I'm planning a post about picnic food. I would love to hear what you like to eat on a picnic, your picnic memories, or funny picnic stories! I'll post about picnics later this week after I've had a chance to read your posts.


We eat a lot of salads year round, but in the summer, when we have fresh veggies in the garden we eat them daily. Recently we have become completely addicted to the addition of cranraisins and seasoned sunflower seeds to our salads. We all like croutons in our salads, but so many of the store bought kind are hard and mostly tasteless. The solution?? Make your own! It's easy and fun, and the result is a light crunch that is packed with flavor!

I use different types of bread so that I can utilize what is reasonably priced. Day old bread is perfect for making the croutons, in fact, fresh bread is harder to work with when cutting, and because it's baked until dry and crispy anyway, the day old bread is perfect! Today I used a loaf of Italian bread, but most of the time I use a baguette from a local bakery store. I get a long baguette that is usually priced under $1 and that will make almost 2 gallon sized ziploc bags full!

I cut the bread into cubes, trying to make sure each piece has at least one side of the original crust for added crunch. Melt a stick of butter (adjust the amount for the size loaf you use) and pour over bread, stirring to mix well. Add your preferred spices or herbs. I use dried thyme and dill, paprika, garlic powder, sea salt, old bay seasoning, sesame seeds and fresh ground pepper. You can make your croutons as spicy or plain as you like. I bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Today I forgot I was baking them so they got a bit dark, but since I was using fresh bread instead of day old, the additional baking time didn't hurt them at all. We also prefer then a bit over baked. It just adds a bit more character and crunch. Just don't burn them!

I store them in a ziploc bag. Let them cool completely before storage or they tend to get a bit soft. Because the flavor of these croutons is so powerful, you really only need a few in the salad to make a huge impact on the flavor!

Another favorite way to use these in the summer is to make a fresh tomato salad similar to fatoosh. Fatoosh is a Middle Eastern dish that is so wonderfully delicious. If you have a market that sells this ethnic food, look for a spice called 'zatar'. You will need it to make this salad. I have actually found it in the ethnic food section of my local Kroger store.

In a large bowl, cube fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion. Make a vinaigrette with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, 1 clove crushed garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and a good amount of zatar. Marinate the veggies in this dressing and add in a healthy amount of fresh croutons. Stir all ingredients together to distribute the dressing throughout. The croutons will begin to absorb the dressing and soften just a bit. Oh my!! You are in for a flavor party in your mouth! So fresh and light, you will make it again and again!



The garden is in full swing. I've been canning green beans as they get ready. So far, I have canned 37 quarts. Today I canned 16 quarts. The beans seemed to get off to a slow start, then they had a growth spurt. This last picking we had to pick all of them so that more would come. These were a bit mature but still work for canning. There will be more to come in the next days and weeks, as long as we keep them picked. They like the heat, and we had a good strong rain today, so they'll take off again in no time!

I love the way canned goods look on a pantry shelf. It's a lot of work to can, but we are used to the taste and really prefer them to store bought vegetables.

For dinner tonight we had a simple garden vegetable curry. I used veggies from our garden: corn, onions, zucchini, green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. When I went to add the curry powder, I discovered that I was out, so I used paprika, cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger instead. It was 'curry-like' and tasted delicious with the brown rice and a slice of zucchini bread on the side.

I'm hoping to purchase some basil at the farmer's market tomorrow or Saturday so that I can make a big batch of pesto. I also want to freeze some basil cubes. I pulse the basil in the food processor with a little water and then freeze it in an ice cube tray. After they freeze I keep them in freezer bags and use them until the next season comes on. I use the cubes in marinara sauce, soups, and all kinds of dishes. It's so easy to make and really does freeze well, and tastes like fresh basil when added to a dish!



I am always thrilled when the first zucchini squash is harvested. What that means is that there will soon be more zucchini than you know what to do with! It's the time of year when you may find a bag of them show up mysteriously on your doorstep overnight! Everyone has more than they know what to do with!

I don't like to waste good food, so if I can't use them myself, I try to give them to someone else to use. It's hard keeping up with the harvesting this time of the year and many times, before you know it, they are the size of a submarine! But, even the very mature squashes are useable!

I've mentioned in an earlier post about making a dish called 'calavasa'. It's one of our favorites made with zucchini, but another favorite is fried zucchini. I've also made zucchini muffins, and bread, and last night we had zucchini patties! These patties were so delicious I thought I'd share the 'recipe'. Actually, I just threw the ingredients together and it turned out wonderful! Maybe you can give them a try for something different to use up some of your excess squash.

Shredded zucchini squash - about 4 c.
***(At this point, allow the squash to drain in colander for 10 minutes. Squeeze out liquid before adding to recipe)
Shredded potato - about 1 1/2 c.
***( Press with paper towels to draw away liquid)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 TBS. Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder (you can use minced fresh if you prefer)
1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 - 3/4 c shredded parmesan cheese
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients and let sit for a few minutes while bread crumbs absorb liquid.
Fry in small amount of oil in hot pan. Flip when browned and brown second side. Delicious served with fresh salsa and a dollop of sour cream if you desire.
This made about 8 patties


Today's Bounty
red onions ~ sunflowers ~ bi-bolor corn ~ radishes


POT BROT: meaning pot bread/casserole bread

Another food post so soon? Well, this has been a cooking weekend! We had a few friends in for a 'game night'. Everyone contributed a salad, and I also made homemade bread, homemade ice cream, and also served store bought ice cream. We had pasta salad, caprese salad, potato salad, and lettuce salad with amazing homemade croutons! It was an easy meal with the focus on fun and enjoying each other!

This week there was an article in our local paper on potato salads, with several unique recipes. My family loves my mom's recipe for potato salad(made with only Miracle Whip for the dressing). I'm usually asked to bring it to family get togethers, but today I wanted to try something more creative. We dug our first garden potatoes, and I let the skins on them and cooked them until fork tender, in salted water. I left the peelings on them, and cut them into rustic chunks. The salad also had chopped celery, chopped red onion, crispy turkey bacon, chopped capers, and sliced green stuffed olives. While the potatoes were still a bit warm, I dressed the salad with a vinaigrette made with oil, vinegar, and dijon mustard. By dressing the potatoes while warm, they absorb the dressing and season the vegetables through. It was so delicious! Some people still prefer a mayonaisse dressing, but I loved the change and the tangy flavor was so good! Sorry, but I forgot to take a picture of it, but my friend Jeff who is a photographer took some so maybe I can add them after he sends me copies!

I also made a loaf of my Backyard Onion Pot Brot. It's a casserole bread that is soooo easy to make. I use my Kitchen Aide mixer to mix the bread, using the dough hook to knead it. Then it rises in the same bowl until double-which didn't take long today with this heat. It's then knocked down and placed in a stoneware bowl and baked for nearly an hour. It comes out brown and golden, with a light crust. It's easy to make, and is so yummy! There wasn't a lot left after the party!

Here is the recipe if you would like to try it:

Place 2 pkgs. quick rise yeast in the mixer bowl with 2 c. warm water.

Add 2 TBS sugar and let set for a few minutes to get the yeast started. To the yeast mixture I add:

6 c. flour

2 tsp. salt

2 TBS oil-your choice-I use olive oil

1 chopped onion of choice- I use my own homegrown reds

Mix with the paddle attachment to combine ingredients, then change to dough hook and mix until nice and silky looking. Cover and let rise until double. Then punch it down and throw into your casserole. Bake at 350 for almost an hour.

For variety, I sometimes add herbs such as thyme or basil. If you want to make it a tomato-y loaf- add tomato juice for part of the water or a pkg. of dry spaghetti sauce mix. It's a very forgiving recipe. I've never had any trouble with it turning out perfect. You can bake it in any large casserole dish, but I will tell you that cooking it in stoneware is a secret to success for this loaf. It cooks evenly and gives it a nice crust! This is a rustic loaf.

I would love to hear from you if you try this recipe!



Richard's handiwork! The garden in full bloom. Corn, peas, tomatoes, squash, cucumber,peppers, green beans, and potatoes, with some sunflowers thrown in for color.

Fried Zucchini
We've started to collect zucchini! I currently have 11 sitting on my cupboard. We eat them sauteed with onion, garlic, and tomatoes, but our favorite is fried zucchini. I heat a small amount of olive oil in an iron skillet, then toss sliced zucchini in corn meal, and place it in a heated pan. It really doesn't absorb much oil if the pan is hot when you place the squash in it. I think the picture makes it look 'oily' for some reason...it sort of sparkles. I'm really not a very good food photographer!! After both sides are browned, I place a small amount of cheese on each slice. Tonight we had swiss, but last night we had parmesan. Monteray Jack cheese is my preference, but I had to use what I had on hand. A small amount of salt is added to the corn meal before tossing the slices in a bag. I don't 'wet' the slices with milk or an egg wash. They are damp enough from slicing them and the corn meal sticks with a very fine layer since I don't really like a lot of breading.
I also made a double batch of zucchini bread. It made two loaves, and 1 1/2 dozen muffins. Richard stopped at the store and brought home some cream cheese to use on the slices. It's a really nice treat with a glass of iced tea! I didn't have oil, so I thawed out frozen applesauce and used that instead, making them low fat!! Very yummy indeed!!
My next post??? Tomorrow the little granddaughters are coming for the weekend and they are bringing their dad along. I'm going to make ice cream in my ice cream maker. It makes absolutely outstanding coffee ice cream. I'm also going to try to make a batch of mint ice cream using Jazzy Mint tea from Ceylon Tea Co. I'll make a simple syrup using the tea bags, then infuse that into the cream/milk mixture. We'll see how it turns out. I'll let you all know!! (hahah that cracked me up...ALL...like there are a bunch of people reading this blog!! .... delusional!!
This is a change of subject, really, but when we were growing up, we played a lot of board games. We had a huge game chest and had pretty much every game you can imagine. Every year at Christmas it was a tradition to purchase a new game and that went into adulthood, as well. Recently our daughter mentioned a new game she had and it sounded like such fun we went out and bought it. We're having 3 couples over on Sunday afternoon to play the game. The name of the game is 'THINGS'.
Each couple is bringing a salad, and I'll be making bread and a dessert. We're having pasta salad, lettuce salad, caprese salad, and I'm hoping we have new potatoes so I can make a potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Since the zucchini is plentiful, I'm making zucchini bars for dessert. They have a scrumptious cinnamon glaze on them. I plan on making a pot brot. Do you know what that is? I believe it's German for pot or casserole bread. It doesn't require kneading and is baked in a stoneware bowl, yielding a rustic, crusty loaf of bread. I'll put herbs and onions in it and serve it toasted with my homemade spinach pesto that I made earlier in the spring! YUM!
I'll try to remember to take some pictures and post them after the weekend is over. Let me know if you have any favorite zucchini recipes!



This is a molcajete from Mexico

When I was around 12 years old, the Mennonite church we were attending started a small church in a neighboring town. My parents were 'sent' from our church to be 'missionaries' to this church and help get it started. It was the first Spanish Mennonite Church in that town. There were a lot of spanish speaking people in that town, so of course the services were in Spanish. My mom took night classes and learned to speak spanish fluently. Some of the Sunday School classes were in english, but for the mjost part it was all spanish, which left my dad and us kids totally in the dark.

The people were so loving and kind. We made many wonderful friends attending there. The best part of those days was the lunch that we had after each service. It was a tradition to have a pot luck after the Sunday service. The ladies would bring all kinds of wonderful, AUTHENTIC, mexican dishes. Some of our favorites were chicken en mole, arroz con pollo, and fresh tortillas! It was a smorgasbord of spicy delights!

One dish my mom learned to make was called 'calavasa'. Years later I found out that that is actually the spanish word for 'squash'. I still make this dish today, and it's actually one of my favorite meals. Mom mom made it often during the summer months when zucchini was fresh. My dad was an avid gardener so we always had a lot of squash to use.

These mexican friends of ours brought back from Mexico, two molcajete (pronounced: mocha-hettaye) for my mom to use in her cooking. When my parents closed down their house, I inherited the small one. I love this little kitchen wonder! I'm not sure what mine is made of. It might be stone, but the original ones were made from lava, I believe! I use it to grind my cumin seed into powder to add to the dish. It is really the only way to get that 'authentic' taste to the dish. I've posted a picture of mine with the cumin seeds being ground to powder. I've used it to grind garlic, also.

The dish is served over white rice. While I normally cook brown rice, this is one dish that is just not the same if it's not served over white rice. I always use jasmine rice for white rice. It has a lovely aroma and flavor! The ingredients for calavasa are: ground beef, onion, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, whole tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, and zucchini. I sometimes add some hot peppers if they are in season in the garden. Today I used half of a banana pepper and it was just the right amount of heat.