Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Decadent Chocolate Ice Cream and Other Memorial Day Weekend Deliciousness

I'm still full.  Memorial Day weekend was filled with fun food adventures and lots of calories.  Hubby even got involved and helped make some of our new food projects.  We made several dishes we have never made before, including...

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

KFC Cole Slaw
(will post details and the recipe later this week)

Grilled Ahi Tuna

Very Berry Frozen Yogurt

Sneak Preview!  Buttermilk Donuts with Chocolate Glaze, Cinnamon Sugar and Fresh Blueberry Glaze
(details and recipe to be featured on the blog in mid July when I host this recipe for the new Club Baked online baking group...more info to come on Club Baked in a post later this week)

And lastly, we finished the weekend with this very decadent chocolate ice cream.

Decadent is an understatement.  This ice cream is unbelivably rich and creamy and deep dark chocolately.  It reminds me a lot of the ice cream base for Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie, but so much creamier.  I'm now a little worried about having an ice cream maker in the house knowing this sort of deliciousness is at my fingertips.  This recipe however, was not as easy breezy as the very berry frozen yogurt.  The frozen yogurt literally took 10 minutes to put together and pour into the machine.  The decadent chocolate ice cream took about 45 minutes to prepare and then 2 - 2 1/2 hours of chilling in time in the fridge before it was ready to go into the machine.  It was worth the effort and the wait.   

Now clearly, I need to hit the gym....so I can eat more ice cream.

Decadent Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from Cuisinart.com

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean (I omitted and added additional vanilla extract)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa (if you use good quality cocoa, you can easily use only 1/2 cup)
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used 1 1/2 tsp)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 6 ounces)

Combine milk and cream in a medium sauce pan and heat on low.  Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a knife and place the seeds and vanilla bean pod into the milk/cream mixture and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.  Discard vanilla bean.  Because I omitted the vanilla bean step I simply brought my milk/cream mixture to a simmer while I was preparing the remaining ingredients.

In a medium bowl combine sugar, cocoa, eggs, yolk and vanilla extract and mix on low with hand mixer until mix until thick.  Remove 1 cup of the hot milk/cream mixture and slowly stream into the egg mixture while mixing on low speed.  Place chopped chocolate into the remaining hot milk/cream mixture in the pan and stir until melted.  Stream in the egg mixture into the pan.  Turn heat to low and cook mixture, stirring constantly, until thickened, resembling a pudding, about 10 minutes.   Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a medium/large bowl and cover surface of the mixture with plastic wrap so that no air touches the mixture.  Refrigerate until completely cooled, about 2 hours.

Pour the chilled custard into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer instructions.

Yields 1 1/2 quarts.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Very Berry Frozen Yogurt

My kitchen cabinets are at maximum capacity.  Even the cabinets above the stove and fridge are stuffed to the brim with kitchen stuff.  For a long time Hubby has been saying he thinks we should get a bread maker.  My response is, "Sure, as long as we can store it in your office, because the kitchen is full!"  I try to avoid buying any new kitchen appliances as tempting as they may be.  I've had my eye on a nice panini press for a while now.  And heck, I wouldn't mind a bread maker.  But there simply is no room. 

I succumbed to temptation this weekend.  Hubby and I went to Costco on Friday evening to stock up for the long weekend.  Though our kitchen cabinets are overflowed, our fridge and freezer were pretty bare.  We bought shrimp, chicken, baby back ribs, organic ground beef, an assortment of veggies, a bag of pears and fresh blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.  And magically an ice cream maker ended up in our cart.  A 1 1/2 quart Cuisinart ice cream maker (for only $30).  It was our fun item.  Everyone needs a fun item for a holiday weekend.  And just like that I forgot all about the fact this new device would have no home in our kitchen.  I kept thinking about all the fabulous ice cream recipes I've seen on various food blogs.  How these food bloggers just quick whip a batch of home made ice cream and serve it alongside some other tasty baked goodie.  Is it really that easy?

The answer is yes.  It's easy to forget that you have no room in the kitchen and it's even easier to make your own home made frozen treats.  After flipping through the Cuisinart recipe book that came with our new purchase, we decided on Very Berry Frozen Yogurt.  Truth be told, it wasn't my first choice....but Hubby is all pro healthy and thought we should avoid the calorie laden ice cream.  I decided to go along with it...all the while plotting out what decadent ice cream I would make on the second go round with our new toy.  Fittingly, I will be making the "Decadent Chocolate Ice Cream".

The very berry frozen yogurt turned out good.  It's not "soft serve" style frozen  yogurt.  When it came out of the ice cream maker it was the consistency of a thick smoothie.  The recipe recommends freezing the finished product for 2 hours to get a firmer consistency.  When frozen overnight, the yogurt was very firm and had a texture a lot like sorbet.  It would be great to make these into popsicles.  The berry flavor was awesome and the end product wasn't too tart.  It was a nice treat after our dinner of barbecued baby back ribs, cole slaw and cornbread.  Very refreshing, light and delicious.

More frozen treats to appear here soon.  Permanent home for the ice cream maker....TBD.

Very Berry Frozen Yogurt
adapted from cuisinart.com

2 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
4 ounces blueberries
4 ounces raspberries
4 ounces blackberries

Combine the yogurt, milk and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix with a hand mixer 1-2 minutes and sugar is completely dissolved and set aside.  Puree berries in a blender or food processor and strain through a mesh strainer to remove seeds.  Pour strained berry puree into the yogurt mixture and mix on low speed until fully combined.  Pour into ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturers instructions.  The frozen yogurt is very soft (the consistency of a smoothie) when it comes out of the ice cream maker.  Transfer to a plastic container and freeze for 2 hours for a thicker consistency. 

Yields 1 1/2 quarts

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms

For a good portion of my life, I didn't like mushrooms.  I don't remember what changed but some magic thing happened and I started liking mushrooms sometime in my 20's.  I love the earthy, meaty, yet delicate flavor of these fungi.  Mushrooms are a great package to present other flavors.  My family makes a stuffed mushroom that is to die for.  Really it is.  These mushrooms are the first to go when served at a party.  They contain bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, onions and the ingredient that takes them into the "to die for" category....mayonnaise.  Oh yeah!  Don't turn your nose up.  It's pure indulgence and deliciousness.  Someday these "deadly" mushrooms will make an appearance on The Ginger Snap Girl. 

In the meantime I have another stuffed mushroom to share.  The Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushroom.  To be honest, it's very similar to the stuffed mushroom my family makes, subbing out the bacon for ground beef.  Now, what would really be delicious is making this a bacon cheeseburger stuffed mushroom.  Mmmmm.

Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb large mushrooms, white or cremini
1/3 pound of ground beef
3/4 tsp Lawerys Seasoning Salt
1/3 cup of finely diced white onions, reserve a couple of tablespoons for garnish
1/4 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise

Remove stems from mushrooms and discard.  Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel.  Place mushrooms in the basket of steamer and steam for 8-10 minutes to release the mushroom's liquid.  Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non stick cooking spray and set aside. 

Brown ground beef in a non stick skillet.  Season beef with seasoning salt halfway through the cooking process.  Once beef is cooked, drain off the fat and place ground beef in a medium bowl to cool.  Once beef is room temperature, stir in onions and mayonnaise.  You only need to use enough mayonnaise for the mixture to stick together to form a filling to be stuffed inside the mushrooms. 

Remove mushrooms from steamer and place topside down on foil lined baking sheet, placing about 1 inch apart.  Generously fill each mushroom with the beef mixture.  Don't be shy and pile it high.  I use my fingers to pack the filling in the mushrooms.  Sprinkle filled mushrooms with grated cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.  Garnish with reserved diced onions and serve.
Note:  For an even cheesier cheeseburger stuffed mushroom you can also add grated cheddar cheese in the filling mixture to your taste.  Just add enough mayonnaise so the mixture sticks together.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sweet Meslissa Sundays: Peanut Praline

Redemption!  I successfully made brittle.  Last time I attempted Melissa Murphy's brittle recipe it was a failure.  Many of the other SMS bakers have struggled with her recipe too which resulted in seeking out alternative recipes.  Hanaa has a brittle recipe that has worked really well for her and Margot tried a similar recipe that was also a success.  Like Tess of Cookin' Chemist, I decided to use Margot's recipe (minus the cayenne pepper) and low and behold, the product was a tasty, perfectly edible and delicious brittle.

So what does brittle have to do with Peanut Praline?  Melissa Murphy suggests grinding up homemade brittle to use as a praline topping for ice cream.  It's a brilliant idea.  I took half the brittle and broke into large pieces and placed it inside a large ziploc bag.  I zipped the bag, placed it on top of a cutting board and used my meat mallet to pulverize the brittle, leaving a few small pieces for extra crunch.  It's a wonderful ice cream topping.  My only regret is I didn't have chocolate ice cream at home, so I had to go with vanilla.  The praline adds a caramel, salty, cinnamon flavor with crunchy texture that takes plain ice cream to another level.   Luckily I have lots of left over praline so I can try it with other ice cream flavors.

Thanks to Ruby of I Dream of Baking for hosting this week's recipe. To see how other SMS bakers did this week click here.

Peanut Brittle
by Margot at Effort to Deliciousness adapted from Allrecipes.com and About.com
1 cup sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
1 ½ cup peanuts
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the baking soda, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl and set aside. Also set aside the two tablespoons of butter.

Combine the sugar, salt, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook the candy mixture, stirring frequently, until the thermometer reads 275 degrees, then add the peanuts and stir to combine. Keep cooking, still stirring frequently, until the thermometer reads 300 degrees.

Once the thermometer reaches 300 degrees, remove the pan from heat; immediately stir in butter and the baking soda/spice mixture. Pour the candy onto the prepared sheet and spread with a greased spatula. Cool the brittle completely and then break into pieces, either by hand or with a knife on a cutting board.

Friday, May 20, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Bacon Egg and Asparagus Salad

I dig the photo.  I didn't dig the salad as much as the photo.  To be fair, I did not execute this recipe as written by Dorie Greenspan.  It was sort of close.  Ok, not really.  I made a lot of substitutions based on what I had in the house. I used red wine vinegar and olive oil in the dressing instead of champagne vinegar and walnut oil.  I used romaine lettuce instead of mesclun or baby greens.  And lastly, I used croutons instead of toasted hazelnuts (not because I wanted to, but because I burned the hazelnuts beyond recognition in the oven).  But the star ingredients in this salad were prepared (mostly) as directed....the bacon, egg and asparagus.  The asparagus is a bright and refreshing addition to the salad and the bacon....is just delicious. 

The thing I was most on fence about was the egg....I love me a nice fried egg every once in a while where the runny rich yolk spills out over the plate to be sopped up with bites of bacon and toast.  The egg in this salad was only mildly runny, but I wasn't really digging it on my salad.  Honestly, I should have known better.  My husband is keen to remind that when we visited Paris several years ago, I got the brilliant idea I would order a pizza with a sunnyside egg on top.  Not good and I ended up feeling sick (which I blamed on the jet lag, insisting the egg was fine).  With 2 egg dinner mishaps, I think I'll limit my runny egg intake strictly to breakfast.

Overall the salad was just fine, but I'm pretty sure my substitutions robbed this salad of it's true potential.  I'm curious to see how the other French Fridays with Dorie guys and gals liked this recipe.  Head over the FFwD website to see their results.     

Even though this recipe wasn't a home run for me, I can say I have had great success with a number of recipes from Dorie's cookbook, Around My French Table, and think this is a cookbook everyone should have in their arsenal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Bars

Simple and sweet crumble bars.  Short and sweet post.

I have a few crumble bar recipes in my repertoire, but I seem to keep coming back to this one.  It's all about the oats.  These crumble bars are a lot like an oatmeal cookie with fruit filling.  I always think I'm going to use a different recipe, but in the end the oats lure me in with their chewy, warm goodness. Paired with sweet and tangy homemade strawberry rhubarb preserves....it had to be done.  This bar isn't fancy, but more importantly, it is tasty.  And like most desserts, it is perfect for breakfast (especially warmed for a few seconds in the microwave).

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Bars
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Apple-Cherry Crumble Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup strawberry rhubarb preserves (or your favorite preserves)

In a large bowl whisk together oats, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few larger clumps remaining. Press 4 cups of oat mixture into the bottom of a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish. Whisk preserves in a small bowl until they are easily spreadable. Top oat mixture with the preserves. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture evenly on top. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely in dish on a wire rack. Cut into bars store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

I'm all about appetizers.  Appetizers can make up a meal as far I'm concerned. The more flavors I can sample, the happier I am.  We had an appetizer lunch on Sunday.  Our lunch consisted of Boursin cheese and multi-grain crackers, crudite plate (a fancy word for veggie tray) with ranch dressing and tomato basil bruschetta with freshly baked roasted garlic Italian bread from La Brea Bakery.

Bruschetta is a roasted, toasted or grilled bread, typically rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper.  I didn't realize it was that simple.  For most of my life I thought bruschetta was grilled or toasted bread topped with a delicious tomato, basil, balsamic mixture.  That's the way my family always made it. 

Tomato basil bruschetta is an incredibly simple dish to make, yet the flavors make your mouth sing.  It's key to use ripe tomatoes.  Cherry or grape tomatoes are my go to tomatoes.  They have a ton of flavor, right up there with a home grown tomato.  Cherry tomatoes can be a bit tedious to cut up, but the effort is worth it based on the amazing flavor packed into these petite little tomatoes. 

Sea salt, pepper, aged balsamic vinegar, a bit of sugar, a splash of olive oil and freshly chopped basil bring these tomatoes to life.  Freshly toasted bread is the perfect vehicle to soak up the balsamic goodness.  Freshly grated parmesan cheese is the ultimate finishing touch.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

2 cups diced grape or cherry tomatoes
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons of good quality aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of good fruity extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil
1/4 cup finely grated parmigano regiano cheese
Freshly baked baguette or bread of your choice
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half (optional)

Squeeze excess juice and seeds out of the diced tomatoes and discard.  Place tomatoes in a medium bowl and season lightly with sea salt and pepper and stir.  Add sugar and stir.  Stir in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Let the tomatoes marinate for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour.  Just before serving stir in basil.

This recipe is very flexible.  If you like more balsamic, by all means, use more. 
While the tomato mixture is marinating, prepare your bread.  Pre-heat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Slice baguette at an angle in 1/4 inch thickness.  If you like, you can brush the slices lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place bread in the oven and bake for 6-7 minutes.  Turn bread over and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes until lightly toasted.  I prefer my bread just slightly toasted, not crunchy.  But you can adjust your baking time according to your preference of toastiness.
When bread comes out of the oven, take the cut side of one half of the garlic and rub it over the warm bread. 

You can serve it family style or pre-assemble the bruschetta.
1. Family style: Place tomato basil mixture in a serving bowl and arrange bread on a plate.  Place parmesan cheese in a small bowl and have your guests assemble their bruschetta, topping a piece of bread with the tomato basil mixture and sprinkling with parmesan cheese

2. Pre-assemble:  If you decide to pre-assemble them take into consideration that the tomato mixture will soften the bread.  I don't recommend this approach unless the bruschetta will be eaten immediately.  To pre-assemble top each piece of bread with a generous spoonful of tomato basil mixture and finish with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

I'm a little ashamed to admit that in our 2 person household a decent amount of food goes to waste.  My ambitions with food are bigger than reality.  I'm trying to make an effort to use up the ingredients in my refrigerator that are calling out to be prepared and eaten before they die a slow death.  Some ingredients are harder to find uses for than others.  One item that I can't seem to use up is Greek yogurt. I buy the big tub-o-yogurt from Costco and usually use half of the container, at best.  Then there is the pantheon vegetables that never see the light day and go from the fridge straight to the trash can.  Don't get me wrong, I buy them with the full intention of making some yummy dish.  But somehow life intervenes and those dishes I had big plans for never come to fruition. 

Another item I struggle with is buttermilk.  I don't believe I have ever used an entire container of buttermilk. Ever. Even the smaller container. Last weekend I bought a quart of low fat buttermilk to make one of my favorite pies, Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie to bring to Mother's Day lunch.  It's a fabulous pie, by the way.  Especially if you make it with a graham cracker crust.  Anyway, given my track record with buttermilk I didn't even think about how else I could use up the remainder.  I sadly just made the assumption it would see the depths of the trash at some point. But my Hubby said, hey, why don't you make that baked chicken with buttermilk?  It's an Ellie Krieger recipe where you soak chicken tenders in buttermilk and then coat them with crushed cornflakes.  Great idea!  I haven't made the chicken yet, but it's on the menu for tomorrow evening.

You are probably wondering how all this ties to Blueberry Muffins?  Hubbies suggestion about the chicken got me thinking what else I could use the buttermilk for.  That this buttermilk did not have to be destined for waste.  So I went in search of options last night.  I pulled 3 random cookbooks from my small collection and started thumbing through them.  The perfect recipe appeared in the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook.  Blueberry Streusel Muffins.  I had all the ingredients in house, including buttermilk, blueberries (left over from last week's pie and were begging to be used), lemon zest.....Perfect!

And it was the perfect way to start off a Saturday.  The muffins are easy to make.  The buttermilk makes them incredibly tender and they are topped with a crunchy cinnamon streusel.  Delicious.  It would make a perfect accompaniment to a brunch menu.

Look how tender it is!

I loved the muffin base, so light and moist.  Though I enjoyed the streusel, I think I slightly prefer this muffin crumble topping.  Ina's muffin with Melissa's crumble will be my next blueberry muffin to try.

Maybe you have some buttermilk in your refrigerator begging to be used?

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

Makes 20 muffins
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk, shaken
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 extra-large eggs
2 cups fresh blueberries (2 half pints)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line muffin tins with paper liners.

Sift or whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.  In a small bowl whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, lemon zest, and eggs together. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing just until blended. Note: I added a couple extra tablespoons of buttermilk because the batter was quite thick.  Gently fold in the blueberries. Do not over mix batter.  Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full of batter.  Top with streusel topping.  See recipe below.
Streusel Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the butter is in very small pieces. Pour into a bowl and rub with your fingers until crumbly. Spoon 1 tablespoon of streusel on top of each muffin. Note: a tablespoon seems like a lot, but it's just right when the muffin bakes up. 

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.   

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini

I'm really an organized person who is trapped inside the body of a procrastinator.  Or maybe I'm on a procrastinator trapped inside the body of an organized person?  Planning ahead isn't my strong suit, especially when it comes to meals.  Even though there is reward in pre-planning, relieving a great amount of stress, I can't seem to bring myself to do it on a consistent basis.  On the occasions when I am organized, I write out a list of what meals we will have each night (usually on one of those free notepads that realtors leave on your front door step) and stick it on the fridge. 

Some of the meals are more like general ideas that I keep ingredients on hand for. Like salad fixings, meat and shrimp for grilling, or pasta. Other meals, like Spring Pasta are made fresh that evening or Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole and the meat sauce for the stuffed zucchini are made ahead and then frozen for future use.

Stuffed zucchini is easy to make and it's satisfying and delicious.  You get your meat and vegetables all wrapped up into one nice little package.  The zucchini pairs nicely with a hearty meat sauce.  I serve 2 zucchini boats as a main dish and it can be rounded out with a nice dinner salad or a crusty piece of fresh bread. 

If  you're leery of zucchini, it's a very mild vegetable and very versatile.  It's taken me years to ease my Hubby into eating more and more vegetables and zucchini has turned out to be one of his favorites.  We eat it at least once a week and sometimes more, when it is in season. 

The key to making this dish easy is making your meat sauce/filling ahead.  I like to make a large batch on a weekend and portion it out into ziploc bags or storage containers and freeze it.  The recipe below makes 12 cups which I divided up into 4 three cup portions.  It's about time for another batch because I just used my last one up for this zucchini. 

Give this tasty dish a try!

Stuffed Zucchini
Serves 4 (as a main dish)

4 small to medium zucchini
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of freshly chopped basil or parsley (optional)
2-3 cups of your favorite meat sauce (see my recipe below)
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 450.  Spray 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Slice ends off zucchini.  Cut zucchini down the middle lengthwise.  Use a small spoon to remove zucchini seeds and pulp and hollow out zucchini leaving a well to place the filling in, leaving at least 1/4 inch of zucchini on each side.  Set aside zucchini pulp and finely chop.  Squeeze out liquid from the pulp and combine in a medium bowl with meat sauce. 

In a small bowl combine panko and parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange zucchini boats in the baking dish.  You may need to trim down zucchini to fit in the dish.  Lightly salt each zucchini boat and then fill each with a generous portion of meat sauce.  I like to pile it high.  Sprinkle each boat generously with the breadcrumb mixture and lightly drizzle olive over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until zucchini is tender and breadcrumb mixture is lightly browned.  Top with fresh basil and serve two boats per person.

Hearty Meat Sauce:

2 lbs ground beef
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (removed from casing)
1 1/2 red peppers, diced in 1/4 inch pieces (yellow or orange pepper works well too)
1 large onion, diced in 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 lbs of cremini or white mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
55 ounce jar of your favorite marina sauce (I used Ragu Traditional)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large pot (such as an 8 quart pot) or dutch oven on medium high heat.  Saute red pepper and onion for 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and continue cooking for 7 - 10 minutes until mushrooms release their water and vegetables are lightly browned.  Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.  Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large non stick skillet to medium high heat and add ground beef and sausage.  Generously season meat with salt and pepper and brown meat until just cooked through.  Drain fat from meat and add meat to the large pot with the vegetables.  Add marinara sauce and dried basil and stir to mix thoroughly. Turn heat up until sauce just comes to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer sauce for 30 minutes, uncovered.

If you plan to freeze sauce, cool it and place desired amount in freezer ziploc bags, removing any air.  To thaw, take sauce out of the freezer the night before you plan to use it and place in the refrigerator.