Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Garden's Summer Bounty

The bounty of our summer garden is in full swing with lots of squash and zucchini coming into my kitchen right now  I'm giving away lots, since there are just the two of us,  but saving and preserving a bunch as well. The tomatoes, beans and all the rest are not far behind, and the canning will be in full swing in a couple of weeks.  So in the spirit of sharing and giving, I thought I'd share my favorite Zucchini Bread recipe with you all. It is super moist and delicious, with or without nuts.  Excellent warm out of the oven with a dollop of cream or vanilla ice cream. I just pulled two more loaves out of the oven, and my kitchen smells divine! I hope you will make some for your family!

Southern Zucchini Nut Bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Grease & flour two 8-inch loaf pans

3 C all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

(Sift all dry ingredients together in separate bowl and set aside)

3 eggs
1 C vegetable oil
2-1/4 C granulated sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract (or kick it up a notch with 1-1/2 tsp almond extract)
2 C grated zucchini (about 1 medium zuke)
1 C chopped nuts (excellent with pecans or walnuts)

Beat eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar in large mixing bowl until well combined.  Gradually beat in dry ingredients. Batter will become fairly stiff and you might need to finish incorporating by hand.  Fold in grated zucchini and nuts.

Divide equally into the two prepared pans.

Bake 40-60 minutes on center oven rack in preheated oven until toothpick tests clean.  Cool in pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Make a pot of coffee or pour yourself a glass of milk and dive in.

*If you want to elevate them for giving, mix up a lemon buttercream icing and drizzle or pipe across the top of each loaf. To do this, you need 1 box of powdered sugar, 1 stick of margarine, softened; 2 Tbs milk, 2 tsp (+/-) lemon juice.

Beat margarine and powdered sugar together, adding lemon juice one tsp at a time and milk 1 Tbs at a time until you get the consistency you want.  Put into pastry bag with piping tip and decorate as desired.  Or you can put into a zip style freezer bag, snip a teeny hole in the corner and pipe on that way.  Garnish with lemon zest.  You can freeze any remaining icing for about 1 month.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Easy Weeknight Ham and Pea Salad

 Are you stumped and looking for something easy but nutritious to feed your family on a weeknight?  Tired of the same old boring things?  Need something super-speedy? This could be your answer!

I love this salad. It is very versatile and can be adapted to what you have on hand in a flash.

We prefer red onion, but as you can see from the photograph, I only had some sweet yellow onion to use this time. No big deal. You could substitute scallions / fresh green onion.  Or leave it out entirely.

Don't like tomatoes?  No problem, leave them out.  Maybe substitute some sweet corn, or bell pepper.  Toss in some fresh mushrooms if you have them.

Lettuce. Always a hot topic.  I have gotten to where I never buy iceberg lettuce anymore. It has no nutritional value whatsoever. I prefer Bib lettuce,  but it is so costly and not readily available in my rural supermarket.  So, I opt for green leafy lettuce or romaine. Both are flavorful and delicious.

Now let's talk peas - English peas.  You either love peas or you hate them.  We like peas.  Fresh peas. Frozen peas. Canned peas.  Split peas.  We are a pea-eatin' family.  This salad uses frozen peas.  You have fresh?  Lucky you!  Use them.  Only have canned?  Pop in the fridge for about 30 minutes to chill them down before using in the salad.

Dressing.  I have tried a multitude of dressings on this salad.  Primary we use good ole Miracle Whip salad dressing.  But it is equally delicious with Buttermilk Ranch or Bleu Cheese or even Creamy Vidalia.  Lighten it up by omitting the Miracle Whip and use oil and vinegar (EVOO, of course) or experiment with the dressing of your choice.

The ham.  I had frozen a big slice of hickory smoked ham.  I thawed it, and cut it into bite sized chunks about a half inch, more or less.  Have some of that presliced ham?  Use that.  Or julienne (super thin slice) some ham luncheon meat in a pinch.  Any ole kind of ham is good.  A country ham is fabulous.  Use what you have on hand.

So give it a shot.  You will love the ease of preparation and the versatility of this simple fare.  Serve it up with some toasted french bread or split hoagie rolls. And if you have a big crowd comin' or unexpected company, this recipe can be sized up to feed any group!  Lip smackin' good.


1-1/2 to 2 cups (+/-) diced ham (bite size pieces)
1 head of green leafy lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
1/2 red onion, sliced round then cut in half, separate
1 tomato (+/-)  diced
1/2 bag of frozen english peas, thawed under cold running water & drained
1/2 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing (or dressing of your choice)
Optional ingredients:  Bell pepper, fresh mushrooms, fresh sweet corn

Combine all salad ingredients in large salad bowl.  Toss lightly.  Add dressing and toss well to coat.

Serve immediately.

Start to finish -- about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long it takes you to cut up a tomato & the lettuce.


~~Aunt Betty

Monday, March 17, 2014


What could be better on a chilly evening than a big ole pot of Cajun Style Okra Gumbo?  Nothing in my mind.  This pot simmered several hours and was delicious, except I got a teensy bit carried away with the cayenne pepper.  Even for us.  I didn't measure.  I did change up my usual recipe a bit since I was fortunate enough to have some Boudin links on hand.  If you don't know about Boudin, you are missing out on some great eating. It is a pork sausage, prepared in the cajun way with the holy trinity, rice and spices.  Lip smackin' good.  I particularly like Zummo's brand (out of Beaumont, Texas).

I usually start with a basic roux, but tonight I just didn't take the time to do it.  I just started putting in all the ingredients and it naturally gets thick on its own without making a roux.  A true Cajun would say you cannot make a good gumbo without a good roux, but I beg to differ.  Clearly I am not Cajun, nor do I have Acadian roots, but I know good gumbo when I eat it.

I hope you'll try a big ole pot for you and your family.  Remember, sometimes I guess at the measurements. I never measure anything for this dish.  Until it looks right, or until you think it is enough....... now that's just about right!


2 pounds lean ground hamburger (or 1 pound HB & 1 pound bulk pork sausage)
1 large onion, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can Rotel, heat of your choice
1 can tomato sauce
2 cans of water (use the Rotel can)
2 packages of frozen cut okra (about 1.5 pounds, more or less... we like more)
   *use fresh from the garden if you have it.
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbs paprika
1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
2 Tbs onion powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp gumbo file' (ground sassafras leaves)
6-8 shakes Tabasco
1 Tbs. cajun seasoning (I use Slap Yo Momma or Tony Chachere's)*
    (I find Tony's to be very salty, so use sparingly IF you add additional salt)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less)

Boudin; Smoked Sausage; Chicken; Shrimp; Crab; Oysters

Brown your meat. Add in the onions, celery & bell pepper.  Saute until onions are translucent.  Add garlic and remaining spices, stir around.  Add Rotel, tomato sauce and water and remaining spices.  If it looks a little too thick, add a little more water.  You want it to be thick, but so thick that it sticks.  Let it simmer for about 30-45 minutes, checking periodically. You  might need to add a bit of water from time to time.  Now is the time you should put in any add-ins like boudin, sausage, chicken or crab.  If you add shrimp or oysters, add those about 5 minutes before you are ready to serve. They are ready as soon as they are hot.  Cook another 30 minutes.  (final add ins -- fish, if you choose).

Make sure your rice is ready.  Oh yeah, did I tell you to make rice?  20 minutes in the microwave or 20 minutes on the stove top.  Or Minute Rice. Whatever you do.

If the seafood is ready, serve it up over rice.  Top with a little more File' and some more Tabasco if you like.
Cornbread or crackers is always good.  If you have wimpy folks, serve with a big glass of milk to cool them off.