The BEST Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. 

I have ever so slightly adapted the very, very famous- New York Times, chocolate chip cookie recipe. Enjoy! 
Ingredients:

8½ ounces cake flour

8½ ounces bread flour

1¼ teaspoons fresh baking soda

1½ teaspoons fresh baking powder

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

10 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

10 ounces dark brown sugar

8 ounces granulated cane sugar

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 Tablespoon Vanilla bean paste

20 ounces good quality dark chocolate chunks,( at least 60% cacao content) chopped into 1/4 -1/2 inch nuggets

Maldon salt, for garnish on top

Method
Step 1: In a medium size bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt. Incorporate well to ensure ingredients are evenly distributed. 

Step 2: In the bowl of your stand mixer or large mixing bowl with paddle attachment; cream together the butter and both sugars until mixture is pale in color and creamy in texture.

Step 3: Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time- mixing well after each addition. 

Step 4: Add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. 5 to 10 seconds. Do not over beat.

Step 5: Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom of the bowl and mix an additional 10 -15 seconds. Fold in the chocolate by hand.  

Step 6: Chill in an airtight container over night or up to 72 hours. Using a 3 1/2 ounce portion scoop. Portion onto cookie sheet immediately before baking. 
Step 7: Preheat oven to 325’F.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18-20 minutes. 

Notes
Makes approximately 1 1/2 dozen large 5 inch cookies. Or approximately 40 smaller, 2-3 inch. 
I like to use a 1 ounce portion control scooper and scoop onto a parchment lined baking sheet, wrap and freeze individually overnight. Once frozen, I pack into one larger airtight container- store in the freeze and use as needed straight into the oven. Bake 1 ounce cookies for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown, and no signs of shimmering sugar crystals on top. 

This recipe works well in a parchment log and sliced in 1/2 inch rounds prior to baking.

Dough should always be baked when chilled.

Variations with nuts or white chocolate chunks or both combine are delicious. 
Photo credit: NYT

Vegan Baked Apple Pastry Roses

I wrote this recipe for my friends over at #30SecondMom. Thought I’d share with you too if you don’t follow me there.

You’ll need:

  • 6 red apples, cored, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup melted vegan butter or regular butter
  • 1 package phyllo dough
  • nonstick spray
  • water or nut milk, to seal
  • equal parts cinnamon and sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • powdered sugar

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Saute the apples in the vegan butter until soft.
  3. Lay 4 phyllo sheets flat and spread butter in between each sheet.
  4. Cut four 3-inch by 6-inch strips.
  5. Sprinkle the strips with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  6. Place apple slices overlapping along the long side of the dough. Use about half an apple per strip. Top with the almonds.
  7. Fold the bottom half of the dough up to meet the other side of the dough, enclosing about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the apple slices to form one long ruler-like pocket. Now roll from the right to the left to form the rose. Use water or nut milk to seal the edges.
  8. Bake in the muffin tins for about 10-12 minutes, or until brown.
  9. Cool and top with powdered sugar before serving.

10 Minutes to Creamy! Chocolate Avocado Mousse! 

Chocolate Mousse has never been healthier …or faster! When choosing Avocados use Haas variety- they tend to have a rich creamy finish. 

You’ll Need: 

4 ripe avocados

3 Tablespoons honey, maple syrup or optional liquid sweetener. ( do not use granulated sugar) 

3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Small pinch of Himalayan or your favorite salt

4-5 Tablespoons cow or nut milk

1 cup washed berries for garnish 

Cocoa for dusting 

Here’s How:
Split the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits.

Using a spoon, scoop out the meat and place into your food processor. Add honey, cocoa, vanilla, salt, and milk.

Blend until very smooth. About 1 minute. Taste and adjust sweetness. Add additional milk to adjust consistency. 

Place mixture into serving bowls or glassware, and chill until ready to serve. 

Top with fresh raspberries and a sprinkle of cocoa. 

Makes Approximately 4-6 servings   

Eat it all up! 

Stromboli- Dinner in 30! 

Unlike a calzone, a stromboli does not contain sauce. Invented in the 1950’s on the east coast in Pennsylvania.

An Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria claims to be the first to have used the name, Stromboli. Rumor has it the pizzeria owner had experimented with “pizza imbottito”, or “stuffed pizza”, and added ham, salami, cheese and peppers into a pocket of raw bread dough. A family member suggested he name it after the recently released movie Stromboli, which, at the time was notorious for an off-screen affair between married actress, Ingrid Bergman, and married director, Roberto Rossellini that resulted in a love child. Remember, it was early in the 1950’s. Can you imagine how scandalous this must have been back then?

Traditionally, Stromboli’s are filed with layers of thinly sliced salami, pepperoni and smoked Provolone cheese then baked in a flaky crust that was rolled into a log. Often referred to as a turnover. Serve with additional sauce on the side for dipping. Today- you can use any filling imaginable.

Personalize your Stromboli !

Ingredients:

1 pound ready made pizza dough

1 cup spicy pizza sauce

1 cup grated smoked provolone or substitute with mozzarella cheese

2 dozen slices of good quality salami

20 slices thin cut pepperoni substitute with deli ham

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

Additional pizza sauce for dipping, warmed.

Method:

Preheat oven to 375’F. Prepare a high sided baking sheet with parchment and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

Place the dough on a clean lightly floured work surface roll out to approximately 10×16 inch rectangle. Roll up onto the rolling pin and transfer the dough into the parchment- lay flat.

Spread pizza sauce over 2/3’s of the dough lengthwise, leaving a 3×16 rectangle of plain dough along one of the edges.

Top the sauce with half the grated cheese, salami and ham. Top with remaining cheese.

Brush the blank strip of dough with the egg wash. Fold in the ends ( sorta like rolling a burrito ) about an inch, and brush them with egg wash as well. This will assist with the Stromboli from oozing out all its goodness in the oven.

Roll up like a jelly roll lengthwise starting along the long edge of dough topped with all the fillings and ending with the plain strip of dough on the bottom of the roll. Bake seam side down to keep closed.

Brush the entire Stromboli with the additional egg-wash and gently cut thin slits on the top of the dough every 1-2 inches.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

Remove from oven, cool 5-8 minutes and slice into pieces. Serve with additional pizza sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Empanadas- Savory Hand Pies

So many cultures have a recipe for meat wrapped in pastry. – I just love bold flavored, slow cooked juicy meats and veggies wrapped up in flakey pie crust served piping hot. Mmmmmm. Comfort food. 

I also love pasta sauce and Italian sausage or yellow curry and potatoes, but that’s a whole nother set of recipes. 

IngredientsFor the dough.

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 oz unsalted organic butter (1 ½ sticks) 

1 egg

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of water or nut or cows milk, adjust as needed to obtain a soft and smooth dough.

Method: For the dough. 

Mix the flour and salt in a food processor.

Add the butter and pulse until peasize pieces form- but also careful not to over work the dough. 

Add the egg and the water or milk (in small increments) and continue pulsing until a clumpy dough forms.

Turn out onto a clean floured work surface.  

(To make the empanada dough by hand, follow the same instruction but use your hands to mix the ingredients together.)

Split the dough into 2 large ball, flatten slightly into the shape of disks. The dough can be used immediately or refrigerated until ready to use (1-2 days max). I like to refrigerate any dough covered for at least 30 minutes before rolling. And it gives me time to clean up before moving to the next big step in this recipe. 

After both you and the dough have rested- roll the dough into a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out 6-8 inch round disc shapes for empanadas (use large round cookie cutters  for small appetizer sized or draw your own template on clean cardboard. Wrap it in plastic and cut around the pastry with the tip to a sharp knife. Or use a plate. 

You can also make small individual balls with the dough and roll out each individual ball to a round shape (doesn’t need to be perfectly round) – if you have a tortilla press you can use it to flatten the dough balls like that too.

Assembling and Baking the Empanadas:

Make a good egg wash. 1 egg, a dash of cream milk or water and a pinch of salt. Beat with a fork like a scrambled egg. Set aside. 
To assemble the empanadas or handpies, place a heaping spoonful of the goodness filling on the middle of each pastry disc. The amount of filling will vary based on the size of the empanada, but in general, it’s easier to seal an empanada that isn’t overstuffed. Also, the more you make empanadas, the easier it becomes. It’s all in the repetition. 

To seal the empanadas, fold the disc and seal the edges by pressing the dough with your fingers. If you’re having a hard time sealing the edges, you can use brush the inside edges with egg wash- it will act as a glue for the empanadas. Many times I just egg wash the insides of all the discs then fill and fold. It sorta speeds up the process. 

You can also use a fork to help seal the edges, just press the top of the fork against the edges. 

To seal authentic use the repulgue or churito method- ( the curl type seal) , use your fingers to twist the curl the edges of the dough. 

For best results, with the dough ( as most doughs) refrigerating for at least 30 minutes before using and chill the the empanadas before baking – this also helps them seal better and prevents the filling from leaking out.
Form and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Egg wash tops and sides. Bake the empanadas in a pre-heated hot oven at 375’F -400’F. The baking time also varies (again based on the oven and size of the empanadas) but in the range of 10-20 minutes or until the empanadas are golden brown.

Fillings

You can use any type of filling you want, sweet or savory. I love to use my Ropas recipe and add that for filling. Even vegetarian veggie only fillings are delicious. Breakfast fillings work too! 

I especially love vegan potatoes curry in my empanadas- but then, it’s not quite an empanadas anymore and we are into a whole new recipe. I hear a Samosas recipe in my future! 

Using your family stew recipe is a good start. Add chilies and boom you’re on your way. 

Here is a a simple recipe made with ground beef and pork.

Ingredients

1 pound ground pork, grass fed is best 

1 pound ground beef, grass fed is best 

2 medium yellow onions, cleaned diced small

2-3 Tablespoon good quality olive oil 

4-5 Yukon potatoes, washed- not peeled and diced small, the size of a US currency dime.

1 large carrot, peeled and small dice.  

3-4 Serrano chiles, minced

1/2 teaspoon chili powder 

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic salt 

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper 

1/2 teaspoon ground Adobo chili ( optional) 

2 cans (14.5 ounces each) organic tomatoes, diced ( drained before adding) 

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper 

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional) 

1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped

Method

In a large high sided 12-14 inch skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. 

Add potatoes, sauté until slightly golden about 3-5 minutes. Remove and set aside on a paper towel. 

Add carrots and onions. Sauté until the onions are translucent about 2 to 3 minutes – add the garlic and sauté in additional 1 minute. 

Add the meat season with salt and pepper and cook until no longer pink, breaking it up into small pieces, 5 to 7 minutes. 

Add the jalapeños, all the spices, add the parsley and return the potatoes to the pan. Stir in tomatoes. Cook over medium heat until mixture has thickened and flavors are cooked through about 12 to 15 minutes. 

Season with salt and pepper to desired taste. Fold in cilantro. Let cool. Form empanadas. 

Notes
Freeze unbaked individually then store in air tight container. Or bake immediately and enjoy.
To bake previously frozen empanadas, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush tops with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, rotating baking sheets halfway through, about 30 to 40 minutes. 

You can also egg wash before individually freezing.
Enjoy! 

High Protein, Low Carb Almond Crepes- Have your Crepe, & Eat it too! 

If you are watching your macros, and counting carbs while increasing fats – this is definitely the crepe recipe for you! These are so yummy! I usually double the recipe. 

Ingredients:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature 

4 large eggs

3/4 cup almond flour

2 tbsp granulated coconut sugar or sugar substitute 

1/4 -1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil or butter 

Few drops of almond or vanilla extract or your favorite essential oil 

Pinch Hymalayan salt

Grape seed oil cooking spray or butter for the pan

Method:

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. 

In a a stand mixer, food processor, or standing blender – combine the cream cheese, the eggs, almond flour, sweetener, nut milk, oil, salt, and extract. Puree or mix until smooth and well combined. Should have the  consistency of a  melted milkshake. Add more nut milk if necessary. If lumpy, strain thru a seive. 

Set a 10-inch non stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add just enough oil or butter to lightly coat the pan. 

Once hot, add a ping-pong ball size ladle of batter to the pan and swirl or spread into a thin layer that reaches the edges, carefully not to roll up on the sides on the pan. 

Cook until edges are browning and the crepe is non stick to the shaking of the pan. Loosened with a spatula. Loosen all the way around and then lift one edge gently and work spatula underneath and flip it. Or, if you are brave, flip it in the air. Trust me – it’s fun and easy. Might take a few practice runs, but it’s worth it. Give it a go! 

Flip and cook on the other side until lightly browned. Remove and lay on prepared baking sheet, then continue with remaining batter. 

Continue to layer on top of the previous  crepe or on an additional piece of parchment on top of the first set of crepes as more come off the pan.

Fill with you favorite nut butters and homemade jams –top with fresh fruit. 
Whooo hoooo! Eat em’ up! 

Makes approximately 8 to 10 crepes. Each crepe has 3.06g of carbs and 1.16g of fiber. Total NET CARBS = 1.90grams per Crepe. 6.30 grams of protein!!!! 160 calories each. 13 grams of delicious fat. 
Photo credit: Julia from, Julia’s kitchen 

Authentic Fried Israeli Falafel 

Here I am, an Italian-American trying to grasp the depths of an authentic Israeli Falafel recipe. Here is how I did it. I’ve turn to my favorite Falafel expert, and adapted from Joan Nathan’s book The Foods of Israel Today. Amazing book ! Read what Joan has to say about the authenticity of Falafel. 

Joan writes

“Every Israeli has an opinion about falafel, the ultimate Israeli street food, which is most often served stuffed into pita bread. One of my favorite spots is a simple stand in the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem, adjacent to Mea Shearim. The neighborhood was established in 1891, when wealthy Jews from Bukharan engaged engineers and city planners to plan a quarter with straight, wide streets and lavish stone houses. 

After the Russian Revolution, with the passing of time and fortunes, the Bukharan Quarter lost much of its wealth, but even so the area retains a certain elegance. There, the falafel is freshly fried before your eyes and the balls are very large and light. 

Shlomo Zadok, an elderly falafel maker and falafel stand owner, brought the recipe with him from his native Yemen.

Zadok explained that at the time of the establishment of the state, falafel — the name of which probably comes from the word pilpel (pepper) — was made in two ways: either as it is in Egypt today, from crushed, soaked fava beans or fava beans combined with chickpeas, spices, and bulgur; or, as Yemenite Jews and the Arabs of Jerusalem did, from chickpeas alone. But favism, an inherited enzymatic deficiency occurring among some Jews — mainly those of Kurdish and Iraqi ancestry, many of whom came to Israel during the mid 1900s — proved potentially lethal, so all falafel makers in Israel ultimately sopped using fava beans, and chickpea falafel became an Israeli dish.

The timing was right for falafel in those early years, with immigrants pouring in. Since there was a shortage of meat, falafel made a cheap, protein-rich meal — and people liked it.

Rachama Ihshady, the daughter of the founder of another favorite Jerusalem falafel joint, Shalom’s Falafel on Bezalel Street, told me that her family recipe, also of Yemenite origin, has not changed since British times. 

Using the basics taught to me by these falafel mavens, I have created my own version, adding fresh parsley and cilantro, two ingredients I like and which originally characterized Arab falafel in Israel. 

Give me mine wrapped in a nice warm pita bread, swathed in tahina sauce an overflowing with pickled turnip and eggplant, chopped peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, amba (pickled mango sauce) — and make it harif, Hebrew for “hot.” The type of hot sauce used, of course, depends on the origin of the falafel maker.”

With all this research I decided to adapt Jones recipe without cilantro to suit more my own liking. Feel free to add it or omit. 

Joan Nathon’s Falafel Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup dried chickpeas

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro ( optional) 

1 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

4-6 tablespoons flour

Soybean or vegetable oil for frying

Chopped tomato for garnish

Diced onion for garnish

Diced green bell pepper for garnish

Tahina sauce

Pita bread ( see my recipe here

Method:

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 375ºF in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Notes

Egyptians omit the cilantro and substitute fava beans for the chickpeas

Tahina (also called tahini) is an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is available in Middle Eastern markets and at Amazon. 
To garnish your falafel in true Israeli style, try adding one or several of the following condiments: harissa hot sauce, pickled turnip (both also available at Amazon or ethnic grocer – add mango amba (pickle), or sauerkraut.

Me- I like to add chopped Cucumber, onions, tomatoes and lots of tzatziki and hot sauce ( see my tzatziki sauce recipe here) I know – don’t say it! My toppings are not authentic, but an awesome combination of a Italian-Greek-American twist ! 

Tzatziki Dipping Sauce     

English pronunciation ( Taet-Zeek -Key) 

Tzatziki is a sauce, or a dip. Made up of a combination of cucumber, fresh yogurt, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar- and fresh herbs. So delicious and refreshing. I like to use it on everything. I especially love to dip raw vegetables in it, and sometimes use it for salad dressing.

My kids love it and it’s a great source of protein on its own. I love Tzatziki on grilled meats, on Falafel and in Gyros too. I grew up with a portion of a Greek family, and this was a highly coveted culinary staple at most family gatherings. 

Ingredients:

1/2 large seedless cucumber, unpeeled, grated and set to drain- or rush the process by tossing in 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups plain full-fat Greek yogurt

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

2 Tablespoons extra virgin good quality olive oil

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or Himalayan salt

1/4-1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 -2 Tablespoons minced fresh dill

Method

Grate the cucumber, gently salt and toss – set to drain through a fine mesh sieve overnight in the refrigerator or allow to sit for 10-20 minutes and squeeze and excess liquid from cucumber wash off salt residue and squeeze dry using a clean kitchen towel. 

Add prepared cucumber to a small bowl and combine with the yogurt, garlic, oil, lemon juice and white pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or as long as you can. 

Remove from refrigerator and add chopped fresh dill to the mixture and stir to combine. Check and adjust seasoning. 

Serve chilled with pita bread, fresh cut veggies for dipping or use as a side for grilled meats. 

Chef Notes

Cucumbers inherently release an abundance of water when cut. Make sure your grated cucumber is well-drained before adding to the remaining ingredients or your recipe will become watery and flavorless. If you have time, can drain it in cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve overnight. If you’re in a rush, you can salt the cucumbers let sit about ten minutes, rinse and use your hands to squeeze the remaining liquid out of the cucumber.

The longer the garlic rests in the yogurt, the less bitter it will become and the better it will taste. For best results, combine all of the ingredients except the cucumber and allow it rest overnight in the refrigerator overnight- while your cucumber is draining.

Add the fresh dill at the last minute so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the flavors.

No Artificial Color- Empress Red Sugar Beet Cupcakes ! 

Ingredients:

1 cup puréed fresh red sugar-beets, (fresh cooked not canned)

1/3 cup coconut oil, slightly heated to pourable state

1 1/4 cup granulated organic sugar

2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons natural cocoa powder ( do not use Dutch processed cocoa for this batter) 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup almond milk or substitute 

Method

Preheat oven to 350′ F Degrees. 

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. 

In the bowl of your stand mixer, or large mixing bowl – add the beet purée. 

Fitted with the whip attachment, whisk on medium high speed and slowly begin to combine the beet purée with the oil by adding the oil in slow, yet steady steam hitting the interior side of the bowl- while whipping. Continue until all the oil is incorporated. If added too fast he after will delegate. We call this ” breaking” – so take your time adding the oil. 

Next, add the sugar and the vanilla extract. Beat an additional minute. 

Alternate adding the flour mixture and nut milk until incorporated into the batter. Continue to beat until combined. 

Divide among cupcake liners, filling them 3/4 full, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when poked in the middle.

Cool and keep airtight in cooler. 

Storing airtight is an important step to retain moisture and the natural red color. Only remove 30 minutes prior to serving to frost. 

Spicy Turkey Zucchini Boats! Like a Taco without a Shell. Whatever Floats Your Boat, Right? 

Ingredients:

8 medium zucchini

1 cup chicken stick

1 pound ground turkey, chicken, beef or Italian sausage 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped small dice 

1 cup mushrooms, quartered ( optional) 

2-3 cloves garlic, minced fine

3 cups pasta sauce

1 Tablespoon oregano, minced fine

1 Tablespoon fresh marjoram, minced fine 

1/2 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced fine  

¼ teaspoon Himalayan or Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste

1/2 -1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground ancho Chili

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese 

1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons Italian style panko bread crumbs

1/4 bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Measure out 1 cup of the pasta sauce and set aside.
Set aside a 13×9 glass baking dish 
Trim ends from zucchini and slice in half, lengthwise. With the tip of your knife score crosshatches on the inside of the zucchini flesh. Use the tip of a small spoon to scrape out the flesh. Chop the zucchini flesh into medium dice and set aside. 

Place the scooped out zucchini boats into a 13″ x 9″ baking dish and add about one cup of chicken or vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, until just slightly fork-tender. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool slightly.

While the boats are baking, add olive oil to a large high sided skillet and place over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and browning about 4-5 minutes. Add onions, and sauté until translucent an additional 2-3 minutes. 

Add the fresh garlic, cook for an additional 1 minute. 
Add the meat and begin constantly stirring to break up the ground meat as it cooks. Continue to cook and stir until meat is thoroughly cooked and veggies have softened. Drain off as much oil if any and return the pan to the heat.

Add the chopped zucchini flesh, 2 cups of the pasta sauce, parsley, fresh herbs, salt, fresh ground black pepper, crushed red pepper and remaining spices. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and allow to simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes. 

While sauce is simmering remove partially cooked zucchini from baking dish and pour off any liquid remaining. 

Pour the 1 cup of reserved pasta sauce into the empty baking dish and place zucchini boats on top of the sauce.

Divide the warm filling between the zucchini boats. If you have extra filling, spoon it into the dish around the zucchini boats. Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes, or until zucchini is fork tender. 

Remove from oven . Remove the foil and set the oven to broil.

Sprinkle the zucchini boats with Mozzarella, Parmesan and the Panko bread crumbs. Place dish back in the oven, watching closely, and cook for just a couple of minutes until cheese has melted and bread crumbs are golden brown. 

Top with fresh chopped parsley. Serve hot.

Variations

Add 1/2 cup cooked black forbidden rice 

Add Quinoa 

Add red or green bell peppers.

Add mini tomatoes 

Use left over cooked chicken

Top with fresh pesto or rough chopped basil