Summer of Squash Wrap Up

As usual, my frenzied August food preservations put me behind schedule in other areas of life.  So instead of updating my count of squash consumed, I’ve been busy canning, freezing, and/or drying tomatoes, sauce, peppers, apples, and peaches.  Even though everyone else is probably finished eating squashes, I am going to share how my August-September squash have been put to good use.

Yesterday, we at the last squash we had picked, and with a few puny plants left producing we may have a couple more to add to the final summer squash total . . . or not,  It is hard to say.  Powdery mildew really affected the squash plants this year, but after you eat 60 plus squash in a 2 month period, you don’t really mind.

  • Squash 56 and 57 were added to two different batches of roasted summer vegetables.  Toss peppers, squash, halved cherry or plum tomatoes, onions, garlic, eggplant, beans, or any other summer vegetables with olive oil and lemon juice then cook on baking sheet for about 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees to make your own version.  It also makes a great pizza topping.
  • Squash 58 was added to a tabouleh salad.
  • Squashes 59, 60, 61, and 62 were 2 double batches of zucchini pancakes. At about this point, my son asks me if we can have “regular pancakes” when we are all out of squash.
  • Squash 63 made another zucchini bundt cake to share at a work picnic.
  • Squash 64, 65, & 66 were made into zucchini fritters.
  • Squash 67 and 68 were “zucchini pillows” or basically a zucchini casserole with flour and cheese, instead of cornmeal and cheese.
  • Squash 69, 70, and 71 were stuffed with beef, peppers, tomatoes, and rice.
  • Squash 72 (it was a big one!) became 2 loaves of zucchini bread which were frozen for later.  One went with us on a recent out-of-town wedding trip and other is still waiting for us!
  • Squash 73 & 74 made another double batch of pancakes.
  • Squash 75 was roasted with other summer vegetables and then used to top a pizza along with a basil-oil topping and homemade mozzarella cheese.
  • Squash 76 and 77 were eaten raw on consecutive days by me and my son after being topped with baba ganoush according to recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  I’ll admit that I tricked my son into eating it by peeling it and telling him it was a yellow cucumber.  For some reason, he’ll eat that but not a yellow squash.
  • Finally, squash 78 and 79 became another (final?) double batch of zucchini pancakes.

I sincerely hope that a few more squash will mature so we can push our final number to 80 or above.  But it is hard to say what will happen with the days getting colder and shorter.  Since this may be my last squash post for the year, I wanted to tally up some stats.

So far:

  • 8 squash are still preserved to be eaten later as bread, zapplesauce, or squash relish
  • 7 squash given away to others who needed and wanted it more than we did
  • 10 squash purchased before we had as many of our own (next year, I’ll trust in the garden to provide as we clearly didn’t need these)

Which means:

  • 76 is the total number of squash produced in our backyard garden from June 29 until today (September 16) by our 3 zucchini and 1 yellow squash plants.
  • 68 is about the total number of squash eaten by my family from July 1 until September 16.  To get this number, I’m subtracting the ones still to be eaten and ones we baked and gave to others.

I’m pretty proud of those numbers because they represent food we grew ourselves and local, seasonal food that formed the basis of our diet.  Focusing so strongly on seasonal eating over the last few years has been such an amazing experience.  Through each month and season, our whole family moves from excitement over a new fruit or vegetable, to a relief when a new season dawns.  As we teeter on the edge of a possible 80th squash (and loads of tomatoes, beans, and chard) we hotly anticipate the butternut and delicata squash ripening on our vines and long for more lettuce that has been missing during the hottest summer months.  Believe it or not, we are all wishing for cabbage soup, and roasted winter vegetables, and sweet potatoes (dear god the sweet potatoes!).  I know they’ll be here before too long.  And if a final squash or two makes it in before the first frost, I’ll enjoy that too because we won’t be expecting more until July 2014.

Mid-August garden harvest.

Mid-August garden harvest.

 

How local and wholesome are your fats? Review of Susquehanna Mills Canola Oil

As I’ve gotten a lot more intentional about the foods I buy to nourish my young family the fats I’ve chosen to include in our diet have changed.  I’d replaced all of the fats and vegetable oils with CA olive council certified olive oil (I buy this brand which I love and I got a great BOGO deal on at a local supermarket), organic expeller-pressed coconut oil, local raw butter from grass-fed cows, and lard I rendered from the fat of a wood lot raised pig we bought from local farmers.

When it comes to fats in the kitchen, its comes down to finding the right tool for the right job.  And, for me,  choosing which fats to use and buy for each job comes down to balancing the health benefits of the fats, the cost, and the local impact of each option.  For all these reasons, I was super excited to receive a free sample of Susquehanna Mills non-GMO, expeller-pressed canola oil which hails from only about 40 miles away from where I live. I received the sample from a friend who asked me if I would review the oil on the blog, but all opinions are my own.

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First off, let me admit that canola oil and vegetable shortening (think Crisco) were the first fats to be entirely eliminated from our whole foods diet.  And although I still think vegetable shortening is god-awful stuff that shouldn’t be available for purchase, the jury is still out for me on the health benefits or detriments of canola oil.

But I think that Susquehanna Mills canola oil IS healthy for me and my family.  Here’s why:  According to this Weston A. Price Foundation article  there are some possible negative side effects associated with canola oil possible due to its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.  In the studies cited by the article, “[w]hen saturated fats are added to the diet, the[se] undesirable effects of canola oil are mitigated.” So if your diet, like my family’s, contains saturated fats, like coconut or palm oil, or animal fats, including meat, dairy, eggs, lard, or tallow, you probably do not need to worry about excluding canola oil from your diet.  On the other hand, if you are a vegan and do not eat tropical oils, or you subscribe to a very low-fat diet, you may want to do more research about canola oil.

The above article goes on to explain how the normal industrial process for making canola oil renders much of its supposedly healthy fats into trans fats.  Years ago, I was shocked to learn about the high heat and solvents used in processing most conventional liquid oils, which was one of the reasons I stopped buying conventional vegetable oils.  Fortunately, Susquehanna Mills oil is expeller-pressed at low temperatures, instead of using high heat and solvents.

Lastly, the last concern in the article is about GMO canola.  Since about 90% of US canola is genetically modified, if you buy canola oil or see it as an ingredient in some other food that isn’t organic, you are likely consuming the GMO stuff.  The problem that I and many others have with GMO products is that they are untested and not proven safe to humans or the environment.  Susquehanna Mills canola oil is not GMO, so it scores another point here for safety and healthfulness.

Delicious curried rice salad with Susquehanna Mills canola oil.

Delicious curried rice salad with Susquehanna Mills canola oil.

So how does it taste?  Well, canola oil can be used for both cooking and salads, but because I really wanted to see what it tasted like, I opted to use it in a main dish curried rice salad, recipe via the cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special.  I wish there was another similar recipe on the web but if you can get your hands on a copy of this cookbook, this recipe is really good!  The way I make it, it is brown rice steamed with bone broth and spices, mixed with celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and raisins, then tossed with a very flavorful dressing of canola oil, honey, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin, coriander, and salt.  I’ve made this salad before with olive oil, but the Susquehanna Mills canola oil gave it a light, fresh taste that is very different from my rich, fruity, olive oil.  It was very, very good and the fresh, local canola oil made a big difference.

Would I buy this again?  Definitely, although I need to get through the several gallons of lard that I rendered before I buy any more fat.  But if anyone is interested, Susquehanna Mills has a new Kickstarter campaign to kick off their artisan oil CSA.  Whether you live in PA or elsewhere, this may be the best (or only) way to get such a high quality canola oil.

More pancakes, more pizza, more salad, and some cheesy cornbread

August . . . the time of year when I fear leaving home for a few days only to return to godzilla-sized squash.  Even though we picked every eatable squash before we left Sunday night, on Thursday morning we found to our delight 5 more squash and only one that was on the very large spectrum.

Our mini beach vacation gave us the opportunity to lighten our squash load by 4 to give some of our bounty to Matt’s Grammy who had not yet had any squash this year!  Here’s how we’ve been using the rest of it.

Squash numbers 43 & 44 became zucchini pancakes.

44 and 45 became another squash pizza, this one with roasted cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and homemade grass-fed cow’s milk mozzarella cheese.

46 and 47 were grated and cooked into a kid-friendly cornbread casserole.  Using the last of my local cornmeal that came as part of a winter CSA and local dairy and eggs, this made an entirely local meal.  We had it for breakfast, although it would usually fit in as a dinner side dish.  This was a rare hit to my son who is really not feeling the squash as much as the rest of the family.

Cheesy Zucchini/Summer Squash Cornbread Casserole

  • 2 medium squash shredded
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt or strained kefir or sour cream
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  1. Let squash stand in a strainer for 10-30 minutes and then wring out the excess moisture.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Whisk eggs, then combine yogurt/kefir/sour cream, cheese, salt, cornmeal, squash.
  3. Pour into greased baking dish and cook for 25-35 minutes until begins to brown and knife comes out clean.
Cheesy Squash Cornbread Casserole

Cheesy Squash Cornbread Casserole

Squashes 48,49, & 50 became a really delicious zucchini chowder with tomatoes, corn, and cheese.  Recipe via Simply in Season.

Squashes 51, 52, & 53 became a second delicious batch of zucchini pancakes.

Finally, squashes 54 and 55 became another raw squash salad dressed with a red wine vinaigrette and fresh basil.

Every day I remind myself, when you have squash, eat squash.  Although it has already been quite a bit more squash than I imagined, I have really been enjoying it.  But my squash recipes are definitely on repeat about now.  Please share if you have recipes to help me keep up with this squashy garden of mine.

 

 

 

Lordy, lordy, we’ve made it to 40 . . .

Just a quickie update today.

Squash 40 was another delicious beef garden skillet, this time with grass fed ground beef, onions, peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, garlic, brown rice, chicken broth, and parsley.  Except for the onion and rice, everything was fresh and local.

Squash 41 and 42?  Another double batch of squash pancakes, topped with local grass-fed raw butter and local maple syrup.  I’m in heaven every morning we eat this.  And the kids enjoy it too.  Not as much as blueberry pancakes, of course, but any morning where they are happily eating veggies for breakfast is good in my book.

A pic of my growing space at the beginning of July.  My squash pants are a lot bigger now!

A pic of my growing space at the beginning of July. My squash pants are a lot bigger now!

3 dozen summer squash and counting

I’ve been thinking about local food a lot this week.  My garden is at its most fruitful, with new zucchini and cherry tomatoes daily, and plenty of chard, parsley, and basil to supply us.  Plus, I’m participating in a local food discussion course entitled Hungry for Change which has me thinking about the impact of my food choices.  Each week of the course, I’m supposed to choose an action to take inspired by the readings and discussion.  For this week, I challenged myself to eat local fruits and vegetables at every meal.  Although it might have sounded daunting to me even a year ago, I’ve gotten so passionate about my local options and my little garden that it even surprised me how easy it has been.  But it is the month of blueberries, peaches, new potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and zucchini, so how could it be hard to eat all this good food?

This week also marks our eating or preserving of our 39th summer squash!  Pretty impressive since we ate squash number 1 on July 1.  I did give 3 squash away this week to a friend, but it was more in the spirit of sharing what we have and not because we were overwhelmed.  In return for our 3 squash, I got a pint of homemade plum jam, so I definitely got the better half of the bargain.

So how have we been tackling our recent squash?

Our 32nd and 33rd summer squash were sliced and sautéed and along with some roasted cherry tomatoes, basil, and goat cheese, topped an amazing pizza.  Although the children may have picked off some or all of the vegetables, no one really complained, It was that good!

Our 34th and 35th and 36th squash became more squash pancakes . . . using the same recipe described in my earlier post.

Our 37th and 38th squash was shredded and sautéed in lard and topped with soy sauce.  Along with a smoothie, it was a very filling lunch for me and the mister.

And the 39th squash?  Squash brownies via Simply in Season.

Now, I only have a couple of squash in my fridge . . . and at least 2 more that will need to be picked tomorrow.  But the important thing is that I’m keeping up and really enjoying all of this “free” food from our backyard.  And my food budget?  Well with 3 days left to the month, I still have $50 in our food budget which just means more money that can go to stocking up on produce to preserve for winter time.  Thank you, zucchini and yellow squash!

Squash and eggs, squash and pesto, squash casserole and cake

After picking all of the squash before a 4-day road trip, only to find 3 more huge squash on our return, I can tell that is squash season.  I’ve been busy eating squash at almost every meal to keep up with our garden’s abundance.  Here’s what has been on our menu:

  • Squash #21 of the summer was shredded along with an onion, sautéed in oil, then mixed with a few tablespoons of fresh made vegan pesto (2 cups basil, 1/2 cup walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 4 tbsp olive oil, salt).
  • Squash #22 was also shredded to become not one, but two frittatas.  One had pesto and the other had some cherry tomatoes and garlic.
  • Squashes 23, 24, & 25 were juillenned and mixed with a red wine vinaigrette for a raw squash salad that made a very tasty lunch.
  • Squashes 26, 27, 28, & 29 were cut into coins and formed into a sour cream and squash casserole topped with cracker crumbs and baked.
  • Squash 30 was shredded, cooked in some lard, and seasoned with pepper and soy sauce.
  • As we speak, our 31st squash of the summer is being shredded to be cooked into a chocolate budnt cake, recipe via Serving Up the Harvest.

Soon, I may have to admit that I cannot keep up with as many squash the universe throws our way.  I have plans to give a few away, but for now I’m still hanging tough.  My biggest challenge to date is that my 3-year-old gags every time he eats squash and had been skipping a few meals due to hunger strikes. At least I can count on him to help eat the budnt cake.

Summer squash #s 4-20, yes we’re at 20 already!

Well the summer squash has sure taken off around here, and I’ve been lagging on my dutiful reporting.

2 zucchini, number 4 and 5 of the summer went into a delicious beef-basil-coconut milk stir-fry (recipe below) over cauliflower rice (see here for a how to from Everyday Maven).

Matt’s Beef Basil Coconut Milk Stir-fry

Sauce:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tin of anchovies, finely chopped (or less to taste)
  • ½-1 tsp salt, depending on taste
  • Juice and zest from 1 lime

Stir fry:

  • Lard or other stir-fry oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic (or equivalent garlic scapes), chopped
  • 1-2 chilies, chopped (optional, or red pepper flakes)
  • 1 lb. or more fresh seasonal veggies (snap peas, greens, carrots, zucchini/squash, bell peppers, etc.)
  • 1 c. basil, loosely packed

Directions:

  1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside, and prep the veggies: garlic and chilies (if using) in one bowl, the rest of the veggies in another.
  2. Heat the wok on high heat, and then add the oil. Add the beef and brown, then remove the cooked beef and set aside, leaving the oil in the wok.
  3. Stir-fry the garlic and chilies until fragrant (no more than 1 min).
  4. Add the rest of the veggies and stir-fry until just starting to get tender and basil wilts (no more than 5 min)
  5.  Add the beef and the sauce and stir to incorporate and heat everything. Eat and enjoy!

The rest of the summer squash’s were eaten or preserved as followed:

  • squash numbers 6-10 were used to make 9 pints of summer squash relish from a recipe in Put ‘em Up!
  • numbers 11 & 12 became two loaves of zucchini bread, one which was shared with friends a recent Tie Dye Brunch Hangout we hosted and another which was frozen to be used on an upcoming road trip
  • numbers 15-20 were turned into a huge batch of “zapplesauce” (basically zucchini flavored like apples) half of which was baked into “zapplesauce muffins” which were eaten, frozen, or given to a family with a new baby, and half of which was frozen as  zapplesauce to be made into muffins at some future wintertime date.  Zapplesauce muffins recipe is courtesy of the cookbook Serving Up the Harvest.

And I just picked two more zucchini today!