Thursday, August 20, 2015

Zucchini Bread

We always plant too many zucchinis. I ask the chief gardener for a two-plant limit. This year I think we had eight. Who eats that much zucchini?

The truth is, I'm not really a summer squash fan despite sauteing, grilling, and including in all kinds of casseroles. So what to do with all that veg? Bake with it!

This zucchini bread recipe is not your ordinary quick bread. It's sweet, very moist and studded with nuts.  In fact, it leans a bit towards a carrot cake. Which in my book, is awesome! I like using the oversized squash. As it gets bigger, the zucchini gets starchier which helps give the bread structure. And I like being able to use those big, funky squash.

In addition to great flavor, the bread freezes beautifully. Which makes this my preferred method for preserving zucchini. And it makes a big batch, in whatever size loaf pan you have. I use a combination of small and medium loaf pans. It makes four small and one medium loaf.

I prefer to peel the zucchini before using. The course peel can interfere with the crumb, lending a toughness to the bread. I've tried changing up the recipe with whole grain flour, but it turns out best with white, all purpose flour. Feel free to use your favorite nuts, or omit if you prefer. I like walnuts or pecans.

Thoroughly grease and flour loaf pans.

Prep zucchini: peel, quarter and remove seeds and pith.

Shred zucchini.

Make batter, stirring just until combined. Don't overmix.

Divide batter evenly between loaf pans.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the pan.

Cool loaves 10 minutes and turn out of pans. I freeze most of this bread to
enjoy throughout the year.  I wrap in a layer each of wax paper and foil.

Once the bread is wrapped, I place the loaves in a zip-lock freezer
bag, then place in the freezer for a chilly nap.

Zucchini Bread
3 cups peeled, shredded zucchini, pithy seedy center removed
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup nuts of your choice

In a large mixing bowl, combine zucchini, sugar, oil and eggs. Mix well. In another bowl, whisk together flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. Add flour mixture to zucchini. Mix just until combined. Stir in nuts.  Grease and flour loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 min to 1 hour, depending on the size of the loaf pans. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Loosen by running a spatula around sides of pan. Wrap and freeze if desired.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Caraflex Cabbage Coleslaw

We started growing var. Caraflex cabbage a few years ago when we wanted a smaller variety with heads we could eat in one sitting. The plants fit into the smaller kitchen garden and has a unique "arrowhead" growing shape. Bonus: they do well starting from seed.

Caraflex is not suitable for fermenting but is perfect for slaw, stir fry, roasting, grilling and cabbage cups. When making sauerkraut, we prefer the large Flat Dutch variety. I've included one of my favorite vinegar slaw recipes below. It comes together fast and can hang out in the fridge for a couple days. It doesn't contain mayo, which makes it perfect for buffets or toting to summer gatherings.

In addition to being tasty, this cabbage has an
interesting, pyramid shape. Looks cool in the garden!

The core is longer than traditional cabbages. When making slaw, I prefer
 to chop into shreds with a sharp knife, rather than shred in the food processor.

Remove the core and shred. We also added a
couple of carrots from the garden.

The vinaigrette dressing comes together fast with ingredients you probably have in the
pantry. Although optional, the caraway seeds are a great accompaniment to the cabbage.

Combine the veg with dressing and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best.

Vinaigrette Coleslaw
from Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book
Makes 4-6 side servings

3 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp caraway seed (optional)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Several dashes hot pepper sauce (optional)
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

In a small bow, combine vinegar, oil, sugar, mustard, caraway seed, pepper, salt and hot sauce. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.

Combine cabbage, carrots and green onions. Pour vinaigrette over vegetables, tossing lightly to coat. Chill 2 to 24 hours. Toss again just before serving.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Freezer Corn

I prefer to freeze, rather than can sweet corn. It's super fast, easy and the kernels stay intact. Because of the long, pressurized process time necessary to can corn, the kernels often break down. Freezing corn also allows me to control how long I cook the corn. A quick blanch before freezing, and a quick heat after freezing keeps the corn crisp and tender.

To prepare, purchase corn by the bushel when it's in season. Clean, blanch and cut kernels from cob. Place kernels in a freezer bag or vacuum packer.  Label and place in freezer, consuming within one year.

I always look forward to locally grown sweet corn on the Thanksgiving table. Throughout the year I add it to corn bread, and make corn cakes and fritters.

A neighboring farm grows sweet corn. From the field to the freezer in a couple hours!

To blanch, heat water to boiling, immerse corn and cook for two
minutes. Remove corn from water and cut kernels off cob. I've tried lots of
ways of removing the kernels. I think a pairing knife works best.

Place corn in freezer bags or seal using a vacuum packer. Place in freezer. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Garden Goings On August 2015

This summer has provided a few gardening challenges. An unusually wet June and July led to standing water for several weeks. A recent stretch of dry, sunny days has helped some plants recover, but the tomatoes took a hit: we lost almost the entire crop of slicers.

On the upside, successful crops included sour cherry, eggplant, beets, cucumbers and peppers. Looks like the pumpkins and winter squash are bouncing back, tomatillos are filling out and the ornamental broom corn looks fantastic. We're hopeful for the fall harvest.

I should add that the chief gardener is a bit uncomfortable that I'm sharing these photos. Due to the rain, the garden is pretty shaggy. Weeks passed with no tending, and when we finally waded in, the voracious mosquitos drove us out. But this is gardening. We all have good and bad years.

I'd love to hear how your season is progressing. Leave me a comment below!

A harbinger of summer! This is the last of the sunflowers. 

The Fairytale pie pumpkins are doing well. Several applications of
fungicide have helped with mildew issues.

Acorn squash recently set fruit.

Young butternut squash

This is the rye cover crop that we didn't terminate this year (plus weeds).

Broom corn is about seven feet tall. Looking forward to using in our fall decorations!

Tongue of Fire shelling bean drying on the bush. 

All the peppers did well, but the banana peppers were the heaviest producers.

This was our best eggplant year with more coming on. LOTS of eggplant parm!

We love this arrowhead cabbage (var. caraflex). The small, compact heads
are the perfect size for the two of us - great for slaws & stir fries. 

Tomatillos are just about ready. Green salsa coming soon!