Preparing & Preserving

Easy Roasty Toasty Pumpkin Seeds

Save those pumpkin seeds!

I love all the fruits of fall. I can’t pass by the displays of colorful squash, squatty pumpkins or warty gourds without grabbing a few and putting them in my shopping cart.

Besides looking lovely on the kitchen counter, they can be used in all kinds of recipes.

Whenever I cook with squash, I always save the seeds as a special treat for the squirrels. But when I carve a pumpkin for Halloween, I keep those seeds to make a roasty toasty snack.

Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are a healthful, delicious snack and a good source of protein.

To prepare the seeds for roasting, remove all the pumpkin’s innards and separate the seeds from the stringy and gooey pulp.

Put the seeds in a colander and rinse well. Shake off the excess water and dry slightly. Place seeds on a rimmed cookie sheet.

Mad Scientist Soup is Dreadfully Delicious

This recipe for Mad Scientist Soup is a dreadfully delicious Halloween supper, especially when served with a loaf of Dead Head Bread.

Let loose your inner Mad Scientist this Halloween and experiment with different fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables to concoct a steaming pot of soup.

Every batch is different depending on what garden-grown goodies are chopped and tossed into the brew. This recipe included tomatoes, green beans, small potatoes, and thin slices of summer squash, but you can add whatever vegetables and herbs are preserved from your gardening efforts.

For a vegetarian soup, substitute vegetable broth for the beef, omit the ground turkey, and use more veggies (like canned or frozen Green Giant peas or corn).

Mad Scientist Soup isn’t complete if you don’t call ingredients by their scary, seasonal names: garbanzo-bean brains, frog eye pasta, and real kidney beans.


Celebrate Halloween with Dead Head Bread

Halloween is a holiday we can really sink our fangs into. Here’s a tasty home-made bread recipe to get you into the spirit.

Start your seasonal celebrating by baking up a loaf of Dead Head Bread.

This is an enjoyable way to bake a loaf of bread from scratch. It’s not difficult at all, it just takes a little bit of time to let the dough rise.

It’s a perfect way to spend a cold day inside and use some of your home-grown herbs to sprinkle on top.

It’s also great fun to shape the dough into something scary. Your family is sure to howl for more.

Dead Head Bread Recipe

1 and ½ cups of warm water (divided)
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorn
4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Green Tomatoes are Gem of a Fruit

It won’t be long until the first frost claims the last brave tomato vines still full of green tomatoes. Be sure to pick these little gems while the weather is still warm.

One of the best parts of fall is picking a basket of green tomatoes to enjoy as the weather starts to turn cold.

Generations of clever cooks have learned how to make the most of these little green gems.

Green tomatoes can be baked into breads, muffins or cakes.

Green tomatoes can also be sautéed, stewed, roasted, fried, made into relish or chutney, stirred into soup, and preserved by canning or freezing.

There are hundreds of green tomato recipes available online that show I’m not the only gardener who appreciates tomatoes still tinged with green.

Here’s how to make the most of your green harvest:

After picking the green fruit, sort the tomatoes according to size and color.

Time to Make a Pesto of Yourself

Got basil?

Large leaf Italian basil like this can be whirled into a delicious pesto in less than 15 minutes. I cut back this plant by about half. Then washed and dried the leaves to fill 2 cups (tightly packed).

For a nice, creamy pesto I grated about 3 ounces of Parmesan in my food processor and then set the cheese aside. Then I finely chopped 2 cloves of garlic. I added the basil leaves, cheese, 1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts) and 1 teaspoon or so of salt.

Pulse the mixture until it’s combined. Then add about 1/2 cup of olive oil while the processor is running. Mix until smooth.

This makes enough pesto for 1 pound of pasta, like my favorite whole-wheat penne. Serve with a salad and crusty bread for an easy summer meal.

Pesto also freezes well and I’ve often doubled this recipe and filled small containers or ice-cube trays for the freezer. It makes an easy winter meal, too!

Make a Fourth of July Wreath from the Garden

Here’s a repeat of my Fourth of July blog from last year. It seems like a good time for some more good old fashioned craft-making fun.

I had such a great time making a Fourth of July wreath for my front door, I thought you might like to try making one, too.

Most of the materials were found in my own backyard, but I took a few shortcuts with craft-store goods. I’ve never been able to make as nice a bow as I can buy for 99 cents.

If you have vines growing in your yard, like the trumpet vine growing in mine, you should have plenty of material to craft your own twisted vine wreath and I’ve included some tips on how to make one.

If you take a stroll through your garden, I’m sure you’ll find some flower heads you can use to decorate the wreath, like yarrow and baby’s breath.

A New Look at an Old Vegetable

A few years ago I invited our new neighbors over for a get-acquainted dinner. The prickly pear cacti in my front garden were sporting delicious-looking young pads so I decided to make a Nopal Salsa and serve it as an appetizer.

I cut the tender edible cactus pads, called nopales, boiled them in water and removed the spines.

Then I mixed them with other ingredients for a colorful salsa and served them with home-made tortilla chips and frosty margaritas.

The neighbors dug into the salsa and thought it was delicious. But when I mentioned they were enjoying the cactus from my front yard, they both stopped eating in mid-bite.

I assured them the salsa was made with a vegetable that’s an important part of the menu in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico.

Nopales (pronounced noh-PAH-lays) are the tender, edible cactus pads from the familiar prickly pear cactus (Opuntia species). Once the spines are removed, the fleshy pads are cooked and used in many different recipes from salads to salsas. The prepared nopalitos taste a little like a slightly tangy well-cooked green bean.

Windowsill Gardening with Sprouts

Homegrown sprouts are perfect for windowsill gardening any time of the year. Just add water and watch them grow.

Some of the freshest, most nutritious organic greens on the planet can be grown in your kitchen without special equipment, complicated instructions or time-consuming techniques. All you have to do is grab a quart jar, sprinkle in a few tablespoons of sprouting seeds, and add water.

In a week, you’ll have a jar full of sprouts you can use on top of salads, added to sandwiches or tossed into soups to add a delicious and nutritious touch. Some say sprouts are the most nutritiously dense food you can grow.

High-quality organic sprouting seeds can be found at natural food grocery stores, at online seed retailers, and some garden centers. Seeds popular for home sprouting include alfalfa, lentils, mung beans, clover, radish, sunflower and broccoli. There are also many seed mixes available.

Super Veggie Pizza for Super Healthy Party

Looking for a new recipe for your Super Bowl party?  Try this recipe for a hearty veggie pizza for a healthy way to celebrate the end of football season.

One of the best parts of getting together to watch the Super Bowl is the party food which usually includes chips, dips, burgers, brats, and hot wings.

But this year, instead of loading up on all those extra calories, offer a lighter version of a fan favorite—pizza.

This veggie pizza uses a base of good-for-you olive oil and healthy ingredients like garlic, spinach and mushrooms. The chopped kalamata olives add such a nice meaty texture that no one will miss the pepperoni.

Choose a ready-made crust or roll out a simple dough using this basic pizza dough recipe I’ve used for many years. It makes a nice bread-like crust that stands up to a thick layer of ingredients.

Plan to Use Vertical Spaces for Gardening

While planning your vegetable garden this year, consider using vertical spaces.

Growing up is a great way to get more out of gardening in a small garden space. These vines of the ‘Trombetta di Albenga’ climbing summer squash grew on an arbor in my backyard last summer and produced beautiful light-green fruit.

If I would have planted the seeds in my vegetable bed, there wouldn’t have been room for anything else.

The plants produced long vines with beautiful large, ivy-shaped leaves. Even if these plants didn’t grow delicious fruit, the vines are spectacular.

Trombetta is an Italian heirloom summer squash that resembles its cousins in name only. Long, light-green fruit grow into curvy squash with a distinct trumpet shape. The seedless fruit has a mild, almost nut-like flavor that’s sure to win over those who say they don’t like squash.

The fruit is best when it’s harvested at about 12-16 inches long, but I let one grow to almost 3 feet and it was still tender and tasty.

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