Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baked Zucchini Gratin

Some of our favorites, old and new usually end up on our holiday table, whether it's Easter, birthdays, Christmas, or Thanksgiving. I found the recipe for this dish on the back of a margarine box (back when I used margarine all the time) and I've been making it ever since. Not only do my kids request it regularly, it's easy and can be made ahead of time.

Slice your zucchini and onions thinly and place in an oblong baking dish. The more surface the vegetables cover, the more tender they will get. Use whatever you have. Pour half of your butter over the vegetables. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.
Combine the remaining butter with the bread crumbs and the parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes or until the bread crumbs are a golden brown. Dig in!

Baked Zucchini Gratin

6 servings
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 pounds zucchini, sliced thinly
1/2 cup butter, melted and divided
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
1/2 cup bread crumbs, seasoned with salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings, or use Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In a lightly greased 2 quart oblong baking dish, layer the onion and zucchini slices, drizzle with 1/4 cup of the melted butter. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup melted butter with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and the zucchini is fork tender.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Everyone Has a Job To Do!

I'm always looking for ways to save time and/or money in the kitchen, so it's a pretty sure thing that you are, too, which is where kitchen tips come in. They may not be about cooking but they do have to do with the kitchen or eating. I wrote this one on my other blog a while back and thought it deserved it's own spot on my cooking blog, too!

My kitchen tip will save you (and me!) lots and lots of time cleaning up. Right now, in this particular season in your life, you may some little ones hanging on to your skirt as you try to move around the kitchen, getting a meal together or cleaning after preparing a meal. But, this season will not last forever, and those little cuties have a way of growing up really fast. In fact, it seems like only yesterday my own daughters were toddlers. Now my own daughter has a toddler of her own. Where has the time gone?

As our children get older, we moms should be doing ourselves a huge favor and teaching our children how to do things in the kitchen, and not just when we are there to supervise. As my own daughters grew, they each had a job to do, such as, helping to prepare the food, setting the table, clearing the table after we ate, washing dishes, putting dishes away, wiping down the counter, and other kitchen work. Most of the time, the above activities were a group effort and I would usually be there to make sure it was done correctly. I think most of us do things this way, especially if we have more than a couple of kids who are old enough to do any of these chores.

Even a toddler loves to help. Although my 16-month-old grand daughter isn't helping very much in the kitchen yet, she is learning to pick up her toys. She also helps her mommy by throwing away her little sister's diapers, and she loves to help put wet laundry into the dryer. We also give her a cloth so that she can "dust" and "clean." As she gets older, she will be learning to do more things and gaining more responsibility so that her mommy and daddy aren't still doing these things for her when she is in her teens! :/

But, I think we know when these skills that we have taught our children have really stuck and taken hold when we moms aren't there to make sure it gets done. It's when your daughter comes home at an unexpected hour from work and makes herself something to eat and when she is done, there is no evidence that she was ever in the kitchen. On the other hand, is there a gooey peanut butter and jelly knife stuck to the counter, with the peanut butter and jelly still left out? Or how about greasy splatters on the stove from the hamburger that was fried in the pan and the oily pan is sitting in the sink waiting for YOU to wash it? And, how about that microwave? You know, when the last person to use it didn't bother to put anything over the food and the top of the microwave is splattered with hardened, crusty food?

So, my Kitchen Tip for this week is to be consistent with your kids about their clean-up skills in the kitchen. When you come in from the grocery store, expecting the kitchen to be clean so that you are free to put away your food because your kids know that they always clean up after themselves, it just makes life easier. And, when it isn't done, calling them to the kitchen and having them get the job done right even though they were having such a good time playing outside. It's hard to look like the mean mom but it will be worth it later, I promise.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Calico Beans

Since going back to work I'm learning to use my crockpot more and last week I cooked my dry beans in it to freeze for later. I also made this recipe that I got from Organized Everyday and it was a big hit with the whole family. I know there are lots of different ways to make this dish but I've never tried any of them before and since a fellow blogger recommended it, I thought I would give it a try. This recipe makes lots and lots so I usually make the whole batch and freeze the rest for another time, which will really come in handy to have when I need to focus on holiday meals in the next few weeks. My notes or variations on the recipe are in italics.

Calico Beans

1 pound of lean ground beef, (I had some already cooked in the freezer)
1 large onion, diced, brown these together and drain
1 dried bag of 15 bean mix: cook in pressure cooker until done
OR you can buy canned beans: 2 cans of kidney beans and 2 cans of garbanzo beans (or store them cooked and frozen in the freezer)

In the crockpot add:

Beef, onions, and beans plus
2 cans of baked beans (any brand)
1 cup of real bacon bits or fry your own (6 slices) (I fried the bacon and onion together)

1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. of brown sugar
1 T. vinegar
1 t. of prepared mustard
1 t. salt

Mix it all and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours
OR in the oven 350 degrees for 1 hour

If you choose to fry your own bacon, cooking it with the onions saves time..

If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can still cook your own dried beans in the crockpot, but you have to plan for this a day in advance. (I cooked the beans ahead of time and stored them in the freezer until I put them in the crockpot.)
This is really good with cornbread :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sweet Potato Muffins with Cinnamon-Walnut Streusal

I recently found a recipe for Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon-Pecan Streusal and as I didn't have all the ingredients called for in the recipe, I used what I did have and still made a really good muffin. Please, don't skip the streusal topping-even if you have to eat this muffin as a dessert to make yourself feel less guilty about the butter and sugar :) This topping just makes the muffin! This recipe does make 18 muffins so I make the whole batch and put some in the freezer for later. I am building up a nice stockpile of baked goods in my freezer since I don't always have the time these days to bake when I want something good to eat-and homemade goodies are always better than store-bought to me.

Sweet Potato Muffins with Cinnamon-Walnut Streusal

Makes 18 muffins

1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sweet potato puree


1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins or use cup liners.
In a large bowl, combine the muffin ingredients, wet ingredients first. Add the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill the muffin tins with the batter.

For the streusal, in a small bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut into the mixture the butter until crumbly. Add the walnuts. Generously sprinkle streusal over each muffin. Bake for 21 to 23 minutes.

I'm linking up with Ekat's Friday Potluck