Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Veggie Surplus Turned Comfort Food

So, although you thought we did all that was possible with squash, we still had more roasted butternut squash to deal with! 
The never ending bowl of roasted butternut squash
 So, we consulted Jessica Seinfeld's book Deceptively Delicious which teaches you sneaky ways to add veggie purees into every day recipes.  Although it sounds strange, we settled on Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Butternut Squash.  All I can say is YUM!!!  This recipe was sooo easy and completely delicious.  We slightly adapted the original recipe and steps to the following:

Servings: 2
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1/2 cup roasted butternut squash puree
1 tbsp margarine spread
4 slices whole wheat bread

 1. In a medium bowl, mix the cheese and butternut squash puree. 

2. Spread the four slices of the bread with margarine.  Stick the two pairs bread together- margarine slices touching-so it doesn't get your cutting board/work surface gooey (this is a trick learned from my dad, Jim- master of the grilled cheese sandwich).

3. Spread the cheese and squash mixture onto the two bread towers.

4. Peel the bread apart and place one piece of bread, margarine side down on a skillet, top with other piece of bread, margarine side up.  Repeat with other sandwich.

5. Cook 4-5 mins until bread is toasted and filling is melted.

What goes well with grilled cheese... tomato soup!  Amy and I decided to use a recipe from a book that Grandma Grace Rudig gave me- Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things: A cookbook for when your garden explodes.  I have the original version from 1976.  This book has a special place in my heart because it is one of the first books that I can remember.  As a kid, I loved looking at the cover, with way too many words for a normal title and all of the colorful drawings of fruits and vegetables.

We chose "Very Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup." 

Servings: 6-8
12 ripe tomatoes, peeled, chopped
1 cup water
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp basil
3 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp melted butter

2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup light cream

1. Simmer tomatoes, water, celery, onion, and basil for 30 minutes.  Puree in a blender.

2. Mix together cornstarch and butter.  Stir into soup to thicken over medium heat.

3.  Add brown sugar and salt.

4. Add light cream.

Very Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Butternut Squash

Monday, August 30, 2010

Honey Harvest

The best part about being a bee keeper is of course the honey!  This year was my first harvest and I worked  with Vince and Ellen Aloyo to "extract" over 50 pounds of the delicious stuff.  I sell the honey from our hives on Temple's campus to support the bee program- buying new equipment and tools for the hives.

This year, one of our students, Kristen Brown, designed a beautiful label for us.  A stylized honey comb in Temple red.
Temple Honey- label designed by Kristen Brown
The extraction process was a fun, sweet smelling, and very sticky event!  Going through a harvest makes makes you appreciate all the work the girls (bees) put into making the honey and your hard work makes the honey taste that much sweeter.  The honey is located in wax comb that the bees build in wooden frames.  The honey is held in the comb by a thin layer of wax called he caps.  The beekeeper removes the cappings with a heated knife.  Then the frames are placed in an extractor which spins the frames, causing the honey to fly out.  There is a spout at the bottom where the beekeeper collects the honey.  It has to be strained a few times to remove pieces of wax and the inevitable bee parts that end up in the honey.  Then our friends Vince and Ellen store their honey in gallon sized water jugs until they are ready to package it in smaller containers for sale.

Boxes of frames waiting to be uncapped- note the layers of newspaper on the floor... this is a sticky process!
Frames uncapped and waiting for the extractor
This metal extractor holds 12 frames.  The wax cappings are in the foreground.
Honey is strained through a colander to remove medium to large pieces of wax
Honey is strained through pantyhose to remove small pieces of wax and bee parts
Honey is stored in gallon jugs and labeled with the location of the hives

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fabric Sales... Uh Oh

My roommate, Amy and I took her parents to Doylestown for lunch.  On the way there I remembered that there was a fabric sale going on at a quilt shop I had never visited, Sew Smart Fabrics... uh oh.  I was actually a good girl, not buying too much, but I'm soooo excited about the new fabric that I did get!  It was part of three different lines of Moda Fabrics.  I think the little introduction into the world of pre-cut fabric from the Philly Modern Quilt Guild's PURE Challenge may have created a monster...

Charm Pack of Wee Woodland by Keiki for Moda
Charm Pack of Tweet Tweet by Keiki for Moda
Layer Cake of Fandango by Kate Spain for Moda
A few half yards of fabrics from the Fandango line
My purchases- not too bad- I practiced much self restraint that day!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gotta Love Grandmas

Today, I got a unique gift in the mail.  My grandma Joan Chapman sent me my great great grandmother's sock darner made in 1900.  I knew this was coming and I have been waiting for it with anticipation... I have been wanting a sock darner for a long time and having one with such meaning behind it is icing on the cake.  Of course my friends have made fun of me, wondering why I don't just throw my socks away when they get a hole in the toe.  Well friends, I'm a tree hugger and I love to sew, so I guess I'm just the kind of girl who darns socks.

Grandma wrote the following note:

"Dear Gracie-
This belonged to your Great Great Grandmother Mary Maskery.  She was very fond of me and I know she would think you are perfect- just as we do!
With love,

There is nothing like a note from Grandma to boost your ego every once in a while!  Have a good weekend everyone- I'll be darning socks...
Well worn sock darner that belonged to my Great Great Grandma Mary Maskery

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Project Pure

The Philly Modern Quilt Guild is participating in Project Pure!  The challenge is to use a charm pack of PURE fabric, the new line from Sweetwater for Moda Fabrics, along with 1/2 yard of any other fabric, plus backing and binding to make a small quilt.

Moda PURE charm pack (Photo credit: PMQG)
This is my first charm pack (charm pack= at least one 5" square of each fabric in a fabric line).  After getting my charm pack, I stared at it for a while and had no idea what to do.  After looking through books and surfing online, I thought I wanted to do something with triangles.  At first I didn't like it, but now I kind-of like it... oops, too late!
First layout with triangles and squares
 I ended up going with two different sized rectangles.  I cut the charm squares into 1.75" x 5" and 3.25" x 5".  For my 1/2 yard of extra fabric, I chose an orange with small white polka dots which I also cut into the two sizes of rectangles.  I randomly matched the large and small rectangles and sewed them together alternating large and small into strips.
I liked piecing this quilt top because I didn't have to pay much attention to the order.  The pre-cut squares also made it come together very fast.  The hardest part was figuring out what to do!  Now I just need to choose a backing material and figure out a quilting pattern.
Finished mini-quilt top- 33"x31.5"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Squash Explosion

I loooove squash.  Last year, I grew zucchini in my veggie garden and I was quite successful...
Zucchini blow-out 2009
This year, I broadened my horizons a little and tried zucchini, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash in a raised bed.  I harvested two spaghetti squash and Amy and I made a delicious dish.  First, we cut the squash lengthwise, scooped out the seeds, and baked them face down at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
Roasted Spaghetti Squash
 Then the fun part began when we got to pull the "spaghetti" from the squash.
Pulled spaghetti squash... my imperfect food photography skills makes it look like shiny worms, but I swear it was delicious!

 Then we made tomato sauce to top the squash:
10 peeled tomatoes (from my garden)
1 onion
1 green pepper (from my garden)
1 zucchini (from my garden)
1 cup corn (from my garden- I had some leftover corn in the fridge and threw it in for fun)
1/2 cup red wine (I drank the other half of the cup)
1 cup water
Simmered for about an hour
Tomato sauce... I have been harvesting about 10 tomatoes every two days, so I have a LOT of this in my freezer right now

Spaghetti squash with home made tomato sauce... again, imperfect camera makes it look like something the dog ate and then decided to give back, but it was fabulous...

 We try to remember those two beautiful spaghetti squash and zucchini fondly, because they were the only ones we would see all summer.  Why, you ask?  Because apparently butternut squash is the thug of my veggie garden. Since the summer heat kicked in, this plant has grown like a maniac, eating all innocent plants in its way.  I feel like it grows a foot each day... good thing I like butternut squash!

Butternut squash taking over the squash patch
 With so much to handle, we had to get creative with dishes.  Butternut squash is roasted just like spaghetti squash... cut lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and place face down on a greased cookie sheet.  It has to be baked longer- 350 degrees for 1 hour- and you need to pierce the skin many times with a fork.
Butternut squash cut lengthwise, waiting for the seeds to be removed
Lots of butternut squash ready to go in the oven
After it is done, you scrape it from the skin.
This bowl is bigger than it looks... we had a lot of squash to deal with
So far, we have made two dishes with our lovely squash- Butternut soup and shepherd's pie.  For the soup, I used a combination of recipes I found and things I thought I remembered seeing in the past.
Butternut Squash Soup:
4 cups roasted butternut squash puree
1 cup diced onion
2 green apples (peeled and diced)
1 cup water
1 cup fat free evaporated milk

*cook the onion in olive oil for 2-3 mins, add the apples and water and cover, allowing them to steam (I don't know if this a real cooking technique or not, but I felt like it would work to soften the apples), add the squash and heat for a few minutes until the consistency looks like soup (yea, we are real technical here).  Then puree the mixture in a blender, return to the pan, add the milk and you are done!
Butternut squash soup
The second thing that we made with the squash was Hungry Girl's Squash-tastic Shepherd's Pie from her book Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World.  Another blogger has posted the recipe here.  The only difference was that I used the roasted squash, real garlic instead of garlic powder, and I omitted the onion powder and butter.  I have to give it to that Hungry Girl, she has some tasty recipes up her sleeve!
Ready to go in the oven... not the orange squash in the blue bowl... yes, the Florida Gator thing really is an obsession!
Shepherd's Pie!
We have lots of roasted squash left, lots more coming on the vine, and a few more recipes up our sleeve, so we will keep you posted!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Visiting Chanticleer

This weekend, Keri and I also visited Chanticleer in Wayne, PA. Yet another one of my favorite gardens, Chanticleer is an inspiring breath of fresh air.  Creative plant combinations, interesting sculptures and garden art, and a whimsical atmosphere that just makes you feel good!  I always leave this garden with new ideas and a sense of awe for the creativity of the gardeners.
Chanticleer house and garden

Clematis vine with seed heads on a railing
Echeveria nodulosa in a container
Hanging basket of mixed succulents
Leaf shaped drinking fountain
Gravel garden
Keri walking in the stream garden
Moss and hosta in the Asian woods
The ever changing teacup garden
Cissus discolor
Mixed succulent container
Senecio radicans in a re-purposed bucket elevator belt turned planter

Succulents in the Ruin Garden

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fun with Leftovers

My friends Tee Jay and Christina had us over for a delicious BBQ yesterday.  They sent us home with grilled eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers.  I'm totally obsessed with Pillsbury thin pizza crust and I tend to turn everything into a pizza, so of course we made grilled veggie pizza!  Thanks Tee Jay and Christina!
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