Tag Archives: garden

17 Ways to Prepare Extra Fruits and Veggies When You Have a Bumper Crop

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They may be ugly but they are sooooo good. Those about to be grilled; we salute you!

Oh man, have I been busy in the garden! Sunday I turned 30#s of German Johnson tomatoes into 6 cups of rockin’ roasted tomato & pepper soup and 5 quarts of amazing basil tomato sauce.  Do you get a little overwhelmed with your harvest?

Juicing helps a lot because Herb & I both juice at least one meal a day, heavy on the veggies. Plus we sell a lot of our surplus at the local Ag Center and tail gate farmers markets, but still – whew!

Here’s an article I found that had some really good ideas – I’m a hummus addict so I’m dying to try the baba ganoush and the curried squash bake.

Enjoy these and please share your ideas with me !

Holy Produce Proliferation! 17 Ways to Prepare Extra Fruits and Veggies When You Have a Bumper Crop

By Kim Kash

Maybe your home garden had a bumper crop, so every mixing bowl in your kitchen is full of tomatoes. Or perhaps your neighbor, who has a green thumb and a propensity for random acts of kindness, showed up at your door with enough jalapeños to bring all of Mexico City to tears. Or was it that the zucchinis at the farmer’s market looked so beautiful that you got a little carried away and now don’t even have room in your fridge for the milk?

Assorted Vegetables

Either way, it’s easy for fruits and veggies to pile up come summertime. If you’re ready to run screaming and leave the whole pile to rot—don’t! Here are some ideas for making delicious things out of LOTS of produce.

Too Many Tomatoes

Blender tomato sauce. Fill your blender 3/4 full of cored, quartered tomatoes—should be about a half dozen or so. Throw in a few cloves of garlic, a generous handful of basil leaves, and a small onion or a small bunch of green onions or scallions. Salt and pepper to taste, and blend with a little bit of olive oil, tasting and adding up to 1/2 cup to get a smooth but not oily consistency. When you stir this into fresh, hot pasta, the sauce will warm up just enough.

Roasted tomatoes. Slice tomatoes in half or in big chunks. Arrange on one or more baking sheets. Add big handfuls of basil, cilantro, or spring onions, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes are wrinkly and soft, and herbs are completely wilted and disintegrating. Put into a bowl, and be sure to scrape all the oil and bits of herb off of the baking pan. Makes a great pasta sauce, bruschetta topping, or chunky topping for chicken, fish, or another cooked vegetable.

Tomato salad. Mix a variety of colors and types of tomatoes, throw in some herbs, and add a simple oil and vinegar dressing and a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper. Just because it’s salad doesn’t mean it has to have lettuce in it.

Tomato sauce. Yes, it’s obvious, but this is the Cadillac® method for using up a whole lot of tomatoes at once. Plus, tomato sauce freezes really well. There are too many recipes for us to recommend just one.

A Surplus of Summer Squash

Grilled squash. Thickly slice squash lengthwise and roast on the grill.

Summer squash bake. Slice or roughly chop a combination of summer squashes, enough to fill a baking dish. Add fresh herbs if you have them. Grate a layer of cheddar, jack, or even mozzarella on top, and use your fingers to sift a little bit of the cheese down into the vegetables. Sprinkle whole-grain breadcrumbs on top if you wish. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the vegetables are soft and the cheese is beginning to brown. Cover with foil if the cheese or breadcrumbs are browning too quickly. If the finished dish is a bit watery (some summer squashes are more watery than others when cooked), just serve with a slotted spoon.

Italian summer squash bake. Same as above, only add tomato sauce, and use mozzarella cheese.

Curried summer squash bake. Same as squash bake above, only omit the cheese and add a drained can of chickpeas, maybe some fresh greens, and 1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder to taste, depending on the quantity of squash you’re baking.

Your signature summer squash bake. Are you getting the idea about this squash bake thing? Summer squash is very mild in flavor, so it plays well with both eastern and western spices. Make a squash bake whenever you need to use up zucchini plus almost any other vegetable or herb or sauce or cheese.

Grate and freeze. Use later for zucchini fritters, zucchini bread, in frittatas, as a thickener for spaghetti sauce, or a filler in any kind of vegetable bake or casserole.

Bustin’ at the Seams with Basil

Pesto. Pesto. Pesto. You can use basil a few leaves at a time in Caprese salads or tomato sauce recipes. But if you need to use up a ton of basil in a hurry, pesto is what you want. Experiment with the many recipes out there—with or without cheese, with various kinds of nuts, with lots of olive oil or very little. Pesto stores beautifully in the fridge, in a tightly closed glass jar with a layer of olive oil covering it. Here’s what you can do with pesto:

  • Smear it on bruschetta.
  • Add it to green salads as a dressing.
  • Use it as a pasta sauce; this is great with cherry tomatoes tossed in.
  • Use it as a sandwich spread.
  • Top grilled or roasted chicken, fish, or vegetables with it.
  • Eat it with a spoon out of the jar.

A Cornucopia of Cucumbers

Raita. This Indian cucumber-yogurt condiment can be thick like a dip, or thin like a sauce, depending on the thickness of the yogurt you use. Thick or thin, whip some yogurt with a whisk to even out its consistency. Then stir it into to a bowl of chopped and (optionally) peeled cucumbers. Add more or less yogurt as you wish. Salt it to taste. If you want a spicy raita, add a seeded, finely chopped hot pepper.

Cucumber water. Peel and slice one or more cucumbers and add to a pitcher of water. Squeeze in a little lemon juice, and serve very cold as a refreshing thirst quencher on a hot day.

Cucumber salad. This was on the supper table almost every summer day when my mother was a child in Kentucky. Very thinly slice cucumbers, pour a little bit of white vinegar over them, and salt. Some people also add a little sugar, but Mom would not approve. These are simple and delicious—but don’t put leftovers in the fridge for next time, because as they marinate in the vinegar, they lose their crispness.

A Big Bell Pepper Buildup

Oven roast or grill. As with basil, there are plenty of recipes that call for one or a few red or yellow bell peppers. But when you have a real bell pepper glut, roasting them is the way to go. Take as many red and yellow bell peppers as you have and spread them on a hot grill, or on the top rack of the oven, set to broil. If you’re using the oven, line the peppers up on the front edge of the rack, and put a baking sheet underneath them to catch drips. When the skin blackens, give them a quarter turn with a good pair of tongs, and repeat until the peppers are charred all the way around. Then remove from the oven or grill and let rest. The charred skin will peel easily off of the cooled peppers. Core and slice the now-soft roasted peppers, coat the strips with olive oil, and store in a tightly closed container. Use these in pasta and on sandwiches and bruschetta.

Excessive Eggplantery

Many recipes call for the notoriously spongy eggplant to be fried in oil. Roasting eggplant instead is much healthier, and roasting on the grill imparts a rich, smoky flavor. In addition to the recipes below, try adding roasted eggplant to casseroles and veggie burgers.

Baba ghanoush. This Middle Eastern dip is often served alongside hummus, with pita bread. Slash one or more eggplants in several places and bake on a pan in a 425-degree oven until very soft. This can take an hour or more, depending on the size of the eggplants. Cool, then peel off the skin. Throw the soft interior into a food processor. For each eggplant, add 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of tahini, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the juice from one lemon. Blend just until incorporated, leaving the texture a little rough. Salt to taste. To serve, make a little well on the top of the baba ghanoush and pour some olive oil into the depression. Sprinkle parsley over the top. (Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.)

Roasted eggplant salad. Roast eggplants as above, peel and roughly chop. Serve in a large salad bowl with toasted pine nuts or walnuts, lots of parsley, and mint. If you have too many tomatoes, chop and add a few of those. Dress with either a light vinaigrette or with a bit of whipped yogurt.

Resource:

  • American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org
  • Yu Wen Li, Zhao Ya Ping, Xue Zheng, Wang Da Pu (Shanghai Jiao Tong University); Study on Synergistic Effect of Two Antioxidants and Its Anti-ageing Properties [J]; China Oils and Fats; 2002
  • Haibo Wang, Muraleedharan G. Nair, Gale M. Strasburg, Yu-Chen Chang, Alden M. Booren, J. Ian Gray, and David L. DeWitt. Antioxidant and Antiinflammatory Activities of Anthocyanins and Their Aglycon, Cyanidin, from Tart Cherries. Journal of Natural Products 1999, 62 (2), pp 294-2

Motivation to ReCLAIM My Life

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I found this motivational photo on Pinterest from a post by Skinny Bitch and it really struck right to the heart of my renewed initiative to lose the weight I lost last year and have since put back on…

I’ve printed it out and taped it to my bathroom mirror. I intend to read this every day and to keep the focus on my choices throughout the day.

I’m also going back on my juice fest because I felt great getting all those nutrients and it kicked all the cravings. Those damn cravings! I’m back in the thrall of them – burgers, pizza, pasta dishes, ice cream… everything chocolate!

The veggie garden is in full swing, so there’s a lot of variety very conveniently located. I have absolutely NO excuses not to do this.

Another area I’ve been slacking off in is my exercise. Last year I dedicated myself to doing the Beachbody Power 90. Well into that, with juicing, my energy levels soared and I added the C25K program. My weight loss started slowing down, but the inches were melting off, so who cares about pounds!

I started a walking group called the Foothills Mile Markers that meets every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday morning for two reasons. One, to help keep me motivated and accountable and two, to share what I’ve learned about nutrition and fitness to help others. Oh yeah, I forgot the third reason: TO HAVE FUN!

So, Tony Horton, once again, its you and me, bay-bee. Gonna be pushing PLAY when I get back from my walk to do the Sweat Circuit and Ab Ripper. I’ll do the Sculpt Circuit Tuesday, Thursday & Saturdays.

Please, God, I want to lose this extra weight, and I know how to do that, feels like You & I have done it a hundred times. But more than that, please help me to finally make the deep personal transformation to keep it off and make it a non-issue for the rest of my life. I pledge to help others every step of the way.

 

 

Father’s Day Weekend

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We had a lovely weekend weather-wise. Friday night we went to a Summer Tracks concert. Originally, we were going to the movies to see Men In Black III but dinner went late so we went to the concert instead. While we only saw the headliner, The StereoFidelics they kicked butt and it was a most excellent show plus we caught up with a number of friends. But it was serendipitous because we ran into one couple we’d not seen for a few months. He’s an excellent musician and I told him of a song my guitarist & I are working on, Anna Nalick’s Breathe and we made plans to get together with the gang for a jam.

I’m so glad we saw him, so full of joy and enjoying the fine music at the concert, because I just learned today that he passed away on Sunday. How fickle is life, only 58, in good (supposedly) health and very much in love with life and his wife. No one yet knows the reason. If dinner hadn’t been late, we’d have gone to the movies and not the concert and I wouldn’t have seen him…

Saturday we went tubing and canoeing on the Green River and then finally went to see MIB III at the theater in town.

Father’s Day started out with my only-on-special-occasions Dutch Apple Pancake for breakfast. Then we went to a local indoor flea market where I found a really cool tablecloth & 6 napkins in dark blue with a gold foil Egyptian motif. I got the cloth for a covering for my work desk in the home office, so teh napkins were a very pleasant extra. Dinner was a chicken and vegetable stew over  potatoes mashed with sour cream & cream cheese with homemade artisan bread. I’d recorded the first Sherlock Homes movie with Robert Downey Jr. and we watched that with some homemade coffee ice cream.

All-in-all a perfect weekend, except for learning about my friend today.

I’m looking at some photos I took over the weekend and am sharing them here. I’m looking at the ice cream, bread and Dutch Apple Pancake and I’m looking at these lovely veggies and fruits coming on in our garden and I’m thinking it might be a good time to fore go the bread-y and sugar-y stuff and jump back on a juice-fest!

The soybeans are from organic seed. Studies with GMO soybeans are flat out scary! So, since I love edamame, I found a source, Wannamakers for organic seed and they are just one state over in South Carolina.

The beautiful shiny orange mushroom is from the Ganoderma family,and is also known as reishi a highly respected medicinal mushroom. Some say Reishi can cure cancer, HIV and a whole host of other dire illnesses. Most of these claims come from people selling reishi pills. In my opinion, these mushrooms, dried and taken in tea form somewhat consistently, will significantly benefit the immune system and support other aspects of the body to effectively keep itself in good health. Again, just my opinion.

Picked beets, kale and green beans to have in my juice tomorrow morning.

Do me a favor – Tell all your family and friends how much you love and appreciate them, right now. Life is fickle and all we have is right now. I’m going to get off the computer and pick up a harmonica, then I’m gonna get the dog and go hiking. I’m going to live in a way I’ll have no regrets.

 

 

Lavender Farm

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Day 4 of 28 – Advanced level Turbo Jam

Provence, Hidcote and Grosso lavender plants for sate

Went to a charming 24-acre farm in Burnsville, NC. The Mountain Farm grows lavender and blueberries and raise dairy goats, llama and baby doll sheep along with miniature guard donkeys. The owners took over this farm 40-years ago with the idea of making it as sustainable as possible, pretty forward thinking for their time, eh?

They also have two large wind turbines, installed for free by a state grant, that cuts their power bill in half!

Growing many types of lavender, the Farm produces all sorts of wonderful high quality beauty products (balms, bath salts, lotions, soaps and shampoos) culinary products (lavender teas, sugars, salts, honey) and fiber products (dyed and un-dyed wools, and knitted hats and such).

Doesn’t this just lure you in?

One of the really neat features of this farm is they’ve created a 7-level labyrinth of lavender (say that 3 times!) Different from a maze, there is no puzzle to getting into or out of a labyrinth; there is only one way in to the center and one way out – it is more of a meditative exercise than a mental exercise.

Which brings me to why I’m blogging about this. I’ve grown lavender for a long time and used it in many crafty-kinds of ways, yet I’ve never used it in cooking. Now, since coming back from the farm, I’ve googled all sorts on interesting recipes using lavender.

Basically, you can substitute lavender for rosemary in most any savory dish. I found recipes for adding lavender to desserts from chocolate cake to cookies and creme brulee (wow!) as well as for making lavender salts and sugars.

Wind turbines cut the farm’s power bill a little more than half and are practically silent in operation so as not to disturb the animals in the barn.

I bought a lavender tea sampler: Love Potion, Lavender Chai, Lavender, Mint & Hibiscus and Lavender, Chamomile & Mint. The Lavender Chai this morning was really good and the whole kitchen smelled heavenly!  I like my teas to have strong flavor, especially in the morning, as well as a nice aroma and this tasted really good, very earthy but not at all bitter.

This experience just reminds me of how many things we grow are good for us and can add an extra dimension of flavor keeping us engaged and keeping eating healthy from being boring!

So now that my own lavender is in bloom, I’m going to try it in all sorts of dishes – don’t be surprised to find a new recipe with lavender in my Regular but Awesome Recipes soon!

View of the Black Mountains from the center of the labyrinth

Cheaper to Eat Healthy

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My latest sprouts, assorted mung, lentil, broccoli and alfalfa. And for my afternoon smoothie, a handful of fresh strawberries from the back yard.

Finished Turbo Jam beginner phase – I’ve lost 7 #s and 1 dress size. Even better is my over-all tone and shape. I’m going to stick with the 20-minute  and ab-jam workouts until Herb & I start the Ultimate Reset on Wednesday.

I’ve added some more photos to my garden pages for Spring 2012 if you’d like to check that out.

One question I get a lot, even more than the protein question, is how can you afford to eat so healthy? Well I tracked that when I was on my 60-day juice-fest and my grocery bill went down %43.  Now since juicing once a day and eating normally otherwise, in general, my grocery bill is still quite a bit less than before while others experience their grocery bill growing & growing.  I found this info to back up my experience

Is it Really More Expensive to Eat Healthy?

By Linda Gotthelf

fresh produce

 

How often have you heard people say they choose fast food because it is less expensive than healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables? While it sounds as if that could be the case, how much data is there to support that claim? The answer – not much!

A 2011 study by the USDA Economic Research Service estimated the costs of 153 commonly eaten fruits and vegetables, including fresh, canned, and frozen. They found that average prices ranged from less than 20 cents a cup to over $2 per cup, depending on the fruit or vegetable. On average, they estimated the cost at about 50 cents per cup.

The Produce Marketing Association found very similar results in 2010 assessing the cost per serving of produce from 13,000 stores. Their data indicated that, nationally, the average retail price was just under 50 cents per cup.

An analysis in a recent New York Times article found the cost of a typical order for a family of four at one popular fast food restaurant was about $28. The order included burgers, fried chicken, French fries (not a vegetable!) and soda. Reading that had me wondering what I could buy for $28, so I decided to take on the challenge. At my local supermarket, I paid $2.59 for grapes (on sale), $2.99 for honeydew (on sale), $1.99 for fresh asparagus (on sale), $2.50 for Brussels sprouts (on sale) and $3.47 for sweet potatoes. That left nearly $15 for either fish or chicken. My meal was far healthier, more filling, had more fiber, less saturated fat and included fruit for dessert (with some left over)!

It is possible to eat healthy foods without adding on extra costs. If you are trying to cut costs, there are some practical ways to keep food costs down, including:

  • Buy produce in season as it is usually less expensive or buy items on sale, as I did.
  • Some items are consistently less expensive – such as beans or whole grains. In the USDA study, for example, pinto beans were only 13 cents per cup, and packed with nutrition and fiber.
  • Check out canned or frozen foods – they may be cheaper depending on the item.
  • Try some meatless meals – meat is more expensive than fruits and vegetables and grains.

One last thought – being unhealthy can be expensive (more medical bills, more medications, etc.). Look at healthy eating with plenty of fruits and vegetables as a good long-term strategy for saving money. That might be a provocative thought but it makes sense to me. What about you?

Is Butter Bad or Are We?

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Turbo Jam – day26 of 28 – finally got up the courage to do the Turbo Sculpt and ooo I’m sore!

 

Ya know, just 2-3 generations ago, we got butter a little differently than we do today.

First, you had to breed, birth, feed and care for the cow, muck out the stalls, milk the cow, separate the cream and churn that butter for a few hours.

After you clean out the churn and set the butter to cool, its time to weed the vegetable garden, water by hand (no spigot – ya pumped it by hand and carried the bucket to the garden – back & forth) pick and clean the vegetables. Don’t ya just love to sit and shuck peas? It is down right meditative. Only way I can get Herb to grow crowder or other peas is to promise to shuck them all myself!

And because you had to cook everything from scratch go get out the flour and lard to make the bread, knead it, let it rise and knead it again, bake it. We haven’t even gotten to the part where you had to go out to the hen house, pick out a lazy layer and do everything needed to get that bird on the table…

You could afford to put as much butter on your food as you wanted – but when you had to go through all that to get it one meal on the table, you appreciated everything that was there and used it accordingly.

I remember my Grandma’s farm kitchen. Oh the smells! Fresh bread or something always baking, something on the stove simmering. In the morning she would call my Grandpa in for breakfast from the fields or orchard or wherever he’d been working since before the sun came up. He had the same thing most every day, 2 slices homemade wheat bread slathered very thickly with cooled bacon grease and salted heavily with one soft boiled egg and coffee – then back to work until Grandma called him in to lunch! They were green and organic and didn’t even know it!

Trouble is too many of us in America have those old habits of big farm eating without the big farm chores. Homemade pies, jams & jellies, pancakes, butter, cheese and for the carnivores big slabs of meat, potatoes and gravy – gravy or butter on everything! The majority of  Americans never used to have to exercise because it was just part of life. On the farm or in the city.

Now we’ve got so many gadgets to make our lives “easier” that to stay healthy we need to formalize exercise.  As I’m remembering Grandma’s kitchen I picture her doing laundry in her old wringer-washer before my Dad bought her an electric washer.

Just think how lost we all would be if our electricity was gone, every where, for even a month. Not being able to charge our cell phones would NOT be the worst of it!

My Grandparents held hands and kissed each other frequently their whole lives. They both lived a full life, Grandma to 89, and at 93 Grandpa was still bowling and playing piano for the Veteran’s Hospital palliative care. It was a different life back then. I asked Grandma once what was the secret to their relationship and she told me, “Some days its 80-20, some days its 20-80, but the bottom line is ya have to be crazy about each other.” Oh, my I miss them both!

Spring Gardening – It all Starts with the SOIL

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Turbo Jam – Day 13 of 28 – Beginner Level

Love this time of year! Getting out in the fresh air and sunshine. The big plus: gardening is excellent exercise!

The last of the winter crops going to seed (we harvest a lot of kale & broccoli seed to not only plant but for sprouts, too!)

Herb noticed that the kale going to seed was also putting out some new leaves at the bottom of the terminal bud stem, so he’s going to experiment and see if we can continue to get get kale without having to rip them all out and replant from seed (that takes sooo long!) Herb is going to cut back the terminal bud stem to the new growth coming on. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

But THE most important thing looking at the garden whether it is for veggies, annuals, bulbs, shrubs or whatever is the SOIL.  Now, Herb is known as Dr. Dirt around here and he takes his soil very seriously. His overriding philosophy is, “Spend $10 on the dirt, $1 on the plant.”

Even though he takes special pains ongoing to keep the tilth and nutrient value of our 100’x100′ veggie garden soil at a premium, he still gets soil analyzed each year. We get sample boxes for free from our county extension office. The analysis is free, too, we only pay mailing cost. Yeah, I know, paying to mail dirt, but oh it pays for itself many times over to learn exactly what you need to amend your soil to grow what you want specifically. Here’s some more info about soil testing if you’re interested. Here’s a sample form showing all the different crop codes.

We keep to organic principles and yes, it is work, but it is a labor of love. It is a big savings on the grocery bill, too. Healthy, nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits form the cornerstone of our healthy eating plan and working from home gives me the luxury to pursue this hobby.