Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ten Uses for Zucchini

With spring planting coming soon, I'm already starting to make plans for the produce. Zucchini, though not particularly tasty in itself, is prolific and has many uses. Since you start with so little and it becomes so much, it’s the ultimate frugal food.

1) Puree and put in tomato sauce with extra herbs. Your kids will never know.

2) Frittata. The kids will know, but if you bribe them properly this should be palatable. Use an iron skillet. Put olive oil, finely chopped onion and a bit of salt in the pan with the zucchini as you cook it. Add the eggs and cheese. Once the egg starts to set put the whole pan in a 350 oven and bake it until it browns slightly on top and puffs. Even the “I hate zucchini” people with eat it. This is a good night to make a decadent chocolate dessert.

3) Leave the forgotten one, you know, the one that hid under the leaves, that’s 4 feet long and looks like a pregnant boa constrictor, on an unpleasant neighbor’s front porch. Run like mad. If, on the other hand YOU’RE the lousy neighbor, keep your lights off and stay quiet. Zucchini season will not last forever.

4) Shred, squeeze out liquid, and use in chocolate cake or muffins to add moisture. If you want to be sneaky, peel the zukes first so no green shows.

5) Slice and use in a salad instead of cucumber. Once it’s covered in dressing accompanied by a bunch of other vegetables, it’s not that noticeable. My cousin did this during a visit at her house and the boys didn’t make a peep.

6) Batting practice.

7) Pickles. If you can use something as crazy as watermelon rind, why not zucchini? It lends itself to a bread and butter pickle rather nicely.

8) Stuffed zucchini. Take larger ones, slice them in half length wise, scoop out seeds and fill the middles with a mix of herbed bread crumbs, and grated cheese. Drizzle the top with a bit of olive oil. Bake until tender. Serve with food everyone likes. This is not a good night to cook liver.

9) Zucchini Parmesan. Thickly slice zucchini lengthwise, dredge in seasoned flour, then egg, then flour before frying in olive oil. Drain on paper towels (or if you’re cheap, newspapers). Layer with a savory meaty tomato sauce, and loads of grated mozzarella. Repeat layers until the pan is full, ending with sauce and cheese. Bake at 350 until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

10) Dead zucchini makes great compost. Just turn often so the seeds don’t sprout. If they do, go back to idea 1).

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Typical questions on Clubmom hit on difficult, pragmatic things, like how to collect unpaid child support, or are there any real at-home jobs out there. You can sense the sadness and fear these ladies live under. Recently, one particular woman asked something a bit more philosophical, “How do you feel about your financial situation? Are you poor, making it, comfortable, or rich?”

It got me thinking. Growing up, all my parents’s friends were artists. My dad was a sculptor. Everyone had used or own made furniture, beater cars, ate leftovers, and got clothes from the Veterans’s Thrift Store. We lived like everyone else we knew, and that was fine. Fairly often my mom fed surprise supper guests with scrambled eggs, kidney bean salad, homemade biscuits, and coffee.

My own family now owns one used car, though not a beater, has used furniture, eats leftovers, and wears clothes from the thrift store. Those things haven’t changed from the early years, and some of the furniture is the actual stuff I grew up with. But now that our colleagues are in business or professions, we’d be considered poor. I assumed over time our situation would gradually ease up a bit, that it wouldn’t involve constant financial reshuffling to make things work. You know, lay back a bit, with packed out bigger better barns, headed towards retirement, like “other” people. All because I was looking around at the “new normal”.

Our present situation isn’t different than my previous life. But if I assess the overall, our kids are healthy, we are not in debt, and we know how to have fun. So when all is said and done, I think we’re doing OK. It’s a matter of setting myself in the right context.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Guys From Gratz

On any given construction site in the mid-state at noon, the guys from Gratz eat their pie first. When asked why, they say, “How else will you know you’ll have room?”

Before every mother cries “foul!”, think about it. Ladies from Gratz make great pie, and the guys certainly don’t laze around all day. They eat their lunches. Just after the pie.

Art experienced something similar. He was working in a panel truck, blowing up balloons for some political campaign or other. It was blistery hot. He and the other guy were told to help themselves to the picnic offering for campaign workers. Art passed by the food and headed right to the Cokes, green glass bottles nestled in a sea of ice. He downed one in a gulp. Nothing matched it since.

I remember a summer day in Winner, SD. The town was still wet from a torrential rain. After being stuck indoors John and I were eager to get out. He charged onto the grass outside as I dragged a laundry basket to the line. The next thing I knew, he was sitting in a mud puddle, covered with muck, having a blast. I figured I’d hose him off before he came back indoors. We later heard an elder’s daughter and her boyfriend drove past and saw him. Her beau said to her, “Is that the preacher’s kid?”

If we hold convention so tightly, we miss out on pleasures along the way. Don’t continually put them off. Every once and a while remember those guys from Gratz, and eat your pie first.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Plowman Ought to Plow in Hope.

Outside our dining room window is a rather straggly lilac bush. It’s been in that location for some time and early on we did a heavy duty number on the ancient stump of the “mother” plant. It was fairly well rotted through and when we broke it off and dug up the remains, we found it was riddled with termites. We cut the straight sucker shoots off the live plant a couple of years in a row in an attempt to consolidate it’s efforts. It really looked dead for a while. The living portion has been leafing somewhat, and this year for the first time in years, is forming healthy looking, fat, and sassy buds.

It goes to show, things take time.

Every spring we shovel out the finally broken down compost and add it to our raised beds in an attempt to get bigger, better tomatoes. These I turn into sauce for use throughout the year.

Our sons are the same in one sense, though much more complicated to grow. And our mistakes are much more visible. Though if any of this depended solely on us, we’d be sunk. So we plod on.

Plowing. Planting. Watering. Weeding. In hope.