Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini!

zucchini bread | The Lush's Blush blog
Homemade zucchini bread

Garden season is here at last and we’ve got tons of zucchini and yellow squash coming in. I’m on a mission to incorporate these fresh veggies into as many meals as possible.

So far, we’ve had zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, chicken stir fry with zucchini and squash, fried squash, pasta Primavera, zucchini risotto and a concoction I put together with the left over stir fry rice which included sauteed zucchini, squash and onions, a can of black beans, diced tomatoes, green chilies and cheddar cheese. It was very tasty.

The zucchini fritters were Morgan’s creation and they were delicious. We served them with a London Broil we coated in a dry rub and seared on the grill.

Morgan’s Zucchini Fritters

Ingredients:

• One large zucchini, grated

• 1/4 of an onion, finely minced

• 2 eggs, beaten

• about 2/3 cup flour

• salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Grate zucchini into a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let sit for about 10-15 min. Then put the grated zucchini in cheese cloth or a kitchen towel that you don’t mind turning green, and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Place grated and drained zucchini into a large mixing bowl. Add to the bowl two eggs beaten, onion, flour, salt and pepper. You may need more or less flour depending on how loose the mixture is. Mix every thing together then spoon into a preheated nonstick pan with a couple table spoons of butter melted in it. Cook until golden brown on first side then flip and flatten with a spatula. Once they are brown on both sides they are done. Season with a little extra salt and pepper immediately after removing from the pan.

London broil and zucchini fritters | The Lush's Blush blog
London broil and zucchini fritters

 

 

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Out of office

The Lush's Blush blogSeveral years ago I had a job that I didn’t like very much. Looking back on that experience now, I know that part of the problem was my attitude. It was easier to complain about stuff than to just put on a smile and make the best of things. At any rate, during that time, I pretty much LIVED for the moment when I could turn on the out of office reply on my email and clock out for a vacation. Whether it was a long weekend or an entire week off, the moment of pure bliss came when I turned the out of office reply on.

I’ve recently been seeing a meme circulating that says something like, “Create a life you don’t need a vacation from.” I can certainly see the wisdom in that statement and at the same time, I disagree with it.

I am happily now at a place where I really like my job. And I love my life overall. But guess what, I still love to go on vacation!

There is great satisfaction in getting a job done whether that is your actual “day job” that makes you money or just jobs around the house like keeping the laundry clean and the living room vacuumed. But there is also great satisfaction in having a few days, or maybe even an entire week, where you have none of those responsibilities.

And so once again, that blissful moment is so near, when I shall turn on the out of office reply.

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Luckiest girl in the world

Country fried steak | The Lush's Blush blogI often tell my husband that I am the luckiest girl in the world because I have him in my life. He usually smirks and says that he’s sure there are other girls who are luckier than I. I used to say, yeah, maybe Kate Middleton. She is awfully lucky.

Last week, however, I changed my mind about even that. My husband made the most delicious country fried steak, creamed potatoes, and garlic green beans. It was a classic country dinner. I bet that Kate Middleton’s never even had it before. And so, therefore, I have concluded that I am, indeed, the luckiest girl in the world.

The funny think about my intense love of this meal is that country fried steak has never been one of my favorite dishes. I was either super hungry that night or Morgan did something extra special to the steak because I gobbled it all up and went back for more.

The recipe, he said, is very simple. He dredged the cube steak in flour seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder and fried it up. Using some reserved seasoned flour, he made a delicious gravy, which we ate on slices of bread after all the steak was gone.

The green beans he sauteed in olive oil with lots of minced garlic. He cooked the garlic just to the point of it being crispy, but not overcooked. It was so good!

Lettuce and onions

Lettuce and onions | The Lush's Blush blog
Lettuce and onions, also known as a wilted salad.

If I say “lettuce and onions” that likely means the start of a salad, or maybe toppings for a burger to most people. Where I’m from in Yadkin County, NC, it means something a little bit different. This time of year, in the early spring, lettuce and onions is a special treat.

When that early lovely light green lettuce and spring onions come in the garden, Yadkin County folks pick them and serve them sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, vinegar and piping hot oil poured on top. It seems like such a simple thing, but there is something about this dish that just tastes like springtime and it is so delicious. Some folks choose to use bacon grease to create this wilted salad.

I did a quick survey of some friends near and far and sure enough, those from outside the Yadkin County area just thought lettuce and onions are burger toppings. My Yadkin County friends were quick to answer though on how to prepare lettuce and onions as described above.

We typically serve lettuce and onions with pinto beans and cornbread. I remember my Mamma making this when I was little. It was always one of her very favorite meals. She’d always shoo me out of the kitchen when she was heating up the oil in the cast iron skillet. She didn’t want me anywhere near the hot oil though she wasn’t afraid of it herself. I think maybe that’s when I really felt like a true adult myself, is the first time I made lettuce and onions my own self. There is something so satisfying about the sound of that hot oil as it sizzles on the lettuce.

A beautiful ratatouille

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Homemade ratatouille

I confess that my husband and I are not the healthiest of eaters. We like fried stuff, preferably topped with cheese and bacon. But sometimes you just have to eat your veggies!

If you’re going to eat veggies in abundance, why not also make it beautiful.

A few weeks ago my sweet husband made us the most beautiful vegetarian meal. It was so lovely we almost didn’t want to mess it up by serving it. But we did, and it was delicious. I confess that we did add a little cheese though!

The real trick to making this dish so beautiful is having patience to layer the vegetable slices. I imagine it would taste just as good though if you forgo the precise design and just dump them in the dish.

So here’s how to make

Morgan’s Beautiful Ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • 1 eggplant, thinly sliced
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine chopped onion, garlic, tomato paste and water in a large casserole dish. Place thinly sliced vegetables in a rotating pattern atop the sauce. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Cover with parchment paper and bake for one hour at 350 degrees. Serve with pasta if desired and sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

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Fresh veggies gleam with olive oil just before heading to the oven to make a delicious ratatouille.

Aunt Grace’s Lemon Pound Cake

Easter Dinner | The Lush's Blush blog
Easter Dinner
We had a wonderful Easter dinner a few Sundays ago. We prepared all the traditional southern favorites, ham, green beans corn, creamed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, ambrosia salad and pound cake for dessert.

As a kid I don’t remember thinking pound cake was all that special. It didn’t have fancy icing, maybe a glaze, but sometimes not even that.

Now that I’m an adult, or so they tell me, pound cake is one of my favorite desserts. No, it may not be fancy and I actually don’t even put a glaze on mine, but there’s something about it that just tastes like home.

The recipe I always make was given to my Mamma by her Aunt Grace. Both Mamma and Aunt Grace are no longer on this earth with us in body, but I sense their spirits always. And especially when I make this cake.

Great Aunt Grace’s Lemon Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Crisco
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp lemon flavoring

Directions

Cream sugar and Crisco together. Add eggs one at a time. Add salt and baking powder to flour and sift together. Add flour mixture and milk to batter, alternating between the two and mixing until combined. Add flavoring. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Lemon Pound Cake | The Lush's Blush blog
Aunt Grace’s Lemon Pound Cake

Raffaldini Vineyards

A few weekends ago my husband and I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon doing a wine and cheese tasting with some friends. One of our stops was Raffaldini. I have to say that this winery boasts the most beautiful view of any in the Yadkin Valley.

It’s likely quite a shock for first time visitors. You find yourself in what seems to be the middle of nowhere in a little corner of Wilkes County. You drive up a gravel road and at the end of it, an Italian villa awaits. You walk through a lovely garden pathway, pass a little fish pond and round the corner of the villa. There you catch a glimpse of the vineyard with a most stunning view of the mountains in the distance.

This vineyard is well-known for its wines as well its scenic views. They frequently have weddings here. Here are a few gorgeous shots from my friend Mary’s wedding.

And now, to the wines! Raffaldini is the only vineyard in our region that produces solely Italian style wines. On our last visit, our tasting host Mikaela described some of the unique processes that are used to produce the wines. The grapes used in the 2013 Montepulciano Riserva are dried slightly before being processed. This is called appassimento, Mikaela explained, and is meant to replicate the drier conditions these grapes actually grow in in Italy.

The Montepulciano Riserva was definitely one of my favorites as was their blend known as Bella Misto. Mikaela suggested pairing the Montepulciano Riserva with a dark chocolate.

Raffaldini boasts a wonderful patio area with fantastic view of the vineyard and mountains beyond. It is definitely a must see if you are planning a visit to the Yadkin Valley Wine Region.

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Wine tasting with a dear friend at Raffaldini a few summers ago.

 

Cookbook Review: Man Made Meals

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BBQ Pork Burgers from the Man Made Cookbook

My husband’s birthday was last month and I got him a copy of Steven Raichlen’s cookbook called Man Made Meals. Truthfully this was a pretty self-serving present for me to give my husband as I will benefit greatly from it when I get to eat all the yummy stuff he makes.

We have already enjoyed two delicious recipes from the book. The first recipe Morgan tried was the BBQ Pork Burgers. Instead of using ground beef, these burgers are made from ground pork and bacon, topped with slaw and BBQ sauce. Morgan also made homemade sweet potato fries to accompany the burgers. It was delicious. Did I mention there’s bacon in it??? Yum!

This morning for breakfast, Morgan whipped up the drop biscuit recipe from Man Made Meals, to accompany our bacon gravy and cheesy scrambled eggs. Another big hit!

If you have a man (or anyone in your life) who enjoys cooking, I would highly recommend this book. It has tons of great recipes and tips on cooking and prepping techniques.

A lot of the “man” type cookbooks I’ve come across seem more geared toward men who don’t like to cook or know to cook. While this book does have plenty of tips on basic food prep, it also has some pretty advanced meals. I would definitely recommend this book for the person who really likes to cook.

the
Drop biscuits from the Man Made Cookbook

Windsor Run Cellars

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Wine with friends at Windsor Run Cellars

At the risk of repeating myself and always saying how unique our Yadkin Valley wineries are, I just have to say Windsor Run Cellars is so unique. It is fantastic to live in an area with a plethora of wineries (and isn’t it always a good day when you get to use the word “plethora.”) But truly, what is so great about our wine region is that each winery really has its own style and personality.

Windsor Run Cellars is particularly  special as they are the only winery in the area (maybe even the state?) that is also a distillery. Not only can you taste wonderful wines here, you can also sample some brandies as well. I will admit that the fortified beverages are a bit too much for me, but it is still such a neat experience.

Last Sunday we visited Windsor Run during a cheese tasting event and we had such fun. They were serving up samples of a delicious bleu cheese from the Ashe County Cheese Company. 

Two of my favorite wines from Windsor Run are actually not wine-flavored at all. Windsor Run features several really unusual wines and one of those is actually an Apple Mead.They typically serve it chilled during the tasting, but they recommend serving it warm also, especially during the holidays. It is actually a fermented apple drink with spices like cinnamon and clove right in the mix. It literally tastes like autumn.

I found a new favorite while there this weekend. The name of the wine caught my attention immediately, it’s called Island Holiday. Our host for the tasting referred to it as the Jimmy Buffet of wines. I’m a huge parrot-head so I knew I had to try this one.

The nose on this wine (that means how it smells) is literally tanning lotion. That might be a problem for some, but not me. Just a whiff of this wine and it took me back to my teenage years sitting on the shore and coating myself down in Banana Boat or Hawaiian Tropic. I love that smell. I never thought I could drink that smell, but I can and I did and I bought a bottle to go! The wine is a Cabernet Franc blended with pineapple, mango and coconut.

This wine is a vacation in a bottle. This wine would be great to take on vacation, and also great if it’s the middle of winter and you are wishing you were on vacation somewhere tropical!

Another really special thing about all of the wineries in what is known as the Swan Creek region, is that they are smack dab in the middle of Amish Country. It is not unusual to see a horse and buggy going by. We saw just that as we were leaving on Sunday. It’s not a great picture because this guy was moving along at a pretty good clip, but I wanted to share it anyway.

Until next time, wine wishes and sparkly dreams from yours truly!

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A horse and buggy trots down the road near Windsor Run Cellars

 

 

Laurel Gray Vineyards

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Wine tasting fun with friends at Laurel Gray Vineyards

On Sunday my husband and I went wine and cheese tasting with friends and our first stop of the day was Laurel Gray Vineyards.

The vineyards of the Swan Creek area within the Yadkin Valley Wine Region hosted a joint wine and cheese pairing event featuring the Ashe County cheeses.

Laurel Gray is such a sweet little place. It’s a lovely little cottage surrounded by rose bushes and a duck pond. Of course, in early March those roses have yet to bloom, but it’s still a wonderful experience to sample wines there.

 

Do a Virtual wine tasting at Laurel Gray!

Though not typically a white wine drinker, I do love their Viognier and came home with a bottle. This is just a lovely light, crisp and clean wine that would be perfect for sipping on the front porch this summer.

All of the dry reds at Laurel Gray are extremely good as well. Perhaps one of the most unique wines they offer is called Encore. Encore is a dessert wine that is actually infused with black raspberries and chocolate! Need I say more?

Another thing I love about Laurel Gray is they have entire line of dips and sauces. As you do the wine tasting you are also given little samples of the dips and sauces to try. It really makes for such a neat experience.

If you’re ever in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region of North Carolina, I highly recommend a stop in at Laurel Gray Vineyards!

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Super cute tea towel at Laurel Gray Vineyards