Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pretending to be a Pioneer....

Greetings from Nauvoo, Illinois. We're on vacation this week-sort of. We're also volunteers in a huge outdoor production about the Mormon settlers of a tiny town on the Mississippi River. (Read more about it here.) Can you come and see it? It runs tonight through Saturday and it is open to the public and free. The weather is hot and humid, and the mosquitos are ravenous, but I don't think you can complain in Nauvoo. You just can't gripe when you think about the pioneers. We have it so easy these days in so many ways. Still, we're here to step back in time and share the story of this remarkable little town.
Here's how it's been for us: We were assigned to a "Gold Cast" group with several other families. We started off our week with team building activities and Pageant rehearsals. The charges are in heaven since most of what we are doing seems quite a bit like play, and if it isn't fun they send them to "Family Support," which basically means more fun and games. I wish I could send them to "Family Support" when they were bored at home. My parents are here with us-since they help run the Nauvoo Pageant all summer long. Here they are during the team-building dance. Did I mention that I can't dance? I really can't-but take it away, Mom and Pop. Boogie down for all of us.Suddenly it was time to get serious with our first important task-getting fitted for our pioneer costumes. The women need bloomers, a huge slip, a skirt, and a bodice and possibly a bonnet. The men wear shirts, trousers, vests, suspenders and hats if they haven't grown their hair out. My boys are looking like hairy surfers-no hats for them. The little girls steal the show in their dresses and pinnafores. Look at this little pioneer girl. I wish I could take her home in my apron pocket. The charges are playing their violins in the Nauvoo Band, so they have been busy practicing frontier favorites like Cotton Eyed Joe and Golden Slippers. You can get a little peek at them on stage. They look so little up there, fiddling their little hearts out. Aww, I can't wait to see them fiddling tonight in their pioneer costumes. I've got to run to rehearsal, but I'll be back with more pictures of Nauvoo Pageant and the Frontier Country Fair....
If you are anywhere near Nauvoo, Illinois-get in your car and come out and see us!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nauvoo, Illinois:We made it!

We've been in the car for 24 out of the last 36 hours. I've used my glittery voice so many times, I think I deserve a medal. Or at least a hot fudge sundae.
"West, my dear, sweet son, please take your sweaty feet off your sister!"
"Sailor, my kind-hearted girl, when West puts his sweaty feet on you, please don't scream-calmly and serenely ask for help!"
"Oh, charges, can you count how many ears of corn you see in Nebraska?"
"Only 682 miles left till our destination-think how much closer we're getting!"
Oh-I've been positively chipper, if not always genuine. There's a huge responsibility on the shoulders of the mother, and not just in the car. The mood of the family hangs on your ability to keep your cool. If you are calm, the family will recover from grounchy moods and squabbles. If you are crabby, the whole family will let loose with existentialist angst. Remember that if you are thinking of having children. Forget about learning Lamaze and how to diaper infants. Practice being cheerful when everyone around you is cantankerous. That's the most pratical advice I can offer to potential parents. Ohm. Serenity now. Fake it till you feel it, baby.
We are here-and I can say that much with an absolutely 100 percent genuine glittery voice.
"Charges-it's time to unload the car! Oh, ho! Now won't that be fun?"
Be Back Tomorrow with more about Nauvoo...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Zucchini Pancakes with Tomato-Onion Salad

We're leaving on vacation tomorrow. I'm grading term papers, packing suitcases, making phonecalls, running loads of laundry, supervising violin practices, and generally trying to wrap up a couple of week's worth of responsibilities in advance. I am still in my running clothes. I have not run, but I think I should get a little credit just for my hopefulness, don't you? Just putting on a sportsbra should be worth a couple of hundred calories.
My sister, in the middle of a move to California, rolled into to town last night. She'll be housesitting for us while her husband is househunting for her. It's a convenient arrangement, except for I don't feel like leaving when my sister is here. Across the street, at my parent's house, I have two other sisters and their families. Suddenly, staying home sounds very enticing. I don't want to miss out on any of the laughs. I'll bet there will be a few laughs where we're headed-more info on that to come.
I haven't done any grocery shopping this week, in anticipation of leaving. We're using up what we've got and living off pantry staples and our vegetable garden. These are ideal conditions for my very favorite zucchini recipe. This is it. I love the cakes, the cookies, the breads, the terrines, the gratines, the quesadillas-but this is my favorite.
Zucchini pancakes are a summer variation on potato latkes, really. There's just a hint of zucchini flavor, so even people like the Quiet Man, who really don't care for zucchini will clamor for seconds. On a summer night, with perfect salad of lemon, red onion and tomato, zucchini pancakes are just the ticket. And speaking of tickets, I'd better get packing for our trip.

Zucchini Pancakes

Estimated Cost: $3.00 for four servings with tomato salad-or almost free, if you've got a garden.

2 cups shredded zucchini

1/4 cup grated onion

1/2 cup flour, plus more if needed

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

pinch of cayenne, if desired

butter, for the fry pan

Combine all ingredients. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Cook pancakes in melted butter until browned on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with sour cream and tomato salad.

Tomato-Onion Salad

1 large red ripe tomato

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons olive oil

S and P, to taste

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and serve with zucchini pancakes.

Next Up:

Banana Cake Lots of Ways

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quesadillas with Quick Zucchini Relish

This is what my kitchen counter looks like right now:

The charges have taken to creating strange vegetable creatures. West says that it must be a lady vegetable person, since she's got a wide and round bottom. I don't know where he's ever seen one of those before, since my bottom is firm and narrow. Yep. Firm and narrow, all right.
Sometimes when we aren't making pear shaped ladies, we actually eat our garden produce. We've had six straight days of temperatures over 110 degrees. I'm starting to feel like Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire. They'll have to take me away in a straight jacket if the temps don't drop soon. Do they have straight jackets with short sleeves, because it's awful hot around here. I'm not about to turn on the oven or make a complicated five course dinner in this heat. Quesadillas I can handle. I made a quick sweet and spicy zucchini relish to serve on the side, but then I ended up filling up the quesadillas with it also. It was so yummy, I finished the last of it off with a spoon. If this heat keeps up, we're having this everynight for a week.
Quick Zucchini Relish
Estimated Cost: $2.00 or free if you've got a garden
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 small zuchini, chopped
1 small yellow squash, chopped
1 cup corn, preferrably fresh
1 large red tomato, chopped
2 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
In a skillet over medium heat, heat vegetable oil. Add onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add garlic, jalapeno, zucchini, squash, tomato, and corn. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and lime juice. Cook for one additional minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with quesadillas made with sharp cheddar.
Next Up:
Lots of Ways Banana Cake

Monday, July 19, 2010

Zookies-(Zucchini Butterscotch Cookies)

Readers, I am back with zucchini. I may have taken a break, but my zucchini plant did not. Ahem, in other news: we had a smallish skunk trapped under the trampoline. Other than being quite smelly, he really was a shy and unobtrusive fella. The full force of his funk, fortunately, was felt by no one. But still. No one was willing to frolic on the trampoline knowing Pepe La Pew was down there. On the advice of Animal Control, we made a little ramp from bits of wood and gently slid it down between the springs. I use the term "we" loosely here. It worked! He is gone. I think. Unless skunks can dig underground holes. Apparently, I know very little about skunks. Sometimes I see them on my early morning runs, so I cross the street and give them a wide berth. We haven't had the opportunity to really get to know each other, and maybe it is for the best.

One more news item: I am now on Facebook. And Twitter. I'm always about 3.5 years behind the maddening crowd, but I made it at last. Would you like to follow me? In about six more years, I'll figure out how to provide a link so you can do that. In the meantime, you can check my left hand side bar to get updates throughout the day. Just in case you wanted to know that I popped some hamburger buns in the oven, or that my package from Land's End arrived, or that Sailor is disappointed from her orthodonist's appointment. Ooh, wee.
And now, the cookie. A few years ago, a friend of mine raved about a butterscotch zucchini cookie. I dismissed it as lunacy and never thought of it again, until I had Mount Everest of zucchini on my kitchen counter. I scoured the Internet, made the recipe, and hey-they were really good. Don't expect to taste zucchini. I made some with and without, just to be certain that the flavor was indiscernable. The texture, however is changed. Think soft and cakey with little nibs of butterscotch and caramely oats. Be sure to undercook them just a little bit, as they tend to firm up after they come out of the oven.

Zookies- Zucchini Butterscotch Cookies
Estimated Cost: &3.00 for a half batch
1 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. soft butter
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk, omit if using frozen zucchini
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1 c. shredded zucchini
1 c. butterscotch chips
Cream sugar and butter; add eggs, milk; beat well. Mix and add dry ingredients. Stir in rest of ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.
Next Up:
Lots of Ways Banana Cake-then more zucchini

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Silkiest Butter Pecan Ice Cream-No Ice Cream Maker Needed

Photo Courtesy J.M. Smucker

I'm guest blogging today over at my college freshman roomate's site. Are you ready for a little break from zucchini? I was saving something extra special for Aunt Spicy's blog. This Butter Pecan ice cream is absolute heaven, and best of all you won't need an ice cream maker. Now, I've made ice cream without an ice cream maker before-but this is in an entirely different league. The secret to the creamy texture is.....wait a second! Head over here and you can find out all about it. And trust me, you're going to want some on the end of your spoon for the rest of the summer. Be back tomorrow with more zukes...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grilled Steak and Zucchini with Maple Chile Butter

Tomorrow the forecast calls for 112 degrees for the high and 84 degrees for the low. The forecast here during the next couple of months demonstrates very little variety: Sunny, Sunny, Sunny, Sunny, Sunny. Once in a while, they throw in a "Mostly Sunny," just for variety. I love summer, I really do, but those days when you don't dare open a window, even at 5 AM, can wear on me a little. Our little town takes on the semblance of a ghost down, with not a soul on the streets. No lemonade stands, bike riders, or scruffy-haired kids ambling down the road, enjoying their time off school. For me, the roses among the thorns of this hot weather, is all the gorgeous produce. I love it-corn, watermelon, peaches, tomatoes, and yup-zucchini. I love you every day and every which way, zucchini. But on the grill, I love you best of all. You're just a hunk, a hunk of burning love. Now here's the scoop on grilling zucchini-you've got to treat it right. Don't treat it like a boring garden vegetable, treat it like it's something special, like an expensive steak. Give it a sweet and spicy rub, grill it till it's tender-crisp and charred in places, and then finish it with a flavorful butter compote. My latest favorite compote combines garlic, maple, and chili powder with creamy butter. You'll love it on your steak and zucchini-but don't stop there. Rub it on your corn on the cob, slather it on grilled fish, coat the outside of your quesadillas, tuck a little into a hamburger patty, toss it with some blanched green beans. You'll be hooked!
Grilled Steak and Zucchini with Maple Chili Butter
Estimated Cost: about $7-10
PS If you aren't getting your zucchini for free, would you please stop by my house?
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 generous teaspon chili powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch thick pieces
4 steaks for grilling
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Make butter compote by combining butter, garlic, chili powder, and syrup. Roll into log and wrap in waxed paper. Chill until serving time.
Brush zucchini and steak lightly with oil. Sprinkle with brown sugar, chili powder, garlic, powder, and salt and pepper. Rub mixture in to adhere. Grill according to desired doneness over high heat. Serve with Maple Chili Butter.
Up Next
Zookies (Zucchini Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brrrrr-ownies


Hiya, folks. It's not zucchini (try not to cry), but today's Tuesday and I'm posting a recipe from my weekly baking club. You're gonna like this one-brownie batter loaded with bits of York peppermint patties, for a cool and minty zing. I put my batter in muffin cups and tucked a peppermint pattie into each one.
Mmmm. Brrrr. Mmmm. Brrr. I could get used to this. I'll eat an extra whole zucchini as penance.
Be back tomorrow with Grilled Steak and Zucchini with Maple Chile Butter

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pasta with Lotsa Lotsa Zucchini Primavera

The zucchini plants are takin' over the world. I love um, I really do. That's why we planted ONE sweet little plant. One cute little obedient zucchini plant. I planned to pluck one dainty little squash each day, never allowing any zucchini to grow bigger than my index finger, since they taste so much sweeter when they are little. Ha! Zuchinni plants are takin' over the world. Once you turn your back, they morph into baseball bats. (Hey-now that's an idea. Zucchini-Tomato baseball. Hey, batteh batteh.) How about you? Are your zucchini plants takin' over the world yet, or are they still whispering rebellion and choosing a leader? Don't wait, raze them down while they are still organizing and gobble them up for dinner.

I'll be sharing recipe ideas for zuchinni submission all week long-from desserts, to dinners, to appetizers. And why don't you share some ideas with me? After all, we're all in this fight together. Humankind vs. Zucchini!
Post Edit:My sister-in-law just came by with a great big bag of -you guessed it-zucchini!
Notes: All right, so pasta primavera usually involves spring-not summer-vegetables, but so what. I'm in the middle of a summer vegetable battle here. And you know what? Zucchini tastes absolutely divine with pasta. It's the time of year when everyone in the Northern Hemisphere should be getting zucchini for free-or at least for very, very, cheap.
Pasta with Lotsa Lotsa Zucchini Primavera
Estimated Cost: $8.00 for 6 generous servings (or cheaper-every vegetable but the broccoli came from my own garden)
1 lb pasta (I used angel hair)
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 carrots
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 small bunch broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
2 medium zucchini, sliced
3/4 cup peas (not thawed, if frozen)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
zest and juice of one lemon
Begin cooking pasta according to package directions. Heat butter in large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and garlic, and red bell pepper. Cook for five minutes. Stir in broccoli and zucchini. Cook until all vegetables are tender crisp. Add peas and turn off the heat. Drain pasta and keep warm. In pasta pot, bring cream and broth to a boil. Add cheese, and lemon juice and zest and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss pasta with vegetable and cream sauce. Serve, passing more cheese on the side.
All Week Long:
Zucchini Cookies, Zucchini Cake, Zucchini Fritters, and Zucchini Lasagna

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things....

Sweet Summer. Those extra hours of daylight are the gift of time.
Time to read books like....The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, about the French editor of Elle magazine who suffered a stroke at age 43, confining his ability to communicate to the blink of one eye. And 52 Loaves, about a man who attempts to bake bread from scratch...no really, from scratch-homegrown wheat, harvested microorganisms for a starter, and built a backyard oven, and most impressive of all-made me laugh in the process.


And to watch TV, like Foyle's War.
It's the story of World War II on the homefront of the small English seadside towns. Turns out the story of war at home is every bit as interesting as war on the frontlines-especially when you've got an charismatic, hard-boiled Chief Inspector like Foyle, making sure everyone toes the line. Ahem, Race for your, Life Charlie Brown is for the charges-sorta. I may not watch it from start to finish, but when the kids have it on, it makes me laugh. Charlie Brown heads a river rafting team in a competition against some antagonistic bullies. Even Snoopy has to confront his fears-and the bullys' clawing cat.
And to eat. Don't worry-we're eating corn, watermelon, zucchini from the garden, yada, yada, yada. But there's still room for some of these current favorites.
I can't decide which I like better, Pretzel M and Ms or Peanut Butter M and Ms. Hmm, I think I'd better try them again, just to find out.

Per my sister's recommendation, I bought some of the Mint Oreo Fudge Cremes and put them in the fridge. Hide them in the back of the fridge because these slim little cookies go fast.

Have you tried Dibs before? It's like a little poppable Eskimo Pie. They come in mint, peanut butter, and Nestle Crunch-my favorite.

All right, readers: It's time for you to make some recommendations. What should we all be reading, watching, and eating before the summer's through? Leave me a comment and point me in the right direction!

Next Up:

Pasta Primavera

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chunky Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Chip Pie


This long holiday weekend made for a whole lot of celebrating, didn't it? In a rare burst of spontaneity, we took a road trip. We left town around 7 PM Friday night (exactly 30 minutes after deciding to go-don't even ask me about all the things I forgot to bring) and made the four and hour drive to my sister Heidi's house. I'm so glad we did. She hosted an Anytown USA Patriotic holiday weekend. We hiked a waterfall near her house, had a picnic on the lawn, made crafts-a robot for West and a skirt for Sailor,and had fireworks in the driveway.
Here's a pic of the cousins, looking spiffy for Fourth of July church.And here's my brood, taking advantage of my sister's Americana porch for a family portrait. I wish you could have tasted the food. Well, actually you can, since most of the recipes came from right here. We had peach barbecue chicken, fried chicken, dill potato salad, baked beans, watermelon, corn on the cob, homemade rolls, Texas Sheet Cake, and this peanut butter pie.
Holy Bottle Rocket, this pie was mmm,mmm good. And peanut butter is one of those distinctly American flavors, so that makes it even more perfect for a patriotic holiday. Hope you all had a great, long weekend. Now get some rest.
Chunky Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Chip Pie
Recipe from Taste of South Magazine
Estimated Cost: $5.00 for 12 servings
Serve with lots of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce!
1 prepared unbaked pie crust
1 cup Domino’s Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup King Arthur Mellow Pastry Blend Flour
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Spanish peanuts, skins removed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter morsels
1/2 cup milk chocolate morsels
Directions
Preheat oven to 350°.
On a lightly floured surface, roll piecrust to 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer and press into a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp edge, if desired. (Edge may be slightly uneven.)
In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, peanut butter, and butter, mixing well. Add eggs, vanilla, peanuts, peanut butter morsels, and chocolate morsels. Transfer filling to prepared piecrust.
Bake until firm in the middle, approximately 45 minutes.
Next Up:
Pasta Primavera