Category Archives: Recipes

How to Make the Most of Fresh Garden Produce

If you’re anything like me it’s absolutely devastating to see any of your garden produce go to waste. When we grow our own food we’re tied to it from the moment the first seed is plunged into the soil. Unlike produce off the grocery stores shelves that seems to magically reappear, no work involved, we cannot ignore the hard work that went into our backyard produce. We become much more aware of the all the work, the sowing, weeding, watering, harvesting, that goes into each individual carrot.

On a side note perhaps if the world had more growers, more people who still had a connection to the land, we’d be less likely to waste any morsel of food no matter who grew it.

Even with all the best intentions it can be hard to use up the harvest from even a modest size garden. Chances even if you cook from scratch a lot your family has a collection of recipes that you rotate through fairly often and not all of them are going to be great for using seasonal produce. Really using the products of a garden can take a lot work. Hopefully these tips make it a bit easier.

Succession Planting

One of the best ways to avoid the produce overwhelm is to plant in successions. Check out our succession planting post to avoid getting slammed with all your vegetables at once.

Invest in a Good Cookbook

More specially, find a cookbook that actually focuses on seasonal, local eating. Typical cookbooks have a jumble ingredients from all over the world and all different seasons all smashed into a single meal. If you want to make the most of your harvest finding a cookbook that focuses on making local produce the star of the meal is the way to go.

Southern Exposure offers several books with seasonal recipes like, Winter Foods by Brett Grohsgal and Julia Shanks or Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine by David S. Shields. There are many others out there as well. Chefs like Alice Waters and José Andrés are advocating for local eating and many have cookbooks to help people put local foods back on the table.

Create a Collection of Recipes

Don’t scramble last minute. While there’s still little produce coming out of the ground collect recipes you think your family will enjoy that use seasonal produce. I like to write mine on notecards but this could be as simple as saving recipes to a file on your computer. Growing a lot of green beans? Look up some green bean recipes. When you’ve got buckets full of beans in your kitchen all you need to do is flip through your recipes for some easy meals.

Seasonal recipes can be found on the SESE blog throughout the year.

Learn to Be Flexible/Use Flexible Recipes

In our house we have several meals that make it easy to use whatever in season. Year round we eat homemade pizza almost once a week. In the spring it’s topped with fresh baby greens, green onions, and maybe even some morels if we’re lucky. A little later we’ll be topping it with broccoli, then peppers and tomatoes and fresh garlic as the season goes on. In the dead of winter we’ll use dried tomatoes, frozen greens, stored onions and garlic, and sometimes peppers we put up during the summer. Other examples of these flexible recipes include:

  • Pot Pie – Take any pot pie recipe and swap in some seasonal veggies, peas in the spring, broccoli, then green beans later in the year.
  • Stir fry – Whatever veggies you have on hand lightly fried with a protein source, some seasonings, and soy sauce served over a bed of rice.
  • Shepard’s Pie – A layer of protein (we often use lentils), a layer of veggies (carrots, onions, peas, green beans, sweet corn, etc.) followed by a layer of gravy then a layer of potatoes.
  • Minestrone – Dry beans, season vegetables, stock, and seasoning.

Having simple go to recipes that you can add a variety of vegetables is a great way to avoid cooking burn out. Always trying new recipes can be a handful but a few basic ones can save you on those hectic evenings. Shepard’s Pie, Pot Pie, Minestrone can also be made ahead of time and frozen for later use.

Try to Plan Your Meals at Least a Week in Advance

This one can be tough especially if you’re a new gardener but gardens are more predictable than you think. When I harvest our first few cherry tomatoes I know that by next week we’ll probably be flooded with them and I can select recipes ahead of time and make sure I have other ingredients that go with them on hand. This also helps save money because we’re not constantly running into the grocery store for easy last minute meals which lets be honest usually means processed unhealthy meals as well.

Preserving the Extra

No matter how much you eat fresh there will probably be extra. While some prefer to give any extra away it’s a great idea to put some up for winter. Here’s some tips to help much sure you’ll use what you put up.

  • When preserving food put it up in the size containers you’ll actually use up at one time. If you live alone and cook small meals don’t pressure can your green beans in quart jars opt for pints instead to avoid waste.
  • Don’t put up tons of food you’re not sure you’ll like. Want to try pickled beets? Awesome can a few pints to try and then freeze or store the rest in your root cellar. If you find you and you’re family will gladly eat a ton of them you can do more next year.
  • Keep a list of all the food you have in storage. Reviewing this list before planning meals for the week is an excellent way to make sure you include them in your meals.

There’s so many benefits to growing your own food. You’ll save money, eat better, and reduce your environmental impact but you won’t reap any of these benefits if you don’t actually eat what you grow. Unless you just have a few container plants planning on eating fresh salads isn’t good enough. A single tomato plant can yell 30 pounds of tomatoes! Succession plant, find seasonal recipes, meal plan, and put up extra to make the most of your garden this year.

Pin it for later.

DIY Pumpkin Puree & Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Connecticut Field Pumpkin

Whoever decided that pumpkin spice food is just for autumn got it wrong. Now is when I scrambling to pack all the winter squash and pumpkins we put up this summer into our meals. Before long it will be spring and as much as I love the stuff I don’t want the house to still be overflowing with winter squash. Come spring I’ll be ready for greens, snap peas, and rhubarb! So for now it’s pumpkin spice, tasy, warm, filling and sweet.

DIY Pumpkin Puree

***for those who are ready for the waffle recipe keep scrolling****

Any local foodie will tell you pumpkin puree doesn’t come in a can! It’s actually super easy to make and nearly any winter squash or pumpkin will do. If you’ve got a Waltham Butternut or Table Queen on hand there’s no need to go search the farmers market for a pie pumpkin.

Split your squash or pumpkin in half and scoop out all the seeds. Place the pumpkin opening down in a shallow baking pan with about 1 inch of water. This will keep it from drying out.

Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes to 2 hours or until tender depending on the size of your pumpkin.

*Optional: clean the seeds and bake in a single layer on a cookie sheet with a little vegetable oil and salt while your pumpkin is baking. Bake until golden brown. Alternatively save them for next year!

On to the good stuff.

Pumpkin Spice Waffles

These waffles are a great breakfast or treat on a cold winter days and they’re an awesome way to cook with local, healthy ingredients. I bet you can get all the veggie haters in your life to eat some winter squash hidden in these little gems.

Another great thing about these waffles is that the squash takes the place of the egg in the recipe so they’re great for people with allergies or those who are vegan. I promise you’ll love them even if you’re not!

These waffles are that perfect mixture of crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of flour (all purpose or whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 6 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk (for dairy free replace with nut milk or water)

Option toppings:

  • maple syrup, butter, molasses, or powdered sugar

First combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl then add the pumpkin or squash puree, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil. Next, slowly stir in the milk. If you’re puree was watery you may need less of the milk. The batter should be easy to pour but not thin.

While you’re mixing up your batter you can pre-heat your waffle iron. A hot waffle iron makes better waffles that stick less.

Cook your waffle using the normal directions for your waffle iron and enjoy! Then promise your family you’ll make a double batch next time when they keep coming back for more.

Pin it for later.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup (V & GF)

Each fall my mind goes straight to pumpkin pie, stuffed squash, and long simmering stews filled with root vegetables. However each fall we always end up with tons of delicious fresh peppers.

Truly eating seasonally often means keeping the classic fall vegetables that store well for the dead of winter and using up what will go bad in the meantime.

This soup is one of the best, easy meals that will use up the end of summers vegetables but still give you that warm, filling fall meal.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 quart of plain canned tomatoes

1 quart water or vegetable stock

1/4 cup tomato paste (optional for thicker soup)

1 1/2 cup of cooked pinto, black, or beans of choice

2 bell peppers

1 jalapeno pepper

1/2 large onion

2 large carrots

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp salt*

1 TBS chili powder

1 tsp cumin

olive oil for sauteing

Directions

Begin by dicing the carrots and sauteing them with olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften. While they’re cooking dice the onions and peppers and then saute them with the carrots until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the tomatoes and vegetable stock or water. If you have whole tomatoes you should break them up as you add them. Add the garlic, salt, and other spices and allow to simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or as long as desired for a thicker soup.

Add your beans when the soup is almost done so they don’t overcook and turn to mush. When they’re hot it’s ready to eat!

Garnish with fresh chives if available and serve with tortilla chips.**

Notes

Feel free to make substitutions for what you have on hand like fresh tomatoes or different types of peppers. This soup is really easy to play with.

*You may need less salt if your vegetable broth has a lot of salt.

**My favorite tortilla chips for this recipe are served hot. Take soft tortillas and fry them with olive oil and a bit of salt until they’re golden brown and crispy. For gluten free be sure to use corn tortillas.

 

Enjoy!