Yesterday was my first day of Fall Break and since the kids were in school I was able to bake with some peace and quiet. I had a zucchini on hand and was going to shred and freeze it anyway, so I just held back two cups for this recipe. Shhhhh, do not tell Lily, she is adamant in her hatred for the poor vegetable.
This will be a short post, but one that is essential if you have a garden full of green tomatoes.
It is the end of the growing season (at least here in Indiana) and I know we always have green tomatoes still on the vines, but until a couple of years ago I never knew what to do with them. It was suggested to me by a friend that I take the green tomatoes, wrap each one in a sheet of newspaper, and store them in a cool, dark place in a brown bag. I was not able to do this last year because our tomato crop was not the greatest, but two years ago I did and we had garden tomatoes through December. Of course there were a few that did not make it and rotted, but for the most part we had perfect tomatoes that were from our garden.
I have already started picking the green tomatoes left on the vines and since we have had some unseasonably warm weather hope to be able to pick some more into next week. Having garden tomatoes in the winter is a delicacy and you should try this if you enjoy a good tomato.
R.J. wanted to plant his own garden this year and the only plants he wanted in it were ones that grew on vines. Pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, zucchini, and cucumbers made the list so we bought the seeds and then did what every good farmer does, we dumped the seeds randomly into the area we had cleared. It was quite organized and well thought out.
One day we had an area bare of any vegetation and the next it was a forest of vines. It was amazing how quickly the plants grew and then how much produce we were able to pick every few days. Zucchini and cucumber were the winners and we had so many of each that we could not eat them fast enough before they would spoil. What do you do with an excess of cucumbers? Why you make pickles of course, check out my post on fermenting pickles here. I also made some bread and butter pickles from a recipe I found on Pinterest, which you can find here. I am storing all of the pickles in the fridge so that it will help them to remain crisp.
Now, about all of the zucchinis... R.J. loves Zoodles (noodles made from zucchini), Lily not so much, but I had a Zoodle factory in my kitchen one night and managed to freeze six bags of Zoodles for use later in the year. I know that zucchini does not thaw well, but I read that if you add water to the bag of Zoodles they will freeze better and not end up as mush once they thaw. I will let you know how they turn out when I thaw them, my fingers are crossed as are R.J.'s, but Lily is hoping that they all end up in the trash bin.
Making Zoodles is a fairly easy process, but doing it in mass quantity takes some time and is a bit tedious. I took up the entire kitchen table with my Zoodle set up and managed to not make too much of a mess. From there I portioned them off into gallon sized freezer bags, added enough water that the Zoodles were covered, and then stacked them neatly in the freezer. If you are interested in making your own Zoodles there is a link below for the Spiralizer I use and I cannot complain. It is easy to clean and stores neatly.
I also canned more of our green beans, they are one of the easiest vegetables to can and are a good place to start if you have never canned before; you really cannot mess up green beans.
We have an abundance of tomatoes this year, especially grape and cherry tomatoes. Even though we eat these little guys like candy we have more than we can eat before they will spoil. Since this is the case I decided I would try making sauce with all of our tomatoes including all of the little guys.
If you have made sauce before you know that you need to remove the skins and the seeds from your tomatoes in order to make a good sauce, this was not something that I was going to do with hundreds of cherry tomatoes so I just washed them and threw them into the slow cooker. I did remove the skins and seeds for the big tomatoes. This is easy if you place them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute and then transfer the tomatoes into a bowl with cold water. The skins will fall off of the tomatoes with just a little help. Once you have removed the skins cut the tomatoes in half and scrape out all of the seeds from the insides and throw them into the slow cooker (or pot) with the other tomatoes.
I have been meaning to give my cast iron some love and finally got around to it the other day. They were not looking that great and I know part of the reason is because I have not used them much.
I scrubbed my pots with soap and water and then allowed them to dry. If you have one that has areas that are rusted you may need to use a stiff brush to remove the rust. Once they were dry I decided to go with coconut oil and covered the pot and teapot with it; I then placed each of them on a baking sheet (so the oil would not drip into my oven and 'baked' them at 375 for one hour.
After the hour I removed them from the oven and allowed them to cool for about ten minutes, I was then able to wipe off all of the excess oil with a clean rag. That's all it took to have my cast iron looking good again.
A couple of things to remember about cast iron:
1. Heat and cool slowly.
2. Cast iron retains heat well so you can cook at a lower heat to avoid foods sticking.
3. Wash by hand (do not place in dishwasher) and dry immediately. There is no need to use dish soap, but if you feel you need to a little will be fine.
4. If there are bits of stuck food use a scraper to get them off or heat some water in the pan to loosen them.
5. You should not use a scouring pad because it will ruin your seasoned cast iron.
6. Once your pot is dry rub a little oil on it and then store.
My kids have been requesting Hummus with their vegetables for their lunches lately, this is not unusual since RJ has been eating the stuff for as long as he has been eating. As soon as he was eating baby food he would eat hummus and guacamole by the bowl, bad for me because I like them both, but overall a huge parenting win. I ran out of the kind that I usually buy at the market so I decided to make my own, minus Tahini since I did not have any on hand.
Here is what you need:
15 oz. Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbs. Lemon Juice
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
4 Tbs. Water
2 Tbs. Minced Garlic (This started as just one tablespoon, but my taste testers did not think it gave enough flavor so I added more)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Put all of your ingredients in your blender except for the water and blend until relatively smooth. Start adding the water one tablespoon at a time until the hummus is at your desired consistency. Store the hummus in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (if it will last that long) or in the freezer for up to eight months.
The next batch I make I plan on using the peppers that I canned last fall so I get a different flavor. I will update the post with that recipe once it is approved by my taster testers.
Our apple trees did not produce much for us this season so I was pretty excited when I found thirty pounds of apples for $5 at our local IGA. I figured I should do something with them that day so it was time to make apple butter.
1. Core apples (I leave the peals on) and place in large pot, add two cups of water. Cover and cook on low heat until apples are soft.
2. Transfer apples to blender and blend until smooth and then pour into your slow cooker, leave a little space for your other ingredients. Make sure when you are blending that you do not fill it up too much or you will burn your hand like I did. I filled the blender too close to the top and the hot apples spit out of the corner and gave me a nice little blister.
3. Once you have all of your apples blender and in the slow cooker add your sugar and spices. My slow cooker holds 6 quarts so adjust your measurements if necessary.
- 1 cup Stevia
- 1 cup coconut sugar (you can also use brown sugar)
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
4. Stir in your ingredients and set the slow cooker to high. Cook on high for an hour and then change to low. I let my apple butter cook all night on low. I stirred it first thing in the morning and let it cook a few more hours on low. The last hour I left the lid off so that the apple butter would thicken. At this point your apple butter should have a rich brown color. Cook it until you reach your preferred thickness.
5. Fill your canning jars and either pressure can them for eight minutes with five pounds of pressure or use a hot water bath for fifteen minutes.
When Shannon fires up the smoker we have food for weeks. The trouble is that I need to make sure we eat it or store it before it goes bad. While we usually have sandwiches and pulled pork tacos, after a few days we have all had enough. This time I tried something different with the extra pulled pork and used it instead of ground beef in chili.
I had frozen the pork and pulled it out the other day for my chili; I made it the same as I usually do just with pulled pork. It was really good. I had so much chili that not only did we have it for dinner two nights, but I was also able to can six quarts for use later. I think that when I pull it out to use I will add some extra crushed tomatoes and chili beans since it is pretty thick, but I look forward to this easy, healthy meal when it is cold outside.
Blog by: Libby Clem