Feta Zucchini Patties

Okay, so I got my first produce from my “suburban conversion”, a big fat zucchini! I may have let it get just a little too big because it was the only thing ready to pick…and I just couldn’t bear to let it stop growing! I swear I’m not that soft, once everything starts producing in droves I’ll probably be giving it away.

But I had to make something special with my first zucchini and I knew just the dish. One of my families favorites that I saw on a cooking show a few years back. It was one of those dishes that made me get out of my chair and cook it right then; one that I knew would be good!

  • 2 cups +/- Zucchini- 1 very large or 2 small (the small work better because the seeds are small)
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 tbl Olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tbl plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste (for me 1/2 tsp each)
  • 3-4 tbl olive oil for frying
  • I use a food processor for lots of things, but grating the zucchini by hand has always worked best for me. the consistency is better
  • This is usually where I enlist the help of my daughter because I hate grating anything!
  • This is a very important step! Place the grated zucchini in a clean dish towel and squeeze the moisture out.
  • The mixture will not hold together in the pan if you do not get rid of most of the liquid inside the zucchini, and there is more inside that you would imagine.
  • Grate the onion half in a similar fashion, but do not squeeze the liquid from it. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the flour last because you may want to add a little more to reach the desired consistency.
  • It should hold together well enough to be spooned into the hot oil without coming apart. If it scatters like hash browns, add a little more flour.
  • In the 3-4 tbl of olive oil I fry the patties in an electric skillet at 325 degrees for 4-5 minutes on each side.
  • I allow anything I fry to cool on a wire rack. I’m from the south so I have seen people put fried fish and chicken on a paper towel or folded paper bag most of my life, but the rack is the way to go!  Food will always be crisper and less greasy this way.
  • I hope you like these as well as my family does. I made this recipe once substituting potatoes for the zucchini and it was so-so. Once you’ve had it with the real stuff it’s hard to settle! I hope to be swimming in produce from my “suburban conversion” so I’ll be fishing for recipes to try. Send me a good one!
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Easy Key lime Pie

Okay I threw the Key before the lime to peak your interest. This is really lime pie, but it’s quick, easy and very good. Probably better for you than some others too!

When I think about summer, I think about the beach. When I think about the beach, I think about seafood. When I think about seafood, I think about Key Lime Pie! That was a long way in getting to the reason for the post, but here we are.

Every seafood restaurant, large or small, in Florida HAS to offer key lime pie for dessert. It’s just one of those things I expect. I may not always order it, but I want it as an option…it kind of completes the experience. I’ve read recipes on-line many times, and while I’ve never been much of a dessert cook anyway, I usually avoided them. I just decided that maybe there was some value in going out to eat after all.

Then I stumbled on this recipe at a real estate open house. It was really good, and since a fellow agent had made it just for this event I knew the making of it couldn’t be to difficult. Not a slam on her, it’s just that most agents bring something bought or very simple to make. This one is so simple you will spend more time at the store buying the ingredients than in the kitchen with the pie!

1-graham cracker pie crust

2-1 oz boxes of sugar free vanilla pudding

1- cup milk

8 oz frozen limeade (thawed)

1-16 oz container lite whipped topping (thawed)

Mix the two packages of pudding together with the milk. Mix by hand at first, then use a hand mixer to finish up.

Add the whipped topping a little at a time to insure everything mixes well.

Add the limeade and continue to mix, scraping the sides with a “child cheater” to be sure none is missed. You will be temped to add the limeade before the whipped topping (I still do this sometimes) but it will make the pudding separate and it’s harder to make the mixture smooth.

Scrape the side of the bowl often. Pour in to ready made graham cracker crust and smooth evenly. It should be starting to firm up at this point, so work quickly.

All that is left now is to cover and refrigerate and…you have pie!

I refrigerate overnight when I have the chance, but really a couple of hours is enough. I have made this with limeade and lemonade and both are great. I have to alternate because I like the lime and my wife likes the lemon.

I probably watched too many episodes of Gilligan’s Island as a kid, but I have been dying to try a coconut version of this recipe!

Spring!

Spring has arrived with a bang here in central Georgia! The winter was very mild and we had some record breaking heat in March. I don’t think this will be an indication of how hot the summer will be, but I welcome the hot weather either way. As long as it rains…we will be fine!

One of the things I remembered to do this year (while working on my garden) was to attach the tripod to my camera for some zoomed in photos. I don’t have the steady hand that I once had, but at these magnification levels I probably never did. Hope you enjoy some of the photos of my Spring visitors as much as I did.

So get out there and enjoy these beautiful creatures before it gets…too hot!

Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday I helped my daughter pack for a weekend away at a school function. She has to dress nicely when she gives her presentation on Saturday, so she modeled several outfits until she found one that was both comfortable and nice looking. She is almost 15 and anyone that has a daughter that age knows what a challenge this can be. If you like something too much she won’t choose it, and if you don’t like it at all she may choose it for that reason alone! This takes some practice.

Of course after we were done with the packing I washed and ironed all of her clothes. I’m sure all fathers do this for their daughters so I won’t spend much time on the subject. I would be kidding myself to suggest that she prefers my help over her mother’s, but I have a little more free time right now than she does….so she gets me! I finished my classes early this morning, and while I waited for an after lunch conference call I thought I would do one more thing for her before she goes. Make her some chocolate chip cookies! I know that she will either hide them or eat them on the way, but I would have done the same when I was that age. So really I guess I’m doing it for me!

This recipe is a very typical one and has only one major change; it is made with olive oil instead of butter! I make this substitution on most recipes except for blackened fish; you’ve gotta have butter for that! I have discovered that in most recipes the butter will never be missed when the food you are eating is warm; only when it cools do you notice the difference. I am a firm believer that this is the only reason we have hydrogenated oils and shortening; it keeps food soft at room temperature. If you want it soft again…warm it back up in the microwave!

2 ¼ cups plain flour

¾ tsp. baking soda

1tsp salt

½ cup olive oil

¾ cup brown sugar (packed)

¾ cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line two pans with parchment paper (if you only have one allow the pan to cool completely before making another batch).

In one bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla extract. Be sure you break up all of the brown sugar clumps.

Mix the dry ingredients into the oil mixture a little at a time and add the chocolate chip. The stirring is kind of tough at this point, but be sure to mix it thoroughly.

Keeping your hands wet, roll the dough into ¾” balls a place on the baking sheet 2” apart. Cook for 12-15 minutes depending on how chewy you like your cookies. Cool on a baking rack or paper plate.

I’m not sure how long these cookies will keep after cooking….they have never lasted that long around here! Maybe she will think of me when she is away for the weekend!

Past life experiences

Let me start by saying that the title of this blog is somewhat misleading. Past life experiences…whoo…whoo, not that kind. Past life as in what I used to do; who you used to be. I thought of this when I was looking in some boxes of stuff in the basement, and as usual I got side-tracked before reaching whatever mission it was I was trying to accomplish. Yes, I have cards, letters and collectible stuff from close to 40 years ago. “Firsts” I like to call them. Well I did find a few second and third baby teeth that the tooth fairy forgot to collect when he paid the ransom, but you know what I mean. Important (or potentially important) keepsakes; doesn’t everybody have them?

Every time I look at this stuff I try to think about what was going through my head at the time I saved it. Not “what was I thinking”, but really more of “where was my head… emotionally” at this point in my life. Of course this is almost impossible when you are looking at the school newspaper from the fifth grade, but what about just the adult life window. The times you wanted to remember when you decided to keep the item.

Pictures of you are great; you immediately look at the size of your belly and the thickness of your hair; “I still have that shirt!” But what about pictures of inanimate objects like cars and toys. Views from balconies and clouds over mountains, boats in a marina or flowers in the yard; what were you thinking when you pressed the shutter on those? You were thinking this is great! This is memorable; I will never forget this, and in case I do, I’ll have the picture! But is it ever the same?

I used to lie in the bed at night thinking about what I wanted to build next. I probably had dreams about cabinets and furniture. “So much wood and so little time” (my folks laughed at me about this one) but really that was about all I thought about. If we went shopping I looked at the display cabinets; if we went out to eat I looked at the tables and chairs. But when I stumbled on a photo album today of things I built no more than 15-20 years ago, I remember the item, but I don’t remember the emotion. Below is a sampling from my past life…

Strawberries in the Snow

I like to eat things that are low fat and low sugar, but I don’t like to eat tasteless cardboard. So to reach the middle ground of taste and health, I shoot for lowER fat, sugar and salt! Some recipes don’t taste very good if you switch things around a little, but some you will never know the difference. I cut 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar out of this old Strawberries in the Snow recipe and I used lite whipped topping and lite cream cheese. OK, I have never eaten it the way the recipe reads, but my family doesn’t know the difference and they love it this way

Of course the first thing we had to do is give the recipe a new name. As good as we are at changing recipes; I would have to say that we suck at re-naming them. You will see in the final photo why we now call it “pitcher pie”, but feel free to default to the old name of Strawberries in The Snow; it just sounds more appetizing!

  • Large tub (16 oz.) lite whipped topping (thawed)
    • 1 pkg. softened light cream cheese
    • 2- tsp. Splenda
    • 1- can Strawberry pie filling
    • 1- pkg. fresh strawberries (sliced)
    • 1- medium size Angel food cake
    • Mix whipped topping, cream cheese and Splenda in a large bowl.

      Slice strawberries

      Tear Angel food cake in to tablespoon size pieces.

      Place ¼ of cake pieces in bottom of bowl. Cover with ¼ of whipped topping mix followed by ¼ of pie filling and strawberries. Repeat three more times (or as many layers as you can make). Ending up with strawberries on top.

      Now you see why we call it pitcher pie! The original recipe says to make this in a single layer dish in a 9X12 glass pan. I like the multiple layers better and this was the only dish I had that was tall enough to pull it off. If you are taking this to a party why not make it in a pitcher? It even has a handle! Strawberries in the Snow…in a pitcher!

       

Spicy Roasted Chick Peas

I saw a recipe on Pinterest this past week for roasted chick peas. It looked good, but when I read it the first thing I thought of is how they would taste if I seasoned them like I do spicy roasted pecans. The answer? They are as good (if not better) than the pecans!

This recipe may be a little spicy for some, but around my house if your nose is not running and you don’t have a glass of ice water in your hand, you’re not really snacking!

I’ll start with an ingredient’s list, but really the first thing you need to do is roast the 1 drained can of chick peas. 400 degrees for thirty minutes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Be sure to mix the spices to coat them with while the peas are roasting because if you eat one fresh from the oven…you will eat them all!

1-15 oz. can of chick peas (drained)

1 Tbl. Olive oil

½ tsp. Cinnamon

½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg

½ tsp. Black Pepper

½ tsp. Salt

¼ tsp. Cayenne Pepper

2 tsp. Sugar

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. When the peas are done pour in a separate bowl and coat with the olive oil. When peas are evenly coated, sprinkle the spices over the mix well (I use my hands).

I’m from Georgia and I love my peanuts and Pecans, but roasted chick peas will give them both a run for the money!

Saturday Farmer’s Market

Waking up with the chickens is a relative term. In the summer you are up early to beat the heat, but in the winter you sleep later to let it warm up. These are just my personal days off rules, but I think they make good sense. If you have to work it really doesn’t matter, but when you are off…you have to make your own rules.

My wife woke me up this chilly February morning at the crack of 8:30 by holding a cup of fresh ground Kona coffee under my nose! Yes, she knows me well. I know we had planned to go the monthly farmer’s market today, but honestly it sounded like a much better idea last night as we searched for something tolerable to watch on television.

The weather has been almost spring-like in the last few weeks, but this morning is all February! I’m up now…so off we go!

This is only the second month of the Saturday Farmer’s market, but the town is starting to catch on.  There is an open-air market the second Tuesday of each month in town that has crafts and produce, but this new market is limited to farmers that produce their crop within 100 miles of Milledgeville. I can buy meat and produce from other areas at the grocery store, so I love the idea of supporting our local and small farmers.

You will find different types of cheeses and meats.

Breads

Produce and eggs

And many small local farms are represented

Despite the cold and windy weather (and the traffic re-routed for GS&SU’s 5K) the crowd was good! As the weather warms getting there as early as possible will be a good idea.

The winter hours for the Saturday Farmer’s Market are 9:00-12:00 on the second Saturday of each month, but after the grand opening on April 14 the market will be open every Saturday for the duration of the summer!

I love this idea and I will say that I was impressed with the selection of food items available in the dead of winter, and It should only get better and more crowded as the weather warms. For more information on the Saturday Farmer’s Market visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/events/345440168810564. There is a complete list of vendors and directions to the location. Hope to see you there next month!

Breakfast casserole

This is a very simple breakfast recipe that I have been making for years.  The turkey sausage makes it a little lighter, but we usually eat a late lunch after having this for breakfast! Years ago, when I was invited to a non-members weekend at a friend’s hunting lodge, I chose to cook this for the crowd. Everyone loved it, but one member in particular said “Boy, your wife is a great cook!” When I told him that I had actually prepared it myself he stated “Nah! A man can’t cook something this pretty!” It is a crowd pleaser though…sausage, cheese and bread! What more could you ask for?

  • 2 cans crescent rolls
  • 1-8 oz pkg. softened cream cheese (I use Neufchatel)
  • 1-8oz. pkg shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1-lb. sausage (I use turkey sausage)

I cook the sausage in the microwave and use a potato masher to crumble it as well as I can.

Lightly coat a 9X12 baking pan with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Roll the first layer of crescent rolls into the pan. Roll slowly to completely cover the bottom. It is important to leave the crescent roll in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them; as they warm they become difficult to use. I will also add that I have used several store brand rolls and I have yet to find one that is as good as Pillsbury!

Spread the softened cream cheese evenly on the crescent roll. Warm the cheese in the microwave if it is hard to spread (you don’t want to tear the roll).

Spread the strained/crumbled sausage on top of the cream cheese

Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the sausage.

Cover with the second can of crescent rolls.

Start with one end touching the side of the pan and roll slowly. It is hard to shift the un-cooked bread if you begin in the wrong spot!

Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Allow to cool before attempting to slice.

I love to cook this on Sunday morning so my daughter can have leftovers for a Monday morning school day breakfast! I have tried this recipe with a little Feta cheese and Italian sausage. I have also added a layer of scrambled eggs on top of the sausage, but the original way has always been our favorite!

Cranberry Chicken

One thing that I think is really cool about cooking is that the options are unlimited. You can Google a recipe and find thousands of variations of something you have been cooking for years, or just combine 2-3 recipes and make it your own. My supervisor (who is a great cook!) at the County Extension office cooked this for me once, and after I went on and on about it, told me it was an old recipe. Surprise! Well it is new to me and it is very good and really easy.  I’ve made this with a pork tenderloin as well and it is also very good.

One thing that I found odd about Cranberry Chicken is that I really don’t care for any of the ingredients by themselves. I always pass on the cranberry sauce at holidays and Catalina dressing would be considered an emergency choice on a salad for me. But combined this is really good. The ingredient list is very simple.

  • 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (pounded)
  • 8 oz. Catalina Salad Dressing
  • 14 oz can Cranberry Sauce with whole berries
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mixCover the thawed boneless skinless chicken with plastic wrap and pound flat. I use my fist, but a mallet or coffee cup will work as well. Use plenty of plastic so the chicken won’t splatter all over the counter top. Try to be sure that each piece is pounded to a similar thickness  to keep cooking time consistent.Pour the remaining three ingredients in a bowl and mix together. I use Lipton mushroom onion instead of the traditional onion because the former does not contain MSG. It doesn’t bother me, but it makes my wife a nutcase! Place the chicken in the bowl with the mixed ingredients and allow to marinate overnight if possible. 2-3 hours will work, but the longer the better. When the chicken has marinated, place them in a 9X12 baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Cover with remaining sauce and cook at 350 degrees for approx. 90 minutes. I turn the breasts over once during cooking and spoon the sauce on top of them.I like to serve this over Basmatti Rice or Orzo, but any rice or noodle will do.I only cook for three people every night, but this recipe is really good as leftovers, so make plenty! Try it with pork loin sliced or pork tenderloin whole and you will love it!

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