Summer squash #3 – Beef garden skillet

After a week of visiting 2 farmers markets and harvesting some stuff from our tiny home garden, I had a fridge full of odds and ends that were coming to the end of their life, plus lots of other goodness to see us through the week.  So to clear out my third squash of the summer, I decided to use another favorite dish that can be made of whatever I’ve got bouncing around at that point of the summer, or fall, or winter!

I’m calling this one beef garden skillet and it follows the following loose format:

  • Brown 1 lb grass-fed beef with some kind of onion and some kind of garlic (this time I used some leftover red onion and some garlic scapes)
  • Add tomatoes plus any vegetables and fresh herbs (this time I used my last whole frozen tomato from last year, a zucchini, beet greens from one beet, a couple of kale leaves, some fresh basil)
  • Add rice or quinoa, plus water or bone broth (this time I cooked 1 cup rice and 1 cup of quinoa in a separate pot because Matt isn’t eating grains for the next few days, but usually, I cook it all together in the skillet)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Simmer until vegetables and/or rice are cooked.  Because I used kale, I added the juice of a lemon just to balance out the flavors.  This is one of those random dishes that it definitely better than the sum of its parts.  I could eat this every week of the summer and it would never be exactly the same. I am guilty of over-cooking the vegetables, mainly because my one-year-old only has a few front teeth and little kids like soft vegetables, so you might want to add veg later if you like yours a bit crisper.

To me, grass-fed beef makes all the difference and gives it a much richer flavor.  If something has been holding you back from sourcing your own grass-fed beef, start asking around because it probably costs less than you think, and tastes better than you imagine.

2nd zucchini harvested.  Delicious in my beef skillet.

2nd zucchini harvested. Delicious in my beef skillet.

 

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Summer squash #2

Recent harvest from our garden.

Recent harvest from our garden.

For squash #2 of the summer, I chose another kid-friendly dish, although not as friendly as the dish chosen for squash #1.  I took the yellow squash pictured above, grated it, squeezed a bit of the water out of it, and then mixed it with 8 eggs, 3/4 tsp salt, 2 garlic cloves, and a bit of basil to make a frittata.  Matt is on a grain-free, dairy-free 10-day diet of sorts, so I wanted to make this o.k. for him, otherwise, I’d add some cheese and milk.  Leftover rice or pasta, cooked sliced potatoes, or any other cooked vegetable would also work.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes, until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

In the summer, I love frittatas, pizzas, and stir-frys, because they’ll work with any veggies you have hanging around, including zucchinis and summer squash.  So far, I only have 2 squash plants producing and I’ve already harvested 3 large squashes.  I’m excited to see what will happen when the rest start cranking them out.

Zucchini #1 of ?

And suddenly, it is July.  How did we get here so fast?  My smallish garden is beginning to yield a good amount of food for our family and fittingly, we harvested our very first zucchini of the season which we ate for dinner on July 1.

Zucchini is notorious for being such a prolific producer that farmers big and small must give zucchini away to willing or unwilling friends and neighbors.  I’ve been quoted as saying that my family can eat as much zucchini as the universe throws our way, so I thought it might be fun for me to document exactly how many summer squash, zucchini or otherwise, our family can eat this summer and how we do it.  Maybe it will help someone somewhere deal with their own zucchini backlog.

For our very first zucchini, I wanted something to get the kids excited.  My 3-year-old and 1-year-old worked together to pick the zucchini and carry it into the house, so the excitement was already high.  I didn’t want to kill it with something that seemed a little too vegetable-heavy for their childish tastes.  So to ease them into our hopefully bumper crop of zucchini, I started with a pancake recipe that was like breakfast pancakes, not savory pancakes.  Seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, and topped with some raw, grass-fed butter and local maple syrup, these pancakes were in high demand.  Next time, we’ll need to make a double batch.  Best thing is that these were so popular, the 3-year-old is excited to eat zucchini again and I know that he would love these for breakfast.  Sneaking zucchini in for breakfast . . . that’s what I call keeping up with your zucchini!

The recipe I followed is Zucchini Bread Pancakes from Smitten Kitchen, although I used a box grater because I hate to dirty my processor for one easy-to-grate zucchini.

Any favorite zucchini recipes you want to throw our way?

Au Natural

The older I get, the more ‘hippie’ I become! The more I read about products or practices in our country, the more disgusted I get and want to stick it to the man. For example, the FDA ‘regulates’ food and drugs. They need to approve things that go on the market. The sad thing is, they are allowing products on the market that have ingredients in them that are harmful!! I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them.

Another example: disposable diaper companies. Using chemicals in the diapers to help absorb better. KNOWING these chemicals are harmful, ignoring the research and health reports and using them anyways.

The hippies knew the way to live, I’m believing this more and more. Living fresh, all natural, letting things be as they were created.

Sounds good to me!

Cooking up a hill of beans

I cooked 8 pounds of dried beans the other day.  That’s a lot of beans!

thiscrunchylife_beans

As a busy mom who wants to feed her family whole, unprocessed food as much as possible, cooking beans from scratch has never been high on my list of priorities.  That being said, it does save money.  Canned beans are cheap, but dried ones are cheaper.  Also, beans cooked at home avoid the ickiness of canned beans, namely BPA lids, added salt, and unknown cooking methods.

Although I’ve been cooking beans at home on and off for a few years, it was after reading Nourishing Traditions that I began to cook beans in earnest to enjoy not only the money savings, but also to insure the methods used to cook the beans.  I believe that beans cooked this way are easier to digest and give up more of their nutrition than conventional canned beans.  If you have extra time or freezer space, give it a try and see if it makes a difference for your family.

Here’s how:

  1. Soak beans for up to 24 hours in large pot with 2-4 tablespoons whey per pound and enough water to cover by a few inches.  No whey? You can get whey by straining yogurt, or you can choose to soak beans in water only.
  2. Drain and rinse beans, then return to pot with enough water to cover.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. When pot begins to boil, skim off and discard foam.
  5. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for up to 3-4 hours.
  6. Drain beans, then use within a few days or freeze for later.

Tips

  • If you are going to be watching the stove, try making 2-3 different kinds of beans in different pots.  I usually make chickpeas and another type of bean, like black, kidney, or pinto. By cooking this way, I only cook beans about 4 times a year.  
  • Make sure you leave plenty of room in the pot for the beans to bubble up with they boil.  2-3 pounds are all that can comfortably fit in a 16 quart stockpot.
  • Consider freezing the beans in 3 cup amounts.  This is roughly equivalent to 2 cans of beans.  Use it to make recipes calling for 2 cans, or just double recipes calling for 1 can.
  • Forget to thaw beans you need for dinner in a few hours?  Place your freezer bags or other containers into a bowl of hot or warm water.  The beans will thaw in a jiffy.
  • Beans are pretty forgiving, if you cook them too long, they’ll be a little softer.  I haven’t screwed them up too bad yet.
  • If you like refried beans, try this vegetarian recipe that requires no refrying and is priced out at 19 cents per cup.  You can make it in a slow cooker as described, or modify with my instructions above to make it on the stove.

Do you cook your beans at home?  Why or why not?

15 reasons my clothes are hanging around

Spring is in the air and that means it is time to begin hanging my laundry outside to dry again.  Here are my favorite reasons for relying on my clothesline all spring, summer, and fall-long.

  1. Everything hung outside smells like fresh air and sunshine.
  2. Gets me (and often the boys with me) outside for more time.
  3. I get to enjoy early morning sounds like birds singing to start the day.
  4. More sustainable because it uses zero electricity.
  5. Saves me about 40 cents per load.
  6. Saves some wear and tear on my clothes because they don’t shed all that lint.
  7. Sheets hung to dry outside feel amazing to sleep on.
  8. Sunshine removes stains and odors from cloth diapers.
  9. Makes towels feel more absorbent.
  10. Socks are matched in the hanging process.
  11. Causes me to be more aware of the weather and when it will rain.
  12. Often gives me a chance to see my neighbor on her way to work and have a chat.
  13. Hanging clothes is a very relaxing chore for me.
  14. I quickly notice if the washing machine did not remove some dirt or stain.
  15. Hanging laundry reminds me of my grandmother.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite reason for hanging laundry inside or outside?

thiscrunchylife_clothesline
NapaneeGal via Compfight cc