Monthly Archives: July 2013

Viva la Difference Zucchini Casserole

We have had this recipe a long time, and it is one to which we go back quite often. It is good, and has all the ingredients for a meal. And it only takes about an hour from start to serving.
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As you can see from the credit line, it was originally published by the San Diego power utility way back in 1975. I am beginning to think that some food ideas do happen at specific times; it seems like some of the older recipes did use the Minute Rice more than we see now days.

Viva la Difference Zucchini Casserole

(San Diego Gas and Electric, 1975)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup instant rice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano
  • 1 1/2 lbs. zucchini, cut into 1/4″ rounds
  • 2 cups small curd cottage cheese
  • 10 oz. can cream of celery or cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 x 2″ casserole, or two 8 x 8 x 2″ casseroles.

Saute together until browned the beef and onion. Remove from heat and add rice, garlic salt, and oregano.

Prepare and have ready each separately so they can be layered, the zucchini, cottage cheese, soup and cheddar cheese.

In the greased casserole, layer the ingredients as follows:

  • Place half the zucchini mixture in bottom
  • Cover with beef mixture
  • Spoon over the cottage cheese
  • Place the remaining zucchini over the top evenly
  • Spread the soup over all
  • Sprinkle with the cheese

Bake, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbling hot.


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I chose to use the to 8 x 8 casseroles so that I could freeze one to have later.

I was surprised that although it seemed like a lot of zucchini after I had sliced it all, I seemed to be short zucchini for making two layers. I think the hint I have is that you don’t want to work to fit the zucchini tightly like a mosaic. Since the pieces are different sizes, it is hard to judge how much is half of the total.
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While the recipe calls for either cream of celery or cream of chicken soup, that might be a modification that Marlys made for me; I think you could use cream of mushroom soup. I have trouble digesting mushrooms, and so Marlys has modified a lot of recipes to eliminate the mushrooms in favor of something more neutral.

Broiled Zucchini

Here is a simple recipe for zucchini, that is about as easy as it gets. The nice thing about broiled zucchini is that you can cook them to your own taste. I happen to like them “al dente”; this allows me to pick them up with my fingers to eat them. I think they would make nice finger food, or hors d’oeuvres, as well as the classification of a vegetable for the meal.
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Broiled Zucchini

  • zucchini
  • olive oil
  • garlic salt
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Paprika

Slice squash into 1/4″ rounds, ovals or lengthwise into slabs. Lay flat on a shallow baking pan. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle on top the garlic salt, Parmesan and paprika. Broil until lightly browned.


The wishy-washy direction about how to cut the zucchini is because it really doesn’t matter; it is the 1/4″ thickness of the pieces that is important. Thus, you can cut straight across the zucchini and get rounds, you can cut at a diagonal – like 45 degrees, and get ovals, or like I did, long wise and get slabs of zucchini. Probably the diagonal cut is the most appeasing to the eye.
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The broiling can be done in a toaster oven if you have one of those. That is how we did it many times, rather than heat up the main oven. In that case, you are limited to how many pieces you can cook at a time by the size of the broiler pan. I wasn’t using our toaster oven enough to warrant the counter space, and so I packed it away, and use the main oven for my cooking. I suspect you could also do them outdoors on a grill by using indirect heat.
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Recently, I made the recipe a second time- my zucchini plants are producing a lot and I need to use the produce. This time, I thought I would do a couple things differently so you could see the versatility of the recipe. I was cooking a chicken breast on the outside grill, and felt I should do the zucchini there also. I also wanted you to see cutting the zucchini at an angle to get oval shaped pieces.
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On the grill, you want to place the zucchini on the rack, or away from the direct heat to the side. I would also keep the grill pan to help deflect the direct heat.
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I am happy to say that the meat and zucchini both finished together and made a nice meal.
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Basil Chicken Marinade

We marinate meat for two reasons; the marinade enhances the flavor of the meat, but more importantly, the marinade tenderizes the meat. This simple marinade does a great job on chicken breasts.

Basil Chicken Marinade

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped basil leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped red onion
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic chopped

Mix together, and place in a gallon freezer bag with chicken breasts. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Marinades work best on flat pieces of meat; slabs of meat that are the same thickness across the entire piece. This is so the penetration is even across the entire piece of meat. So, before we actually worry about the recipe for the marinade, we need to take action to flatten the chicken breast to be more even in thickness.
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The easiest way to flatten the chicken breast is to hammer it with the bottom of a heavy pot. To keep from making a mess, use either a plastic storage bag (open so the air doesn’t cushion the blow of the hammer) or a couple pieces of plastic wrap- one under and one over the chicken breast. Now that the breast is captured between two layers of plastic, bring the heavy pan’s bottom down hard on the breast. It takes a good amount of smashing to get the results where the high spots are reduced to the same level as the edges of the breast.

Now that the breast is flattened, slip it into a plastic storage bag and add the ingredients of the marinade. I find one fault with the ingredient list; it sounds like there is enough volume to do several breasts at a time. My experience was that I feel that the ingredients as listed would do a single chicken breast- about 8 ounces of chicken breast. And, I felt that I could do the single piece of meat in a quart freezer bag instead of the larger gallon size. I would double the recipe if I were doing more that a single breast or a gallon freezer bag.
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Because the tenderizing process is really a “cooking” process, I would limit the time I left the meat to marinate to not more than about 10 hours; certainly not over night. The acid (vinegar) in the marinate is acting on the meat just as when we make ceviche- the sea food “cooked” in lime juice. Too long of a marination will leave the surface of the meat mushy and the interior of the meat dry. Marinating draws moisture out of the meat. It is important to turn the freezer bag a few times so that all of the meat comes into contact with the marinade, and not just one surface.

That last paragraph makes marinating sound like a difficult task; it isn’t. That paragraph is mostly about the end cases of what is happening, and why the time period of marinating is important. It isn’t something to start and forget.
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I think marinating makes a difference. One way to test that and form your own opinion would be to cut the chicken breast in half, and only marinate half. Then, after marinating one half, cook both halves and make a taste test. Hopefully, you will see the difference I did, and enjoy the enhanced flavor the marinade gives to the meat.

Creamed Squash

This is an easy, delicious side dish made from zucchini. Jenn admits that it is one of her favorites, and she has made it herself. So I gave her half of what I made.
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Creamed Squash

  • 2 lbs. fresh zucchini squash.
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon flour

Coarsely grate zucchini. Using a 10″ or large frypan with a tight lid, combine the butter, water, pepper salt, basil and garlic. Place on high heat; mix in squash. Cover and cook about 5 minutes or until tender. Remove lid and cook to evaporate the liquid—about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream and flour. Mix until smooth; stir into squash mixture. Bring to a boil stirring until blended into a smooth sauce.

While I don’t think any hints are necessary for you to have success with this recipe, I will explain what I did and think. First, the two pounds of grated zucchini takes a large space. It cooks down, but you need to start with a large pan. I used the 12 inch sauté pan, but remember you need a pan with a lid.

It took me a couple minutes longer than 10 to evaporate the water, but then, I don’t like to turn the burner all the way to “high”. I tend to keep the burner about 70-80% of “high” when the recipe calls for high heat.
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When I served myself some of the Creamed Squash, I felt that the salt was not as strong as I would like it. However, I won’t change the recipe, but instead will add salt from the shaker on the table.

I hope you will try this delicious side dish of zucchini, and find it as good as I say it is.

Zucchini Squash Bread

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Zucchini bread is a sweet bread somewhat like Steamed Bread Pudding. But you make it in a couple regular loaf pans, so it is easier. This recipe was given to Marlys by Connie Mayo who was a bridge playing friend. I hope you can try the recipe and find it as a good dessert bread.
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Zucchini Squash Bread

(Connie Mayo 1973)

  • 3 eggs. beaten light and foamy
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini squash
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Pour into two greased loaf pans (or three small loaf pans). Bake at 325°F for 1 hour. Remove from pans at once and cool on rack. Bread freezes well.


When I made zucchini bread last year, I had a couple problems. First, the temperature of the oven was not calibrated and was running hotter than the dial said. This caused the bread to cook too quickly on the outside, and not be able to rise. The moral of that tail is to cook slower and longer, rather than hotter and faster. Once I determined the problem, I was able to get nice fat loaves of bread consistently.

The second problem I had was in releasing the bread from the loaf pans. I probably didn’t grease the pans enough. I am now using the cooking spray and am not having any problem. I have started putting a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the loaf pans; this is because when I put the bread on the cooling rack, the rack cut into the soft bread. Now, I leave the parchment paper on the bottom of the bread while it cools to give a better surface against the cooling racks.
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I am tenting all my breads for the last 10-15 minutes of their bake time. I felt that the top crust of the bread was over cooked and too thick. Tenting seems to reduce that problem. I have only seen tenting explicitly called out in one recipe, the Dilly Bread recipe, but I am doing it with all my bread baking, including this zucchini bread.

Finally, the recipe calls for 2 cups of grated zucchini; I measured the weight on my scales and found that the 2 cups was about 10 ounces. So if you have a pound of zucchini, by the time you cut the stem end off, and maybe the flower end, you probably are in the ballpark of 10-12 ounces, or 2 cups of grated zucchini.

When I eat zucchini bread, I like to spread it with either sour cream, or softened cream cheese. Because it is sweet, you don’t need any sweet spread.

Risotto

Marlys’s recipe for risotto seems to be developed to feed a crowd; it makes a lot. So I decided to do some comparison, and try to reduce the amount of risotto that it makes. I looked at the back of the Arborio rice container to understand that recipe.
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I think the basic answer is that Marlys’s recipe uses more flavors from herbs, spice, cheese and wine, plus contains vegetables. The recipe on the rice container is very basic. It contains more fat, and more taste of the broth than Marlys’s recipe.

I decided that I would give you Marlys’s recipe as it is in her cook book, but then I would scale it down to about the same size as the recipe on the back of the Arborio rice container. So don’t feel defeated when the first couple items in Marlys’s recipe are 1½ quarts of liquid.

Risotto

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry

In a 2 quart or larger pan, bring water and chicken stock to a boil, then reduce heat to keep warm. In a large skillet, saut&#233 in oil and butter the onion until onion is clear. Add rice and saut&#233 3 minutes. Add wine and saut&#233 until liquid is absorbed. Add 1/2 the stock and reduce heat slightly. Simmer, stirring frequently until liquid is absorbed; then add more liquid, a few ladles at a time. When liquid cooks out, add more. Cook to al dente (about 18 minutes).

Now you can add veges, Examples:

  • Spinach: 1 lb. triple washed, chopped
  • fresh Broccoli crowns
  • frozen mixed vegetables, defrosted
  • fresh Asparagus

For flavor add:

  • Basil: 1/2 cup loosely packed.
  • Flat Leaf Parsley: about 1/2 cup loosely packed
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Smaller Version of basic Risotto

  • 1 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cups arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or sherry

Reduce the amount of veges and flavor components by half for this smaller version of the recipe.


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I added the “Smaller Version” ingredient list after I made the recipe just as Marlys wrote it. I used a 12 inch sauté pan which seems to be the right size. I used ½ pound of mixed vegetables for my vege addition. When I went to add the herbs, I had to mix some dried basil and parsley with the fresh herbs from my garden; I denuded my basil and flat leaf parsley plants, and only got about ¼ cup of each loosely packed, so I added the dried herbs. Remember that you only need about 1/3 the amount of dried herb compared to the amount of fresh herb, so I used only about an additional Tablespoon each of the dried basil and parsley. My cheese was Parmesan from that canister in the refrigerator.

The rice container says that 1 cup of rice will yield 3 cups of finished risotto. But, we are adding vegetables to the risotto, so you will get more than just a 3 to 1 expansion of the rice. I didn’t carefully measure the results of making the full recipe but I think I have about a 5 to 1 expansion of the rice with the added vegetables and herbs- about 10 cups of flavored risotto.

Papa McBryde Chili

Marlys loved to make her Chili Beans. I looked at that recipe, and felt it was a bit much for the first time, especially when she also had Papa McBryde’s Chili recipe. I found this recipe to be simple, easy to make, and it is scalable to half size without much work.

Papa McBryde was Marlys’s paternal grandfather.
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Papa McBryde Chili

  • 2 lb. hamburger, coarse ground
  • 2 package chili mix envelopes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 32 oz. diced tomatoes (canned)
  • 16 oz. tomato sauce
  • 32 oz. pinto beans (optional)

Brown hamburger and onion. Add rest of ingredients. Simmer at least an hour.

In researching this recipe, it becomes apparent that it is scalable. The recipe calls for 2 cans of diced tomatoes, 2 packages of Chili mix powder, etc. – about two of everything except the onion and bell pepper, and those can easily be cut in half.

I used red bell pepper to try to add some visual appeal to the chili. Perhaps next time, I would use half red and half green; I think the visual component would be enhanced with a bit of green showing through.

There are a multitude of different chili powder mixes in the stores now; I chose to use the McCormick Original figuring this was probably historically the one that was available way back when. I was surprised to find that there was not much heat in the final chili product using the “original”; I would like things with just a bit more spice, and would look at the “hot” chili powder mixes next time. I am not ready to add fresh jalapenos to the recipe although that seems like an interesting option.

Although the recipe isn’t explicit about stirring the pot while it is simmering, my intuition says that anytime we simmer for an hour or more, we should stir the pot about every 10 minutes to ensure nothing has sunk to the bottom and is burning. Marlys taught me to do that when we were simmering the Mexican Soup.

While the pinto beans are shown as an option, I did include the beans in the batch of chili I made.
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And as usual, we find inflation changing the weight of the canned goods, and I found it hard to get the exact measure of hamburger. My hamburger came in packages that were more like 1 1/4 pounds, and the tomatoes were 14.5 ounces per can, and the pinto beans were 15 ounces per can. So we don’t exactly duplicate the recipe, but we do the best we can without being foolish.