Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Zucchini Hotcakes with a Julie Cave Twist

I got caught telling a lie this week. It happened as I was doing a bit of research about zucchini and came across these words: “Technically, zucchini is a fruit, not a vegetable.” All my life I've been telling others it was a veggie! Please tell me I am not alone in perpetuating this lie.

My only solace is that my local grocery store is just as guilty—it displays zucchini right along side broccoli and other veggies.

Even my two zucchini cookbooks fail to mention this squash is a fruit. Both were published in the 70's so that might explain the omission. But I choose to overlook this flaw as these resources have supplied me with a variety of recipes over the years: zucchini bars, zucchini bread, zucchini cake, zucchini relish, zucchini boats, and my all time favorite--zucchini hotcakes.

I whipped up a batch of hotcakes last week as they are quick and easy to make. The recipe has been altered a bit as I substitute garlic salt with parsley for oregano and use wheat flour, but it is still yummy.

Knowing this is the season when zucchini is in abundance and gardener's like to share their produce with neighbors it seemed the perfect time to share my recipe. 

Easy Zucchini Hotcakes

1 ½ cups of grated, unpeeled zucchini. Once grated place zucchini in a towel and squeeze tightly to remove liquid.
2 tablespoons onion, grated or chopped fine
¼ cup Parmesan cheese (Any kind of grated cheese will work.)
¼ cup of flour (I use wheat flour)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon of oregano (I prefer garlic salt/parsley mix instead of oregano)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pint of sour cream (for topping)
Olive Oil or butter to use in iron skillet

Directions: Mix all the ingredients together except for the sour cream. Add olive oil to iron skillet and let it get hot. Add large heaping tablespoons of batter into hot skillet. Allow space between hotcakes. Flatten hotcakes with spatula a little to help them cook evenly. Cook over medium heat until brown or you see tiny bubbles turn up in batter. Flip hotcakes over and cook until brown.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Makes about 7-9 hotcakes, depending on size you create. These go well with pork chops or a simple toss salad.


Too hot to cook over a stove tonight? Then consider what I do when summer temps are sizzling: make these hotcakes in the morning! Once they have cooled off put them in the fridge to warm up in a toaster oven later, or divide up the batch, putting 2 or 3 hotcakes in a container or baggie, and store them in the freezer for another day. 

One final confession: In all honesty, I've a chocolate-zucchini cake recipe that just might be better than these hotcakes. If you want a copy, simply subscribe in the box up top and I'll send it your way. 

Until next time . . . enjoy your veggies/fruit.


Friday, July 22, 2016

My Recent Reads: 1 Amazing Book, 3 Bestsellers, 2 Satisfying Titles, 1 Reject, and a few more!

Vying for my attention these days are over a dozen books. Of those I have finished one I'm giving 5-stars! I guarantee you will be inspired by this amazing true story. There are also three that have made the bestseller list and while one I really liked, the other two didn't meet my expectations, but are still worth recommending.

Of the remaining three I review here, two are Christian titles getting positive reviews, one of which I felt missed the mark. The last listing, by a popular author, I wanted to finish but returned it to due objectionable content. As for the others, they have all been started and a critique will surface when completed, but for you with inquisitive minds I'll note the titles at the end of this post.  

Okay, let's start with a book I liked.  

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. What I admire most about this current bestseller is the writing. The author has done a brilliant job weaving three stories into one with an unnamed “boy” the hero of them all.

In brief, the book revolves around a young lad who is assigned by his Scout leader to help a 104-year-old woman each Saturday at her house. As the weeks go by they form a friendship and embark in getting the woman into the Guinness Book of World Records . . . until the boy's unexpected death changes everyone and everything.

When the boy's father, who never understood his son's peculiar ways, goes to complete his son's assignment he too forms a friendship with the woman. At one point she asks him to drive her to see her son, whom she has not seen in decades, but it is a disappointing reunion. But out of the event truths are faced which lead to lessons about life, relationships and love. It is not a quick-paced story but it gains momentum with each passing chapter and finishes on a high note thanks to the "boy." 336 pages. Audio available. Warning: foul language.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. This bestseller seemed to plod along, but perhaps that was the author's intent as the story is about a man who takes a 600-mile walk in deck shoes! He makes the spur-of-the-moment decision when, after twenty years, a note arrives from his friend conveying she is near death. Though faster modes of transportation are available he embarks on the slower journey out of belief that it will forestall the death of this friend—a co-worker whom he betrayed 20 years earlier and to whom he must apologize.

The walk takes a toll on him physically and mentally, and along the way the public discovers his pilgrimage making him into a hero causing some to join and later abandon him on his trek. As he stumbles along memories from his past emerge, along with thoughts of his current unhappy marriage, the loss of his son, mistakes, and more. But by journeys end, after countless setbacks and his own mental breakdown, he arrives at a better understanding of himself, rediscovers love and purpose for life back home. 384 pages. Audio available. Warning: foul language.

Mended: Pieces of a Life Made Whole by Angie Smith. The simple cover design is what first drew me to this book, but the story behind the repaired broken pitcher in the introduction is what convinced me to keep on reading.

Not familiar with the author I looked up her name and found she is the wife of the lead singer in the Christian music group, Selah. Aware their child died shortly after her birth I thought the book might be about how they handled such a loss. While she does touch upon that time in their life, the 31 short chapters covers other areas of her life. Overall, the book addresses how God takes our brokenness and creates it into something beautiful and useful--a bit of encouragement we all can use. At times it felt like a devotional book with the typical scripture verse at top, followed by a bit of teaching, and ending up with an action step. 224 pages.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese. I fully expected to be raving about this 2016 bestseller but it came up short. Yes, it's a touching memoir about a young neurosurgeon battling terminal lung cancer and how he chose to live out his final year of life with his wife and young child . . . but it's not extraordinary.

The early part of the book is about his medical studies and life as a very driven neurosurgeon. It's not until you reach the second half does he go into detail about his treatments for cancer and how it impacted his life. What I did like about the book were his comments about how cancer disrupts your plans and makes decision making so challenging. What surprised me was when the author alludes to his Christian belief yet fails to mention the hope which comes from Christ's death and resurrection. 256 page. Audio available.

War Room by Chris Fabry. While everyone else speaks so highly about this movie/book, giving it 5-stars on Amazon, I am not a huge fan, even after listening to the audio version a second time to make sure I was being fair with my evaluation. I thought perhaps I had erred when a friend stated how helpful it was. But I still hold to my perspective.   

I didn't disagree with the author's effort to stress the place of prayer in our lives, or its power and what the Bible says about spiritual warfare. But I did find his story line a bit contrived and misleading as not all prayer results in restored marriages or happy endings. I only detected one place where the author specifically addressed this issue. What also kept me from being enthusiastic about the movie or book was how quickly and neatly he resolved all the major problems. 404 pages. Audio available.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I approached this book with eager anticipation, confident I would gain some excellent advice. Had she kept her focus on writing skills, the bird-by-bird tip being a good one, I would probably be offering a positive review. Instead, I listened to a woman present what seemed like a college-classroom lecture filled with sarcasm more than wisdom. But the main reason I disliked the title was due to the conflict that arose when she declared she is a Christian and yet a few pages later she's swearing, using the name of Jesus Christ. I find that offensive and reason alone to return the item. 272 pages.  

Now, here's my 5-star pick!

Endurance: Shackelton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. Every now and then I'll purposely select a title outside my preferred genre. This is one of them and turned out to be an amazing read. It's the true account of the captain of the British ship Endurance and its 27-man crew who, in 1914, sailed to Antarctica. 

After months of battling icy seas the ship went down when it could not escape two crushing glaciers. The men survived only to spend months adrift on ice packs, eating whale blubber, dealing with frost bite from sub zero temps, overcoming hurricane force winds, etc. How they managed to fight the savage elements, maintain hope and endure makes this an unforgettable story.

Though definitely geared for a male audience or someone with a Navy background I found the lessons about leadership and perseverance within the story applicable for any age or gender. And what a treat to learn a bit of history while being entertained and inspired at the same time. If you know anyone who is facing a monumental challenge this book might provide the encouragement to press on and not give up. 357 pages.

Books Not Quite Finished

I've a number of audio books I'm working through, one of which is 54 hours long. I've given myself all summer to finish that one which is Gone With the Wind. I've seen the movie several times but have never read the book and felt it was time I did so. Other titles I'm reading are listed below:

Loved Back to Life by Sheila Walsh
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. 
Saving Sailor by Renee Riva
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
The Disease Delusion by J. Bland, Ph.D.
Light in the Darkness by Lovejoy & Knopf

And waiting in the wings is bestselling author Daniel Silva's latest release, The Black Widow. I'm a fan of his espionage series and so appreciate his good writing. 

Now, what have you recently read? Any deserve 5-stars? Whether they do or not I'd like to hear what title has captured your interest.  


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

10 Cookbooks My Friends & Family Declare as Their Favorite!

If you ever come across the cookbook, In the Kitchen with Miss Piggy, be sure and buy it. It’s a gem. While it is full of fabulous recipes from celebrities and friends of Miss Piggy I love this cookbook for one simple reason: it makes me laugh! Nearly every page exudes with Miss Piggy’s charm, wit, sarcasm, and commentary that are good, if not better, than the recipes from her famous friends.

Of course, Kermit the frog, is given the honor of the book’s dedication: “To Kermit, who has always been the hottest dish in Moi’s life.” The 128-page book has full-color photos throughout of the dishes, the stars, and the flamboyant Miss Piggy. One of the best recipes comes at the end by a famous journalist and humorist Calvin Trillin: "Scrambled Eggs That Stick to the Pan Every Time."


Over the years cookbooks have filled up my bookcases coming to my aid many times and providing me with hours of entertainment. I narrowed down my collection a few years ago, keeping only my favorites and Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook which my Mom gave me decades ago. Out of curiosity I asked a few friends and family what was their favorite cookbook. Their answers surprised me! I think you'll enjoy finding out, as I did, which ones they like and why. 

Classic Home Cooking (Good Housekeeping) is Julie Johnston's (wife and mother of two little ones) pick of the best cookbook around. “It is all comfort food dishes that are distinctly American (like chicken and dumplings) and it gives a brief history of each dish.”

Anna Cave’s #1 choice for best cookbook is any title by Ree Drummond, famous for The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier. According to Anna “Ree has pics and stories about her family, plus the recipes are very down-home in nature, spelled out very clearly with tons of great pictures. I bought one at a Cracker Barrel, read it cover to cover (who does that with a cookbook?) and shared it with several people here at work. My daughter, Kinsey, then gave me another one for my birthday.”

Coming in #2 place for Anna is Trim Healthy Mama's Cookbook. “I have followed their eating plan for over a year and know it is right for me. They put out a new cookbook in the last year and I love it.”

Sharon Gutierrez absolutely LOVES Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl and Griffith Day. “I love it because I love to BAKE more than cook, and in their cookbook they have pictures of vintage kitchenware which I love too.” 

(Sidenote: Don't let the comical cover fool you! Inside the pages are filled with beautiful photographs, recipes used at the couples bakery in Georgia, and a peachy sweet endorsement from Paula Dean. I don't need another cookbook, but added it to my wish list anyway.) 

Wini Giunta has lived in Boston most of her life so it's not surprising to find her favorite cooking resource to be The Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer. It's an oldie, originally published in 1896, but Wini's copy is a revised edition from 1944 that she bought at a yard sale for $2.50, which she views as a “steal and a real treasure.” Among the reasons why she favors this book over others is due to the complete uniqueness of the area and food, plus the cooking hints and weights and measures information provided inside the front or back covers.

Former home economics teacher, Linda Turner-Mackley, was quick to tell me her favorites and where she finds recipes these days. “I have several that were written by Home Ec. teachers years ago in the San Diego area. They date back to the 70's and are filled with recipes that they contributed. Other than that, I tear out recipes from magazines or Google them these days.”

Ginny Johnston selected Pine Cove Cookery as her favorite for a sentimental reason: included in the recipes are several by her sister (aka Julie Cave). Another reason she likes this cookbook is because "all the recipes are tried and tested and proven favorites" by current or former staff of Pine Cove, an awesome Christian camp in Tyler, Texas. There's a bit of whimsy among the pages as besides each contributor's name is their special camp name which often ties in to their responsibility (i.e. “Needles” the camp nurse, or “Suds” the dishwasher.)

Deanne Davis is partial to Peg Bracken cookbooks: The I Hate To Cook Book and The I Hate To Cook Almanac. “I just love Peg Bracken's style ... light, breezy, funny and the recipes in these books are easy, do-able, with ingredients you can easily acquire at your local market or already have on hand. She is vastly entertaining in her writing and her recipe for what she calls 'McClintock's Best' in The I Hate to Cook Almanac, appears in my book*... somewhat changed, but based on hers and entitled ‘Chicken-Tortilla's Casserole’ which is pretty much what it is. This particular dish has appeared at my house, my daughter's houses and a number of other places countless times.”

*A Tablespoonful of Love by Deanne is a mix of tasty-sounding recipes and home-spun stories we all can relate to and enjoy. You can find it on Amazon via this link: A Tablespoon of Love, A Tablespoon of Laughter.


Among my favorites are two you have probably never seen. Both are compilations and loaded with variety. 

The first one is Cooking From the Heart, a 224-page book of tested recipes by the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ Staff. I've a copy of the original 378-page 1971 version which has lost its cover, being held together by a rubber band, and bears food stains. Though falling apart I still hold on to it for the wonderful recipes, the best one being Harvest Apple Pie. 

The second one is Cooking Up a Cave Creation, a project my sister undertook and published one year for our annual family reunion. Though only 63 pages long its full of delicious recipes and is a heirloom that I'll never give up. It triggers many good memories every time I open its pages.

No extra copies exist today, but who knows, maybe I can convince my sister to do a 2nd edition . . . and make it available on Amazon for others to enjoy. If/when that happens I'll let you know.


Out of the ten cookbooks mentioned above the trend seems to be that most prefer those with recipes from a variety of cooks. Is that true for your favorite cookbook? Do let us know in the comment box below. Could be I'll add it to the list!