Kay Wheeler Moore

Welcome to my blog

Hello. . .

The Newfangled Country Gardener is for anyone who has a garden, would like to have a garden, or who simply enjoys eating the garden-fresh way. I don't claim to be an expert; in this blog I'm simply sharing some of the experiences my husband and I have in preparing food that is home-grown.

About the author

Kay Wheeler Moore is the author of a new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, that features six generations of recipes that call for ingredients that are fresh from the garden. With home gardening surging in popularity as frugal people become more resourceful, this recipe collection and the stories that accompany it ideally will inspire others to cook the garden-fresh way and to preserve their own family food stories as well. The stories in this book center around the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (Kay's mother and aunts) who grew up in Delta County, TX, with their own backyard garden so lavish that they felt as though they were royalty after their Mama wielded her kitchen magic on all that was homegrown. Introduced in Kay's previous book, Way Back in the Country, the lively Miller Girls again draw readers into their growing-up world, in which a stringent economic era--not unlike today's tight times--saw people turn to the earth to put food on the table for their loved ones. The rollicking yarns (all with recipes attached) have love, family, and faith as common denominators and show how food evocatively bonds us to our life experiences.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Just when I thought our chance had passed, cucumbers saved the best 'till last!

The cries of victory likely could be heard to the next county--or to the next back yard, at least.

"We have one!" I heard Hubby exult somewhere amid the large expanse of vine in the middle of the garden. "It really did produce this year."

The cucumber vines had been gorgeous--all green and growing and huge. One would think that from them we'd have enough cucumbers to supply everyone in our hometown, or at least to make enough bread-and-butters to give to the family.

But alas! For weeks now, no cucumbers had turned up. Almost daily hubby would peer and paw around for some sign of life. The vines continued to spread out and become more lush, but very forelornly he would return from his hunt. No baby cukes under there.

That's what made this week's cry of joy from somewhere under the cucumber vines such a shock. We'd given up. Isn't that the way things just go? A popular song from a few years back sums things up pretty well: "Just when I thought our chance had passed, you went and saved the best 'till last."

Here as the summer moves on toward its finale, cucumbers--which usually are history at this point in the year--are starting to show. Just when time to plant the fall garden draws near, the cucumbers show promise (he says more blossoms are growing near the cucumber that's burst forth.)

But that's not all. Watermelons and cantaloupe are experiencing a late start as well. The watermelon vine, at this late date, has three promising melons and numerous other possibilities. The cantaloupe might have a late-summer bumper crop, too. Isn't life amazing?

Last night we celebrated our late-bloomer cuke with one of my all-time favorite cucumber dishes--Fried Cucumbers (prepared just like Fried Green Tomatoes) from my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden. We shouldn't have, but Hubby and I were so ecstatic that the cucumbers had "made" this year, we poured a tiny bit of ketchup on and ate the whole bloomin' plate full.

Fried Cucumbers

4 medium cucumbers, washed, peeled, and sliced crosswise in thin slices
2 eggs, beaten (we use egg substitute)
1 cup milk (we use skim milk)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt (we use salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
olive oil

Wash, peel, an slice fresh cucumbers. A few at a time, dip cucumber slices in a mixture of beaten eggs combined with milk. Place flour and corn meal in a clear plastic zip bag; add salt and pepper. Into bag place cucumbers that have been dipped in egg-mik mixture. In skillet heat about 1-inch oil. Fry coated cucumbers in hot oil. Fry as you would fried green tomatoes.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Even without a partridge, new pear tree yields fruit for delicious cake

No, our pear tree has no partridge, but that's about the only thing it lacks.

Were we excited when we looked out our patio door and spotted the telltale signs of growth on our relatively new pear, which we have had in the ground only about two years!

"They'll be small this year," Hubby projected, ever optimistically, about the expected fruit. "Next year will probably be its year to shine."

Happily he was wrong. The small green projections kept growing and burgeoning--until they suddenly became the size of those you see in the grocery store produce aisle. They even sported a trace of characteristic amber blush, as though they were straight out of a still-life painting. Just beautiful. We admired and admired--but didn't pick. They still were way too firm to the touch.

"They'll ripen up soon," Hubby projected.

Wrong again. The pears just kept hanging there; they weighed down the branches. Birds began eyeing them longingly, or so we feared.

As a test case we brought one of the fruit in and set it on the window ledge to ripen. Works for peaches, why not pears? A few days passed. The supposedly ripening pear still was like a brick--a beautiful brick, but decidedly non-edible. Hubby tried to cut up one to use in a smoothie--bad choice.

Good ole Google. I entered my question, "How do I get pears to ripen?" Instant comfort--I wasn't the first to struggle with this dilemma. Google empathized and furnished me the answer to someone's similar query: Place unripened pears in a brown paper bag, keep bag closed, store away from light in a dry place. To speed things along, alongside them in the bag place another already ripe fruit. All this we did; our bagged pears hid out with a ripened apple.

Two days later--fulfillment! Wonderfully soft pears, thoroughly ripe and ready for a smoothie, Hubby supposed. Not so fast, I told him. I pulled out my Pear Cake recipe (from my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden). The first time I baked this cake years ago, I did so with pears from my neighbor's orchard. This time I wanted the privilege of using my own.

The recipe suggests baking the cake either in a tube pan or loaf pans; I chose the loaf pans so I could make two--one for now and one to freeze to take to my daughter next month when New Grandboy arrives. Then I added a glaze--not mentioned in Way Back in the Country Garden but a favorite that I like to use to give breakfast breads or loaf cakes a little something special.

The resulting cake with its fresh pear morsels was such a gift, I felt as though I'd been handed the partridge, two turtledoves, three French hens, four calling birds, and five golden rings all tied up in one special package.

Pear Cake

3 cups chopped pears
2 cups sugar (I used sugar substitute)
1 cup oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs (I used egg substitute)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt (I used salt substitute)
1 cup pecans, chopped

Mix first three ingredients; let stand for one hour. Beat eggs and add to pear mixture. Sift all dry ingredients together and add to pear mixture. Add chopped pecans. Pour into greased and floured tube pan or two loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup orange juice

Mix ingredients in bowl. Immediately when the cake is out of the oven, use toothpick to pierce the cake all over, but don't leave the toothpick in the cake. Spoon glaze over each loaf. Allow to cool in pans.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Dog- (aka okra-pickin'-every-day) days of summer are here again

The hot, sticky, okra-pickin'-every-day, dog days of summer clearly are at hand.

In a predictable ritual now, each late afternoon Hubby exits carrying his paring knife, gloves, and plastic bag and heads to the garden to see what's ready on the okra rows.

To be usable for cooking at all, new okra pods must be removed quickly from the plant. Let them stay a day too long, and they're tough as leather; the knife can hardly hack its way through the pod to slice the okra to prepare for a meal. (When this happens, hubby throws the hardened okra on the ground, knowing the pod will leave seeds for the next year's garden.)

At this point many gardeners let their okra go to seed or chop down the mighty plants that by now are as tall as a person. Okra-pickin', at this stage, is not necessarily a joyful task. Sweltering days combined with the itchy okra leaves can make for some unpleasantness. Many okra-pickers find they must wear long-sleeves to avoid succumbing to the itchiness. Interestingly, cutting the okra is like deadheading a rose or a geranium--removing the new pods simply makes more grow in their place.

But I have far too many favorite as well as untried okra recipes remaining in my file to turn my back on this harvest. (As I mentioned in an earlier blog, on years that we don't grow okra, we always regret the lack thereof.)

Plus in my refrigerator I had some ears of fresh corn that needed to be used up in a recipe. Hubby's most recent trek to the garden gave me reason to prepare Okra Creole, a divine veggie combination (okra, corn, tomatoes, onion, green peppers) that holds a place of honor in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden. (In the Vegetable Side section of the cookbook it is the first one listed.)

Hubby and I used it Boldto top some leftover pasta we had in the refrigerator. The next night (we loved it so much, we prepared it two nights in a row--with fresh okra each night) we served it over crumbled (low-sodium) tortilla chips. For tonight's leftovers we may serve it over brown rice, but it's wonderful on its own without using it as any kind of extras.

With more dog/okra days undoubtedly ahead, many more trips to the okra "grove" undoubtedly are in Hubby's future.

Okra Creole

3 or 4 slices bacon (I use turkey bacon)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons bacon drippings (I use 3 tablespoons olive oil)
18 okra pods, sliced
2 fresh tomatoes, sliced, or 1 cup canned tomatoes, undrained (if canned, I use the no-salt-added variety)
1 cup fresh corn
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning (I use salt-free, such as Mrs. Dash)

In large skillet fry 3 or 4 slice bacon. Reserve 3 tablespoons bacon drippings and let it remain in skillet. Crumble bacon. In skillet saute onion and pepper. Return crumbled bacon to skillet. Add sliced okra pods, tomatoes, corn, and seasonings. Simmer covered for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Christmas in July arrives with cauliflower/avocado medley

Some people do their Christmas shopping early. I do my Christmas-recipe planning well in advance.

Already I've been making notations in the margins of recipes, "Prepare for this year's Christmas buffet." I've scoped out recipes that in one way or another seem to lend themselves to potlucks that pop up at holiday time. Such invitations, though received joyfully, usually are accompanied by a frantic, frustrated sigh: "What in the world can I fix to take?"

I try to anticipate the holiday crunch and help myself out a little. Naturally now would be too early to prepare and freeze a dish, but at least during crunch-time maybe I can find my anticipatory notes to myself and already have a plan in place.

Nothing about Cauliflower Avocado Bake immediately conjures up "Jingle Bells", but the Christmas colors of this vegetable medley (not to mention the absolutely delightful flavor combination of this surprising mixture) would make it a true joy for a holiday take-a-dish event.

I had some leftover cauliflower from when I prepared "Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad" from Truett Welborn's cookbook that honored his mother, Neta (mentioned in my last week's blog.) Hubby looked in the vegetable compartment of the fridge and remarked, "Don't forget the rest of the cauliflower. We need to use it before it goes bad." True, cauliflower rapidly shows its age by getting brown spots or darkened areas. What could I throw together quickly to use up the leftover cauliflower bunch? I didn't have any occasions in which I needed to prepare a veggie tray to cut it up for munchies.

Under my "cauliflower" section of "Celebrating a Healthy Harvest" I found instructions for Cauliflower Avocado Bake. Cauliflower and avocado? Whoever heard of pairing those two? But avocado can make anything better. I decided to try it. Then the colors starting arraying themselves: the green for the avocado, green pepper, green onions, and parsley; the red from the red pepper; white from the cauliflower. Plus grated cheddar cheese on top (every casserole--at Christmas or otherwise--needs a little cheese topping, right?)

Like every other recipe that I prepare from my "Healthy Harvest" booklet, the results were highly unusual and extremely good. The melted cheddar cheese linked the cauliflower and avocado in a seamless flavor combo. As I mentioned earlier, the holiday colors represented the crowning touch. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"--Christmas is just five months away! Recipe-wise, I'm ready!

Cauliflower Avocado Bake

1 large cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), broken into florets
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 tablespoons cooking oil
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small green pepper, cut into thin strips
4 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Steam or boil cauliflower 5 minutes until tender; drain. Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish. Spread cauliflower evenly in pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; top with avocado chunks. In a skillet over medium heat saute peppers 3 minutes or until softened. Stir in green onions, parsley, and garlic; cook 2 minutes more. Spread mixture over cauliflower; top with grated cheese. Bake 20 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yes, you can adapt old unhealthy recipes to the more health-conscious era today

I admit that at first, I was a little deflated. No blackberries at this farmer's market, after the signs for miles along the road specifically promised me I'd find them there. Out for the rest of the season, the proprietors told me.

Then, on looking further, I found something that replaced my disappointment with joy. Fresh apricots--sometimes considered one of nature's most delightful creations. Years had gone by since I had prepared that special apricot recipe that makes the most average cook look like Paula Deen--a bit time-consuming, yes, but the results are outta-sight good.

So, amid hubby's protests of "I hope we use them up", I smugly placed a pound and a half of fresh apricots on the clerk's checkout table. I had a plan; I knew just how I'd execute it.

I first had to dig out the recipe from the brown-stained pages of my cookbook, Flavor Favorites (circa 1979), containing favorite alumni picks of Baylor U, my alma mater. As my husband says of some of my well-dogeared cookbook relics, "That doesn't represent the way we cook any more." True--many cookbooks on my shelf predate today's "cooking-light" era. You can see this as you leaf through them--recipes that are heavy on sauces and rely on canned and pre-packaged items to assemble it.

However, even yesterday's popular, fat-laden recipes can be adapted to a more health-conscious approach. Fat-free evaporated milk, the lighter Neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese, and sugar substitute instead of regular sugar represent adaptations that can make a favorite of bygone days much more suitable to today's healthy-eating needs.

The dough for these baked fried pies is malleable, never sticks to the floured pastry board, rolls out thin, and bakes up into a delightful, flaky pastry to surround the sliced apricots that have been cooked briefly to coat themselves into a light syrup from their own juices. Drizzle a little powdered-sugar icing on top; you have a delicacy that looks as though you purchased it from the most upscale bakery. Best of all these mini-pies freeze superbly, in case you want to sample a few for now and then store them away for later company or an upcoming special event.

So to answer Hubby's concern, yes, we used them up in a heartbeat! One bite into those sweet, juicy mini pies made my find of fresh apricots all the more rewarding--even better than turning up those much-sought blackberries at a roadside stand. Best of all, Hubby took the seeds that emerged after peeling the fresh apricots and planted them in our garden. Now wouldn't that be the most exciting thing ever--if one of them actually decided to grow (to their credit, apricots are said to be even more cold-hardy than peach trees) and some day give us our own apricot orchard!

Baked Apricot Fried Pies

1 pound apricots
1 cup sugar (I use sugar substitute)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I use Neufchatel with less fat content)
1 cup butter, softened (I use no-salt butter)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use salt substitute)
About 1 cup powdered sugar (1 cup when sifted)
evaporated milk (I use fat-free)

Peel and slice apricots. Place in saucepan; pour sugar over. Cook until apricots are tender. Set aside. Blend well the cream cheese, butter, flour and salt. Chill several hours. Roll thin on a floured surface. Cut into 4-inch squares. Place 1 teaspoon apricot mixture in center of each square. Fold square in half; crimp edges. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet; bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Combine powdered sugar and enough evaporated milk to make a glaze. Drizzle over hot pies. Drizzled glaze will harden. Yield: 12-15 mini pies.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Once again in our family, fresh peaches mark a time of celebrating

In our family peaches always have seemed to be synonymous with a celebration; the events of a few days ago were no exception.

In this blog and in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, I write about the Quick Peach Cobbler that once was served when my cousin, Lynda, and her fiance, George, visited our house to discuss their upcoming wedding ceremony. The peaches in that cobbler represented the renewal of our peach orchard, since floods had wiped out our first prolific peach trees some years back.

Earlier this week I stirred up Fresh Peach Muffins on the occasion of another great event. Family and friends from all over gathered here for a baby shower for our daughter, Katie, who's on the verge of giving birth to a baby boy.

I served the muffins to houseguests--our brother- and sister-in-law--who traveled down from Oklahoma to help honor Katie. Biting into these sweet muffins and tasting a peach morsel that hailed from our now-prolific orchard always has been pure delight.

These loved ones' visit produced another reason for celebrating. On Monday we journeyed back across the Red River for the grand opening of the brand-new, $145 million, state-of-the-art Chickasaw Nation Hospital in Ada, OK. Because my hubby and his sister (and all their Moore blood kin) are Chickasaw Nation citizens, the health care that they will be able to obtain from this beautiful medical center will be provided for them at no charge to them. No wonder they wasted no time in taking the grand-opening tour and seeing what this marvelous new facility had to offer them.

In my way of thinking these terrific blessings couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch. My hubby and his two siblings were left without a father when their dad, who actually was born on the old Chickasaw reservation just months before Oklahoma became a state , died an untimely death as the three Moore children were teen-agers. Their widowed mom struggled for years to support, on her own, her children. All three ultimately were college graduates; two obtained advanced degrees. But their early lot was not an easy one. Deprived of a father's love and nurture and provision during their crucial teen-age years, they did not have a family's financial security to undergird them as they were launched into the adult world.

Now, as these three Baby Boomers enter their senior years, the benefits that are theirs through their father's bloodline of his Chickasaw heritage are absolutely astounding. The once-poor tribe today flourishes because of outstanding modern leadership that practices the best of financial stewardship and management. Medical care is but one of the incredible, mind-bogging perks that recently have arrived at their doorsteps as a result of their father's kinship to Chickasaw ancestors (my new cookbook details this in the chapter, "One Smart Indian".) These youngsters who spent anxious years of heartache without a dad's paycheck to give them life's necessities now at long-last are having that made up to them as they become seniors. I can think of no more worthy group of people; I'm thankful that the Lord enabled them to live long enough to see their Chickasaw connection (of which many people once were ashamed because of discriminatory attitudes against Native Americans) bring great blessings to their lives.

Sparkling new hospital wings that offer dental, hearing, and eye care as well as clinics for routine physical exams and testing were proudly toured by our family group. Naturally an emergency room, operating rooms, and critical care areas were a part of the new structure as well. Certainly one can hope that good health will prevail and that the occasions to visit such a place will be few, but the Chickasaw Nation can be proud of having this fine facility for its people in time of need.

Hooray, Fresh Peach Muffins! Once again, you crowned a day well-worth celebrating.

Fresh Peach Muffins

1 egg (we use egg substitute)
1 cup milk (we use skim)
1/4 cup melted shortening
2/3 cup sugar (we use sugar substitute)
1/2 teaspoon salt (we use salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup peeled, chopped, fresh peaches

Beat egg. Stir in milk, shortening, sugar, salt, cinnamon, lemon juice, and vanilla. Sift together flour and baking powder. Stir into milk mixture until all is blended. Do not overmix. Fold in peaches. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until brown. Serve warm.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Great country-fresh recipes get perpetuated with two guys' cookbook exchange

Two males, no less, recently engaged in a highly significant cookbook swap at a meeting of a Garland city governing body.

My hubby--my biggest fan--and his fellow City of Garland Plan Commissioner, Truett Welborn, toted and traded brand-new cookbooks that were near and dear to their hearts. While Truett got to take home to his wife, Linda, a hot-off-the-press copy of Way Back in the Country Garden, Hubby brought me a copy of Neta's Favorites. As a result I acquired a wonderful new country-fresh recipe . . . and confirmed what I've maintained in my own books--that when special recipes are shared, memories of a person go on forever.

Truett's book is one he compiled to honor his mom, Neta Welborn, who died in 2009. Not only was Neta a reputed great cook for her family, she also prepared food for kids at Greenville Senior High School and Lamar School and in her time also was a church hostess. Some of her recipes, such as Neta's Hot Dogs, were original to her and were highly regarded by students in her cafeteria line.

Along with each recipe Truett included one of his mother's favorite maxims, such as "You never know what you can do until you try" (my mother pontificated this one to me as well) and "What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over" (a good warning for those of us who sometimes suffer from "Too Much Information" when we pore over our loved ones' escapades on Facebook.)

The recipe I was happiest to see among those in Neta's collection was one for Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad, which I adore when it's offered at a cafeteria such as Luby's or Furr's but which I never have prepared in my own kitchen. I've always wanted to know just exactly what those cafeteria cooks use in that terrific salad dish, which is just brimming with healthy vegetables.

Now, thanks to Neta (and Truett's work in preserving his mother's masterpieces), all is revealed. Just this past weekend, when we had family members as houseguests, I got to serve Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad (featured below) for the first time. I felt as though I really had accomplished something.

I love what Truett says about his mom: "The reason this recipe book was started was because if your recipes are not shared with your family and friends, they will soon be forgotten, but when they are shared, your memory will go on forever." (Preach on, Brother! Exactly my reason for producing first Way Back in the Country in 2002 and then Way Back in the Country Garden in 2010.)

Best of all he concludes by saying of his mom the same statement I draw about my relatives whom my cookbooks honor: "Most of all I know you loved the Lord and you are now in heaven."

What greater words could ever be spoken--even in a cookbook--of a loved one who's gone before?

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

6 to 8 slices of bacon, fried and crumbled (we used turkey bacon)
1 head broccoli
1 to 2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese
1 cup mushrooms
1 head cauliflower
1 small onion


1 cup light sour cream (we used fat-free)
1 cup light salad dressing or mayonnaise (we used fat-free)
1/2 to 1 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)

Cut broccoli and cauliflower into bite-sized bits. Chop mushrooms. Toss together all salad ingredients. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad. When vegetables are evenly coated, refrigerate at least one hour or overnight before you serve.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Greata"-Tomato-Feta stems tide of tomato deluge

They have us on the run now.

For days we watched for the first green tomatoes to appear on the vines so I could haul them in for Green Gazpacho Soup and other "easy-to-be-green" recipes. Then we eagerly waited for a few to redden so we could slice them and serve them fresh on sandwiches.

Now we're in the typical mid-summer tomato deluge. (Be careful what you pray for.) They're cropping up on the vines faster than we can work them into recipes.

I know, I know. Instantly I could polish a bundle of them off by setting out to put up some of my cousin Jana's Picante Sauce (requiring 5 quarts of tomatoes) or homemade Tomato Sauce (18 tomatoes) that I recommend in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden.

On some other week that might be a great idea. But this is the week of our daughter's baby shower--with deadlines and responsibilities and houseguests in town to observe the impending arrival of that sweet baby boy. Not the week to undertake a leviathan canning effort, although I'd love to do so soon.

That's why I was thrilled to find the recipe for Tomato Feta Pie (spiel off the recipe title fast and you'll sound like a server at an Italian restaurant). It calls for four large beefsteak tomatoes--truthfully, after I sampled the finished product, the recipe just as easily could have called for six tomatoes instead of four. Preparing it and carving into my tomato supply quickly provided some extra space on refrigerator's produce shelf.

The result (some fresh onions from our garden joined the fresh tomato slices in the recipe) produced a quiche-looking dish without the crust. Hubby cut him a slice of the finished "pie" and served it to himself cold. I heated mine in the microwave until it was bubblin' good.
What a clever, wonderful idea for fresh tomato usage!

The recipe, featured below, was one of the two top tomato recipes recommended in my oft-quoted "Celebrating a Healthy Harvest" recipe book. No, it didn't clear out all the tomatoes in my garden, but the summer's still young, relatively speaking, with hopefully more days ahead-- unless little expected grandboy arrives earlier than his August due date--for grinding up bunches of tomatoes into salsa.

If he does, instead of baking this Tomato Pie we just may see if we can find a recipe for Tomato Cake and celebrate.

Tomato Feta Pie

4 beefsteak tomatoes (2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup (2 ounces) feta cheese
2/3 cup (3 ounces) reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, grated
2 large eggs, beaten (we use egg substitute)
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonfat cooking spray. Arrange 1/3 of the tomato slices (overlapping them) to cover the bottom of the pie place. Over the tomatoes sprinkle one-half of the onion. Sprinkle on one-third of the feta and mozzarella cheese. Repeat for a total of three tomato layers. In a bowl combine the eggs and oregano. Pour over the pie. Sprinkle on the remaining feta and mozzarella cheeses. Sprinkle pepper on top of all. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the egg mixture is set and the cheeses on top are bubbling and deep brown. Let the pie sit 30 minutes; cut into wedges and serve warm.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Recipe with highly unusual title is a wonderful discovery

Am I the only person alive who never heard of this unusual recipe?

In my "Celebrating a Healthy Harvest" cookbooklet I stared at it for weeks and wondered how on earth someone could make an entire salad out of celery. At best celery is a filler--designed to give some crunch to salads such as tuna fish and chicken salad or to the occasional casserole.

Yet I hate to see a growing-limp celery bunch sit around in my refrigerator and be headed for the compost heap just because I can't seem to think of any last-minute use for it. Celery is one of those food items that a typical cook uses just a little bit at a time--one or two stalks at the most. Timing food preparation so that an entire bunch of celery gets used until the very last crunch is difficult.

That's why the Warm Celery Salad recipe from the Chickasaw Nation ultimately drew me in. I hate to be a wasteful cook and believe in being a good steward of the food that God has provided for our table. I knew the Warm Celery Salad recipe would gobble up the remaining three stalks in my refrigerator. I just had to try it.

Man, was I (and was my Hubby) surprised! Warm Celery Salad (indeed, served warm--right out of the skillet on top of the stove) was impressive--so much, in fact, that we ate everything the skillet held and then tipped the scales a little bit the next day. (Each of us does a daily weight monitoring as part of our lifestyle fitness program.) We couldn't help ourselves from going back for repeated helpings. The black-eyed peas are a great accompaniment to the celery as well as a provider of fiber and bulk.

To top off the Warm Celery Salad we put a few of my friend Mary Ann's Sweet Garlic Dills pickle chips on top. (Her recipe appears on page 149 in Way Back in the Country Garden.) No better summertime menu combo than this one exists.

Warm Celery Salad

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups canned blackeyed peas (or canned garbanzo beans/chick peas)
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 large stalks celery, chopped

Cook oil, onion, garlic, and thyme in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is soft, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in vinegar and blackeyed peas until blackeyed peas are warmed. Stir in celery. Cover and cook for 2 minutes or until celery is warmed. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Returning to the heritage of the Delta County land brings great fellowship and a fun new recipe to try

OK, I'll admit it. I had an ulterior motive.

Naturally, I scheduled my book-signing this past weekend in Delta County because I needed to launch my book there--the setting for Way Back in the Country Garden--the place in which the main characters, The Three Little Red-Haired Miller Girls, grew up.

Eight years ago, when I launched my first book, Way Back in the Country, the prequel to the new one, we had a fantastic party on the Cooper square at a gift shop there. It was a fitting way to kick off my new book in the locale in which the book's events happened. Of course we'd want to do it all over again in 2010 with the birth of the new title.

Debbie Grider and the folks at The Prairie Rose Flowers & Gifts, Cooper's dynamite new shop right in front of the Delta County Courthouse, were thrilled to be hosts for the 2010 launch. On Saturday they extended wonderful hospitality and gave us a great place to serve cookies made from recipes out of the new book (and Sparkling Holiday Punch from Way Back in the Country).

But truthfully, my sub-reason for heading to Cooper this past weekend went well beyond that of any book promotion. Basically I just wanted an excuse to experience just one more Delta County summer day. The place had been the locus for a thousand childhood summer memories as I grew up (described in the Way Back in the Country Garden chapter, One Smart Indian.) Each year as school ended, I'd start packing my bags to head for the farm of Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Bill, who lived about six miles out from Cooper. For a city kid this "summer idyll", as I called it, brought days of sitting on the back porch helping Aunt Bonnie peel peaches, making mud pies with my cousins in the back of Uncle Bill's pickup, and breathing in fresh country air that the typical Baby Boomer of that day didn't get to experience.

Even though the farm long ago was sold and I couldn't return to the exact spot in which I passed those halcyon days, Saturday's stint in Cooper helped me walk down memory lane a bit and reminded me of those pleasurable, lazy mornings in a rare rural setting.

I also knew that the family gathering at my cousins' house after the book-signing likely would be a great place to pick up a new family recipe. Always the time to sample some wonderful and inventive cooking, I almost always emerge with new ideas for something to try--something usually fresh from the garden. I was not disappointed, as on the buffet table was a new item--Pasta Salad. The recipe actually originated with Elaine Wible, the mother-in-law of my cousin Marleene. Back in the spring Elaine had brought the dish when Marleene's baby, Mia, had her first birthday party. The blend of flavors, along with the crunchy bell pepper and celery in the mix, made it memorable. As with many other "in-law" dishes that have been appended throughout the years, this one would be incorporated into our family's regular fare, I felt sure.

The time in Cooper was precious indeed. Among the guests at the book-signing (some guests, I might add, braved a heavy downpour that morning to crowd into the florist shop) was a family friend who remembered my Granddad Wheeler when he (at age 98) was preacher at the Klondike Church of Christ. As though they happened yesterday this sweet visitor could cite lines from his sermons and jokes he often told. She also recalled stories that "Bandad" told on me, his only grandchild. Bandad died in 1978--32 years ago. To imagine that someone, all these years later, could have recalled his exact words astounded me.

I returned from my Delta County book launch feeling a very blessed human being indeed. Great fellowship at the signing, great family memories, a wonderful memory-lane walk, and a terrific recipe to share. Doesn't get much better than this.

Pasta Salad

4 boxes vermicelli, cooked according to instructions on box
3 tablespoons seasoned salt (or salt substitute, such as Mrs. Dash)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons oil (we use olive oil)

Mix together and refrigerate overnight. If mixture is sticky add a little oil.

Next morning add:
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small jar chopped pimiento
1 small can black olives, chopped

Stir in:
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (we use fat-free)

Makes a large, tasty salad.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A healthy, tasty dinner from veggies left in the refrigerator, freezer, and garden

We're not sure who Kathy is, but we'd sure like to thank her from the bottom of our hearts.

Her recipe, entitled "Kathy's Stir Fry", certainly delivered up for us a delicious dinner that was one of the biggest potpourris of garden veggies I've ever experienced.

And the best part about it was the line on the recipe, "Any vegetable may be omitted or substituted as desired."

That gave me a green light to look in my refrigerator and see what veggies were about to be on their last leg if I didn't use them soon. Solution: since Kathy says this is OK, I simply pull them off the shelves, chop, and stir in.

So, at the place in which she said to add asparagus, I subbed carrots, plus I threw in some chopped celery that was close to looking on the haggard side. Instead of regular onion I threw in the remainder of a red onion that was about to go limp on me. How virtuous I felt to be able to perform these rescue operations! Her recipe even called for 3/4 cup of frozen green peas (a recent Prevention magazine discussed the health benefits of frozen veggies and urged us not to be such "fresh" purists that we disregard the frozen-food aisle, especially when a shopper is pinching pennies.) I was happy to toss in those green peas, whose shelf life soon would be questionable as well.

"Kathy's Stir Fry" was one of my recipes from the Chickasaw Nutrition Services (I've just about made my way through cooking my latest collection of these treasured recipe cards that I obtain any time my hubby, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation (tribe), visits Ardmore, OK, for a health exam. I look forward to another trip to Ardmore a few weeks from now so I can round up a few new cooking ideas.)

The Chickasaws are absolutely DETERMINED to improve the health conditions of their people--to reverse a downward spiral into diabetes, obesity, and other woes (that plague the general U.S. population as well.) These handy recipe cards the Chickasaw's Nutrition Services centers make available free to their people underscore the message over and over again: you CAN cook for your family the fresh way; you CAN make perfectly wonderful meals without adding things that cause ills. (For example, unlike a typical stir-fry recipe, "Kathy's Stir Fry" was amazingly good without the addition of any soy sauce, which usually boosts the sodium content of a recipe sky-high.)

The nutrition information for "Kathy's Stir Fry" read: 80 calories, 3 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 45 g sodium, 10 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber. You can't beat that! (Serving the stir-fried veggies over brown rice, which the recipe suggests, alters those counts a little but adds some wonderful fiber to an already fiber-ific menu item.)

Most fun of all, the requested 3 cups of cabbage gave me a reason for traipsing out to my garden, cutting off a fresh cabbage head, and instantly adding it to the sizzling skillet for last night's dinner. When a meal necessitates that kind of activity, the joy of gardening and growing one's own food is complete. My hubby, on the road yesterday for an errand, returned home to lift the lid on the skillet and find a colorful melange of edible health just waiting for him.

Thank you, Kathy. Wherever--and whoever--you are, keep up the good work. I hope to see your name on some more of my Chickasaw recipe cards in the near future.

Kathy's Stir Fry

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
2 1/2 cups zucchini, sliced
2 1/2 cups yellow squash, sliced
2 cups broccoli
1 1/2 cups asparagus, fresh, sliced
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup green peas, frozen

Heat nonstick skillet on high heat until skillet is hot. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute onions and red and green bell peppers for about 2 minutes. Add zucchini and squash; cook about 2 more minutes. Add broccoli, asparagus, and cabbage to skillet. Add oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic to vegetables. Continue to cook until broccoli is crisp-tender (about 4 minutes). Add peas. May be served with whole-grain (brown) rice. Makes 10 1-cup servings.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Not easy being green, my tomatoes might plead as they wait--and wait--to become delightful gazpacho

These may have been just about the best-traveled tomatoes around.

Back and forth they went, halfway across the country, waiting to be chopped up and stirred into a long-put-off menu item.

Finally last night they made their debut--in a very un-tomato-y sounding but nevertheless superb Green Gazpacho Soup. Magnifique! Oh, but what they went through to finally land in those soup bowls!

At least six weeks ago--very early in the growing season--I began begging Hubby, "At the first sign of any green tomatoes on the vines, bring them in. I have a recipe just waiting for them."

Sure enough, when the fledgling tomatoes first began popping out--their green skintones making them almost indistinguishable from the surrounding vines--I started bugging him again. "Bring me some green tomatoes just as soon as they're big enough to pick."

Dutifully, then, at the appointed time, when the very first outcroppings turned into plump, green orbs, Hubby hauled in five or six of them for me to chill on the shelves in the fridge.

"Oh, good. I'll make the gazpacho soon," I promised.

More green tomatoes arrived; more for the fridge. "Can't wait for the gazpacho," I warbled about my "must-cook" recipe. Still the green tomatoes piled up.

Time to head out to Phoenix to see the grands and their family. "I'll take the tomatoes with me; we'll have the gazpacho out there," I assured. A hefty plastic bag of green tomatoes went into the cooler along with the other veggies needed to make the dish.

Time in Phoenix--and grandkid visits--arrived and went. Lots of good, fresh food got prepared on that trip, but the gazpacho--first on my to-make "wish-list" when I got there, went begging.
Back into the cooler the sack of green tomatoes went. "I'll do it first thing when I get home," I vowed, rather pathetically now.

Back home, the July Fourth holiday was upon us. Holiday food to prepare--"The gazpacho will be good with all our other foods at the lake", I managed with clenched teeth. Those green tomatoes WOULD be used this holiday, no matter what. The holiday passed. No soup.

Evening-meal-prep time, July 6. I determinedly bring out my cutting board. I at last assemble the other ingredients--avocado, cucumber, green pepper, and cilantro, and drag out the green-tomato sack. My patient little tomatoes are as hardy and green as they were weeks ago when I first begged for them to be plucked from the vine. I chop and in a food processor puree the green mixture. Into the fridge to chill so the flavors meld.

Dinner time. Green Gazpacho Soup at last! WORTH THE WAIT! My long-suffering green tomatoes finally have their debut, along with their other green-veggie companions. A more perfect hot-summer evening meal never could have been invented. My new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, prefaces this Green Gazpacho Soup recipe by stating, "Grabbing the first green tomatoes off the vine is wonderful because you don't have to wait for them to ripen." (although you might wait a long time to prepare them, I should have added.)

Oh, well, at least the book's other statement prefacing the recipe is 100-percent, spot-on correct: "You can almost taste the freshness of a summer garden just from reading the title of this great soup served cold." The freshness of the summer garden perfectly describes Green Gazpacho Soup--all the way to the last long-put-off drop!

Green Gazpacho Soup

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled
1 ripe avocado, peeled
3 medium-sized green tomatoes (or the least-ripe tomatoes you can find), cored and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar (we use sugar substitute)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Mince 1/2 cup green pepper; set aside for garnish. Place remaining pepper in large bowl. Cut cucumber lengthwise in half. With spoon remove and discard cucumber seeds. Coarsely chop cucumber. Mince 1/4 cup cucumber; set aside for garnish. Add remaining cucumber to pepper in large bowl. Cut avocado into chunks. In large bowl add avocado, tomatoes, cilantro onion, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, sugar, cumin, salt, and cayenne to cucumbers and pepper; toss. In batches puree vegetable mixture in food processor until smooth. Transfer to another large bowl or 8-cup measuring cup. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water; cover and refrigerate 2 hours to allow flavors to blend and soup to chill. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with additional cilantro leaves, minced green pepper, and cucumber. Serve chilled.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Long-ago act of kindness recalled by famous chef's fresh corn recipe

With great interest I've been following beloved TV chef Emeril as he has "gone green" and produced a line of low-fat, health-friendly recipes to add to his cooking repertoire.

The July 2010 issue of Prevention magazine features some in this new collection; it offers six "summer sides" that represent Emeril's transformation to "good-for-you" food.

One of them, Creamy Sweet Corn, caught my eye. Hubby and I enjoyed this tasty side of Emeril's during our recent July Fourth long holiday weekend. I always try to choose for the Fourth recipes that are certain standouts so we can have a holiday meal that we remember all year. My summer recipe album is stuffed with clips that bear notations about my July Fourth menus throughout the years. Of course the most memorable Fourth was the one in which our future son-in-law's parents drove over to our RV parked at the lake and Hubby and I met them for the first time. My recipe for "Lemon Grilled Salmon" is labeled "July 4, 2006; made for Casey's parents’ dinner.” That's certainly a recipe we'll never forget.

At any rate, Creamy Sweet Corn (find this on www.prevention.com) was delightful--made with corn kernels cut fresh from the cob and mixed with red pepper, celery, and onion and a sauce with a fat-free evaporated milk base. Although Emeril in Prevention suggested that it be served warmed, we enjoyed it just as much cold and served as a salad. We definitely were happy that Emeril had "gone green" (the next night we enjoyed--from the same Prevention article--Tossed Greens with Watermelon and Feta Cheese, a truly novel and refreshing mixture of the sweet and salty.)

Part of the reason Creamy Sweet Corn caught my imagination, however, had nothing to do with Emeril and his creations for Prevention. This fresh, inventive recipe reminded me of another corn recipe served at another time and an act of kindness by a dear aunt whose thoughtfulness has been remembered down the years though she's been long gone from this earth.

One summer day early in our marriage Hubby and I stopped by Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Bill's Delta County rural home for a visit near mealtime. Aunt Bonnie had just brought in some fresh ears of corn from her marvelous garden; she prepared for us the Fried Corn recipe below. My hubby extolled this to the sky; he never had dined on something so close to perfection. Aunt Bonnie, in her ever-gracious way, wrote down the recipe for him so I could attempt to recreate it for him at home. Hubby was overwhelmed that Aunt Bonnie would take such account of his interests that she would do this for him--a recent family addition and an in-law at that. A host of summers later my husband still can feel his tastebuds spring alive at the mere thought of this dish.

We're so thankful Aunt Bonnie (one of the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls who are the main characters in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden) took the time to preserve the recipe so Hubby and I can continue to remember her over-the-top hospitality. Long before the term or the concept of healthy eating ever became a household word, this precious aunt was deliciously cooking "green".

Fried Corn

8 ears fresh corn
1/2 cup milk (we use skim milk)
1/2 teaspoon salt (we use salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs (we use egg substitute)

Cut corn from cob and to kernels add milk, salt, and pepper. Melt butter in a heavy skillet. When skillet is hot and butter melted, add corn. Cook until tender. Stir occasionally. Just before corn is ready to take up, add beaten eggs and blend in well.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Harvest "softies" bring harvest of blessings on warm July 4 weekend

A recipe with the title of "Harvest Softies" sounds as though it should accompany turkey and dressing and pecan pie.

But smack in the middle of July, these delightful frosted cookies were perfect for the summer taste buds as well. They ushered in a harvest of blessings as they lined trays at my book-signing on Saturday during the July 4th weekend.

The Generator coffee shop in Historic Downtown Garland on the Square was the setting for the Garland launch for Way Back in the Country Garden (the Delta County launch is set for July 10 in Cooper, TX). A more perfect spot than this trendy Internet coffee shop could not have been selected.

My mother, one of the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls who are the main characters in my new cookbook, had so grieved over the formerly sad status of The Generator's site before it recently was restored. A Garlandite since 1941, my mother remembered the Square in its former glory days when it was the center of the universe in our hometown. As the years went by, shopkeepers retired, stores closed, and people sped to the malls to do their shopping, so often the stores stood vacant. My mother would wring her hands until some new ownership could be found in each and business was revitalized in those spots that held such memories.

This particular location on the Square's west side took an especially long and agonizing time to become regentrified. At last the spot at which The Generator now stands was purchased by Robert Smith, the son of a respected "old-Garland" family who was the ideal person to add proper credence to an earnest and accurate re-do of the once beautiful building.

Now The Generator--stunningly restored on both inside and out--is the Square's happenin' place. The proprietor, Tammy Long, makes a special effort to meet today's healthy eating requisites, with nonfat, gluten-free, and vegan offerings on the menu as well as regular fare. Tammy really outdid herself for my signing and prepared several Way Back in the Country featured recipes to offer to customers on Saturday. In baking cupcakes from Aunt Frances' Strawberry Cake recipe, Tammy served up one cupcake batch that was made gluten-free as well as stirring up another batch the traditional way. Being an Internet cafe, The Generator has Wi-Fi available, so customers with laptops dotted tables in the cafe's cheerful setting. A jazz band ensemble with a singer belted out upbeat tunes as customers poured in.

My book-signing table saw friends and loved ones pop in as a tremendous show of loving support. They included several "anchors" from my growing-up days at First Baptist Church of Garland; family members and neighbors who made special efforts to stop by on a busy weekend; civic and community contacts; some new friends who visited so they could share about their own backyard gardens; and even Garland's Mayor Pro Tem--city councilwoman Laura Perkins "Perky" Cox, who lent her perkiness to my table display and helped "arrange" my location for maximum exposure (as only a true politico knows how.)

Visitors to my table were invited to sample one of the Harvest Softies (the recipe, that features grated fresh apple, appears below) as well as Texas Pecan Pie Mini-Muffins (recipe on page 140 of Way Back in the Country Garden. These concerned nuts from our pecan trees.) Both items were a hit with guests and in some cases spurred them to take home a copy of the cookbook so they could stir up their own batch of the pastries.

I hope that on Saturday, God granted my mother a spot at the balustrade of heaven so she could peek down on the convivial setting in a venerable Garland building she once thought was beyond the pale. I think the lively scene that symbolized a bright future for the old downtown Garland Square would have made this little Red-Haired Miller Girl very happy.

Harvest Softies

1 cooking apple (such as MacIntosh), peeled and cored
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg (we used egg substitute)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup apple juice

Line 2 large baking sheets with foil. Lightly spray foil so cookies won't stick. Grate apple into a bowl; add apple juice. In a separate large bowl with a mixer beat butter, sugar, egg, and cinnamon until the mixture is fluffy (about 2 minutes). With a spoon stir in half the flour, the apple mixture, then the remaining flour. Drop batter by tablespoons onto the prepared sheets, with cookies spaced 3-inches apart. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 17 minutes until cookies are lightly browned. Remove to a rack; cool completely. Repeat. For icing in medium-sized bowl blend sifted powdered sugar and apple juice until smooth and firm enough so icing won't run. Spread icing on top of cookie; leave about 1/4-inch of cookie showing around edge. When icing is firm, store cookies in refrigerator until time to serve.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cooking just like his mom netted wonderful baked-tomato recipe

What woman alive hasn't been in the spot of needing to learn to prepare some food item "just like Mom"--especially when the Mom you're wanting to emulate happens to belong to your hubby?

Such was the case early in my own married life, when my hubby forever seemed to be extolling his mother's ability to fix Baked Tomatoes (and their related item, Breaded Tomatoes).

Doing something with tomatoes other than simply slicing them for a tossed salad wasn't part of my cooking repertoire. Yet he mentioned this matter often: "I sure would like to have some tomatoes like my mother made."

I am thankful that I was not without resources. During part of my years as a newspaper reporter I was privileged that my office "cubby" adjoined that of Ann Criswell, the legendary and internationally regarded food editor of the Houston Chronicle. Despite her acclaim Ann was as approachable and helpful as the day is long; she heard my plight about being a non-cook of tomatoes and dug through her recipes to help me find something that reasonably sounded as though they were the type of thing on which my husband dined in his youth.

Last evening for our dinner we were blessed with some huge, red tomatoes just plucked from our garden's own tomato vines. Without a second thought I knew what my hubby would suggest if I asked him, "What should we fix with these tomatoes tonight?"

I dug out one of my tomato recipes that Ann Criswell scoured her collection and helped me find. (The companion recipe for Breaded Tomatoes appears in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden. The secret ingredient for that recipe, by the way, was sugar. My mother-in-law applied more than just a "dash" to any vegetable recipe she prepared. To further emulate her, I'll often add that spoonful of sugar to vegetables just as she did, except I make sure it's sugar substitute.)

My recipe for Baked Tomatoes that appears below and along with fried zucchini (the first two zucchini from our this-year's vines) served with a little ketchup made a delightful summer meal last night. Fresh back from our 18-hour drive home from Phoenix, we were weary of "road food" and glad to settle down to a meal of just-veggies. The wonderful flavor of the tomatoes with seasoned breading on top made me glad my hubby pressed for me to learn to cook tomatoes "just like Mom."

Baked Tomatoes

4 medium tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt (we used salt substitute)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
parmesan cheese
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs, toasted
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/'4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and remove core. Place tomato halves in a lightly greased 11-inch by 7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and parmesan over cut surface of each tomato half. Combine next six ingredients and mix well. (If you like extra breading, you may double the ingredients in this part of the recipe). Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until tomatoes are thoroughly heated and bread topping is brown. Makes 8 servings.