Next Summer Delight   Leave a comment

That would be blackberries and what you can do with them.

My personal favorite is blackberry lemonade.

This is what you do.  Process 3 cups of freshly picked blackberries through the finest setting of your food processor, to remove seeds and pulp as much as possible.  You can hand-mash them through a sieve if you have to, but I prefer using my hand crank food processor.  A great investment for this reason and homemade apple and cranberry sauces.  Anyway.

In a large glass pitcher, combine one cup sugar, one cup lemon juice, and six cups water.  Stir.

Then add the blackberry juice you just created, stir, and serve over ice.

Once you’ve tried this, you will probably feel as I do, that summer is not complete without a taste of it!

Posted July 25, 2014 by swanatbagend in food

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Zucchini Again   Leave a comment

And now, in what we hope will be our final zucchini hurrah, I want to share two more very useful zucchini recipes.  My two main criteria for what makes a zucchini recipe good are 1. it has to create few leftovers (as that means it’s tasty and I’m not getting any complaints) and 2. it has to use at least several cups of zucchini (otherwise what is the point ?).

Both of these recipes meet the criteria.

I use both of them as main dishes, even though the zucchini garlic pasta, brought to you by a subscription I used to have for Quick Cooking and its author, Shelley Smail of Chico, California, is supposed to be a side salad.

Zucchini Garlic Pasta

16 oz rotini or other specialty pasta

6-8 slices bacon

1 medium onion diced

4-6 garlic cloves minced

3 medium zucchini halved and sliced

1/2 tsp. salt

3 T. lemon juice

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat cook bacon until crisp. Remove, cool and crumble.  Discard any drippings you don’t care to use, or add some olive oil if you don’t have enough drippings, and saute onion and garlic until somewhat tender, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and salt; cook until tender, about 6 minutes.  Add drained pasta to the zucchini mix. Add lemon juice and bacon, toss.  Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan.

This is relatively simple as it doesn’t have that many ingredients, but with a side salad and a vegetable, or maybe just some bread, it is always a hit at my house.


Zucchini Lasagna Casserole (my mother’s, modified, from her friend Phyllis Jackson)

1 pound ground beef

1 clove garlic

1 T. basic leaves

1 tsp. salt

15 oz can tomato sauce

2 6 oz. cans tomato paste

4 medium to large zucchini (or more if needed) thinly sliced, cutting out areas that have large seeds first, if there are any

3 cups creamy cottage cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 T. dried parsley flakes

2 beaten eggs

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 pound Mozzarella cheese grated

Brown beef and drain fat.  Add other ingredients through tomato paste and simmer for 15 minutes or so while preparing other ingredients.  Add water if it becomes pasty; you want to be able to pour it into the casserole.  Slice the zucchini thinly, and I do mean that, as you want them to not be crunching under your teeth when you bite in.  Mix the cottage cheese, Parmesan, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

When all is prepared, layer the lasagna ingredients in a 9×13 pan starting with first half the zucchini slices, half the cottage cheese mix, half the grated mozzarella, and half the meat sauce.  Repeat the layers.  Bake in a 375 oven for 30 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes as the filling will set slightly and the lasagna will be easier to serve.

I remember when lasagna was one of the most complicated things I made.  It doesn’t feel that way any more, because with enough practice any dish becomes simple.  I also like using the zucchini instead of lasagna noodles.  It’s much simpler and just as delicious.

And it uses a lot of zucchini.


Posted July 24, 2014 by swanatbagend in food

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Zucchini Part II   Leave a comment

As promised.

OK I was just telling myself I would not share bread related recipes, because while I like zucchini bread, zucchini bars, and zucchini muffins, seriously how much chocolate zucchini cake can you make and eat in one summer?  And, each bread recipe really doesn’t use up that much zucchini. You’re better off making zucchini pizza or zucchini lasagna for dinner if you truly want to make a dent in the green horde.

However, this morning I tried a zucchini muffin recipe I  liked, so I will share it with you. It’s from Mad about Muffins cookbook by Dot Vartan, and I modified it a tad, but I’m giving credit cause it’s still her recipe.


Zucchini Muffins

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini ( or double recipe to use even more! ha!)

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 T. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used less)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup or so maple syrup

1/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 350. Shred the zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with salt.  Mix the oil, vanilla, eggs, maple syrup and milk in a large bowl.  Add the zucchini.  Stir. Add the flour, soda, powder, spices and stir.  Add the nuts and chocolate chips, stir again, and then pour/transfer to greased baking tins. Bake for about 18-20 minutes and enjoy. This makes about 18 muffins.

Now if you’re looking for something simpler, for dinner, that uses as many zucchini as you have people in your family, or more, try this.

My friend Erica gave me this idea.  It’s perfect for people who are trying to eat low carb.


Zucchini Pizzas

Wash, cut off ends, and slice in half lengthwise as many zucchinis as you want personal size pizzas.  You can use large ones for this or maybe two smaller ones for each person.  Remove the seedy part of the pulp if they are large, or if small, just make a little trench in the middle to hold the sauce.  Place into a 9×13 casserole pan or any pan they’ll fit in.

Top with a small amount of tomato sauce to taste and sprinkle with garlic power, basil, and oregano to taste.  Place a lovely thick layer of grated mozzarella cheese over each zucchini, and then top with your favorite pizza toppings. At our house that is pepperoni, black olive and mushroom.

Then bake at about 400-425 degrees, for about 25-30 minutes. You’ll have to test it by poking with a fork to see if it’s done.  Voila, pizza, and you didn’t have to make a crust.


Posted July 16, 2014 by swanatbagend in food

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Gifts   Leave a comment

I spent my birthday noon hour with my parents yesterday.  They thoughtfully offered to take me out to lunch at a local Ethiopian restaurant they hadn’t visited yet, so I met them there.

They were somewhat delayed due to a combination of vision difficulties and the ludicrously lacking street signage in downtown Louisville, so I had time to get comfortable at my table, order my birthday Coke (there isn’t any in the house due to my youngest having a minor addiction to it.  If I buy it, he finds it, and I’m not OK with that) and check out the buffet.

I also had time to reflect on the oddity of being another year older and creeping toward fifty.

But the main thought in my mind was the lovely courtesy of my father, whose idea the lunch date was.

My folks have a variety of volunteer work, hobbies, church events, friends, and appointments that keep them busy, but they still thought it would be fun to take time out of a day that already had a schedule to have lunch with me.  And, they wanted to pay for it!

Birthdays are traditionally a day to celebrate the person whose birthday it is, and that’s certainly a tradition I’m very fond of.  But if there is anyone, other than the Giver of life, who ought to be celebrated on a birthday, it should be the parents.  Without them, you wouldn’t be having a birthday in the first place.

So at one level, it would really make more sense for me to take my parents out to lunch on my birthday, as a way to thank them for the wonderful life they gave me.

But that’s the funny thing about parents.  They really enjoy giving you presents, doing nice things for you, surprising you, helping you.  It’s (usually) not an obligation, but a pleasure to do something lovely with or for your child.

I know that, because I also am a parent.  It has obviously given me a whole new perspective on how my parents raised me.

As I thought about how I really should be paying for my parents’ lunches, because I owe them so much, I realized that is the funny thing about the parent-child relationship.

A child owes her parents everything.

But at the same time, she doesn’t owe them anything.

It’s a paradox.  You have an obligation because of bringing another person into the world; but the obligation is yours, not your child’s.  You love that child with all your heart, teach the child what life is about, and then accept that the child is his own person.  He will make his own choices and do what he thinks is best.

You gave him the gift of being alive.

But by definition, it’s a gift.


Posted July 16, 2014 by swanatbagend in parenting

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Zucchini Part I   2 comments

Zucchini season appears to be upon us!

In light of that wonderful fact I would like to share some zucchini recipes which have been a great way to use that amazing vegetable.  This year I have both zucchini and yellow squash since Baker Creek sent me the Lemon squash as a freebie, perfect for the second recipe.

These are great side dishes that use a lot of zucchini.  Both are from Crème de Colorado cookbook published in 1987 (tells you how long I have been married!).

Mexican Zucchini

2 T. olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced zucchini

3/4 cup chopped celery

1/2 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper

1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 cup picante sauce, hot or mild to taste

1 tsp. salt

pepper to taste

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or cheddar)

In large skillet on high heat, heat olive oil. Saute all vegetables at once for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add basil, picante,salt and pepper; stir.  Cover vegetables and cook for five more minutes.  Add jack cheese to vegetables and mix well.  When cheese is barely melted serve immediately.

Everyone likes this.  I do recommend only making as much as your family can eat in one sitting because it doesn’t keep well.


Spanish Squash

1 clove garlic minced

2 cups yellow summer squash, sliced

2 cups zucchini, sliced

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

1 T. parsley

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. oregano

8 oz. can diced green chilies

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

2 eggs beaten

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

1/4 cup butter melted

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In large covered pan, cook garlic, quash and zucchini in small amount water til tender; drain.  Stir bread crumbs, Parmesan, milk, seasonings, chiles and cheddar cheese into vegetables.  Fold in eggs.  Pour into 6×10 casserole.  Toss soft bread crumbs with butter and remaining cheddar cheese.  Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes.

I like this one even better and again it uses lots of squash.  I didn’t have chiles on hand, so I added a half of a red bell pepper to the saute at the beginning.  Also, I omitted the bread crumbs in both places as I often try to avoid wheat, and didn’t miss them at all.  I just melted the butter and poured it right over the top!  Ahhhh.

Hope you enjoy these.  More ideas to come.

Posted July 11, 2014 by swanatbagend in food

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My Filing Cabinet   1 comment

I’ve always had a great memory.  I am known among friends and acquaintances, who turn to me for obscure song lyrics from the 70s and 80s, other people’s telephone numbers and addresses, specifics about things we did together in the past…that kind of thing.

Not to mention the important stuff.  I never forget birthdays, anniversaries, what’s important to someone, where he’s from, what she does for a living, either.

That is…I never used to.

But something started happening when I turned 40.

I know, I know, huge stereotype, right?

But for me, literally, when I turned 40, that very year is when things started getting erased from the hard drive.

Now I can still remember songs from the 80s and some phone numbers from about ten years ago, you know incredibly useful stuff like that, but meeting new people and successfully storing their names in the gray matter has gotten way harder.  And it’s continuing to get more difficult, despite working hard to pull that stuff into the “keeper” file.

It’s the strangest feeling having your children tell you about something that happened last month or a few years ago and it’s blank.

They are at least tolerant of this weakness, and they like the metaphor I used to describe my situation.

You see, life is full and has been ever since I started giving birth to them.  So life is like a pick-up truck roaring down the interstate at 70 miles an hour.

In the back of the pick-up is an old, grey, extremely battered metal filing cabinet.

And as I drive wildly down the road of my life, the drawers rattle open from all the movement and action.  Guess what happens next?

Bits of white notebook paper come shooting violently out of the loose drawers of my mind.  So as I go I leave a trail of confetti.

Yep, that’s what it feels like.  There just isn’t room for any more  information, for one thing, and the speed of life demands that the time I have be spent in the present and planning for the future, so I don’t have time to turn around and try to collect all that lost information.

So, if I forget something about you, or the last time we got together, and what we did — don’t take it personally.  It’s just the state of my filing cabinet .




Posted July 2, 2014 by swanatbagend in mental health, transitions

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Fresh Blueberry Crisp   Leave a comment

5 cups fresh blueberries

1 T. lemon juice

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal

3/4 cup coconut flakes

1/4 cup butter cut up

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Wash and drain blueberries and put them in a 9×13 pan.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice.  Mix all the remaining ingredients together and drop onto the blueberries.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Serve warm with peach or vanilla ice cream.

I like this better than pie because I really think it is tastier and then there’s the added advantage of its being much easier than having to mess with a pie crust.

Breyers peach ice cream is the best topping, but if you can’t get that, vanilla ice cream will do.

We had this last night for dessert.  It’s one of my favorite summer treats.  I hope you like it as much as I do, and that it lasts longer at your house than it does at mine.

Posted June 25, 2014 by swanatbagend in food

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