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Aunt Mary’s Zucchini Cake

Oct 19, 2014 | Posted in: , , | 1 Comments



Lately, I’ve been craving this wonderful zucchini cake my Aunt Mary made once when I was up at her and my Uncle Mike’s house in New York State near Batavia. Up there, in farm country where highways are long and flat, and fields are green and lush with vegetation in spring and summer, fresh zucchini is in abundance, ripening in the sun and collected by the bushel. I am quite sure that my version will not rival Aunt Mary’s due to the lack of quality in my produce alone, but it doesn’t matter. For me, making this cake is about remembering some amazingly fun meals we had together in her  kitchen and on the big sunny back porch at their house which looks out over what used to be the potato field (now overgrown) on the farm where my father and Uncle Mike grew up. It’s about remembering those dinners that stretched long into the summer night because the sun wouldn’t set until 9pm, and the conversations that were had around the kitchen table before and after.

My Babcha’s house was next door to Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary’s – the original farmhouse where my father, uncle and their two sisters grew up. When my Babcha still lived there it was easy for her to come over for dinner to my Uncle’s and I remember  her razor sharp wit which she used to “zing” whoever came into her line of fire during the course of conversation. She was a regular firecracker, both kind and outspoken, and even when she was older, she could light up a room.


Ugh. It’s not just the cake. Honestly, the cake doesn’t even fit the real criteria for this project because I’m not sure how many generations it goes back. It’s just that for some reason, the taste, the smell, the recipe card with my Aunt’s familiar handwriting which has been on countless cards and notes of well-wishing over the years, all of it just pulls me into a wormhole that takes me straight to those warm summer nights in upstate New York, watching my parents, Aunt and Uncle and Babcha engage in conversational fireworks on the porch looking over the potato field. And I guess that’s what food like this is all about anyway.


Aunt Mary’s Zucchini Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 lg eggs

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I used more)

3 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup nuts (optional)


Bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes.

13 x 9 greased pan


Sour Cream Frosting

2 1/2 cups 10x sugar (confectioners sugar)

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup margarine

3/4 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

Blend together mix well


Food Film Fest Charleston Recap

May 7, 2014 | Posted in: , | 0 Comments

Hello Friends!!

We had such a wonderful time at the Food Film Fest Charleston and met so many fellow food-lovers and movie-makers in that great southern city. We saw a film about BBQ on the flight deck of a battleship, we had our own film screened for a crowd of about 300 in a distillery. It was also great to catch up with the stars of our documentary, Jan and Dean Weaver, who attended the screening with us and kindly answered the many questions of audience members after the screening. As if all this wasn’t enough, we were even lucky enough to be given the Audience Choice Award!

We’ll be posting out own photos soon, but till then, you can see festival pics here:

Maddie and Justin at the Food Film Fest Charleston 2014

Screening of “Crazy”

Chowing down

Maddie and Jan Speak to George Motz, Festival Director

High Wire Distilling Co

Stay tuned for more exciting project news very soon!


Founder, The American Recipe Project

Stuffed Peppers

Jan 17, 2014 | Posted in: , , | 0 Comments

Stuffed Peppers – stuffed green peppers to be exact – are one of those comfort food recipes that will forever remind me of my grandma. This is one of my favorite dishes of hers (and one of her favorite dishes in general), and she often will tell me a stories about times I requested that she make them when I was little. A few years ago I called her to ask for the recipe, and instead of giving me one, she said that I should find my own, any old recipe would do. I got the feeling that she had been cooking from memory for so long, that the genesis of her stuffed pepper recipe was still very fluid. Even still, there are basic components – she always uses large green bell peppers, carefully selected, ground beef, and rice. Whatever her reasons for not divulging her recipe, it was very liberating in a way to have her suggest I try my own recipe. I can’t really say she passed this recipe down,  but she did pass down something even more important – a love of stuffed peppers  which will always remind me of her, and of how much she loves me.

Last week, I was thinking of my grandma and back on our recent visit just after new years, and decided to try my own iteration of this recipe. I didn’t use a written recipe, I made up my own, just as she had advised.


Green Stuffed Peppers

6 large green bell pappers

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 lb of lean ground turkey

1 large onion finely chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp cumin

salt to taste

8.5 oz bag of brown instant rice (steam in microwave kind)

1 large can (28 oz) tomato sauce

1 small can (8 oz) tomato sauce

shredded cheese – mozzerella, parmesan, monterey jack – whatever you like



Preheat oven to 400. Core and rinse peppers, removing tops and seeds inside.In a large pot of briskly boiling water, blanche the peppers (3 at a time) for 5-6 minutes, removing with a large slotted spoon, and draining. Place blanches peppers in a 9×13 baking or casserole dish. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet to med high and add olive oil. After pan is warm, add ground turkey and stir until all turkey is cooked through, about 6-7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add onions and garlic, stirring until onions are soft. Add white pepper, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then stir in small can of tomato sauce, cook for 1 more minute. Heat rice in the microwave. Remove skillet from the heat, and stir the rice into the turkey mixture. Spoon the turkey/rice mixture into the blanched peppers, and surround and top with the tomato sauce (large can). Cover with tinfoil (or lid of it’s a casserole dish) and bake for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, bake for 5 more minutes, then enjoy!
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Elaine’s Pumpkin Cookies

Nov 22, 2013 | Posted in: , , , , | 1 Comments

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1 cup sugar, 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1/2 cup shortening (CRISCO) solid   (MIX TOGETHER)

2 cups all-purpose* or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder*
1 teaspoon baking soda*
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt*
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup nuts  (optional)

Heat oven to 375,  Mix sugar, pumpkin, shortening.  Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Stir in raisins and nuts.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until light brown 8 to 10 min.  Immediately remove from cookie sheet, cool.  Spread w/Light Brown Glaze.  About 4 dozen cookies

*If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder, baking soda and salt.


1/4 cup margarine or butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Heat margarine in 1-1/2 quart saucepan over medium heat until delicate brown.  Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Stir in milk until smooth.

Pumpkin Cookie Post #2 – The Cookie That Never Was

Nov 21, 2013 | Posted in: , , , , | 0 Comments

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To close out our Pumpkin Cookie narrative for our Pie-Tacular, we traveled to Moatsville, West Virginia for (full disclosure) one of my best friend’s weddings. Elaine McMillion, the bride-to-be had mentioned in her submission that this family recipe (Pumpkin Cookies), a Thanksgiving staple, would be made for and served at the wedding, but as it turned out, it was not to be. This bride, who spent the week before the wedding in about three different states, bought the ingredients but never had time to actually get them ready.

I had so much fun (unofficially) photographing this wedding, and the epic dessert table, which included contributions of family and favorite recipes from friends and family alike, that this could hardly be called a loss. It was really touching to see all these people contribute their own little sweet to the dessert table, as a little gift to the bride and groom for guests to enjoy. I toted my own family oatmeal choc – chip walnut cookies from Boston, because I remembered they travel well (my grandmother used to mail them to me in a box when I was in college) and although I make them a bit differently, the result of a delicious, well-traveled cookie, I am happy to report, is the same.

Pumpkin cookies are still a family recipe that is part of the narrative of this now (expanding) family – the sentiment of their presence existed at this wedding even where the cookies themselves did not.

Stay tuned for a video about a traditional apple pie and much more in the coming days! Thanksgiving is almost here!

Grauel/Herec Family Oatmeal Choc-Chip Walnut Cookies

2 sticks butter

1 1/2 c. brown sugar

2 c. flour

2 c. quick cooking oats

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

large pinch of salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup choc chips (chunks are better)

1 cup chopped walnuts

-Preheat oven to 350

-Cream butter and sugar together

-Add in vanilla, egg

-Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (except choc chips and walnuts)

-Mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients

-Stir in chips and walnuts

-Drop by rounded teaspoons on cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes

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