Friday, July 15, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini, Daycations, and Mulberries

Heritage Breed Turkeys from a day trip to Tionesta and Tidioute

We are cheap and it is a busy year.   Our oldest is working goes to college this fall, our middle girl is learning to drive and babysitting the wonderful neighbor boys, and our youngest is her usual busy self. I am having a ball at work but too busy to take serious time off and George getting time off is always a problem.   We probably will not manage to get away for a whole week this summer, but we love our day trips.  A few weeks ago we went to Allegheny National Forest Hearts Content and to the upper Allegheny River where the girls waded and lost shoes and we hiked and generally had fun.  We also visited a farm stand where they specialize in heritage breeds of livestock and organic veggies.  The peacocks were scared of me so I only got a picture of the turkeys.  Did you know that most turkeys that you buy in the grocery store are bread to be so breast-heavy that by the time they are mature they can't even stand up?  Kind of makes Thanksgiving Dinner a little gross...I like dark meat better anyway...

Mulberry Jam and Syrup

I am not going to go into detail of the recipes for these, just a little note on how much fun we had picking the berries and making the stuff.  Mulberries grow on trees like the one below that George found for me in a graveyard.  The girls and I spent a whole week's worth of evenings picking these and some black raspberries as mentioned in the last post.

Graveyard where the Mulberry Tree was found.

Closeup of Mulberries on tree.  The dark ones are the ripe ones.

This lady may or may not have worn sunglasses at one point during our week of berry picking madness.

These are honeysuckle berries. Don't eat them.

These are Mulberries.  By all means eat them.

I made the jam using the recipe in the sure jel packet for raspberry cooked jam.  I didn't remove the stems from the little guys because they didn't come out well and they were so tender I didn't think they were a problem.  They turned red during processing and aren't really noticeable, so I guess it's OK.  The jam is a little runny, but that is normal for me, and it tastes wonderful.

I made the syrup by following the recipe for jelly, again for raspberries,  but leaving out the pectin.  I also added a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice which took away the cloying part of the sweetness and brought out the flavor of the berries.

Stuffed Zucchini

This is one of my favorite summer recipes, but unfortunately it requires an oven, so I only make it on cool days.

1.  Blanch small to medium zucchini in boiling water for 5 minutes, then immerse in cold water for 5 minutes. 

2.  Scoop out the centers of the squash to create boats.

3.  Chop up the innards of the squash and saute in olive oil with some chopped onion and a little garlic and salt.
Clockwise from left:  Water for cooling blanched zucchini, scooped out zucchini innards pre chopping.  Scooped out Zucchini shells, chopped zucchini innards for saute.

Chopped onions and homemade pesto.

4.  Puree the sauteed stuff and add some pesto, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and an egg.  Combine until it resembles a thick batter.

Sauteed innards and onions

5.  Return stuffing to squash boats and bake at 375 for about half an hour.  These can be frozen and re-heated, or frozen before baking.

What is left of finished product by the time I remembered to take a picture.

This weekend we are planning to take a day trip to North East, in Erie County Pa to look for cherries or whatever we can find up there.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gleaning Ill Gotten Gains

Confession is good for the soul right?  Right?  It all started so innocently...George said lets go for a ride and I will look for stuff to take pictures of.  I said sure.  The next thing I knew we had stopped at an old cemetery and I was filling my shirt tails with raspberries from the edge of the mowed area. I couldn't help myself, there they were, ripe and plentiful and mine (sort of) for the taking.  I don't think the occupants of the cemetery minded, but it ended with George shaking his head and telling me that he didn't think berry picking was supposed to be a contact sport.  I have one less non-stained shirt to wear on the weekends, several new scratches, and a few jars of blackberry jelly.  And George found an Mulberry tree and pointed it out to me...I know what I will be doing the rest of the evenings this week.

Black Raspberry Jelly

Place 2 pints of ripe raspberries in a saucepan and cover with water.  Boil for 5 minutes and run an immersion blender through the berries to crush. 

Run the berries through a food mill or sieve to strain out the seeds.  I used several sieves of decreasing  pore size to repeatedly strain the pulp so that I retained as much of the pulp as possible while removing the seeds.  I wasn't going for a perfectly clear jelly, but I wanted more of a seedless fruit spread.  If you want a clear jelly you should strain the pulp through a cheesecloth or jelly bag and let it sit undisturbed overnight without squeezing. 

Measure 3 c of the juice/pulp and add 1 package of powdered pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil.  Add 4 2/3 c sugar all at once and return to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute then pour into hot jars and process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

When we got home I went searching on my own land and found a couple more pints of raspberries and blackberries.  I combined them with the mulberries I got from the cemetery and made some mixed berry syrup.

Honest Blackberries

I prepared the juice from the mixed berries as described above, then I added an equal amount of sugar and returned to a boil.  I then poured into hot jars and processed 30 minutes.  I will probably use the syrup on pancakes, though it is a bit runny, but I will also make soda by mixing a couple of tablespoons with soda water.  You could also add  it to lemonade or pour it over ice cream.

I don't know what I am going to do with mulberries yet, but they are sweet and delicious.  I may just do syrup and jelly, but I may venture into some other territories.

I guess I feel guilty about gleaning, but not guilty enough to stop.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hello again.

Wow, it has been a long time.  I have to say that last winter was probably the roughest one I have gone through.  Weather wise, emotionally, and psychologically, it was really tough.  But this  is a new summer, and now it's time to heal and start preparing for next winter.

One of the fun things I did this early spring was to attend the local "Farm to Table Conference"  in Pittsburgh.  I learned a lot about local farmers and things to do with local produce and food products.  I may have mentioned before that I buy all my meat from Schnur's Custom Meats on Bonniebrook road in Butler.  They are a local butcher/packer/farm. They make their own products like seasoned beef and buffalo patties, beef sticks, and my favorite, Larry's Chipped Ham.  They are friendly, open Saturday mornings, and they sell everything vacuum packed and pre frozen, which is perfect for my lifestyle.  I can pop the packages in warm water and they are thawed and ready to cook in no time.

At the Farm to Table event I attended a talk by David Eson of Isodore Foods and decided to give his service a try.  Isodore foods is a CSA sort of organization that delivers pre-ordered produce to a central location once a week for customers to take home  You can learn more here  This is great for me as one of their drop-offs is located in my building at work.  It's kind of like a surprise present every Thursday afternoon.

This week kale greens and green onions were among my veggies.  This morning I fixed a few recipes with these and some other stuff I got from Isodore (I will mark the Isodore stuff with an asterisk.)*

Cheddar Bacon Quiche with Kale Greens

On a side note, I really have to start wearing my glasses when I take the pictures.

1)  Line a pie pan with a prepared pie crust and bake 20 min at 350.  If you are a perfectionist you may want to line the crust with parchment paper and fill with beans or rice so that the crust stays in shape while it bakes.  I just poked it a few times with a fork.

2)  Combine 3 eggs and 1/2 cup cream* and wisk together.  Add 1/2 c bacon crumbles and 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese*, mix and pour into the pre-baked pie crust. 

3) Place the quiche in the oven and bake at 350 until set and browned on top, about 30 minutes or so, I confess, I did not time it.

4) While the quiche was baking, I combined 4 c chopped kale*, 2c chopped spinach*, and 1/2 c green onions* with 2T olive oil and sauteed until tender.

5)  I suppose you could add the greens to the quiche before you cooked it, but my children have a tendency to be green-a-phobic, so I served it on top.

George initially balked at quiche for lunch so I made him a manly hot sausage sandwich.  When he went for seconds though, he came back with a healthy serving of girly food.  2 out of 3 girls loved the quiche.  The odd one out said she didn't like french food and wouldn't even taste it.  She was on her own for lunch.

Pasta with Salmon and Kale

I was rooting around in the freezer today and I found some salmon which was in danger of going bad, so I decided to make some salmon cakes.  When I unwrapped it, though, I was only able to salvage a little, so I decided to do this instead.  It utilizes the leftover stir-fried kale from above. 

1)  Stir fry the Kale (see above).

2)  Boil water for penne pasta.  I double dutied by poaching the salmon in the water that I used to boil the pasta.  I added two frozen salmon fillets to the cold water and when it came to a boil added 2 c uncooked penne.  After 5 minutes I removed the salmon and continued to cook the pasta until done.

3)  Flake the poached salmon and combine with the cooked pasta, 1 c of the stir fried kale, and 1 c halved cherry tomatoes.  Add 1/2 c shredded asiago cheese and 1/4 c olive oil and toss.

This is going in the fridge to be my lunch for the week.  If I am going to pack, I am going to eat well.