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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
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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.

Oatmeal Pie: Oats, Coconut, Maple Syrup

Oatmeal Pie

Oatmeal Pie piece with whipped cream

I’m an advocate for pie for breakfast at all times, but who could find fault with eating oatmeal with maple syrup in the form of pie?

Frugal and tasty, “Oatmeal Pie” demonstrates the make-do attitude of our ancestors in aprons.  As I frequently do, I turned to the Sonnenberg Mennonite Church Centennial cookbook for some vintage takes on this poor man’s pecan pie. After also consulting some web sites, I was prepared to try a variation on the Mennonite cookbook recipe that most appealed to me.

Mennonite

Sonnenberg Mennonite Church Centennial Cook Book

Please understand right at the outset, that although it is called “oatmeal” pie, the pie does not contain a gooey mixture of cooked oats–oatmeal.  Instead, the base for the pie contains either quick-cooking or old fashioned oatmeal–UNCOOKED. Also, although the name “Amish” is attached, other people probably made the pie also.  The history is elusive.

The original Amish oatmeal pie relies on dark corn syrup (Karo©), as do most pecan pie recipes.  However, I was thinking how delicious maple syrup is on oatmeal, and had decided to make a swap.  An experienced baker friend recommended that I include a couple of spoonfuls of the dark corn syrup to balance out the mysterious chemistry and characteristics of corn syrup.  However, by the time I got her advice, I had baked the pie. The good news is, the pie turned out fine.

Whether its a dessert or breakfast–try this old fashioned pie recipe.  Of course, I recommend my Perfect Pie Crust recipe, but if you are in a hurry, you can use a pre-made crust.

Oatmeal Pie with Maple Syrup

Serves 8-10
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hour, 20 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Old fashioned Oatmeal Pie makes a frugal substitute for pecan pie. It forms a chewy nutty crust on top.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cups coconut (flaked)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 pie shell (unbaked)

Directions

1. Line pie plate with pie dough and put in refrigerator while you make the filling. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugars. Add spices and syrup and blend well.
3. Beat in eggs, one at a time. and mix until well blended.
4. Stir in milk.
5. Add oatmeal and coconut and stir in well. [ I thought the filling was too thin, and added two tablespoons of rice flour to thicken. This will depend on the texture of your maple syrup. (Use corn starch or flour if you do not have rice flour.)]
6. Pour filling into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees about one hour.

Note

You can use Karo syrup or molasses in your oatmeal pie instead of maple syrup for a slightly different flavor.

Some recipes for oatmeal pie call for addition of nuts, which to me seems to defeat the purpose of substituting oats for pecans, but do your own thing.

As mentioned in the article, an expert in baking suggested it would be better to include a couple spoonsful of Karo syrup when substituting maple syrup to avoid the sugar crystalizing. However, my version did not have any crystalizing. Again, use your own judgment.

Grandma Kohler’s Triple-Treat Sweet Roll Dough

Like My Mother Made

My husband doesn’t spend a lot of time wallowing in nostalgia for the foods that his mother cooked. But he has frequently mentioned his mother’s cinnamon rolls, so I figured I’d better find a recipe that could replicate Agnes Badertscher’s cinnamon rolls, which were actually made from a sweet roll dough.  What I got was both a surprise and a bonus of three recipes in one, including a loaf of just about the best white bread I’ve ever had.

Sweet white bread

White sweet bread loaf from Grandma Kohler’s sweet roll recipe.

I contacted Kay Badertscher Bass, Ken’s sister, who has written here before about vintage Badertscher recipes and about the Dalton Dariette run by their uncle.  She knew immediately what rolls her brother was talking about, and informed me that they were actually from a sweet dough recipe of Ken’s Grandmother, Helen Kohler. Even better, I thought, a three generation recipe I could pass on to my grand daughter as I did my own grandmother Anderson’s sugar cookie recipe.

Kay went digging for the sweet roll dough recipe, and soon I got the following e-mail, which sheds light on the history of the yeast dough. Turns out it yields three or four different types of sweet rolls, if you would be overwhelmed by three dozen cinnamon rolls and want variety.  Here’s Kay’s message that describes a novel way to help along the rising sweet roll dough.

The Original Sweet Roll Dough Recipe

Okay, I think I’ve unearthed what you are looking for.  It’s called New Year’s Bread* and it is an OLD recipe.  I recall Mom and Grandma Kohler getting together and making this recipe in batches for coffee cake, dinner rolls and sticky buns.  The most distinct memory was how Grandma Kohler asked Mom to put boiling water in both sides of the kitchen sink to sit and then placed the dough underneath the sink in the cabinet, covered with cloth towels to rise.  (and I also remember getting scolded royally when I kept opening the cabinet doors to see what was happening)
Here’s the basic bread recipe:
2 c. scalded milk
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. Crisco
2 pkg. (2 T.) yeast
1/2 c. warm water
2 eggs, beaten
6 – 7 c. flour

Pour scaled milk over sugar, salt, butter and Crisco.  Set aside.  Then mix yeast in warm water.  Add the yeast mixture and eggs to milk mixture.  Add enough flour to make soft dough, knead, let rise.

Depending upon what you decide to make with the dough, the instructions are to bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 min. (which may or may not be accurate) (NOTE: It is NOT accurate. It does not take that long. See recipe adaptation below.)

If making dinner rolls brush tops with butter after taking them out of the oven.

The streusel topping was a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and a little flour….of course, no measurements!  Grandma Kohler used to divide the coffee cake dough in half and put some of the streusel in the middle as well as the top.

The sticky buns were usually made by rolling out the dough into a rectangle, sprinkling the streusel mix over the dough and then rolling up into a log.  Grandma Kohler would dust the bottom of the pan with lots of butter and a little streusel and then place the rolls on top and dust them with a little more streusel before baking.

Sorry this isn’t more specific.  Mom and Grandma Kohler used the “by gosh and by golly” method of baking with a pinch of this and a handful of that.  But we grandkids loved that coffee cake just as much as Ken, I’m certain!  Probably why Grandma finally switched to the frozen bread dough in the latter years cause we asked for it constantly.

Well, that’s shocking!! the traditional way of making a vintage family recipe three generations ago was frozen bread dough??? That certainly plays hob with our assumptions of what is vintage, doesn’t it?

*One thing still puzzles us.  Grandma Kohler called the recipe New Year’s Bread, but she did not make a braided bread that is the tradition in Swiss and German New Year’s Breads.  I checked out my vintage Sonnenberg Centennial cookbook, and found the recipe for New Year’s Bread which is only slightly different, so next time I make this recipe, I may experiment with a braided loaf. Wish me luck.

At any rate, I blended some of the instructions in the Sonnenberg book (from a recipe submitted by a close friend of Agnes Badertscher) and I made Kohler’s recipe for sweet roll dough (before she turned to frozen bread dough), and enjoyed making a pretty big batch of dough.  I made a dozen cinnamon rolls, a dozen cloverleaf rolls and one delicious free-form loaf.

Sweet roll dough

Grandma Kohler’s sweet roll dough BEFORE rising! you can see by the 2-cup measure on the side that this is a large amount of dough.

Cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon rolls from Grandma Kohler’s sweet roll dough.

Ken looked at the rolls and immediately said those words every wife dreads–“Not like my mother’s.”  When I turned it over and showed him the side where I had sprinkled granola, obscuring the coils of the cinnamon roll, he said, “That looks more like it.”  Then he gave it the taste test.  Really good, he said. But that is not my mother’s coffee cake.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.  He apparently was thinking of his mother’s baking-powder raised coffee cake with streusel on top rather than the more elaborate yeast dough that goes into the sweet rolls.

Oh well, nothing lost.  He (and I) enjoyed every bit of the cinnamon rolls, sweet dinner rolls and white bread that the sweet roll dough provided.

Adapted Sweet Roll Dough Recipe

Here is the sweet roll dough recipe–hopefully a little clearer than the “by gosh and by golly” instructions that came directly from grandma Kohler and Ken’s mother.

Do not be intimidated by the length of the recipe. Remember, I am trying to give you fairly detailed instructions for making THREE kinds of breads.

THANK YOU KAY!

Sweet Roll Dough – Cinnamon Rolls, Dinner Rolls, Bread

Serves 36
Prep time 3 hours
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 3 hours, 45 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Bread, Breakfast
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable
A tried and true family recipe yields cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls or loaves of white bread.

Ingredients

proofing yeast

  • 2 packets active dry yeast (Equivalent: 4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (Comfortable to drop on wrist.)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon sugar (for proofing yeast)

dough

  • 1/2 cup sugar (for dough)
  • 6-7 cups flour (plus more for kneading and patting out dough.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups milk (heat just short of boiling)
  • 2 eggs (beaten lightly)

Cinnamon roll topping

  • 1/2 cup butter (melted)
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon

Cinnamon roll topping (Optional)

  • 1/3 cup granola cereal or chopped nuts

Directions

Proof yeast
1. Sprinkle yeast on warm water in 2-cup container.Briefly mix in teaspoon of sugar. Set aside.
Mix dough
2. Blend dry ingredients--3 cups of the flour, 1/2 C sugar, salt.
3. Heat milk with butter and vegetable shortening and cool to lukewarm.
4. With electric mixer in large bowl, beat the dry ingredients (with the 3 cups of flour) and and the hot milk/shortening mixture until batter is smooth.
5. Add the yeast (which will have risen if it is active) and the eggs and stir with spoon until blended into very sticky dough.
6. Work remaining flour into dough with fingers, 1/2-1 cup at a time until the dough no longer sticks to fingers. Use as much of the 3 cups as you need.
7. Turn dough out on lightly floured surface and knead until springy and elastic.
Mix dough.
8. Shape into a ball, and place in greased mixing bowl. Put the smooth side down first, and then turn the dough that all surfaces are oily. (You can use the same bowl you mixed the dough in if you first scrape out most of the dried dough sticking to the surface.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel.
9. Let rise until doubled in warm, draft-free location. ( 1 to 2 hours)
Shaping rolls
10. Divide the dough into two or three pieces. Put the pieces you are not working with in the refrigerator.
11. For Cinnamon rolls, pat out the dough to a rough rectangle, then roll out (if you use 1/3 of the dough it will be about 14" x 18". )
Baking rolls
12. Grease 9 x 9 square pan or large pie pan, or cookie sheet for cinnamon rolls and mix the sugars and cinnamon for topping. If you are using granola or nuts, sprinkle them on the bottom of the pan.
13. Brush the top of the dough rectangle with melted butter, and sprinkle on the sugar-cinnamon mixture.
14. Roll the dough up from one long side to make a log and pinch closed the seam.
15. Using a very sharp knife or a piece of unwaxed dental floss, cut one-inch pieces from the log.
Baking Rolls
16. Place the rolls on the pan. If you use a cookie sheet and leave space between they will be crusty. If you place the side by side in a pan they will be softer on the sides. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise.
Baking rolls
17. When the rolls have risen by a third to double their original height (30-45 minutes), bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes (longer for glass pans).
Dinner rolls
18. To make dinner rolls, shape one batch of dough as you wish--clover leaf by placing three walnut-sized pieces of dough in a muffin tin; Parker house by placing balls of dough side by side in cake pan, etc. Place in buttered pan. Let rise and bake as for cinnamon rolls. When they come out of the oven, brush the tops with butter.
Free form loaf of bread
19. To make a free form loaf of bread, make a rectangle as described for the cinnamon rolls. Fold the dough over in thirds lengthwise, pinch the seam closed, and fold under the ends to make a nice shape. Place with seam side down on greased cookie sheet. Raise and bake as described for other rolls, except that it may take a little longer. Test doneness by knocking with knuckles to see if you get a hollow sound. Brush top of bread with butter when it comes out of oven.

Note

The 1/2 cup of butter is more than enough for the cinnamon rolls if you are making 1/3 of the recipe into cinnamon rolls. I used the rest to butter the pans and to brush on the top of the dinner rolls and the bread.

If you are making more than 1/3 of the dough into cinnamon rolls, increase the sugar/cinnamon ratios for the topping.

I have described the three things I did with this dough. Making a good sized loaf of bread, a dozen cloverleaf dinner rolls and a dozen cinnamon rolls. Of course, there is nothing to prevent you from making all cinnamon rolls, all dinner rolls, or whatever you wish. The bread and dinner rolls should freeze nicely. The cinnamon rolls are problematic because of the sugar. And of course you can add raisins or dried fruit or seeds or nuts to the dinner rolls and bread.

This is a recipe with tremendous flexibility.

Have fun!