Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Pumpkin Princess-Squash Queen in Training (recipe included)

I am ever SO proud of my granddaughter, Taylor.
She's my little Squash Queen in Training-
A Pumpkin Princess.

She has her very own knife that belonged to her
great grandfather, Dick, when he was a child.
As my husband says 

"It's the perfect size for cleaning small game like rabbits and squirrels.
It's a Sears and Roebuck knife manufactured in the 40's.
Nice leather handle with brass spacers. 
Guess it's time to take the girl hunting for some squirrels."

She also tried Pop's knife, which is much sharper.
The vines are still pretty tough.

Her colorful harvest.

Taylor scooped out the middle after I sliced it open.
Guess what we're doing?
What else would a Pumpkin Princess do?
We'll see how it bakes up.

Place the pumpkin in the pan, flesh side down.
Add about 1/2 inch of water.
Bake at 450 degrees F
for 45 minutes 

I could have taken these out sooner, it was a small pumpkin.

Peel away the skin or scoop out the middle.
Place in a bowl. 

Pumpkin Bars

2 cups Pumpkin 
4 Eggs 
3/4 cup Oil 
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Flour 
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
Nuts (optional, I can't eat them)

Mash pumpkin well.
Mix pumpkin, eggs and oil and sugar.
Add the remaining ingredients,

Pour into 2 pans
One 9 X 13 cake pan
One 8 x 8 cake pan
Bake in a 350 degree oven
for 25 minutes

Frost if desired.
Beat together 4 oz. softened cream cheese, 
1/4 cup soft butter, 
1-1/3 cup powdered sugar, 
and 1 tsp vanilla. 

Spread on COOLED bars.

I don't know if we will frost these or not,
they look (and smell) delicious just as they are.

OK, we frosted one 
and added Halloween sprinkles.
Good stuff!

The rest of the pumpkins are for decorating.
For now.
We may change our minds.
We'll eat up the cucumber, acorn and yellow squash.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Downed Trees and Battered Squash

Hollow, fallen tree trunk.
You can see right through it.

Tuesday night started out pretty good.  It was overcast and I was hoping for a nice 10 minute rain shower so the garden would have a cool drink.  I must have wished a little too hard because we had one heck of a storm.  I was on the front porch when I saw a gust of wind- yes, saw- coming towards me.  The trees on the North side of the ridge began bending and twisting, leaves blowing directly in my direction with intensity.  Our side was still calm at that point but based on the rumbling, it was due any  minute.  I quickly backed into the house, shut the door and called to my husband to get ready for a storm.  We lost power about 5 or 5:30 just as a pot of spaghetti noodles were done boiling.  I figured the power would be back on in a few minutes so we at by candle light in the dining room with it's front yard view.

What is left of the tree.

It wasn't long before the trees were blowing round and round in erratic circles.
Leaves were being carried directly upwards, not blowing to one side or another as if a vacuum cleaner was overhead house sucking up debris.
A super cell was developing directly above our house.
The National Weather Service called out for storm spotters from Robertsville.
Tom manned the radio providing condition reports:  

Tremendous amounts of rain
Power outages
High winds- up to 60 mph 
Incredible lightning strikes
Waves and waves of hail (lasting hours)
We were fortunate that the hail was small.  Other communities were receiving hail the size of ping pong balls.
Tornadoes formed across the state line in Illinois.

Woodpecker?  Some type of bird lives here.
This is the base of the fallen tree.

We lost a couple of trees, one hardly a tree after all.   The photo at the top of the page shows what is left of the tree trunk- it's hollow!  I should have suspected after seeing the bird damage.
Fortunately I had already put the birds up so I didn't have to trudge out in the intense lightning and hail which came down for hours and hours.  The poor little stray cat in the garage was crying as the hail pounded the metal door.  The other cat is no help, she's deaf and not bothered at all by the noise. 

Tree top in back lost.
The top is big but not unmanageable. There are plenty more trees where this came from.

Tom lit the lanterns and I brought out two fat candles, a couple of flashlights plus my book light.  He had his transistor radio that our daughter had given during his hospital stay.  I was able to read for several hours between wondering if the house was going to blow away, how many trees would fall  or how I would manage looking decent at work without power.  
How would I wash my hair!  No power means no water since we have a well.
Would the cars have hail damage? The roof or siding? I wasn't sure since I leave before it's light outside.

Tree top in front lost, crushing split rail fencing.

By 9 PM we decided to go to bed.  Still no power and the storm is raging.  How long can this last?
I checked for power all night long so neither one of us got much sleep.  
By morning the power was still not on. 
Oh oh.
I start to get ready and then, without warning, we have power.

I did notice that a tree top fell on top of our split rail fencing which is at the driveway but we were lucky it did not block the drive.   We will deal with this over the weekend.

Second view (from front)

The same tree from a front view.  That's our place in the background. 

Hail damaged sweet potato vines

When I got home I found hail damage everywhere
except the cars and house (I think).
The poor flowers are shredded.
The garden is a shambles.
My reign as Squash Queen has come to an end.

Hail damaged pumpkin patch

We can salvage the pumpkins if nothing decides to walk on them.
As you can see, the vines are gonners.

Hail damaged zucchini plants

I  did manage to save a cucumber, two yellow, three spaghetti and one acorn squash.

Even the birds laid only 2 eggs today.  And this after we had a little talk the other day about broken eggs and stepping up production. They must have been stressed by the storm as well.

Our light for the evening.

The lanterns came through for us again flooding the living room and kitchen with a warm, glowing light.

This weekend will be garden cleanup and tree removal.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Preserving Acorn Squash

It's time for another dehydrating post from the 
Squash Queen of Robertsville!
Squash Queen?
Yes, for those of you who are unfamiliar with our summer garden,
we primarily harvested squash, and lots of it.
Not without the daily fighting of squash bugs -- all summer long.

I cut the tops off of the acorn squash plus a slice out of one side to level it up.
Then I sliced each one in half long ways.
You should use the green ones although you will see some yellow ones
on my cookie sheets.  These were too ripe but I decided to see how they would work.  
I won't bother next time.

You'll need a really sharp knife so use caution.
One tutorial advised using an electric knife if you have one.

Scoop out the inside and place it in a bowl if you want the seeds.
Lay the acorn squash skin side up on cookie sheets.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes.
You can put foil on top if you are worried about burning but I didn't have that problem.
I am fortunate enough to have dual ovens so I could put all four sheets in at the same time.

If you save seeds, wash and remove all pulp.
Cover the seeds with water and allow them to settle.
Some will float.  I have heard these are not the ones you want to save for planting.  Select the ones that sink instead.  Spread them onto newspaper for drying and store in a dark, cool place until you are certain they are dry.  Then you can move them into a storage container.

For the seeds that float- you can roast these like pumpkin seeds.
I use Worcestershire sauce when roasting seeds rather than salt. It gives the saltiness plus a little zing.

After baking, allow them to completely cool.
Remove the skin.  
I found that cutting them lengthwise into smaller slices allowed for easier peeling.
I started at the small end and ran my knife up to the large end.
This was not the butcher knife but a smaller, sharp one.

Since I sliced them, it was easier to then cut into cubes, around an inch or less
but not so small that they will disappear after drying.  I wanted to have some bulk. 
I layered them on the dehydrator sheets- my Excaliber has 12 trays with mesh screens, no need to spray, they removed easily.  I allowed them to dry at 125 degrees, overnight.  Check your dehydrator guide for the proper setting for your model.

Here we have the dried acorn squash, my seeds for roasting and a few uncooked squash for dinner!
I can cover the squash cubes with boiling water until rehydrated 
then use them for a variety of recipes.
Stews, mashed, baked, etc.
We are thinking about using a sweet potato recipe to see how that works.
 One of our favorite commercial seasonings is Uncle Wileys  

These are the seeds I am trying to save for next season.
I think I'll make a patch of three different squash types plus 
sprinkle some of the seeds around various areas further away from the house 
to see if they take off.  If they produce, great. 
Some of them might work for my bait garden,
maybe the squash bugs will congregate there instead of my main plot!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dehydrated Spaghetti Squash

To preserve our bumper crop of spaghetti squash we had to decide between storing the whole squash in a dark place, such as our basement, or to dehydrate in order to save space and ensure they would not spoil.  Give the space saving of dehydrating, we went with this route.

My husband was home so he halved them, placing them on cookie sheets in our dual ovens.  I have cooked it at 350 degrees F for about a half hour, remove and scrape out the squash.

The chickens were the beneficiaries of the seedy part.
The peels were thrown into the yard to work themselves back into the soil, unless something drags them away!

The Excaliber has a nice screening that will allow the squash to lay on it without falling through. No parchment paper needed.

We dried it overnight until it was dry and brittle.
Refer to your dehydrating instructions for the proper temperature setting.

It made a nice bag of future squash dinners.
To reconstitute, add boiling water to the desired amount of squash and allow it to sit until fully rehydrated. Drain off excess water and use as normal. 

It is incredibly sweet all by itself.  
I may experiment next time adding cinnamon and clove for a crunchy fall treat.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

September Garden, Peek A Boo, I See You

The September garden after a summer drought.
One last hurrah after our recent rains.
Powdery mildew and tattered vines
producing pumpkins nonetheless.

Yards and yards of vines and leaves,
yet only three little pumpkins - until the rains.
Now babies are popping up all over.

At last count, at least six or better.

Hiding among the vines
and weeds.
I haven't tended the garden 
for the past two or three weeks.
Now that life is somewhat normal, 
I'll be able to spend more time here.

Spiny cucumbers hang from the cattle panels
along with a few lingering squashes.
We found the hanging squash were unaffected by
squash bugs, but the ones on the ground had leaves
that were infested and needed daily care.

Spaghetti squash went into the dehydrator today, 
about 10 squash cooked and drying, with more on the way. 

Acorn squash continue to multiply.
We've got 11 in the house.  It would have been  13 
but two turned very yellow.  In addition to this, we still have more on the vine.

I missed a little Tiger Melon.
I was really hoping to see what one tasted like, but someone got it first.

You'll notice something has decided to eat my flowers, 
leaving stalks at our pumpkin patch.
I think I know who it is.

Not him.
He's done his own damage.
My husband has been seeing deer up by the garden,
which is bad enough; however, they are 
congregating on the roadside too, 
nice and early when it's hard to see them.
Thankfully their eyes glow when headlights hit them.

The zinnias are taking off, completely unattended.
Orange, red and purplish-pink.

We've got a few more weeks I suppose
before we till it all under
and work on prepping the soil for overwintering.

Linking to Deborah Jean's Dandelion House
White Wolf Summit Farmgirl

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Grilling: Chicken Breast with Pineapple and Vegetables

Chicken breasts.
Pineapple rings
Cucumber, peeled
Green Tomato
Lemon/pepper seasoning
A drizzling of butter to moisten
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Italian Salad Dressing

Grill meat and vegetables on the barbecue or indoors on the grill thingy (???)
until you get nice stripes. Do the same with the vegetables but drizzle on the following (to taste)

Onions- use butter and olive oil
Cucumbers (nothing)
Tomatoes - balsamic vinegar, salt and sugar

Salt, sugar, butter, vinegar and oil- just use a tad, not much.
Less is better.

The plate off the grill.

My plate.  
I used a little Italian salad dressing on the side and dipped my vegetables.  I had never had grilled cucumber and green tomatoes before but they are pretty good.  The pineapple is so sweet, delicious grilled.  I had a second ring!  Pretty good for a quick recipe on the fly.
Tom's a pretty good cook.