Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zucchini with Bacon and Cheese

A huge thank you to Arlee Bird and his A to Z Team for giving us another fantastic Challenge. I'm rather sad to see this one come to an end. I found some really fun and interesting new blogs to follow, and I enjoyed talking about food and recipes and family dinner traditions with all of you. As always, thank you so much for sharing your comments!

I hope you have enjoyed my Recipes from A to Z this month. It's been the most enjoyable marketing for a new book that I've ever done. I appreciate all who followed along as we went from Amber Pie to Favorite Zucchini.

All of this month's recipes will be in my forthcoming cookbook, and many additional ones are posted on my website.

A food theme is easy when it comes to the letter Z thanks to good old zucchini-- one of the most versatile vegetables ever and plentiful year-round.


Favorite Zucchini
Because everything is better with bacon and cheese
Ingredients:
2 strips uncooked bacon, cut in pieces
5 or 6 medium unpeeled zucchini, cut in chunks
1 small onion, chopped
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup Monterey jack cheese, grated

Directions:
Place bacon in saucepan, add all other ingredients except for cheese. Cover tightly and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. Add cheese just before serving. 4 servings.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Yesterday's Dinner

If you've been following along my journey this month, you may have the idea that I put out a feast every night of the week for my family. No, not really. Although I do follow the "rule of three" because it gives a sense of satisfaction, even for a light meal.

Usually I cook 3 or 4 times a week, and the other nights we have leftovers, most often disguised. Yesterday's dinner might show up the next night as a casserole combined with something new, like a can of cream of mushroom soup LOL and then baked in the oven.

What's your favorite way of serving yesterday's dinner?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X Marks the Spot

I'm at a loss of a food beginning with X. And if there is one, I don't have a recipe for it in my cookbook. Therefore I'll use this opportunity to talk about X Marks the Spot. Or another way of saying --"Look here, this is what's important."


X Marks the Spot to find the treasure. My treasure is my family, and although preparing family meals isn't an easy task for anyone, it is so worth the effort. Dinner time provides a time for the family to gather and refresh, replenish, retreat from the outside world while spending time together around the table enjoying a meal.

It doesn't have to be a lavish meal. I believe in "the rule of three." That means if you can pull together three items, it feels like a meal. Take a bowl of soup, bread with butter and jam, and a glass of milk. That's a meal. It counts.

What matters is that food is set out, the family gathers, and magic happens. Not every time. Not all at once. But moment by moment, day by day, it adds up and then one day you look back and say, "Yes! It WAS worth it." Not just the meals either, but the whole thing of being a mom, having kids, raising them the best you can (although no one is ever as good a mom, or dad, as they'd like to be that's for sure).

And that's why I wrote my recipe book Hearty Meals for the Active Family. Because I believe in the value of home and family, and I believe that having regular family dinners together is key for uniting families. And that's where X Marks the Spot for me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

WARNING: the richest cake ever



I have a lot of cake recipes because with ten children, we had a lot of birthdays. Although prepared cake mixes are easy and taste fine, a cake from scratch really isn’t difficult to put together and makes the event seem more special. 

W is for Warning: What follows is the richest cake I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’ve always said it should come with a warning label, so here it is. With the butter and cream content, and the inch-thick frosting, it’s incredibly rich and should be cut into small pieces, no seconds allowed, and skip the ice cream. 

The main recipe uses pistachio pudding mix, with a variation given for Coconut Cream Cake, using coconut pudding mix. 
Pistachio Pudding Cake
Ingredients:
2 ¼ cups flour
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 cups milk
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 small packages instant pistachio pudding mix
1 ½ sticks butter, melted
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven for 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13” pan, and also prepare a cupcake pan with liners. (This is too much batter for the 9 x 13” pan) so I make 8-10 cupcakes as well.) 
Add ingredients in order listed in mixing bowl and mix well at medium speed until thoroughly blended, for 2- 4 minutes. Stop part way through to scrape the sides of bowl. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 35 – 45 minutes. Frost when cool. I have never yet been able to keep the middle from falling on this cake, but no matter. This frosting recipe covers it so thickly that you don’t notice a sunken middle when you’re done spreading it. 

Pistachio Frosting
1 small package instant pistachio pudding
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
Stir pudding into one cup of the heavy cream and let set for a few minutes. Then add remaining ingredients along with rest of cream and beat until fluffy. Spread onto cooled cake. 

Variations:
Coconut Cream Cake—Make as directed throughout, substituting instant coconut pudding mix for the pistachio, including the frosting recipe. After frosting, sprinkle top of cake liberally with sweetened, flaked coconut.



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Veggie Bake

I love vegetables. I love to find new ways of preparing them. This is one of my favorites. I cut up the vegetables in large chunks and usually end up changing pans at least once, to a larger one.

Veggie Bake
A hearty flavorful dish that is perfect for a winter day, served with meat, fish or chicken and biscuits. Everything can bake in the oven at once.

Ingredients:
1 – 2 lbs. green and red peppers
1 lb. potatoes and/or yams, peeled
1 large onion, peeled
3 large carrots, peeled
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Italian herbs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Trim and clean peppers, cut into 1 ½ inch vertical slices. Cut potatoes into thick chunks. Cut onions into thick vertical slices. Cut peeled carrots into thick slices.

Place vegetables and garlic in large roasting pan, such as used to roast a turkey. Add oil and seasonings, toss to combine thoroughly. Bake, uncovered, turning occasionally, 30 -45 minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are tender. Serves 6 – 8.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Upside Down Cake

Use either pineapple or apricots to make this fun and fruity upside down cake.



 Upside Down Cake
This can be used with either canned apricots or pineapple. It’s an easy, inexpensive cake that will make a simple family meal seem special.

Ingredients:
4 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pineapple juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add butter to 9 x 13” baking dish and melt in heated oven. Sprinkle the melted butter with one cup brown sugar.

Beat eggs until thick. Gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add pineapple juice and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, salt and ½ teaspoon cinnamon and beat for two minutes.

Arrange pineapple halves in two rows in baking dish. (If using apricot halves, place them cut side up.) Pour cake batter over fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until done.

Remove from oven and immediately turn upside down on serving platter. Do not remove pan for a few minutes to allow steam to soften and loosen cake. Best served warm with vanilla ice cream, or cold with whipped cream.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tangy Orange Vinaigrette Dressing

Toss spinach with onion rings and mandarin orange slices, then add this dressing. Yum! And it couldn't be easier. Just one more week of Recipes from A to Z!


Tangy Orange Vinaigrette Dressing
Ingredients:
1 ½ tablespoon grated orange rind
1 ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon hot sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ cup vegetable oil

Directions:
Using blender, combine first five ingredients and pulse until well-blended. Add oil and mix until well-blended. Pour over salad and serve immediately. (If you want a really delicious spinach salad to add this to, try my Super Hero Spinach Salad.)