Zucchini Gratin

Hi friends– We have a smallish Farmers Market in the next town over– every Thursday.  Not like the lavish markets I hear some you refer too (I mean you Brooklyn & Madison), but OK.  So last week Larry stopped in and brought home a bagful, including the cutest little assortment of squash.

It sort of inspired me to make this zucchini dish I’d been eyeing– although I didn’t really use his squash (ran to the store for actual zucchini!).  It’s a luscious beautiful way to “eat your vegetables!”

ZUCCHINI GRATIN
1  1/2 pounds zucchini (8 or 9)
garlic salt
1  1/2 cups cheddar, grated*
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp.salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

With a sharp knife thinly slice the zucchini.  Toss the slices in a bowl with a few shakes of garlic salt.  Let it sit for 20 minutes.  Then wrap the zucchini in paper towels and give them a squeeze to take out extra moisture.

In a mixing bowl beat together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Stir in just 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Arrange 1/2 of the zucchini in a tart pan (or 9″ square deep baking dish) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese over the stop.

Repeat with the rest of the zucchini and the pour the milk & egg mixture over it all.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Pop the whole thing into a 375 degree over for 40 to 45 minutes until the zucchini is tender when stuck with a fork.  (Watch it in the oven, if it starts to get too brown on top, cover the top with a piece of foil.)  Serve hot from the oven– Delish!!

*I like Colby jack for the color and the way it melts…

And these are the tiny squash Larry brought home from the Farmer’s market– really unrelated, but so cute!

Halloween Books Kids Love

Hello there– You know Halloween is already on it’s way if you’ve walked through Target lately.  My sis and I were there this week and scooped up a basket full of Halloween goodies to mail off to the grand-kids.

And that made me come home and pull down the little stack of Halloween kids books I keep for reading with kids this time of year.  Here’s some of our favorites:

We discovered this book on the aforementioned Target trip and stood there laughing in the aisle!  A group of goofy chickens are terrified of a number of strange things they see going on– a mouse of enormous size, a pumpkin with flickering eyes…  They work themselves into a state until it’s revealed that it’s just Halloween!

This is the Pumpkin uses rolling rhyme to take you through Halloween day into night with the buoyant Max and his family– from donning his costume, ghastly and green, through parties at school, past glowing pumpkins in the night, clear until he and his sis fall asleep amid their Halloween treats.  Bright happy illustrations make it fun!

Junie B. Jones at her best.  This time in Boo…and I Mean It!  Junie is too frightened to go out trick or treating.  There could be witches or monsters prowling, or pumpkins with sharp teeth!  But in the end with help from her mom, she manages to take it on.  This wacky first grader always makes me laugh out loud!

Our little protagonist in the Frankenstein mask steps up and knocks on the door of a haunted house to trick or treat on Halloween.  The occupants– a spider, some bats, a mummy, an owl… set off a startled chain reaction that a ends surprisingly.  Love the illustrations by the prolific Ted Arnold.

Chocolate Walnut Pie Bars

Hi there– I sure wish you could meet my Monday night ladies.  They come in the door in around 7:00 each week.  I can hear them talking and laughing as they come up the steps.  There are hugs and cups of coffee and when I finally get them to settle in, there is time to read and pray together. It’s a bright spot in my week.

And, of course, we eat.  This week it’s these pie bars– nutty and sweet (a little like my ladies!)

CHOCOLATE WALNUT PIE BARS

Crust:
1  1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted

Filling:
3 eggs
1  1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tab. melted butter
1  1/2 cups chocolate chips
1  1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

To make the crust, mix together the flour and 1/4 cup brown sugar.  Then fold in the melted 1/2 cup butter until it’s all crumbly.  Press the mixture into 9″x 13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s lightly browned.

While that’s baking, stir together the filling– beat the 3 eggs in a mixing bowl, then stir in the brown sugar and vanilla.  Then mix in the butter, chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spoon the filling carefully over the crust, covering it from edge to edge.  Bake it in the same 350 even for 25 to 30 minutes longer, until the filling is set.  Let it cool completely and then cute into tidy bars!

Beef Barley Soup

Hey there– Soup!!  Glorious soup!  It’s finally cooled down enough here to put on a big bubbling pot of soup (although I’m still waiting for a chilly night to make a fire in the fireplace).  This soup’s rich and hearty and with a spot of salad and a chunk of wheaty bread, it makes fine fall supper (with leftovers for lunches!).

BEEF BARLEY SOUP
2 tab. olive oil
1 pound beef chuck steak (or stew meat)*
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tab. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried basil
4 cups water
2  14 oz. cans beef broth
3/4 cup barley
2 tab. cornstarch (optional)

Salt & pepper the beef and cut it into smallish pieces.  Heat the olive oil in a soup pot.  Put the 1/4 cup flour in a plastic bag and add the meat.  Shake until the meat is coated and then drop it into the hot soup pot.  Cook until the beef’s browned all all sides.  Take it out of the pot and set aside.

In the same sop pot, drop in the onion and carrots (add a little more oil if the pan looks dry).  Cook for 5 minutes until the onion and carrots start to get tender.

Then add in the garlic, tomato paste and basil.  Stir it up.  Next pour in the water and beef broth and then return the meat to the pot.  Bring to a low simmer and cook 45 minutes until the beef is tender.

Add in the barely and simmer 45 minutes more until the barley is soft and yummy.

If you like your broth thicker (I do!), you can combine 1/2 cup water with 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake it until it is thoroughly blended and stir it into the bubbling soup until it thickens– 2 or 3 minutes.  Enjoy!

*I used chuck steak because it was on sale at the market.  The recipe I worked from used stew meat & it may take a little longer to cook before the meat is tender.

Still Point in the Turning World

“When something comes along that hurts us, it drives us more into God and we grow more stable because He becomes our still point in the turning world.”    –Tim Keller (author, pastor)

Some of you know we’ve been walking though difficult circumstances the last few months.  Our hope, our rest, has been in God’s faithfulness and tender care. So thankful.

“Cast all your cares on him, because He cares for you.”  –1 Peter 4:7

P.S.  photo is from our kid’s home in Ojai across the valley.

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Hello there– I know, I know you shouldn’t start a new recipe with a disclaimer– But if you are a blogger (this means you, all my blog-buddies), you know the sometimes photos aren’t what you’d hoped.  But I loved these tender, creamy cupcakes!!- so I’m sending along the recipe and you’ll have to imagine how pretty (and delicious) they were! OK??

TIRAMISU CUPCAKES

cupcakes:
chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
water
1 pack instant coffee crystals (about 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. coffee liqueur  (like Kahlua)

Topping:
1 pint whipped cream
2 tsp. instant vanilla pudding powder
tsp. powdered sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix the cake mix according to the directions on the box.  (Mine used 3 eggs, 1/2 cup oil and 1 1/4 cup water).  Add in the instant coffee and coffee liqueur and beat for two minutes with an electric mixer.

Pour the batter into 24 paper cupcake liners in cupcake pans.  Pop them in a 350 degree oven and bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until they are firm to the touch.  Let them cool completely.

With an electric mixer, beat the whipped cream along with the pudding powder and powdered sugar  –until it is stiff and set.  With a spoon, fold in the mascarpone cheese.

Top each cooled cupcake with a large dollop of the cream & mascarpone mixture.  And then dust the cocoa over the cream through a small sieve.  Refrigerate the cupcakes if you are making them way ahead…  So delish!

 

Eating our Way Across Wisconsin

Hi All– Do you agree that one of the best parts of traveling is sitting down to share meals along the way??  We did a whole lot of eating during our Wisconsin weeks this summer– here’s the Top Ten of those meals together:

#1. BATCH BAKERY —  So many pastries (Did I really have a mini cherry pie and pecan bourbon tart for breakfast one day??) and the bread is sturdy moist and pretty perfect!  It’s just a 3 block walk from our daughter’s house so they saw us more than once!

#2.  PIZZA AT CRESS SPRING FARM —  On a warm evening we trekked across rolling Wisconsin farmland to order up pizza on the farm– picnicking out on the lawn, while the blue grass band played away.

     

#3.BRATS & BEER BAR-B-QUE AT JOHN & LAUREL’S WEDDING — The first night at the camp, we all lined up for grilled brats soaked in a Wisconsin beer bath along with Lulu’s super salads– and ended with s’mores by the campfire.

     

#4.  For a quiet beautiful lunch together Larry and I landed at Graze, just across the street from the State Capitol in Madison.
     

#5.  GLORIOSO’S DELI — One day for lunch, we dropped into this wonderland of a grocery store–every type of Italian food your could desire.  Sorry no lunch photos (a delicious prosciutto & fig flatbread).  We dug in too fast!  (And– smiley little Lois hates to see dessert end!)

     

     

#6. UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN LAKE TERRACE — The perfect place to spend a summer afternoon is on the terrace of UW right on the lake– it’s beer, brats and ice cream from the university dairy department!

     

#7.  COLLECTIVO COFFE HOUSE — For breakfast in Milwaukee we walked down toward Lake Michigan and happily came upon coffee & breakfast out on the patio.

     

#8.  SOBELMAN’S — We went to Sobelman’s for their famous Bloody Marys and discovered it was National Brat Day!1 (Who knew??)

     

#9.  ISHNALA SUPPER CLUB — And the highlight of our Wisconsin  dining– a rustic cabin tucked in the woods on a beautiful lake.  Lovely food in a truly beautiful setting– Thanks Ani & Brian!

     

#10.MARIGOLD — Old friends Jac & Jackie guided us to this cozy cafe for Sunday brunch (braised chicken tostada) after church.  Always the best time talking over a meal with them…
     

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Thanks Larry for being my best travel buddy
and eating companion along the way!!  It was
sweet time with family and friends (and food!)
that I’ll always remember…