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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Got ZUCCHINI?


Although I do not have any home grown zucchini of my own (my Italian farm boy isn't growing it this year.....)....'tis the ZUCCHINI season.  So,  I am patiently waiting for all of my zucchini farmer friends to call me up and say "NEED ANY ZUCCHINI?" 
To which I will respond...."As a matter of fact, I do need me some ZUCCHINI.....hand it over!"
In preparation of that momentous phone call, I spent some of my 1960's, 1970's and 1980's TV-watching time (while staying with my father) pouring through online sources such as Pinterest for new recipes and going through some of my trusty menu diaries seeking some zucchini recipes I would like to repeat.
As much as I love finding new recipes--I have to admit that I love, love, love my recipe and menu diaries.  They are in date order so I can never really look up recipes by any specific ingredient.  Therefore, I am always forced into going page-by-page looking at each entry and looking at my little scibbled notes---about the occasion, about the guests, about the menu, the table settings, any other tidbits of interest and there's always little sprinklings of comments about who loved what, what I might change next time I make it....and on and on and on.  Some of them make me laugh...other times I find I am *THIS* close to tears.  And, other times, I realize I may have had just a little too much wine or one too many cocktails when I was writing the notes....God knows *whatthehell* I was talking about!
So, as you can see....these diaries are like storybooks .....I  can get so lost in them......
What a e perfect way to get through those long hours of Barney Fife's and Aunt Bee's  ditzy yet well-intentioned antics and the random violence in Police Chief Bill Gillespie's Mississippi town!!!
Although I must admit, some of the recipes had my cravings in overdrive--it took everything I had not to run to the store and get all the ingredients and begin a zucchinithon!   But, when you are large and in charge of a rambuctious 94 year old.....you can't go too far....
So, I had to settle for just savouring them as I sat there.....saving my calories for when my father demanded his ice cream.....I couldn't let the man eat ice cream alone....
 Anyway.....there were 2 specific recipes that I could just taste as I sat there!  
 Given that I made both of these recipes before--thus being able to vouch for their wonderfulness--I wanted to share them with you to help you as you plan on how you will use all of your zucchini this zucchini season......  

 SCALLOPED ZUCCHINI
According to my diary ramblings, I served this easy,  delicious dish in August  2010 with grilled lemon garlic chicken, grilled corn-on-the cob with basil butter and peach cobbler. And...my notes indicated that we drank lots of mojitos! (no wonder I don't remember much about this evening!) We were hosting a small gathering as a farewell to our next door neighbors who were moving back to West Lafayette, IN.   Evidently, we could not eat on the deck due to a severe storm that came rolling in.  But, everyone raved about the scalloped zucchini!  And, my notes also indicated that I wore a new maxi dress that everyone referred to as a "hostess gown."   (yes, those are the kind of notes I write down after a few libations.....)



  1. 3 large zucchini
  2. 3 Tbsp. butter
  3. 3 Tbsp. flour
  4. 1 1/2 cups milk
  5. 2 cups shredded Italian Blend Cheese, divided
  6. salt
  7. pepper
  8. garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 baking or casserole dish with non stick cooking spray.
  3. Slice your zucchini into 1/4 inch slices
  4. Layer the bottom of the casserole dish with half of the sliced zucchini.
  5. Season the layer of zucchini with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
  6. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter on low, then add the flour.
  7. Whisk together until incorporated and golden brown.
  8. Slowly add the milk and continue whisking until smooth and thickened.
  9. When it’s smooth, add 1 cup of the cheese and stir until completely melted.
  10. Remove from the heat.
  11. Pour half of the cheese sauce across the first layer of zucchini.
  12. Place the remaining zucchini on top of the sauce and make your second layer.
  13. Season that layer well with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
  14. Cover with remaining sauce and top with the other 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  15. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes.
  16. Place the zucchini under the broiler for a few minutes, but watch closely being careful to not let it burn.
  17. Remove from the oven and serve warm (NOT HOT!)

SEARED SCALLOPS WITH ZUCCHINI AND GOAT CHEESE
This was a "show-off dinner" that we were hosting August 2012 for some visiting  associates (who are known foodies!) of my husband's.  THIS RECIPE I DO REMEMBER.....because I actually made it twice.  The first time was the test run because I get a little skitchy when I cook scallops (worried they will get tough!). Since I turned the first cooking of this recipe into a party by inviting my  2 spirited girlfriends over to taste test, I was super duper careful. It turned out impeccable!   I will never forget how we just sat there eating and moaning with delight.  For the actual dinner with my guests, we started out with  a little Apertivo before dinner with some classic Italian cocktails, cheeses and nibbles.  Thankfully, the scallops with zucchini turned out just as amazing as the first time.  Although....I should tell you that there was no moaning!   I served this with the Proud Italian Cook's Caprese Style Portobellas on top of Spring Mix drizzled with a balsamic reduction and risotto with marscapone and basil.  To end it sweetly, we served Lemoncello on ice, iced capaccinos and a gorgeous tray of cannoli and tiramsu petites, rum balls and cheesecake balls rolled in pastachios and chocolate from this tantalizing den of sin.  The notes that I scrawled--- "an elegant summer dinner that should score me some jewelry..."
  • 2 dozen sea scallops
  • Oil suitable for high heat cooking (I used coconut oil)
  • 2-3  zucchini, sliced thinly into ribbons
  • 2 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • good splash of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light stock (I used seafood stock)
  • Juice from 1lemon
  • 2-4 ounce logs of soft, fresh goat cheese
  • lots of basil leaves, julienned
  • Coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pat the sea scallops dry with paper towels.  Lightly season with salt and pepper, and set the scallops aside.
In a saute pan, heat  butter with a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook the shallots for about a minute – but not long enough to brown.  Add the stock to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Toss in the zucchini ribbons and cook for a few minutes, continuing to toss the zucchini,  until it is just tender and the liquid in the pan has reduced a little.  Stir in 1/2 of the goat cheese with the lemon juice, until the goat cheese has melted and the liquid in the pan is sauce-like.  Stir in some of the basil, saving some for the final garnish.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat, but keep warm.
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until VERY hot (cast iron is good, but any heavy-bottomed skillet will work).  Add a very thin layer high-heat oil) to the pan, swirl to coat, and immediately add scallops, flat side down.  Do not crowd the pan – you may need to cook the scallops in two batches, depending on how big your skillet is.  DO NOT move the scallops – sear them for 2 minutes, then turn and sear for about a minute (maybe 1 1/2 minutes) on the other side.  It is important not to overcook the scallops or they will be rubbery and tough.  They should be nicely seared on the outside, but should still be a little translucent-looking in the middle as you look at them from the side.  They will feel a little springy to the touch – not stiff.  When they are done, remove them from the pan and keep warm while you finish cooking them all.
To serve, place a mound of zucchini noodles on a plate, and place the scallops around it.  Add a dollup of the remaining goat cheese to the top, and garnish with the rest of the julienned basil.  Enjoy!


GET YOUR ZUCCHINI ON!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Daddy and me.......

Yes, that's what the past 10 days of been filled with......
Just when you thought I was gone from Stories from the Road because  I was frolicking on a beach in some exotic corner of the world, you come to find that I was actually just living in another little suburban hamlet...not far from Judiland....doing the 24/7 with my dad....along with a bevy of wonderful caregivers, I must add!  
My dad's caregivers and I......beaching it.....or were we "bitching it..."?

My sisters ventured off to the beach with their families while I stayed back to keep the home fires burning.....going to work, caring for my dad, listening to his stories, planning his menus, watching lots of Andy Griffith and other high-quality shows from the golden years of television, slipping him an occasional ice cream sundae,  dolling out his meds and keeping everything in his world right-side-up.  
My life was anything BUT right-side-up.  
As my sister's texted me pictures of the beach.....I texted them pictures of what was happening here in my world
Escaping to my own private outdoor bar by the air conditioning unit at my sister's house....to drink wine and grab a smoke...

...
Loading up on caffiene and lounging at the office to keep up my stamina

 
More wine....next to the cache of my father's meds....


Yes, it's been quite an adventure.
Life will be returning to my normal frivolity and festivity shortly.  

Confetti and cupcakes all around....



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mid-summer mania......

is making me SCREAM.......FOR ICE CREAM!
Then, I'm SCREAMING when the zipper on my  pants is SCREAMING "I CAN'T MAKE IT" ....


There is an explanation for this ice-a-mania I am currently experiencing.....

Here's the thing.....and...as convoluted as this is going to sound, I am going to tell you all about it.  
Stay with me here....promise me, it will make sense in a Judi-kindaway.
You see....earlier in the summer---during a fit of planning for all of the summer guests at the B&B and on-site bar/restaurant  that I evidently run in my home,  I went on a little shopping spree.  I wanted to pick up a few goodies that would make things a little more welcoming, a little more fun and a little easier in the entertaining department.   So,I picked up a variety of things that I decided would fit the bill......
*THIS
*THIS
*A few sets of THESE
*THIS
*2 of THESE
AND
*Several packages of THESE

I am sure you see the all-about-eating-and-drinking theme I had going during my shopathon.
Yeah that's how I roll....
Although I probably needed none of these things, I am happy to report that they have all been serving up all of what I had intended for them.   Each of them have come in very handy and been used over and over again for various situations---from small gatherings to larger gatherings to just having things available for guests who are on their own while I am working or busy with other things.
One evening right before the 4th of July weekend, we hosted a small after-business-dinner "sundae bar" party for some visiting consultants that were in town to work on a project my husband was heading up. *I know what you are thinking--why not after-dinner drinks?  Yeah, well, that's what I first suggested. "That's a no-go Judi. We got non drinkers..." was my husband's response. Hence  the three days of that  puzzled look on my face as I tried to figure out what to do*   Once I got past the fact that we were going to do business entertaining without cutting up limes and lemons and stuffing olives with blue cheese, it was actually a fun evening to set up and shop for.   Lots of ice cream and yummy fixings and I even did a fun centerpiece--a balloon ice cream cone project  that I found on Pinterest (I can't believe I didn't take a picture...!!!).  AND, I was so excited that several of my new things came in very handy for setting up my BAR.  Especially those patriotic snack bowls that I bought on Oriental Trading.  It was a perfectly perfect evening....even without the cocktails.  Who knew?
(well....no cocktails on the deck...I had our after-dinner  martinis hidden in the kitchen for Carmen and I!!!)



 Naturally, I over-bought when it came to the ice cream and the syrups and the whipped cream and the toppings.   But, you know....I didn't want to run out.   
Famous last words. 
Let's get real--how can we run out when we have 7 people AND 6 gallons of ice cream, 2 of each type of syrups, 3 canisters of whipped cream and godknowshowmanypounds of fixings? *Hey, I figured if they don't drink, they must eat lots of ice cream...right?*
Get it now?
Yes, I had leftovers.  LOTS OF LEFTOVERS. 
Thus began my desent into the land of nightly ice cream parties.  
Everything is just so easy.  Especially the fact that I have those cute little throw-away patriotic snack bowls....*no extra dirty dishes to do at night....AND....no evidence of my errant ways*
Sometimes I can be so-about the details....
Sure..... let's not forget that I was also left with 4 gallons of ice cream, lots of lots of syrups and whipped cream and toppings....*it would be criminal to waste  all of that*
But, seriously...it's really all about those cute little bowls....
Every night, I can't wait to get out one of those little bowls.....*it makes me so happy*
Alright...maybe it is about the ice cream slathered in gooiness and topped with goodness...
Or, is it about the bowls?

So many bowls!!!
 My mania continues....... 



Thursday, July 10, 2014

This girl........

IS TWENTY THREE TODAY.....
My darling daughter, my favorite shopping partner....Fashionista Toni!

Today is all about her.
And, a little about me. 
(and  a lot about my wallet...)
We have a full day planned. 
A girly, fun day.
Because THIS GIRL is 23 today.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My father was right.......

I have gained some weight.  
But, my sister says that I look better with "a little meat on".
She said there was a time when I was looking too thin.  
My daughter says she doesn't remember the time when I was too thin.
My other sister said to let her know if she ever gets to thin so she can celebrate.
My husband said to quit worrying about it.
And, my son thinks I would benefit from some type of cross training to tone things up.  
My niece thinks maybe I should join a running group and start running.
My aunt said I should eat what I want now because when I lose my teeth, 
I won't be able to eat what I want.  
My uncle said my face needs some weight on it so I don't wrinkle up. 
My cousin thinks I shouldn't wear stripes around my father, it may be distorting his vision.  

Yes, my weight is a FAMILY AFFAIR.......
Everyone has a family.........!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My father.....the 94 year old Weight Watcher......

No, he's not watching HIS weight.
He's watching MINE.  

At my nephews graduation party this past weekend, I took a little break from the kitchen and sat next to my father with some chips and a small bowl of this amazing chicken cheese thing that my sister makes.  He had just consumed a huge plate full of fabulous food and was digging into a plate of cookies that my cousin had put in front of him.
As I was taking my first bite.....my father cleared his throat....."You better watch what you eat"  he said.  I nodded appreciatively and proceeded to eat this fabulous chicken cheese thing. 
"You can't eat too much you know," he said.  
"Yes, I know," I replied...thinking he was concerned that I might have a Lap Band issue.
I took another bite.
"What else did you eat today?"  he asked.
"Not much, I have been in the kitchen," I told him.
"You better watch it," he said.
"I am fine," I told him. 
"I mean, you can't let your weight go up again!"  he said.
"What????"  I responded with surprise.
My cousin--who was next to me---looked at my father and then at me.  She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
"You can't get fat like that again!  Have you gained any weight lately?"  he went on.
I looked over at my cousin.....she seemed quite amused.
"Maybe a few pounds..."  I quietly answered.
"I don't know about that! More than a few pounds I think.  You have definitely gained some weight!"  he corrected me.
"Really????"  I responded in disbelief.
"I lost a few pounds..." he proudly told my cousin.
"Okay Dad, that's great....enough..."  I tried to end the conversation....but I knew that it was probably futile.
"Yes, Judi, you look like you gained some weight.  You have to be careful.  You can't get fat like that again...."  he continued. 
"Okay, Dad.  I'm good.  Eat your cookies....I will get you more coffee...." again, trying to stop the conversation.
"I got coffee!  Did you eat any cookies?"  he said, pointing to his cookie plate.
"I will, later...."  I told him.
"Maybe you should stay away from the cookies.." he said, munching on a cookie. 
Then, he looked at my cousin and told her "You know, my mother was 300 pounds when she died.  She was always a big woman.  Judi looks just like her...."  
"Okay, Dad....we know...." once again, trying to diffuse this awful conversation....
"Yes, she has to be careful not to get fat again.  She has that tendency.  Runs in the family, you know..."  he said, taking another cookie.
I was just about to take his cookie away from him just to teach him a lesson.  But, I figured...the man is 94, let it be. 
"You better not eat much more, Judi.  Maybe you should just go on a diet...."  he said between bites of cookie. 
With that, I went back to the kitchen to eat the rest of my delicious chicken cheese thing....