Tag Archives: garden

An Overdue Update

Wow I can’t believe how much I have abandoned my blog during this pregnancy.  I haven’t visited or posted on here in the last 2 1/2 months!  I guess we’ll just call it an unannounced maternity leave.  Time has been going by so quickly this summer, and I guess I have somewhat lost interest and had my mind on other things.  And I must say that since the beginning of the pregnancy, I have sort of lost my creative spark in the kitchen.  I know, it is sad.  In the beginning I had a very picky appetite, although no problems with nausea or morning sickness.  Then my appetite and taste for food got more normal but cooking has just seemed like more work than it ever did before.  Other than my creative spunk in the kitchen, or lack of, there has been plenty of other fun things to post on so I think I have some catching up to do.

I know, enough excuses already, but I also must say that I always heard about ‘pregnancy brain’ before and thought it was sort of just a joke.  I’m telling you, it is real.  It is very REAL!  I won’t have my husband get on here to tell stories and examples, but will just say it is real, it’s not really funny, and maybe has something to do with neglecting the blog.  =)

I should start with a little update on this season’s gardening.  Honestly, my energy and effort in the garden has been much the same as in the kitchen.  Again, sad.  This summer we have had 90 degree weather all day every day for a while now so I tend to stay out of the heat and go in the garden right when the mosquitos want to come out and run me out of there.

My sunflowers are probably my favorite thing in the garden this year.  They now stand tall and make me happy.  I’ll definitely have to plant a bunch of them from now on!

And then of course the berries!  Processing of them has so far consisted of eating them fresh and sticking the rest in the freezer. =)

Had plenty of strawberries to enjoy too…

Our tomato bed sort of exploded with all the sunny hot days we’ve had, and is now full of green tomatoes..

And we are still enjoying some Chioggia Beets and some carrots.  I don’t think they did as great as we got them the last couple summers, I’m thinking it’s because every day this spring was rainy and then it seemed to switch overnight to being 90 degrees and hot everyday…

The peas did pretty well too.  Oh and my lavender from last year came back, and blew up…

So the garden has not got all the TLC this year that it has deserved and needed, I suppose I should get out there and pick more raspberries and pull some weeds.

I will be back soon to post updates on the progress in the baby’s room.  It’s a work in progress, and slow going, but I have a lovely vision for it and I’ll soon share pictures of the improvements along the way.  =)

Advertisements

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

It’s spring in Montana, so that means there are some yummy treats being made with our rhubarb.  This is our plant’s third season planted here, and I love seeing it come back bigger and better every year.

The leaves and stalks are huge, they took up half of our dining room table.  I froze a lot of berries last summer from our garden and some produce farms in WA that we visited, so with the strawberries I stored away in the freezer I’ve been making Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Pie lately.  So good, I love the sweet and tart combination.

Just snapped some quick shots with the ol’ iPhone cameras, and this was the last piece of pie so it was kinda falling apart and I didn’t get to take one of it glistening when it was hot out of the oven.

Pie is not usually the first dessert I make at home for me and my hubby, even though I come from a long line of pie-making and pie-eating dutch women!  There usually has to be a good reason for me to make it, like Thanksgiving, or an abundance of rhubarb.  🙂  The fun thing about pies though, is the more you make them the better you get at it, and it’s good to be familiar with how to make a good dough and master pie crust.

You can find the recipe over at my cousin’s blog, Born in the Wrong Century.  🙂

Courgette Favorites :: Fried Zucchini

Can I think of any more not-so-nourishing ways to eat this vegetable??  Well probably, but we won’t go there for now.  My mom always made fried zucchini when I was growing up and I love it.  I don’t deep fry it, and neither did she, but we do a bread crumb coating and pan fry it.  They’re so good as a part of dinner or a little appetizer.  I made a lot of them last night and they’re pretty darn good the next day as a leftover snack too.

::Fried Zucchini::
1 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. bread crumbs
1 or 2 large zucchini, 1/2″ thick slices
optional:
1/4 c. grated parmesan

With three bowls set out, fill one with the flour, one with two eggs, and one with bread crumbs (and parm if using).  Season the flour or the bread crumbs with s + p.

Roll each slice in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs, and set on a baking sheet or plate.  Heat a large saute pan (non-stick, cast iron, or stainless) over medium heat, coating the pan with about 1/4″ of olive oil/vegetable oil.  When oil is hot and a pinch of bread crumbs gives a good sizzle, set the coated zucchini in the pan.  Don’t over crowd the pan, cook them in two batches if you have a lot.  Let sizzle and brown, about 5-ish min. on each side.  Only turn over once.  Line the same baking sheet or plate with paper towels and set fried zucchini on it to cool.  Each slice is done when it’s golden brown on each side, and if you press on the center a little and it’ll give.

Tips:
–Use one hand for rolling the slices in the dry ingredients and the other for the wet egg layer, to minimize fingertip clumpage.
–1/2″ thick slices work best, firm on the outside and tender in the middle.
–When removing from pan and setting on paper towels, set the recently-cooked-side down, rather than turning over, so that the oil doesn’t soak back into the zucchini, but runs down into the paper towel.

These are served best with a little marinara or some aioli, but also just right without any dressing.  Cheers!

Courgette Favorites :: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

As much as I’ve been enjoying zucchini lately you would think it was the only vegetable we grew in our garden this year.  However, our zucchini plants were not quite as productive as I was hoping.  I have managed to harvest some from the garden, and supplemented that with visits to the Farmers Markets.  In my recent liking of putting up food for the chilly winter months, a lot of it has been grated and set in the freezer.  Now I can pull out a little package of this good stuff all year long, and make one of my favorite cakes.

My Aunt Connie’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake has been enjoyed by the family for several years now and every time I have a piece, it brings me right back to summer weekends at the family cabin.  So far I’ve made this a few times in the last month, I can’t stop!!  It’s so perfectly moist, spongey, and chocolatey, and hey it has a vegetable in it so it can’t be that bad to eat it everyday, right?  =)

The recipe is featured on my cousin’s blog, where she also includes her ‘healthy’ version.  This is definitely one of my few favs when it comes to zucchini, and when it comes to cake.  I think my hubby said it best when I first made it, “This is the best thing ever invented”.  =)

::Chocolate Zucchini Cake::  
-compliments of Aunt Connie-

2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. butter, rm. temp.
1/2 c. canola or safflower oil
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. sour milk (add in a tsp of lemon juice to milk)

2 c. grated zucchini
optional:
3/4 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  In another bowl, cream the butter, oil, and sugar, then beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the sour milk.  Stir in grated zucchini, fold in the dry mixture, spread into a 9×13 dish, and sprinkle chocolate chips and/or walnuts.

Bake at 325 F. for 45 min., or at 350 F for 35-40 min.

Enjoy!  But I warn you, it’ll be your new favorite.

Courgette Favorites :: Stuffed Squash Blossoms


Carrying on with the zucchini theme in the kitchen, I must share one of my absolute favorite things to do with the garden goods, specifically the blossoms from the squash plants.  They’re not the healthiest little treats to make with your garden produce, but a treat indeed, and a good use for the blossoms.

I pluck my squash blossoms and when I have at least a dozen good ones, I fill them with a ricotta-mozzerella cheesy goodness, roll them in flour, egg, and bread crumbs, and pan fry them.  If you have zucchini blossoms in your garden and never end up eating them, and stumble upon this blog post, you’ve got to try it!  They’re even better with a little marinara to dip them in, but I usually am so eager to eat them I don’t bother with heating up the sauce.  =)



::Stuffed Squash Blossoms::

1/2 c. cream cheese, softened
1 c. ricotta cheese
3/4 – 1 c. mozzarella, grated
1/4 c. parmesan, grated (optional)
1 egg yolk, (optional)
1 T. fresh basil, chopped
pinch of s+p

In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, ricotta, egg yolk, basil, s+p, and stir in the mozzarella and parmesan.  Use a pastry bag or a quart size ziplock bag, folding the top of the bag over your fingers and spoon in the cheese filling.  Cut the point off the ziplock to squeeze the filling into the blossoms.  (The cheese filling can be any combination of cheeses you like, even using just ricotta and mozzarella works well).

Carefully hold the blossom and pry it open on one end, squeeze the cheese into the blossom.  Have three bowls ready, one with flour, one with 1-2 eggs lightly beaten eggs, and the other with bread crumbs.  (Can always add in a handful of grated parm in w/ the bread crumbs).

Toss the stuffed blossoms lightly in the flour, then the egg, then bread crumbs, one at a time.  When they’re all coated, set in a hot pan evenly coated with olive oil/canola oil.  Let sizzle and get golden brown on all sides, turning carefully every two-ish minutes.  Remove from pan when golden and crisped on all sides.

Enjoy!  And let me know if you have made these before, or if you’re going to give it a try.  =)

Courgette Favorites :: Zucchini Angel Hair Pancake

I’ve been in a zucchini mood lately, which works out well since I’m getting a bit of it from the garden and farmer’s market.  We enjoyed this dish last night for dinner, and though it’s a bit of work, it’s well worth it.  It’s a fun, delicious, Italian dish. I’ve made Zucchini Potato Pancakes before, and those are great as a side in your dinner but this big pancake with angel hair pasta serves well as a main course, and makes really good leftovers.  This recipe was in a Cooking Light magazine I was flipping through while getting my hair done last week.  So I went home, looked it up online and whipped up one big pancake.  =)

The only things I switched up in the recipe was the 1/3 c. flour that is called for, I replaced with 1/4 c. bread crumbs and 1/4 c. flour, and only did a little pinch of baking powder, and did more parmesan.  I also should have used my nonstick skillet but used the stainless saute pan, and rather than flipping it I cooked it til brown and crisp on the bottom then finished it in the oven at 450 for 20-25 min.
Well the food photography was done indoors and at night, so the pics don’t make it look as appetizing and delicious as it was, but this with a little green salad really is perfect!  YUM!  =)

Dill Pickles

Last weekend I made and canned Dill Pickles for the first time.  I don’t know why I didn’t do it last summer, it’s pretty easy and I’d love to have enough canned pickles for the whole winter and not have to buy them.

I picked up the pickling cucumbers from a local farm at the Farmer’s Market, made up the pickling spice mixtures, made up the brine, and although the recipe from my Williams-Sonoma Art of Preserving book said to slice them into 1/2″ slices, I wanted long pickles so I quartered them lengthwise.



I ended up getting five jars, which I was pretty disappointed by since I had several jars ready for canning and 7 lbs of pickling cucumbers sliced, but ended up running out of brine, and out of white vinegar to make more brine.  I think the recipe has a shortcoming in how much brine it calls for having boiling and ready, but it could be from the way I cut my pickles.

Anyway, now we have to wait two weeks to let them set and develop flavor, so I’m anxious to pop open a jar and try them… and can more pickles.  =)

::Dill Pickles::
(adapted from The Art of Preserving, adjusted to my liking for 8-9 pint jars)

5 lb pickling cucumbers, each about 1 1/2″ thick, quartered lenthwise

6 c. distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
4 T kosher salt
6 c. water

6-9 dill heads
16 cloves garlic
40 peppercorns
10 T. pickling spice

::Pickling Spice::
2 dried bay leaves, crushed
3 T mustard seeds
2 T coriander seeds
1 t whole allspice
1 T mixed peppercorns
1 T dill seeds
1 t red pepper flakes
Combine and store in an airtight container for up to one year.

Quarter cucumbers lengthwise and set aside.

In each of the 8-9 sterilized and hot pint jars, fill with 1 dill head, 1 T pickling spice, 2 garlic cloves, and 5 peppercorns.  Heat up vinegar and salt in a nonreactive saucepan/dutch oven and add the water.  Bring the brine to a boil, and keep at a boil, until ladling into the jars.  Fill the jars with the cucumber slices as tightly as possible, filling to within 3/4″ of the rims.  Ladle the boiling hot brine into the jars, to 1/2″ of headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal tightly with the lids.

Place the hot jars (work quickly so your jars are still hot) into the boiling water bath and process for 11-12 minutes (for 4-5k’ elevation).  Set aside jars for two weeks to allow flavors to develop.  Store in a cool, dark place and enjoy within a year.