March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Clockwise from upper left: A colorful basket of produce ready for a stir-fry; chocolate zucchini muffins; zucchini/onion quiche; a package of zucchini from the freezer.  
Our garden is producing copious amounts of summer squash.  I've frozen 15 pints of shredded zucchini to be used in the chocolate cupcake recipe below, have made zucchini spice muffins with raisins, and, my favorite, a zucchini and onion quiche from Taste of Home (recipe below).  Next...I may try leaving gifts of the pretty green squash on my friends' doorsteps, maybe anonymously, because there is no dearth of zucchini in most Kansas home gardens right now. I'm not the only one scrambling to find ways to use this easy-to-grow vegetable!


--Farmer John makes a yummy stir-fry something like this:  In a tablespoon or so of olive oil combine one medium thinly sliced onion, one small, sliced, yellow summer squash,  one small, thinly sliced zucchini, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. Stir fry over medium heat, add 2 cloves finely chopped garlic, salt, and pepper about three minutes before the end of cooking time.  Sometimes he adds kielbasa sausage slices as well.

--John also fries young yellow squash in olive oil over medium/high heat.  He slices them fairly thin, rolls them in seasoned flour, and fries until golden and crisp.

--For the zucchini goulash pictured at left:  brown 1.5 lb hamburger with 1 medium chopped zucchini, 1 small chopped onion and 3 large garlic cloves, minced.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, add 1 teaspoon ground oregano and about 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, minced. Stir in 3 medium chopped fresh tomatoes and about 1 cup of Emeril's original marinara sauce.

Daniel and Logan's Favorite Zucchini Muffins
These are egg and dairy free and so are perfect for my grandboys, who have food allergies. 
They are very easy to make and taste like a brownie.   

2 cups shredded zucchnni
1/2 cup oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
l/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla

If the zucchini is fairly young and small (12 inches or under), there's no need to peel it before shredding. Roll the shredded zucchini into paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess moisture. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir with a spoon just until combined.  Batter will be very thick.  Place cupcake liners in a 12-cup muffin pan and fill each liner about 3/4ths full of batter.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350.  Muffins are done when they can be removed from the pan without losing their shape.  

Taste of Home's Zucchini Quiche 
I was out of dried parsley flakes and so I also omitted the dried basil and substituted 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves instead.     We served it with sliced tomatoes fresh from the garden--YUM!  

·       Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
·       3 tablespoons butter
·       4 cups thinly sliced zucchini (about 3 medium)
·       1 large onion, thinly sliced
·       2 large eggs
·       2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
·       1/2 teaspoon salt
·       1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
·       1/2 teaspoon dried basil
·       1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
·       1/4 teaspoon pepper
·       2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
·       2 teaspoons prepared mustard
Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/8-in.-thick circle; transfer to a 9-in. pie plate. Trim pastry to 1/2 in. beyond rim of plate; flute edge. Refrigerate while preparing filling.
In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add zucchini and onion; cook and stir until tender. Drain and cool slightly.
Whisk eggs and seasonings until blended. Stir in cheese and zucchini mixture. Spread mustard over pastry shell; add filling.
Bake on a lower oven rack until a knife inserted in center comes out clean and crust is golden brown, 35-40 minutes. If needed, cover edge loosely with foil during last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.Yield: 8 servings.
Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches): Combine 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 tsp. salt; cut in 1/2 cup cold butter until crumbly. Gradually add 3-5 Tbsp. ice water, tossing with a fork until dough holds together when pressed. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
Originally published as Zucchini Quiche in Quick Cooking July/August 2005, p7

Friday, August 11, 2017

August and the Tomatoes Are Ripe!

I have loved August thus far, and that's an unusual status quo for me.  I have a standing grudge against humidity (frizzy hair, dontcha know), and as I've grown older I've turned into one of those people who say, "I just can't take hot weather anymore."  But this August has been gloriously cool, with regular rains.  Morning lows have been in the 60's.  This is amazing.  I've never known an August like it.
On a walk with my grandsons on a late afternoon in early August--and it wasn't too warm!  

It's been cool enough to sit outdoors in my new happy place. The chair is from a set of porch furniture my parents bought in the 1950's.  It was originally painted green, but in later years my dad stripped the green paint to find lovely maple underneath.  Outfitted in three cushions from The Dollar Store, I joked that the chair looked like the wardrobe from Beauty and the Beast: a bit overstuffed. But it feels heavenly. My chairside table is my Grandpa's anvil from his blacksmith's shop.  Wonder how he would feel about me using it to hold my iced tea cup??

Our tomato plants are producing and I've tried my hand at homemade ketchup.   I'll share the recipe for the batch I made this afternoon; it was so savory and delicious that  I had to restrain myself from eating it like soup! Here is the recipe as I wrote it for my grown-up children: 

Homemade Ketchup

...not quite like Grandma Opal’s but pretty good nonetheless...I used The Pioneer Woman’s ingredient list but with fresh rather than canned tomatoes and proportionately more sugar.  And to tell the truth, I’m pretty sure Grandma used more sugar yet.  And probably more vinegar too.  And she probably had never heard of Worcestershire sauce.... 

·      14 cups tomato juice from about 10 lbs. ripe tomatoes. 
o   Blanch ‘em, peel, core and quarter them, and put the juice through a wire sieve to get rid of the seeds.  It’ll take a little bit--stir it around, moosh it down  with the back of a spoon...fill the sieve and go have a cup of coffee.  Or...use one of those tomato squishers. I do not get along with the one Dad uses.  He evidently doesn’t mind the fine spray of juice that splatters clothing, floor, and countertops. Maybe it is because I wear glasses and flip-flops, but I mind.  And the squisher has a lot of moving parts that have to be dissembled and cleaned.
·      2 medium onions, chopped fine
·      4-5 cloves garlic, minced
·      ¼ cup olive oil
·      1 can tomato paste
·      1 cup brown sugar, packed
·      1 cup white sugar
·      ¼ cup molasses (if you spray the measuring cup with cooking spray, the molasses will slide right out)
·      ½ c. apple cider vinegar
·      1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
·      1 Tbsp. salt
·      1 teaspoon chili powder
·      1 teaspoon ground ginger
·      1 teaspoon allspice
·      l/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1.      Boil the tomato juice for about 20 minutes or so until it has reduced by I have no idea how much. Just cook it down some.  Stir it once in awhile.    
2.     Meantime, saute the chopped onion in the oil over low/medium heat until the onion is translucent.
3.     Add the minced garlic to the onion during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking time
4.     Add the onion mixture and all remaining ingredients to the simmering tomato juice and stir well. 
5.     Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring often.  It will begin to thicken up a bit. 
6.     Use an immersion blender to smooth it out. (Don’t use your countertop blender.  Trust me on this.)

I freeze this in quart bags, 2 cups to a bag.  It is deeee—licious. Add more brown sugar and use it for a meatloaf topping and you’ll become famous.  Put some in the meatloaf too.  

Yields about 5 pints