Category Archives: Foodie Delights

Lock Your Doors

There is a joke that floats around in the summertime in Maine: When zucchini season hits, lock your car doors because someone will probably drop some off in your seat if you are not careful.

The joke originates from the fact that even one zucchini plant will not only grow an inordinate number of zucchinis, if left on the vine, those zucchinis become MASSIVE. Here are a few of mine that  I left one extra day by accident:

These things could feed a family of twelve for a month!

These things could feed a family of twelve for a month!

This year I have tried to become as creative as possible in cooking with zucchini. I found this FABULOUS chocolate zucchini cake recipe that I have definitely added to my repertoire. I traded out the walnuts and added chocolate chips, swapped 3/4 C applesauce for 3/4 C of the oil (leaving the other 3/4 C as is), put it in a bundt pan, added a bit of cooking time, topped with a delicious chocolate glaze and VOILA, one zucchini down.

I have also added shredded zucchini to my morning scrambled eggs. I have added it diced to chili. I have thrown slices on the grill. Anything that I could think of to use up this delicious but prolific veggie.

My favorite recipe BY FAR, however, would have to be this Stuffed Zucchini Egg Roll recipe that I threw together in a desperate “What the hell am I going to do with all of this???” moment. While the typical Italian type stuffed zucchini is good, I wanted to use more of the ingredients that I had lying around: freshly harvested garlic, carrots, cabbage, and green onions; frozen ground pork from last year’s pig; fresh ginger left from some Indian dishes that I have been experimenting with. Those ingredients screamed EGG ROLL to me — and why not stuff the filling in zucchini for a healthier treat? Why not, indeed.

The resulting recipe was not only unbelievably delicious, it was also incredibly healthy as our pork tends to be quite lean.

 

Look at how fresh all of this is. YUM.

Look at how fresh all of this is. YUM.

 

Honestly, I'd rather use a potato masher than my hands when mixing. Call me a wimp. It still tasted delicious.

Honestly, I’d rather use a potato masher than my hands when mixing. Call me a wimp. It still tasted delicious.

 

Scoop out the seeds. You could probably add them to the mixture, although that my add more water content. Not sure. I'd love to hear back if you try it.

Scoop out the seeds. You could probably add them to the mixture, although that my add more water content. Not sure. I’d love to hear back if you try it.

 

I'd suggest measuring out  your zucchini in your pan first. I had to cut them to fit. I also had quite a bit of leftover mixture. I cooked it up to snack on while waiting, although it would make AWESOME lettuce wraps.

I’d suggest measuring out your zucchini in your pan first. I had to cut them to fit. I also had quite a bit of leftover mixture. I cooked it up to snack on while waiting, although it would make AWESOME lettuce wraps.

 

After 45 minutes in the oven, these babies cooked perfectly. Inside and out. You could add a little dipping sauce of some sort if you felt so inclined, but I thought that they were delicious as is.

After 45 minutes in the oven, these babies cooked perfectly. Inside and out. You could add a little dipping sauce of some sort if you felt so inclined, but I thought that they were delicious as is.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI EGG ROLLS

2 – 3 medium (massive type may not fit in your dish) zucchini with seeds scooped out

1 lb ground pork

1/2 head medium cabbage

2 carrots, shredded

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1″ fresh ginger, minced

2 scallions (mine had started to become onions, so I used the whites, too)

1 Tablespoon oyster sauce

2 1/2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce

1 teaspoon (or so depending on your spice tolerance — I am an “or so” kind of person) Sriracha

Preheat oven to 350º

Cut zucchinis in half and scoop out seeds. Measure out and cut evenly to fit in a 9 x 13″ glass baking dish.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. (I used a potato masher) Then fill the zucchini with a heaping amount of the mixture rounding the tops slightly over. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Make sure that the pork is cooked through before eating.

That’s it. Easy. Delicious. And a nice way to use some of that zucchini up.

I see that our gazillion tomato plants are starting to ripen…hmmm, I wonder what I will do next…

 

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Relish the Possibilities

Summer’s bounty has arrived, and I, like many others who have a garden, am trying to figure out what to do with some of the veggies that I have oodles of.

As I have mentioned before, this is a bumper cucumber year. I have already tried my hand at refrigerator pickles. Now, I have decided on Dill Relish — that way I can also put to use a lot of that dill that has gone to seed. I have made Sweet Veggie Relish in the past, but never dill. So here are some pics of my experiment.

The recipe calls for 8lbs of cucumbers. We have so many, that I opted to double that -- 16 lbs it is!

The recipe calls for 8lbs of cucumbers. We have so many, that I opted to double that — 16 lbs it is! I also made a couple of other changes — fresh dill seed instead of dried and slicing cukes instead of pickling. We use what we have, right???

Next comes the grinding. A food processor tends to make mush of the veggies, so I use an OLD SCHOOL grinder. We found this one at the Goodwill a few years back.

Next comes the grinding. A food processor tends to make mush of the veggies, so I use an OLD SCHOOL grinder. We found this one at the Goodwill a few years back.

Next, wash and seed the cukes. I think that if had used pickling, I could have avoided the seeding.

Next, wash and seed the cukes. If I had used the pickling variety, I could have avoided the seeding. At least the pigs will be happy with the innards.

Here's the grinder in action. If you are curious, YES it takes FOREVER.

Here’s the grinder in action. If you are curious, YES it takes FOREVER. If you choose to use one of these, don’t forget the bowl underneath. The dog loved the fresh cucumber water that results.

After letting the cukes sit in 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of salt, and 4 teaspoons of turmeric for 2 hours, it was time to cook the relish. I drained and rinsed the cukes in cold water. Then added 2 lbs of chopped onion, 1/3 cup of fresh dill seed, 2/3 cup sugar, and 2 quarts of vinegar. I didn't think that was enough dill, so I sprinkled more over the top. Then I brought to a boil, simmered for 10 minutes then VOILA -- RELISH.

After letting the cukes sit in 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of salt, and 4 teaspoons of turmeric for 2 hours, it was time to cook the relish. I drained and rinsed the cukes in cold water. Then added 2 lbs of chopped onion, 1/3 cup of fresh dill seed, 2/3 cup sugar, and 2 quarts of vinegar. I didn’t think that was enough dill, so I sprinkled more over the top. Then I brought to a boil, simmered for 10 minutes then VOILA — RELISH.

After a 15 minute boiling-water canner — I had about 14 pints of dill relish. I think that should last us a while. A long while.

 Here's a view of our pantry. Oh yeah, I processed 17 lbs of fresh tomatoes, too. I made salsa. Don't be too impressed, I completely cheated and used Mrs. Wages packets. If you are curious, they are DELICIOUS. Use cider vinegar.


Here’s a view of our pantry. The sweet relish, apple butter, beets, and tomato sauce are from last year. Oh yeah, I processed 17 lbs of fresh tomatoes yesterday, too. I made salsa. Don’t be too impressed, I completely cheated and used Mrs. Wages packets. If you are curious, they are DELICIOUS. Use cider vinegar.

I started the relish and salsa canning around 10 AM. I finished around 4 PM.

We went out to dinner.

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September 1, 2013 · 7:09 am

Fresh Pickles? Yes, Please!

As I mentioned earlier, we have a ton of cukes. This year I grew slicing cucumbers, although I honestly prefer pickling. Beggars can’t be…well, you know the rest.

So I decided with all of our new harvest goodies that I would make pickles, and delicious pickles I did make.

Here are the ingredients:

IMG_1542

I also used cider vinegar, not pictured. I just LOVE the flavor.

First I simmered the following together until the sugar dissolved:

1 C White Vinegar

1/2 C Cider Vinegar

3 cloves garlic (picked fresh from our garden and cut in half)

1/3 C sugar

1 T mustard seed

1 T sea salt

I then poured the hot mixture over a bowl of thinly sliced cukes (1/2″ or so) and mixed in

1/3 C chopped fresh dill (also picked from my garden — how spoiled am I?)

1 Bay leaf

I didn’t measure the cucumbers, but I used about 1 and 1/2 large slicing cucumbers. I then covered the mixture and stuck it in the refrigerator until cold.

Here is the finished product before I covered and refrigerated them:

We ate these with dinner, although I could eat them anywhere.

We ate these with dinner, although I could eat them anywhere. I am thinking about taking the bowl in with me in the shower tomorrow. Then I can wash away the evidence.

Perhaps those slicing cukes aren’t so bad after all.

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July 31, 2013 · 8:00 am

Sorry, Colorado…You Got Nothing On Maine

This post may offend my Colorado readers, and for that I sincerely apologize. The guilt of holding the truth in has been eating at my soul. Not really, but I don’t like to talk behind backs, and I have been talking behind the back of my former state for years.

The produce in Colorado doesn’t taste as good as the produce in Maine.

There. I’ve said it.

During my time in Colorado, I spent over a decade visiting farmers market after farmers market only to find that the tomatoes grown in the Rocky Mountain soil don’t have the rich, tomatoey flavor of those grown in my home state. The cucumbers aren’t quite as juicy. Even the flowers (save the high-desert sage) do not emit as much fragrance. Perhaps it is my own bias. Perhaps it is because my present home in Maine has so much more water. Regardless, the only true “produce” that I heartily miss from Colorado is the roasted green peppers (I know — the best of those come from New Mexico, but at least Colorado has some! Do you know how hard it is to make a good green chili in the state of Maine for the love of all that is good and holy?!?!?)

This brings me to the produce that tastes better in Maine (in my not-so-humble opinion): STRAWBERRIES.

Mid-June in Maine brings U-Pick hours at strawberry farms all over the state. This year, I loaded Kitt up in the car at 6:30 A.M. and drove to a favorite farm: Stevenson’s Strawberries in Wayne, Maine. Kitt had never been to the fields before, and I have to say for 3 1/2 she showed amazing discipline. She didn’t eat a berry until she filled the small bucket that she carried into the field. Of course, after the bucket was topped off with “Kitt-sized berries” she sat in the middle of a row and became eerily silent as she shoved berry after berry into her face. I offered to weigh her on our way out, but was told there was no need.

Strawberry Farms are like crack dealers. They really are. Get ’em hooked young and they will be coming back for years!

After an hour of picking I ended up with 23 lbs of luscious berries.

For those wondering -- this is what 23 lbs of berries looks like. OK -- perhaps minus a pound from my munching on the way home.

For those wondering — this is what 23 lbs of berries looks like. OK — perhaps minus a pound from my own munching on the way home.

Many of you may be wondering, “What in the hell do you do with 23 lbs of freaking strawberries?!?” The answer is a lot.

I saved 3 quarts for fresh eating. Do I need to tell you why?

I froze 7 quart bags to be used in a blender later. HELLO strawberry margaritas and daiquiris. Oh, and smoothies for Kitt, of course. Frozen berries also make one helluva good strawberry shortcake mid-winter when the days are about an hour long. Thaw out frozen berries and welcome in summer sunshine.

I used 8 cups in a Fresh Strawberry pie, which I would show a picture of, but we consumed a great deal after dinner last night, and the pie is a bit of a mess.

Then comes the jam.

It’s true. I make jam. So unlike me, but I eat A LOT of jam, so I have found that the best way to keep myself in it without spending my entire paycheck is to make my own.

I prepared myself the night before with supplies:

I know, I know, how "farm-like" of me. Perhaps this place is getting to me.

I know, I know, how “farm-like” of me. Perhaps this place is getting to me.

I decided on two types of jam: strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb. I harvested the rhubarb for the latter from a small patch beside our former garden. Check out my “Gardening Attempts” page to see how that is going.

12 cups of strawberries, 2 cups of rhubarb, 12 1/2 cups of sugar, two pots, infinite episodes of “Bubble Guppies” for Kitt, and 10 minutes in a boiling water canner later, this is what I had:

IMG_1291

The two jars on the end are actually for the fridge. The jar on the right wouldn’t fit in the canner, so I decided just to eat it. I filled the bowl on the left with scrapings from the bottoms of the pot. Can’t let good jam go to waste!

Can’t wait for blueberry season. Sorry Colorado, Wild Maine Blueberries are even better than the strawberries. Don’t believe me? Come on out in late July, stay for a while, and see for yourself.

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June 27, 2013 · 5:40 am