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!

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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!

On the road eats: giant breakfast cookies

Cookies in the oven

Cookies in the oven

Conventional wisdom dictates that you should plan your car travel with children at the times during the day they would normally be resting, like during afternoon naps or at bedtime.  Conventional wisdom does not work for my family. I have learned the hard way that my boys have a much higher tolerance for car travel in the early morning and they absolutely hate waking up from a nap in the car only to be still stuck in their car seats.  Consequently, the longer the trip will be, the earlier we must leave in the morning to avoid tears, restlessness, and the need for constant singing by one or both parents.

But my desire to leave as early as possible runs directly counter to my son’s desire to eat a lengthy breakfast as soon as he wakes up.  Enter Giant Breakfast Cookies from the Heavenly Homemaker. I came across this recipe one day and was immediately struck by how easy these would be to eat in the car.  Now that we don’t buy boxed cereal, it is difficult to find foods that children can eat without totally destroying the car with smears, crumbs, and dribbles.  All of the whole food snacks that Matt and I used to enjoy while traveling, including hard-boiled eggs, hummus, peanut butter, and even many fruits, are horribly messy for my little guys.  Our normal breakfast of baked oatmeal is a kid-pleaser, but it crumbles so bad that I once made Pete and John sit in a hotel bathtub to eat it so the crumbs would be contained.  While I don’t think cookies are the best breakfast choice, if it gets us on the road before 7am, I’ll make an exception.

My floors would be so much cleaner if they ate in the bathtub every day.

My floors would be so much cleaner if they ate in the bathtub every day.

I followed the instructions for soaking the cookies, but I used kefir instead of buttermilk in the recipe, and opted to use raisins and not chocolate chips to minimize messiness.  The cookies came out great and not too sweet and everyone loved them.  Unfortunately, they upset John’s digestive system.  We are going on the road again soon, so I want to tweak the recipe to make them even easier for John to digest by substituting the whole wheat flour with oats processed in the food processor and omitting the raisins.  Kids love raisins, but they are not easy to digest!  I will also make extra sure that all of the oats are getting wet with the kefir for soaking as I think the first time I did not have enough liquid in there.  I’ll share my new recipe if it is a success, but I would definitely recommend the original Giant Breakfast Cookies recipe available at Heavenly Homemakers something to eat on your travels.

Keeping breakfast simple with baked oatmeal

Matt and I have never been regular boxed cereal eaters, first for reasons of frugality and now for health reasons AND frugality, so we’ve always cooked something in the morning, usually microwaved oatmeal or eggs.  But now that it is no longer the just the two of us, breakfast is a lot more complicated.  When our toddler wakes up in the morning, he is hungry and trying to fend him off while cooking something, even in the microwave is daunting. And I’m not a morning person.  That is, I was a morning person, until I started not entirely sleeping through the night for the last almost 4 years, having been pregnant and/or nursing and sleeping with a baby since July 2009.  Thus our 2 day a week breakfast cooking regime was born.  Now, we only cook breakfast twice a week, keeping breakfast simple and homemade, without going nuts.

There are many ways to simplify a breakfast routine. Josh’s granola recipe is certainly one of them, but I thought I would share our method. First, we usually eat the same things for breakfast every day.  Right now, we usually eat baked oatmeal.  We’ll switch it up on weekends or “just because” with other favorites like pancakes, waffles, frittatas, and eggs with rice, but usually it is baked oatmeal.  Baked oatmeal has become such a hit in our household because we bake a lot of it at one time.   The recipe that we make uses 18 cups of oatmeal!  After we bake two huge pans full of this stuff, we freeze some of it and eat the rest over the next four to six days.  When that stuff is gone, we pull more out for another two to four days of breakfasts.  We serve it along with fruits or vegetables like homemade applesauce, our own canned peaches, bananas, oranges, or baked winter squash with apples.  I take mine straight up, Daddy puts his in a bowl with milk, and Pete likes to dip pieces in a bowl of milk.

This recipe came from a local Mennonite birth circle I attended about nutrition and it calls for the oats to be soaked overnight in whey to aid in digestion.  One relatively easy way to get whey is by straining plain regular or Greek yogurt through a lint-free cloth or cheesecloth.  The stuff left in the cloth is a delicious yogurt cheese, almost like cream cheese and the liquid that comes out of the yogurt is whey.  Or, if you don’t want to soak it overnight at all, just mix the ingredients together and cook immediately.  This is the single version of this recipe, but when we make it we are multiplying it by six.  We also DRAMATICALLY reduce the sugar because that is what we are into right now.  We use about 3/4 cup of sugar for the whole six recipes, but I’ve included the original amount below.  If you use this recipe, experiment with how much sugar or honey you like for your family.  We also always include the eggs.

thiscrunchylife_soakedoatmeal

Baked Oatmeal

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups oats (quick or old-fashioned)
  • 1 cup of kefir/milk/buttermilk/yogurt or combination (less any amount of whey for soaking)
  • 1 cup brown sugar/honey/sucanat
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs beaten (optional)

To soak: combine butter, oats, and liquid:  put up to 6 tbsp of whey in a measuring cup, then fill to 1 cup measure with either kefir, milk, buttermilk, or yogurt.  Cover and let sit 8-12 hours or overnight.

Add remaining ingredients and bake in a 10 x 10 pan at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Enjoy!

thiscrunchylife_bakedoatmeal

There’s nothing more crunchy than Granola.

thiscrunchylife_granola_02

Granola has been a part of my diet for well over a decade. I used to have bags of energy filled granola while traveling the East Coast to see Phish play as often as possible. Difference is I didn’t make it then. Just this morning I whipped up a quick batch in under 30 minutes for roughly $15 and it will supply our family for over a week. This is such a quick an easy recipe and I really shoot from the hip when I make it. This isn’t rocket science folks so don’t over think it.

My super-simple, maverick Granola recipe:

3 scoops rolled Oats

1 scoop crushed Walnuts

.75-1 scoop slivered Almonds

.5 scoop shredded Coconut

1 scoop dried Cranberries

.5-.75 scoop dried Cherries

All natural Maple Syrup

*the “scoop” measurement is based on the scoop in your grocers bulk foods section.

Granola ingredients.

Granola ingredients.

Poor all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Pour Maple Syrup over the mixture and stir. Continue adding syrup until all the ingredients have a light coating of Maple Syrup. Spread out the mixture on a cookie sheet or stone pan and bake in the oven on 400 for about 30 mintues, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, let it cool and top your Greek Yogurt or Kefir.

The benefits of homemade Granola include using whole foods and grains, you get to control the ingredients. Plus you are saving a bunch of money. The amount of granola I make for $12-15 is likely close to $40 retail. I’m cheap and I love it.