Zucchini Pizza Boats

Summer is the time for lazy days at the lake, yard work – or harvesting tons of fresh veggies from the garden!

Here in Saskatchewan, this is the time of year that the zucchini go crazy.

Gardeners use every possible recipe to use up their excess and then start giving zucchini to their friends, family, neighbours, and maybe even complete strangers!

We all want to make sure the produce we have worked so hard to grow doesn’t go to waste.

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So I’m here today to give you inspiration for one more yummy way you can use your zucchini – Zucchini Pizza Boats!

The great part about this recipe is that it is low carb, does great on the grill, and you can use other garden fresh veggies.

Just like with pizza, it is a flexible recipe that you can pick and choose which toppings you would like to use.

I like to start with a zucchini that is borderline too large because the skin will be a little tough, which makes the “boat” hold its shape on the grill better. Plus this gives you a larger hollow to add your sauce and toppings to!

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Cut the zucchini in half long-wise and scoop out the soft, seedy part.

Don’t throw it out, though! We will use the insides in the sauce in a minute.

Next, heat a pan on medium heat and add some butter, a few cloves of garlic, and diced onion.

I personally like to add whole cloves of garlic; once they are nice and soft, I just smash them with my knife and give them a quick chop.

I find that method a lot quicker than mincing or grating them raw.

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Oh! And this is where the zucchini insides get added.

Next, add diced tomato and some chopped oregano & basil.

I like a bit of heat to my food, so I add an entire cayenne pepper (either a fresh, chopped pepper or a crumbled, dehydrated pepper).

Then, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. This really makes the flavour pop!

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And as expected, give the sauce a nice seasoning of salt & pepper.

Allow it to come to a simmer and cook the sauce down until it is no longer watery.

The more tomato you add, the more like a pizza sauce it will be.

Adding the zucchini insides, however, makes the sauce a bit different texture than normal pizza sauce, but hey – waste not, want not!

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Once your sauce has cooked down to the desired consistency, scoop it into your zucchini boats.

Then you get to add your toppings!

I find that the toppings work best when they are added first and then the cheese added on top; when the cheese gets gooey, anything on top tends to try to slide off if the zucchini boat isn’t quite flat.

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You can bake the zucchini boats at 350º for about 40 minutes (depending on their size, time will vary).

My favorite, however, is throwing them on the grill with a bit of smoke!

The flavour is amazing that way, plus if it is a hot day you aren’t heating up your house.

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On a pre-heated grill, it typically takes about 40 minutes on low-to-medium heat to cook the zucchini boats.

NOTE: Be careful how high your flame is; you do not want to char the skin!

You can also use a pre-soaked wood plank to add flavour (and catch any gooey cheese that tries to drip off).

I like my Maple Grilling Plank better for this recipe than my Cedar Grilling Planks because it has a lighter flavour.

I like the zucchini to be soft enough to easily pierce with a fork, but not so soft that it is falling apart.

Some people may prefer their zucchini to be firmer so they are almost crunchy still.

That is completely up to you!

Once you remove the zucchini boat from the heat, allow it to cool for a couple minutes.

Enjoy!

I promise this will become a fast favourite!

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While zucchini is usually served as a side veggie, I like serving this as a main – or even the entire meal because it is so filling!

Recipe

1 large zucchini

1 large tomato

1/2 large onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter

1 cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Basil & oregano, to taste

Salt & pepper, to taste

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Directions

Cut the zucchini in half long-wise and scoop out the soft, seedy centre (reserve for later).

In a pan on medium heat, sauté garlic, diced onion, and diced tomato in butter.

Add zucchini insides along with balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, basil, and oregano.

If you want some heat, add cayenne pepper as well.

Salt & pepper to taste.

Simmer until the sauce has reduced to desired consistency.

Scoop sauce into zucchini boats, then add toppings and cheese.

Bake at 350º for about 40 minutes or grill on low-to-medium heat for about 40 minutes.

Cook time will vary depending on the size of zucchini and desired softness.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Enjoy!

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What is your favourite zucchini recipe? Drop a comment below!

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Rhubarb Steak Sauce

Fall-time in Alaska has the richest smell – one that is hard to fully describe to someone who has never experienced the amazingly overwhelming combination of a thousand scents…

The ever-present sappy smell of evergreens…

The musky scent of rotting leaves, scattered across the ground in the chill breeze…

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But most of all, the rich tang of ripe cranberries wafting through the crisp air.

Of all the mountain smells, ripe cranberry is the scent I miss the most!

I have always loved picking wild berries, so much so that my mom would have an extra task on her “to do” list when I would show up unexpectedly with a bucket of berries before I was old enough to process them myself.

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Cranberry meat sauce has been a traditional family recipe since before I was born – and I love it to this day!

We typically would use the sauce when we had fried moose steaks – I mean, how much more Alaskan can it get?!

BUT, living on the prairies is very different than mountain living in many ways.

We lack the wild cranberry plants and I hate buying something I grew up picking, catching or growing (buying salmon is a huge no-no!)

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Plate family original cranberry meat sauce recipe
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Without cranberries, I realized that rhubarb has a similar amount of tartness and decided to give this recipe a make-over to use my abundance of homegrown rhubarb!

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Highbush cranberries have much more water content than lowbush cranberries (did you even know there were other kinds of cranberries than your typical Thanksgiving spread..?) or rhubarb, so I added more water to the mix than the original recipe called for.

I cooked the rhubarb on low heat while I chopped and added onions and fresh celery.

Next came the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and cloves.

But I didn’t have the allspice the recipe called for on hand!

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Oh! Guess what? Allspice can be mimicked by mixture of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg – so I simply added the cinnamon and nutmeg to get the proper taste.

I love the flavour profile some garlic adds, so I threw in a couple cloves.

And while I was changing the recipe a bit, why not add a few drops of liquid smoke?

I mean, I was substituting rhubarb for cranberries anyway – may as well go all in with my intuitive cooking style!

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Once all the ingredients were combined, I brought the mixture to a low simmer and turned it down so it barely bubbled.

Slow and steady wins the race here!

Trust me! If the mixture burns on the bottom, the entire batch will have a dark, burned taste that will ruin the sauce.

Thick sauces are prone to burn easily (even if stirred regularly) if the heat is too high.

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PRO TIP #1: The thicker the bottom of the sauce pan is, the less likely the batch is to burn.

Slowly cooking the sauce down to the right thickness also helps the flavours to blend and enhances the end result.

PRO TIP #2: Place the sauce in a crock pot on low heat to allow it to reduce to the desired consistency.

Once it has cooked down to the thickness of applesauce, place the meat sauce in sanitized jars and process with a hot water bath.

This recipe makes about 2 pints.

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Rhubarb meat sauce pairs extremely well with wild game, lamb, and other meats with its spiced tartness; it can also be used in wine reduction sauces and baked beans.

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Recipe

8 cups rhubarb, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup water

1 onion, chopped

1 1/3 cup white vinegar

2 2/3 cups white sugar

2 teaspoons cloves

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

6 drops liquid smoke

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Directions

Combine rhubarb, garlic, celery, onion, and water. Cook until soft.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a low simmer.

Cook on low heat, making sure not to burn, until mixture has reduced to a consistency similar to apple sauce. (NOTE: this can be done in a crockpot)

Place sauce in sanitized jars and process with water bath.

Serve with wild game, lamb or other meats. Can be used in wine reduction sauces and baked beans as well.

Enjoy!

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What recipe brings a “taste of home” to your cooking? Drop a comment below!

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Devilled Eggs

If you have ever been to a potluck, you know that devilled eggs are the star of the show!

They are usually cleaned out well before the last person makes it through the line.

And the person who brought them? Well, they practically get hero status!

Devilled eggs seem to have a reputation for being a tough appetizer to make, but if you know how to peel the eggs with ease you’re set!

The trick is to cook the eggs correctly.

This is KEY!

If you don’t cook them correctly, you will wind up with shells that don’t want to peel off or over-cooked, rubbery eggs that have green yolks.

It has taken me many batches of practice to get this part down, so here are my secrets to perfect devilled eggs!

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Eggs in the ice bath.
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I grew up believing that boiled eggs need to be started in cold water and brought to a boil.

Not only does this take longer, but the eggs also are difficult to peel with this method.

Pro tip #1: place the eggs in a large pot with HOT water.

Salt the water and bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

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Pro tip #2: simmer for exactly 12 minutes!

I have tried different cook times to find that perfect balance of being fully cooked through to the yolk without getting that weird green tinge.

If you are hosting a Saint Patrick’s day event, green yolks may be a hit – otherwise it just looks gross.

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Pro tip #3: IMMEDIATELY scoop the eggs out and plunge them into an ice bath.

This stops the cooking process and is the key for eggs that are easy to peel.

Allow them to cool fully in the ice bath before peeling.

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Perfectly cooked eggs with bright yellow yolks.
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Pro tip #4: peel the eggs under cold, running water.

Gently crack the egg on the counter (you don’t want to make the shells puncture the egg) so the shell is shattered on all sides.

Peeling the egg under running water helps pull the shell away from the egg.

Plus, you were going to have to rinse the egg anyway to make sure there are no surprise crunches when eating them.

So basically you are getting two birds with one stone… or should I say eggs..?

I find it easiest to start peeling at the rounded end of the egg rather than the pointed part.

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Overcooked eggs with a green rim in the yolk.
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Once the eggs are all peeled, cut them in half and carefully remove the yolk.

Pro tip #5: place the egg yolks directly into a ziplock plastic bag.

This makes for less dishes, which is ALWAYS a win in my books!

Add the Miracle Whip, mustard, salt, and a splash of pickle juice (not too much though, you don’t want the yolk mixture to be runny).

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For you loyal Hellman’s Mayonnaise supporters out there, go ahead and ditch the Miracle Whip for your Hellmans.

Zip the bag shut and mix the ingredients together with your hands until you have an even mixture with a creamy consistency.

Snip a small hole in one corner of the bag and squeeze the mixture into the egg whites.

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Classic devilled eggs.
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Sprinkle with paprika and chill.

Enjoy being the hero who brought the rare delicacy to your next gathering!

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Pro tip #6: egg freshness

I know many people believe that older eggs are easier to peel, and for this method I agree with them!

However, you don’t want them to be too old because the yolk color is so much better and – more importantly – are centred in the egg with fresher eggs!

Older eggs tend to have the yolk more to the rounded end of the egg, which gives you a very thin egg white on that edge to hold the yolk mixture.

If you want the very best yolks, go with free-range eggs.

The difference in color is amazing!

Plus, free-range eggs are packed with nutrients.

Pro tip #7: easy-peel Instant Pot method

If you have joined the Instant Pot fan club, this is another great method to get easy-peel boiled eggs in a short amount of time.

I have also found that it works well even on super fresh eggs, like we get from our chickens here on the homestead.

You can find the full instructions here: Easy-Peel Boiled Eggs

Instant Pot
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Recipe

6 large eggs

1/3 cup Miracle Whip

1 tablespoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon pickle juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

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Directions

Add eggs to large pot with hot water.

Bring to boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 12 minutes.

Immediately remove from heat and place eggs in an ice bath.

Allow to cool fully, then peel under running water.

Cut in half and remove yolks.

Combine yolk, Miracle Whip, mustard, pickle juice, and salt and mix until creamy.

Use a plastic bag to squeeze the yolk mix into the egg whites.

Sprinkle with paprika.

Chill fully, then serve!

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Makes 12 devilled eggs

Enjoy!

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Classic devilled eggs.
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If you liked this recipe, don’t forget to subscribe and check out my potato salad recipe that is a hit for BBQ season!

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Sourdough Hamburger Buns

Barbecue season is upon us!

Who doesn’t love a classic hamburger with chips, fries or potato salad on a hot summer day?

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Of course you can go with the quick-and-easy store-bought option for the buns and patties, but the homemade version is definitely the gourmet choice!

Sourdough hamburger buns quickly became a favourite when I started on my baking journey… They have so much more flavour, wonderful texture, and I know exactly what ingredients have gone into the food I am eating!

As with all sourdough recipes, it does take a little more planning ahead to make sure they have sufficient time to rise (and develop that nice, tangy sourdough flavour).

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But, as I often say, it is all worth it for the superior quality you get by making it yourself!

If you are new to sourdough baking and don’t know how to make your own sourdough starter, check out this easy DIY tutorial for sourdough starter.

The first step in this sourdough hamburger bun recipe is to combine the sourdough starter, water, and 1/2 cup of the flour.

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Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30-60 minutes.

Next, melt the butter and slightly heat the milk to about room temperature and add to the bowl.

Add the sugar, salt, and egg. Combine well.

Mix the remaining flour a little at a time; if you are using a mixer, the dough should begin to clear the bowl when it is the right consistency.

Place in a well oiled bowl and turn over so the dough is oiled on both sides, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

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When the timer goes off, fold the dough into the centre from one side, then repeat with the remaining 3 sides.

Turn the dough upside down, cover it again, and allow to rise in a warm area for another 30 minutes.

Repeat this process and leave for 60 minutes.

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Finally, the process is repeated one more time and another 60 minute rise time.

The dough should be a very elastic consistency at this point and smell nice and tangy.

Cut the dough into 8 equal sized pieces and roll into rounds, then squish them into roughly the diameter you would like for your hamburger buns.

Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving enough room between the bun dough to allow them to rise without sticking to each other.

At this point, I add my sesame seeds and slightly press them into the bun; I find this helps them stick better than if they are added on top of the egg wash after the buns have risen.

Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 60 minutes or until they have doubled in size.

Brush with egg wash; this gives the hamburger buns a beautiful, golden color when they have finished baking.

Place into the pre-heated oven at 400º F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

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Place on a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel until cool.

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I personally love to toast my hamburger buns in the oven before serving; to do this, I butter them well, then place on a baking sheet open side up – and stand and watch them the entire time they broil!

There have been too many times in my life that multi-tasking has caused burned buns… or garlic toast…

Trust me on this! The few minutes it takes them to broil is well worth keeping a diligent eye on them.

I find that broiling them, rather than grilling or placing them into a frying pan gives more even browning and retains more of the butter (because they are face up, rather than face down).

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Next, add your topping of choice and enjoy!

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Recipe

1 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup warm water

3 cups white flour, divided

3/4 cup warm milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 egg

Egg wash (1 egg + 1/4 teaspoon water, beaten)

Sesame seeds

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Directions

Combine sourdough starter, 1/2 cup flour, and water.

Cover and let sit in a warm location for 30-60 minutes.

Melt butter and warm the milk to room temperature. Add to bowl with the sourdough mixture along with egg, sugar, and salt and mix well.

Add remaining flour a little at a time, mixing until the dough develops an elastic consistency. If you are using a mixer, the dough should begin to clear the bowl.

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl and flip, so the dough is oiled on all sides.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Fold the dough into itself from 4 sides, turn over the dough over, and cover again.

Allow to rise for another 30 minutes.

Repeat the folding process and allow to rise for 60 minutes.

Finally, fold once more and allow to rise for another 60 minutes.

Place dough onto lightly floured surface and cut into 8 equal sized pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball with your hand, then squish into approximately the diameter you would like for your hamburger buns.

Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, then cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Brush with egg wash.

Place in pre-heated oven at 400º F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Move to cooling rack, cover with a tea towel, and allow to cool.

Enjoy!

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Potato Salad

Can you say “yum” to this side that completes any summertime, sizzling BBQ?

The smell of burgers on the grill, the sound of loved-ones visiting in the background, the feel of warm, evening sunshine on your face…

… for me, these are the sweet memories brought back by this recipe.

I know many people think potato salad is a lot of work and takes soooo much time.

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Which is true in the fact that it takes time, but a lot less work than many would think.

I have customized this recipe with all of my favourite ingredients.

As a rule of thumb, I plan for 1 medium sized potato per person and 2 eggs per potato.

Half the eggs get mixed into the potato salad, while the other half are beautiful sliced accents on top.

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Start by peeling the potatoes.

Dice them into cube sized pieces.

Add to a pot with cold water and salt.

Pro tip: add your eggs to the pot with the potatoes to reduce dishes and get perfectly cooked eggs!

OR – use the easy-peel Instant Pot method for your eggs (full instructions here)

Instant Pot

Bring to boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until potatoes are fork-soft.

This will take about 8-10 minutes.

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Next, drain the water and place the eggs in a bowl with ice water until they are fully cooked.

While the eggs cool, add Miracle Whip, mustard, dill, and diced pickles.

I usually add a splash of pickle juice for a bit of extra zip.

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Peel the egg, add half of them to the bowl with the potatoes and mash slightly.

If you prefer to chop the eggs rather than mash, go for it! I find using a fork just as easy as cutting them and it makes less mess.

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Slice the remaining eggs into rounds.

Scoop the potato salad into your serving dish and top with the sliced eggs.

Sprinkle with paprika.

Chill until fully cooled and enjoy!

Potato salad makes a great side to go with hamburgers fresh off the grill, smothered in toppings, and finished off with homemade sourdough hamburger buns!

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Recipe

2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 eggs

1/2 cup Miracle Whip

1 tablespoon mustard

2 large pickles, diced

2-3 sprigs dill, chopped

1 teaspoon salt (added to pot while cooking potatoes)

Paprika, sprinkled to taste

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Boil the potatoes and eggs together in salted water until potatoes are fork tender, about 8-10 minutes.

Place eggs in ice water until cool and drain potatoes.

Mix potatoes, Miracle Whip, mustard, pickles, and dill.

Add 2 eggs and mash slightly with a fork.

Transfer potato salad to serving dish.

Slice remaining 2 eggs into rounds and place on top of potato salad.

Sprinkle with paprika.

Chill until completely cool.

Enjoy!

(Serves 2)

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