Baked Zucchini Sticks with Sweet Onion Dip

Do you ever get tired of me saying “You HAVE to try this?” Really .. you HAVE to try this .. within the next 24 hours.

Most gardeners this time of year are begging folks to take zucchini off their hands. This morning I was googling “zucchini recipes”. I figured I could make bread and zucchini fritters, grilled zucchini and the way I normally fix it . . kinda sauteed with onions and soy sauce. I even stick a few of the whole ones in the freezer and then put them out for the chickens like popsicles on these scorching hot days.

This afternoon on King Arthur Flour’s Facebook page, they had a link to this recipe for Baked Zucchini Sticks and Sweet Onion Dip. I’ve done something similar to that before but figured . . what the heck . . I need another veggie for dinner so I made the onion dip and stuck it in the fridge, then fixed the zucchini when it was time for dinner. 

Darn, I should have taken a picture but I didn’t.

Vince just went on and on about how good it was. He was picking at a friend on text and threatened to not give her any more cucumber dip and then he told her about the zucchini. I said “I guess it’s ok to fix this again, huh?” and he said “Yes! Tomorrow!” I used all my panko tonight though so unless I go to town tomorrow (doubtful), we won’t have this again tomorrow.

That sweet onion dip was amazing. I’m thinking it would be delicious with brie and crackers.

So, call up your nearest gardening friend and do them a favor . . ask if they have any extra zucchini!

Cucumber Spread

First, you can google “Cucumber Spread” and find all kinds of variations of this recipe. Mine is in my head so there are no measurements but this is something we keep around here almost all summer – from the time the cucumbers start producing, til they’re done. It’s great for when you find those cucumbers on the vine that you missed and now they’re too big to eat. Just cut away the seedy part and use the rest.

Cucumber Spread

Cucumber Spread

I love it with crackers, with Melba toast, with homemade,  fresh white bread and I love it stuffed into an avocado. Last night after telling Vince about my friend loving it, he said “let me try some again” and now he loves it. He is so sure he never said he didn’t like it .. maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. Maybe I just convinced myself that he wouldn’t like it so I wouldn’t have to share it with him.

Lunch

Lunch

My lunch today was an avocado (with a little Slap Ya Mama .. I love that stuff!) stuffed with cucumber spread, a little pimento and cheese, melba toast and tomatoes. It would have beennice and healthy had I left off the cobbler!  🙂

One of the things that I use in my kitchen so often, that I never thought I wanted til I saw how much Chad uses his, is a little mini Ninja chopper. I love that thing and that’s what I use for making cucumber spread. 

I feel weird even writing this because there’s just nothing to making it.

Start with an 8 oz. package of cream cheese (I use the full fat version and I use store brands), leave it on the counter for a while til it’s soft. Use 2 good sized cucumbers or one that was hiding in the vines and now looks like a small watermelon . . peel it and cut out the seedy part. You can grate it or cut it into big chunks and put it in the little Ninja chopper. Using several layers of paper towels, spread out the grated cucumber to remove some of the excess juice.

I put about 1/4 of one small onion in the chopper and chop it up real fine. I usually use 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers but I chop them by hand (don’t ask me why).

Mix the onion, cucumber and jalapeno with the cream cheese. I just use a spoon. Add a little mayo to get it to a bit more spreadable consistency but there’s probably more liquid in the cucumber that’s going to be released so you want to leave it a little bit on the dry side. You could use sour cream or yogurt instead of mayo.

Once it’s all mixed up, I add a little Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning but you could add salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, lemon pepper, even a bit of dry Ranch dressing mix – add in anything you like. If you’ve added all the mayo you want to add and still need it to be a little more spreadable, add a spoonful or two of Half & Half or milk.

A lot of recipes call for a drop or two of green food coloring but . . what’s the point? I never use that.

Sweet Pickles from Dill Pickles

We eat a lot of pickles and I just cannot seem to master making good pickles. Several folks have sent me tried and true family heirloom recipes and mine just never measure up so I have kinda sworn off making pickles from scratch but my favorite, above every pickle I’ve ever tried, is to make sweet pickles from storebought dill pickles.

Sweet Pickles

Sweet Pickles

It’s so easy and, it sounds like a lot of sugar, and it is a lot of sugar, and I pretend I’m not cutting back on sugar when it comes time to eat these pickles. They have to be stored in the fridge and they’re so cold and so crunchy and so good!

I chop them up and use them in tuna and chicken salad. I love them on burgers and sandwiches and they’re so good served alongside smoked meats.

The basic recipe is in the recipe box below but I love adding garlic and jalapeno peppers, as well as a bit of horseradish – not in the same jar. The easiest and most common way to make these is to put the sliced pickles and all the other ingredients back in the original pickle jar but since I add jalapeno and garlic to some, and horseradish to others, I put mine in Mason jars and end up with several jars, which makes it easier when it comes to serving anyway.

They need to sit out on the counter for at least 24 hours. Mine usually sit out a bit longer, at least til all the sugar is dissolved. Then they go into the fridge and they need to stay refrigerated. I’ve heard that they will last several months in the fridge. Don’t do as I do but . . through the years, from time to time, I’d find a jar that had been lost in the fridge and had been in there way longer than several months and we survived.

Anything you like could be added to the jars: cinnamon stick, hot pepper flakes, sliced onion, just to name a few. Also, a lot of recipes call for adding pickling spices. The recipe my friend gave me many, many years ago did not include pickling spices and I’ve never added them.

Pickle Ingredients

Pickle Ingredients

One word of caution: I am not a name brand buyer but once I bought an off brand in a plastic jar and those pickles never were crunchy so now I stick with one of the main brands of pickles.

Sweet Pickles from Storebought Dills
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Ingredients
  1. 1 - 80 oz. jar of whole dill pickles
  2. 5-1/2 cups sugar
  3. 1 cup pickle juice
  4. 3/4 cup white vinegar
Optional ingredients
  1. Jalapeno slices
  2. Garlic
  3. Horseradish
  4. Red Pepper Flakes
  5. Cinnamon Sticks
Instructions
  1. Drain the pickles, reserving the pickling liquid.
  2. Slice the pickles into about 1/4 to 1/2" slices. They don't have to be uniform.
  3. Place the sliced pickles back in the pickle jar.
  4. If adding optional ingredients, layer (but you don't have to -- you're going to shake the jars and everything is going to get mixed in).
  5. Add the sugar, vinegar and pickling liquid.
  6. Replace the lid and make sure it's very tight.
  7. Shake or roll the jar several times a day.
  8. Leave sitting on the counter for about 24 hours until sugar is dissolved.
  9. Store in the fridge and use within a month of making.
  10. Do not open until after the third day. It takes this long for the flavors to mingle and to get the best flavored/textured pickles.
Notes
  1. During the colder months, it sometimes takes about 48 hours for the sugar to dissolve but during the summer, it's usually done well before 24 hours.
Patchwork Times by Judy Laquidara http://www.patchworktimes.com/