Grandma’s Zucchini Rounds

A general request from my friend (also named Kathy) for breakfast muffins that contain zucchini prompted me to offer Grandma’s Zucchini Round recipe. During my childhood, I spent at least one week a summer with Pop-Pop and her, and as such was exposed to various vagaries of her kitchen. Because zucchini is abundant in New Jersey in the summertime, she often made these, and I found them tasty then as I do now.

As with her recipe for cole slaw, I will include it below exactly as she wrote it, then follow up with my own notes.

ZUCCHINI ROUNDS

1/4 c. BISCUIT MIX
1/8 c. PARMESAN CHEESE (GRATED)
1 EGG – SLIGHTLY BEATEN
1 c. SHREDDED UNPARED ZUCCHINI
1 TBSP OLEO

Mix together biscuit mix & cheese. Stir in beaten egg. Fold in Zucchini. Melt oleo in skillet. Using 2 tbsp. mixture for each round, cook about 2 or 3 min. on each side or until brown. Makes 6 rounds.

  • By “biscuit mix,” Grandma means Bisquick. Now, if you’re a real baker, you can figure out how to approximate this without resorting to the mix. Me? I use the shortcut.
  • By “unpared” she means “not peeled.” I find that this term is not used broadly anymore in recipes. As to how you actually cut up the zucchini – I have tried different preparations, but the easiest is to use a veggie peeler to just peel pieces, or to use a mandolin.
  • By “oleo” she means “margarine.” Margarine has never entered my adult household. I don’t believe in it. You can prep the pan with either butter or oil or a combo thereof.

Finally, I find this mix to be dry (and, of course, lumpy) and I often have trouble making as much out of it as she indicates. I don’t know if she used huge eggs or what. Sometimes I have added a bit of water or milk to loosen things up a bit, however, the zucchini does add water, so be judicious. You can also play with the amount of zucchini if you want less zucchini laden cakes.

Serve with butter (mmm). Because these are savory, you can do them for breakfast or lunch, or as a dinner side dish.

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AT&T and My Superpower

I believe every normal human has at least one superpower, and perhaps more. I have identified in myself at least two:

  1. Free liquor
  2. The ability to identify what (famous) voices are used to narrate commercials.

More on #1 in some other entry.

Re: #2, please note that I’m not claiming to know the name of every voice-over actor. There are lots of them out there, and I don’t know those voices by name. No, I mean when a well-known actor, narrates something, usually a commercial, I can identify them from the sound of their voice. This is a useless talent, but like most normal human superpowers, it makes for good cocktail conversation.

For example, do you know that Kevin Spacey is the voice on Honda ads? Or how about those Michigan tourism ads? That’s Tim Allen.

Usually, this power kicks in on the first or second hearing of a given commercial. But recently, there was a campaign that stumped me for quite awhile. Then, one day, on the umpteenth hearing, it struck me. Take a watch – recognize the voice?

 

It’s Peter Krause! Now that I’ve figured it out, I hear these ads all the time, and I mean ALL THE TIME. However, I got an email from Free the Internet this morning that indicates that this merger may not come to pass.

I have to say I’m kinda glad that T-Mobile and AT&T might not merge, although I’m sorry that Pete will lose the incredible $ he must be making from this campaign.

Practice Exercises – Nothing to see here.

I recently published some practice blog posts because I’m prepping to take the Word “Office Specialist” Exam, and that’s what the exercises have you do. Perhaps a blog entry about why I’m prepping to take the exam and what’s going on might be worthwhile, but I must run. Sorry for any false alarms or excitement caused by posting about the Walla Walla symphony or whatever that was.

Grandma’s Coleslaw

In the post-parental-divorce aftermath, my father (with whom I lived) felt it important that my maternal grandparents remain a presence in my life, and as such, they were frequent guests in our home. I may well have seen Grandma and Pop-Pop in the company of my father as much as in the company of my mother (although I didn’t live with mom, I spent at least one day a week with her).

In any case, it must not have been easy to host your former in-laws in your home, so making conversation, I’m sure, was quite an art. Grandma and Pop-Pop probably felt equally unsure, so there was a lot of talk of weather, traffic, and of course, food. Never one to go to someone else’s house empty-handed (something ingrained in me and foreign to my husband, but that’s another subject), Grandma would usually bring a side dish or a dessert with her when they came for dinner.

About 17 years ago, when I moved into my first apartment, Grandma gave me a pad of hand-written recipes. Included was (and I quote) “Grandma’s Coleslaw.” I’m sure she included this because my father had raved about this coleslaw so often and so loudly. I mentioned this to my father recently and he said “I sure got a lot of mileage out of liking that coleslaw.”

 

So, for your info and entertainment, I bring to you this recipe as written by Grandma, who left us in 2007 at the age of 90.  I make this several times every summer, tweaking each time, mostly in preparation methods, not in ingredients.  It was written in all caps – not all of her recipes were, so I bring it to you as intended:

GRANDMA’S COLESLAW

1 SM HEAD CABBAGE
1 SM CARROT
1 SM ONION
MAYONNAISE
SM AMT VINEGAR
CELERY SALT – CELERY SEED

GRATE (OR CHOP) CABBAGE, CARROT AND ONION. TOSS WITH OTHER INGRE (TO DESIRED CONSISTENCY).

That’s it. No measurements, no portions, no real advice. So, I have, over time, learned some things about preparation through trial and error.

For the veggies

First, I use the food processor to prepare the cabbage, carrot, and onion. I use slicing discs for the cabbage and carrot, and then just chop the onion using the blade. you may also use a grater to grate the onion – the point is you don’t want to get a bite-sized piece of onion. I have also used green shallots instead of onion just for grins because my local produce market has them.

Next, Cook’s Illustrated has developed a method of salting, draining, and rinsing the cabbage/carrot/onion so that the slaw is less watery. I will not include those directions here, because I didn’t develop them and don’t own them. I recommend you join http://www.cooksillustrated.com and search on “coleslaw.”

For the dressing

I use apple cider vinegar instead of plain ole white distilled to take some edge off. Also, I mix all the dressing ingredients separately to taste before adding to the veggies. As to proportion, depending on how much cabbage we’re talking about, I’d say between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of mayo, and then between 1.5 tsp and 1 tbs of vinegar (again, to taste). Oh, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but unless you make your own mayo, the only mayonnaise to use is Best Foods/Hellmann’s; don’t even think about that Miracle Whip crap. Grandma herself will come back to haunt you.

Finish off with the celery seed and celery salt in the dressing before you mix w/cabbage. Because you are using celery salt, there is no need for regular salt, and it’s these two ingredients that make the difference, in my opinion. Also, you’ll note there’s no sugar! I cannot tell you how disappointed I am when I eat coleslaw that’s been sweetened. YUCK!

And let us try before we die to make some sense of life

I was going to start by saying “this was a week of mixed emotions,” but I realize that description fits most weeks.

So let me start again.

Work/home wise, not much happened this week, but I was looking forward to Friday, because we had tickets to the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Candide. Honestly, I’m not sure if I had actually seen a production of Candide before; I know I had never seen one live, but we may have watched one in Freshman Seminar. Regardless, I became a huge fan of the music just post-college, when Bernstein recorded his studio version. In particular, I’ve been in love with the finale, Make Our Garden Grow, since I first heard that recording. Musically, it’s almost Nirvana for a choral singer: lots of interesting harmony, great use of range, and you know, loud. Lyrically, it makes me melt. The gist is that the lead character has been spending his whole life searching for happiness, and has essentially learned that well, you make your own happiness through work, and making the best of life. I know, I know, this is really Voltaire and not Bernstein per se, but I’m a sucker for this arrangement and really it captures how I try to live:

You’ve been a fool
And so have I,
But come and be my wife.
And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow…
And make our garden grow.
I thought the world
Was sugar cake
For so our master said.
But, now I’ll teach
My hands to bake
Our loaf of daily bread.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow…
And make our garden grow.
Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can’t be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!

Of course I bawled as the cast sang this number. I can’t help it. They were tears of joy, however, and as we made our way to Palomino to meet friends who had been to see the Love Markets show (and indeed members of the Love Markets) I had the warm glow of finally being able to see my favorite music staged. But, we received some bad news there; Michael Orias, the manager of Tula’s, had died that day. Jim and Alicia DeJoie were also at Palomino, and I had gone with them to visit Michael in the hospital the night before. We knew it didn’t look good for him, but we had high hopes.

Michael was a fascinating human being. He had lived a really interesting life, and each time I talked to him I learned more about him. He was a big part of the reason that Tula’s became like a second home to me. He always took care of me, making sure I had food and drink, and we talked and gossiped and laughed, and long story short, I shall miss him.

I think it fitting that I heard Make Our Garden Grow just before hearing the news about Michael. It helped put things in perspective. I really believe that he made sense of his own life and did the best he knew.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, and That’s a Good Thing

Over the past week, the Seattle Choral Company had the good fortune to perform with the Seattle Symphony Pops and Marvin Hamlisch in a concert version of The Music Man. Ashley Brown was playing Marian Paroo, and as we were standing onstage for most of the show, I got to watch her sing “My White Knight” from about four feet away for five performances. Consequently, I had a lot of time to think about the lyrics:

My White Knight, not a Lancelot, nor an angel with wings
Just someone to love me, who is not ashamed of a few nice things.

All I want is a plain man
All I want is a modest man
A quiet man, a gentle man
A straightforward and honest man
To sit with me in a cottage somewhere in the state of Iowa.

All the while, I was standing there thinking “Oh, so really she wants to live with a nice gay man, then.” Of course, this is not what she wants, given that she then goes on to fall madly in love with the most dynamic, self-centered, womanizing, fastest-talking man she’s ever met.

Last night, as I lay sleepless, presumably because of the left over adrenaline, I thought about how this really is a nice little lesson about most things in life. I remembered how, when I was working on Windows Media Player, our marketing team would tell us what customers wanted, based on what they had said. Designing features based on this input alone almost always turned out either incomplete, or just plain useless. However, when we did usability studies that actually watched how people used things, that was much more helpful.

Last week, we watched an episode of “This Emotional Life” about happiness. There’s a lot discussed in this show, but one thing in particular is we, as humans, are not particularly good at predicting happiness, because when we achieve what we’ve wanted to, we strive for the next thing. One of the secrets to happiness is to be satisfied with what we have, and we tend to be most satisfied when we don’t see any alternatives.

In the last few years I’ve taken this to heart. I’ve really been mostly quite content…right up until my nearly perfect job went all haywire last year. Even then, I was quite content to leave, because I was confident about what was next…I just didn’t know what it was. Now, the not knowing is a bit overwhelming and the confidence is waning. In some ways, being able to wish for something concrete would be good, because it would give me focus. And yet, I know that getting what you wish for is rarely a good thing.

So, when you’re not where you want to be, but you don’t know where you want to be is, where are you?

Quick tip for scheduling odd appointment times in Outlook 2010

Note, if you’re reading this on Facebook, you probably cannot see the nifty screenshots that illustrate my points. To see the original post, go to: http://kathdem.spaces.live.com

One of the cool additions to the calendar in Outlook 2010 is the zoom functionality. This is also seen in other Office apps, like Word, but I like to use it in the calendar because it means I can quickly and easily schedule appointments in 15 or even 10 minute increments.

For example, when I want to make a 1/2 hour appointment in the calendar, it is (and always has been) super easy:

Select a 1/2 hour block with your mouse:

Then, right click and choose “New Appointment” or click the New Appointment button.

But, if I wanted to create a 15 minute or 45 minute appointment:

I had to click “New Appointment” then manually type in the start and end times, a la:

With the zoom functionality, however, I can quickly modify the increments in the calendar view down to 15, 10, 6, or 5 minute slots:

At 100% (normal) increments default to 30 minutes:

At 110% they move to 15 minutes:

At 120% they move to 10 minutes:

…and so on.

There’s a bonus, which is that you have tasks that you want to schedule time for, and they’re in your task pane (below the calendar), you can drag them into the smaller increments.

For instance, I’ve scheduled a task to pay my American Express bill on a particular day, and that only takes a few minutes.

In the shot below, I’ve dragged into a 10 minute slot at 11 AM (you’ll note that the task remains in the task pane even after dragging, because the scheduling of a task is a separate activity than the task itself):

You can download/install the Beta of Office 2010 from here: http://www.microsoft.com/office/2010/en/default.aspx.