The Best Uses For Zucchini and Squash

Move over, asparagus, there’s a new garden boss!

So this is complicated. We have a quarter of an acre garden, and grow every kind of summer and winter squash known to the Midwest. Nobody likes them but me. ‘What are we thinking planting all those vegetables??‘ I know. I wonder too, but it certainly has pushed me to get creative and find the most flavorful uses for my family to eat the least favorite (also the most prolific) of our garden produce.

I almost can’t believe I just admitted to their very well-hidden food aversion : )

Here they are! All the recipes that we have made, and our family ate and finished their plate. You can switch yellow squash for the zucchini in all these recipes.

Zucchini Bread and Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Curry (with petite diced zucchini instead of eggplant)

Zucchini Lasagna (we use jarred marinara and skip the mushrooms)

Zucchini Patties

Several other ways in which I have successfully incorporated zucchini and squash are:

  • Adding cooked zucchini to meatloaf (when making the raw meat mixture)

  • Adding cooked shredded zucchini to marinara sauce (for spaghetti, or lasagna, or stuffed shells, etc.)

  • Cooking shredded zucchini with the taco meat for Mexican dishes

Maybe your garden isn’t pressuring you to eat it as fast as mine is, but I thought it would be good to share the different ways my family enjoys eating zucchini and squash considering we have children’s taste buds at our table.

Do share your tips and tricks for using up zucchini! I’m all ears.

with love. Damaris

How Does Your Garden Grow? A Simplified Vegetable Garden

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

– May Sarton

Here we are, officially summer with a garden that is thriving and prolific. Gardening sounds like a complicated matter, but it’s truly not. We’ve simplified our vegetable gardening, and today I’m sharing with you what we do.

In early spring, we begin talking about the future vegetable garden. We brainstorm and make a list on a piece of scrap paper of what we like to eat. We also add a new vegetable every year, just for fun. Most plants want a hot sun and moisture, so selecting a level spot in the yard or making a raised bed is important. Equally crucial is to choose a sunny area for the vegetable garden.

Spring is well underway when we finally get to the garden plot and begin to prepare for it. We always long anticipate mid-May since we wait to plant until we’re certain Mr. Frost won’t be paying us a visit. Some veggies could go into the soil earlier in the spring and still produce very well. A few of the hardier varieties include cabbages, potatoes, carrots, radishes, and peas.

The next step is to mark the sunny, level area of the garden and till it. It is important to wait until the ground is dry. We till in organic material like leaves or compost (the pig helped us this year!). It’s helpful because we don’t use any other fertilizer. Now we’re ready to plant!

Seeds are preferred because they offer more variety and are inexpensive, but seeds mostly need to be started indoors earlier in the year. We buy starters (seeds already sprouted) from a nearby greenhouse with the exception of seed packets for lettuces, spinach, corn, and pumpkins. We’ve had good experience with putting the seeds right in the soil at the same time we plant the little starters. The starters generally cost about 4 for $.79. Using them keeps the process very simple without all the forethought and labor of seed germination. Also, the percent of loss is higher with seeds than with starters.

We mark rows before planting so we know what’s going to come up in each row and to prevent them from being trampled.

Although we could do a slow trickling of garden work every few days, we’ve always planted everything at once which also simplifies the process. The boys fill a wheelbarrow with compost from our compost pile and mix in peat moss from our local garden center. We dig a little hole, add a spadesful of the nutrient-dense compost+peat moss mixture, add a little water, put in the little plant, cover the hole with dirt, and add a little more water. Lastly, we press the surrounding dirt to prevent the plant from flopping or falling over with a heavy rain.

We plant the vining plants in the back of the garden to give them room to spread out. Some years we’ve planted them under the corn which also gets planted in the back because of it’s height. Vining plants such as all the pumpkins, summer squashes, winter squashes (acorn, butternut, buttercup) and cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe are quite hardy and get very large.

Now it’s the time for patience and expectation to do it’s thing. A light evening rain and a 90 degree summer day are the magic combination. Since this may not occur on a daily basis (really, or even with enough regularity), the early morning or after-dinner hour is the best time to water.

In the early weeks after planting, the weeds grow faster than anything else and risk crowding everything out. The seeds are germinating and the seedlings are so tiny that weeding can actually be a difficult job of discerning the weeds from the spouts. But the plants keep growing and eventually, the weeds aren’t so aggressive.

So what’s in the garden? Red potatoes and golden potatoes, green and red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, peppers (red and green bell, jalapenos, ancho), heirloom tomatoes and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, buttercup, butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash, yellow squash, zucchini, watermelon, pumpkins, and corn.

New for this year: purple potatoes and okra

Perennials: rhubarb, asparagus, and kale.

Gardening sounds like a complicated matter, but it’s truly not. Do you have a garden? Did you star your seeds early indoors? How does your garden grow?

with love. Damaris

Family Currents: Harvest Time!

Nathan and the boys have been digging up potatoes on and off for the last couple of weeks. Unearthing these gems is one of the greatest rewards of everyone’s summer labor. This year we planted red potatoes and Yukons. There’s tremendous expectation on digging day – much like digging for gold! The potato plant will grow and flower and die back completely before we dig for the tubers. By leaving the potatoes in the ground weeks after the potato plants have died helps to thicken the tubers’ skin which aids in longer shelf life. After they are harvested, we gently brush excess dirt with our hands, and we let them rest in the basement in a single-layer on newspaper for at least a handful of days. This curing process prepares the potatoes for winter storage. Now they are in the basement (needs to be a cool and dark spot) in a cardboard box. If you’ve never tasted homegrown potatoes, you’re missing out on a flavorful, buttery and smooth spud!

Since fresh oversized summer salads don’t appeal to me lately, I tried to make a simple,”fallish” use of the rest of the veggies. Peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes are still coming in from the garden. A couple of the kids have been helping to chop them up, and then we cooked them in the crock pot all night on high. The next day, we strain them to get rid of the peels and seeds. I filled the pot with what looks like thick juice and added olive oil, garlic salt, and a bay leaf. Cooked it on the stove top until reduced by about half, and voila`! We enjoyed it on pizza last week and on chicken parmesan this week! As you can see, it’s a super versatile veggie compote.

We recently bought these bowls from Ikea, and we couldn’t be happier that we did. They’re the perfect size and weight for the kids. We use them for oatmeal in the morning, with yogurt at lunch, and fill them with beef stew at dinner. They are a soft white and simply classic. They also have a reduced price on them now too!

with love, Damaris

Family Currents

We wait so long for peaches to be in season here! Usually, we eat fresh peaches sliced with our meals so quickly that I can ever make anything else with them (peach pie with crumb topping- I miss you!). This week, I reserved three large peaches for this cake which we had as Sunday morning’s breakfast with plain yogurt. I didn’t add the cinnamon-sugar over the peach layers and skipped the pecans (I had run out), but it was still so scrumptious!

Baby Samuel wasn’t so happy to stay inside with his crackers, so I brought him with me to the garden. Since I couldn’t pick veggies with one hand, he sat on the grass and was delighted to watch. He watched the ruby gems drop in my palms, and he reached for the ones that fell near him.

The latest with the garden: The cauliflowers are done, only a couple heads of cabbage left. Corn, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, and broccoli are still growing happily. The sweet potatoes and the Brussels sprouts will be a fall harvest, and the potatoes need to be dug up today! Kale, my friends. Kale keeps growing and growing and nothing kills it. So we eat it until no one has the courage to dig for it under the snow -because it will still be there! It has been a very sad summer for the squashes and zucchinis. Every year is different!

The days have been quite cool lately, and we have been enjoying the outdoors! Samuel is never very far from the little girls! It makes my heart happy more than it does theirs – ha!

We love to go to the farmer’s market, and I dream of the day we can have our farm goods displayed there too! I imagine the kids bagging baked goods for customers, and the children’s pleasant faces making people feel welcome. Nathan met us there since it is only a short walk from his office. We bought apple fritters, and the kids ate more samples than I thought was polite!

photo credit: Eva

Nathan offered to buy lunch at a tiny place by the market, and we shared a Korean bibimbap (rice bowl with chicken, veggies, and a fried egg on top).

We didn’t want to say good-bye, so everybody agreed we’d walk Daddy back to the office. Such a pleasurable day!

Lastly, we have big news coming your way! It may or may not involve fluffy bottoms. We will share a full post on their arrival and how they are settling in. Look for it this week!

with love, Damaris

Family Currents

This is our first year having a farm stand! It has been so beneficial for the children to work together on harvesting, sorting, wiping all the veggies and, of course – counting the coins in the jar! Now they know some reward for the hot days of weeding. If you’re in the area, stop for a visit!

Nathan and I got away for the evening while the kids read books and played with Grandma. Our hot date: We went to a sheep farm! That’s what everybody does on a date (wink). It’s a farm nearby, and we met our future ewes and lambs there.

We spent all of our time talking, and then got Chipotle on the drive back. Of course, a quick stop to pick up bubble teas to-go for the children, and even Grandma loved it too!

We enjoyed a couple days away last week as a family. As a surprise to the kids, we stopped at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. They didn’t know until Nathan pulled on to the base!

Our trip was short, but jam packed. We spent an afternoon at the Air Force Museum and a day at the Ark Encounter, then finished with a weekend family discipleship conference. You’ve probably heard about the life-size Noah’s ark exhibit. It was truly huge! It took longer to get through it than we thought it would. We had packed our lunches but left them in the van when we went into the ark… About 2:30 we were making our way back to our van after pressing on to finish the experience. Everyone had a good time – lots to see, but they were definitely hungry!

with love, Damaris

Family Currents

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”- Gertrude Jekyll

Don’t you agree that juicy fruit and fresh veggies are some of the best gifts of summer? We have been harvesting everyday now and looking for new recipes to change things up a bit. This recipe took lots of cucumbers and ingredients we always have on hand except for the rye bread. Nathan, the girls, and I loved it – the boys, however, have decided cucumbers aren’t their thing right now, so they were happy to let us devour the dish! Comment below if you’ve tried this recipe or have a favorite cucumber recipe of your own : )

I’m a little overzealous about clutter (according to my husband, anyway…), and all the treasures that land on our fridge seem to pile and pile up – not enough magnets! But we think we have found a beautiful solution. This cable took all of ten minutes to install, and it even comes with the cute little clips. We usually have the latest art hanging, but have also enjoyed displaying Christmas cards, prayer requests, and birthday decorations.

The wonderful elderly lady whom we assumed ownership of our property from told us stories of the truckloads of raspberries she and her husband would haul to the local farmers market each summer. Now there is a only small raspberry patch left from the 40 year legacy. We certainly have plans of expanding it, though – when the berries are on, the enticing patch can’t sustain the foraging fingers! It’s everyone’s destination, whether we’re on a walk or out doing chores. Raspberries are so delicate, we usually eat them fresh. You’re in for a summer treat if you’ve never had them sprinkled on homemade vanilla ice cream! I’d love to hear about your family’s favorite thing to do with fresh raspberries, too – leave a comment.

with love, Damaris

Family Currents

Making jam when summer fruit is at its peak is fun and oh-so-delicious! While the boys have been busy working in the barn, the girls and I have made several batches of strawberry freezer jam and plan to make blueberry jam too. With freezer jam, there is no huge pot of boiling water, no precise timing, no sterilizing, and no extra heat in the house! Really, there is no mess. We’ve used honey and also Sucanat as the sweetener, and this pectin works well with both. I always pick it up at Whole Foods, but other health food stores should carry it too.

We thought we were ripe for a farm update! We’ve been eating early girls and grape tomatoes and sharing with our neighbor. We’ve also been enjoying the sweet green peppers and banana peppers. Six cauliflower heads are clean and ready to roast for dinner tonight, and the cabbages look enormous! Kale just keeps coming so we haven’t bought lettuce or spinach all summer. On a sad note, a raccoon feasted on the corn and knocked a few stalks down. Booooo.

Nathan and the boys just put some more hive boxes together, and Nathan placed them on the hives. The kids know that if they give him a hand, they’ll usually get to sample some honey off of his hive tool! We brought in a bowl of some comb and honey which he scraped out of the frames – it’s the best! It seems to be different every time we harvest, this time, so flowery. Mid-summer honey is a pale amber and the comb is delicious to chew on!

with love, Damaris

Seeds, Soils, and Hearts

Gardening with children has gone from a labor of love to a joy and a help. Still, none of them can recall what has happened to my brand new pair of gardening gloves. After an inaugural dirt clod fight, the rows and mounds in the freshly tilled garden plot slowly began to take form.

Listening to the children’s conversation while we were planting, I gathered that a couple of them were beginning to understand how seeds germinate. This got me thinking about our discussions of the parable of the seed in the gospel of Luke, which we were having as we prepared for planting day.

“And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’ “

To continue to read the words of Jesus and His explanation of this parable, you can go here.

photo credit: Eva

photo credit: Alexander

How we pray that the Word of God be planted in the hearts of these little ones! That the seed may be received with joy and take root. That they may not fall away nor be chocked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life. May the soil of their souls and minds be good and honest. As parents, we sow, and we water, and we weed – and it’s hard work! But it’s God who gives the growth. Praise be the Lord!

photo credit: Alexander

So, after a long, sweaty day of back-breaking garden work (in which we never could find those garden gloves) we plopped under the big maple tree for family dinner. At some point in the day, we did find a forgotten bottle rocket in the bottom of a crate, however (probably left over from a July 4th celebration).

We finished 2017 planting day with a family picnic dinner and some firecrackers!

with love. Damaris

Because He Has Dealt Bountifully With Me

photo credit: Daddy

The fertile land awaits a hundred and some little plants and sackfuls of seeds. Today was ‘Greenhouse Day’. I love greenhouse day! I anticipate it like a holiday! This means that we should have all we need for tomorrow, which is planting day – not anticipated like a holiday, ha! Planting day is no holiday mainly because here in Michigan, planting season is delayed so late. When we can finally work the gardens, the day’s heat is not pleasant!

photo credit: Daddy

As we were praying this week with the family before bedtime, the children were thanking God for the land and the opportunity to grow much of our produce. Their little voices were acknowledging that only the Creator gives the increase. We prayed that God would give us a fruitful, abundant yield. They know this will require hard work on their part, early mornings, some not-their-favorite eggplant dinners; but they also know well the joy of giving the firstfruits.

Have you heard of this word, ‘firstfruits’, before? It describes the way we recognize that God is the Sustainer and Giver of all good gifts – by offering the first rewards (or ‘fruit’) of our labors back to Him. Planting extra grape tomato plants for the neighbor who loves them, zucchini for a friend who enjoys to bake, or gifting fresh vegetables to those that need them are acts of firstfruits.

So tomorrow we will draw in a breath of earthy air, look for those gardening gloves, and plant these green little beauties in anticipation of when we can offer their firstfruits!

photo credit: Eva

“I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

Psalm 13:6

with love. Damaris