Category Archives: Zucchini

Taste Testing: Emeril’s Essentials

TomatoliciousHi, Sweeties! I just couldn’t resist sharing this luscious tomato picture. I’ve been getting awesome tomatoes at the farmer’s market all summer long, and I will miss them when they’re gone. What an easy side dish! Slice and serve. That’s perfect for a busy summer!

I love things that make cooking easier in the summer. Summer is the time that I’m most likely to find myself cooking at a campsite or beach rental–  places where pre-made spice blends come in handy, and it is the season when I’d rather be outside than in a hot kitchen following an ingredient list a mile long. Do you take shortcuts during the summer? Let’s be honest too. If you have awesome produce, it takes very little effort to make a delicious meal.

I received a few new summer shortcut type items a month or two ago through my participation in the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. I love trying new things, and it’s even more awesome when I can try them for free. I received a box full of products created by Emeril Lagasse. The box contained a container of Emeril’s Original Essence, Emeril’s All Natural Steak Rub, Emeril’s Kicked Up Horseradish Mustard, and Emeril’s Chicken Stock. Sad to say, the chicken stock package did not survive shipping, and the broth was seeping out through the top of the tetrapack. With safety in mind, I tossed the chicken stock. I have enjoyed using the other items, and I thought I’d give you a little run down on what I did with them, along with some basic info.

Emeril’s Original Essence

Bam-tasticEmeril’s original essence is a pretty traditional seasoning blend– salt, paprika, black pepper, granulated garlic, spices and onion powder are the listed ingredients. Salt is first, and that’s something to keep in mind when sprinkling this on. I treated it in the way I would treat salt, just to be sure that I didn’t overdo it. I didn’t find it to be spicy at all, but it did add a nice bit of savory flavor. 

I used it to spice up some zucchini that was headed for the griddler. You’ll see the finished zucchini later in the post. 

ZucchiniI also sprinkled a bunch of Essence on top of a couple of chicken breasts that I put into the slow cooker with a can of Ro-tel. 

Chicky SchnickyThe garlic and onion in the essence went well with the spicy Ro-tel, and I ended up with a bunch of nicely seasoned shredded chicken taco meat at the end of the day.

Essential ChickenI had some of it on a bed of brown rice along with some black beans, feta cheese, Greek yogurt, tomatoes and avocado. Yum!

Lovely MessIs the Essence an essential pantry ingredient? While I liked this product, I can’t say that it really rocked my socks off. It was fine, but nothing unusual. I don’t really mind mixing individual spices from my pantry when seasoning my food. In making my own, I would go heavier on the spices and lighter on the salt. I’m sure I could have used more essence to add more flavor, but, due to amount of salt, my food would have been way oversalted.

Having said that, if you don’t have room in your kitchen for a lot of different little spice bottles, or if you are trying to pack lightly for a camping trip or a beach vacay, this blend would be a great thing to have on hand for a bit of extra flavor. It’s also quicker than making your own blend, so it will get you out of the kitchen a tiny bit quicker too, if that’s a concern.

Now, onto the rub…

Emeril’s All Natural Steak Rub

This steak rub has a lot going for it. Just look at the blend:

SpicyThe list of ingredients includes: salt, black pepper, minced garlic, minced onion, crushed red pepper, spices, chopped red bell pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic. According to info on the side of the container, one of the spices is coriander. The rest are a bit of a mystery. 🙂 Like the essence, the first ingredient is salt, so it’s important to keep that in mind when deciding how much to use. I don’t tend to like my foods super salty so I always proceed with caution where salt is concerned. 

I really liked the flavor of this blend, and it was certainly convenient. The chopped red bell pepper really stood out. How did I use it? 

I mixed some into a pound of 96/4 ground beef and made steaky burgers. I like that you can see the seasonings.

Steaky Burgers

Remember the zucchini that I sprinkled with Essence?

BurgerliciousI thought these burgers were easy and good. The rub really gave them a steak house flavor, and it required little effort to mix some rub in. I think I added 2 1/2 tsp to my pound of ground beef, and it was just about right.

I also used the rub on some awesome petite filets that I splurged on at the farmer’s market:

Happy Beef

Ready for the RubI didn’t use a lot of olive oil, but I did use just enough to moisten the rub and allow it to stick to the steaks. I rubbed it on, and let the beef sit for a bit. Then, my friend, Mr. T, and I cooked the steaks in a skillet on the stove. I sometimes overcook meat using the griddler, and I didn’t want to risk it with these little lovelies. Medium rare for me, please!

VoilaAlongside the steak, we had a bit of sauteed arugula with lemon zest and pine nuts as well as a lovely pile of polenta with gorgonzola and fresh thyme from the balcony. I must have polenta with gorgonzola again sometime. It was seriously good! The steak turned out just the way I like it, and I really thought the flavor of the rub enhanced the great taste of the beef. 

Would Sweetie Pie buy this at the store? The quick answer is “yes.” While I have some rub recipes that I mix up myself from time to time, I really liked the flavor of this product and would substitute it for one of my homemade rubs without any consternation. I especially loved it in the burgers, and I think I might keep it around as a burger seasoning if nothing else. I thought the big flakes of red bell pepper made it unique, and I loved the seedy coriander and the healthy amount of black pepper. I like the rub. Emeril, I give you a “bam” on this one!!

Emeril’s Kicked Up Horseradish Mustard

The final product I’ve been trying is Emeril’s Kicked Up Horseradish Mustard:

Kick it up a notch, please!I will admit that I haven’t gotten very creative with this mustard, but I have used enough of it to have an opinion. The steaky burger pictured above is topped with a mix of this mustard, mayo and blue cheese. I’ve had it on numerous turkey sandwiches and on a few chicken sausages too, but I have no photos to share. My verdict? Sorry, Emeril. I don’t think this is kicked up at all, and I barely taste the horseradish. That was a disappointment. I like horseradish, and I was hoping this mustard would have a healthy dose of horseradishy heat. Instead, it is quite mild and just tastes kind of like dijon. It’s perfectly fine, as far as dijon goes, but it’s nothing to get excited about if you are a horseradish lover. The bottom line: this is fine, but it’s nothing special. 

So there you have it. I tried to give you my honest opinion on these products, and I hope I didn’t hurt Emeril’s feelings when it comes to his mustard. 🙂 I’m sure he reads my blog. Ha ha!! Just kidding, of course.

Maybe I was expecting more spice and flavor from the mustard and the essence as well. This could be due to the fact that I’ve seen countless audiences yelling “BAM” as Emeril has chopped a garlic clove or lifted his pepper mill. I’m glad that doesn’t happen in my kitchen, by the way. I would not enjoy having people yell while I was cooking. Anyway, I think I equate Emeril with these strong and spicy flavors, and I don’t think the essence or the mustard really lived up to the expectation I had in my mind.

I’m curious to know if any of you have tried these products, and whether you agree/disagree with my take on them. Do you have a favorite pre-mixed spice blend?

Now, I’m off to the gym. Ciao for now, sweeties and have a great day!!

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Filed under cooking, Farmer's Market, Food, Slow Cooker, Uncategorized, Weight Loss Success Story, Zucchini

Sweetie’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Sweetie's Chocolate Zucchini CakeHi, sweetie pies! I hope you are all enjoying your weekend. Mine has been pretty laid back, but nice, so far. We have had a very mild summer up until now, and I think the month of August is going to be a hot one. I’ve been kicking it with the A/C as much as possible and laying low. It has been a perfect opportunity for me to spend some time in the kitchen.

My mom and I were talking on the phone the other day, and she mentioned that my dad had brought in a few “baseball bats” from the garden patch. The meaning of that statement was immediately clear– baseball bats are oversize summertime zucchinis! She was trying to figure out to do with them, and we laughed about one of our favorite ways to enjoy zucchini– in chocolate cake. 🙂 There is an old zucchini cake recipe that we used to enjoy that was pretty decadent. I started to wonder if I could get the same yummy result with a few tweaks. I love revamping an old recipe to fit the way I prefer to cook now. I am especially happy when I get a result that I deem to be just as good as the original. I’m happy to report that such was the case with this recipe. Mom, here you go– If you make it, let me know what you think!

Mmmm...Sweetie’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup apple sauce

1/4 cup egg beaters (or 1 egg)

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup plain fat free Greek yogurt

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup grated zucchini

2 1/2 Tbsp. chopped pecans (or other nuts)

1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used mini chips, but any chips would work just fine. The minis just go further.)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9×9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Add the applesauce, Greek yogurt, and egg beaters and continue to beat the mixture until the ingredients are thoroughly combined (about two minutes). You can’t overwork this part of the mixture so don’t worry about just letting the mixer run for a bit.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the mixing bowl, and beat just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the mixture looks smooth. 

Using a spatula, fold in the grated zucchini. I used the small holes on my grater to make finer shreds of zucchini. Pour the batter into the baking pan.

Sprinkle the nuts and the chocolate chips on top of the mixture, and bake for 40-45 minutes. When it is done, the center should spring back when you touch it with your finger. Just be careful, and don’t try to touch your finger to the hot, melted chocolate chips. Not that I did that myself. Nope. I would never do something silly like that. 🙂

This makes 9 to 12 servings, depending on how hungry you are for cake! 

Being the farmer’s market junkie that I am, I was so excited to see a new vendor a couple of weeks ago. They had whole wheat flour for sale. Of course, I had to support my local economy by buying a bag. 😉

Local GoldI’m happy to have this bag of beautiful flour in the fridge. The Greek yogurt and the zucchini in this cake came from the market as well. My zucchini was on the plump side, but it was no baseball bat!

Zuke. E. KneeThe zucchini adds a lovely moistness to this cake, and it becomes virtually invisible (unless you know to look for a few flecks of green) in the finished product.

I swear, it's in there!See… it’s in there!

Sprinkles of GreenI substituted applesauce for the oil called for in my original recipe, and I will admit that the applesauce sub was the switch that concerned me the most. I feel like I’ve tried that trick before only to end up with overly dense and sort of gummy baked goods. That is no bueno in my book. I don’t know if the Greek yogurt somehow balanced it out (which wouldn’t be surprising since GY is my kitchen superstar), but I didn’t find this cake to be overly dense at all. In fact, it had nice crumbs, was lovely and moist but was rather light and fluffy as well. Just the way I like it! Check out the side view. Do you see any green (aside from the plate)? Subtle, right?

YUM!When I woke up this morning, I realized that the thing I really wanted for breakfast was… yes… you guessed it… a piece of this cake! It seemed perfect for a Sunday morning, and I savored it along with my yummy cup of coffee. Maybe I should make some in muffin form…? They would certainly be similar to the cake like muffins for sale at Starbucks.

I’m finding that one of the amazing things about intuitive eating is the fact that, if I have what I really want, it often doesn’t take a lot of it to satisfy me. If I’m satisfied, I’m not going to go rooting through the kitchen looking for something more (or trying my hardest NOT to do that). For example, I’ve realized that I prefer my morning coffee to have a little bit of half and half mixed with unsweetened almond breeze. The flavor is so rich and satisfying that I’m completely satisfied with one cup. I’m really learning a lot from this new approach to eating, and it gets a bit better each day. I’m not just eating cake all day long, but it’s nice to enjoy my cake without feeling guilty and like I’m cheating on my plan. 

Speaking of the cake, I made this cake last night, and shared it with a friend, Mr. T, who came over for dinner. The dinner I made last night was not enormous, but I was very happy at the end of the meal because the ingredients were good quality, very fresh and cooked the way I liked them. In addition to testing out this new version of the cake recipe, we also tried out Emeril’s Steak Rub. I received a package in the mail the other day, from the Foodbuzz tastemaker program, and it had several of Emeril’s products for me to try out. So far, I’ve used a couple of them, but I’m planning to tell you about all of them in one big Emerilicious post. Stay tuned for that! I already have plans for the other two items, so I expect to post about them very soon. By the way, Mr. T seemed to enjoy the cake. Good thing since I sent a big chunk home with him. 🙂 

Now, I’m going to brave a Sunday afternoon trip to Trader Joe’s. I haven’t been in awhile, and I can’t wait to see what I find. Unlike Whole Foods, Safeway and Giant, I have to actually drive to Trader Joe’s. As a result, I probably only go to Trader Joe’s once every couple of months. That may seem funny, since it is probably only a ten minute drive, but I love living in a place where I can walk to do errands, and I try to stick to that as much as possible. I love getting a little bit of bonus exercise, and I know that leaving my car at home is better for the environment too. Can you walk/bike to run errands where you live? Do you?

Growing up in the country with no sidewalks and not a lot of stores, walking or biking to run errands wasn’t much of an option. We often hopped in the car to go “to town” to get groceries at Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Save-a-lot and, later on, the Wal-mart supercenter. The post office was really about the only thing within walking distance. Walking to run errands is one of my favorite things about the place I live now. TJ’s is always super crowded on Sunday, but the fun stuff I find usually makes getting in the car a worthwhile venture. Wish me luck!

Ciao for now, sweeties and I hope you all have a great week! 🙂

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, Farmer's Market, Food, Greek Yogurt, Intuitive Eating, Recipes, Weight Loss Success Story, Zucchini