Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Zucchini, Tomato and Cucumbers, Oh My! Salad

I was going to do a post on tomato seed saving but then...
yesterday afternoon as I looked around our dining area at the table covered with veg. I decided we needed to have something with zucchini, tomatoes and cukes (We also had cabbage salad of course.  Thanks to these cabbages we've been eating cabbage at least once a day for almost 2 months).  Happily, I remembered a salad I'd made last year at my friend's suggestion that I had found delicious. 
I sauteed some of my warted zucchini and some white patty pan zucchini with some neglected garlic scapes from the fridge as well as some delicious and long-awaited garlic from this year (from a friend's garden - it is SO gorgeous!) in some olive oil.  When these were soft I mixed them with some of our pesto (thawed from the freezer) and a big dollop of mayo.  Then I added slices of armenian cucumber and lots of cherry tomatoes cut in halves (brown berry, sungold and red pear cherry).  A little salt and pepper and it was wonderful.  So good that W asked me to make it again so I'm about to do that now. 
Love finding ways to use our veggies that we all enjoy so much.  Thanks for the "recipe", Mary-Sue!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So Much to Learn

Each year around this time the boys and I put together a learning plan for the year.  We're very relaxed about them, we find it fun to discuss what we all would like to learn about and what we want to focus our resources (time, energy, and sometimes money) on.  We usually jot down lists of interests and have a couple times done some mind-mapping learning plans (very fun!).  W, at almost 16, is very self-directed and motivated in his learning.  He has been organizing high-school age workshop courses for the local homelearners for the last two years and needs very little help from us planning out his year anymore...actually, we sometimes find it challenging to even keep up with him anymore and, at times, it feels as though we just sort of scurry along behind him with whatever support we can give if and when he needs/wants it.  The other day he was making some plans for this fall and it reminded me that E and I would need to do our learning plans soon.  I mentioned to E that we should think about what we wanted to put on them and E, being as much about efficiency and simplicity as his mother, replied, "Everything!". ;-)

I can see it now.

E's Learning Plan 2011-2012

This year I want to learn about...


And I have to say I quite like it. ;-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ah, Summer

Somehow time always gets away from me in summer.  One minute it is the first weekend in August and the next thing I know it is somehow nearing the end of August.  It is at times like this that I am ever so grateful the boys have never gone to school and that the end of August doesn't feel like the end of summertime for us. 

We've had all sorts of things to enjoy lately.
A trip (for all of us except one of use who went on a fishing trip to Haida Gwaii) to visit with lots of family where there was creek time, beach time, good food, garden time, Rummoli night, games and, of course, visits from Russel the Crow (he much prefers when we're not visiting and our dog isn't there).
A crazy rain storm with lightning, thunder and hail.  We watched as the lightning made its way across the lake towards us and then were amazed by the amount of rain that came down in only half an hour or so (at least 3 inches possibly 4) - we felt like we were immersed in the rain clouds.  We also had hail and some of my veg here are showing a little damage but nothing major at all and my garden in town is fine.  E was quite happy that this time we were able to just watch the lightning and not have it strike a tree right outside the house.  This sunroom looking over the lake makes this house spectacular for storm watching.
(Mother Nature washing the windows for us)
(you can see my solar fruit dryer just at the bottom of this photo - not a lot of solar drying going on just then)
We've been eating cucumber everything.  Cucumber sandwiches, cucumber salad, Greek salad, cucumbers straight up while standing in the garden...
The cukes are so plentiful that I've been drinking cucumber juice each day in an attempt to use up the ones that grow to enormous sizes when we are away.

And I was excited to pick my first-that-I've-ever-grown cauliflower.  I've always avoided the Brassica family because I didn't want to worry about the bugs but the cauliflower were absolutely pest free, easy to grow and delicious.
I've also managed to get another batch of comfrey oil made and a small batch of calendula oil.  I think even when the kids are grown and we don't have as much use for calendula salve I'll still make at least one batch each year just because I think it is the prettiest oil to make.

And now as we realize the summer days are winding down we're making plans for how we want to spend the rest of it and...canning like mad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Homemade Tortillas

Sometime ago I came across some locally made tortillas (Wrap It Up Tortillas) at our little store down the road.  They tasted so much better than the kind we had been buying that we decided we needed to start making our own again (and buying theirs when we don't have time to make them).  I'd never found a recipe that I really loved but I decided to look online and came across this delicious one ( I felt pretty certain that a Texan would know a good tortilla recipe). ;-)
We tried it out and were very pleased with how simple they were to make (this dough is super easy to work with).
But even more pleased with how delicious they were.  I don't even have any lovely photos of them filled with all sorts of garden goodness because we snarfed them down so quickly that there was no time to take photos.  This time I used unbleached all purpose flour but the next time I'm going to try half all purpose and half whole wheat.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Abundance of Apricots

I mentioned getting some particularly delicious apricots for free last week, we've been getting quite a stash in the freezer for our smoothies and were grateful to be offered even more.  I wanted to make some sort of sweet treat to offer in thanks and came across this recipe.  It looked so beautiful that I couldn't resist trying it (but would be delighted to hear of any other apricot recipes too). 

I also decided to make some apricot jam (using Pomona's Pectin - 8 cups apricots to a little less than 2 cups sugar) with some of the very ripe ones to use as a spread in our crepes and to give some as gifts.  I love having extra preserves on hand to give to people who would enjoy them. 

Then we were offered even more apricots so I dug out my solar dryer and put it to use for the first time this season.

All that goodness and we still have the tree on this property (a later not as flavourful variety) to harvest.  Yum!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Weekend in the Woods

We spent the weekend with friends in one of my favourite campspots (I can never commit to calling any of the campgrounds my favourite because I love so many so I have to say one of my favourites).  The things I love most about this spot is the absolute peaceful, quiet feeling of it, the call of the loons each morning and this - the water pump.  This campspot is considered pretty "rustic", no running water, no toilets...just quiet - I love it. Last year when we were there the weather was unusually cold and this year it was delightfully hot - just right to make one want to go for a swim in a mountain lake.

There were a few hikes, campfire time with s'mores and games (no luck this year getting the teens to do a sing-a-long), time to learn a new game (Farkle - which I somehow managed to win in spite of my "slow and steady" low risk method of game playing) and even a tiny bit of time for reading in the hammock.
Then we came home to a feast of garden-fresh corn from a generous gardener and Greek salad and, of course, zucchini from our own garden.  And X day (plus some apricot preserving) after last week's busy-ness.
And yes, it was as delicious as it looks.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summertime Feasting

I always love food but there is just something about summertime food that can't be beat.  I love harvesting all that's ripe and then figuring out what delicious thing I can make with it.  I mentioned before that I tend to over do it with zucchini so I was so pleased when E found this recipe for zucchini mushroom pizza.  We've  had our variation of it twice now and it is a big hit.  We use the dough recipe in that link (it is a much chewier, thinner dough than our regular recipe) then for the base we use pesto and olive oil.
I use our old mandolin (yes, another yummy thing I can make with this gadget that I spent so many years pestering my poor husband to get rid of.  I've actually bought two more since at thrift stores for other people)  to julienne the zucchini and we just use regular mushrooms as well as a few cherry tomatoes for toppings.  We top that with grated cheese and bake it 'til golden.
I can see a lot of our zucchinis getting used up this way.  And good thing too because yesterday I noticed my "wart" zucchinis are starting to produce now.
Funny looking things.  This is the first time I've tried this kind, I got the seeds at Seedy Saturday this spring.  I assumed they would be a bush zucchini but the plants are sprawling out into my (already small) pathways.  If you have any favourite zucchini recipes you'd like to share I'd be very happy to hear about them. ;-)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Onion Braids

The other day I harvested most of my first planting of onions.  I brought them home and, after cleaning and drying them, made them into a braid. 
This is my favourite way to store onions.  I find it very handy to have them hanging on the wall in the garage (before freezing temps) or coldroom.  I also love the way they look.

This year I'm also growing a few Kelsae Sweet Giant onions and was pleased to see how big they are getting, can't wait to see how much bigger they get.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Plenty of Pesto

One of the things I love about living in the Okanagan valley is the absolute abundance of produce growing here, another thing I love about living here is the community of people we have in our lives.  Last week a dear friend asked me if I wanted to join her to make pesto since they had been given the opportunity to pick loads of basil for free.  Well, of course I couldn't resist.  We rode our bikes to the Farmers Market to get some garlic and other goodies and then back to her place for a few hours of making pesto.  Once there she showed me how much basil they had picked - there were two large Rubbermaid bins, a shopping bin and two large fridge crispers full.  Yikes!  I'd never seen so much basil in my life.
(our dueling food processors!)

We washed, stemmed, processed, ran short on ingredients (several times) and made our way through the crispers full as well as most of the two big bins.  It took us many more hours than we had thought but the time whizzed by because we were enjoying ourselves so much.  I love doing this kind of project with friends and having time to talk and catch up while getting something done.
I ended up going home with 4 quart jars, 1 plastic container and 1 good size bowl filled with pesto.  Jacqueline managed to fill a freezer with yogurt containers of pesto.  Once I got home I also put my pesto into plastic containers to freeze and then popped them out of the containers into a plastic freezer bag.  Needless to say we've been enjoying pesto everything since then - pesto pizza,  pesto potatoes, pesto pasta, pesto on bread, pesto on green beans...
The freezer has been in constant use as it is also blueberry, cherry and apricot season here and I'm getting it stocked with our year supply of smoothie ingredients.  Apricots are very easy to come by here and I've seen several trees going unpicked around town.  I was pleased to be offered some apricots from the tree where my garden is.
Apricots have never been my favourite fruit (the ones on our old tree were just OK in flavour) but this variety has incredible flavour and colour.  I hope to find out what kind it is so I can plant the same kind when we get our property.  They're delicious fresh and make a great addition to berry smoothies.