Tag Archives: zucchini

Quick & Easy Julienned Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Thyme

<img alt="quick easy zucchini and yellow squash with thyme"/>

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve come across at least one comment I’ve made about squash in general.  It’s something I didn’t learn to like until I was in my early twenties with two babies at home and a small garden that produced zucchini the size of battleships.  I became quite adept at figuring out what to do with those behemoths, and more importantly, our resources were meager, so being creative with squash became a fascination in general.

It seems like that was a few lifetimes ago, and since then, although I continue to learn about and experiment with different kinds of squash, I am always amazed to find how good it really is even with very little preparation.

When the friend I was visiting recently on my trip east graciously allowed me to prepare dinner my last night with her, she volunteered to make a veggie side dish which happened to be squash.  She used a julienne peeler tool I’ve had in my kitchen for several years and have been less than successful with to slice some zucchini she’d purchased from a roadside stand that day.

I’ve only recently tried spaghetti squash and love it, but this was so much more easy — no baking required!  And yes, it really did remind me of pasta if I need to say that.

Have you tried squash prepared this way before?

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Simple Daily Recipes: Readers’ Favorite Recipes — An eCookbook Review

I have always wanted to cook.

Whether it was the simple family recipes my mother showed me how to make when I was very young, or something new I found in her Betty Crocker cookbook and decided to try on my own, I was always interested.  As much as I followed my mother’s recipes fairly closely when I made them, I couldn’t resist trying a new ingredient or two when each dish showed up in our weekly rotation.  I never veered too far off the path, because we didn’t have the pantry to support that kind of diversion — and I think I may not have wanted to risk the wrath of my unpredictable step-father by ruining a meal and having to waste food. But that’s another story.

When I was a young mother of 24, I remember that cooking helped keep my wits about me.  I loved my two little boys intensely but remember feeling at times like I’d lost touch with the world in general.  Many years before the Internet existed, even local telephone calls accrued long distance charges, and our television antenna afforded us three channels with reasonably good reception if I was able to twist the antenna to just the right position.  I remember being incredibly lonely.   To keep my brain occupied, I dug into the few magazine subscriptions I kept to try new recipes.

Although most of the recipes I tried came from Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal, the recipes in Food & Wine are what intrigued me.  The mix of ingredients — many I hadn’t heard of and doubted I could find at my local market — sounded exotic.  The recipes seemed well beyond my ability as well, so I can remember being frustrated by not being able to try more of them and actually wondered, who really ate like that?

Years have gone by, and thankfully, I am now able to get just about any ingredient I want for any recipe I’d like to try.  With much trial and error, and a sense of adventure, I have developed my cooking and baking skills and will continue to do so.  That doesn’t mean we don’t eat simply, because we do.  The type of food and recipes I was raised on, and to a lesser extent, raised my three sons with will always be a part of how we eat.  It isn’t always complicated or what some may call fancy, but the ingredients are always wholesome, fresh, and as much as possible, the food I make is “from scratch.”

It makes sense, then, that when Jill Mc Keever of Simple Daily Recipesa friend I met through blogging years ago announced the newly published compilation of her food blog readers’ favorite recipes, I knew I had to check it out.  Not only have I been interested in the idea of self-published books in general, I wanted to be able to help get the word out about Jill’s new eCookbook, Simple Daily Recipes:  Readers’ Favorite Recipes which is available at iTunes.

I read through all the recipes on a quiet Saturday morning with coffee on my iPad– something not too unusual since I read cookbooks and food magazines like novels and often far more quickly.  Immediately, I was reminded of the recipes I grew up with — busy family, easy to make, wholesome recipes made with ingredients a home cook has on hand.  I also realized the book exudes Jill’s energy and engaging personality.  The recipes are primarily organized by main dinner courses featuring poultry or seafood, for example.  There’s also a chapter that includes rubs and marinades.  Bright photos of process and finished product fill the book.  It’s important to read the “Keep in Mind” section where Jill explains her decision to use liquid aminos instead of salt and low-fat margarine instead of butter.  We all have particular needs or preferences for basic ingredients and although I use neither, a bit of olive oil and pinch of salt work fine for me and are easily substituted in these recipes.  It’s rare that I made a recipe with my own little preferences, so this was no different.

As I read through the recipes, I wondered what would I sample first.  The “Smoky Sweet Rub” recipe since our summer is finally showing itself?  The “Kale, Sausage & Tomatoes with Pasta” reminded me of my mother’s “Goulash” so that got my attention as well.  “Beef Ragout” is earmarked as something I’ll try when the weather accommodates it because I’m a sucker for beef braised in red wine.  But I decided the “Chicken with Tomatoes and Zucchini” was what I’d try first.  It sounded like a pretty lean dish with lots of flavor and I knew the guys would like it.

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Lasagne with Béchamel and Spring Vegetables

I’ve been trying to write something here for days now.  I approach the task with the best intentions but know that it’s really only my conscience goading me.  No words come.  I scrounge for a memory worth sharing, then wonder if it’s one I’ve already written about and catch myself wanting to waste time sorting through archived posts to make sure.  It’s an old procrastination ruse, so I’m onto it most of the time.

Photos of recipes I’ve tried and liked are accumulating, waiting for something to be said about them, or the ingredients they were made with,  whether they’re in season, local, organic….or not.  Because you know, that matters, right?

I can’t muster up the energy because it all sounds so trivial.

I’m like an ostrich avoiding reality.  I’d rather edit photos (which qualifies at least as legitimate procrastination), or sprawl on my bedroom floor in front of the big windows on this blustery day watching the storm come in off the Pacific — probably the last we’ll have until next winter.  Mother Nature seems to have gotten March all wrong this year, with its entrance more like that of a lamb’s and its exit resembling a lion’s — at least in San Diego.

I could grab a book and lose myself for a while or think again for what seems to be the millionth time about whether the windows need drapes, and whether I should make them myself — except I’m not sure which closet that sewing machine is in and even if I did, my heart wouldn’t be into it.

A walk in the rain would also be nice, but the force of the wind is rattling the skylights and whistling down the chimneys.  I’d make it out the door and realize how silly a decision it was since I’m nothing like the thin woman clad in white who just sprinted past my window, nor like anyone the Brontës might write about, a thin figure whose dark dress is flapping about her ankles on the hauntingly beautiful Yorkshire moors and proof of a pained existence etched across her brow.

So ridiculously unfocused and thinking none of it really matters.

I’ve been thinking about perspective quite a bit this past week.  Counting my blessings.  Thinking about life, loss, what I take for granted (see foolish exhibits A, B, C, and D above) and what others in the world right now have lost and may never, ever recover.  I’m watching it on the news, in the photos that stream through a variety of websites, and can’t begin to understand.  How can anyone not actually experiencing the magnitude of such devastation understand?  I’m weighing the pettiness of any complaint, feeling short with others for their narrow mindedness, and all in all just very sad and angry.

It’s overwhelming.

So on this first day of spring and all it traditionally represents with respect to birth, new growth, and renewal, I hope the best for people in so many places on Earth right now devastated by things beyond their control.

If you’re someone who has thought about donating to a relief fund for Japan’s recovery, you may be interested in this piece by Stephanie Strom from the New York Times, “Charities Rush to Help Japan, With Little Direction.”

Donations can be made directly to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More information about other ways to help are listed in “The Lede” at The New York Times“Japan Earthquake and Tsunami:  How to Help”

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Cool Zucchini Soup with Lemon-Cumin Shrimp and Cilantro Creme

Cool Zucchini Soup with Lemon-Cumin Shrimp and Cilantro Creme

I’d like to believe the weather we’ve been enjoying is here to stay, but I know our small slice of Paradise much too well. Instead of the often sweltering heat we experience in August, we’ve been treated to grey skies, cool, moist breezes, and yesterday, fat drops of rain that teased us late in the afternoon. It’s only a matter of time when vacations become a fleeting memory, kids are back in school, and freeways are once again jammed with rush hour traffic that it will get hot here and stay that way well into October. The heat saps one’s energy after a long day and making dinner usually isn’t high on the priority list, unless it’s something easy to make, cool, and satisfying.  The added perk is that it’s healthy.

This soup’s for you on those evenings. It’s creamy without being full of fat-laden calories as long as you go easy on the cilantro creme. Make extra, because it’s even better the next day.

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