Blog Posts by Zester Daily

  • An Indestructible Recipe for Kid-Friendly Muffins with Summer Fruit

    Fruit muffins: flavorful with or without the sugar-pecan toppingBy Laura Holmes Haddad

    At my house, cooking for the kids often involves leftovers. Specifically, using up ingredients that they've taken a bite of and abandoned on the countertop. This is most often fruit. These banana, apple and more recently, strawberry, peach and nectarine corpses break my heart but have inspired our weekly muffin-making sessions.

    My daughter Penelope drags her step-stool to the counter and helps me measure and mix, and about 30 minutes later we've got fresh muffins to eat or freeze. The sugar-pecan topping can be included or not, depending on how much sugar your child has already inhaled that day. The muffins are just as tasty without.

    RELATED: Turn leftover apples into kid-friendly cake.

    This is an indestructible, go-to muffin recipe because you can add any fruit you like and the whole-wheat flour will go unnoticed by the little ones. I love using fresh blackberries or peaches in the summer, but if you want to use fresh strawberries, make sure

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  • Basil Lovers, Let Your Pesto Imagination Run Wild

    Fresh seasonal pesto.Fresh seasonal pesto.By Zester Daily staff

    If you're a passionate cook, and passionate about Mediterranean aromas and flavors, you've probably made pesto genovese many times.

    Passing through a farmers market on a hot summer morning, you've been dazzled by the spicy fragrance emanating from big, fresh bundles of grassy-green-leafed basil, taken it all home and tossed it in the food processor or blender with some olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and grated cheese, whizzed it thoroughly and turned out the hefty basil-flavored sauce.

    RELATED: Recipes for everything in your garden.

    You might have served it as a dip or as a dollop on top of pasta, vegetable minestrone or pistou, or even on a plain baked potato, which is exalted by the presence of this rich confection, with its fresh, raw flavors of garlic and mint. (Basil is in the mint family of Labiatae.)

    Almost any summer green can be transformed in a variation on classic pesto Here are a couple of our favorite pesto recipes. The first is a

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  • 3 Ways to Go Beyond Cabbage with Coleslaw

    Kohlrabi-fennel slawBy Elaine Corn

    Trying to please everyone with one type of coleslaw is impossible. There are so many ways to change it, so many mothers to credit for passing down the family favorite, so many trends giving slaw a rebirth.

    New slaws have apples, walnuts, wasabi, sunflower seeds, pickle relish, raisins, cilantro, peanut butter (peanut butter?) and even beets and blue cheese. And while cabbage may be slaw's classic crop, it's not the only one. Other cruciferous vegetables that now star in slaw are kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli stems and cauliflower hearts. Some slaws don't even have cabbage. Instead, shredded zucchini, fennel and carrots make the base.

    Because slaw is never consumed immediately after it's made, it's the ultimate make-ahead. Made ahead, slaw also has a tasty benefit. The miracle of food chemistry both enhances and mellows the taste as it sits, so it's better the day after, and the day after that. Start a slaw this morning and it will be ready for

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  • Cool Off with Your Own Homemade Cinnamon Ice Cream

    Cinnamon is perfect for cool, creamy homemade ice cream.By Charles Perry

    When we think about making ice cream -- trust me, a couple of weeks from now the idea will occur to you again -- we think of fresh fruit. Understandably. Fresh is good, and hardly anything beats homemade peach ice cream.

    But the fruits you want aren't always in season. Sometimes nothing worth making ice cream is in season. Don't tell me how great apple ice cream is because I just won't believe you.

    Meanwhile, there are some flavorings available all year long. I refer to spices.

    RELATED: Tips for easy frozen desserts this summer.

    Before you object, ask yourself what vanilla is. And remember that some of the first ice cream recipes were flavored with spices. Most have been forgotten, though you sometimes run into candied ginger ice cream, which is certainly excellent -- you add minced candied ginger to the custard base while you're cooking it.

    Just the right cinnamon for ice cream

    I want to speak for cinnamon ice cream, or, more exactly,

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  • Chill Out with 3 Great Cold Soup Recipes

    Cold carrot soup, garnished with cilantro.Editor's note: It's a sweltering July, and we can already hear the resistance to soup, including the cold variety. But, for the brave and adventurous, there is a benefit to refreshing yourself with summer's fresh ingredients.

    By Nancy Harmon Jenkins

    Down in Andalucia, in the steamy south of Spain, no family refrigerator worth its size is without a tall glass pitcher of gazpacho, the ubiquitous tomato-based cold soup that defines the summer season. But tomatoes are hardly the lone source for great cold soups.

    As with any cold food, soup flavor depends on freshness. Cold carrot soup, for instance, is terrific with fresh, sweet carrots from the farmers market (or your own garden), lightly garnished with cilantro and lime. If you make this with supermarket carrots, built to withstand transcontinental shipment, the flavor needs a big boost from the other ingredients such as ginger, lime or cilantro.

    These soups are terrific as first courses, but they're also great to

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  • Top 5 Baking Secrets for People Who Hate to Bake

    Brownie s'mores.Editor's note: Dreading the task of baking something special for Fourth of July week? Zester Daily contributor Susan Lutz has suggestions.

    By Susan Lutz

    I hate to bake. That's not to say that I can't bake. I just don't like it very much.

    Over the past 10 years, I've baked a lot. When I got married, I gained not only a husband, but also a stepson, and I quickly learned that baked goods go a long way with boys. I don't want to be stereotypical and say that the way to a man's heart is his stomach. But the evidence is compelling. It may not be the best way to express love, but making delicious desserts is a simple and satisfying way to show almost anyone that you care.

    RELATED: Secrets for perfect frozen desserts.

    Cooking is a necessity and therefore something most of us take for granted. Dessert is an "extra" -- a treat we don't have to have.

    So I've become a baker. And I've learned a few things about baking over the years. These top five secrets have made

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  • 5 Tips for Perfect Meatballs

    Perfect baked meatballs.

    By Clifford A. Wright

    Consider the meatball. The meatball is a simple food made in innumerable ways. It is an elemental preparation, and for Italian-Americans it is the quintessential comfort food. Then why is a great meatball hard to find? And have you noticed that ever since the demise of the old-fashioned Italian-American restaurant with the wicker-basket Chianti bottles and red-checked tablecloths, meatballs are almost never found in today's chic Italian restaurants?

    Maybe this is because a meatball is archetypal home food. There are some secrets to making a good meatball:

    1. Start with the best ingredients

    You need the right mix of meats for the perfect meatball, but that doesn't mean splurging on top sirloin. The best meat for meatballs is beef chuck. If you don't find it too much of a hassle I recommend grinding your own. It's important to mix that beef with ground pork. Ideally, you want a three-to-one ratio of beef to pork, though you can use a

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  • The Ideal Drink for Summer: Nectarine Sangria

    Nectarines are in season.

    It is the nectar of gods that runs down my chin and soils my shirt. My favorite fruit is now arriving at farmers markets and I can barely control myself. I can't think of anything more satisfying than sinking one's teeth into that appropriately named fruit, the nectarine. I've only eaten nectarines over the sink. I can't remember ever having gotten a ripe nectarine to the table. I remove the sweet juicy and fragile nectarines from their bag and lay them on the counter next to the sink. I wash them gently under running cold water and I should then set them aside. But I don't. I bend forward and ravenously eat them, unmindful of the dripping nectar.

    Related: Is fruit losing its flavor?

    MYTH ABOUT NECTARINES: Nectarines are a subspecies of peach known as Prunus persica var. nectarina. The nectarine is not a cross between a peach and plum as is sometimes suggested. In fact, the peach and the nectarine, genetically, are the same thing, with the peach having fuzzy skin and the

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  • Recipes for a Perfect Hot Weather Menu: Salsa, Appetizer and Chips

    This grilled corn salsa recipe has a distinctive sweetness.By David Latt

    "Summertime, and the livin' is easy" or so says the Porgy and Bess song. But there's no easy living in the heat of summer if you're cooking elaborate meals in the kitchen.

    In colder months, I enjoy preparing complex braises and roasts, reduction sauces and delicate confections. But with the arrival of summer's sticky heat I dream about surviving on ice-cold fresh fruit and tall glasses of ice tea and lemonade.

    Grilling with easy-to-make recipes gives much-needed relief from hot kitchens and summer lethargy.

    Vegetables tossed in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper pick up sweetness as they lightly char over hot coals. Grilled carefully to avoid burning, nothing can improve on the flavors that come from food cooked on an open grill. During the hot months of the year, I turn to meals assembled with what I call the three amigos: a salsa, an appetizer and a chip.

    Related: Tips for getting the most out of your grill this summer.

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  • Easy, Healthy Potatoes from a Container Garden

    Two surprises about potatoes -- They're good for you and they're easy to grow, even in small spaces.By Barbara Haber

    Some vegetable gardening books advise the reader not to bother growing potatoes because they are cheap and plentiful in the stores and use up a lot of room in the garden. Instead, they say, use your space to grow such delectable seasonal crops as tomatoes, peppers and green beans. But, I beg to differ. I am finding great joy in growing my own potatoes and have found a way to grow them in containers so that they are not garden hogs.

    Related: Each summer's garden starts with the excitement of seed catalogs.

    Several years ago I purchased soft felt-like pots that fold away over the winter and last for years. I stick them in odd sunny places around the garden and at harvest time I tip the whole pot into a wheelbarrow and -- voila! -- out pour 10 or more pounds of spuds. These pots would allow people without garden space to grow potatoes on back porches or decks, should they so desire.

    I also plant several garden rows with Red Norlands, an early crop,

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