Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cooking Up A Storm

Please forgive my absence this last week, I have been fighting a bit of the blahs. In such times, I don't feel like talking much. I just putter aimlessly, in my own little world for awhile.

My garden has been killing me. I have given grocery bag after grocery bag of produce away, cooked some for every meal and the piles just keep growing. I don't remember having this much excess when we had big gardens as a kid.

Then it hit me...

Back then, we also had lots of chickens and as least one hog.

Well, that explains that. I told MH that since I am allowed to have a garden again next year...

We'll probably have to go the chicken and hog route as well.

The allowed to have a garden again has become a joke between MH and I due to the large amount of time I spend puttering in the garden. However, the husband has deemed that time worthy due to the number of new dishes on the menu.

This year has been a learning process to be sure. I was a kid that last time I remember gardening seriously. My mom always had a garden until '76 when the grasshoppers descended and ate everything in sight. I clearly remember how absolutely disgusting they were in those years.

When my dad moved back to the family ranch in the early 80's, he took up where my grandmother had left off and had acres and acres of garden. I don't think I was even born yet when my grandmother was bitten on the finger by a rattlesnake when she was picking tomatoes, but I grew up with that story embedded in my head, that when must be very, very careful about digging around in the plants. To this day, and even though we do not have any poisonous snakes in the area I live in now, that thought crosses my mind and I am cautious when I start digging around for hidden produce.

Oddly, some of my best memories of my dad was gardening with him. He was a much different person when he was working in his garden than anywhere else. I think it gave him a sense of peace and purpose. He was a very troubled man.

Even though I have been a bit overwhelmed with the sheer production of my tiny little garden, I can totally relate to why my dad's garden made him feel good.

Needless to say, I have had to do some digging to come up with new recipes to use up all of this that I am growing. The freezer is holding all of the extra peas and corn. I have tried canning some pickles and can't wait to try them in a few weeks. I have my fingers crossed that they turn out. MH is a dill pickle fan. I prefer a zesty bread and butter.

I have baked zucchini bread and muffins and froze them. I tried several recipes until I found the one we liked the best. It's a bit more cake-like than bread-like. I am currently trying chocolate zucchini cake recipes. I have also grated numerous bags of zucchini and froze them to use later in the winter. Shredded zucchini freezes very well.

Multiple recipes for zucchini patties have been tried and we settled on two that we really like. One has bread crumbs, one is more of pancake batter style.

I have served stuffed zucchini, made by gently cooking the whole zucchini, cutting it in half, cleaning out the squash, mixing that with sausage and parmesan cheese and then filling the shells with the mixture and baking. THAT was a huge success. The flavor was there, even if I was disappointed that my zucchini shells went totally flat. LOL

The latest and greatest was Zucchini Custard Pie. Sounds kinda gross, but we have absolutely inhaled them. MH says they are his new favorite pie.

The one thing that I have had a hard time coming up with new recipes for was the yellow squash. My tried and true recipe for fried squash chips has not gotten old yet. MH really likes them just for something to nosh on. But outside of that and a couple of casserole dishes I would like to try yet, I was coming up short of what to do with the yellow squash. It doesn't particularly freeze or can well. Although, if I could find some casserole recipes for it, I was thinking of seeing how it froze in shredded form like the zucchini.

While I was digging through my piles of recipes and recipe books, I ran across an old page I had saved that had a zucchini/squash relish recipe. Since I am inundated with produce, I figured I'd give it a shot. Not to mention it called for the use of 'Italian peppers'.

In my pepper selection this year, I had included some Gypsy peppers. They have been quite prolific, but neither MH or I cared for the taste of them raw or sauted, so I was at a loss of what to do with the excess. I have been chopping them up and putting them in the pico de gallo, as well as the salsa I have started making, but as I said, they are prolific little buggers, so I don't ever seem to use them up.

Let me just say...I ate spoonfuls of this relish while it cooled. OMG...It is delicious. The recipe does not call for canning it, rather it is a refrigerator relish (lasts about 2 weeks) or can be froze for a month. I am thinking it could be canned and am going to try that for the next batch. I immediately ran out and bought some Italian sausages and bratwursts and it's heavenly piled up on them. I think it would be good piled on hamburgers as well. It's wonderfully sweet and tangy, a bit crunchy and the addition of jalapenos and curry gives it a lot of depth.

If anyone is interested, I'm happy to share the recipes. Believe me, I am not into complex cooking. If anyone has squash or zucchini recipes that they are particularly fond of...please send them my way. I'm drowning in a sea of squash. ;-)


Funder said...

Glad to hear from you! I hate getting in a funk. Puttering around in the garden sounds like an excellent cure.

I'm glad I've never seen a plague of grasshoppers. They kinda squick me out, honestly. The chickens and the goat are extremely helpful with my excess produce. :)

C-ingspots said...

Dang girl - you have been busy!! Only wish I could say our garden is producing an abundance of anything!! We're still waiting for that first ripe tomato!!! Holy crap, this has been the weirdest summer ever!! We're having our hottest weather of the summer these past 2 weeks...go figure. I slice yellow squash and zuchini (skin on), add butter, salt, pepper and parmesan. Put in casserole dish and microwave for a quick and easy dish. You could try adding blueberries to your zuchini muffins - yum!! Everything sounds good you've tried.

Shirley said...

I don't eat squash much as Ted hates it, but it can be made into soup (butternut squash) and my mom always used to bake it with brown sugar on it. I looked up canning and here is what I found:

Why is canning summer squash or zucchini not recommended?
Recommendations for canning summer squashes, including zucchini, that appeared in former editions of So Easy to Preserve or USDA bulletins have been withdrawn due to uncertainty about the determination of processing times. Squashes are low-acid vegetables and require pressure canning for a known period of time that will destroy the bacteria that cause botulism. Documentation for the previous processing times cannot be found, and reports that are available do not support the old process. Slices or cubes of cooked summer squash will get quite soft and pack tightly into the jars. The amount of squash filled into a jar will affect the heating pattern in that jar. It is best to freeze summer squashes or pickle them for canning, but they may also be dried.

Dried squash? Anyone ever tried that?

Anonymous said...

we like squash sliced and tossed with olive oil and whatever seasonings you like and put on the grill for a few minutes, turn over and let that side cook a bit, really good. I have even done this in an iron skillet.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Dried? No can't say that I have ever heard of that. I think I will pass. LOL

Thanks for the info Shirley. I'm now wondering about canning the relish? It is pickled (as much vinegar in it as the pickles I've been making) and cooked through on the stovetop.

If nothing else, I can prepare the ingredients beforehand and freeze them. Then when we want some more relish, I can make it fresh.

I was lucky enough to make a trade last week-produce for a gallon of raw milk. I'll be continuing that as long as possible. I am extremely fond of fresh, unskimmed milk. Today I traded produce for fresh eggs. I think my baking is going to be kicking into high gear. ;-)

Chelsi said...

I hate to suggest using perfectly good squash as dog food but... I was told that pumpkin and other squash can be used as a low calorie filler for dogs with weight problems or just as a good healthy food option to add to their regular food.

I like my squash baked then blended smooth with a little hit of butter and brown sugar and a hint of nutmeg. It makes a lovely sweet side to steak and potatoes! Yum!

Angie said...

you remind me of myself when I was in my 30s I had produce coming out of my ears, brown paper bags of veggies on my kitchen counter. I remember having to take the kids to the Dr's and coming home and somehow those bags were still sitting on the counter.. I froze most of our produce and canned tomatoes and pickles.. lots of work but loved it.. I ate mostly veggies than. I loved our potatoes, don't recall the kind we grew but they were the equivalent to a homegrown tomatoe.. once you had one why would you eat a store bought one. I made our bread, had a super recipe for raisin bread that called for boiling a potatoe in water and using it to proof the yeast.. tried to skip the potatoe but that part was what made the bread so good.. yup.. sewed clothes for the kidlets, etc.. a busy time :) Wish I lived closer I'd have to make a call to help rid you of your excess.. Hugs, Angie

Leah Fry said...

I'm so NOT a gardener, so am of no help whatsoever.

Crystal said...

Hmm I garden, but I hve greatly cut down my garden size so it is something we can reasonably eat in a year. That relish sounds good! I made some lst year and canned it and it turnd out fine. And I dont grow zucchini canse my neighbor does and we swap a few (3) for some jam I make so I am not overwhelmed there.
But I hear you about pests in the garden, in our super dry climate, we dont have a lot of bugs, but as I was picking my carrots the other day I squished something slimey, EWWW! It was a slug, have never seen them in the garden before, that was so gross.

Anonymous said...

zucchine takes on the flavor of what ever you add to it, you could use it and fruit flavored jello and make jam or marleade(spelling). i think there should be a recipe in line somewhere. my aunt used to do this.

Anonymous said...

You relish looks a lot like what the southerners down here in AL call Chow Chow. It's awesome. I use it in potato salad, egg salad and tuna salad too. Good stuff!

Sherry Sikstrom said...

will look up moms zucc relish and chutney recipes .I have had it up to a year later (if no one eats it sooner ,and it has been fine. .I think it is like green beans , you have to find a way to up the acid content (vinegar) or pressure can

Cut-N-Jump said...

My sister grew zuchcini one year. She had a ton of them and ran out of ideas too.

Make them into french fries. Cut them up the same, baked or fried with salt- yummy!

Her neighbor had a recipe just like apple pie only it was zucc's. She couldn't tell the difference.

Fried zuccini- goes without saying, breaded and fried. yummy with homemade pasta...

BEC's- If you'd like to guest post on my blog Cheap-Chef, let me know, I will set you up. That way the recipes are there for everyone, anytime, all the time. I just posted a recipe for ricotta and the pasta recipe not too long ago. It would be good made from your fresh milk...