Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Solar cooked Dinner from the Garden (Mom's Zucchini Casserole)

This pile of potato plants hit the compost pile yesterday and left a hole in my garden floor...
If you look really close you can see the sweet potatoes in the background there, still growing strong. I planted potatoes on a whim really. I didn't know how well they would do in Arizona, but I wanted to say I had the sense of adventure to at least give them a hearty whirl. Well, whirl they did. Of the six sizable plants, we ended up with 9 lb of potatoes. I had no idea we'd be so blessed with such lovely red 'taters. What is it about gleaning something from the dirt that makes me feel all rustic and earthy? Oh...and sweaty. Yeah, even bare foot while digging. That's about as domestic as I care to admit I can be. Earth squishing between my toes, rustling up some dinner. Where's my sun bonnet?
The tomatoes are coming on strong. Thanks to last year's experience supervising the Organic Tomato Farm with Jim in his amazing greenhouse. I think I finally am getting the hang of it. Now, if you don't have a garden, you can of course still cook this dinner. The problem a few folks may have is connecting fresh food with an actual meal they can make. Right? So I thought it would be cool to share some ideas.
Apparently the zucchini are still plotting world domination under those giant leaves. I missed picking one the other day and it went crazy steroid gorgeous on me. At just under 2lb for the large one and the two smaller ones, we had enough o make my mother's zucchini casserole. She made this a lot for us when we where kids using zucchini from my family garden. Bless her heart. I love this stuff.

Zucchini Casserole
adapted from the recipe By Geneve Wanberg

1 – lb zucchini, cubed, steamed 3-5 minutes until tender
1/2 lb red potatoes, cubed and steamed (about 7 minutes)
1/4 cup milk (I use buttermilk)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
3 Tablespoons pancake mix ( I make mine: baking mix)
3 eggs or 3/4 cup "egg beaters" (beaten with fork)
1/2 cup diced red, yellow, and orange bell peppers
1/2 – lb low fat jack cheese or cheddar/jack cheese, cut in cubes
2T garlic infused olive oil
4 green chilies roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped OR 1 – 4 oz can of green chilies
1/2 cup fried onions, crumbled (optional)

Directions: Be sure to drain all liquid from steamed potatoes and zucchini. This will effect the texture of the casserole.
Combine the seasoning and sprinkle over the vegetables. Potatoes and zucchini need to be seasoned well. I may use a generous hand, but it adds a lot of flavor to the finished dish.
Combine the egg and pancake mix. This is my whole grain homemade pancake mix, but you can use Bisquick from the store. I'm not checking your cupboard.
Combine the veggies, and cheese in a casserole that has been oiled with the garlic infused oil. Adding flavor wherever you can is smart. Even in the oil.
Pour the egg mixture over the vegetable cheese mixture.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.
There are several different options for cooking this dish:

Cooking directions:
Casserole can be baked in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 or until set. This recipe can easily be doubled.

Make it a freezer meal!
Simple. Follow the directions up to the point of mixing with the egg mixture but instead of putting in a baker, put in a freezer safe casserole pan. Label and date with the date and these cooking instructions:
From frozen, microwave 20 -25 minutes. Cover and remove to counter. Let sit 5-10 minutes and top with fried onions. Serve!
Defrosted, microwave 15 minutes. cover and set 5-10 minutes. Top with fried onions. Serve hot.

Solar oven bake: 2 hours at 350 degrees from frozen or 1 hour and 15 minutes fresh.

Microwave safe dish: Cook casserole at full power setting for 15 minutes (turn a quarter of they way if you don’t have a turntable in your microwave). Casserole should be slightly runny in center. Gently draw outside of casserole to center. Replace cover and let casserole stand on counter for another 5 to 10 minutes. Just before serving sprinkle fried onions over top.

I opted for solar cooked yesterday. I did double the recipe and it took 1 1/2 hours to bake at 350 degrees.

It looks as good as it tastes!
So, after it bakes, I let it sit covered about ten minutes so it can cool a little and set. While it cools I make this tomato avocado salad. Yes, we did grow the tomatoes. No...the avocado tree isn't mine. Those I bought from the store. Sorry. It's a simple salad with a balsamic herb vinaigrette. Just tomatoes and avocado. Next time I think we may make it more like a relish.

Shameless product plug here. I just discovered this salt that I adore. Adore! Thank you Troy from Preparing Wisely for suggesting it! Wonderful flavor. Oh..and thank you to the folks in Redmond, Utah for going through the effort of mining it for me. Yes...I know they don't do it just for me, but it is really good stuff. Click here to view all of Real Salt's fine products

So, I don't think it can get any better than this as far as healthy fresh food. We planted it, grew it, harvested it and cooked it. Solar cooked no less. The best part...eating it.

Cussing Granny says the potatoes remind her of the ones her daddy grew on their potato farm in Colorado. See...that's what gardening is all about, connecting us to our memories. Okay...and eating well. That too.

There you go.


Dave'sWife@{thediaryofdaveswife} said...

this looks SCRUMPTIOUS! Zucchini ANYTHING is right up my alley. Iam putting it on my dinner menu for next week! I can't wait ;0)

mlebagley said...


Jaed said...

Where did you use the buttermilk? In with the egg and pancake mixture? When did you add the fried onions? Are those the canned ones from the store for crunch or did you actually fry some onions for flavor? If using the crunchy onions did they go in the caserole or as a topper? I got a little lost in this one but I want to try it this week so please let me know. Thanks!

Chef Tess said...

Thank you! I seriously love that you noticed my mistakes, then I can correct them. Add the milk with the egg mixture. The crunch onions are the ones from the store by French's. They are optional. I didn't use them in the picture.

KrisM said...

The directions for makiing this a freezer meal suggest making up until the point one adds eggs before freezing. However, cooking directions don't include adding the eggs. Do you add after or before defrosting or ??? Thanks!