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The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Mighty Zucchini

At this time of the year, I am usually overwhelmed with zucchini. In fact, I've been known to be named Mom of the Year, just by allowing the young one and his friends to take the obscenely large zucchini from the garden and demolish them as they wish. Last year, our back yard was covered with the remains of some dearly departed zucchini. And our new puppy, who will still eat anything, was sleeping on his back in the middle of the yard with a distended tummy and a contented smile on his face.

This year, my garden just didn't work out. And, I'm ashamed to admit, my zucchini didn't produce any squash. How can this be possible? Zucchini can be grown by just about anyone. It's the butt of jokes, and it's ginormous yields are the stuff of legend. I tried every trick in the book to get them to polinate, but no squash was produced. And then we got hit with a horrible hail storm.

This year, I had to (gasp) get zucchini from a friend. Her relief at being able to get rid of some of her bounty was apparent, although restrained. Those of us who've raised the mighty green squash know that you can't get too excited when someone's willing to take some off your hands--you don't want to chase your recipient away from future hand outs.

I've been known to secretly deliver my zucchini bounty in the dead of night. Stealthily stalking neighbors and friends, I'll leave my green calling card on their front porch and then run for cover. Heck a friendly smile at the mailbox from a new neighbor just might insight me to rush a basket of fresh from the garden zucchini to their doorstep. Anonymous zucchini drops are commonplace around here. I even got one last year while I was out making my own deliveries!

When my harvest is plentiful, I've been known to serve the squash hidden in all three meals of the day. Shredded, it can be added to breads, muffins, sauces, and pasta bakes. But, this year, since I'm zucch-less (and yes that is a word), I'm using it as the feature flavor. These are two of my favorite zucchini recipes. I hope you enjoy!

Teriyaki Zucchini Stir Fry

Splash of canola oil
Zucchini, cut into rectangles--halve lengthwise and cut into long strips, then cut into 2 inch pieces
One large onion, sliced
Fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Teriyaki Sauce
Sesame Seeds

Prep all vegetables before heating pan. This one cooks up fast, so be prepared to be with the pan the whole time! Heat a wok or frying pan over high heat. Add a splash of oil. Drop in vegetables and, using two wooden spoons, stir fry until veggies are tender and caramelized. Remove from heat. Season with teriyaki sauce to taste, coating vegetables well. Don't use too much or it will be too salty. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve with steamed Jasmine Rice.

Zucchini Corn Saute

A splash of olive oil
Several small zucchini cut into coins
One medium onion, diced
Canned or frozen corn
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese: Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack--whatever you have around

Heat a wok or frying pan over medium high heat. Splash with olive oil. Add onion and zucchini. Cook until caramelized and tender. Add corn and cook until heated through, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and top with a small amount of shredded cheese. Enjoy!

This Week's Five

Sight: Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas
Great fictional book of letters from a woman in Iowa to her sister back home. It's set during the Civil War and provides a unique perspective of this time of our history.

Sound: Songbird by Eva Cassidy
I first heard Eva at a hospice memorial service for my dad. Sadly, Eva died very young from melanoma. Her amazing voice and music live on.

Scent: Fall is in the air!

Taste: Teriyaki Zucchini Stir Fry

Touch: New school clothes!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I promised the recipe, so here you go!


the largest roasting hen you can find, at least 5 lbs

one orange, cut into quarters

one onion, cut into quarters

assorted dried herbs, in total about 2 TB

sea salt and cracked black pepper

Place hen in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle generously with your favorite herbs. I like garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, thyme and whatever else is at the front of my overcrowded spice shelf! I've also used spice blends from my favorite spice store Penzeys. Don't worry about getting them evenly distributed. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground, coarse black pepper. Juice the orange wedges over the chicken and stuff into the chicken cavity, alternately stuffing in onion wedges as well. Now, rub the spice and juice mixture all over the chicken.

If you've got all day:

Five hours before you'd like to eat, preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place the chicken in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 5 hours, basting every once in a while. You're house is going to smell amazing!! Let the bird stand for 10 minutes before carving.

If you haven't got all day:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place chicken in oven, uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 degrees. And roast approximately 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally, or until a thermometer inserted deep into the thigh reads 180 degrees and juices run clear. Let bird stand for 10 minutes before carving.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My New Favorite Blog

Please, check this woman out! Fantastic blog about her kids, her life. Fabulous. I'd love to get to know her-- email me, Dawn. You are fabulous!

This Week"s Five

Sight: The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Sound: The Body Acoustic by Cindy Lauper
Scent: Snowbird
Taste: Snowbird(I promise, recipe will come soon)
Touch: New school supplies!

What are your Five this week?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lunchbox Blues

It's difficult to be in grade school, I really have to agree with my young one on this. I remember the challenges of trying to fit in, do what's right, and at the same time try to be a cool kid. I remember the mean girls, the teacher with the Kleenex up her polyester sleeve who had a tendency to read outloud far too quietly to keep us awake, and the smell of lunch wafting down the hallway, long long before it was time to eat.

We're going through a difficult time in our house. Summer hasn't been long enough, but between our busy schedule and his friend's filled calendars, he's been missing his school friends. I'm trying to balance this topsy turvy time of year the best I can. There's a great deal of joy to be found with recent purchases of new "school" shoes, new pencils, and the obligatory new backpack (this one on wheels!). And we all know, there's nothing like the smell of a new crayon box, even though, I've been informed, that they use markers in fourth grade. Hey, I deserve a new box of crayons every year, don't I?

Anyway, I'm getting off the subject a bit. Along with trying to present school in the best light and balancing the dreaded return with the thought of making it a really great year, we've taken a look at the proposed school lunch menu for September. And I have to say, after a summer of making really healthy choices, it's got me a little down. It's also sparked some interesting conversations around the house about just what would be a healthy hot lunch at school, how some menu choices just fall very short of what they should be, and how what we put in our bodies ultimately fuels our minds. Ok, that's getting a little "let's all join hands and sing" for me, but you understand where I'm going.

For the most part, school lunch fails to meet our parenting ideals of what kids should really have for lunch. It's colorless, salty, and filled with far too many prepackaged foods. So, we've decided in our home to try using school hot lunch less and less and try taking lunch along more and more. I have visions of packing individual containers of fresh sugarsnap peas, yogurt, and lentils, but the reality is, it may take some time for young one to get used to this.

There are expensive options out there for laptop style lunchboxes, but I really don't think it's necessary to spend a fortune on small plastic containers. We'll use what we have here and send them in an insulated bag that he's had for a while. We've got a great Thermos for hot and/or cold stuff. My goal is to use only reusable containers and to concentrate on packing great lunches that will rank high on the lunch trading scale of deliciousness (and Lord help me if he does figure out he can trade for nuggets or fries!).

I'm looking forward to trying this. I understand it will be a bit of an investment in time and I'd gladly welcome any suggested menus. There are some great websites out there outlining kid friendly fare, but I'd like to hear from people who've made it work and what they're serving.


Friday, August 17, 2007

All Hail Hail

I think my garden was doomed from the beginning. It's been a hot and dry summer. I've been determined to water and baby my plants, most of whom, I started from seed earlier in the Spring. I've done my best to weed and fertilize, although I'll admit, I'm a terrible weeder!

My garden is filled with tomatoes, radishes, lettuces, zucchini, broccoli, and rutabagas. My attempts at growing Chinese Long Beans and Baby Bush Squash had miserably failed earlier in the season. And my sweet corn was enjoyed for the fourth year in a row by a raccoon who seems to enjoy taunting me with his ability to pluck the corn from the stalk just a few days before it's at it's peak ripeness.

At this time of year, I begin losing interest in my garden. I'm often longing for the change of seasons, looking forward to cooler weather and school to begin again. The reality of my garden isn't exactly as I planned it in the Spring. I remember my planning sessions and many drafts of my garden layout fondly, knowing I'll do it again every Spring. I think people who live in areas where the seasons don't change, don't understand this need to dig in the dirt once the snow thaws! We plan, seed catalogs in hand, long before Spring has sprung.

But, I digress. There is a bit of a gambler in me. I rarely measure when I cook and I like to try new things. Gardening is the same type of gamble. Plant these little seeds and you just might get something amazing. Or, as in my case this summer, you just might battle Mother Nature and lose.

Heat and hail. There's nothing I could have done differently in my garden this year. The beautiful plants that just didn't get time to produce were knocked down and splintered by two to three inch balls of ice falling from stormy skies. It happened in just a few short minutes. And in a way, it was really ok. I was really ok. Because that's what happens when you gamble, sometimes you win and sometimes, well, you just have to surrender.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Aunt Marilyn's Molasses Bread

The aroma of freshly baked molasses bread is wafting through the house. Undeniably, baking bread is the scent that feels most like home to me.

We've had a hot summer here in Minnesota. Temperatures and humidity have soared to new highs. The heat has been relentless and nerves have been on edge. So, you ask, you're baking bread? Turning your oven on in to raise the temperature even higher?

No. But, I've been wanting to do it for weeks! Every day, I've checked the forecast, I've poked my nose out of the air conditioning, and it's been hot, hot, hot! And my craving for homemade molasses bread has continued on and on.

And then, I woke up this morning to find open the windows weather! Blissfully cool, dry breezy BREAD BAKIN' WEATHER! I've never been able to do a cartwheel, but I almost tried this morning.

A break in the hot weather has got spirits soaring all over our neighborhood. With the windows open as I was kneading bread, I could hear kids laughing and lawn mowers humming. I honestly had a bit of a June Cleaver moment, well, without the starched apron and the Valium induced smile.

Here's a variation on my Great Aunt Marilyn's Molasses Bread. She's a grand old soul who never makes less than a dozen of these sweetly scented loaves. I scaled it down to make three large loaves and adjusted the recipe to suit what was in my pantry. If you can't get cool weather, crank the airconditioning to sub zero and bake away!

Marilyn's Molasses Bread

2 TB active dry yeast (or 2 packages)
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups lukewarm water
3/4 cup molasses--I didn't have enough molasses, so I used real maple syrup to
make up the difference
1/4 cup real butter, melted
1 TB salt
2 tsp cinnamon
12 cups flour--I used 11 cups unbleached bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups raisins

Grease 3 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Dissolve yeast in 1 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl and add 2 tsp sugar. Mix in remaining water(3 cups), 3/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1 tbsp salt. Add to the yeast mixture and add the remaining sugar (1/2 cup minus the 2 tsp); mix until smooth.
Add the 12 cups of flour, 2 cups at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the 2 1/2 cups of raisins. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about 12-15 minutes). Keeping the dough warm, grease a large mixing bowl with butter. Place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (about an hour)
Punch down the dough and divide it into three even parts. Place in the 3 pans. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375° F.Place the pans on the lower rack. Bake until loaves are golden brown, about 40 to 60 minutes. (Or until a spouse or child yells, "Is it done yet?" at least 3 times.) Remove bread from pans and brush the tops with melted butter. Place on wire racks. I dare you to wait until it's cool to try it!

Take a Whisk?

Taking a leap. That's a bit what this feels like to me. Putting my thoughts, some wisdom, and quite a bit of whimsy out into the great beyond in the hopes that maybe I'll touch someone or meet some kindred spirits. That's why I'm here in blogdom.

I've been a reader of several blogs for years. I have my favorites and hope to include them here sometime. I love the foodie blogs, but really don't want to just concentrate this blog on food, although I definitely love to shop for, read about, and cook good food. Food will be a central focus, but I hope to touch on more.

So, join me, will you? This feels like a take a deep breath moment. Here we go.


Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!