Zucchini Cornbread Casserole

– johanna | August 31st, 2010

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Sides

I awoke one morning to find an enormous zucchini on top of the kitchen island. A friend at Stephen’s work brought them in. He said there were more but he was not sure how many I would want. This giant cuke was plenty. Part of the zucchini went into a batch of muffins. I shredded the rest then stuck it in the refrigerator until the next day. I needed some time to come up with alternative uses for zucchini. This recipe for zucchini cornbread caught my eye.

The bread part is a bit misleading. It is definitely a casserole. Something more like a spoon bread than cornbread. I forgot to buy corn mix while at the supermarket and so I had to make my own mix. I have included the recipe for the mix below. I apologize I forgot to write down the name of the site I found the cornbread mix recipe on. It would be nice to have the rest of the ingredients list to make the cornbread. I will keep looking! Until then enjoy a spoonful of zucchini cornbread casserole.

Source: Allrecipes
4 cups shredded zucchini
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 (8.5 ounce) package dry corn muffin mix (see below for recipe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

In a large bowl mix together the zucchini, onion, eggs, muffin mix, salt and pepper. Stir in 4 ounces of the cheese. Spread this mixture into a greased 2 quart casserole dish; top with remaining 4 ounces of cheese.

Bake in a preheated oven for 60 minutes.

Corn Muffin Mix:
Source: Unknown
1 cup Corn Meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl or ziplock bag.

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White Bean Salad with Green Beans and Tomatoes

– johanna | August 27th, 2010

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Sides, RECIPES - Soup / Salad

I was looking for something different to go with grilled salmon when I stumbled upon this recipe for white bean salad. It combines fresh green beans with tomatoes and olives drizzled with a tangy vinaigrette. This white bean salad makes for a great side dish at any picnic or BBQ. Add canned tuna for a tasty lunch to take to work or use the dressing to flavor your favorite steamed vegetables.

Source: Adapted from Woman’s Day
12 oz fresh green beans
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1?4 tsp each salt and pepper
1 can (15 to 16 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
1?2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
Chopped parsley

Steam green beans by dropping them into a pot of salted boiling water. Blanch for 3-5 minutes. Drain water then cover pot.

Meanwhile, make dressing: Whisk oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until well blended.
Cut green beans into smaller bite sized pieces. In a large serving bowl, gently toss green beans, cannellini beans, tomato and olives. Drizzle dressing over salad and garnish with parsley, if desired.

– 1 grilled salmon steak, flaked
– 2 cans (5 to 6 oz each) solid light tuna in olive oil, undrained. Replace the oil in the can for 1/4 cup olive oil.
– Use 1 (12 oz) bag microwavable green beans in the place of fresh green beans.
– Go Mediterranean by mixing 8 oz green bean with two bags mixed greens, 2 cucumbers seeded and sliced, grape tomatoes in the place of wedges, 1 can (12 oz) tuna in oil drained, olives, 1/2 cup Greek salad dressing, 1/2 cup crumbled basil-tomato feta cheese.

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Family Togetherness: Story Dice

– johanna | August 24th, 2010


One night when tucking my son into bed he asked me to tell him a story. The sad part was my mind was blank. I could not come up with anything. I relayed the incident to a friend of mine who comforted me with her own tale of bedtime woe. We agreed our husbands were excellent storytellers but somehow over the years we lost touch with that creative side. Stephen calls it work mode. Over time with practice my friend and I have become more comfortable telling bedtime stories. Jim Jinkins is best known for his bedtime stories, “Pinky Dinky Doo”. He originally made up the Pinky’s Adventures as bed-time tales for his children. Each night after he closed the door he would write the stories down.

To make story dice you will need:
– 6 to 12 (3/8-inch) square wooden blocks.
– For the images use permanent ultra fine tip markers to draw your own pictures, stickers, stamps, a wood carving tool and stain, temporary tattoo sheets, pictures from old story books, magazines, print them from the computer using sheet labels, sticker paper or regular white paper.
– Seal the blocks after the pictures have been applied using a sealant or Modge Podge.

Use pictures of animals, transportation, food, household objects, clothing, landscapes, fairy tales and people.

To Play:
Divide the dice among the participants. Take turns rolling a single die. The first person begins the story based on the picture they roll. The next person adds to the story based on the roll of their dice and so on around the group of participants. You can opt to time each segment. Say each person has 30 seconds or a minute then the next person rolls and adds on to the story line. Or each person must tell a short story in one minute using the pictures rolled from all of their die. When they are done the next person rolls and takes their turn.

– Paint pictures on small rocks.
– If you do not want to spend the money or time making story dice use print out and laminate small slips of paper or cardboard pieces. Throw the pieces into a bowl or basket and toss.
– Make dice from card stock.
– Print a selection of pictures at the top of a page with lines across and down the page. Use the pictures create a story and the lines to write the story.

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Mexican Toastadas

– johanna | August 20th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Mexican Tostadas

I have always loved spicy food. I thought I could handle heat that is until at Seventeen I traveled cross county to Texas. The salsa there was so hot my mouth was inflamed for the rest of the day. I dared not eat another lick of the stuff the remainder of my visit in Texas. Upon my return home I remained adverse to hot spicy foods for sometime. Years later I returned to Texas. It was there I learned from many friends how to cook some of my most favorite Mexican dishes. One evening at Mrs. Rodriguez house I learned to make Tostadas complete with homemade refried beans. There are so many ways to make frijoles refritos but to be honest I have no problem using a can of store bought refried beans. It is super quick and before you know it dinner is on the table. I do however, enjoy making my own tortillas. Corn or flour can be used. Traditionally corn is the tortilla of choice but flour will work. The tortillas can be baked in the oven until crispy about 8 minutes on 375 degrees for a less fat version.

Serves 5-6
5-6 corn or flour tortillas
Vegetable oil
1 (15-ounce) can Refried beans
2 Romaine Lettuce Hearts or 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, sliced thin
Shredded Cheddar or crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped or guacamole
1 small onion, diced
1 cup of Salsa
1/2 cup sliced radishes
1/2 cup diced Red Pepper

Pour about 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet. Heat on medium-high until oil sizzles when a drop of water or crumb is placed in pan. (Not smoking hot) The tortilla should sizzle and bubble up instantly after it is placed in the oil. Cook tortilla 30 seconds, until golden, on each side until crisp. Drain on a paper towel. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Meanwhile heat beans in a small pan. Stir in a little water, about 2-3 tablespoons, stirring and mashing. Keep warm and moist.

To serve top tortilla with beans, lettuce, cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, cheese and then any other desired toppings.

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How to Cut an Onion

– johanna | August 17th, 2010

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF

One of the most called for ingredients in a recipe is chopped or diced onions. If you have extremely sensitive eyes the tutorial on how to cut an onion without crying will provide a successful tear free way to chop onions.

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Kansas City Style Sticky Spareribs

– johanna | August 13th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Kansas City Sticky Spareribs

Growing up in the South ribs were a pretty common commodity at dinner, picnics and barbecues. In Texas the golden trumpet of barbecued meats was the brisket. While here in California is seems the beloved Tri-tip takes 1st place. I have never cooked ribs before, ok once at a friends house but my sister was co-chef and we ended up charring them to death; which was not much different from the way my father grilled them. It has been 11 years since I left the Sunshine state and even longer since I had rib because I was a pour college student. I was not about to let another summer go by without the taste of ribs. Yes I have been to a BBQ restaurant our here but what they served up did not constitute fine finger lick’n Southern barbecue goodness. The worst part was what they tried to charge for the monstrosity.

This recipe was tucked away in my file folder of ‘need to try’ recipes. It is not Dale’s BBQ but they were tasty and satisfying. I have to confess though I do not have a grill so our ribs were roasted in the oven. It is not the same as eating real slow cooked smoked ribs where the meat just falls off the bone but they were moist and tender so if you do not have access to a grill it is doable.

Source: unknown
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp hot paprika
4 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 racks pork spareribs (7 pounds total)
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

For Grill: Soak 3 cups woods chips in water according to the package directions or for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, paprika, onion powder, celery salt, salt and pepper. Run a knife down the length of the bone side of each rack to split the skin, then season all over with the rub.

Remove the grill racks, arrange a drip pan or disposable baking sheet on one side of the grill to catch drippings. Drain the wood chips and transfer to a 2-foot long sheet of heavy duty foil. Wrap tightly creating a secure pouch, then poke 10 holes in the top to create a smoker box. Place the pouch on the side of the grill opposite the drippings pan. Set the grill racks into place, close the grill and preheat to 325 degrees.

Working quickly, arrange the ribs, meaty side up, over the drip pan. Grill, covered, turning occasionally, until the meat shrinks away from the bone and is fork tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combing the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, the ketchup, honey and vinegar over medium high heat and season with salt and pepper. Bring just to a boil, then lower the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Brush the ribs all over with the sauce, arrange meaty side up and grill uncovered, turning once at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Cut the racks unto individual ribs and serve with the sauce on the side.

For a tangier less sweet sauce add more vinegar.
To bake in the oven: prepare ribs as above with rub. Wrap ribs in heavy duty foil and bake at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Check ribs after 2 1/2 hour mark if they are tender coat with sauce and continue to bake 20-30 minutes.Watch the ribs like a hawk. The oven tends to dry meat out especially pork.

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August Resolution to Make

– johanna | August 10th, 2010



Photo: courtesy iVillage.com

It amazes me that a single event can seem so far in the distance and then sneak up on me before I know it. Last Christmas I made a goal to be prepared. Unforeseen circumstances crushed that goal into tiny particles of cosmic dust. Christmas cards never went out and planned gifts were never finished while we all suffered retched illnesses the entire month of December. Each year my sister-n-law Jennifer and I renew our vow to complete all our Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving. Last year I waited to buy presents in hopes of scoring the best deals late into the season. I have learned my lesson. This year I am a repented saint.

Augusts’ resolution to ‘Make’ is nothing profound unlike the previous months have been. My resolution to make is the practical side of me saying “you only have three months before the flurry of the flu, school projects and holidays get in the way.” I have granted myself two months for planning three birthdays, one the week of Christmas. Then there is the making of Halloween costumes and new garb for the Christmas play I have been writing in addition to finishing all the homemade gifts started last November. I cannot wait for my little niece Lilyanna to opens hers. I will say no more since her mommy sometimes reads my posts.

Making does not have to revolve around crafts. You could:
Vow to make a new friend.
Make a decision you have been putting off until that some day.
Make home repairs. If the emergency overflow drain for your air conditioner has been leaking vow to get it fixed…today.
If you continuously miss your best friend’s birthday make a point to remember it.
Make a new recipe once a week.
Make a family plan that lists the goals you want to accomplish as a family. Come up with a family motto to help you achieve those goals.
Make up family traditions.
Make a list of topics to discuss at family dinner each night.
Make family time a priority once a week.
Make cards for someone in need of a warm gesture.
Make up a package for a soldier at war. Or take it to their family to show support.
Make a picnic lunch to share.
Design and make games and treats for a backyard carnival.

There is no procrastinating allowed during the month of August. It is about choosing to take care of business today.

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Watermelon Lime Granitas

– johanna | August 6th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

The Summer sun is upon us and it is relentless. Thank goodness for pools and sprinklers. There is nothing more refreshing in the dead heat of summer than cool sweet juicy watermelon. “When I was a kid” watermelons used to have seeds. We would have contests to see who could spit them the farthest. Then we would worry if we happened to swallow one because of the stories that the seed could sprout and grow in our stomachs. I also believed in the bogeyman and if I saw someone kissing on TV I would turn into a frog. Such were the times. We did not have a pool but we did have long sheets of plastic for a slip-n-slide. After rain storms we would take our skim boards into the back alley to skim the puddles. If if flooded we set sail on inner tubes in the street. To really cool down we used to walk down the street to the 7-Eleven for Slurpees. We tried making our own but it never worked just right. Except for the time when we put the liter bottle of Cherry 7-up in the freezer. I imagine that is how it happened when Granita was first discovered.

Granita is a icy frozen treat similar to the Italian ice, French sorbet and the American slushy or snow cone. The granita, traditionally made of coffee, is eaten as a refreshing and light dessert or between courses to cleanse the palate. It is uncertain exactly where the granita first originated. China has been cited for creating the first ice creams. Even so, the claims of Italy, France and Spain as the first to introduce water ices as far back as the 13th century are all together questionable. There are myths that Marco Polo brought the idea of cultivating ice and ice creams back to Italy from China but it is all undocumented speculation. In any event Italian ices eventually made its way to Europe and then on to the Americas.

Source: Woman’s Day
6 cups cubed seedless watermelon
1?4 cup sugar
1?4 cup lime juice

Purée watermelon in a food processor. Add sugar and lime juice; pulse until sugar is dissolved.

Pour into a 13 x 9-in. metal baking pan. Freeze 2 1?2 hours, stirring each hour, mixing ice crystals into the middle oXf the pan.

To serve: Let granita stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. Scrape into chilled glasses and serve at once

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August Website Review: xobobox.com

– johanna | August 3rd, 2010

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF


Our August website review is just in time for back to school lunch box shopping. Xobobox.com was created by Meg, a stay-at-home mom concerned with the excess waste produced in school cafeterias. Her website is not only directed at children. Hungry adults can find tasty nutritious meal ideas and up to date conservation savvy alternatives to the plastic bag lunch containers. Meg says her motivation is to “steer us all towards a healthier and more sustainable environment by promoting healthy recipes (for you and the environment) and by reducing food packaging waste.”

My favorite lunch boxes are the Go Green Lunch Box, Laptop Box and the Easy Lunch Box. They offer one convenient container with compartments to separate food. Lunch bag coolers are available at a separate cost but are a must to keep any perishables from spoiling. Be sure to visit their websites for easy healthy meal ideas.

Photo courtesy of MySquareMeal.com

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