Thursday, October 28, 2010

Zucchini and Sweet Potato Burritos

My boys have never been what I would consider "picky" eaters but I also know that I've done my part to help them be that way.  I encourage them to always try new things and to find ways to enjoy different foods.  Both of them love pretty much anything inside a tortilla and also anything with a bit of cheese on top so burritos always go down well around here. 
In an effort to use up some of the zucchinis we have left from the garden I have been making burritos filled with all kinds of veg and zucchini. Last week I made black bean, sweet potato and zucchini ones and we all really enjoyed them.   I just sauteed some onion, garlic and cumin in olive oil then added the grated zucchini and sweet potato.  Once that was softened a bit I added some black beans (I cook these ahead in big batches and keep them handy in the freezer.  If I freeze them single layer on a cookie sheet then put them into a bag instead of freezing them in a big lump it makes it easy to just take what I need).  I added some Bragg's for flavouring and salt and pepper then mashed some of the beans a bit.  I also added a bit of cheese and let it melt to help hold the filling together but I've done it without cheese to
I filled and rolled the tortillas and put them into a dish with a little bit of tomato sauce on the bottom.  My sauce was made of some fresh garden tomatoes peeled and put in a jar which I then whizzed with my hand blender.  I added some spices - chilli powder, garlic, cumin, salt - and that was it.  I do this with canned tomatoes in the winter and it makes such a quick, delicious enchilada/burrito sauce.  I poured the rest of the sauce over top of the burritos and then baked (covered) for about 1/2 hour (or as long as it takes to bake some squash slices to go with).  Just before they are done I take off the lid and put some grated cheese on top so that it melts.  We like them with guacamole and green onions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's the Weather Up There?

Living up so much higher than town has made for some interesting changes in season for us.  1200 m elevation certainly means an earlier frost and snow (not to mention a looooong winter) but we also notice how quickly the seasons seem to change here (or is it just that we've been busy and time is passing so quickly?).  Two weeks ago on our afternoon walk we stopped to take a photo of the gorgeous Trembling Aspens - their golden colour was so beautiful against the blue sky.  Now most of them have lost their leaves and there is a different gold showing in the woods. 
The Larch trees put on a stunning show at this time of year.  Yesterday I had to stop what I was doing to take a photo because they're just so beautiful.
I love how they seem to disregard the rules and turn as golden as any typical leaved deciduous before dropping their needles altogether.  They're quite unusual and I've always had a soft spot for the unusual. ;-)  If you've never seen them before it is quite a delightful surprise to see a needled tree do this.  Then in the springtime they renew themselves with the most gorgeous green needles that are so soft you just can't resist brushing them against your cheek.
And...snow. Almost two weeks ago.
This time it was gone by lunchtime but we know it won't be long until it is here to stay.  We can see it creeping down in elevation on the mountain at the back of that photo.  That must mean it is time for more knitting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Homemade Pizza Sauce

We like to have a pizza night each weekend and that means we regularly use pizza sauce.  Since it is a goal of mine to make as much as possible from scratch without completely compromising my sanity - some would say that it's questionable that I haven't already done so ;-) - I decided to can some homemade pizza sauce this year.  I found this recipe to use as a guide and made several batches of sauce to put by. 
I cooked some tomatoes and then ran them through my tomato press to get rid of the skins and most of the seeds.  Then I added that to some sauteed onions and garlic.
 I added the spices I wanted to use and let it simmer.
And simmer.
 And simmer, until finally it was done.
I did find that I had to simmer it for an awfully long time to get it to the thickness that I wanted.  It had me remembering how long it took to get last year's homemade catsup thickened.  When it was finally thick enough I put it in jars with a bit of lemon juice and then processed them in the hot water bath.   They've been tucked away in the coldroom and will be there to use on our pizza nights throughout the winter. I was able to use up a LOT of my tomato surplus.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rustic Vegetable Torte

I've been putting those sweet potatoes to good use.  I happened across a recipe for a Rustic Vegetable Torte in a library magazine (either Harrowsmith or Mother Earth News, I can't find it anymore and can't remember which one but I  know it was a recent issue) and thought I would give it a try.  The recipe looked a little longish (for my liking) but it actually went together really quickly.  First, roast thin slices of sweet potato and then  put them on a rolled out sheet of puff pastry.
Then I sauteed some spinach and green onions from the garden and put those on top.
I added some cheese, some spices and some tomatoes from the garden and...I think that was it.  Baked it. was as delicious as I had hoped it would be.
We've also had sweet potato fries.
 I just cut up the sweet potatoes and drizzled them in olive oil and spices then mixed them up and put them (single layer) on a baking sheet.  Baked them at 450 for about 20-25 minutes and snapped a photo quickly before they were gobbled up.
I have to admit that at this point in the season we're all getting a little tired of the piles of tomatoes and zucchini on every surface of the house.  Last night I went to flip through some cookbooks in desperate search of a new way to prepare zucchini and I said to E that I was looking for a new recipe.  He told me that he knew a new way to prepare zucchini. 

E - "Take one zucchini..."
Me - "Yes, uh-huh."
E - "And then you throw it off the bank."
Me - No reply for my wise acre son! 

And so we had zucchini fritters along with our cherry tomato pasta.  And...there wasn't a speck leftover.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thrifty Thursday

I realize it is Friday and not Thursday but my computer was not cooperating with my thrifting post yesterday and so...can we just pretend it is Thrifty Thursday?
I got this at the thrift store some time ago but didn't get around to sharing it here.  I've found several pyrex goodies lately that I've brought home and so when I found this I started to talk myself out of buying it.  Thankfully my oldest son (who loves everything 70s) brought me to my senses by telling me I "needed" it because it had a sunflower on it.  Such a smart fellah, he is. ;-)
 And, it has come in very handy for making all kinds of zucchini casseroles (perhaps he wouldn't have encouraged me to buy it had he known how often he would be served zucchini casserole from it?).
I've been using these grated zucchini and onions in all manner of ways - so far their favourite has been as part of the filling in black bean enchiladas.  I do love the extra bit of sunshine feeling that this dish adds to our meals.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Apple Season

One of the things that I adore about living life close to nature is that we are so aware of the seasons in every way - the activities we enjoy, the places we go, the work that we do and the food that we eat.  My boys know that shortly after summer (camping, beach days, fresh garden goodness in abundance) comes apple season.  A few weeks ago a friend invited us to join her family for a nature walk and to pick some apples from a wild tree they had found (we're not sure what kind they are).  We spent a beautiful sunny morning walking by the creek, spotting mushrooms and horse chestnuts, and picking apples from an old tree.  The tree was unpruned, unsprayed and, quite obviously by the amount of scat under it, a favourite of bears, deer and some other critters.
I LOVE getting unsprayed apples because then I feel no need to peel them before making sauce, I just quarter them, cook them up and then run them through this mill.
Last week E and I joined loads of other homelearners to pick Spartans from an orchard where the apples were not going to be picked - we came away with our vehicle loaded with boxes and bags of unsprayed apples, free for the picking.  What a delightful way to spend some time.  I always feel so very fortunate to have chosen this area as the place to live and raise our family and the ready access to such amazing produce is one of the reasons I love it so much. 

E was delighted to notice this in one of the apples he was munching...
a heart.

I hope you're finding pleasure in the delights of the season wherever you are.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Giving Thanks

We have so much to be grateful for in our lives and this time of year always brings that home so clearly - not just because it is our Thanksgiving but because our home is literally bursting with blessings and abundance right now. 
Every horizontal surface in our home is covered with fruit and vegetables.  It's enough to have my husband shaking his head but I know that he loves it as much as I do (except when there isn't even room for him to sit on the bench in the morning to put his boots without sitting on a tomato!!). There is just Something about growing your own food and having such an abundance of fresh, delicious goodness around that appeals to our whole family - we're very lucky and we know it.

The coldroom shelves are full, the freezers are full, the fridge is full...even the coldroom floor is almost full.  I'm interested to see just how little food we buy for the next couple months.
The windowsills are filled with tomatoes and I love seeing the colours as they ripen.
We've tomatoes at every stage of ripeness and lots more in the garden to pick.  We've been very lucky to not have frost in the town garden yet.
 These are for making green tomato mincemeat which my boys discovered they love last year.
 We're still finding new recipes and new ways of serving tomatoes and zucchini - staples of almost every meal still.
So much to be thankful for!  I hope you had a good Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Growing Sweet Potatoes

This was my first year growing sweet potatoes - Georgia Jet sweet potatoes.  I love the leap of faith that gardening involves - plopping plants or seeds in the ground and just trusting that they will magically turn into food.  Someday.  Somehow.  I've yet to be disappointed and even if we hadn't ended up with sweet potatoes just seeing the abundance of glossy green vine and these gorgeous blooms would have made growing sweet potatoes worth the while for me.  But...
we did end up with sweet potatoes. 
Lots and lots of sweet potatoes.
Now I just need to find some more sweet potato recipes...and I do think it is well past time that I try  sweet potato pie.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Goodness in a Jar

There has been a whole lot of tomato processing going on here lately.  In my old garden I uesd to plant around 90 tomato plants to get the amount I wanted for the year and it wasn't unusual for me to end up going to a U-pick to get some extras.  This year I only have around 50 tomato plants but the soil is SO amazing that I'm getting loads of tomatoes off each plant.  Yesterday morning was spent making more passata and canning another batch of plain tomatoes.  If I could only can one thing each year it would have to be tomatoes (ooh,  plus peach butter...oh, and salsa, we can't go without salsa, oh but what about jam??).  Having homegrown, canned tomatoes to use makes everything I make - from soups, to sauces, to casseroles- taste so much better.  The difference is amazing.  I like to tell people that I'm not really a good cook, it's just that I use good canned tomatoes in everything. ;-) 

I've always just followed the instuctions in my well-used Ball canning guide.  I've had this for at least 20 years and I think it is a great resource for anyone just learning to preserve.
I like to put a leaf of basil in when I have it fresh and I use lemon juice rather than citric acid.
I used to like to have about 80 jars on hand but now that I do so many stewed tomatoes for the freezer I don't do as many jars of regular canned.  Although, it would be tragic to run out...
I hope you're enjoying getting some summertime goodness tucked away for winter too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Garden Harvest

There is always such a flurry of productive activity at this time of year as I work to get our winter stores of food put away. I thought I'd share some of our food squirreling here.  Last year I used all the peaches for peach butter and didn't can any plain ones, E was very disappointed so I made sure to can a batch of peaches for him this year.
I've got a tray of nettle seeds drying for my nettle seed salt.
We keep picking tomatoes to enjoy fresh and to preserve.  I also tried making my own pizza sauce to can for the first time.
We've got our supply of squash brought in - all the better to make roasted squash bisque.

We've been feasting on E's watermelons. 
And feasting. 
 And feasting.
I was pleased to find a delicious way to use up eggplant.  I did mean to actually use this as pesto but when I was taste testing it I realized it was so tasty that we ended up eating it all on rice crackers for a snack.
I also made sure to dig up and bring in some herbs last week to make sure I have a fresh supply to go with all the ones I have drying.
And so I think I'm mostly caught up and am now just canning the tomatoes as they ripen.  The forecast is calling for risk of frost so we'll be picking a lot of the tomatoes in our town garden today and bringing them home to ripen.