Happy What I Ate Wednesday! Jenn at Peas and Crayons is continuing our “Summer Staples” theme, and with the abundance some of you home gardeners may have, one summer staple is a vegetable that can be eaten raw, baked, fried, sauteed, and juiced: zucchini! As mentioned in yesterday’s Flavor of the Week post, zucchini is not my favorite veggie, so I am coming up with ways to make this extremely nutritious veggie more appetizing.

This morning’s breakfast was an experiment with zucchini muffins. The last time I tried making a chocolate zucchini cake it was horrible and actually had a fishy taste! I don’t know what happened but I never want to make another chocolate zucchini cake for a long, long time. So I decided to make breakfast muffins…with the chocolate sprinkled on top! The texture of the muffin is light and spongy, it’s moist, and has enough sweetness from both the brown sugar and chopped dates sprinkled throughout. Having chocolate chips on the top rather than stirred in the batter makes the muffins look like they’re bursting with chips, and you can easily make some plain ones by leaving them off:

Zucchini muffins, with and without chocolate chips

My lunches have still been the same fruit salads with yogurt:

Recycled picture, but all my fruit salads look pretty much like this!

This dinner was from a couple weeks ago. It’s steamed rice, venison burger, and a fried egg, all smothered with homemade giblet gravy. For those of you not familiar with Hawaii cuisine, this is what’s called a loco moco:

Venison Loco Moco with veggies

You can add steamed veggies, mushrooms, onions and it’ll still be a loco moco. Just start it off with rice, a burger patty (veggie is ok!,) a fried egg, and gravy. If you have homemade gravy, it’s even better (quick gravy: heat up 2  tablespoons oil in a frying pan on medium heat, add equal amount of flour, stir for a few minutes until light brown. Slowly add 1/2 – 3/4 cup chicken or beef broth and stir quickly with wooden spoon. Simmer for 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup white wine, simmer another couple minutes until desired thickness. Add salt to taste, serve.)

Here’s the recipe for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins. Shredded zucchini adds moisture and bulk and helps to cut down on the amount of oil used. Spelt flour gives it a more grainy texture and is good for people who have a wheat intolerance (note: spelt does contain gluten, so make adjustments if you are on a gluten-free diet.) I picked the zucchini this morning and started making the muffins about ten minutes later, can’t get fresher zucchini than that! :)

Wheat-free zucchini muffins, with or without chocolate chips

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
Reserve any leftover liquid or shredded zucchini, there’s lots of vitamins and minerals!

1 large zucchini
1/2 cup pitted and chopped dates (about 10)
1 1/2 cups spelt flour (wheat flour or gluten-free flour blend OK)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (3/4 teaspoon table salt)
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1/2 cup oil (note: melt coconut oil, if using)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (note: Ghirardelli has gluten-free chocolate chips, Nestle does not)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners or grease with nonstick spray, set aside.

Peel outer skin off zucchini, discard. Using small holes of a box grater, shred zucchini. Place in basket strainer over measuring cup or bowl, pressing gently with spatula do squeeze out more liquid. You should get 4-5 ounces of zucchini juice. Soak dates in zucchini water, leaving strainer over the bowl/measuring cup, set aside.

Drink this later, it’s good for you!

In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center, add egg and egg white. Beat with a fork or wire whisk, add oil and beat until combined, stirring in flour a little at a time. Add 3/4 cups shredded zucchini (you will have some leftover, save it for a smoothie!) and stir to combine. Drain soaked dates and add to batter, stirring well to combine (reserve liquid for your next protein shake or smoothie.)

Pour about 1/4 cup batter into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.  Bake for 15 minutes, cool for a few minutes before enjoying.

What’s your favorite home-grown veggie? How about your favorite farmer’s market find? I’d love to hear from you!

Hi, folks! Sorry I wasn’t able to post on Friday, I was a little busy getting ready for my husband’s birthday dinner on Saturday. We had a small gathering, just my sister and her family, but it was nice to cook for “a lot of people” again! We has a frozen turkey from last Christmas, which would be more than enough for six people, so all I needed were a few easy side dishes and a dessert.

This is the first time I made a Thanksgiving dinner in July, and I gotta say I really enjoy cooking holiday meals! Even though the day was hot and running the oven and stove made it even hotter, the wonderful aromas that filled the kitchen made up for the heat of the afternoon sun. I already had dessert waiting in the fridge, the turkey was roasting nicely in the oven, green beans done, cranberries done, sweet potato casserole prepped and ready for the oven, and the stuffing is super fast to make (I really do love the box mixes.) The one thing left to make is the most time consuming and, next to the turkey, the most essential: giblet gravy.

The recipe is from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, first introduced to me by my Uncle Jimmy, who also loves to cook. It is my favorite gravy recipe and requires a lot of hands-on time–probably more than any other dish you’ll prepare for a Thanksgiving spread–but it is worth every step.

I love this magazine for the wonderful illustrations just as much as the recipes, product reviews and readers’ tips.

Since the giblets sink to the bottom, using a mini-cauldron (or bowl) and ladel is better than pouring from a gravy boat.

Giblet Pan Gravy – from Cook’s Illustrated magazine
makes about 2 quarts

1 tablespoon oil
reserved turkey neck, heart and gizzard (and liver, if you like)
1 onion, unpeeled and chopped medium
6 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 parsley stems
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
salt and pepper

1. Heat oi in large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add turkey neck, heart and gizzard (and liver, if you’re using) and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until juices are released, about 20 minutes. Add broth, water, and herbs. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, skimming any scum that rises to the surface, about 30 minutes. Strain broth (you should have about 8 cups–I ended up with 6!) reserving heart and gizzard (you can use the neck for soup or pick off the meat and use in stuffing.) When cooled, finely chop heart, gizzard, and liver and set aside.

2. Heat butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. When foam subsides whisk in flour. Cook, stirring occasionally, until nutty brown and fragrant, 10 minutes. Gradually and vigorously whisk in broth and wine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Set aside until turkey is done.

3. While turkey is resting on carving board, spoon out and discard as much fat as possible from roasting pan, then strain drippings into saucepan with gravy, pressing on solids in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in reserved giblets, and simmer until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve with turkey.

This recipe is also my contribution to Cookbook Sundays, sponsored by Couscous & Consciousness.


Here’s some pictures from our Birthday Thanksgiving in July dinner:

What are some of your favorite holiday meals to enjoy any time of year? Pumpkin pie? Colored eggs? Pepernoten? Ozoni?