350˚

Mix sugar and oil in large bowl. Add eggs and beat well. Add all dry ingredients and mix with water adding slowly. Mix until just combined, don't over mix. Fold in zucchini or bananas. Pour in a greased loaf pan and bake for 60 - 70 minutes. Check at 60 minutes. If still wobbly in center give it another 10 minutes. Cool completely. I like to store my loaf wrapped in foil, it keeps it super moist.


Chicken Quesadillas

When I was little I wasn't a fan of Mexican food. Whenever we would go out to eat and my parents would choose Mexican i would cringe. I guess its because all I knew back then was tacos and I guess i just don't care about tacos. Also I hate really spicy food. It wasn't until very recently that I have tried other types of Mexican food. I really really like tamales and quesadillas and guacamole and who doesn't like fried ice cream! Maybe my tastes are changing. This year I decided to try my hand at making quesadillas at home. The first time I made them they were a big hit! The tortillas are crunchy and buttery and the filling is cheesy and delicious. I just messed up a couple of them because they are hard to flip with all of the filling. It just takes practice and I realized that the cheese helps hold it all together. So dont skimp on the cheese. Anyways I hope you give these a try because they are very satisfying and if you have extras, they make great lunches the next day!

Chicken Quesadillas
2-3 cups cooked, cubed chicken (I like to fry some chicken breasts ahead of time, cut them up and put them in the fridge until I'm ready to make the quesadillas. Or you can use leftover chicken)
1 pkg. fajita size tortilla shells (they come in packs of 10 or 12 or so)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 (12 oz.) pkg. mexican shredded cheese
butter or margarine
sour cream for topping
couple of green onions, chopped

Butter one side of tortilla shells, set aside. In a large pan with a little bit of butter, saute chopped yellow onion until transparent, set aside.

Before assembling the quesadillas, I like to put each ingredient in a separate bowl and put near the stove top. (chicken in one bowl, cheese in another, tomatos in a another, cooked onions in another and buttered tortilla shells on a plate)

Put large pan over medium high heat. Assemble in pan as follows, buttered side down tortilla shell, then handful of cheese, then chicken, tomato and onion, then another handful of cheese, then another tortilla shell, buttered side up. Also make sure you spread out the ingredients on the tortilla, not just a pile in the middle. Makes it easier to flip.

After it cooks for a couple of minutes, check unter tortilla and make sure its brown. Carefully take a spatuala and flip quesadilla and cook for another couple of minutes until other side is brown.

Put finished quesadilla on a plate and cover with a lid or towel to keep warm. Repeat with rest of ingredients. When finished, I like to cut them into quarters and serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions.


Super Easy Hamburger Casserole

LOVE this dish. Its sooo easy to make and if you have kids they will love it (and so will you!) Scott grew up with this dish so I am safe to say that this recipe comes from his family. If you have ever had the hamburger helper out of the box, well this recipe blows it out of the water. It makes quite a bit so you should have plenty for a family of 4 or 5. One tip however, don't over do it on the noodles. It may not seem like much noodles when you mix them in but if you use too much, they will soak up all of the sauce and that will equal to a dry casserole which, well, just isn't as good as it could be. Other than that, this dish is easy to make and has become part of the regular rotation in our house.

Hamburger Casserole
about 4-6 oz. egg noodles
1 1/2 Lbs. ground Beef
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can Tomato Soup
1 can Cream of Chicken condensed soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom condensed soup (We use Campbells for the soups)

Preheat oven to 350˚
Brown hamburger, celery & onion until celery is tender and ground beef is browned through. Drain fat. Mix soup with hamburger mixture. Cook egg noodles according to directions on the bag. Drain noodles and add to hamburger mixture and pour into a casserole dish or baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.


Chicken (or Pork) Katsu

One of my all time favorite types of food is Japanese food. I love indulging myself every once in awhile on sushi and tempura and miso soup. The japanese place we go to has a great lunch special and I love to get the bento box. Its filled with sushi, rice, salad and whatever entree you like, whether it be tempura, teriyaki or whatever. My favorite thing in the bento I get is the Chicken Katsu. Its basically just a flattened piece of chicken fried in panko bread crumbs and its served with this great katsu bbq sauce which I have yet to find in the grocery store. Someday I want to try making sushi at home but I havn't been able to find sushi grade fish anywhere near where I live. So until then I make do with this fabulous chicken dish. You can also substitute the chicken with flattened pork chops or cutlets. I love to dip this in sweet and sour sauce. Scott loves to dip it in Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce.

Chicken or Pork Katsu
4 flattened boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless pork chops
1 cup panko bread crumbs (you can find this in the Asian section of the grocery store, right by the rice)
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
canola, peanut or vegetable oil

Put flour, beaten egg and panko in separate bowls by the stove. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil over medium high to medium heat in a large pan. Dip chicken in flour, then egg and coat completely in panko crumbs. Gently put in oil and fry for 5 minutes on first side, flip and fry for another 5 minutes. Serve immediately with steamed rice and sauce of your choice (sweet and sour or chinese hot sauce or if you can find it, tonkatsu sauce)


Mom's Rustic Tortellini Soup

This is one of the classic recipes my mom would make occasionally. Now that she has moved out, my sister has taken the reins and likes to make this soup. Like many soups, this recipe is wonderful on a chilly or rainy day. I dont know why but I always am reminded of football and sunday afternoons when eating it. The flavors are very hearty with the Italian sausage and array of vegetables. This recipe makes a lot of soup so its great for dinner partys. Warm italian bread and butter is soooo good dipped in this soup. Top each bowl of soup generously with parmesan or mozzarella cheese.

Rustic Tortellini Soup
1 pkg. mild Italian sausage (if you want more of a kick, use hot Italian sausage)
1 pkg. frozen cheese tortellini (12 oz. bag is plenty)
6 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce
1 medium yellow or white onion, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, cubed
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. oregano
3 tbsp. parsley
2 tbsp. basil
Freshly shredded parmesan or mozzarella cheese
Crusty bread such as Italian or French

In a large pot over medium-high heat, squish italian sausage out of the skins and fry for about 5 minutes. When there are some juices in the pan from sausage, add onion and green pepper. When sausage is almost done, add garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes. Drain and return to pan. Bring following ingredients to a boil with the sausage mixture: beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, zucchini and celery. Once at boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add tortellini and parsley. Simmer covered for 35-40 more minutes. Serve immediately with warm bread and butter and cheese sprinkled on top.


Derby Pie

This pie was one of my favorites to make as a kid. If i could use the word "swoon" in association with a food, this would be it. I originally knew this pie as "Tollhouse Pie" but discovered that it is actually called Derby Pie.

Off of wikipedia, "Derby Pie was a pastry created in the Melrose Inn of Prospect, Kentucky, USA, by George Kern with the help of his parents. It is often associated with the Kentucky Derby. The pie is a chocolate and walnut tart in a pie shell usually with a pastry dough crust. It is also commonly made with pecans, chocolate chips and Kentucky Bourbon. Popular additions are butterscotch, caramel, and other types of nuts. The name "Derby Pie" is a registered trademark of Kern's Kitchen, which registered the name in 1968."

Anyways, this pie is super easy to make and goes really quick in my house. Its gooey and chocolaty sort of like a chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven, but in pie form. Enjoy!

Derby Pie
1 9-inch deep-dish pie shell (I buy the pre-made crust and just roll it out on my own pie pan)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark)
1 cup chopped nuts
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

PREHEAT oven to 325° F.

BEAT eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter and vanilla. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.

BAKE for 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.