...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Up to the Ears in Zucchini

I have heard stories of zucchini plants being so prolific that gardeners in rural areas leave the abundance in neighbors' mailboxes or unlocked cars on the road.  I have not had that problem this year because my zucchini plants have a serious case of powdery mildew which is quickly destroying them.  But our CSA has had another bumper crop of summer squash; I've come up with a few recipes to tackle the load.  This stuffed squash recipe also works on the grill as we found out tonight--not wanting to heat up the house anymore than necessary on this of many hot days.  We used our homemade bulk Italian sausage, but you could easily leave out the meat.

Stuffed Yellow Squash
Serves 4

Adapted from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles (yes, I am one to adapt a veggie recipe to include a substantial amount of meat!)

2 large yellow squash (about 12 oz. each)
8 oz. pork sausage, cooked, reserve the grease or use 2 t. vegetable oil
1/2 c. chopped red or green bell peppers
1/4 c. chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced or 2 garlic scapes, chopped
1/3 c. fresh corn kernels (if cut off the cob, save the cob for making soup stock)
1/4 c. plain bread crumbs
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
2 T. fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees or heat up grill.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the centers, leaving shells 1/2-inch thick.  Chop the scooped-out flesh.  In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add chopped squash, peppers, onions, garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 min.  Stir in the corn, bread crumbs, herbs, salt and pepper.  Spoon 1/4 of the filling into each half squash.  Wrap each half in foil.  Place on baking sheet and bake 20 min.--or grill for the same amount of time--until squash shells are tender.

Traditional Bread and Butter Pickles
Today I was able to sneak in a couple small batches of preserves while Vera played.  I canned bread and butter pickles and blueberry juice.  I am so excited that all the cucumbers I've pickled this season have been right from our own garden.  I also got my hands on a case of Michigan blueberries (I temporarily gave up growing my own a couple years ago when I realized I couldn't achieve the delicate soil pH required for these berries) so continued my quest to can our own juices.  At the co-op on Monday I was looking at the ingredient lists on the brands of juices I usually buy.  Even with organic juices you will see "natural flavor" listed on the labels, albeit last.  According to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation natural flavors are still man-made additives and not much more healthful than artificial flavors despite what most people think.  I'm finding that making my own juice is the only way to avoid even the most innocuous sounding additive.  After extracting the juice from the blueberries, I had a colander full of what I like to call "mush" that looked almost like blueberry pie filling.  I probably could have made this into jam, but decided to follow my instinct and freeze it for using in pies, cobblers, or maybe bread pudding this winter.
Blueberry "Mush"
Pint of Blueberry Juice
Now is the time of the season when our compost starts getting very full outside.  I was taking out the kitchen compost tonight before dinner and realized that nothing makes me feel like an "urban farm girl" more than running outside in my vintage apron, dumping the waste into the turner, and taking a couple hard pulls on the barrel before heading back inside to finish cooking.  As I've mentioned in the past, our compost should ideally be in two separate bins outside so that part of it has a fair chance to completely break down, especially so that it's ready to spread in the fall, which I have yet to manage before it snows.  We've found that a compost activator is necessary and has, in fact, sped up the process.

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