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This is a childhood favorite of mine. I was never one of those children who hated zucchini. Serve it to me fried, boiled, or stewed and I would gobble it up. Mmm.

I know it’s hot out. I know you don’t feel like turning the stove on for two hours. But I think you won’t be disappointed if you just dive in and do it.

The zucchini are somehow transformed in those juicy tomatoes. Even though they are cooked for a while, they don’t turn to mush. They are just soft and silky smooth. And the fresh herbs elevate this dish to delectable heights.

Please use fresh herbs.

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Stewed Zucchini and Tomatoes
Recipe from my mom

1 onion, chopped
2 zucchini or other summer squash, about 8 inches long each, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt (1 t if using fresh tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced tomatoes, canned or fresh (peel if using fresh)
6 large basil leaves, chopped
1 sprig oregano, leaves removed and chopped

In a covered pot, sweat the zucchini and onions in the oil with the salt over very low heat for about 45 minutes or until fairly soft. Add the garlic and cook another few minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Summer until thick, another hour or so. Stir in the herbs just before serving.

Serve piping hot with sweet corn on the cob or let it cool to room temp and eat it like a summer stew. Yum.

Yield: about 4 cups.

Croutons

During the height of salad season a few weeks back, I baked a batch of bread and it failed. It just got rather heavy and holey, not exactly lovely sandwich material.

So I did the best thing I could think of: made croutons. I didn’t regret it. These things are like potato chips. Once you start, you can’t stop munching!

Seems to me that eating all of the croutons is also like getting pregnant. It happens fast!

(Yes. We are expecting #4 around the beginning of February.) (!!!)

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Croutons

Stale or flopped bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Butter, melted
Olive oil
Italian herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, garlic, etc)
Salt/pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Drizzle the butter and oil over the bread cubes and stir well. You want the bread to be fairly moist but not drenched.

Stir on the herbs, salt, pepper, and cheese. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until golden and almost crispy. They will crisp up more as they cool. This takes about 45 minutes in my oven but it’s slow. Probably won’t take that long for you. Just check them every 5 or 10 minutes and give them a stir.

Store in an airtight container or jar. Yum.

Parmesan Rice Pilaf

Well, if you want your house to smell amazing, start a pot of this rice. I can’t think of a better dinner time scent than rice simmering in chicken stock. Add some cheese and herbs and, well, I think that’s what my heaven will smell like. That or freshly baked bread. It would be a toss up.

It is crucial to use fresh Parmesan here. The powder in that plastic can just won’t cut it. While I love that stuff on my spaghetti, it would get lost in this dish.

The original recipe called for toasted almond slices but I had just used up the last of mine in a batch of granola so I didn’t use them. I will next time.

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Parmesan Rice Pilaf
Adapted from here

2 T butter
2 cups brown rice
3 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 t Italian herbs
1 t parsley flakes (fresh would be better)
1 t garlic salt
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the rice and toast for a few minutes. Add the cheese, herbs, and garlic salt. Give it a good stir. Pour in the chicken stock, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes or until the rice is soft and the liquid is absorbed.

Turn off heat and let sit for a few more minutes. Top with extra Parmesan cheese and toasted almonds, if using. Serve immediately.

Serves 8

I know this looks like a winter dish and that’s probably what it was meant to be but have no fear…when served at room temperature it’s actually quite delicious on a scorching hot day!

Also, I felt I redeemed myself by adding fresh greens from the garden. That makes it spring-like, right?

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Creamy Sausage and Potatoes

Adapted from The Best of Mennonite Fellowship Meals

1 lb link pork sausage, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
1 onions, sliced
4 potatoes, diced
Water
1 leaf Swiss chard, chopped
Big pile spinach, chopped
1 cup milk
3 T flour
Salt, pepper
In a large pot, sauté sausage and onions until browned. Add the potatoes and water to almost cover. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover pot, and cook until potatoes are soft. Add the greens and cook a bit.
Make a slurry out of the milk and flour. Pour into the pot and cook until thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings as you like. Serve hot in the winter or allow to cool a while and serve on a warm summer day.

Serves: 4-6

Strawberry Vinaigrette

A friend of mine recently instagrammed a photo of a lovely looking dressing and kindly attached the recipe. I know I have three other salad dressings in the fridge right now but I made it anyway. ‘Tis the season!

This is a lovely and light dressing. The strawberry flavor is faint but it’s there. Delish!

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Strawberry Vinaigrette

Adapted from Christie’s recipe

1 cup sliced strawberries
3 T honey
1 T cider vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/8 t garlic powder
1/8 t dried basil
1/8 t dried parsley
1/4 cup olive oil

Purée strawberries. Add everything except the oil and whirl again. With blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil. Blend til smooth. Refrigerate in a jar.

Yield: 1 cup

Sautéed Kale

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The garden variety at this time of year is the best. Nothing has yet gotten the best of my energy and yet there are things to choose from.

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At the moment there are strawberries, turnips, spring onions, rhubarb, the peas are starting, and there are several varieties of leafy greens.

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Almost every day I eat a pile of some leafy green sautéed in a bit of butter. When that green is kale, Tage likes to join me. We fight over it, actually.

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The key to this stuff is the salt. You can use as much or as little butter as you like but there must be a decent pinch of salt sprinkled in the pan while it’s sautéing.

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I have another recipe for sautéed kale but that includes garlic. I think we prefer it without so I’m adding this “recipe”, or more a “method” so that I don’t forget it.

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Sautéed Kale

1 cup thinly sliced fresh kale
Butter
Salt

Heat a cast iron skillet on high until very hot. Add the butter and then the kale. Sprinkle with a good bit of salt and then stir and cook until the edges of some kale pieces are crispy. Serve immediately.

Serves 1

I’m pretty excited about this jam.

Typically I make the low sugar recipes but all I had was a box of the full sugar pectin so I changed the recipe (a HUGE jam-making no-no) and amazingly it worked!

There is still a little more sugar than fruit but I didn’t have the guts to lower the sugar any more. Maybe next time.

Spread this stuff in your daily toast and you’ll quickly become addicted. While I do not like plain blueberry jam, the small amount of blueberries swimming in the strawberries is perfect in this jam.

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Strawberry Blueberry Freezer Jam
Adapted from the Sure Jell recipe

2 1/2 cups crushed strawberries
1 cup chopped blueberries
4 cups sugar
1 box (1.75 oz) regular Sure Jell pectin (not low sugar variety)
3/4 cup water

Measure exact amount of fruit into a large bowl. Measure exact amount of sugar into the fruit and give it a good stir. Let stand 10 minutes or so.

Stir pectin into the water in a medium saucepan (mixture will expand while cooking). Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. It will start out lumpy. That’s ok. When it reaches a full rolling boil (does not stop boiling when stirred), set the timer for 1 minute and cook while stirring. When time is up, remove from heat and stir into the fruit mixture.

Stir the jam until the sugar is fully dissolved. Pour into freezer containers or jars, leaving room for expansion during freezing. Let set at room temperature for a day before freezing or refrigerating.

Yield: about 7 cups

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