Can you tell it's zucchini and tomato season?  I've wondered before why so many recipes combine those two vegetables.  I now suspect that it's partly because the plain zucchini excels at tasting like whatever you cook it with, and very few things can top a fresh garden tomato in the flavor department.  This recipe also uses any mellow white fish, probably for the same reason.  The other ingredients both perk up and round out the flavor.  This one's a keeper.

Baked Fish and Vegetables

4 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest or 2-3 drops lemon essential oil
1 lb. zucchini or summer squash,sliced 1/4" thick
1 lb. tomatoes (3 medium), sliced thin, OR cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. minced fresh basil or 1 drop basil oil
salt and pepper
1 1/2 lbs. mild white fish 
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar*

Preheat oven to 450 F and move an oven rack to the lowest position.  Mix together the butter, minced garlic, lemon juice, and zest.  If using basil oil, add it to this mixture.  Rub a little of the butter mixture on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Put the zucchini slices in the bottom of the 9x13 pan; add the tomatoes in a second layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and with half of the basil (unless you used basil oil).  Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then place the fish on top of the tomatoes.  Dot the butter over the top, add the rest of the basil, and drizzle with the vinegar*.  Cover tightly with foil; bake about 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when you twist a fork in it.  Serve immediately.

Serve over rice to pasta to soak up the delicious sauce!

*The original recipe, from America's Test Kitchen, calls for 1/4 cup dry white wine.  I don't cook with wine, so the white balsamic is what I found in my pantry to add the savory flavor.  Since it's strong, I used only half as much (2 Tbsp. instead of 1/4 c.).  If you have neither, chicken broth and a splash of soy sauce would give a similar depth.
 
 
Everyone knows you can make bread with zucchini- but what if you have a giant yellow summer squash hiding in the garden?

Both zucchini and yellow squash-- either straightneck or crookneck-- are summer squash, with a similar flavor and texture, and CAN be interchanged in recipes.

My family's favorite quickbread is Lemon Zucchini Bread- so today we got Lemon-SummerSquash Bread.  I no longer shred zucchini -or this squash- for recipes, but puree it instead.  No more strings.  As a bonus, if I'm freezing some for later use, the texture does not change when thawed, unlike shredded squash.  

AND, if you're pureeing the squash, you can have the blender (or food processor) mix all the wet ingredients for you.

This bread is great for breakfast.

The recipe is found over here, though the blender method is below. 
 
 
Do you have too much zucchini?  

You could give it away.  Or shred and freeze it.  Or puree it and then freeze.  (I prefer pureeing & freezing because it maintains the same texture when thawed. It hides better in zucchini bread and soup, too.)

OR....

dehydrate it and turn it to powder.  

It takes very little space to store it this way, and it's easy to use.  Mix 2-3 Tbsp. of powder with enough hot water to equal one cup- for one cup (8 oz.) of puree.

Try it in Lemon-Zucchini Bread or Curried Zucchini Bisque (creamy soup).  Mmm.

See this post for how to best store the powder.
 
 

Who couldn't use another recipe for zucchini right about now?

This year I really HAVE seen cardboard boxes with a "FREE ZUCCHINI" sign written in permanent marker, along the side of the road.
As you can see, this we're not talking about zucchini CAKE... these are tender, flavorful pan-fried morsels, related to crab cakes.  Without the crab.  There's an endless variety of ways to make these, this particular batch has a Southwestern flair, served with a creamy cilantro-scented Lime Chipotle sauce.    We had them for dinner last night and had leftovers.  They would make a nice accompaniment to grilled chicken or beef, but I served them as a meatless main dish.  
This afternoon about 4:00 I suddenly remembered them again- and promptly finished off the last couple of them for a snack.  YUM! (Actually, I took a couple over to a neighbor, who immediately asked for the recipe.)

This is a pretty big batch, I think it made about eighteen 3-inch cakes.  Feel free to cut the recipe in half.  You can always make the full batch, though, and freeze extras.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes to reheat and recrisp, or toast in a toaster oven.  See below for the recipe.

I got a plainer version originally from JustPutzing.com, though her version was tweaked from one on TheLife'sAmbrosia.com    
Neither one of those used corn.  I like it for the sweet flavor it adds, along with some non-squishy texture, but you can certainly leave it out.  If you do, you'll only need 2 eggs.
Feel free to add in different spices, use different kinds of cheese (the original used Parmesan, in half the amount), or serve with different sauces.  Ranch dip would be delicious.  So would honey mustard.    I intend the next batch to resemble crab cakes even more- I'll add Old Bay to them, a little finely-grated onion, add maybe a teaspoon of honey for a hint of sweetness, and serve with tartar sauce.
Southwestern Zucchini Cakes


1 lb. zucchini (3 small)
1 cup corn kernels (I used canned, then drained them well)
1 c. shredded mild white cheese (I used Havarti 'cause I found it for $2/lb)
2 Tbsp. salsa if you have it around  (OK without but good for color)
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or other crumbs- bread, cracker, gluten-free, etc)
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. chili powder (to taste)
3 medium to large eggs, beaten
3-4 Tbsp. cooking oil 


Shred the zucchini on fine or medium holes.  Grab a handful, hold it over a plate or bowl, and squeeze hard to remove excess liquid.  Put the squeezed zucchini in a mixing bowl, and repeat with all the zucchini.
Stir in the corn, cheese, salsa, bread crumbs, salt, and chili powder.  Taste and add more of whatever you think it needs.  Stir in the eggs, cover, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.   (You can skip this step, but this gives the mixture time to bind together, as the egg soaks into the crumbs.  This makes them much easier to form and flip.  While it chills, make the sauce below.)
Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp. oil to it.  When oil is nearly smoking, scoop 3-4 Tbsp of the zucchini mixture into the pan, then flatten to about three inches across.  Repeat with as many as will fit in the pan with about 1" between them.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip over.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until golden.  
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan before starting the next panful.

Makes about 18.   Serve warm or room temperature.

Creamy Chipotle Sauce (adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

Note: Chipotle is smoked jalapeno pepper.  I don't have any on hand, so I came up with a similar flavor  with what I DID have, though it wasn't nearly as hot.  If you like more heat, add a little cayenne or red pepper flakes.  If you happen to have canned chipotle around, use 1-2 tsp., minced, in place of chili powder and Liquid Smoke)

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. sour cream (I didn't have this, either- use plain yogurt, or like I did, thick kefir)
1-2 tsp. chili powder (to taste- my kids were happy with just 1 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder, or one minced clove fresh garlic
2 drops Liquid Smoke
2 tsp. minced fresh cilantro
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 drops lime essential oil if you have it

Stir together.  Cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes to blend the flavors.
Makes about 1/4 cup.

If you double the recipe, you can have leftovers to change into a fabulous salad dressing: Thin down with a little water or lime juice.  Salt and pepper to taste.
 
 
Picture
Ah, harvest time!

Our gardening days this season are numbered: according to the data at the KSL weather center, the average first frost of the fall in Riverton (they don't list South Jordan) is September 24, and the latest first frost was October 4th.  So enjoy that produce while it lasts! 

That first one is not necessarily a killing frost.  Even if it is, there are at least two simple ways to protect your plants: cover them with a sheet, blanket, or tablecloth; or turn your sprinklers on the garden overnight.  That will form a layer of ice that protects the plants from dropping below 32 degrees.  The plants won't die at the freezing point.  How do you know if it will freeze at your house?  The rule of thumb I use is: check the temperature outside at 10pm; it will drop about ten degrees more overnight. 

So-  if it's 42-44 degrees at 10pm, plan on protecting any plants you want to keep growing.


Things you can do in the garden right now, besides keeping up with the tomatoes and zucchini (!):

-trim asparagus plants to the ground

-put mulch around your rhubarb (it'll come up a little earlier that way)

 
and don't prune or fertilize bushes or trees right now; doing that now sends the plants a message to grow new branches.  Those new ones will not be tough before winter, leading to extra winter damage.

 
 
Picture
(originally from 8/5/10)
Do you have garden produce yet?  Or are you seeing it at farmers' markets?  We got the first yellow summer squash of the year yesterday.  This is exciting!  Unfortunately, we don’t have zucchini at all because one of my little people stepped on the plants just as they were coming up.  I replanted, but didn’t water well enough that first week…


Fortunately, I still have frozen zucchini from last year.  I used to shred it and freeze it in quart bags, which was the proper amount for a double batch of my zucchini bread, but didn’t like how it thawed.  It separated into water and strings of fiber.  That’s kind of baffling to cook with.  There’s a much better way-  puree it! Chop the zucchini into chunks small enough to fit down your blender, and buzz until smooth.  A bonus is that the texture of your baked goods will be smoother. 

Our favorite recipe to use it is Lemon Zucchini Bread.  It has a little more flavor if you use fresh lemons, but is still good using bottled lemon juice and dried lemon zest.  Or use your lemon-zest-sugar, (find it in the archives under 'homemade orange seasoning', in the Spices or Seasonings category, right. And FYI, Zucchini bread, since it’s a ‘quick bread’, is simply a variation on the muffin recipe.   To see for yourself, go look at the 'Anything-Goes' Muffin recipe.                                          

 *  *  *  *  * 
Now, for the thought of the week- a First Presidency message from 1984, reprinted in the Ensign last year as one of the ‘classics’- “The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance”.  Or, ‘what does self-reliance have to do with eternal life’? Think about it: Is food/money/water storage a suggestion or a commandment?  This article has something for any of us to work on- whether you haven’t started, are a little ways into it, making a lot of progress, or have built up all your reserves.  I HIGHLY recommend re-reading the whole article, below is a condensed piece of it:

 “Since the beginning of time man has been counseled to earn his own way, thereby becoming self-reliant. It is easy to understand the reason the Lord places so much emphasis on this principle when we come to understand that it is tied very closely to freedom itself.

Now, I wish to speak of a very important truth: self-reliance is not the end, but a means to an end.

Doctrine and Covenants 29:34–35 tells us there is no such thing as a temporal commandment, that all commandments are spiritual. It also tells us that man is to be “an agent unto himself.” Man cannot be an agent unto himself if he is not self-reliant. Herein we see that independence and self-reliance are critical keys to our spiritual growth.  Whenever we get into a situation which threatens our self-reliance, we will find our freedom threatened as well.  If we increase our dependence, we will find an immediate decrease in our freedom to act.

The key to making self-reliance spiritual is in using the freedom to comply with God’s commandments.”

For the whole article, which I know can bless everyone’s life,  go to The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance at lds.org.

If using fresh lemons for this recipe, you'll need two. 

Lemon-Zucchini Bread


1 lb. zucchini or other summer squash (4 c. loosely packed, or 2 cups pureed)
¼ c. lemon juice*
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest, OR ½ tsp. lemon extract, OR 1/8 tsp (16 drops)    lemon essential oil
2 c. sugar
½ c. oil
3 eggs
3 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 c. chopped walnuts, optional

Place lemon juice, zest, sugar, and oil in a bowl and beat.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Stir in flour and baking powder, then add zucchini and nuts.  Pour into two greased and floured 9x5 loaf pans.   Or use three 8x4 pans.  Bake at 375 degrees about 50 minutes (40 for 8x4 pans) or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.  Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Wrap or bag when completely cool. The flavor is even better the next day.


See the blender-mixing-method here.  

 *An acceptable substitute for lemon juice in this recipe is 1/4 cup vinegar (apple cider vinegar is better but not necessary) and a little bit extra lemon zest, extract, or essential oil.

 
 
 
 How about another zucchini recipe?  Any summer squash can be used in the recipe.  Since I don’t have zucchini this year, (the seedlings were stepped on...) I’ve been making my lemon-zucchini bread with yellow summer squash, too. “Bisque” usually means a thick, creamy soup thickened by pureeing it, instead of by adding flour.  We made some yesterday using an immature Hubbard squash (picked by an enthusiastic child…), and it was delicious. The recipe came from the Ukraine; my sister ate it- and loved it- there on her mission.   In the bisque, the curry powder is great, but you can also  try other spices you like-   using basil or ground coriander  to taste, or a half packet of ranch dressing mix powder (Remember dressing mix is salty, so leave out the salt in the recipe).  The soup really shines when served with “Best Drop Biscuits” (archived under Quick Breads) or homemade French bread; something with some crunch to contrast with the silkiness of the soup. 

Here’s a video on YouTube about food storage, a lady from Arizona… this segment is “top 10 reasons for not starting food storage”: here if the link didn't work.  The sound doesn't work really well, but it's still worth watching!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGaTlwYs-s      I thought it was pretty funny, but it makes you think.  Just remember that when she says ‘year’s supply’, that you don’t worry about that part until you reach Step 4 from the All Is Safely Gathered In booklet on providentliving.org. How much you store, on that step, is up to you to study and pray about.  Here are the four:

1. Gradually build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet until it is sufficient for three months.

2. Store drinking water.

3. Establish a financial reserve by setting aside a little money each week, and gradually increase it to a reasonable amount.

 4. Once families have achieved the first three objectives, they are counseled to expand their efforts, as circumstances allow, into a supply of long-term basic foods such as grains, legumes, and other staples.

 Happy storing! 
-Rhonda

 
Curried Zucchini Bisque
2 Tbsp. butter
2-4 tsp. curry powder- or use other spices you like
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ tsp. black pepper
3 c. chicken broth, or 3 c. water and 1 ½ tsp. chicken bouillon
1 (7-8 oz.) potato, cut in ½” cubes
1-1 ½ lbs. zucchini, trimmed and cubed
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ c. cream or evaporated milk (12 oz. can)  or a 12-oz. can of coconut milk

            Combine butter, curry powder, onion, and pepper in a medium saucepan.  Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat.  Add broth, potato, zucchini, and salt.  Simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender.  Add cream and puree the soup until smooth.         Serve garnished with croutons if you like.  Cubed chicken is also good in this. 

 
 
 
Picture
I love these powders!  Left to right: tomato powder, pumpkin powder, yellow summer squash powder, dried crumbled greens to put in soups in the winter.  (These greens are pigweed leaves- one of the wild edible weeds in my yard.)

Picture
Hot, fresh pancakes are simple to make. 

What else can you do with all that summer squash you have?  Make it into leather!  Yes, I know your children won’t think that’s the best snack around, but it’s not for them.  At least not by itself.  Better yet, turn it into powder.

The idea behind this is that pureed squash can be added to soups and breads (as in Zucchini Bread), and it takes a LOT less storage space when it’s dried.  There are at least two ways to get dried pureed squash:

(1)  Puree it, pour it on food dehydrator sheets, dry, and roll up, and

(2)  Slice the squash (1/4” wide is good), dry it like that, then run it through your blender when it’s crispy-dry.   This vegetable powder takes up even less storage space than the leather, plus it reconstitutes faster. If you're doing this with pumpkin, steam it before slicing; it will dry quite a bit faster and not have that raw taste.

(3)  Store it in something fairly airtight, in a dark area.  Canning jars are great, especially if you seal them by using a new lid, the ring, and an oxygen packet. (see Dry Canning.)

Now, how do you use it in recipes?  And how much do you use?  Remember thinking in school that you’d NEVER use  math in ‘real life’?  Ha!  It’s incredibly useful in the kitchen, especially when you start doing your own thing.

Measure and write down the quantity you start with, then measure and write down what you end up with.  Write it on your storage container, trust me, you’ll forget otherwise.   For instance, I started with 2 ½ lbs of yellow squash, which is 5 cups of puree.  I ran it through the blender, poured it on my (SPRAYED) dehydrating sheets, and turned on the dehydrator until it was dry and curling up on the edges and thin spots.  My sheets can fit two cups of puree each, which is one pound, so each roll of ‘leather’ is worth that much in a recipe.  To use it in a recipe, tear it up in pieces and soak it in just under 2 cups of hot water, for probably 30 minutes or so.   Then use it just like fresh puree, in whatever recipe you have.  There are photos and more detailed information on the Zucchini Powder post.

For making the powdered squash: the latest batch, 5 cups of puree, became just 10 tablespoons after drying and powdering.  That means to make one cup of puree, use 2 Tbsp. powder along with just under 1 cup hot water.   Isn’t that amazing? Think of the space that saves!  Five cups, which would have taken up freezer space, now stores in the space of about 2/3 of a cup.  The pumpkin I dried requires 3 Tbsp. plus water to make a cup.  This pumpkin powder bakes up beautifully in pies and breads.

 
When I make vegetable powder, it usually sticks to itself in a big lump after storing a little while.  Normally I just whack it a couple times to break off what I need, or chop around in the jar with a butter knife.  This time something new occurred to me- sometimes a little cornstarch is added to powdered sugar to keep it from lumping.  It’s a good moisture absorber, so my most recent batch has a little cornstarch added to it.  So far, so good.  We’ll see in six months how it really works.  Just in case that quantity messes with my recipes, I wrote how much cornstarch is there, on the jar of powder.  In this case, it’s 1 Tbsp. cornstarch per 2 cups reconstituted puree.  It looks like maybe more than necessary, but so far nothing is sticking!

 

You can powder about anything- think what you ever use in a pureed form, and make that into vegetable powder.  Tomato powder is great, it can be used to replace tomato paste, tomato sauce,  or tomato juice, depending on how much powder you use with how much water.  Mushroom powder is nice for cream-of-mushroom soup, or for extra flavor in soups and stews, onion powder goes almost without saying, carrot powder is good, too, and beet powder is sneaky but awesome. Throw it in almost anything.  I mostly use it to color frosting, though, since one of my boys can’t have artificial colors without his eczema flaring. It’s also great way to use beets that stayed in the garden a little too long and became a bit woody.  Try this out, and see what you think!


           Foolproof Pancakes -for my size family, we triple this
Makes 10 3" pancakes        (You can also turn this recipe into Pumpkin Pancake mix.)

1   cup   flour   (white or whole wheat)
1   cup   buttermilk or sour milk   
1   tsp.   sugar   
1/2  tsp.   baking soda   
1/2  tsp.   salt   
1   egg   
2   Tbsp.   butter, melted, optional

Combine all and whisk lightly.  Cook on a greased or non-stick skillet,  on medium-high, using 1/4 cup batter per pancake.  Cook until bubbles form around outside edges, then flip and cook until other side is browned.

The original recipe called for 3/4 cup buttermilk and 1/4 cup whole milk, but what I've got above works great.
For blueberry pancakes, stir 3/4 cup of blueberries into batter. 
For banana pancakes, slice one banana into batter. 
Picture
Cook pancakes on high heat, either on a greased or nonstick surface.  When the bubbles around the edges stay 'popped' and the edges are not runny, flip the pancake.

Picture
Cook until the other side is golden as well.  The pancake will puff up when you first flip it, and then it will stop rising.  If you're not sure if it's done, poke one in the center.  It shouldn't be runny.  If you flip the pancakes a second time, they will deflate and be more dense and flat.

 
 
Picture
Picture
  This week has been an exciting one for our end of the Salt Lake valley, with the large fire in Herriman and the evacuations there.   It really makes us stop and think about what we would do if a catastrophe occurred in our own homes.   (Nice timing, September is National Preparedness Month.) 

Could you grab all your important documents if you only had five minutes?  Could you list, at the drop of a hat, what physical things are most important to you?   I recommend spending some time making a list of what to grab if you only have a few minutes.  What would you get if you had an hour or two?  It’s better to figure it out ahead of time and never actually have that emergency, than to forget something in your rush.

 I dropped in at the Red Cross evacuation center (an LDS stake center), and learned a couple things.  When I was there on Tuesday, one family had been there since Sunday.  They’d gone three days without a shower or a change of clothes, and the children were expected to be back in school.   I rounded up clothes for the family (thanks to those who donated!), which they appreciated.  The thing that really surprised me, though, was what I brought that they got EXCITED about….    The 8-yr-old was ecstatic about having pajamas to wear at bedtime, but the mom and 11-yr-old  were happiest about Chapstick, fingernail clippers, and hair elastics.   Those are such simple, inexpensive things.  

 Do you have extras of these in your home storage? Would you be ‘up a creek’ if you couldn’t get to a store?  Think about what little things would make a difference to you, and store some.  A great inventory list to help you expand your storage, if you’re at the year’s supply stage, is found in the back of the  Church booklet, “Essentials of Home Production and Storage”. If you’re not that far yet, that’s okay, keep moving toward it.

 “Maintain a year's supply. The Lord has urged that his people save for the rainy days, prepare for the difficult times, and put away for emergencies, a year's supply or more of bare necessities so that when comes the flood, the earthquake, the famine, the hurricane, the storms of life, our families can be sustained through the dark days. How many of us have complied with this? We strive with the Lord, finding many excuses: We do not have room for storage. The food spoils. We do not have the funds to do it. We do not like these common foods. It is not needed -- there will always be someone to help in trouble. The government will come to the rescue. And some intend to obey but procrastinate.” -The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.375


Now the recipes- dinner and dessert, all using zucchini.  One of the beauties of zucchini is that it doesn’t really taste like anything.  This means you can put it in recipes and taste the OTHER ingredients instead of the squash.  The zucchini pizza may sound strange, but my mom (who invented this recipe) fed it to 150 college students recently, and all but one liked it a lot.  Pretty good odds.  My kids and husband liked it, too.  The photos above show the finished pizza and the just-cooked crust before adding toppings.  I used yellow squash in mine.



Zucchini Pizza


3 eggs
3 cups shredded zucchini or yellow squash
1 cup biscuit mix (or pancake mix or flour with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder mixed in)
1/4 cup of chopped onion (or more if you like onion a lot)
salt and pepper to taste-few sprinkles of each

 Mix the biscuit mix into the shredded zucchini and chopped onion. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl with the salt and pepper, then mix into the zucchini.  Spread batter onto a 12 inch pizza pan that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray.  Bake at 375 until edges are slightly brown and center is firm and springs back nicely. Spread about 8 ounces of pizza sauce on top, then top with favorite cheese and meat, just like any pizza.  For pizza sauce, I use a can of tomato sauce and add a little each of: garlic, pepper, oregano, basil, and thyme.
It does still stick a bit to the pizza pan,unless you use a pizza stone or parchment, but it's allright if you use a pancake turner and are careful.

 

ZUCCHINI CREAM PIE

 1 ½ cups peeled, seeded and grated zucchini (yellow squash works too)
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
¾ cup – 1 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
2 eggs
3 T. flour
1t. vanilla extract
1/8 t. salt
2-4 Tbsp. butter, optional.
1 unbaked 9 – 10" pie crust
½ t. ground cinnamon
½ t. ground nutmeg

 Steam or microwave grated zucchini on a microwave safe dish until very soft,
about 2-3 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid and cool. Preheat the oven to 425
F. Place the evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, flour, vanilla and salt in a
blender and blend, adding the butter if you’re using it.  Add the cooled zucchini and blend again until smooth. Pour custard into unbaked pie crust and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Place on
a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 F. and bake for
another 30 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 8 servings.