Stuffed Zucchini Boats, Chocolate Cherry Cake, Homemade “Hostess” Ding Dongs, Bulgur Pilaf with Tomato and Zucchini, Spiced Pear Cake with Brown Butter Icing, and Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

Happy October!  This is my favorite month of the whole year.  The leaves are changing, the temps are a bit cooler, my favorite tv show “The Walking Dead” returns, and we end the month with one of my favorite holidays, Halloween.  This is the month in which I also start thinking about “cold weather recipes.”  I love soup, but don’t eat it a ton when it’s hot outside.  Starting at the end of the month, I really kick it into “soup mode,” and begin experimenting with new recipes.  I already tried one new recipe this month that I will happily add into my soup rotation.  So let’s get right to the recipes…

The first recipe I tried was for stuffed zucchini boats.  My family is Lebanese, so I am no stranger to stuffed zucchini.  I grew up eating “koosa” and it is still one of my favorite Lebanese dishes.  This recipe is different than koosa in that you cut the zucchini in half, and top it with the stuffing.  When making koosa, you hollow out the squash, and then stuff it with a mixture of rice, spices, meat (I use veggie beef substitute), and tomato…YUM. DSCN0102Anyway, I had a few zucchini that I wanted to experiment with so I chose this recipe.  I had all the ingredients on hand, except the chicken sausage.  As vegetarians, we don’t eat chicken, and unfortunately they stopped making our favorite veggie sausage substitute, so I had to make my own.  I used Morning Star Farms veggie crumbles, and then added garlic, pepper, and ground fennel seed.  I am happy to report that these zucchini boats turned out amazing!!  We loved them and I would definitely make them again.  We doesn’t include Ryan of course, but I am sure you knew that already…haha.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  I did have a little of the “sausage filling” left over, so I used it later in the week for a veggie lasagna…delish!

The next recipe I tried was for cherry chocolate cake.  I made this recipe out of necessity…no really.  I know… I know… you’re probably thinking “… is cake really a necessity??”   Well…in this case yes… it was.  You see I had cherry pie filling that was about to expire, so I needed to use it asap. I have never made a cherry pie, and when I bought this pie filling I had every intention of making one.  I have made a lot of apple and pear pies in the last few weeks, and they came out really good.  That said, I was hesitant to use a can of pie filling, and have it pale in comparison to the yummy pies, that I had made from scratch, with fresh fruit from my little organic orchard.  So I decided to switch it up DSCN0108completely and make a cake instead. So in this case you can clearly see, that baking a cake was completely necessary…wink wink.   Anyway, I came across this recipe and I knew I had to try it.  I love love love chocolate and cherries together.  In fact, growing up, chocolate covered cherries, were my favorite candy.  My Grandpa Gene used to buy me a box of chocolate covered cherries for Christmas and my birthday every year.  To this day, every Christmas, I  buy a box of chocolate covered cherries in his honor.  As soon as I saw this cake recipe, I knew I had to try it.  I am really happy that I did, because it is delicious!!  It is decadent…so yummy and rich.  We loved it.  Ryan actually tried it, and liked it too, so it must be good.  I think my favorite part was the homemade chocolate fudge frosting…YUM!!!  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:

Next, I made “Hostess ding dongs.”  When I was a kid I LOVED Hostess Ding Dongs.  Flash forward to my adulthood, and the love affair continued.  It continued until I read the box and discovered that it listed “beef fat and lard” as ingredients…EWWWWWW.  As a vegetarian that didn’t sit well with me, so I swore off them.  Okay, flash forward a bit more, and “Hostess” declares bankruptcy.  Bye bye Ding Dongs.  Bye bye Twinkies.  Bye bye a little piece of my childhood.  Now flash forward to this past August, and I received a catalog from Sur La Table in the mail.  Well inside that catalog I saw three different pans made by a company called DSCN0695 “Fat Daddio’s.”  The three pans were for making copycat versions of “Hostess Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and Snowballs!!”  SWEET!!  Better yet, the pans were on sale for $12.95 a piece.   AWESOME!!!  Best of all, the catalog included a ten dollar off coupon!!  WHOO HOO!!  Now I could get two of the pans for the price of one regular priced pan!!!  LOVE IT!!!  I went to the store that week, and purchased both the canoe pan (for making Twinkies), and the chocolate cream cake snack pan (for making Ding Dongs.)  I already had copycat recipes for both snack cakes, but the “ding dong”pan came with a recipe so I decided to use that one.  The result?  I thought they were good, but much sweeter than the “Hostess Ding Dongs” that I remember.  That said, the little cakes were very chocolatey and decadent, and contained absolutely no beef fat or lard.  I would definitely make them again for a special treat some time.  I love the idea that I own the pans now, and can make them again whenever I want.  I am definitely planning to make the “Twinkies” sometime soon…stay tuned!  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:   Okay so the perfectionist in me needs to speak up here.  I actually forgot to take pictures of the perfect looking little cakes that I delivered to the school office.  I wrapped them up cute in plastic wrap, and they really looked like the Ding Dongs that I remember.  I usually deliver the “pretty treats” to the school office and teachers, and my family eats the “less than picture perfect treats.”   The picture used above, was the last Ding Dong in the house, and as I got the sweet treat ready for her close up, I left a thumb print on the top.  I know it’s silly, but I wanted to photograph the little treats I took to school  because they looked so cute, but I just plain forgot.  Oh well…next time I make them, I will snap a few pictures, before they are devoured! 😛

The next recipe I tried was for bulgur pilaf with tomato and zucchini.  I have to admit, other than making kibbee, I have never cooked with bulgur wheat before.  I had some tomatoes and zucchini that I wanted to use, so this recipe was perfect.  I found it in one of DSCN0741my fav cookbooks that is titled, “3 in 1 Vegetarian Cookbook.”  I had all the ingredients and it seemed simple, so I decided to make it for dinner.  I am glad that I did, because it was really good.  I would definitely make it again. I really liked the bulgar too, it was almost like a quinoa or couscous dish.  Here is a link to the recipe that I used:

The next recipe I made was for spiced pear cake with browned butter icing. So I have a ton of pears to use.  My “brother from another mother” Jim, and his lovely wife Kim, have an annual pear picking party at their house. It is titled “Pears Gone Wild,” and  I LOVE it.  This year was extra special as Christopher aka Ferfie my “other brother from another mother,” was also here for the pear-a-palooza.   His attendance wasn’t planned, but it was totally meant to be, as the events leading up the party cosmically fell into place.  First of all,  Kim and Jim got a ton of pears this year.  Last year was a bad year for fruit here in Michigan, so we still had the party, but there were no pears to pick.  Thankfully, Mother Nature was little kinder this year, so there was plenty of fruit to pick.  So much fruit in fact, that people were starting to steal Jim and Kim’s pears!  Kimmy came home from work, and there was some random freak sitting in their car, up on the grass, against their fence, picking pears through their open car window!  Who does that?!?  Well after that, Jim and Kim decided to bump up the pear picking extravaganza by a few weeks.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to any of us, on a whim, Ferfie booked a flight home to surprise us.  His trip home just happened to coincide with the pear picking party!DSCN0369   I swear sometimes things just work out.  So the day before “pears gone wild,” I come home from picking up Ryan from school, and there is a random car in front of my house.  Out here in the sticks we notice things like that right away.  First of all we live on a dirt road, so the car was literally parked on my property, as there is no curb in front of my house.  Second, anyone I know would’ve parked in the driveway, so there was a random unattended vehicle on my grass as I pulled up.  Third, there are only 11 houses on my road, so I recognize all the vehicles that actually belong to someone who lives here.  Lastly, I had left Victoria and her friend home whilst I ran to pick Ryan up, so I was nervous that someone came to the door, and they may have gotten scared.  Remember, we live in the country, and sometimes we go for months without someone coming to the door. Therefore, if indeed someone unexpectedly rang the doorbell it would have freaked them out.  So as soon as I came into the house I asked Victoria about it.  She said she had no idea about the car.  Then she and her friend began pestering me about going into Victoria’s room to listen to them play a piece of music.  I had just walked in and wanted to take off my shoes, sort the mail I just picked up, empty and put away lunch boxes from the week, but they wouldn’t let up.  So begrudgingly I abandoned the tasks at hand, and I walked down the hall to listen to them play.  As I rounded the corner into Victoria’s room, I saw Ferfie sitting on the bed.  It took a minute to register what I was seeing, as I couldn’t believe he was home.  I generally don’t care for surprises, but this was a great surprise and I LOVED it.

Ferfie's surprise entrance at "pears gone wild"
Ferfie’s surprise entrance at “pears gone wild”

I was so happy to see Ferf, in the flesh, in my house.  I had spoken to him a few days before, and because it was a surprise, he obviously didn’t mention his plan to come home for the weekend.  Happily, because Kim and Jim had decided to move the date of the pear party, we were all going to be together the following afternoon at their place.  It was great.  Everyone was really surprised to see Ferfie, and we had a blast picking pears, eating yummy food, playing games, and just being together.

Well since I have so many pears, I definitely wanted to make a sweet treat with them. I found this recipe on Pinterest, and it sounded interesting.  I have never made browned butter icing before, so I decided to give it a try.  I am so happy that I did because this cake is amazing!  Happily the recipe made two cakes, so I had plenty to share.  I will definitely make this cake again, and I plan on making the icing again for use on all different types of cakes,  muffins, or sweet breads.  With all the excitement of “pears gone wild” and Ferfie’s surprise visit, I again forgot to snap a picture of the cake.  Rest assured mine looked just like the picture on the website.  Here is the link to the recipe:

The last recipe I tried was for tomato basil parmesan soup.  As I mentioned above I LOVE soup, and I love making soup.  I found this recipe on Pinterest over the summer, and I couldn’t wait for the first chilly day so I could make it. It has really cooled off here in DSCN0744Michigan over the last few days, so this soup was perfect.  I had all the ingredients, and it sounded amazing, so I decided to try it out.  I am so glad that I did because it is super yummy.  Ryan of course didn’t try it, but the rest of us LOVED it.  I will happily add it to my regular soup rotation.  Here is the link to the recipe:  P.S. I made the stove top version, and before serving I used my immersion blender to smooth out the consistency.

I hope that you all have a great October, and a great Halloween.  I hope you enjoy the recipes, we sure did.  Happy Fall!!  ♥♥

Picking pears!!
The  “pears gone wild” crew!!

About THE cookie mama

I am not professionally trained in any way shape or form, BUT I come from a long line of really great cooks. I learned mostly by watching my parents and grandparents, and then replicating what they did. I love love love to cook and bake, and I love to share what I make with "my people."
This entry was posted in Bread / Muffins, Cakes, Chocolate, Italian, Savory, Soup and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Stuffed Zucchini Boats, Chocolate Cherry Cake, Homemade “Hostess” Ding Dongs, Bulgur Pilaf with Tomato and Zucchini, Spiced Pear Cake with Brown Butter Icing, and Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

  1. jidojimmy says:

    You make me so proud, I love you “Kiki”

  2. Thx Dad. I love you too 🙂

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