Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Squash Freezing Experiment.

Surfing for information on the absolutely EASIEST method of freezing summer squash, I ran across the following entry:

"I got this advice from a friend of mine who puts up lots of veggies for the winter. I have put the yellow squash in my freezer according to her instructions, but have not actually taken any out and cooked it. She says they will keep 3 or 4 months with this procedure. Wash the squash and dry. Do not peel. Prepare brown paper lunch bags by slipping them one inside the next until you have about 4 layers, then slice the squash and place them in the inner bag. Fold the tops down a couple folds and staple the bag shut. She has been doing this for a long time with large amounts of both yellow and zucchini squash, so I trust her that this works. Harlean from Arkansas "

Never having tried to freeze ANYTHING from my garden previously, I was impressed with the simplicity of this method. MOST begin with blanching. But, who wants to blanch if blanching might not be necessary?

So, I sent a smoke signal up for Diane and we started discussing this "paper" method when I ran across a later post from the same OP.

Notice how 4 bags went to 3: ThriftyFun. Diane and I got to talking again, and I decided to give it a try as soon as I found my brown paper lunch bags (which happened today).

I was up to 4.5 squash today (with the .5 losing half due to squash borers), so I chopped 1.5 for the first batch (sliced) that used 4 paper bags, 1 squash for the second batch (sliced) that used 3 paper bags, 1 squash for the third batch that was left whole and used 3 paper bags.



Put all three in the chest freezer in the garage and will wait a respectable time to allow the bags to fall to the bottom and offer the test of time before reporting on results.

Opinions are welcome on whether 4 brown paper lunch bags represent a bigger carbon footprint than one plastic freezer bag AND (assuming this method works) your guess on WHY.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Em took a bunch of cherry tomatoes over to No. 1's on his way to work today. They represented the only "presentable" tomatoes from the garden this week. We had a bunch of unpresentable tomatoes, however, which are in the process of being turned into salsa.

Read a number of recipes for salsa-making today and got all the ingredients ready for my first experiment:


Em got ready when I sent him to the store for jalapenos and a few more bell peppers. My hot peppers aren't producing yet and big bells are selling for $.50 each.


Some recipes call for boiling ingredients, but I chose to broil/chop/refrigerate.


I might have broiled a tad too long, but the skin is removed (for the most) anyway, so the recipe wasn't spoiled at all.


Chopped, but left it fairly chunky as salsas go.


Mixed with chopped cilantro, onions, lime juice, liquid smoke, EVOO, cumin, red wine vinegar, salt. I didn't try and measure anything too carefully. It was more like "a few shakes of this, a few pinches of that".


Half the ingredients (batch 1 of 2) JUST fit into an empty and cleaned for repurposing Ragu 1 lb 10oz jar. Now, I simply await the taste-testing which will determine what I do with batch 2.


Monday, July 20, 2009


I've been afflicted with the stuff since I've been an adult, which adds up to over 40 years. Commercials for the dandruff shampoos talk about how flakes from your scalp fall onto the black shirts you wear. I don't usually suffer so much from the flakes on my clothing. I suffer more from the sores and itch.

So, after 40+ years of "controlling" with dandruff shampoo, I'm trying for the Full Monty. Today is the 3rd day that I've engaged in what some have claimed will get rid of my dandruff. This means I started last week, because the "cure" is dependent on a twice/week "treatment".

So far, my opinion is: "Meh".

If anyone's Interested

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Trout with garden vegetables.


Recipes: 1) Trout. Color me a dumbass for not noticing that the recipe called for 2-3 trout which I read as "feeds 2-3 people". So, I had ONE trout, filleted into two parts and used an entire tomato, all the seasonings, etc. D'OH! I was going to include something here on how tomato, onion, seasonings could have been quartered. We liked it, though, a whole lot more than we liked that tuna fish salad recipe that all those people from Allrecipes liked. We ate that one, but missed the crunch of celery and hard-boiled eggs and thought there was too much pickle relish. So, it's back to the family recipe on THAT one for next time.

THIS one, though, blended right in with the garden veggie dish (not to mention using tons of tomatoes which are sitting all over my counter right now not beautiful enough to offer the neighbors but not awful enough to compost).

2) Summer Squash to which (of course) I added turnip, because we had a big turnip starting to get soft on the counter.

Mixed all together, eventually, the overspiced fish complemented the underspiced vegetable dish really well. TIP: If a recipe says "peel the tomato", peel the tomato.

I have two more good-sized summer squashes already picked, but I think we're tired of eating them, and I expect the squash borers to put those two plants out of service real soon, so I'm gonna chop and freeze the last two so we can enjoy them later. I'll probably do something with these tomatoes, too. Not sure what yet, though.

Tonight's supper is grilled ribeye with a few biscuits and a garden salad of tomatoes & greens.

This afternoon, though, I think I'll make Krusteaz Lemon Bars. I'll cut four bars for tonight and freeze the rest. If I don't do that, Em will eat them for breakfast every day until they're gone. I'm not opposed to desserts, but try and limit them to once/month or so.

Em's turn to cook starts tomorrow, so I'm saved from turning this into a cooking blog.

UPDATE: The Krusteaz Lemon Bars are done and reminiscent of some we got at a stop at a little cafe near the Berkeley campus in 2007, which was our hope.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tuna Salad with Cheese and Curry Powder? Who Knew?

We haven't done much grocery shopping since before the wedding. Usually, I make lists each week when the sales ads arrive, but sales haven't reflected anything we needed lately so Em's been going alone to just get milk and beer with a few random exceptions. This week Albertson's has a sale on some things that need to be replenished in the pantry at the same time that manufacturer coupons are available for them. That's the best money-saving combination, so off we go tomorrow to renew our stocks of a few items we use regularly.

We finally this week used up a can of sloppy joe mix that's been sitting in the pantry for several years [before I knew how to make it from scratch] when I made hamburger buns with leftover flour from the pizzas. Now, I have buns leftover, too, so decided to make tuna salad sandwiches for supper trying a new recipe. I have everything I need for this one without a trip to the store.


Is there somewhere in the world where tuna comes in 7oz cans? Ours were once 6oz until manufacturers decided to save money by dropping the can size down to 5oz. Parmesan and curry powder in tuna salad with NO eggs? Who Knew?

I hope to get many more healthy recipes from Ruchi's challenge.

Speaking of challenges, Crunchy Chicken has a new Buy Nothing Challenge - August 2009

We're traveling some in August, so it's not likely I'll engage in her challenge, but we buy so little anyway that little would change if I did.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Healthy Homemade Eating.

Your idea of healthy and mine might be very different, as both Em and I are omnivores and tend to include meat/fish/fowl in some form or another in our diet once/day. I also tend to include some type of carbohydrate (starch) with suppers as well as a vegetable and/or fruit. We don't diet and are both within the suggested weight range for our height and age. Neither do we suffer from diabetes or anything else which requires medication (and we want to keep it that way).

I didn't really learn to cook until maybe the past 5-7 years when I started watching cooking shows on the Food Network. I'd for many, many years, however been a student of healthy foods, so I knew what we should be eating but didn't know how to make meals around it. Rachel Ray was fond of saying, "We eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouth." Nutritionists suggest that we eat colorful foods for their high carotenoid content.

Some days I don't use a recipe at all, but you can bet I start out with the Cajun Trinity, which really should be called the Cajun Quad because it always includes garlic (and LOTS OF IT). While I grow onions and garlic, I don't grow enough of them to support the massive quantities we use. I'm still using up onions and garlic I overbought for wedding reception cooking. I don't grow celery, so buy organic celery at Kroger and keep it wrapped tightly in aluminum foil in the fridge to extend the shelf life.

So, onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper maybe fried in a little olive oil or butter to which anything else gets added is a staple around here. Here's a chicken dish with garden tomatoes, yellow squash from the garden, sweet peas and corn from Kroger's frozen section. I don't grow peas (It's just not cool enough long enough) or corn (The insects would walk away with it before it ripened).


Here's scallops and shrimp added to the trinity with tomatoes, summer squash and turnip greens from the garden. We like our food spicey, so I'd likely add white pepper, cayenne pepper, or cajun seasoning to any one-dish meal made on the stovetop in addition to cumin and turmeric.

Switching away from one-dish meals, I look for different ways to cook whatever is plentiful from the garden. We have plenty of turnips, yellow squash and tomatoes right now, so I'm pushing those into the menu. A good way to find out how Em would like something cooked is to ask him how his mom cooked it and then fix it any other way but that one. Here's something Em thought was GREAT. I cleaned the kale along with the greens from the turnips I pulled, so the dish probably had a little of both. I think Em's favorite part was the chipotle BBQ sauce I used on the meatloaf, which was EXTRA spicey.


Em doesn't feel as though he can tackle fresh vegetable dishes, so sometimes on his day to cook he makes the entree and I make the side. Here's some roasted turnips, potatoes, and carrots to go along with his baked chicken thighs.


Breakfast for supper is always a good idea and we had that canteloupe just waiting to be eaten. Eggs with tomatoes, garden greens, onion with hashed browns & frozen meatballs:


Em had to help me get the grain mill together for last night's pizza, but he got it done and I ground an entire bag of hard white wheat. I like the mild taste of the white wheat a little better than red, but I can't find the wheat berries locally so must mail order it.


Finally all the waiting, rising, shaping was done and it was time to include all the vegetables I'd chopped. Fortunately, Em hadn't watched. "I hope you like it." "Can't imagine why I wouldn't like it unless you put something like squash in it." Heh. Photobucket

For vegetarian pizza, I could have stopped here, but Em likes spicey sausage and pepperoni, too. It was SO high it seemed like it must be deep-dish or something.


A little hard to gauge the cooking time for it, but eventually it got done to our liking.

This is my submission for The Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Alline at Ecovillage Musings.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Some Garden Pics.

This is the West Fence garden. It started out early in the year as a strawberry patch (which wasn't terribly productive) and then became a green bean patch interspersed with strawberries and then went on to be a green bean interspersed with strawberries, herbs, and heirloom peppers and tomatoes patch with some zinnias mixed in with some watermelon. It's thriving (for the most), so I'll not complain. Close-up planting has provided shade and comfort in the Texas heat.


That's the same West fence garden area behind the 2009 compost garden. I don't have a compost PILE. I just toss food scraps, hair, lint, vacuum-cleaner-bag contents wherever I can find a little ground that doesn't have something growing on it at the moment using this garden patch. Last year I deposited the compost in the 2008 compost garden. The Texas heat is so strong that it pretty much sucks the life out of anything/everything set on the ground. I don't need to cut large things. A canteloupe or watermelon rind will shrink down to an inch or 2 in less than a day. This composting method results in LOTS of volunteers. LOTS! I also don't try and control the gardens much, either vertically (with supports) or horizontally (with wooden sides on raised beds). The beds started out raised this year because I had Ken and the loads of mushroom soil amendments, but Em's not into weed-whacking, so I sprayed grass & weed killer around all the garden beds on a really still day. It's not permanent, but it gave some boundaries for a while. This time of year, the watermelons are crawling up the tomatoes and the tomatoes are laying all over the place, but they stay cooler laying close to the ground and the fruits get less insect damage laying on grass.


The 2008 compost garden is too full of overgrown grasses to show right now, along with the asparagus patch. It's simply been too hot (even early in the day or later in the evening) to get out there for any kind of work. I get out there to pick stuff, though.


Insects are prolific, as you might imagine, and I try and pick things before insects damage them completely (meaning sometimes before they're totally ripe). You might also notice that some of the hybrid tomatoes suffer from "yellow shoulder". I haven't seen that on the heirloom tomatoes, but only the cherry tomatoes are ripening just recently, and the heirlooms (started from seed) weren't out there for the torrential rains of Spring. I'm sure the heat will affect them all eventually. No getting around that.

Be back later or tomorrow for today's garden pickings and pics of what we've been eating from the garden lately (including tonight's homemade pizza) for the Arduous Challenge.

Friday, July 10, 2009

City Harvest has only a few more days left for their Facebook match campaign.

Heads up for those of you on Facebook. City Harvest is a nonprofit food rescue organization that picks up excess food from restaurants, caterers, cafeterias, and other suppliers, then delivers it to the hungry in New York.

I like my charity to be local, too, but if you're on Facebook, take a minute before you check out for the weekend and suggest their page to every one of your friends! They're getting $5 per new friend until 7/15 [from SOMEBODY ELSE], and that $5 will buy 18 POUNDS of food for hungry people.

Giving to charity is oftentimes FREE, and this is one of those times. JUST DO IT!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Year of the Fail.

Rain woke me up at 3am and didn't stop until maybe 3 hours later. It's not often that we get rain in July in North Texas. Quite sure I got the inch I hope for once/week for the garden. Just need to modify the schedule to water next Monday instead of this Thursday.

Started a post yesterday, but lost it due to an electricity failure. We have those on occasion even when there are no apparent reasons for them. First thing I did (after cursing the post I'd lost) was run to see if the light was still on the garage freezer. It was, but the reason I checked it was because one day last month I went into the garage and noticed blood on the floor in front of the freezer. A quick check inside showed that packages were soft. Seems something triggered the GFCI for the freezer. It started right up again with a push of the reset button.

The garage freezer is only about 5 years old, so I figured it wasn't the freezer which had the problem, and rather than panic and throw away all my freezer food, I opted to just refreeze and check things individually as we took them out. So far, we've successfully eaten frozen veggies, chicken, ribs, and ground beef with no ill effects. We were VERY careful to pay attention to even the SLIGHTEST odor coming off the non-vegetable packages as they defrosted and there was absolutely NO odor on any of them. I'm sure that means SOMETHING (related to how long the freezer was in the OFF mode), but I don't know what.

Houses and appliances have shelf-lives just like grocery-store products, and our house was built something like 12 years ago, so it's TIME. We've already replaced the microwave and dishwasher which came with the house, but our neighbors have replaced far more and remind us that we can expect our hot water heater ... which is in the attic over the garage ... and the air conditioner ... which is outside and in the attic over the garage ... and the refrigerator ... which is in the kitchen and the garage door opener and anything else to all fail at the same time ... pretty much THIS year.

Busiest time of the year came this week for Em and the Racetrack job, so it made sense that on his way to work he'd stand in the doorway between the foyer and the laundry room and feel water dripping on his head. He checked it out and there was a pipe that had separated in the attic for the AC system. He was able to get the pipes back together again, but not before the water had leaked pretty much COMPLETELY into the door between the foyer and the laundry room SWELLING IT.

So, now the door can't close, and TRYING to close the door results in damage to the frame.


Ceiling of the laundry room also suffered. Just think of that entire wall separating the laundry room and the foyer as full of water and you pretty much have the picture.


It's EXTREMELY creepy with the door ajar in the foyer ... like someone is in there keeping it open.

Fails in the garden ALSO hit this month, with the once-so-beautiful as to be displayed in a gardening magazine zuccini succumbed to squash borers.


Don't know WHAT to do with the infected vines, which included spaghetti squash plants.


The acorn (and other winter) squash seem to have squash BUGS, but not squash borers, so I squish the bugs and hope for the best. Majority of the fruits look GREAT, but I'm thinking I need to get them out of the garden before the insects get to them. Don't know what to do about that EITHER. Can WINTER squash be picked a little early to ensure no insect damage? I dunno, but I've had some balls of emerald green in the 2008 garden for a while now and I'm thinking that if I wait TOO long they'll succumb to insects.

Had some successes in the garden this year, as well, and will post about them this week sometime.