Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Super Savory Summer Squash Casserole

One of the things I love about this time of year is the way friends and neighbors trade produce. A friend gave me a few yellow squash and I could not resist making a casserole. I've become quite a lazy cook, so I took advantage of a few shortcuts. Here's the result.

Super Savory Summer Squash Casserole

4 summer squash, washed and thinly sliced
1/2 bag (14 oz.) Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix
1 pint half and half
5 eggs
Salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave (or cook on stove top) seasoned (salt and pepper to taste) squash with about 1/4 cup water until done, 5-7 minutes. While squash is cooking, prepare shallow casserole dish. In a mixing bowl, beat together half and half and eggs.

When squash is done, layer it with stuffing mix starting and ending with the stuffing. Pour egg mixture evenly over squash. Sprinkle a light layer of stuffing crumbs over top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Road Trip Back to the 50s: Kokomo's 50s Diner

One of our favorite things to do is, of course, eat. One a recent trip I spotted a copy of Anita Musgrove's Tennessee Back Road Restaurant Recipes: A Cookbook and Restaurant Guide. It has a selection of small-town restaurants separated according to the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee. A quick look gave me the idea to use this as a sort of road map for some Saturday afternoon road trips.

One warning about the book: be alert as you read. We were looking for dishes made from the recipes in the book but discovered that some of the restaurants list "family favorites" and "local favorites" instead of actual restaurant recipes.

We took the first today, heading toward the Tennessee River. Our first stop was a the Toll House Restaurant in Savannah. My open-faced steak sandwich was unremarkable, but Jim ordered a loaded baked potato with chopped chicken and barbecue sauce. It was huge and he really enjoyed it. We were surprised to find they were out of desserts at Saturday lunch, so we headed to another place featured in Musgrove's book, Kokomo's 50s Diner in Adamsville, Tennessee.

What a great surprise! First off, we were greeted with the aroma of luscious hamburgers and decor straight out of, well, the 50s! Since we were only there for dessert we ordered a caramel sundae and a hot brownie cake sundae. Wow! They were a perfect treat on a wickedly hot day.

It was a lovely trip, showing us, again, the value of eating at local restaurants.

What about you? Where is your next gastronomic road trip?


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Zucchini Undercover: Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Freeze pureed or shredded zucchini
 in recipe-sized batches.
Around this time of year, the zucchini is in full crop. In fact, some folks have reported finding bags of zucchini abandoned on their doorsteps! Okay, maybe not, but if you're wondering what to do with all of that zucchini goodness, try this Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread. It's based on recipes from colagal at and the Cooking Channel. I've sort of spruced them up and here's the result:

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

3 cups pureed zucchini
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup olive oil (NOT EVOO)
2 t. vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 t. baking powder (low-sodium, aluminum-free)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups chopped pecans (optional-reserve 1/2 cup for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and oil 2 loaf pans.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk, olive oil and vanilla extract until well-mixed, then mix in zucchini. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt. Add zucchini mixture and stir until just mixed. Do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans, then turn into prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle nuts over loaves.

Two loaves fresh from the oven (no, there are no pecans).
Bake for 55 minutes to an hour. Cool pans on rack for about 30 minutes, then turn loaf onto rack. Wrap well and store in refrigerator for up to a week (I guess; we've never had a loaf last that long!) or freeze.

Who would have thought that zucchini could be so yummy! Enjoy!

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Individual Tiramisu Cakes

Individual Tiramisu Cake
One of the things I enjoy most about the holidays having time to cook things that are a little more time-consuming.  As I do every year, I sent out a family text soliciting menu requests.  Of course, many were the usual turkey, ham, broccoli casserole and the like, but one request harked back to several years ago:  Tiramisu Bowl Cake.

Given that our family has begun eating less, rather than prepare an entire bowl cake, which presumes that we would eat the entire thing in one sitting, I decided to prepare individual servings of Tiramisu Cake.  I searched (um, Googled) far and wide for a recipe that had the wonderful taste without some of the more excessive time requirements and found a delicious Tiramisu Layer Cake by bettina on

Rather than repeating the entire recipe here, I'll list my adjustments:

  • White Cake Mix (Duncan Hines, of course):  
    • use olive oil (NOT extra-virgin!!!) instead of vegetable oil
    • use 2 whole eggs rather than 3 egg whites
    • bake in self-supporting muffin/cupcake papers (which gives room for the topping) for 15 minutes
  • Cupcakes may be made several days in advance
  • Fill the cupcakes with the marscapone mixture (any large tip--I used Wilton 1G) after soaking with coffee liqueur.
  • Dust the top of the filled cupcake with cocoa.
  • Frost with flavored whipped cream and dust with cocoa.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Freeze leftovers to enjoy later!
These are a beautiful and delicious addition to any holiday table!

What about you?  What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fast Festive Treats: No-Fail Microwave Fudge

While I'd like to tell you that I have all the time in the world for preparing holiday treats--like our family's Traditional Dipped Fruit--but this year has been extremely busy.  It's been so hectic that I finally prepared my first batch of fudge just a few days ago.

My daughter is working, and in need of treats for office holiday parties, so I shared my Always-Reliable Microwave Fudge recipe with her.  I do have a more traditional recipe, but it can be affected by humidity, so I've been relying more and more on the microwave recipe.  Here 'tis; I hope you find it as fool-proof as I have.
Cut into 1" squares.

Always-Reliable Microwave Fudge

1 pound confectioner's sugar (sifted)
1/2 cup cocoa (sifted)
1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup pecans (optional)
1 t. vanilla

In a microwave-safe bowl, stir together the sugar and cocoa.  On top, add the butter and milk, but do not stir.  Microwave for 2 minutes.

Immediately, stir in vanilla and nuts.  This sets up very quickly.  Spread about 1/2" thick on waxed paper and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.  Cut into 1" squares as it is very rich.

Serve on a lovely paper doily or in tiny fluted candy papers.

You'll be the hit of the party!

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?


Friday, August 1, 2014

Adding a Little Culture to My Life

New fun for an old kitchen friend!
My creative muse swooped by recently (after a long vacation) with a wild idea.  I've been wanting to add natural probiotics to my diet, but flavored yogurt is really expensive, and full of additives.  So, I did a little research and found an easy method at Cultures for Health for culturing yogurt at home using my ancient slow-cooker.  Nothing could be simpler!

  • First, I cleaned the crock really well and found a heavy lid (rather than the glass one) that would fit tightly and retain heat.  Per the recipe, I added 1/2 gallon milk; I used Kroger Simple Truth Organic Whole Milk because Kroger is closer than any health food store.  I put on the lid, then turned the slow cooker on low for 2.5 hours while I did many other things.

  • After 2.5 hours, I turned off the slow cooker and let it cool (with the lid on) for 3 hours.

  • After 3 hours, I took out 1/2 cup and whisked in 2 T. of purchased yogurt with live cultures.  I used Greek Gods Plain Yogurt (which is, sadly, not organic) because it contained a variety of live cultures (S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidobacerium, L. Casei) and only pectin rather than gums.  You can also used a purchased yogurt starter as well as one shared from a friend.  Then I returned the culture mixture to the slow cooker, stirring well before replacing the lid.

Culturing the yogurt

  • The final active step is allowing the mixture to culture:  I wrapped my slowcooker, unplugged heating element and all, in two heavy bath-sheet size towels and left it overnight.  The instructions advise culturing for 8-12 hours depending upon how tangy you like your yogurt (more time=more tang).  I try to culture mine for 8-9 hours as I prefer a less tangy yogurt.

  • When your yogurt has achieved the desired "tang" spoon gently into jars and refrigerate at least 8 hours before using.  Reserve about 2 T. in a separate container to start your next batch.  Keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator.

The "busy mom" mild yogurt culture schedule
5:00 p.m.  Pour milk into slow cooker and turn on low heat.
7:30 p.m.  Turn off slow cooker; let set
10:30 p.m. Add culture starter and wrap in towels.
6:30 a.m.  Spoon into jars and refrigerate (reserve about 2 T. in its own container to make your next batch!)
2:30 p.m.  Ready to enjoy!

If you want "Greek" style yogurt, place some coffee filters in a plastic colander and allow some of the whey to drain off (frugal folk can use the whey in baked goods!).

You're only limited by
 your imagination!
Currently, I am enjoying my yogurt with fruit (fresh and preserves) and bran nuggets for crunch.  I have plans to make a healthy muesli and even a savory mixture for variety.

Why am I bothering with making my own yogurt?  I've read several articles that additional probiotics help lower blood pressure while I continue to take my prescribed medications.  I've also read several articles that probiotics help boost immunity while increasing metabolism.

Please consult your medical professional about this!  I am NOT a doctor nor do I even play one on TV!

With my next batches, I hope to make some yogurt cheese (Alton Brown makes it sound so easy!) and add some of my home-grown organic garlic and herbs to spread on toast and sandwiches.  I also have my eye on frozen yogurt.  I might even make a yogurt cheesecake!

Healthy, frugal, easy--I encourage you to give this a try!

What about you?  What's cooking in your Savory kitchen!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Warm Up a Winter Dinner with Roasted Vegetables

Squash and zucchini make great partners!
One of my new year's resolutions was to eat more vegetables and, last week, I finally put that plan into motion.  The greengrocer had beautiful produce and I treated myself to an assortment.

Aside from potatoes, I've never been much of a vegetable eater.  Most of the vegetables I've tried in the past have been boiled to the point of sliminess.   A few years ago, we discovered just how wonderful slimy asparagus was when it was when roasted.  Since then, we've roasted potatoes and mushrooms.  The selection of fresh produce prompted us to try roasting more vegetables.

Roasted brussel sprouts and asparagus
disappear quickly!
Jim was the entremetier.  His recipe for squash is below, and he prepared halved brussel sprouts and asparagus similarly.  The same general technique can be use for potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and many other "winter" and "summer" vegetables.

Roasted Summer Squash

2 medium to large summer squash, sliced
2 medium to large zucchini, sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
2 T. olive oil
1 T. white balsamic vinegar
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Arrange squash, zucchini and onion into a prepared 9x13 baking dish.  Drizzle them with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Roast on an upper rack in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

All were wonderful, savory, and very satisfying on a cold, winter evening.  Enjoy!

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?