Chicken-Spinach Wraps with Zucchini Fries

What? I’m supposed to go back to posting recipes now?!

Thanks for hanging in with me while I posted a weeks worth of Jeopardy updates. It was a close and hard fought game last night, one that I know my husband would love the chance to play again, but he had a fantastic run! Thank you for watching him and for all the support and enthusiasm!


Food wise, the last week has consisted of night after night of Jeopardy viewing parties. Chips, pizza, cakes… and all my work on food moderation flew out the door.


I’ve been noticing what some of my fellow grad students bring to class to eat or have at cookouts – yogurt/oatmeal/fruit mixture breakfasts, brie/bread/fruit lunches and lentil/brown rice/goat cheese sides for dinner with freshly baked wheat bread. The way they eat blows my mind, and I’m envious. On a weeknight when I’m strapped for time, my fall backs are spaghetti & marinara or a quickly thrown together chicken dish. I just never default to vegetarian dishes; I would have no clue how to make a filling meal out of it.. yet their dishes always look hearty, healthy, natural and delicious. I guess I have to reprogram my meat and potatoes brain?


So this meal was something I was able to throw together quickly, but I did try to venture somewhat outside the box. The zucchini fries don’t taste like french fries, but they are good. They’re crunchy and non-greasy, and depending on the spice you give them they can take on a couple different flavors. The original recipe for them is from Weight Watchers, but I kicked it up with some cayenne because I found the original to be a tad bland. I don’t do fake substitutes for fatty things (sorry dad, you can keep your cheeseless cheese), so I found these fries to be a nice compromise.


Chicken-Spinach Wraps with Zucchini Fries

For the wraps –
low fat flour tortillas
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (cooked and seasoned like this, except heat oven to 400F and cook for 20 minutes)
1 can black beans, drained and warmed
1/3 package of frozen spinach, cooked according to package instructions

For the zucchini fries (adapted from Weight Watchers) –
olive oil cooking spray
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
dash of Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp table salt
3/4 cups dried panko bread crumbs
2 medium zucchini, cut into 4 chunks, then each chunk halved
2 large egg whites, whipped to almost soft peaks

Begin to make zucchini fries when chicken is about halfway done cooking (using suggested method above).
Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together Italian seasoning, Cayenne, Old Bay, flour and salt. Place panko in another small bowl.

Dredge a zucchini fry in flour mixture and then dip into egg whites followed by bread crumbs. Place coated zucchini on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining pieces; liberally coat with cooking spray and add to oven under the chicken (peaking at chicken for doneness). Turn once about halfway through. For crispier fries, cook longer.

When chicken is done, cool slight and cut into small pieces with a knife and fork. Add black beans, cooked spinach and chicken to wraps and fold. Serve zucchini fries immediately.

Moroccan Chicken Couscous

Earlier in the week Edwin tweeted that, “Sadness is over baking your lemon squares.” Today I’m going to counter that by adding that sadness is cooking something delicious and not taking good photos of it because (you later realized) your flash was on a wonky setting.

Oh well! I’ll do the best I can? How about a sweet picture of my pup as a peace offering?


Finding myself in a bit of a dinner slump after finishing my midterms at school last week lead me back to my trusty “Great Food Fast” cookbook by Martha Stewart (If you haven’t entered her contest yet to win a free new book, click here!). I flipped to the winter section before spring is upon us, and I found some great recipes I hadn’t made before.


I’ve made her Moroccan Chicken Couscous twice this week – once to test it out and play around and then later in the week to bring to a friends house. This is a great meal to turn to if you want something healthy, light, relatively fast and easy and flavorful without heat (for spice-wary people like Edwin!).

I only made some relatively minor tweeks because things are pretty good! I did change the ratio of things a bit, added more veggies and changed the proportions to serve 2 (with leftovers) or 3.

Moroccan Chicken Couscous
adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (if you can’t find skinless, you can remove the skin yourself with kitchen scissors)
5 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 small onions, thinly sliced
1 can whole tomatoes (14 oz), drained
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed
1 3/4 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium canned broth
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and quartered

In a 5 or 6 quart pot with a lid (or Dutch oven if you have one), combine all ingredients except zucchini. Break up whole tomatoes using a wooden spoon.

Bring the pot to simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, then add quartered zucchini. Replace lid and cook until chicken is done yet tender, approximately 15 more minutes.

When you have 5 minutes left, cook couscous according to package instructions or by using Martha’s “Best Couscous” method. Spoon couscous into bowls, then spoon chicken, vegetables and broth on top.

I do, on occasion, try to eat a meatless dinner. Flipping through Giada De Laurentiis’s Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites always helps to make me feel good about veggies again. Italian cooking has a lot of great vegetables and healthy things about it, but in restaurants the food just seems to get so bogged down with cheeses and oil. Giada unearths the good food under all the excess.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese1

I was drawn to her Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes with Pamesan Crust recipe… but with a few changes, of course!

I traded in the new potatoes for two small to medium sized Russet potatoes. I also added in two yellow squash in addition to the zucchini, and I used a bit of shredded Vermont White Cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan. Instead of buying fresh herbs (which are wonderful, but just not that accessible for a quick weeknight dinner) I used dried. I thought the result was pretty awesome.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese2

Since I had more vegetables than the original recipe, I added in a little more unsalted butter to cook them in. So that I didn’t turn a relatively healthy meal into a butter fiesta, I used 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter + 2 tablespoons of Smart Balance butter. I would also recommend that you cook the veggies in batches in your skillet; I had a giant skillet to use and even with that things were just a little too crowded. The vegetables taste great, with a tiny bit of salt, cheese and butter giving it just enough zip to turn a veggiephobe into a new friend for life.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese3

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 small/medium size Russet potatoes, cleaned and quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter + 2 tablespoons Smart Balance butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch pieces
2 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch pieces
Pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Vermont white cheddar

Boil a medium pot of water on high heat. Add quartered potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut into 2 inch pieces when cooled.

Over medium heat, place a medium saute pan with butter, garlic, thyme and rosemary – heat until the butter melts. Meanwhile, lightly salt the cut surfaces of the zucchini, squash and potatoes. Place the cut side down in the melted butter and cook for about 15 minutes when golden brown.

Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the sheet with the cut side facing up. Sprinkle with Vermont cheddar. Broil until cheese melts (about 4 minutes). Serve while hot!

Lasagna Skillet, aka Lasagna "Giant Pot"

Like the English Muffin Pizzas I posted at the end of last month, this recipe is also from that stage where Morgan and I were trying to clean out our kitchen before moving.


And while we’re on the subject of moving – yes, we are all moved in to our new place in Charlottesville and it’s gorgeous here. Unfortunately we’re not all unpacked yet, but we’re getting there (slowly). The kitchen is finally done, and I’m looking forward to jumping back into the DinnerCakes saddle!


Back to today’s post, we had some beef that had been in the freezer for awhile, lasagna noodles in the far reaches of the cabinet and a stray zucchini to use. Morgan loves, loves, loves lasagna, but we never make it because of the fat content plus time commitment. But like I said, we were moving within the week so everything had to go!


A long time ago I remembered making something called “lasagna skillet,” a less elegant version of lasagna where the noodles are broken up into fourths and everything is cooked together in a skillet. I decided to make something similar, but because of the massive amounts of ingredients (yep, if you’re cooking for two like me you will have leftovers – but they’re delicious leftovers!) I couldn’t fit everything in a large skillet so I used a large spaghetti pot. It would be even more inelegant to call this dish lasagna “giant pot,” so let’s just stick with lasagna skillet.

This dinner really surpassed my expectations and we both enjoyed it very much. It came in handy for both lunches and dinners the next few days, and the leftovers are great either cold or warmed up. Enjoy!


Lasagna “Skillet”
inspired by Betty Crocker

a double batch of mom’s marinara sauce (double the recipe from the link, or use one jar of store bought sauce)

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 zucchini, skinned and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz package lasagna noodles
4 cups water
1/2 cup part skim ricotta
mozzarella cheese, to sprinkle

Stir together beef, onion, zucchini and garlic in skillet over medium-high heat, about 5-6 minutes, until beef is brown; drain.

Add ingredients to large pot and stir in water, sauce and lasagna noodles, quartered. Bring to a boil, folding the mixture over the stiff pasta, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for approximately 20 minutes, until noodles are cooked (Note: It will seem like a lot of water, but it gets absorbed as it cooks). Add ricotta when noodles are almost completely cooked. Sprinkle with mozzarella before serving.

Quick & Easy Zucchini and White Bean Soup

The other day I was browsing Food Gawker for inspiration, and I came across a photo for zucchini soup. This is normally the type of thing that I would quickly skip over, but I remembered that I had a stray zucchini around the house that needed to be used, and not much time left to use it!


I talked over a few ideas with Edwin, who was of course thrilled at my newfound fascination with soup. I came up with a few changes to make the zucchini soup I found a little more my style. The biggest change was probably adding white beans. I really enjoy white beans; they always make a really malleable addition to meals. I also some celery, removed the onion and added less zucchini and chicken broth.


One thing to keep in mind is to be a little careful handling the zucchini. After chopping it my hands felt completely dried out, itchy, tight and raw. I was initially a little startled, but then I remembered an excellent comment left by a reader on Edwin’s Celery Root Bisque recipe from last year – handling squash can cause a condition called Contact Dermatitis, and zucchini is a squash. It shouldn’t cause any real damage, but if you’re susceptible like me then your hands might be a little uncomfortable right after working with it. Try touching it as little as possible or, if you’re really concerned, wear latex gloves when handling squash.

Dry hands aside, I have to admit that I really loved this soup. Zucchini doesn’t really have a very strong flavor, so there’s nothing overpowering about the soup – the white beans and pepper make it flavorful. It’s light, very tasty and quick and easy to make – definitely a DinnerCakes win and a great summer dinner!

zucchini soup

Zucchini & White Bean Soup
adapted from Cooking with Michele

2 cans chicken broth (14 oz. each)
1 can cannellini beans (19 oz.), drained
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1/2 cup half and half, optional
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat large pot over medium heat and add oil when hot. Add garlic, zucchini and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock, drained white beans and thyme to the pot, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until zucchini and celery are softened, about 15 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and pour in batches of two or three into food processor (be careful not to overflow!) and pulse. When desired consistency is reached, pour final batch back into the pot and add half and half, followed by salt and generous amounts of pepper to taste (don’t skimp on the fresh ground pepper!).

Makes about 3 or 4 servings of soup.

Zucchini Bread, A Fall Treat

Gold of a ripe oat straw, gold of a southwest moon,
Canada thistle blue and flimmering larkspur blue,
Tomatoes shining in the October sun with red hearts,
— Carl Sandburg, “Cornhuskers,” Falltime (1918)

I never had zucchini bread until last fall, but it was love at first sight. Zucchini and pumpkin are brothers.

Zucchini Bread

Though I’ve noticed many people seem to make bread to get rid of extra zucchini, I really just love the taste of zucchini bread! Despite being a summer squash it’s a perfect complement to fall recipes including butternut squash, stew, or turkey. And I appreciate any opportunity I have to combine cinnamon and cloves!

Everyone has their own taste as to how they like their quick bread – moist, nutty, rich, etc., but you want something that won’t dry out immediately. I have two recipes that I like to work with, the first one is a Betty Crocker zucchini bread (which can also easily serve as pumpkin bread by substituting 1 can of solid packed pumpkin for the zucchini), and the second one is a more adventurous recipe from 101 Cookbooks.

Zucchini Bread

Moist and Aromatic Zucchini Bread – Because For Ghost Baker, Fall is just Beginning:

You can find thousands of versions online and in cookbooks of certain dishes, so when I find two that I like I try to see how I can combine them and what I can learn from each. The Betty Crocker recipe is great because of its similarity to pumpkin bread, using cinnamon and cloves, and it’s versatility. However the cook time is a little off. I baked my loaves for 60 minutes as suggested and they came out just a little too done. 101 Cookbooks suggests slightly undercooking the loaves because they will continue to cook while cooling after being taken out of the oven. As with anything you bake, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on things towards the end of the cook time (If you click on our Flickr photo stream, the first photo in the zucchini bread series is from the time I used just the 101 Cookbooks recipe; you’ll see it comes out dense and the cook time was perfect).

I also like to grate my zucchini, including the skins, a little more finely. Make sure you drain them so that your loaves don’t get to watery. You want your batter to be relatively thick.

And if you think I enjoy Zucchini Bread, just wait for my Aunt Sue’s Pumpkin Bread recipe!

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Loaves
adapted from Betty Crocker and 101 Cookbooks

3 cups grated zucchini, including skins
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Move oven rack to the low position so that tops of pans will be in the center of the oven. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease two 8×4 inch loaf pans and sprinkle lightly with flour.

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs and mix. Stir in remaining ingredients leaving out nuts. Once incorporated, add the nuts leaving out a handful to be sprinkled on at the end – do not overmix your batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Use a rubber spatula to level the batter. Sprinkle remaining nuts on top of the batter.

Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pans on a wire rack. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Loosen sides of the loaves from the pans and remove from pans, placing the loaves top side up on a wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before wrapping tightly (if you wrap your loaves before they cool completely, you’ll get mold!). After wrapping, store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

Prep: 15-20 minutes, Bake: 45 minutes, Cool: 2 hours
Makes 2 loaves, or about 24 slices each.