Preparing for Zucchini Season

One of my favorite writers is Joel Salatin, the proprietor and sage of Polyface Farms. Although you could check out Salatin to learn about salad bar beef or pastured poultry, my favorite of his bits of wisdom is this: “Where I live, you only lock your car in August. And that’s to keep people from putting zucchini squash in it.” When the zucchini plants start to put on fruit, they tend to produce more than any reasonable person could use. Because of that abundance, we’re always on the lookout for new zucchini recipes.

The good people over at Skinny M’s bring us our recipe for today, their popular Oven-Baked Zucchini Chips. This is a guilt-free but very satisfying snack, the sort of thing where you could go nuts and eat the whole batch without completely wiping out your day. You can check out the ingredients and directions by following the link above.

Penny made a batch of these, oven baking half of them and pan frying half. Obviously the calorie count went up once the chips hit the vegetable oil. Actually, the cultured palates in our home–that would be me and Alyson–determined that the baked version was preferable. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think of these slices of squash as heavily flavored potato chips. I found myself, by the end of the evening, eating them off the cookie sheet with both hands.

If you find this recipe promising, you could vary it with all manner of spices and flavorings without changing the nutritional aspects very much, and they’re as close to free as anything you’ll ever cook.

All in all, this is the perfect Food Friday representative.

Prosciutto Protein Power

I thoroughly enjoy meat and cheese. Although I can get along nicely on a low-fat diet much of the time, there are other times when I simply need some good old saturated fats to fill my pores with oil. If you enjoy this sort of a thing, then this snack item might be the perfect fit for you.

The idea of wrapping a bit of mozzarella with a slice of prosciutto is hardly something I invented myself, but to be honest, I’m not the sort of person who invents recipes.

Cheese PackageMy prosciutto mozzarella rolls are pretty simple. In their latest version, I did my shopping at Costco. The ingredients were 2 one-pound packages of mozarella ($6.89) and an 18-ounce package of three different meats, prosciutto and two salami-like varieties ($11.69).

Preparation was slightly more complicated. I opened one of the packages of cheese and cut it in half across the middle. I then divided the resulting halves into quarters and then eighths and eventually sixteenths. My goal was to wind up half-ounce bars of mozarella. Since this cheese is rounded on the ends, I had to do some slightly imaginative cutting to yield approximately equal segments. Because of this guesstimating, I’m pretty sure that the calorie count is only approximate. I won’t tell if you won’t.

Meat PackageAfter creating 32 half-ounce cheese portions, I set to work on the meat. This was terribly complicated and involved opening the package and separating the individual slices. Actually, getting the prosciutto apart was a bit challenging. (As the prosciutto was considerably larger than the salamis, I cut the whole stack in half and used half slices of it. Using entire slices will add only about 13 calories to your resulting roll, so that choice is 100% up to you.) I wound up using only 5.3 ounces of meat for the pound of cheese, so even after doing the other pound of cheese, I’ll have a very nice portion of meat remaining.

Having gotten this far, I simply rolled the meat around the cheese and put the resulting finished products in a tub for the refrigerator. Some people add basil to cheese before rolling the meat on. I considered painting some pesto onto mine. I’ll probably give that a try for the next batch.

A Tasty TreatSo what do we have in the way of results? I wound up with 30 rolls in the fridge. (Yes, I ate one and Olivia ate one. There were 32 made.)

On the calorie front, the cheese comes in at 70 calories per ounce, thus each roll has 35 calories in cheese. The 3 meats have 3 counts, ranging from 60 to 90 calories per ounce. Since there are roughly 6 slices per ounce, the portions I used range from 10 to 15 calories per roll. I’ll just go with the highest number and say that these rolls carry 50 calories each. That’s not too bad.

Certainly there are cheaper snacks about, but I’m pleased on that count as well. The cheese, once thoroughly divided and subdivided, costs just below $.11 per roll. The meat adds another $.07. So each roll cost me a whopping 18 cents.  I’ve been finding two of these to be a very satisfying post workout snack, for when the body is screaming for protein. That snack costs me 36 cents and only 100 calories.

On the economics front, a previous batch of these, made from ingredients purchased at a Walmart grocery cost me $.37.5 per roll. Clearly there’s a value in going the bulk route.

Tom’s Beef Jerky

jerky to oven Today’s Food Friday entry is a bit of a mixed bag results wise. My son and I both enjoy good beef jerky, so I enlisted him to help make some at home. To that end, Penny and I made our first mistake. As the raw material, we purchased 2 pounds of sirloin steak or $16 worth of meat. Why was this a mistake? We could have selected a less expensive cut of meat and obtained equally good–maybe better–jerky. After all, why would you take a juicy cut of meat only to dry it out?

jerky sliceWe tossed the meat into the freezer to harden it up. This was not a mistake as it sliced beautifully on the slicer’s thinnest setting. Tom thought we did not slice it thinly enough, but I’m inclined to go a bit thicker next time.

jerky_ingredThe marinade we used combined a host of ingredients, all of which could be plucked out of our cupboards. I’m going to save the recipe for that marinade for a more successful batch of jerky. Instead I’d prefer to focus on what went wrong here.

We tossed the sliced meat into a zip-lock bag with the marinade and deposited that bag into the refrigerator for 24 hours. That 24 hours wound up being 36 hours. I’m not sure if that was a mistake or not. Regardless, it is what we did.

With the meat dripping in spicy goodness, we spread it out onto baking trays and placed it into the oven. It was important to have the oven set high enough to dry the meat but not so high that the meat actually cooked. The proper temperature range is 180 to 200 degrees. We opened the oven door slightly so that the moisture could escape. At least I think that is why we did it. Happily, it was a cool day when we made our jerky so that the heat from the open oven didn’t overwhelm the house.

Tom estimated that it would take 4 hours to dry the meat. He wound up taking it out at about 3.5 hours, yielding jerky that reminded me of crunchy bacon. I wasn’t thrilled.

That’s not to say that the jerky tasted bad. It was fine, but there wasn’t much chew left in this super-dry stuff. That’s part of my reasoning for slicing thicker next time. We dumped the entire product in a gallon bag. A couple of days later, I noticed that the bag was nearly empty. Clearly, Tom did not find the resulting product inedible.

We wound up with 13.3 ounces of jerky. Purchase cheap jerky–there really isn’t such a thing, I’ve found–and you’ll pay a good $25 for it. At roughly $18 in cost, our jerky was reasonably cost effective, but a cheaper cut of meat will, I think, not only save us money but produce a better end result.

Crispy Lentil Energy Bites

Crispy-Lentil-Energy-Bites-11I’d love to say that I created this recipe by myself. I didn’t. Instead, I shamelessly stole it from somewhere that I can’t even recall.

If you’ve checked into my previous Friday Food entries, you’ll know that I like to keep recipes simple. After all, what good is a recipe that is so complicated that you won’t make it? With an even dozen ingredients, this recipe does not qualify as simple. Look over the list of those ingredient–coconut sugar? Really?–and you’ll undoubtedly find a few things that do not already dwell in your kitchen.

Part of my reasoning for posting this recipe is that we can make some substitutions without changing the nature of the resulting snacks. For starters, all the coconut items (aside from the shredded coconut) can be easily replaced. You will not be thrown out of heaven for using regular salt rather than sea salt. Several of the other things you probably already have. (And if you go buy a bag of lentils, there are other good uses for them.)

Yes, this recipe is a bit more complicated that I like to propose, but if you make a batch of these, they’ll provide you with tasty and healthy snacks for a solid week. They freeze and travel well.

Give ’em a try.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dry green lentils
  • 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (or a combo of both)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Rinse lentils and transfer them to a small saucepan. Cover them with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes
  3. Drain lentils and transfer them to a small mixing bowl. Stir in the coconut oil and coat the lentils. Sprinkle with the coconut sugar, cinnamon, coconut flour and sea salt and stir well
  4. Spread lentils evenly onto lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, stirring after halfway and keep an eye on them if they start to burn
  5. Set the lentils aside to cool
  6. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, seeds, coconut and chocolate chips. Add in crispy lentils, then the peanut butter and honey/maple syrup and stir well again
  7. Roll into tablespoon sized balls and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  8. Store covered in the fridge or freezer