Spiced Zucchini Bread

zucchini bread

This recipe is the product of 2 years of trial and error. Finally, finally I have hit on the perfect blend of spice and fruit and all things wonderful. It is THE best, hands down, zucchini bread to ever be made anywhere. You think I jest? Give it a shot!

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup apple or pear sauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • grated rind from one orange
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground clove
  • 3-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of freshly shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Grease 2 standard size bread pans or 5 mini ones.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together everything but the last 3 ingredients.
  4. Stir in flour.
  5. Stir in zucchini and nuts.
  6. Bake for 1 hour for standard pans and 40-45 minutes for minis or until tester comes out clean.

Now make yourself a pot of tea, put your feet up and enjoy!

For the Love of Eggplant!

Ratatouille use this one

Whitney’s Rustic Ratatouille

 

I am forever amazed by the number of people who claim to dislike eggplant. When pressed for a reason, most do not reply in a way that I find satisfactory, so I push: “When was the last time you had it? How was it prepared?”

After hems and haws and vague guesses at remembering a date, I finally conclude that they’ve never even tried it. Either that or their Great Aunt Nenica Penica boiled it until it was mush, added no seasoning whatsoever, and served it to them when they were wee children.

I will give you this: eggplant is not a vegetable that most of us grew up eating with any regularity, unless of course you are of Mediterranean or Asian descent.  Then you certainly understand the glory of the aubergine. This magnificent fruit, once referred to as the “mad apple” upon its discovery in Europe, was thought to have its origins in India, pre-dating written history. By the fifth century it popped up in Chinese record, by the eighth, the Moors were savoring it and, by the thirteenth, the Arabs possessed it’s’ glory. Two hundred years later it was discovered by the Greeks and Romans. It tore through Northern and Eastern Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; however, not until the early 1900’s did it show up with any regularity in American cuisine (even though Thomas Jefferson is oft credited with bringing it to our soil many decades earlier.) So, perhaps I can understand how we as a country may still fear its bounty. After all, we have only seriously been experimenting with it for a hundred years; a trifling amount of time in the history of man.

Yet I feel compelled to remind my fellow countrymen, we are Americans! We are adventurers! Our very roots lie in the soil of other lands where they have appreciated and valued the culinary contribution of the eggplant for centuries. Let us tap into our cell memory and rediscover why our forefathers brought this gorgeous, plump, deep purple prize to the New World. They must have known something that we don’t.

Eggplant season is from July-October and like all other produce, best used when in season. I can give you is Ratatouille, which is a mélange of the celebrated aubergine, squash, zucchini, red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes, black olives, garlic, and assorted spices married together and bound by the wondrously flavorful olive oil. Once you make the basic recipe, you can serve it in a myriad of ways that will only make you love it more and more. I have served many a guest Ratatouille and at first vaguely describe it as vegetable dip. Not until they express their glowing praise, do I confess that it is in fact…eggplant. Ratatouille is the perfect dip (served cold or room temperature) accompanied with crackers, slices of crusty bread, or even corn chips. It can also be served hot and tossed with pasta. Garnish this dish with freshly grated parmesan cheese. For late summer when you are still religiously grilling fish outdoors, consider paring it with a salmon steak or halibut fillet. As an appetizer I like to pack about ¾ of a cup into individual ring molds and top it with baked goat cheese rounds (served warm or at room temperature.) I even use it as the filling for a Mediterranean omelet with a sup son of grated parmesan.  Now I ask you, is their any reason left that you shouldn’t join history and embrace the scrumptious eggplant for yourself?

And added bonus for us is that ALL of the veggies and herbs sans the olives are grown in our own garden or purchased at a neighboring farm.

Whitney’s Rockin’ Ratatouille

Serves 4

  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  •  3/4-pound eggplant, cut into ½” pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 small zucchini, scrubbed, chopped into ½” pieces
  • 1 small yellow zucchini squash, scrubbed, chopped into ½” pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • ¾ cup halved,  black olives
  • 3/4 pound small ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 ½  teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1.   In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over moderately low heat, add garlic, onion, and stir until onion becomes translucent.

2.   Bump up the heat to med.-high and pour in the remaining olive oil. Add the eggplant and continue to cook for 7-8 minutes until soft.

3.   Add zucchini, squash, the bell pepper, and olives stirring occasionally, for about 12 minutes.

4.   Add tomatoes, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

5.    Add oregano, thyme, and coriander. Salt and pepper to taste, and continue cooking for 1 minute. Stir in the basil. The ratatouille may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and reheated before serving or allowed to come to room temperature, depending on your preparation.

6.    Sprinkle with cheese right before serving.

Comfort Food on the Prairie

Picture 241

There’s nothing quite like roasted root vegetables on a cold winter day. Pair them with a fabulous meatloaf and you’ll be a rock star in your own house. Add an apple crisp and you’ll be signing autographs and getting your feet rubbed, not. How I wish that last part were true. Nevertheless, your tummies will be happily filled with the bounty from your garden and contentment will reign.

Roasted Veggies

  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 3 sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
  • 12 brussel sprouts, cut in half
  • 12 small red beets, quartered
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh minced thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large glass bowl combine all veggies.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar and spices.
  3. Pour vinaigrette over veggies and mix well.
  4. Transfer to two cookies sheets and bake 30-40 minutes or until tender.
  5. Stir occasionally and switch racks half way through.

Meatloaf

Home-style Meatloaf

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 pounds lean ground Turkey (although beef is yummy too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 slices of fresh bread crumbs (I use multi grain)
  • 1 bag of fresh spinach, chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¾ tsp dried basil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix ground meat, minced onion,spinach, eggs, bread, water, ketchup, salt, pepper and basil.
  2. Shape mixture into a 9 X 5 greased loaf pan.
  3. Bake  for 1 ½ hours. Pour off juices before serving.

Squash and Apple Pie Crisp

Apple Crisp

  • 12-15 Granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
  • ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cups butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cup of oatmeal
  • 1-1/2 cups golden brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place slice apples into 9 x 12 x 2 glass casserole dish (or something relatively close)
  3. Sprinkle the apple liberally with cinnamon.
  4. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oatmeal and flour. Mix in butter until nice and crumbly.
  5. Pour the crumble over the apples and bake for 40-45 minutes.

It goes without saying that you need to serve this warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla bean ice-cream.

I Hope You Like Jammin’ Too!

This summer I was overcome by a full on blitz of crazy jam energy. The family hit every farm within 10 miles of us (which is like 15) and we picked and picked and picked fruit until it was coming out of our ears. So ostensibly, if being sustainable means never having to buy jam again (and never saying we’re sorry about it), we’re there!

Here’s a little peek inside our pantry. This makes up just a fraction of what we put up.

Check out the cute little bows and charms. A nice little touch for a gift. To be totally sustainable I should have tied some decorative grass on it but hey, that’ll be another thing I only do when I absolutely have to.

This summer I made Peach Butter, Slovak Prune Butter (what can I say, it’s what my people eat), Apple Butter, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Spice Blueberry Jam, Raspberry Rhubarb Jam, Italian Plum Conserve, Blackberry Kiwi Ice Cream Topper, Mixed Berry Syrup, Pear Butter and Caramel Apple Jam. This fall I’ll add Pumpkin Butter and Concord Grape Jam.

One of the biggest hits was the Pear Butter! Check it out.

Pear Butter

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of Bartlett pears (unpeeled) cored and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 tbl. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 4 orange slices
  • 1 lemon slice
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  1. Combine pears, wine and lemon juice in a heavy sauce pan. Cover and simmer until pears are soft, about 20-25 mins.
  2. Push through food mill or coarse sieve to remove skins. Transfer to food processor and puree.
  3. Return to heavy sauce pan and add remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase to med. heat and boil gently until mixture thickens and mounds on spoon. Stir often, this will take about 50 minutes.
  5. Discard fruit slices, cloves and vanilla bean.
  6. Spoon butter into hot canning jars, filling only to 1/4′ from the top. Wipe rim of the jar and place lid on. Seal tightly.
  7. Arrange jars in boiling water in your canning kettle so that at least 1″ of water covers the jars. Cover and process for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove jars from the pot and cool. If the top seals, they will last for 1 year in a cool dark place. If the lid pops up, refrigerate and use… or barter from some fresh meat that you won’t have to kill yourself!

Now if I can just throw myself into sheep shearing with the same enthusiasm I can learn how to spin yarn so I can knit some warm sweaters. Stay tuned.

24K Yum!

Carrots and onions

As promised the pics of our gardens are going to start rolling in. The raised bed closest to the center of the shed is our carrot and onion bed.

This year we’ve combined our carrots and onions in one raised bed. The thinking behind this companion planting is to naturally deter pests. We have concluded that for us, this has been a very successful combination! Nice big first crop with absolutely no pest problems. As you near the vicinity of the bed, the aroma of fresh onions is quite powerful and can only assume an excellent bug repellent.

Scarlet NAnte   yellostone     Red Core     onions

The three types of carrots that we’ve planted are Scarlett Nantes (nice mild flavor although a wee bit hairy), Yellowstone (kind of deformed looking as well as being the most prolific) and Red Core Chantenay (which are stalkier with broader shoulders),  In the same bed are red, white and yellow onions which need to mellow in the earth for awhile to sweeten their flavor.

There’s only so much mirepoix you can make for the freezer. What else can you possibly do with all those carrots, you ask? Buckle up kids, cause here’s a recipe for the ages!

carrot cake

24K Gold Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbl. ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of cooking oil
  • 4 cups of grated raw carrots
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, grated
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

1. In a large bowl, beat eggs, until foamy. Slowly add the oil.

2. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a bowl. Add to the egg mixture.

3. Mix in carrots, apple and nuts.

4. Pour into 3 greased and floured 9″ rounds cake pans. Bake approx. 25 minutes or until toothpick tester comes out clean.

5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 1 cup toasted coconut
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add in sugar, one cup at a time. Add vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.
  2. After you frost the cake, press the toasted coconut around the sides for a truly delectable touch!

Throw a couple of these in the freezer for fall/winter consumption and you will be able to enjoy your homegrown carrots year round! They also make great cupcakes.

Pioneer Penicillan

soup in a pot

This week our almost two-year old had a 103 degree fever and I was feeling the fung lurking a little too close for comfort. So what was a pioneer gal to do? Make Chicken Soup, of course! This recipe is our very own Slovak version of Jewish Penicillin. God’s chosen knew what they were doing when they crafted their brew and so do we. So give me an Oy! Give me a Vay! We’re just meshugga about it.

Penicillin on the Praire

I carcass from a roasted bird with bits of meat still hanging on

2 large yellow onions (gives the broth a fabulous color!)

6 carrots, quartered

4 stalks of celery, cut in half

1 ginger root, quartered

8 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

small bunch of parsley

salt to taste

8 black pepper corns

6 quarts of water

6 carrots, cut in half length wise and cut in half. steamed

8 quartered and boiled Yukon gold potatoes, cooked until fork comes out but just barely (you do not want these overcooked)

6 oz. of egg noodles, el dente

Here’s a visual for you:

rotisserie chicken

 

veggies for soup

cloves and ginger                                                                                                                                                                    

parsley and bay leaf

                                                                                             =

soup in a pot                                                                                               &

                                                                          HEALTHY KIDS!!!

  1. Throw everything, except for the last three ingredients, into a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for at least 4 hours, preferable 8.
  2. Pick out the bird and set it aside. strain the rest of the broth to get out everything remaining.
  3. Pick out the good bits of meat and throw back into the broth. Cool. Refrigerate until all the fat is congealed on the top.
  4. Skim fat off. Heat and add the cooked carrots and potatoes.
  5. Dish the noodle up separately and top with the soup.

Several bowls later and all the questionable nonsense will leave your body without any trouble. And I don’t mean maybe.

Too Snooty to Booby?

We have not one, but two friends who have suggested that breastfeeding is a class issue. Seriously, I’ll give you a moment to check your calendar and make sure that we’re still in the new millennium. I was totally and utterly shocked both times this subject came up. My first question (to which I already knew the answer) was “So were you breastfed?” The answer came back an emphatic “NO!” in both circumstances. Of course the topic came up both times while I had a boob in a baby’s mouth. Smack, right? While a bit offended, I was really more amused than anything. I mean who suggests to your face that you are clearly not of the upper crust because you choose to breastfeed your child?

I felt momentarily compelled to blurt out the list of my parents various advanced degrees in order to defend my lineage but that wouldn’t have made my genealogy anymore illustrious. My parents are both self-made people, coming from good old-fashioned working stock. My mom grew up in row houses owned by the glass factory that my grandfather worked at and my dad grew up on a homestead in South Dakota with an insurance salesman as a father.

My second question to our fancy friends was, “So what you’re saying is that the upper class is not concerned for their children’s immune systems and brain developement?” Before getting an answer, I added, “That’s really too bad. You’d think with all that privilege they could have figured that out.” Take that you rude booger!

It occurs to me that with  the changes facing our world, I’m rather glad to come from peasant stock. I’m glad that I’m not too fancy to dig my hands into the ground and work like a mule in order to take care of my family. I’m glad that I have the knowledge to teach my girls and prepare them for a life that may not be one of ease.  Of course I’m still going to enjoy the fruits of others labors while I can. I like extravagance as much as the next guy. The only difference is that if the shit hits the fan my family won’t have to wonder where their next beluga is coming from. And because I love my friends despite their short comings, I’m going to make sure that I put up enough food on our homestead that they will always be welcome. Of course I’ll get my revenge by working them like slaves but that’s just the karmic wheel my friends. You give me crap, I just may make you shovel it.

Now, for a nice peasanty recipe from my German side.

Staumped Grüne Bohnen

  • 4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic
  • bacon
  • steamed green beans
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  1. Boil potatoes with bay leaves and garlic until tender.
  2. Fry bacon, reserving rendered fat.
  3. Steam beans.
  4. Mash potatoes and garlic with some bacon fat, butter and green beans. Salt and pepper according to taste.
  5. Stir in crumbled bacon.

I leave the proportions up to your tastes. This is a dish that will put a smile on even the biggest snob’s face.

The Best Thanksgiving Side EVER!!!

This recipe has been a Thanksgiving tradition in my family for years. It is the side dish that we all agree is a must, right up there in importance with the turkey itself! It is our most requested recipe and now it is yours to savor, drool over and give thanks for!!!

Barley Casserole

  • 6 generous servings (double for Thanksgiving–at least)
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking fine pearl barley
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 – 2 oz. package dehydrated onion soup mix
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sautéed in 1 TBL. Butter
  • 1 – 5 oz. can water chestnuts (sliced & drained)

Directions:

  1. Heat butter in saucepan.  Add barley & onion, sauté until golden color.
  2. Add almonds, soup mix & chicken broth.
  3. Add mushrooms & water chestnuts, stir well.
  4. Pour into casserole dish, cover and bake at 350º for one hour; add more broth if necessary.
  5. Can be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time.
  6. Bake the day of serving.

Giving Thanks

This year, I’m not waiting until Thanksgiving to start giving thanks. My cup runneth over, my horn is plentiful and to put it plainly, I am blessed beyond measure.

This year my husband of twenty-one years beat stage four tonsil cancer, my children are thriving, my parents are both alive and kicking and I am not wondering where my next meal is coming from. Wow! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

So from now until The Holidays are over, I’m going to share some fabulous recipes with you that I think would be a worthy addition to any feast. They work quite nicely for a regular old Monday dinner as well. This post emphasizes straight comfort food; my specialty.

Broccoli-Onion Bake

  • 1 pound of broccoli cut and steamed or 2-10 oz. packages of cut frozen broccoli
  • 2 cups of frozen small whole onions or 3 medium onions quartered
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 Tbl. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 oz. of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  1. Cook frozen broccoli according to package instructions or steam freash broccoli.
  2. Cook fresh or frozen onions in boiling water (salted) until tender. Drain.
  3. Ub sauce pan, melt 1/2 of the butter.
  4. Blend in flour, salt and pepper to make a roux.
  5. Add milk, stirring constantly until thick and bubbly.
  6. Reduce heat and blend in cream cheese until smooth.
  7. Place veggies in 2 quart casserole.
  8. Pour sauce over and mix lightly.
  9. Top with cheddar cheese.
  10. Melt the remaining butter and toss with bread crumbs.
  11. Top casserole with bread crumbs.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Swiss Corn Bake

  • 16 oz. frozen corn
  • 5-1/3 oz. of can of evaporated milk
  • 1 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 Tbl. finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup of soft bread crumbs.
  • 2 Tbl. melted butter
  1. Cook corn according to package directions and dreain.
  2. Combine corn, evaporated milk , 3/4 cup cheese, eggs, chopped onion and dask of pepper.
  3. Turn into a 1 quart casserole.
  4. Toss bread crumbs with melted butter and remaining cheese.
  5. Sprinkle over corn mixture.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Bacon, Onion and Green Beans

  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh green beans
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 slices diced bacon
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbl. sugar
  1. Wash beans, snips ends and remonve strings.
  2. In a 4-quart sauce pan over medium -high heat, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil.
  3. Add beans and boil unconvered for 10-12 minutes just until tender. Do not overcook. Drain.
  4. While the  beans are cooking, prepare the  bacon and onion sauce.
  5. In a 10-12 inch skillet, saute bacon over med-high heat until crisp.
  6. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside.
  7. Add the chopped onion to the bacon fat and saute for 3-4 minutes until limp.
  8. Drain excess fat, reserving 2 Tbl.
  9. Reduce hear to low and to the onion, add vinegar, sugar and bacon bits.
  10. Stir to incoprporate all the loose particle inthe pan.
  11. Bring heat to high and boil for one minutes.
  12. Toss with hot, drained beans.

A final step for all three recipes:

  • Unbutton pants, lay on the floor, moan your thanks and fall asleep.

Pioneer Pumpkin Recipes

If I could pick only one food that epitomizes Fall, it would have to be pumpkin. It is one of those amazing foodstuffs that is equally delicious served savory or sweet. It’s no wonder that pumpkin was the veggie (although technically a fruit) that staved off starvation for the pilgrims, their first few months in the NewLand – it’s packed with life sustaining nutrition. Not only is it brimming with vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, calcium and fiber, but it’s yummier than all get out. How can you lose? If I now shared that it was also low in fat, I’d bet you’d be grabbing your keys and heading for the market. Have a safe trip!

The key to making pumpkin more scrumptious is to remember that it can handle a lot of spice. In and of itself, it can be rather bland; however, paired with bold seasonings, you can do no wrong. For desserts, pastries & breads (including pancakes and waffles) think ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and clove. For savory dishes try using cayenne pepper, curry, and cumin along with your basic garlic and onion.

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Olive oil or butter

Salt and spices

1. Scoop the seeds out of a large pumpkin.

2. Rinse with water until almost pulp free (a little pulp adds flavor.)

3. For every 2 ¼ cups of seeds, you need 1 tablespoon of melted butter or olive oil and seasoning salt to taste. I like to use garlic salt or sea salt and cayenne pepper. But you can use anything that floats your boat. Toss seeds in butter and seasoning.

4. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.

 

 

Curry Pumpkin Soup

 

2 tablespoons of butter

8-oz. of fresh sliced mushrooms

½ cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon curry powder

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon honey

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk

Garnish: chopped chives and sour cream

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Sautee mushrooms and onion until tender, stirring often.

2. Stir in flour and curry powder.

3.  Gradually add chicken broth. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture becomes thickened.

4. Stir in pumpkin, honey, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add milk, stirring constantly until mixture is heated through.

6. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives