A week of fun

Wow, what a wonderful week! I left my home on Thursday to head to Devine to the home of my Son and Daughter-in-law, knowing that from there, she, her Mother and I would leave shortly for College Station for graduation services for my youngest granddaughter and also my youngest grandson. The trip was fine until we got a few miles past Bastrop and ran into a horrible rainstorm! Darla did a wonderful job driving in really bad conditions; lots of thunder and lightning and absolutely pouring rain, with limited visibility and people driving as if it was a sunshiny day at the beach. I honestly wondered where most of them had gotten their driver’s licenses, it was that bad. We were able to drive out of it after several miles and from then on, it wasn’t too bad! After a thunderstorm in the wee hours of the night, Friday dawned with sunshine and fairly cool weather that was so much more pleasant than the storms!
Since we had two graduations to attend, pretty much at the same time, I wasn’t sure I’d get to be at both, however, I reckoned without my children! They had it all figured out and we went from one to the other with no real problems, other than parking. I had a wonderful time, and enjoyed myself tremendously being with so many of my loved ones.
Saturday morning was also a beautifully bright day and just after lunch, we headed back to Devine, as my weekend wasn’t over yet! There was a first birthday party for one of my great-granddaughters to attend on Sunday. Sunday also dawned as a beautiful day and after attending Mass in Moore, I went back to my daughters’ to help prepare some of the food we were taking with us to the party. It was great working with her in the kitchen, just as it always is. Her potato salad is always a hit and my deviled eggs went quicker than I thought possible! We had barbecued chicken, and sausage, a wonderful green bean dish containing tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and I think some bacon that was truly delicious, as well as a pot of pinto beans that was great also. (Here in Yoakum, pinto beans are only served at the two or three barbecue chicken meals that are fundraisers for the Scouts and one of the men’s groups at our church, the rest of the time, all the Church picnics serve green beans fixed various ways!), so they were a true treat for me! After a great night’s sleep, I was up bright and early Monday morning to head home, and it was an uneventful trip with not much traffic and the only problems being the road construction that is on-going on Hwy. 97 in two different places that have long waits for the ‘follow me’ truck. The first one is between Floresville and Stockdale (that wait was a full 15 minutes), and the second one (which I’m not sure they’re ever going to finish) is from Pandora, TX through Nixon. I have learned to turn off in Nixon and head to Gonzales from there, as it saves me several miles of travel, as well as gets me out of the construction faster.
Zucchini is a small summer squash, which belongs to the species cucurbita pep. It can be yellow, green or light green and has a similar shape to a cucumber. On a culinary level, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked. But, botanically, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. Blossoms from zucchini can be eaten fried, using a tempura batter, stuffed, sautéed, baked or used in soups. (In the past, I have given you a recipe for the fried zucchini or squash blossoms.)
The first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s and it was almost certainly brought her by Italian immigrants and probably first emerged in the United States in California.
Zucchini are usually picked when the seeds are soft and immature, preferably not over eight inches in length. Many people feel that the bigger the better and I have seen them given away in a huge size. They can grow up to three feet long but are not very appetizing at this size as they are fibrous and have large seeds.
The zucchini is almost always served cooked, but they are good also sliced into sticks and served with dip. They can be baked, steamed, boiled, grilled or fried and they are delicious any of those ways. They can also be used to make a bread that is similar to pumpkin bread, and, a lady told me the other day that she had pickled several jars. I have heard of doing this but have never tried it.
If you feel you need more information, just Goggle the word zucchini and you will have a surfeit of information, just as I have. If I gave you all the information just from the one site I picked, my column would take up half of the paper!
According to everything I have been hearing, zucchini is in season and totally prolific as zucchini usually is! The joke that I have heard over the years is that you can count who your friends are if they still open their doors to you, knowing you have a garden that contains several zucchini plants. Now, if your friends are bringing you more zucchini than you can consume, here are a few recipes to help you dispose of them. (No, none of them involve the garbage disposal!) The first recipe is from one of my daughters; someone brought it to her office for lunch. She says it is really very good. The rest are from my files, and some of them have been in the paper before.
Squash Casserole
2 pounds steamed squash (cut them into pieces and steam with just a little water)
4 medium carrots (cut into circles and steam)
1 chopped onion (medium size)
1 chopped green pepper (medium size)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1 package herb stuffing mix
1 stick margarine, (melted)
Stir together squash, carrots, onions, green pepper, soup and sour cream in bowl. Mix melted margarine and stuffing mix together and put half into the vegetables and stir together. Place in 13×9-inch pan and sprinkle remaining stuffing mixture on top. Bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes.
Squash Casserole
Preheat oven to 325ºF.
2 pounds yellow squash, or zucchini or 1 pound of each
1 stick butter or margarine
2 small green bell peppers
2 medium onions
½ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, beaten enough to mix thoroughly
½ cup flour
3 tablespoons bacon drippings (optional)
½ to 1 cup shredded Longhorn cheese
Wash squash/zucchini thoroughly. Cut into ¼-inch thick slices and cook until barely tender. Drain well and mash very slightly. Dice bell peppers and onions; cook until onions are transparent. Mix together the sugar, flour, eggs and bacon drippings, if used. Add to squash mixture and stir lightly to blend. Pour into sprayed casserole, dot top with 2 to 3 additional tablespoons margarine if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, top with cheese and bake 5 to 10 minutes more. This recipe also makes a good eggplant casserole. Peel eggplant, cut into cubes, cook and lightly mash. Follow remainder of recipe as per ingredients and instructions.
Carrot Zucchini Muffins
Serves 12
2 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons oil
2 egg whites
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup unpeeled shredded zucchini
Shortening for greasing muffin pan
Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and mix well. In a small bowl, combine milk, oil and egg whites and blend well. Add to dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Stir in carrots and zucchini until blended. Spoon batter into greased muffin cups (or line the muffin pans with lightly sprayed liners) and fill about 2/3 full. Bake 16-21 minutes, or until golden brown or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool, remove from pan and serve warm or cool.
The following recipe tastes very good. Several years ago, I made this for our lunch at the office. The original recipe stated it served 4 people, but after the zucchini were baked, we cut each one in half crosswise and this made more than enough servings for the 9 or 10 of us who ate.
Stuffed Zucchini
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
4 zucchini (6-inches long)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup canned, chopped tomatoes, drained
½ cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
¼ cup chicken broth
Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and hollow out, leaving a 3/8-inch shell. Coarsely chop the zucchini and onion and mince the garlic. Set aside while you heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the zucchini, onion and garlic. Stir together, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the tomatoes and cook, covered, 5 minutes longer. Uncover and stir in the bread crumbs, olives, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Stuff the zucchini halves with the filling and place in a shallow baking dish. Pour the chicken broth over the zucchini. Bake 30 minutes or until tender.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
2½ cups sifted flour
Preheat oven to 325ºF
¼ cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup cooking oil
1¾ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini
1 (6-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ cup chopped nuts.
Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside. Cream together butter, oil and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy, using electric mixer at medium speed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and beating well after each addition; blend in vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition; stir in zucchini. Pour batter into greased 12×9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on rack. Cut into squares to serve.