Category Archives: Sides

Southwestern Pulled Pork

We make pulled pork frequently at our house. It’s great because it feeds a crowd, it’s cheap, it’s versatile, and everyone LOVES it. I almost always do it in the slow cooker which makes it great for hosting since it leaves the oven free to do other things.

Because we make pulled pork so often I’ve tried a number of different recipes to keep things fresh. Recipes for ribs work amazingly with pork shoulder as a substitute. (It’s also called “pork butt”. Shoulder/butt – it’s all the same thing here.)

Most recipes I’ve found when searching are for BBQ Pulled Pork. Which is all well and good if BBQ is what you’re looking for. And there are endless variations on BBQ but sometimes I want something a little different. I need a recipe that will go well with southwestern flavors – chiles and lime and cilantro and all that.

After a little digging online I created this dry rub. I’ve made it three times now, tweaking the ratios until I felt I had it right . And oh man it IS. This pulled pork could be used for sandwiches, on nachos, in tacos or burritos, wherever. It is soooo good and so easy.

My favorite way to serve this pulled pork is with Pioneer Woman’s Cilantro-Jalapeno Slaw.  The recipe as written below is slightly modified from hers but I’ve posted the link above if you want to check out the original.  She was the first food blogger I started following years ago and is one of the reasons I started this blog.  I have both of her cookbooks and love them to death.  I actually created this dry rub to go specifically with this slaw.  It’s that good.

Here’s what we need to start.  1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 1 Tbsp Black Pepper, 1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Pepper Powder, 1 Tbsp Ground Coriander, 1 tsp Ground Mustard, and 1 tsp Ground Cumin.  That’s our dry rub right there.  Just mix that all up in a small bowl…

…and rub it all over your well trimmed pork shoulder.  It’s okay if not all of it sticks, it will get picked up in the juices later on.

Now, this is half a pork shoulder.  About 3 1/2 to 4 lbs.  The ones you buy at the store are normally bone-in, 7-8 lb monsters.  I only ever do half at a time and put the other half in the freezer for later.  A whole shoulder never seems to cook up as well in the slow cooker, I don’t know why.  (Even half is still a ton of meat though!  Unless you’re serving guests you’re still probably gonna have leftovers.)

  Now, just set the crockpot on low if you want it to be done in about 8 hours.  Set it on high if you need it done in about 5.  The pork is done when you can stick a couple forks in there and easily shred the meat.  It should just fall apart.  (But not disintegrate.  That’s what will happen if you leave it in for MUCH longer than it needs.  You want to cook it long enough to break down most, but not all, of the connective tissue.)

Okay, you can totally tell this is not my shot because the photo quality is like 1000x better than any of my pictures.  No, this shot comes directly from  I make my slaw slightly differently from hers in that I use only the red cabbage (in the convenient bags) and I chop up my cilantro instead of leaving it pretty much whole like she does.

In about the time it takes to pull the meat and grab some buns out of the cupboard (gluten free or otherwise!), you can pull together your slaw.  That being said, cole slaw is really much better if you make it a couple hours in advance and let the flavors come together before you eat it.   So do that.  If you think of it.

Just mix up some mayonnaise, milk, white vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl (see recipe below for exact amounts).  In a larger bowl, empty out a 10oz bag of shredded red cabbage, add a chopped jalapeno, and two big handfuls of cilantro, chopped (most of a bunch – you want a lot this time) and toss.  Pour the dressing over and mix to coat.

Pile some pork and some slaw on a bun and you’re done.  I was so starving and going mad from the wonderful smell permeating the house that I couldn’t be bothered to take a picture before this moment.  Even that shot at the beginning was just taken from the other side of this half eaten sandwich.  Insanely delicious.  This pork would also be great in any number of southwest flavored dishes like tacos, burritos, nachos, you name it.  So so good.

So what are you waiting for?  Go make some!

And enjoy!

Southwest Pulled Pork Sandwiches

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp Kosher Salt

1 Tbsp Black Pepper

1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Pepper Powder

1 Tbsp Coriander

1 tsp Ground Mustard

1 tsp Ground Cumin

Half a pork shoulder, well trimmed (a little over 3 lbs after trimming)

Sandwich rolls (GF or regular)

Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw (recipe below)


Halve your pork shoulder and trim off any large sections of fat.  Don’t worry about the bone if you’re using that half.  You can remove it at the end when you pull the meat.  Wrap up the other half in plastic wrap, put in a ziplock and store in the freezer for future use.

Put prepared meat in the crockpot.

Combine first seven ingredients in a small bowl.  Rub all over meat until all surfaces are coated.  Set the crockpot to Low if you want to eat in about 8 hours, High if you need it sooner (about 5 hours).

After the requisite amount of time, remove the lid and try prying the meat apart with two forks.  If it shreds easily it’s done.  If not, put the lid back on and turn it up to High if it was on Low before.  (Crock pots are not opened until the food is done, ideally, because they don’t regain temperature quickly, hence the changing of the setting.)

Shred meat and serve on buns with Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw.

Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw

(adapted slightly from

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

a dash of cayenne pepper

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 10oz bag Shredded Red Cabbage

1 jalapeno, chopped

2 large handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped (most of a bunch)


Combine milk, mayo, vinegar, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, jalapeno, and cilantro.  Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.

Serve over top of pulled pork on buns (or any way you like!)

Serves a crowd (at least 8)


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Refried Black Beans

I’ve been making these a lot lately.  They are super quick and easy and go well with pretty much any southwestern or Mexican food you may be having.  I made them this morning, as I have most weekends this summer, to go in breakfast burritos.   Quick, easy, cheap, versatile, AND healthy?  Yes, please.

Here’s everything you need:  1 can of black beans, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano, and 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro.  This oregano is from my herb garden.  I don’t have  Mexican oregano, and I’m honestly not even sure what the difference is, but if you have some and you want to try it please do so!

And let me know how it’s different 🙂

Start by heating your olive oil in a small pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, cumin, cayenne, and chopped oregano and toast for a minute to bring out their flavors.

Add the entire can of black beans (liquid and all), and bring up to a simmer.

Using the back of a spoon, mash about half the beans.

Let it simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated away and your beans are the consistency you like.  Here mine are almost done.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like mine bone dry so keep a watch on them.  It only takes a few minutes.

Top with some fresh cilantro and serve!  You can, of course, chop up your cilantro before sprinkling it on (I usually do but leaving the leaves whole makes for a prettier presentation, I think)  We do these in breakfast burritos, as I said, but I also put them out on “make your own taco” night.  I also love them alongside my southwestern pulled pork (recipe coming soon!).

This recipe is very versatile and gladly accepts any number of alterations.  As it happened, I had a couple hot cherry peppers from the garden just begging to be included so I chopped up half of this guy right here and added it in with the spices.  You could add some chopped onion or red bell pepper in the beginning before the garlic, you could vary the spices, you could top it with some crumbled queso fresco or sour cream at the end – whatever!  Cooking’s great like that, you can always mix it up and make it yours.


Refried Black Beans

1 (14oz) can black beans

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro


Heat oil in small pot over medium heat.  Add garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, and oregano and toast for one minute.

Add in entire can of beans, including liquid.  Bring up to a simmer.

While simmering, mash about half the beans.  Stir occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated away and beans look “refried”.

Top with fresh cilantro.

Serves 4.

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Seasoned Sweet Potato Fries with Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

So let me just start by saying I’ve always said I’m not a fan of sweet potato fries.  And then I made these.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod were these good.  Not good – AWESOME.  I loved them so much I made them two nights in a row.  And kind of ate that entire plate right there for dinner last night.  S’okay.  Sweet potatoes are good for us right?

To start, grab a couple sweet potatoes.  Obviously there are four sitting here.  I only used two.  That’s all that would fit in one layer on the baking sheet.  We’re gonna slice these up into fries.  As thick as you like ’em.  I left the skins on but you can peel them first if the skin skeeves you out.  I did some a little thicker, some thinner.  We’ll say I was experimenting and not that my knife skills leave something to be desired.

Yeah…we’ll go with that.

Here my fries are all cut, tossed with canola oil, and in the oven (because I forgot to take a picture before they went in).  I also obviously forgot that copious amounts of steam do not a clear picture make.  Duh.

That’s better.  They’re in there at 400 degrees by the way.  For about 25 minutes or so, tossing them around about halfway through if you have the presence of mind to do so.  I often don’t.

While our fries are roasting let’s make our seasoning mix.  The ramekin in the middle is our mix.  Super simple – 1 teaspoon EACH sugar and Kosher Salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a dash of Ancho Chile Pepper.  (Not to be confused or substituted with Cayenne which is much hotter.)  Ancho Chile Pepper is smoky, a bit hot, and just a little sweet.  It doesn’t give the fries a lot of heat, just pumps the flavor up a notch.  Also – do use kosher salt here, not the regular kind – the granules are bigger and provide that great texture we love on our (fake) fried foods.

Finally, for our dipping sauce, should you choose to make it.  It’s just three ingredients – pomegranate juice, honey, and butter.  I used a pomegranate/cranberry 100% juice blend because buying straight pomegranate juice???  Too rich for my blood.  Er, wallet, anyways.

Just put 1 1/2 cups juice and 2 Tbsp honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling.  Lower the heat and let simmer until the juice mixture is reduced down to a third of it’s original volume.  Just leave it alone until it looks like you’ve only got about half a cup left.  (This takes a bit.  Maybe half an hour?  Can’t remember exactly.  I made this when I was not pressed for time.  So just in case, it’s probably best if you start this first before cutting the sweet potatoes up.)  Remove from the heat and swirl in 2 Tbsp butter.  The resulting pomegranate syrup will thicken as it cools.

Salty and sweet, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.  Yummy yummy yummy.  I will be making these often.  Enjoy!

Seasoned Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium sweet potatoes/yams (a little over a pound)

2 Tbsp canola oil

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

a dash of Ancho Chile Pepper (found in the “gourmet” spices section)

Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

1 1/2 cups Pomegranate Cranberry 100% Juice Blend (I used Wegmans brand.  Ocean Spray has one too.)

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp butter


For sauce:

Combine juice and honey in a small saucepan.  Heat on medium-high until boiling.  Lower heat and allow to simmer until juice is reduced down to about 1/2 cup.  This takes some time, maybe half an hour.  Remove from heat and swirl in butter.

For fries:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut fries to your preferred thickness (I liked them best cut thick like steak fries).

On a baking sheet, toss potatoes with oil and spread out into one layer.

Bake for 25 minutes, turning with a spatula halfway through cooking time.

While fries are roasting, make seasoning mix.  Combine sugar, kosher salt, cinnamon, and ancho chile pepper powder in a small bowl.

Toss fries with seasoning and serve with pomegranate dipping sauce.

Makes 4 (hefty) servings.

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Thai Coconut Sweet Potato Mash

A couple nights ago I told my husband I was craving Thai food.  If you live in a major metropolitan area that probably sounds like a pretty normal thing.  You can get Thai food everywhere nowadays…except here.  Where we live we have ONE Thai restaurant.  So when I say I want Thai, I’m pretty much saying I want to go to THAT restaurant.  It’s a nice little place.  It’s downtown, small, quiet, good food, fast service.  But going there with four kids?  Yeah, no thanks.  Taking toddlers into a restaurant is almost invariably a bad idea and we have two of them.

We hardly ever go out for exactly that reason so I figured I’d better devise something to make at home to satisfy the craving.  I woke up with the recipe for these sweet potatoes in my head yesterday morning.  I usually wake up thinking about cooking.  Or eating.  FYI.

These are not your basic sweet potatoes.  In other words, they’re not just sweet.  They are much more complex with a really nice flavor balance.  Salty and sweet, savory with just a hint of spiciness.  Mmm.  Comfort food to the max.  And so easy to make.  After three doctors’ visits in three days, each with all the kids in tow, I needed these big time.

And a stiff drink.  But that’s a story for another day.

Here’s what you need:  2 medium sweet potatoes (yes, they’re actually yams), butter, salt, sugar (not shown ’cause it forgot to show up for picture day), lime juice, cayenne pepper, coconut milk, and sweetened flaked coconut.

First, peel and large dice up your sweet potatoes.  Taking the time to do this in the beginning saves you a lot of cooking time in the end.

Next, throw them in a pot of COLD water.  (It’s important you don’t throw raw potatoes straight into boiling water.  Doing so shocks them into dumping their starch into the water and you end up with gluey mashed potatoes.)  Turn the heat up to high and bring them to a boil.  Once boiling, turn down the heat and let simmer about 10-15 minutes or until a fork slides easily into them.

Strain out the liquid…

…and throw them into a bowl.  Add 1/2 a stick of butter, a dash of cayenne…

…a teaspoon of salt…

…two tablespoons sugar…

… 1/2 cup of coconut milk (you want to shake it up first, it tends to be lumpy in the can)…

…and 2 tsp lime juice.  You can use the bottled kind if you like.  You don’t even need half a lime’s worth of juice.  I just needed to use this lime before it turned into a green rock in my fridge.

And mash it all up.  You can use a potato masher if you have one but a fork works just as well.

Top with shredded coconut for even more coconuty wonderfulness.  You could also toast the coconut before adding it on if you’re feeling ambitious…which I obviously was not last night.  We had it with very simple pork chops and spinach and cranberry salad with balsamic glaze.  So beautiful and mouth wateringly yummy.  I’m excited I get to eat it again today for lunch.  And it came together so quickly and easily – doesn’t get any better than that!


Thai Coconut Sweet Potato Mash

2 medium sweet potatoes/yams (about 2 lbs)

4 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp lime juice

1 tsp salt

dash of cayenne pepper

Sweetened Flaked Coconut for garnish (optional)


Peel and large dice sweetpotatoes.  Add to a pot of cold water.  Set over high heat until boiling.

Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes, until sweet potatoes are fork tender.  Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine drained sweet potatoes with butter, coconut milk, sugar, salt, lime juice, and cayenne pepper.  Mash to combine.

Garnish with flaked coconut and serve hot.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Avocado Corn Salsa

I flip flopped over what to call this for a couple of days.  You know that sweet corn salsa they have at Chipotle?  Well, this isn’t that.  But it has many similar elements.  Guacamole?  Salad?  Is it one of those?

This doesn’t really fit neatly into any of those categories.  But whatever it is it’s GOOD.  We used it as a filling for burritos the other night and it was perfect.  With a little seasoned chicken or steak or pork and maybe some cheese.  Yum.  Is it dinner time yet???

Here’s what you need:  Two ripe avocados, four plum tomatoes, a handful of cilantro (less than the bunch shown here), a lime, about 1/2 cup of red onion (that little bit was all I had left or I would have used more), a box of frozen corn (thawed), a can of diced green chiles, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar.  These are all ingredients I use frequently so it was easy to just throw this together with the tacos we were already having for dinner.  Well stocked pantry = Happiness.

Let’s start with our box of thawed corn and the can of chopped green chiles.  If I were feeling more ambitious I would grab a couple of Poblanos and put them on the grill to blacken and remove the skins.  Boil some fresh corn and chop them all up.  Oh wait.  I would do that if I were feeling more ambitious and it were JULY.  As it stands, fresh corn is gone and grilling in the mosquitoey dark is not fun.

Add in your chopped red onion.

Grab your microplane zester and zest a lime, being careful to take just the limey green zest and not the bitter, white pith underneath.  Oh, and also being careful not to zest your poor pinkie finger.  Ouch.

Look at all that green loveliness in there.  Once your lime is zested, cut it in half and squeeze all that wonderful juice into your bowl.  And for God’s sake, if you just zested your poor pinkie, do NOT use that same hand to squeeze acidic juice out of your lime.  Yaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuughhh!

Ahem…now…grab your salt and pepper and season to taste.  How much?  A pinch maybe?  I don’t usually measure salt and pepper.  Err on the side of too little and then taste.  I prefer Kosher Salt because it’s more difficult to accidentally over-salt your food.  And freshly ground pepper is great if you have a grinder.  If not, no big.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.

And two tablespoons of good olive oil.

Chop up some fresh cilantro.  I never measure cilantro.  I find for most things, as much as I can tear off the bunch with one hand works just fine.

Chop up your tomatoes and add them as well.

And finally, let’s add in those beautiful avocados.  I love when I cut them open on their most perfect day.  Just ripe and soft but not turning brown inside yet.  It’s a short window.  That perfect day is approximately the day they turn black.  And maybe a day and a half after that at most.  It’s all downhill from there.  If you can, try to find the greenest Haas avocados in the produce section.  Often when you buy a black one it looks like it will be good,  but then you get it home and find it’s all brown and abused looking inside.  No thanks.

Anyway –  easiest way to remove the pit without sacrificing any of the precious green stuff is to (carefully) slam your chef’s knife into the pit, exert a little bit of pressure, and then rotate the pit out.  Then (again, carefully), bang the handle of your knife into the edge of the counter and the pit will release and fall wherever you have planned for it to go.  The garbage disposal is not the best place.  Word to the wise.

Use a spoon to separate your beautiful avocado halves from their skins.  Discard the skins.  Chop them up into bite size pieces and add them into your salsa.

Oh, and, I should probably mention now, just like guacamole, this is something you want to make shortly before you’re going to serve it.  The second you cut into an avocado, oxidation begins to turn it brown.  It’s not like it will be inedible but it will be unappetizing after a few hours time.  The lime juice helps slow that process, and certainly covering it well by pressing plastic wrap down directly onto the salsa will help – but avocado brownage is as inevitable as death and taxes…so…don’t put off until tomorrow what you can eat today.  All right, I’m done with cheap, throw away advice.  You’re on your own now.

And there we have it!  So colorful, so flavorful, and so amazingly good for you!  You could eat this with chips, in burritos, or with a spoon.  It’s just splendid.  All the flavors play off each other so nicely.  The creamy mild avocados, the sweet corn, tart lime, pungent red onions, firm, juicy tomatoes, bright fresh cilantro, the chiles adding just a touch of heat.  Mmm.  Simply awesome.  Go make some tonight!

Avocado Corn Salsa

1 box frozen corn

1 (4oz) can diced green chiles

4 plum tomatoes, diced

2 ripe avocados, diced

1/2 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 lime, zested and juiced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sugar

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and serve promptly.

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Baked Italian Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts

There are two reasons I put this lovely little tomato dish together last night.  First and foremost – we are DROWNING in tomatoes.  We have so many Roma tomatoes I could eat five for every meal for at least a month and they would still be coming out our ears.  We’ve done soup, pasta sauce, salsa, salads, and sandwiches – and we needed something new.

My brother in law told me about a Tomato Pie he had made recently with a cheesy top and traditional pie crust underneath which sounded intriguing but… I don’t know… am I the only one that doesn’t care for pie crust with savory stuff?  If there’s already a good amount of fat in a dish I’m not a fan of then wrapping it in more butter.  It seems unnecessary and I just can’t justify it calorie-wise.  I know.  Surprise!  I’m actually calorie conscious!  Anyway, that’s where the idea for this dish came from.

What was the other reason you ask?  Did you SEE that boring piece of chicken breast sitting on the plate next to my vibrant tomatoes?  Maybe not.  Maybe, in it’s terrifying whiteness it blended into the plate and you missed it.  Well it’s there.  It’s healthy and proteiny, and…yeah, that’s all I got.

The fresh tomatoes, the salty artichokes, the creamy cheese, and the crispy breadcrumbs made a nice foil to our otherwise plain Jane chicken.  I would have spooned it right over the chicken if I had had enough wherewithal at the time to do it.

Oh, and I should probably add here that the title of this recipe may be a little misleading.  This recipe is what I would call “Italian”.  To someone who lives in Italy maybe not so much.  You see, in my 29 years of life I have been to Italy exactly as many times as I’ve been to Costa Rica, England, Taiwan, and Saturn.  My “Italian” food education comes largely from what I’ve learned at the Olive Garden.  I don’t even have Food Network at home to watch Giada in action.  Sigh.  If only we could buy cable channels a la carte.  But I digress.

Let’s get started.  Slice up a bunch of tomatoes.  I’m using Romas and I think I sliced up about 20 of them into approximately 1/8” slices.

Next, liberally season tomatoes with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Grab your Italian Seasoning and shake that on liberally as well.  What the heck is even in Italian Seasoning?  I don’t know.  I just know I throw it in everything I think of as Italian.  And it works.

Now, grab your 65oz jar of artichoke hearts…

…and dice up about 1/2 cup of them.  I ❤ Sam’s Club for stuff like this.  Artichoke hearts are really expensive when you buy them in little cans.  This huge jar was like seven bucks.  Score.

Grab a bowl and add about 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese.  Or, if you happen to have just a little bit of leftover pizza cheese in a plastic tub why not use that?  School of lazy.  Summa Cum Laude.

Add in your chopped artichoke hearts (not shown ’cause I’m dumb), and shake in about 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Next, dump in a couple big spoonfuls of mayo.

And stir it all up.  Yum.  I could eat this with the spoon.  It would also make an awesome sandwich spread.  Hmm.

Spread it over your beautiful tomatoes.

And, just because we can, let’s throw on some bread crumbs.  I used the gluten free bread crumbs I keep in my freezer.  When you bake GF NEVER ever throw away crumbs!  You never know when you might be able to use them!  Oh, and, while we’re at it, let’s sprinkle on some more Italian Seasoning.  Can’t get enough of that!  (Whatever it is.)

Here it is, hot and bubbly out of the oven.

Let it rest for a few minutes, grab a slotted spoon and dig in.  You’ll definitely want that slotted spoon.  Tomatoes have a high water content and when you bake them that water slips right out.  Now, if you wanted something to absorb that water you could always throw that in the bottom first.  Some kind of bready layer would probably work.  But I didn’t want bread so a slotted spoon suits me just fine here.

Mmm.  Homey and yummy.  You may have figured out that this is a clever way of making Artichoke Dip into a healthy side dish.  No comment.  Enjoy!

Baked Italian Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts

About 4 cups Roma tomatoes, medium sliced

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Italian Seasoning to taste

1/4 cup mayo

1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese

1/3 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Artichoke Hearts, chopped

1/3 cup Bread Crumbs (gf or regular)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice tomatoes and layer in a 9×9″ baking dish.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning to taste.

In a separate bowl combine mayo, cheeses, and artichoke hearts.  Spread evenly over tomatoes.  Sprinkle bread crumbs and more Italian seasoning over top.  Bake 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Let rest a few minutes and serve with a slotted spoon.

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Zucchini Fritters with Lemon Shallot Mayo

Ahhhhh zucchini.  It wouldn’t be the end of summer without it around here.  The wonderful green squash that until just now I’ve been misspelling my whole life.  (Thanks, spell checker Z-U-C-C-H-I-N-I).  Seriously – such a versatile and nutritious vegetable…that no one else in my house will eat unless I make up clever names for the dishes they’re in.  When I make Zucchini Bread, for instance, I tell my eight year old, “I made something like banana bread.”  “What is it?”  “I told you, it’s like banana bread and it’s good.  Now eat it.”  Amazingly, she is content with that.  I am so smart.  S-M-R-T.

These fritters we lovingly refer to as “Zucchini Pancakes”.  Or just “Pancakes”, depending on who’s in the room.  They are crispy, salty, bright with lemon zest,  and yummy in a we-don’t-ever-get-to-eat-real-fried-food-at-home sort of way.  These are just shallow fried in a cast iron pan, not deep fried, but they are so so so good.  I could eat just these for dinner.  And I have.  More than once.

And the dip is super easy if you choose to make it.  They don”t really need it.  They’re so good by themselves.  But as I always say,er, think, more like – anything fried deserves a dip companion.  It just seems lonely without one.  You understand.  Anyway, you can throw it together in two minutes if you like.

Here’s what you need.  If you are making these with regular flour you do not need the Xanthan Gum.  Oh, and, pretend there’s only one zucchini there.  I shredded them both and had WAY more than the two cups I needed so the extra went to good use this morning in Zucchini Bread/Something Like Banana Bread Bread.

First, cut the end off your zucchini.

And chop it into a few lengths short enough to stand up in the top of your food processor.  I’m using the shredding attachment here.  If you don’t have a food processor you can of course just grate the zucchini manually.  It’s not hard and it doesn’t take much longer than using the machine.  I just can’t resist using my gadgets when I have the opportunity.

And shred it all up.  Like I said, you only need one zucchini.  This is both and provided much more than I needed.

Next, zest up a lemon being careful not to dig so deep that you cut into the white pith beneath.  Zest = tart goodness.  Pith = bitter and yucky awfulness.  Blech.

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out all that lovely juice.  Then pick the seeds out of the bowl that you first forgot to remove from the lemon.

Add in some cayenne pepper, just to punch up the flavor a little bit.  Not enough to make them super spicy.

And some salt.  Of course.  I keep that little bowl of kosher salt on the counter so I can throw a good three-fingered pinch in whenever I need to.

Now add in 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese.  Because what is life without cheese.  Sorry mom, my BFF and anyone else out there who can’t eat cheese.  Obviously if you can’t eat cheese, just leave it out.  Also, pour in 4 oz (1/2 cup) milk  (not shown because I’m dumb).

Add in one egg to the mix.  The one-handed egg crack, YES!  I’d like to thank Guy Fieri for showing me that trick.

Now we mix it up and add our dry ingredients.  I almost never use a separate bowl for the dry ingredients.  School of lazy right here.  I measure mine on the scale.  It’s more accurate that way and you don’t have to dirty measuring cups.  Four ounces of flour of any kind you care to use.  I’m using my GF All Purpose Flour Blend.  If you’re using regular old wheat flour it works out to about 3/4 cup.

That’s the Xanthan gum I told you not to worry about unless you are making this gluten free.  Oh, and now would be a great time to throw in the baking powder.  Not shown because the baby kept reaching for my camera while I was trying to take pictures.  Thank you for your patience.

Toss the dry ingredients together a little and then mix them all into the wet mass beneath it.

Now, grab your gallon size bottle of vegetable oil and pour in a splashy puddle’s worth into your pan.  I LOVE my cast iron pan for anything that deserves a crispy crust.  It’s gotta be something real special to drag this lady out for though… she weighs about 25 lbs.

Heat your oil over Med-Med High heat and plop in spoonfuls of batter.  They should sizzle excitedly when they hit the oil.

Fry for about 2-3 minutes per side, until they’re nice and crispy and golden, using your spatula to flatten them down into little pancakes.  More surface area = more crunchies.

When done remove your fritters to a paper towel lined plate to soak up the excess oil.  In the darkest place in your kitchen proceed to sprinkle them with more kosher salt.  THIS is where you really want/need kosher salt in your kitchen.  Regular salt just is not the same when it comes to finishing fried food.

And there we have it!  Zucchini Fritters with Lemon Shallot Mayo (so simple to make I did not bother taking pictures).  Salty, crispy, lemony, vegetable goodness.  I think I ate nine of them.  Even my eight year old ate them.  And for those of you that know my eight year old – that is a BIG THING.  Here’s the easy to print version.

Zucchini Fritters

2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 large)

4 oz milk

1 large egg

Juice and zest of one lemon

2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt plus more for sprinkling

4 oz flour (wheat or otherwise)

1 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1/2 tsp Xanthan gum (only if using gluten free flour)

Vegetable oil for frying


Remove ends from and shred one large zucchini.  In a medium bowl combine zucchini with the zest and juice of one lemon.  Add egg, milk, cheese and salt and stir to combine.  Add flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, and Xanthan Gum (if using), stirring dry ingredients together before mixing into the wet.

Heat a large heavy pan over Med-Med High heat and drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil.  Cook 2-3 minutes and flip when bottom is golden brown.  Flatten with spatula and cook 2-3 minutes more.

Remove to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Serve immediately with dip as described below, if desired.

Makes about 20 fritters.

Lemon Shallot Mayo

3/4 cup Mayonnaise (I used Hellmann’s Canola Mayo to keep the calorie count reasonable)

1 shallot, finely diced

1 Tbsp lemon juice

a dash of cayenne pepper

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