Apple Cider?

We took a good look at the boxes filled  with this year’s apple harvest and said, “These look like cider apples.”

Mostly small, misshapen, and spotty.

12200929_411675982359046_923262811_nToo many to eat fresh. Wrong variety to can or freeze.

Yep. These were cider apples.

But we no longer have access to a cider press. It was sold with the rest of the Amish store when the Mast sisters left and we don’t know who bought it.

Bummer.

One second thought – maybe not a bummer. After all – that cider press was a lot of hard physical labor to use.

And I do have a juicer.

12202528_411675992359045_771192925_nAn ACME juicer no less – (Wile E Coyote fans are chuckling right now)– bought at a thrift store.

But this leads to a dilemma.

If it is made on a juicer is the finished product juice? Or is it cider since it’s made using the same principles as the cider press?

And does it really matter? Because that juicer puts out some pretty tasty apple stuff!

Seriously yummy.

Nope. Life’s too short to quibble over labels.

12202400_411675965692381_137645080_nWe’ll just call it delicious and enjoy all we can drink fresh. The rest we’ll freeze in plastic containers for winter.

Oh – and that Christmas mug in the picture? I know it’s only the first of November.

But hey – life’s too short to quibble!

Squash-kins and Other Oddities

SquashkinsRemember how desperate this garden season was? How it just kept raining and plants kept drowning?

There for a while I wondered if I would have any produce at all!

So when I noticed a few volunteer squash plants growing in the garden – I let them stay. After all, at least I would have something from the garden – right?

I knew better.

Squash likes to cross pollinate.

In the back of my mind I was remembering the volunteer squash a few years back that looked like dinosaur eggs and was quite prolific. It took years to totally rid the garden of that useless and ugly ornamental.

But I was desperate this spring and I allowed them to stay, mentally glossing over the fact that they would probably go rogue.

This week buddy helped me harvest these volunteers.

And they are interesting.

We have spaghetti squash like pumpkins.

Pumpkin like spaghetti squash.

And my personal favorite – sweet dumpling squash pumpkins.

They’re like a sweet dumpling on steroids.

We’re calling it a “squash-kin” and think it’s kinda cool.

They’ll sure make interesting fall decorations and some unique winter eating!

Maybe going rogue isn’t so bad after all.

First of the Garden Produce

Would you believe that we had fresh kale and lettuce from the garden already?!

That’s right – on March 31 – which is officially the earliest we have ever eaten from the garden – we had our first salad.

lettuceI was going to publish this yesterday – but then I realized that some of you might think it was a hoax because of April Fool’s Day.

But believe me- this is no joke.

So how did we get to a harvest so quickly when this is the time most people are just getting things planted?

Remember back last fall when I happened to mention in a post that Buddy and I transplanted some late cabbage, broccoli, kale and lettuce into a thrown together cold frame of cement blocks and old windows?

broccoliWe had hoped to harvest fresh veggies into the winter – but that didn’t work so well. Everything stopped growing, some even looked dead, so I called the experiment a mistake and forgot about it.

But then the weather warmed up this spring and some of those plants perked right up and started to grow!

it was a miracle!

cabbage

And now, for the first time ever – instead of playing catch up with my Amish neighbors –  I’m ahead of them!

Never mind that I had to start last October and it was kind of an accident.

Hey – I win is a win!

And fresh veggies the last day of March is most definitively a win!

Let’s Talk – Spaghetti Squash!

Let’s talk about spaghetti squash!

Wait! Stop! Don’t click away!

Come on – keep reading!

Give it a chance!

First – let’s end some misconceptions.

DSC_0187This watermelon shaped yellowish squash does NOT taste like spaghetti noodles.

Nor does it have the texture of spaghetti noodles.

It is NOT spaghetti.

But after cooking – it can be forked out of the shell into a strands that have the shape of spaghetti and are a great whole food substitute for pasta.

It really doesn’t have much flavor at all – allowing it take on whatever flavor you add.

Now that you have mentally prepared and alerted your taste buds – are you ready to give it a try?

Good! Let’s cook it.

Although there are many different methods –  the most important thing to remember is to cut vents in it so it doesn’t build up steam and explode (think baked potatoes).

DSC_0188

To avoid this – and as an extra precaution – I always cut mine in half, scoop out the seeds, and place them upside down in a baking dish with a little water in the bottom.

Then I cover them with foil and bake them at 350 degrees until the insides are tender – or – if I’m in a hurry – I’ll skip the foil and microwave them on high till soft.

It’s hard to set baking time since they vary in size (especially when home grown) but plan on at least an hour in the oven and 20 minutes in the microwave.

Then you take your fork and “string” the flesh into spaghetti like strands.

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See? It’s easy!

Now you can get creative.

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Add butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese for a yummy side dish.

Or butter, cream cheese and Ranch dressing mix.

Or cover it in an Alfredo sauce – add some diced ham or cooked sausage and you have a yummy entree.

Or switch out the Alfredo and ham for ground beef and spaghetti sauce.

How about a “loaded baked potato” dish with bacon, cheddar cheese and sour cream?

The flavor combinations are endless!

An added bonus? You can cook the squash in advance and refrigerate it – with or without the additions – until you need it.

Enjoy!

Frost Drill

I’m still gardening.

Isn’t that crazy?

Here it is the last week of October and I’m still picking green beans and peppers!

Not that we haven’t had our close calls. We had a couple of mad dashes to the garden at sunset to cover plants, pick remaining produce and once to cut back all the sweet potato vines – just in case.

Plants got nipped both times – but we’re still gardening!

The melons, squash and pumpkins are done.

IMG_1670I’d say we did pretty good!

Take that you varmint squash bugs! I won this year!

Now to try every pumpkin recipe known to mankind to use them all up.

The sweet potatoes were dug for the first time ever.

They too were numerous – and in some cases – monstrous.

Like this one…

sweet potato It almost looks like a human heart! It’s actually several grown together because our soil was too clay to give them room.

It made a massive amount of sweet potato fries!

And remember those cabbage, broccoli and kale plants I put in for a fall crop?

They’re still alive! And growing!

We had kale for several meals and fresh lettuce again. The cabbage and broccoli are making nice heads – but they need a little more time.

I’m not sure we’ll get it though – the forecast calls for a killing frost Friday night.

Grow little broccoli and cabbage – grow fast!

Maybe my amazing husband can engineer some cold frames or hoop houses?

Or maybe I should just let the season end – thankful it was the best garden we’ve had in years.

Or maybe I should make another new pumpkin recipe while I decide.

Yes,  definitely that one.