Author Archives: Vera Marie Badertscher

Vera Marie Badertscher

About Vera Marie Badertscher

I am a grandma and was named for my grandma. I've been an actress, a political strategist and a writer.I grew up in various places, went to high school in Killbuck, Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. My husband and I moved to Arizona after graduation and have three adult children. I love to travel and read. I ponder family as I cook. Look for my DNA profile on Ancestry.

Zucchini Apocalypse

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If you are a backyard gardener–like my grandmother was, like my father was, and like I was for a brief time–you know what that title means. The Zucchini Apocalypse is as dreaded among gardeners as a Zombie invasion. Toward the end of summer, those little green monsters are so numerous that you can’t keep them picked off the vine before some of them hide under the leaves and grow to a size worthy of the Guiness Book of World Records. They get so big you don’t know whether to cook them or attach a sail and go exploring the ocean. It is zucchini casserole time, for sure.

But don’t worry, I’ve been there. Before the zuchs get out of control, you can start making zucchini bread, zucchini pickles, stuffed zucchini, zucchini pizza, and a thousand and one other variations. Here’s a recipe that my sister-in-law gave me many, many decades ago, for a very vintage zucchini casserole . I’ve updated it in a couple of ways, but I left the most vintage touch of all–mushroom soup.

Zucchini Casserole from side

The Zucchini Casserole Dish

Size of casserole dishes

This recipe makes a VERY BIG casserole dish full. A word on the size of the bowl. After all, your fancy casserole dishes may not have measurements marked on the the side. I went with a 2 quart Pyrex bowl this time, but it definitely was not big enough. 2 1/2 quarts is ideal.  How do you know what size your bowls are?  Pour measured water into them. Time to return to grade school math class.  Four cups equals one quart.  I have a four-cup measuring cup and the Corning Ware bowl takes two and a half quarts to fill it to the brim.  The Pyrex dish, on the other hand, holds just two quarts.

I recommend a deep rather than a shallow dish. My favorite for the zucchini casserole is this big Corning Ware baking dish. The pictures of the finished casserole show it in a two-quart pyrex dish, which isn’t really big enough. Make two and give one away if you don’t have a big enough dish.

WHOOPS!

Well, we’ve all been there haven’t we? Shut the oven door and notice there is something that did not get included in the dish or pan? I forgot to layer the Ricotta. So I slathered it on top. Didn’t hurt a thing.

Zucchini with afterthought ricotta

Good luck getting rid of all those zucchinis, gardeners!

Zucchini casserole serving
Print

Zucchini Casserole, Vintage, Adapted

This Zucchini casserole has been updated to make it a wee bit healthier, but retains mushroom soup as a nod to the past.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword casserole, vintage, zucchini
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 12
Author Vera Marie Badertscher

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup brown rice Cook in 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 stalks celery Alternatively, one onion chopped, or a blend of celery and onion.
  • 1 Teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano I used Penzy's Greek Seasoning Blend.
  • 1 1/2 pound zucchini sliced in 1/2" pieces
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese or fine cottage cheese
  • 1 cup canned mushroom soup not diluted
  • 1 cup grated cheese eg. cheddar/monterey jack mix

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix rice in boiling water, reduce to simmer and cook until done–about 45 minutes
  • While rice is cooking, chop celery (and/or onions)
  • Brown ground beef in skillet with celery/onions
  • While beef is cooking, slice zucchini and put half in bottom of casserole
  • When rice is cooked through, add to beef in skillet along with garlic and oregano (or preferred seasonings).
  • Layer beef/rice mix over zucchini in casserole, next add ricotta and then rest of zucchini. Spread soup as top layer and scatter cheese on top.
  • Bake 35-40 minutes (less if using two smaller dishes) at 350 degrees.

Notes

I did not recommend adding salt and pepper because there  are LOTS of flavors going on here. There is so much salt in the mushroom soup and also some in cheese. But besides that there is a bit of salt in the spice blend I used.   On the other hand, you have plenty of room to bend the flavors in the direction you wish.  I liked using the Penzy Greek Spice Blend –oregano, lemon, marjoram, garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper. But I could imagine turning the casserole in different directions with spices. French with tarragon and thyme; Mexican with chile, etc.

Before you go, I’d like you to know about a couple of tricks for improving your vegetable cooking skills. One: If you are on Facebook, join the Fearless Fresh Kitchen Ninjas group. It is an amazing, sharing site for home cooks. A few trained cooks and professionals are there, too, so you will get great answers to any questions. Two: Stephanie Stiavetti, who started that Facebook group,also has a series of video lessons and other aids to improving your skills in the kitchen. Her latest series on cooking vegetables is FREE. Go here.

On the other hand, if you’d like to turn back the clock, I wrote some time ago about what Godey’s Lady’s magazine had to say about cooking vegetables back during the Civil War.

Door-to-Door Sales at 12: A Slice of My Life

Moving to the Small Town

I finished 7th grade at Columbus Ohio’s Linden-McKinley Jr. High in June 1951, and my family (the Kasers) started packing for yet another move. We had bounced back and forth between various places since I was born–New Philadelphia, Ohio, Ames Iowa, Chicago and now Columbus. But always there were periods when we lived in Killbuck with my grandmother, Vera Anderson. But now my father had decided we needed to make a final move and buy our own home in Killbuck. And there flowered my door-to-door sales business.

Killbuck village sign erected in 2019. Photo from Facebook’s Killbuck Gang Group page.

My brother was ready to start second grade, and my baby sister had arrived in March 1949. Dad got it into his head that a small town would be a healthier place for us to grow up than in the city. I think he was looking back with nostalgia at a small town atmosphere that no longer existed, but for whatever reason he decided we should move.

I had always preferred the variety and excitement of bigger city life to what I felt was a restrictive atmosphere where everyone knew me and watched ever move. However, I would probably not have plunged into my first paying self-employed job in door-to-door sales if we had not moved back “home.”

The Itch To Work

At the ripe old age of twelve, I wanted to be independent. I needed more money than the measly allowance my dad gave me every week. More to do than read books all day all summer long–although I was pretty creative at how and where I could read. A job that was all mine. Not just a chore assigned by mom or dad.

Comic books were big at my age. Although I didn’t dote on Super Heroes, I read Classics Illustrated comic books and Mad Magazine. Cover to cover, including the ads in the back.

Body Building Ad
Body Building ad in comic book

In the back of some comic book, an ad caught my eye. Smaller than the big bully kicking sand in the face of the skinny kid who took a mail order body building course and showed up the bully and got the girl–just a tiny ad. Something like “Kids, start your own business.”

The ad outlined the door-to-door business of selling note cards, greeting cards and stationery, even name embossed. The company would send a book of samples and order forms. You would send in the orders and the money. They would send you the finished products to deliver to your customers.

I didn’t tell my parents. It looked like a really good deal to me–much better than all those “Be the first kid on your block to own” magic decoder rings and other plastic junk that I could order by mail from the back of comic books. But knowing parents as I did–they would find all kinds of things wrong with the idea and would talk to some merchant in town and get me some boring job that I wasn’t in charge of. No way. This was all my own idea and I’d do it all by myself.

I was going to be a female Horatio Alger character.

Door-to-Door Sales

So I sent off for the catalogue of stationery. I don’t remember if you had to send the company any money up front, but I actually don’t think you did. And when the catalogue came in the mail, my parents were flabbergasted. They hid their doubts well and were very supportive. They even gave me hints about where people lived who would likely buy and places where they wouldn’t. Of course had we still lived in the city, I doubt they would have been so supportive of me knocking on strangers’ doors. The people were mostly strangers to me who lived along Main and Water and Railroad Streets (the three 1-mile-long north/south streets in town) . But between Mom, Dad, Grandma and Aunt Sarah–there were no strangers.

The fact that everyone knew everybody probably made it more difficult for Mother to grin and bear this crazy undertaking of door-to-door sales by her young daughter. Mother had a sense of propriety and no doubt worried that people would think she was sending me out to slave away selling things because the family couldn’t afford to raise their family. Shades of David Copperfield! Definitely not good for the image she had of herself.

The Benefits

As it turned out, the company was legitimate. The goods arrived on time. The paper was cheap and the print not the best, but they weren’t the worst product I’ve ever seen, either. I was not overcharged or charged hidden fees. I actually made some money and opened my own savings account at the Killbuck Savings Bank. Although some people didn’t answer the door, or quickly closed the door, most were friendly and actually interested, in those pre-Amazon days, in ordering by mail. After all they were used to the Sears “Wish Book” and this was better because they could actually see and touch a sample AND they could get their name imprinted.

Some became regular customers. I counted up the money, purchased a money order, and sent it off. It wasn’t long until the big package arrived at the post office box we shared with grandma and I was delivering everyone’s cards and paper.

I learned so much. It included confidence in my ability to talk to anyone–even strangers. People taught me that they are generally interesting if you take an interest in them and have something they’d like to have. Since they had to pay in advance, they had to trust me. I, in return, had to show that I was dependable and knowledgeable about the product. Math was never my strong suit, but I did all the bookkeeping myself. It turned out to be very educational as well as rewarding.

I am not sure how long I stuck with door-to-door sales, or why I eventually quit. The business started in the summer time, and was still going when it was time for Christmas cards. I think I continued for more than a year, through two Christmases.

P.S.

And, as a side benefit, I learned to spell Badertscher, which came in handy when I had a blind date with the man who would become my husband. His aunt lived in my town and bought lots of name-imprinted stationery. Long before I met my husband-to-be, I had spent much time spelling out my best customer’s name: B-A-D-E-R-T-S-C-H-E-R.

We’ve always said that he married me because it was simpler than teaching someone to spell his name.

What was your first paying job? And what value did you get?

What’s Great About English Muffin Bread? The Holes

English Muffin Bread

The English Muffin History

First, let us get this out of the way. The English Muffin is NOT English. Samuel Bath Thomas gets credit for first making and promoting them as early as 1894, and the most famous English Muffin still bear his name. The American company, Bimbo Bakeries, now owns the brand, Thomas’.

When I saw a recipe for English Muffin bread on line, I was intrigued. When I saw how easy the creation of this bread would be, I got out the flour bin. I have made this great toasting bread several times now, and decided that even although it isn’t related to my English ancestors, I wanted to share the recipe with you.

Crumpets or Muffins?

By the way, in England, the “English” Muffins are simply known as Muffins, but in Ireland they are marketed at “American Muffins.” In England, you’re more likely to find crumpets on the menu than Muffins (English or otherwise), and in fact the baker who started the whole thing originally called them “toaster crumpets.”

One major difference between the two–crumpets contain baking soda which causes holes on top as well as inside. That makes the English Muffin Bread recipe more crumpet than muffin because it DOES have baking powder. This closeup shows that the English Crumpet(?) Bread has holes in the top.

English Muffin Bread closeup

I have always liked English Muffins, because of their main distinguishing characteristic–although they are smooth on the outside, holes cover the interior surface. Those holes provide little pockets to hold melted butter or drops of marmalade, jam or jelly. Mmmm, crunchy and soft and dripping with butter. Just think of strawberry butter dripping into all those holes! This bread mimics that characteristic of the muffin, like its cousins the English (or American) Muffin and the crumpet, I like it best toasted.

The English Muffin Recipe

English Muffin bread with raspberry jam

My bread recipe comes from my favorite baking site, King Arthur Flour. Just a couple of comments.

Flexible pan size. I have made this in a 9″ bread pan instead of an 8 12″, and that works, too.

Thermometer. However, you will definitely be better off with a thermometer. Not only to measure the temperature of the liquids that you heat before mixing in, but also to test the bread’s degree of doneness. Don’t trust the looks of the outside crust, because when the outside tans, the inside may still be gooey.

The yeast. Note that the recipe calls for instant yeast which you mix in with the dry ingredients rather than regular/rapid rise yeast that goes into the liquid. Also, the recipe calls for one tablespoon of yeast. Unfortunately, that is ever so slightly more than one packet of yeast, if you buy your yeast in those strips of three small packets.

The cornmeal. While I have always used cornmeal when I made the bread, I did see some English Muffin recipes that call for semolina (Cream of Wheat will do the trick). Your choice.

So, on to the recipe. It really is simple. Only one rising that takes about an hour and a half. No kneading. (And if you have a bread machine, King Arthur Flour can give you a recipe for that, too.)

Once you’ve tried English Muffin bread, maybe you’d like to move on to English muffins. A search at King Arthur Flour will give you a recipe for them, also.