Monday, August 24, 2015

My favorite Veggie-ful summer recipes

I L-O-V-E having a garden (except when it's time to plant, train plants, or harvest and it's 10pm which is when a lot of the garden "work" takes place).  I grew up with a garden... a very big garden.  And we worked in the garden to feed the ten kids my parents had.  Well, I mostly dug in the dirt and slapped mosquitoes on my Dad's back while HE worked in the garden.  But, I loved going to the garden and picking a ripe tomato or cucumber and eating it fresh, still warm from the sun.  Sorry Mom for those times that you counted on using something for dinner and finding out it was gone.  :(  Summer to me means gardening (and swimming)... having fresh stuff to eat, and enough to can, freeze, or share.  Little did I know that my husband, who grew up with no garden, would end up being the gardener!  And he's great!  He tries growing new things just for fun.  We've tried peanuts, soybeans, tomatillos, sweet corn...

We started our first year in this house with good, old, victory (row) gardening.  But, we soon found that it's hard to grow anything well in our clay.  So the next year we started square foot gardening in raised beds.  We will never look back.  It's been so great for us, and we can fit so much into our little space.  We grow sweet peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, pole and bush beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, beets, radishes, turnips, parsnips, carrots, onions, garlic, tomatillos, ground cherries, lettuces/greens, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, asparagus, okra, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, horseradish, and some standard herbs.  So, all summer long I cook with whatever is ready in the garden.  I'm always looking for new ways to cook the same old veggies.  But, I thought I would share a few of my favorite recipes, or my way of using that wonderful garden.  A lot of these come from one of my favorite cookbooks, Simply in Season.
It separates the recipes by season and highlights on the side which seasonal ingredients are in use.  In the index in the back it lists the ingredients alphabetically, and then the recipes with page numbers under it.

I love it. It's a refreshing summer "soup" that's flexible enough to use what you have on hand.
Spanish Gazpacho

4 or 5 large tomatoes (about 4 cups)
2 large cucumbers (about 1 c)
1 big sweet pepper (1 c)
3 or 4 celery stalks (about 1 c)
1/2 c yellow or red onion
a few green onions or chives (optional)
2 C broth of your choice (veg or beef)
2 T sugar
1 T lemon or lime juice
1 t salt
2 t Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
a few ice cubes

Chop your veggies and put everything in the blender.  Blend slightly to the consistency or your choice.  Let sit about 30 minutes before serving.

This reminds me of my best friend.  The first time I had this was at one of her family parties... a graduation party or someone's wedding?  It was the most amazing food ever.  Her family has lebanese heritage so the food is always fan. tas. tic!  Tabouleh is another recipe that is forgiving.  You can make it with a variety of grains and a variety of herbs, but of course there is a "traditional" way.

1 c Uncooked grain (bulgar, quinoa, couscous).
1 c cooked chickpeas (optional)
2 large tomatoes
1 c fresh veggies (cucumbers, peppers, carrots, summer squash)
1/2 c fresh herbs; cilantro, parsley or mint
2 T lemon or lime juice
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Measure 1 c dry grain and prepare. For bulgar and quinoa add 2 c water, bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10-15 min until liquid is absorbed. For couscous, add 1 c water, bring to a boil, cover and let stand 5-10 min.
Chop veggies and herbs and mix together with grains and beans.  Mix together oil and lime juice, salt and pepper, and pour over salad.  Gently mix.

Stoplight Salad

stoplight salad: corn, black beans, quinoa, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, tomato...

2 c tomatoes
2 c sweet corn
2 peppers
2 c black beans
1/4 c cilantro, parsley or basil
3 T olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar or lime juice
1 clove minced garlic

Chop your veggies and add beans and veggies together in a bowl. Mix olive oil, vinegar or lime juice and garlic together and pour over veggies.

I always add quinoa to it just to make it a little more filling.  You cal also serve it in tortillas.

Roasted Winter Vegetables
Yes, I realize it says "winter" but really, we make this all times of the year.  You can use whatever veggies you have!  In the summer I've put in zucchini or summer squash and eggplant. But really, we usually have turnips, parsnips, potatoes, carrots, beets and those things in summer too.

Rustle up this simple side using the season's best produce.
photo from

6-8 cups of your veggies, cubed (sweet potatoes, potatoes, onion, squash, pumpkin, zucchini, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, green beans, brussels sprouts or mushrooms... Sometimes I mince some garlic and throw that in.)
2 T oil
1 T dried OR 3 T fresh herbs (I use whatever I have at the time; parsley, oregano, thyme.  Or if you're a rosemary fan, that would be great too!)

Toss your veggies together with the oil and herbs.  Bake in a 9x13 greased pan or on baking pans (uncovered) at 425 F, stirring once or twice, for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Eggplant Curry serves 8

This is another one of those recipes that I feel like is so versatile.  We usually have a good amount of eggplant, and although Eggplant Parmesan is always a favorite, it gets tedious to make with all the breading.  And, I like to use my own pasta sauce rather than jarred, and I rarely feel like making it in addition to breading the eggplant.  So this is another favorite recipe in our house to use up some eggplant.  We also, usually, have an abundance of okra and peppers, and I can easily use those in this recipe too.  It doesn't really matter the type of pepper, as long as its not super hot.  I have put in banana, fool you jalepeno (flavor without the spice), bell, and sweet.

photo from

3 T oil
3 medium eggplant (If I don't feel like I have enough eggplant, I add peppers, okra, zucchini or whatever I feel I have in abundance. I just slice the okra into rounds, and cut the other veggies into quarter size pieces.)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 fresh green chili pepper, seeded and chopped
1 t turmeric
2 t garam marsala
salt to taste
1/2 c plain yogurt
2 t mango powder (I have never used this, although the original recipe calls for it. I usually finely chop up a mango, peach or plum. Mango powder is actually dried unripe mango used to give a citrusy flavor.  You could sub in some lime or lemon juice as well.)
1 onion, chopped

Cut a slit down the middle of each eggplant, lay them on a baking sheet and roast them in a 450 F oven until soft. I start with 20 minutes on my timer, check them and then add time accordingly.  Once roasted, scrape the flesh out of the peel and mash with a fork.  I usually take part of it and chop it with the skin on to give the dish some color.
Heat oil in a large skillet, turn heat to medium, and add the sliced onion. Cook until wilted.  
Add garlic and finely chopped onion and cook until wilted.  
Add turmeric, salt and yogurt and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add mashed eggplant, garam marsala powder, chili pepper and mango powder (or chopped up fruit or citrus juice). Cook 5-10 minutes, stirring often.
Add the last chopped onion and cook a minute or two more, stirring.

Serve over cooked quinoa, rice or flat bread.

Does anyone have any good recipes to use up cucumbers, because I have a lot of those!! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Starting the day right

Lately Cecilija has been getting up super early... like 5:45.  That's too early for me when I get to bed around 11:30-12:30.  So when I have that early morning time with a little less chaos, I try to get a little time to just start slow.  This morning she went back to bed at 7am.  I knew when she got up that she wasn't really ready to be awake.  But she wouldn't go back to sleep either!  So, I got dressed and went downstairs with her.  We played for a while and pretty soon she was trying to crawl up on me and rubbing her face on me.  So, I put her back to bed, again.  I thought about all the things I should be doing.  I thought about the things I could be doing, like going back to sleep, blogging, actually reading a magazine.  So, I did a little of both.  I started some laundry and got the rest of the loads sorted.  Then I let the chickens out and took a short walk around part of the yard.  We haven't been able to spend much time actually doing anything in the yard this summer it seems.  It's so wet this year.  It's now July and we STILL have standing water in a lot of our yard, and the rest is just a muddy mess.  It's pretty gross.  When we are in the yard the kids are playing in the wading pool or the sandbox or we're in the garden.  This morning I checked our milkweed plants for any signs of butterfly larva (probably too late for that), watched the bumble bees on the butterfly weed, and took a little walk through the garden to see if there was anything the girls and I needed to get out and pick today.  I meandered back inside and put a bowl of oatmeal in the microwave, sat down to write this, and I heard the little footsteps on their way downstairs.  Boy those 39 minutes went fast. But it sure is nice to feel like I can take time to do those things instead of rushing to turn on my computer and get to work.