My Five Favorite Zucchini Recipes

Summer squash is a prolific producer in the garden and so versatile in the kitchen.  My wife likes to say that if everyone planted a few hills of squash, we could feed the world. And for that reason I do grow extra every year to give away. The zucchini is just starting to come on strong here at Happy Acres, so I though I would take a minute and share some of my favorite ways to use it in the kitchen. And most of these are recipes I have shared here at Happy Acres.

1. Spelt Chocolate Zucchini Muffins/Bread

Spelt Chocolate Zucchini Muffin

Spelt Chocolate Zucchini Muffin

I know there are thousands of zucchini bread recipes out there. But this is pretty much the only one I make anymore. I was looking for ways to use honey, and decided to try and incorporate it in a zucchini bread. I found a recipe at King Arthur Flour that I liked, and tweaked it to use whole grain spelt flour. It makes a great loaf of zucchini bread, and some lovely muffins. I usually make the muffins, and they freeze well for later use.

You can grate the zucchini and freeze it for later use too. I do that every year, and we are able to have muffins and zucchini bread all winter long. I wound up using all of it from last year though, so this year I will freeze a bit more.

2. Chocolate Zucchini Smoothie

Chocolate Zucchini Smoothies

Chocolate Zucchini Smoothies

This recipe is one I came up with as I was trying to find a cool chocolatey smoothie that wasn’t loaded with fat and calories. I tried using frozen bananas by themselves, but the banana flavor pretty much overpowered the cocoa. Then I started trying to think of something that was frozen and bland tasting. The answer came pretty quickly: zucchini! But zucchini in a chocolate smoothie??? Despite my initial doubts, it was a winner the first time I tried it. It’s a low-calorie, high fiber treat that is loaded with flavonoids and other healthy components of cocoa. For an extra treat, you can add a spoonful of extra-virgin coconut oil to the mix. Or mix it up and use some dark cocoa powder.

3. Zucchini And Tomato Bake

Zucchini and Tomato Bake

Zucchini and Tomato Bake

To me, zucchini and tomatoes are a classic combo. This is another recipe I came up with as a lightened up version of other dishes I have tried. My mother was the Queen of Casseroles, and squash was a frequent star. But most of her casseroles were also loaded with cheese, and usually some kind of sauce. Those dishes are too heavy for me these days. I prefer recipes where the flavors of the vegetables can come through, and something that won’t expand my waistline!

In this recipe, zucchini comes together with tomatoes and a few other ingredients I usually have on hand to make a quick casserole. The recipe is scalable and flexible, and other herbs or cheeses can take it in a whole different direction.

4. Squash Fritters

Squash Fritters

Squash Fritters

This recipe can be made with any kind of summer squash, though zucchini is what I usually reach for. It’s another fairly simple dish calling for ingredients most cooks will likely have on hand. It’s adapted from a recipe in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks: The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marion Morash.

5. Grated Zucchini Saute

Grated Zucchini Saute

Grated Zucchini Saute

This one is so easy I haven’t even posted a real recipe for it yet. Some folks call this ‘zucchini butter’, but I don’t like to call it that because I use olive oil and not butter. Whatever you call it, I grate the squash using a medium hand grater, then briefly saute in a pan with a little olive oil. I like to add a little minced garlic at the very end for some kick, but if you add it earlier it will add a mild garlicky touch. I just cook the squash briefly, long enough to soften it a bit. Add a little salt and pepper and you’ve got a great side dish, or toss in your favorite herb.

zucchini saute with black bean burrito and yellow rice

zucchini saute with black bean burrito and yellow rice

I hope you have enjoyed looking at five of my favorite zucchini recipes. No doubt I will be enjoying them all as the summer progresses, and if you try any of them please let me know what you think!

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday and at Mostly Homemade Mondays

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Seeding the Fall Veggies

Today is the day I decided to make time to sow some seeds for fall vegetables. It is time to start cabbage, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, collards and a few other things in our part of the world. I did some planning and determined I will need about 250 plants for us and for the Impact Community Garden. Probably 75% of them will go for the Impact garden. Since the gardeners there missed having any of these veggies for spring it will be nice if they have lots of them for fall. Many of these vegetables do better in our area in fall anyway, especially the broccoli and kale.

seeds for fall vegetables

seeds for fall vegetables

When I have a lot of seeds to sow, I am a fan of using plug flats. I have several different sizes, but the 200-cell version gets the most use. It seems to have just the right amount of room for starting many of the things I grow. The plants will only spend about two or three weeks there before being transplanted out into larger quarters. And I can get 200 seeds going in the space of a standard flat. I will start these under lights in the basement and then move them out to the greenhouse once they are up and growing.

200 cell plug flat filled with Promix

200 cell plug flat filled with Promix

I like to use a fine soiless mix at this stage, something like Promix BX or Promix All-Purpose Growing Mix. I’m mostly concerned with not introducing diseases or insects to the tiny seedlings, and when I transplant them I will use a soil mix that has some compost in it. I will also start feeding with a dilute fish emulsion solution at that time.

fish emulsion fertilizer

fish emulsion fertilizer

That’s pretty much how I do it here. You can refer to my Seed Starting and Planting Schedule for the times I usually sow and plant vegetables here in our gardens. Timing is key I think, and starting these veggies now will get them going so they can produce before really cold weather gets here. And keeping the garden producing all season long is one of my goals for sure!

 

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Monday Recap: Having A Berry Good Time

It appears we have transitioned from asparagus season to berry season here. Blueberries were the first berry on the scene. The harvests went from a trickle to a torrent in no time. We’ve been getting over a pound a day for about a week now. My wife has been gathering them early in the day before it gets too hot. Which means we are having blueberries every morning for breakfast. In the below photo she’s all suited up to try and avoid mosquitoes and ticks.

my wife in the blueberry patch

my wife in the blueberry patch

We have gotten a lot of questions lately from friends and gardeners about our blueberries, so I thought I would try and answer some of the common queries. There were three mature bushes here when we bought the place in 2007. We have since replanted one of them that had very small and not very tasty berries. And then we planted six additional ones, giving us a total of nine. The varieties we planted are Chandler, Elizabeth, Patriot, Nelson and Elliot. Those plants came from places like Raintree Nurseries, Stark Bro’s and Indiana Berry, and were well-grown bare root plants when we got them. Our harvests this year are coming from seven of those bushes, as the other two aren’t big enough to bear yet.

Chandler blueberries are big and tasty

Chandler blueberries are big and tasty

I haven’t done any real “how-to” on blueberries since I don’t feel like I’m an expert, but I guess we must be doing something right since last year we got 50 pounds from them and we are up to 13 pounds already this year. They are relatively pest free here for us. The birds get a few, but we hang a few aluminum pie plates and some old cd’s around and it seems to help keep them away.

blueberries ready for eating or freezing

blueberries ready for eating or freezing

We are getting a decent amount of raspberries too, though nothing like the blueberries. Our planting of these is smaller, mostly occupying one bed where strawberries previously grew. There are a few yellow ones planted in another bed, but they are not making many berries yet. I am no expert on raspberries either, though I have to say these are growing better than I expected. I never got around to making a trellis for them but they seem to be doing all right without one.

red raspberries

red raspberries

And amazingly, last week we got the first blackberries of the season. The ones in the below photo are Natchez, which is a relatively new planting for us. The Apache variety is not quite ripe yet. These are the only two blackberries were are growing, as the rest have been voted off the island, so to speak. The Natchez berries are almost as big as the Apaches, and perhaps a tad sweeter, though both have great flavor.

Natchez blackberries

Natchez blackberries

And last but not least in the berry parade, we got a small harvest from our two young currant bushes. Looking at the total amount, maybe it was the least! It certainly wasn’t enough to make anything like currant jelly or jam, so we enjoyed eating them fresh. I do think their tart flavor would go well with rhubarb. I’ll have to try that when the bushes (and the harvests) get a little bigger.

red and white currants

red and white currants

But as wonderful as berries are, they are not the only game in town. I started harvesting the Kossak kohlrabi last week. These are giants, with the biggest one so far weighing in at three pounds. We eat a lot of them raw, but we’re also experimenting with other treatments. My wife is going to try roasting them this week (it’s her week to cook).

Kossak kohlrabi

Kossak kohlrabi

I planted them a little farther apart than usual this year to see how big they might get, and they responded well. In the below photo I put the Kossak next to a quart container of blueberries to help show its size. I did a Spotlight on this variety last year, if you want to know a little more about it.

Kossak kohlrabi with quart container

Kossak kohlrabi with quart container

Squash is coming on now too. It’s only a trickle, but that’s not bad. We’ve enjoyed it raw and cooked so far. And I made some Spelt Chocolate Zucchini Muffins to satisfy my chocolate cravings.

summer squash harvest

summer squash harvest

Also joining the harvest lineup is cabbage. That in the below photo is the flathead variety K-Y Cross. It weighed in at three pounds, and has a nice sweet flavor for a spring planted cabbage. All of the cabbages are maturing at about the same time, so we will no doubt be giving some away.

K-Y Cross cabbage

K-Y Cross cabbage

I’ve also begun drying herbs. Mint is growing pretty lush about now so I cut enough to fill the dehydrator and started it drying. I’ll dry it and other herbs throughout the summer to keep us supplied. We probably use more mint than any other herb, mostly for tea.

mint in dehydrator

mint in dehydrator

I hope you have enjoyed this update of current happenings at HA. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking or planting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

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Impact Community Garden 2014

Today I want to give everyone a long overdue update on the Impact Community Garden. For those that might not know, this project first started back in 2011, and it brings together people who want to garden but lack the space or knowledge to make it happen otherwise. The garden itself is located in downtown Evansville, Indiana on the grounds of Impact Ministries, which is an inner-city organization that strives to empower and educate youth and adults. My role is to serve as a gardening mentor, plus I also supply many of the plants that I grow from seeds here at Happy Acres. How this project came about is an interesting story in itself, and I wrote a piece about it in 2010 called: New Project for 2011 (Making an Impact).

Impact Community Garden

Impact Community Garden (click on any image to enlarge)

The big news for this year is we moved the garden! An upcoming project is going to use the spot where the garden was originally located, so early this spring we sprang into action with a plan. In the process we wound up not only moving the garden but also expanding it a bit in the process. The old garden was about 1800 square feet (30 x 60), while the new one is around 2500 square feet (45 x 55).

Kana and I are planting sweet potatoes

Kana and I are planting sweet potatoes

Due to time constraints in getting all the work done, we were unable to get any spring crops planted, but managed to get the garden ready just in time for planting the warm weather veggies. And so for the last few weeks, we have been busy planting, mulching and watering.

Becky and Maggie mulching the sweet potatoes

Becky and Maggie mulching the sweet potatoes

This year we have six families on board, with half of them seasoned veterans, and the other half new to the project but full of enthusiasm. And not everyone is new to gardening either, which always helps.

Becky and Johnni mulching while I rewind my planting twine

Becky and Johnni mulching while I rewind my planting twine

One of the reasons I love this project is that not only do I get to hang out in the garden with a great group of people, but I also learn a lot in the process. Everyone brings their own experiences and ideas to the project, so there’s ample opportunity for all of us to learn from each other.

Mary and I discuss the finer points of watering

Mary and I discuss the finer points of watering

As for the garden itself, we finished planting and mulching just this week. Wednesday morning we worked on planting sweet potatoes and some herbs, plus finished up on mulching. We left almost half of the garden unplanted though. Some of that space will be used to plant fall crops like cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnips and lettuce. In the meantime we are sowing a cover crop of buckwheat, which will serve to smother the weeds, attract beneficial insects, and add organic material when we work it into the soil.

Verde da Taglio chard ready for cutting

Verde da Taglio chard ready for cutting

Planted so far we have tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, summer and winter squash, bush beans, cucumbers, chard, kale, cantaloupe, watermelon, sweet potatoes and herbs like basil, parsley, dill and sage. Things are truly looking good, with kale and chard ready for harvest. In this project, everyone (except me) shares in the harvests.

zucchini Romanesco setting on

zucchini Romanesco setting on

The zucchini is also setting on, and should be ready to start harvesting in a day or two. The cucumbers won’t be far behind. And tomatoes are blooming and setting on fruit as well. One task we still need to do is decide on a location for the compost bins, and then get them reassembled after they were moved from the old location. And we also need to finish putting up the rabbit fencing to help keep the critters out of the garden.

Impact garden after planting and mulching

Impact garden after planting and mulching

I hope you have enjoyed this update on the Impact Community Garden project. I want to thank my wife for stopping by and getting a few images of the me and the group in action. I’ll be back periodically with updates from the garden and to show how things are progressing.

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Monday Recap: Lasts and Firsts

It’s hard to believe, but asparagus season is winding down here. We started cutting spears back in mid April, and since then my wife and I have been enjoying fresh, homegrown asparagus as often as possible. It’s been grilled, steamed, stir-fried and roasted. Some of it’s been shared with friends, and some of it has been frozen for later enjoyment. But now, it’s time to stop harvesting and let the ferns grow so they can replenish the roots for next year’s crop. We got 26 pounds from our patch this year, which is down a bit from last year but still plenty of asparagus for us.

last asparagus harvest of the year

last asparagus harvest of the year

Yesterday I stir-fried some with a few sliced mushrooms and some chopped up garlic scapes. I cooked it only briefly, then tossed it with some Garlic Scape Pesto while it was still warm. I generally try and keep it simple with fresh vegetables. And homegrown asparagus is pretty much a rockstar all by itself I think.

asparagus stir-fried

asparagus stir-fried

But even as the asparagus exits the scene, new arrivals are showing up here. Like raspberries, for instance. This spring I planned on cutting down the old canes on the plants so we would only get a fall crop, but never got around to it. So now we are enjoying raspberries produced on last year’s canes. The red varieties producing now are either Caroline or Autumn Bliss. I planted both but with the way raspberries spread I can’t tell which is which right now, since they have grown every which way. These everbearing raspberries also produce berries in late summer and fall on the current year’s canes.

our first raspberries of 2014

our first raspberries of 2014

The blueberries are also starting to ripen about now. My wife usually handles most of the harvesting of these blue jewels. She likes to say she knows every one of them personally, and I am thankful she takes care of this time-consuming but rewarding job!

first blueberries of 2014

first blueberries of 2014

The fresh berries have been a real treat at breakfast time. I have been enjoying them with some of our homemade muesli. And we’ve started freezing the blueberries.

muesli with fresh raspberries and blueberries

muesli with fresh raspberries and blueberries

I harvested the first head of broccoli last week, which was soon followed by several more. Those in the below photo are the Packman variety, which was the first to head up this year. It’s nice to have fresh broccoli again. Some of it went into a Broccoli and Walnut Salad.

Packman broccoli

Packman broccoli

The spring planted kale is also nice to have. That’s the Wild Garden mix in the below photo. It has a mix of kales with leaf types that range from smooth, to curly, and even frilly. It has a delightful taste and tender leaves.

Wild Garden Mix kale

Wild Garden Mix kale

Another first on the scene is zucchini. There is usually a glut of it later on but right now the first one looks pretty special to me. The one in the below photo is Partenon, which is a parthenocarpic type that doesn’t need pollination. It should be ready to harvest this morning. For folks who have a hard time growing zucchini due to insect problems, or lack of pollination, the parthenocarpic types can be grown under cover and still produce fruit. Cavilli is another one I’ve grown with light green squash that is parthenocarpic. I like these types because they can set fruit on cool and wet days when other squash might not get pollinated.

First zucchini of 2014

First zucchini of 2014

And speaking of pollination, I’ll close with what I think was the best news of all from last week – the bees are back! Last Friday we made a half day road trip to Paducah, Ky to pick up our bee nuc. A nuc is a mini-hive and includes a queen, her workers, plus five frames with eggs, brood and food stores. The below photo shows my wife carrying the nuc down to our hive.

Lynda carrying nuc

Lynda carrying nuc

We installed the five frames and all the bees in our own hive as soon as we got them home. That’s me in the below photo making the transfer. We’ll give them about a week before we do a hive inspection and see how the queen is doing. They had a rough ride in the back of the truck, and we want to give them a chance to get settled in before we disturb them by opening up the hive. We will feed them with sugar syrup until they are well established.

me installing bee nuc in our hive

me installing bee nuc in our hive

I hope you have enjoyed this update of current happenings at HA. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking or planting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more news as it happens!

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Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Chocolate and cherries are a classic combination. Of course, they are both very tasty on their own, but put them together and they are truly a match made in heaven. The marriage of the two has given us the Black Forest Cake, as well as chocolate covered cherry cordials and Cherry Garcia ice cream. And now I offer my humble contribution, the chocolate cherry muffin.

Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Chocolate Cherry Muffins

It’s cherry season here right now, which means I can use fresh cherries for these muffins. But frozen ones are just as good, and canned ones will work as well. You can also use either sweet or sour cherries, or even a combination of the two. I’ve tried them all, and they all work in this recipe. Just be sure to give them a coarse chop before you add them to the batter.

draining frozen sweet cherries

draining frozen sweet cherries

These muffins are made with whole grain spelt flour, with a healthy dose of both cocoa and cherries, so you don’t have to feel too guilty about eating one. That’s assuming you can limit yourself to just one!

chocolatecherrymuffincloseup

Chocolate Cherry Muffin

Leftovers freeze well, and after thawing are almost as moist and tasty as they are the day you make them. So if you are craving chocolate and cherries, give these muffins a try!

Chocolate Cherry Muffins Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
A Happy Acres original

1 cup Almond Milk (or milk of your choice)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole grain spelt flour (about 6 oz)
1/2 cup unsweetened baking or natural cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sweet or tart cherries, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease muffin pan or line the pan with paper baking cups.

2. Whisk together milk, oil, sugar, egg and vanilla in mixing bowl until well blended and smooth.

3. Add flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder; stir until just combined. Stir in cherries. Batter will be quite runny, and that is normal.

4. Pour mixture into prepared muffin pan and divide evenly. Top with sliced almonds.

5. Bake for 18-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

6. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan.

Servings: 12

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 182 calories, 73 calories from fat, 8.3g total fat, 17.6mg cholesterol, 219.9mg sodium, 94.7mg potassium, 25.8g carbohydrates, 3.1g fiber, 14.2g sugar, 3.2g protein, 106.9mg calcium, 1g saturated fat.

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday and at Mostly Homemade Mondays.

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Cherry Picking Time

The cherries are ripe here in Southern Indiana, and that means it was time for a road trip this week to Farview Orchards. It’s about a 45 minutes drive from Happy Acres, and the best local source for cherries in our area. They have both sweet and sour cherries available for u-pick, as well as strawberries, which are winding down for the season. We were on a mission for cherries though. Our cherry trees are still quite young and only yielded a handful of fruit this year, so we were looking to pick enough to last us for the year.

me picking cherries at Farview Orchards

me picking cherries at Farview Orchards

The trees there were loaded with fruit, and we had our big buckets filled in no time. This year we wound up with around 15 pounds of the sour types plus another 5 pounds of the sweet. Last year we got about 15 pounds total from there, and it was nice to have an ample supply on hand throughout the year. This year we will have even more to enjoy. As you can see in the above photo, I wore a red shirt in case I got cherry juice all over me!

Lynda reaching for the perfect cherry

Lynda reaching for the perfect cherry

One of our friends asked us how we process our cherries, and this is a great opportunity to share that information here. I had several large cherry trees at my old place, and I’ve been growing, harvesting and preserving them for a number of years. The only difference here is that we let someone else do the growing this year!

box of sour cherries

box of sour cherries

Once we got the cherries home, it was time for a good washing. We rinsed the fruit several times in cold water, then let them drain. These cherries were not organically grown, so we were especially careful to wash them off thoroughly.

rinsing the cherries in cold water

rinsing the cherries in cold water

Next it’s time to get the pits out. Years ago I bought a nice cherry pitter that really gets the job done when you have a lot of cherries to pit. It’s made by Leifheit, and it has a hopper to hold the cherries and a stainless steel plunger that removes the pit. The pits fall into the bottom container, while the cherries roll down a chute and into a bowl (not included with the pitter). It takes a little time to get the hang of using it, but once you do it does a really good job and makes short work of the pitting process. We were able to wash and pit our 20 pounds of cherries in about an hour.

Leifheit cherry pitterer

Leifheit cherry pitter

Once pitted, it’s time to get them ready for freezing. We use a recipe straight from my trusty Ball Blue Book. We mix 4 parts cherries (by volume) with 1 part sugar in a mixing bowl and stir well. Then we let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. Then the cherries and syrup go into containers and off to the freezer. For those concerned about the sugar, it helps to preserve the cherries, and you can drain it off when you thaw and use the cherries later on. Processed this way, cherries keep in the freezer for a couple of years without a significant loss of quality.

cherry pitter in operation

cherry pitter in operation

We use our cherries in a number of ways. Of course they make wonderful eating by themselves, thawed and drained. But they are also great baked with our Blackberry Cobbler recipe, using cherries instead of blackberries. And I love them fixed with rhubarb in a Rhubarb Cherry Crumble. The cherries compliment the tart rhubarb nicely. For a really special occasion, my wife will make her mom’s Cherry Upside Down Cake. That is a real treat indeed. Of course there’s always a cherry pie, though I haven’t made one of those recently.

Cherry Upside Down Cake

Cherry Upside Down Cake

I hope you have enjoyed a look at our recent cherry picking adventure, and how we process the fruit once we get it home. I’ll be back soon with a recipe for one of my new favorite things to do with cherries. Until then, happy growing and gardening from Happy Acres!

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