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Enjoying Garden Goodness

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Fresh Vegetables
The time we’ve been anticipating since winter, really, is finally here. Our gardens that were eagerly planned when snow was on the ground are giving us gifts on a daily basis. Squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, … the list could go on and on. You’ve planned meals using the bounty until you’ve run out of ideas. Well, we have a few more.

What to do with zucchini? That’s a popular question. We laughingly say around this time of year, “You better keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked if you don’t want someone to leave zucchini in your back seat.” There are several meals you can make with zucchini, even the ones that are as big as your leg! They make great noodles. Use a food processor to cut thick noodles to serve with spaghetti sauce or to toss with garlic and olive oil.

Zucchini boats are another great dish (they can also be made with rather large zucchinis). Cut your squash long ways and scoop out the seeds and pulp, then set aside. Brown ground beef, chicken, or turkey and season to your palate. Chop tomatoes, peppers, and onions and stir in with the meat. You can also stir in rice or quinoa, if you’d like. Scoop into the “boats” and top with cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Baked TomatoesWho can turn down a fresh, vine-ripe tomato? We can’t think of anyone right off hand. Sometimes, though, M & M (mater and mayonnaise) sandwiches get a little old, so let’s try something new.  Take several medium size tomatoes, core them, and scoop out the inside (you can always mix this with some cucumbers and onions for a quick snack later). Saute spinach,  chopped onions, and chopped green peppers in a little olive oil until just tender. Season with garlic powder or your favorite herbs. Drain and rinse a 15-ounce can of black beans and stir in cooked rice (about 2 cups, cooked) and add vegetable mixture. Spoon into tomatoes and top with shredded cheese and bake in a baking dish at 350° to 400° for around 30 minutes. You’ll want everything to be heated through.

These little gems can be served with soup and salad for a meal or they make tasty appetizers. They also freeze OK. I wrap them individually in plastic wrap after they’ve cooled before putting them in a freezer bag. They will be a little “mushy” when you microwave them later, but they are still just as yummy.

PicklesLet’s can a few pickles! These are my favorite pickles – they are a wonderful addition to tuna salad and potato salad.

Mom’s Pickles
4 cups apple cider vinegar (White House brand is preferred)
2 cups water
Pickling cucumbers
Pickling salt (1 teaspoon in each pint jar)*
Sugar (1 teaspoon in each pint jar)*
Jars, lids, rings

Soak cucumbers in brine overnight. The water should taste salty. Next day – combine water and vinegar and put a small number of cucumbers in the cooker (not too many because you have to ladle out the vinegar/water mixture). Bring to a boil. Put the cucumbers from the boiling water into your hot jars, packing them tightly, but not too tightly. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar to each pint (*we use a spoon like you’d use to stir a cup of tea instead of a teaspoon measure). Ladle vinegar/water from cooker into the jar, leaving about ¼-inch head space. Put on hot lid and tighten the ring. Turn the jar upside town several times to dissolve the salt/sugar, then set them upside down on a piece of cardboard on your counter. Continue adding cucumbers to the boiling mixture until all are gone.

Pickle RecipeClean up the kitchen and then turn over your pickle jars so they are sitting right side up. You should begin hearing the “ping” that will tell you that the jars are sealed. To test the seal, see if you can push the middle of a lid down. If you can, then that jar didn’t seal, and it should go in the refrigerator.

Fried squash is another timely treat. You can save a few calories by frying your squash in the oven. Here’s what you’ll need:

Oven-Fried Squash
Yellow squash (zucchini will work, too), sliced about ¼-inch thick
Egg
Self-rising cornmeal
Salt
Pepper

Fried SquashPreheat oven to 400°. Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray. In a bowl, mix your egg like you are going to scramble it. Pour cornmeal onto a plate or into a bowl with a flat bottom. You can add salt and pepper to taste now or wait until you put your squash on the baking sheet (sometimes I add a little garlic powder to mine). Dip each slice of squash in egg, dredge in cornmeal, and place on baking sheet. Spray the tops of the squash with cooking spray. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes and then turn the squash over. Bake for another 10-15 minutes. We suggest serving with a dollop of mayonnaise.

Get creative with your garden goodness and try a new twist or two on an old-fashioned recipe!