Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Zucchini Stuffed Bread

A few weeks ago, my boys came in from playing with their dog. They said that their dog had ran through the garden, stopping to roll on the young zucchini plants. They reported that two of the plants were destroyed. 

And it looked like they were right. Most of the leaves had been pulled off the plant and the few remaining leaves were crushed. I had planted the zucchini plants late and didn't know if I had time to replant. 

But it takes more than a mere dog to kill a zucchini. Actually, the tiny squash bugs are the most hated enemy of zucchini in our area. This time the plants made a complete recovery, and now I have a fridge stuffed with zucchini.

Time to pull out our favorite zucchini recipes.

Zucchini bread is an obvious choice. We all love zucchini bread. But most recipes only take a cup or two. If I have a pan-full of zucchini, I need a recipe that uses zucchini as a major ingredient, not a garnish. 

A few years ago I found a recipe in Cooks Illustrated magazine that used, not just cups, but pounds of zucchini. The secret was removing as much moisture as possible from the zucchini so the bread didn't become too wet and gummy. 

It works. I simply place the shredded zucchini in a clean dish towel and wring out all the water I can before mixing it with the other ingredients. I adjusted the spices a little and increased the size of the recipe - who wants to heat up the oven for just one loaf? Now we have our new favorite zucchini bread recipe, one that is stuffed with this easy-to-grow vegetable.



Zucchini Stuffed Bread

10 cups (about 3 lb) shredded zucchini
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 T. cinnamon
3 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1 cup mini chocolate chips, optional

Place shredded zucchini in a clean dish towel and squeeze out as much water as possible. Beat sugar, oil and eggs together. Add all ingredients together and mix well. Pour into 2 large or 3 medium-size loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes. Do not under bake.

Need more ways to use zucchini? Here are our five favorite zucchini recipes not including zucchini bread.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Wet Granola - A New Favorite

When my mom told me that she had made wet granola, and they loved it, I was skeptical. Isn't granola supposed to be crunchy? Would the granola mold if I skipped the baking step? 

It took me a couple months, but after hearing about the praise of wet granola a few more times, especially from my children who had devoured it at my mom's kitchen. I finally tried it. 

And now I'm sold. 

I've made wet granola many times the past months, and it is likely that this recipe will always be connected in my mind to Covid and my brother's stay at our house. This recipe is so easy that I can stir up a new batch in minutes which means if I realize we are out of granola, I can stir up a new batch at 6:00. I don't mind the time savings of skipping the baking step, and it truly does just taste better than any other granola I tried. 

I continue to tweak this recipe, usually to take advantage of what I have in my cupboard. Any kind of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit goes great in this recipe. Craisins give it a peanut-butter-and-jelly flavor. My mom adds chocolate chips, but I refuse to let my children eat chocolate for breakfast. 

I still enjoy crunchy granola and won't throw out my other recipes, but wet granola has gained a place in my kitchen.



Wet Granola

1 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
4 cups Rice Krispy cereal
10 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw wheat germ
1 cup sunflower seeds
nuts, raisins, craisins, or whatever your favorite granola ingredient

Slightly heat oil, honey, and peanut butter. Mix all ingredients together. Serve with milk or yogurt and fresh fruit. Store in tightly sealed container. 

I have never had wet granola spoil, but it also doesn't last long at our house. Maybe it wouldn't spoil since coconut oil, honey, and peanut butter are shelf stable. But if I was going to keep it longer than a week I'd probably store it in the fridge or freezer. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

A Walk Through a July Garden

I think I'm enjoying my garden more this year than I have for years. 

For quite a few years I was either pregnant, had a small baby, or Ed was sick. I was glad I had a garden during Ed's illness because weeding gave me some place to work out frustration, but it wasn't well cared for. Last year I worked hard to get the garden back in shape after not being cared for properly for years. Layers of mulch have made this year's garden much more enjoyable. 

I'm trying to find ways to make the garden easier to care for. Mulch pays a huge role in this since I can't run the tiller myself. I've always used mulch in the summer but now I'm looking for ways to extend the mulching year round. 


The potato patch. We have been very dry so this photo makes the garden look both bigger and greener than real life. I watered a few times to keep the garden alive. Thankfully we have received several rains in the last three days so it is starting to green up.


The big-leafed plant is candy roaster squash - an old heirloom plant that grows huge. Strawberries are on the left.


As always, I hide the cabbage and broccoli under row cover to save it from the cabbage worm. Zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes are behind them.

Last fall I covered this section of the garden with cardboard, grass clippings, and heaps of leaves. In the spring I dug a hole in the leaves and planted the tomato, broccoli, and zucchini plants under the mulch. I have loved having a basically weed free section of the garden.


Zucchini blooms


Carrots (being chewed off by a groundhog) green beans, and sweet corn.


Green bean blossom.


Green tomatoes and blossoms.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Faithfulness and Dutch Ovens

Long time readers will remember our tradition of hosting a dutch oven gathering every summer. The heat on Saturday was blistering but that didn't keep more than twenty pots from showing up at our house. The twelfth year resulted in an amazing line-up of food as usual.










How do you choose?


The chefs

My dad remembered Ed by asking us all to sing the chorus of Find Us Faithful. I don't think dad remembered that friends had sang that song at our wedding, eighteen year ago. I had not thought of that song in years, but it is even more poignant than it was on our wedding day.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. There is a lot I don't know, but I'm grateful for the heritage of faithfulness I have been given.


Find Us Faithful
by John Mohr

We're pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road,
And those who've gone before us
Line the way.
Cheering on the faithful,
Encouraging the weary,
Their lives a stirring testament
To God's sustaining grace.

Surrounded by so great
A cloud of witnesses,
Let us run the race
Not only for the prize,
But as those who've gone before us.
Let us leave to those behind us,
The heritage of faithfulness
Passed on thru godly lives.

After all our hopes and dreams
Have come and gone,
And our children sift thru all
We've left behind,
May the clues that they discover,
And the mem'ries they uncover,
Become the light that leads them,
To the road we each must find.

O may all who come behind us
Find us faithful,
May the fire of our devotion
Light their way.
May the footprints that we leave,
Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live
Inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us
Find us faithful.


You can read about past dutch oven gatherings. 2019 2015, 2014,  20132012201120102009

And here is a video if you'd like to listen to a rendition of this song.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Hummus

This spring when my brother moved in with us over the quarantine, he brought a jar of tahini with him. He has introduced us to several Middle Eastern foods since he returned to the States, and I decided to try learning to make hummus. 

Who knew a can of beans could turn into something so yummy. And with a food processor, it is super simple, taking only minutes

Tahini is a sauce made of toasted sesame seeds and can be found in ethnic grocery stores.


Hummus

1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
3 T olive oil
3 T tahini 
1 T lemon juice
1-2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until a smooth paste.

Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle paprika on top for garnish.

Serve with crackers, carrot sticks, or cucumber slices.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Italian Pasta Salad

I'm often frustrated about blogging in the summer. I compile brilliant posts while weeding the garden or sitting by the creek, but few words find their way out of my brain. Life is full and busy, and I struggle to write about it in a way that feels profitable. I don't want to just add to the noise on social media, plus I'm facing the deadline for several projects, which sucks my desire to show up here. 

But I'm finding that I miss writing about food. Summer food is so much fun. This blog started by sharing my favorite recipes, but I've lost that aspect the last few years. When Ed was on a very strict diet, I didn't have the energy to be creative about any other food. But probably the biggest deterrent is the photos of mouth-watering food that I see online and in cookbooks. I love beautiful photos of food, but I'm not a photographer. 

What I really like to do is share food with people. I enjoy people around the table. Since I can't have you all over, the next best thing is to share a favorite recipe. 

So, the next few weeks, I'm planning to share what we are eating. If I snapped a photo on my phone, I'll share it, but don't expect anything spectacular. I promise that a good photo isn't needed for it to taste good.

This recipe for Italian Pasta Salad came from my sister's work at a deli and made a huge amount. This spring I've made some large batches for several events, but I managed to cut it down to a bit more manageable size, though it still serves a crowd.

This recipe is endlessly adaptable. Don't like olives? Skip them. Enjoy broccoli? Double the amount. Don't have any tomatoes? It will still be delicious. 

This salad is perfect combined with grilled chicken, but I've been known to eat a meal entirely of this salad.


Italian Pasta Salad

1 box (1 lb) dry spiral pasta
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup shredded carrot
1 small can (2.25) sliced olives (drained)
1 cup chopped pepperoni
1 cup diced provolone cheese
1 cup diced red pepper
1 bottle of zesty Italian dressing

Cook pasta until barely tender. Drain and cool. Add all ingredients to pasta. Toss. Best flavor if allowed to sit for a few hours before serving.

If you don't want to buy dressing, here is my favorite homemade Italian dressing which works great for this recipe.

Italian Dressing

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp honey or sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp paprika

Blend together with whisk, blender, or food processor.


Here is some other favorite summer recipes that we've been enjoying this month.

Easy Method for Freshly-Squeezed Lemonade


Friday, June 19, 2020

This Blessed Life

I haven't known what to share in this spot. For several weeks I wanted to just listen, choosing to stay off almost all news and social media, and look for some wise Christians who understand race issues because they live it daily, and listen to them. 

Meanwhile, life at my house has been full. I love the long days of June. It is almost startling how many hours we have in a day when we don't have schoolwork to accomplish. We've been sewing dresses for my brother's wedding, painting and replacing flooring, and spending hours out doors. 

Here is a glimpse of the last month.


I love how boredom sparks creativity. My son spent hours shaping a bow from a few simple materials. Sadly, it cracked after a few uses, but now he knows how to make the next one better.


The girls did a bedroom makeover, painting the walls and rearranging furniture. My brother-in-law helped pull out the old carpets and install vinyl flooring. I love the final result, but in the middle of the project, when it accidentally became a much bigger project than expected, I wondered why I wasn't content with forty-year-old carpet. But when several men interrupted their Friday morning to come to my rescue, I was reminded of how blessed I am with support.


The boys' room got the same flooring with a lot less drama. 


In the last ten years, our pasture has grown up into an impossible jungle of honeysuckle and briers. In 2017, Ed set the goal of getting some goats to work on clearing the undergrowth. Of course, the summer of 2017 held different plans. Since we were forced to stay home this spring, my boys thought it would be the perfect time to get goats, especially since my brother is staying here and could help. 

A friend lent us three goats, another brother gave us electric fencing, and Project Goat began. Each week we move the fencing to another spot in the pasture. My brother has to use the chainsaw just to make a spot to place the fencing. 


But in that one week, these three goats can eat it bare. It is amazing at how they clear out the brambles and grapevines. I'm seeing parts of the pasture that have been buried in undergrowth for years.


A sultry afternoon is a chance to take our dog swimming in a nearby creek.


My six-year-old learned to ride a bike.


If you are a long-time reader, you might remember our frequent bike rides on the C&O Canal towpath in 2015 and 2016. We had spent many Saturday and Sunday evenings biking sections with the goal of some day completing the whole route. It had been four years since we biked the towpath, and it was such fun to go back. There is just nothing like biking along a quiet river on a summer evening.


Added fun to the towpath is the many caves to explore along the river.


My oldest had turned sixteen just after everything had closed down this spring. Finally, two months later, the offices reopened she was able to get her permit. When she drove home I thought I might not survive teaching six children how to drive, but she caught on quickly. I might enjoy riding in the passenger seat again.


Early May was so cold that many of our strawberries were frozen. But to my surprise, we are still getting a nice amount of berries.


We served another community cookout. This time restrictions were lifted enough that we could enjoy sitting with our neighbors and listening to their stories. 


The scooter gang who did our meal deliveries at the community cookout.




We visited some parks that had not been to for years. This one holds so many memories to me, but my children could not remember being there. We made new memories by fishing, catching salamanders, and grilling soft pretzels.


However crazy life may be in the world, if you have little girls who giggle contagiously at the simplest joys, your life is blessed.

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