July 31, 2010

There's a What in My Attic?

The children were all nestled in their beds
with visions of swimming pools dancing in their heads,
when what did my husband and I hear??
Something making noise in the attic, not a squirrel, oh dear.
Brave husband of mine,
opened the attic door to aim his flashlight's shine
on a poor little brown bat,
he was just stuck in the stair slat.
Well MacGyver being the man of the hour
grabbed a towel to protect himself from the bat's flying power.
After securing the little lost thing
freed him into the night air so the bat could sing,
the praises of the man who saved him from the scary place,
and fly into the dark with all his sonar grace.

Bad poetry aside, this was an unusual distraction one night that I just had to share with you all. I wasn't sure what to do with the fuzzy little scared bat we discovered. I just knew I wanted to save it because bats are my soulmates when it comes to mosquito death and destruction. I believe all mosquitoes should be eliminated and they do their best to oblige! Thankfully being married to MacGyver has it privileges. He knew exactly what to do and I thought I'd pass it one to you.

Bats are the largest consumers of insects including: moths and beetles, mosquitoes, termites, flying ants, some will even eat scorpions and centipedes. Cave bats will eat about 3,000 mosquitoes per night. If you ever spot a bat, be sure to tell your kids how wonderful these animals really are. If you are lucky enough to get one in your house, be gentle and careful. They are very shy creatures and will bite to protect themselves. Wrap them in a large bath towel and set the towel down outside carefully unwrapping them. The bat will take off like a shot. At dusk you can spot them by their erratic flying patterns as they zoom around eating insects.

You can even build a bat house to attract these beneficial creatures to your house. See here for instructions on how to create your bat house. We have one up in our yard. We always get asked about our unusual "bird house".

If you'd like to see masses of bats in action, Alabama is a great place and close by. Check out this website for cave recommendations. It's incredible to see so many bats coming out of the cave at dusk. Your kids will love it! We went to the Blowing Wind cave one time and it was an amazing site. Like I said, anything that can take out 600 mosquitoes an hour is on my good list!

July 29, 2010

Salmon Dip

This appetizing dip is perfect for any summer entertaining you might be doing. It's easy to make and offers a protein boost too! In fact, we sometimes eat this for lunch around our house when we're tired of sandwiches or our easy homemade hummus. I do have to keep the bowl of salmon dip hidden if I don't want my husband to eat it all!

Salmon Dip
1 7.5oz can salmon, large bones removed
1 pkg 8oz light cream cheese, softened
1/4 c light mayonnaise
1 tbsp dried minced onion (or 2 tbsp finely minced fresh)
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a fork until well combined. It should be a nice pink color if it looks brown, add a little more ketchup. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. This is the kind of dip that can be made a day ahead of time because it only gets better the next day.

July 26, 2010

Greek Salad - Using the Cucumbers!

Cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta - oh my! I love greek salad and it's so easy to make at home. This dressing recipe was the perfect combo of spices to create that fabulous greek salad taste. Serve with a wedge of toasted pita. I prefer the kind my local Greek restaurant uses which is not dry at all, but a moist flat bread by Toufanyan, which you can buy at Publix. I'm sure it has more calories than traditional pita, but it's so much yummier. If you warm it up in a frying pan with a little spray oil it's delicious. A perfect accompaniment to this salad. Just like Athens Greek Restaurant in Roswell. Now if I could only get Maria to tell me her secret tzatziki sauce recipe!

Fabulous Greek Salad Dressing (from Allrecipes.com)

1/2 c olive oil
1 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp dried basil
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
2/3 c red wine vinegar

Put all ingredients in a tightly sealing container and shake well. Keeps in the fridge like other salad dressings. Makes about 10 servings.

July 23, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Another kid friendly recipe, both for eating and making. There's very little in this one that my kids don't do themselves. I think the only thing I don't let them do (and this is because they make a mess) is scooping the batter into the muffin cups. I use an ice cream scoop to make it easier and more uniform in size. I have a mini scoop for the mini muffin pan and a larger scoop for the regular pans. The scoop you need is the kind with the trigger that slides over the scoop to push the ice cream out.

See here for tricks on having bananas on hand all the time.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
(from Family Fun Super Snacks cookbook)

1 1/2c flour
2/3c sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1c mashed ripe bananas (about 2 lg bananas)
1 egg
1/4c melted butter
1/4c sour cream OR plain or vanilla yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c choc chips
1/4c milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray oil or line your muffins pans. I love my silicone liners since they can be reused and go right in the dishwasher.

As with a typical muffin or quick bread recipe, you are going to combine the wet ingredients and in a seperate bowl the dry ingrediants and then mix the two barely together.

Dry bowl: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt all go in and get whisked together. Wet bowl: bananas, egg, butter, sour cream or yogurt, milk and vanilla. You can hand mix this or beat it with an electric mixer. Beat until well blended and creamy looking.

Add dry to wet ingredients and mix just until things hold together - do not overmix or you will have a chewy muffin. Stir in the chocolate chips. Fill muffin cups 2/3's full. Bake for 20 mins. Cool on wire racks and wait just long enough so the roof of your mouth won't get burned by hot melted chocolate.


July 22, 2010

Coolidge Park In Chattanooga

Jump on I-75 north and head to Chattanooga. We haven't been to the aquarium in a long while (too expensive with three kids) but there is lots more to do in Chattanooga beyond the aquarium. We love going to Coolidge Park with it's free sprayground its great summer fun. Right next door is one of the oldest hand- carved wooden carousels. It's really beautiful and the kids have fun finding the flying fish and the eagle, much more beyond your typical horses. And get this...it's only 75 cents!
We used to go to Cheeseburger Cheeseburger for lunch where the kids could their get lunch in a car, but now we've recently discovered a place we like better- River Street Deli. They have delicious sandwiches and spreads. Their pimento cheese is not to be missed. My middle child is especially partial to their peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich (and somehow Daddy always seems to extract a bite or two).

If you want to make a whole day of your Chattanooga adventure, you can always add on a game at the minor league baseball park. The Chattanooga Lookouts play near downtown Chattanooga and seats can be purchased for as low as $2! How's that for a family fun adventure?

July 21, 2010

The Tomatoes are Finally Here

Canning Pickles

The cucumbers are seriously coming out now! I decided we had way to many to eat raw, so I set up a my pickling center. I have Ball jars I inherited, but I splurged and bought some more. My plan is to can the cukes and give them as Christmas presents, so I'm planning on a lot of canning (and why do they call it "canning" when it's really "jarring" since you use glass jars??).

I purchased both Mrs. Wages Bread and Butter pickling spices and Ball Kosher Dill Pickling Spice mix, both I got at Walmart. My Grandad used to make his spice mix from scratch, but I just found it way to time consuming and the packets are cheap and easy. Besides that they turned out delicious pickles. I even customized the mix a little buy adding red pepper flakes to some dill jars to make spicy dill pickles and I added a couple of cloves of garlic to make garlic dill pickles.

Making pickles was not a lot of work and since my husband eats them with every lunch, it was worth my time. Also, since I know I'm giving them as Christmas gifts, my time is part of the gift.

I love this tutorial on how to actually make the pickles. It's on the  Pick Your Own website. It's clear and very detailed. Using their steps helped me remember how I used to do it with my Grandad. 

What are your favorite cucumber recipes?

July 16, 2010

Summer Tomato and Peach Salad aka Summer on a Fork

This is a wonderful summer salad that my friend Melissa first made for me at a birthday party. Then when my family went to the beach last week, I knew I wanted to make this salad. It's like Summer on a Fork - seriously. Every essential summer flavor is in it...peaches, tomatoes, basil. Just delicious!

Everyone loved it, although some said they might prefer it with feta cheese instead of the goat. I think either way, it's absolutely delicious. The kids liked it because it has peaches in it. That night, I served it for dinner with other assorted sides to make a "Side Salad Buffet" for dinner. There was a black bean and corn salad, my mother-in-law's coleslaw recipe, fresh bread with garlic butter and the yellow summer squash casserole posted here. Everyone found something to please their palates, but I was especially thrilled that my Grandmother (who has traveled everywhere and eaten in very fancy places) loved the meal! What a great feeling knowing you have made something for someone and they love it.

Please know this salad will be absolutely gross if made out of the summer season. Do not blame me if you decide to make it in December and it is tasteless. Hot house fruits and veggies are soooo NOT yummy. I am a firm believer in eating what is in season and this salad proves that at their peak, they can't be beat!

Summer Peach and Tomato Salad
Adapted by my friend Melissa from Cooking Light
Serves 8

1/3 c thinly vertically sliced red onion
3 ripe peaches (about 1 lb) cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 lb heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 lb cherry or pear tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 c (2 oz) crumbled feta cheese OR goat cheese
1/4 c torn basil leaves

Combine onions, peaches and tomatoes in a large bowl. Combine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until mixed (or put in a shaker and shake well). Drizzle vinegar mixture over peach mixture and toss to coat. Before serving, sprinkle with cheese and basil.

July 15, 2010

Photo of the Garden Bounty


We are getting zucchini, yellow squash, green peppers, tons of cucumbers, and of course fresh eggs everyday now. I'm just waiting (not so patiently) for the tomatoes. What are you getting out of your victory garden?

July 11, 2010

Salmon Cakes

This is a frugal recipe while still getting fish in your diet. Even non-fish people will like this one. So yummy and makes a perfect meal with fresh corn on the cob and sauteed zuchini - right in season!

Salmon Cakes

1 14.75oz can of salmon
2 c soft bread crumbs
1/3 c minced onions (or use 1/8 c dried minced onions)
1/4 c milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp minced parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dill weed
dash of pepper

Drain the salmon and pull out the larger vertebra bones. You don't have to worry about the other fine bones becuase they will get mashed up and they are harmless, in fact they add calcium to the dish. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into eight patties. Fry in 2 tbsp oil in skillet. Cook about 4 minutes each side until browned and crispy on the outside. Place on a paper towel to drain while you cook the rest. You can serve with tarter sauce, but my family loves these plain. Even the two year old gobbles them up!


July 8, 2010

Killer Creek Squash Casserole

The squash has ARRIVED! I'm so thrilled because our zucchini and yellow squash are ripe for the picking from our garden. So yummy. Last year for some reason all of our yellow squash plants died before any of the veggies appeared - who knows why - some blight, the wrong weather, the sun and moon's alignment.  Whatever it was I missed squash so much I bought it from the grocery store. But not this year, for the tiny price of some seeds, we will eat like kings.

The kids love squash grilled, but I decided to be a little decadant and make this casserole from Killer Creek Steak House. The recipe was posted in the AJC newspaper, but just looking at the original version made my arteries harden. I knew I needed to adapt it (and halve it because the original makes 12 servings). I scaled the recipe down to make 6 generous servings. I also included how I made the recipe a little healthier. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Killer Creek Squash Casserole

2 1/2 lbs yellow squash, sliced
1 1/4 c mayonnaise (I used 3/4 cup)
1/2 c diced onion
3 eggs
1 1/2 sticks of melted butter (I used 1 stick margarine)
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 c French's Fried onion rings (I left these out)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a roasting pan (or 9x13 baking pan) with cooking spray. Combine everything but the French's onions in a bowl and stir to mix well. Pour into your greased pan. Bake 30 mins (more for a deep but narrow pan, less for a shallow wide pan). Casserole should be bubbling and squash tender. Sprinkle with French's onions and bake 5 more minutes.

On a complete sidenote, I'm sure you couldn't help but notice my FABULOUS new enamel coated cast iron pot! That was my Mother's Day gift this year. We got it while we were at the Cornbread Festival. The Lodge Factory (cast iron manufacturer) is the main sponser of the festival and they have an Outlet Store right next to the festival grounds. I really, really wanted a Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron French Oven since I strarted volunteering at the Whole Foods Cooking School. We use them all the time, but let me tell you the idea of spending $280 for a pot is just not reasonable in my mind. Waaaay too expensive! I figured someone had to make the same enamel coated cast iron product for less money.

I had an "ah ha" moment when I realized my favorite cast iron skillet manufacturer probably made something that would be a good substitute. Well I hit the nail on the head! Lodge makes all shapes and sizes and lots of colors for a whole lot less money than Le Crueset. I looked on their website so I had an idea of what the prices would be. When we walked into the Outlet Store (of which there are four locations, two in TN, one in GA and one in SC) I was on the look out for an "outlet deal". I so found it! My apple green dutch oven was only $80!!! It was a special Factory Outlet clearance, but I did notice the traditional 6qt dutch oven was only $98 for a regular price. That's a far cry from the $280 that the french version costs. According to Good Housekeeping the Lodge product is just as good as the more expensive product. I can back that up - I love this pot! It's very heavy due to the cast iron, which also means it retains heat incredibly well. I can't wait to cook a roast or soup in it. The enamel surface cleans right up, even with red tomato sauce (or cheese in the this case) baked right in. Of course the Martha entertainer in me is thrilled with the beauty of the product. It's so good looking it can be brought right the table! I love this pot!!  


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