Friday, August 31, 2012

Seasonal Produce Recipe Notebook

Recipe organization is a constant struggle for me. I know my problem is that I save too many recipes! It is daunting to find a way to organize them all. I often forget I have a particular recipe, or can't find a recipe that I'm sure I have somewhere.

A couple years ago I hatched the idea of organizing some of my recipes seasonally instead of by type of dish.   (I wrote about it here and you all gave me some ideas.) I like to plan my menus to use the fresh things growing in my garden. It was frustrating to search through six cookbooks to find zucchini recipes. Or discover a recipe using peaches that I clipped out of magazine, two weeks after the peach season ended.

Last summer I started a notebook for my seasonal recipes. This year, I've added to it. It isn't complete yet, but it has worked wonderfully this summer.

My recipe notebook is a three ring binder, filled with page protectors. I'm not sure if you can see much by the photo, but I typed up some basic info for every fruit and vegetable that we typically eat. I have three sections on the page - Grow, Preserve, and Serve. Under "Grow" I list my normal planting and harvest dates, or the date I need to order from the orchard. Under "Preserve" I list all the ways I preserve this fruit or vegetable as well as some of the specific details. Hopefully having this info written down will cut down on the number of phone calls I make to my mom during canning season! Under "Serve" I list all the ways we like to eat it.

After this page, I have empty page protectors to slide in recipes. Some of these are my tried-and-true favorites and others are ones torn from a magazine or printed off the web.

It has been so nice to have my recipes all together. I'm not about to give up my cookbook collection, but at least my well used favorites and recipes on scraps of paper now have a home. Whether I have a bushel of tomatoes or a huge pan of cooked pumpkin, I can turn to that section and quickly find all our favorite recipes. It has helped jog my memory of recipes that my family looks forward to each year.

I also have a general section with labels for Main Dish, Baking, and Canning. This is for those recipes that are adaptable for many different kinds of produce, such as the quiche that can contain any vegetable, the muffin good with any fruit, or the canned soup containing ten kinds of vegetables.

And to cull my recipe collection? Now that I have a central place for all my seasonal recipes, I made it a rule that, for example, any asparagus recipe that I had not made by the end of asparagus season would be thrown away. You can't believe how hard it is for me to throw away a recipe. But why do I think that holding onto the recipe for another year would make it more likely for me to use it? Time to be ruthless!

I'm not finished with the notebook. I still have a few recipes that I want to type up, or print off my blog to add to the notebook. As I discover new recipes, it will always be a work in progress. But this notebook has held a place of honor on my counter this summer and I expect its value to increase as the years go by.

Do you have any ideas for seasonal recipe organization?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Around Grandma's Table

I've spent a lot of sweltering days standing over my kitchen stove this summer.

But when I think I'm sweating hot, I remember the hottest place I ever visited.

Before I was married, I visited a friend who is a missionary nurse in Guatemala. She took me to visit a tiny mission outpost near the coast. We spent the weekend with Brian and Janelle Yoder, who were newlyweds living in a tiny two room house with their newborn son.

I was impressed with Janelle's joyful hospitality. She cooked up wonderful meals on a stove out on the porch. We enjoyed great conversation seated around their tiny table and then washed up the dishes in a pan of water heated on the stove.

On Sunday morning, the rainfall almost forced us to walk the couple miles to church. But we clung white knuckled to the back of the pick-up truck while bouncing through the rain washed gullies and splattering mud. The tiny tin roofed, dirt floored church was unlike any I had ever worshiped in before, but the spirit of the Lord was present despite the stifling heat and incessant buzz of the insects.

Though eleven years have gone since that memorable visit, Brian and Janelle are still serving the people of Guatemala. Right now they are on a needed furlough. I was excited to run into Janelle recently and learn about her new cookbook.

Around Grandma's Table is compiled of recipes from Janelle's 90 year old Grandmother and other family members. The cookbook is beautifully done and stuffed with around 800 recipes. I've flipped through and marked numerous recipes that I can't wait to try once my life slows down this fall!



The cookbook also contains old photos and stories from the Paul Hoover family, lending to the vintage feel. I like the way the book is organized with separate categories for slow cooker and menu ideas, for example.


Want your own copy of this cookbook? Email Janelle at The cost is $15.99 plus shipping.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Italian Zucchini Pie

Believe it or not, my zucchini plants are still ridiculously productive. Most years, my squash plants die long before now. After carrying in four or five zucchinis a day, I've given up and started letting them grow to baseball bat size and feeding them to the chickens. I feel ungrateful to not be appreciating the abundance, but there comes a limit to how many zucchini a family can consume in one summer.

But I'm still finding new ways to make zucchini. This recipe is one I found in Simply In Season and my husband said it was well worth keeping. It takes a little time, but it makes two pies.

Italian Zucchini Pie
adapted from Simply in Season

Make a batch of your favorite pizza crust or use this one.
3/4 cup warm water
1 T yeast
1 T oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp basil
2 cup flour  approx. (whole wheat or white)

Mix water and yeast together. Add other ingredients and knead well. The dough should be slightly sticky. You may not need all the flour. Or may need a bit more. Place in bowl to rise while preparing the filling.

8 cups thinly sliced zucchini
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T each fresh basil and oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
5 eggs, beaten
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Saute zucchini and onion in oil for about 10 minutes. Stir in all ingredients except half of the cheese.

Divide the dough in half and roll into circle. Place in greased 10 inch pie dish. (I'm guessing you could spread both crusts in a 9x13 pan if you wished.) Pour zucchini mixture between the two crusts. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until middle is set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Because sometimes pictures tell the story of life better than words.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pretzel Dogs and The Time Keeper

I love to hear how others take recipes on this site and come up with their own adaptions. Starla sent me this picture and note.

I wanted to show you another "twist" to your Miracle Bread. The ideas was born after having a pretzel dog at Auntie Anne's one day while shopping with my sisters. These work so well for school lunches. We bake them, cool, wrap in foil, and freeze. Each classroom has a crockpot on the counter, and the students put jars of leftovers or food wrapped in foil in the crock pot and turn in on medium. At lunch time, they have a nice hot lunch. 

Thanks Starla! I know my children would love these!

Starla is the author of the Time Keeper, a household planner. The new 2013 Time Keeper is up on her website. It is lovely as always! I love my Time Keeper! I plan to place an order soon for 2013. If you live local and would like to order with me, let me know soon.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Question: Tomato Blight?

Is there a plant doctor in the house?

Just a few weeks ago, my tomato plants were beautiful. They were large, healthy, green plants loaded with fruit. I dreamed of many jars of tomatoes lined on my shelves this winter.

Now the leaves are mostly dead. Only the leaves on the tips of the stalk are green. But they have spots and look sickly.

My dreams of prolific tomatoes dashed, I am just hoping that the tomatoes on the stalk will ripen so I can have enough for a little sauce.

Is this blight? We have had rather wet weather the last weeks. Could that have contributed to the problem? I know it is too late to save the plants this year, but do you know what I should do to avoid the problem next year.

I have heard that Epsom salts help prevent blight. Is that an old wives' tale or truth?


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Freedom Ranger Chicks - Six Weeks

It is hard to believe...

that in six weeks, chicks can grow from tiny balls of fluff...

to lanky adolescents.

Two weeks ago, we moved the Freedom Ranger chicks outside in a movable pen. We move them onto fresh grass three times a day. You can almost see their excitement when we come out to move their pen and they instantly start pecking at the grass. I spotted one with a grasshopper the other day.

I would love to give the chicks more room to roam; we have plenty of pasture. But last year we had a lot of predator problems and I think they are safer in an enclosure.

We have lost three chicks so far. We are not sure exactly what happened to any of them, but one chick found a piece of string, tried to swallow it, and apparently choked himself.

So far, we are very pleased with the growth of the Freedom Rangers. To learn more about Freedom Rangers, visit the Freedom Ranger Hatchery.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Calico Squash

Tired of zucchini recipes yet? My children are, but I'm not.

This recipe is one of my favorites. My children don't like it but Ed and I can eat the whole pan ourselves.

The original recipe came from my friend Becky. I adjusted it so it is simpler to make with fewer ingredients.

I sometimes make it with only zucchini but the different colors of squash make it pretty.

Calico Squash

2 cup sliced yellow squash
2 cup sliced zucchini
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup shredded carrot 
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded cheese

Toss squash, zucchini, onion and carrot with flour. Stir in all other ingredients except bread crumbs and cheese. Pour into casserole dish. Top with bread crumbs and cheese. Bake for one hour at 350.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Off the Shelf - July

Favorite books from off our shelf or in our library bag last month.

Picture Books

The Rag Coat - Lauren Mills
A fatherless girl from a mining town is given the warmth of love and stories wrapped in a rag coat.

Stella and the Berry Thief - Jane B. Mason
A lesson on sharing - from a huge bear!

Anatole - Eve Titus
Meet the mouse who wants to earn his food with honor instead of stealing from people. We were recently introduced to the endearing mouse in this old series and have been searching to find more of the Anatole books.

Chapter Books

How's Inky - Sam Campbell
Stories of the creatures at a wildlife sanctuary, including an orphaned baby porcupine. We are looking forward to reading more books in this series.

The Railway Children - Edith Nesbit
Another great classic story on audio from Books Should Be Free.

Adult Books

Joy for Mourning - Anne Miller
This isn't one of those books you enjoy reading. Anne tells the story of her journey to healing after childhood sexual abuse. The message she has to share is an important, even if painful one.

Zonya - Agnes Scott Kent
This is a fiction story, based on true accounts, of a young Jewess who watched most of her family killed in Russia, her escape to America, her search for God which led her into numerous cults, and her eventual discovery of Christ. The book is old and somewhat dated (before World War 2) but still interesting.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves - Lynn Truss
I'm not sure I should admit to liking this book. The author is certainly no Christian and her humor is sometimes crude, but can you imagine a book on punctuation that is so funny that you catch yourself reading portions aloud to you husband? And I even learned punctuation. (Maybe I shouldn't have admitted to reading this book because anyone who reads here knows I needed a grammar/punctuation refresher course!)

Homeschooling at the Speed of Life - Marilyn Rockett
Part Bible study, part practical organizing guide, part encouragement from an older mother - this book was just what I needed to read this past month when we started our homeschool year (Yes, in July. Yes, I may be crazy. And yes, we have now quit for a canning break!) This book addresses the details of balancing life, homeschool, and housework with practical tips and wisdom from God's Word.

That is a list of the books that have been on my nightstand. I'd love to hear what you are reading!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Red Corn Relish

I love all the chopping and mixing to make a good relish. There is something fun about combining lots of fresh ingredients from my garden.

I happened to have all the vegetables I needed for this recipe except for the cucumbers and my neighbor who gardens across the fence from me, shared a couple from her garden.

Just a note - do not decrease the vinegar. Because vegetables are low acid, they need to be either pickled or pressure canned to preserve safely.

Red Corn Relish
from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking

4 1/2 cup cut corn
4 lb tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cup shredded cabbage
3 large cucumbers, seeded and chopped
3 large onions, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
2 cups sugar (I substituted 2 tsp stevia)
1 1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup salt
1 T celery seed
1 T mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric

Combine all ingredients in large pot. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Pack into jars and can for 15 minutes. Approx. 10 pints.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Canning With Stevia

I know I haven't been around here much. Somehow life happens without much blogging these days!

This photo gives you an idea of what kept me busy today - salsa, pickled peppers, and corn relish. Right now I'm hot and tired but I know we'll enjoy the taste of summer this winter.

While working at the kitchen, I thought I should write a little bit about canning with stevia.

I have found stevia a challenge to use in baking. Stevia is far sweeter than sugar. One teaspoon of stevia replaces a cup of sugar. In baking, the lack of bulk in the stevia completely changes the texture of the product.

But I have had good success using stevia in drinks and canning. Here the bulk does not affect the texture of the product. I have discerned a slight aftertaste in lemonade or iced tea but in canning, my experiments have been completely successful.

For canning fruit, I mix two teaspoons of stevia in a gallon of water. This makes a mild sweet syrup to pour over the fruit in jars. I have never had anyone distinguish any aftertaste in the fruit canned with stevia.

Last year I replaced half of the sugar in my ketchup recipe with stevia. Since that was successful, I may get the courage to try all stevia this year.

Today, I use stevia in my corn relish. The recipe called for two cups of sugar which I replaced with two teaspoons of stevia. The relish was so good I could have eaten it straight out of the jar!

Just a note, I use pure stevia with no added fillers. I purchase mine through Berlin Seed.

I always hated how many extra bags of sugar I had to purchase in the summer over canning season. I'm thrilled to have found an alternative.

Do any of you use stevia in canning?


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