Monthly Archives: September 2017

asparagus

Preserve the Harvest

asparagusThe growing season may be over, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to do without the fresh fruits and vegetables you’ve bought all summer at your farmers’ market. There are several ways you can save them and enjoy them throughout the winter.

Freezing is the easiest, quickest, and safest way to preserve vegetables, though it doesn’t work for all types. Asparagus, broccoli, green beans, peppers, summer squash, and dark leafy greens freeze well, and if you cut it off the cob, so does fresh corn. Use the freshest veggies possible and make sure they’re free of any damage and wash them. It’s best to blanche the vegetables before freezing, to preserve their quality by destroying the enzymes that destroy taste and color. To blanche, bring a large pot of water (at least a gallon for each pound of vegetables) to a boil, add the clean and trimmed veggies to the pot and check for doneness after a minute. When they are done, remove them from the pot and put them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Let them cool and dry them well.  Pack them into freezer bags — the heavy-duty kind are best — and force out as much air as you can. Pack them into the freezer but be careful not to crowd them.

When you’re ready to use them, you don’t even have to thaw the vegetables. Just drop them into your stir-fry, casserole or soup and cook as usual. A short time in the microwave will make them ready to eat. Be careful not to overcook or you’ll find those crisp veggies will end up soggy.

Another option is to can vegetables using the hot water bath method. This method of preserving foods dates to the 1800s, when Napoleon sponsored a contest to discover a means of preserving large amounts of food so that he could feed his troops while on the march. The winner was Nicolas Appert who heated food to a certain temperature, killing the germs that cause spoilage. The heat also forced air out of the jar so that it sealed the lid.

Canning works best with high acid vegetables, so it’s especially good for tomatoes; beans, beets, and carrots are also good for canning. You’ll need some equipment, including a kettle wide and deep enough to hold several canning jars and enough water to cover them; canning jars, and lids. It’s important that you closely follow all directions for water bath canning; check with Cornell Cooperative Extension for canning instructions and canning classes in your area.

 

 

Photo Credit: Meditations Via Pixabay

zucchini

What’s with All the Zucchini?

zucchiniYou see it almost everywhere — chances are there’s more than one stand at your local farmers’ market that has piles of zucchini, that light to dark green summer squash that can grow 2 to 3 feet long and 8 to 10 inches in diameter! But bigger isn’t always better when it comes to zucchini!

For a tender, juicy fruit (yes, zucchini is a fruit!) select one that is about six to eight inches long —large zucchini has less flavor and more water, and the seeds are large. Look for an even color, and the darker green the better; the deeper the color, the deeper the flavor. The skin should be glossy and you want the zucchini to have a slight stem on the end. Don’t store zucchini in a plastic bag because it can make the fruit slimy. Instead, opt for a brown paper bag and store it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator.

So, why is there so much zucchini? It’s easy to grow. It can grow in almost any soil and it flowers more than most other plants. Each of those blossoms that are pollinated grows into another new zucchini. It also has a long growing season; if you pick one zucchini off the vine, the vine just grows another squash. Over the course of one growing season, one plant can produce six to 10 pounds of zucchini!

There are almost as many recipes for how to cook zucchini as there are zucchini; an internet search shows sites that offer “36 things to do with zucchini,” “49 Sensational Zucchini Recipes,” even “80+ Best Zucchini Recipes.” You can fry it, bake it, stuff it, grill it, spiral it to use as a low-carb pasta substitute, make it into fritters, use it for manicotti, even make loaded zucchini skins.

If your kids aren’t zucchini fans (or fans of vegetables, in general), zucchini bread is a great way to make a tasty snack a little healthier. This receipt is from www.butterwithasideofbread.com

Best Ever Zucchini Bread

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (you can substitute applesauce for ½ the oil)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (you can add a little more, I always do!)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Grease two 8 x 4 inch bread pansor 6 mini loaf plans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Assemble your ingredients. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. {I always sneak in a few spoonfuls of flax!}
  4. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Grate zucchini.  Stir into the mixture along with the nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. My mini-loaf pans take about 35-40 minutes. Large sized loaves take about 55 minutes.
  7. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: auntmasako Via Pixabay

 

tomatoes

It’s Tomato Time!

tomatoesThere’s a benefit to the fact that it’s late summer — it’s tomato harvest time! But with more than 25,000 varieties available, you may have trouble picking the right type. The following are most likely to be at your farmers’ markets:

Beefsteak tomatoes are great for eating — think on a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich or a hamburger. They’re also good for adding to green salads or for just plain snacking. Try eating a juicy beefsteak the way you would a peach or an apple!

Roma, or plum tomatoes are the variety you want to use for cooking because they don’t have a lot of seeds and their skins are thin. They also are meatier than round tomatoes, so they won’t water down your favorite pasta sauce recipe.

Cherry tomatoes have the shape and size of a cherry. They are often sweet, so pop them into a salad or your mouth — they make great low calorie, low sugar snacks (watch out if you bite into them — they squirt!). Slice cherry tomatoes in half and drop them into a saute pan for a quick-cooking sauce.

Grape tomatoes have the oblong shape of a grape and are about the same size. Their skin is a little thicker than cherry tomatoes and their flesh is meatier. Many people feel they are sweeter than the cherry variety. They are growing in popularity because they last longer than cherry tomatoes.

Heirloom tomatoes certainly aren’t the prettiest tomato variety on the market, but they are the tastiest. Heirlooms vary in size and they come in a range of colors — yellow, pink, red, purple, green, orange, and even black. There are said to be more than 3,000 varieties of heirlooms being grown in the U.S. and more than 15,000 known varieties!

Look for plump, heavy tomatoes with smooth skins that don’t have any cracks. They should ‘give’ a little with slight pressure. If you plan to use them within a few days, you can keep them on your kitchen counter or windowsill, but not in direct sunlight! If it will be a few days before you use them, find a cool spot in the house. Never refrigerate tomatoes — it makes them watery and it ruins the flavor.

Take advantage of fresh tomatoes for their taste and for their health benefits. Eating tomatoes lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, reduces the risk of prostate cancer, and regulates blood sugar.

Easy Fresh Tomato Sauce

Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until translucent. Stir in tomatoes, cook until juice begins to thicken. Stir in puree, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes more, until rich and thick.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2017 Allrecipes.com
Printed From Allrecipes.com 9/4/2017

Photo Credit: Couleur Via Pixabay