Recipes of the Month: July 2013

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Well the Consistency Department over at WordPress didn’t fine me for not posting a recipe last month, but just to be on the safe side, I’m posting in triplicate here in July. Many of you know my dear neighbor from photos like the one above and my post about our tractor ride. And although he has held many different jobs, he is a farmer at heart. The seasonal bags of fruit and vegetables have begun in earnest: strawberries, onions, yellow squash and zucchini. Big, fat, honkin’ zucchini. My neighbor has never grown this green vegetable before, and whoever gave him the seed told him 2 things. They’re Italian (pronounced eye-talian). And they grow to be 18 inches long.

Considering he has been farming since well before I was born, I don’t have the heart to tell him you can pick them smaller, because he seems very proud of their heft. So as the only Italians around for miles, we graciously accept his gifts and keep the food processor on the counter. The first two recipes use up a bunch of shredded zucchini. The last one is good for any kind of fruit. Vincent made a sour cherry/strawberry combination that earned high praise from my neighbor, who happened to drive up with a bag of vegetables just as the cobbler was coming out of the oven. When I saw him a couple of days later, he said, “I wouldn’t lie to ya. That was some good pie.” So there you have it, straight from the farmer’s mouth.

Zucchini Bread

Every summer I come up with a new version of this recipe. This one uses my new *favorite* flour mixture. (High protein + high fiber + high fat = GOOD STUFF in my book!)

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (I use a cup of ground wheat berries, so I’m guessing here)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 5 cups shredded zucchini (maybe even 6 or 7 cups if your mixing bowl is big enough)
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients and spices with coconut oil that has been liquified. (In this weather, my coconut oil is always in liquid form.) Beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and coconut milk until well combined. Add zucchini. Mix well. Add drys and mix again. If batter is too stiff add milk/buttermilk to moisten. Divide into pans and bake at 350. This is a big recipe! I made 4 mini loaves which baked for 45 minutes plus 12 muffins which baked for 20 minutes.

Zucchini Pancakes

I planned on making a zucchini version of the spinach cakes I posted in May. This turned into something different, but just as good. I ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and couldn’t tell you which was my favorite!

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chorizo
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (use almond flour if you want a gluten-free version)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (Mixture can also be made a day ahead.) Form cakes and saute in butter or coconut oil. Delicious served with a dollop of guacamole.

Crazy Cobbler

This is one of my perennial favorites that comes from an old church cookbook. I think I have used every combination of fruit possible and never made a dud yet. Vincent made the sour cherry and strawberry version the day he came back from summer camp. He missed cooking almost as much as he missed his brother.

  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3-4 cups fruit

Preheat oven to 400. While oven is preheating, place a 9 inch cast iron pan or similar sized Pyrex dish in the oven with the butter in it. Meanwhile, make a batter with flour, sugar and milk. When oven is preheated, butter will be melted. Carefully remove hot pan and pour the batter over the melted butter. Top with fruit. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream for dessert and go to bed happy!!

Reblog: Testing

Words by Deborah Markus.

Words by Deborah Markus.

Is re-blogging similar to re-gifting? Just wondering, as I am okay with both. We are testing this week, and I remembered this story/post from last year. I needed to hear these words again, and thought maybe someone else might too. We have had a wonderful year, but I am looking forward to formally closing it out and moving on: to summer, to planning for next year and to whatever lies ahead. I’m excited about chronicling some of it in this space and sharing it with you. Hope you have a fantastic day! xoxo, Sheila

***

We completed our state-mandated testing a couple of weeks ago. North Carolina is a very easy state in which to homeschool. Basically, you need to keep attendance records and administer a standardized test every year (all rules and regs for NC can be found here). The results are not reported to any state or local office, and merely need to be kept on file at home.

Vincent loves taking the test and he tests very well. That choleric fire comes out and he rises to the challenge. Me? I will admit to a twinge of nervousness. After opening the envelope and thumbing through the test booklet, the chatter in my head goes something like this: “Oh, we haven’t done that.” “We’re not doing that until next year.” “That’s a fourth grade concept?” I let myself have about five minutes of this useless, ridiculous, unfounded anxiety. The scores don’t even go anywhere!

I will save my verbose rant about “teaching to the test”, and merely say I think when we reduce education to a correct answer on a generic test, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Education is bigger than punctuation, isolated vocabulary, and poorly written word problems. Are the mechanics of grammar, the love of words and the concepts of mathematics important? Absolutely. However the measurement of them in isolation is flawed at best. At least this is what I tell myself after my five-minute panic.

We have made the choice to homeschool our children. Our decision is not reactionary in any way. It is not a rejection of something, but rather an embrace of something else. Even though the number of families choosing to homeschool is growing, we are clearly in the minority of those with school-aged children. As Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers, we are a minority within a minority. This is where we have chosen to be, and I would not change our decision for anything.

On our second and final day of testing, Jude chose a book of poetry for me to read during storytime, which included the following stanza from “Rose Pogonias” by Robert Frost:

We raised a simple prayer

Before we left the spot,

That in the general mowing

That place might be forgot;

Or if not all so favored,

Obtain such grace of hours,

That none should mow the grass there

While so confused with flowers.

After storytime, both boys went out to play. Vincent was trying to catch butterflies in a field of clover. Not an hour later, my neighbor came to mow that field. We waved to him and watched him from the back porch. The English major in me couldn’t resist getting the book and reading that stanza again. No explications or explanations. Just the words. The perfect words to name that sweet sadness. Natasha Trethewey, our new poet laureate here in the US, says that poetry finds a way to “speak the unspeakable.” I couldn’t agree more.

On our final day of testing, I was taught a lesson that I seem to have to learn and relearn – again and again. What we do and how we spend our days matters. This is the education we have chosen and that we want for our boys: something that fosters thought, encourages connection and speaks truth. Ultimately what we teach and what we learn should reflect, engender and celebrate all that is. On that day, education looked like a tractor in a field. It smelled like freshly cut clover. It sounded like poetry written before I was born. Above all, it felt like home.

Images and Verse

IMG_3099 IMG_3103 IMG_3101IMG_3107 IMG_3111“So they went off together.

But wherever they go,

and whatever happens to them on the way,

in that enchanted place . . .

a little boy and his [brother and his dog]

will always be playing.”

***

Images: Old Milking Barn Junk Pile, 29 January 2013

Verse: The House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne

Pushing Boundaries

Most times when I talk to my neighbors there is some kind of physical barrier between us. Usually it’s a creek, barbed wire, a cattle gate or some combination of the three. They are usually working on one side. I am usually walking with my dog on the other. Fencing is a big deal around here, and the famous line from Robert Frost, “Good fences make good neighbors” often echoes in my mind when I am walking their mishmash, yet meticulously kept, fence lines. Recently I went back and read the whole of that poem, “Mending Wall,” and was struck by these words: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offence.”

Metaphorical fences have occupied a lot of my inner work this past year. And unlike my neighbors, who have dozens and dozens of four-legged reasons to keep building and maintaining their fences, I have worked hard this year to dismantle some of those boundaries that no longer serve me. I have repeatedly asked myself Frost’s three implicit questions: what was I walling in? what was I walling out? and whom was I offending? The answers to these questions surprised me, as they were the same in practically every situation. Always, always, always, I was walling in myself – well, me and my fear. On the other side was a sense of freedom, usually some sort of creative self-expression. And the kicker – who was I offending? – no one!!! Nobody even knows the stupid fence exists except for me.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I have a deep respect and an unabashed love for my neighbors, both the people they are and the work that they do. Back in the spring, I spent what I now refer to as “the lovely day” with two of them. They were cutting oats in the field that borders mine. It was one of those days that seems somehow suspended in time – long, languid and sweet. After they put in a hard day’s work – baling some 8,000 pounds of oats – we spent about an hour or so talking. That day was a touchstone for me – the balance of intense physical labor with easy conversation. The lesson that there is time for what is necessary.

So many times I wanted to capture that day on film – well, on my iPhone. But I was too embarrassed and afraid of what they would think. I surreptitiously took the shot above, but I was standing rather far away. It is one of the few photos I have ever edited for this blog. After that day, I decided I was going to muster my courage and take some proper pictures. I told myself they probably weren’t going to think anything – or anything worse than what they already think! The first time I asked my neighbor to take his picture, my hands were shaking so badly, the shot came out blurry. The second time, I simply said, “Don’t move,” and snapped the shot.

Fast forward a couple of months. I spent a Saturday evening in late summer with these same two neighbors. We were way back in the cow pasture, and I took 70 photographs. Most were of Holstein steers, but many of my neighbors too. That evening led to this post that I absolutely love. I love chronicling this part of my everyday life. My neighbors are an intimate part of this landscape that is so dear to my heart. So I will continue taking pictures of them on their side of the fence – mending barbed wire bare-handed, baling hay, working the land – while I enjoy the freedom I have found on the other side.

Images and Verse

 And why is that? I think it’s because
we both knew the talk of old people,
old country people, in summer evenings.
Having worked hard all their lives long
and all the long day, they came out
on the gallery down in your country,
out on the porch or doorstep in mine,
where they would sit at ease in the cool
of evening, and they would talk quietly
of what they had known, of what
they knew. In their rest and quiet talk
there was peace that was almost heavenly,
peace never to be forgotten, never
again quite to be imagined, but peace
above all else that we have longed for.
***
 Images: 22 September 2012, back cow pasture
Verse: excerpt from “A Letter (to Ernest J. Gaines)” by Wendell Berry