31 August 2012

Happy Labor Day weekend!  Labor Day is bittersweet for me.  Not only is it the symbolic "end of summer" (sniffle, sniffle), but it's also the time of year when my allergies go crazy on me (sniffle, sniffle).  I can't seem to go 10 minutes without sneezing (quite violently, I may add!), despite taking TWO Claritin everyday.  I think it's the ragweed.  But the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend and we have family coming into town, and we will probably be barbecuing and eating outside, so I will just make sure to bring my Kleenex box out with me!

The recipe I am sharing with you today is the main dish from the baptism lunch I was telling you about on Wednesday.  My husband baptized my niece a few weeks ago and we had some out-of-town family and friends over for an outdoors lunch afterwards.  I already shared with you my Summer Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing, and today I've got the main event: Chicken Caesar Sandwiches made in the slow cooker.  I got the recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
½ to 1 cup creamy Caesar dressing 
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 head Romaine or green leaf lettuce
8 mini hoagie rolls or steak rolls 

Place chicken in a  slow cooker, cover, and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours or until chicken is cooked through and tender enough to shred.  Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred.  Pour liquid out of slow cooker and return chicken to it.

Pour desired amount of dressing on chicken and toss to evenly coat.  Add Parmesan cheese and stir again.  If you’re doing this right after the chicken has cooked, and the slow cooker is still warm, turn it down to “warm” for serving.  If you cooked the chicken the day before, turn slow cooker to “low” until the chicken is warmed up, then turn to “warm”.

Line rolls with a bit of lettuce, and spoon chicken on top.  Serve warm.

Makes approximately 8 sandwiches.

These sandwiches would make a great contribution to your Labor Day feast.  The most wonderful thing about them (aside from their awesome taste), is that they are a great make-ahead recipe.  I slow cooked the chicken the day before until it was fall-apart tender and juicy (the slow cooker is hands-down THE BEST WAY to cook chicken breast meat), shredded it, then stashed it in the fridge.  The next morning before church, I got it out, put it in the slow cooker, poured on the sauce, and set it to low.  By the time we got home from church, the chicken was thoroughly warm, so I set the slow cooker to warm and it was ready to go.  Easy peasy!

Again, I had to guess on the number of servings this makes.  I actually doubled the recipe.  We had seven adults and three kids, so I wasn't sure 2 lbs. of chicken would be enough.  We did have some leftover, but I'm glad I doubled it, because I don't think it would have been enough.

I think these sandwiches would be especially good if you buttered and toasted the rolls before filling them.  I think it would give it a kind of "crouton" effect that would go with the Caesar salad theme.  I didn't feel like doing that when I made them, but I think it would be really good.  I had some bacon leftover from the other recipe I need to share with you, BLT Dip, and when we ate the leftovers, we threw a slice or two of bacon on the chicken caesar sandwiches and that was really good too.  By the way, we ate the leftovers cold and it was good that way too.

I hope you all have a great holiday weekend.  I'll be back on Monday to share with you my Secret Recipe Club pick for the month.  Here's a little teaser: It's a great thing to eat right after it rains. :)

29 August 2012

As I sit here in front of the computer, wearing long pants and with cold feet, I know that summer is drawing to a close.  My husband started back to school yesterday (he teaches two religion classes at a Lutheran high school), and my four-year-old starts her second year of preschool in less than two weeks.  But we do still have a couple of 90-degree days in the forecast, so I say it's still summer!  I will take this opportunity to share with you a summery fruit salad.  I made this about a week and a half ago, for a special lunch with out-of-town family and friends the day my husband baptized my sweet little niece. The weather was lovely that day, so we ate our lunch out on the deck, letting the little ones play in the backyard while the adults talked and passed the sleeping baby around.  It was the perfect afternoon.

Summer Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

2 pints fresh strawberries
2-3 fresh mangoes
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
4 ripe kiwis
1 large lime
½ cup honey

Remove strawberry stems.  Cut strawberries in half if they are small; quarter the larger ones.  Place strawberries in a large bowl.  Dice mango and add it to strawberries.  Dump in the pineapple.  Peel and dice kiwis and add them.  Toss all fruit together.

In a small bowl, zest lime, then add the juice of the lime.  Add honey and mix well. Pour about half of the dressing over fruit and lightly toss.  Add more dressing if desired.  Serve immediately.

Note: To prepare ahead of time, peel and cut fruits, but store them in separate bags in fridge.  Make dressing and store it separately as well.  When ready to serve, dump all prepared fruits into a large bowl and pour on desired amount of dressing.

Makes 12-16 servings.

I had to guess on the number of servings.  We had seven adults and three kids that day, and there was enough leftover that the four of us had some that night with dinner and the next day for lunch.  Also, I only used about half to two-thirds of the dressing for this amount of fruit.  But I left the recipe this way because it's kind of awkward to zest half of a lime, and you might want to use more than I used anyway.  

Everyone commented on the dressing.  They thought it was the perfect combination of sweet and tangy.

I served this fruit salad with Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches and BLT Dip with crackers, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.  And we had Orange Creamsicle Cookies for dessert.  Those recipes will be coming soon.

Happy Baptism Day, Kara!

27 August 2012

Only a few more days of August left?  It's hard to believe!  I still have some summery-type recipes to share with you, so I guess I better get crackin'!  These are some bars I made in June when it was my turn to make treats for church on Sunday morning.  I made my Orange Spice Coffee Cake, but I needed something in addition without nuts and cinnamon because we have a member with food allergies.  I started with a recipe I found in Family Circle for Pink Lemonade Crumb Bars, but I ended up changing both the crust and the filling, quite significantly, so that they really aren't the same recipe at all anymore.  Here's what I ended up with.

Blackberry Apricot Crumb Bars

2 cups plus ¼ cup flour
½  cup sugar
⅛ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup blackberry jam
½ cup apricot preserves

Heat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x13” baking dish with baking spray.

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add butter and vanilla. Reserve ⅔ cup crumb mixture and press rest into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. 

In a small bowl, combine the blackberry jam and apricot preserves.  Spread over crust and sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over the top.  Bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan on rack. 

Makes 18 bars.

Now, I consider this kind of a summery recipe because of the blackberry and apricot, but actually, since it calls for preserves, it can easily be made any time of year.  The crust comes out kind of like a shortbread.  I thought it was too thin and I mentioned that I might tinker with the recipe to make it different, but a couple of people said, "No! Don't change a thing!"  Okay, okay!

Even though I sprayed the dish liberally with baking spray, the bars still stuck to the side where the preserves cooked along the edge.  But once you get the sides loosened, the rest come out like a breeze.

The neat thing about this recipe is that you can change it up by using whatever kind of preserves you like.  Strawberry, raspberry, orange, etc.  Just make it a total of 1 cup of preserves and you're good to go!

Kate from Food Babbles chose this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in June 2013.  She made hers with raspberry instead of apricot. Click the button below to check out her post.

Secret Recipe Club

24 August 2012

Yay, it's Friday!  Hands-down my favorite day of the week.  My family will be relaxing today, recuperating from a super fun but really busy day yesterday.  My mom and sister brought my nephew and little newborn niece up for the day and we spent the first half of it at the lake.  It was warm and beautiful and the kids wore themselves out playing in the water and digging in the sand.  But before they could get a chance to rest, we whisked them off to the circus!  It was my nephew's first time at the circus and he loved it.  Eva had been to the circus before, but she was only 2 months old, so this was kind of like her first time too.  My girls were totally exhausted by the time we got home last night and went straight to bed. Eva will probably sleep until lunchtime, but Lena, my early riser, was up at 7, which is only about half an hour later than usual for her.

So we will be spending a lazy day at home today.  This coffee cake is the perfect lazy-morning-at-home kind of thing to make.  It uses a boxed pound cake mix, so it's not too complicated to prepare, but it's just fancy enough to make you feel like you're really treating yourself.  It's adapted from a recipe I found at the website of a bed and breakfast, The Gracehill in Tennessee.  I had been searching for a unique coffee cake recipe the last time I made fellowship treats for church and I stumbled across this one.  It's a winner!

Apricot Almond Coffee Cake

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup apricot preserves
1 (16 oz.) package pound cake mix, divided
1 cup sour cream
½ cup milk
2 large eggs
½ tsp almond extract
16 dried apricots, cut into small chunks
½ cup sliced almonds
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
¼ tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat a 9x13” pan with baking spray.

Mix cream cheese, apricot preserves, and 2 tbsp of cake mix just until blended.  Set aside.  Beat sour cream, milk, eggs, almond extract and remaining cake mix on low, scraping sides of bowl until combined.  Then beat on high 3 more minutes. 

Pour half of the batter into the prepared baking dish.  Spread over the top all of the cream cheese mixture then pour and spread the remaining batter.  Dot the top with the chunks of apricots.   Sprinkle on the almonds on top.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly. 

Meanwhile, to make glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, milk, and ¼ tsp almond extract.  Once cake has cooled slightly, drizzle glaze all over the top.

Makes 24 servings.

I made a few changes from the Gracehill version.  First, I doubled the filling ingredients.  Good choice because it came out perfectly.  I also had to come up with my own glaze recipe because it wasn't included in the original recipe.  I added a tiny bit of almond extract to the glaze; gives it a lovely flavor.

This coffee cake was a huge hit at church.  Even though it is called a coffee cake, it would also make a lovely summertime dessert for any meal.

20 August 2012

Last week I decided to try my hand at making a frittata.  I had never made one before.  A frittata is an egg dish that you start out cooking on the stovetop, then move to the oven.  I found a recipe for a Greek frittata that I really wanted to try, but when I checked my feta cheese supply, I found only feta dust in the container (who put it back in the fridge like that?).  So I will have to try that one next time.  Instead, I created a frittata using two of my favorite summertime veggies: zucchini and tomatoes.  Yep, still posting zucchini recipes here!  This frittata turned out great.  Here's how I made it.

Summer Vegetable Frittata

1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 small or medium tomato, diced
6 eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp salt
½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ cup shredded cheese, divided 

Preheat broiler.

Heat oil in a 12” broiler-safe skillet over medium heat.  Sauté onion, zucchini, and tomato until onion and zucchini are soft and most of the tomato’s moisture has evaporated.  Add eggs, salt, and Italian seasoning.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add ¼ cup shredded cheese and stir.  Cook another 3 minutes.  Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup cheese on top, cover, and cook another 3 minutes.  Remove lid and place pan under the broiler.  Broil for a few minutes or until top is lightly browned.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 6 wedges.  

Makes 3 servings, 2 pieces each.

When I say that it makes three servings, that was when I served it for dinner.  It was our meatless meal of the week, with rolls and a salad.  If you are serving this for breakfast, one piece per person would probably be enough.  I listed Italian seasoning in the recipe, but actually I forgot to put any extra seasoning in it. You could use any kind of seasoning that strikes your fancy.  I think dried dill would go really well with the fresh veggies.  You can also easily switch up the veggies in here. You could use yellow squash instead of the zucchini and bell pepper instead of the tomato; whatever you have on hand.

Frittatas turn out much flatter than their cousin, the quiche.  They don't puff up as much.  But still very delicious.  I didn't think my husband would like this all that much.  He doesn't usually like chunks of tomato in things and I thought he might be getting tired of zucchini, but he proclaimed several times throughout the meal that he loved it.  He loves it when I make egg dishes for our meatless nights because he loves eggs.

I made a special cheese-free mini frittata for my daughter who is allergic to dairy.  Basically the same thing as the one above, minus the cheese, but I used two eggs in an 8" pan and didn't put it under the broiler, just cooked it completely on the stovetop.  She gobbled up the whole thing.

I always have plenty of eggs and some kind of veggie on hand, so this will be a great go-to meal on days when I don't have anything planned. 

17 August 2012

Yesterday I shared with you a great Homemade Chipotle Ketchup, and while it is super good just with fries, I thought I would give you something else to put it on.  Southwestern Burgers.  This is a burger I created just to go with the ketchup! It's a beef patty with corn and black beans, seasoned with cumin and chili powder and draped in pepper jack cheese.  Top it all of with the chipotle ketchup, and it's one sassy burger!

Southwestern Burgers

1 lb. ground beef
½ cup corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)
½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
4 slices pepper jack cheese
4 hamburger buns

Combine ground beef, corn, beans, salt, cumin, chili powder, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Divide mixture and shape into 4 patties.

Grill burgers over high heat until cooked through.  Top each patty with a slice of pepper jack cheese.  Place on buns and top with chipotle ketchup.

Makes 4 servings.

I am not usually a fan of pepper jack cheese, but I really liked it on this burger.  The burger itself isn't spicy, more of a smoky chili flavor.  The spiciness of the cheese and the ketchup was just perfect with it.  

This is a great way to perk up your burger night!

16 August 2012

It's reveal day for the Improv Challenge.  The premise of this challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

This month's assigned ingredients were tomatoes and peppers.  I was a little apprehensive about this one because, while I love tomatoes, I really dislike peppers.  Red bell peppers, green bell peppers, jalapenos: no thanks.  It's not the heat that bothers me; I have a strong aversion to the flavor, especially the bell peppers.  I can tolerate jalapenos in salsa, but don't ever add them to anything else.  But there is one exception to my pepper avoidance: chipotles.  Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I do love me some chipotle!  I don't know what it is about chipotles, but they don't bother me like other peppers and I love their smoked flavor.  They are smoked jalapenos, but the flavor is completely different than regular jalapenos.  They come in little bitty cans, packed in a flavorful sauce called adobo. 

I decided to try making a homemade chipotle ketchup.  I googled "chipotle ketchup recipe" and 99% of the results called for ketchup as an ingredient.  I wanted to make it from scratch.  So I kept digging and I finally found a homemade chipotle ketchup recipe from scratch at Homesick Texan.  Here's my slight adaptation.

Homemade Chipotle Ketchup

1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
28 oz. can whole tomatoes
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground celery seeds
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced, plus 2 tbsp adobo sauce
Salt to taste

On medium-low heat, cook the diced onion in the olive oil in a medium-sized pot just until the onions start to brown a bit on the ends.

Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

After an hour, puree the mixture, and then continue to cook on low heat until it reaches your desired thickness.

Now, if mine looks a tad watery, it's because I didn't follow the directions exactly.  I went shopping that day, and by the time I got home and got the groceries unloaded and put away, I didn't have time to simmer the sauce for an hour.  Oops! So I kept it at a full boil for like half an hour.  Yes, it made a humongous mess on my stovetop, but it got the job (mostly) done in half the time.  (And yeah, my potato wedges got a little "done", but oh well! They were still good and the ketchup covered it up well! :)

 Homemade ketchup will never be as smooth as store-bought, but it doesn't matter.  It tastes awesome.  I only used one chipotle because we are kind of wimps when it comes to heat, so if you like things hot, use more.  At least two.

I served this on some burgers that I created, which I'm calling Southwestern Burgers.  Ground beef patties with black beans and corn mixed in seasoned with cumin and chili powder.  I'll post that recipe tomorrow.  Topped with pepperjack cheese and the chipotle ketchup, it was one sassy burger!

Check out all the other great tomato and pepper recipes below and come back here tomorrow for the Southwestern Burger recipe.

15 August 2012

Today is reveal day for the Eating The Alphabet Challenge.  This month we had to chose a fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, or legume that began with the letters M, N, or O.  Three options!  Lots of choices there.

I immediately knew that I wanted to do something with mango.  My husband pointed out that mango was an excellent option because it contained all of the letter choices: M, N, and O, in order!  Always thinking, that guy!  I like mango-flavored things, but had never cooked with fresh mango before.  Time to change that!  I remembered that I had pinned something with mango earlier this summer and quickly found it on my Pinterest board.  It is a barbecue sauce made with mango from What's Cooking, Love?.  I thought it sounded amazing and couldn't wait to try it.  We had several rainy days where grilling wasn't possible, but finally the clouds left us and we were able to get out there and smother this wonderful sauce all over some chicken.  Here's the recipe.

Mango Barbecue Sauce

1 large mango, chopped
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ cup ketchup
¼ tsp salt

Combine the chopped mango, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, ketchup, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth.

Set some sauce aside (to be used for dipping later), then brush the remaining sauce all over whatever raw meat you want to grill.  Grill the meat as you normally would, then use the remaining sauce to dip at the table.

Makes enough for 4-6 servings.

This sauce is so good!  The onion powder and salt were my additions.  You may choose to add other things, or subtract some depending on the size and flavor of your mango.  My mango was super duper sweet, so that's why I added the salt.  This sauce is definitely sweet, but it has a wonderful zesty tang to it as well.

I wrote the recipe as just the sauce, because it would be good on any kind of barbecued meat.  I didn't want to limit it just to chicken.  It was awesome on the chicken, but it would also be great on grilled pork chops and even salmon.  Can't wait to try that!

If you have never cut up a fresh mango, I suggest you google "how to cut up a mango" and watch a quick video.  I totally mangled mine cutting it up.  Mangos have an odd-shaped pit, so it's best to cut it a certain way to get the majority of the meat off of it.  After watching a video, I was able to cut up the rest of them with no problem.

Be sure to check out all the other great recipes below, and come back tomorrow for another great homemade condiment recipe.

13 August 2012

Are you tired of zucchini recipes yet? I hope not, because I have a couple more up my sleeve.  I'll share this one with you today, then I'll give you a little zucchini break the rest of the week and I'll share my other one next week.

I was looking around for a good baked zucchini fries recipe and came across this one from Chef Mommy.  I changed it just a little bit.  Here's my adaptation.

Baked Zucchini Fries

1½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
2 medium zucchini
2 egg whites
½ cup flour
Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.  Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with olive oil spray.

In a bowl, combine the Panko breadcrumbs, salt, paprika, and garlic powder.

Cut zucchini into steak fry-sized pieces about 3 inches long.. Beat egg whites with a splash of water until frothy.  Lightly dust zucchini with flour. Dip in beaten egg white and then coat with Panko breadcrumb mixture.  Place zucchini fries on prepared baking sheet, careful not to crowd. Lightly spray tops of zucchini fries with the olive oil spray.

Bake for 12 minutes, flip and bake for another 12-15 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned.

Makes 4 servings.

I changed a few things from the original recipe.  I cut my fries wider, more like steak fries.  I don't know why.  Just did!  The original recipe called for processing the Panko into a finer texture, but I skipped that step.  I'm sure it would be good like that too, but it worked just fine to leave them the way they are.  I used smoked paprika instead of black pepper and I had to increase the salt because I left out Parmesan cheese so my little one could eat them.  Because mine were wider, I increased the cooking times by a few minutes.

These zucchini fries are so good!  Perfectly cooked.  They are salty and crunchy on the outside, and the perfect texture on the inside.  If you like zucchini, you've got to try them.  

 I served these fries with my Sausage Pizza Joes.  It made for a great meal.  

My family loved these fries.  My kids downed them, then begged for more.  Here you can see 2 year old Eva shoving them in with both hands.  Look familiar?  Pretty soon, I'm going to have a full album full of pics of Eva shoving food in her mouth with both hands!  The girl loves to eat!

Later this week I will be talking condiments.  I have two very interesting made-from-scratch condiments that you are just going to love and I'll be sharing them with you on Wednesday and Thursday.  And there's no zucchini involved! :)

Katherine from Katherine Martinelli chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in September 2012.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

10 August 2012

I'm glad you all enjoyed the zucchini recipe I posted the other day, my One Pot Summer Squash, Beef and Rice Skillet.  It is really great and I hope you try it.  Today I thought I would share with you the runner-up from the poll I posted on my Facebook page, about which zucchini recipe to share.  This one is a burger, but it's not your typical ground meat burger.  It's a burger made with cooked chicken (or turkey) breast meat and shredded zucchini.  It's an adaptation of one I saw over at Finding Joy in My Kitchen.

Zucchini Chicken Burgers

1 medium zucchini, shredded (1½ cups)
2 cups canned chicken (or turkey)
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, grated
½ tsp dried dill
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
4 slices cheese
4 hamburger buns
Mayo, lettuce, tomato, if desired

Place shredded zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and gather up corners.  Squeeze as much water out of the zucchini as you can.  Place zucchini in a large bowl and add chicken or turkey (breaking it up with a spoon if it’s in large chunks), dry breadcrumbs, egg, shallots, garlic, dill, and salt.  Stir all ingredients together until evenly distributed.

Divide the mixture into 4 equal patties.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.  When oil is hot, place patties in the pan and cook about 5 minutes per side or until warmed throughout and lightly browned.  Place a slice of cheese on each patty and cover skillet with lid for a few minutes to melt cheese.

Place patties on buns and top with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, or any condiments/toppings of your choice.

Makes 4 servings.

This is a really neat twist on burgers.  Lighter and fresher than a normal hamburger.  I actually used turkey instead of chicken, because that's what I had on hand at the time, but I know that canned turkey can be hard to find in regular grocery stores (I get mine at Sam's), so I wrote the recipe for canned chicken.  You could actually use any cooked chicken breast meat, doesn't have to be from a can.  It would be a good use for leftover roasted chicken breast or rotisserie chicken breast.

I used provolone cheese on these, but probably any kind would be good. I served them with my Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes.  My husband wasn't crazy about these burgers, but the girls and I loved them.  Great way to use up all the extra zucchini!

08 August 2012

This morning I learned that today is National Zucchini Day.  And, as it turns out, I have made three new zucchini dishes in the last day and a half!  Not intentionally, but I love zucchini and the ones at the store were looking really good the last time I was there, so I stocked up.  I know a lot of people are looking for zucchini recipes this time of year because their gardens are full of it.  We didn't plant zucchini, so store-bought has to do for us.

Well, I couldn't decide which of the three zucchini recipes to share with you today.  So I decided to put it to a vote!  I posted pictures of all three dishes on my Facebook page and let my fans tell me which recipe they would like the most.  A couple of people voted for the burger recipe, but the one-pot skillet was by far the winner.  So here you go!  This is an adaptation of a recipe I read in Everyday Food yesterday during lunch.  Yes, it was lunchtime and I still wasn't sure what were having for dinner.  Jim brought in the mail and in it was my magazine.  I started looking through it as I was eating and came upon this recipe, Summer Beef-and-Rice Casserole.  I had to change it a little bit because it was part of a week-long menu and called for ingredients leftover from another meal.  So I adapted it to work as a standalone dish.  It turned out great!

One Pot Summer Squash, Beef, and Rice Skillet

1 cup fresh soft breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
24 oz. jar marinara sauce
1 cup water
1 cup long-grain white rice, uncooked
1 small zucchini, very thinly sliced
1 small yellow squash, very thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 475°.  Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and olive oil in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Brown ground beef in a large (12”) skillet with an oven-safe handle.  Drain well and return to skillet.  Stir in the marinara sauce and water and bring to a rapid simmer over high heat.  Stir in rice.  

Carefully arrange zucchini and yellow squash slices over the top, slightly overlapping each other.  Season well with salt.  Top with breadcrumb mixture.

Cover skillet with foil and bake in preheated oven 12 minutes.  Remove foil and return to oven for another 10 minutes, or until top is golden brown and rice is cooked.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings.

I know that the title is a bit of a mouthful, but it has to tell you what all is going on this thing!  It's a casserole chock full of ground beef and rice in your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce (I used Ragu's Sauteed Onion and Garlic), then topped with super thin slices of yellow squash and zucchini and crunchy Parmesan breadcrumbs.  The greatest thing about this is that it's a one pot meal.  Everything cooks in the skillet, even the rice!  I LOVE that.  Besides the skillet, the only other things I dirtied up making this was my mandoline, and the small bowl I mixed up the breadcrumb topping in.  That's awesome!

I doubled the rice from Martha's recipe because half a cup didn't seem like very much, even raw.  I thought the end result was a tad heavy on rice, but my husband said, "Don't change a thing! It was perfect!"  Okay, okay!  This was a HUGE hit with my family.  Lena, my four-year-old, asked for seconds, my husband wanted to go back for thirds, but knew that he shouldn't, and Eva, my two-year-old, ate two servings, then finished off the rest of Lena's second serving that she didn't finish.  And still asked for more!  (I had to remove the topping from hers because of her dairy allergy, but she didn't seem to mind!)  I think it would be really good with ground sausage too, so I'll probably try it that way next time.

Look at her shoveling it in with both hands!

My favorite part was the zucchini topping.  Mmm, so good!  I love zucchini and yellow squash just by themselves, but then to add crispy Parmesan breadcrumbs on top?  Oh my!

This was such a huge hit and so easy to make that I will definitely be making it again many times in the future.

Happy Zucchini Day!