Julia's Child, published by Plume/Penguin, is a book about organic food, and growing food, and feeding food to small wiggly people who don't always appreciate it.  This blog celebrates those same things, but also green living. And coffee.  And sometimes wine with little bubbles in it.


Search the Blog


No-Noodle Lasagna: Zucchini in a Starring Role

In the summertime, you don't need noodles to make a great lasagna. With overgrown zucchini in the garden, the "noodles" are cut to order. When trying out this recipe, I'd worried that zucchini would be too wet to use in this capacity. But I was wrong. It worked out just fine.

If you're inclined to trick people into eating their vegetables, you could trim your "noodles" to hide their green skin. But this dish is so tasty, you probably won't have to.

No Noodle Lasagna


1 large or 2 small zucchini

1 pound "loose" sausage (or cut from casings) *or* 3/4 pound ground beef, plus half an onion and 2 cloves garlic

1 large jar of your favorite tomato sauce

1 15 or 16 oz tub of ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (optional)


Preheat oven to 375. Oil a 9 x 13 baking dish, and cut the zucchini to a length which corresponds to the width of your baking dish. Slice zucchini thinly, and set out on paper towels to air dry.

Brown sausage (or beef, onion and garlic combination) in a skillet. When brown, add half the tomato sauce and stir to combine.

Place a layer of zucchini noodles in the bottom of the pan. Layer with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and a tablespoon or two of bread crumbs. Cover with another layer of zucchini.

Combine the ricotta cheese with the two eggs and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese. Stir to thoroughly combine. Gently spread the ricotta mixture all over the zucchini layer.

Add another layer of zucchini "noodles." Over these, spread the meat mixture evenly. Cover with more zucchini and then add mozzarella and bread crumbs. Finish with one or two more layers of zucchini, mozzarella and bread crumbs, ending with zucchini. Spread remaining sauce on top, adding last bits of mozzarella and the parmesan on top. Bake for 45 minutes (uncovered) until bubbling everywhere and browning on top.

Cool for ten minutes, then slice into squares and serve hot.

Thank you http://www.sortacrunchy.net/ for making this post part of Your Green Resource!


Gazpacho Season Arrives

The farmers' market is full of ripe tomatoes, and my moment has arrived. 

I like my gazpacho (a raw, chilled tomato soup) pureed very smooth, but I'm not fussy enough to remove every tomato seed. Although I shot the photo plain, to show the color, some freshly toasted croutons are marvelous on top. Diced avocado is also nice.

Peeling tomatoes is a cinch. Set a saucepan full of water to a boil, and make a bowl of ice water beside it. On the bottom of each tomato, cut an X with a knife. Place each tomato in turn into the boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds. (Very ripe tomatoes will begin to shed their skins immediately. Less ripe ones will take more time.) Even if the skin looks firmly attached, remove the tomato with a slotted spoon after 60 seconds and place it in the ice water. After a couple of minutes, remove and peel from the X upward. (Tip: peaches are easily peeled in just the same way.)

Notes: I don't put salt in gazpacho, because it has so much natural flavor. (Bonus!) 

Traditional Gazpacho, Serves 6

6 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and cored

1/2 a large red onion (or a whole small one)

2 garlic cloves (optional)

1 red pepper, cored and cut into 8 pieces

4-6 tablespoons vinegar, to taste

1 large cucumber, peeled and de-seeded

1/4 cup olive oil


Using a food processor or a blender, puree the tomatoes in batches, transferring each to a large bowl. Next, puree the onion and pepper and garlic together with the vinegar. Add to the bowl. Puree the cucumber and the olive oil together, and stir into the soup. Refrigerate until ice cold, and serve with croutons.


Quickles (Quick Pickles)

My cucumbers have overrun us. I'm a fan of pickles, but I haven't ventured into full-on preserving techniques yet. So when I ran across a recipe for quick refrigerator sweet pickles over at In Erika's Kitchen, I had to give it a try.

So now I'm a convert. But I also wanted to make a savory, garlicky pickle, so I did a little experimenting. I made this recipe with both an expensive wine vinegar and grocery store white vinegar. Much to my surprise, the white vinegar (which I ordinarily use to clean my coffee pot, not for cooking) was the winner. Who knew?

Sarah's Quickles

1 garden cucumber, sliced

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 heaping tablespoon sugar

1 garlic clove, mashed

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Place the cucumber slices in a clean jar with a working lid, and set aside.

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, garlic and salt in a bowl, and whisk until sugar and salt have dissolved. Pour over the cucumber slices. If the liquid is insufficient to cover, add one tablespoon of vinegar and then one of water until you're satisfied.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold. Pickles will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Thank you to SortaCrunchy for sponsoring Your Green Resource, collecting posts like this one into a useful weekly menu!


Today's Green Washing Perpetrator: Faber-Castell

This is just not cool.In a craft that one of my children received as a gift was this card which raves about the eco-consciousness of the art supply manufacturer Faber-Castell. "100% of our children's pencils are made from re-forested wood," it shouts. "100% of our erasers are PVC and latex free." 

Isn't that great? There's only one problem. The card which carries this info--as well as that photo of a baby seedling about to be planted--is laminated so thickly that I cannot even tear it in half. There is a plastic coating on both sides. 

If a company prints its Eco praises on a non-recycleable piece of... paper? (It's hard to say what this is.) Then how devoted to sustainability can they really be? 

I'm not buying what they have to sell. Literally.


What I Learned About Chickens on my Summer Vacation

No, really. These are not edible.Our chickens are nine weeks old, and it's been a lot of fun so far. There have been a few startling things I've learned in the process, which I thought I'd share:

1. They really are "chicken."

They startle at the slightest noise, including the sound of a garden hose, a motorless reel mower, or a nine year old practicing his cello. To save themselves, they will run into a huddle behind their water can.

2. Instinct is amazing.

We raised these baby chicks from one day old, in a cardboard box. At one or two weeks old we began to offer them various foods to try, most of which were initially rejected. And just like a toddler, they will have a sour reaction to some foods, actually wipe their beaks off on the ground if a food displeases them.

But the first worm that my husband fished out of the compost heap for them inspired the most amazing reaction. It was as if Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket had just been dangled over the edge of the box. That wiggling shape set off a primal riot of desire, and one chick grabbed the worm, then ran all around the box looking for a place to eat it in peace. She was attacked by her neighbors, who took turns grabbing the worm and running in circles. Eventually it was pulled apart and gobbled down.

I'm told that spagetti will set off similar ardor, but I have not tried it yet.

3. They will peck at toenail polish! 

Note to self... wear shoes.


Pruning Tomato Plants (Who Knew?)

Before we learned about pruning tomato plants, we had some trouble. Larger tomatoes, especially, did not ripen up properly. They weren't getting enough light and air. Many tomato plant ills are water borne, and therefore good ventillation can help stave off problems. 

At Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, VT, my husband watched a pruning demonstration. "They're ruthless," he said. "On an overgrown plant, even beautiful looking green fruits are lopped right off, if they're growing in the wrong place." Ouch. Tough love. 

Before learning about tomato pruning, I had assumed that a tomato plant needed all of its leaves to stay strong and healthy. But that's not at all true.

Here's what we learned:

  1. Find the lowest branch with buds / fruits. Except for the branch of greenery immediately below it, cut off every branch below those. 
  2. Any greenery that is touching the ground should be trimmed off, either at the trunk stem, or half way out the branch.
  3. Every tomato plant needs to have a clearly identified main trunk, which should be supported. Secondary branches should be trimmed such that they do not touch the ground.
  4. Cut out all suckers. A sucker is a branch which emerges from the crotch between the trunk and a branch.

See that little extra growth between the trunk & branch?

The result is plants which look scrawnier. But the fruits can get air and light, which discourages bacteria and mildew from accumulating. 



Homemade Frozen Waffles, or, Some Lessons In Life Must Be Learned Over and Over Again

I have written about my general rule: Never Make Just One Lasagna. Yet it is easy, especially before 7:30 AM, and before drinking the first coffee of the day, to forget even the wisest rules. Once in awhile I buy frozen waffles for children who are very tired of cheerios and toast with peanut butter. But I don't buy them often. The organic brands are quite expensive.

Because school is almost out, and my kids are sick to death with the whole process, I finally wised up. I made a double batch of waffles, and froze half of them. My freezer contains waffles for two more hasty mornings, made with my whole wheat recipe to my own specifications. And I'm positive they're a whole lot cheaper than the commercial frozen product I sometimes buy.

If you make your own:


  • I like my waffles brown and crispy, but I underbake the ones I plan to freeze. Leave yourself room to crisp them up in the toaster without burning.
  • Freeze them flat, after which you can stack them any way you wish. But if you're not careful to keep them flat, they will freeze in torqued shapes which may not want to fit into the slots of your freezer.
  • Put a piece of waxed paper between them, so they don't stick together.
  • This is a great way to use up that quart of buttermilk you bought for the occasion.

Now if I could only find a way to make three days worth of packed lunches at a time...



No Goodie Bags, No Peace!

A Giveaway That Won't End Up In the Trash. We Hope.Last summer, the season that my boys turned 6 and 8, I told them we were done with goodie bags. "I just don't want to perpetuate the plastic junk," I told them. "We're going to give everyone a book instead."

There were, unfortunately, grumbles.

In order to ban goodie bags, it is important first to understand why they hold such appeal. The joy is all in the discovery. When those small hands first hold that bag, anything at all could be inside. Oh, the variety! The discovery! But one day later (and sometimes sooner than that) all that treasure is on the floor of your home. And unless mucho money is spent, the things in that back are sub-standard. There may be an underwhelming box of crayons, or a bouncy ball, or a molded plastic figure. Or candy.

So to try to capture a bit of this magic, my turning-8-year-old I bought a stack of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. They are published by a little Vermont company, and many of the titles are the same as when I was reading them.* We wrapped them in different papers, and nobody knew what title they were getting until they opened them at the end of the party. 

My younger son was trickier, because not all the kindergarteners read (including my own.) But then we happened to find a paper airplane book to give away, and peace reigned in the kingdom.

This year, I stuck to the same No Goody Bags policy. My now-9-year-old and I chose sketchbooks. I found a dozen fancy-feeling hardback books at Blick.com. We personalized them with each child's name on the title page. 

Et voila! A gift we can be proud of.

*Dating myself! Again. 

Thank you to Megan at http://www.sortacrunchy.net and Your Green Resource for linking to this post! I adore Your Green Resource.