Thursday, June 27, 2013

Delicious zucchini bread

The first time I ordered zucchini for our organic produce box, I wasn't 100% sure what to do with it.  I'd never cooked it before.  I'm not a big squash fan, so I didn't want to cook it that way.  I like the stir-fried zucchini at the Japanese restaurants, so I thought that might work.  Then I ran across this recipe for zucchini bread.  Hello!  It's delicious!  I also go ahead and shred all of my zucchini at once and store the leftovers in the fridge and use it for other things.  Last time I threw about a handful of the shredded zucchini in my spaghetti sauce.  No one knew and they all ate it up : ).  This time I think I'm going to add some to my ground beef that I'm cooking to put in some wonton wrappers I have.  We'll see how that turns out ; ).  And now...the recipe.

Zucchini bread
3 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups of King Arthur's white wheat and 1 cup of Swan's Down)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs (I used some fresh eggs that friends gave us)
1 cup vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
2 1/4 cups white sugar (I used my unrefined cane sugar with no GMOs)
3 tsp vanilla (I used pure)
2 cups grated zucchini (I used organic)
1 cup chopped walnuts (I didn't even put these in)

1. Grease and flour 2 8x4 inch pans.  Preheat oven to 325.
2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon in a bowl.  (my version of sifting is stirring it with a
3.  Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well.  Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined.  Pour batter into pans.
4.  Bake 40-60 min (mine has to go for about 60), or until center comes out clean.  Cool on rack or pan for 20 min.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Thank you Better Homes and Gardens!

It was time for me to cook a good meal.  We've been living off of sandwiches and other simple fare, which there's nothing wrong with that...we just needed a good, hearty meal.  I had also defrosted some chicken and  ground turkey, so I had a few options.  I think the fam was tired of spaghetti, so I thought...what about chicken pot pie?  

The problem: me and chicken pot pie haven't had a good relationship.  Just when I think I'm going to have a great turn-out...something is not right.  I think a big problem is that I try to go rogue and not use a recipe.  Another bad idea.  I'm just a recipe girl.  I can't help it.  I am trying to work on my cooking instincts...I mean I watch enough Food Network that I should know how to prepare just about anything.  That theory is not quite playing out just yet.  

So I pick up my handy Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  It was one thing I wanted from the time I was little and saw my Mom always using it. "Chicken Potpies" was right there on pg. 406.  I gave it a shot.  I also made a homemade pie crust from the same cookbook.  I don't usually keep already-made crusts on hand, but I do always have flour, coconut oil (which can substitute for shortening), and other ingredients.  The results: I was so excited because I think this is the best potpie I've ever made!

Chicken potpies (I just did one, but you can make several small ones with this recipe)
from: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
1 10 oz package of frozen peas and carrots (I used the frozen mixed veggies)
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms (I didn't use these)
1/4 cup margarine or butter (I think I used more like a tablespoon)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp dried sage, marjoram, or thyme, crushed (my sage looked kind of weird to me, so I didn't use any extra spice.  I did add 1 large chopped garlic clove, though)
1/8 tsp pepper
2 cups chicken broth (I used some that I had left over from cooking a chicken a little while back)
3/4 cup milk
3 cups cubed cooked chicken or turkey (I cooked a small pack of organic chicken it wasn't a full 3 cups)
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley (no...didn't have this one, either)
1/4 cup diced pimiento (?--if that's pimento...yuck!  Didn't add that! : ))

1. Prepare pastry.  Set aside.  Cook frozen veggies according to package. (I'll put the pastry recipe I used after this recipe)
2.  In a saucepan cook onion and mushrooms in margarine or butter till tender. (right before I added the flour I put my garlic in a cooked it for about a minute)  Stir in flour, salt, sage, marjoram, or thyme and pepper.  Add chicken broth and milk all at once.  Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. (this takes a little while) Stir in drained veggies, chicken, or turkey, parsley, and pimiento; cook till bubbly.
3.  Pour mixture into six 10 oz casseroles (or use a 2 qt rectangular baking dish. (I used a regular pyrex pie dish)
4. (the following is directions for the individual pies) Roll pastry into a 15x10 in rectangle.  Cut into six 5-inch circles and place atop the 10 oz casseroles. (or roll into a 13x9 in rectangle and place it over the rectangular dish) Flute edges of pastry and cut slits in the top for steam to escape.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or till pastry is golden brown.  Makes 6 servings.

Yum!  I think ours would've been even tastier with some spices, but it was still very good.  And one of the things that made it so good was the flaky crust!  I did a double-crust pie.

Pastry for Double-Crust Pie
2 cups all purpose flour (I used King Arthur's white-wheat)
2/3 cup shortening (I used coconut oil in its solid form!)
6 to 7 tablespoons of cold water
1/2 tsp salt

1.  Stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender (my pastry blender was a fork : )), cut in shortening till pieces are pea-size.
2.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon at a time of the water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork.  Push moistened dough to side of bowl.  Repeat, using 1 tbsp water at a time, till all the dough is moistened. Divide in half.  Form each half into a ball.
3.  On lightly floured surface, flatten 1 dough ball.  Roll from center to edges into 12 in. circle.
4.  To transfer pastry, wrap it around the rolling pin (aka--large glass), unroll into a 9 in. pie plate.  Ease pastry into pie plate, being careful not to stretch pastry.  Transfer filling to pasty-lined pie plate.  Trim pastry even with rim of pie plate.
5.  Roll remaining dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  Cut slits to allow steam to escape.  Place remaining pastry on filling, trim 1/2 in beyond the edge of plate.  Fold top pastry under bottom pastry.Crimp edge as desired.  Bake as directed in individual recipes.  Makes 8 servings.

This crust turned out light and almost flaky.  It was really good!  I love using coconut oil!  

We also made a cake tonight with my little chef, Isaac.  It was fun...and it turned out good!  I'm waiting right now for it to cool so I can ice it.  And my icing...I did Wilton's buttercream....but I substituted coconut oil for the shortening!  There was a slight difference in taste...and I didn't use as much powdered sugar...but it was still very good!  

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade

*I received this novel free from Bethany House publishers in order to provide an unbiased review*

Undeniably Yours is a contemporary novel, taking place in Texas--land of country folks, oil magnates, and a plenty : ).  Meg Cole has inherited the oil business that has been passed down from generation to generation.  After her father passes, Meg is pulled out of her self-imposed "ordinary" life and moves back to the mansion she grew up in.  Learning the oil business and deciding what to do about Whispering Creek Ranch are just two of the big responsibilities that have landed in her lap.  As she begins cutting back on things that hold no interest for her, including her father's racehorse farm, Meg meets the man who has worked so hard to make it successful...Bo Porter.  Bo, a down to earth guy who is kind-hearted, a war veteran, a Christian, and of course, good looking.  Basically almost any girl's dream guy.  But the thing that impacts Meg the most is the peace that comes over her when she spends time with him.  Bo has an instant desire to be her protector, but respectfully maintains his distance due to their employer/employee relationship.  Meg also has a past and it has caused her to build a wall around her heart, keeping her from being able to trust.  

This is a cute cover, isn't it?!  It really drew my good covers do...and made me want to check out the story line.  This book is described on Amazon as "the perfect summer read."  I would have to agree : ).  I really enjoyed this book.  Bo was basically the guy that any girl would want to be your hero.  And when I want a good summer read, I want a good hero.  He doesn't have to be flawed for me to enjoy.  Meg was the one in this story who needed someone like Bo.  She had a lot of issues, from growing up without her mother and a distant father, a negative self-image, and a bad relationship that still affects her.  Even with all of these problems, I didn't find myself getting irritated with her.  Sometimes when a character dwells constantly on her flaws and is "woe is me" all the time...I lose interest.  But I could see why Meg had trust issues.  One thing I really liked about this book is Meg's giving heart.  When a girl shows up on her doorstep, alone and a single mom, Meg has compassion on her and truly does what Jesus would do.  I honestly found myself thinking, "I don't know if I could be that generous!"  Throughout the story, Meg allows God to help her continue to be generous, giving of her time and resources in order to help others.  She seeks out God's call on her life instead of just doing what others want her to do or what would help her to be rich and famous.  And  Gentle, yet someone who would protect those he loves with his life.  A gentleman.  Very likeable : ).  There were some pretty serious romantic parts of the story, but it was kept PG.  I liked that, too.  You don't have to be racy to hold my interest.  There was also a suspenseful aspect at the end, which added another dimension to the story.  This is a book that would be fun to take to the beach.  If you are able to read it, I hope you enjoy!

Happy reading!

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Opening Night Prayer

A little poetic prayer for our first softball game of the season.

Opening Night
by Stacey Daniel

Thank you, Father, Almighty One,
It's because of You, because of Your Son
that we can join in a friendly game.
May we glorify You and give praise to Your name.

Even in sport we can offer you praise,
for You have created and ordained our days.
Protect us as we catch, hit, and throw
and help our attitudes reflect the One that we know.

We thank you for the rain that has generously fell,
even if our fields are muddy we'll strive to do well.
We'll smile, we'll cheer, we'll give pats on the back,
no matter the points that we gain or we lack.

To have a good time is one of the reasons
we come together in this warmest of seasons.
But there is something more that we want to express
the love of Jesus our Savior, who has so richly blessed.

So come one, come all, to our opening night,
cheering the players with all of your might.
We'll try to run fast and answer the call.
Now let's have some fun and play ball!

God bless!  And pray for me...I hope that I won't be too sore tomorrow! : )

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Author Melanie Dickerson on writing, faith, and a recipe!

Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer's Apprentice and The Merchant's Daughter, both Christy Award finalists, winner of The National Reader's Choice Award for 2010's Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction.  Her newest book, The Fairest Beauty, is a retelling of the fairytale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". She earned her bachelor's degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama.

In 2012 I had the joy and privilege of meeting Melanie while she was visiting Atlanta (yes, I was pregnant : )).  It is really amazing to me that I have been able meet and connect with such a wonderful author!  When I read Melanie's first book, "The Healer's Apprentice," I loved the storyline and the connection she made with a classic fairytale and the Christian faith.  At the end of the book there was an email address in which you could send a message to the author.  I immediately wrote her and told her how much I enjoyed her book and how I was interested in writing.  A month or so later, I had an email in my inbox...from Melanie!  She encouraged me in my writing endeavors and has since offered me so much help, encouragement, and advice.  I honestly would not have gotten very far without her mentorship.  When I asked her if I could feature her and her books on my blog, she graciously agreed!  I hope you enjoy getting to know Melanie.  I would definitely encourage you to pick up her books.  They are considered Young Adult, so even your teens will enjoy her tales of love, adventure, and faith.

1. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer when I was in about the 7th grade, and I wrote two novels while I was still in high school. I quit writing completely when I started college, but I started writing again about 15 years later. I instantly fell in love with it again.

2. What was the first step you took to begin your writing career?
Ten years ago I took a writing course. I had not written any fiction for about 15 years.

3. If you could give a piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
I would say, never give up. Keep writing and learning and submitting your work.

4. Tell us about the books you've had published, particularly your most recent.
I have three books out now. The third is The Fairest Beauty, a retelling of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs fairy tale. It is a romance and a historical, set in Medieval Europe, and I give the “prince” a lot more of a role in this story than he had in the Disney version. (Here is the trailer)

5. What inspired you to write retellings of our favorite fairy tales?
I was watching the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty with my daughter one day and thought it would be cool to take the basic premise of the story and flesh it out and make it more realistic, and set in a realistic Medieval setting. It was so much fun, I decided I would do a whole series of fairy tale retellings.

6. How has your faith in God affected the stories you write?
My faith in God is the defining aspect of my life and my thinking, so it’s virtually impossible to write from my heart, which I strive to do, and not include God in the story. God is a big part of any Christian’s story, and since my characters are Christian, He is a big part of their lives. God is the instigator of positive motives and attitudes, and the instigator for change when something needs to be changed.

7. What is your favorite recipe?
That’s a hard question, since I like to cook. Here is a country style salsa recipe that I love. Wonderful with tortilla chips.

Purple Hull Pea Salsa
1 can Bush’s Purple Hull Peas, drained
1 can corn, drained
2 cans diced tomatoes (one of them basil, garlic, oregano flavored)
8 oz. Italian dressing (I use the Good Seasons packets)
Chopped onion to taste
Chopped jalapeno to taste (I didn’t use any)
Tortilla chips

Mix all ingredients together and marinate in refrigerator for at least 1 ½ hours.

8. Where can readers find you on the internet?
I am on facebook at and my website is

Thank you so much, Melanie!  And readers....never hesitate to give an author encouragement for their hard work!  If a story inspires you, ministers to you, or motivates you in some way, I know that most authors would love to hear about it.  I have definitely been blessed by the books Melanie and other Christian fiction authors have written, as well as having personal interactions with them. 

Happy reading!